Do it Yourself

The primary motivation to learn how to frame stuff was that framing is super expensive. The local arts-and-crafts store Michael's was quoting about $100-$120 to frame a Madhubani painting that we had got from India. Like most people who decide to have something framed for the first time you realise that the artwork being framed is the cheapest component of all the costs. Going to get framing done is like getting car-insurance. There are so many different options and picking one over the other can result in drastically different costs. There is a choice of mats - standard, acid-free, rag-paper. Then the choice of the frames - thin or thick wooden, metal, or fancy wooden. Choosing the correct kind of glass is not transparent business at all - there is plain glass, plexi-glass, non-reflective glass, UV-ray protected glass and other varieties. Soon you realise that $120 quoted was simply the base price. I walked away thinking it's not a coincidence that they call it framing.

Even if the initial driver to do-it-myself was cost (being a starving student and all that), DIY is not an option for cheapskates or the impatient. It's probably going to cost more and take much longer than you think.

First, is the research: I spent the next two months reading up on the subject (with books from the library, of course!) and another month buying the equipment and tools. If you thought the frameshop had too many options, wait till you decide to buy framing tools. There are mat cutters that are $25 and then there are mat cutters that are a few hundred dollars. It is ironic, that as a newbie you often better off getting the more expensive equipment, as it is the easiest to use. That never happens does it? So, you have to deal with the frustration of a fumbling beginner with less than ideal tools.

Second, is practice: Work on projects that don't matter. It's not a bright idea to start framing your masterwork while you are still learning to control the cutter. This process takes time and patience and perhaps a few bloodstains. After being off by an eight of an inch on one side and seeing the resulting disaster you really understand one the maxims of life: "Measure twice, cut once". It is rather humbling that after two decades spent in school, no one taught me this.

Slowly, but surely the pilgrim makes his progress. A few months and a couple hundred dollars later, I had the Madhubani painting framed. Factoring in the bamboo frame and non-reflective glass, the cost of getting it done and doing it myself were about the same. But, at the end of it that's not your first thought. The first and last thought is pride, despite the slight imperfections. And they call pride one of the seven Deadly Sins.

My friend, Tim has been trying to restore a vintage El Camino for the past couple of years. I have begun to believe that he never really intends on calling it quits on working on the car. It's always a work-in-progress. If he quit then there would be nothing more to learn, it will be just be like any other car. I have sat in another one of his rusty-but-not-trusty cars, an 1981 Toyota Tercel, thinking that a wheel might fall off any moment. But, unlike with some other people I haven't been the least bit scared since I know that Tim will be able to fix that car even if it may be a temporary fix with duct-tape. The powerful uses of duct-tape, that's another thing they don't teach you at school.


If you are one of the undecided voters, here's what David Sedaris has to say.

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?

I have generally stayed away from the insanity of the election. What turns me off is stories like Sarah Palin spending $150,000 on her new wardrobe being given so much attention. The Democrats scream, "She calls herself a hockey-mom and then goes shopping at Neiman Marcus with a big fat check from the RNC." Yeah! So? Is this even really relevant?
One would expect that the someone who is running to be #2 to the most powerful job in the world, should at least be well-dressed, hockey-mom or not. As far as the ethics of the RNC paying for it goes, everybody is spending so much money on the boob-tube that this expense is peanuts compared to that. It's advertising by other means, no?

A few weeks ago, was Obama's association with a 'terrorist'. Then there are nonsensical totems such as 'Joe the Plumber' standing for Middle America. The strategists really know how to work words. Sadly, the media gladly laps up this stuff. Instead of stating that this is bogus distraction, they dwell on it more because it is a bogus distraction. They love angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-needle kind of stories.
Everyone claims to be taking the high road, and the chief among them are the media.

The coverage on CNN, a relatively less-biased channel, has not been about policy as much, as talking about winning and losing in the manner of discussing a sports team. Where is the talk of policy? the real investigations into the implication of Obama's or McCain's policies?

Please, nok

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CU tom pls.. nok ;)

The Inner Eye

If one photographs people it is the inner look that must be reflected. One must reveal what goes on inside them, as well as their relation to the other world.
As I photograph with my little Leica, I have the feeling that there i something so right about it: with one eye that is close one looks within. With the other eye that is open one look without: one see the shapes, the living quality of what moves one to photograph. W passion, without working with the emotion of the heart and the enjoyment of the eye, nothing vital can be put down.

- Henri Cartier-Bresson

Concert Music

I have returned to Alex Ross's excellent book - "Rest in Noise". I'll let him explain the title and the idea behind the book:

The title I chose for the project, The Rest Is Noise, played off Hamlet's last words ("The rest is silence") and, more widely, the perception that classical composition devolved into noise as the twentieth century went on ...

... The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

The book was nominated for whole bunch of awards and won quite a few of them. What makes this book especially interesting is the listening list. More importantly, Alex Ross has made a lot of the audio available on his website, including additional pictures and material.

Rest is Noise Audio Archive
In a perverse way, it made me abandon the reading of the book as I got sidetracking in the listening. I craved for more; and went and got myself some Debussy and Mahler. Then I got stuck there. Most people are used the Germanic traditions of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, but not the French. So, Debussy is rather refreshing, a sort of aural version of Impressionism.

Then there are practical difficulties. I needed good headphones to capture the dynamic range and subtleties. The ones that come with the iPod are mostly junk. So, I invested (read:indulged) in the Mercedes(not a Ferrari) of headphones and the difference was striking. People listen to rock music while jogging, Mahler isn't recommended. Listening to that stuff takes time and concentration. Eating McDonald's fries doesn't take any concentration, but trying to eat salmon with a delicate sauce from a French restaurant takes some engagement in the meal.

There whole serious ambiance of the classical music wasn't always the case. In this case, the much-maligned middle class IS to blame (New Yorker article on concert history ).

So, I have returned to reading the book. This time, the new notion is to chase down the live concerts at the music school. Perhaps another diversion in the works? Given my limited time left at this wonderful university, I should be getting some sort of education, right?

Hilary Hahn's list of things to watch at a concert