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Make Sh!t

JOHANNA WILL TALK TO HER GRANDPARENTS only if she can spend the conversation in a laundry basket. She’ll also ask me to carry the basket around the house while she chats, though this I decline to do. Peculiar demands are popping up daily as her Negotiator Gene manifests. I remember wearing my mom out with outlandish requests until she made concessions—things I surely didn’t desire beyond winning her permission—like mixing milk with orange juice or sleeping on the hallway floor.

I admire Jo’s pluck, though my life really needs fewer hoops to jump, not more. Aside from the usual, I’m dogged at the moment by IRS deadlines, mortgage lenders in need of data, and an unholy health care triad that turns every medical transaction into three-dimensional chess. Something as simple as switching to a credit union snarled my routine for weeks. Is this maturity? Entropy? Social decline?

No wonder we end up sick and tired. I awoke last Tuesday with strep throat. With no time or patience to seek treatment, I took some old antibiotics and worked from bed for a day. Just as I was rallying, I got a mysterious case of head-to-toe hives. They didn’t impair me physically or mentally but I looked like a leper (clients I met with were startled and concerned, not reactions I’m going for). I had narrowed the list of causes to synthetic shirts, green peppers or stress before my sister—who spends a large share of her waking hours catering to her own health issues, real and invented—diagnosed it as photosensitivity due to antibiotics.

Those hours spent in my backyard working in the unseasonable March warmth, so peaceful at the time, were inducing a massive auto-immune backlash. It’s mostly cleared up now. But which innocent action will vex me next?

As an enthusiast of obsolete technology, the fake-vintage Instagram photography thing was something I was ready to hate, like neo-antique furniture or retro Ts at Urban Outfitters. But given the lack of settings built into the iPhone camera, the ability to add some filters and flavor to your image is welcome, no matter how faux. Extra irony in these shots I took in Guttenberg, Iowa last weekend with Jo and my grandfather—the site of many childhood memories I know from faded Kodaks.

Scenes from a farm house outside Albert Lea, Minnesota. My pal Lucas’s grandparents, one recently deceased and the other in a nursing home, have left their home on the prairie. But every detail of their existence since 1970 has been immaculately preserved by their descendents down to the glass knickknacks and old-school tool calendars. We wandered the grounds and numerous out-buildings looking for treasure.

Like his grandpa’s vast trove of beer signage, full of bygone logos I drew while Jo embellished.

The Make Sh!t confab is doing paintings with projections in an abandoned gallery space. We clean the squat up at the end of each session and it’s workable for now. As our crew grows and the projects get more ambitious, it’s clear we need permanent space. Fortunately summer’s come a few months early and we can take the party outdoors for a while.

Craig Phillips never lifts a brush yet stays right up in this thing, dispensing sage praise over mugs of bourbon.

I made this poker cheat sheet years ago. Now it’s back for more laughs. In T we trust.

>> P.R.O.; The Identicals – Blacky Joe
>> Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Ballad of the Sin Eater 

MY MIND IS UNUSUALLY SERENE LATELY (hardly cause for complaint, except that I blog best under duress). I’m furnishing that surplus mental real estate with reading: most recently a 1000-page novel about proto-scientists in the age of Enlightenment (oof; thanks, Kev!), a gift subscription to the New York Review of Books (best eva, Marc!), and, just this week, the revelatory rock crit manifesto I might have written if I knew 100x more (thanks for getting the hint, sis!).

It’s not just me. Sarah’s mainlining Self Help and alternative health books as Johanna inches toward that moment where she can pick up and read stuff unaided. Betting we’re obsolete by February.

In other timesucks, I’m compiling an unscheduled mixtape for my club, “FOLK-HOP,” a set of alternating rap and folk tunes that’s sure to displease fans of both. I’m also closing shop next week to chill and ski with the in-laws while jumping on all Happy Hour invitations until January.

How much leisure can one man handle? Here, I’ll show you.

Jo and Sarah churn out ultra-vivid monoprints at the Highpoint Center. Mine suffered from a lack of ink and inspiration.

The great-granddaughter with our beloved Nassif Matriarch, still a formidable bridge player at 89.

Lo, Jo, Louis, and Two Dads In Loungewear.

No idea what inspired this, but I’m adopting it as my 2012 mantra.

Paul’s Ai Wei Wei rubylith design, a leftover Make Sh!t project to bookend our first full year.

With no ice or snow, we’re running all over.

Catching yellow-hued views at dusk from the Guthrie.

For months, Sarah’s been saving “special” bottles for kombucha (a more vile beverage I’ve never encountered), only to have every last one freeze and break. Repulsion averted!

A modest wishlist posted to the front door.

Allison, newly 34 with Beef Bourguignon, at her second birthday celebration of the night. Steady there, sister.

A panda inspects the work of beavers on the East Bank of the Mississippi River.

I sit here so contentedly.

>> Redd Kross – Look On Up At the Bottom
>> Dylan – Watching the River Flow

THE MOVEMENT TO OCCUPY FILLINTHESTREET does strike a chord with me. I’d thrill to see our financial overlords brought to account and regulated with extreme prejudice (since Washington can’t fix little stuff like fee gouging though, I’m not holding my breath). True, the overthrow of Capitalism wouldn’t improve my lot much. But I find our unanimous worship of certain über-Capitalists almost more disturbing. It’s not indifference (and certainly not weather) that’s kept me away from the protest. Chalk it up to self-absorption and many small, pleasurable distractions from anger.

1) The distorting effects of 3M Color Transparency Film
2) Great flaming October sunsets
3) Collaborative photo zines documenting the season’s last night bikerides
4) Goats, asses and apples with Evelyn & Marc (who’s blogging again; good on ya!)
5) My inexpensive poster from Puerto Rico w/ extravagant professional frame job
6) Cactuses & Palm Trees; The Sun Says He’s Too Hot – 2011, Sharpie & Crayola marker on manila
7) Melancholy marina fogs over Grand Marais
8 ) Our leaves changed color without regard to the schedule
9) Explorers on the moon under 35-W
10) Hikers with Day-Glo Lichen


>> Tennis – Marathon
>> Built to Spill – Strange
>> Willie Colón – Che Che Cole

 

SOMEBODY WISHED ALOUD that July could be twice as long (on Facebook, of course, where summer’s progress is logged competitively, so I see the 1,000 camp-outs, festivals, and bike/bar crawls I didn’t do). It’s an appealing thought, even sweating through sixty-two 90° nights. The calendar being fixed as it is, we made July the longest month purely through high-capacity living.

Winthrop

A family visit in Mazama and North Cascades NP in Washington State was not our first pick, but a solid Plan B (parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite fill up quick, way quicker than my extended family can make decisions). This alpine valley is inaccessible half the year, and still feels sparse in the high season—mostly populated by that weird Western mix of cowboys, extreme-sports buffs, Harley riders and affluent retirees. Round here, the marshal drives an IRoc-Z.

Don’t these peaks just make you want to yodel?

I left Seattle eons ago, so joining the hordes at Pike Place Market (left, with Sarah and my sister Emily buying, like, 10 lbs of salmon) no longer feels like a gimmicky yawn; I see it all anew. Like the brilliant S.A.M. sculpture garden (center, with my brother Ben in front of Richard Serra’s Wake), which I remember as an walled-off graveyard for shipping containers. Our Associated Friends of Ballard—who all live on the same block, considerately, and even have a killer cottage where we can flop—threw us an Independence Day party, finished with a Family Pack of Chinese fireworks (right), all duds except for the Bang Snaps.

Four days later we were in Clermont, Iowa, for Xmas In July #4—different family culture (red meat, weaponry, ATVs), different climate (fierce sun, biting flies, minimal shade). Sounds fun, right? This year my grandfather devised a relay race: two teams move empty 2-liter bottles using only yard sticks. Not likely to be a runaway fad, but there was enough absurdity and smack-talk to keep it interesting.

Gramps and Johanna, in amazing hats, before the kite flying competition. I won, but when my kite was nearly invisible, the string broke. My cousin and I scoured 10 acres on an ATV looking for it, but the kite seemed bound for another county.

Back in Minneapolis, with favorite visitors from Des Moines at Lake Nokomis—another great place to be if you hate shade.

Backyard Bananagrams (left, a novel performance with PYRO ZOOTS and PUBIC CLOT) and successful Make Sh!t sculpture experiments: Beer, Detergent, Baby Bottle, Lemon (along with some busted failures: casting an intact whiffle-ball bat and lightbulb using concrete proved beyond our powers).

Johanna’s weeks at Urban Arts Academy have produced art by the armload, like a misty shadowbox with butterfly puppets (left). At Highpoint Center for Printmaking for Sarah’s 38th birthday (note the cake, lower-left), a group of us cut rubber blocks to make stamps and practically got kicked out for having too much fun.

Brontosaur

This monster in Lake Hiawatha has its own website.

Exhausted yet? I haven’t even gotten to re-roofing my garage (me dressing the part, left). As an able-bodied person, I didn’t relish watching others suffer through my hot, backbreaking work—a position I regretted as soon as I’d sweat through my leather boots. For the interior improvements (right), I called in some low-wage backup.

In other unpaid labors, I helped mow the Walker Art Center’s lawn as part of a half-baked performance by L.A. collective Machine Project. Something about the elaborate ritual of American lawncare? Mastery over nature through technology? The triumph of suburban values? For the performers, it was as captivating as… mowing the lawn.

“The American Lawn and Ways to Cut It.”

Art Mowing followed by rooftop drinks with your crew. Isn’t Minneapolis grand?

>> Chuck Berry – Come On
>> Vast Aire – Take Two
>> The New Pornographers – July Jones

NEW PAINT, SHELVING, A COLOSSAL CANOPY and other environmental upgrades are remaking my world (not a monumental task, small as it is). After a decade in this house, its ubiquitous flaws—gerry-rigged fixes, unresolved projects, heinous finishes—have become almost invisible; I only realize how bad it was now that it’s better. I squeegeed the windows for the first time in years; so beautiful I’m ashamed for waiting. Not quite the Agenda-Free Summer we dreamed of after the wall-to-wall weariness of 2010, but there’s more (freshly painted) room to space out and goof off, my perennial wont.

Kevin has kept this card in his wallet for at least 10 years

Found a Califone at a garage sale with a built-in speaker loud enough to rock a party

The Chapman Bro’s piece at the M.I.A. mirrors Johanna’s best playground move

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What took us so long to do bubble baths? No other type of bath will now be accepted

Craig’s lubricated lemon, prepped for plaster-casting by the Schmelzer Technique (pics to come)

A little brown haven under the sick pines at Afton State Park (recently ransacked during our government shut down)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With head-to-toe Hello Kitty at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

A motley assemblage of items for plaster-casting, our latest Make Sh!t experiment

A curious hidden refuse pile discovered on the outer edges of Afton SP