Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Approaching Hibernation

Dear friends,

You may have noticed I have been seriously slacking on the blog posts (and, for those of you that pay attention to such things, the blog reading as well - I have managed to keep up with precisely zero of my favorite blogs in the last two weeks.) This is because life has suddenly gotten rather full of, well, shiny new museum-related excitement, which is to say the new job I've landed at The Exploratorium. Yup, two months to the day after I started volunteering, they hired me. The hours are long and a little crazy and I am blissfully overwhelmed with the newness and the bigness of it all, and so I'm gently putting this blog down for a nap while I get acclimatized, learn my way around, and start to spend my free time doing something other than taking friends to the museum on my days off to play with electricity and giant bubbles or running around SF eating as much sushi/udon/thai food as I can hold. (It's good to be back in California.) Hopefully by the time I get back to it, I'll have a bit more of a shape for this site too - a little more form and direction beyond ZOMG I WANT A MUSEUM HERE LOOK A PRETTY THING. I'll miss you in the meanwhile, but I'll be back, I promise. Keep the internet warm for me.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Things In My Cabinet: Science, Art, and Giant Books

Gratuitous picture of the Palace of Fine Arts,
because I'm going to miss it so much.
It's been hard to keep up with this blog recently because, well, there's so much going on in the tangible world. I've been interviewing for jobs at the Exploratorium, which is the most awesome thing ever and totally means that I was right about how excellent volunteering there would be for my life in general. (Hint: volunteering does not, in fact, have to be an utterly altruistic act. Turns out nobody yells at you if you secretly have some totally selfish motives for showing up and being as helpful as possible to people who need it.) Needless to say, they have a really great freakin' website (it's won awards and everything, and is flashy without being obnoxious, and is full of SCIENCE) and I was bopping around on it, ostensibly doing job research but actually just clicking around all the shiny science experiment links, and I got totally stuck on the Tinkering Studio blog. Now, The Tinkering Studio is the coolest thing ever. Like, everything in the Exploratorium is cool, but the Tinkering Studio is EXTRA cool. They run this workshop in the back where they basically teach you how to do things like make magical masking tape art, paint with light, build circuit boards and Rube Goldberg machines, and other assorted low-tech experimental grooviness. (Check out all their activities here.)

I love them for two major reasons: one, because of their devotion to collaborative, hands-on project-building and art-making, exploration, and play; and two, because they, like me, freakin' love cardboard. They have all these amazing artists coming in to teach museum visitors easy ways to make awesome things out of junk, and many of those artists are obsessed with cardboard. One of them was MIT masters student Jie Qi, who has become this month's absolute inspiration for me - and once you see what she's making, you'll understand why.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Fantasmagoria: Tomas Saraceno & Mira Nussbaum

Scene of a Fantasmagoria, 1885
Scene of a Fantasmagoria, 1885.
By Arthur Pougin [Public Domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
This week, instead of a What The F!#& Should I Read Friday, I'm trying a new feature: Friday Fantasmagoria, in which I introduce fantastical and inspiring works of art and/or artists I've recently discovered. Why fantasmagoria? Fantasmagorias were magic lantern shows in the late 18th/19th century that utilized all sorts of materials and projection methods to create spooky, supernatural effects. Although I don't intend to highlight ghost stories in this feature, I do want to choose works that include uncommon materials used to almost unbelievable results. I'll be choosing artists who use smoke, silk, paper, etc, twisted into truly fantastical forms that might just make you gasp or gape in disbelief. This week, I've got two artists, one famous, one relatively unknown: Tomás Saraceno and Mira Nussbaum. Both of them use fabric in their works to astounding, wonderful ends: Saraceno is his installation Poetic Cosmos of the Breath, among other works, and Nussbaum in her incredible Silk Stories, personalized paintings on silk.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The House That I Built

The building on Day Nine. This is the view from the east.
An opening window will be fitted into the gap you see;
a curved door will be made for the arched opening on
the other side. The ridgepoles will be fixed in place
and cobbed in, and a living roof will be built on top!

I used to kind of laugh behind my hand at people who say things like "omg I went to this ah-may-zing workshop and it totally changed my life omg" because, you know, I'm a big cynical skeptic for all I love writing and thinking about joy. Except now I can't laugh any more because, um omg I went to this amazing workshop and it totally changed my life omg.

Yeah. For real. Thanks, Sundog School of Natural Building.

This is what we saw on Day One. You're looking at the
southeast corner here, where the red bucket is above. A grand
total of 16 people worked on the building, although we never
had more than 10 or 11 present at any given time. Over half
of us had no building experience whatsoever. 
Many of you know that I recently returned from a nine-day natural building workshop. Yup, that was the lifechanger. We built a house. Out of mud. With our hands, and also our feet. It's a beautiful, snug, warm guest cottage for wwoofers at Roseman Creek Ranch. It's also a piece of art. We used no powertools during the entire construction, with the exception of a chainsaw to cut straw bales in half for one of the walls - a step that could have been skipped, as it happens. Oh, and we did screw the doorjambs into place with an electric drill. Four screws. That was it. The ridgepoles were stripped of their bark by hand. The gorgeous redwood mullion for the windows was chiseled into shape. Holes were made with a brace and bit. And there was no part of the construction process that I, a 5' 2" twenty-four-year old in only moderately decent shape, couldn't do myself.

That's right. I could now go out and build this house. Oh, I'd need some help - though not right away. Crazy though it sounds, most of what you see here I could, given the time, do all by myself.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: In The Penny Arcade

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: Books to Make Your Weekend Weird and Wonderful
In The Penny Arcade by Steven Millhauser

It's Friday, and I'm totally writing this on time! I mean, it's six in the evening and I'm half a strong gin and tonic in, but I will get this posted for your long weekend before the steak goes on the barbeque. (I don't care if there are Halloween decorations in the drugstore already, summer's not over until I can't eat grilled corn and large lumps of meat outdoors any more. Hell, it's still August.) Today I have a book for you that I only just discovered. It was given to me - as a gift! - by one of the guys from my absolute favorite local bookstore. (Joe Christiano is a truly stellar dude who runs some ultra spectacular literary and musical events in the East Bay.) I'm super glad I decided to feature this book for WTFSIRF because in doing so I learned an awesomely fun fact: the author, Steven Millhauser, wrote the short story that went on to become the movie The Illusionist. Which is seriously one of my favorite movies ever. Actually, there are two movies called The Illusionist, and they are somewhat different, but both are totally magical and you should go see them right now. Trailers will be featured at the end of the post! But before we get to them, of course, your five important questions must be answered:

1. Who the f!#& wrote this book?
2. What the f!#& is it about?
3. Where the f!#& should I read this book?
4. When the f!#& is it set?
5. Why the f!#& should I read it?

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