The clock is tick-tick-ticking off its judgments. Tick – stupid. Tick – Hey, stupid. It’s new. I bought it for six bucks at the local five-and-dime. La Virgen de Guadalupe smiles serenely from its face, held aloft by angels.

Black Swan, White Swan... Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Formal logic might be the blackest of magics (and it makes for the most excruciating of reads). Just try figuring out the Black Swan Problem. Read a ton of obnoxious articles by formal logicians – who I imagine wear capes and brood in towers while they go about their dark art of turning language into math – without pushing your thumbs into your eyeballs until they pop.

Donald Duck: High Priest of the Illuminati

Conspiracy theorists are dreadfully thorough, but I guess most of them missed this one: Donald in Mathmagic Land, the 1959 Disney featurette starring Donald Duck which teaches us about the Pythagorean cult, the pentagram, the Fibonacci Sequence, and the Golden Ratio.

Jack Kirby And Comic Book Mysticism

You may not recognize the name Jack Kirby, but if you’ve ever argued with your friends over who gets to be Cyclops when you were playing X-Men in your backyard, then you’ve been touched by his creations.

Eye of the Skeptic

Those “I’m always right” types absolutely need faith, or else those vicious doubts start creeping in. Not only will you find faith in the religious mind, calling God a fact, you’ll also find it lurking in the atheist, saying He isn’t. Come to think of it, anyone who uses the word “fact” so easily must be pretty faithful, at least when it comes to their own nonsense.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quilt Outlaws -Alibi

Originally published May 21, 2015 via alibi.com

“Do you like quilts?” asks Linda Hamlin.

“Well,” I say, “there's comforter men, and there's quilt men. And I am definitely a quilt man.”

Hamlin is a member of the Albuquerque Modern Quilt Guild. She and one of the guild's co-founders, Lois Warwick, have met me at Hip Stitch (7001 San Antonio NE), Albuquerque's first “sewing lounge” and home to the guild. They're hosting a collection of 20 quilts selected at this year's QuiltCon in Austin to be displayed at the 10th biennial Fiber Arts Fiesta this week. The Fiesta will be the first stop on the collection's worldwide Modern Quilts tour.

Spread out before us is “For Tanya,” an improvisational piece by Emily and Miriam Coffey. Unlike traditional quilts—where a strict pattern is designed and adhered to—improvisational pieces start with a patch of fabric and build from there, allowing the pattern to grow organically.

This piece is made up of countless little blue and orange rectangular scraps—some no larger than your fingernail—coming together to create the impression of a sunset reflecting off an ocean. “It's a tribute to a friend of theirs who lost her life to cancer. This was one of her favorite things: sunsets over the ocean,” Hamlin tells me. I heroically withstand the urge to wrap myself up in it and take a nap. It looks very warm.

The subject of traditional quilting versus art quilting brings me back to a conversation I had yesterday with Judith Roderick, featured artist at the Fiber Fiesta, whose silk-painted quilts will be a part of a 40-year retrospective exhibit.

“Most people are relating to the quilts that people make to put on beds—that their grandmothers made—and that is still a valid form of quilt-making. But more and more, art quilts are becoming just as valid.” The implication is that there are quilters out there who don't think it's so valid.
To find these Quiltsnob Traditionalists—bristling with menace and clutching their wicked, titanium-coated topstitch needles while grinding their teeth and hemorrhaging from their eyes—just Google “dumbing down of quilting.”

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Quirky Doesn't Begin to Cover It -Alibi

Originally published May 6, 2015 via alibi.com

From NM-536, the Tinkertown Museum (121 Sandia Crest Rd., Sandia Park) is barely visible behind a row of trees, looking like something you'd find in an elaborate fish tank. Flashes of light reflect off the blue and green glass of a bottle wall, creating impromptu fireworks that leak between the leaves.
It took the late Ross Ward, local painter/sculptor/you-name-it, over 40 years to build Tinkertown. The museum is often described in tourist maps and vacation guides with words like “whimsical” or “quirky”—words I try never to use—leading me to expect a bland afternoon of “family fun.” But when I push open the swinging saloon doors at the entrance, leaving the feverish sun to enter a cool and dim corridor, my breath catches in my throat.

The entire right side of the hall is a miniature Western town peopled by antique toys and hand-carved figurines. Stores and bars and markets come to life as tiny inhabitants act out a variety of scenes. Every inch of the town seems to sizzle with action.

Pushing one of the buttons found at intervals along the length of the town causes a scene to animate. An angry restaurateur clutching a meat cleaver chases a chicken in circles. Drunkards at the saloon raise their mugs.

This is not the dusty kitsch nightmare designed to bilk passing travelers that I've been expecting. It's an honest-to-God work of art. In fact, Tinkertown proper is only one room of 22 in the museum. Visitors still have to make their way past a miniature three-ring circus, Otto the one-man band and a 35-foot sailboat permanently docked in the side of a mountain.

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