Sunday, April 27, 2014

how I ruined Lent

Since the snow events the school schedule has been crazy this semester.  In addition to the tweaked schedule I've been on a search committee and trying to learn how to use 3D rendering software and a 3D printer.  By the time Fat Tuesday rolled around I found myself sitting in Cookout in Greenwood with Sean, Blake, Katertot and Cessquatch trying to come up with a last minute thing I could do for Lent.

That situation does not scream "careful consideration" I suppose.  If you're new here and you don't know my take on Lent, type "Lent" into the little search window up there and read the Lent posts from previous years.  The basic idea for me is to give up something or adopt a new action that will in some way make me a better person.  The hope is that the forced practice of doing or not doing the thing during the 40 days will lead to me doing or not doing the thing in my normal routine. 

Blake threw out a lot of good ideas that night but when he said we should all give up complaining, that seemed to strike a chord with everyone.  All around the big table everyone said, "Ahhh.  That would be tough."  And like a bunch of goofballs who had no idea what they were getting into, we all agreed we were in.  We would not complain for 40 days and any infraction would cost us a donation to the money jar we set up to help Blake and Ashley bike across the country this summer with Habitat for Humanity.  We were excited and positive...for at least a couple of hours.

The next day was a tough one for all of us.  I complained about one of my classes.  A few of us dropped money in the jar.  It was ridiculously cold here this winter and while we love a good snow, if we get more than a few weeks of freezing air we feel we are being punished for sin.  Another day later it was terribly cold and windy and we had to do some horrible manual labor at a public sculpture site.  Three of us complained all morning.  Blake held out for a couple of weeks with his positive outlook on life.  The rest of us complained about him being so positive.  Finally he too hit the skids and quietly walked in the sculpture studio and dropped some money in the bucket.  I think unofficially everyone gave up.  Cessquatch and Katertot quit after a few days pretty openly.  I kept trying and I kept failing.  

But I had a secret backup plan.  On the drive home the night of Fat Tuesday I had been thinking about how the busy school year had kept me from sketching regularly in my sketchbook.  I bought Blue a sketchbook last summer and he filled it up in a couple of months.  I got him another and he filled that one up.  When I flipped backwards in mine time traveled from the present to a year ago way to quickly.  My 7 year old son was making me look bad.  So my other Lent thing this year was to sketch at least one thing every single day for 40 days.  This worked better than the no complaining thing.  At least I could draw the things that irritated me each day and still be on track.  

Things went well in the sketchbook.  I only missed two days through April 14.  Then, somehow I forgot about it until Easter.  Failed again.  Apparently I'm a complainer who doesn't draw enough.  

There's this old sermon that's become a caricature of sorts.  Apparently the entire message consisted of the guy saying, "It's Friday.  But Sunday's coming." over and over again until his congregation got the idea that he was talking about the change from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.  I sucked at Lent this year and failed miserably at changing my actions.  That's Friday.  But now I realize that I do complain a whole lot more than I ever imagined.  I realize that I accurately recorded about 30 days in sketches and my drawing skills got better before I fell off the wagon.  With that in mind, I can head toward summer consciously trying to be more positive and making a point to draw every day.  Sunday's coming.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

sculpture deathmatch II; the war of the welds

While my grass at home kept growing, last Saturday I rolled out of bed well before the sun and made my way to school.  That's right, school on a Saturday.  What kind of idiot goes to school on a Saturday?  Better yet, what kind of idiot goes to school voluntarily on a Saturday?  Well, me and the coolest students on the planet apparently.

 The Sculpture Deathmatch was hatched last semester as a fun event and promotional tool for the department.  It was a hit and so this semester we wanted to have another one.  Just to make sure we're all on the same page with what this entails, here are the rules:  We meet on a Saturday in the sculpture studio.  We divide into two teams to compete against one another.  Each team has 12 hours to design, create and install an outdoor sculpture on campus.  The following Monday photos of the finished sculptures are posted on the art department Facebook page and the students vote for the winner.  

This is not a graded event.  The students give up an entire Saturday to participate in this.  For some this means not going home, getting off work and missing out on easier, more fun weekend activities.  It's a big sacrifice.  And yet they still choose to do it.  Like I said, coolest students on the planet.

My Advanced Sculpture class became one team.  For the other team, I called up Sean who participated last semester and Ashley who also participated last time and has since graduated.  

 The trash talk began immediately.  

 Since the students are sacrificing to participate, I try to be a good host.  Doughnuts for breakfast and a ton of cookies, snacks and drinks through the day.

 At 8:55 am we met to go over the rules and take team photos.  That's my Advanced Sculpture class, "Team Coffeesmoke".  It's a long story and it wouldn't make any sense to you.  Just go with it.  

 And this is Team "Ostentatious A".  It's also a long story and while it might make sense to you, just go with it.  Singletary was the surprise team member.  Team Coffeesmoke didn't find this out until this photo was made.

 Three days earlier the forecast was sunny and 72 degrees.  When we showed up it was chilly and drizzling rain.  It stayed that way all day.  So instead of spreading out on the patio we crowded inside and the teams tried to keep their plans secret.

 That's Travis with his eyebrow raised while he draws a leaf from observation.  Team Coffeesmoke chose an outdoor site and grabbed some leaves and flowers from that site to inspire them.

 While Sean and Ashley worked, Cessquatch took the sledgehammer outside and started pounding things for no apparent reason.  This is normal.  Hammers are fun.  When things need to be destroyed with a hammer everyone calls in the Cessquatch.

 That's Abby inside an old pool filter tank for no apparent reason.  This is normal.  And yes, she's wearing a dust mask and overalls.

 I encouraged Sean to work within a more reasonable scale.  Everything Sean makes has to be enormous.  It's a problem.  And after my "please make things small enough that we can move them" speech, he ignored me and started building this huge, heavy steel structure.  Sigh.

 "Does that need hammering?" asked Cessquatch.  She's at her happiest with a hammer in her hand.

 Ashley has been away from the sculpture studio since December.  She missed it so much.  She was thrilled to get to use the fun tools again.

 Andrew got the day off from keeping his 7 month old son.  I'm not sure if this was such a sacrifice for him.  More like a day off.

 Hungry sculptors need a good lunch so I brought in a piping hot tray of chicken from Chick-Fil-A.  Boom!  Host of the year.

 Another cool thing about the Deathmatches is that people can come hang out.  Katie's mom and stepdad came to check out the fun.  Molly visited on breaks from working on her project in the next room and Gordon brought us breakfast and stayed for a long time.  Our wicked schedule this semester forced us to have this one on the Saturday before Easter.  Not a great time to get visitors, but we still had a few.

 Abby's man-friend came and painted her face with wood stain.  It was nice to have a budding romance to try to destroy on the side.  They met at Pizza Hut earlier in the week and had a date after the Deathmatch.  

 Sculptors don't care if they get wet.  They also don't mind driving the streets surrounding the school and picking up branches and vines the locals have put out on the curb.  

 I know that during the average school day people walk by the sculpture area and wonder what the heck is going on.  I'm sure they hear things and see things that seem absurd.  Things like this perhaps.  But what's going on actually makes some sense.  Those three are acting as counter weights while Andrew bends things in the vise.  It's logical, it just looks goofy.

 See what I mean about Sean?  He pulled Rashaad into helping him with this ginormous thing.  A little while later I walked out and he had recruited this 9 foot tall basketball player to come hold something.  That was when I began steering them away from the ridiculous height they were shooting for.

 Safety is a big deal with these events.  I have to make sure visitors and team members are protected at all times and there's a lot of preparation that goes into that.  Still, with sculpture, even the most precautious people can pick up some small injuries.  Singletary dropped a red hot spark down her shoe and it toasted her sock and her skin.

 And Cessquatch had a little incident with the hammer.  Ok, it was just a scratch but we poured some BBQ sauce all around the band aid to make it look more impressive.  We are idiots.

 In the afternoon we had some more visitors.  G came with the kids to check out the show.  Blue was immediately drafted on to Team Coffeesmoke for his hammering skills.  Tyler left his mom's wedding and sped to the Deathmatch and jumped right in with his team.  He threw the safety glasses on Blue and put a hammer in his hand.

 Cessquatch appears to be burning Katertot.  It looks awesome but I promise it's safe.

 Blue was beating the fool out of some steel leaves and eventually he scraped his finger.  He was tough, though.  He wanted to cry but he sucked it up and posed his finger for this photo instead.

 Soon it was getting late.  Singletary left for a dinner meeting and I helped Sean and Ashley carry their much lighter and much improved sculpture across campus for installation.  They needed some time to put the finishing touches on at the actual site.  Team Coffeesmoke started carrying out their small installation pieces and getting those placed.  Meanwhile Tyler and Travis worked on the last big leaf.

 After 11 hours of hard work and laughter, people were starting to wind down.  Travis was still laughing but Katertot and Cessquatch were dragging a bit.

 The only thing holding Abby up at this point was Caitlin.

 Team Ostentatious was finished now and Team Coffeesmoke only had one more piece to install.  Andrew and Tyler marched the giant leaf to the library with the rest of the team in tow.

Everyone was relieved and ready to go to sleep but we had opted to work through dinner in order to try to get finished earlier.  So after we cleaned up the studio we all headed to Millhouse for some nourishment.  The teams put aside their differences for this group photo before we parted ways for the night.

 On Monday I got my first daylight view of the sculptures.  Team Coffeesmoke's "Where's the Rake" installation blends in with it's environment and transforms a line of real leaves into steel and plastic leaves that grow into the large magnolia leaf against the wall.

 Team Ostentatious' "Fish Sticks" puts three recycled steel fish into a large imaginary reef environment created out of steel, vines and branches.

Voting began on Monday and ended at 5:00 pm on Tuesday.  The people have spoken and their choice for the winner of Sculpture Deathmatch II; War of the Welds is...


It's important to note that both of these sculptures are installation pieces and they do not photograph well.  If you're able, go by in person and see these sculptures.  Walk around them and experience them.  I'm very proud of my Minions and their hard work.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

a day off

Saturday is a day off from school.  During the busy weeks it's about the only day I have to work on the to-do list around the house.  During the very busy weeks I don't even get that day. 

Two Saturdays ago was a pretty full Saturday.  Lander's Physical Science department hosted the annual Bearcat Breakout 5K race on campus.  Last year I ran the race with one of my students.  At least, we started at the same time and then I saw him again at the end after he dusted me.  This year I tried to talk several of my students into running but only one agreed.  So I got up early and drove to school and waited on Cessquatch to arrive. 

While we waited for the race to begin we scoped out the competition.  My goal was to win the "40 and up" male division like last year.  I scanned the crowd for older people but I'm terrible with guessing people's age.  I noted a couple of guys who seemed older and decided I had to try to beat them.  And while that was my conscious thought, there was also a note from my unconscious mind that said, "the real goal here is to not die."  Fair enough.  

When the race began, Cessquatch, along with those two older dudes took off ahead of me like they'd been shot out of a cannon.  It took me a quarter of a mile to catch Cessquatch and those two dudes just kept widening the gap between them and me.  I felt like I was pushing myself pretty hard but they just kept moving ahead.  

The course was different this year and it seemed to have more hills.  The final part of the race was similar in that it was all uphill.  I always feel like I'm dying at the end of the 3 miles so it's very tough for me to come up with any sort of extra push at the end.  After the halfway point I started to gain some ground on the older guy closest to me.  I passed a couple of college students which boosted my confidence and I kept gaining on the dude.  As we approached the final uphill part, I had to try to beat that one guy so I ran as hard as I could.  With maybe a tenth of a mile left, I passed him but I was afraid someone would come from nowhere and pass me too, so I had to keep sprinting as hard as I could.  By the time I crossed the finish line my chest felt like it was going to explode.  I felt great about beating that one guy but I also knew that I was sunk because I never even got close to that other older dude.  Another 40+ guy had beat me this year.

 Soon Cessquatch was bounding up that hill.  That's her crossing the finish line like a champ.  She also thought she was going to die.

 She finished a couple of minutes faster than she did last fall in another 5K and ended up winning a $25 gift card in a drawing after the race.  As they announced the various winners we joked about them calling our name and how shocked we'd be as we accepted our award.  We practiced our Taylor Swift surprised award winning faces and laughed.  

Literally, as we were joking about this they announced the overall 3rd place male winner and called my name.  Believe me when I say I didn't have to try hard to look shocked.  I was so focused on winning the old people division, I had no idea I was the 5th person to cross the finish line.  That guy I passed ended up winning the 40 and up group.  Turns out this was my best 5K time ever at 19:53.  To celebrate, instead of going to Disneyworld, I drove home, had a banana and a huge cup of coffee and took a nap.

After the nap, we drove the other direction to Spartanburg to meet a bunch of Lander people for dinner at The Back Porch.  

 The dinner was preceding the reception and awards ceremony for the 2nd Annual Collegiate Invitational Art Exhibition at the Spartanburg County Public Library Headquarters.  That's Katertot, G, The Tavmanian Devil, Andrew, Cessquatch, Jim, Stacy and Sean in the photo.  

 Andrew's a live wire.  And apparently he likes purses.  

 There's Sean with his graphic design entry.

 Danielle with her Honorable Mention winning drawing.

 Seth with his ceramic Raku tiger head sculpture.

 Andrew posing with his graphic design and cool frame.

 Mia, Queen of Sculpture, with her painting.

 ...and Cessquatch with a painting that looks like the face she makes 23 hours a day.

 That's the crew listening to the juror's statement after Danielle and Sammantha Bailey both got Honorable Mention Awards.

This group is interesting to me.  Last year this event became a thing and we met Danielle and Cessquatch for pizza before going to the reception.  None of us can resist doughnuts so we made a quick Krispy Kreme run before heading home.  This year we did the same and even though Cessquatch and Katie were not in the exhibit, they wanted to come support their friends.  Or maybe they just wanted doughnuts.  Perhaps both.

It's great how they all stick together.  In the last 4 years I've taught those 4 students a total of 13 semesters.  And Andrew was still in line buying doughnuts for his wife and kid when I made this photo, so throw him in there too and it's 16 semesters.  They're all talented, smart and funny.  It's going to be tough to see them graduate in two weeks.

And as for the Saturday to-do list, the grass did not get cut.  Maybe next Saturday?

Monday, April 14, 2014

chasing terry bradshaw

My dad was a Steelers fan.  I don't know why he chose to pull for a Pennsylvania based football team but because my dad was a fan, so were his sons.  When I was a kid the Steelers were awesome.  They had the Iron Curtain defense, Mean Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Terry Bradshaw.  Terry Bradshaw was one of my heroes.

This is a Christmas party photo from the 1980s.  That's me on the left and my cousin Jeff on the right, both in our Terry Bradshaw #12 jerseys.  

Since those days, Terry Bradshaw has retired from football and had a pretty good career in sports broadcasting.  I think he still works for Fox Sports.  You may also remember him baring his buttocks in the movie "Failure To Launch".  Well, it seems he also travels around doing some public speaking gigs.  

Last Saturday night he was in Spartanburg as the featured speaker for the Spartanburg Regional Hospital System's Society of 1921.  This is a group of folks who donate money to the hospital foundation.  Each year there's a celebrity guest speaker at the big shindig as a reward for the donors.  When G was offered someone's tickets she knew that I'd be willing to suit up to see Mr. Bradshaw.

So I dug the plain black suit out of storage for the second time in four years.  G got herself all fancied up too.  

After some free food and drinks we sat down and my childhood hero came up on stage.  He was a pretty good speaker.  He was funny and charming and his speech actually made several good points.  Two things he said stuck out in my mind:  always smile and make sure you use your God given talents.  You can't go wrong with that kind of advice.  

On the down side, I was told that in the past the celebrities would mingle and there was a good chance I'd get to meet him.  About 7 years ago I stood in line in a tropical storm to meet Mean Joe Greene.  I really wanted to meet Terry Bradshaw.  

 But alas, that 65 year old quarterback is still faster than me.  When he was finished speaking he hit the door and kept moving.  I flew to the door in hot pursuit but he was nowhere to be found.  I had to settle for a photo opp with his cardboard cut out.