Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Baby's ABC, now embedded

Well, for heaven's sake--I didn't realize I could have embedded this here all along---if you haven't seen it, click on the brackety box, bottom right, to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bear Heart, Restuffed

It's time for the Stuffed Needy Animal Restoration Project (SNARP) again.

I've been meaning to restuff Black Bear since I got it at a Salvation Army in Duluth a couple years ago. Made in Minnesota in the 70s? 80s? it was stuffed with shredded yellow foam--the kind that disintegrates, and that is stiff and hard, not cuddly-squishy.

To get all the sticky stuffing out, I had to turn BB inside-out. I found a metal cookie cutter heart inside:

I washed Bear in a mesh bag on the gentle cycle and dried it on low---fluffed up nicely, and with new polyster stuffing, Bear is nice and soft.

Good morning, from the '70s!

I'm drinking my coffee from the hideous/gorgeous bulbous '70s Inarco* "Orange Spice Fruit Basket" mug that I bought ($4) yesterday at a neat thrift store, Junket: Tossed & Found, stopping on my bike trip to a distant library branch:

I think it's like something Hutch might have--here, he's making pot roast for Starsky (on the couch):

*Irwin Garber founded the International Artware Corporation (INARCO) in 1960, in Cleveland, Ohio, originally importing goods from Japan. --Midwest Sales Court


"Asternot", by me, aged five or six (1966-67)
This crayon drawing represents me in my father's house--he has it taped up on a bookshelf. [photo by my sister]

Monday, May 22, 2017

Return to Set Point: Normally Happy

Oh, weird and wonderful, I feel like myself again!
What a relief.

I haven't felt my usual sense of happiness for months--(I don't mean delirious happiness, just my normal my baseline, you know, where I usually hang out). 

I'm not sure what all conspired to knock me off that--there was the shock of an unbelievable new president, obviously; and my old pal Kathy died; then my father went on hospice; and something about the editing process for the fandom book didn't gel; plus a bunch of other stuff--mostly little, (like watching Grizzly Man), but draining.

My default when I'm not happy is possum-mode--I just don't want to do anything, can hardly even imagine wanting to do anything. 
I may do things anyway (like, the ABCderian), but without much vitality. bink was the steady force behind that (huge thanks to her!).

And this morning, I wanted to do things again for no particular reason. Just because.

One thing I did was I looked into the company that makes Nike's amazing ads--Portland, Oregon-based Wieden & Kennedy--because I want to work for them, (or, rather, I want to work doing something fun & creative), and I found this, their Emmy Award–winning "The Morning After" (1999)--which, I cannot believe how prescient this one-minute mini-movie is: 
a guy wakes up on New Year's Day, 2000, and all the dire predictions of Y2K breakdown have come true--and he goes for a jog:

The crazy thing is that US breakdown didn't happen dramatically on January 1, 2000, but rolls out in bits and pieces, over time... the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the ongoing wars and all that followed; the 2008 mortgage crisis; the inauguration of Trump on January 20, 2017, and onward-- and pop culture has reflected it with apocalyptic or zombie TV shows, books, zombie pub crawls, etc.

But when I watched the ad, I thought---yeah, psychologists say that after you get used to the new "it", whatever "it" is, you return to your personal set point of happiness, whatever it is. Humans are like squirrels: whatever's in the dumpster, we can eat it... and even be happy, or maybe as happy as we were going to be anyway.

Geez, I didn't mean to do social analysis, I wanted to say I had a great day simply feeling like my normal self. Yay!

one more role model

"choose enrichment"
no attribution, on pinterest

Frustration Enrichment

Enrichment programs for zoo animals often involve toys that  basically create frustration---like the old Halloween game of trying to bite an apple hanging on a string, with your hands behind your back.

Isn't it funny how our brains need that: if it's done by choice it's a fun game, or at any rate, somehow enriching.
But if it's imposed, or too hard (or too boring!), accompanied by shame and failure, it can just be torture. Similarly, anxiety and excitement are physiologically related, but feel entirely different psychologically.

I'm thinking as I gear up to hunt for a job,
How can I approach it as if I were a parrot facing a gift-wrapped goodie?

Job Hunting

Yes, I haven't been.
I've been skirting around job hunting itself, though I did write my comprehensive resumé: 
All these things that I've done [song < I like this low-key UK video best].

Anyway, this morning I'm checking job sites and found this job title at the U that made me laugh:
Manager of Space Management (Space)

Nike's old ad using "All these things" is still one of the best commercials (and more thought-provoking than originally intended, given who they included in 2008).

Would I like a job putting this sort of thing together? 
Maybe, but not for Coca-Cola--I could work in advertising or marketing for non-profits. 

back to looking...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"Wake me up before you go…"

"…Or,  A Somewhat Cheering Statistic for People Like Me Who Frequent Coffee Shops"

Lately I've been thinking about my mother's suicide (fourteen years ago). 
[So, you know--trigger warning: suicide]

Up until she reached the age I am now (fifty-six), my mother was often doing OK for long stretches, but her last dozen years went almost all downhill. So I'm on my own from here on out, so far as having a mother modeling how to effectively "choose life"* is concerned. 
[George Michael; see footnote]

Of course lots of us have lost our mothers by this age and have to carry on alone (or maybe never had mothers who gave good guidance to begin with)
Still, suicide is its own peculiar thing, so I've been reading a bit about it--something I rarely do because it feels like being pinned under massive weightlifting plates--but I felt it might be helpful, and sure enough, I read something really encouraging to me.

Studies show that people are the least likely to commit suicide if they live in highly sociable cultures that value extended family, friends, and community--those "blue zone" places that report high rates of happiness, like Okinawa.

I always find that discouraging, because I don't live in such a culture, nor have I created one for myself.

But then I read that New York City, where a very high percentage of people live alone by themselves, has the lowest percentage of suicides in the United States. (Or one of the lowest--don't quote me on this--I don't even want to look it up because I am at my quota of reading about suicide for the day.) NYC has around half the suicide rate of the sparsely populated western US states, which have the nation's highest percentages of suicides.

It seems maybe you don't need close, loving relationships to hold you up,  you just need the presence of other people.

This is cheering to me, because that's how I live:
I love being around familiar strangers. 

I regularly go to a couple nearby coffee shops where I recognize other people. I don't like it if too many people start to know me--I actually stopped going to a coffee shop when I started having full-on conversations there. It's funny because of course I started it, being a pretty chatty-friendly type, but it began to feel like social pressure. I don't want all that,
 I just want to hear the hum of humanity around me. 

And there are other models besides mothers of how to choose life.
 * "Choose Life"
Like the George Michael T-shirt (in video below). 
I suppose it came from Deuteronomy 30:19? "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life." However…
"Michael’s trademark “CHOOSE LIFE” T-shirt — a work of [pro-choice] political-firebrand-cum-designer Katharine Hamnett — wasn’t intended to be an antiabortion statement. Rather, it was a willful call to hope in the face of daunting odds.
"As a precursor to the then-nascent boy band era, Wham! wasn’t really expected to get involved in the fight, but it did anyway. The duo played a gig at a benefit for striking miners, a hugely and surprisingly political move from a band at the peak of its fame.
In 2016, it’s easy to see these things as relics of a bygone era, but they stuck out in his late-1980s heyday, too. In the throes of a Britain sharply divided over Thatcherism, Michael’s brand of optimistic pop sounded naive, even ignorant.
Time would reveal that it was actually brave."
--"George Michael wrote buoyant, wise pop music for a society divided by intolerance and anxiety," Washington Post, December 27 2016]
I love this song.

For info or help if you or someone you know is struggling: 
Call 1-800-273-8255

"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals." Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Fresca Enrichment Program

I've been low the last few weeks since finishing editing my book---not feeling bad, exactly, it's more that I feel OK, just very, very listless.

Some of this is the natural low ebb that follows the completion of a huge project, some is a deer-in-the-headlight response to the need to start job-hunting (ohgod), and some no doubt is a response to watching the president of my country act like an out-of-control toddler with a weapon.

My energy is starting to return on its own, but I could use a boost, so I am thinking of myself as a zoo animal that needs an enrichment program designed for it--by thinking of myself as if I were outside myself, I can better help myself. 

One thing I'm doing is looking for little things I could do, as a tiny perk-up.
Trying something new, for instance:
today I bought a ripe papaya that was on sale ($1!) at Good Grocer, the non-profit, volunteer-enabled grocery store where I volunteer (I don't think I've mentioned that here yet).

They're so hefty and gorgegous, I'd been meaning to try one for months, and now finally I have:

I'd expected it to taste like a mango, but it's nowhere near as sweet --more like a vegetable--and its flavor is a little odd, like …a bland cheese?

Reminds me of the first time I ate cilantro: I'd thought its musky taste was unpleasant--now I love it. This fruit is huge--about four pounds--so I'll get a chance to get used to it on its own terms, not as what it's not.
Anyway, I found it interesting, and that's a sign of life.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Six Days Left Till Towel Day

Towel Day is the annual celebration on May 25 of author Douglas Adams (1952-2001). On that day, fans around the universe carry a towel in his honor, and do other things.
I wish I could be in Helsinki, Finland, for instance, where "
Douglas Adams fans will meet at Pub Angleterre, from 18:00 to 22:00, sipping beer and consuming peanuts. They will read Vogon-poetry in Finnish for everybody even if they did not ask for it. Also they will try to contact other Towel Day parties over the world and also low passing spacecrafts. "

I posted this for Towel Day a few years ago but am always happy to revisit the captain and his towel.

Books I'm Reading

1. Even More Bad Parenting Advice---cartoons by Guy DeLisle---pretty good but I liked his graphic memoirs about working abroad as a cartoonist better than his chronicles of being a parent:
I highly recommend his Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea:

[Hm. ^ How topical...]

2. The Sound of Gravel (2016)--- 
Ruth Wariner's memoir of growing up in a polygamous Mormon community in Mexico, where women play a role much like breeding livestock--her story is like a fascinating, scary, real-life Handmaid's Tale. Wariner got herself and her little sisters out, and they're all doing well today, so besides being horrific, it's an inspiring tribute to human resilience too.

3. Zone One, by Colson Whitehead
Disappointing. I like zombie apocalypse tales, but this one was all clogged up with literary writing, which annoyed me greatly.

I am entirely on the side of the made-up "disgruntled" readers in this super enragingly condescending review in the NYT.
I must indeed be "entirely beyond the beguilements of art" because I STOPPED READING THE BOOK before I could be forced "to see the strangeness of the familiar and the familiarity of the strange" (oh boy, like I never have before):
Colson Whitehead is a literary novelist, but his latest book, “Zone One,” features zombies, which means horror fans and gore gourmands will soon have him on their radar. He has my sympathy. I can see the disgruntled reviews on Amazon already: “I don’t get it. This book’s supposed to be about zombies, but the author spends pages and pages talking about all this other stuff I’m not interested in.” Broad-spectrum marketing will attract readers for whom having to look up “cathected” or “brisant” isn’t just an irritant but a moral affront. These readers will huff and writhe and swear their way through (if they make it through) and feel betrayed and outraged and migrained. But unless they’re entirely beyond the beguilements of art they will also feel fruitfully disturbed, because “Zone One” will have forced them, whether they signed up for it or not, to see the strangeness of the familiar and the familiarity of the strange.
Oh, please.
If anyone ever wonders why people feel liberal elites are condescending, there ^ you have it.

4. The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape, James Rebank 
I picked this up because my auntie has taken up spinning and now e-mails me about different sheep breeds and their wool.
Rebank is from a family of shepherds in the Lake District of England, where you still have to rely on your feet and your dogs, a family who breed Herdwicks, the same hardy sheep Beatrix Potter raised. 

I liked it a lot and recommend it as a good read, sheep aside, about ... um, well, about living a physical life, in a physical place.  
I didn't much like Rebank himself, but I liked his writing: it's not in the least bit romantic or purple, thankgod––I never rolled my eyes at any overwrought bits, like I did reading H Is for Hawk––and yet the story pulses like the heartbeat in a man's neck, wet with cold rain and spattered with grit--not metaphorically, but because he's out in the muddy fields in the rain, wrestling a sheep.

The sheep is not cathected with grief at the loss of traditional ways of life, it's just a muddy sheep. (OK, and also, yes, a symbol of Things We Stand to Lose.)


I spent a long time last night looking at photos of zoo animal enrichment activities--what a great job, thinking up ways to keep animals happy. Reminds me of when I worked in Memory Care--or even just daily life---how to keep active and engaged?

A few of my favorite photos:

But bubbles? Capybara don't care:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sea Otter Enrichment

Dream job: Enriched-Play Facilitator, Otter Division

The zoo keeper is giving a piece of heart-shaped ice to this sea otter. I don't know why, but then the sea otter swims around on its back, carrying the ice on its tummy--I guess it likes it. 
I feel enriched too.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Key to "Baby's First Resist-story"

A friend requested the background for some of the illustrations bink & I made, so I wrote up a key: 
if you want to read our thinking behind the images, you'll find a tab to the key along the top bar of this blog, or click:
Key to "Baby's First Resist-story

You can share the key code with our Russian friends, or anyone! 

If you see anything else in any of the images, I'd be happy to hear.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

It's Up! Baby's First Resist/story

It took bink & me almost the first 100 Days of Trump-time to make our handmade wash-away illustrations for Baby's First Resist/story--and we're already collecting ABC words for a possible next one (using a less time-consuming media). 
N for Nixonian?

I like it best as a Xeroxed zine, but it cost too much (for unemployed me) to print and mail them, so it's up online on Issuu, which lets you turn the pages, like reading a real paper zine.
Click here to see it:

It'll look like this screencap, below, (there'll be an > arrow to advance and a + to enlarge)
If you'd like to read about the illustrations, go to the tab along top bar of this blog "Key to Baby's First Resist-story" or click:

Monday, May 15, 2017

What I'm Reading

No time to write mini-reviews of these... just plunking the photo in, in my ongoing [failing] effort to keep a record of what I read.

What I'm [Going to Be] Reading (mostly by women)

The library let me know the recently published books that I'd requested had come in (since my lists of women writers had showed me my that lots of my reading is pre-2001)--I read the first page of each before I checked them out and only put one back (Swamplandia--too magic-cute: young girl runs amusement park with 89 alligators?--I've never liked Pippi Longstockingish tales).

The author of An Unnecessary Woman is a man, Rabih Alameddine, but I'm not being strict about this--just wanting to look in on the modern crop. 

Oh, Margaret Walker's Jubilee is from 1966, but I got it because the main character is said to "rival Scarlett O'Hara". And Two Old Women by Velma Wallis is from 1994, but it's set in the Yukon, like Due South, so....

1. Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend Of Betrayal, Courage And Survival, 1993, novel by Velma Wallis
2.  Wench, 2010, Dolen Perkins-Valdez
3. The Woman Upstairs, 2013, by Claire Messud 
4. Jubilee, Margaret Walker, 1966 
5.  An Unnecessary Woman, 2013, Rabih Alameddine
6. Americanah, 2014, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
7. Untwine, 2015, Edwidge Danticat

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Guillermo Del Toro's Bunny

I was disappointed with the museum exhibit of stuff from film director Guillermo Del Toro's house--they had selected mostly fine art, leather books, and professional film–related stuff, and not the any of the cheap-o toys that you get a glimpse of behind GDT in the 2-minute video, in which he said he saves everything. 
(Del Toro made Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, etc.)

 The closest was this bunny-rabbit candlestick holder. Photo by bink:

You know I like toys. Otherwise, the best things in the exhibit were GDT's sketch- and notebooks--I wish they sold facsimiles:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eleven More Inspiring Works by Women Writers

(I'm writing up these "books by women" pretty quickly, so these mini-mentions of writings that I've found important, inspiring, or just likable are a mere slap-and-a-dash--but so fun to put together. And more to come…)

1. Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)

I started with the wonderful film adaptation (1995, starring half of everyone British & good), but I read the book too––the hilarious send-up of gothic-y/country romances––about an eminently sensible young woman, Flora Poste, who descends upon her wacko rural relatives to clean up their lives, asking such sensible questions as, Is there "something nasty in the woodshed," or do you just need a nice holiday abroad?

Above: Seth Starkadder (Rufus Sewell) and Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale)

2. Speaking of funny, can I say Elaine May?
I'm saying Elaine May. She "wrote" (is that the right term? created the words of, anyway) some of the funniest improv I know, with Mike Nichols, performing as Nichols and May.
And the charming 1978 screenplay for Heaven Can Wait, and the excellent and unfairly maligned Ishtar (R Brody's defense of it).

3. Annie Proulx, her very not funny short story, "Brokeback Mountain" 
Here's a piece I really would include for the inspiration of the author's writing in itself, separate from the story--for her depiction especially of the weather as a force, which is mirrored by the character's desire.
No kidding, go through the story and search for "wind".
The way that short story opens with the wind battering Ennis's trailer is a marvel:
"Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminum door and window frames. The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in a draft."
We'll see his shirts again...

4. Penelope Lively, Passing On (1989)
What to do with freedom? Middle-aged Helen has lived all her life with her brother and their controlling mother, who had died right before the novel opens. I love this book for Helen's tiny, heroic movements toward having a life.

5. Joan Didion, Salvador (1982)
Didion reports from El Salvador during the Civil War-- the scene where she thinks she's being followed  by a Jeep Cherokee, the trucks the government death squads drove (I think that's the brand name) is the most frightening thing I've read.
"Terror is the given of the place." 

6. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963)
I did read the whole thing--fascinating--but mostly what I remember from it is the most famous and incredibly important bit about the "banality of evil"---incredibly important because if we think evil is going to come with clear and nasty markings, we're missing how it's sitting in the desk chair right next to us... as well as within us.
"Eichmann’s astounding willingness, both in Argentina and in Jerusalem, to admit his crimes was due less to his own criminal capacity for self-deception than to the aura of systematic mendacity that had constituted the general, and generally accepted, atmosphere of the Third Reich. "Of course” he had played a role in the extermination of the Jews; of course if he “had not transported them, they would not have been delivered to the butcher.” He went on to ask, “What is there to ‘admit’?” "
--here, in the New Yorker

7. Madeleine L'Engle A Wrinkle in Time
Space can fold up! So cool! This introduced me to the idea that physics can be understandable, and fun!
8. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale 
One day you go to get cash out of the ATM, and it won't give it to you. It would be just that easy for Powers That Be to take control of your life. Popular again in the Age of Trump, and you can see why.

9.  Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems (1978)

On the wisdom of speaking up, because, after all,
"we were never meant to survive"

10. Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle (1973)

Historically important for being about a young woman coming into her own as a lesbian---harder, then--but it's also about the making of an artist--in the protagonist's case, a filmmaker

11. Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile (France, 1958)

For the smothering feeling of living life in forced moderation.