I and my husband visited the SFA gardens on our anniversary this weekend. these are some of the pictures I took when there. It was a great visit despite coming back during the storm that flooded all of us. I hope all of you in my area are safe, we are very wet.
Well this week has given us about 1000 new photographs and a series of sketches and tests for a set of larger paintings I bought canvases for this weekend. I will come back and add plant names and comments on these after I ask someone from Peckerwood Garden where I work what the plant names are. The several varieties of magnolia, agave, and azalea were heavily featured in the most recent set of images.
A sampling of this weeks art, 2 acrylics and an oil. All of these are miniatures, 4″ x 4″. I have done quite a number of pictures this week, here is a sampling of my current work. I love how the Butterfly in acrylic came out. The Orchid in oil has changed a time or two due to cat’s landing on it or me knocking it over, but I like it The tree is an interesting one I think I want to work a little more on.
These are 2 of the several paintings I have done in the past week or so. I have a couple of running projects related to painting. First, is these abstracts. Second is I am learning watercolor. With all the forms of art I do, I have never done watercolor, it is foreign to me.
Both of these paintings have an aspect with lighting. They change drastically depending on the lighting you view them in. Even moving your head when viewing changes how they appear. It is one of my favorite things about them.
Abstracts are a challenge for me because although I tend to paint in a very impressionist and abstract style of imagery, my style is very realistic and representational. The combination can make it very challenging to judge when a painting is complete and what the focus is as I progress.
First, a painting. this is one of my favorites, a watercolor done based on the cliff dwellings I visited last year.
there is also a home project, mostly done. A shoji screen for the pantry we built recently. We still are changing one wall and have not done the door frames yet. I really like how the metal sheets came out in the center and on the frame above. This project completely changed about 4 times before getting this far.
The other is a painting developed when I was in Florida. Researching the older cultures in Mexico and Central America I designed this, using correct designs and architecture but mixed my own way.
I need to get my good camera working, this one is taking very pale images.
Lifehack is a term used frequently now, and the idea behind it in a way, bothers me. Let me explain:
I don’t mean it bothers me to use practical tools and items, to reuse things, to simplify, to organize, or most of the other things given as examples. What bothers me is the idea that these things are cheating. This use of the work hack, related to computers and technology is obviously the one people mean, not an act using a knife or axe, a broken down horse or a riding horse,
a board for feeding hawks, a rack for drying bricks or cheese. It seems this word has some history and variety in definition already.
It is curious how such a word moves into technology. The act of cutting into and chopping through is how it was applied, but the societal implication is that hacks in technology are cheats, criminal actions, bypasses, alterations of defined parameters. We won’t even get into the issue of why is it anyone’s business what I do to a computer program on my computer or phone if it does not actually affect you. Instead we will look at how this applies to strategies for more efficiently manage time.
Reading lifehack sites you see everything from how to use the tools you have and don’t know all about, to new gadgets available to make life simpler. Directions to combine objects or tasks are common, and practical strategies are a given if you look at the more common definitions of the term. None of these are a problem in and of themselves. What is at issue is the mindset that first, sees these things as somehow cheating, and second will only do these things if told how and why. Many of the techniques are simply instructions on how to use the devices and programs you already own, do people really have bad enough attention spans they do not learn their devises before using them? I know, some people say they don’t have time to learn their device…
Funny, they had time to look up and read the life hack that spoon feeds the information to them in a form they want and like. Using the tools you have is intelligent, using them differently is creative. Neither is cheating, neither requires you to be special. Knowing a tidbit of data someone spoon-fed you does not make you special or better, it means you can listen to suggestion even though you can’t or won’t think of them yourself. It is a good trait to be able to listen and learn but it is not to feel superior because you did.
People’s lives are too complicated and stressful; being more efficient and removing excess is to be applauded as a practical and wise choice not as cheating or breaking the rules. And these things should be used to simplify life and de-stress not as ways to allow more things in.
Go ahead de-stress, de-clutter, be practical, be efficient and be happy about it, view it as life not as life cheated.
Continuing the study of Gastronomy and still reading Molecular Gastronomy (This, 2002/ 2006), I have been reading the study of taste and of what makes you feel full. This includes analysis of the differences and similarities to humans and animals as well as regional differences.
Studies of the brain show distinctive response to flavors (glutamate is a separate taste than the 4 basic categories of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour; also unami is really a taste) in people with basic differences such as handedness. The direct connection to language centers and motor activity is one of the more interesting aspects. Another is the sensitivity levels developed regionally of long periods (mostly studied in primates) such as the sensitivity to sweetness. You frequently hear about the impact of smell in taste, the interesting part in this study was that taste with no smell activated the same areas of the brain. This makes me wonder if the impact of smell is affecting flavor because it overrides some of the neurochemical response to the taste. How could we use this?
Another study done on MSG showed the interesting result that the hormonal response meant that the body registered the meal as primarily protein when it was primarily starch. This brings up interesting possibilities, if you are including correct nutrition, in how to impact the desires and satiety of people. Other flavors, their use and their timing in a meal also impact satiety. One can infer from that knowledge and the method taste molecules function why this is true and how to manipulate the process. “Not all taste molecules act in the same fashion. Whereas hydrogen ions (sour taste) and sodium ions (salt taste) act directly on the channels of taste cell membranes, immediately modifying the electrical potential of the cell by adding their electrical charge to its total charge, compounds of sweet, bitter, and other tastes (licorice, for example) bind to molecules known as receptors—no doubt proteins—that are located in the cell membrane, in contact with the extracellular environment.” (This, 2002/ 2006)
Another example of the all encompassing affect of taste that can be manipulated is the connection to vision. Most often translated as the better it looks the better it will taste, the results of research at Columbia show “the transducin that is specific to the cones and rods of the eye in taste receptor cells.” So apparently there is more to that but in a far more base level than commonly understood.
The use of flavors to heighten or mask other flavors is common in cooking but in gastronomy it reaches a new level. Many modern studies in food, taste, and satiety are examining traditions, understanding, and ingredients from other countries and combining the gastronomy between cultures. This means many of the results are, though refinements of that knowledge, more a drawing of knowledge from other places into regional understanding. We have returned in the field of gastronomy to the Victorian era passion to draw from contact with other civilizations and their results. The mGluR4 protein in the taste receptors transmits neural not sensory information and could be the first step in signaling satiety which is based not on fullness of the stomach but on signals of nutritional content. This means you should also be able to train a person’s response given time. The impact of flavors on taste varies given the mixes used and the specifics could be quite useful. Also the basic flavors have categories in our taste receptors. Bitter especial shows distinctive receptors and various bitter receptors trigger different areas of the brain. This seems truer in bitter than sweet or salty and could make some interesting experimentation.
Other aspects we shall look into at another time are thermal impact on flavor and taste receptors and the impact of sensation such as pain on receptors, brain, and biochemistry of the body. These are all easily manipulatable and modifiable aspects. Also, these are things that can be used to either trick or train the response of a person or animal. These studies have also led to medical treatments of viral and diabetic neuropathies and of rheumatoid arthritis.
Current results are that gastronomy is a varied science with impacts in many areas in and out of the kitchen and is heavily drawn from the 17th and 18th century works in the field. Steampunk in the kitchen could be a fascinating scientific work as well as very interesting fun.
Going into a new area today; I made poppy seed, berry, black treacle pie and discussing it on Facebook started me wondering about Steampunk and food. Reading more on the topic of Steampunk and food moved me toward a concept, not a clear path yet, just something I am exploring. Some people discus Steampunk food by means of use the of technology, others focus on appearance, and some delve into the use of traditional recipes but with variations and adaptations making use of new technology. these are all valid ideas but don’t really work for me and the concept I am considering. Start with Captain Nemo or Dr. Moreau and their innovation and food development as portrayed in the stories and you begin to see where I am going.
Steampunk is in the details and the innovation but with a distinct style and elegance to the harsh, cold edginess of ingredients, methodology, and presentation. To see what I mean, consider the elegance of a full Victorian meal with the etiquette and setting to go with it but with a sense of experimentation and drama. This is where my idea starts.
Technology improves availability and variety as much as it speeds processes. Long tedious hand prepared meals that keep you in the kitchen all day seem very out of place in this setting. The same is true of super quick, incomplete, and unimaginative meals. Where to go from there however?
Technology is important and the innovation inherent in the steampunk genre must be a foundation. Does innovation and drama counter Victorian style meals? When you think about it, there was huge innovation in every area during that period, even when dealing with food. So no, I think it rather fits if it can be seamlessly blended in.
Okay, so what kind of innovation are we talking about? At what point does innovation leave the realm of Steampunk creativity and reach into a more cyberpunk region when you are discussing food? Nemo used what was available in dramatic and nourishing ways as well as extensively using hydroponics and other technological innovations.
Molecular gastronomy is not something I have explored a great deal so I am unsure about its place in a Steampunk discussion. I see the reasoning for wanting to use it and envision some wonderful possibilities. The concept is very much at home in the steampunk setting. To fit the steampunk genre they must have a visual appeal in the high aesthetic or formal setting rather than the supper modern settings you often see in molecular gastronomy eateries. But should we use only English aesthetic or etiquette?
Asian cultures and many others frequently prepare food at the table with great drama and presentation. This is a perfect fit to the setting and the period it is based on. As an example, I have a very practical set of metal chopsticks that break down and fit into a small metal case you can stick in a pen pocket or glasses pocket. Another travel set I have is an origami dish set that could be made out of a number of interesting materials and used anywhere. Mine are silicon but they could be of many materials. Something you see often in steampunk characters and settings is a propensity to be prepared for anything, and be able to do it in style. Think a tea set on your belt and a travel apothecary on your sleeve, with a cartography set on your leg, and an armory on your hip or back.
Steaming things is almost too obvious and I just don’t see it as a major component despite the propensity of steam technology in steampunk settings. Flame is good but I am not sure if it is the method that is the best focus.
Ingredients and concept are important so it should focus on using ingredients or showcasing them. One idea is the, meal in a jar, type preparations I have seen in the disaster prepper groups and off the grid living groups. This method of preparing and storing complete meals for extended time ready to be simply cooked at a moment’s notice is an interesting combination with Steampunk innovation and lifestyles. The major point I see as relevant is the modification of traditional recipes to travel, to adapt to storage, and to make use of substitutions for location or special circumstances. Return to Nemo and you see the types of substitutions we mean. This use of available ingredients to alter traditional recipes being my preferred method of cooking, I may be a bit biased, but it fits so many aspects of Steampunk.
Adventurer meals and travel preparations from Victorian times updated in some ways and prepared to be enjoyed in style anywhere are a perfect example of where I am going with this. Food to be prepped for the lab and finished anywhere is another idea. I remember cooking a meal on the engine as we drove across country; it was a fairly traditional chicken, potatoes, carrots, onions in foil or iron pan type meal (could be clay too).
You are beginning to see the many other directions this idea could go. Formal Victorian meals with innovative twists are another. This is something I will need to explore further and experiment with but there are so many sources of ideas it will take some time and consideration.
Returning for a moment to the meal in a jar thoughts I want to look at the aspect of planning and preparation for quick use and quality presentation that fills a need in Steampunk. As the author of Design Artketing shows an example. Her plan for each week is to get all the ingredients together, prepare the jars for dinner, and maybe lunch. Each is stored as required by ingredients, most are pre-cooked. Each day, she just pulls one and spends her time on presentation or other things rather than preparation and stress after work. Another site uses them for picnics and work lunches, so they use mostly fresh ingredients. Still others use dehydrated, freeze dried, or other long term storable ingredients. Oh, the possibilities and the changes in container, ingredients, methodology, style, and concept this brings up.
I will quote Four Pounds Flour and Sarah Lohman’s exploration of Steampunk cooking:
“I think steampunk embraces the innovative and transformative, the implications of a super science without limits. Food that has those aspects in preparation, presentation, or taste seems to fit. Surprises, doing something completely unexpected with the available tools and parts. The more impossible seeming the better. I chose popcorn since it’s transformation is itself so remarkable. Toast actually has that kind of feel, bread slices vanishing into a metal box with two narrow slots to be returned with a new texture and taste.”
Where this leaves us is with many aspects and ideas for many situations and regions. As with any other aspect of Steampunk I think it is important not to limit ourselves too heavily and lose the innovation and creativity that draws us in.
(Image, ideas) http://www.toquemag.com/food-drink/steampunk-cuisine
(Image, Ideas) http://sharehomedesign.com/20-vertical-garden-ideas/
Yesterday upon the stair
I saw a man that wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
“To some, ‘steampunk’ is a catchall term, a concept in search of a visual identity. To me, it’s essentially the intersection of technology and romance.” Jake von Slatt put this in a way that fit some of my descriptions quite concisely. It is important to me in my evaluation of Steampunk to show what I find and what is there, not to codify and define it; I seek to analyze and evaluate not limit the reality. As Alan Watts Said “The whole point of Zen is to suspend the rules we have superimposed on things and to see the world as it is.” “There be those who say that things and places have souls, and there be those who say they have not; I dare not say, myself, but I will tell of The Street.” – H. P. Lovecraft. I agree with this sentiment and this is more my goal than a definition – to describe and show what I find and see. “The true purpose (of Zen) is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki
Individualism is not the first thing you think of when you think of Zen, but much of the teaching revolves around knowing yourself, seeing yourself as you really are, hearing your inner voice, and living in now. Previous essays have discussed the prevalence of an individual spirit and focus in both Steampunk and the age it arises from. For this particular discussion the whys of that direction are not needed, but we will look at them later. Louis XIV said “There is little that can withstand a man who can conquer himself.” This is an important distinction when you are looking at Zen related to Steampunk; Zen is not about giving into to self but knowing self and being in control of self. Act on needs not wants, as one quote says: Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.
In both cases you see an active choice to seek the answer inside rather than from the voice of any governing group such as religion, government, society, or science. G.I. Gurdjieff said “Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.” Religion, science, government, and society made drastic changes, leaps, and changed focus based on this and similar concepts, it did not always stick, but the creative leaps possible during that time are impressive themselves. As one Zen quote says “If you do not get it from yourself, where will you go for it?”
Machines, automata, and development are critical to Steampunk and were what made the Victorian age what it was. “As machines become more and more efficient and perfect, so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man.” – Ernst Fischer. Willingness to take a leap, create something, build something, experiment without knowing what will happen – these are all things that made the development then what it was and that many people feel has been largely lost today. “If you want something you can have it, but only if you want everything that goes with it, including all the hard work and the despair, and only if you’re willing to risk failure.” – Philip Pullman, Clockwork.
Look at Zen and the adage telling you not to simply follow the paths of others: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.” – Basho This quest for knowledge is something dear to the heart of some of us. As Zen says “When an ordinary man gains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage gains understanding, he is an ordinary man.” Are we in Steampunk seeking an aesthetic or a wishful nostalgia, or are we seeking a possibility, a chance that with risk and a new path, we could see something different. Perhaps it isn’t escapism as much as opening the mind to possibilities, paths, and knowledge.
The place of the mind, reason, and imagination is the place of strength, development, and expansion. You cannot achieve what you cannot conceive anymore than you can succeed without risk. “Therefore the Three Realms are only mind” Ma-tsu Tao-i. In research and scientific advancement, one critical point to true advancement and real science is to not approach a test, experiment, theory, or idea clouded by opinion or expectations. Look again to Zen: “Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish your opinions.” Science then and now often sought to make life better and to serve humanity but “The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery. But the changes are what stabilize society, stagnation kills any society. “Life is change, change is stability.” Change is not final, even when to destruction, another change will follow.
Vast emptiness, nothing holy! Bodhidharma
Previously, we briefly touched the topic of Steampunk embracing the development at all cost attitude of colonialism and imperialism but eschewing the technology that became the dominant development. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” The ethics were not relevant. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
—Rumi. This is somewhat where Steampunk and much fiction lie, as does much science. But this reaching outside society and the restrictions of others to open the mind and imagination is what allows development, creativity, and innovation. “A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.” – Robert Frost