July 3, 2009

Generation X Learns About Mortality

click on any image to enlarge it to original size (if you dare)

Whereas most of this week’s news is focused closer to home, I – along with 99.9999% of the rest of the world’s media including folks running like crazy from madmen with guns in Iran – would be amiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the passing of certain iconic figures in the past days.

Goodbye Great Gloved One
First, sure it’s a shame about Michael Jackson, although I have to confess I was not all that surprised to hear of his premature demise (I mean, how does ANYONE survive in that kind of setting?). While I respect what the ‘King of Pop’ achieved over his musical and entertainment career, I have to admit as well that he changed so much from his first days - both in terms of looks and other issues - that it was hard to really connect his career to some kind of logical passing.

And as a kid going through the first trials in the early 70's of getting bussed for hours at a time to school to support integration, I knew just how big the Jackson 5 and later Michael were to the African-American community (I kid you not, but until I was 8 years old I thought Caucasians were the minority). Instead, I just think it’s terribly terribly sad the way he was raised and really in a lot of ways used to become who he was when he passed on.

But in a salute, I will say that I will never forget what he did for MTV back when the ‘M’ stood for music and not for ‘misguided idiotic reality shows’. I’ll also always also remember fondly quite a number of beer-aided nights our freshman year in college when all us white dudes were convinced that we could in fact moon-walk.

An Angel Goes to Heaven
However, as someone born right at the tail-end of the Baby Boom and just as the ‘X’ generation was getting going, the passing this week that hit me the hardest was Farrah Fawcett. You see, the poster shown here in fact not only ‘guided’ me into my puberty but also lasted longer on my walls than such dedications to KISS, AC/DC or other long-haired, tongue-wagging, crotch-grinding bands that I listened to in large part to annoy my parents (which sadly didn’t work that well).

Granted, despite other work, her role – albeit brief – in "Charlie's Angels" was so, I don’t know, overwhelming, that that’s what she’s always associated with. The NYT also put it well by saying that ‘the series, whose popularity coincided with the burgeoning women's movement, brought new attention to issues of female sexuality and the influence of television. To me, I often thought she was however misunderstood, and was not just a flag-bearer for what was to be a wave of brainless bimbos appearing on network TV (Pamela, are you listening?).

Instead, Farrah was to me always a symbol of not just sex or sexuality, but grace and even quiet intelligence. Okay, yes, she gave pretty late in her life an amazing set of pics for Playboy, but did you know that, quote, ‘before she had had any thoughts of acting, Ms. Fawcett had been an art student, specialising in sculpture, at the University of Texas in Austin’? True! You can even learn more about perhaps her last foray into this area at the NYT article found here. And despite perhaps the mental image you have of how I reacted to this icon created for the consumption by over 12 million fans, what I will always remember most is that I truly, honestly felt like she was sincerely smiling at ME. That sticks with a guy somehow.

So rest in peace, Angel.

News from the Front
But now to some lighter news from the home-front. It’s been a busy few days that included summer finally kicking in the after-burners in terms of heat, school ending for the kids and a few birthday parties thrown in as well. Oh, and I got my ‘summer’ haircut, which is indeed intended to last the ENTIRE summer and save me the ridiculous price of cutting it for 25 dollars a pop! Like my Grana used to say, ‘paying 1 dollar PER HAIR is just outrageous!’

Otherwise, one of our biggest ‘occasions’ was in fact the removal of the sudden appearance of a very much unwanted wasps’ nest which set up shop not 10 feet outside my office and bedroom windows. Fortunately, our local fire department is quite experienced in the art of ‘pest removal’ (noting they did forget to take the kids with them, even after we tipped them each 10 bucks! What a rip-off...).

Still, it was a bit more adventuresome than I would have liked in that after they got up on the ladder about 15 feet up they said to one another something to the effect of ‘I think this ladder is WAY too short’. However, instead of driving the 1.3 miles back to the station to get a longer one, they just went instead for the option of tying the available ladder to my office desk, as if this would somehow help. Great. I guess I would also be amiss if I didn’t point out that the fellow on the ladder was about 2 sips away from being 3 sheets in the wind if you know what I mean. Plus, his assistant was maybe 14 years old, but I guess volunteer organizations can't be too choosy.

But despite all this, their ‘industrial grade bug killer’ spray – which I think was a mixture of nitric and sulphuric acids and perhaps even nuclear waste of some kind – worked quite well (shown here is only about 10% of the nest that eventually just fell down rather than dissolving and almost literally bursting into flames). We have indeed been wasp free for a few days now, much to the chagrin of the bats and owls that seemed to have started to keep them a little bit at bay.

And as you can see, the sun did set and all was well, and the butterflies flew and the birds sang and we danced away, tra-la-la. In fact, if you look close enough in this photo, you can see the two guys who were flying by in their motorised para-glider thingies.
Personally, I have NEVER been nor intend to be at any time drunk enough to try something like that...

My Babies, What Happened to My Cute Little Babies?
Other than that, Ziggy Jr. had his 9th birthday (not 99th, which he somehow thought would be cool or better yet, signify getting more cool stuff ... sigh, the naiveté of youth), which was pretty cool but also quite sobering (don’t get the wrong impression though, the Mrs. and I got a very late start). A couple of days later he and his sister finished their school years, so, sob, we no longer have any ‘true babies’ as Li’l Miss enters 1st grade and Jr. is off to drive the local 4th grade teacher to early retirement or an early grave, whichever comes first.

Needless to say, we are desperately seeking to find them things to ‘occupy’ their interest, as they’re both also entering similar phases that either involve (a) annoying the hell out of each other (b) annoying the hell out of their parents or (c) all of the above but with added property damage well in excess of our insurance coverage. So remember to all you new couples out there: if that’s not a good argument for birth control, I don’t know what is!

O Canada!
Moving on then to the main focus of this here bloggie thing: we would like to give a shout out and a belated Happy Canada Day to last month’s guest, Julien Vallée, who despite evidence to the contrary here is not in line for one of this week's eulogies!

I’m definitely glad so many of you enjoyed not only his cool paper creations but that the inclusions of so many awesome videos into the blog was a big hit! It’s got me thinking about all kinds of neato ways to use this art-form, even though I’m a bit troubled that one of the prominent thoughts is to see what I can form by shooting through paper to create ‘explosive’ effects on the reverse side or even dropping heavy objects from heights to see what kind of ‘squished’ images I can create. Need to ask my therapist about that next week for sure...

There’s more in fact about Julien’s inspiring work (see tacky linkage below) in the coming paragraphicals.

Lighting and Writing Up the Sky!
But continuing our limited series of interviewing very cool and ultra-talented guys named Julien, this week features Julien Breton aka kaalam all the way from western France who specialises in a very unique style of ‘Latin calligraphy’. Julien’s métier involves not only putting ink and paint to paper, but he also works with an amazing mix of light and calligraphy coupled with photography and also other virtual means of expressing his art.

Julien's work is way too complicated and far too beautiful to serve it justice in such a short introduction! So be sure to check out this week’s blog offer, it is indeed very very wild and inspirational! And he's a great guy to boot, we really enjoyed having a chance to exchange with him!

When Rogue Planets Attack
And speaking of being both inspirational and also fellows named Julien (I told you it was going to be a tacky link), I was so inspired working with Julien V’s work over the past weeks, that I wanted to try my hand at some ‘paper sculpture’ as well.

click here people of Earth, click here and prepare to tremble before us!

This week’s blog header mixes not only some 3D paper sculptures but also is tied into the shocking news about ‘when planets collide’ from the last instalment of Fresh Ziggy (you remember, all of you read it, right? Hm, why are all of you looking away like that?). This week’s work is titled ‘When Rogue Planets Attack’ and features a few crazy, almost Muppet-like monsters based on paper and various skin effects, eyes, teeth etc. which I created from such complex graphic programs of PowerPoint and Paintbrush.

The monsters are all based on a dodecahedron form (literally meaning: a long, math-sounding word that I think means twelve sides but am not sure). I had fun picking out different eyes, different skin effects and of course the teeth, which I modelled after my son’s mixed up set of chompers (I desperately need a new job, not to pay for food and shelter, but to pay for his teeth and new shoes...).

The moon is based on a rather straight forward form for making your own ‘Bucky Balls’ – or C60 fullerene shapes (or just plain soccer balls according again to Ziggy Jr.) – which have always been one of my main fascination points from the world of chemistry and more, especially if you get into some of the wild theories about how these may have played a role in the creation of life on this planet (with the exception of Kansas of course). Again, the ‘texture’ was created with some ‘clever’ pattern making via PowerPoint and printing onto some pail yellow construction paper. Plus, I highly recommend staying away from too much coffee when it comes time to cut out, fold and tape in the bits inside.

The Earth form was something I in fact had in the drawer from a couple of years ago and involved a very tedious process of trying to incorporate one of those flat 2D earth maps in such a way that it could be printed out and then folded to make a 3D globe. It's essentially another Bucky Ball with lots of modification in the form of adding in some of the usual 'blank' pentagons that are naturally formed.

Believe me, my ‘spatial’ thinking took a big hit so there was a lot of trial and error involved (curse you Gulf of Mexico and your complicated set up with Florida and the Mid-American countries!). Note as well that if you want to try this at home, there are a couple of patches of ‘sea’ missing that were just intended to allow for easier taping together of the whole shape. I’d also recommend printing over the space of two pages, both for ease of working with the darn thing and also to get the sizing right if and when you include the Moon and/or assorted monsters in your collection. Oh, and the penguin stand is also, well, a stand if you want to, uh, stand your globe up. Just outstanding, really. I think I'll stand up and take a bow. Oh, shut up already Ziggy...

Afterwards, UNLIKE Julien Vallée’s work, I wasn’t able to really get the 3D set-up and photography that I wanted to achieve, as our little Snap-O-Matic just couldn’t cut it. Instead, each piece was individually photographed and shaped in a way that they could be combined onto one of the many thousands of great Hubble telescope photos. So, yes, to you astronomers out there that noticed, the Earth is in fact in the wrong galaxy in this photo, but hey, when you’re being attacked by Rogue Planets (cue eerie music and maybe put in a hot chick getting ready to scream), you can damn well be in whatever galaxy you like!

OK sports fans and others who accidentally have made it this far, do enjoy! See you soon with more craziness from ZN HQ! Aloha!

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