Category Archives: Art

Cubicle Christmas

We’ve been getting things back from our desks that have been salvaged and cleaned after the big fire. Boxes of items have been delivered to us and everywhere people are unwrapping items and exclaiming over surprises.  I’ve gotten quite a bit back that I figured I would never see again.  My CD player, my mug warmer, all YA’s photos, and gymnastic magnets, my beaded warthog and my little fan.  Today I got the little plastic panic and eject buttons that I had pasted onto my monitor.  It’s like Christmas all over again!

So, to celebrate – a little cubical haiku.

the big office fire
scorched all my accessories
only buttons left

What was your last little surprise? Extra points for haiku.

Making Things Pretty

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve

In the summer of 1974 my parents invited my erstwife and me to a dinner. They explained that my dad had made a serious amount of money recently, much more than they needed. There could be no happier use of that money, they said, than to send us to London “all expenses paid.” We wouldn’t need to spend a dime of our own money for two weeks of touring London.

Of course we were thrilled. We were grad students eking out a living with on-campus jobs at the University of Minnesota. This gift would let us live like rich people for two weeks. Even better, we realized there was enough money enough to allow us to travel around the United Kingdom. Instead of staying in a posh London hotel, as my parents had anticipated, we could sleep in B&Bs in the countryside. The money saved would cover a cheap rental auto. We could travel wherever our whims directed.

Our two-week vacation in September featured a week of exploring London and a week of bumbling about the country. We visited Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon and Dorset. We nipped into Wales briefly, which was funny. The Welsh were astonished that tourists would intentionally enter their country. They had no infrastructure to accommodate us, and we didn’t stay long.

We took hundreds of photos. Photography was trickier then than now. We shot slide film, a touchy and unforgiving medium. Our Fujichrome slides weren’t as pretty as Kodachrome, and they had gobs of grain. The British weather did us no favors, raining every day. The fugitive sun made a brief appearance three times. When not raining the skies remained overcast and harshly bright. Our slides were drab, with unpleasant tonality.

You can’t view slides without a slide projector, screen and dark room. Several years ago I hired a company to scan our slides, converting them to digital files. When I got the scans I was dismayed. The scanning process was crude. All the scans were underexposed and grainy, with ugly colors and tones.

A few weeks ago I came across those scans where they’d been hiding in a remote file on my computer. I opened a scan in my photo editing software. It was easy to brighten the image. I made some areas of the image darker, lightening others. I tweaked some colors. I tamed the harsh sky. My editing software has ways of reducing grain. Soon I had a new version of the slide that was pretty, or at least prettier than it had been. Some scans were too compromised to salvage, but that left nearly 200 scans that begged for a beauty makeover. With a big grin I began editing the 1974 trip images.

That kicked off three of the happiest weeks I’ve known. Because my computer is attached to good speakers I could stream an internet folk music broadcast while I worked.

Photo editing is tricky. I kept returning to images I had edited earlier, tweaking them, and often making my edits more subtle. Of course, no amount of editing can make fuzzy images sharp. Many things can go wrong in photography. I was puzzled by an icky color cast in pictures of suits of armor. I finally figured out that the armor was in a room lit with fluorescent lights, giving the metal a green cast. Aha! That could be fixed. In the end I produced 189 pleasing images.

The project was emotionally complicated. I was having so much fun I tuned out the horror show of our national politics. It was a joy to revisit moments from that extraordinary trip 44 years ago. Each image presented unique challenges, old memories and surprising rewards. Christmas—actually, a splendid Christmas—came and went. I was almost too absorbed with editing to pay it much attention. I was too busy making ugly things prettier. What is more rewarding than that?

Do you have ways to add beauty to your life?

Public Domain Day

Two years ago, when Dale retired from the Trail, I didn’t know anything about usage rights and although I had heard the phrase “public domain”, I didn’t really know what it meant. Dale taught me quite a bit about it and then I did further research to make sure we don’t get ourselves in trouble.  That’s why Renee and I sometimes question photos and for the most part, don’t copy poetry and lyrics of other writers.

Since 1998, a work enters public domain 70 years after the life of the author. Before 1998, it was 50 years; to clear up the complexity of that change, they put a moratorium on releasing anything into public domain for 20 years.  That 20 years is up and as of Tuesday, everything from 1923 is now officially in the public domain.

Some of the items now free to share are The Metropolis by Upton Sinclair, The Color of a Great City by Theodore Dreiser, The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Rootabaga Pigeons by Carl Sandburg and New Hampshire by Robert Frost.

So in celebration of Public Domain Day, here is a poem that last week we could not have posted here legally!

Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Do you pay attention to expiration dates?

Digital Nuptials

A Japanese man made the news this week when he married a holographic version of an anime character.   He had a formal wedding ceremony with invited guests, white tux and a reception afterwards.  The hologram is capable of simple greetings and can also turn the lights on and off.  People online are referring to the groom as “digi-sexual” and saying it’s a new trend in people relating to their artificial intelligence devices in addition to their human interactions.

The young man actually makes a compelling argument for how he feels when he interacts with the hologram and that it’s made a difference in his life. Hard to argue with that, although I’m not sure I’d want a relationship in which I completely control every variable. But it’s his life and his marriage isn’t a legally binding contract, so if he meets another holographic anime character that he likes better, he can move on fairly easily.

Imagine your current spouse/relationship (if you have one) doesn’t exist. What cartoon character would YOU choose to marry?

Henry Dog

Today’s post comes from Crystal Bay

My dad’s dream was to live on a lake so that he could go fishing every morning. He had a second dream: having his own factory to design and sell stuffed toys. Some of you may remember “Animal Fair”? Some will remember his factory in Chanhassen.

He was very gifted as an artist. The way he designed a new stuffed animal was amazing. He’d have a dream during sleeping of a new animal, and, in the morning over a cup of coffee, he’d sketch it out. He then knew how to lay it out one-dimensionally on fabric, cut it out, sew it, turn it inside out, and stuff it. It looked exactly like the one in his dream. Most every animal he ever made went through this extraordinary process. On Saturdays, he’d practically give the toys away and donate many to charity.

One day, he produced “Henry”, named by my son because he looked like a classmate. He made them from 6” high to 6’ tall.

Bringing this history up to Dad at 81 years old, one morning, while reading the Variety section, I spotted a big picture of Henry. Reading the article, I learned that there’s an international Henry fan club, a web site. and even an annual convention. They’re now worth a fortune. In this article, the founders of the club lamented that they’d never found his creator, the birth, of this beloved dog.

I immediately phoned them to tell them who brought Henry into life. They flew a delegation out from CA to meet with Dad that very week, and updated the Henry website with the story of Henry’s modest beginnings.

You can only imagine the old man’s astonishment!! At Dad’s memorial service just one year later, the company, Princess Toys who’d bought him out, sent a box full of little Henrys to give everyone in attendance. Sitting next to his urn is a Henry dog on my living room shelf. It seems that Henry will live on into perpetuity.

How do you get your creative ideas?  What were your favorite stuffed animals?

Christmas Treasures

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

I happened to come upon an article online this week titled “This is What It Means When You See a Bird’s Nest Ornament on a Christmas Tree.” According the German company Inge Glas in a 2005 ornament description: “The [bird’s nests] represent the love, commitment, and effort it takes to build a happy home. Bird nests are also good-luck symbols. Legend has it that prosperity will come to any home that finds a bird’s nest nestled among the branches of the family Christmas tree.” My nesting bird is not on a tree – it’s on the upper shelf of my buffet – but I still remember how I was attracted to it in the shop where I bought it.

Other ornaments that have meaning for me are a few remaining spherical glass balls made by Shiny Brite – the striped ones especially, thought there are lots of different vintage designs pictured here:  

I can remember, at maybe four years of age, standing on tip-toe to see my reflection in them. They’ve apparently become so popular they’re back in production.

Do you have a meaningful Christmas ornament or decoration in possession, or in memory?

What are you doing this week to celebrate the holidays?

Gophermunk

Today’s post comes from Crystal Bay.

In the late 50s, the U of M commissioned Dad to create their mascot, Goldie Gopher. He had no idea what a gopher looked like, so on his way from our hometown, Ames, he saw some critters scurrying around the border of Minnesota and Iowa. He got out of his car and madly scribbled drawings on a sketch pad.

He was in his 80s when my 20-year old son asked him, “Did you really design Goldie Gopher?” Then, for the first time, the story came out. Yes, Dad created him – but – not knowing the difference between a gopher and a chipmunk, he made a hybrid of the two. He drew a chipmunk body and slapped some big front teeth on the model.

To this day, Goldie Gopher remains a gophermunk. His original sketch is pictured below this post . My son wrote up the story and it headlined in the Minnesota Daily. Just think – he got away with this for more than half of a century. You’ll never look at him the same way again now.

How do you think sports mascots make a difference to a team?  What teams do you follow, and why? Know any good gopher, squirrel, or chipmunk stories?