Welcome to Tapenandy: it is the new blog for Labinac. The word is from the Guarani language. It means the open road. We want to signify that all things can be considered, investigated. Wild flowers, terrapins, and colibri seen along side the road are as important as the stones, wolves and people met on it, and we intend to write about whatever comes into interest.
New ideas and new designs and new people will be introduced; without a regulated schedule, but as things appear. Sporadically. By the coincidental chances the world likes to lay in our path.
2019 will soon be a strange memory. But there is more to the past than past….
Recently we visited an old oak tree we had known for years. It had fallen in a storm, though, and the ground around it was full of very small seedlings of new oak trees.
All of the acorns which had fallen around the tree which had not been dispersed by wind, birds or animals suddenly had sprouted. Before, in the shade of the old tree, they had had not enough light to activate and remained dormant, not dead.
We knew that maybe only one of them would make it to become the next great old tree. The others would not be gone and forgotten. They were becoming nourishment for other kinds of life.
Seeds can remain alive dormant for even hundreds of years, developing when conditions are right.
Seeds are hope with reason. A seed might be called preparation for a future, even if no one can imagine that future…
This is the season for nuts, in the northern hemisphere, and for feasting celebratorily. Many years ago in the Italian part of Switzerland, I chanced upon a festival of roasting chestnuts in a forested area. Large fires, lined up one after the other along the sides of a road. The purpose, I later found out, besides celebrating the bounty, was to insure a large cache of dried chestnuts for use in winter dishes. In those days chestnuts were still a staple food.
Polenta was made from chestnuts or millet until Europe started getting maize from the Americas. When Leonardo da Vinci ate polenta it was chestnuts dried and ground, then baked or boiled into a loaf.
Recipe for chestnut cake:
3 or 4 cups of chestnut flour
A bit less than a half a cup of olive oil
Water enough to make the mixture pour into a shallow baking dish
Mix the ingredients thoroughly and pour into the baking dish.
Then put pine nuts, raisins and sprigs of rosemary on top.
Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180° C.
After about 30 minutes it is ready. Good for breakfast and 5 o’clock tea.
Trees which make nuts are all evolved from ferns. Isn’t that remarkable? Over millions of years the spores which form on the undersides of fern leaves became the nuts, which is why there is no fruit, only the nut itself. Some fruit trees have seeds which are edible like nuts, however, such as pistachio, almond and apricot, cashews. Peanuts really are beans, which flower above ground, then descend underground to make the bean pod.
As everyone knows, black walnuts are the best nuts to eat; actually the best food to eat. But hard to shell. Hickory nuts, a close cousin, would be even harder to shell, except that they are so hard and dense it is impractical to shell them unless one fills a clean cloth bag with them and pounds them into small pieces with a stout stick.
Then they are dumped into a bucket of water. The shell sinks, the nutmeat, along with oil, rises to the top. This is skimmed off and picked over for bits of shell that might remain. The water is filtered and added to the nut meat, along with some hominy (maize which has been soaked in a potassium solution to make it softer and more nutritious). This is then cooked together until it is thick. Can be thickened more and formed into balls.
Impossibly good. It is called kannuche.
In parts of Brazil there are strange pine trees which produce very large pine nuts, as large as the first two joints of your finger, with soft shells. They can be simply boiled and shelled, eaten straight away or added to dishes.
In other words, what a planet! Let’s celebrate. Would you like some pecans?
One often reads in art or design texts that simplicity is a goal to be aimed for. Why that should be so is not explained, as though it were clear in itself.
Our bodies are not simple. Our brains are not simple, our minds and our thoughts are certainly not simple. Trees are not, small weeds are not.
Neither molecules nor atoms are simple. Even rays of light are not simple; they may be particles or waves according to something so complex we cannot understand it.
As we know, the simplest sentence spoken is never the least bit simple: who is speaking when and where to whom for what reason in what state of well-being makes for much complexity.
Even more, we not only need it that way, we like it that way. If my partner in any endeavor is simple enough to be completely understandable by me I would lose interest very soon.
Although it is good if a machine does exactly the same performance all the time, only when instructed to do so by the operator. For that to happen the machine must be complexly made.
So then. Why is simplicity advertised as an aesthetic and moral Good?
‘The answer is simple”, we hear. In that case, it is surely only a partial answer at best.
In a traditional Japanese tea ceremony the actual drinking of the tea is rapid but must be performed in an exact, complex, controlled manner, without rush. What goes on before and after the drinking of the tea is of equal or greater importance but unseparable. At all times one looks for grace and ease, just like an American Indian pipe ceremony.
Nothing is simple.
Recently we were on a train in Portugal and shared figs and cheese with a man in the seat across from us. Turns out he is a professor of economics in Coimbra and we discussed the state of the world. He said that this century is so much better than the last one; more people with enough food and shelter, more security and much less war.
Truly, he has an important point; yet one always feels an urgency of impending and ongoing crises. A list of iniquities in our times is long. We are part of a family that includes all life on earth, plant and animal, and we understand that in some semi-conscious ways — just the fact that people who work in offices need plants as companions shows that we do understand more than we might like to admit.
So many members of our family are becoming extinct because of human actions.
But it is not fair, is it? Two hundred years ago thousands of whale were slaughtered every year, changing the oceans for the worse irreparably. Whale oil made machinery work, though, and that really was progress (no matter that progress always has its bad side).
Then petroleum was discovered, just oil in the earth – what could be more innocent, more of a blessing? Soon afterwards plastics were developed from petroleum, so that most of our clothing, our computers, cars, furniture and constructions are made from petroleum products, plastics. It was like a miracle. The down side is like a poison. Not fair. All we wanted was better, easier, safer life. Or maybe all we did was the delight of experimenting and knowing stuff…
What now might we say to the next generation? Well, maybe it is not a matter of this generation saying anything to the next. There are really not such clear distinctions at any time nor place. How can we all act now, is a more real question. There is an annoying tendency to imagine that the solution is for Leaders of countries to be held accountable. Annoying because then it all comes down to talk or at best working to elect better candidates (always a good idea, and talk is most certainly necessary).
Much more drastic changes are happening whether we like it or not. So much of the northern world is refusing to aid people from the south who are in great need and suffering. More and more policies that are economically bad for everyone are being implemented. Even though it causes much suffering it will not matter in the long run. The world is changing.
Many people in many areas are seeing that all of our urgent problems are interconnected, and come from a way of being, thinking, that has been called ‘natural’ by the men in power. Patriarchy, colonialism, racism, what is called intolerance towards people of different sexual orientation (who is in charge of ‘tolerating’?) and aggressive destruction of the environment all come from one destructive set-up that is on its way out.
As someone else recently wrote, the old guys are dying. It is a time for humility and willingness to be less.
New ways of thinking, acting, are happening. Yes, there is much posturing and psychological profiteering. Much banality, as usual. Let’s sober up.
In some parts of the world substance abuse is constantly condemned and supposedly against the law even. We are also adamantly against substance abuse.
When plastic is made to look like wood, when wood is made to look like gold; that is substance abuse of a particularly insidious kind. It affects the public at large and it affects negatively our mental states. (Where are the design police when we need them?)
No, we don’t mean that. We mean that good stuff can rise above bad stuff. Honesty will be the best policy.
No, we don’t mean that… Wouldn’t it be nice, though? Adolf Loos once said that the curly curvy flourishes which decorated architecture were a cause of crime. Seems at first to be a shallow idea about stuff one doesn’t like. When we now see the results of his militancy in the stark concrete box-like buildings in every city slum we surely might wish for some curls here and there. In the Vienna that Loos lived in ornate curls became the inescapable environment.
Visiting old palazzi in Venice the over-worked chairs, of wood carved to look like fantasy vines, seashells and human faces, then painted gold; kind of fattening for the brain. Might make you want to commit a crime…
We see more and more that good design depends on good use of materials, of substances, as much as any other part of designing.
Wouldn’t it be good if science were more scientific? As has been written many times now by many people, we are well out of the last century and ought therefore to act more twenty-first century.
Especially we should think more of the world as a whole instead of imagining humanity as the center pinnacle.
When it comes to intelligence, however, science still has humans at the ‘top’ of some ladder. We submit that that is not scientific. One hears often that a dog has the intelligence equivalent to that of a five-years old child, or that a cat has intelligence similar to a three-year old child.
Not only to we then treat animals as though they were like children; referring to dogs and horses as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, but we think that we are the intelligent ones.
An adult horse is much smarter at horsesense than anyone. If a horse were intelligent IN THE WAYS THAT A HUMAN IS INTELLIGENT it would not be good at being a horse. Neither would a human ever pass the tests to measure horseness, obviously.
Humans are not ‘purely’ intelligent. Intelligence as we think of it is tied to primate biology. Our hands, our reliance on visual data, our use of verbal language (as if it were the only language) and all of the abilities which have evolved from these characteristics, are strictly primate. The smarter dolphin would be stupid to think to use them when she has not the physical body of a human. But most especially when communicating with other dolphins.
Human intelligence is just that; not more, not pure. In the last century so much energy was put into discovering which animals could pass which tests to prove they were as smart as us (actually, to prove that they were not as smart as us).
Not very scientific.
What if biological sciences were to concentrate on how we humans might communicate to various other animals instead of trying to teach animals how to speak human language
‘What do you think is life — what sorts of things should be considered as living?’, we recently asked the intrepid Elisa Strinna during one of those long evening conversations one has.
‘Whatever is intelligent is alive’, she answered. Then she went on to explain her idea of intelligence. She used the stone called flint as an example of what she means: ‘It has its own integrity, it is complete no matter what. That is a kind of intelligence.’
Isn’t that an exceptional way of looking at, being in, the world? It is so inclusive and generous while being tough. And it shows in Elisa’s use of materials in her art and designs. One might imagine her addressing ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’, like St Augustine.
It is an attitude that places humanity within the world instead of above it.
She shows her intelligence by acknowledging the world.
The Alentejo region of southern Portugal produces excellent wine, music, and most of all, stone. Stone workers in other parts of Europe all know that the stone of Portugal is kind of like over-the-top. It seems often even theatrical in its dramatic colours and patterns — fancy in the extreme.
We were in Portugal a month ago looking through stoneyards for slabs of marble that were perhaps not right for the construction trades but perfect for our tables and other strange stuff.
We found beautiful marble with pink, yellow, green and purple striations. Onyx-like sheets one centimeter thick which change light as it passes through. We found discarded scraps which have shapes that seem natural and un-natural at the same time. And bought as much as we could afford.
We recomend that anyone sitting by our stones in the future listen to Alfredo Marceneiro sing Fado. He was once a cabinetmaker, hence the name
Capua is an ancient city in the south of Italy. It was there long before the Romans, and became an important place in classical roman times. Over the centuries people have used what structures they found and added to them for living spaces. That makes a strange architectural melange with Roman statuary and columns embedded in modern apartment buildings haphazardly.
We went there earlier this year with a friend from Napoli. Visited a depot for salvage from demolished buildings and found old planks of chestnut wood and olive wood six and seven centimeters thick, which had been used hundreds of years ago.
Some of these we have have since made into benches with bronze legs. With the help of Jone Kvie, our resident shelf expert, we made a bookshelf with some and it now works in our showroom in Napoli.
There is in Capua the seldom visited Campano museum with a trove of fertility statues, known as Mater Matuta or Mother of the Morning, made of carved stone.
These pre-Roman statues bring forth the power and strength of women as they bring forth and care for life.