24 August 2009


On a recent trip to Kingston, Ontario we were exposed to a lot of the same general products we see in small town boutiques and antique stores around south eastern Pennsylvania. Gourmet food stores carrying $18 bottles of mustard and $24 boxes of rosemary flavored crackers; female clothing stores offering unknown designer dresses for $300 and contemporary costume jewelry pieces for upwards of 400% of their actual value; antique shops with broken chairs for $95, torn hand-woven welcome mats for $240, and frayed-wire lamps for $120; health food stores peddling fresh herbs & spices, exotically natural lotions and Himalayan salt lamps.

Himalayan salt lamps are generally found to be light orange to burnt ochre. Carved from natural salt crystal, they are generally suitable to fit atop small end tables or window sills and have been hollowed out to accommodate an incandescent bulb & its fixture. Popular for their effusive attractive glow, they are commonly used as nightlights and for those situations requiring "ambient mood lighting". There are known claims of the salt lamps' health-promoting properties (such as the ability to release ions that purify the air), but these postulations have not been substantiated and are, at present, recognized as 'pseudoscience'.

[photos courtesy the author & the internet]

18 August 2009


I came upon an e-nouncement for the University of Massachusettes today at work. It said, "UMass Amherst and Hancock Shaker Village announce the creation of a New Graduate Degree in Historic Preservation and Design" and I was immediately taken. Having never heard of Hancock in the past, I took it upon myself to do a little research and made the unanimous decision to (very soon) pay a visit to this cultural anomolie in western Mass. Here's what I discovered:

The Shaker Central Ministry closed the Hancock community in 1960 and sold the buildings and surrounding acreage to a group of Shaker enthusiasts, collectors and scholars. First open to the public on July 1, 1961, the village co-operative has restored the grounds & buildings and assembled & cared for their inherited premier Shaker collection. Hancock Shaker Village was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968 and is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

[photos courtesy the internet]
More specifically, I noticed the unusual circular stone building - a barn built in 1826. Inside the barn there are four rings. The smallest, inner-most room provides ventilation - necessary to help draw the moisture out of the hay to prevent its overheating. The ring second to center is where the hay is stored; tossed in from an upper balcony. The next (third) ring is reserved for the Shaker brothers to be able to distribute the hay in the second ring to the cows standing in the outermost, fourth ring. The barn is constructed to hold up to 70 cows at a time - once in the morning and once in the evening to eat complacently while the Shaker brothers milk them.

13 August 2009


On a recent trip to Indian Lake, Ontario - in the Thousand Islands region of Canada, we experienced much scenic waterfront beauty and got to see our very first hand-crank wooden lock in action. On the way to our destination, we observed shore fronts that were lined with decaying boathouses, once colorful and steadfast structures that are now slowly descending into their inevitable state of disrepair. Clear water, clear skies and clearly welcoming local inhabitants made this adventure an unforgettable one - one we hope to duplicate in the very near future and one I would recommend to even my worst enemies (if I had any).

[photos and video courtesy the author]

10 August 2009


The South Philadelphia Boat Show was a great success. Many trend-setting folks came out to enjoy the company of other trend-setters in an attempt to celebrate contemporary art and (in this case) its sea-faring theme. There were actual boats, sculptures of boats, photos of boats, paintings & drawings of boats, seashells, sand, really shitty paintings of boats, really shitty interpretations of what one might see from a boat, and more really shitty renderings of shitty things you might not ever even associate with a boat. More than one third of the time, contemporary art is really just a big shit pile. It can be nice to see what we consider "skilled artistic craft" juxtaposed with lazy (obviously unskilled) thrown-together-found-object-shit-pile works because who's to really say what's better than the other? After all, "outsider art" is all the rage these days, right?

[photos courtesy the internet]