Trash Day: beer cans

I live in a neighborhood populated mainly by college students and other younglings who are new to the finer points of trash disposal (which is why I have such easy pickings). Among their favorite pastimes is celebrating their newly-minted adult identities by getting shitfaced drunk. So finding a use for the squashed beer cans that litter the neighborhood was inevitable.

As you can see, the kids have crap taste in beer, plus a fondness for alco-pop. :

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Trash Day: Target bag

I’m supposed to post my experiment with the Target bag today, but I’m postponing it until tomorrow.

First, the light is too poor to photograph the results I have so far. Second, while my neck is much better, I can tell that spending the computer-time required to edit the photos I do have and write a coherent post is going to mess me up again.

Third? I’m rather disappointed with my results so far. What I did really was an experiment, and while I’ve learned some important things that will translate into future work, aesthetically it’s…nothing to write home about. I’m rather grouchy about the whole thing, so I’m better off stepping away from it for the evening and giving it a fresh look in the morning. In the meantime, I have a gigantic brisket that’s nearly done slow-cooking, too many ripe avocadoes for comfort, and a sneaking suspicion that dinner will improve my outlook immensely.

One thing has made me happy this Trash Day, however: I got my stash of materials for future projects in order. Once I got the idea to do Trash Day, I began to set aside any interesting trash that seemed to have potential. For better or for worse, I’m one of those people who sees the potential in just about anything–so the situation was getting way out of hand. Not wanting to be the subject of a Very Special Episode of Hoarders, I took some time this morning (while getting the actual trash ready to go out) to organize my trash stash and find a suitable place to put it all. Much better! Now, if I can just get the rest of my studio in order…

Trash Day: avocado netting

I buy avocadoes at Costco, in a green net bag that holds five avos. I usually go through a bag a week, so I’m always playing with that net bag, stretching it this way and that, wrapping it over things to see what I might be able to do with it. But I’ve never actually done anything with it. So this week’s Trash Day project? Remedy that situation.

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Magical Realist’s Day Off

There might be a book review posted tonight–or not. I’ve got a great book, but haven’t finished it yet.

I’ve spent the last couple of days with an extremely stiff, sore neck, thanks to my lack of studio ergonomics as well as my atrociously bad work habits. I did get a lot done this week, but yesterday was a complete wash. And while I’m delighted with the intense surge of creativity I’m currently enjoying, it does have one big downside–I can’t sleep worth a damn. My body stops for the day, but my brain doesn’t; it just keeps chattering away. So I’ve been sleeping badly or not at all, and yesterday was my day to do nothing but sleep and try to get myself un-kinked.

Today I’m off on an excursion with my mom. She had a melanoma scare last week, so we’re going to hang out and celebrate negative biopsy results. It’ll also get me out of the house and give me another day of not sitting hunched over art projects, dismissing my growing discomfort. (“Yeah, yeah, just let me finish this and I’ll get up/move around/stretch.” And then three hours later, when I’m done…dude, I am done in. Note to self: That’s gotta stop.)

So: back this evening, maybe with pictures of something interesting.

Trash Day: cat food carton

There are eight cats currently in residence here at Chez Magical Realist. Needless to say, they eat a lot. (They also poop a lot, but that’s for another Trash Day post).

They’re on a wet-only diet, so we go through a lot of canned food. And I mean a lot of canned food. In a normal week, the six younger cats will consume 63 cans of it. Once in a while they’ll eat everything in sight for a day or two, so 70 cans in a week is not unheard of. Then there’s the 14 cans of Hill’s k/d for Bob&Elvis* and their failing old-man kidneys, plus a few cans of Fancy Feast to give them a bit of variety…

You get the picture. A lot of canned food.

We have a 64 gallon wheelie bin for recycling, and by the time it gets picked up every other week it’s at least half-full of cat food cans, plus the packaging all those cans come in–which includes these paperboard cartons:

When I picked these for this week’s Trash Day project, I knew exactly what I wanted to make from them. Continue reading

While I’m waiting for paint to dry…

It’s a perfectly pleasant summer day, and I’m indoors, working on today’s Trash Day project.

But here’s the thing: it should have been done this morning and posted already. It’s not a difficult project, after all. From the moment I decided what to make I knew it wouldn’t present any big technical challenges; it’s just an idea I’ve had rattling in my brain for over a decade, but never tried. So I thought I’d relax and have fun and finally do it. Easy enough.

And no, the actual making of this project hasn’t posed any difficulties at all. It’s going very well, I’m having fun with it, and I think the result will be worth the effort. It’s a technique I’ll definitely want to play with some more in the future.

So what’s the problem, then?

Well, as always, it’s me.

In this case, it’s my tendency to think about an upcoming project, to imagine all the details of it, to mentally plan how I’m going to execute it–and then to put off the actual doing of it until the very last minute, leaving me nowhere near enough time to finish on schedule.

My brain, when making plans, always seems to forget that there’s this meatsuit I’m wearing, and that the meatsuit only moves so fast (it also needs sleep, food, coffee, bathroom breaks, and to call its mother). My brain also forgets that glue takes its time in drying, and that any project that involves lots of tiny, individually-painted pieces is going to take a while.

So I didn’t get started on this project until yesterday afternoon, after drinking coffee, farting around on the Internet for a while, and doodling sketches for another project altogether. And while everything has gone smoothly, it’s also gone slowly, and I am still gamely plugging away at it.

How many times have I put myself in this position? Don’t even ask. How I got through college, or have managed to keep myself together and functioning as an adult human being is one of the great mysteries of my existence. But maybe it’s something I can finally address–because damn it, I am not going to spend every Monday racing like mad to get these projects done. I’m just not.

Okay, back to work…

Review: A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

In the opening pages of A Discovery of Witches Yale history professor Diana Bishop, on a summer research trip to Oxford’s Bodleian Library, encounters a 17th-century alchemical manuscript sealed by magic. Descended from a long line of powerful witches, Diana can feel the powerful spell at work as soon as she touches the book.

Despite her surprise at receiving an enchanted volume from the Bodleian’s stacks, her trepidation at what might happen if she opens it, and her unwillingness to use her inborn magical ability, Diana doesn’t simply return the book to the call desk. No, that would be too easy. Despite the possibility that the book, once opened, may be trouble, Diana opens it anyway–and yes, trouble (and the plot) ensues.

I don’t know how many times I picked A Discovery of Witches up, In the months following its February release, looked at it–and put it back, unbought. On the surface, it looks like the kind of novel I’d eat up with a spoon. Academic setting? Check. Historical mystery? Check. Magic existing in a contemporary setting, yet unseen and unrecognized by normal people? Check. Over 400 pages? Check. It’s like a recipe for my favorite flavor of literary crack. But despite all that, I didn’t cave in and buy it until early June, and once I got it home it sat unread for nearly two months.

I mean, look–I snapped up Lev Grossman’s The Magicians last year without a flicker of hesitation. I didn’t even bother to finish reading the dust jacket flap; I just knew immediately that it was a novel that could have been custom-written to my tastes (and it exceeded all my expectations). I’m even counting down the days (three!) until the release of the sequel, The Magician King. I also picked up Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf (and reviewed it last week), despite not being a “dog person”–I simply had an odd hunch that it would be worth reading, followed it, and was rewarded with a howling good time.

I’ve got this odd, intuitive book-sense, in other words. It’s an uncanny knack for picking up on which books will be good and which will…not. And I really should have listened to that book-sense each time I picked up A Discovery of Witches and debated whether to buy it, because, like Diana Bishop, I seemed to know just by touching the cover that it was going to be–well, okay, not trouble. Just a massive goddamned disappointment. Continue reading

Arrested developments.

For years, I’ve collected mug shots. Whenever I’d see an interesting one online? Right click–>Save. Do that enough times over the years, and you’ll end up with a big collection.

Most of them don’t even have names attached, much less arrest details. I don’t know why most of these people were arrested in the first place, or where. I don’t know if they ever stood trial, or were found guilty, or what became of them afterward. But here’s what I do know for sure: every single mug I’ve collected has a story behind it. And even if I don’t know the real story, there’s something in each one of those pictures that caught my attention and seems to demand one.

I’m a hopeless junkie for stories. I can’t get through a day without spotting a story just waiting to be told. And all the best stories crop up wherever things are out of kilter. Anything broken, abandoned, neglected, or worn out has a story. Anything out of its normal place has one, too. Anything that’s just plain fucked up? It’s storytime, kids.

So I’ve collected all these mug shots, with the vague idea of making art with them one day. Only recently, however, did I realize that I was collecting them for their stories. Not the capital-T Truth of what happened and how these people ended up on John Law’s bad side, but rather the stories these photos suggest.

And with that in mind, I’m finally starting to make art from these images, pulling the stories out of them. I sat down today and did this pencil study from a mug taken roughly 20 years ago:

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Trash Day: coffee bags

I drink a lot of coffee. I won’t say how much, but trust me, it’s a lot, even for a Seattleite. So coffee bags are a mainstay of my trash.

The bags my coffee comes in are made of thick, tough plastic, with a silvery inside and a printed outside. As far as I can tell, they are not recyclable; when even Berkeley-based Peet’s doesn’t have recycling info on their bags that pretty much says it all.

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