Thursday, April 30, 2015

Image As The Story

Light And Belief:Sketches of Life From the Vietnam War, Dinh Q. Le, 2012
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 2014

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the US military exodus from Saigon, I'm sharing the work of Dinh Q. Le as I saw at the Carnegie International Exhibition in 2014.  Le's drawings, sketches, and watercolors serve to capture the everyday life of the Vietnamese during those years of hell and conflict.  Basically, the people still lived their lives.  They talked, ate, farmed, slept, and also fought to protect themselves, their families, and their country. 
Le's work is exceptionally powerful in bringing to the forefront the very real human factor of war and devastation.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Full Arsenal

Arsenal Cider House, Pittsburgh, 2015

If you find yourself in Pittsburgh, and who doesn't, venture over to the Lawrenceville neighborhood and sample the libations at the Arsenal Cider House.  I'm particularly found of both the dry Picket apple cider, and the Young's Plum plum cider.  Our growler full of the latter didn't last long.  We were there on a mild spring evening and sat outside (there's almost no room inside, so keep that in mind if you're planning to visit and want to stick around awhile) with some friends, watching the sun dip below the hills and the stars and moon reveal themselves in the gloaming.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day All The Days

Dutchman's Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, Pittsburgh, 2015

Happy Earth Day!  Though considered toxic and should not be used medicinally, nonetheless this plant was at one time used as a treatment for syphilis. 

Deja Vu And Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, Pittsburgh 2015

A few years ago a couple of friends introduced me to garlic mustard.  They served it parboiled in three changes of water and then sauteed in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste.  It was wonderful.  But what I quickly learned upon collecting this wild and invasive green myself was that  when you pick it during its life cycle dictates how you prepare and serve it.  Garlic mustard can be extremely bitter (hence the three changes of water) once it goes to flower or seed, but if you get it early enough, it's almost sweet, a very mild salad green.
There's a blog with some great recipes and ideas for garlic mustard here.  Just remember:  It's more nutritious than kale or spinach, and it's free!

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!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dwarf Iris

Iris reticulata, Pittsburgh, 2015

The family of dwarf irises are some of the earliest blooming flowers there are, typically flowering in late winter to early spring, depending on climate.  Yet, this year, mine have only just come into bloom, that's how long and wretched our winter was.  
Originally a wild iris native to the Caucasus Mountain region, it has become common and scattered throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North America.  I have been completely unable to find any medicinal use attributed to this plant, so I suppose its brilliance and beauty in the still drab landscape will have to suffice.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Infinite Celery

 Celery, March 28, 2015
Leafing Celery Planted, April 5, 2015

I recently learned of a certain gardening hack where you can, quite easily, regrow celery from an old stalk.  And I mean OLD.  I had one in the refrigerator for three weeks that was half used (which is typical), and fairly limp and lifeless.  Normally it would've ended up in the compost bin, but after discovering that I could simply soak the bottom of the stalk in water for a few days and then once the stalk started to leaf out again I could plant it in some dirt, I thought, BRILLIANT!  This process can also be used with Romaine lettuce and Bok Choi.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter 2015

Bar Harbor, Maine, 2011

To those who celebrate the holiday, Happy Easter!  This photo was taken at St. Saviour's Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, Maine.  The stained glass windows were designed by the famed Louis Comfort Tiffany.  They are truly remarkable.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Zoology Lesson For Today, 2.0

Lower Jaw, White-tailed deer, Fawn, Pittsburgh, 2015

In my previous post about aging a white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, based on the wear on its teeth, I used as an example the skull and upper dentia of an adult deer.  Recently, while on a hike, our beagle found the lower jaw of a fawn.  Four teeth are fully erupted, with a fifth just breaking free of the bone.  Anytime there are fewer than six teeth in place on the jawbone, it is a fawn.  This particular fawn would've been very young.