This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for November, 2010

Lady of Shallott Video

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 30, 2010

How cool is this? I’m a Loreena McKennitt fan and I was searching for a video of her rendering of “The Lady of Shallott” to send a friend. I stumbled upon this video, based on the John William Waterhouse painting that I used for my paper-cut. After seeing the close-ups of the tapestry and the Lady’s gown, I’m tempted to design a more detailed paper-cut, perhaps with just the Lady of Shallott as the subject.

Foot update:

Just got back from the first follow-up visit after foot surgery. At the moment it’s too soon to tell from the X-rays whether the bones will fuse together successfully but the orthopedist said that the fact that I’m not in any pain is a positive sign.

I’ve got a new, stylish post-surgical shoe — lots of velcro and rubber! I’m still on crutches. However, I have much more freedom of movement because I can now put some weight on the right foot. That makes it easier to keep my balance and move around (you have no idea what a drag it is trying to get to the bathroom in the dark in the middle of the night on crutches…). I won’t be able to return to work until I’m able to sit at a desk for long periods without discomfort.

I have had a few visits from neighbours and workmates. My officemates, Masha and Yinnon, who have been the subjects of many of my photos and videos, brought me two big trays of sushi yesterday. That was probably the only time in my life that I’ve ever been given more sushi than I could eat (believe me, I can eat a LOT of sushi). They are totally awesome!

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Lady of Shallott Finished

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 29, 2010

Paper Cutting: Lady of Shallott

I made a few changes in the “Lady” this morning. I removed the frame, because I decided it didn’t add much. I reworked the willow on the left and pruned the tree on the right. Then I got a little carried away with the rushes, and threw in some flowers, a dragonfly, a couple irises, and a bullfrog on a lily pad. I could have done more with the willow but I didn’t want to over-work that part of the design, so I added a few random leaves and called it a day. Next time I’ll give more thought to the direction of the leaves. This is the first time I’ve tried doing something that resembled a natural landscape (rather than, say, biblical plants), so I didn’t take into consideration the fact that the leaves should be a little less rigid.

I added it to my Flickr set. This is my tenth paper cutting.

In progress shot of paper cutting from yesterday:

Lady of Shallott

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Paper Cutting: Lady of Shallott

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 28, 2010

Lady of Shallott

I haven’t done a paper-cutting in nearly two years. I finally found my knives and cutting mat and asked my son to move them into the living room. I drafted the picture last night (about half an hour’s work) and cut it today. It took me a little over two hours to cut the entire thing.

It hasn’t been mounted yet. I’m not even sure it’s finished. I will probably change the willows on the left because they’re a bit too stiff. Some more movement in the leaves would be an improvement, so that it doesn’t look like one  of those American memorial samplers with willows and epitaphs that were so popular in the 19th century.  On the other hand, the samplers and painting are from the same date. I’ll have to give it some thought….

Apart from generally simplifying the composition, I placed  willows on the left and bare branches on the right to show the progression from life to death. I also changed the tapestry rondels on the cloth draped over the boat to geometric designs because there are limits to what I can do with a knife.

This paper cutting is based on the 1888 painting by the pre-Raphaelite painter, John William Waterhouse, of a scene from Tennyson’s poem, “The Lady of Shallott.”

The painting illustrates part IV of the poem:

And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance—
With glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

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Zoomin’ and Twirlin’

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 28, 2010

A cheap thrill. When one is on crutches and staring at the same rooms day after day, the daily photo becomes even more of a challenge. I was sitting at the computer, photographing things in my living room.

Zooming in

Spiral dracaena tree:


Zooming in

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Drawing on the Side

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 22, 2010

I’m still here, slowly recuperating from foot surgery. Although I’m not in pain (at least, not very often), I do find it very tiring to drag myself around on crutches. The hardest journey is always the first one of the day, when it dawns on me that in order to do anything I’ll have to stand up, balance on one foot, and use crutches to get to the bathroom, kitchen, etc. My husband has been hanging around in the mornings to prepare my coffee and breakfast, which is a really big help (ever try making a cup of coffee with milk when you can use only one hand?), but I still have to get through the initial journey from my bed. Anyway, I’m slowly getting stronger and trying to avoid hand blisters.

I finally have enough time to try drawing, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’m not one of these people who has been drawing since they could hold a pencil. I’m also not one of those brilliant doodlers who turns boring meeting notes into brilliant works of art or Zentangles. In fact, I hardly ever hold a pen unless forced to do so (shopping lists, for example). It doesn’t feel as natural to me as a needle does. When I was growing up, my mother and sister were the talented artists (oils, watercolours, drawing, and my mother was also a photographer and sculptor); they won awards, had their works exhibited, and so on. I was the baker, lacemaker, embroiderer, and clothes sewer of the family. But I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw because being able to sketch quickly and accurately is important for so many crafts and because it sharpens one’s observational skills.

So I’m picking up a pencil rather late in life. I still have to force myself to draw something and, even more so, to finish, because I get discouraged easily. Here are the first four drawings that I did after I got home from the hospital. I’ve been trying to do one-a-day, although I did miss yesterday. (By the way, my daily photos are still being taken but I never have the energy to get my memory cards and card reader together at the computer in the living room, and I don’t want to download the photos to a borrowed laptop because they’ll have to be transferred eventually to the desktop machine.)

These drawings are all done on A4 size printer paper. Yes, I have sketchbooks. In fact, I’m turning into a collector of lovely unused (or only partially used) art supplies and how-to books. I still have a mental block about “ruining” good supplies while I’m learning, but since one never stops learning, it’s an endless circle.

This is a pencil drawing of a havdalah spice box. I had just finished polishing the silver and I liked the reflections in the shiny surface. Incidentally, the spice box is off-center because it has been dropped so often. That wasn’t a draughting error. 🙂

Havdalah Spicebox Drawing

Pencil drawing of an onion with a loose skin.

Onion Drawing

Pencil drawing of a carved and painted wooden box shaped like a turtle. The shell is actually the lid and lifts off. I bought this box at last year’s Arts & Crafts Festival in Jerusalem.

Carved Turtle Box

Pen-and-ink drawing of a square glass vase with a rose etched on the side.

Etched Glass Vase

I’ve done a few more but I think four is enough to post at a time.

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Video: How to Be Alone

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 18, 2010

While surfing this morning I stumbled upon this video. Tanya Davis reads a poem and performs in this video on being comfortable while on one’s own. The film maker is Andrea Dorfman, who does a beautiful job of combining the clips and adding animation to live video.

This video won “Video of the Year” at the 2010 Nova Scotia Music Awards and has received over 2,000,000 hits. Yes, you read that right — over two million views. Tanya Davis is a poet, songwriter, storyteller, and musician who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Andrea Dorfman is an artist and film maker, also based in Halifax. Her day job is working in animation at the National Film Board of Canada. She is also working on her third feature film, Harmony, with screenwriter Jennifer Dayell.

Tanya Davis is filmed at one point knitting on a bench outdoors. I wonder whether she made her slippers and afghans. If you look closely, there are quite a few handmade objects in the video, although she doesn’t appear to be wearing handknit sweaters.

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Photos of Hospital Food

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 17, 2010

Just a short posting to let you all know that I’m still around. I have been taking it easy, mostly lying in bed with a borrowed laptop (no mouse), which makes it a little harder to post to this blog. I was in for a mercifully short time, only one night, so I ate only four meals at Hadassah Mt. Scopus. The foot operation seems to have been a success, although I won’t know about the results until the follow-up visit in two weeks.

I had a bunion repair operation on my right foot. Since it was the second time I’ve had bunion surgery, this procedure was a little more complicated. That’s why I was kept overnight instead of having it done in day surgery. The surgeon broke the bone in three places and fit the pieces back together like a puzzle, re-using a wedge of bone (he seemed quite proud of the achievement!). I’m amazed by how smoothly my recovery has been. I’ve had very little pain. I started the Percocet when I got home and took it at regular intervals, even setting my alarm (tip that I got from my sister). It’s better to lose some sleep than to wake up a few hours later in agony, she said. Now I think I might be able to stop the Percocet completely.

I’ve been on crutches, which is certainly inconvenient (no more making cups of coffee and taking them to the computer!), but not as bad as I thought it would be. Thanks to three years of yoga, my sense of balance is good and my body is strong and flexible. When I got home I managed to get up two flights of stairs on crutches. Someone lent me a mini thermos, so it is possible for me to take drinks to different parts of the house, with the thermos in a pouch.

Mostly I’ve been spending the time sleeping, reading, watching junky TV shows on the laptop, reading email, listening to podcasts, and knitting.

First meal at hospital: Lunch (meat). Vegetable soup, tomato-onion salad, carrot-cucumber salad, orange squash, carrots, and chickpeas (traditional mix of vegetables that go on top of couscous), couscous, chicken breast cutlet, and tangerine. The chicken was tender and delicious. The couscous was actually seasoned. I was afraid everything would be unsalted. The vegetable soup was certainly no worse than what I have had at work. I ate this meal in the waiting room of the orthopedic ward because I was undergoing tests (X-ray, blood, ECG) and didn’t have a room yet. I went home that afternoon and spent the night at home.

First Hospital Meal

Second meal at hospital: Dinner (dairy). Yes, the photo is out of focus. What do you expect? I’d had surgery a couple hours earlier and I hadn’t eaten for EIGHTEEN hours. Actually, I didn’t have much appetite or sense of taste. Sooo… for dinner we had two slices of bread, some kind of vegetable latke, vegetable salad, small container of 5% cottage cheese, vegetable soup, tehina (in the clear plastic tub near the soup), gil (cultured milk product similar to yogurt), and two cinnamon cookies. The cookies were really good — very fresh.

Second meal at hospital

Third meal: Breakfast (dairy). Definitely my least favourite meal while I was there but I got enough to eat. They gave me bread, another small container of 5% cottage cheese, a hard-boiled egg, 4 cherry tomatoes, 4 cucumber slices, tehina, red jello (in white cup), hot milk (yuck), hot semolina, bread, gil, and chocolate pudding. Under the bread I found a couple packets of sugar, probably for the milk or semolina.

Third Meal at Hospital

Fourth hospital meal: Lunch (meat). Lentil soup (wow! Who ever heard of lentil soup in a hospital?), baby carrots, breaded chicken schnitzel, mashed potatoes, green pepper stuffed with rice (under the schnitzel), cucumber, radish, and carrot salad. Oh, wait, there was also a tangerine. I gave it to my husband because I knew he wouldn’t be able to get lunch before we left.

Fourth meal at hospital

So those are my four hospital meals. If you have to be at a hospital, this is a good one. The doctors and nurses were all very good. I don’t think I met any unpleasant or incompetent people during my brief stay except for some of the clerks. My husband says that the medical care in Israel is cutting edge but the bureaucracy is third world. So true! Anyway, I was well cared for and had a very nice room (bathroom within the room and a window right beside my bed, which I could open) and a pleasant room-mate.

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Lady with Unicorn Embroidery, Update

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 8, 2010

Lady with Unicorn, Nov. 7

I haven’t posted an update for this piece since May. I’ve worked approximately 7600 stitches, almost 6% of the total of 130,380 stitches. Occasionally this project seems like a quixotic endeavor. No one has ever walked up to one of my framed embroideries and said, “Wow — there must be at least 112 blended colours in this piece!” If I ever finish it, will my descendants know how long it took? Or will it end up as a crumpled piece of cloth in my bottomless pit of projects? I guess it’s better to finish it. At least if it’s in a frame, there’s less chance of it being tossed out with the old dish towels.

Lady with Unicorn: Sense of Hearing

I just noticed that the stats for my Flickr account, which I’ve had since 2008, just passed 150,000 hits.


I’m almost packed for the hospital tomorrow. A friend said, “Take everything you think you’ll need, including a cup and tea bags.” Actually, I hear it’s not that bad but the hospital system here is predicated on your being accompanied by a relative. If you don’t have someone with you to get whatever you need, an Israeli hospital can be a pretty grim place.

Sorting floss

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How to Photograph Jupiter

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 3, 2010

Jupiter and three of its moons

This photo took me a lot longer than I expected — three separate sessions in one evening! I guess I should be grateful that I got it at all. I’m not completely satisfied with it, so I may try again another night.

The first time I made the mistake of using the short range of the 55-250mm zoom. YES! You read that right. I must be having a senior moment (it was my birthday according to the civil calendar; main celebration was on the Hebrew date a couple weeks ago). I got the shot but when I looked at the EXIF data, I was dumbfounded to see that I had shot Jupiter using a 55mm zoom. I actually did manage to capture the planet and three moons with 55mm (so all you owners of kit lenses can try this) but it’s a lot clearer when you use a longer lens. In the dark, I hadn’t noticed that my lens was not fully extended.

So back I went to the balcony, this time with the outside light on. I set up the tripod, wrestled the tripod into position (I still haven’t replaced this crummy tripod), put the longer lens back on the camera, put the camera on the tripod, attached a cable release, turned off image stabilization, turned off autofocus, set ISO to 1600, switched the file format to RAW, switched the operations mode to manual, turned on live view, zoomed in with viewfinder to check focus, and took the shots. They look nice and bright, much clearer than the previous ones.

I rush to the computer and downloaded the photos, only to discover that the exposure times were too long. Argh. I had nice bright blurs. Instead of star trails, I had planet and moon trails.

I went back outside, repeated the whole process, and took much shorter exposures. (I confess I was operating in Stubborn Mode.) It’s still a bit too bright and not as focused as it could be, although that might also be partly caused by tripod drift. My cheap tripod isn’t sturdy enough for a DSLR with a long lens. So I would like to try this again, with sharper focus and a slightly shorter exposure time.

My recipe:

  • Canon DSLR (mine’s a 450D but almost any DSLR will work)
  • 250 mm lens
  • Tripod (stool is also a good idea because you’re going to be hanging out for a while)
  • Cable release (focusing is so tough that you really don’t want to shake the camera by clicking the shutter)
  • f/5.6 (maybe I’ll try f/8 or f/11 next time)
  • Image stabilization off (recommended to turn it off if you’re using a tripod so that it doesn’t introduce its own shake)
  • ISO 1600
  • RAW file format
  • .5 second exposure
  • Manual focus (autofocus won’t work in the dark)
  • Live view mode (much easier to focus manually when you can see it on the LED screen)
  • Canon Digital Photo Professional (to reduce the noise and convert the RAW file to JPG)
  • Picasa (to crop the JPG)

Actually, you can still photograph Jupiter if you have a point-and-shoot with a good zoom. A friend of mine did it. While the results aren’t as good as what you would get with a DSLR, you can definitely see Jupiter and two of its moons.

Update: According to EarthSky, November 2010 is an excellent month to try this because Jupiter is relatively closer to earth this year (EarthSky article). Also, if you haven’t already done so, try downloading Stellarium, the free open-source planetarium software (Stellarium home page). You can type in your geographical coordinates and altitude and it will show you what’s visible right now (or in the past or future). You can search for stars, nebulae, constellations, and planets. (I was curious about photographing Saturn and discovered that it’s visible at 4 a.m. at this time of year from Israel. Think I’ll wait a few months.)

Blogging Break

And now on to other matters…. I’m probably going to have to take a break from blogging because I have foot surgery scheduled next week. I’ve been told that I’ll spend about 10 days at home on painkillers and another two to three weeks on crutches.  😦  Who knows — maybe I’ll be so bored during my convalescence at home that I’ll be blogging day and night. Or maybe I’ll be in so much discomfort that I’ll only have sufficient energy to knit and check Facebook.

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