Sunday, April 14, 2013

Of Apples and Magazines, Part I

Several years ago, I spent time helping other folks learn how to use and enjoy their computers. Most of the folks were older than younger, most but not all women. They learned well, but there was always more to learn. At some point almost every one of my clients asked, How did you learn all of this techy stuff? Upon reflection, the answer was easy: when I bought my little Apple II in 1979, learning to run it was much like it must have been to learn to drive a Model T Ford. Pretty darn easy. By the time I was helping folks, the computer, even an Apple, was more like learning to fly a 747.
How wonderfully much the computer had progressed! My Apple II ran programs that lived on cassette tapes, accessed through a standard cassette player—a process of mebbe it'll load, mebbe it won't; a few weeks later the first disk drives arrived. Then you loaded a floppy disk into the drive and, zing, the program it held ran right away. One program per floppy disk. To do something else, you had to quit that program and insert a different floppy disk for what you wanted to do next.

Now, everything resides either in the computer (747 et al.) on your hard drive or somewhere in cyberspace ready to show up on your screen at a moment's notice. Of course it's harder to learn!!!

Nicknamed Dancing with the Stars,
this pastel is my interpretation of a part of the
Rho Ophiuchi nebula in the constellation Ophiuchus
But our computers today, so powerful, lack something that old Apple II (all 48 kilobytes of it) had: The ability to program your computer easily and immediately, in plain English, from your monitor screen. You could create simple conversations with your computer, tell it to do simple things, without really programming at all. The ability was at your fingertips. Along with your computer came an instruction book. 

For the Apple II, the book taught how to program in Applesoft, a version of BASIC written by Steve Wozniak—who, of course, is the man who built the Apple in the first place. Just like his computer, he made Applesoft super easy to learn, super fun. Brilliant, generous, and mischievous too, Woz makes everything fun. Of course, the ability is there in today’s personal computers, just much harder to get at and the languages more complex. To most folks today, unless they're really interested in becoming techs or designers, letting the computer do the work is the ticket.

Meanwhile, forget 747s; even our phones are poised to take us to Mars and beyone the Solar System! Er, with the thrilling help of NASA.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Power-Out Sweetness

Here's a little story, true, I sent to a dear friend yesterday.

Last night, we were watching something or other on tv while, um, dining (can you really call it "dining" if you're doing it in front of a tv set? Nah) when the lights went out. The whole neighborhood, mebbe more, swathed in darkness. And raining. After the scramble for candles, and chianti bottles to put them in, we settled down. What to do. You go into a different room and flip the light switch even though you know it won't work.... Play gin? Some other game? Old Red isn't much for extemporaneity.* Read? Pretty hard by candlelight (we're spoiled).

And then, what do you think, just being quiet and being there was lovely. The candlelight so soft and kind, the rain falling on the autumn leaves, soughing, sweetly splashing, the silence deep and welcome.

I called PG&E once around 9, and they predicted light again by 10:30 (by that time we would have been watching the tube again—this time to see the Lakers and Warriors in the first preseason game, playing in Hawaii). Ah well. With candle in balsamic vinegar bottle (nice handle on that) I repaired to the bath to wash my hair and me. Not much light needed for that; and the water keeps warm without electricity.

Feeling fresh and lovely, about 10:45 I called again; this time PG&E knew more: the outage was caused by a car knocking down a telephone pole, a key telephone pole, and the lights would be back on between 3 and 6 a.m.! So much for basketball. And I settled in to get used to reading by candlelight. As soon as I got settled, the lights sputtered back on, Al's PC boinged and his Mac blustered into life. The fridge began its whirr, and the housewide plethora of red and green and blue LEDs spit and flickered back into being, like colorful lightning bugs. Ha.

Lakers lost by a point. Go, Nellie.

* Extemporaneity—do not know if this is a word or spelled right; but if it isn't a word, it should be; and I'm too lazy at this near-midnight to look it up. Oh all right, I'll look it up. "Extemporaneousness" is the word. I like it my way better, kind of gets more spontaneity into the picture....

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Finishing: What a Concept

No, not about piano as unblocker yet, nor about Richard Dawkin's fabulous The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution and the freeing concept that one is not only descended from apes but is in fact one oneself.... (Thank you, Leslie!)

I can't remember exactly when a bunch of us met at a local vineyard to paint and I began this. I loved the start and was, as usual, afraid to ruin a good start by messing with it. But of course it was only a start and not yet a painting. Good grief. So day before yesterday I took my life in my hands and began throwing paint on. Yup, I knew what to do about the unfinished work. Then yesterday, I wrapped it up. And sat back and worried about what to do about the finished work. So what I did was snap its pic and call it finished. Yay for finished!

Almost Wine Time. Oil on canvasboard, 11"x14". $225 gets it to your home or office. Hah! I'm marketing!

Next stop: the Bowery, nearly forty years ago.... (Unless I go ape first, or start playing that piano again.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Playing with Color, Impatiently

Sometimes the only way to begin is just to begin, not planning much, not arranging the paints, not a lot of anything. I can easily spend days preparing and never get around to painting. Bad thing.

So this time I grabbed a tiny (5"x7") canvas board, put tubes of some of my fave oil colors in my masterson palette, opened the Gamsol, and dug in. Reference: imagination, remembering of sunsets. So think of this as an abstract, having fun will color. Doesn't look like any real sunset you'll find. Ah well. At such times, that it's something is something big. Anyway, I do like the colors!

Small is hard, going bigger next, than on to very big pretty soon. Interspersed with more pastels.

Speaking of pastels, I got some Lascaux fixative for pastels; it's clear—really—and several coats render the work framable without mat and glass. So they say, and I sure want to believe 'em! If not, almost—once sprayed well, it's possible to use special varnish that does do the job. Later, I found a ground from Golden that makes any surface a surface for pastel painting. I've covered a gallery wrapped canvas with it and that will be the surface for my next pastel (which will be soon!).

Next post—mebbe—how playing the piano, badly but joyfully, is helping my art and writing!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Laguna Revisited in Time Machine

In my last post, I asked if anyone would like to see Photoshop's version of my Laguna de Santa Rosa pastel. One person said yes—and one person is a very important person to listen to and to please. I'll show the Photoshop version of the painting—that is, the way it came up in Photoshop before adjusting levels to make it look like the real thing—and then I'll tell you a story about the specialness of one person.

The one person who asked to see the alternate painting is a fine artist, Joyce Ripley, of New Brunswick, Canada. She too has a place on Blogger: . Go have a look.

Here's Photoshop's version of the picture. Something else, isn't it? Wish I'd done that! ; )

I promised you a story, and it's a true one. Long ago, I and my husband created a computer magazine, called Softalk. In one issue I wrote a fancy article about what makes good games. I began by likening good game making to good architecture—form follows function and so forth—and I called the article The Art and Craft of Games, taking after Frank Lloyd Wright's The Art and Craft of Architecture. Of course "form follows function" came from earlier architectural genius Louis Sullivan. (If you haven't read his Kindergarten Chats, you have a treat ahead.)

Our art director, Kurt Wahlner, being an aficionado of Wright and Sullivan, chose to decorate the pages of the article with Sullivan ornamentation—exquisite finely detailed filigree. He spent hours for each of several nights recreating this very special adornment for the story—each page having a different Sullivan filigree—and, when the magazine came out, it looked wonderful. Some people thought he was a little crazy to spend all that time when, they surmised, no one would know what it was anyway. But someone did, and one was all it took.

It was several days after that issue went out that one woman called to exclaim over the Louis Sullivan ornamentation. She said how it thrilled her, and how she recognized it was hand done and wanted to thank the person who did it for making the presentation so beautiful and so true.

She was the only person to call. But everyone who knew Kurt, and everyone who worked on the magazine, felt justified and proud because of her recognition of Kurt's work. She was a very special person, who, unknowing, wielded a huge amount of power for good.

Ever since, I try never to dismiss the input of one person. Thank you, Joyce!

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Scrap of Laguna de Santa Rosa

The "Lagoon" in my last post bears no relation to the lagoon in the pastel below; but the paintings shared a piece of Wallis paper. Couldn't toss the 14"x5" scrap, so I've put a view of the Laguna de Santa Rosa on it, perhaps a learning piece, as they all are, really. This one wants a big tree toward the right; it took courage enough to put in the island on the left! The tree MAY enter the picture tomorrow. (By the way, do you know that if you click on the image, you'll see it enlarged?)

For reference, I used a photo shot by Eric Johnson, a friend of my friend Helen Shane; Helen is doing an oil from Eric's great shot. The original photo is of a misty, stormy day.

A terrible thing happened when I took my photo of the painting into Photoshop. What you see here looks just like the real thing. Unfortunately, this took implementing "auto levels." Before I did that, Photoshop had found a way to make this painting absolutely gorgeous and very masterly! Woo woo, I wish I had painted it that way!!! Do you want to see that one?

Strength and endurance are slowly returning, but there's plenty for making some art, and time too, with my fab boyfriend stepping up for ALL the chores. If I hadn't got drunk and married him 33 years ago, I might just do it now.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Images from 3000 BC

I love to visit the Astronomy Picture of the Day ( and check out what's going on in space, present and very much past.

This pastel painting is an interpretation of the Lagoon Nebula, which seems to be heavily populated....

The Lagoon Nebula is 5000 light years away. Light years is a measurement of time--in this case meaning this view is the way the nebula was 5000 years ago. But you can determine distance too, and the result is, well, astronomical. Light travels 5,865,696,000,000 miles in a year (almost six trillion), assuming no rush hour traffic... which puts the cosmic Lagoon at 29,328,480,000,000,000 miles away. M'gawd, that's even bigger than the US National Debt. The part of the nebula pictured is 50 light years across. Numbers, numbers; fascinating (to me) because they're so astounding, just about ungraspable.

And this is a relatively local nebula. ; )

Check out APOD to see for yourself!