Friday, December 24, 2010

Berkeley Drivers

People here shop like they drive, I noted, while braving the Christmas Eve crush at Andronico's on Shattuck. If I drive to the North Berkeley BART station on weekday mornings anytime past 7:30, I invariably encounter people either not signaling at all or signaling just as the light changes, so there's no possibility of maneuvering around them. Another bad habit is to remain waiting in place in a crowded intersection (like Cedar and Sacramento) rather than moving forward, so the cars behind have no chance to make the light. Slowing down while approaching a green light only to speed through as it changes is also prevalent, along with maintaining a consistent 15-mph pace, usually after pulling out right in front of another car.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Carpet with a Past

Today, I took delivery of this carpet from Oakland architect Christopher Robin Andrews, a former student of Christopher Alexander at U.C. Berkeley (a collector of classical carpets and the famed author of the Pattern Language and Nature of Order series). Andrews became interested in the 17th-century Turkish carpets preserved in Saxon (German Protestant) churches in Romania, hung on the walls to provide decoration after the Catholic frescoes were whitewashed over. Working in Photoshop with high-definition photos of the originals, he painstakingly sets out the design in a manner that allows its faithful reproduction by a modern carpet weaver. He then orders them bespoke from Turkey. The carpet is beautiful - the blue is especially striking. Andrews has a website with this and other designs, many of them much bigger than this one. (Update: the website is down as of 5 February 2011.) Prospective buyers in the vicinity of North Oakland can see the carpets, but he tells me that he now has a national following via the web. Little wonder - this is admirable work!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baby Bullet

On Wednesday, I took the Baby Bullet from the CalTrain station in SF to the Diridon station in downtown San Jose. It took about an hour. Millbrae, an interminable trip on BART, took about 10 minutes. There are only five stops, so this is the way to go if San Jose is the destination. I read the London Review of Books, which you can't do while battling traffic.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Stremska's Fables

Biliana Stremska: "Paradise," 2007

This morning, I went to Sweet Adeline, a Paris-style cafe on Adeline south of Alcatraz, to meet the artist and designer Biliana Stremska. I first encountered her work at the ACCI Gallery on Shattuck south of Cedar. At that time, she painted from life, but her latest series, Fables, draws metaphorically on two strands - stories from the Bible and nonviolent communication. The latter, she told me, is based on empathy. Many of these paintings depict how men, women, and children wall each other off or, conversely, reach out or open up to each other. The Bible stories, like one from Isaiah shown below, are also influenced by the Quaker painter Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom series - hence a child's hand unharmed in a vipers' nest. The persimmons in the painting above reflect their Bulgarian name, "apples of paradise." Really hearing each other is paradise, her painting tells us. Stremska has made a small book on the series, available from (as her website explains).

Biliana Stremska, "Snakes/Isaiah 11:8," 2007