Friday, April 29, 2011

The Art of Silliness - online class for recession-busting artists everywhere

I didn't mean to neglect the blog this week. But real-life intrusions kept...intruding. There was nothing I could do except occasionally tweet my dismay and Tumblr-link to my weirder Internet finds. I even Facebook'd here and there, but this blog is more of a heartfelt-effort type of endeavor, and my heart was busy taking care of reality.

And reading over my first paragraph, I must say: when did I turn into such a massively computer-addicted geek? That's something to work out another day.

Carla Sonheim is our subject today. She's a Seattle-based artist who wrote a fine drawing-exercise book, Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists, and she curates a series of online art classes that are ridiculously affordable and fun. If you sign up for her class, you get daily PDF downloads of easy, silly, fun drawing exercises (and an occasional photography assignment, if her husband happens to be co-teaching).

You don't even have to be an artist. The exercises are designed to get you into a "drawing is fun" mode from way back in childhood when you didn't care what people thought of your creative output. This is a healthy place to be, if even for just ten minutes a day.

You can share the downloads with your family, or if you're a teacher, with your class. My son and I had a blast doing this together. He likes art but he likes doing a lot of other stuff too, so this was a good focusing technique for him to do some daily artwork and it was Fun, I tell you. Fun with a capital "F." I just realized I could substitute the word "me" for "my son" in the above sentence, and it would be just as true. Focus--it's a good thing.

Watch Carla paint a bunny with a watercolor charcoal pencil base.

Carla succinctly discusses her book.

I made some art. I'll make some more.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to get rid of gophers, in theory

We started a garden (officially in actual dirt, not in pots) and it's already annihilated by slugs and gophers. I can handle the slugs--I got organic bait for them (it keeps them from eating for three or four days--then they die--gnarly!). The gophers are tough though. I've been reading all available organic solutions for them. I don't want to set out poison in the middle of my vegetable garden, after all. But currently, it doesn't look like it's going to be much of a vegetable garden, thanks to you, gophers. So here are some of the suggestions:

Place fish heads in their entrance-ways. Like most creatures on God's green earth, gophers don't like fish heads in their burrows.

Here's Barnes and Barnes' 1979 cult hit, "Fish Heads," for inspiration. (Song starts at 2:19)

Or you can rent a "gopher vac," which will suck them out of the ground for a one-way ticket out of your yard. Gophers are not harmed by the vacuum but moved to another location, far far away. Perhaps their minds will be affected, but who cares? I couldn't find a video of a gopher vac, but here's a prairie dog vac in action--same thing.

Or you can build a cool-looking owl house to attract some predator birds. At night, they're supposed to eat your gophers, post-haste. There's some debate about whether an owl will feed in its nesting area, so you're encouraged to ask your neighbors to place an owl house in their yard, if you do the same. Great--interacting with neighbors over gophers and their predators. I guess it's better than just being on Facebook all the time.

Castor oil and camphor oil pellets are supposed to keep gophers away. Spread it around the plants and the smell disturbs them enough so they move out. Or so they say...

This answer comes from the Berkeley Parents Network--a bastion of organic solutions to life's pestering problems:

Shake Away. We used the one for rodents like voles, moles, mice and rats. It contains garlic oil. They have another product for Small Critters like gophers and a number of other animals that contains fox urine; we did not use that product. They charge $15.95 for each of their cans.

We also used garlic tablets from another company called They also sell castor oil which apparently repels moles and gophers and is the most cost effective product. They also have Shake Away for $19.95.

We used the garlic oil from shake a way once and the garlic tablets from once. The next day the gopher disappeared; we have only had gophers twice in the last year. One gopher can make many tunnels and they are solitary animals. You probably have only 1 gopher.

Gopher traps are another option. Let me know if you want info on that; we did not need to try the traps.

Thanks, Judy. When I need advice, I turn to the inhabitants of Berkeley. They read up on things and they're here to help.

So, sorry to be so gopher-obsessed today, but they're obnoxious. And hungry. And they've taken my sunflower seeds, dammit.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Le Reno Amps - Best Band from Scotland I've Heard Today

It's been a helluva week. Health scares, a volunteer gig that got out of hand, rain (always like to get rain around here though--we practically live in a desert half the year otherwise), HMO runaround. At least there were no catastrophic events. Oh, wait--never mind. OK--so anyway, this band, Le Reno Amps, based in Glasgow, just washed into my consciousness this morning and I'm thoroughly enjoying their pop weirdness. You go, Le Reno Amps. Get popular so I can say I called it first. And as usual, no one will hear me say that.

Listen to and download their crackin' good new album, "Appetite for Construction."

Le Reno Amps!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

DIY Voyeur

Maybe you need something to do this week, or just a place to see what other people are doing. Thanks to the Internet, we can all sit here, staring blankly at the industrious efforts of other people. Perhaps inspiration will strike. One thing to remember before starting any do-it-yourself project is to have plenty of root beer on hand for when you get stumped and need to take a break. Also: try to keep the swearing down--us lazy people are trying to read around here.

IKEA Hackers is exactly what it says it is: a blog about revamping IKEA products to your own desires. Like this ingenious topsy-turvy-like tomato planter that Ninjarita from Minneapolis made from VASTLIG bags.

Some hacks are kind of "eh," like I can't get excited about the kitty litter boxes housed in repurposed laminated cabinets, but this is impressive--Ramvik Arcade Machine by Jed

Make Magazine's blog makes me feel inadequate. I'll never be as tech-savvy as this crafty bunch. Check out Shep's Lego Quad Flexipicker, which can sort 48 Lego bricks per minute.

Craft Magazine is such a mixture of stuff. Browse away. I'm partial to this crocheted viking costume by Veronica Knight.

But enough about that. Let's learn some basic blacksmithing with Meg and Alex Himmelbaum, shall we?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Record Store Day - Saturday Saturday Saturday!

Tomorrow. Is. Record Store Day.

So go out and buy ya some records everyone. Or CDs or whatever you treasure. There's going to be all kinds of special vinyl releases and barbecues and what-not, so check out the Record Store Day site and find a store near you (you might have to drive a little farther this year than in the past, sadly, unless you live in San Francisco, you lucky record-buying sod).

Hey, Yo La Tengo at Amoeba Records, what's in your bag?

Questlove--what's in your bag, sir?

Well, what about you, Girl In A Coma?

Now that you're all fired up for some music shopping--go to it.

And here's something else you can do this weekend, watch Coachilla live on the YouTubes. Showing RIGHT NOW, April 15-17. I just watched some Interpol--that's some dark pop shit there. And the Black Keys are on tonight at 11:15 so I can feel cool while I'm basically being a nerd in front of the computer. (Actually, I'll be in bed--it's been one of those weeks.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Buncha' SXSW crit-pics heading your way

I stole this list from that bastion of rock & roll indie cred, The Contra Costa Times. I'm not being sarcastic. This is a really good and helpful list--thank you Jim Harrington and Michael Mayer for putting it together. Since I can never afford (in $$ and time) to go to SXSW, these kinds of listings really help a girl out. And if you live in the Bay Area, these bands are coming atcha. Hooray for music. It keeps on keeping on, despite the troubles.

Yuck are from London but they sound like early-90s Akron, Ohio to me. In a good way. Some European bands seem to be pulling from the early 90s obscure/fuzzy/angsty thing as a form of expression. No complaints here.

Yuck - "Get Away"

Playing with Tame Impala at The Fillmore on April 18.

Janelle Monáe is a performance artist with a theater background. Can you tell? She's invented some kind of character from another world/planet and you get to decide if you want to go there. I think her commitment to percussive dance numbers, big hair, short pants and two-tone shoes are all good signs for the stylistic musical future.

Janelle Monáe [featuring Big Boi] - "Tightrope" (Film geeks: can you spot the Maya Deren reference?)

Playing with Bruno Mars at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, June 8.

The Baseball Project consists of indie luminaries Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, and Linda Pitmon. They compose and play songs about baseball. Critics are always head-scratching about this one but let me tell you: a lot of indie-rock musicians are baseball fans. Baseball is, as far as I'm concerned, the unofficial sport of scrappy musicians.

I used to play in a pick-up league (with rubber "doggie balls") with a bunch of them and we were passionate about our baseball. We ran the bases in our thrift-store cleats four seasons out of the year (during drought years) and we didn't get too drunk or fall down much even (two injuries in a nearly decade run--pretty good).

But back to The Baseball Project. Peter Buck is such a baseball fan that I've actually seen him play live, wearing cleats. And they're not comfortable on a hardwood stage, believe me (I hope he had insoles). So he is dedicated. He's also one of the best guitarists in rock--lest we forget. So put on your favorite-team hat and support The Baseball Project.

The Baseball Project - "Past Time"

Sorry, we missed them in San Francisco earlier this month (damn!) but they're based in Portland, so they'll be back--hell, it's baseball season and Portland doesn't even have a pro team--so they better.

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers are perhaps the only harmonium-based punk rock band in the history of the world. I mean, I've seen and heard a lot of punk rock over the years, but this is a harmonium-playing howling woman from a traditional Indian-music background. That's just different.

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

West coasters: she played here in March and she's based on the East Coast, so be patient.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Perfect kite flying weather.

Uh oh--my big computer-driven project reactivated on me today. So here's a ten-minute post. Can I meet this challenge: embed a video or two and give proper credits where credits are due? YOU be the judge.

Today my kid and I had a busy day. He went to his first golf lesson and did great. So well did he drive the ball that his new teacher got that excited golfing gleam in his eye and started talking to me about nine-year-old tournament girl golfers he coaches, and that sort of thing. I'm glad my kid just found something he can be passionate about besides video games lately. If it's municipal golf, so be it. My dad will be thrilled too so it's win-win.

Anyway, my posting focus is actually on what we did after the lesson. We hiked up a beautiful ridge next to the course and flew our kite. It was so delightfully windy, that I simply held the kite up about four feet off the ground, and UP it went. WAY UP. And while we did that, a lovely hawk glided about a hundred yards away, simply hanging in the wind, perfectly still on a wing, and watched us fly our kite; probably wondering WTF? Because hawks are inclined to do that (they're so smart, those hawks).

So in one area of a vast sky was our rainbow kite with its lengthy tail flitting about. Off by a California Oak, was the hawk, just floating, wings spread, like a natural kite. The clouds were dark gray, getting blacker. It was heaven, baby!

We had a blast. I haven't flown a kite in a million years (I used to be pretty OK at it as a kid). Jackson had never had a proper kite-flying session because we no longer live with a marina conveniently close by. This was really nice--being out in greenery with a bird of prey and some dark orange wild flowers visible along the hillside.

Oh! My posting time is up (note: with editing time, it's ending up being a 25-minute post--that's how it goes). So here's Ray Bethell, multiple kite champion. He is a magician with kites. Enjoy!

Also: I love the giant octopus kites at the Berkeley Kite Festival. Aren't they fab?

- Another kite trio
- Lovely kite at Crissy Field in San Francisco
- When at Burning Man, go fly a kite
- Bay Area Wind Pattern Map

Oh yes, I almost forgot: when we got home, it started pouring and then hailing in large chunks for quite some time. What a great afternoon, I'm telling you!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

It's National Poetry Month, bitches

Sorry for the profanity. I just want to grab your attention. People see the word "poetry" and they do one of two things: run for the hills (hitching a ride in a passing SUV) or submit their poems to some sap who's started a zine (not that I have any experience with that--ahem). Anyway, I love April because it's time for poetry writin'. Here's some NPR News Haiku, fresh from this morning's headlines, from me to you.

Hole in the ozone
bigger up north. Canada:
apply more sunscreen

Memphis policeman
bit by dog owner in park
her pit bull watching

Construction spending
down again. Housing bubble
popped, burst, exploded.

Southwest fuselage
rupture grounds 81 planes
scares us all shitless

Paul Simon album
gives NPR audience
hope for their future

There's a National Poetry Month Challenge on Tumblr (tagged NaPoMo for those who tumblr): write a poem each day of this month, and I'm taking that challenge. You can read all my bad and maybe not quite so terrible poetry on my Tumblr blog, which would otherwise be languishing: Dancing Bugs.

Past celebrations (I don't know what happened in 2010--didn't feel poetical I guess):
April is National Poetry Month (again), 2009
It's National Poetry Month So Follow Your Muse, 2008
Hot Damn! It's National Poetry Month, 2007

Monday, April 04, 2011

Let's talk Jesus

These kids have some good questions for the vicar about Jesus. From the British show, "Outnumbered."

Table talk with Jesus.

Jesus Take the Wheel, starring Puppet Jesus and featuring Carrie Underwood's heartfelt plea.

Jesus Christ action figure (cross not included). This would actually sell.

Can you guess my favorite Jesus exclamation?
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Friday, April 01, 2011

YouTube 1911 - tee hee and chortle, I say

I tried all day to come up with a somewhat decent April Fool's post but I'm so brain damaged today. A cold with a sore throat right at the tail-end (actually, probably just the middle of) a very large computer-related project. Plus a sick kid who's been coughing all day. It's madness, I tell you. Sheer, unadulterated madness. So I'll let YouTube do the work for me, 8 hours too late.

The top 5 viral videos of 1911--clever, by jingo!