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Posts Tagged ‘slate’

Four years ago, I blogged about some beautiful manhole covers is Japan. Now I learn that Minneapolis also has discovered the artistic possibilities of heavy, round metal that lots of people see as they cross the street.

Eric Grundhauser writes at Slate‘s Atlas Obscura blog, “Minneapolis has made its underfoot sewer covers a point of artistic pride, with designs that celebrate the area’s art, history, and wildlife.

“In the early 1980s, Minneapolis began asking artists to design iconic manhole covers for the city. … From David Atkinson’s whimsical summer grill design to Stuart D. Kippler’s introspective geography marker, each of the covers turned what was once a mundane city feature into a unique piece of art. …

“[Kate] Burke created sculpted images of regional icons like the Minnesota state fish (the walleye), the state fruit (Halverson apple), and the state bird (loon). The detailed pieces of steel each feature tableaux of their subject that make most municipal equipment look lazy by comparison.

“Some of the covers even feature small hidden details such as a worm in the state apple, or a pheasant erupting from the bronzed image of the state grain (wild rice).” More here.

I love that the Minnesotan sense of humor is part of the artistic effort. Reminds me of Massachusetts sculptor Mags Harries, who is still associated with the bronze banana peels, orange skins, and broken crates she embedded among the produce vendors in the Haymarket in 1976.

Photo: J Wynia/Creative Commons
Manhole cover in Minneapolis.

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I heard about poet Terrance Hayes on the radio show Studio 360. He is the winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, among other honors, and a University of Pittsburgh writing professor. Kurt Andersen interviewed him.

“Hayes grew up in South Carolina, where he was one of the only black students at a very preppy high school. But he says that race didn’t define him as a kid. ‘I was a basketball player, and I ran track, and I was a visual artist.’

“With all his accolades, invisibility hasn’t been too much of an issue for Hayes. But as a theme, it’s certainly present in his work. His poem ‘How to Draw an Invisible Man’ plays with Ralph Ellison’s take on black invisibility in the eyes of white society. ‘The thing that I’ve decided is, I don’t want to be invisible, but I’d like to be transparent. I want people to see what I’m thinking and see through me,’ he says. ‘I’m about 6’6’’. You know, I don’t have trouble walking into a room. I would prefer to be more invisible, in fact, than I am.’ ”

Listen to the interview at Studio 360. And read a review by Jonathan Farmer, at Slate, of his latest book of poems.

Photo: Becky Thurner Braddock
Poet Terrance Hayes. His new book of poems is called How to Be Drawn.

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Cousin Claire sent along a recent Slate article about the classic Rudyard Kipling story “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” As children, Claire and I both loved the brave little mongoose that saves a family from a scheming cobra and her mate. And when I taught school, I enjoyed sharing the tale with students.

For James Parkerit’s the greatest short story of all time. “Kipling was an instinctive anthropomorphizer — quite a heathen, in that way. He’d give a human personality as readily to a merchant steamer as to a mongoose. It’s the particular triumph of his animal characters, however, that they never become merely allegorical — or rather, they become allegorical while retaining their singularity and animality.

“Rikki-tikki in his violent happiness represents bravery and battle-joy and life-appetite, without ceasing for an instant to be a mongoose. Chuchundra the muskrat who creeps by the wall (‘ “I am a very poor man,” he sobbed. “I never had spirit enough to run out into the middle of the room.” ‘) is timidity itself, the unlived life, but he is also a wet-whiskered muskrat in a dark corner.” Read more here about Parker’s love for the story. Better yet, read the story.

Photo: Tony Hisgett

 

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The last time I checked into the always intriguing website This Is Colossal, I followed a link to My Modern Met, where Katie Hosmer writes about a trampoline that people are bouncing on in the Llechwedd slate caverns of Wales.

“This underground labyrinth of netting is a giant trampoline playground set inside a slate quarry cavern in the Welsh mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Developed by Zip World, Bounce Below [offers] visitors a playful experience deep beneath the surface of the earth.

“The tourist attraction features three giant trampolines suspended across the cave, ranging from 20 feet to 180 feet high. Ten foot net walls prevent people from climbing out, while walkways connect the trampolines, and slides offer an easy way to exit. As visitors jump around, the walls of the surrounding cavern are illuminated with glowing blue, green, pink, and purple lights.

” ‘We got the idea when my business partner saw this done in woods in France but this has never been done in a cavern, this really is a world first in Wales,’ says Sean Taylor, owner of Zip World. ‘It’s a one hour activity where customers get dressed up in a cotton overall and given a helmet; they then jump on a train and travel inside the mountain.’ ”  More crazy pictures at My Modern Met, here.

How do you keep ’em down in the bouncy house after they’ve seen cave trampolining?

Photo: My Modern Met

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This post is for singer Will McMillan. It refers to singing in choirs, but I think singing with family around the campfire — or on the stage — would have the same effect on endorphins.

Slate  recently adapted a chapter from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing With Others, by Stacy Horn,  Algonquin Books.

Horn says, “I used to think choir singing was only for nerds and church people. Since I was neither, I never considered singing in a group—even though I loved singing by myself. ”

She describes a period in her 20s when she was feeling really down. As she searched for ways to pull herself out of it, she remembered how happy she felt one time when she joined others to sing Christmas carols.

So, she continues, “I joined a community choir. Except that at that first performance, we didn’t sing Christmas carols—we sang a piece of music that was 230 pages long: Handel’s Messiah. It was magnificent. I was left vibrating with a wondrous sense of musical rapport. Since that performance, I haven’t found the sorrow that couldn’t be at least somewhat alleviated, or the joy that couldn’t be made even greater, by singing. …

“Music is awash with neurochemical rewards for working up the courage to sing. That rush, or ‘singer’s high,’ comes in part through a surge of endorphins, which at the same time alleviate pain. When the voices of the singers surrounding me hit my ear, I’m bathed in dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness.

“Music lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals levels of stress. Studies have found that people who listened to music before surgery were more relaxed and needed less anesthesia, and afterward they got by with smaller amounts of pain medication. Music also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment.  ‘Every week when I go to rehearsal,’ a choral friend told me, ‘I’m dead tired and don’t think I’ll make it until 9:30. But then something magic happens and I revive … it happens almost every time.’  More.

Makes me want to sing. (Thanks for the lead, Jean!)

Photo: Slate.com

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In Slate magazine, Katie Roiphe wonders whether good children’s book writers need to be childlike themselves.

“Is it possible that the most inspired children’s book writers never grow up? By that I don’t mean that they understand or have special affection or affinity toward children, but that they don’t understand adulthood, and I mean that in the best possible sense. It may be that they haven’t moved responsibly out of childhood the way most of us have, into busy, functional, settled adult life.” Read more.

Roiphe may be right about certain children’s writers, but I think she misses an important aspect of Margaret Wise Brown and Goodnight Moon. The book is based on research conducted at the Bank Street School in New York. Educators there observed that very young children like to hear about common things that they see around them and know about. And they like repetition. Watching toddlers react to Goodnight Moon is proof of the theory.

Some people known for their children’s books were indeed Peter Pans who never grew up. Hans Christian Anderson comes to mind. Roiphe mentions Lewis Carroll. But surely the most important thing, whether you are a childlike children’s author or an adultlike children’s author, is to see things the way children do. Ed Emberley, the subject of my March 24 post, is an example. Mister Rogers, too, for that matter. I became an instant convert to Mister Rogers when I saw how my 3-year-old responded to him.

Would love to hear your take on this.

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Heather Murphy reviews a cool-sounding book about birds as architects in Slate.

“Birds are exceptionally skilled architects. And, unlike humans, they do not require expensive schooling to obtain their skills. Nor do they covet their neighbors’ homes, explains Peter Goodfellow, author of Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer and Build. The innate ability to create sturdy and beautiful nests is written in their DNA. Goodfellow, a retired English teacher, has been studying birds since the 1970s. His new book documents the process of nest design and construction in extensive detail.” Read the article and check out the terrific slide show at Slate.

To see a bird building one of nature’s most complex nests, watch this BBC video of about 4 minutes, showing a weaver bird learning to master the skill.

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Another new writer focuses on Feathers.

Amazon posts the book description: “Feathers are an evolutionary marvel: aerodynamic, insulating, beguiling. They date back more than 100 million years. [Biologist] Thor Hanson details a sweeping natural history, as feathers have been used to fly, protect, attract, and adorn … . Engineers call feathers the most efficient insulating material ever discovered … . They silence the flight of owls and keep penguins dry below the ice.”

John has been reading Feathers, which he interrupts occasionally to tell us some little-known evolutionary fact or to praise the author’s writing style. John and Meran are really good birders, and it’s looking like their son is a birdwatcher in the making.

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