All posts by Bob Keller

Steve Rector was one of the regulars at the Black Forest Inn when I was bartending there in the late seventies. He had gradurated from Carleton the year before I came as a freshman. He was an English major who wrote poetry. At that time no one was hiring poets, so he got a job as an inhouse copywiter for Honeywell, at there corporate headquarters that was near the bar. He hated it and after a stint living in the woods, he came back to the cities and started working at the Black. At that time he was the only person who worked as a cook, a waiter and a bartender at different times. In ’73 he decided that if he was going to go back to living in the woods, he needed a reliable way of making a living so he went back to school. Medical School.

We became pretty close during his Med School years. We played tennis, basketball and softball together. We fished and we spent a lot of time exploring the countryside. He had a friend in Arizona who had some connections with the Indians down there. He had a bag full of capsules of ground peyote in his freezer. Peyote is excellent for playing tennis and for bartending. Fishing too.

Once, we were driving around rural Wisconsin, four of us, his future wife and my future wife in my Ford F-100 pickup. We saw a dirt road that wound through a cow pasture and drove right past the “road closed” sign. The road was pretty much all clay and it had been raining. After a few miles it started winding it’s way up hill through the woods. We came to a sweeping right hand turn and about half way through it, it became apparent that there just wasn’t going to be enough traction to get around it. The truck started sliding backwards toward the ditch. I finally got it stopped, with the rear tire inches from the edge of a four foot drop off, which, had we gone down into it, there would have been no alternative other than to go get the farmer and have him pull us out with his tractor. Pull us out with his tractor back onto the road that he’d put a road closed sign on. We really weren’t in any shape to be dealing with irate farmers.

The road bent into the direction that the truck was pointed so there was no chance of just letting gravity back us onto the road and backing down to level ground. We had spent a few minutes looking over the situation and shaking our heads when I came up with an idea. We needed to add a foot of width to the road. There were plenty of flat rocks in the ditch and I’d help build a wall our to flat rocks to support a pipeline at a mine site in Idaho. We decided that we needed to build a wall, five feet long and four feet high and just wide enough to get the truck turned into the middle of the road. So Steve and Nancy and Beck and I worked for about an hour and a half, stacking rocks until we had a nice little rock wall built up against the side of the ditch. I got in the truck and carefully backed it out of danger. And then backed it the rest of the quarter of mile down to level ground where we could turn around and drive away. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good about an accomplishment. It was particularly sweet because I admired Steve so much and felt like he was the smart one in the group and the one who could really jump in and solve problems in a tough situation.

When he graduated from Med School he did his internship at the University of West Virginia Hospital’s emergency room. Beck and I went out to visit him there once and we had a great time romping in the WVA woods. After his residency he travelled in Sri Lanka and Nepal and then came back to the Twin Cities and married Nancy, another Carleton grad who waitressed at the Black. They returned to West Virginia and the ER, bought and remodeled a hunting lodge that was built into the side of a cliff, with five levels the lower four of which were tucked into a crevass in the side of the cliff. The lower level walked out onto the valley floor. I never saw it but his poetic talents gave me a vivid picture of it. They had a couple of kids and he went on to become the head of the Emergency Room at the University Hospital.

In the early eighties one of his coworkers notice that he was acting irrationally and he replied that he’d been suffering from headaches. They decided to do a CAT Scan and discovered an inoperable malignant tumor. He died nine months later. I talked to him on the phone once after I heard about it. His first word were, “The bad news is, I’ve got brain cancer and there is no good news.” We talked for a long time. I told him how much I admired him, and he thanked me for that, because he was kind of feeling that his wicked wit had made people dislike him. I really never heard anyone say anything bad about him. In fact he was kind of a folk hero the BFI crowd. The next time I called Nancy said that he had lapsed into incoherence and couldn’t talk.

Here’s to you Steve. Where did you put that peyote?

Last night was the first game of the summer soccer season for Q. It didn’t seem much like summer last night, it in the forties with a nasty wind blowing on the spectators backs. Lot’s of people were under-dressed for it. You know what they say about Minnesota, “Bring warm clothes!”

It was also her teams first game since being winning their division last year and being promoted to the next higher division. And their first game with five or six new players. Their opponent scored the most goals in the league the year before, although they finished third. A group of them jogged past me while they were warming up, they looked very athletic. We had ten shut-outs last year. Q played almost every minute at right outside defender last year. She has an excellent knack for stepping in at the perfect time and one-touching the ball thirty yards downfield.

The first half seemed fairly even, although the opponents scored two goals. When it became apparent that the other team wanted to move the ball up the middle of the field instead of up the line, the coach moved Q into the middle. A compliment, I think.

At the beginning of the second half, Q cramped up in both calves. She was unable to play the rest of the game. I was on the far side of the field and didn’t realize what was going on. I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t go back in. I didn’t realize what was going on until she came off the field sobbing from pain and disappointment. In the mean time we gave up four more goals and it ended up 6-0. Although in the second half, we appeared to be tired and the other team was much quicker to the ball, I don’t think the score was indicative of the relative strengths of the team. They will be surprised the next time they play us.

Another reason I missed the drama in the second half was that I was on the cel, talking to my high school girlfriend. Totally wierd. Last week she’d been cleaning out some drawers in her home in Bellvue Washington and found something nostalgia that prompted her to email me at work. We’ve been exchanging emails since then and trying to hook up on the phone. She still sounds 16. She’s still the sweetest thing. She and her husband have been wildly successful, they started a company doing trade show displays and expanded into “retail theater.” They designed the interiors all the early Starbucks. They did the Nintendo department at FAO Schwartz in New York. Remember Cheryl Crow’s concert in Central Park? They designed and built the stage. Her title is Supreme Commander.

It’s so bizarre talking to her. She’s forgiven me, but when I referenced how bad I felt about the way I treated her, she seemed to get the idea that I was wallowing in guilt. I had to convince her that I was just stating facts, that I wasn’t feeling guilty (shit this was 35 years ago!) and that I’m a fairly happy guy. I told that to my wife and she gave me a funny look and said, “You are?”

I try.

I’m probably going to get in trouble for this, but I feel that it’s an important social issue that needs to be addressed. It’s just unfair. There’s an unwritten rule that when a man is talking to a woman he cannot break the plane, in other words he must lock his eyes on hers and never let them follow their instinctive path to the woman’s breasts. I’m told that women really hate it when you do that.

Before I go any further I need to offer the disclaimer that I’m not that big of a breast fan. If you met my wife you’d know that large breasts aren’t a requirement for me as far as attractiveness goes. However, I do think that we (men) are hardwired to check those lovely orbs out whenever possible. It probably goes back to something Darwinean, just before we came down from the trees.

So here’s my problem. Women design themselves to make it almost IMPOSSIBLE not to break the plane. I see this everywhere. I’m talking to a woman and trying desperately to maintain eye contact, but she’s wearing an amulet around her neck that’s beutiful and meant to be looked at. I mean, what’s it there for? The amulet is framed by the triangle formed by an open collar the lower vertex (lower vertex?) of which shows a tantalizing peak of cleavage. Damn it! Any graphic designer will tell you that you’ve created an arrow that virtually points to the forbidden zone and the eye just naturally follows.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not advocating burkas. I’m just asking for a little forgiveness and understanding when our eyes momentarily wander while talking to you. It doesn’t mean we don’t value you for your personhood. It just means we’re ANIMALS!

Several of you mentioned the organic “body part” references in the abstract images I posted this weekend. That made me think about the late Jerry Rudquist, a local artist and professor at MacAllister College in St. Paul. Jerry had a huge influence on my artwork. If you’re not into “duck and dog” paintings, Jerry was, for years, the dean of Minnesota fine artists. The image posted here is a hand printed lithograph. It’s an artist’s proof, which I was given because I printed the edition. That’s right, add another to my list of shot lived careers.

Lithography, as it’s root implies, is printing from the surface of a stone. Most modern printing uses this technology which is based on the physics of the attraction and repulsion of grease and water. Invented by Sennenfelder in 1798 it uses flat slabs of limestone, ground to a very fine texture to reproduce the image. Modern commercial printers use metal or rubber plates now, but fine art printers are still printing editions using the old technique.

I specialized in printmaking in college and applied to the Tamarind Institute in New Mexico, to train to be a Master Printmaker. I didn’t get in, so I found a small studio to work in Minneapolis. This was right after I returned from Idaho. I think. This winter I took this pic of the press at the Carleton art studio. It’s the same press I learned on. If you look closely you can see some stones on the shelves on the right side of the photo. Printing an edition of lithographs on a press like that is a real workout. But great fun, because it’s a two person job and I often worked with my professor, Dean Warnholtz, who was just plain fun to be around. Because he was as crazy as I was.

Yesterday, Beck called me at work to tell me there was a rose breasted grossbeak on the bird feeder. haven’t seen one of those for awhile. I saw it later in the evening as well. I hope they decide to move into the nieghborhood. What a cool looking bird!

History_Pig asks me to explain my method for creating the images posted the last two days. They were made several months ago and although I use a basic process on most of my digital work, once I get into it, it’s random and experimental. I don’t document my steps, so I probably can’t tell you exactly how I did them, but I’ll give it a shot.

First, let me define a couple of basic digital imaging terms. Some of you already know this, but for those who don’t it will help make sense of what I’m doing. The terms are vector and rastor.

Vector art: Vector images are those created in drawing programs like Adobe Illustrator. At their root they are defined by mathematical matrices and are resolution independent. There resolution is limited only to the resolution of the output device. If I made a vector image and had a high enough resolution printer, I could blow it up to the size of a barn wall and it wouldn’t be pixelated. This kind of image is good for clean, hard edged, flat colored graphic work. Like this car drawing.

Rastor art: Rastor art is a collection of pixels, each one defined by a number of criteria such as hue, saturation, tonality, etc. Photoshop is the rastor art tool that I use. The resolution of a rastor image is fixed. If I blow a 300 ppi image up to the size of a barn wall, you will see very large pixels in the image. Rastor art is good for images with continuous tonal and color variations, like a photograph. Photoshop is brilliant in the ways you can manipulate an image. The posibilities are endless. An example.

I started out by creating the concentric circle “hub cap” image in Illustrator. I used the gradient fill tool to give it a 3D modelled look. I duplicated it a couple of times and then took one of the dupes and attached a shape to it and rotated it on an axis. You can rotate and copy part of the image once and then just do a command “d” and it will repeat the rotate and copy in equal increments (sooo cool!) So now, after about a half an hour of work, I have an abstract, machine like, metallic looking vector image. Now it’s time to rock and roll.

I close out the file and reopen it in Pshop. It’s now a rastor image. One of the truely amazing features of Photoshop is that you can create virtual layers of artwork with it. And then define how the layers relate to each other. For instance, I can make a layer 50% transparent and set the mode to “darken.” Darken means that the top pixel will only effect the pixel below it if it’s darker than the pixel below it. Photoshop has about twenty of these layer modes and I experiment with various combinations as one way to get my effects.

On this one, after I spent some time manipulating colors with the “Hue and Saturation” control, I duplicated a layer and selected part of one of the layers with a feathered selection. I go into the ”Quick Mask” mode and paint my selections with a fuzzy edged “brush.” Then I ran a filter. I think this one was “Ripple” I messed with the transparency and the layer mode until I saw what I liked. Wha-La.

On the one posted on Sunday, I went back in and used a texture creation filter called SuperBlade Pro. It’s a third party plug in for Pshop and it’s freaking amazing. So that’s how I got the cool textural effects on that one.

Hope you’re not sorry you asked, Flem.

I was able to ingest enough ibuprophen to get out and play tennis again last night. Same group of people that were there 2 weeks ago. We were playing doubles, men against the women. My partner, whos about my age, took a nasty spill. He didn’t trip, his leg just gave out on him when he planted his feet. It was scary. Now I know why everyone looked so scared last night.

I did an odd thing at work the other day. I was talking on the phone to a female coworker, a peer, she supervises one of the other departments and we report to the same boss. We were in the midst of two days of training sessions, as in we were the trainers. It’s an information dump that we had to throw together very quickly, partially because we were promised revised materials that showed up only a couple of days before the deadline. It was pretty tough, since it was a lot of really dull information, and our teams can really get off on tangents. This woman, we’ll call her G, was born to teach, and she really kind of took over the project. They were so happy that I would handle the setting up of the AV stuff, that I got off pretty easy on the presentation part. Although in the first session, I couldn’t get my aging laptop to boot up for the first 45 minutes. Then one of the artists got it started during a break. What he did made it look like I didn’t have it plugged in, but that’s definitly not the case. Anyway G really came through in this situation.

We’ve been through some tough situations together, software rollouts and publishing deadlines and layoffs and the nastiest of personnel issues. We are the ‘oraganizationally challenged’ ones on our team and we like to get together and comiserate about our shortcomings in the corporate world. We’re close but it’s all absolutely professional. So I’m talking to her on the phone about our plans for the final day of the training and we’re reassuring each other that it’s all going to go fine. We said goodbye and as i’m signing off I said, spontaneously, “I love you.”

WTF? Where did that come from?!? And this is someone who used to really annoy me in meetings. And I’m pretty sure there’s no physical attraction from either side. I mean, I really think of her as a pal, but geez that’s so unprofessional, so un-Minnesotan. She didn’t say anything, and hasn’t since. She may not have even heard me. She may have already put the phone down. Odd. My wife tells me that often, “You’re odd.”

I took a nasty fall last night playing tennis. It was the last set of the night and we were playing a tie breaker. My partner and I had lost every set up to that point, so we really wanted to finish the evening with a win. The courts at the club where we play are very close together and seperated by curtains of netting. It’s possible to hit an angled shot that’s would normally be playable, but impossible to return on these courts because your racquet gets hung up in the curtain.

Our opponents made just such a shot to my side of the court. I chased it down, figuring that if I made just the right chopping stroke, the racquet would push the curtain out of the way before I made contact with the ball and I could return it. It almost worked, I made contact with the ball but I didn’t get enough on it to get it back. Simultaneously, however, my feet were getting tangled in the netting. They stopped, the rest of my body kept going. I tried to extricate my feet to make a recovery but they were hopelessly stuck. Cut to slow motion. “Well,” I says to meself, “it appears that I’m falling. I wonder how badly I’m going to get hurt? I’m too old for this. No, she’s that xanga softball woman.”

My pal Jules, who I think of as Groucho McEnroe, because of his sense of humor and his resemblance to the comic genious, not his tennis game, was watching on the sidelines. I caught his eye as I went down. He looked like he was witnessing a train wreck.

BAM! I hit the court, my hip taking most of the blow, and the rest on my left elbow and knee. Jules was the first one to get to me. I was laying on the court, taking inventory of my injuries. I quickly concluded that it was only a major case of road rash.

I lied there for awhile deciding how much pain I was going to be in and recovering from the jolt of fear I’d experienced. The other players suggested that we just call it a night. I insisted that I could continue and we went on to close out the set in the next three points. I AM SO MACHO!

And the next time I do that, it’s probably good for a broken hip.