MASS MoCA-Not a Large Specialty Coffee

Not all that long ago we took a road trip.  We journeyed quite a distance into and across the states of New York and Massachusetts.  We were well inland during the trip.   It was late fall and there was some colour left in the trees-all in all a pretty drive.  Parts of the drive that were not so scenic were the many deserted warehouses and factories-sitting derelict and sometimes vandalized.  They tell of a time, decades ago, when those building housed vibrant industries and employed many people.  One building that has been rejuvenated and beautifully so is the former factory that now houses the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art or Mass MoCA  in North Adams, MA.  It is the largest museum of contemporary art in the United States.  The museum is on the site of a former textile printing factory.  As you walk up to the museum you come upon trees in an unusual spot.  

Larger than the patio upside down tomato plants

There are several buildings and floors of exhibits.  The exposed brick and hardwood floors provide a wonderful background for art.  

The exhibit One Floor Up More Highly by Katharina Gross was housed in a space that is as large as a football field.  

One Floor Up More Highly exhibit

Three floors in the main building displayed wall art conceived by Sol LeWitt.  The exhibit will be at MASS MoCA for 25 years-you have plenty of time to see it.  LeWitt‘s wall drawings were usually executed by people other than the artist himself.       I compare it to designing Vogue sewing patterns and then others make the outfit.  He would use teams of assistants to create his works. Between 1968 and his death in 2007, LeWitt created more than 1,270 wall drawings.  The art and the manner in which it was created is remarkable.  We thoroughly enjoyed the museum and plan to return to MASS MoCA.  A good to do that might be after May 2012, there will be an exhibit of Canadian contemporary art – Oh, Canada .  If you plan to go to North Adams, let me know, we have some thoughts on accommodation.  

Have you ever seen Sol LeWitt’s art?  I think we may have seen it in other galleries.

Sol LeWitt


Sol Lewitt

It may not change things…but it’s cathartic

A Take on Retirement by a Columnist

Yesterday I read an interesting viewpoint put forth by Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail.  She wrote the article after 92-year-old Andy Rooney died one month after leaving work.  I must say I was a bit disappointed in her take on things since she appears to be saying that people are only fulfilled when working flat-out. And basically they should do so till they die.  So many people don’t bring home a paycheque-by design or by destiny. What of them?  

Being beyond full-time work means not having to rush off to work with a response to an interesting media bit in your head.  It sits there and likely dissolves quickly as meetings and commitments and work things trump the outside world.  A couple of responses to Wente’s column were published today (mine included).  It’s important to plan for life beyond full-time work-no argument there.  There are many ways to lead a fulfilling life and contribute to society.  It is an individual choice (if you are fortunate).  

And While I’m At It

Today is our wedding anniversary-number 37.  Yesterday I got a letter from an institution that had requested proof of marriage stating they don’t recognize the only document we have had for all those years.   It is a certificate from the church.  That certificate has been used and accepted whenever it was requested for almost four decades.  So off we go to swear an affidavit.  I did call customer service at the institution-they answer quickly and they are courteous.  He did give me some rationale while I relayed my perspective.  He thanked me for “complaining in a classy way”.   Funny how you know nothing will likely change but you are glad to be heard.  

My husband said, with this opening, perhaps he can get out of being married.  I gave him one of my mother’s lines:  “You never had it so good.”

Cleve

The International Writers Festival wrapped up recently in Ottawa.  I took in several events.  It is wonderful to have some time to do that sort of thing when one is beyond full-time work.  I have eyed the events at the Festival over the years and always found reasons why there didn’t seem to be the time to attend.  Now, I have scads more discretionary time-ah, it’s heaven.

True Story

  • University of Saskatchewan, college days

As an undergrad student at the University of Saskatchewan many years ago, there was a period over a couple of years when a group of us hung out together.  Some of us were in the College of Pharmacy, one in the College of Engineering and another was pursuing a degree in history.  The fellow who was in history came with a nickname, a self-proclaimed nickname, he was “Cleveland Thomas Ohio”.  We called him Cleve.  Our group enjoyed going to movies, drinking beer, playing cards and shooting the breeze. We had a great time together.  I distinctly remember how Cleve regaled us with stories of kings and queens of long ago. He put them into a tale where he made the past come alive.  I recall thinking “why can’t I see that when I read history” for I was one who had to memorize history for it would lay flat and lifeless on the page and it wouldn’t stick in my brain.

  • Life and careers

Cleve continued and earned a number of degrees at the U of S.  For a time he was a teacher.  I saw him a few times over the years and would hear of his growing accomplishments as a writer over time.  

  • Ottawa International Writers Festival 2011. 

And so it was that this college friend from decades ago came to our city to read from his latest book,  A Good Man.  I combed through photo albums to find pictures of those days so long ago.  The best I could do were pictures from a Hallowe’en dress up party (I hope it was Hallowe’en-either that or we had a weird sense of fashion).  Our youthful visages did not yet show the lines of life we now sport. I made copies of the photos and off we went to event. It was delightful to be at the reading and listen to the interview that followed. As he read I saw the accomplished novelist and short story writer and I also remembered the undergrad student.  Afterward we had a little visit, the author and me. Cleveland Thomas Ohio is no more.  He is the winner of two Governor General Awards and he has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada along with many other recognitions that former history student, Guy Vanderhaeghe.  He’s still full of good stories and good humour as you can see.  

Cleve (okay, it's really Guy) and me

 


Friday Food-Simply Biscotti #9

The ninth sweet treat from the dessert counter at Simply Biscotti

Lemon Meringue Tart

Lemon Meringue Tart

Calories burned: bike ride on a sunny November day to enjoy coffee with friends and the lemon meringue tart= 350

Calories consumed: in a lemon meringue tart=299

Looks good….until I raided the leftover Hallowe’en candy.

Simply Biscotti-number 8 in a series of ….who knows and who cares

Originally before I had a blog site, I had thought that if I had a blog site I would use it only to chronicle eating my way through the dessert counter at Simply Biscotti on Preston St. in Ottawa.  I thought it would be a cool project in this, my life beyond full-time, flat-out work and it would be completed within a relatively short time frame-say six months or so.  I was wrong-headed about it all.  Giving myself a deadline, even an artificial one, makes the whole thing into another job-I have had plenty of work that came with deadlines in my lifetime and why would you want to put a time limit on such an enjoyable experience. 

Simply Biscotti is doing a great business by the looks of it.  Rosa has added more seating by developing the second floor over her shop.  Good thing too for there’s quite a bit of new development planned for Little Italy and that bodes well for Rosa and Simply Biscotti.

This past week my friend and I combined a brisk early morning walk with breakfast at Rosa’s.  We each enjoyed a latte and a nicely spiced pumpkin muffin.  The muffin would be good with cream cheese icing but that’s not really breakfast food, is it?

 


Woodworking (in America) Part III

Picking up from an earlier blog here’s a bit more detail on Woodworking In America (WIA) 2011 and some examples of the seminars that were held.  

Saw Sharpening De-mystified by Ron Herman

The quality of your work and your ability to do good work depends on the condition of your tools.  It’s important for craftsmen (and women) to keep their tools sharp.  Ron demonstrated simple and proper file techniques for the accurate sharpening of both rip and cross-cut saws.   The methods were effective and straight forward.  A novice could use his techniques and get great results.  Here’s a short intro video by Ron about saw sharpening.

Ron Herman, Master Housewright

Ron Herman is a master housewright.  He specializes in the restoration of heritage homes using traditional hand tool methods.  

Shooting Boards That Work by Ron Herman

 A shooting board is a workshop appliance that is used to trim end grain on moldings and trim to perfect angles of either 45 or 90 degrees.  Ron discussed the use of shooting boards and how to simply construct a shooting board (aka a jig) to allow you to bring you more precision to your work.  He gave a number of useful tips and tricks as well as techniques for using handplanes for shooting perfect miters (a miter joint is one where each side of the joint is cut at 45 degrees).  Ron had a very good rapport with the audience.  His sense of humour and his simple, no-nonsense approach to the subject backed up with years of practical experience made for a very entertaining and enlightening seminar.  

Unlocking Japanese Planes, Chisels and Saws by Jay van Arsdale

Jay van Arsdale

Jay was inspired to become involved in Japanese woodworking after seeing a demonstration by a Japanese tea house builder in the 1970’s.  If you want to learn more about Japanese joinery have a look at this video.  Jay is very knowledgeable.  His presentation incorporated information on Japanese culture and how the tools were developed and why they work so well compared western designs. Did you know western planes cut on the ‘push’ stroke while Japanese planes cut on the ‘pull’ stroke.  Jay provided information on both the construction and use of Japanese tools and he gave advice on how to use these tools to produce excellent results.

Japanese Joinery 101 by Jay Van Arsdale

Japanese joinery is much more precise than western joinery.  It is designed to hold together without the use of any adhesives.   Jay showed a number of finished examples and he cut some other joints to demonstrate the intricacy and precision that the Japanese bring to their craft.

Have you heard enough about WIA?  There are pictures of tools and toolmakers present in the ‘marketplace’ at WIA-would seeing some of that be of interest?  

Woodworking (in America)-Part II

Dateline: Covington Kentucky-Sept 30, Oct 1, Oct 2, 2011

I have a blog site but I do not do woodwork.  My husband enjoys woodworking as a hobby but does not have a blog site. He recently attended the Woodworking In America (WIA) conference in Covington, KY and we decided we’d blog about it.   

What: Once a year hand tool ‘galoots’ from all over flock to the WIA conference.  This year was the fourth annual get together.  Galoots is the term used to describe those who pursue the craft of woodworking solely with hand tools.   (Editor’s note: Beats me why someone would want to be called a galoot.)  Dedicated hobbyists, craftspeople (there were a very few women at WIA) gather for 2 1/2 days of seminars, demonstrations and to drool as they toured the 20,000 sq, ft, marketplace of exhibitors.

Lee Valley Tools Exhibit at WIA

Where: Covington, Kentucky (Covington is just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio)

Northern Kentucky Convention Centre

Why: To learn from the who’s who in hand-tool woodworking-to be clear, this is not carpentry. It is the world of hand cut mortice and tenons and smooth planed surfaces, of inlaid wood and carved contours.  It’s an opportunity to meet craftspeople and tool makers that previously you would only have read about and chance to meet others who share the same passion.

WIA 2011 by the numbers:

  • 450-500: approximate number of attendees.  While most attendees were from the USA, there were some from Canada, South Africa, England and Australia
  • 75: number of seminars/lectures to choose from over the 2 1/2 day conference
  • 56: number of top-tier toolmakers and vendors demonstrating and selling their wares in the “marketplace”
  • 6: number of evening programs to choose from
  • 355 $US: cost of registration
  • priceless: the opportunity to attend-according to my husband

Let us know what you think about this joint (hah!) effort about joinery.  We will post one or more blogs to describe some of the classes and seminars.  Would you like to hear about anything in particular when we write the blogs?