Made Art

Last week for my birthday Anne Meade and I went to the Reynolda House to see the O. Winston Link exhibit.  I’m a big fan of trains.  If you thought I was a nerd for liking tubas, just ask me about trains. Many of you are familiar with O. Winston Link’s works, whether you know it or not.  Perhaps his most famous photograph is this one: On the surface it captures a moment in American history, a moment of youth and vigor (the drive-in with the jet on screen) conflicting with the past shown by the steam engine in the background.  Many art critics have waxed poetic on the simple power of this shot, but point out that there is something deeper going on; the artist left proof in his shot that it was staged. Between the foreground and background are three black dots.  Those dots are the lighting for the steam engine.  They indicate that the train is lit, the parked cars are lit, the people in the foreground are lit… it’s not an intimate portrait anymore, but an elaborately staged forgery of one. Many of Link’s photos are candid, powerful, full of detail, and indicative of an era gone by.  But they are also entirely fabricated.  Well, not entirely.  Link was very involved in the last days of steam; so much so that he could ask the conductors to stop the trains and they would, just because they believed in what he was doing and knew him so well.  If a light was on in a building, it was because he decided he wanted it on.  He...

Meta

Yesterday I gave my MUS 108 classes their final assignment: write a blog.  I know that some teachers will ask for “a blog” as part of a class, when that teacher doesn’t keep a blog themselves.  I also know that many of my students will do just what it takes for an A, and walk away having learned nothing.  But I want to open the door, if only for one student, on the joys of writing, and the power of social media. I started trying to blog in about 2000, when I moved to Cincinnati and became a web programmer.  I graduated from CMU in the spring, moved to Cinci in early summer and started trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life.  I decided that the .com boom was where I needed to be, but in order to do it, I needed to know one of the “hot” programming languages.  I chose ASP, gave my self an assignment, and applied for at least one job each day. That was the daily regimen and it got old fast.  But I’m nothing if not stubborn.  Over the course of my “assignments” in ASP, I developed what was essentially a blog.  I made it public on the internet, and tried to fill it up with things that were interesting.  And that’s where I choked.  I had designed the database, come up with an ugly but elegant interface, worked out all the javascript, all the code…  and then I had nothing to say. Before that I had put together my first website in about 1995 on Geocities.com. ...

Camper Vans in the Mist

This is a post about music.  No, really. UNCG’s Old Time Ensemble was invited to play at Hagan-Stone Park for EveryBus 2011.  EveryBus is an annual gathering of VW camper vans; it involves parts swaps, tall tales, a chili cook-off, and music.  It  goes without saying there were hippies involved.  Hippies who like chili. The afternoon promised evening rains, so I grumbled as I put my stuff in the car.  I didn’t really want to play a concert in the cold and driving rain, but no one bothered to cancel the thing, so I sucked up my whiney grumbly reservations and went to school.  I ended up carpooling with some other folks in the old time band, and I’m glad I did.  They lifted my spirits considerably. We pulled into the park and drove through a veritable sea of VW camper vans.  I stared out the windows in reverent awe and remembered my long-ago love affair with camper vans. When I was a programmer in Cincinnati, I had planned on taking some of my disposable income and getting a camper van.  I scoured ebay and other sites for information on what was available, what terminology meant what, what models were reliable or fun, and how on earth to get a California bus to Ohio.  Obviously, I opted for grad school instead of a camper van, but those months of daydreaming left a mark on me. And so, when we pulled into EveryBus and I saw rows and fields of camper vans, I was giddy like a kid.  We pulled to a stop at the pavilion, and just as we...

The Labradoodle of the Baskervilles

I took a mini vacation on Friday afternoon to visit friends.  Friends with a canoe.  Those are good friends to have. The aforementioned friends also have a 1-year-old labradoodle puppy named Pippin.  The day before I got there, Pippin got a rather unsuccessful and unfortunate haircut from Rachel, the oldest daughter.  Apparently Pippin isn’t used to the sound of clippers and resisted the grooming with all of her being. The resulting haircut made her look like a wet mop, or a zombie dog.  The poor thing looked uneven, disheveled, mottled and blotchy, and thoroughly pleased with herself. Friday’s clear skies and warm breezes yielded to Saturday’s mellow overcast grays and chilly gusts.  I went out with Jill for a morning paddle around the lake and Pippin decided to follow us on the shore.  When opportunity presented itself, she jumped in the water and swam after us.  As we sliced through the morning calm, Pippin’s splashing and crashing through the underbrush kept us strange company.  We weren’t far from home when she somehow managed to get herself into someone’s fenced yard along the shore, but couldn’t figure out how to get back out to follow us. We had been chuckling and commenting on Pippin’s lack of grace and abundance of enthusiasm until we noticed that she wasn’t following us on the shore.  We paused and listened back. Out of the haze and close air rose an unearthly sound; part canid howl, part demonic whine.  I shivered in my seat as the form of a lean gray hunter moved in the haze of the shore and cut loose another of those...