Panbanisha and the Ghost Bike

It’s not often that something I create is controversial. Or perhaps I should say, misunderstood.

Earlier this month, in memory for Panbanisha the famous bonobo who knew language through years of growing up in a conversation and story-rich environment created by her human caretakers, Russ and I created Panbanisha.org.

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How to take a Photo of the iPhone5

I thought it was silly when I saw this headline on the web, but then I thought  — if you are using it as your camera, how do you take the photo? My solution – my old iPhone. So I did a quick self portrait holding the iPhone5. No Photoshop involved, just took the photo, then emailed it to myself, five times.

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PaMdora and the Malware Monster

Of the many things I’m thankful for today, one is getting my blog back. I’m sorry to all you that have tried to visit in the last couple of weeks and gotten the scary Google warnings. And thanks to everyone who contacted me about them. It’s funny how you can take things for granted, but someone tries to take it away, it gets really precious again!

Lesson learned – and hopefully my experience will remind all you bloggers out there to keep your WordPress installation and plugins up-to-date. Now I know why there are frequent updates to WordPress and will pay more attention to them. I think one of my plugins needed a security update, and before I realized it, some fishy stuff got installed into my blog. Google safe browsing diagnostics says the site didn’t infect any others, and I sure hope that’s true.

Sometimes I like to open up the hood and poke around, but I’m not really very good at the backend stuff, so when my blog got blacklisted, I had Sucuri.net clean it up and get it delisted. Thanks @dremeda! If you want to watch a good video about WordPress web security, check out their blog post here. Also Google has some webmaster tools to help.

PaMdora often has less than heroic adventures with technology, as in the early PaMdora’s Box and more recently, the deep sea Tango with a Technopus. So this little journal sketch came pretty easily and sincerely. On the bright side of things —  I have been wanting to draw a rolling desk chair into a story.

 

Art Speed-Dating and Elevator Talks = PechaKucha Night #4

As Julie said in a previous comment on my blog post about hosting PechaKucha Night – it sounds a bit like speed-dating for artists. I love that description.

The format of 20 images with 20 seconds to talk about each one puts you in the range of 6 minutes 40 seconds to present your work. That’s a lot of time compared to the oft-promoted elevator talk  — the 30 second spiel you can introduce and explain yourself to a stranger in the time between the elevator door closing and re-opening. At the his reception at the Art Museum last week, Roger Shimomura told us he often juries NEA grants where artists are permitted 10 images with 10 seconds per image. So PKN is looking like a good first date.

PeshuKucha Night vol. 4 at our studio was great fun. We had over  a hundred people — maybe more with some people coming early, some late. Although the format of presenting sounds rigid and the presenters do have to do their share of prep, the actual event is pretty casual atmosphere. Our doors opened a half hour early, there was a half hour intermission, and we invited folks to hang around afterwards — so there was lots of informal time to network, ask questions, explore the studio or just try out the vintage submarine game.

We had the big screen for the presentations strapped to scaffolding in the middle part of the warehouse with a lot of mis-matched chairs from various sources.

 

Russ also added some creative ambient lighting using old slide projectors and slides of Mesopotamian and other historical art (courtesy of the MSU art department who last spring auctioned off all their Art History slides and projection equipment at a surplus auction for, uhm, $5)

He also did a special installation of neon that spelled out PechaKucha on our framing table that added atmosphere and a great place for group photos.

But getting back to talking about art. One of the most interesting things I learned was how my friend Stephanie Cramer talks about her vibrant and evocative paintings. She likes to say, “You go first, then I’ll share” which is a terrific idea that I never thought of, because then she has the opportunity to learn what people see her paintings before she gives them her ideas. Another thing she handles quite well is the issue of time. This is a often-discussed to death topic I see on artist email lists and forums. Some artists and some people who create incredibly complex hand-crafted items seem to hate being asked, “how long did it take?”

Stephanie just says, “this painting took me three years” and then moves on. Nevermind that she was also working on about 20-40 other paintings during that time. Art takes time to gestate, transform, evolve, to become what it is.

You can hear more of how artists talk about their work in these videos of Stephanie Cramer, Russ RuBert, and Kat Allie’s presentations on our studio PKN page.

The other thing that was great about the event was the opportunity to work with such a great team of creative people. Amanda Taylor organized all the volunteers and presenters, ran the projector, and still had time to take an awesome set of photos during the evening. It’s the first time that I’ve really been able to put together a good photo gallery of a studio event that included all the setup and weird stuff that seems to happen whenever we’re setting up for a big event.

At PKN-4, we got to see 9 presentations, including Brandon Dake, AIA, president of the Springfield chapter of The American Institute of Architects present on the efforts to rebuild Joplin after a devastating tornado, and raised $360 for the AIA efforts to help in re-masterplaning there. So it was a good evening of art speed-dating.

Related links:

Prehistoric Laptop

Working on drawings of old abandoned technology for another project, I was distracted when Russ dragged his first computer out of the storage room. Honestly, at first I thought it was an old sewing machine. Then I found out it was a prehistoric portable computer called the Osborne.

Can you believe this thing? The bottom of the case unhooks and plugs into the top to make a keyboard. Floppy drives — remember those? And it only cost a mere 2K, but that was the economical version.

Unfortunately, when we plugged it into a nearby outlet (because I wanted to see what came up on that tiny little screen), the thing literally caught on fire and smoke started pouring out of the vent on the top. I was so unnerved by the smoke that I forgot to take a photo of that.

Anyway, something fun to draw, even if it doesn’t work anymore.

Magic Mouse and not the Disney Kind

magic-mouseA really cool gift this year just arrived late this weekend. A Magic Mouse — in its own specially formed clear plastic case.

I don’t know why it instantly reminded me of Cinderella’s clear glass slipper and at the same time, Sleeping Beauty in a perfect clear casket. Too much coffee maybe?

But wait! Wasn’t it one bite of the apple that sent Sleeping Beauty into her deep sleep? And weren’t both stories animated by the magic Mouse kingdom. But these weird associations kind of fall apart after that.

The Magic Mouse is a new Mac bluetooth wireless mouse that is truly amazing. It has a smooth top, no buttons, no wires. Yet the solid surface top can recognize clicks, double-clicks, right clicks, and when you brush your fingers lightly over the surface, you can scroll up and down web pages and even scroll backwards and forward through your browser’s history of pages.

On the Road to a Better Blog

I’m not talking about appearances, I’m talking about structure. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know the look of PaMdora’s box hasn’t changed much over the last couple of years. But I’ve been writing here about four years total, and there have been a variety of looks. PaMdorasBox-2008-2009

Yesterday I played around with a few different WordPress themes, to find one that I could PaMdorasBox-2007work within. This one is pretty vanilla, but in a pleasant sort of way, so I think I’ll work with it for a little while while I’m in the structural re-building mode.

Categories and Tags

My old theme didn’t utilize Categories or Tags, both of which help people (including me, and I’m always having to search my blog to find something I’ve forgotten) to find their way around to find topics of interest in the past articles. So now I’m going back through 500+ entries to properly tag and categorize things.

New Thumbnails in Preview

Also you’ll notice the little thumbnail that accompany some of the teasers when you click on a category or tag topic.  These are being generated automatically by a java script called TimThumb that’s part of this theme. I say “automatically” except that I have to go back into each article to fill in a custom field that will tell WordPress where to look for the artwork from which to generate the thumbnail. So another 500+ edits.

Yet Another Related Post

The good news, is after all that work, there will be some added benefits. If you look at the bottom of each individual article, there’s a list of related posts. These are being generated by YARPP for WordPress. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin by mitcho uses Tags and Categories to suggest these – another reason I’m working on adding them to my old posts.

Nested Comments

Another benefit I’m really looking forward to is the ability to have nested comments. I used to go back and manually edit my responses so they would appear right after the comment I was responding to. Now there is a small “reply” button by each comment. So you (and I) can have the choice to scroll down to the bottom and leave a general comment, or use one of the new reply buttons to respond to something directly. Try it and let’s see how this works  – I’m really excited about this new feature!

Lightbox effects

Here’s a little history of images to show you the lightbox effect.  This is done using the WP-slimbox2 plugin for WordPress by by Greg Yingling. Click on any of the images on this page, and you should get the effect. I tried out several different lightbox plugins before I found this one, so there are a lot of options for plugins in this area.

PaMdora-header-2005-2006

PaMdora-header-february-2006

PaMdora-header-december-theme

PaMdora-header-january-2006

So please bear with me as I work to get all this organizational stuff done. Then I hope to get back to the fun stuff of getting a good-looking header designed for the top of the blog.

The Power of WordPress

Self-imposed WordPress camp, that’s where I’ve been the for the last couple of weeks. It’s not a real camp, but just me with my laptop on the dining room table hooked up to the internet. But I like to use the term to describe the intensity with which I’ve been learning how to better use WordPress.

learn-morse-code.jpgFor those who don’t use it, WordPress is the software that drives my and a lot of other people’s blogs. It’s free and open source, which means that people all over the world are constantly working on it to add to it and make it better.

The reason for my intensity is this summer I started to build a new blog. First I was just looking for a good theme to use. Then it progressed from there…

Themes are the framework of the WordPress blogs. What is cool about them is they don’t effect your content (what you write or the images that you upload). So you can try out different themes, and it’s almost like trying on vastly different clothes when you’re out shopping. You and your content don’t change, just your outward appearance and presentation.

For someone like me who thinks that rearranging the furniture is a great hobby, playing around with different WordPress themes is really fun. There are very simple themes and more complex. You can pay for a theme or write your own, and there are a lot of great themes there free for the downloading.

In the process of looking at a lot of themes, I’ve learned how to use WordPress plugins and widgets. All that has me so excited that I wake up at four or five every morning to work on it. I’m getting close to going public with the new blog and can’t wait to link PaMdora’s box to it.

Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning PaMdora’s Box though. In a few weeks I’m planning a make over for PB, because my theme here is so basic that I can’t even use widgets. It doesn’t access tags either, and when I add that feature to a new theme, you’ll be able to search the archives more easily.

The Velcro-neutralizer

velcroneutralizer.jpg

If I was a genius, I’d invent silent Velcro. To avoid that embarrassment of opening my new laptop bag in a quiet place, making that horrible rrrriiipp noise.

Here’s another use: too many zipper and velcro noises in short time cause anxiety in my dog, who realizes that this maybe an indication of packing for a long trip. Probably scares cats and birds too.

I have the technlogy to cut off the offending velcro, but thinking that it might come in handy some time when I’m treking through hurricane force winds with my laptop bag, I decided to install a Velcro-neutralizer. Simple and silly really (but I did get several questions on FaceBook) — it’s just a swatch of the oppositely-charged Velcro (available at any fabric store), cut and applied to one side of the original pair.

p.s. I put it on the prickly side, because that’s the one that always snags my fuzzy sweaters too.

Some of my favorite organizational tools

carwash.jpg

Usually I take a stab at re-organization at various times throughout the year, not just at the New Year. But this seems like a good time to mention my favorites. (Sorry PC users, but I think these are all mac-only programs. Although I still use a desktop PC, my main laptop is a Mac.)

• OmniFocus – fluid to-do list and multi-step project organizer. After a brief love affair with hand-written lists, I’ve gone back to computer listing again because it’s easier to manage a complicated schedule.

• MacJournal – for odd sorts of short lists, ideas, and reference material I can’t figure where else to put. I’m using it to write this blog post until it’s ready to be published.

• Bento – just got the upgrade to version 2 of this program. It’s an elegant little personal database program that has nice templates you can use right away, or easily customize. I’m planning on improving the database of my artwork I started last year. Tracking where the art is, when it’s coming home, and where it’s supposed to be going next is getting more complicated, and I could save time by not having to go to several sources to find the answers to these questions.

Above drawing is from the car wash — although those auto-magic places seem to take a long time because it’s one of few sunny warm days in winter and everyone in town is there — if you’re trying to draw something happening, seems like only seconds. Even though I’ve been sick (this whole year so far!) still trying to do the drawings.