25 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

 Photo by 360 Nautica
Merry Christmas everyone!  Just had to share a few things with you this morning from the island... this Christmas tree is a traditional coastal Maine Christmas tree that is made of lobster traps, lobster buoys, pine boughs and lights.  O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!  I'll let you guess what is sometimes put at the top! 

Next, we have a few clips for your enjoyment... snowboarding in Paris, and a couple clips from my favorite silent film of 1926, 'Der Heilge Berg' (The Holy Mountain).  Be sure to at least make it to the 5:10 mark!


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
O bid our sad divisions cease,
And be for us our King of Peace.
Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Have a peaceful Christmas...

via Little Brown Pen

22 December 2010

Music Tuesday: Sufjan's Songs for Christmas

Today's Music Tuesday selection is an obvious pick: Sufjan's Songs for Christmas.  These songs are festive, holy, and just plain fun.  Below are all of the songs off of the 5-disc set for your listening pleasure.  One of these days Katie and I will get our act together and make an album for our friends and family like Sufjan originally did for this project.  Go here for more goodies...  UPDATE: Vol. 6 is no longer available, but you can listen to Silent Night below, via David Greenwald at Rawkblog.  Enjoy!

Sufjan Stevens - "Silent Night" (ft. Aaron and Bryce Dessner) by rawkblog



16 December 2010

Music Thursday: Little Dragon

Photo: Sarah Cooper
Little Dragon is from Gothenburg, Sweden... (why do so many good bands from from Gothenburg?)  The dragon is made up of Yukumi Nagano (vocals and percussion), Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrick Källgren (bass), and Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards). 

This from their bio, by Ulla Tom Tom:
"From the city of Gothenburg grew the birth of tiny creature.  Its breath full of fire passion death and dreams.  It lived in a fantasy called the electric forest. This forest was thick  with rustling secrets and  infintite amounts of pinetrees.   On occasional full moons the pine trees would light up in neon auras  of lime and turquoise and the ground would shake  with a steady rumble. The tiny creature grew into a little dragon.  It wrestled with the large wind sometimes. The heat of its breath would weave in with the cool air and make patterns in the sky. Although the creature was a powerful little beast it was light as a feather and would often sleep on the leaf flowing in the breeze.  And there it would dream in a dream. These dreams were without visuals and haunted by sounds.  electric sounds and beats would pump its little  heart and make her sleep walk around the forest like a ghost dancing in the night.
And the aching of this lonely creatures heart would be reflected in bittersweet melodies both haunting and happy." 

So, all I can say is that the music sounds just like all of that, and more.  Listen to a heap of songs on their myspace and dig the clips below...

My Step by Little Dragon

Blinking Pigs by Little Dragon

14 December 2010

Landscapes of Wonder - Richard Ely

 Richard Ely
Richard Ely is a Madison-based artist who does torn tissue-paper collage.  Though he has no formal training and hated art class as a child, for the past five years he has found himself "drawn to the pleasure of tearing brightly colored paper."  His work is currently showing at Mother Fools Coffeehouse in Madison until the end of the month, and the show (his first) is entitled Landscapes of Wonder.  

Here is an excerpt from his artist statement:  "In general, my collages have no meaning to impart. I am drawn to elements of the natural world—landscape, sky, water, trees. Often I begin with either a simple image in mind—a silver tree, a straw-colored nest—or merely an impulse toward color or mood. In the early stages of each collage, my process tends to be intuitive, even random. But as I progress and a "picture" begins to reveal itself, my choices become more measured. By the end, I am often working with painstaking precision to achieve specific effects. I deeply enjoy the process of not knowing what I'm doing, of allowing intuition, accident, and surprise to guide me. I'm happiest when my creations turn out to be "successful"—beautiful and joyous - but I also accept my interesting "failures."' 

Richard Ely
 Richard Ely
 Richard Ely
Richard Ely

Dad Kayaking

 My dad sent me this photos that he took from the kayak recently.  I love how he's still out there in the snow and ice.  Island dads are like that!  Of course, that's when you see some of the most interesting things in creation--birds and muskrats that are a little less skittish because they're conserving energy, lower lighting an long shadows as the solstice approaches, intricate ice formations that border land and water... The river pictured is called the Stillwater, for obvious reasons.  This is where I grew up--beautiful Orono.  To the right in the above pic is the mainland, to the right below is the island that we lived on.  We lived a block from the river, so we were always wheeling boats down to a little grassy put-in spot to row or paddle... or we'd go swimming... or just sit and watch the still water.

Thanks for the shots Dad!  Maybe there'll still be some open water to paddle in together when I come home for Christmas!

10 December 2010

An island train (Ajaccio to Corte, Corsica)

09 December 2010

Rube Goldberg Machines

My friend Andrea sent me this video, and in answer to her question, yes, there are machines like this on the island.  They're called Rube Goldberg machines on the mainland, but we just call them Island Machines.  They do tasks like doing laundry, washing dishes, turning pages of books, applying sunblock lotion, weeding the gardens, sharpening pencils, etc.  (sometimes we like to do that stuff by hand, too)  Doesn't it remind you of the old McGee and Me intro?

08 December 2010

Music Tuesday: Daft Punk + Tron

Courtesy of the artist, from KCRW

Tron Tron Tron Tron Tron:  Daft Punk + Orchestra = amazing.  The soundtrack came out today (er, yesterday, the real Tuesday), and though I have only heard 5 songs off of it, I highly recommend it.  Here's a KCRW interview with director Joseph Kosinski about the score developed by Daft Punk.  There have been a lot of 'album leaks' and fake songs out there, but this the real deal.  To skip all the talking and get right to the music, go to 12:35, 22:36, 30:38, 37:10, and 51:55.  Or take a look at the videos below which feature 'Derezzed'.  Or go buy the album.  Soundtrack site here.  Film is out Dec 17.

Keep an eye out for the Daft Punk cameo!

07 December 2010

Paddleboarding in the Snow

 Photo by Kathryn Kirby
It's been a few days since I've posted, and that's mainly because it snowed on the island, the winds have been light, and that is a perfect recipe for tranquility on the water... (water temp= 33, air temp=cold, windchill=colder, total=perfect!)
 Photo by Kathryn Kirby
De-icing a spot for my feet, using a key as a chisel...
 Photo by Kathryn Kirby
Gracefully sliding the board into the water...
 Photo by Kathryn Kirby
 Miscalculating the transport effectiveness of snow and watching in horror as the board slips rapidly into the water and begins to float away...
Photo by Kathryn Kirby
 Chasing the board down (thankful all the while for choosing the 6/5/4 wetsuit instead of the 3/2)...
 Photo by Kathryn Kirby
Take 2, more graceful this time...
 Photo by Kathryn Kirby
Off into the void, amidst silent flakes falling...
Photo by Kathryn Kirby

03 December 2010

Sand Drawing - Jim Denevan

 Jim Denevan is an earth artist.  I first came across his work after watching the surf film Thread, which profiles Jim and his amazing sand drawings.  For the above circles, he actually starts off using a small stick and draws circles about the size of a quarter, slowly increasing the diameter as he creates more and more circles.  He then uses a larger stick, as well as a rake for shading.  The outgoing tide provides the canvas, and the incoming tide erases the creation.  For more, see a project Jim did in Siberia at The Anthropologist (my new favorite site), go to Jim's website, and do scroll down to the bottom of this post to see a short film by Patrick Trefz (director of Thread) on Jim's work. 

01 December 2010

World AIDS Day

(Guam AIDS ribbon)

To get the facts, go to the newly released UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.  Also, find further resources on the the Kaiser Family Foundation website

AIDS is a worldwide issue.  Prevalence map from UNAIDS Report. 

Photo from Getty Images

Population Services International's work on male circumcision, which can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV by 60%.  Here is Mlungisi's journey to get circumcised. 

And here's a clip by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders about the dual threat of shortfalls in funding as well as trade restrictions on the generic medicines that are needed to provide affordable treatment options. 

What are you going to do about it?  Pray.  Get involved.

Music Tuesday: Mountain Man

 Photo by Anika in London
 \What to say about Mountain Man.  Well, for starters, they are not a man, but they do sound like the mountains, among other things.  Mountain Man is actually a trio of three enchanting women who go by the names Molly Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Meath.  I saw them open for Jonsi last month, and when they came out on stage without any instruments, I admit I was a bit disappointed.  But that soon changed--their voices do wonders together.  Their sound is nearly timeless, and I think quite fitting for the sensibilities of the island.  Enjoy these selections (and pretend it's still Tuesday!)...

Read a Paste interview with the band and hear 'Dog Song' here.
Hear them performing a couple of songs in the NPR studios.
Download a set they did for BBC 1 here.

30 November 2010

First Snow

 This past Saturday we had our first snow on the island.  The climate on Miles Island, by the way, defies logical categorization, but to simplify matters, parts of the island are arctic, parts are tropical, and parts are completely unpredictable.  More on island climate in later posts.

Anyhow, in this first snow, at first there were just a few flakes that fell silently.  Then it turned into a wonderful quiet blizzard... hooray for snow!  Soon the islanders will be skiing and sledding and skating and...

This photo, taken the day after Thanksgiving, was a magical moment in which the iced trees from the night before suddenly started to melt in unison.  It was as if it was raining, only the sun was shining.  The photo doesn't do the moment justice, so you'll just have to use your island imagination...

28 November 2010

Pet Millipede

 My friend Michelle has a pet millipede, which I think is pretty rad.  She brought it in for a sort of show-and-tell dinner a few weeks ago, and I think her 'thing' was the most impressive of the evening.  Apparently she keeps the millipede in a very livable and pleasant terrarium--the tupperware container is just the carrying container.  Surprisingly, her pet millipede still doesn't have a name, so if you've got any ideas, let us know!

24 November 2010


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Orange trees in the entryway

There's something wonderful about citrus trees, and who knew you could have them indoors as well as out!  via Wit + Delight.

Now, if only that cat was a little more like Hobbes!

(from The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes via here)

Music Tuesday: Laura Veirs

 Photo by David Belisle
 Today's artist is Laura Veirs, a Portland, Oregon-based singer/songwriter.  I am pretty new to her music, and first heard her live this fall in Madison in a small club called The Frequency.  Apparently the band had to drive along the highway rumble strip on the way to the show in order to lull Laura's baby to sleep, and they had a baby monitor on stage!  Needless to say, Laura is charming.  She put on such a good show and even though it didn't start until 11, my wife stayed up until the end!  (That's a real stretch for her, as I'm sure several of you know) 

Below is the video for one of our favorite songs, I Can See Your Tracks.   Katie and I learned this song and I've still got a ways to go on the guy's part. Maybe I was inspired by going deer hunting this weekend (I was a pacifist observer), but I sure do like looking at a living deer in a music video.

You can download several of her songs here (she's released 7 albums) and see vids of her in concert here. My favorites by her, in addition to the song above, include July Flame and Life is Good Blues.  Hope you enjoy!

22 November 2010

The Paddle

     Well.  Many of you may know that my Fall Project has been to build a paddle.  A long paddle, mind you.  It all started around the end of the summer, when I saw stand up paddle boarder on a lake in Madison and realized that it was a crime to live so close to 2 lakes and not be out enjoying them.   After looking at the prices for a real board and paddle ($1000 and $300, respectively), I decided I'd be a typical Mainer and try to make my own.  Duct tape anyone?  First the board--the easiest part, really.  Within a few hours of placing a want add on Craigslist, I was the proud owner of a 1980s era windsurf board for 50 bucks. Who knew if it would support my weight, but I didn't have time to fool around with the details--winter was on its way.
      Next, the paddle.  Luckily, my friend Rob from work is an expert paddle maker.  Or at least he's made a few.  He even built a wooden canoe with his wife.  He's the type who has every tool and wordworking device you'd imagine, from saws to sealant to 20 clamps--and yes, you need that many.  So my project had a mentor and a patient guide. 
      The first task was to select two cedar 2x4s (with as few knots as possible) from a local lumber yard.  Boy, did I feel grown up.  We cut one of the boards up into 8 or 9 strips and glued them together over a form board to make a composite shaft--stronger than a single piece of wood.  This is where the 20 clamps came in handy.  We used the other board to glue 6 or 7 strips to make the blade and a couple blocks to make a rough handle.  Basically I had a real blocky paddle-looking thing by the end of this process, and I told Rob that it looked good enough, I was ready to hit the water!  "Not so fast," he winked. 
 The next step involved lots and lots of carving, first using a draw knife (not pictured) and then using a spokeshave (pictured below).  The blade took the longest amount of time, and then after using a power sander for the handle, I used the spokeshave to make the square-edged shaft into a rounded handle that would actually feel comfortable in the hands. 
  I did a lot of work on our front porch.  It was pretty cool to see the curly wood shavings pile up on the steps--it felt like I was actually doing something useful for once.  I got a lot of curious stares from folks walking by, and some encouragement too as people began to see the shape of a paddle emerge. 

 Next I did a ton of sanding, moving from coarse to fine.  Below is what the paddle looked like after all the sanding.
 A few months later, after some epoxy to the blade and 3 coats of varnish, voila!  We had ourselves a stand up paddle!  It's a cool 78" of pure hand-carved elegance--what dreams are made of.    Well, it may be a bit asymmetrical, but at least it's functional! 
 I can't give enough credit to Rob for helping me through this project.  Without his expertise I'd be out there using my bare hands or getting splinters from a rough-edged waterlogged 2x4 cut in half.  But now, I'm out on the lake at sunrise and sunset, exploring a new world that has literally existed at my doorstep all along.  And let me just say, it felt so good to work with tools again (shop class was in 6th grade!), to work with my hands and see fruit start from a seed.  This is what island living is all about.