Monthly Archives: January 2013

Science and “Science”

Since the new year began I’ve been busy with two projects. The first is attending the ScienceOnline2013 conference this week. ScienceOnline is a non-profit organization that’s all about communicating science over the web. So of course part of that is having a face-to-face meeting! We really are primates with a veneer of civilization. It’s my first time attending, so I’ll let you know how it goes! All I know is that any organization that uses the Impact font in its logo is all about the web.

The second is Fake Science Facts, a collection of the finest facts about science that aren’t actually facts. If Twitter’s not your speed, there’s a Tumblr version of it. I promise to only provide the most entertaining non-informative information about science.

Week 3 of Making Something Every Day

So yeah. Three weeks done. I’m possibly a bit more pleased about that than I should be. I’ve been having fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a peek into my world every day as well.

Day 15: A few more layers. Yesterday was stripes. Today was circles.
day 15
Day 16: Added words. Added more color! Will tone down the added color tomorrow.
day 16
Day 17: Got on a roll and didn’t want to quit! This is my theme quote from last week’s weekly post.
day 17
Day 18: Added a few finishing touches and I’m calling it done!
day 18
After talking about the practice of art last week, I decided to use a quote for my art journal and I picked Maya Angelou’s “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” (I have a Pinterest board dedicated to quotes that I like to use as thoughts in my journal.) I took the idea of the circles that I’d started on Day 2 in the old journal and worked with it in the background. I had a lot of fun with this spread and tried some text transfer techniques here.

Day 19: 2 ATCs I made playing around with some new supplies.
day 19
I have a ton of new supplies that I got for Christmas so I’m trying to see how I can use them.

Day 20: Outside of my art journal. All things made of this color set make me unreasonably joyful.
day 20
I should have taken a before photo of my art journal and I didn’t. It was tan canvas. I decided I’d liven it up a bit. After it got completely dry, I added a LOT more squiggles in various colors.

Day 21: Combining obsessions. Craft & Doctor Who. Now in an easy to use drink coaster.
day 21
I have several Doctor Who magazines I picked up a few years ago and I decided that cutting out of them for a project that I’d use and see everyday seemed like a worth while sacrifice. One of them is a gift and one I’m going to keep to go on my art table.

Thoughts after the third week:

– I found toward the end of the week this week that the act of coming to my work space, turning on some loudish music and putting on my apron is enough to start getting me into the creative zone. I can’t ever remember experiencing that before, although I’ve read about it working that way for lots of folks. I don’t want to elevate it too much but there is definitely the element of meditation to it that I’m starting to really enjoy.

– One day this week I tweeted, “One simple pleasure for me is looking down & seeing my hands covered in paint working on a another task. Reminds me of what else I do.” This has always been a silent thrill for me: to see paint on my hands. It feels like tangible evidence that I am a creative person. A mark that I am not just faking it but actually living the dream. There are lots of times when I could probably scrub my hands and get all of the paint off but I choose to leave it as a reminder to myself later in the day that I have a plan for tomorrow. I’ve taken a lot of photos over the years of the kids’ hands as they paint. We call those “artist fingers” around our house and it is a sign of creativity that I hope very much my children will remember when they are older.

Personal Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy

My dad, Ray Granade, is a history professor. Back in 2011, he spoke at the start of school about his experiences growing up in rural Alabama during the Civil Rights era. I’m sharing it as I did with Johnny Wink’s similar talk because it captures a time and place that is at once far removed from today and yet not far enough removed.

At year end, the world’s last processor of Kodachrome film, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, processed its last rolls. If, like me, you considered Kodachrome 25 the world’s color film standard, you probably noticed.

I was born in the Cradle of the Confederacy in the Heart of Dixie and reared in a small south-Alabama county-seat town of three thousand with a racial divide about 55-45 white. I married a native. My father grew up an hour above Mobile. My mother’s parents lived in Montgomery until their deaths in 1989; that city of just over 100,000 with its roughly 60-40 white racial divide was my second home.

Until the mid-1950s, my father occasionally preached at Evergreen’s black Baptist church; black pastors never preached in ours. Sundays were strictly segregated, like all other formal social settings. Our movie theater had an outside entrance to the balcony, where blacks sat after buying tickets in the alleyway. Whites had two schools along town’s main highway; blacks had two newer ones in “the black section.” Black businesses occupied three storefronts—Gant’s grocery, a barbershop/beauty salon, and a windowless pool hall—where Cary Street left town’s block-long business district. The black undertaker embalmed at the white funeral home but conducted wakes at the deceased’s.

Only in retrospect did I recognize this as a halftone world, where everything appeared only in black or white. Soil was black, cotton white, milk white, Coke and coffee black. Few things, like automobiles and people, came in both black and white. Everything also carried moral weight, a message I absorbed at every Sunday service, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and Saturday matinee. Cowboys’ white or black hats denoted whether they were good or bad. That halftone depiction simplified relationships in a complex reality becoming ever moreso. Things simply were what they were and, despite flaws, were fine as they were. That was not true in my grandparents’ hometown.

Dexter Avenue ascended six blocks of Goat Hill from fountain square east to state capitol. Six blocks south from the fountain, along Perry Street, sat the Governor’s Mansion; my grandparents lived around the corner toward town. My younger cousin, Jimmy, and I roamed Montgomery at will, playing at Perry Street Park or following Perry past First Baptist Church to the Carnegie Library or Dexter’s stores. Three and a half blocks uphill from that intersection, a block and a half below the capitol, sat Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

When I was nine, twenty-five-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. became that church’s new pastor. At the end of 1955, he began a year-long boycott of segregated Montgomery buses, occasioned by the arrest of Montgomery seamstress and NAACP secretary Rosa Parks. My grandmother employed no domestic, so the boycott lacked direct personal impact. But Montgomery’s atmosphere changed. Jimmy and I discovered that King’s church did not want young white boys inside its doors; we also found our freedom of movement severely curtailed. Suddenly I learned what it meant to have my comings and goings closely watched and to render an accounting of my time whenever required.

Simultaneously with the boycott, blacks won a legal battle to prohibit the University of Alabama from rejecting an applicant on the basis of race. Autherine Lucy became the first black to enroll. She and the boycott prompted my first thoughts about race relations.

Two years later, in 1958, liberal, NAACP-endorsed Alabama Circuit Judge George Wallace opposed Ku Klux Klan-endorsed John Patterson for Governor and lost decisively. That year’s blockbuster, “South Pacific,” had us singing “Some Enchanted Evening” but not “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”—unless we focused on “You’ve got to be taught to be afraid/Of people whose eyes are oddly made,” and ignored “And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade.” Alabamians didn’t protest the movie; its message didn’t even register, despite King’s efforts to sensitize us.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott made King’s name a household one, but not in an Evergreen caught up in the Civil War Centennial after 1960. I discovered independently what I would later read from a Southerner’s pen: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Evergreen’s elaborate pageant depicted brave youth leaving for that war after chalking their names on a chimney in the former county seat’s pre-eminent home. My character inscribed his name first.

A year later, Alabama elected demagogue George Wallace as Governor. When asked why he started using race, Wallace replied, “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened.” He took the oath of office in January, 1963, standing on the bronze star marking where Jefferson Davis became Confederate President. Everyone remembered Wallace’s last inaugural line: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” As a senior, I played a bass drum in his inaugural parade.

I attended college in the north Alabama city reputed to be one of the nation’s most segregated. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth vainly addressed Birmingham inequities, but it lived up to its nickname “Bombingham.” During my lifetime, it had averaged three racially connected dynamite blasts annually. Recent ones had targeted Shuttlesworth’s home, twice, and church.

King joined Shuttlesworth’s Birmingham efforts the spring before I began college, scant months after Wallace’s inauguration. He planned marches to elicit over-reaction from Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor. Connor obliged, turning firehoses and police dogs on marchers and bystanders alike. Marchers dwindled as jails filled. King recruited students into what would be dubbed “The Children’s Crusade.” National media, attracted by King’s presence, celebrated children’s courage as they faced firehoses, dogs, and jail with other marchers and King. May and the crisis ended together, but King’s non-violent message had broken down in Birmingham.

In June, Wallace briefly “stood in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama to deny admittance to Vivian Malone and James Hood. That August, King led the “March in Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and delivered what would become his most famous speech, one line from which struck me: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I began school that fall with more than the usual trepidation. In Birmingham, I saw my first mixed-race couple. Birmingham public schools began integrating. Violence continued. Civil rights lawyer Arthur Shores’ home was bombed a week before King spoke his dreams in Washington, then again a week after King’s speech. The third September Sunday, two weeks after King’s speech, another bomb obliterated much of the 16th Street Baptist Church, headquarters of and main staging/rendezvous point for the recently-completed campaign. Four young girls died. For the only time in my life, I felt the need to go, and went, armed.

Two months after the church bombing, I learned from students huddled around a transistor radio at the library’s front desk that Oswald had shot Kennedy in Dallas. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the summer after my freshman year, the Justice Department made my favorite Birmingham barbecue place, Ollie’s, its test case. Ollie’s closed.

I joined the Male Chorus, the only musical ensemble which required no audition. My sophomore spring, three of us—Ted Stephens, Larry Draper, and Owen Lay—were among the 2,000 Alabama National Guardsmen federalized to help guard the fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery. King talked again of equity and equality. Ted, Larry, and Owen told stories from the march route. More importantly, I read about and watched local police and state troopers use billy clubs and tear gas to repel marchers at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on the cold March day known as “Bloody Sunday.”

My junior year, a sociology teacher warned our class that King’s tactics had brought down a government, implying that ours was endangered. A John Birch Society billboard, sporting the legend “Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Communist training camp in Cuba,” obscured the view as one drove from my school past Vulcan’s statue and descended Red Mountain to the city proper.

When I left for graduate school in 1967, most of my authority figures had labeled King a Communist and “outside agitator.” I had heard stories about the private lives of public figures. I had more questions than answers. But I had lived through the emotional and political high water mark of the civil rights movement on the ground where much of it took place during one of America’s most confrontational, polarized, and paranoid eras. My experience changed my worldview from halftone to grayscale. No longer were things cut-and-dried, no longer “just the way they were.” And that line from King’s speech kept nagging at me.

By my first graduate school spring, the 1968 Presidential race was fully underway. George Wallace ran for the American Independent Party; Bobby Kennedy sought the Democratic nomination. Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted the cause of Memphis sanitation workers. On my birthday, a man who shared my uncle’s name shot King. In the widespread riots following King’s assassination, someone firebombed the corner grocery by FSU’s married student housing. The embers were barely cold before the owner nailed a big “Wallace for President” poster to a charred doorpost. Two months later, Bobby Kennedy was shot. Two months after that, antiwar protesters disrupted the Democratic Convention in Chicago. In November, Richard Nixon became a minority President as Wallace carried Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Florida State English History teacher Michael B. Pulman introduced me to racial colorblindness.

In the next few years in Arkadelphia, I would hear Bill Terry’s stories of marching with King in Alabama and Johnny Ware’s about a black teen’s Vietnam experience. I would first hear Paul Simon’s song “Kodachrome.” I would see Wallace shot in Maryland as he ran again for President. And I would later hear him announce that he was a born-again Christian, apologize to black civil rights leaders for his earlier segregationist views (saying that he had once sought power and glory but now realized that he needed to seek love and forgiveness) and admit, fifteen years after his stand in the schoolhouse door, “I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over.”

Racism is a differentiating mechanism, one of many that we all use daily to make sense of our world. “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” warns that teachings “before you are six, or seven, or eight,” remain with you forever. Just as recovering alcoholics count the time since their last drink, so recovering racists count the time since their last reaction. Martin Luther King Jr.’s was one of many voices that helped me discover an antidote to racism, something that doesn’t cure but counteracts its poison. King’s legacy, for me, lies in that one line that so struck my ear, though it meant something only in retrospect, and only in chorus with others of similar import. A grayscale worldview has its advantages. But God wishes for us, I believe, a Kodachrome worldview. He wants us to see “those nice bright colors,” to borrow Paul Simon’s phrase, to recognize and celebrate “red and yellow, black and white.” It is not a matter of training, but of choice. We can eschew the racist default, the prejudice of that particular differentiating mechanism. We can choose, to use King’s line, to judge by the content of one’s character rather than by the color of one’s skin.

Week 2 of Making Something Every Day

Week 2! Some days are good, some days are not so good but I’m enjoying the challenge of both doing something every day and coming up with something to do every day.

Day 8: Got a bit of grunt work done. Glued pages in altered book, gessoed a page in the new notebook.
day 8
Putting gesso on paper is so boring. Watching paint dry boring, in fact. I’m trying to get better about gessoing at the end of a session so that I have other productive work to show AND so I have a clean, dry place to work the next day. But hey, some days are just gonna be one offs of my supplies or my artist hands or maybe my very cute owl apron that LB got me a few years ago for my birthday. (That apron has been promoted out of the kitchen to Chief Operating Art Apron.)

Day 9: Performing for an audience is hard! Disgusted by my mistake. Going to bed.
day 9
I used the wrong color. I thought I remembered what ink I’d used before and when I started putting it on the page, I realized it was red instead of brown and then I had a big, bloody-looking mess. It was alcohol ink, so it was ON THERE and not coming off! I suppose something could be said here about the page being on communion and there being blood on the page but I don’t think I’m that symbolic.

Also learned that if I wait to do my 20 minutes at 9 o’clock I’m not gonna be happy with anything I do.

Day 10: Kissed and made up with my paint mistake from last night. Added a shell.
day 10
Day 11: Finished Art Journal Spread. See how I incorporated the paint mistake? No? Then I did alright.
day 11
So the next morning when I looked at the page with fresh eyes, I knew I could fix it. I toned it down a bit and stenciled over the top of the redish blotch. It looks like I meant to do that. 😉 But instead of showing that part on Day 10 I showed the other half of the page. You can see the whole thing on Day 11. I’m pleased with the way the pages came out and then having a place to write about my experiences with communion over the past several years.

Day 12: from time to time this year, I will be working out of this book.
day 12
Day 13: another zentangle day. Boy, do I need the drawing practice!
day 13
One Zentangle A Day is one of the books I got for Christmas. I knew it would come in handy this year. One Zentangle takes between 20-30 minutes. Perfect! I need the drawing practice so bad. I was marginally proficient in college but it was never my gift. It annoys me to no end, someone who is as arty as I supposedly am should be able to draw a passable sketch of anything. Which I can’t. At all. (Notice on Day 12 the snow collecting in the shrubbery outside the window. It lasted less than 24 hours.)

Day 14: I started this page in my art journal yesterday. Sorry the pic is a day late.
day 14
It is possible I skimped a bit on the 20 minutes on Saturday. I did do the bottom layer of this page on Saturday but by the time we got home from our marathon day, I forgot to snap a photo. Ah well, sometimes life keeps me busy.

Thoughts after the second week:

– I love getting to do this! Love it! Love! Someone said to me that it must be nice to have the time to do this sort of thing. Yes, yes it is and I do have slightly more free time than a lot of folks do. But seriously, if it’s something you love to do, you can make 20 minutes in your day for it. Stephen and I have long had a deal that when we are busy with some sort of deadline/project that we spend an hour working on it after the kids are in bed and then we get together to watch tv or play a game or just sit on the couch reading. We’ve been amazed over the years at what an hour a day can get you after a few weeks. Same with the 20 minutes.

-I think there is a misconception that art/artwork/craft is something that is done by inspiration alone. I know I fall into that trap from time to time. I think to myself, “They just have better ideas than I do.” But the reality is, it takes work every day. For artists who are making a living off of their art, it takes work every day, all day. And I find after two weeks that the more often I work creatively, the more easily the ideas come. The more ideas I have, the more likely it is for me to have a good one mixed in with all the mediocre ones. So art takes practice, just like playing an instrument or learning a sport. I’m ashamed that I’ve spent many years not exercising my creative muscle. Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions of being some hot shot artist but expressing myself creatively has been a part of my identity for most of my life so not using it for so long annoys me. But good news! This project is turning that around for me!

Now This is Science

While I’ve been away doing science things like working on a robot that can read your fingerprints from 10 feet away, Eli and Liza decided to get in on the science action.

Yesterday afternoon they were making popcorn for their afternoon snack. “Can you pop an unpopped piece of corn?” Eli asked. “Let’s do an experiment!” Very soon Eli and Misty were putting an unpopped popcorn kernel in the microwave and re-heating it for a few minutes at a time to see what happened.

Liza, meanwhile, had wandered off to draw on the erasable board that she and Eli use for studying, or so Misty thought. As the kernel was being microwaved a third time, she asked Liza, “What are you doing?”

Liza shows off the results of the popcorn experiment

“This is science. You need a record.” She was busy noting down their results.

To translate, she wrote:

Raoond 1 nufing.
Raoond 2 nufing.
Raoond 3 nufing.

She then proceeded to sign the record as a witness and get Eli to check off his name. Also the smiley face takes away the sting of them not being able to make the kernel explode.

Now I get to explain that they proved their null hypothesis!

Week 1 of Making Something Every Day

So the first week of making things has had its ups and downs.

Day 1: beginnings of a spread in my art journal.
Day 1

Day 2: learning patience. Needed to let it dry longer before adding yellow layer.
Day 2

Previously when I’ve worked in an art journal, I’ve constructed it out of watercolor paper myself. These constructed books are great because they don’t have too many pages, they hold paint well and I can take some pride in having constructed it as well as painted, written, doodled, glued, and stamped in it. Teesha Moore has a fabulous tutorial on how to make them.

But of course, instead of doing something that I know works, I decided to reinvent the wheel. So I pulled out a journal someone gave me as a gift to use as an art journal. It’s made of drawing paper, so it has a deep and abiding hatred of paint. I put paint on a few pages and I couldn’t get them to dry. I had to leave them sitting overnight because the fibers were saturated. This presents a problem when I only have 20 minutes a day! I did some research and some other creative types online recommend this watercolor journal. I’ve looked at it before but resisted purchasing a $30 notebook. I can spend money all day long on art supplies but something about spending that much on a notebook makes me want to curl up and cry.

After Day 1 and Day 2 of working in the drawing paper book, I decided to order the $30 one. It hasn’t come in yet but when it does, I’ll let you know what I think of the pages. I’ll probably be redoing the two spreads I started in the first notebook. Just goes to show you that some days you throw all the work out.

Day 3: Prepped 9 ATC boards for a series on Nepal. Sketched out the design. Picked out paper & stamps for collage.
Day 3

Day 4: Progress on the 9 Nepal ATCs. Individual cards that make a whole collage when arranged this way.
Day 4

Day 5: ATCs looking more the thing today. Added depth and edited down items.
day 5

Since I’m still processing my trip to Nepal, I decided to commemorate it with an Artist Trading Card (ATC) collage. Each of the nine cards can stand alone but together they tell a bit of the story of my travels in Nepal. I’m pleased about the way they are coming together. There’s dust and steel gray mountains and then some words and symbols that are significant to my trip.

Day 6: Sometimes making things is about prep work. Pulled pages out of the book I’m going to alter.
day 6

I’ve had some old hymnals from my church for a long time and have wanted to alter one. This daily practice seems like a great time to do that. I also worked on the ATCs on Day 6 but I am cutting paper for the last two cards and I didn’t make much noticeable progress.

Day 7: finished!
Day 7

Thoughts after the first week:

– This is first and foremost a project for me to connect with my creativity every day. I’m gonna make messes and decide to abandon projects. Some days what I produce will be pretty finished pieces. Some days what I produce will be crap. That’s the nature of creativity.

– In my mind I thought I’d be producing finished work every day. I don’t know why I thought that because I know better! I do tend to work in fits and starts but realistically I can’t complete something every single day. If I did, it’d take longer than 20-30 minutes per day and then I might not have anything to work on the next day.

– I’m going to jump around on projects as the spirit moves me. I thought about finishing each project before I started another but decided that there’d be no suspense for any of us in that case. Also, when I am working on layout, putting down the idea and then having the option to move it around before I glue it down is a nice thing.

– Someone asked me about purchasing work when I’m done with it and I was deeply flattered. I hadn’t thought about that at all when I started this project. Mostly I make things to make myself happy but if you see something that moves you, let me know and we can probably work out a deal. Truthfully, if a few of you purchase items that solves several problems for me: storage and cash for more $30 watercolor notebooks!

New Year with a Resolution

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. So that’s totally why I decided to make one for 2013!

2012 was amazing! I had the awesome Nepal trip in December (more on that in another post) and then, as an accidental bonus, I got my sister-in-law’s CRV to replace the Buick I’ve been driving for the past 7 years (more on that in another post). So in the wake of those good things, I was contemplating what I could do during 2013 to make it awesome as well and then I was all resolution city.

So for 2013 I am gonna be making something everyday. I plan to spend about 20 minutes per day either working on my art journal, making ATCs, bookbinding, working on an altered book, or anything else I come up with or you suggest that catches my fancy.

I have three rules for this project:

  • Every day.
  • 20 minutes.
  • Post a photo on the internets.
  • I spend a lot of time wanting to be a creative, artist-type person so here’s where I’m going to start putting it into practice!

    In preparation, I’ve set up a dedicated table in my office for this project:

    I’ve cleaned up and organized my work space so I can find things and spend my 20 minutes actually creating and not setting up to work. Part of my Christmas gift from my mom was a gift card to purchase supplies. Shopping for art supplies: Done!

    So I’m starting on Monday! I’m going to be figuring out the posting thing as I go. I may post to Twitter, which I have set to automatically post to Facebook. I don’t know if I’ll be setting up some sort of gallery for this website or what exactly yet. I’ll be talking to my personal web guru about that part of the project. I’ll let you guys know as soon as I’ve got it set up!

    Ways you can help: Suggest ideas! Comment on pictures! Shout encouragements if you pass me on the street! Do something creative yourself and then show it to me!

    Here’s to a creative 2013!