31 July 2013

Vantage Point

I was having dinner with my parents and my mom was relaying the news from a conversation with my sister-in-law. My niece's tenth birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks.

"So she's having a mind games themed party this year," Mom said. (Her birthday parties always have a theme.)

"Mind games themed? What does that mean?" I asked.

"I don't really know," Mom said. "They have boxes they can build and the kids can be in teams of two. Apparently all her friends are into this game."

"Are you sure she said 'min-d' and not 'mine'?"

"No, it's just what I was hearing."

"It's sounds kind of like Minecraft. I don't know much about it, but I thought she was into it and it's really popular right now."

"Could be. I wrote it down because I hadn't heard of it before."

According to my sister-in-law, my niece doesn't have much on her Amazon list for her birthday and hadn't really mentioned anything. Mom recounted, "She's still pretty happy with her Barbie Dreamhouse."

"The one they bribed her with to get good grades?" I said.

"Yes," Mom said.

Apparently, my niece had been slacking at school so to incentivize her, they told her if she got straight A's at the end of the year, they'd give her this dollhouse she badly wanted. If she didn't get the grades, she'd have to wait until Christmas for it. (Not exactly high stakes.) In any case, she got the grades and the dollhouse.

"Mmm. Suze [Orman] wouldn't approve of that," I said.

"Really?" Dad asked.

"Yeah. She feels strongly about not paying kids for grades. You should do it for its own reward," I explained. "Later in life you don't get rewarded like that so it sets a bad precedent." In my defense I added, "I realize you paid me for grades but I really earned it."

"I never wanted to do that," Mom said overlapping me. Of course you didn't, I thought to myself.

Thinking back, I'm not sure they gave me anything for my grades in elementary school. In middle and high school, I got a dollar per A. In high school I devised a contract with my Dad that gave me a dollar per A or O (o for outstanding because some classes didn't get the usual letter grades) for every A/O that appeared on my report card. This let me rack up at the end of the year when you got a grade for the quarter, your final and your overall grade for the year.

"I would've done it anyway though," I said. And it's true. The money was a nice bonus but it didn't really amount to that much. I don't recall ever getting it and then immediately spending it. Anything I might've wanted that was the scale of a Barbie Dreamhouse (no thank you!) was still far out of reach and therefore out of mind.

"Do you ever remember me slacking?" I asked. Then, answering my own question, "Well, there was that math class in the 4th grade when I was about T's age. I think I got a C+ one quarter but that wasn't my fault."

"Of course not," Mom said with a glimmer of snark.

"No, really. She gave us homework all the time and we'd hand it in, but she never gave it back to us so we could see what we were doing wrong." I busted my ass after that of my own accord.

Mom said, "I just remember that woman, what was her name?"

I felt like I knew where she was headed and a name and face popped into mind.

She pulled up a name, "Althea."

I had the right face but initially had mixed up her name. I had it now. "Ms. Pierce."

"Yes," Mom said.

"That really wasn't my fault."

It was a half-day before vacation. They'd handed out our report cards for the quarter at the end of the day. My parents picked my brother and I up from school to start the long drive to Virginia to visit relatives. My parents would've preferred to start the drive earlier but no doubt I was the one insisting I didn't want to miss school. I hated having to catch up.

We'd just started driving away when I opened my report card and was shocked to see a C+ in English. It didn't make sense. I'd gotten A's or B's on everything all quarter. Well, there was that one quiz where I got a D. But everyone failed that because it covered stuff none of us knew so she'd had to give it to us again. Surely one quiz couldn't have sunk all my test scores and papers that much.

I was really upset and let it be known.

My parents were unconcerned. "Just let it go," they said. "There's nothing we can do about it now." (I would've turned us around and straightened it out right then.)

"I'll talk to her when we get back," Mom said. "Just let it go and have a good time."

Back in present day, Mom said, "Oh, we had to suffer hearing about that. You just wouldn't let it go."

"Yes, because that was all about you," I said.

Mom considered it for a moment while formulating her next move. "Yes. You wouldn't drop it. I told you I'd take of it but you didn't believe me."

It's true, I didn't. Hmm, why would that be? Perhaps the way they repeatedly blew off and belittled my concerns. Could that be it? [end sarcasm]

Did I take it all too seriously back then? Certainly. But their approach didn't allay my anxiety; they increased it by not really caring.

Dad said, "Well, you've brought up such pleasant memories."

I smiled and pointed at Mom because she was the one who brought up Ms. Pierce.

"I don't think I'd ever seen her laugh or smile before that parent-teacher conference," Mom said. "I asked her about your grade and she said, 'It's taken care of,' and started to laugh. 'Claire explained in no uncertain terms that it wasn't right.'"

The first day I was back at school after vacation, I summoned all my courage and made my case to Ms. Pierce. It'd been a simple clerical error.

"I never saw her smile or laugh that entire year," I said.

"What was up with her?" Dad mused.

Mom said, "I just remember everyone in your class was afraid of her."

"I don't know. She was an ex-nun and she was mean," I said. The woman really did have a perpetual scowl on her face when I had her in the 6th grade. "The year after she was a totally different person. She was friendly and nice after we had her. Figures. 'Really? The year after us she became nice?'"

"Maybe she fell in love," Mom said.

"Actually, yeah. I think her personal life must've changed for the better," I said.

Dad said, "Maybe she finally got laid."

"That's not what I said."

I do remember that my class all assumed she was gay because she had a short haircut. Whatever the case, I'm glad she became a happier person. Would've been nice if it'd occurred a year earlier, but whatevs.

Although this story always riles Mom and I up, it's still one she enjoys telling about me.

My parents view it as that time I learned to stand up for myself.

What they don't get is that I see it as the time I learned that they wouldn't stand up for me.

ETA: Yes, Mom asked Ms. Pierce about it, but I didn't feel like my parents were on my side, that they really had my back. Had Ms. Pierce said the wrong grade was correct, I think my parents would have let it go because it didn't matter to them. They believed me that it was wrong but probably wouldn't have pressed the issue instead offering the refrain, "Life's not fair. Get used to it."

3 years ago on TTaT: Back to back cemeteries

30 July 2013

21 Minutes

"Can I help you?" one of the two hair stylists asked as I walked up to the counter.

"I'd like to get a hair cut."

"OK, it'll be... I dunno, 15 to 20 minutes."

"OK," I said and went to sit down. Both of the stylists were cutting people's hair and there was an old man sitting on the long banquette. Her estimate seemed reasonable.

The salon was part of a strip mall, but I felt tired so I just sat down to wait.

I crossed my legs with my left ankle over my left knee and leaned forward a bit for a hip stretch. I glanced at my watch and decided I'd do 3 minutes on each side.

Before I finished the first leg, the stylist who spoke to me finished her cut and walked an old woman up to the counter.

I started to worry I wouldn't have enough time for the other leg. As she was checking her out, the other stylist finished. I also realized the old man wasn't waiting for a cut, he was waiting for the old woman. They may have been married because she made a joke about not wanting to be associated with him to explain why she was listed under a different last name.

The couple paid and walked out, the first stylist finished up and then said to me, "I'll be right back. I'm just going to run to the store."

Usually this seems to mean they disappear for half an hour, but I hadn't been there long so I said, "OK."

I was halfway through my stretch with my other leg.

The second stylist checked out her customer. The computer was slow so it took a couple of minutes and she also had to answer the phone. Just as she finished, the other stylist came bounding back in.

Wow, that was fast. She must've taken off in a sprint once she was outside. She didn't seem out of breath though.

She spoke with the other stylist for a minute and I finished my stretch.

The second stylist told me, "You can come on back."

Her hair was lighter but I recognized her. She'd cut my hair before months ago or maybe last year.

She was still conversing with the other stylist but paused to see how I'd like my hair cut.

"I'd like the back cut up to here," I said gesturing to the top of my jaw.

"And layers?" she said anticipating what I was going to say next.

"Yes." I grabbed a small section of hair from the front pulling it straight and gestured to the bottom of my nose, "And cut the front to here."

"That's the right length for where it'll bounce up then."

"Yes," I said with relief. She understood what I was asking for and knew what she was going to do. It was a far cry from my last hair cut and a very welcome one.

She spritzed my hair with water, combed it a bit and started to cut resuming her conversation with the other stylist. That suited me great. I don't like feeling subjected to the Spanish Inquisition when I get a hair cut.

By the time I was back in my car, 21 minutes had elapsed including the 6 minute wait, hair cut, and check out. That's the ticket!

28 July 2013


Though it's not something I habitually say, it seemed appropriate in the moment. "I'll see you anon," I said and headed downstairs to fix lunch.

A few minutes later she appeared in the kitchen and said, "I'll see you anon and raise you a pita."

I looked at her in confusion and asked, "What did you say?" thinking I'd misheard.

She repeated herself and this time I got the joke.

"I'll see you a naan and raise you a pita."

"Oooh," I groaned, "That's terrible." I smiled and shook my head.

Two years ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #77 Going Green

27 July 2013

X-Ray Vision

This morning I experienced x-ray vision. Not proper x-rays but rather the Christopher Reeve Superman style where you can see through objects.

I was lying in bed looking out my window at a group of maple leaves illuminated by the sun. The window's grid ran in front of some of the leaves but I was still able to see the leaves uninterrupted through it although slightly darker. It was as though the grid was transparent.

Must be a goofy brain thing where it fills in the gaps with the slightly different information it receives from each eye, I thought to myself. I tested the theory by closing each eye one at a time but I was still seeing through the grid. Huh.

I continued looking out the window examining the leaves behind or through the grid.

Ah, it must be a reflection. Since there is a window a/c, the bottom pane of my window is up creating a section of overlapping panes of glass. The brightly lit leaves were hitting the innermost glass and reflecting back onto the grid giving the appearance of transparency.

It all depends on viewing it with the right lighting at the right angle.

Here's to waking up to a new superpower and then solving a scientific mystery. A fun way to start the day.

A year ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #129 Get it Done!

26 July 2013

Life of Art SitRep #181 New cases!

Made some new templates for Samsung Galaxy S4 vibe case, SkinIt LeNu iPad Mini Case, SkinIt LeNu iPad Case.

Made new cases for many of my existing designs:
Checkered Navy and White iPad Mini Case
Checkered Navy and White iPad Mini Case by RocklawnArts
Browse Navy and white Skinit Case online at Zazzle.com
Black and White Zigzag iPad Covers
Black and White Zigzag iPad Covers by RocklawnArts
Find more Pattern Skinit Case at Zazzle

Made new stickers for White and Navy Diamond Pattern.

Shot 64 photographs of daylilies.

Went to an outdoor sculpture exhibit and took 251 photographs.

Updated links and LOA summary files with new product links.

3 years ago on TTaT: Recycling via art

25 July 2013

Sculpture Excursion

It was cool outside so we went to a historic house that has a contemporary outdoor sculpture exhibit spread throughout its grounds.

Some of the sculptures were "Meh, I could go to Home Depot and make that."

Some were, "Ooh, we should totally do that."

And at least one was "Wow. I do not really understand how that's possible except that saws must be involved and probably a saw mill, but I lurve it!" I'd seen a piece by this artist years before, actually this one was by a couple, Rick and Laura Brown, but it was clear to me it was the same creator(s). The new piece expands on the initial idea but makes it even more epic.

They make deconstructed trees. Imagine you start with a 100 foot tall tree and cut it down. You leave the very top alone with its thin, dead branches in tact and lay it on the ground, say 30 feet worth.

Then you cut the rest of the trunk into equal sections about 8 feet long and cut off any branches. Then cut those sections in half lengthwise.

Then, and this is where things get wacky, you cut a chunk out of the center of half of the pieces of trunk. You take those center sections and make 8 planks from each without losing any bark.

Then you fan those planks out and bolt them into the piece of trunk they came from.

The final piece looks like a series of upside down V's with fanned out planks coming out of their right sides until you get to the top of the tree lying on the ground. It's freakin' amazing.

I checked Rick and Laura Brown's website but clearly this isn't the sort of thing they usually do. It's site specific. Really awesome though.

A year ago on TTaT: Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia

24 July 2013

Some Kind of Wonderful

We've all seen this movie, yes? 1987 teen romantic comedy with Mary Stuart Masterson, Eric Stoltz, and Lea Thompson. (If not there are spoilers ahead.)

It's not very good but it has some moments. I came across it on TV when I was looking for something to flip to during commercials.

There is a great kiss where Watts (Masterson) convinces Keith (Stoltz) to kiss her under the guise of doing him a favor preparing him for his date with Amanda (Thompson). That scene is the highlight of this movie.

I also enjoy the scenes with Duncan, the thug who befriends Keith in detention.

Now as I was catching various scenes, I saw the girls' locker room scene. There is a sea of girls in their underwear with tomboy Watts on one end and great bod Amanda preening on the other. It's meant to show Watts self-consciously comparing her body to Amanda's, but it's shot with Watts staring at her. And no one notices.

Seeing it now it looked like Watts was checking her out, not in Masterson's shots but in her POV shots where it's just the camera tracing down Thompson's body. Then I thought, male gaze.

Did any of you ever have to take a shower after gym class? My parents did way back in the day. Our locker rooms had showers, but I don't know that they ever got used. Maybe by the basketball team? It certainly wasn't required or expected of us. There wouldn't have been time for it.

The movie is a weak love triangle, but how great would it have been if Amanda realized she was into girls? That could explain her standing around in her underwear for ages in the locker room hoping to draw some attention.

And finally, the diamond earrings. I thought Keith was an idiot for buying them when I first saw this movie when I was a teenager. Really?! You're going to spend every dime you've ever earned on earrings to give them to your crush on your first date? And then when she's kind enough to give them back, you give them to your best friend who you've only just realized is in love with you?

But aside from that, I get it, he doesn't want to go to college. Fine. But is he not going to need money to live on when he graduates? A car to drive?

I've watched enough Suze Orman to know she has the answer though. He doesn't feel worthy of keeping the money he has, so he gives it all away. And that's pretty sad.

Two years ago on TTaT: Blood Draw McGraw

21 July 2013

Out, damned spot!

Ten days ago on Twitter, I wrote:
As though a reward for deciding to do a second lap up & down my street, I spotted a blackberry bush & picked a handful. #tasty #summer
What I didn't say is that this bush is overhanging and growing through a fence of some neighbors [Allegedly. Remember these are Taller Than Average Tales.]. It's actually just a piece of fence that makes a corner by their driveway. Maybe waist high? It's fairly traditional in the Northeast, wood posts every so often with two long rounded pieces of wood connecting the sections. Their security system lawn sign is a better deterrent. In any case, I never stepped off the public road.

Also, I kept an eye on the bush to see if anyone else was picking them in subsequent walks. It didn't even look like animals were getting into them which surprised me. It seemed a waste so I picked another handful from the side further from their driveway. And another on a subsequent walk and sometimes just a few stray berries I popped straight into my mouth.

There was a huge crop of berries facing their driveway which I left alone. The next day their trash and recycling bins were within a couple of feet of the bush. If they don't notice them when they're right next to them, I'm not going to worry about picking them.

The following day, one bin was back but the other was still out. Inconclusive. I'll give it another day.

This time, I went for a walk with my Dad. The neighbors who live across from the blackberry bush owners were out so I said hello to them. I also noticed someone sitting on a bench by the driveway of the blackberry house, so I decided not to stop to pick any. The other bin was gone.

In a stealth move, I grabbed two as I walked by. There's a bunch of trees behind the bush and lining their driveway so I was out of view. Once we were out of view again, I handed my dad a blackberry.

"Oh, is this where you've been snitching berries?" he said all too loud for my comfort.

I scowled at him until I was sure we were out of all the neighbors' earshot. I chastised him for his obliviousness. He hadn't noticed the man in the driveway and thought nothing of saying that in front of the other neighbors. So much for family loyalty.

Then it was Saturday. I was out early for a warmup walk before my workout. I grabbed 4 and ate them.

Finally, today. The fully ripe crop of berries facing their driveway remained untouched. I couldn't take it anymore. I started picking from the far side, reaching through the brambles getting the occasional scratch. I pulled my hand back and my forefinger looked like it was covered in magenta-tinged blood. Fortunately it was just blackberry juice, but it looked pretty damning. I picked the blackest berries along their driveway that they'd ignored or not noticed for several days.

Then I heard a door open at their house and someone walk out. I was still out of view but decided to beat feet. I'd picked so many I needed to cup my other hand over the one with the berries so as not to drop any.

I never looked down their driveway or towards their house so I don't know if he or she looked my way or not.

Usually, I'd walk all the way to the other end of my street and then back home but I felt highly suspicious walking with my hands full of berries. I stopped back home, rinsed the berries off and put them on a clean paper towel on the kitchen counter.

I washed my hands but my juice-stained finger wouldn't wash entirely clean. Out, damned spot!

I gave it up and went back out to finish my walk in the other direction without incident. I may lay low for a few days though.

Would you know blackberries if you saw them growing wild? I can only guess they didn't notice them, don't know you can eat them, or don't like them.

Two years ago on TTaT: Still absolute scum

19 July 2013

Life of Art SitRep #180 Footing?

It's been a strange week, but I'm getting my footing back.

Created a Light Blue and White Diamond Pattern design and added it to my shop:
Rocklawn Arts blogged New Light Blue and White Diamond Pattern design.

Also made new stickers for Red Circles on Green, Red Polka Dots on White; Red, White, Black Diamond Pattern; White and Black Diamond Pattern, White and Green Diamond Pattern.

Made a few changes to my store.

Read Popular Photography Feb. and March 2013 issues. Slow but steady thins the pile.

How was your week?

A year ago on TTaT: Note to self: vol. XVIII

12 July 2013

Life of Art SitRep #179 Slow going

Off my game this week. Or certainly out of whatever groove I sometimes have. That's where fatigue and distraction will take you, or me as the case may be.

This week, I

Made new stickers for Red and Green Polka Dots on White, Red and Green Rectangles, Red and Grey Rectangles, Red and White Chevrons, Red and White Diamond Pattern, Red and White Gingham Pattern, Red and White Rectangles, Red and White Zigzag.

Watched Photoshop Mastery: Image Ambulance with Ben Willmore on creative LIVE. Lots of helpful tips for fixing problem photos.

Listened to Photofocus podcast from July 5, 2013.

Went through 5 folders from my photography archive and deleted 73 photos.

Read/skimmed Popular Photography Oct 2011, April 2013, June 2012. Yes, I know it's ridiculous to be so far behind. As much as I like magazines in theory, I'm not a mag person at heart.

Also read two art/photography books which I reviewed earlier this week.

3 years ago on TTaT: Who'd like some real mail? A little giveaway to perk you up

08 July 2013

150 Masterpieces of Drawing

150 Masterpieces of Drawing25. 150 Masterpieces of Drawing by Anthony Toney

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The title is misleading. Most of the drawings are rough sketches or studies for other works. Maybe 1/3 look like completed works. Those that do are cool, but overall I was disappointed by Toney's selections.

Just because something is drawn by an esteemed artist, e.g., Rembrandt, does not make all their first drafts masterpieces. The book just wasn't what I expected from its title.

Two years ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #74 Two-fer!

06 July 2013

Fratelli Alinari

Fratelli Alinari: The archives, printing procedures in the Alinari Archives, the photographic files, the new photographic campaigns, the art printworks,... image preserved, the photographic exhibitions24. Fratelli Alinari: The archives, printing procedures in the Alinari Archives, the photographic files, the new photographic campaigns, the art ... image preserved, the photographic exhibitions by Fratelli Alinari

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although this is mainly a promotional book for the Alinari museum, archive, and printworks, it has a lot of great photographs. Actually, the work they do to preserve photography is pretty interesting.

The images span from around 1850 to 1985 with the bulk of them in the earlier years. Most are photos taken in Italy with negatives and prints of all kinds of processes: albumen prints, silver bromide prints, celloidineprints, and daguerreotypes to name a few.

Well worth a flip through if you like old photographs. Makes me miss film.

A year ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #126 Frames & Keychains!

05 July 2013

Life of Art SitRep #178 Baby Blue

Still getting used to the site changes on Zazzle which hosts my main Rocklawn Arts store. Some issues have been resolved which is nice. Alas some quirks are caused by my older version of Safari which I can't update without upgrading my OS. sigh. (Firefox solves some of these, however it won't let me make small size adjustments which is vital, and Safari will. Maybe I'll try Chrome one of these days.)

The main thing that annoys me at the moment is not being able to add line breaks in places that no longer accept html (which will eventually be everywhere I fear).

Light blue was the color of the week with two new designs I created: Light Blue and White Chevrons and Light Blue and White Zigzag.
Light Blue and White Chevrons iPad Mini Cover
Light Blue and White Chevrons iPad Mini Cover by RocklawnArts
Look at more White iPad Mini Cases at zazzle
Light Blue and White Zigzag Journal
Light Blue and White Zigzag Journal by RocklawnArts
Browse White Notebooks online at Zazzle.com

Rocklawn Arts blogged both designs. The zigzag pattern will go up next Tuesday.

Also made new stickers for Purple and White Gingham Pattern, Purple and White Zigzag, Red and Green Gingham Pattern.

Reorganized store categories a bit.

Updated LOA summary.

Created a few new Photoshop actions.

Did some archival work on some photograph folders.

Read Popular Photography Jan 2013 issue. Yes, I am ridiculously behind.

Made my monthly backups.

Hope you had an excellent 4th of July if you celebrate it!

Two years ago on TTaT: Local Jungle

01 July 2013

Allow me to introduce Miss Fisher

Have you seen Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries?

It's a television series from Australia that's out on DVD. I got it through my library.

Miss Fisher is my new favorite sleuth. She's a murder solving flapper in the late 1920s. The stories take place in Melbourne, Australia.

The locations, sets, and costumes are exquisite, and the stories are fun. The mysteries have a lighter feel than many I watch set in present day which is a nice change of pace for summer. These often made me laugh.

The nice thing about period mysteries is that they don't get to rely on a bunch of forensic magic to solve the crimes; they have to be observant and savvy.

I also love that the main character is my age give or take. This seems to be a change from the books the series is based on (I'm just reading the first now), but a welcome one. I'd watch the series before reading the books with a good break in between.

The DVD extras were also really enjoyable, but wait until you've seen the whole series before you watch them.

What can I say about Miss Fisher? She makes me wonder what Miss Marple was like in her younger days. It amuses me to think that before she became the demure, little old lady sleuth, she was a hell-raising, flirtatious, wealthy bohemian who also solved crimes. Miss Fisher also reminds me of Bruce Wayne if he used his skills but without the secret identity. I don't know, she's just fun and ballsy.

Highly recommended!

3 years ago on TTaT: Less thinking, more photos