• Tag Archives Japan
  • Clay Days

    Mid-Summer                                                                                   Waning Honey Flow Moon

    Five days of clay.  Whew.  What did I learn?  Well, I’m not holding my breath for that National Treasure for potting position when I turn 80.  Maybe by that time I’ll have learned how to center, raise a cylinder and throw a bowl.

    We’ve made some new friends, including our instructor and I learned a lot about the craft of pottery making, a lot that will be useful when touring at the MIA.  Kate developed enough confidence to move forward with the work.  I learned enough to tag along, though with low expectations.  It was an intensive process and a good one.

    We had a potluck today.  Kate and I took my two iron tea-pots and an assortment of tea cups.  Two Japanese potters on fellowship joined us, so I asked Rena what the bottom of my red, larger tea-pot said.  She looked at it, fingering the kanji, smiled and said, “Made in Japan!”  Oh.  I asked Naota what he thought of the U.S. and he said, “Comfortable.”  He comes from Tokyo and likes the slower pace of life here.

    One of the women in the class, Claire, has 25 years of pottery experience and a studio in the Northern Clay Center, another, Alisha, teaches pottery making in high school.  And so on.  Kate and I were at the opposite end of the learning spectrum.  We didn’t know enough to recognize that the class was for way advanced folks.  Still, seeing others with skills working and taking lessons from a master potter was a learning of its own.  At this level a lot of the instruction was on small technical aspects like really focusing on centering, or learning how to cut a tea-pot spout so the uncoiling of the clay in the kiln will move the spout to the right position. (You cut it at a 4:30.)

    This was an immersion in another world, the world of potters, molding clay as our mutual ancestors have done for several thousand years.  A craft and an art tied to the earth and seasoned by fire, to know those who make pottery is a window in to our deep past, yet an activity still very much in the present.

  • Art Immersion

    Beltane                                                                              New Garlic Moon

    One of those days.  Into the museum, leaving at 10:30 am and just got back now, 6:00 pm.  Had a Japan Art Cart, oh boy, with very few visitors.  A group of autistic kids and a classical musician and his daughters stopped by and that was about it.  The art cart business is just too passive on the one hand and too intrusive on the other, i.e. we have to encourage people to stop.  On the other hand, I do love talking about the Japanese tea ceremony, a great gift to world civilization.

    After that, and I mean right after that, the art cart closed up at 1:30 and the continuing ed for the day started at 1:30.  Celia Peterson gave a very interesting presentation on games and art, both physical and virtual games, as possible adjuncts to museum experiences and as art objects themselves.   It really cranked up my thinking about the possible, the nearly possible and oh boy I can’t wait until it is possible.

    (screenshot from acmipark, a virtual version of an Australian museum)

    Example.  How about a museum that displays its objects inside a virtual world like second life?  Or, a virtual museum where interaction with objects could bring up art historical, geographical, biographical information, for example, about an object that interested you.  This kind of stuff turns me on, makes me want to get involved.

    After that a meeting on my direct action idea, a rolling, international projection of the artist’s image on museum walls from eastern Europe to California on June 30th, the night before the 90th celebration of Chinese Communism.  A docent has agreed to take the idea to our museum president.  She’s also president of an international association of museums that would probably make this pretty easy.  It’s a big, yet simple idea, and it would have plenty of media punch.  Hope it happens.

  • Over There

    Spring                                                            Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

    Libya.  The Middle East in an arc of protest.  We have intervened on behalf of Libyan rebels and I’m pretty sure my boy is over there, directing bombardments.  I say pretty sure because he was secretive when he told me about this deployment.  Wherever he is, he’s flying 20 hour missions day after day, work that tires him out and energizes him at the same time.  Thanks to e-mail, though I don’t know where he is, I can communicate with him easily.  Strange.

    In this instance and in the case of Afghanistan I view our military presence as justified, in the Libyan case because of opposition to genocide and in the Afghan case because the Taliban have provided and would provide again, safe haven for an implacable and dangerous enemy of our country.  Do I like it?  No.  Military force is terrible, only less terrible in fact, than not having it available when needed.

    Just for completeness, I did not believe in the war in Iraq and found/find it a much closer analog to Vietnam.  We went in without being asked on a mission only we identified to save people who did not want to be saved.  All in all, a fiasco made much, much worse by civilian casualties.  Not our fight.

    The nuclear crisis in Japan, still difficult to assess from afar, shows improvement in that some of the plants now have functioning electricity, yet signs of worsening as an admitted crack in a container vessel resists plugging.  My friend Bill Schmidt wants the media to turn its face more toward the tsunami/earthquake victims and there is clear sentiment in Japan that agrees with him.

    I would say we need to look at both.  The human cost already incurred needs and will need attention for some time.  The nuclear crisis, which has the potential to spread out and affect more people over a longer period of time, has implications not only for the current disaster, but for other nuclear plants in other locations, whether they suffer from the same vulnerabilities as Fukushima or different ones.

    And, in the weirder news of the day, two odd stories from the LA Times, rapidly becoming one of my favorite news sources.

    Classify under not particularly surprising:

    Classical music still effective at dispersing loitering teens:  LA Times

    Critics’ review unexpectedly supports scientific consensus on global warming

    A team of UC Berkeley physicists and statisticians that set out to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming is finding that its data-crunching effort is producing results nearly identical to those underlying the prevailing view.

    The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was launched by physics professor Richard Muller, a longtime critic of government-led climate studies, to address what he called “the legitimate concerns” of skeptics who believe that global warming is exaggerated.

    But Muller unexpectedly told a congressional hearing last week that the work of the three principal groups that have analyzed the temperature trends underlying climate science is “excellent…. We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.”

    The Berkeley project’s biggest private backer, at $150,000, is the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch are the nation’s most prominent funders of efforts to prevent curbs on the burning of fossil fuels, the largest contributor to planet-warming greenhouse gases.

  • Body Flow

    Imbolc                                                        Waxing Bloodroot Moon

    Some of our front yard is visible!  This is the first time in over 125 days, maybe more.  A friendly patch of brown lawn and the base of a spruce, an amur maple and a pine tree.  The bloodroot cannot be far behind.

    Two tours today.  A Japan tour that reminded me why I love the Asian art so much.  Great kids.  I prejudged them as potentially inattentive, non-talkers.  Boy was I wrong.  We barely got past the teahouse.  A second, Titian tour, had about 30 folks.  Again an engaged and interested group.  The Titian exhibit has been a pleasure to tour, too.  I love the Renaissance anyhow and these are great images.  Love that Bassano and the Lotto, too.

    Kate and I will hit our first Body Flow class tonight.  I don’t know what to expect.  It’s a combination of T’ai Ch’i, yoga and pilates.  To music.  When I found out it was set to music, I almost decided not to go.  I’ve never done group exercise and doing it to current dance songs doesn’t seem to add much.  But, we’ll see.

    Japan.  Hard to know what to say.  As the big history guy I’ve been listening to off and on over the last couple of months keeps saying, our developed civilizations are so complex that they are very fragile.  Japan is teaching that lesson in a too vivid, too painful way.

  • Elemental

    Imbolc                                                                     Waxing Bloodroot Moon

    August 6th. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Rendering the friendly atom a deadly enemy.  Since that time, mutations became a favorite meme of  scary movie in the 50’s and early 60’s.  Since that time movies like On the Beach, Fail Safe, Doctor Strange Love, the China Syndrome have dealt with one scenario or another based on the catastrophe inherent in nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, even in peacetime uses.  Since that time Chernobyl and Three Mile Island became synonyms for danger, making even the nuclear generation of electricity scary.  The cold war and the DEW line and the Strategic Air Command, missiles in silos and on submarines heightened our awareness by putting a continuing military face on the nuclear threat.

    The grim possibility highlighted by the doomsday clock since 1947, the minutes to midnight decided by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago.  (Ironic like the photograph below because the first splitting of the atom occurred below Alonzo Stagg Stadium on the University of Chicago campus.  Some jinn just won’t go back.)

    Those of us born after the end of WWII have lived ever since with the threat of nuclear annihilation.  That threat continues to this day. The most chilling photograph out of 8.9 earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan was not the dramatic footage of the flood waters carrying burning buildings inland or the ships carried ashore or the fearful Japanese racing away from destruction, no, it was this one.  Thick with irony, unintentional in its resonance with over 65 years of military, cinematic and domestic horror, this scene, a scientific response to a scientific disaster–not the natural one–chilled me the first time I saw it.  It still does.

  • Japanese Armor and Flights West

    Beltane                           Waxing Planting Moon

    Up early.  For me.  7 am.  Had to get Kate to the bank and to the airport by ten.  We made it.  Her plane took off at 11:45, (turned out to be 1:15 pm instead) so Delta promised.  I haven’t heard from her yet, but I imagine she’s there and in her hotel and asleep.

    The airport always makes me laugh.  The alert level remains at orange.  Does anybody recall what that means?  I don’t.  Also, the sign suggests, report suspicious activity.  Call 911.  Irony aside, I wonder how many calls they get?  After, of course, you screen  out the people who call all the time.  Not that threats are not real, and certainly not that they should be taken lightly, rather the government that gives the same message over and over and over and over while nothing happens begins to look silly, out of touch.  They need to do something different.

    Since I live up north, I rarely have the opportunity (challenge) to drive on Hwy 62, but I took it into the Museum.  Boy.  What a ride.  The new ramp that carries west bound 62 traffic onto Hwy 35 sweeps up in a broad, elegant curve.  At its apex, the view offered of downtown Minneapolis has a picture postcard look.  A great way to introduce newcomers to the city.

    George Hisaeda, Consul General of Japan at Chicago, offered commendation to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for its dedication to Japanese arts, and the acquisition of an important suit of armor.  I went to this hoping to hear the lecture by Matthew Welch that I missed earlier.  The Consul General offered kudos to the MIA for its fine presentation of Japanese culture and arts.  He also commended Matthew Welch on his remarkable work building the collection since 1990.

    After the Consul’s presentation, Matthew gave an abbreviated version of his explanation of the armor.  Tom Byfield, my seat mate, wrote notes in spite of the dark.  I hope my eyes improve enough to work as well as his do.  In fact, I hope they improve, very unlikely.

    After the armor conversation, we had a meeting of the docent discussion group or whatever it is and decided on events for the summer:  a tour on music by Merritt, a public arts tour in July and a photography event with the curator of photography in August.

    Back home for a nap.  This cold I’ve got, the first I can remember in 2+ years, made me very tired, so I slept soundly.  Worked out.  Had a political committee meeting with the Sierra Club.  I serve on this one as a non-voting member.  Works out well since I can use the phone.

    Talked to Kate whose flight was delayed an hour and a half here and the baggage was delayed an hour in San Francisco.  She got assistance at both airports though and reported a tiring journey, but a successful one.  As only a meeting of physicians can do, registration for her conference is at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.  Perhaps, it is just occurred to me, based on peoples time zone habits.

    Over and out.

  • Latin and Asia

    Imbolc                                   Waxing Wild Moon

    Kate and I reviewed our work on chapter 5 in Wheelock this morning.  Then 2,000 words on the novel after the nap.  Workout.  Sierra Club legcom conference call.

    I’ve been reading my fourth Qiu Xiaolong mystery, The Red Mandarin Dress.  These are Chief Inspector Chen novels, set in today’s Shanghai.  They are interesting mysteries, but even more, they are a window into the struggle between the Maoist era and the contemporary one, a period when revolution ruled the land transformed into one in which to get rich is glorious.  These are not easy transitions and they have happened in the blink of an eye in the long history of China.

    Asian art and asian culture, especially Chinese history, philosophy and literature have, for a long time, had my attention.  In my volunteer work at the MIA I have been allowed to indulge my interest in Chinese, Japanese and South Asian art.  This has led to more and more time with asian history, especially Chinese and Chinese poetry.  A casual tinkerer in these vast domains, I have only skimmed the top of a way of life radically different from our own, Western culture, yet, even with its differentness, still more like us than not, the human experience inflected, not the human experience transformed.

    As I’ve watched the Winter Olympics, it doesn’t take a scholar to notice that its largely a northern hemisphere event.  Yes, there are the odd Australians, New Zealanders, but for the the most part it’s North America, Europe and the Asian countries.  Just another way in which we are more like than unlike.

  • Sayonara, Weber Collection

    79!  bar steep fall  29.62 5mph WSW dewpoint 35  Beltane, sunny

                           Waxing Gibbous Hare Moon

    The final Weber tours.  A Japanese language class from Kennedy HS in Bloomington and a small group of stunned ladies of a certain age.  Neither tour was a flop, neither an engaging and vital time.  The Kennedy group had a few kids that were present the whole way, interest.  One young lady took out a notebook and started writing.  The second seemed timid, afraid to respond to inquiry, interested but reticent. 

    At the end a woman told me she’d seen a Bhutan exhibit in Honolulu.  “The objects came with five Buddhist monks.  They came to bless the statues with water each morning.  Since in Buhtan, they received this sprinkling directly, but were in cases like this,”  she indicated the Nara Buddha at the beginning of the show, “they had, oh, I don’t know, a tupperware container,”  she spread her hands out and formed a large sloppy rectangle, “It had water.  Then they had a mirror.  They got the objects reflection in the mirror and sprinkled that.”

    Sayonara, Weber collection and bon voyage.

    I have a long stretch of days with little planned.  No docent classes, no tours, no preaching, no social engagements.  The right time to garden and to write.

    Jon called while I was writing this.  They want to have the bris on June 2nd or 3rd.  Could I come?  I’m there.  I’m excited to see Gabe and Ruth, to see Jon’s garden and Jen with her new brood.

    On to the treadmill.  I try not to remember this, but apparently in Victorian jails, prisoner powered treadmills were a form of human as donkey labor.  I’m not sure but that may be where the term comes from in the first place.

  • He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins?

    62  bar falls 29.85  3mph NNW dewpoint 29 Beltane

                 Waxing Crescent of the Hare Moon 

    “The capitalist bookkeepers’ theoretician was German sociologist Max Weber, whose 1910 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism argued that the key feature of capitalism was that making money becomes ‘a calling’, an end in itself. The bourgeois worked for the sake of work, denying himself the fruits of his labour. The pre-modern man would have been flummoxed by this, says Weber: what is the point of this, ‘to sink into the grave weighed down with a great material load of money and goods’? ”  from an article in Spiked

    I love this quote from Weber.  What is, after all, the point of sinking into the grave weighed down with a great material load of money and goods?  None, as far I can see.

    I disagree with Weber though about the state of pre-modern people.  Many, many cultures not only thought this was a good thing, but literally did it. Those wealthy or high born enough took servants, food, furniture, money, painting, all manner of things to the grave.

    Two tours today.  Winnipeg kids on a band tour.  They had been to the Mall of America and Bubblegum, a restaurant there and had lots of other places to visit.  They didn’t think the Days Inn where they were staying were showing them very good hospitality, though they did admit that having that many teenagers in one place created a lot of ruckus.  This was a bright, attentive and thoughtful group.  We saw the installation with the children’s photos, Frank, Magritte, Van Gogh and Goya.  They were talkative and had many ideas.

    The Weber tour had three people, a couple and Stacy Pydych.  Stacy had to leave early, but the couple stayed on for the whole tour.  He had been to Japan when he was 24 years old and a serviceman.  They, too, were attentive and talkative.  We saw most of the exhibit because I skipped part of my usual tour in teaware and Tale of Genji.  They thought I was a professor of Japanese history.  I assured them the museum taught us what we needed to know.

    Got a thank-you card today from Robbinsdale Japanese language students.  The teacher wrote a nice note and each kid signed it and some offered comments.  Amazing, when you consider these are high school students.

  • The Hydroponics Are On

    34  bar rises 29.50 3mph NNW dewpoint 31  Spring

                   First Quarter Moon of Growing

    The calendar says spring; the snow says not yet.  It’s all moisture, though, and if it doesn’t run away to rivers and streams, some of this goes to recharge ground water and aquifers.  A good thing whether it comes chilled or just wet.

    Last night it looked the drive in to the MIA this morning would be a nightmare.  Predictions of 1 foot snow depths and high winds could have lead to blizzard conditions.  The temperatures never dropped far enough.  So, instead of a foot of snow we got about 3 inches of slush, suitable for snow cones if not so oil impregnated.  The drive in was uneventful.

    Sachei Makabe brought her kids from Robbinsdale.  Marilyn Smith and I divided them up and took them through Weber.  Each one of the Japanese language classes I’ve taken through have been attentive, observant and interested.  Can’t ask for more than that.  The diversity in the classes surprise me.  There seem to be far more Asian, Latino and African American students than Caucasian.  This speaks well for the schools and the students but only reinforces the dismal record us white folks have with learning a second language.  I’m one of those who never learned.  Shame on me.

    Came home.  Kate had a great lunch made with fish, green beans and acorn squash.  I added a salad. 

    After the nap I got out the books and handouts for the hydroponics and got started.  The meter I got a couple of weeks ago I handed over to Kate because it required precision and a chemistry background, neither one of which characterizes me.  It will help us quickly diagnose problems and repair them.  It measures ph, temperature and conductivity.  All of these measures have to do with the uptake of nutrients, though I don’t understand the relationships by any means at this point.

    The lettuce seedlings that I started a few weeks ago have started to push roots through the rock wool medium.  This signals the time to transplant them to the hydroponics.  Each planter in the smaller hydroponic system (We have two.) has round lava rocks which hold moisture, but do not interfere with the plants root system reaching the nutrient bath in the reservoir below the planters.  It took 3 gallons of nutrient solution to fill the reservoir to the 2 1/2″ depth recommended.

    The nutrient goes into the reservoir through the planters.  This charges the lava rocks.  Then I got a pair of forceps (Adson’s, Kate says.) and plucked the rock well medium out of the seedling beds one at a time.  With a soup ladel I scooped lava rocks out and let them sit in the left over nutrient solution while I positioned the small cube of rock wool and its single lettuce plant.  When I had it where I wanted, one per planter, I scooped the lava rocks around the cube.  Planted.  It’s a strange process compared to gardening directly in mother earth, but it’s fun, too.

    After the nutrient solution was in the reservoir, a plastic tub in essence, I plugged the pump into the black tubing that leads inside the reservoir to a plastic tube with two airstones.  Airstones are permeable and the bubbling of oxygen through them creates a nutrient rich mist that reaches the bottom of the planters.  The roots of the lettuce seedlings will head down, through the lava rock to the mist.

    With the small pump sighing the only thing left was to switch on the Halide light.  It’s a big thing, 250 watts, with a ballast that feels like a large rock  in weight.  It now glows about 22 inches above the seedlings.   The distance is necessary while the seedlings are still  young and fragile.  After they become well rooted and mature, I’ll move the lamp down to 6 to 12 inches above them.  It will be on roughly 16 hours a day.

    We’ve begun.