Friday, June 12, 2015

Teaching an old dog new tricks

I may not be an old dog (though I'm no longer young, and I have been called a bitch on occasion), but I have definitely learned some new tricks in my Colored Pencils and Portraiture class this year. Indeed, looking at the work of all the women in class, several of whom are in their 70s, as is our teacher, you realize that you are never too old to learn, or to improve.

I still have a ways to go until I get to the point where I want to frame my work and hang it in our living room. (Being a bit of a perfectionist, I am rarely 100% happy with anything I do, though I have come to embrace the concept of "good enough.") BUT, that being said, I am sufficiently proud of my progress that I want to share my latest three drawings with you. (You can view my earlier works by clicking on the ART APPRECIATION label at the bottom of this post.)

I will now be taking a break from drawing, which has been emotionally draining. But I hope to take another art class in the fall. Maybe painting.

[Click on each photo to see a larger view.]

"Portrait of Lady Agnew"
(Colored pencil copy of a John Singer Sargent painting)

"Pop Art Portrait, Handsome African-American Man"
(Colored pencil rendering of a black and white photo)
"Charcoal Study of M.C. Escher"

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When did we get to be old?

At what point do you become "old"? Is there some age when you go from being "young" to "old"? Is it 40? 50? 60? 70?

Are you "old" when the music you listened to growing up can now only be found on "oldies" or "classic" or  "eighties and nineties" stations?

Do you become "old" when you have kids, or when your kids graduate from high school, or college -- or have kids themselves?

Ask a teenager, and she will tell you 30 is old -- heck 25. (And yes, I feel really old right now typing that. But, as I recall, when I was 16, I thought 30 was old.)

Is "old" a matter of age, or perspective?

The other day, I was with a fifty-something girlfriend (who doesn't seem old to me, or to her), and she complained that "there were all these old people" at the dance performance she went to. I asked her, "what do you mean by old people? Were they in their sixties? Their seventies? Older?"

"Mostly in their seventies," she replied.

So, to people in their fifties (and, I'm guessing, pretty much everyone, except for people in their seventies or older), 70 and over is old.

But is it just age that makes us old -- or is "old" an attitude or the state of your body?

I have always been, or had, an old soul, or felt that in terms of my emotional maturity, and my understanding of the world, I was older than my years. But over the past 10 (okay, 15) years, I felt like my body was quickly catching up.

I can hardly go a day without taking an over-the-counter pain killer, or several (for my almost always aching neck, head, and upper back/shoulder blades). And my eye doctor informs me that it's just a matter of time until I need bifocals. And let us not discuss the number of gray hairs that started sprouting on top of my head shortly after I turned 40.

[I often joke with the spouse, who is partially deaf, wears trifocals, has bad knees, and was prematurely gray, that any day now we're going to wind up in Florida, playing pinochle or gin with a bunch of other altacockers, complaining about our aching backs and other ailments.]

But do I feel old? Yes and no. I still think of or see myself as the person I was in my thirties in many ways -- and I'm skinnier and in better shape than I was in my teens or twenties. But then I pop another ibuprofen, or look at my 17-year-old daughter, and I say to myself, man, I feel old.

So what do you all think? Is there a birthday on which you become "old" -- or is "old" just a state of mind (or body)? Do you feel old? Let me know via a Comment.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A visit to the New York Botanical Garden

Two of my favorite things to do are walking on the beach, looking for shells, and strolling through gardens, photographing flowers.

This weekend I indulged in the latter -- taking the spouse with me to visit the New York Botanical Garden (one of my favorite gardens, and places) to check out what was blooming, as well as view the new Frida Kahlo exhibit, which we both recommend.

(Just don't go on a weekend, if you can help it. We waited on line for an hour to see the dozen or so Frida Kahlo paintings and drawings on exhibit, which we were allowed maybe 10 minutes to view.)

While we enjoyed looking at Kahlo's paintings, which heavily feature nature, viewing real live nature, specifically flowers, was the main reason we went to the New York Botanical Garden. And walking the grounds, you really got the sense that spring was finally here -- a feeling I wanted to capture with my camera.

And I think these three photos, of irises and poppies, really give you the sense of spring emerging from the bleak winter landscape.

Irises I


Irises II

UPDATED: Decided to throw in a shot of the glorious Alliums, which look like something out of Dr. Seuss.

You can view more of my flower photos here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

If you give a hamster a piña colada

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I am a big fan of Hello Denizen's Tiny Hamster videos. And their latest Tiny Hamster video, titled "Tiny Hamster's Tiny Tiki Party," which has a Hawaiian theme, does not disappoint.

And speaking of getting one's Hawaiian on, my Hawaii-inspired cool casual clothing company, Prepster Pineapple, is offering free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. through the month of May (a $6 value) when you use the code PP-SHIPFREE-MAY at checkout.

Cheers and aloha!

[Wish someone would make me a piña colada...]

Friday, May 8, 2015

You don't have to be a rocket scientist unless you work at NASA*

Often when I am reading the news or watching talk shows, I wonder if everyone (okay, nearly everyone) has completely lost their minds, or their ability to use some basic common sense.

To explain what I'm talking about, I have provided 11 examples (in no particular order) of simple things that everyone should know, or should be obvious, but too often aren't. (Feel free to add your own examples in the Comments.)

You don't have to be a scientist to read a thermometer, or observe that the weather has become more erratic and extreme.

You don't have to be an economist or an accountant to balance your checkbook. You just have to know how to add and subtract.

Being able to see Russia from your window doesn't make you an expert on foreign policy, just like being able to see the moon from your window doesn't make you an astronaut.

You don't have to be a brain surgeon, unless you want to operate on people's brains. Nor do you have to be a rocket scientist, unless you want to work for NASA or SpaceX*.

If you feel you have no time to do anything, because you've volunteered for too many activities, volunteer less.

If you eat too much, you will gain weight. If you want to lose weight, eat less. Stop with the crazy diets.

Happiness doesn't come in a pill**, or a bottle.

You can't be too rich, but you can be too thin.

If you don't want to get sick, or want to get sick less often, wash your hands before you eat -- as well as before and after meal preparation and after you've used a toilet.

If you don't want others to get sick, cough or sneeze into your elbow or bicep, not into your hand. That's how you spread germs.

Don't text while driving. Nothing, and no one, is that important.

*And even at NASA, and SpaceX, not everyone is a rocket scientist.
** Or maybe I was given the wrong prescription.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The difference between Mets fans & Yankees fans

The spouse and I are off to see the New York Mets play the Washington Nationals (aka the Nats) today at Citi Field. I bought the tickets a couple weeks ago, when the Mets were on what became an 11-game winning streak. (Though I probably would have purchased tickets anyway.)

What a difference a week makes.

At 16-9, the Mets are still well over .500, and are still in first place in the National League East. (For now.) And Matt Harvey, their pitching ace, has started the season an impressive 5 and 0 (though he doesn't look nearly as dominant as he did two years ago). So the Mets should at least win one out of five games. But that feeling of elation among Mets fans as the Mets entered Yankee Stadium last weekend has pretty much evaporated.

[I am as likely, and as often, to grumble "Do not f*ck this up, Mets!" as I am to scream "Let's go Mets!" And I have also begun thanking Jesus when the infield or a base runner doesn't make an error and/or a Met scores, which amuses the spouse to no end.*]

Sure, sure, there are plenty of Mets fans who still think this could be the year. But I would hazard that the majority of Mets fans, while hoping that the team will make it to the playoffs this year, are pretty much waiting for the team to implode, as they have done every year for nearly 10 years now.

And therein lies the difference between Mets fans and Yankees fans (and Mets fans and Nats fans and St. Louis Cardinals fans and San Francisco Giants fans).

Yankees (and Cardinals and Giants and Nats) fans expect their team to win, and are surprised and disappointed when it loses. Mets fans expect their team to lose, and are surprised and elated when it wins. 

Which is why when my daughter asked me this morning, "Are you excited about going to see the Mets?" I replied, "At least it's supposed to be a nice day. Ask me when I get home." 

UPDATED: Maybe the Mets should change their slogan from "Ya gotta believe" to "Hope for the best, expect the worst." As feared, the Mets lost to the Nats (again), 1-0, making several errors and squandering several opportunities. Sigh.

*Because we're Jewish. But then again, so was Jesus.

Friday, May 1, 2015

And I wonder why I don't get flowers

Because no good deed goes unpunished. (Or unquestioned.)

The Spouse: [Walks into my office & presents me with a beautiful bouquet of roses and spring flowers.]

Me: Did someone send me flowers?

The Spouse: Me, I did.

Me: Aw, sweetheart, they're lovely! Thank you! [Gives the spouse a big hug and kiss. Then pauses.] Wait, what did you do?

The spouse: Nothing.

Me: [Eyes him suspiciously.] What are you not telling me?

The Spouse: [Now giggling nervously] Nothing! I love you and just wanted to surprise you with flowers.

Me: O-ka-ay... [Gives him another hug and kiss... and a side eye.] Thank you?!

The Spouse: You're welcome.

And I wonder why I don't get flowers more often (or at all).

(Actually, it's because our two cats eat them and knock over/smash the vases.)