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Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, Orange Crate Art!

Via

Today is Orange Crate Art's tenth birthday!

I don't remember how I came across this blog––probably by randomly clicking on other people's blog rolls, which I do from time to time.

Blog author Michael opines, "There are people whose work is to perpetrate suffering, and there are people whose work is to create joy. "
He is the latter.
You can learn all sorts of fun stuff on Orange Crate Art, such as how to make spaghetti sauce à la the Godfather; not to use hotel drinking glasses ("use the disposable cups instead"); and how to identify pencils.

This is a blogger who got his university to put an "i" in their signs reading Intercollegate Women’s Rugby Field [no job to too small!], and yet he has never corrected the sometimes mangled grammar in my comments on his blog.  

Here's to another ten years of Orange Crate Art, and more! 

True or False?

These are four things I heard people say over the past few days. One of them I wasn't sure about, so I checked, and it is true. 
It's probably easy to spot, but I'll put the answer in the comments.

1) Stonehenge is in Ireland.

2) The Mall of America uses only body heat, lamps, and windows to heat its buildings.

3) Italian designer Faliero Sarti is the same as Salvatore Ferragamo.

4) Bacon is cow's meat. 

Well, gosh, how to know? Keep this handy guide in your pocket!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Neighbors, Noises, What Then Must (Can) We Do?

Part of the "Peace Wall" ^ that separates Catholic and Protestant Belfast, Ireland, 1969–still in place. [Click on link for a slide-show and article about the wall and the people who live along it, who mostly want it to stay in place]

Sunday Morning, 52ºF/11ºC: too cold to sit on my porch for long, but this morning while I was shivering with my coffee out there, I watched my next door neighbor moving out. 
This is the neighbor whose friend (? or visitor, anyway) shot and killed another guy in the neighbor's apartment last month. 

Next door has been quiet since then, after three noisy summers. 
The landlord told me they––he's part of a management company––have been trying to evict their tenant for quite a while.
                                                       *
Part of the problem as I see it has been that he's an absentee landlord milking a cash cow––I'm guessing the neighbor's rent was  duly paid by Section 8. (And it's legally harder to evict Section 8 tenants. )

I feel mixed, now:
disgust toward the landlord who doesn't live with or care for his tenants, much less the people next door (he was very curt with me--I sensed I was just an annoyance in his eyes); 
pity and rage toward the neighbor who seems to be both a victim and a perpetrator (moving won't help him any); 
 grief about the murdered man, damped-down because I don't want to feel it in full; 
frustration with how society is divided as much as or even more than ever between black and white, rich and poor; 
doubt about my role ("What then must we do?")*...

But truth be told, mostly I feel happy, almost giddy with relief now that I don't wake up at 3AM listening to the neighbor and his girlfriend screaming awful racial & sexual epithets at each other right outside my window.

I've written about being unusually miffy this summer. The elevation of my mood in the past couple weeks, even after a murder, makes me think that miffiness was due at least in part to living in a kind of war zone––a small, limited war, but as events proved, a dangerous one.

The noise of angry people spreads out in anxious ripples. How soul sickening it must be to live with the noise of a full-blown war.
_____________
* "I sit on a man's back...."
---quote from Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?(1886) [links to full text]

I only knew the Tolstoy question from this exchange in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), until I skimmed the original this morning. (Good stuff, Leo, except on women!)

[Mel, Mel... why did you turn out to be such an idiot?]

Searching for Tolstoy's book, I see it's also the title of a new book, What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution" by Gar Alperovitz. You can read his introduction here. Referring to the quote above, he says:
Most of us do not literally sit on men’s backs, making them carry us. We do, however, often uneasily look the other way, satisfying ourselves with modest changes that reassure us all is well while millions are in despair. “We’ve donethe best we can do,” we might say, “given the realities.” Still, many sense, as did Tolstoy, that to actually do something serious would require us to confront much deeper problems than we are commonly willing to.

“What then must we do?” is not shouted in the streets, but it is a question that more and more Americans—young and old, liberal, radical, and conservative—are quietly beginning to ask themselves in much more penetrating ways.

And here's an interesting article by Alperovitz: "What Then Can I Do? Ten Ways to Democratize the Economy".
Step one is "Put your money in a credit union – then participate in its governance. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

So Happy Together

I got a bit grumpy about women and men at the end of yesterday's post––I think partly because I'd just seen the movie Boyhood, which is a pretty grim take on the subject. 

The director, Richard Linklater, presents men and women as having mutually exclusive needs. Fine, heard it before . . . but, so what? 
He has nothing creative to say about that––watching this movie is like watching people gradually and predictably lose all their money at gambling tables.

Toward the end of the movie, the father character (Ethan Hawke) who has eventually married a different woman and traded in his muscle car for a mini-van says to his son:
“I've finally turned into the boring, castrated guy she always wanted me to be."

"She" is the son's mother (Patricia Arquette), who'd objected, for instance, to the father disappearing to Alaska for a year and a half when the kids were little.
Meanwhile, she's gone on and married two alcoholics in a row; the scenes in the movie around those marriages are real stomach-clenchers. 

The mother's take on love is that it is evolutionarily programmed---she gives a speech explaining that if mothers didn't love their children, in cave-dwelling days when a tiger threatened they'd leave them behind to be "tiger kibble."
This movie mother is a good mother--she drags her kids out of all the caves she's mistakenly thought were safe but turned out to be inhabited by tigers (alcoholic or irresponsible men). 

She ends up alone, or, it's hinted, possibly about to date a safe little schlub who manages the Chick-fil-A–like restaurant where her son washed dishes during high school.

Linklater deserves praise for one great idea: 
telling or filming a story in real time. 
Each film in his "Before" trilogy takes place during the span of one conversation; Boyhood was filmed over twelve years, as the boy actor grows up.

But the stories he tells are so pedestrian: 
men and women are powerfully attracted to one another but their different needs make them miserable over the long run.
                                                                                                               Patricia Arquette & Ethan Hawke
Fine, men and women have different needs. But doesn't this scenario have another conclusion besides lose/lose? 
Isn't there a princess or a prince behind one of the closed doors at least sometimes, not always a tiger or a castrating/castrated human?

For a different, more generative view than Linklater's, there's the happily longtime-married couple in Mike Leigh's film Another Year

The refreshingly loving couple, Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent >

You can't accuse Leigh of making cheerful, optimistic films: he tells bleakly realistic stories, but they do include the possibility of human happiness.

The couple in Another Year  do have very different needs: He's a geologist, with an engineer's personality--not Asperger's, but not very emotional. She, on the other hand, is a therapist who is all about emotion.
But they've figured out how to complement each other's differences, and they are a rare happy couple who are central to a film.


It's hard to tell an interesting story about happiness. The film's interest comes partly in contrasting the couple with two of their friends who are portraits of full-on male and female misery.
Happiness, this film suggests, is a lot about luck---the luck of your own personal temperament and the luck of finding someone who complements that temperament and expands the possibility of fulfillment, not reduces it.

The relationships in Boyhood are reductive. Even the role of the good mother turns out to be a bust: she ends up weeping when her son moves out, saying, basically, Is that all there is?


The boy slouches off to college, a nice boy who wants to make films take photos. It ends with a soppy scene where he's talking to a girl about "seizing the moment". Happiness between men and women can only be momentary, the ending suggests.
Maybe that's true for plenty of people, but what a boring, castrated point of view.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dressing

My sister has been  researching on the 'nets details of our father's life.

Today she e-mailed me this photo >
of our parents chaperoning the 1958 senior prom at Maryland State College, where our father had his first teaching job. 
(He is a retired prof of political science).

My father would have been twenty-seven years old here; 
my mother, twenty-three 1/2 years old. 

OMG, she was Marz's age! How did young women manage to looks so... so grown up back then?
________________________________________

The thing my sister discovered is that my mother's dress was designed by Dorothy O’Hara.

She was a big California designer in the 40s and 50s. 
< The dress was in Vogue in 1956. 

I remember adoring the photo of my parents in childhood––I still do!  (Though I'm not so sure about that bowtie...)
When I was little I thought the photo depicted what adulthood was supposed to look like, though I think I doubted I would ever achieve such a state of womanhood as my mother's––and I was right! 

By the time I was twenty-three in the 
1980s, I wanted nothing to do with such a version of femininity. 

It wasn't exactly in fashion then anyway, though come to think of it, Princess Di was bringing it back. But my friends and I thought she was a dope or a dupe. 

Poor girl---maybe she was both? I don't know, but now I can just say, hey! she looked great! 

Here she is in a similar twisty-white dress, published in Vanity Fair 1997, one month before her death.

Oh, what a pain it was to be a young woman trying to figure out how to present myself. I love being old[er] and not forced to constantly take into account other people's biological imperatives.
(I mean, I don't have to worry about guys hitting on me, something I always dressed to avoid. Not that they don't once in a rare while, but it doesn't phase me. Sometimes it even pleases or amuses me.)

"Someone Seeing Through"

I got a really nice e-mail from the activities director telling me I'd been a top choice but I didn't get the job.   
Bummer.

She said there'd been "a lot of interest in the position".
I hadn't realized this senior residence was a desirable place to work with lots of physical and human resources---it's in an affluent suburb, so I should have guessed. 

As I'd sat waiting in the lobby, I'd actually been a little worried about working there: 
the with-it residents sitting nearby were reading the New York Times and complaining about their investments. They were also talking about a bus trip to the grocery store--the most expensive one in the city. 
Working with the bored rich would not appeal to me.

But people with advanced memory loss have forgotten all about such matters! They exist in the present moment.

My activity had gone wonderfully, leading some women with memory loss in water coloring sunflowers and singing songs about the sun, such as "You Are My Sunshine". I loved it, and they obviously did too (for the moment) (the director said so too).

One woman had asked another, "What's that?" pointing to a corner of her swirly expressionistic painting. 

The painter had replied, "Someone seeing through."

Still from the film Enter the Void, seeing through the eye of a character on drugs.

So, I'm very disappointed---it's a bit disheartening to have done so well and not get the job.
I'm confident I can find a job in the field somewhere else, maybe grungier, but it's a drag that I have to keep job hunting, which I'm very slow about doing.
Oh well.
On we go...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Star Trek and Prehistory


Kirk and Spock leap through this time portal in "The City on the Edge of Forever" Star Trek episode.




In looking for "some rocks" in prehistory, I can across this  holed-stone in Cornwall, Men-An-Tol, via Megalithic Portal.























Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The night before my job interview...

...naturally I have invited friends over for dinner.

Actually, that's a good thing---it's keeping me a bit scrambled, getting everything together, so I don't have time to sit and stew.
And that's what's for dinner: ratatouille, i.e. the stew you make when you have zucchini and tomatoes coming out your ears. Ingredients from the Farmers Market, as is the accompanying soft goat cheese rolled in "gin berries" (juniper).

For my interview, tomorrow morning, as I've said, I have to design and implement an activity with people with memory loss. 

I went to the Thrift Store and got 5 little glass bottles to set the mini-sunflowers in, > 

and some blue napkins to set them on.
I want to stick with basic, familiar colors and things.

I already had the blank cards for people to paint on, and the residence will supply watercolors (and brushes, and pots of water, I am hoping!).

I said to a coworker at the store that it seems to me it's asking a lot of a candidate to prepare an activity for a place and a population they've never seen before. And for a part-time, low-paying job too (though a super important one).

"Oh, there probably isn't any job opening," he said. "They just get a few candidates every week to come do activities and then tell them they've hired someone else."
Ha!


Of course I don't have to do all this extra work, but I want to avoid getting flustered.
It's like being asked to plan and prepare a meal in a kitchen you've never seen. Even a so-called simple meal involves locating a lot of basic implements: it's easier if you just bring them with you.


My only nice shoes are pretty beat up, so I was hoping I'd find something better at the Thrift Store. 
In fact, I was counting on it, because I love the Thrift Store and it loves me, and... sure enough. 
< Four dollars.

About all I have left to do is iron my linen shirt.

My sister always rolls her eyes at the idea of ironing linen.
"Linen is supposed to wrinkle."

This is the same sister (I only have one) who rolled her eyes at the clerk in the department store who didn't know if they carried madeleine pans, or what they were.

"Haven't you read Proust?" Sister asked him.

I myself never assume people have read Proust (I haven't!) or know about his thing with the madeleine, or think that wrinkled linen is a sign of sophistication.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure I want this job.
If not this job, then one like it somewhere else. I think I'd be great at it, but you never know--maybe someone's niece is in the running too.

"A childhood... listening to pop hits on FM radio wasn't all for waste,"

If I get Alzheimer's (godforbid),  just play me the soundtrack of this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy: its goofy hero (Chris Pratt) planet-hops accompanied by a mix tape of '70s songs his mother made him when he was little. 
Even as my brain deteriorates, I bet I'd hum along to all the songs, including "Come and Get Your Love" (Redbone), “O-O-H Child” (The Five Stairsteps), and "I'm Not in Love" (10cc), which I know from hearing them over and over on my transistor radio when they were new. 

The movie is adequate enough, but its soundtrack is a blast and a half and saves the movie from being just a cute shoot-em-up version of Indiana Jones as a Marvel superhero. Theaters could have sing-along showings of the film, like the Sound of Music sing-alongs.  

The soundtrack has become a hit.  [You can buy it on iTunes, or just listen to all the songs on youtube here].
"Maybe that childhood spent locked in my room listening to pop hits on FM radio wasn't all for waste," says James Gunn, the movie's director, in a Rolling Stone article about the soundtrack he compiled. 

The star, Chris Pratt, plays the endearingly bumbling and plump (no longer) Andy Dwyer in TV's Parks and Rec. It kills me to read that he tried out to play Capt. Kirk in the new Star Trek. He would have brought ham and humor to the role, like Shatner, the original Kirk (below left), something Chris Pine's new Kirk has none of. 
"If you like piña coladas..."

[Fun article in the NYT, Goofy Guy Takes a Galactic Leap, about Pratt, who says, “I definitely benefited from growing up in a household that lacked any critical thinking skills,” he said. “Really.”
Yes, I can imagine that.]

Monday, September 8, 2014

Job Satisfaction

I sorted donated goods in the basement of the Thrift Store with another volunteer for a couple hours on Saturday. 

This volunteer––I'll call him Chuck (not his real name)–– lives with "severe and persistent mental illness" (an umbrella phrase I only recently learned). The store attracts an awesome mix of volunteers---I'll often be working alongside someone with mental illness, someone in their 80s who might have been one of the original members of the store, someone who is getting their life going again after serving time in prison, or someone like me, someone who's just a little bit lonely and loves playing with junk!

Anyway, Chuck asked if I minded the radio.
I said no, and he turned it to a classic rock station.

I say I don't care much about music, but every night in high school, I went to bed with my little blue transistor radio by my pillow, tuned to the hit rock-pop station, and I have a massive repertoire of songs, all passively acquired while falling asleep: the Eagles, Fleetwood Mack, the Steve Miller Band, ABBA, Elton John, and, of course, Queen.

Soon I was humming along in the basement. "Bohemian Rhapsody" came on, and I started to sing. 
Chuck joined in, and together we sang every word. 

Sometimes I get frustrated with the Thrift Store, because the management is so dysfunctional, the place is rather like a ship with no one at the helm. But there sure are great folks below decks. 

Happy 48th Birthday, Star Trek!

Forty-eight years ago, on September 8, 1966, the first Star Trek episode aired. (The episode was The Man Trap, the one with the salt monster.) 

Here's a memory that moved me, from Star Trek TOS Confessions:

I really hope that for the 50th birthday someone will organize a party of some sort--rent a theater to show the pilot through Meet Up or something. Maybe someone I know? Someone I live with?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunflower Season

The envelope I watercolored ^ of Farmers Market mini-sunflowers to mail my aunt a thank-you note for the hat she knit. I was also thinking as I painted about how easy or not it might be to paint a sunflower, since that's the activity I'll be leading for people with memory loss as part of my job interview on Wednesday. 

It felt very easy to me, but I can't really judge from inside my intact brain,  how hard it would be… (And my sunflowers ended up looking more like brown-eyed susans.)

I was telling a regular customer at the Thrift Store that the parts of our brains that respond to color, music, touch, movement, and emotion are the last to go in people with Alzheimer's, while the "executive" functions of words and judgements go first.

He, a dancer, said he'd always felt his brain was that way.  I laughed, thinking of artist friends who are absolutely hopeless at the business of art. 

Redistribution of Wealth

bink took me to the Farmers Market this morning, and I gave her the hat my auntie knitted. It suits her far better--and my auntie had already even said I could.
And here's a better photo of my new silk scarf ^ (in a breeze).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Hat, New Scarf (New Job?)

< Not as you can see, a matching set. 

Yesterday I came home to a hat my Auntie Vi knitted and mailed to me.
And I had just bought this silk scarf for $5 at the Thrift Store. 

I complain about the junk people donate to the store––
Cool Whip containers, their plastic bottoms rippled from microwave use
ribbon bows, smashed flat
handbags with mold growing inside
––but this scarf, it's like spun amethyst silver, and it's never been worn

When I got home I looked up the name on the label, Faliero Sarti. They're Italian scarf makers, whose scarves sell at places like Barneys New York for hundreds of dollars.

I'm going to wear it on Wednesday to interview for a job in Activities on a memory loss wing of a senior residence. 

They've asked me to lead a short activity of my choice after the interview, so this Sunday morning, I'm going to the Farmers Market to buy sunflowers, which I'm going to invite the residents to paint.
I will take my scarf off before the paints come out.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"I am old, Father William...

". . . As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat..."


--with a slight change, from Lewis Carroll's most excellent nonsense poem, "You Are Old, Father William"

My weight is up a good bit at midlife, true, but not really "uncommonly"––I've only ever had one period of Jane Fonda-ish glory, and that was when I was twenty-seven and worked as a janitor at a YW in New Bedford, MA, and took lots of free exercise classes. I even taught a calisthenics class.
 As you can see, it was during the '80s; 
I wanted my hair to look that way:

I remember well the new-to-me feeling of being very strong and able to trust my body to climb a mountain!––a small one in the Adirondacks, which I did that year.

Now I would not ask my knees to climb a mountain, but I am thinking I might walk the Camino again in 2021, as I did in 2001 and 2011, something I swore I would not do again. 
But now it appeals to me for a different reason than before. The first time I walked for spiritual reasons, the second was more social, the third, if I do it, would be about marking time in this body on Earth. 

Don't hold me to it: it's seven years away, but with a little luck, I will be strong enough then to choose if I want to or not. But who knows? You can't count on good health, that's for sure. I'm grateful I've been lucky and had so much of it.

Piano 

My current goal, though, is to return to something I also never thought I would do again: playing the piano. My pianist mother made me learn when I was little, and I pretty much hated it. 

 Now, because I am [supposedly] looking for a job doing activities with seniors, I want to be able plunk out some old tunes.
At the library yesterday, I checked out a book of easy piano sheet music: America's All-Time Favorite Songs: Over 200 Best-Loved Songs. I trust I can learn to play them fairly easily on Marz's e-keyboard.

I'm happy that right now I could sing most of them anyway, from "Froggy Went A-Courting" to "Scarborough Fair". My mother always sang a lot of songs with us, especially on car trips, and I liked that a lot. 

Singing in the car... I bet that's something families don't do so much anymore, now everyone has their own electronics.

I Don't Want to Get Used to It (But I Do Want Free Things)

I am old.
I was just talking with bink about how our lives in the United States are so very different from when we were young. 
Some of it is great:
women's rights! [when I was a kid, we girls had to wear skirts, we had no sports teams]
gay marriage! [I'm reading Edmund White's memoir of living in NYC in the 60s & 70s, City Boy, and he says before Stonewall in 1969, there was no "gay rights" there was only self-loathing]

[Marz walks by and comments, "You're not old! You wish you were old cause you think then people will give you free things. That's true, isn't it?"

Yes, OK, it's true. I'm like my father who gets a big thrill from his senior discounts. Please send me the free things.]


But we were also talking about how much more violent life is, how it's become almost normal––especially gun violence. 

We grew up during the Vietnam War, so of course we knew the world, humans, could be horribly violent, but up until the 2000s, I didn't feel that it was normal that society around me was so . . . barbaric. 

When I write to friends in Europe about what's going on around me, I feel like I'm reporting from the Old West:
"Saw a guy with a gun on his hip walk through my workplace today."
"Saw a guy who was shot in the stomach carried out of my neighbor's apartment on a stretcher last night."

And here's the thing: people around me tut, tut, but they (we) take it almost for granted. My downstairs neighbor told me, "I've gotten used to it." 
People around me (and I myself) hardly even discuss our country's wars anymore. We've gotten used to this too.

Well, I don't want to get used to it.
After the murder next door, I decided I want to try, try again to do something hopeful, something positive.
I'll start by looking again into who's working on gun control in the city. I'd gone to a couple events and not been impressed.

Last night, to engage my cheer and courage, I watched some videos by American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron, who I've always drawn heart from. Someone compiled 6 videos of her talking on the theme of Fear and Fearlessness.
In one of them, she asks, "Think about this: what are  you afraid of?"
 

OK, so, thinking about it, I would say I'm not so afraid of violence. I mean, I'm not particularly afraid of being physically hurt myself. 
More, I fear having to get off my butt! 
I fear being socially uncomfortable.

Maybe most of all, I fear my own propensity for annoyance at other people.

When I call up my "tender bravery", as Chodron calls it, maybe there's another way, but it's generally in that direction I need to aim it:
Let me be brave enough to attend committee meetings.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I graduated!

The physical therapist agreed with me today that I don't need to keep coming to PT for my knees anymore after this, my fourth, visit. I told her I wanted to keep coming––it's like having my own personal trainer––but if I didn't really need it, I didn't want to use up any more shared resources.

"PT really worked," I told her, "I can do deep knee bends again!"

"That's because you did your work," she said.

Well . . . I didn't tell her, but I'm no star patient. I didn't do all my exercises every single day, like I was supposed to. 

But I did most of them, most days, and that was good enough to take care of what was really only a minor problem:
strengthening the stabilizing muscles around my creaky knees--specifically the hip ad- and abductors.

Luckily, the exercises are simple and even kind of fun.

"Plain old Jane Fonda stuff," as the PT put it.

Not that Jane Fonda. But, yeah, Barbarella here is doing side leg lifts that strengthen outer hip/thigh muscles.

Good-Spirited & Wholly Serious

"Giggles and snorts are dispensed with quickly" 
in this "good-spirited, wholly serious broaching of the—
incredibly—still taboo subject of human waste..."
--from a short review of my toilet book for teens--you can read the whole thing here: Kirkus (not to be confused with Kirk 'r Us)

When I read the review to Marz, she said, "Good-spirited & wholly serious... that's like you!" which made me feel like this:


George Takei in Allegiance (here)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Strengthening Medicine

" . . . and she did inner thigh exercises for the rest of her life."

I was walking around the lake this Labor Day thinking about how the stuff that really matters is often the little stuff.
 
I used to hope something Big & Dramatic would come along and change my life forever, and Big Dramatic Things did come along, and I suppose they changed my life, but afterward all the little things were still there, needing to be attended to...  like strengthening my inner thighs so my knee joints stay in proper alignment. 
(The PT said it's quite common that outer thigh muscles are stronger than inner ones, and so they exert more pull on the knee.)

I started PT a few weeks ago for my creaky knees, and it's really helping.  I just have to keep doing the little things forever.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

Me, old pal John, Marz

House sitting this past week, I've made BLTs and strawberry shortcake––foods my Missouri mother always made in the summer. My versions are never quite quite as good: I think I am too Northern [restrained with ingredients]. Her BLTs were so drippy, for instance, you'd best eat them over the sink.

For strawberry shortcake, she sprinkled sliced strawberries with lots of sugar far in advance, so they'd make their own syrup, and her shortcake was fluffier than I ever manage---maybe she used lard?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

bink's train trip out West

I'm house sitting bink's dog while she takes the train out west. 
She sent me this amazing photo she took out the window 
while the train was moving.