Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eleanora Duse

           Eleanora Duse, 1875, age 17

It was on this date, April 21, 1924, that Eleanor Duse died of pneumonia in Pittsburgh at the age of 65.   It's difficult to gauge or process in this digital age of endless imagery just how much impact the intimacy and immediacy of the stage had on society.  I've read the reviews of Duse's performances, and they glow and rave, but it's still a challenge to contextualize without the visual.  Fortunately, some of her evocative powers come through in the photographs taken of her across her career.
An anecdotal account of Duse's last performance and final illness can be found here.

History As A Wisp

The Artist Draws A Banana Man After Lunch, 2015, Ellwood City, PA

The allure of ephemera lies in its impermanent nature.  It can, but it's not meant to last, and the imagination catches fire in the wisps of those embers.   Nowhere is this more evident than in the recently closed (sorry, I only just learned of this) exhibition; "Margret:  Chronicle of an Affair - May 1969 to December 1970".   An affair can be fleeting as it is, and I think that's shown here by the documentation of detail and minutiae by the pair involved.  You know that it can't go on forever, yet you have this need to create something more out of it, something that you can hold on to, long after it has let go of you.
For something such as this to emerge from a forgotten briefcase, dragging a past illicit passion into the light of a one-time future present, is nothing short of astounding. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sepia With hint of Pink

Sailboat before the storm, Lake Seneca, Romulus, NY, 2013

A couple of years ago we spent a week in a converted boathouse directly on the shores of Lake Seneca in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.  It was bliss, quiet, uncrowded, wildlife galore.  There are wineries everywhere, but I would suggest that you stick to the craft beers and distilleries.  Excellent whiskey is to be had!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Zombie Formalism

Banality and The Sake of Argument, 2015

Zombie Formalism, as an aesthetic, was inevitable.   After all, that esteemed artist of light, Thomas Kinkade, has been dead three years this month from booze and pills.  What and who should fill the vapid void left because God knows a consumer driven art market needs something entirely unchallenging to hang above the sofa.  I would never have even stopped to glance at Zombie Formalism, it's that banal.  It's like failing to notice the uniformity of the mortar between bricks or which water bottle is which in a landfill.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, Pittsburgh, April 2015

The oyster mushroom, and all of its variants, are easily identifiable, nonpoisonous*, and usually delicious.  The outcrop of oyster mushrooms that I happened upon yesterday during a hike were a bit dried out and past their prime, so I left them as they were.
*Still, a word of caution when it comes to collecting wild mushrooms:  Be aware of what you are picking if you plan to eat it, and preferably have someone knowledgeable with you when you first start hunting mushrooms in the wild to aid you in proper identification.  It is essential that you NEVER misidentify a mushroom as the consequences can be deadly.  If in doubt, leave it be.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Easy Hard Cider

Because I prudently fear the collapse of civilization, and I like my libations, over the years I've learned how to make beer, wine, brandy, and my current favorite, hard cider.  While making it, or indeed any of the brews I've listed, from scratch is much more difficult and time intensive, a very easy way to get started making hard cider is to use organic apple juice that is free of preservatives.  The preservatives will stall out the fermentation process, so, no.
All you'll need is: 
A gallon glass jug.
An air lock
Stock pot
Wooden spoon
1 gallon of organic apple juice
3-6 cups of sugar
Dry white wine or champagne yeast
4 1-quart bottles with hinged rubber stoppers

I use an old wine jug.  I bored a hole in the metal cap and fitted it with an air lock, then I beaded silicone around where the air lock goes in, on both the top and bottom of the cap.  So far this has proven to be airtight.
To get started with the apple juice, heat about 1/2 a gallon of it in a pot, just hot enough to dissolve all of the sugar.  You can use granulated white sugar for a paler finished product, or brown sugar for a darker one.  Or, you can try a combination of the two.  I don't care for the color or the taste of the brown sugar cider, so I only use granulated white sugar in the process, and I only put in 3C of it because otherwise it comes out too sweet.  The alcohol content does not suffer with the lower sugar, at least it doesn't seem to.  You can tinker with it to discover your own preference.
After the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the stove and add the rest of the apple juice, reserving about 2 cups.  In 1/4C of warm water activate 1/2 teaspoon of yeast.   Using a funnel, pour the sweetened apple juice in the jug, and then add some of the reserve apple juice, careful to leave some room for the yeast liquid and an additional two inches from the top of the bottle.  Add the yeast, screw the cap + airlock on top, set in a cool, somewhat dark area, a basement or closet is ideal, and then wait.  When the cider stops emitting bubbles up through the airlock - or the process has slowed to a bubble every minute or more, typically two weeks to a month, the cider is ready to be bottled, or racked.  For this I use 1 quart bottles with hinged rubber stoppers because they don't explode and they keep the cider's natural effervescence, which is wonderful on a hot day.
Good luck!