Monday, February 28, 2011


These are the sort of pirates you get with $13 spent at Goodwill and a borrowed wig and boots from Pam.

Bronze Disease

One my favorite coins in my collection is my Marcus Aurelius silver denarius, minted around A.D. 176-177. A week or so ago, I pulled it out and noticed that there were some real problems with it.

It appears to have "bronze disease," which is a serious affliction for bronze antiquities. This is sort of unusual for a denarius; I'm still sleuthing, but I think it's rare for a Roman silver coin from this time to develop bronze disease. Later in the Empire it's more likely because the silver is more debased. Apparently, at least for this coin, there is enough bronze mixed in with this silver for it to be a problem.

Bronze disease occurs when copper chlorides form in the presence of salt and moisture. It's kind of like a cancerous patina; the formation of new copper chlorides becomes a self-sustaining reaction and the metal starts to eat itself. The chlorides form from the bronze, and slowly (or sometimes, alarmingly quickly) spreads. The bronze turns to bright greenish or brownish powder.

I don't know how far it could spread in a silver denarius of Marcus Aurelius. I guess it's possible that, if the silver content is high enough and the coin is kept dry, it could burn itself out. However, I certainly don't want to test it to see, so I researched the problem and decided to treat it with a solution of sodium sesquicarbonate.

When I first heard of sodium sesquicarbonate, I thought, "Well, that's just one more weird chemical that I don't have at my house and that I probably don't want to fool with." Then I read a recipe for it and realized that I actually had the two ingredients: baking soda and soda ash. I just so happened to have soda ash because I had bought some to use to prepare fabric for tie dying. It's also used for treating swimming pools. Soda ash, therefore, is actually easy to find and pretty cheap.

So I mixed a solution of 5% sodium sesquicarbonate in water (I actually made it a little more diluted, more like 3 or 4%).

I used a soft paint brush to brush off the green corrosion, then used a straight pin to dust it out of the holes and crevices. It came off very easily, which is a sure sign that it really is bronze disease and not patina, though I had no doubts. Then I put it in the sodium sesquicarbonate, which is a very hard word for me to type, by the way, and I'll let it soak there for a few days.

Next, I will take it out, rinse it in distilled water, and then dry it for an hour at a very low temperature in the oven.

With luck, bronze disease won't be back. But if it is, at least I know what to do.

(photos: all the green that you can see on the coin is bad stuff)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

TIME Magazine article on The Singularity

I thought this was a very good article:
I find this stuff fascinating, scary, creepy, and exciting.  Will my children be immortal? Will humans be extinct in fifty years? Will my grandchildren by sleek hybrids of genetically modified flesh and steel? Will people still be buying artwork to hang on their walls?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

artist links

Artist mentioned in previous post:

I tried to find a site for Craig Lloyd but, though I found him mentioned in a few places and found out that he teaches art in Cincinnati, I didn't actually find a Web site for him alone.

2011 Water Tower Regional review

On Sunday I went to the opening reception of The Water Tower Regional (open until April 10) and, though I enjoyed the show, I was a little disappointed by the dominance of digitally produced artwork.

I respect and accept digital work, inkjet prints, and digital photography as art, but I don't find it as enjoyable to look at—especially in a gallery setting. When I look at art in person, I want to be able to see the process of its creation. I enjoy the artifacts of the artist and his or her tools left behind in the medium, I appreciate the sense of an artist leaving fingerprints (real or figurative) in the work, I want to be able to change position and note how light plays differently on from different angles on a manipulated surface. You really don't get that much with giclee prints and framed photos.

There weren't many works that met those needs. Of the ones that did, my favorite was just inside the entrance to the exhibit: "Storm," an oil painting by Craig Lloyd of Cincinnati. It struck what was, to me, the perfect balance between convincing representation (as seen from a few steps away) and the interesting presentation of paint strokes on a canvas as objects of interest in and of themselves (close-up view). This is what I want to look at and how I want to paint.

The painting is loaded with tension; I found it impossible not to view it without imagining the storm-cooled breeze beginning to blow around me and feeling like I should check the radio for severe weather alerts.

The second work, which I found to be easily the most interesting artwork in the second room of the exhibit, was "Are We There Yet?" a collage/mixed media work by Louisville artist Teri Dryden. I spoke briefly with Ms. Dryden, who recently moved here from Los Angeles. Her works are comprised chiefly of pieces from old books torn apart and arranged. "Are We There Yet?" was both subtle and complex, and is something I could keep coming back to.

I also enjoyed "Circles of Confusion," an impressively large and complex graphite and oil pastel drawing by Paula J. Dalton; and "Narcissus," Matt Weir's somewhat entrancing sculpture in cast aluminum, chrome plating, and synthetic grass.

The Girl Who

Well, last night I finished The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book of Stieg Larsson's thriller trilogy about Swedes who have sex with everybody.  I enjoyed it (and could hardly put it down), though I understand criticisms that too much of the plot relied on coincidences.  Too frequently, a character just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see some important event.


Now I just need to read the final book to be free of this monkey.


I'll probably watch the Swedish movies, and I'm also interested in the American remake of the first movie, which might be out by next Christmas.  It will be set in Sweden, like the books and the previous movies, but this to me presents an aesthetic problem that I think about from time to time with movies.


If it's an American film intended for U.S. audiences, how will they do the language?  Most likely, they'll film it in English.  But will the characters have Swedish accents?  If they are filming it in English, why would they bother with the Swedish accents?  Will they adopt some sort of neutral-sounding blend of British and Midwestern U.S. accent?  That sounds like the best policy to me, assuming it would just take too much effort to get the cast to learn all their lines in Swedish.


The accent thing bothers me from time to time.  If they are supposed to be speaking in English, but they have an accent, that's fine; and if they are presumed by the audience to be speaking in another tongue, and they don't have any clearly defined (to me) accent, that works for me, too; but if it suddenly dawns on me that they are supposed to be speaking in their native language, but they are delivering their lines in English, and the director is making them adopt a foreign accent, it starts to bug me.


Thursday, February 10, 2011



I miss painting.  What drove me to switch to primarily pen-and-ink is a desire to be able to work with less mess and set-up, since I don't have studio space.  Unlike with oils, or even the less messy acrylics, all I have to do is pull out my paper and my pens and get to work.


It's been a good trade-off, and I value my explorations of pen-and-ink.  Sometime over the next week I'll have to use the gift card that Julie gave me to get some new pens.  The ones I have are good, but I think I'll get some Rapidoliners, which I haven't used in 15 or 20 years.  The pens I'm using now wear out very quickly on rough-surface paper, but I've heard that the Rapidoliners last a lot longer.  I'm eager to give them a try.


Anyway, I still miss painting.  I feel like I can apply some of what I've learned in the pen-and-ink process and apply it to acrylics and oils.


I'm just not sure what I'll paint.  Last night I dreamed that I was in a painting class at U of L again; it was a busy art room, lots of painting going on.  I have had similar dreams every once in a while for years, maybe since I graduated.  I think that when I first started having the dreams they were typical anxiety dreams:  remembering an assignment the night before it was due, that sort of thing.  Lately, though, they have been more fun.  In last night's dream I had so many ideas, and the means to work on them, in a group of like-minded people.


I think I might try working on some small paintings in the near future in a way that occupies a middle-ground between the pen-and-ink work and larger oil paintings.  Perhaps I'll do some subjects similar to my pen and ink subjects, working in acrylics or acrylics with oils on top.  It's been years since used acrylics for anything other than underpainting or tinting, with just a few exceptions.


I also want to try another linocut soon.  It might be fun to do a linocut print of the horses I drew recently.  I wonder which would be better, an 8 x 10 inch size or a greeting card size?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Two Old Romans

Here are scans of a couple of coins I've had soaking in distilled water for…I don't know, a couple of years, I guess.  The coins are pretty crummy, and the pictures make them look even worse. I got these in a small lot of uncleaned, unearthed old coins. 


Distilled water is the most widely-recommended, safest way to clean them.  I'm supposed to switch out the water every few days, but in reality I've been lucky if I've remembered to do it every few months.  So they have just been sitting in a jar on a shelf.


I pulled these two out a few days ago.  They might actually be clean enough to identify.  I'm pretty sure that first one (A) is a coin of Julian II, who ruled the Roman Empire from A.D. 355-363.  He was the last pagan emperor, and also the last of the Constantinian dynasty.


I can tell by the style that it's late Roman, and I was finally able to make out what I think is DNIVL, which would stand for D[ominus]N[oster]Julianus," with only the first part of the "Julianus" visible.  "Our Lord Julianus."


It's hard to tell in this photo (it's hard to tell in real life, too), but the reverse of A is the common soldier-spearing-a-fallen-horseman design.


Coin B is a Constan- something.  Constantine the Great? Constans? Constantius?  I might be able to figure it out with a little more research.  The reverse is two soldiers flanking a standard.  I can read just enough of the reverse legend to be sure it includes the word EXERCITVS, so it probably said GLORIA EXERCITUS, or "Glory to the Army."


If both these coins were in much better shape, they'd still only be worth five or ten dollars, probably.


I might be able to manage a little more cleaning on them to help with the details.


Thursday, February 03, 2011


So hard to get a good shot of this little girl, especially when my camera phone has a slow reaction time.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Tuesday, February 01, 2011



Last night Erin was curled up with Kim, and they were looking at a pretty cool application on Kim's new phone.  You can say a word into the phone and it will do an Internet search for that item, producing retailers and prices.


Erin decided to search for socks.  She said into the phone, as clearly as she could, "SOCK."  She tried it a few times, but it kept misunderstanding her and searching for other things.


Kim: "Maybe try it like you're looking for two socks. Make it plural."


Erin: "SOCK SOCK!"