Friday, June 26, 2009

Pyrography (from Wikipedia)

Pyrography is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.
Pyrography means "writing with fire" and is the traditional art of using a heated tip or wire to burn or scorch designs onto natural materials such as wood or leather. Burning can be done by means of a modern solid-point tool (similar to a soldering iron) or hot wire tool, or a more basic method using a metal implement heated in a fire, or even sunlight concentrated with a magnifying lens.
This allows a great range of natural tones and shades to be achieved - beautiful subtle effects can create a picture in sepia tones, or strong dark strokes can make a bold, dramatic design. Varying the type of tip used, the temperature, or the way the iron is applied to the material all create different effects. Solid-point machines offer a variety of tip shapes, and can also be used for "branding" the wood or leather. Wire-point machines allow the artist to shape the wire into a variety of configurations, to achieve broad marks or fine lines. This work is time-consuming, done entirely by hand, with each line of a complex design drawn individually. After the design is burned in, wooden objects are often coloured, sometimes boldly or more delicately tinted.
Light-coloured hardwoods such as sycamore, beech and birch are most commonly used, as their fine grain is not obtrusive, and they produce the most pleasing contrast. However, other woods, such as pine or oak, are also used when required. Pyrography is also applied to leather items, using the same hot-iron technique. Leather lends itself to bold designs, and also allows very subtle shading to be achieved. Specialist vegetable-tanned leather must be used for pyrography, (as modern tanning methods leave chemicals in the leather which are toxic when burned) typically in light colours for good contrast.
Pyrography is also popular among gourd crafters and artists, where designs are burned onto the exterior of a dried hard-shell gourd, usually with dramatic results.

The image here was done with an oven lighter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BODY PARTS:Chapter 7

The Shooting Pains
Late one night Al, our local harmless nut, stood on the street below my window shouting: “Sciatica! Sciatica!” for a full, solid hour. I willingly put up with Al. I generally don't mind his outbursts but this was unusual even for him. We often chat during the day when he is tired and docile. He sometimes offers insights into my own unsightly world, especially when I crank him up by handing him coffee and a Cinnabun and say: “1-2-3-GO, AL!” He likes to be revved up. His shouting all night though wasn’t what kept me up. I’d stretched after an evening run. I’d stood for longer than usual in a hot shower. I'd even taken Advil before turning in but the shooting pains running down the backs of my legs persisted and made it next to impossible for me to sleep. When I awoke I climbed straight into a big mug of black coffee to jump start my day.
Walking to the train I passed a call to my conscience: “Save Darfur!.Org.” What, I asked myself, had I ever done for Darfur? Nothing as far as I could recall. Voices of Public Radio pledge drives echoed within: “For the price of one cup of coffee a day...”
Need. Sacrifice. Luxury. Choice. Selflessness. Focus. Decisiveness. Principals. The option to crawl under a rock.
On the train my legs started shouting again. They wanted my full attention but then my lower back chimed in, and my neck, my upper arms, my spinal chord. I was confronted by a full scale assault, a cacophony of disgruntlement that I was used to solving with pain killers. A tiny voice could barely be detected saying: “Let me help.” I’d never heard it before and even now didn’t care to listen. I’d enough on my plate without taking on another health care provider. I wanted to lock myself in my office but didn’t have one. Just then there was nothing between me and my body. I needed more sustenance. Clearly I was hungry. Surely then my body would quiet down.
Instead of heading immediately to work, I veered off in the direction of a Diner I’d always wondered about, to have another breakfast.
What followed was the direct result of an Internal Revolution. Okay so I brushed my teeth hurriedly. I didn't stretch every day. I admit it. I considered working out and exercise a total drag and my body was mad. Like the French Revolution what began with such high ideals devolved into mayhem. My aches just wouldn’t leave me alone. I wasn’t having any of it. I was in charge. I was the king. I’d stifle the voices that sprung from my meat and bones with a plate full of fried food. I was feeling foolishly vengeful. I would hurl double shots of espresso at the unbearable, persistent hammering. I’d pour it on like hot oil from the battlements until they went away. I stretched! I usually ate pretty well! I wasn’t a smoker! My drinking was moderate for goodness sake! What? WHAT?
A man sat at the counter still wearing his Day-Glo green hard hat, a beacon in the dim light of the Diner. I stared at his back and saw how straight it was compared to mine. “You constantly hunch. You hunch over everything,” said my back. “You embarrass me. You have no respect for us. Why are are you so physically disdainful? You stare at a computer all the time. Your eyes are in pain. They are tired, so tired. You’ve elevated the intellect to an absurd position in your pantheon of importance, your hierarchy of attention worthiness. Your brain doesn’t like it you know. We talk about it all the time—your complete arrogance.”
In their own high pitched way the backs of my legs continued: “Tiger balm, analgesics, sure they help. But what about your hands for crissake? They want to help! They are offering to help! Use you hands! Apply massage. Rub us! We love to be rubbed! Make the effort! Support your own infrastructure you —!”
With that my legs gave out from under me. They’d had enough and I crumpled to the floor. A couple of businessmen leapt from their seats to help but it was really no use. I couldn’t shut out the crescendo of voices. I was tuned in and couldn’t tune out. I couldn’t barricade the doors, couldn’t block them with refrigerators or safes to stop them coming in. The escape hatch I’d always imagined under the carpet wasn’t in any of my rooms just then. Run about the house as I might there was no escape. My imagination had fled and I was alone stuck in a bandwidth of bodily furies. I could clearly hear the knees of my helpers cracking as they tried to sit me back in my chair. I could hear their skin crawling, their teeth demanding immediate attention, and in back a burgeoning root canal quietly whistling a sinister tune, and I fell to the floor again.
When I came to I found myself staring into the dead eyes of one of the businessmen. The waitress sat at a table sobbing as she tried to staunch heavy bleeding at her wrist with a paper towel. The construction worker still sat at the counter but was dead, apparently shot through the neck. People throughout the Diner were screaming in pain, in a mess of blood and smoke. Louder though than all the hysteria was the the furious yelling of the disenfranchised—the feet, the ankles, the toes, the veins, the skin, the bones, the nervous system, hair follicles, scalp, nasal passages, all yelling, yelling, yelling finally, finally we got you all to listen. I heard them all succinctly, if briefly, before passing out from the pain of the bullet wound to my thigh. At last we got you all to listen. My legs cocked their automatics and walked away.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

BODY PARTS:Chapter 6

Ducks and Rain (The Sodden Foot)

His first observation of the day, as in “I’ve just made this striking observation” was this: Ducks love the rain. As observations went it was nothing remarkable but it somehow denoted the start of his workday. He’d already had coffee and toast. He’d even organized his paperwork before putting it in his briefcase. He’d showered and brushed his teeth and then he had even found time to be in the thick of his family. He’d laughed heartily at his daughter’s unformed joke, had shared an article in the newspaper with his wife, and had told his son how proud he was of the grades he’d earned in school (even though he never liked to hear it), and how it just went to prove that hard work always paid off. In short he’d had a rich morning already. Somehow though the ducks underlined the passage he was on. They were stand ins for the moment when everything poured out, leaving him empty and vulnerable, though he didn’t know it then. His elf would tell him later, in some subliminal way. His object self—his elf—was watching with the usual wry detachment, a pixie in the rain, holding a waterproof pad upon which to record his observations. Someone had to see what happened next.
The subject climbed out of his car to join the ducks by the pond. Having locked the car he jabbed impatiently at the button on his umbrella hoping it would unfurl without the usual exertion. Might it have been then perhaps that he first noticed the missing shoe? You’d think the feeling of the soggy ground water seeping into his sock and between his toes would be a notable occurrence but he later insisted he had no such memory. Some days passed before he began to slowly reconstruct the events that lead him to being briefly cuffed by an especially zealous cop who momentarily had feared for the public safety. His reconstruction memory lead him back to the car but still left him uncertain that was where it had all begun. Never mind the pixie, the ducks, and the rain. After all was said and done he’d still headed in to work with one missing shoe. More worrying still he suspected that he’d driven down the hill like that pushing on the gas with a shoeless foot.
He’d stood on the platform with one sopping foot and had not thought twice about it. He took out a magazine and read about Bruno Schulz. He took out his notebook and wrote down a couple of things that, in retrospect, offered up no answers. For example he noted people staring but did not for a moment wonder why. His sodden foot was, apparently, in another world. He noted instead the rich smell of someone’s coffee and how, if he’d only had the time, he might’ve bought himself a cup.
On the train the conductor gave him a long hard look before accepting the ticket he’d presented. Then he took it and moved on up the carriage. Obviously he’d seen it all. The man with the sodden foot remained oblivious though he knew enough to get off at his stop and make his connecting subway train as all the while people stared, some startled, some not a little bit concerned. His very normalcy despite the fact that he was walking about shoeless made it all the more worrying. Was he quite possibly psychotic? A huge homeless man who seemed to think so did, with great dexterity, maneuvere his shopping cart through the dense crowd of rush hour commuters to get to the other side of the street and away from the madman with the wet foot. The madman as it happens did observe the homeless man’s massive curly grey beard, draped as it was over all his worldly possessions. That crowd of commuters spewing in to the city as they did every day was more agitated than usual and all because of him. He meanwhile walked the walk he walked every day with his usual demeanor which, on average, was calm. The hot dog man recognized him and tried in vain to get his attention. The newspaper boy simply shoved the Times at him as he always did and the man automatically took it, presented his change and thanked the boy as always. People were not witnessing the onset of Parkinson’s. He wasn’t ill in the least. He was pretty much his usual self…but for the shoe.
Later on many witnesses would describe the sense of being in the presence of an oracle, or a hermit as they recalled such things from the Greek Myths they’d read as kids. Some brought up words like “existential” or “Beckettian” but none were able to satisfactorily put their finger on why it was they felt so completely uncomfortable that their prime objective became to remove themselves from his presence as fast as they could.
The normal man continued on his way to work his head now deep in his paper. There he read of the terrible things that man perpetrates on man and pondered on the nature of dignity in the face of such cruelty and viciousness. He could hardly handle his own indignation for wasn’t that indignation the seed bed of righteousness and so from whence the wrongs in the world were born? Could indignation even encompass empathy? Then he read of a school superintendent wrestling a gunman to the ground, and of an old lady who rescued a cat from a tree and he felt the onset of a little smile, that something he looked for each and every day and, given his disposition, usually found.
Upon arriving at has workplace he was immediately taken aside by front desk security. Unlike the commuters they had no qualms about pointing out to him the fact of his missing shoe. The man, not surprisingly, or surprisingly, was stunned. A candy wrapper was stuck to the big toe of his by now filthy, ragged sock. The offices of Cullen and Mullen stared down at him as he stared down at his foot and tried in vain to recall his morning. The security men were firm but gentle as they lead him to their office, behind the public bathrooms on the ground floor. There he waited, staring at his foot, as phone calls were made. He declined the offer of tea but accepted a small paper cup of water. He sipped and pondered and his mind took him back to ducks and rain. He felt a radiant tranquility which apparently was noted by the guards who mentioned their perception of it later when questioned.
“I had the weirdest thought that if I asked him a question, anything, he might have the answer, would have the answer. Bit ridiculous really now that I think about it.”
The questioning officer called in to summarize the whole unusual episode recalled feeling “very respectful of this character. He wasn’t a threat as far as we could see and had done nothing wrong-although walking around wearing only one shoe is definitely not right.” A psychiatric evaluation was recommended but no charges were pressed. The psychiatrist, albeit one who’d spent the best part of his career at one job in the prosecutor’s department and had thus mostly avoided the hard work of analysis as his jaded views on the criminal mind had long since been set in stone, had this to say: “After speaking with Mr.— I felt sobered up, admonished, even a little ashamed of myself. But I really couldn’t tell you why.” He had few words to describe this “phenomena of the normalest of men”.
“Not that he had anything interesting to say,” the questioning officer later added when interviewed by the one small town paper that covered the incident. The reporter was the first to mention ducks and rain, and it was perhaps this same reporter’s plodding questions that got closest to helping the man recall his strangest of days.
“His mistake perhaps was that he opened the astounding imagination of his daughter over breakfast. He listened to her dream, a dream that she spun with such glorious clarity, as she sat on his lap stirring and stirring his coffee, that he saw himself, briefly, underwater swimming with the fishes.
He would never know for sure but he did recollect the small explosion of his umbrella erupting in to fullness as the rain came down, and a duck quacking loudly, and thoughts of Neptune and mermaid buried treasure.
“I never went near the water but I think my shoe is at the bottom of that pond.” He couldn’t prove it though and had little wish to do so. He had no more to say on the matter. His son, intrigued by the tale, did later investigate by lazily prodding a stick into the water near where his dad usually parked his car. Though the stick was probably about four feet long it didn’t touch bottom and most of it sunk into the thick muck of goose guano and leaf burdened silt that layered the pond.
Some weeks later the man dreamed of a mermaid in a business suit and wearing one shoe, which seemed about right, going to work in her underwater kingdom, briefcase at her side. When she arrived at the offices of Cullen and Mullen security was alerted, the cops were called, and she was arrested for public indecency. He met her in a jail that was dark and full of sorry tales. The old lady was there with her cat attempting to cheer everybody up and on a cot in the corner lay an afghan child covered in dirty blankets. A doctor was attending to her suppurating, amputated arm.
For the final draught of his story the man was paid a handsome sum. His colleagues never gave him a hard time, never mocked him. Lawyers and financiers shared drinks with him in bars and poured out stories of their own, stories they imagined he alone would comprehend. He never did but still was kind enough to listen.

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Doing Lines

Asemic writing