Thursday, May 31, 2012

still-sound 71. Savon noir

I've always been fascinated by all-purpose soaps, particularly naturally-derived and old-school in feel.  In college I discovered Dr Bronner (as you do).  I liked the snake-oil salesman feel conveyed by random texts covering the bottle, detailing usages, benefits and godonlyknowswhat.  I didn't particularly like the smell of any of the varieties however, they were a bit obvious.  My disappointment in scent didn't detract from the multi-use virtues however and my fascination with Bronner continues to this day.  Dilute!  Dilute!

Murphy's oil soap on the other hand has that wonderful verbena smell.  I like the idea of an oil soap.  I figure that the oil must nourish while it cleanses, making it ideal for wood. An episode of At Home With Venetia in Kyoto revealed that she maintains her beautiful lacquer wares by rubbing them with camellia oil.  She keeps the oil in a small bottle.  It looks like perfume.

I took an architecture design class once and found myself regularly working late into early morning making  plaster models.  I would make molds by gluing pieces of foam board together with a hot glue gun.  We were advised to coat the inner surfaces with Murphy's soap which served as a release agent.  The smell of it still reminds me of trace paper and a chronic lack of sleep.

When Rob and I arrived in France a couple of weeks ago, it was to clean up and help restore an old village house.  On our way from Toulouse airport we popped into a mega supermarch√© called LeClerc and picked up cleaning materials, wine and potato chips.  It's there that I discovered Briochin Savon Noir.  It's an all-natural, all-purpose soap made with linseed oil.  It has the look of a cleanser your grandmother would have used (if you were French).  

I hoped that savon noir would have a subtle scent and not resemble the synthetically-perfumed cleansers we now use - the concoctions of aromachemicals invented to satisfy the marketers' insistence that clean had a particular smell.  Briochin Savanna Noir delivered.  It actually has that distinctive linseed oil smell albeit subtle.  I'm familiar with linseed oil from painting.  To say that it slightly resembles the smell of fish oil would imply that it's unpleasant which it is not.  But it does resemble fish oil bit.  After cleaning with savon noir for a while my hands smelled as though I drained a can of tuna earlier in the day and the residue of oil left a faint trace on my skin after washing.  

I used the Savon Noir when scrubbing off the grout left on the tiles that we spent six long days laying on the  floor.  Each squirt released a blast of fresh peppermint.  I don't know if this is typical of all varieties of savon noir or if it's because I was using the version "√† la Chlorophyll".  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

still-sound 70. What I saw in France

I forgot how France sounds.  In California the very idea of France is so distant and abstract.  It feels almost fictional.  When you come back to a place it becomes instantly familiar because you have to take everything in so completely; everything beautiful but also everything mundane and inclement.  A full immersion where all the details make sense and the film of sentimentality is wiped.  Southern France sounds like swallows.  The birds have a constant, high-pitched chirp, almost like bats.  They dart and dive in irregular patterns like bats too, only much faster.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

still-sound 69. Ride

Having a record player again has allowed me to rediscover a collection of albums that have sat in storage for over twenty years.  Recently I listened to a record by Ride, a shoegaze band I loved in the early 90s.  When I took the vinyl out of the sleeve (decorated with penguins walking around in snow), a piece of paper fell out with the autographs of all of the band members.  My friend Homay and I saw them perform when they came to Providence, Rhode Island in 1991.  The venues in that town were so small and we quickly realized that if we hung out in the club after the performance, the band would eventually come out.  The division between star and audience had dissolved and everyone was free to just talk.  I remember thinking that the lads of Ride were very nice.  They were young.  They asked us how old we were.  I remember answering "19".  One of the guys from the band eventually joined Oasis.  Maybe it was Andy.

As much as I love the music of Ride and My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain, I found that it's not particularly suited to my little portable record player.  All the feedback and distortion gets contained in the little speakers and the wall-of-sound fails to unfurl.  What does sound great however, is music with a clear vocal melody.  More treble-centric music.  Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66 sounds great.  Lani Hall's voice chimes through like sunlight.  I played their record one morning and kept it playing while I showered so that Rosie could enjoy the music.  I couldn't tell from her facial expression whether or not she had a preference for music played on phonographs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

still-sound 68. Camera shop

This camera store on Sunset Boulevard reminds me of the camera store my dad used to take me to when I was a little kid.  It was called Larmon Photo.  Morgan Camera Shop appears to be out of business.  It's unlikely Larmon Photo still exists.

My dad was a photographer and would regularly swing by the shop for supplies and visit Mr Larmon.  I'm not sure if that was his name, but I assume so, considering the name of the shop.  I think my dad mostly just liked to chat.  His conversations with Mr Larmon seemed interminable.  I remember enjoying the smell of the store.  A combination of Kodak film and pipe smoke.  Mr Larmon smoked a pipe and the air was usually thick with sweet smoke.  He also had a beard.  Of course.

This is how the inside of Morgan Camera looks.  I pressed my camera right up to the glass door and managed to get a shot in between the bars of the security gate.  The interior looks surprisingly in tact.  Maybe it hasn't gone out of business after all - perhaps it's just always closed whenever I pass by and has unusually scratched-up, graffitied windows.  I imagine this shop to smell of cigarette smoke and fusty old wooden panelling.  Larmon Photo looked nothing like this on the inside.  It was brighter, more plastic, more suburban.  It was in a strip mall next to a deli.  I remember an area in the corner of the shop that was raised by one step.  Like a stage, bordered by a wooden railing and balustrade.  I'm not sure why Mr Larmon required such an area but it's where I would hang out while he chatted with my dad.  Puffing away on his pipe.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

still-sound 67. Record player

My birthday isn't until Wednesday but I opened one of my presents last night.  I knew what it was, in fact I found it online and sent the link to Rob so that he could purchase it with absolute certainty.  It's a portable record player.  Rob insisted I open it early so that I could enjoy it for a few days before I set off on my 'big 40th birthday trip' next week.

I've missed playing records.  When I moved into the dormitory my freshman year of college, I lugged a record player and two wooden wine crates full of  LPs into my little room.  Although most students (wisely) took the less space-consuming CD route, I actually didn't have many CDs back then.  By graduation, my entire vinyl collection ended up in boxes, stored in my mother's garage.

Record playing requires a certain level of ceremony.  The removal of the vinyl disc from the paper sleeve without smudging the grooves with fingerprints calls for a deft hand.  The commitment of the diamond needle to record begins the crackly preamble to the first song.  The album is characterized by a distinct ebb and flow. 

The opening song must be the best that the record offers.  Or almost the best.  The end of the first side, like the ending of the first act of a play, must reach a high point, making the audience hungry for more.  The second side must begin with a song that preserves the mood established on the first, but with the addition of something new.  A new thought or feeling.  The album must end as strongly as it begins.

CDs and (more so) MP3s encourage me to skip to the songs I remember liking best.  Over time the list dwindles to nearly zero.  Not because of the quality of the songs but because of the laziness of my memory.

I broke in the new record player last night with Samba With Some Barbeque, the first song from Paul Desmond's album Summertime.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

still-sound 66. Americana

A few weeks ago I had to visit my dentist in Glendale. The check-up took less time than I anticipated so I found myself with two extra hours before I was expected in Burbank for my hair trim.  So I stopped by the Americana shopping plaza.  There was a purpose to my visit - Rob's birthday was looming and I wasn't adequately prepared in the gift department.

The Americana is funny.  So is its predecessor, The Grove on Beverly and Fairfax.  Both shopping centers are a mix of olde town Main Street, suburban mall, Disneyland and Las Vegas.  There are San Franciscan style street trolleys that originate at the food court and terminate at Abercrombie and Fitch.  Visitors from Osaka, Moscow and Milwaukee wait in long lines to alight the trolleys.  Frank Sinatra classics and the signature Abercrombie teen-sex fougere fragrance are pumped in the air.  The atmosphere is outdoors but is controlled with an indoor precision.  Both plazas have become go-to tourist destinations rivalling the Watts towers, Griffiths Observatory and Grauman's theater.  Surpassing most likely.

On my way from Kiehl's to Barnes & Noble I observed the yellow-golden neoclassical statue glistening in the Southern Californian sunlight.  It emerges from the dancing waters of the central fountain.  I tread over impossibly green grass to get a better vantage point.

Friday, May 4, 2012

still-sound 65. Pebble

Here is a porcelain vase I recently made.  After it was bisque fired, I sanded down the surface quite a bit to make it as smooth as possible and then glazed the inside.  After a cone ten firing the object came out of the kiln smooth and flat.  Like a pebble.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

still-sound 64. Beltane

Happy Beltane!  Today, the first of May, sees the midpoint in the sun's progress between the Spring equinox and the Summer solstice.  Except not really.  The midpoint is actually in a few days from today but pagans celebrate Beltane on the first of the month.  It's also the day of maypoles and lily of the valley.

I imagine there were swarms of people at Stonehenge this morning waiting to greet the rising sun.  They probably celebrated the first glimmers of sun by drumming.  If I still lived in England I would be joining them, wrapped up in blankets to keep warm.

Two years ago I made several sculptures titled Beltane Sun Objects.  I liked the idea of the sun crossing past the swarms of people at Stonehenge. I imagined the shapes of light emerging between the prehistoric sarsen stones.  I exhibited these sculptures in an exhibition called I woke up to the sound of a drum.  At the time of making this work I would celebrate the new moon and full moon by drumming while meditating. 

One evening I drummed for a long while to celebrate the moon.  The next morning I woke up because I heard the sound of the drum coming from the same room where I had been drumming the night before.  I didn't know whether I was awake or dreaming.