Sunday, September 24, 2017

David Attenborough on Vulcans; Star Trek: Discovery

Worlds collide, hilariously. 
After I posted about David Attenborough yesterday, Mortmere sent me this [below] Kirk/Spock fanvid "examining the courtship and mating rituals of Vulcans", with narration by the man himself ("from numerous BBC documentary series"). 
The footage is mostly from the famous Star Trek episode "Amok Time", when Spock goes into Pon Farr, the Vulcan primal urge to mate. 

"Amok Time" aired almost exactly fifty years ago, on September 15, 1967. 
Which reminds me--I'm going to watch the first episode of the new Star Trek series with bink & Maura tonight: Star Trek: Discovery
It's on the regular CBS television station tonight at 8:30pm ET--after than you have to sign up for CBS All Access (more info from ars technica).

My expectations are low, but how could I not give this transmission a try?
Nichelle Nichols (left, Lt. Uhura in The Original Series) and Sonequa Martin-Green (First Officer Michael Burnham) 
Star Trek: Discovery
And I think the trailer looks promising.
I like its use of the song "I'd Love to Change the World [but I don't know what to do]"--by Jetta + remix by Matstubs, used on Sense8 too--oh, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Person of Interest--I guess it fits the mood of the times?
You know the original from 1971:
"World pollution, there's no solution
Institution, electrocution
Just black and white, rich or poor
Them and us, stop the war"

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Grandmothers (My Class Background)

I posted a photo of my Italian grandmother the other day.
Below right, holding her baby: Rosaria (DeNicola) DiPiazza (born 1900, Monreale, Sicily –– died 1997, Milwaukee, WI), 1924. 
She was my father's mother.

I wanted to see her photo next to my mother's mother.  
Below, left photo, with bow in hair: my grandmother Meribel (Covert) Davis (1905––1992, Houston, Missouri), eight years old in 1913, with her cousin Fern Owsley Hines.

I always felt like the product of a mixed marriage, in terms of class and culture.

My father's family was Roman Catholic, though as Sicilians they incorporated a lot of ...unofficial elements. My grandmother would throw a pinch of salt over her shoulder (her left shoulder, I think) to ward off evil, for instance. 
In that family line, mine was the first generation of girls to graduate from college.

On my mother's side, my great-grandfather Charles Elmer Covert was a lawyer and an Episcopalian.
Charles was married to Virginia Sutherland (1874–1960), who got her "Bachelor of Letters" from the University of Missouri, Columbia––placing me among the fourth generation of college-educated women in that line. She went on to the University of Chicago for her Masters in English, but dropped out (I wonder why).

My mother's parents were themselves a mixed-class couple: the lawyer's daughter and the son of dirt-poor farmers. My mother's paternal grandfather, James, had grown up illiterate. He learned to read the Bible from his wife, Martha, and he became a traveling preacher in the Church of Christ--a far cry from an Episcopalian lawyer.

I've been thinking more about all this as I read a collection of autobiographical essays that Michael recommended after the death of my father, a professor of political science:
This Fine Place So Far from Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class (1995).

You can download PDFs of all the chapters. It's good from the very first one, "Stupid Rich Bastards".

It's surprising me, how much the personal stories of class are hitting home. 
My mother was the parent with social skills, and with chutzpah... "entitlement" I guess you could call it, but more than that--she had an extra dollop of nerve:
once she called up the filmmaker David Attenborough---he was in the London phone book––to ask him where she could get a copy of his series on birds of the world formatted for US DVD players.

They talked about how she had raised exotic birds in the 1960s, and he told her he would have his assistant mail her his DVDs as a gift. And he did. 
He was used to colorful characters:

My father got his PhD––education was his ticket out of his family––but he never pursued academic standing, never published (he was a poor writer, but couldn't tolerate being edited). 
He taught his entire career in a four-year State college. (I don't recall him saying he liked teaching.) 
Instead of social skills, he got by on his native charm and smarts––and luck (including the luck of timing--he said it was easy to find a teaching job in 1964).

That took him far, but my father was proud, he didn't like to push into places where he risked losing face. In the face of conflict, or even just debate, he would dismiss people, as if he could freeze them with his resentment.
(I see this resentment in myself too, to a lesser extent.)

This all plays out in how comfortable people feel asking questions.
I've been slow to make the connection, but asking questions has to do with access to information, control of knowledge, and saving face.
Even though my father always said he valued curiosity, he did not like to be asked questions---and he didn't ask them much either.

My auntie tells me she doesn't ask people questions--"I don't like to pry," she says. I think she doesn't want to put people on the spot, or to be put on the spot herself either---the answer may be embarrassing, or it may expose ignorance.

For my mother (and me), asking questions was delightful, like rummaging around in a treasure box.

When I was little, she loved it when I asked her questions. We'd look up the answers, or she'd call the library reference desk.
She admired that Cousin Fern (next to my grandmother in the photo above, wearing a hat) kept a notebook to jot down words and things she didn't know, to look up later.

I'm a mix.  
My mother gave me lessons on things such as how to enter a room where two people are engaged in conversation. (Pause at the entrance, wait for a break, and say, "Excuse me for interrupting...".) 
After she left when I was thirteen, I was left with a father who in many ways didn't know how to navigate complex social waters. He didn't help me look for or apply to colleges, for instance. If my mother could have been bothered (she couldn't), she would have whisked me around the most interesting little colleges... 

(Oops--I have to go now. May write more on this later...)

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Fetching Hat for Red Bear

(Suitable for a royal wedding, eh?)


Pincushion with pins & needles in it, as found
 in a sewing basket donated to Steeple People thrift store

Needles and pins are little swords.
At the embroidery class, people talked about how you can use your own spit to remove your wet blood, if a needle stab makes you bleed on your work.

[I looked it up: there's no scientific reason spit would work better than water. But spit is mostly water, and water will rinse out fresh blood, so spit does work. It doesn't have to be your own spit, but whose else would you have to hand?]

Look online at sewing notions, however, and you'll find a world of cutesification, pastel trimmings and perky sayings. "Make it sew!"

I see their heavier mettle.

UPDATE: my first napkins

UPDATE: Marz with the second two-sided Star Trek napkin I sewed:

Original post from 9/19:
I couldn't embroider today after all, because I burned my finger on the coffee pot (oh, the drama), so I decided to make two-sided napkins on the sewing machine, pairing some of my cotton scraps (mostly from Steeple People) with the Star Trek fabric Dr H sent me recently.

Here's the first one, which took me for-bloody-ever. (OK, just two hours, but that's more than I expected for something so seemingly [seemingly] simple.)

 I didn't realize how futzy it would be to turn under and iron each edge down and to match the two sides up... But the result makes me happy. I only had enough of this particular backing fabric for one napkin, so the others will all be different.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

For a Honey of a Year

Apple & Honey for Rosh Hashanah

I'm not Jewish but have shared prayers for a sweet new year with Jewish friends in the past--this year it's me and my camera . . . my now sticky camera.

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe

 borei p'ri ha'eitz (Amein).
who creates the fruit of the tree. (Amen)  Hebrew

 y'hi ratzon mil'fanekha Adonai eloheinu vei'lohei avoteinu
May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors Hebrew
sh't'chadeish aleinu shanah tovah um'tukah.
that you renew for us a good and sweet year.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

That's better, Captain.

I love the Star Trek fabric from Hannah, but everyone was so serious. It needed a little je ne sais quoi.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stitchery from my Sicilian Grandmother

I've always wanted to copy the pattern on the dress my Sicilian grandmother Rosaria is wearing in this photo from 1924; she is twenty-three.

She is with her first three (of ten) children, in Milwaukee, where her family had immigrated when she was a little girl.

I assume she made all these clothes herself, coming as she did from a family of tailors and seamstresses.

I always thought it would be complicated, but looking at her dress more closely today, I see the embroidery pattern is fairly simple: 
a curly S and a loopy back-and-forth design. 
(The S's look like one of her SOS cookies [recipe].)

I'm going to embroider the design on the little cell-phone bag I'm making for my Auntie Vi-- Rosaria's forth child, born in 1925. (My father was the seventh child.)

Masa works

Adding a couple cups of veggie broth + masa harina ("dough flour"––the fine corn-flour used for making tortillas) worked wonders for the too-tomatoey chili:

it mellowed the acidity with a slight earthy sweetness and thickened the chili a bit

I will add it to chili again.

bink approved >>>

UPDATE: Terrier Towel

UPDATE: Now bink's 60th birthday party has come and gone, I can show you how the terrier towel looks like bink's wire-haired fox terrier Astro, with his sticky-uppy ears:

Original post:
After embroidery class yesterday, I looked in the textile center's little shop. They have a shelf of donated vintage stuff, and I found an old linen towel embroidered with a terrier for $5.

I snatched it up for bink's 60th birthday. (I'm co-hosting with Maura bink's birthday party this afternoon.) 
But the dog looked like a Scottie––all black, with a big beard––and bink prefers tri-colored fox terriers, so I picked out some of its beard and added a couple browns, and it looks more like bink's dog Astro.

And now I'm going over to bink's to fix-up the vegan chili I made last night for her party. It's mostly tomatoes, beans, and spices, and without a meat base to ground it, it's too acidy. 

I looked up ideas to make it less tomatoey. I'm going to roast sweet potatoes and also add a little veggie broth with masa harina--fine corn flour. (I don't think I'll do this, but the suggestion of a little peanut butter sounds good too, like in West African dishes.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sashiko & Podcasts

Sashiko embroidery class yesterday was great, not because I learned a stitch––sashiko is as simple as I'd expected, not much to learn––but because, as I'd hoped, I talked to the other students, getting recommendations about things like podcasts to listen to while stitching, and how to dye with black walnuts.

So, my question to you is,
Can you recommend any podcasts?

During class, I started to do the sashiko, a decorative mending stitch (the name means little stabs), on my pants' leg hem, which was coming undone:

It's hard to make the stitches even and evenly spaced, but when I look at vintage sashiko, which was just how everyday people in Japan mended their clothes, it's not going for that anyway.

In fact, the uneven handwork appeals to me more than evenly stitched pieces.
It shows the human hands, like an upright bass echoes in a way that makes you sense the wood. 

via kimonoboy

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Knitting in Public

I'm off to the one-time shashiko embroidery class this morning---was happy to read this little story in Selvedge about Kaffe Fassett (famous colorist & textile designer):

Kaffe was born in San Francisco in 1937. At the age of 19, he moved to paint in London. He embarked on a kaleidoscope of ventures:
One of the first was a trip to a Scottish wool mill. There, he bought Shetland wool and some knitting needles, and on the train back to London a fellow passenger taught him how to knit…

Kaffe, young and old:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Registration Point

I. The Perceptible Wavelength

I'm not on Facebook, but every so often I look over bink's shoulder at her FB, to catch up on people we both know. bink is FB-friends with my sister, and last night I looked at what my sister has been posting since our father died two months ago. 

It was so strange to me: she's been posting frequent tributes presenting our father as the most "fun, funny, smart, warm, beautiful man"––her words. An ongoing series of photos illustrates how unmitigatedly adorable [her word] she thought he was.

You know how you get seasick when something changes your vision--like when you get new glasses,  or look through a prism? I felt like that, seeing through my sister's eyes. She always adored our father, and now he's dead, she's flattened his complex personality, papering over the man's twisty shadowed valleys. 

I actually felt rather disturbed when I went to bed last night, the way you do when you've had contact with a reality at odds with your own. But as I was lying there unable to sleep, I was comforted to remember something I'd recently read about human vision in The Brain: The Story of You (companion the PBS television series), by neuroscientist David Eagleman.

Eagleman points out that, as you know, "color" is just the name we give to certain waves that we are able to see--it has no objective reality outside the cave of our brains. And other waves, such waves of cell phone conversations and radio stations, are around and in us all the time, but they are imperceptible to us.
"Humans detect a tiny fraction [about 1.5%] of the information carried on the electromagnetic spectrum. ...Visible light is made of the same stuff as the rest of the spectrum, but it's the only part for which we come equipped with biological receptors."

That's true psychologically too, eh?  
We only register other people's realities that fall within the range we CAN pick up, we only process the emotions and thoughts we have receptors for (or, you know, that we have open, working receptors for).

It was always the case that my sister and I saw my father differently--we picked up different waves.  When I'd try to talk about what I was getting from my father, my sister would reject it, and me––once actually (and usefully) telling me, "I don't care how you see it,"––even though she had sometimes been present when my father had done the thing I was talking about.  She seemed psychically unable to see the full spectrum of who he was.

"Each creature picks up on its own slice of reality," Eagleman writes of the brain. "No one is having an experience of the objective reality that really exists:
"What does the world outside your head really 'look' like?
Not only is there no color, there's also no sound: the compression and expansion of air is picked up by the ears, and turned into electrical signals. The brain then presents these signals to us as ... tones.  …The real world is not full of rich sensory events; instead our brains light up the world with their own sensuality."
So, that was a good reminder to me that you see what you can see, and my sister and I simply have different capacities, especially where our parents are concerned.  

II. The Point

But also, as Harry Nilsson's Rock Man said (0:28) in The Point (1971), you see what you want to see:
"You ever see a pterodactyl?"
"You ever want to see a pterodactyl?"

"I guess not."
"Well, that's it: you see what you want to see."

I'd forgotten, but The Point was a big influence on me ten-year-old me. I have yet to this day to see the made-for-TV animated film, which looks pretty great, but I got the album (cover, right--
needlepoint by Kathy Torrence) from the library and listened to it over and over.

Looking it up now, I see Nilsson was inspired by an acid trip,* but at the time, it just felt like someone who got reality--- being a kid is pretty trippy. (So's having a human brain). 

(In fact, I see now that growing up in Madison, I was unknowingly influenced by a lot of trippy stuff. When I got older I was, like, Why's everyone so one-dimensional?)

The Point is about a boy, Oblio, who is exiled with his dog Arrow from their town: "You have been found guilty of being pointless", from the album inserts:

Funny, speaking of rocks and stones, the example I always give of how my father and I related (or didn't relate) is kind of trippy itself––on my part, anyway. I've never done psychedelics, but I was interested in religion and philosophy, which is related, and
when I was fifteen I tried to discuss with my father whether rocks have souls. 

He told me that since we couldn't know, it wasn't worth asking the question.

Well, as the Rock Man says [at 1:39] to Oblio: Being a rock is a very heavy life.

Oblio: Boy, I never realized that rocks and stones were so...

Rock Man: All you gotta do is open your mind, along with your eyes.  
*Nilsson explained his inspiration for The Point!
I was on acid and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, 'Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn't, then there's a point to it.'

The Point--entire album on YouTube, starts at 36:56, narrated by Nilsson

The Point, songs only, pt. 1(no narration) 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sewing in Public: Making an object by hand

Michael sent me this quote from Rosemary Hill, art historian:
To make objects by hand in an industrial society, to work slowly and uneconomically against the grain, is to offer, however inadvertently, a critique of that society.
--From “Explorations of a Third Space,” Times Literary Supplement, April 23, 1999. Quoted in Morris Berman, The Twilight of American Culture (2000).
Yesterday I chose from my Steeple People Thrift Store stash a linen runner that someone had barely started to work on long ago, and I began to stitch the words. 
I sat outside embroidering at Jasmine, a nearby Vietnamese deli. 
A young man at the next table asked me what I was doing, and I showed him the quote I'd written down. We ended up talking off and on for the whole time he ate his pho––he's a painter, newly moved to town.

A couple people walking past stopped and commented too.
I'm finding that sewing in public solves the problem of eye contact with friendly strangers: You always have your sewing to look at, if it's awkward, there's a gap in the conversation, or you don't want to engage. Very handy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Prince at Sunset (by happify)

Julia posted on her happify Instagram this photo of Prince in alignment with the Sun, about a mile from my house

Etui too

New words I've learned from looking into sewing notions: 
chatelaine (posted an octopus one the other day), 
and, today, etui.

Etui: (ā twee) a small case for sewing supplies, cosmetics, and other little things, often ornamental
It has a fun etymology, with an unexpected relative:
early 17th century: from French étui, from Old French estui ‘prison,’ from estuier ‘shut up, keep.’
Compare with tweezers.
Nähetui is "sewing kit" in German, as you can see on this appealing one from Laura's German boyfriend, Lutz. It's ornamental and functional--all is tidy and correct inside, but it shows use.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What I've Been Sort of Reading

Autumn is time to clear the clutter before I have to close the doors and stay inside with my stuff.

Today I packed my bike panniers with books to return to the library, sell to the independent bookstore, or put in Little Free Library boxes---then I took them all out again to take their photos.
I've fallen way behind keeping track of what I'm reading––maybe because since the inauguration (and finishing the fandom book), a lot of it's political stuff online.
This is just a quick photo record--a random round-up.

Did I read these books?
Let's see... From the top down:
Yes; currently reading (Midnight Is a Place, children's novel by Joan Aiken); 

yes (Reagan, like Trump, didn't (couldn't?) differentiate between fact and fiction-- but, unlike Trump, seemed "nice"); 
just the intro; looked at the pictures about the brain; decided to keep Association... because I might; didn't even crack it; disappointed (Carrie Brownstein on her life in music--read it all, but I only care about Portlandia, which isn't mentioned); reference book (making stuffed animals)

Below: FROM MY BOOKSHELVES (or floor)
Books that today I sold to the independent bookstore or gave away in Little Free Libraries

Did I read them?
From the top down:
some stories in it; bogged down, just like the nation (Yugoslavia); partly (fandom research on gaming); ditto; 
got halfway; ditto x 2; 
TOO SAD (A Monster Calls--about a boy whose mother is dying) 

Did I read them, below?
From the top down:
Yes, I love Maira Kalman but have a couple other books of hers and this one about the United States is my least favorite; 
You Don't Have to Say... TOO SAD (boy whose mother is tormented--worth it though); much of it (quotes about aging); fandom research; 
disappointed (Hunger--oddly polite & remote for a memoir about becoming obese after being gang raped as a girl--or maybe not odd, since the point of getting fat, she writes, was to create distance); 
mildly disappointed (as I have been by everything Winterson has written since Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Threads (Made in Brazil)

In the family sewing basket I inherited were little MADE IN BRAZIL paper spools of thread, the type you'd get in traveling sewing kits, and I realized I had a couple more in my stash too. 
I love their tangles, and the palette is interestingly a bit different than the ones I'm more familiar with.

Cephalopod Chatelaine

Looking into sewing notions, I came across something new to me:
the chatelaine, an ornamental or utilitarian chain or clasp Victorian women wore fastened at the waist that held items like scissors, keys, needles, pencils, etc., that might be needed close at hand.   

Celphalopods have been popular for several years now. But how bout this octopus chatelaine from around 1887?

From the Missouri Historical Society: This particular chatelaine holds a compact, perfume bottle, mirror, whistle, and pin holder.
 [Note the crab on the compact.]

From illustrated article and interview with Genevieve Cummins, co-author of the book Chatelaines: Utility to Glorious Extravagance:
"Like a customized Swiss Army knife, a chatelaine provided its wearer with the tools she needed close at hand. For a seamstress, that might include a needle case, scissors, thimble, and tape measure, while for a nurse it might mean thermometers, safety pins, styptics for dressing wounds, all sorts of things. Inspired by the complex key rings carried by la chatelaine, the female head of a French estate, these beautiful contraptions were fashionable as well as practical."
More things found on chatelaines, with photos:
"Chatelaines: Utilitarian Charm"