Saturday, April 21, 2018

Penny Cooper's Day Out

You may remember, Penny Cooper was in a small gray room before she came here. I think she's told Red Hair Girl about her past, but I don't know it. Whatever it is, she's rebounding well. 
(That's an assumption on my part, that she even needs to rebound. Possibly her past was nothing bad at all. At any rate, she seems happy now.)

Yesterday the dolls went to the Community Garden to ride their new vehicles [99¢ each at SVDP] in the springtime weather.

RHG has a monster truck. Penny Cooper, a patrol motorcycle.
"Nice toys," a guy passing by said.

The truck flew down the muddy track. [I don't do product placement, but I've gotta hand it to Hot Wheels--the design of this truck is superb.]
But the motorcycle wouldn't roll.

The motorcycle drove well on some rocks. Julia happened to come walking by––just in time to take pictures. 
Penny Cooper Triumphant
Everything is temporary.

We joined Julia on her walk down the Greenway, which follows an old rail line between the Mississippi River and Bde Maka Ska ["White Earth Lake" in Dakota, the restored name of the lake formerly known as Calhoun]. 

Here, Julia's photographing the peeling paint under a bridge. [On Julia's IG––click on the almost invisible arrow on the photos to see the series.]
Penny Cooper'd found a scrap of bandana and tied it round her neck. 

 Down to the railroad tracks along Hiawatha Ave.

RHG let Penny Cooper ride the monster truck at a sandpit.  
Julia helped.

We ended up at Urban Forager, a place that serves cider and wine they make from local fruits and plants they harvest and ferment themselves. I had maple and oak apple cider (6.5% alcohol). 
The dolls were sound asleep, mud-smudged, in my bag.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Springtime Bear-Repair Opener

"I'm up here, unstuffing animals," I called from my sunny, second-story porch to my downstairs neighbor standing in the snowy backyard.

She looked up at me with alarm.

"Oh. . . ," she said, light dawning, "you mean stuffed animals!" 

Yes, stuffed animals. I'm not up here trapping squirrels.

It's finally warming up above freezing (49ºF/ 9ºC right now!), and I've started unstuffing and bathing toys that have been waiting for months. Bear repair is dusty, and a sloppy, wet mess: I don't much like to do it inside in the winter.

Happy dance!

This dirty, homemade, wool bear ^ came from a farm auction, $6 on eBay. I got the old suitcase for $1.99 from SVDP.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Snipper Nippers

The glass tile nippers/wheel cutters I ordered off ebay ($11, incl. shipping) just arrived. I bought them to try cutting china dishes up into mosaic tiles.
I found the info here:
"How to Make Broken-China Mosaics"

OOOoooh---fun! and super easy to snip the ceramic.
This is (was) a cracked willow-ware saucer ^ made by the Société Céramique, Maastrich, Holland, once (1850s–1969) one of the big potters in the ceramics town of Maastrich.
(Note to self: check the maker's mark before you clip the plate.)

See, I've been saving old china plates at the thrift store--ones that are cracked, chipped, or outright broken.
(You might be surprised at the way donations arrive--plates stacked with no wrapping in a plastic bag is not unusual.) 

SVDP used to save them for a mosaic-maker, who'd pick them up. But now this person has more than enough china, so workers have simply been throwing it out---the m.o. at all 3 thrift stores I've worked at. 

I'm pretty blasé about throwing stuff out (SO MUCH STUFF), but last week I couldn't bring myself to toss a cracked Limoges porcelain* platter with gold rim (real gold) into the gray plastic 32-gallon trash can. 
I suppose I heard my mother's voice--she loved that sort of antique dishware. Personally I prefer space-age design, but still, it makes me cringe to throw out something so beautiful and old--something other people took a lot of care to make.

I asked the manager if we could start saving china again, and he said of course––if I'd take responsibility for it. 

I'm going to tape plates together in batches of 5 and price each batch a dollar. Labelled "for mosaic-making or fairy gardens", they'll sell I bet. (Almost all the 25 packets of sewing notions I'd put together last week sold in three days.)
And my favorites, I'll turn into my own tiles. I do like blue-and-white ware.

*Limoges porcelain: "The essential ingredients used in creating Limoges porcelain are all local natural ingredients [in Limoges, France]: kaolin [a clay mineral] is combined with pulverized feldspar and quartz. Then begins the process of milling, pulverizing, heating, molding, and firing. It is porcelain only if it retains a translucent quality."

Astro, Circus Dog

bink and her little dog Astro, after the snowstorm this past weekend

Purl Harder

Somehow I can just imagine the meeting(s) of the committee that came up with this.

New York City WPA War Service Poster, 1942

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Marwencol

From the trailer (in the Guardian) for the documentary Marwencol:

A soldier doll (1/6th scale) holds his teddy bear in the imaginary WWII town, Marwencol, Belgium, created by Mark Hogancamp: 

What I'm Reading: Jam Today!

1. Quote from The Odd Woman and the City (2015) by Vivian Gornick; the author has helped an elderly man cross an icy patch.
"Thank you," he says. "Thank you very much."
A thrill runs through me.
"You're welcome," I say, in a tone that I hope is as plain as his.
It was his voice that had done it. ....
There was in it not a hint of that beseeching tone one hears so often ... when small courtesies are shown
This man realized that I had not been inordinately helpful; and he need not be inordinately thankful. He was recalling for both of us the ordinary recognition that every person in trouble has a right to expect, and every witness an obligation to extend.
In the midst of American dysfunction, global brutality, and personal defensiveness, we had, each of us, simply come into full view, one of the other.
 2. I am greatly enjoying the inspiring Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018).
Author Steven Pinker lays out the case that the application of rational thinking has improved the world greatly--and who can argue with that. 
Not me!
I just spoke on a panel about THE BEST THING EVER:
the invention, installation, and ongoing maintenance of sewers!

Yay, Public Health!!!

Pinker, however, is a bit too Spock-like for me. It shows up in his seeming lack of emotional comprehension of irrational things, specifically of religion. Some (including me) might wish he'd co-authored this with a Dr. McCoy–type who not only groks but loves some of the irrational expressions of humanity--and can translate too:
 [Funny side-note: 
Pinker comments in an interview that he and William Shatner both grew up in Jewish families in Montreal. He seems pleased by this.
(Alas, the interviewer, Stephen Fry, is toad-like in his worshipfulness toward Pinker, which made this interview a bit hard to take.)]

Still, I cheer for and generally include myself on Pinker's team, the Enlightenment Wonks.

To me, the most cheering thing in the book is the way Pinker applies the law of entropy (things fall apart; you can't unscramble an egg)–– the second law of thermodynamics––to individual life.
There's an obscure consolation to the fact that, as Captain Picard put it:

This law is the answer to my lament, WHY must I keep brushing my teeth every day for the rest of my life?!?!
 If everything seems like so much bloody work, it's not that you're doing it wrong. It is so much bloody work.

It also speaks to the question, Why am I so lucky as to have most of my teeth at fifty-seven years old, and indeed so lucky as to be fifty-seven?

Well, I knew that one: 
because I am lucky enough to have born in a generation that was preceded by generations of humans who worked on fending off entropy and building up these Goods: 
dentistry, and longevity (See, sewers).

Pinker writes:
"Why the awe for the Second Law? I believe that it defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind and striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.

Not only does the universe not care about our desires, but in the natural course of events it will appear to thwart them, because there are so many more ways for things to go wrong than to go right.
Matter doesn’t spontaneously arrange itself into shelter or clothing, and living things don’t jump onto our plates to become our food. What needs to be explained is not poverty but wealth."
Alas, Pinker's [entirely understandable] disdain for the dangerous illogic of religion means he misses some delightful connections, some opportunities to play with the past---
for instance, Jesus also pointed out that poverty (entropy) is the law, not wealth, "The poor you will always have with you," and nonetheless that it's our ultimate [earthly] purpose to feed the hungry.

True, Christians may fail to live up to that, but neither does the United States live up to our ideal that all people are created equal--it's still something to point to, and it annoys me that Pinker doesn't.
For instance, he quotes Spinoza approvingly:
"Those who are governed by reason desire nothing for themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of humankind."
But, hey, Spinoza was a Jew. I don't know, but might he have heard this somewhere? From Rabbi Hillel, maybe?
"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it."    — Talmud, Shabbat 31a
Ah well, this is just a small weakness in Enlightenment Now, it no way undercuts Pinkers wonderful central argument:
Things fall apart. Let's work together, rationally, to see if we can't shore them up, for the sake of us all.

And, best of all, his many examples (with charts!) of how we've done that successfully in the past couple hundred years.
Like this CDC chart, from "Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Control of Infectious Diseases":

I do love religion (well, some of it), but if I had to choose (and I, we, don't--they are not necessarily in opposition--current social mood notwithstanding), I'd take public health first.

As the guy who owned the airbnb in Dallas said to me when I gave him a copy of my toilet-history book, 

"If we don't have sanitation, we don't have civilization."

Reservations aside, I highly recommend Enlightenment Now.
Pointing out that we should all be as happy as kings may not make us as happy as kings––

we humans seem always to be focused on jam tomorrow and jam yesterday––
but Pinker does provide a lot of cheering information: 
There's jam today!!! Because we made it!

*Ah--here, child psychologist Alison Gopnik says something similar to what I say about Pinker's Spockish tune-deafness to religion in her new review in the Atlantic "When Truth and Reason Are No Longer Enough"--except she points to "small town values" instead of religion:
"At a moment when [Enlightenment] values [science and reason] are under attack, from the right and the left, this is a very important contribution.
In his new book, Steven Pinker is curiously blind to the power and benefits of small-town values.

If things are so much better, why do they feel, for so many people, so much worse? Why don’t people experience the progress that Pinker describes?
Pinker doesn’t spend much time focusing on this question, and he gets a little tetchy when he does. 

There’s a deeper reason that ordinary, well-meaning people may feel that something has gone wrong, despite so much evidence to the contrary. Pinker’s graphs, and the utilitarian moral views that accompany and underlie them, are explicitly about the welfare of humanity as a whole. But values are rooted in emotion and experience as well as reason, in the local as well as the universal."
Again, we don't have to choose, but as Gopnik says,
the problem for enlightenment now is how to establish a background of trust and commitment that allows conflict without contempt."

And the problem for religion is, I would say, the same.

At any rate, let's keep brushing our teeth and cleaning the sewers!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Penny Cooper's arrival has really livened things up. Marz said the pair reminds her of the reunited twins in The Parent Trap
Cakes and ale for all!

This morning at the Wedge, Penny Cooper darns the holey blanket I've been mending all winter, with Red Hair Girl standing by on scissors, and bink keeping company.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Morning Sledding

On my back porch

Red Hair Girl and Penny Cooper sledding on the hill the April blizzard created on my back porch. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

April Showers

Red Hair Girl's concern that the new doll, Penny Cooper, might be afraid of bears has been laid to rest: it was Penny Cooper's idea to get the unstuffed repair-bears in on the fun of this historic springtime blizzard.

Dolls on my back porch after several hours of today's unusual spring snowstorm, with a dozen more hours of falling snow still to come--up to 15 inches of snow possible.

Friday, April 13, 2018

"She's here! She's here!"

"I hear the mail!!!"                                 

"She's here!"
"Let ME carry it!"

"I'll open it! Let me do it! 
She's my friend!"

"Oh!!! I know this doll!" *
                  \ "Penny Cooper!"        /"Red Hair Girl!"
"IT'S YOU!!!"

"Your hair is just the same! I cut mine..."
[Ed. Red Hair Girl has given a spear ^ to Penny Cooper,
in case she feels nervous with all the bears around.]

"You'll like it here. Stuff falls out of the sky."

[Ed. No kidding--that's hail on the porch: 
it's hailing right now, and a snow storm is predicted.
 Penny Cooper is not used to weather extremes, so after going outside, the dolls wrap up in bed with walnuts for a snack.]

"So... then what happened?"

 *Ed. Penny Cooper and Red Hair Girl are of different makes: you can see Penny Cooper's right hand is curved, for grasping things (like spears). 
But they say that they were together in a "big rocking box", and, after all, I suppose they know best.

"Clean As You Go" (Needle Books & Lost Dolls)

I. Space Age Needle-Books

I was sorting a batch of vintage sewing ephemera yesterday at SVDP, and there was this STELLAR needle book, above,
 with what looks like the Deep Space 9 space station (Star Trek: DS9). 

I have two other space needle-books of the same type (mid-century, made in Japan), RIGHT:
but this futuristic one I never even knew existed.

I sorted the sewing notions into 25 grab bags, which I priced around a couple bucks each––once again proving what freedom there is in being a volunteer:
when I worked at Goodwill for $10/hour, they wouldn't let workers sort and price donations like these;
it wasn't financially worthwhile.  

Sewing notions naturally don't come into the store nice and neat--they come in old tins and baskets filled with snarls of threads, loose razor blades, stubs of pencils, old Band-aids, etc.

I've seen workers turn a sewing basket upside down over a dumpster, saving only the basket to sell. That happens even at places like SVDP unless some volunteer cares to sort it. 
That would be me.
I could have set up some beautiful photos, before I put the notions into reflective plastic---but as it is, I spent 6 hours putting these packets together. 
(The color pictures--owl, house, roses--are the covers of needle books--I put them in spread open, so shoppers can see the needle spreads on the other side.)

II. Are Toys Falling from the Sky, Or Is It Just Me?

As I was leaving SVDP yesterday, there was Julia, shopping.
I'm glad we ran into each other because the last time we talked, we'd had a misunderstanding about eco-terrorism: I'd mistakenly thought she said it was a good idea (I don't!); 
whereas yesterday she explained she doesn't either: she'd meant it was an understandable idea. 

(Yes, I, too, totally get how people can become so upset, care so deeply, and feel so powerless about something that they resort to terrorism.)

Thrift is dirty and dusty work--I am always parched afterward--and Julia and I went to the crowded brewery nearby
As we sat at the table that runs along the window, someone threw two dolls on the sidewalk outside. 
We didn't see it happen, we just noticed the dolls splayed naked on the ground when a curious passerby stopped by them, looking up into the sky as if they'd fallen from there. 
(I guess they came from a passing car?)

It was a little disturbing, so I went out and picked them up (below, left) and set them up, chatting to each other, on a brewery table (right, still too cold for humans to sit outside).
Julia took my photo through the window.
(How 'bout that "Clean As You Go" sign with the cute robot on the bus-stop shelter?)

Shortly afterward, the bartender went out to take their photos:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Good Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene "works to heal the impacts of an overactive stress response" from ACEs (adverse childhood experiences), according to the talk I went to yesterday.

And what's "sleep hygiene"? 
I had to look that up.
It's the stuff you do to help get good, regular sleep, like going to bed and getting up at the same time, having a comfortable bed, sleeping in a quiet, dark room, and not being online for a couple hours before bedtime. 

Or whatever works for you. (The advice not to read in bed is anathema to me. How would I ever fall asleep?)

When my SVDP colleague––sorter & pricer Charlotte––was going to throw out an old wooden doll bed because one side had become loose (just needed a little glue),  I asked if I could have it. 

She said sure, and wrote out a price sticker for it:"FREE!"

Here's Red Hair Girl and Squash the Squirrel, practicing sleep therapy.

Can you see how cool the bed is? One side slides up and down, like a real bed for children.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Plasticity & Play

I. ACE of Clubs

[In cartomancy, the Ace of Clubs represents the search for knowledge.]

This afternoon bink & I went to a talk by pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris, author of the newly published book The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity [link: NYT article]. She talked about the ACE quiz, ten simple questions about basic Adverse Childhood Experiences, and studies that show the long-term impact ACEs have on child brain development ("toxic stress" = not good), and hence on their (our) lifelong health (also not good).

(There are mitigating factors, such as having someone who cares about you, even outside the immediate family, like a grandparent or a neighbor.)

I answered yes to three questions--(not uncommon)--but I also had the important mitigating factor of feeling loved. That was confusing, however, because the parent who loved me most and was a source of inspiration, my mother, was also the cause of the heaviest ACEs, being suicidal as she was.

But this is a very simple test---the complexities are for another time and place.

Grim stuff, but Burke Harris's point is that early intervention helps children, with their highly plastic brains, and it's a matter of public health that we as a society work toward the goal of providing that for all kids.

Burke Harris says:
"All of these work to heal the impacts of an overactive stress response: [mindfulness and] meditation; getting regular sleep and having good sleep hygiene; good nutrition; getting ... exercise every day; good old fashioned mental health care; and healthy relationships."
Furthermore, these same things help grown ups too, even though our brain plasticity is less.

II. Plastic Play

This is not a criticism of her work, (she can't cover everything), but I notice Burke Harris didn't mention play, at least in the talk I heard today.

Just this past week, I've been thinking more about what great therapy play can be. Of course I know my toys are more than just fun objects to me.
(Let's see: picking up run-over stuffed animals off the street and restoring them. . .  Could there possibly be a connection with not being able to save my mother?)

So I know about that, personally. But then I watched the 2010 documentary film Marwencol last week, and--wow!
Do you know it?

It's about a guy, Mark Hogancamp, who five young guys beat, kick, and leave for dead outside a bar in upstate New York in 2000. Hogancamp survived, but his memory didn't, and he had to rebuild his life from scratch.
He also built a miniature made-up WWII town outside his trailer--Marwencol, Belgium--and populated it with 1/6th-scale dolls.

Every day for years, he has photographed his main doll, Hogie, his alter ego. Among other events, five SS dolls attack him, over and over. Over and over, a group of beautiful women partisans rescue and restore him.
Over and over, the SS respawn and hunt down Hogie again, and again he's rescued...

“I needed a way to work things out, for me,” he said. “I feel as though men kicked me out of this world, so I made women my catalyst for revenge.”

ABOVE: Mark Hogancamp at Allouche Gallery in his favored footwear, with photos he took of Marwencol. Credit Robert Wright for The New York Times: "Mark Hogancamp, the Artist as (Imagined) War Hero"

I watched this movie (there's a book too, Welcome to Marwencol), and I thought, I WANT FULLY ARTICULATED TOYS!

Hogancamp says the dolls determine what he does in Marwencol. 

Reading more about it in the above linked article from 2015, this really caught me:
Recently, when Mr. Hogancamp suffered artist’s block — “I didn’t feel like killing Nazis anymore” — he took inspiration from the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, and created the Marwencol Olympics."
Fascinating. It seems the dolls rewrote the script.

III. A Friend for Red Hair Girl

Recently I learned that Red Hair Girl is part of a family of Madeline dolls. At first she was quite angry, feeling it meant she was not unique. Then she realized that--of course--she is entirely unique, and, furthermore, that she would like a family doll to come live with her. She is the only real doll here. (Kelvin the Cosmonaut is a squeak toy.)

I was hesitant, thinking she'd be jealous, but she insisted not, and I believe her. A couple days ago, I looked at the many Madeline dolls for sale on eBay and was overwhelmed: 

How to choose one?

This afternoon, home from the talk, it seemed so obvious: I would let Red Hair Girl choose. I said she could choose any one, no matter the price. (In the way of eBay, the prices range from $4 to $400.)

She narrowed it down to two.

RHG: "This doll ^ has a bounce in her step. She reminds me of me.
But there is already a me here. . . And she's being well cared for.
Maybe she would do better as an only doll."

"This doll ^ is standing stiffly in a gray cell.
I think she would like to come and live here instead."