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coral

  Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Coral

Size: 51.2 H x 59.1 W x 0.8 in
Oil, Gouache and Acrylic on Canvas
Keywords: sea, stream, water, yellow, air

—Magdalena Sadziak


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  Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Shellac

Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes and dissolved in ethanol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze and wood finish. Shellac functions as a tough natural primer, sanding sealant, tannin-blocker, odor-blocker, stain, and high-gloss varnish. Shellac was once used in electrical applications as it possesses good insulation qualities and it seals out moisture. Phonograph (gramophone) records were also made of it during the 78-rpm recording era which ended in the west during the 1950s.

Liquid shellac has a limited shelf life (about 1 year), hence it is sold in dry form for dissolution prior to use. Liquid shellac sold in hardware stores is clearly marked with the production (mixing) date, so the consumer can know whether the shellac inside is still good. Alternatively, old shellac may be tested to see if it is still usable: a few drops on glass should quickly dry to a hard surface. Shellac that remains tacky for a long time is no longer usable. Storage life depends on peak temperature, so refrigeration extends shelf life.

Shellac, edible, is used as a glazing agent on pills (see excipients) and candies, in the form of pharmaceutical glaze (or, confectioner’s glaze). Because of its acidic properties (resisting stomach acids), shellac-coated pills may be used for a timed enteric or colonic release. Shellac is used as a ‘wax’ coating on citrus fruit to prolong its shelf/storage life. It is also used to replace the natural wax of the apple, which is removed during the cleaning process. When used for this purpose, it has the food additive E number E904.

Shellac is dissolved in denatured ethyl alcohol. It has a fleeting, antiseptic odor that dissipates quickly as the product dries. Shellac is user-friendly and virtually goof-proof. It can be applied with a brush, pad, sprayer, or wiping cloth. Shellac dries to the touch in minutes and, in most cases, can be sanded or recoated in a little over half an hour. Shellac is UV-resistant and will not yellow or darken with age—unlike oil-based finishes. Shellac brings out the rich warmth of wood grain. Finished surfaces look soft and natural, not plastic-coated. Sticks to glossy surfaces and finishes—shellac is prized by everyone who uses it for its incredible adhesion. It will stick to just about anything. Dried film is impervious to odors—two or more coats of shellac will seal in any kind of odor in any type of porous surface. Unlike other finishes shellac can be easily touched up if it is scratched or worn; a new coat of shellac melts itself into the existing coat. Shellac is dissolved by household ammonia as well as alcohol, making it very easy to clean brushes and other tools.


  Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Mind and Cosmos

Value realism must make sense of the fact that the biological evolutionary process and the physical and chemical history that preceded it have given rise to conscious creatures, to the real value that fills their lives and experiences, and ultimately to self-conscious beings capable of judgment-sensitive attitudes who can respond to and be rationally motivated by their awareness of those values. The story includes huge quantities of pain as well as pleasure, so it does not lend itself to an optimistic teleological interpretation. Nevertheless, the development of value and moral understanding, like the development of knowledge and reason and the development of consciousness that underlies both of those higher-order functions, forms part of what a general conception of the cosmos must explain. As I have said, the process seems to be one of the universe gradually waking up.

—Thomas Nagel

  Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Attention without feeling is only a report. Reporting is for field guides; attention is the beginning of devotion.

—Mary Oliver

  Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Nature confesses that she has given to the human race the tenderest hearts, by giving us the power to weep. This is the best part of us.

—Juvenal, xv. 131

  Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Matthew 11:27-29

My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”


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  Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Psychopomp

Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός – psuchopompos, literally meaning the “guide of souls”) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply to provide safe passage. Frequently depicted on funerary art, psychopomps have been associated at different times and in different cultures with horses, whip-poor-wills, ravens, dogs, crows, owls, sparrows, cuckoos, and harts.

Classical examples of a psychopomp in Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology are Charon, Hermes, Mercury and Anubis.

In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal. In many cultures, the shaman also fulfills the role of the psychopomp. This may include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn child’s soul to the world.

The spirits of ancestors and other dead loved ones function as psychopomps in Filipino culture. When the moribund call out the names of dead relations, the spirits of those named are said to be visible to the dying person. These spirits are believed to be waiting at the foot of the deathbed, ready to fetch (Tagalog: sundô) the soul of the newly-deceased and escort them into the afterlife.


  Monday, February 16th, 2015

The Elements of Drawing

Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.

—John Ruskin


  Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Illusion of asymmetric insight

The recent fuss over the over-sharing, over the loss of privacy is just noisy ignorance. You know, as a citizen of the Internet, you obfuscate the truth of your character. You hide your fears and transgressions and vulnerable yearnings for meaning, for purpose, for connection. In a world where you can control everything presented to an audience both domestic or imaginary, what is laid bare depends on who you believe is on the other side of the screen. You fret over your father or your aunt asking to be your Facebook friend. What will they think of that version of you? In flesh or photons, it seems built-in, this desire to conceal some aspects of yourself in one group while exposing them in others. You can be vulnerable in many different ways but not all at once it seems.

So, you don social masks just like every human going back to the first campfires. You seem rather confident in them, in their ability to communicate and conceal that which you want on display and that which you wish was not. Groups too don these masks. Political parties establish platforms, companies give employees handbooks, countries write out constitutions, tree houses post club rules. Every human gathering and institution from the Gay Pride Parade to the KKK works to remain connected by developing a set a norms and values which signals to members when they are dealing with members of the in-group and help identify others as part of the out-group. The peculiar thing though is that once you feel this, once you feel included in a human institution or ideology, you can’t help but see outsiders through a warped lens called the illusion of asymmetric insight.

How well do you know your friends? Pick one out of the bunch, someone you interact with often. Do you see the little ways she lies to herself and others? Do you secretly know what is holding him back, but also recognize the beautiful talents he doesn’t appreciate? Do you know what she wants, what she is likely to do in most situations, what she will argue about and what she will let slide? Do you notice when he is posturing and when he is vulnerable? Do you know the perfect gift? Do you wish she had never went out with so-and-so? Do you sometimes say with confidence, “You should have been there. You would have loved it,” about things you enjoyed for them, by proxy? Research shows you probably feel all these things and more. You see your friends, your family, your coworkers and peers as semipermeable beings. You label them with ease. You see them as the artist, the grouch, the slacker and the overachiever. “He did what? Oh, that’s no surprise.” You know who will watch the meteor shower with you and who will pass. You know who to ask about spark plugs and who to ask about planting a vegetable garden. You can, you believe, put yourself in his or her shoes and predict his or her behavior in just about any situation. You believe every person not you is an open book. Of course, the research shows they believe the same thing about you.


  Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Illusion of transparency

The illusion of transparency is a tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which their personal mental state is known by others. Another manifestation of the illusion of transparency (sometimes called the observer’s illusion of transparency) is a tendency for people to overestimate how well they understand others’ personal mental states. This cognitive bias is similar to the illusion of asymmetric insight.


  Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Once a young woman said to me, Hafiz, what is the sign of someone who knows God?

I became very quiet, and looked deep into her eyes, and replied, ‘My dear, they have dropped the knife. Someone who knows God has dropped the cruel knife that most so often use upon their tender self and others.’

—A Year with Hafiz (Daniel Ladinsky, translator)

  Thursday, February 5th, 2015

To God Just as He is

See that nothing occupies your thoughts except an utter determination to reach out to God: no special thought about what he is, or how he works, but only that he is as he is. Let him be himself, please, and nothing else. You are not to go probing into him with your smart and subtle ideas. That belief must be your foundation.

This utter determination, firmly based as it is on true belief, must be the simple recognition and blind acceptance of your own existence, and no more than this, either intellectually or emotionally. It is as if you were saying to God, ‘What I am, Lord, I offer you. I am not thinking of you in any particular way, except that you are as you are, no more and no less.’

Look up cheerfully and tell your Lord, either aloud or in your heart, ‘What I am, Lord, I offer you, for it is yourself.’ And keep in mind, simply, plainly, and unashamedly, that you are as you are, and that there is no need to inquire more closely.

So you must get down to the basic essentials of thought (some people, remember, consider it the most sophisticated!) and think of yourself in the simplest way (again, some think it is the wisest), not what you are, but that you are. Why, for you to be able to think what you are, you with all your characteristics and capacities, calls for a great deal of skill and knowledge and insight, and much shrewd inquiry into your natural intelligence. You have done this at some time already with the help of God’s grace and now you know, at least in part and as much as is good for you, what you are: a human being by nature, and a filthy stinking wretch by sin. How well you know it! Perhaps, indeed, only too well all the filth that goes along with the wretch. Shame! Let go of it, I beg you. Don’t keep stirring it up: the stench is frightful. But to know that one exists is possible for anyone, however ignorant or uncouth he may be; it does not call for any great knowledge or aptitude.

—The Epistle of Privy Counsel

  Monday, February 2nd, 2015

The What It Is

Gerard Manley Hopkins felt that everything in the universe was characterized by what he called inscape, the distinctive design that constitutes individual identity. This identity is not static but dynamic. Each being in the universe ‘selves,’ that is, enacts its identity. And the human being, the most highly selved, the most individually distinctive being in the universe, recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act that Hopkins calls instress, the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize specific distinctiveness. Ultimately, the instress of inscape leads one to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation on it.

—Stephen Greenblatt


  Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Philosophy is not Science

Our craving for generality has another main source; our preoccupation with the method of science. I mean the method of reducing the explanation of natural phenomena to the smallest possible number of primitive natural laws; and, in mathematics, of unifying the treatment of different topics by using a generalization. Philosophers constantly see the method of science before their eyes, and are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer in the way science does. This tendency is the real source of metaphysics, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness. I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is ‘purely descriptive’. (Think of such questions as “Are there sense data?” and ask: What method is there of determining this? Introspection?)

Instead of “craving for generality” I could also have said “the contemptuous attitude towards the particular case”. If, e.g., someone tries to explain the concept of number and tells us that such and such a definition will not do or is clumsy because it only applies to, say, finite cardinals I should answer that the mere fact that he could have given such a limited definition makes this definition extremely important to us (Elegance is not what we are trying for.) For why should what finite and transfinite numbers have in common be more interesting to us than what distinguishes them? Or rather, I should not have said “why should it be more interesting to us?” — it isn’t; and this characterizes our way of thinking.

—Wittgenstein


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  Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Psalm 8

God, brilliant Lord,
     yours is a household name.

Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
     toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
     and silence atheist babble.

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
     your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
     Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
     Why take a second look our way?

Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
     bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
     repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
     even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
     whales singing in the ocean deeps.

God, brilliant Lord,
     your name echoes around the world.

—The Message