Different clay

Christmas presents pose more than a challenge for the likes of moir, especially for the younger family members. So I take thee over to the art shop hoping for random inspiration (or a welcome distraction). What’s going on? What are all these materials?  Aargh, I feel sidelined again. It’s all new to me. I beeline to the sculpture supplies and recognize clay and Plasticine. What is balsa wood doing in an art shop? It’s been a while. Now I’m overwhelmed. But I came here for some answers. Air dry clay? I search the internet and it’s so confusing. A week later I discover six types of non kiln firing clay.
Polymer clay
Polyvinyl chloride based oven baked clay. It shapes easily and seems to have become the Lego of new generation clay. Think Schleich figurines and plastic plumbing. PVC has a mid weight feel.  Compares favorably to earthen clay which is quite a claim. Takes equally well to fine detail.
Paper clay
Very versatile clay. While not replicating the qualities of earthen clay it is light weight and air drying. These advantages alone set it apart.
Cold porcelain
Main ingredients are corn starch and PVA. It has a unique semi translucency. Ideal for jewellery as it is heavier then paper air dry and takes to fine detail. But it’s food for insects so be prepared for potential damage down the track.
Epoxy clay
Two part epoxy. Has a fixed curing time so requires adequate preparation.
Earthen air dry
If you imagine regular earthen clay without any need for kiln firing. It is also mineral based and the most popular air dry clay. Could be seen as an alternative to traditional clay and has the same weight. Ideal for professionals and beginners  alike.
Magic clay
A relative newcomer to the shelves but a real competitor especially in the kids market. No kneading required and has a smooth consistency. While it doesn’t have density and body for complex form it takes to simple shape making. Remarkably light and flexible when dry.

Lockdown

In lockdown again. So what to do? I’ve heard of the ASMR scene. Autonomous sensory meridian response activity. Damn, I’ll do it. It has to do with providing auditory, olfactory or visual stimulation (along with hair brushing and whispering). Apparently it can be weirdly mesmeric with the feel of cutting the waxy substance not to mention scented aromas etc.
I feel motivated to learn the digraphs and diphthongs of Lithuanian and then nail the phonology. It may take a while but hey, why not? It’s language of the European Union and similar to Latvian. Once I’ve mastered abėcėlė alphabet, then basically the Proto-Baltic-Slavic languages have similarities with Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Baltic which in turn connect with Proto-West Baltic and Proto-East Baltic. A Proto-Baltic-Slavic non-exclusive lexical, morphological, phonological and accentual isoglosses structure has commonalities with Slavic languages. I groove these nuances. Who wouldn’t? Besides I’ll be able to decipher ancient scripts when visiting the Vilnius Museum and impress the ambassador if the topic drifts to such matters.
Obscure counting systems are fascinating especially those employing the toes. The Babylonians used a base-60 system inherited from the Sumerians. A base-60 system is divisible by 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 but a base-12 gets you through 4 and 6 smoothly. You can use toes and fingers for a 20-base system It shows up in French as 80 in ‘quatre-vingts’. ‘Halvtreds’ in Danish employs 50 or 2 & 1/2 times 20. The Oksapinus of Papua New Guinea possess a base-27 body system. Counting up the arm after using the fingers and wrist as 6, mid-forearm as 7, through to the neck as 11, ear as 12, eye 13, nose as 14 through to the other side of the head, neck, other arm and fingers up to 23 and 27. Wow. I really dig this scene. It is said the base-20 system underlies the Gettysburg Address. Every reason to study obscure counting systems. Or maybe not. Perhaps I’ll take a walk instead 😛 😀

Ian Fleming

For someone with no literary aspirations, ‘if I wait for genius to come, it just doesn’t arrive’ and to confess his Casino Royale as an ‘oafish opus’, how did Ian Fleming manage so much success? Maybe there’s something beneath the self deprecation, behind the throwaway one-liners.
Born into a wealthy family and schooled at Eton, the style and content of his writing contains the world of the privileged. To some degree this is to be expected but it was to be his work as a journalist and in the military with the secret Intelligence during WW 2 where he obtained first hand experience for his thriller spy novels. The central character, James Bond is similar to Fleming’s own character including his penchant for martinis, clothing sense and inability to maintain deep relationships. But the similarities end there as he was plagued with ill-health and taken to addiction. Excessive sedentary living and smoking eighty cigarettes a day inevitably take their toll. What broke his habits must have been the inspiration. Each day while at his retreat in Jamaica, he’d rise for an early morning swim and write two thousand words before lunch. And it must have paid off as he would become the biggest selling crime writer in the US. Even President Kennedy was a fan.
So what was his secret?
It goes without saying, an imagination for creating a set of endearing and memorable characters. A dastardly villain with particularly obnoxious sensibilities may not be so hard if you base them on someone you already know – Blofeld was named after a rival from Eton and Goldfinger from his neighbor architect who’s buildings he hated. But then you have to contrast the evil with regular character types. Fleming’s knowledge of people in the military and Secret Intelligence helped to develop characters such as Miss Moneypenny and Q but they are really composite personalities in the author’s past. A propensity for guns and gadgets ironically reinforce a sense of reality. While they may seem farfetched and fanciful they at least appear plausible. In the context of the far flung story world they manage to reinforce it. And with the characters firmly grounded in the reader’s mind, Fleming can let loose with an all out electrifying, hair raising adventure story that doesn’t let up to the very end.
Sixty years on from Fleming’s death, the Bond saga is as popular as ever and has survived inevitable cultural change. Analysis of the Fleming magic formula can be evasive as is Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Perhaps it’s best left a mystery.

Ian Fleming