Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart

97-year-old Botanical Artist


I really enjoyed this interview with 97-year-old Chikabo Kumada, a botanical artist in Japan. His philosophy about life is every bit as lovely as his paintings. Here’s a snip:

Mr. Kumada, when did you start drawing illustrations of plants and insects?

I started to do it for work when I was twenty-six. I quit the graphic design company I’d been working at and switched careers without talking to my wife about it first. At that time, all the books had been burned in the war, and bunches of shoddy picture books had started coming in from the Kansai area and I thought, “This won’t do! I’ve got to draw some good picture books.” I love children. That’s why I started doing it. That was where my years of impoverishment began. (laughs)

Sadly, the PingMagMAKE site where the interview was posted seems to have gone on an extended hiatus. I was sorry to read this, as I've enjoyed perusing their articles.


97 Year Old Botanical Art Maestro

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Two Appealing Alphabet Sets

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We like both of these ABC sets for very different reasons. The modern design deck by Jen Renninger is hip, modern, retro, and old school, all at the same time. Love it! And the Star Wars characters set by Michael Fleming appeals to our sci-fi, geek sensibilities.

Jen Renninger's Etsy Shop
Michael Fleming's Tweedlebop

(Modern Design Deck via Whorange)

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Al Franken Does Mick Jagger

This made my night. As news is coming out of Minnesota that the state Canvassing Board is ready to certify Al Franken as the winner of the very close senate race there, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo was ready and waiting with this oh-so-excellent vintage Franken and Davis clip from Solid Gold.

--Bruce (via TPM)

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Traditions That Make You Feel Good


As 40somethings raising kids, we seem to have finally outgrown celebrating the start of the new year by getting real drunk and staying up late. We still stay up past midnight as a matter of pride, but we’ve slowly shifted the emphasis to New Year’s Day festivities, which include eating traditional meals, plus discussing the highlights of the previous year and hopes for the new one. In other words, we focus on traditions that make us feel good, not hungover.

Growing up in New Mexico, it was instilled in me that it's absolutely necessary to eat posole on January 1. And since my ancestors moved to New Mexico from Arkansas and other southern locales, it's also imperative that everyone in my family eat at least one bite of black-eyed peas on Jan. 1 to secure good luck for the new year. A few years I made a cheesecake or lemon tart for New Year's Day, hiding one almond in the pie. This is another good luck token, which I must have read about somewhere along the line. I find these traditions, almost always related to food and celebrations, to be fascinating, and I hope lots of you readers will share your traditions in the comments.

Along those lines, The New York Times put up a fun slideshow about new year's traditions from around the globe.

The highlights of 2008 for all of us were the outcome of the election and various family trips we took. Bruce loved NYC, Kindy enjoyed a couple of overnights in San Francisco, and Arlo loved spending a week hiking and swimming on the Eel River. That reminded me of one of my highlights -- seeing an albino redwood tree during a hike on that trip.

As for aspirations in 2009, Arlo, who's 6, started the conversation by saying, "I hope we do lots and lots of yoga!" This was interesting to the rest of the family; as far as any of us know, Arlo’s only ever done yoga once in his short life, but it apparently made a big impression. Kindy, 13, wanted the self-absorbed things you’d expect from a teen: a winning basketball team at school and more free time, less homework. I wanted to take more hikes and go to the beach more often, which I'm pretty sure is my declaration almost every year. Bruce was the most selfless: he hoped for fewer wars in the world, and more peaceful times for everyone. Amen to that.

--Shawn (image courtesy of Susan Beal)

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)


Heather Moore, the talented proprietor and blogger of Skinny Laminx, recently wrote a couple of CAPTCHA security code poems that speak to the wordsmith inside me. The comments about them are pretty interesting and creative as well. Here’s one of Heather’s poems:

Chedge criestme orstsper!
Foref, myrac, munmanc,
Hanim equin padwo?
Corses aingee...

Skinny Laminx Security Poetry

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)


wwoctopus2.jpgOur friend Brookelynn, who btw is a terrific crafter and all-around amazing human being, says she's made up a new word, cephalerotica. She writes:
"It describes the amazing art that combines the erotic with the octopus. I have been collecting images for a few years now, and have a Flickr set of them."

Most of the images in the set are NSFW, and a couple of them actually make me feel downright Victorian in my sensibilities. At the same time, it's a fascinating collection of old and new representations of an obscure variant in human sexuality, which seems to be popular here on Boing Boing.


Cephalerotica Flickr Set

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Benefits for S. Clay Wilson

checkerdemon.jpgUnderground comic icon S. Clay Wilson suffered a severe injury in November. He will need extensive rehabilitation, and friends and family are putting on some benefits to help with the massive medical costs. If the incredibly troublesome and twisted art of this man has entertained or helped you in any way, please consider helping out if you can.

Here's some info and links:

S. Clay Wilson Noise Benefit
Jan 11 at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, starting at 6 p.m.

Mojo Lounge Benefit
Jan 24th at the Mojo Lounge in Fremont, CA. The Dave Walker Band will play from 3 to 7 and there will be a raffle afterward with CDs, artwork, amp repair coupons and other donations, as well as comic books and art for sale during the performance. All proceeds will directly help pay for S. Clay's medical expenses.

Steve Duin's Oregonian columns covering the story.

There's also an address where donations can be sent:
P.O. Box 14854
San Francisco, CA 94114

--Bruce (Thanks, Howard!)

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Resources for Sustainable Living

velacreationsbottles2.jpgMy brother, Abe, and his wife, Josie, built an amazing house down in Terlingua, Texas, basically out of mud and empty bottles. OK, that’s oversimplifying it, but they built the dwelling with their own hands, mostly out of adobe, rocks they collected from their property, and other scrounged materials. It’s a beautiful, self-sufficient abode that includes a rainwater catchment system, solar and wind power, and a groovy Tolkienesque fireplace. They’ve now moved to the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, and are working on another house while raising a new baby.

During it all, they’ve been chronicling their work and documenting their research, so that others can benefit from their mistakes (just a few) and hard-earned knowledge (lots and lots). For anyone considering a life off the grid, or just interested in what it takes, their Vela Creations website is a great resource, full of practical information and in-depth how-tos.


Vela Creations

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Free High Res Images of Earth


If you desire high-resolution images of the Earth, the good folks at Unearthed Outdoors have made available the 250m True Marble image set for a free download with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. It's a map of the Earth made up of 32 tiles, where each tile is a 21,000 pixel square, available in png and tif formats. There's also a series of smaller files that may be more useful -- in case you don't need a map of the Earth that ends up being 84,000 pixels tall and 168,000 pixels across. Printed at 600 dpi, that's about 12 feet by 24 feet!

Happy New Year! (Thanks, Mikael!)

Unearthed Outdoors True Marble Imagery

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Billie Holiday Sings "Strange Fruit"

We often listen to Billie Holiday albums on slow-moving Sunday mornings. This version of "Strange Fruit" is remarkable and haunting to watch.

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

The One Man Living Cartoon Factory

This isn't new, but a quick search finds no prior mentions of Ennio Marchetto on Boing Boing and I'm sure many of you will appreciate the One Man Living Cartoon Factory. This clip is from a show in Amsterdam in 2004.

Thanks, Susan!

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

The Octonauts Are Where It’s At

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As promised, here’s a post about kids’ books, and specifically Meomi’s fabulous The Octonauts series.

We’ve tried to give Mark F. credit for turning us on to The Octonauts, but he refuses to take it, going so far to insist that he’s never seen these books. OK, fine. The books in question are The Only Lonely Monster, The Sea of Shade, and the new release, The Frown Fish. All hold the attention of the grownups, the teenager, and the school-age tike in the house. Seriously, everyone should run out and get these.

But how to describe the books? They’re cute and creative. There’s a hip Japanese influence and engaging storylines. The 6-year-old says, “They live under the sea in a big Octopod. They’re cool. They have adventures.” Nuff said.

The Octonauts

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

More Resistance to Free Range Kids


I know Lenore Skenazy’s terrific blog, Free-Range Kids, has been mentioned on BB before, but IMHO it’s relevant, especially when our kids are home from school for two weeks and we as parents have to choose between letting them zone out for hours with the new videogame Santa brought them, or giving them the opportunity to explore the world around them and perhaps push their abilities with a difficult project.

For Skenazy, Christmas Day included a call from the police about her son because he was trying to ride a commuter train by himself to visit a friend. The friend’s parents were waiting on the other end, but that apparently wasn’t good enough for the train conductor. She describes their experience:

He – Izzy – has ridden this route solo a dozen times before. It’s a straight shot on a commuter train and, as always, he was being met at the other end by his friend’s family. But today’s conductor was appalled to see a boy riding alone.

For some reason, the conductor wouldn’t talk to me, even though Izzy called from the train when the ordeal began. The man had no interest in hearing me state what Izzy had already been telling him: We believe a child of 10 is perfectly capable of taking a half hour journey by himself.

So instead the conductor and his superior got off at Izzy’s stop and then, as the train just sat there (I’m sure no one was a rush to get to their families on Christmas day), they awaited the police. I got a call from the friend’s dad who was waiting to take Izzy home. “We cannot leave the station,” he said.”

“Why not?”

“The police have to decide what to do next.”

This is the sort of story that really chaps my ass. I’m firmly ensconced in the camp that believes today’s kids are being robbed of self-reliance and instead being instilled with fear and couch-potato health. Our own kids have to wear their helmets when biking or skating, but they get to go on adventurous bike rides; the 13-year-old frequently rides on his own or with friends. The 6-year-old doesn’t venture out on his bike without us, but he does explore the few acres of woods around us by himself and he’s so fond of sliding down the hill by our house that we bought him a long rope for Christmas so he can “rappel” back up the hill and slide down again.

And we understand that a small hamlet in the forested hills of Sonoma County isn’t the same as the wilds of NYC or Chicago, but we’re fairly secure in thinking that we’d lean toward the free-range side even in those environs. We make it a point to take our kids to big cities several times each year, and they’re allowed to wander a bit. Sometimes it’s scary – I once lost my then 10-year-old in the American Natural History Museum in NYC for about 20 minutes after he begged me to let him take the top route while I took the bottom. When we eventually found each other I scared him even more by yelling at him; this was my own fear actualized, which I later had to apologize for. But hey, he knows I care and that I’m not perfect, and hopefully I gave him an example of cleaning up your outbursts. And when we returned to the museum this year, he had a great story to tell his little brother.


Free Range Kids

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Another Tuvan Throat-singing Bluesman


Since Tuvan throat-singing seems to be a popular topic around here, I wanted to shine a little light on another throat-singing bluesman from the Bay Area, Seth Augustus. That's Seth on the right in the photo above, way out in the Tiaga in Tuva. Seth studied under Tuvan throat-singing master Paul Pena, and you can check out music from his latest CD on his music site (warning, flash-based interface ahead). From Seth's bio:

Soon after hearing Tuvan music, Augustus met the legendary Bluesman and self-taught throatsinger, Paul Pena (Ghenghis Blues), who mentored him in throatsinging, as well as vocals and Blues guitar. The two became close friends during the last 6 years of Paul's life. In 2000, Seth traveled to Tuva, began to study with throatsinging masters from the group Chirgilchin, and learned to play the Igil (Tuvan 2-stringed fiddle). All of this has colored and lodged itself into his sound.

Seth is playing a free gig this Friday in San Francisco, so if you live in the Bay Area and like this kind of music, head over to the Mission this Friday night. Here's the details from Seth:

I'm doing a free show in San Francisco this Friday, January 2nd at the Socha Cafe, 3225 Mission Street (@ Valencia), from 8 - 11 pm. It's usually pretty quiet there so we'd love it if you come out and help us fill up the place. They have great food/beer/wine and joining me will be Ricky Garrett on drums and possibly Lemon Degeorge on harmonica.

I think the Spider Robinson quote on Seth's site sums things up nicely: "This is the music God hears in His sleep when he has a high fever." (Thanks, Howard!)


(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Best Astronomy Images of 2008 Talk in NYC

crabpulsarwind_sm.jpg Dr. Robert J. Nemiroff, the editor of the wonderful Astronomy Picture of the Day site, will be giving a free talk in NYC this Friday, showing off his picks for the best astronomy images of 2008. From the announcement:

As happens every year around this time, an editor of APOD will be reviewing the Best Astronomy Images of 2008 in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History. This year the lecture occurs on Friday, January 2. The lecture begins at 6:15 pm and runs roughly one hour. The lecture will be held in the Kaufmann Auditorium and will be free for all to attend.

Of course, you can pick your own favorites from their massive archive of the largest collection of annotated astronomical images on the Internet. The picture here is an x-ray image of the Crab Pulsar wind nebula. (Thanks, Howard!)


(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)