Sometimes I forget that my perspective has changed over the years, and I forget to check where I am. My son does a great job reminding me to do that.
Arte de Timo
January 25th, 2012 Comments Off
January 16th, 2012 Comments Off
I painting this diptic over ten years ago when I was just out of undergrad. I had had a hidden life as an oil painter during my science studies, and these were two of the only four I completed after school. Eventually, I got around to showing these as a grad student in a show called “Scholarship Denied” with a few of my graduate school friends. The title of the show is a long story, but it was an excuse to show these old works. I ended up writing a companion text to go along with the paintings. It had never occurred to me to write anything before the show, but I realized that I needed to write this in order to finish the work. Here is that text:
When you come to the realization that everything you have done in your life, and seemingly everything that you will ever do, has only contributed to the world’s suffering and deterioration, how will you choose to live out the rest of your life?
Western society, includina an increasingly globalized East, is entering an era where we will collectively and individually be forced to answer this question. The last several decades have provided us a resource surplus that has let us live in a delusional state. Our delussions have obscured the approaching dark age that will be caused by the mutually amplifying factors of resource exploitation and over population. While in this state of delusion, our societies have dissolved any sense of forward-thought, or inter-generational planning. We have maintained an antiquated and ineffective infrastructure, shed tranditions of stewardship, and unlearned our writen history.
Seeing what is, and what will be may let us predict our fate, but in each passing night, an impending darkness increasingly envelops us.
The paintings and writing pose a question about which path to travel when the light fails. The paintings were made just prior to September 11, 2001, and the writing after. I now find it eery how this question has played itself out in so many other ways since I painted them.
On September 11, OBL, in his view, struck back at an empire who had its dirty hands all over the Middle East, and one that was all too complacent in its wealth and entertainment. He gave us a choice about the future we would make for ourselves in the face of our own vulnerability. We had a choice between a reeling darkness, or one of a painful, yet passing night. Our country’s extreme ignorance of our own involvement in the Arab world, coupled with an over-confidence in our vengeful strength, made us choose a violent darkness, which still over-shadows us now.
On this day, we celebrate another visionary, MLK, who gave us another choice over 40 years ago to move out of darkness and through a passing night. I wonder about the paths we have traveled since I painted “Dark and Night.” As we lashed out at the world after September 11, 2001, we turned on ourselves, eroding our civil liberties, relinquishing parts of our democracy, and turning over immense executive power to the president. As we sought to battle this shadowy “evil” in the world, we stepped into the darkness our selves. Once there, it spread over us.
Ten years later, the middle east has moved closer to democracy, and we have moved further away from it. We have witnessed the rise of anger as our unifying thread in this country. This anger has manifest itself on the political right, as the Tea party, and the political left as the Occupy movement. In the waning years of the Lost Decade we have seen protests on our streets that haven’t been as large since the days of MLK. But those protests have not been about a rise out of racist darkness, though. Ironically, they have been about just stopping the free fall into the darkness of oppression and fear.
From Wisconsin to Tar Sands, to Occupy, these protests have been about stopping a further slide toward domination and exploitation. Where the civil rights movements were about the advancement of people, and progressive ideals, our protests have been about anger over lost control.
MLK had a dream that we would all be treated equally, and live with dignity and respect. It seems, sadly, that we chased after the first by giving up the later. Finally, ending up with neither. Yes, we, US Americans, are all equal in some ways. We are all equal under an increasingly less democratic and more authoritarian state. We are all on the verge of losing our homes, our livelihoods, and our public safety net. We are all equally threatened by pollution, global warming and natural disasters. We all can equally expect to live less healthy and shorter lives. We have become the huddled masses that we called out for all those 200 years ago, except we aren’t huddled now. We are angry, resentful, overstimulated, distracted, consumers who are moving too fast to know we are in the dark.
The last decade has shown us that we do indeed sink together. When a night was all that approached, we chose a fire in the darkness. It has shown us that we aren’t individuals enough to avoid our collective fate. (Unless, of course, we have become uber-rich, but that may just be an illusion in the end.) In ten years, we have become a mass of small chirping creatures in the shadows, fighting over scraps.
We need to close our eyes to feel a dawn, but when we choose to build a fire, a twilight always burns.
And on that note, have a great holiday.
January 13th, 2012 Comments Off
Has anyone seen this? I was out there last Saturday for the flea market, and was walking by. I stopped to tie my shoes, and then looked up to see the sign and yellow bikes. I was a little in shock. I didn’t think there were any progressive schools left in California that had money left to do things like this. I felt a little like I was in Europe or something. They have huge arrays of solar panels too. What a great development for the school.
January 11th, 2012 Comments Off
Here is a video tour of my compost bin (I promised a video). The bin is over a year old now, and hasn’t shown any sign of material or design flaws. It may have dry wood termites in it, but there is enough redwood that it might take a decade before they do any harm or spread anywhere else. Otherwise I think its working pretty well.
In compost part 1 I talked about reaching a balance. That balance is as much about adding things to the composter as it is about having the right composter for the household. Bins come in many shapes and sizes, so it is important to think carefully about what is needed before the compost piles up.
I built mine with balance in mind. I wanted something that could take care of all of our food waste, and all of our yard waste, yet wouldn’t take up a ton of space, or time to keep going. Turns out my design was just right, and not only can the composter handle all of our yard and kitchen waste, but it actually needs it to function well. The approximately 40 cubic foot bin was the perfect size to reach a balance for my household. It does take effort, but it isn’t too bad and is comparable to taking out the trash.
I hinted in part 1 at the idea of brown and green compost materials, so let me explain them a little. Green material is a term used to describe organic material that is high in nitrogen. Brown is something with little nitrogen and high carbon content. As you might guess something like fresh grass clippings would be considered green, while fallen leaves, brown. But why is it important?
Nitrogen is what I would call the meat, and carbon the roughage and carbs in a compost diet. Most organisms use nitrogen for the complex molecules needed in energy storage and transfer. Some examples are proteins, chlorophyll, and fats. Consequently, those are the things that microbes, bugs, animals and even us humans like to eat, but without the roughage, none of us biological creatures would be energized. I won’t get into the specifics of biological compositional analysis (not that I have a background in it), but think of how you would feel if meat was the only thing you ate.
The needed ratio of carbon to nitrogen is something like 9 to 1 (Correction: 25 TO 1), but I don’t think its super important as long as you have quite a bit more brown material than green in the composter. If you add kitchen scraps and green grass to your compost heap, and nothing else, you will end up getting a lot of nitrogen-rich molecules floating around. These will take the form of smelly fumes, and will probably spur a lot of unwanted growth like from various slimes, and maggots. In any case, too much nitrogen leads to a lot of foul activity. Sure, the waste will still compost, but you won’t like the experience. Trust me, I know from experience.
So what kinds of compost materials generate a good balance?
My bin takes all the leaves (brown) from the various trees we have, along with our kitchen scraps (very green), and anything else considered a natural waste, like fallen fruit (green), weeds (green and brown), or yard trimmings (very brown). Occasionally, I’ll even throw in shredded bills (very brown). This seems to make for a good balance. You would probably be surprised by what else I throw in there, though (like two dead rats I caught in a trap I set out. Gross and very green, plus nutrient rich.)
What surprises most people is that there really aren’t very many limitations to what will compost. There is a myth that centers on not adding meat or dairy to a compost heap. I challenge that myth. I compost everything from the kitchen except bones (these actually don’t compost well). Meat, dairy, bread, paper, you name it, it all goes in and disappears.
The only thing that didn’t break down well in my hot heap, surprisingly, were the leftover tortillas from my MFA thesis reception. I had bought them from the “regular” supermarket in bulk, for cheap, and as a result were loaded with preservatives. Those things stayed true to form in my heap for weeks, while everything else from the reception like the paper plates, beans and cheese slipped away into soilness.
I think the premiss of the myth revolves around the idea that meat takes a while to break down, and in that time becomes foul, drawing in animals. My experience is that with enough compost going on around it (a foot or two of material on all sides) almost anything will rot away before it becomes a problem. The size of the heap is the key factor. Nothing composts well in anything less than 3 or 4 feet of space, so meat would just magnify the problem of a composter that is too small (which I think is often the case.)
So, after all this what do I get from my composter?
In part 3 I will talk about what comes out of the heap, and what I think is important to know about your nitrogen in the garden. Didn’t I tell you compost was complex and fun?
January 1st, 2012 Comments Off
I finally got the bike restoration project moving forward. It’s nothing special right now, but I went out for a test ride to make sure the brakes were working this morning. It felt good having this thing actually roll around after the time I’ve put into it so far. Having it come back to life is a testament to how well things were built back in the 1950′s. Incredibly, it wasn’t just the metal parts that held up. When I got it all back together, I just pumped up the tires that were there and headed to the street. I was prepared to replace them, but after who knows how many years, they inflated and gave me a clean ride. Amazing!
I didn’t tighten everything down too tight or lube it, since I will just be taking it all apart again, but it still was a really smooth ride. I was expecting a little clunk or alignment issues, but there was nothing unusual. There was a little tightness in the crank, and some very slight deflections in the moving parts, but again nothing you would notice day to day. This bike was clearly a high end bike with very tight tolerances, and even after all these years of neglect it still preforms well.
All that is left now is the saddle repair, gearing overhaul, and a fresh coat of paint. Getting the gearing back up and running will probably be the toughest part of the rebuild. That and deciding what color to paint it, of course.
Here’s to a new year of projects! Cheers to 2012.
T i m o M c I n t o s h. A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d.
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