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Below are the most recent 3 friends' journal entries.
|Sunday, May 19th, 2013|
|What I Did On A Saturday
|Tai Chi: Fighting Slow Invisible Ninjas|
So I had a full Saturday, this Saturday last. Tai Chi demonstrations, glasswork of the elder gods, Seattle traffic raised to its ultimate level, drinking at a gamer's bar, and a children's Cthulhu book.
First things first. I practice Tai Chi under Master Yijiao Hong at the Chinese Wushu And Tai Chi Accademy
. About once a year or so, we're asked to make a public demonstration, usually at the Armory of the Seattle Center, and usually for a cultural festival (The one was "A Glimpse of China: Chinese Culture and Arts Festival"). This year, we performed four demonstrations - two Tai Chi forms, and two Tai Chi Sword forms (I performed in the two Tai Chi forms, while the Lovely Bride did those and one of the sword forms as well). It was enjoyable, and the other presentations over the afternoon included other martial artists, dance troupes, musicians and about thirty small children dressed up as ducklings (who were very, very cute).
This, year, in addition, we were asked to perform at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
next to the armory. The garden/museum is a new thing, and just celebrating its first anniversary. The entire complex is built on the site of the former Fun Forest, a small, weathered amusement complex that needed renovation, but not elimination. The museum turned this Fun Forest into an enclosed glass garden with a price tag enough to keep one at bay, unless one was a Chihuly fan, which I was not.
|Yes, I know. I look like a snowball.|
Dale Chihuly is a Seattle Artist made legendary by his colorful and flowing glasswork. Most of his work I have seen has been in terms of single pieces, which are often colorful, half-melted bowls. I wondered what the big deal was, and how this would rate removing a tilt-a-whirl. However, the museum itself is a marvel of installation and presentation. Large darkened rooms with focused lighting turn the colors of the glasswork magic, their rich colors glowing under the illumination. The adjacent garden is a combination of plants with the layered spheres and organic glass seedpods and glowing spikes of the artist's works. A single Chihuly is a interesting item - a forest of his glass forms is overwhelming.
The garden is built around a glass structure used for private functions (every museum needs at least one of these in these multi-tasked, fundraising days), and it was within this oversized greenhouse, dominated by crystaline flowers overhead, that we did the second performance of the day. And we actually did pretty well at that (my personal fear is always that I will stand on one leg and, topheavy, go sprawling over backwards - much of my style can be described as "staying upright"). It was well-received (we drew a crowd) and it was in one of the places where you could swing a sword without worrying about taking out any valuable, valuable, artwork.
|Who ordered the Flying Polyp?|
In doing the second demo, we were given the chance to walk the grounds and check out the art. As I said, a small piece of Chihuly is an interesting bit, but combined into large, flowing forms twenty feet high, the end result looks like something that has escaped from an elemental dimension into ours. His works among the garden are like the flesh organic plants described by Clark Aston Smith in his short stories, and his fiery oranges and reds seem to contain eldritch radiation leaking into our world. Chihuly, in this moment for me, becomes C'thulhi, glassblower of ancient, now-sunken lands, his work a testament to forgotten gods.
Two performances in one day were a bit much for me, particularly since I overdid myself and tried to get lower for moves like "Snake Creeps Down". It left me limping back to the car, and I began a long sojourn north to celebrate another version of Cthulhu - this time in a children's book.
But let me whine a bit about traffic. To native Seattlites, the "Mercer Mess", which stretches from the I-5 to the Seattle Center, is a legendary chunk of road, famous for its congestion, renowned for its utter badness. And any attempt to fix the damned thing is going to involve some additional heartache. But to close it where Mercer meets the north-south I-99 is the equivalent of delivering a Vulcan Nerve Pitch to the city. In my case, rather than face the traffic, I tried secondary routes up Queen Anne, found the secondary routes equally clotted, and spent about 45 minutes limping back to the highway, as if my vehicle had down two sets of demos and crouched too much for "Snake Creeps Down".
North was my goal, for the AFK Tavern
. The AFK is a gamer bar, board games at the ready, food items names after pop cult fantasy and science fiction, video screens showing Starcraft games in process. It is up in Everett, because apparently King County adds Bar+Games and gets Casino, and after getting lost around the Alderwood Mall, got there.
|Sort of like La Belle Epoque, but with more d20s.|
The reason for celebration as "The Littlest Shoggoth
", the creation of Stan! Brown. Stan! is a nifty cartoonist and a societal hub of many universes, and ran a kickstarter to get his book in colored, hard-covered form. The result is one of those perfect Christmas gifts for the cultist that has everything. Stan! took a break from continually mailing out the tome to his Kickstarter supporters to come celebrate, and it was a gathering of nerdom. Touched base with a lot of the people that I haven't seen in a while. discovered new jobs, engagements, secret projects, and the general chatter that keeps nerds in communication. I also met someone I had been playing games with online for near on a year, but had never met In Real Life.
We feasted on Shoggoth's Eyes (scotch eggs) and drank local beers (a very pale beer called White 'N Nerdy"). It was a long, long drive back, and today I am paying for my city-trotting socializing with aching knees. But still, one of those Saturdays that makes me appreciate living out here in the Pacific NW, even if it means I have to deal with the Mercer Mess.
(Tai Chi pictures by Yijiao Hong, AFK picture by Rodney Thompson, Flying polyp picture by Unamit Ahazredit. Remember to make you SAN checks).
|Wednesday, May 15th, 2013|
|The (Totally Expected) Return of No Quarter (Part IV)
http://grubbstreet.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-totally-expected-return-of-no.htmlAh, spring is in the air, the rhododendrons are blooming, and it becomes once more, time to review this year's crop of National Park Quarters
. Long ago and far away, I started examining the State Quarter series, and once that was laid to rest, a NEW series, called the "America the Beautiful" series, launched. The rules were similar - each state (and a handful of colonial properties) gets a coin to push one of their scenic national parks, forests, memorials, or what-not. For some states this is a bigger challenge than others, but all have showed up with something.As is usual, we rate this year's crop of National Park coins on design - Here's the rating system.Cool = ANot Bad = BKinda Lame = CVery Lame = DThe Wyoming State Quarter = EBonus points given for scenes that make sense, are easily recognizable, and have a good feel to the touch.This year's crop is OK, but not really spectacular. Let's dig in.White Mountain National Forest - New Hampshire
Yeah, it's a mountain. And it IS white (well the drawing is - I suppose the coin would be silver. So we at least have truth in advertisting going on.
And the carving is not particularly BAD - in fact, the bracketing birch trees could give the coin a good feel against the thumb, a ridge for the center white space of the view of the mountain. But the subject matter? I mean there feels like there are a bunch of states that do the forested-view-with-large-landform thing both in the previous series
and in thisone
. All that is missing is some form of native wildlife in the foreground to give it a feel of animation.
Rating: B (Not Bad).
And New Hampshire is probably hedging its bets. Its state quarter had the Old Man On the Mountain, which then COLLAPSED
. I think they're just taunting the mountain here to fold in on itself.
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial - Ohio
Did anyone think of Lord Nelson when they saw this one? I know I did. Guy in naval uniform. Tall Doric column. I mean, if this was a contest of Pictionary, the answer would be - Nelson's Column.
But no, this is Admiral (well, Master Commandant) Perry, who is OUR admiral for the age of sail, whose middle name literally WAS Hazard, and who gave us a victory on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, facing off against the mightiest navy in the world, primarily because a) the mightiest navy in the world was busy fighting Napoleon and b) the mightiest navy in the world couldn't GET to Lake Erie because NIAGARA FALLS was in the way.
And though we are in the bicentennial period for that war (and the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie is September 10th, so get you Battle of Lake Erie card orders in NOW). We aren't talking a lot of about the war. which sort of indicates who we really thought won it. Canada on the other hand is excited about it, and they weren't even a nation yet. I'm kind of interested to see next year if anyone even mentions the burning of the White House (except FOX, of course, which will blame Obama for not keeping us safe).
And the coin is celebrating mixed messages - Perry's Victory AND the Peace Memorial. Military Victory AND the fact we've had a long, relatively peaceful
border ever since. And it is ironic to note that this is set in Ohio, which doesn't HAVE a border at the present with Canada.
So it is a coin dripping with irony, right down the fact that the visitor center for this island-based park (reachable by ferry or airplane, when Jet Blue is flying) is delayed to open because of the sequester. But quarters they can afford.
Rating: C (Kinda Lame).
Great Basin National Park - Nevada
OK, Nevada doesn't have a lot to work with here. I would have thought that Hoover Dam would be in contention, since it IS a National Historic Landmark, but then maybe they would have had to share it with Arizona if they did. So they have the Great Basin, which is notable for being miles and miles of miles and miles.
And yet, they've done very nicely. The choice of the bristlecone pine looks a bit like it is going with Treebeard to take on Saruman at Isengard, but the use of different textures is going to be nice for the feel of the coin, and pushing it one side makes the static object more dynamic.
So yeah, in a modest year, this is one of the better ones.
Rating: A (Way Cool).
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine - Maryland
Another entry in the War of 1812 theme of this year, this one commemorating the crystal entity from Star Trek attacking the Fort, before being scared off by the Omega Glory (double geek points for that one).
OK, it really the shelling of Fort McHenry by the British, though its not. From the notes it REALLY is showing traditional fireworks going off during the "Defender's Day" celebration of the fort. So you get the flashiness, when really the fort and the British Ships were shelling each other at long range.
So this is another win from the Wo12 - the British, fresh from burning Washington (Thanks, Obama!) moved onto Baltimore, sailing up the Chesapeake. They were foiled by land batteries, a line of sunken ships, and the fort. Neither side got close enough to do significant damage to each other, but the British were foiled, and in the process we got a poem that was later welded to an earlier song to become the Star Spangled Banner.
The coin itself, despite the fireworks, feels a little flat at first blush. The explosions work from an eyes-half-closed sort of look, and while the flag is good (indeed, when was the last time you saw a flag on the coin - some old bicentenial quarters?) the buildings are just sort of squatting there.
Rating: C (Kinda Lame)
Mount Rushmore National Memorial - South Dakota
So here's a challenge - what do you do when the state quarter bogarts the killer view of your most memorable feature? Arizona pulled things off nicely by shifting the view of the Grand Canyon entirely delivering a superior coin. South Dakota, on the other hand, gave us this.
They gave us a close-up of Jefferson's Nose. Actually, it is an in-process shot of carving Jefferson's face (working on those baggy eyelids) while the scaffolding behind supports the almost unrecognizable face of Washington. The carving of the monument is a cool thing, but the series is America the Beautiful, not Nostrils of the Founding Father.
This one is honestly WORSE than the State Quarter, with its giant pheasant flying over the classic view of the memorial, and that takes some doing. It takes a recognizable icon and hides it entirely. That takes work.
Rating: D (Very Lame)
That wraps this year's batch, and next year has a whole heaping helping of natural features. I predict we will see trees, mountains, and the occasional local wildlife.