28 June 2010

Blue Eggs, New Eggs

[Update: 4th of July Weekend - the folks monitoring the RobinCam reported that a predator took the three eggs and that the parent birds have left the nest.]

Periodically I check the Glacier National Park webcams.  This morning I saw they have a new one aimed at the nest of a pair of robins.  Since the robins nesting on our next door neigbors' porch post seem to have gone missing, I am happy to know I can enjoy watching these new birds raise their family.



Here's a shot of the nest around 11:30 CDT time on 28 June.




Here is a shot from a few minutes later,
with one of the parent birds warming the eggs.


Cool Book: THE ARRIVAL by Shaun Tan

As much as I love to read, I also love books that have no words.  This spring I finally read the two noteworthy woodcut novels by Lynd Ward: God's Man (Dover, 2004 - a republication of the original 1929 book) and Mad Man's Drum (Dover, 2005 - republication of  original 1930 book). The works are stark, both in their imagery and stories.



Technically, Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic Press, 2007) is not wordless, but the plethora of images in their detail and boundless extravagance leave a memory that is more picture than text. It is an illustrator's tour de force. 



But my favorite 'picture book' to date is Shaun Tan's tale of a immigrant's experience in a new land titled The Arrival (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2006; ISBN: 978-0439895293).


[from Shaun Tan's website description] "The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment. He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope."

The illustrations are well-crafted both technically and artistically.  Their content is subtle, amused, tender, terrifying, and exceedingly poignant.  For me the tale works on multiple levels: the art, the storymaking, the actual tale of the immigrant, and the utopianesque quality of the new land.








The Arrival has inspired two theatrical productions in Tan's native Australia.  Below is the advertisement snippet video published for the most recent show.  Although inevitably different from the book, it still captures the whimsical and heart-full quality of the original tale.



25 June 2010

RECEIVED: Time and Donuts



Tales from afar continue to appear in my mailbox.  Recently, we learned that there is a man apparently willing to fund an archaeological expedition!  Who says old-fashion patronage is dead? (Note: a previous, unarchived postcard showing a large stone structure similar to the one pictured above, described the possible identification of a long-lost tribe tagged humorously by the archaeologists of that time as 'The Donut People.')



TRANSCRIPTION: "Dear J & K, Kudos on the discovery of the elusive donut people.  Finding the hole would secure your place in History.  Father days he'll gladly sponsor your next forway to locate that Marvel known only to the donut people.  People around here are talking a bit about the possibility that the hole does not exist.  They believe you both to be off your rockers.  I say who are they to talk when the new past time is dancing on the girders thousands of feet in the air? Ever your patroness, Rachel."

21 June 2010

VIDEO: Music: It's for the Birds










[from the posted video description]:

"© Extracts from Ariane Michel's film, Les Oiseaux de Céleste. Copyright Galerie Xippas, Ariane Michel and Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, 2008


French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot creates works by drawing on the rhythms of daily life to produce sound in unexpected ways.


For his installation in The Curve, Boursier-Mougenot creates a walk-though aviary for a flock of zebra finches, furnished with electric guitars and other musical instruments. As the birds go about their routine activities, perching on or feeding from the various pieces of equipment, they create a captivating, live soundscape."




[from the video description]:

"August 04, 2008 — Here are presented the following bird songs (some names sound pretty weird, esp. to a German native speaker):



00:00 blackbird
00:30 blue tit
00:48 great tit
01:08 yellowhammer
01:37 hoopoe
01:48 skylark
02:11 nightingale
02:40 thrush nightingale
03:08 swift
03:23 chimney swallow
03:43 grey wagtail
04:04 chaffinch
04:18 sedge warbler
04:35 wren"


17 June 2010

Tiny Theaters, entertaining and provocative

As a one-time theater major, I've long been intrigued by the notion of small theatre productions; ones that can be handmade, are portable, and allow for imagination and invention.  There are different kinds of tiny theaters to be made.

One kind is called Toy Theater (also called Paper Theater or Model Theater).  The Wikipedia article on this describes toy theater as "a form of miniature theater dating back to the early 1800s in Europe. Toy theaters were often printed on paperboard sheets and sold as kits at the concession stand of an opera house, playhouse, or vaudeville theater. Toy theaters were assembled at home and performed for family members and guests, sometimes with live musical accompaniment."

Also from the article: "Mass produced toy theaters are usually sold as printed sheets, either in black and white to be colored as desired, or as full-color images of the proscenium, scenery, sets, props and characters. The sheets are pasted onto thin cardboard, cut out, and then assembled for the purposes of the reenacting of a play. Figures are attached to small sticks, wires, or configurations of strings that allow them to move about the set. Some toy theaters and figures are enhanced with moving parts and special effects, and it is common for performances to include live or pre-recorded sound effects and music."



[from the Kanniks Korner model theater website]

"Fritz examines an enlarged Royal theater following
a performance of Carmen at the Danish Model Theater club."



[from the Valley Light Opera website]

"The Valley Light Opera produced Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore at Amherst Regional High School on November 5, 6, 7, 12, and 13, 2004.
A Victorian girl (Schuyler Evans) and boy (Kimaya Diggs) play with their toy theater, and the cardboard characters will magically come to life and portray the story"


Toy theatre, like any theatrical form, is also used to depict the poignant and horrifying.  The large-scale production of Kamp by Hotel Modern is a striking recreation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

[from YouTube description] "June 2 -6 Hollands Hotel Modern will join the 9th International Toy Theater Festival at St. Ann's Warehouse with their captivating production of Kamp. Hotel Modern attempts to imagine the unimaginable. An enormous scale model of Auschwitz fills the stage, brought to life by thousands of 3 tall handmade puppets enacting the greatest mass murder in history, committed in a purpose-built city. The actors move through the set like giant war reporters, filming the horrific events with miniature cameras; the audience becomes the witness."



A search on Google using the phrase "toy theatre festival" (in quotation marks as noted) acesses a range of videos of various toy theatre productions.)
* * * * * * * *

Then there is  Shadow Puppet Theater.  Shadow puppetry, also called shadow play, originated in the Far East.  It employs flat, often articulated figures and images presented  in front of an opaque, illuminated backdrop to create the illusion of moving images.




"Cool Shadow Puppet Art Inspired By The Last Unicorn: One of the great side-benefits of working with an author as creative as Peter is getting to see some of the creativity his work inspires in others. Like these amazing metal shadow puppets by Sara Kate Sams, a college art student."


Here is a 2.5 minute museum documentary on Wayang, Indonesian Shadow Puppet Theater.


In looking for information on how to make my own shadowplay theater, I learned that this theatrical form has found a home in elementary schools and home schooling.  Worlds of Shadow: Teaching with Shadow Puppetry by David and Donna Wisniewski (Teacher Ideas Press, 1996; ISBN: 978-1563084508) shows one approach to shadow theater which favors using overhead projectors in front of the viewing screen.  Shadow Puppets & Shadow Play by David Currell (Crowood Press, 2008l; ISBN: 978-1861269249) provides an excellent background into the more traditional screen-in-front method and includes information on puppet design, lighting, and staging.

* * * * * * *

And there is Marionette Theater, perhaps the form of tiny theater most familiar in our culture.  In this form the articulated puppet figures are suspended on long strings and manipulated from above by the puppeteers. 



"Marionette puppet show for kids in Asbury Park, NJ"
[This image, which was originally posted to Flickr, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr
upload bot on 08:20, 29 July 2007 (UTC) by Man vyi (talk). On that date it was licensed.]

I once saw a remarkable marionette production of The Marriage of Figaro in Salzburg, Austria at the The Salzburg Marionette Theatre.  The theater was built to the scale of the puppets which gave the illusion of life size.  The lobby of the theater building had historic puppets displayed in glass cases; some were over one hundred years old!  A very neat feature at the end of the production was the curtain call.  First, each of the puppet 'actors' made their bows.  Then the upper curtain was raised to reveal a large, wide mirror in which the images of the puppeteers were reflected. 

A video snippet which shows onstage and above stage performers can be seen here (the embed feature was disabled for this YouTube item).

Street theater also favors marionettes. The Little Theatre of Dolls is the creation of the Scandinavian illustrators/artists/puppeteers Frida Alfinzi and Raisa Veikkola. Both traditional and avant garde, these artists have created travelling productions.





What I like about their work is how they include themselves as part of the theatrics.  "Weird and wonderful" has been used to describe their work. They have also posted videos of their productions at their website. 



15 June 2010

RECEIVED: Word from Mimsy

I am fairly keen on the game of imaginary correspondence.  Later this summer I will posting a series on just what this is and how to do it.  In the meantime, stories keep arriving in my mailbox.  Here is the most recent:

  

TRANSCRIPTION:  "Dear Merys -- You were, as usual, exactly right -- these Americas are full of optimism and awing momentum I've never seen in Murakush or my own dear Carpathia.  I'll fill our next tea (you told me 2010? How odd.) with tales of electron power and ether telegraphs! Your Dear Mimsy.

14 June 2010

WooHoo! Futbol!

We've spent much of the last few months gearing up for the World Cup by watching English Premier League games. Now futbol fever is in full sail!  The colors!  The energy!  The beautiful stadiums! 

World Cup Info and Schedules can be found at the FIFA site.

13 June 2010

Entertaining the world, subtly

Carilin of The Swanky Lifestyle did a fun thing the other day.


She and her husband created wee entertainment for passersby by placing handpainted stones in miscellaneous locations.  Read about it here.


11 June 2010

Letterbox Sighting: Sheep Box in New Zealand




Seen at the about page at pasturesnew.


09 June 2010

Alphabet at the Ready!


LetterCult is a website which "HIGHLIGHT[s] ARTISTS & designers doing remarkable work with Custom Letters. This group includes type designers, letterers, sign painters, graffiti artists, stone carvers, calligraphers, poster artists, and graphic designers. Just people. Who make letters." [from the LetterCult 'About' page]

Right now a playful battle of creative wits is going on: Alphbattle they call it. Every couple of weeks they are posting submissions of a new letter of the alphabet created by readers and contributors.  As of 7 June they were up to H.  Here are a few samples (all images from the LetterCult site):
  






08 June 2010

SENT OUT: The Tale of Glenn and The Snargle


Earlier, as part of the Postcards from the Captain postings, we read an item from 'Glenn'.  Recently I received a short email from a reader who may know something about the situation . . .

Reminds me of a puppet hand on an arm's length photo of a road kill snargle. What did you say he was driving?? -- Alfonzo --

A friend then replied:




TRANSCRIPTION:  Dearest Alfonzo -- We both know Glenn was a master Trickster so maybe that is a puppet with snargle.  We'll never know as Glenn went missing . . . or was that another Trick?  Fondly -- Freela

06 June 2010

She Gets It

This blog has its mantra - an observation by Anne Herbert:

"Thinking the world must entertain you leads to boredom and sloth. Thinking you must entertain the world leads to bright colors, odd clothing, and amazing grace in running for the bus."
Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs is entertaining the world with whimsy and purpose.  She designed the Artifact Advice cootie catcher I sent Hoja earlier this year. 
 


Once, she made herself a pair of shoes the soles of which imprinted a message when she walked.



She also invents 'projects' - items, activities, or participatory events which serve to inspire creativity and mindfulness.  One of her projects is a game she has titled Infinite PossibilitiesIt is a game, she says, of "Artifact Associations:


"Infinite Possibilities is a non-competitive poetic game in which everyday artifactual detritus is allowed to reveal its marvelous meaningfulness. It is a game of unexpected relationships and associative thinking."  


Like indexing or poetry, the players link images to ideas to stories to images -- round and round.  Creating one's own copy of the game is straightforward and simple.  Redmond provides the instructions and the game rules.  What's so cool, and totally in keeping with the freeform approach to the game, is that the player pieces one uses are whatever you want - household finds like a leftover button or an orphan chess piece, items found while walking like an interesting stone or a torn off bus transfer, etc.  She even suggests making the game board portable: by sewing it on top of a hat!


03 June 2010

RECEIVED: Extraterrestrial Postcards


The best part of fictional postcards is that you never know what stories will turn up in your mailbox.  Here are two I received recently.




TRANSCRIPTION: 201-7.5-3208. Professor:  Re: Project Silver Seed, Addendum no. 42.  Enclosed please find the last advertising holo to be submitted by Seed # 137, a textile colony established with great promise due to the native fauna requiring little manipulation.  Genetic influence contained to breeding out certain carnivorous traits of said sheering stock.  In quaevo [? ~ possibly quaero ] Graduate no. 5663






TRANSCRIPTION: 209-9.2-3208.  Professor: Re: Project Silver Seed, Addendum no. 56.  Contact with colony on Seed #267 was deliberately severed, with all apparatus destroyed by colonists after Core denial of the rather extreme genetic program proposed by local leadership. In quaevo [? ~ or quaero ] Graduate no. 5663


01 June 2010

Postcards from the Captain: To Sven & Sheba Gnorski


Here's another postcard from the 1983 trip by Captain J.




 
TRANSCRIPTION:  Dear Sven and Sheba,  Sorry I am late, the damned controls on my time car jammed in reverse. (Never buy a Ford.) I got stuck in this little backwater while it was being fixed.  Found this cute little critter for your home but one of the local bigger critters was a bit hungry.  Snapped the photo so you could kinda see it.  More later, Glenn.
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