Helmut Buchner’s New Sculptures

There is something in everything, depending on how you look at it

Photos by Joe Jaworski & Edda Buchner

What’s behind a rock, a root, a shell, or a time-proven fence post? Maybe nothing. But you can always make it “something.” Just by looking and thinking. Art objects are all around us. Nobody knows that better than silversmith and “Macher” (maker) Helmut Buchner from the Bat Cave Ranch by San Antonio.

Helmut has a very deliberate way of talking. Each sentence, no matter how obvious the content, clearly captures a deep thought. And that also applies to the stories behind his sculpture park on his ranch, which grows steadily. I will try my best to do our conversation justice with my English interpretation of some of his new, money-free objet d’art.

Mona Lisa came together just for fun. There was a river rock laying around for years. It had the shapes of a beautifully formed woman, no relations to the Kardashians (maybe Picasso or Gaugin). And then there was also the tree stump of an old cedar tree. That tree had been in conflict with an oak. Every time when I have to cut down a tree, I leave a stump as a memorial. It could be used for something later. That tree offered itself to install something on it. The other two things had been waiting in the grass for a while. So I put all three together, set the rock on the stump, and installed the metal frame around it. The stone, steel, and wood enhanced each other quite naturally.”

Covid-19 Man: “I made that at the beginning, when we started to realize how threatening and aggressive Covid-19 was. For the first time it happened in my long life that we had such a worldwide epidemic. For me, the woodblock face demonstrates the anguish of a patient screaming from pain and terror. We’ve had the ball made of sea shells for a long time and it offered itself as a Covid virus symbol encompassing the entire globe.”

Bird Happiness: Helmut stands at the bottom of 40-foot-tall bamboo pole. It has a weather vane at the top, a bird with a long ribbon tail. The “Windvogel” sways in all directions, depending on how the wind blows. Unfortunately, storms repeatedly tore the sculpture off its mount. Helmut’s solution? He made a bamboo man to help support the structure. “The golden-haired bamboo guy holds up the pole so that the bird won’t fly away,” Helmut says. So how is this working out? Time will tell.

Himmelsleiter-Stairway to Heaven: A bicycle without a saddle is parked at the bottom of a bamboo ladder leading up into the air to who-knows-where? This sculpture, one of Helmut’s oldest, is thoroughly weathered. Visitors are fascinated by it, a stairway to heaven. “I figured that the ladder alone won’t get you to heaven, but I had a lot of people thinking that it might,” Helmut says with a wry smile on his face.

Nothing is accidental about Helmut’s sculptures. They are built on careful observation, selection, and artistic vision. A lot of thought goes into them. Helmut’s next sculpture could take a while or happen spontaneously. It starts with the idea, then the collection of materials, and finally comes the technical problem solving. The organic part is undeniable. These sculptures, exposed to the elements, change and mature over time—intentionally. They are in constant dialog with the maker and spectator. And nature.

“I don’t want to convert people to anything. Everybody should make up his or her own interpretation. Friends brought visitors over to show them the sculptures. I am always surprised about their comments. Everybody gets to think what they want. And that is the way it should be.”

Another piece is in the works, called Kama Sutra, aka a bunch of large, gnarly cedar roots arranged together. “At this time, I am working on the enlightened lovers,” Helmut says.

What will people think about that?

Whatever they want. Like me. Mea culpa, Helmut! I had thought that man with the sea shells was playing beach volleyball: shells = beach, white ball, get it? Perhaps some wishful thinking there. We all could have done so much better without the Covid.

Maybe some objects are also crying out to you for the art inside of them? Just look around! Elevate your vision for the not-so-ordinary.

There is more. Helmut is also an excellent silversmith-jewelry maker. His life partner Edda Buchner will be showcasing his jewelry together with the sculptures in a book. Helmut has also built a Zen garden, a labyrinth, and a tipi on his Texas home turf.

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The War on Plastic

War on Crime, War on Drugs, War on Poverty, Star Wars, Price Wars,  –  Why not have a War on Plastic—NOW? We need one more good war!

We splurge in unnecessary plastic all the time. Where does the waste go?

Refuse, reduce, recycle that plastic!

I confess, I use plastic still too much. Most of it is totally avoidable.

Regardless how judicious you may be, you will have committed one of these 10 Plastic Cardinal Sins. Aren’t we lazy! (Or is it short-term memory loss?). So, let’s restart.

The 10 Cardinal Plastic Sins

  1. Single-use water bottle: It should have been legally restricted or taxed by now. Some schools and organizations have banned them. Bring your own refillable water bottle. Water in tin bottles available now.
  2. Plastic shopping bags: Yeah, what’s your problem? Bring your own bags, or a basket. Ask for paper bags. Don’t trust the “recycling” of plastic bags in the stores. Or hopefully the store makes you pay for a plastic bag.
  3. Take out containers: In the US, it’s still a world of plastic and Styrofoam. Avoid restaurants that serve you tubs of plastic that could be aluminum or paper. Plastic take-out containers were banned in some European countries.
  4. Online purchases: Hell, no! Get your items from the store, because the shipping material refuse is insane. Peanuts and bubble wrap galore. Leave that stuff to Santa!
  5. Beverage bottles: Get your drinks in a can, glass bottle, or from the faucet, not plastic! This would be my NEW LAW: Stores must recycle plastic bottles, return them to the manufacturer. Let the Coca Cola deal with the plastic!
  6. Liquid detergent: The utmost insanity of all! Haven’t we always used washing powder? It gives you the same results. Listen up, Tide & Co.: Take your jugs off the shelves right now! We can shake up our own soapy sauce.
  7. Body wash & hair shampoo: Just use bar soap. Even hair shampoo and conditioner are available as solid bars these days.
  8. Body lotion: Easy fix. Use fragrant, essential, natural oils—in glass bottles. Oils have fewer ingredients than lotions and may be more beneficial than lotions overall.
  9. Juice & milk jugs: Tropicana switched to plastic carafes. Why?? Other juices still come in cartons. Buy those! One gallon milk jugs can still be recycled in our town. But you may just as well get milk in 1/2 gallon packs.
  10. Egg “cartons” ???: Why should plastic egg “cartons” even exist?

Our municipal authority, the City of Mesa, has basically given up on recycling. Only about 5 item categories will be accepted, forget about washing out yogurt cups. Since China does not take our American trash any more, the dumps on the Salt River Reservation and the other one by the Florence prison are growing at horrid rates.

ONE MORE EXAMPLE OF ILL-FATED PLASTIC LOGIC: In my college days I met a lady who had a big heart for animals. She cut up the plastic rings from the soda six-packs. Why? So that no sea-life should be caught in it. WHY would our plastic end up in the ocean in the first place? This was some 30 years ago, and ongoing.

At any rate, plastic should carry a Surgeon General’s warning, just like cigarettes:

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Plastic Causes Piles of Trash, Harmful Inertia, Intrusion into the Food Cycle, Death of Sea Life, and various types of Cancer. Plastic Overuse by any Human Has Been Shown to Result in Global Pollution, Toxicity in the Food Chain, and the Increase in Morbidity in Humans on All Continents.

FROM NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC:

Environmental change: California’s new plastics law could force the rest of the nation to cut down on its polluting materials. The legislation mandates, among other things, a reduction in the single-use plastics sold in the state. It also requires 65 percent of plastics to be recycled within a decade—an ambitious goal. Plastics makers will have to foot the bill for recycling. The law could have ripple effects across the nation, but not all recycling proponents are pleased, Laura Parker reports.

Read the full story. (Pictured above, one million plastic beverage bottles are purchased every minute worldwide.)

NEW PLASTIC STANDARDS

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Top Five Animated Movies of All Times

If you are an “adult” like me (whatever that means), you may have left most cartoons behind you. But I like an animated movie once in a while. Animations help us to look beyond reality. They punch our buttons, hit us on levels of irony and travesty, where reality just does not reach. Here are my top five animation movies.

Shrek turns all fairytales upside down. I like it so much, because I grew up with a lot of Grimms’ stories in Germany. And Shrek busts our stereotypes once and for all: nothing noble about the steed, a prince turned out short, and an ogre who is a philosopher. There are surprises around every corner. I love how all the characters are mixed up in a paradoxical stew. Best of all is the twist in the end: Be who you are, not who you think you should be. And don’t we all love dragons!

Monsters Inc. shows us the inside workings of a scare corporation–very well done! The monsters are more scared of humans than the other way around. When the monsters march to work, I am reminded of our current political scare tactics. Doors hold a fascination for all of us. Don’t we always want to know what’s behind them? Are we afraid to open them? So cool, how the doors are played throughout. The nice thing about Monsters Inc.: Truth be told, laughter creates more energy than fear.

Wall-e is the most real and scariest animation that I know. I have always had a knack for utopias (Brave New World, Time Machine, 1984). A tiny robot is the only worker left in a post apocalyptic world, when spoiled-beyond-belief humans have escaped on a spaceship. Humanity, all fat like mast oxen, has fallen victim to limitless comfort seeking, subscribing to the Buy&Large, until all life on earth was buried under trash. So what should we do? Go about our business, as the world goes down? Think. Think again. Do something! Recycle, vote, refuse the plastic!

Rango must be counted as one of the best Westerns of all time. It’s up there with Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven, but not only because Johnny Depp is the chameleon. If you’re ever talking “characters” in an animation–it’s Rango. But I like it the MOST for its DIRE dire story line, especially for us in Arizona. A little desert town called Dirt is running out of water–because a greedy corporation diverted it. Similar monster developers and corporations have bought up everything in the Valley of the Sun. When will our Valley run out of water? What can we do to conserve it? Certainly the cancer-like sprawl doesn’t help.

Finding Nemo instantly thrilled me. It had a good story, I can identify with short term memory loss (ha, ha, Dori!), and I have always been fascinated with sea life. At one point, I had wanted to become a marine biologist, reading too much about Jaques Cousteau and an Austrian scientist, Hans Hass. Both swam with sharks and studied their behaviors. They weren’t the blood-thirsty beasts as often portrayed. Imagine:

100 million sharks are killed by us in a year!!

Sharks, in return, hardly kill 10 humans a year. Something is off here. Something is also off at the Great Barrier Reef. It’s dying from global warming.

Thank God for animation! At least we are able to participate in nature vicariously via movies. Although that’s not enough for me. I need a regular, in-person experience with nature to balance me out—not necessarily with sharks, but a good hike on the Rim will do.

So, if you got nothing better to do, watch a movie! I just gave you my top five animations.

There is a lot of good truth to them.

They make you think.

I hope.

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Pantsters, Plottsters, and Hippies—Conventional vs. Self-Publishing

Guest Column by Dan Baldwin, Ghost-Writer & Author

Dan with a cigarI remember the 1950s when conformity in life, belief and culture was not only expected, it was demanded. Most people went along, but there were a few on the fringe who refused to conform. This was before the age of the hippie. (Although of that generation, I have more in common with the beatniks—jazz, writing, being cool as opposed to being loud, “sick” comedians like Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl.) We seem to be living in a retro-fifties era today. The cries for conformity are everywhere. If you’ll watch the news carefully you’ll see that the “free” kids of the sixties, who are now in their seventies, are bringing back the worst of the fifties.

Thanks, Dan, for your  BANDANA Story!

It sure is bloody funny!

That’s true in the writing universe, too. As with the “pantsters” vs. “plotters” debate, we have an ongoing confrontation between those who believe in the conventional and those who believe in the cool (originally a beat term).

Dan with Pendulum

Dan talking to the spirits of the past with his pendulum

The conformist seek comfort in well-established, inflexible rules. The cool isn’t afraid to risk pushing the edge of the box or even punching through now and then. For example, the conventional believes with the faith of a 12-year-old Southern Baptist at her first tent revival that a work must—must mind you—be rewritten and rewritten and rewritten until like Goldilocks says, “it’s just right.” The cool, with the confidence in his own ability looks across the uncharted literary landscape and says, “I wonder what’s over there” and then makes the journey to find out.

Dan at Weavers NeedleBeing a beat generation survivor, I think of myself as a cool. I send my works to first readers for their input. I listen to that input, evaluate it, and incorporate their suggestions if I agree with them. A conventional writer will automatically submit to the recommended changes of an editor, critique group, best friend, fellow writer, or first reader without hesitation. Why? Because that’s the way it’s done. The rule book says so.

Dan and donkeyA conventional knows for a fact that the way to publishing success is to get an agent who will get a publisher who will then publish the work. He knows for certain that this is the only sure-fire method. The cool knows that he can take that road or choose another, such as self-publishing. I’ve debated the pros and cons of traditional vs. self-publishing and each side has its share. The amount of emotional attachment some authors have to conventional thinking, however, borders on religious belief.

I am not against conventional writing, publishing or marketing techniques provided they are not employed by rote simply because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’  To me, conventional or cool should be a choice and not a self-imposed mandate.

Dan and booksSomething to think about, eh? Give it some thought.

Dan Baldwin has been my role model and motivator for the last 15 years. He has penned and ghosted probably more than 70 books. Mysteries, thrillers, westerns, and the paranormal are his favorite genres. In his spare time he works as a psychic detective to let the departed speak through his pendulum. You can contact him through his website below.

DAN BALDWIN at Four Knights Press

Dan on Radio: The Paranormal Pendulum

Never mind the ads–Dan’s interview starts a couple of minutes in.

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A Taste of Bandana Berries

Here is a taste of my my bandana story. It’s about the red snuff kerchief that my Opa always carried along. But how will this story end?

Opa and 2-year old AnnElise

Opa took me to the St. Leonhard’s horse parade. I was 2 years old

“Opa has picked berries for you!” Mom was in her typical taking-care-of-business mode. She rushed past me through the kitchen with a load full of washed laundry. She had no time to waste before heading back out into the field.

This was the berry-picking and haymaking season in my Bavarian village. You could tell by the tattered house dress Mama was wearing. Her hair was tied under a headscarf. Her skin was flushed. On her upper arms tan lines showed from longer sleeves. She was ready to jump on the tractor as soon as the sheets were hung.

I flung my school bag into the corner of the bench. Then I dropped my four letters down and grabbed the plate,  warmed-up pancake soup and a schmalznoodle. For those who do not know, pancake soup is a clear broth with plain omelet strips cut into it, and schmalznoodles are sticks of fried bread. Beggars can’t be choosers, but I could smell the berries before Mama had set the bowl on the table.

“Here, Opa picked these for you!”

Wow, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries. They glistened like sumptuous little jewels. “Where did he find them?”

“Inside the Marsh Moss clearing. Didn’t take him but 15 minutes to scoop these up.”

Grandpa always looked out for us kids, me and my three younger siblings. He helped us build bird houses, constructed an underpass along the creek so that we didn’t have to cross the busy state road, and made sure to drive us home at 6:30 with a stick.

“How did he carry them home? Did he have a basket?”

“Nope.”

“His hat?’

“Nope, his bandana. You know how he ties these knots in it.”

“His bandana?”

“Yes. Eat up. I must go now. There is some cream in the fridge. Aren’t you getting a royal feast today! Thank your Opa for it.” And out she was. Seconds later, the small tractor puttered off the yard.

Gramps’ bandana? The berries suddenly didn’t smell so good any more. I didn’t dare imagine all the places the bandana had been. And he never put it in the wash. He insisted on washing it himself, usually in the rainwater trough under the gutter spout. Easy grandpa logic. That red bandana was his only one. His lucky bandana. He couldn’t do a day without it. So, he washed it himself, as needed.

As needed? I gagged. I kept on ladling my pancake soup, very slowly. Gramps’ bandana, was it washed? When was it washed last? I ogled the sparkling berries in front of me. And my imagination went wild. Poisoned by a snuffed out bandana?

Should I risk a light bandana poisoning? It was a hot day today, and gramps for sure had wiped his sweat on his bandana. Or was I in for a severe intoxication from snuff snot? That is, my gramps was addicted to stuffing Gletscherprise (Glacier Pinch) up his nose and then blow it out like an erupting volcano into his almighty bandana. Brown goop. That and the recent bloody accident had made the “bandana berries” most unpalatable to me. Three days ago, gramps had spliced not only the kindling but also his palm with his splicing knife. Blood was dripping. “No big deal,” he had growled after mom had rushed to bring him a bandage. He beat her to it and wrapped his good-fortune bandana around his palm. Maybe it had curative properties? The next day the cut was gone.

Where all had the bandana been? I stared at the bowl of berries. The soup was finished and I was still hungry. I pulled the bowl closer and sniffed the stunning aroma.

Berries with cream

Bandana berries—to eat or not to eat was the question

How do you think the story ends? Send me your (alternate) ending for this bit. It would be great fun to contribute your guesses to my story.

And send me your story soon!

NOTE: My webmail isn’t jinxed. It just may ask you to declare yourself as human. So write in any time if you’re not an android. If you’re getting a weird reply, it’s my spam blocker.

The ad of the day: Dump the plastic detergent and find yourself a real man!

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