Friday, April 30, 2010

Feather Art

I love OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting)! Last night, Oregon Art Beat featured the feather art of Deb Otterstein. Yes -- feather art.

Check these out:

Aren't they phenomenal? All painted on turkey feathers. The wood duck shows the artwork displayed in the shadowbox frame -- the completed project.

Ms. Otterstein discussed how she discovered her artistic skill, her unsuccessful efforts to paint landscapes and still lifes -- as she thought she was expected to do. And her love of wildlife/animal art. She also explained the difficulty of painting on such a delicate "canvas."

I've never heard of this before. Her work is lovely. I just had to share it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Brochure is Out!

Today I received the brochure for the 2010 Willamette Writers Conference (August 6-8). The theme for the 41st annual conference is The Future's So Bright, You're Gonna Have To Wear Shades.... The conference staff is thinking positive. The workshops, attending agents and editors, pitch sessions, and manuscript critiques are intended to lift the spirits of the attendees and fill them with renewed enthusiasm.

The "big names" for this year's conference include Robert Dugoni, Hallie Ephron and Chuck Palahniuk.

Robert Dugoni will be the Friday luncheon speaker. He is the bestselling author of The Jury Master, Damage Control, Wrongful Death, and Bodily Harm. He has northwest connections and currently works for a Seattle law firm. His conference topic is Step up. Swing the Bat. Get Published.

Hallie Ephron, member of the ridiculously talented Ephron clan, reviews crime fiction for the Boston Globe and is the author of several suspense novels. She also wrote Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock 'Em Dead with Style. Ms. Ephron will share her mystery writing experience in several workshops during the three-day conference as well as serve as the luncheon speaker on Saturday (What They Don't Tell You Because If They Did, You'd Never Get Started).

Chuck Palahniuk is the author of the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film, as was Choke. His most recent novel is Tell-All. Damned will be published in 2011. He is a native and resident of the Pacific Northwest and has a cult following of sorts for his edgy fiction. Fittingly enough, his keynote address at the Saturday banquet will be Write to Wreck Your Life (and Get a Better One).

The conference offers several workshop tracks: General Fiction, Genres, Nonfiction, Children's/YA, and Film. The workshops are aimed at all levels of writers, from beginner to advanced.

This year I see there are several workshops addressing corporate writing that will help attendees write their way out of the recession as copywriters and freelancers.

The Sheraton Airport Hotel in Portland hosts the conference and the staff does a phenomenal job. The conference's Saturday mid-day meal is the largest luncheon the hotel serves all year. Access is easy off I-205.

Willamette Writers is the largest writers' organization in Oregon and one of the largest in the United States. It has nearly 1,600 members with chapters in Eugene, Medford, Newport, and Salem. The monthly meetings in Portland host concurrent sessions for Young Willamette Writers. The chapters also conduct informative monthly meetings.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Stills: Barns

This week's challenge should have been easy -- no shortage of barns in the Willamette Valley. However, there aren't many spots where I could safely pull over on my travels to take photos. Then there's the whole trespassing issue. :-)

So I did a "barn study" at CEC. Beginning with the original little barn (an open mule barn at the time of purchase), the arena barn in the background, and Phantom obligingly grazing within frame:
Top half of an old "Dutch door" now sealed shut:
Speaks for itself, the barn door left open:
Once the outer wall of the little barn, now the blanket wall:
Gotta have hay storage:
And stall shavings:
Old meets new in the little barn:
From the Archives
One of my favorites, the rusty roof of an old barn with Mt. Hood in the background:
And the "high end" arena barn at one of the region's premiere dressage facilities:
To see how others met the challenge, visit Sunday Stills.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bad News, Good News

The bad news for animal lovers was the Supreme Court's decision that a federal ban on the sale and distribution of videos depicting animal cruelty was unconstitutional.

Supreme Court rejects law banning animal-cruelty videos

By The Associated Press

April 20, 2010, 3:40PM
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court, with only one dissenting vote, on Tuesday struck down a federal ban on videos that show graphic violence against animals. The ruling cheered free speech advocates, but it raised concerns that more animals will be harmed.

The justices threw out the criminal conviction of Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Va., who was sentenced to three years in prison for videos he made about pit bull fights.

The law was enacted in 1999 to limit Internet sales of so-called crush videos, which appeal to a certain sexual fetish by showing women crushing to death small animals with their bare feet or high-heeled shoes.

The videos virtually disappeared once the measure became law, the government argued. The Bush administration used the law for the first time when it indicted Stevens in 2004.

All 50 states have laws against animal cruelty, but the federal statute targeted the videos because it has been difficult to prosecute people who take part in violence against animals with a camera rolling, but not showing their faces.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the law goes too far. He suggested that a measure limited to crush videos might be valid.

A lawmaker said he was moving immediately on Roberts' suggestion. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., said he is introducing legislation as early as Tuesday that would focus narrowly on crush videos. He said the bill would have bipartisan support and noted that the 1999 law passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly and quickly worked.

"There aren't too many thing you pass around here that actually work as well as this has," Gallegly said.

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito, a dog owner himself, said the harm animals suffer in dogfights is enough to sustain the law. Alito's dog, Zeus, a springer spaniel, is sometimes seen around the court being walked by Alito's wife, Martha-Ann.

Alito also said the ruling probably will spur new crush videos because it has "the practical effect of legalizing the sale of such videos."

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said hundreds of crush videos appeared on the Internet after a federal appeals court ruled in Stevens' favor in 2008. "This court ruling is going to accelerate that trend. That's why it's critical that the Congress take action," he said.

Other animal rights groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and 26 states also joined the Obama administration in support of the law. The government sought a ruling that treated videos showing animal cruelty like child pornography -- that is, not entitled to constitutional protection.

But Roberts said the law could be read to allow the prosecution of the producers of films about hunting. And he scoffed at the administration's assurances that it would only apply the law to depictions of extreme cruelty.

"But the First Amendment protects against the government," Roberts said. "We would not uphold an unconstitutional statute merely because the government promised to use it responsibly."

Free speech advocates praised Tuesday's ruling.

"Speech is protected whether it's popular or unpopular, harmful or unharmful," said David Horowitz, executive director of the Media Coalition. The group submitted a brief siding with Stevens on behalf of booksellers, documentary film makers, theater owners, writers groups and others.

Stevens ran a business and Web site that sold videos of pit bull fights. He is among a handful of people prosecuted under the animal cruelty law, none of them for making crush videos. He noted in court papers that his sentence was 14 months longer than professional football player Michael Vick's prison term for running a dogfighting ring.

A federal judge rejected Stevens' First Amendment claims, but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled in his favor.

The administration persuaded the high court to intervene, but for the second time this year, the justices struck down a federal law on free speech grounds. In January, the court invalidated parts of a 63-year-old law aimed at limiting corporate and union involvement in political campaigns.

The case is U.S. v. Stevens, 08-769.

--The Associated Press

The good news is, there is an opportunity to amend the law to meet the desired results while remaining constitutional.

Having worked with state statutes and administrative rules, I am very aware that we have to work with the laws as written. This means there may be loopholes that allow activities the statute or rule was meant to prevent or control. It also means the inadvertent restriction of activities that should be allowed. In other words, humans draft the laws and humans make mistakes.

I know that statutes and rules can be written to specifically list actions and activities that are covered by the law. And there is the always useful "...including but not limited to...." that lists specifics, provides an example of the type of actions the law is directed toward, and covers activities inadvertently left out or created after the fact.

I'm saddened that the existing law was knocked down. I am heartened that it can be amended or a new law written to meet the Supreme Court's test. There are numerous organizations that will work hard to see this accomplished (like the Humane Society of the U.S.).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Northwest Author Series

Romance 101: Tools of a Steamy Trade
This month's workshop was presented by Deborah Schneider, Seattle librarian and author.

I don't read or write romances. But these workshops usually provide general writing information in addition to advice regarding a specific genre. Such was the case with Ms. Schneider.

Developing the Story Idea: The Blurb

Know your "hook" or high concept for the story (Wagon Train in space, aka Star Trek). Know your main characters, what do they want and why can't they have it? What motivates your characters, and how does this lead to conflict/problems? What is the first "entry point" of the story -- the point of no return? What is your story question?

When you have the answers, develop your "elevator speech" to describe your story. This is a very brief description that will immediately hook the listener -- the hapless literary agent, book editor, or Steven Spielberg (you wish!) trapped in the elevator with you.

From the elevator speech you write a Short Synopsis of 40 words that you will use in your Query Letter to agents and editors. The Short Synopsis leads into the Synopsis (that you hope the agent or editor will request).

And all of these descriptions of your story lead to the back cover copy that will capture the interest of potential readers and send them to the first chapter and, we only hope, the cash register.

The Elements of Writing

* Characters
* Setting
* Problem/Situation
* Action/Plot
* Crisis
* Resolution/Solve Problems
* Physical/Emotional Ending (HEA = happily ever after)

In developing the Plot, Ms Schneider suggests listing 20 events that could happen to your characters, including the Point of No Return. You may not use all of these events in your story, but the exercise will give you ideas to be mean to your protagonist. :-)

Ms Schneider describes the Crisis as the "death" of the world as the protagonist knows it. Her or his world is knocked off its axis.

With regard to Setting, Ms. Schneider suggests writers consider why the story needs to occur in the setting selected, and what the setting contributes to the story.

Story Structure

Archetypal three act structure: Beginning, Middle, and End.

The Beginning introduces the characters, setting, and the problem/situation. Warning: Don't do an information dump on the opening pages!

The Middle is where things keep getting worse for your protagonist.

Know the Ending of your story. Everything you write leads to the Big Moment.


The heroine and hero must be sympathetic. Know their internal conflicts -- the hole in their lives that they want to fill. They are good people, smart, and in trouble of some kind. And things keep getting worse.

As for the antagonist, he or she must be an Alpha Baddie. Know the reason for her or his evil attitude.

As I said, I don't read or write romances, but I got a kick out of Ms Schneider's summary of the men and women of romance. Women = Virgins, Widows, Skanks, and Bitches. Men = Dukes, Rakes, Vampires, and Bastards.

Publishing Today

Traditional publishers are being pinched by the recession, too. The print runs are smaller, and retailers are reducing the time that books are on the shelves. Ms. Schneider has observed that publishers seem to be cutting their "mid list" authors. Advances are smaller, and it's taking longer to pay those advances and royalties.

E-books appear to be the future of publishing. Traditional books won't be going the way of the dinosaur any time soon, but typical print runs may be changing. Print-on-demand and digital formats are on the rise. Ms. Schneider indicated book formats may be evolving, but novels are still comprised of interesting characters and compelling stories.

Beginning writers may have more success by approaching small presses and e-book publishers. If you don't already have a web site and blog, get started. At the least, buy your domain name.

She suggests joining Publishers Lunch for free to follow the latest book sales and publishing gossip. Ms. Schneider advises aspiring authors to know your genre and become familiar with the market (who's buying, what and why they're buying). Don't write to the market. Write your story. When you're ready to pitch your novel, upgrade to the paid membership of Publishers Lunch to access more detailed information about editors and agents.

In the brief time allowed, Ms. Schneider did a good job of discussing the basics of writing and getting published, plus the many sub-genres within romance.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Stills: Potluck

This week Ed left us to our own devices. With no particular theme we were free to photograph whatever caught our fancy.

So where else to I take my camera but the barn!!

This bridle caught my eye so I took several views. In this one I like the leather, silver, and rope textures.

I applied a sepia finish to this picture of the brow band to give it an old west flavor.

I thought the blanket wall was more interesting in black & white. All are a bit "tired" after the winter months and soon to be taken down, cleaned, and packed away for the summer.

This was a lucky shot. I came out of the tack room after taking pictures of the bridle and found one of the barn kitties lounging about. He was particularly interested in Indy -- thus the alert, wide-eyed expression. Back lit from the barn door.

See how others responded to Ed's challenge at Sunday Stills.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Assembly Required

All I wanted was a simple, inexpensive laptop table (or cart). So I stopped at the local Office Depot and found this:
It was pretty much what I had in mind and the price was within the range I was willing to pay. I've assembled numerous bookcases, my giant computer desk, plus its matching lateral file. The little cart should be a snap.

So I open the carton, check that all the bits and pieces are present, scan the directions, and dive in. The base went together swimmingly. Then it came time to attach the top. You will note a slight problem with the alignment:

I went back and forth with the directions. Switched the two pieces of the top, which didn't work. Went back to the arrangement specified in the directions. Still couldn't reconcile the slot and hole through which the screw was to affix the brace to the table top.

So I took the table back to Office Depot today. The cashier heard "laptop" and called forth assistance. All were surprised when I brought forth a laptop table instead of a computer. The "guys" advised me that I had the two pieces of the table top backwards. All I had to do was switch them and the braces would fit the pre-drilled holes. I told the "guys" that I had flipped things around every which way and it just didn't line up. But I took it home and tried it again.

Fortunately, I live within spitting distance of Office Depot because the "guys" recommendation did not match with the instructions, nor did the holes line up as I'd told them I had already attempted. So I returned and exchanged my defective laptop table for one of the two remaining in the store.

This time I skipped the first steps of assembling the base and went right to the braces and table top. And look what I got:
Yep. Same problem!!

Sooooo...back it will go to Office Depot. Other than the fact that the "guys" didn't know what they were talking about -- Office Depot was very good about accepting the defective table and replacing it. However, it would seem that someone in Taiwan or wherever has dyslexia when it comes to soldering.

Amazing. All the many pieces of my huge office desk were aligned but this simple little table won't go together. :-P

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Aloha from Forest Grove!

Na Haumana O Hawaii, Pacific's Hawaiian club, celebrated its 50th year with a luau and show featuring the songs and dances of Hawaii and the Pacific islands. I was invited to join the celebration by my First Reader and a junior at Pacific, Emily, and her mother and my friend, Karen. Emily's twin, Steven, was briefly present but departed to pursue his own activities.

We caught up on news, shared some girl talk, and enjoyed a dinner of kalua pig, long rice, teriyaki chicken, haupia, coconut cake, and luau punch. We strolled around campus and explored a few blocks of Forest Grove, contracted sore butts on the bleachers, and stressed out during the Siva Afi fire dance.

The students from Hawaii make up twenty-five percent of the Pacific undergraduates. Because Hawaii is such a melting pot of cultures, the Hawaiian students provide diversity and a sunny spirit to a college campus. Not to mention the yummiest "care packages" from home!!

Having attended a small liberal arts college, I enjoyed visiting the Pacific campus. Makes me want to visit my own alma mater (Linfield College), which has practically doubled in size.

Great company, good food, and a fun show made for a fabulous Saturday.

Sunday Stills: Hands

Once again I wondered how I would meet Ed's latest photography challenge. Then I concluded I would photograph the hands that raised and nurtured me.

My mother always had lovely, slender fingers. Arthritis has taken its toll, but it hasn't kept her away from the sewing machine.
My mother began sewing when she was around 11. Like most girls, she started with doll clothes. She evolved into a textiles artist -- sewing all of her own clothing, including tailoring suits and coats. She sewed my school clothes, fulfilling my desires and whimsies -- even if it meant combining two or more patterns to create the style envisioned.
She still sews for me. The white eyelet lace she is working with will become a "jean jacket" style summer-weight jacket. Sewn with love.

My father passed away in 2001 so I couldn't photograph his hands. I did the next best thing and snapped pictures of hands he painted.
My father always had a talent for drawing. He learned to play the trombone while in high school and eventually became a professional musician like his father (my grandfather). He was a member of a popular local big band before World War II, and fought in the Pacific Theater with the Forty-First Infantry Division Bands (they carried rifles and made landings between USO shows). After the war my father went to college on the GI Bill and got a degree in Commercial Art. He married, got a "regular job," played music jobs in the evenings and weekends, and even continued to paint and draw.
These two paintings are from a series he did (in gouache, I believe) where he timed himself. They are deliberately painterly, based from photographs from a "coffee table book" history of jazz. As a musician and particularly talented jazz trombonist, I think he had a special feel for the subject.

To see how others met the challenge, visit Sunday Stills.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tall Tail

Phantom apparently managed to rid himself of his tail bag over the weekend. Since his tail is long and thick (I'm not complaining!), I braid it over the winter so it won't get quite so muddy and tangled. More recently I've been stuffing it into a Lycra tail bag to keep it clean. So far so good -- with the unintended result that his tail gets longer over the winter (see the results of last winter above).

We've been having blustery weather of late with horizontal rain and hail storms between glimpses of blue sky. Rattling and banging doors aren't conducive to a relaxed ride in the covered arena. So Friday was a "barber shop" day. I brushed out Phantom's forelock, mane, and tail and re-braided and banded them. His tail was so long that he actually stepped on it! Not my goal -- since I've witnessed horses (specifically Arabians) back up onto their tails in reining classes and just about pull themselves over backwards!

Anyway, when I collected Phantom today his tail was unbagged and the tip was damp and coated with mud. Yuk. I could have sworn I put it in the tail bag on Friday. I didn't see any signs of the tail bag in the little barn (brain fart: leave it out instead of applying it to the horse). So him or me -- somehow the tail bag is missing.

My first mistake was buying a basic black tail bag. It matches everything -- including the mud. Today was not the day to explore the turnout for the remnants of the tail bag. It's likely lost forever, orbiting Saturn with all those mismatched socks that mysteriously disappear from driers.

Knowing full well it was useless, I knotted Phantom's braided tail before turning him out today. Then I made a detour to Wilco to buy wormer and a new tail bag. I liked the black bag with red and orange flames, but it cost too much to lose in the turnout. I bypassed the hot pink one (sure he's gelded, but he's got some male pride). Instead I settled on the lime green one! It doesn't match a darned thing. It will get wet and muddy. But dang it, the shreds should be visible in Phantom's turnout if he manages to shimmy out of it!

Come summer, Phantom will get his full length of unbraided tail back to swish all he wants. I'm counting on losing an inch or two of length from repeated use.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Saving Horses

The April issue of Flying Changes (my favorite regional sporthorse magazine) has two great articles about second careers for race horses and a Washington rescue organization. Editor Lauren Davis Baker will have the new issue posted on the website by April 10th.

In the meantime, check out Hidden Fox Farms where Katie Bornholdt-Peery tries to connect off-the-track-thoroughbreds with new owners. Having spent some time in the hunter/jumper world and on the fringes of the eventing world, I know that thoroughbreds are an ideal breed for these activities. At that time in my riding career, a pair of my fellow boarders bought project horses off the track for hunter training and resale. We used to joke that they could only canter in one direction (counter-clockwise), but all of the recycled race horses adapted well to their new lifestyles and went on to new homes.

Fortunately, there are several horse rescue operations in the Pacific Northwest. They range from individual efforts to nonprofit organizations. The April issue of Flying Changes features SAFE (Save a Forgotten Equine) in the Monroe, Washington, area. SAFE has 501(c)3 status, so donations are tax deductible.

By the way -- the cover of Flying Changes always features amazing photography or artwork by regional artists. For anyone moving into Oregon or Washington, it has one of the most comprehensive service directories for sport horse enthusiasts.