Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wired For Sound

Pomme de Parterre

A Hinterland Who's Who

This is Jardin de Métis and it is here that we found ourselves to construct a curious confection. A half-submerged clapboard shed with a roof as big as an aircraft wing, houses a chirping, talking and blinking battery powered by local Gaspé potatoes. The shed is surrounded by planted heritage variety potatoes which are bordered by marigolds and a simple wooden walkway. Some 1200 potatoes within the shed, each pierced with a pair of metal electrodes roughly the size of a stick of Wrigley's gum, sit, spiked on nails on narrow shelves and are connected by red sheathed wires to a 12 different mason jars. Each jar contains its own innards of wires, a single clear LED and an electronic chip and in turn is connected to a 4"x 4" plastic speaker. The speakers, controlled by the chips and powered by the potatoes emit uniquely tuned beeps, bops, chirps and squawks. Each beep is preceded by a short pulse from the LED that is not unlike a firefly's spark. The effect, when standing in the shed, is strangely funny, irritating, mesmerizing and eventually meditative. Your first reaction is to laugh.

Dave posted this short video recently and the folks at Jardin de Métis have posted the photos you'll see in the Flickr set. Just think of this as Potato Power.

Click here to witness the power of patates!

It should be said that the week we were in Mont Joli or (wherever it was we actually stayed) was intensely social. We were housed with other artists and designers and every night there was a large gathering of people making supper, drinking beer and doing dishes. Being out of cell phone range, without Internet access, without television, radio or newspapers was disarming at first but you got used to it. I suppose it forced you to be social. Without our commodities, all we were left with was our humanity.

... and potatoes.


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Originally uploaded by cyclopaedic.

A friend of ours was just in Newfoundland for a project about John Guy's Colony in Cupids. It's so typical that such an important site would generally be overlooked by most of Canada and even taken for granted by Newfoundlanders. It seems strange to me that I'd forgotten about ol' John Guy. As a kid, it's the sort of Newfoundland history that was drilled into you (and seemingly every May or June there was an inevitable field trip). I laugh a little to think how we learned more about the politics, history, successes and failures of the Newfoundland Railway than we did about the story of the Canadian Railroad. Blinded by pride? Perhaps. Shortsighted by a grand sense of self importance? Maybe. Then again, I guess that's what makes Newfoundlanders who they are. It's still funny to think we studied the history of the cod fishery for years in high school, and probably spent a week learning about the Ottoman Empire. In an era of globalization, Newfoundland remains one of a kind. The tourist ads claim, "Disneyworld it isn't". Thank God. We love thee smiling land.

Monday, June 04, 2007

planter boxes
Originally uploaded by rowdyman.

Ah Spring. The time for blooms and showers and outages of power. At least in Toronto. This city has a curious feeling of a bag about to burst at the seams. Like a hammock supporting a fat guy, something has gotta give. Whenever we have heavy showers, a curious thing happens. We lose our Internet connection. At first, I thought it only natural that storm activity might conk out our WiFi, except, it wasn't our WiFi getting knocked out. Then I thought, it must be a coincidence, no? How does rain affect a phone line? Apparently I'm not the only one. Another common thing in Toronto, is after even a short, but heavy rainfall, you hear of flooded basements and intersections. This is probably due to the combination of the fragile and over burdened storm runoff infrastructure and the fact that so much of the city's footprint is covered with concrete and asphalt, leaving very little open ground for water to drain through. So I shouldn't have been surprised yesterday when, after the rain came, the Internet went out, then Ang called to say the car had stalled and then later in the evening, the power went out. It's as if T.O. just can't handle a little "weather". It's kind of pathetic really. The City is constantly dealing with busted water mains in the winter and flooded intersections throughout the summer.

Yet, I was grateful for a bit of a soak. I had just planted some new grasses in the planters I built on Saturday, and was about to water them when voila, it rained. And after Angela got the car started, it looked cleaner than ever (after a dry humid week coated in some kind of yellowish pollen). Now, if we had only planted some of the other plants we had purchased, we'd be even further ahead. As it is, our backyard looks sort of stuck in April, at least compared to Ang's Mom's place. I've taken to calling it Nona Park because it's so lush. Our neighbour's yards seem on overdrive too. I'm sure we'll catch up. Just late bloomers, I guess. Our bamboo is also on some eccentric cycle. I've noticed it starts dying in March and April so that every leaf is golden yellow by May. Then in June, new shoots start popping everywhere, growing at some insane "inch per day" rate until they top out around 15 feet. I never really feel like culling back the dead shoots until the new ones have opened up around the 3rd week of June. It's very strange. It's like have a dead tree from March until July, when suddenly you have a new tree. I haven't quite wrapped my head around the bamboo yet, but at least I'm learning it's cycle.

Building those two boxes was itself a comedy of carpentry. For some reason, I ended up using every different saw I own, plus one of Andy's? I used the bench saw for some rip cuts, my chop/mitre saw for all my cross cuts, my hand saw for a couple of notches, and Andy's circular saw for trimming the ends. The only one I didn't use was my Japanese Dowel Saw. It only took the day to build them, which was good, otherwise it would've killed me. One day of physical exertion later and my hands and forearms (oh and requisite smashed thumb) felt like tenderized meat and my feet were killing me. I assume it was from working in the slip-on sandals (not really a work boot per se) but whatever the case, by dinner time, every muscle in my body felt like what beef jerky looks like. I shouldn't be surprised. It's not as though graphic design involves any heavy lifting and I've pretty much avoided exercise between my "bleo" injections (I'm pretty sure the heaviest lifting I've done lately is lifting a bottle of beer to my mouth). From henceforth I resolve to lift, kick and somehow shake the meat around my bones into some form of shape. I'm not aiming to be Charles Atlas or anything but I should just do something that might discourage gravitational forces from stretching my abdominal muscle(s) into a pear shaped sack (oh, wait, that happened long ago). If I am going to whip this ol collection of creaks into something more formidable, I should probably get a snack first, and I'll need my energy so maybe a quick nap would be good - and right after the game tonight, I'll get a good night's sleep and be refreshed to do something physical as soon as I've fired off a couple of e-mails. Yep. I'm on the road to renewal. Join me won't you? After, we can go get some wings at this place in our neighbourhood. Nothing beats working up an appetite!