Thursday, December 30, 2004

Stiff Little Fingers..What I did on my Christmas NewYear Hols.

Thursday 30 December 2004
Im currently on holiday from December 29 to January 5 2005.
Well I survived Christmas Day intact.It was a Saturday this year which means I didnt have to work being one of my days off.I spent the previous day, Friday (duh)hobbling round paying my overdue residential tax which was due about 2 months earlier and various other pressing things I could no longer put off including the purchase of a roasted chicken,champagne and some painkillers.
All were consumed the next day tho I dont recommend mixing champagne and painkillers unless you want to spend the best part of the day passed out .
I received what I think was a final demand for payment in badly translated legal English from the local taxation department.I think they have the power to deduct tax owing directly from your bank account.Residential tax payments have to be made on a quarterly basis something my employer somehow neglected to tell me.
Anyway apart from paying the outstanding debt I also made it over to Tokyu Hands a wonderful department store which has just about anything you could ever want to purchase,including those hard to find 21cm rubber stoppers that go on the end of crutches and prevent you from slipping over lino and hazardous wet ceramic tiles.Unfortunately I have worn one of the aforesaid rubber stoppers out and as the orthapedic ward is closed till January 5 I had to find my own short-term
replacement.Which I did with the assistance of about 3 attentive staff.I also lugged home about 4 litres of liquid glue to be used in one of my more creative ventures....paper mache.
Paper Mache
I cant recall my first paper mache creation maybe it was the pig I made in Teachers College for an optional art course..God knows how it was graded.Since then when I have had the oppurtunity and creative urge I create the odd paper mache creature.
At my current place of servitude I have decorated a room with various creations including a flock of 5 flying pigs of various sizes and a mutant fish resembling a cross between Nemo and a piranha.It gives me something to stare at other than the wan ,often vacant faces of petulant teenagers and angst-ridden menopausal women who occupy the space which serves the dual purpose of torture chamber and babysiting room.
During the Christmas break I am finishing off a couple of clouds and a sign for the room itself.
I thought paper mache was a low brow thing kids did till I went to Florence and saw some amazing creations made of paper mache including a life size replica of Davids hand and various animal masks.There were two small shops given over completely to paper mache creations including some masks which used either oil paint or gold leaf paper.I spent the best part of an afternoon watching an elderly Italian woman patiently put the finishing touches to what appeared to be a unicorn-like creature mask.
Of course such things put what I do in the shade.Theres no comparison.What I like about paper mache is the relative low cost of the basic materials,for one thing I dont use gold leaf sheets.I had contemplated using silver oven foil as an alternative but it looks cheap and tacky.If nothing else the visit to Florence gave me lots of good ideas and inspiration.Theres a one week workshop/course available in Florence you can enrol in where you get to design and make a mask under the guidance of a local professor and his daughter.I was thinking of taking it sometime in the future.In the meantime as a way of relaxing and exercising whatever creative ability you have I recommend paper mache.Its a great way to get your hands sticky without going blind.
It can be very time consuming when you consider you have to wait for each layer of paper to dry and the finished product needs sanding and at least 2 coats of gesso (a bonding agent that seals the paper mache).Then finally the part I really like is applying the final touches usually 2-3 coats of paint and the same number of coats of varnish to seal the whole thing from dust and moisture.
Other Holiday Activities
As well as catching up on sleep and paper mache I have a number of books to read and videos or dvds to watch.Im currently reading a couple of things including a book by Stephen Jay Gould about " the misconceived gap between science and the Humanities" which is alot more interesting than this would at first suggest.Actually it a hell of alot more interesting than Stephen Hawkings "Brief History of Time" which although only 150 pages long was a very difficult read and at times I used it as a cure for my recurrent bouts of insomnia. Im balancing this by reading "2004s Best American Magazine Articles" a series of writing from American writers on various things such as interrogation methods,the identity of the man falling from the WTC building and the space shuttle disaster among other diverse subjects.
As for videos Ive got a few in mind I want to see including "Elephant" Gus van Sants take on Columbine and "Big Fish"..Tim Burtons latest production..I like to get the dvds and listen to the directors or actors commentary..often like the one thats included in "The Hours" dvd you get an insight into say.. why certain symbols were used and some things included or left out..seems whats left out is almost important as whats in.
2004 in Books
Finally some books that I enjoyed in this past year as I either killed time on the train to work or just escaped the mundaneness with.
First was Bill Brysons "A Short History of Nearly Everything" which presented science in its various guises in an informative entertaining way.The book has lead me on to other more 'sciencey 'stuff and writers such as Stephens Jay Gould and Hawking and other fascinating people such as the Haldanes and one Mr Newton a man of some gravity by all accounts..hopefully I`ll get to his Pulitizer Prize winning biography early in the New Year.
Secondly there was Philip Lopates "Waterfront" a meandering walk through and around Manhattan Island by one of its more famous resident writers.The book traces the history of Manhattan Island and its attractions and distractions including Central Park,Battery Point and the United Nations complex.I found the book really interesting.Lopate has a very matter of fact relaxed writing style and as hes a long-time inhabitant can add his own insight into the various development and redevelopment battles that have occurred on this valuable bit of real estate.I found myself wanting to go and see for myself the places he described..who knows maybe one day.
Finally "Stalingrad" by Antony Beevor a book about the destruction of a city that seemed to echo the current situation in Fullajah,Iraq.Although the death toll and numbers involved in this action were huge Beevor has somehow managed to maintain my interest through his research and detailed analysis of the struggle.I found myself using salt shakers and buttons on my kitchen table as I read to keep track of various indivduals and units he mentioned.Seems theres a lesson from history here that the American military and leadership should have learned...

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