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June 30, 2019

Welcome to the old internet

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Suddenly, it's the late 20th century.

Fair warning: there goes the day along with your bearings.

June 30, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

David Esterly, Master of Wood

Female botanical head  for a private client  inspired by the 16th-century Italian artist Arcimboldo

[above, a female botanical head (2002), for a private client, inspired by the 16th-century Italian artist Arcimboldo]

The nonpareil wood carver died two weeks ago at age 75 at his home in Barneveld, New York, a rural hamlet near Utica.

From his New York Times obituary:

David Esterly's wood carvings were works of art, in the tradition of the 17th-century English master Grinling Gibbons, woodcarver for the English crown.

He was in London in 1974, walking with his girlfriend to meet her parents for the first time, when she steered him into St. James's Church, Piccadilly, to see the intricate wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons, widely considered one of the greatest woodcarvers in history.

Mr. Esterly, an American who had studied at Cambridge University in England and was trying to figure out what to do with his life, had never heard of Gibbons and knew nothing of woodcarving.

But inside the church he was mesmerized by what he saw — a cascading cornucopia of delicate, lifelike blossoms, foliage, and fruit above the altar, all sculpted in wood by Gibbons in the late 1600s.

"I was seduced by the power of the carving and its capacity to convey the beauty of nature," Mr. Esterly told The New York Times in 1998. "It seemed to me beyond belief that a human hand had fashioned those seashell swags, drooping bellflower chains, birds with laurel twigs in their beaks, and dense whorls of acanthus. My fate was sealed."

He decided to learn more about Gibbons, and to do so, he realized, required taking chisels into his own hands.

He taught himself woodcarving, becoming so skillful that when some of Gibbons's 300-year-old carvings were destroyed by fire, Mr. Esterly was summoned to recreate them.

He became not only an expert on Gibbons, but also the maker of sought-after sculptures of his own.

Dr. Compton's Letter Rack  2019  Esterly's last work

[above, "Dr. Compton's Letter Rack," a private commission that was his last work, completed this year]

"There was nobody else in the world who was doing what David was doing at that level," Laura Bennett, director of W.M. Brady and Co., the Manhattan art gallery that represented him, said in a phone interview.

Mr. Esterly's life was shaped by his obsession with Gibbons, master carver to the crown, who was commissioned to work in Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral, among other landmarks.

After Ms. von Bernuth introduced Mr. Esterly to Gibbons's work, she became a cook at a country estate near Eastbourne, on the south coast of England, where a cottage came with the job.

Mr. Esterly spent eight years there teaching himself wood carving before he and Ms. von Bernuth moved to upstate New York.

He then began creating commissioned pieces for collectors.

Detail of above

[Above, a detail from "Dr. Compton's Letter Rack"]

For Mr. Esterly, carving was as much an intellectual exercise as a physical one.

"The wood is teaching you about itself, configuring your mind and muscles to the tasks required of them," he wrote in his book "The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making" (2012). "To carve is to be shaped by the wood even as you're shaping it."

The Times Literary Supplement called the book a meditation on "imitation and illusion, technique and genius, and on the strange physical and mental immersion that enables the transmission of vision from brain to hand, tool to wood."

Mr. Esterly also wrote "Grinling Gibbons and the Art of Carving," published in 1998, the same year he curated a Gibbons exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Carving started for him, as it did for Gibbons, with lime wood, known in America as linden wood, which is pale, pliable, and almost grain free, so much so that it resembles smooth marble.

The tools were chisels and gouges with a variety of blades; Mr. Esterly had 130 such implements on hand at his workbench.

He worked slowly, creating only about 50 pieces in his lifetime.

But as his literary agent, Robin Straus, said by email, he was "equally fluent with words and wood"; besides books, he wrote numerous articles and reviews about art and carving.

[elements to go over a mantel  with a gardening them

[above, elements to go over a mantel, with a gardening theme]

The subjects of his carvings varied. One might be Gibbons-like but with a twist — a spray of delicate roses, but with insect holes in the leaves, or a broken stem; another might be a head covered in elaborately carved vegetation.

After a fire in 1986 at Hampton Court, Henry VIII's palace, Mr. Esterly spent a year creating a replica of a seven-foot-long Gibbons carving that had been destroyed.

"It's not a matter of keeping alive a tradition, or even reviving it," Mr. Esterly told The Times in 1989 as he prepared to go to Hampton Court. "The tradition is dead as a doornail. Nevertheless, I have marinated myself in Gibbons. He has the strength of line and assuredness that, to another carver, are awe-inspiring."

June 30, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

A visual map of sunlight on Earth

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You know those wonderful Geochron clocks (below),

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one of which Reagan gave to Gorbachev at one of their summits?

They were invented in 1965 and they've always been expensive: currently, the entry level version (above) is $1,999,

though they've just introduced a $399 digital version (below)

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you can connect to a 4k monitor or TV.

Now comes sunlight.live with a virtual iteration you can see anywhere on any device.

Lagniappe: free, the way we like it.

Tsilias Paschalis created it and here he tells how it happened.

I bet he'd sell a lot of apps if he priced it at $1.

Note to self: email him (paschalist0@gmail.com). 

June 30, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Big Bear Lake Bald Eagle Nest Cam

I've spent many fascinated hours over the past four days watching the live feed from this camera (above), which appears in full 1080p HD and is starkly beautiful, even more so at night when it records in infrared rendered in crisp black and white.

The nest is that of an adult bald eagle and its chick, now 10 weeks old and on the verge of first flight, which takes place as a rule at 10-12 weeks.

The chick is alone in the nest for the great majority of the day as the adult hunts for food, which has been a fish brought back to the nest every time the quest has been successful.

Every now and then the chick "branches," the term for flapping its wings and hopping up and down on the branches making up the nest in preparation for its first flight, which will consist of a glide down to a lower branch or the ground.

Can't hardly wait!

At night the chick sleeps lying down in a little recess close to the camera, while the adult sleeps standing up, its legs and talons locked on a branch, such that it stays upright indefinitely without conscious effort.

Among the fun eagle facts I've learned while reading about them as I watch and listen is that "eagle eye" is not a figure of speech: an eagle can spot a rabbit running up to three miles away, and can see another eagle in flight up to 50 miles away.

June 30, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

iLEVL

Wide-withwords

And so we finally come to the end of posts featuring the creations of Scott Amron.

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This will do it for a couple years, at which time I'm sure he'll give me a heads-up about his latest and greatest and I in my Pavlovian fashion will begin fashioning a series of posts featuring them.

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But I digress.

From the website:

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$9.95 (iMac not included).

Reader, I bought one.

What, you think he sends stuff to me free in return for my featuring it? Not likely....

I ordered it a couple weeks ago and it hasn't yet arrived, which makes me suspect Scott waits for an order before heading over to his skunkworks to churn one out.

Still not convinced?

Watch the video.

June 30, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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