Sunday, May 28, 2023

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 267 (Santa Rosa)

A collage from last autumn. This is Untitled Collage No. 267 (Santa Rosa). Completed September 8, 2022. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 22.8 x 15.1cm (9.0 x 5.9in). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

This was done as an experiment in reproducing an existing work (which I never do). One of my regular customers wanted to buy a piece that had already been sold and asked me to reproduce it (the second piece shown here). I didn't like the idea and to reproduce it exactly would have been impossible; all my collage work is unique, made from one-of-a-kind pieces of hand-printed papers, but I thought it might be interesting to use the basic composition as a springboard for something new. It's different, but I liked it well enough to keep it (in the end, my customer bought another piece altogether). This collage draws on the same compositional "bones," so to speak, as the first one (from April 2018). I've even toyed with the idea of doing an entire series of collages based on a single, underlying composition. We'll see....

Click on the images for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collages, visit my website at: 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Miscellaneous: A Little Garden Project

A little garden project:
I wanted to hide the air conditioner units behind the house from view, so I built a frame to surround them on three sides and added reed fencing. A modest improvement. It will look better when the new wood has weathered a little. Before and after photos.


Miscellaneous: Martin Amis

I was sorry to hear that Martin Amis died last week. He was only 73. He was one of my favorite modern authors. I especially enjoyed Money and Dead Babies. Strewn with flawed, tragic characters, the latter struck me as having an almost Shakespearean depth. RIP.

Plants I'm Growing: Peonies

Peonies and German irises were the centerpiece of my grandmother's garden in Dayton, Ohio – a garden that later, when I lived in the house, I was mostly responsible for taking care of. I've always associated these two flowers with her. When I moved to California (from Tokyo) 22 years ago now, I planted both. The irises do fine here, but peonies need a colder winter than we usually have in Santa Rosa. While the clump of peonies I put in always comes up in the spring, never has even a single bud appeared – until this year. Winter weather this year was cold enough for long enough that the peonies bloomed for the first time, after about 15 years. Four large, pink blossoms. 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Music I'm Listening To: Bruce Liu with the San Francisco Symphony

I attended the Friday, May 11 San Francisco Symphony Concert at Davies Symphony Hall. It was supposed to have featured Hilary Hahn playing the Brahms Violin Concerto, with guest conductor Rafael Payare, but Hahn canceled her appearances for an unspecified illness. While I hope she is OK and I wish her a speedy and complete recovery, it was a great disappointment. I heard her recently in recital (in March), but it's been many years since I've had the chance to hear her with a full orchestra. I was very much looking forward to the Brahms. 

Having said that, with only one exception in going on 15 years of attending SFS concerts, I've never been disappointed by artists unknown to me that they've brought in. Pianist Bruce Liu, who in 2021 won the 18th Chopin International Piano Competition, replaced Hahn, performing the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3. I had never heard of Liu, who now records with Deutsche Grammophon, or the guest conductor, Rafael Payare, but I enjoyed the concert, which opened with William Grant Still's Darker America, before the Beethoven. Intermission was followed by Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. Liu followed the concerto with a jazzy set of variations on Für Elise that had the audience giggling. He received a prolonged standing ovation. 

The conductor was a lot of fun to watch. Tall, thin, and with a great mop of hair that made him look a little top-heavy, he is about the most athletic conductor I've ever seen. He was virtually dancing on the podium. Despite all the activity, at times he would stand quite still, with his feet pressed together, stretched to his full height, gesturing grandly, letting only his upper body move, which made him look rather like one of those tubular plastic advertising figures animated from below by blasts of air that seem to live mostly on used car lots. By dwelling on his antics I don't mean to disparage his conducting. He got a very expressive, full-throated version of Heldenleben from the always-reliable SFS musicians. Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik was featured on the violin in the Strauss.  

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 266 (Santa Rosa)

A fairly recent collage. This is Untitled Collage No. 266 (Santa Rosa), done last summer (August 24, 2022). Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size 30.0 x 41.4cm (12.0 x 15.8 inches). Matted to 20 x 24 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collage work, visit my website at

Monday, May 8, 2023

Rain: The last of the season?

Since last reporting (but mostly on May 6) we have had yet more rain. Another 1.15 inches has accumulated in the rain gauge since then, but solid rain as late as May is fairly unusual for us and forecasts suggest the rain is mostly behind us for this rain year. That brings our total to 44.70 inches at my location in northeast Santa Rosa, which is substantially above the historical average of about 36 inches in Santa Rosa. I'm hoping the garden will need less supplemental watering than it often does and I expect to be able to completely dry farm the vineyard this year. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Miscellaneous: Subtitles for a Documentary

I'd forgotten about this, but came across it again recently. In 2016, I did a small job writing the English subtitles for a short, six-minute documentary about a man in Tokyo who has been selling fish for 50 years. It's well worth watching again.  

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Music I'm Listening to: Joshua Bell with the San Francisco Symphony

I attended the Friday, April 28 San Francisco Symphony concert at Davies Symphony Hall. Featured was Joshua Bell performing the Sibelius violin concerto. On the whole, I've never been a particular fan of Bell's recordings (with the exception of his recording of Corigliano's 'The Red Violin Concerto'; he tends to pick more overtly romantic music than I like and he can sometimes use a bit more vibrato than I care for), but I've heard him live now four times in San Francisco, once with him leading the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and three times as a soloist, and I've been impressed every time. He made the very challenging Sibelius concerto seem effortless and clearly the guest conductor, Dalia Stasevska (currently chief conductor of Lahti Symphony Orchestra) really understands Sibelius.

The program began with a short, relentlessly dynamic composition by Anna Meredith called 'Nautilus' originally written as a piece of electronic music (here transcribed for orchestra), and finished, after the violin concerto and intermission, with Sibelius's 'Symphony No. 2'. After the concerto, Bell played a duet for two violins by Shostakovich, joined by the evening's concertmaster, Wyatt Underhill, as an encore. It was a very full house – the fullest I've seen at Davies Symphony Hall since the pandemic. Both the Sibelius pieces received unreserved, much deserved, standing ovations.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Serendipitous Art: Overlapping Shadows

I saw these overlapping shadows on a gallery wall recently. Unintended art amidst all the intended art. Serendipitous art. 

For more, see my Serendipitous Art website at:

Monday, April 3, 2023

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 263 (Santa Rosa)

The first collage I did last summer after returning to Santa Rosa from my studio-sitting stay in Benicia in June and July. It's a fairly large piece, for me, at more than 12 x 16 inches. This is Untitled Collage No. 263 (Santa Rosa). Acrilic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 32.1 x 41.4cm (12.6 x 16.3in). Matted to 20 x 24 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse. 

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collages, see my website at

Rain: Mostly over for this season?

It looks like we're finally going to get some warmer, drier weather. While everyone here is grateful for the rain we've had, most people I are looking forward to some sunshine, warmer temperatures, spring flowers, and lower heating bills. Since last reporting, we've had another 1.8 inches of new rain. While it looks like there is some chance of showers again at the end of this week, the forecast is now for temperatures fairly consistently in the 60s in Santa Rosa and even up into the 70s finally. In most years, we're already nearing the peak or even the end of the spring explosion of flowers at this time of year. It's been too cold for that so far, but things are beginning to wake up, slowly. The most recent rain brings our total for the current rain year to 43.55 inches--above the historical average of about 36 inches and well above what's been normal the last few years (often below thirty inches).

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 262 (Benicia)

I spent the entire months of June and July 2022 studio-sitting at the home of a friend in Benicia, California. That allowed me a great deal of freedom from distractions in a space ideally suited to getting work done. During my eight-week stay, I completed 13 new collages. This is the last of those. Untitled Collage No. 262 (Benicia), July 28, 2022. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 30.4 x 39.9cm (12.0 x 15.7 inches). Matted to 20 x 24 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse. 

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collages, visit my website at

Books I'm reading: History of the Violin

I recently read this 2006 Dover reprint of a book by William Sandys and Simon Andrew Forster originally published in 1864 about the history of the violin and other stringed instruments. It was not exactly what I was expecting. While it covers early precursors of the violin, it does so in a rather haphazard way and there are so many overlapping terms for the earliest instruments that I was not left knowing a great deal more than I already knew. In addition, the book frequently gets bogged down in lists of instruments made by individual luthiers or genealogies of families of luthiers, some of which I skipped through. No attempt is made to define technical terms used and the text is liberally seasoned with Latin and French quotes with no translations.

While the book discusses the famous Amati, Stradivarius, Guarneri, and Stainer families, it also devotes a great deal of time to recent (at the time of writing – that is, 150 years ago) families of violin makers with a special emphasis on English violin makers. These last are hard to keep straight because of the English habit of naming everyone James, Thomas, John, or Charles, sometimes for multiple generations. I came out of my reading more confused than anything. That said, there was enough of interest between the covers that I DID actually finish the book, my skipping of lists here and there not withstanding. Interesting, but I think most modern readers would expect a more organized and objective treatment of the subject than the title suggests.

Rain: It just keeps coming....

Since last reporting, we've had another 2.75 inches of new rain. Our total as of the afternoon of March 21 stands at 40.85 inches at my location in northeast Santa Rosa, which is well above the historical annual average for the city of about 36 inches. I suspect we've had most of the rain we're going to get this season now, but it's still drizzling out there and is a chance of rain forecast for early next week.

[It rained the night of the 21st again, adding an additional 0.90 inches, bringing the total at my location to 41.75 inches as of the evening of March 22.]

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 261 (Benicia)

Still posting work that I did during my summer sojourn last year in Benicia, CA.
This is Untitled Collage No. 261 (Benicia). July 25, 2022. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image sie: 17.6 x 17.4cm (6.9 x 6.8 inches). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Singed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.
Click on the image for a larger view. 
For more of my abstract monotype collages, see my website at:


Monday, March 13, 2023

Music I'm Listening to: Hilary Hahn in recital, San Francisco

I attended what was nominally a San Francisco Symphony concert at Davies Symphony Hall last night, March 12 (which happened to be my birthday). The SFS is actually on tour in Europe at the moment. The concert last night was Hilary Hahn in recital – Hahn alone on the stage usually filled with musicians, dressed in a beautiful dark grey and Prussian blue dress adorned with sparkly silver sequins. 

She played one of the Bach sonatas for solo violin and two of the partitas – and played them very beautifully indeed (Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001; Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002; and, after intermission, Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004). They say muscle memory takes over, but I'm always astounded by the feats of memory playing pieces like this without a score involves. It was mesmerizing. The audience was very appreciative and coaxed her into an encore which she introduced by saying "I think I've got one more in me...." It was a movement from one of the other Bach solo violin pieces.

Berenice Bing, A Lady and a Roadmap, Oil on Canvas, 1962
Earlier in the day I had been to the Asian Art Museum to see a show of newly acquired works by Chinese-American artist Berenice Bing, an artist I became aware of only recently (some of her work was included in the show of paintings by female abstract expressionist painters at Modern Art West last September, in Sonoma). I hadn't realized that she worked with people like Diebenkorn and Lobdell, among others. 

Berenice Bing, Lotus Goddess
watercolor and mixed media on paper, 1986-1988
There was also an interesting show of prints by Yoshida Hodaka. I've long been familiar with Hodaka, but it seems his entire family – his mother, his wife, and others – were artists. The show included prints by all of them. 

As it was my birthday, I indulged in oysters and sparkling wine at dinner afterwards. A much better day than my birthday last year which was spent dealing with the death of one of our cats at the hand (paw?) of some kind of predator in the middle of the night. 

Yosshida Hodaka, Red Wall B, photo etching
and woodblock print, 1995

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Serendipitous Art: Telecom Switchbox

Here and there around town there are large metal boxes full of switches and circuits and connectors that seem to belong to AT&T or our local internet service provider (probably used by both). They are usually painted a pale green that oxidizes easily. Often tagged with graffiti, they are frequently painted over in interesting ways. Sometimes people just touch them in ways that create interesting patterns. I saw this one yesterday. Serendipitous art. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Books I'm Reading: The House on the Strand; Light Years

I haven't been reading lately as much as I customarily do. Too many distractions, I suppose. I've been much more deeply engaged in listening to music recently. It could be that – although the two aren't necessarily incompatible. 

My mother died in January. In the last ten days or so of her life I spent a lot of time in the hospital at her bedside. I brought a couple of books with me, picking up whatever was to hand. I'm not sure why, but I chose a copy of Daphne Du Maurier's classic The House on the Strand (a 1974 University of Pennsylvania Press paperback edition) that was on one of my bookshelves (as it happens, a copy my father left behind at the time of his death). I first read The House on the Strand in high school when I was going through a phase of reading a great deal of fiction by English writers, many of whom were suggested by my grandmother and my mother (school teachers both, my grandmother a teacher of English literature in high school; I read a great deal of Thomas Hardy at the time), so it is was perhaps an appropriate choice. 

I didn't remember much about the book, but it's held up pretty well, I'd say. Although a certain suspension of disbelief is required to accept the idea of a potion that transports people back in time, the transitions are written rather deftly and I enjoyed reading it again. The only Thomas Hardy novel I've re-approached as an adult is Return of the Native, which seemed rather naïve to me on re-reading. I recently re-read Moby Dick, which I enjoyed as much the second time around as the first. 

The other book I read during my mother's final days was Light Years (Icon Books, 2015), by Brian Clegg. I have a habit of subjecting myself from time to time to books about physics in the hope of better understanding some of the great peculiarities of the quantum world, but there always comes a point at which the mind boggles and I'm left feeling worn out and confused and like I've made no progress. Still, I like to keep trying. This was among the easier such books I've read, though, because it was essentially a survey of the history of human thinking about light and it was only at the very end of the book that the ideas became challenging. It was engagingly written and worth the time, I thought. It was at the very least a useful distraction. So far, these are the only books I've read in 2023. I will try to do better in the coming months....

Friday, February 24, 2023

Rain: More rain

We've had another 2.5 inches of new precipitation at my location since last reporting, most of it in a deluge on the very cold night of February 23. That brings our total to 29.65 inches. More rain is in the forecast. 

[As of 1 March, we've had an additional 2.15 inches of new rain. That brings our total so far this rain year to 31.80 inches. As average annual rainfall is about 36 inches in Santa Rosa historically, this is shaping up to be at least an average year, but I suspect we'll go above the average as more rain is forecast in the coming 10 days.]

[Since last reporting, we had another 3.05 inches of rain and then again last night (March 9) we had an additional 2.05 inches. That brings our total now to 36.90 inches, which is very close to the historical average. Between March 9 and March 12 we had more rain, but I lost track of what was in the rain gauge, so now I'm unsure of the total. I emptied out 3.25 inches on the morning of March 13, but I think 2.05 inches of that was already recorded, so I'm guessing we had an additional 1.2 inches, so I'm going to assume the total is now 38.10 inches. More rain is forecast for tonight and into tomorrow.... People are starting to get a little tired of all the rain, but the more we get, the better off we'll be in the long run.] 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 260 (Benicia)

A fairly recent collage, produced during my summer stay in Benicia, CA. This is Untitled Collage No. 260 (Benicia). Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 19.8 x 10.9cm (7.8 x 4.3 inches). Matted to 14 x 11 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collage work, see my website at

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Music I'm Listening to: James Ehnes with the San Francisco Symphony

I attended the January 13 San Francisco Symphony concert at Davies Symphony Hall. On the program were a new piece called Moondog by composer Elizabeth Ogonek, which introduced the piece from the stage. This was the world premiere. That was followed by Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 and, after intermission, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, OP. 17. James Ehnes was the soloist in the concerto. Elim Chan led the orchestra. 

I had never heard of Hong Kong native Chan – a tiny woman brimming over with energy – but she studied with the likes of Valery Gergiev and Bernard Haitink, according to the program. Overall, I very much liked her interpretations, which struck me as disciplined and precise, but fluid and musical at the same time. Ehnes offered a solid, if not exciting, rendition of the Prokofiev. He pleased the audience with two encores, the first one of the Paganini caprices, the second a movement from one of the Bach solo sonatas for violin. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Barbara L. Talcroft

Barbara L. Talcroft (1930-2023). My mother, Barbara, died last week at the age of 92 after a short bout of pneumonia, a complication from a mild stroke she suffered about two weeks before her death. She had been living with me since May of 2021 when it became apparent after a fall and brief hospitalization that she would likely have trouble on her own. She lived independently in Sebastopol, CA, about 10 miles west of Santa Rosa, until that time. In the end, it was good that she was with us for the last 17 months of her life. 
 My mother hated to be photographed. As a result, we have few recent photographs of her. The most recent still image of her I have at hand is from 2000, shortly after my son was born. Here are a few early photos, including one of her in 1935, as a young girl; her high school graduation photo (she graduated from Fairview High School in Dayton, Ohio, in 1948); a photo of her at college at Carnegie Tech (today Carnegie Mellon), where she graduated at the top of her class, in 1952; and a moody shot of her later, when she had moved to New York, dated August 1956. After getting her BFA from Carnegie Tech, she went on to to earn two master's degrees. Her second master's thesis, on the English novelist  Rosemary Sutcliff, was so well written it was published as a book, 'Death of the Corn King'.

When I have the time, I hope to write a proper appreciation of her life.


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Rain: Atmospheric rivers, December 2022-January 2023

It's been raining off and on, sometimes quite heavily, for the last 24 hours, starting on the day after Christmas. I was surprised and pleased to find 2.8 inches in the rain gauge on the morning of the 27th. Rain is forecast for much of the coming week. Good news. 

[Today, on the morning of December 30, I found 3.85 inches in the rain gauge, which means we've had an additional 1.05 inches since I reported above. That brings our total for the current rain year to 12.2 inches. It's raining again today and rain is in the forecast for almost the entire coming week. Stay tuned.]

[Since writing the above update, another 2.1 inches has accumulated, bringing our total as of the afternoon of January 3 to 14.3 inches. The real storm is supposed to hit tomorrow. As much as five inches of rain is predicted in some parts of the San Francisco Bay area. More to come....]

[More rain. As of the afternoon of January 6, we have had another 3.05 inches of new precipitation. That brings our total so far to 17.35 inches at my location in northeast Santa Rosa, leaving us now ahead of normal for this date (which is a little over 13 inches). There is rain in the forecast for the next nine days.]

[It just keeps coming.  There was 4.15 inches of new rain in the rain gauge this morning (January 10), bringing the total to 21.50 inches--and it's still raining]

[Yet another update: Since last reporting, we've had another 3.15 inches of new rain at my location. That brings our total to 24.65 inches. More rain is forecast, too.]

[One more. Since the above, we have had another 1.20 inches of new precipitation, bringing our total to 25.85 inches. It's supposed to rain again tomorrow before we get a spell of dry weather.]

[Toward the end of January we had rain off and on again that added 1.30 inches of precipitation at my location, bring the total as of February 12 to 27.15 inches.]

Food I'm Eating: Olives 2022

Olives are on my mind. This year I was able to procure some good fresh olives from a friend. They've been in brine now for about three weeks (the brine changed out once a week) and will probably require another month or so before I'll start adjusting the final salinity and adding some flavorings. I like to finish them off by adding a little vinegar, a little lemon juice, rosemary, and crushed garlic cloves.

If they turn out this year, they should be tasty. Over the years of occasional olive brining I've had some go bad before they were finished, but this batch seems to be making good progress. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 258 (Benicia)

A very landscape-y image, this one. Not intentional, but it's hard not to see it as a landscape. It's also a very simple piece. My most complex collages can have as many as thirty or so separate paper elements (although 8-12 seems to be about average), but this one has only three, including the fragment contributed by artist Carl Heyward (the strip at top). This piece recently was exhibited in the juried 18th Annual Wabi Sabi show at the O'hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley, CA.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collage work, see my website at

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Miscellaneous: So what's wrong with idle curiosity?

I was just wondering: What's wrong with idle curiosity anyway?

People are always apologizing for it—at least in old movies. How many times have you heard a bit of dialogue along the lines of "Not just idle curiosity, I assure you!" after someone asks a question?

Monday, December 12, 2022

At I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 257 (Benicia)

Here's a fairly recent collage
– another one done during my summer stay in Benicia, California. This is Untitled Collage No. 257 (Benicia). July 2, 2022. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 11.7 x 12.9cm (4.6 x 5.1in). Matted to 11 x 14 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collage, visit my website at:

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Rain: Almost two inches in the past week

We've had rain on and off in the past week, including a heavy downpour early on the morning of December 4 (this morning). This morning there was 1.9 inches in the rain gauge. That's in addition to a little over two inches earlier in the current rain year, which brings our total to just about four inches. 

[More rain overnight and into the morning of December 5 added another 0.65 inches, bringing the total to 4.65 inches.]

[Rain again into the morning of December 6 has added another 0.80 inches, bringing the total at my location now to 5.45 inches.]

[By the morning of 12 December, another 2.90 inches had accumulated. That brings the total to 8.35 inches as of 12 December at my location, but I'm using the newer rain year definition that counts rain from October 1 through the following September 30, My understanding was that there was an older definition of the rain year going from July 1 forward.

Having said that, once source I found says "A water year is defined by hydrologists as the 12-month period that starts Oct. 1 and continues through Sept. 30 the following year. A rainfall year season is defined as the 12-month period beginning July 1 that continues through June 30 of the subsequent year." So, apparently there is a water year and a rainfall year season. Maybe I'm wrong about the definition having been changed. The same source* says 7.46 inches is the historical average for Santa Rosa by this date. So, in any case, it looks like we're a little ahead of usual--which is good.

*Kent's weather at]

Monday, November 14, 2022

Wines I'm Making: Bottling the 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc

I spent part of the weekend bottling our 2021 backyard Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc.
Tasting the finished wine for the first time, I'm very pleased. This may be the best wine we've ever made. Other particularly good years so far have been 2008, 2012, 2019, and 2020.

I've designed new labels every year since we started making wine in 2004, but have run out of ideas, so I've decided to start rotating the labels every ten years. I've bottled the 2021 wines basically using the label I designed for the 2011 wines. Next year, I'll use the 2012 design for the 2022 wines, and so on....

We had 14 gallons to bottle from 2021. These were in a 3-gallon container, a five-gallon container, and a six-gallon container. Stupidly, I forgot the modest sulfite addition I normally make altogether when doing the largest of the three containers, so I've ended up with 30 bottles that will have to be emptied back into a large container and bottled again.... A pain, but we like to let the wine mature for a good long time, so it will have to be done—a job for next weekend.
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