Friday, December 9, 2022

Speaking of turnips...

What I Did at Work Yesterday

Someone donated a box of small turnips to the thrift store. Their roots  look like mouse tails, and some of them had eye-like holes.
Big Boss was gone for the afternoon, so...
We have a Turnip of Gloucester!

I've now made three versions of the Tailor mouse and really, it is sweet but not very interesting. You have to read the book. (And there's a difference between art and illustration.)

A turnip is not normally counted a toy, but in this case... In it goes, to #Toys Recreate Paintings.

The ears are rubber-coated baby spoons.
Ass't Man volunteered to make eyeglasses out of a paper clip. He's been a pal lately.
I also framed this donated poster of the First Amendment, made by the Minnesota Newspaper Museum--open only during the run of the State Fair in St. Paul, MN, (late August through Labor Day).
I could only find a cheap plastic frame, but any frame is better than putting it out rolled up.

I kind of want the poster for myself--or for it to stay in BOOK's forever. I could make it NFS--or just raise the price a lot, from the current $5.99 to 15.99. It'd stay longer that way. Though you never know--sometimes people snatch up things I like, even at high prices.

Speaking of snatching---I read that turnips are called "snadgers" in northern England--and "neeps" in Scotland. Can anyone confirm that?
I heard that when I was painting four Vegetables & Spaceships Flash Cards in 2013 (all four, here).
This is the turnip one:

This set of watercolors (gouache) is one of the best things I've ever made--or, anyway, I love it almost best.
I sent the set to Krista years ago, for her kitchen.


Before Big Boss left yesterday, I'd asked him which cake he wanted me to make for his birthday.
Without hesitation he said yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

I might have chosen the same, rather plain cake. I don't like cake that is too goopy or candy-like. (I don't mind that he chose the cheapest one, either--though I'd certainly have spent the money with no complaint if he'd chosen the Black Forest.)

"What shape should it be?" I asked.


That is correct. Proper birthday cakes are round, with a layer of frosting in the center.

P.S. We put the box of turnips on the bench in the exit hallway, where free stuff goes. No takers so far.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

An exercise studio for the imagination

Another study of the Tailor of Gloucester, with Pensive Bear. I like it, but it's not what I want for the final image. Will try again.

BELOW, Beatrix Potter's watercolor and ink original:

Mine fell apart several times, each time in a different way.
It's tricky to get all the elements in place--and my stiff old fingers fumble with little things.
Also, I lack technical skills. How to attach things to one another?
Luckily, it's not rocket science--twist ties and hair bands work great.

this sort of thing is an exercise studio for the imagination. I like it, and I'd like to get better at it.
I'm thinking about how to set up & stock a toy photography "studio"--- a dedicated place on my table. 

What do I need?
Not much--mostly stuff I have or can get at a hardware store (or work):
A box & standing screens to control (block) light--cardboard, tin foil.
Lights (candles, LED lights, a flashlight).
A selection of attachers and stands, from dental bands & blu-tack to C-clamps and mini-tripods.
Maybe a mini-fan too, to move stuff like fabric, hair, smoke. (How to make smoke?)

I googled it, and, yep, that's about it--get a few toys, a few basic tools, and bring the imagination and patience.  Here's an intro:
Toy Photography Basics, by photographer James Gibbs.

"I want to choose."

I'd like to get a better at baking too, even though I want to eat less bakery. I can take it to work.
Everyone liked the peach cobbler I made for Mr Furniture's birthday yesterday. (Secret ingredient: butter.) Most importantly, Mr Furniture liked it. He didn't say anything much––he's not about praise––but I could tell he was happy.

I'd told Big Boss I'd bake him something for his birthday this month too.
What did he want?

He didn't know.

Pie? Pudding? Cookies? Cake? Fruit salad?


Fruit? Chocolate? Vanilla?


"Okay", I said, "I can choose a recipe myself or find a few recipes for chocolate cakes and let you choose one."

"I want to choose."

There it is. This is so elemental, don't you think? Even if we don't know what we want, we want to learn our choices and then choose.

I sent him five cake choices:
Black Forest (with cherries); banana chocolate; chocolate caramel (with caramel frosting); vanilla (yellow) cake with chocolate
buttercream frosting; and Classic chocolate cake with chocolate  frosting.

Some of these are spendy. I'll skip the kirsch, if Big Boss chooses Black Forest, but
cherries and whipping cream...
I like doing it though, and it's a nice thing to do. We get day-old bakery donated from corporate grocery stores, but my coworkers appreciate a homemade cake.
I wasn't sure if they'd care, but they do.

Things at work are better since the City cleared out the fires across the street--twice now. The air around work had been toxic--literally toxic, from
"our neighbors" (street dealers & friends) burning garbage in grills the past few cold weeks.

The chemical stench of plastics in the fire was frightening, on an animal level. Also, open flames roaring near a wood fence and not far from a wood house...
I started to dread going to work like I never have before.

I guess the City does take the fire hazard seriously, and have legal recourse, in this case. After two clear-outs, the fires have not returned (yet?). 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Field Trip: Madonna and Little Debbie

 Sister and I went to Little Falls, Minnesota, yesterday---a town on the Mississippi River with little waterfall which we forgot to look at.

We were busy at the West Side Café.
The classic bathroom-mirror selfie:

Chalkboard menu, dairy from cows, orange booths--the real deal.
I had the Chopped Steak Plate Special:
hamburger steak with A1 sauce (it has raisins in it!), green beans, mashed potatoes (real) with gravy, white bread and butter, $11.

"These are doll-sized snacks," Spike said.

Then we were busy looking around the Polish Catholic Church, started by citizens from Poland but named Our Lady of Lourdes (she's French), even though Poland has some very fine Marys, including the Black Madonna of of Częstochowa.
A big, jeweled icon of the Black Madonna hangs a prominent side altar, where we lit candles:

Our field trips are always organized around a library visit. Sister has researched all the Carnegie Libraries in driving distance--but that's just the hook to hang the trip on.
This library was kind of boring, not photo worthy. We sat inside and addressed and wrote our Xmas cards.
As we were leaving the library, a Santa was setting up to greet kids, and kids were lining up, dressed up and excited to meet Santa.

The big (big!) Coburn's grocery store. Some soldiers from the nearby base were shopping in uniform.
Spike was most amazed at the Little Debbie snack cakes!

I almost bought some boxes for their beauty, but I was afraid I might eat them in the middle of the night, even though they are almost inedible, being mainly wax, you know.
BUT... I am like that with sugar. If it's in the house, I ferret it out and eat it.

I am trying (again, again, again) to eat more complex carbs, proteins, and fat, and NOT to eat white flour and sugar.
A main problem for me is bothering to SPEND THE TIME––to shop, plan, and cook real food. I end up scrounging junk at work, and the like.
If someone would make me meals such as salmon, vegan collards with shitake mushrooms, and wild rice every night, I believe I would not be tempted by Little Debbies. Or, not so much.

We'd stopped at the grocery store because I needed to buy a 9 x 13 cake pan to make Mr Furniture a peach cobbler. I'd told him I'd make him one for his birthday last weekend, and then... I didn't.
I thought he wouldn't remember, or care.
But on Monday, when I came back to work, the first thing he said was,
"Where's my peach cobbler, San Francisco?"

So now I will make it. As in, now, this minute.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Still Life: Compost with Cabbage

When I added this morning's coffee filter to my compost, which I keep in the freezer, it looked beautiful...

Speaking of freezing-- I biked to work yesterday on the bike paths. They're rutted with ice and snow, but they feel safe because they're so wide (thank you, bike path designers!):
if I did slip, I wouldn't slide into a car's path.
I didn't slip.
If you keep pedaling (slowly, in my case) and keep your eyes up, looking out ahead, momentum keeps you moving forward.
I felt a LOT better arriving at work, and then, after work, working off any crud by biking home. You know, biking in winter, you start cold, and you end hot.

This morning I looking for the Bruegel painting of hunters coming home in the snow.
I love it--I'd like to recreate it (in part) with toys.

Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565). Here in Vienna at the KHM.

Then found another famous piece of snow art (a print, not a painting):
Taiko (Drum) Bridge and the Yuhi Mound at Meguro, 1857, by  Utagawa Hiroshige (here, at the Met in NY)

Monday, December 5, 2022

Next Up on TRP: Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter is the sixth artist I've chosen for Toys Recreate Paintings (TRP). Her Tailor of Gloucester is my favorite book of hers, so I'm doing that one (the cover, at least); but as always, people & their toys can choose their own painting to recreate. NO RULES on TRP.

It was either Potter or Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (ca.1623-1625)––here, at the DIA. But Judith will take some doing--the dramatic lighting, and so much going on. Maybe after the holidays.

Potter will be easier to recreate than the artists of the last few weeks–and easier to understand, too. I'm curious to see if that increases participation. Four of us interpreted Chagall with toys--up from three for Bosch; down from eight for "Girl with a Pearl Earring", the easiest and most famous painting TRP's done.
It's not a numbers game--I'd do this by myself--but I do want to include a variety. Suggestions welcome!

Join in, if you like! Here or on Instagram (#toysrecreatepaintings).

I made the invitation from my preliminary study for the cover of The Tailor.

I lost my thimble--last seen as a Boschian hat on a girlette's head.
I think it fell off outside and is now buried under snow, till spring.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

2023 Girlette Calendar: "Let's Hold Hands"

I've finished the 2023 Girlette calendar: Let's Hold Hands.
(Title inspired in part by Toy Story 3, when the toys are trapped on a conveyor belt leading into an incinerator, and they reach out for one another's hands (here on youtube.)

Please let me know if you want one.

I only charge cost, but the printer, Mixbook, even with a bulk discount, is still kinda pricey--and more this year, like everything else.
But they've printed the past two calendars so nicely, I'm sticking with them.

Each calendar is $19 + USPO media mail = $25 TOTAL.
(Overseas, forgeddaboutit!)
You can pay me on paypal, or mail me a check. I'm late this year, but the calendars should still get to you by January 1, 2023, but maybe not by Xmas.

If you told me you wanted one but now you don't, that's fine--no hurt feelings or anything!

Here are all the months below. I didn't have a camera/phone for the first few months of 2022, so I didn't have as many photos to choose from, but there are lots of little photos in the day-by-day boxes too.
The calendars are square, 12" x 12"--same as full-size commercial calendars.

The cover photo and other shots of Big Water are at Lake Superior. (The mini-waterfall is in a local park.)

Window Indicators

This morning it's 4ºF/-15C. In very cold weather, moisture condenses on the inside of my windows. I've let the landlord know, and he says he'll come put weatherstripping on or something. (Best ever home-owner I've rented from...)

I got the handblown glass thingamabobs at the thrift store. (Do I even need to say this? Ninety percent of everything I own came from the store.) They're small--a little taller than a thumb.

Below are a couple of window indicators on old, electric waffle irons. I love them so much, I think about buying the machines, just to look at them. But they're big.

I'm not going to work today. I don't want to travel in the cold, and I don't really want to be there (hm...), and there haven't been many donations, so I can take a break.

I'm going to see if I can put together a Girlette Calendar for 2023.
I started putting one together back in October, but since I'd been without a camera/phone for several months in 2022, I didn't have enough great photos.
Now I've taken a lot more, I'll see if there's enough for a calendar.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Holy Sisters of the Perpetual Airport

The Auntie Vi Memorial Morning Weather Report

This morning, there was almost no condensation on my windows, so I figured it must be warmer than the past few very cold mornings, when the windows were so wet they were dripping.
Sure enough--it's 22º, forecast to rise to 37º.

The streets are still mucky, but I'm going to bike. I'll take the street with the WIDE bike lane to the Greenway bike path, which the City keeps shoveled. It goes a couple blocks from the thrift store.
I'm extra-motivated because the bus connections are so slow.


Did you watch Fleabag?
The main character (unnamed, played by the show's creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is driven by the grief of a close friend's death, and, further back, her mother's death.

This essay "To Fleabag, with Grief" is good about it--after witnessing a friend killed by a car, the (young) author writes, "I was more sensitive, and meaner, and more empathetic".
Ha, yes. Nicer. And meaner. 
I get that.

Also: "Surprisingly for how universal the experience of grief is, most media about loss is not very good."
Indeed. Along with the movie Love, Liza, Fleabag is the only media about the weirdness of grief that I deeply relate to.

Most of us who have remained in blogspotland are old, and we know grief. But still, I think, it's hard to get it right, its expression.

While I related to her grief, Fleabag is not like me, personally, except in one way--in her relationship with her sister, Claire,
her only sibling. Their relationship reminds me of mine with my sister.

Fleabag and Claire are opposites, aligned differently to their father (who makes no secret that he prefers Claire), and they are often at odds--not in a make-cute way, but seriously. Like me and my sister. They're not happy friends, and yet they've been through devastation together.

At their father's wedding to a woman they despise, Fleabag tries to convince her [married] sister, Claire, to go to the airport to intercept the man she truly loves. Fleabag says something about how romantic it would be to run through an airport.

Claire replies, "The only person I'd run through an airport for is you."

Sometimes I kinda hate my sister (just kinda, though), and I guess she sometimes feels something like that toward me. She's the elder, so maybe, probably, it's not hate she feels. I don't know, but I sense it's more like frustration, bafflement, and DISAPPROVAL that she feels.

This past spring, when I was house-sitting for four months on the block my sister lives on––a few houses away––she came over only a few times. Once, she said something so objectionable (personal to me, not political), I told her to leave.
I never went to her house because I wasn't allowed in, ever since her wife and I had had a big fight a few years ago.

My sister has let me down in big ways.
So have I let her down. Like, I didn't attend her wedding!
I was going to--I even had a free airline ticket to San Francisco lined up. (Sister and her bride-to-be were getting married in California, which had just legalized same-sex marriage.)

Then it turned out our brother was going.
My sister had told me that she wasn't even going to invite him--he had barely talked to her, and to me not at all, since our mother died six years earlier.
But she did invite him after all, and his wife made him accept. Of course our father would be there too--my sister was his favorite person. With the addition of Brother, now the gathering
comprised a preponderance of people, including the woman my sister was marrying, who didn't like me.  It felt dangerous.
I didn't go.

But still. Not to be in any way nice or romantic about it--my sister and I don't exactly trust each other, and we've let each other down--and yet, when I told her I loved and related to the line about running through the airport, she said she felt the same.

Maybe it's only the sharing of a movie moment (I used to blog those). It might not translate reliably into action. But sharing a story-–that's a good thing.


After the house-sitting gig ended, I got an email from Sister-in-Law (SIL) asking if I would like to "normalize" our relationship.

I wrote right back and said yes, if she meant that I would come over sometime and sit on their back deck for a beer or coffee, like I used to.

That's exactly what she meant, she wrote back. If I didn't need to "process the past", she didn't either.
God spare me from processing the past (in this instance).

I did go over for a beer and to carve pumpkins this Halloween, and no unkind words were said. Good! We all get along better if we do something, or go somewhere.

Sister and I are going on another field trip to an outlying library next week--our third such library visit. I'm excited! We're both taking Christmas cards along, to sit at the library and write and address them.
I need to get some stamps.

Meanwhile, Brother has drifted further and further away from my (our) sister.  He and I had never been close, and he stopped talking to me entirely many years ago. When I saw him at our father's deathbed five summers ago, he could barely say hello to me.

My sister, however, had stepped into mothering him when
our mother left. She was fifteen, and he was four. Maybe that was a problem for him as much as anything, but they had stayed close up until our mother's death. Sister remains deeply grieved that he is now only a dot on the horizon of her life.

I can't see even a dot of my brother--haven't for a long time.
But I suppose if he needed me to run through the airport for him, I would. Not that I'll ever know if he does.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Where ya been? (Artichokes & Orchids)

Good morning, good morning!
I've said before, I miss writing to Auntie Vi every morning, usually starting with a weather report. In the Midwest, it changes all the time--it's genuinely interesting.
Once I spent ten days in Santa Barbara, California: every day's weather was exactly the same. What do people chit chat about in climates like that?

After I'd replaced my shredded bike tire with a puncture-proof one a few days ago, it snowed several wet inches, and the snow ruckled up into frozen ruts--nasty for biking.
So, back to figuring out the best bus routes to work--I have to transfer, waiting twice on a cold corner, but I have a few route options. Sometimes it's easier to walk the second half, but the terrain isn't good for walking right now, either...

Family: Artichokes & Orchids

GZ wrote a couple fascinating posts this week--her family history, and the history of her life as a potter.

I've told my history here in various ways--88 posts indexed "family"––but thought it might be fun to do a Quick Review.
Now I've finished writing this post, I want to say I wrap up with my mother's death by her own hand twenty years ago. Skip the last section––"
That's All, Folks"––if that's too upsetting.

To start with her side: My favorite maternal ancestor is Uriah Sutherland.
I know nothing about him except his fabulous name. I surmise he left Scotland because of fallout from the Industrial Revolution (the Clearances of small farmers).
He ended up in southern Missouri, he and a rangy mix of Scots-Irish and other scrappers who'd crossed the Appalachians before the American Revolution, against British laws to keep colonists out of western Native lands.

History is numbers, they say, and land. Mix and match.

My father's family came from Sicily in the early 1900s.
When I went to Sicily ninety years later, I could see why people would leave, even now:
the island is a giant rock baking in sunny salt waters.
As they say in Moonstruck, "It ain't modern times in Sicily."

Like Scotland, Sicily's national flower is a THISTLE.
Well, no it isn't, (it is Scotland's, though), but the artichokes that grow on the island are thistles, with spikes like horns--they look like a mace, the medieval weapon.

So--some spikey, scrappy ancestors, on both sides.
What human doesn't have those?
But there are stories of a few tender orchids in there too, who hung on, or didn't.

I'd posted these side-by-side photos just this past summer, both taken around the time of World War One.
Top, Missouri; bottom, Sicily.

My father's parents came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the Great Lake Michigan, where they could get jobs. My grandfather was a cobbler, grandmother a seamstress.

My father hated his violent father and escaped to UM–Columbia (Missouri), where he got a PhD in political science and where he met my mother who was studying music (piano).

I always say they got together to get away from their families. My mother had been raised to be a Southern belle, and in her mother's eyes, my father was a greasy wop.
Perfect exit strategy!
In other ways, the marriage was not a success.
My father had the emotional insight of an artichoke, and my mother was an orchid. 

My father always said that at least they made wonderful children together, which was nice of him because he didn't seem to like me much. I reminded him of my mother. She left––leaving us three kids with our father––when I was thirteen.

(I'm more of an artichoke than she was––or, as Marz said, a baby rhino––though I'm feeling just a little orchidish lately.)

Books'll Get You Through

I left too, when I was sixteen (graduated high school early)--took the Amtrak to Denver, where I had NO IDEA what to do. No internet, you remember.
I spent a couple months in the library, reading. A good choice, really.
That's when I stole a book about T. E. Lawrence ("of Arabia"), for which I paid the library back only a  few/coupla years ago, and which is why I am now a Friend of the Denver Public Library--they put my money toward that, and I re-up every year.

I remember stuff I did like that when young people act like ass wipes---give them a few years. (Forty?)

I went to see a friend in Tucson--stayed over Thanksgiving (the weather never changed!), and eventually took the Greyhound bus back. I'd miscalculated the fare and after paying it only had enough cash to buy a loaf of white bread at a gas station during one of the bus layovers.
All along, I read––mostly fiction when I was young––and looked at pictures (art, movies, photos, advertisements). I relate to people who say books saved their lives (like Oprah). Another World Is Possible.
I wasn't ambitious, just wanted to lie on the couch and read, mostly. I still do.

Most of my jobs have had to do with books--three libraries, one publisher (proofing/editing/writing nonfiction books for young people), now BOOK's in the thrift store.

Somewhere in there I got my BA in Classics/Religious Studies, which made my father proud.
My mother---in full-on dramatic, narcissist-mother style (your story belongs to me, and I can improve it)--told people I got an MA in Classical Greek.
"Well, you should have," she told me.

That's All, Folks [content note: suicide]

My mother the orchid took her life twenty years ago--the coroner called on the eve of winter solstice.
I was forty-one. I'd been crazy about her, growing up. She was fall-over-drooling funny, and talk-all-night smart--but she was an expensive person to know. She was sensitive, which caused her to suffer, and she made everyone else pay for it too.

I tried hard to save her, and she thought I should too (not just me, but also me).
I couldn't.
This is why I want to tattoo this reminder on my eyeballs:

Some years I barely think of my mother and her death, but this year it's on my mind. Maybe it's the number twenty?
Is that why I'm feeling a bit snappish?
Not sure... Truly, it could be plenty of other things!

I've blogged 51 posts tagged "mother". (I'm grateful to my librarian-self that I indexed posts from the very beginning.)

If you're interested, "After My Mother Killed Herself" written six years after her death, is about the time itself.

Trigger warning: suicide, obviously, but it's pretty dry, really.
that sort of distanced report that psychologists say can help relieve horror.
Writing it was important for that, I think.

Below is my mother's obit (top left), in my 2003-in-Review photo collage. It is bone dry, written by my sibs. At the time that annoyed me, but now I think it was smart--that step-away-from-the-trauma dryness.

Next to the obit is a photo of me, a few months after my mother's death, holding a vestment for Pentecost (the dove descends in flame).
I was working as an assistant sacristan (schlepper of holy baubles) in the Basilica that year, as good luck would have it.
My mother'd grown up in the Church of the Generic Protestant & Ladies Gardening Club, but she and my father raised us with no religion (except Liberal Humanism).
Imagine my delight when I discovered Catholicism: ALL THE TOYS!!!
Oh, the tiger: a priest I liked called me Richard Parker, for the tiger in the lifeboat in Life of Pi.

I always, always want to acknowledge how monstrous the Church/religion can be: I've seen what damage it has caused.
(Plenty of human institutions are monstrous of course, but having God in the mix makes for an extra-special horror show.)

But for me, it has been an art museum, a library, of human stories, and a place where my stories FIT.
There just aren't many places in US culture, with its emphasis on Production and Profit, where I feel my story fits.
I don't even believe in God, but for me, the stories are true.


I've turned comments off--I just don't want to deal with snippets, in my current mood. (Emails are okay, if you like.)

I always post this when I write about my mother:

For more info on suicide prevention, or help if you are struggling:
"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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Reactive/Tiny, Unheroic Acts

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied;
real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring." [i]
--Simone Weil
My, I've been reactive lately. Even in my happiest of moods, I've been feeling thin-skinned, like people who can't stand a shirt label touching the back of their neck.

I think it's because of my workplace, mostly. Keeping a thriftstore diary for the past three months means I've been writing about it after every shift. Surprisingly (to me), that's making me feel worse, when otherwise I cope not-too-badly.

They (psychologists and folk) used to think people who went through horrible events should talk about it right away-- students in school shootings should talk to counselors, and so forth.
But after some time, they found that talking about horror sometimes cements all the nasty events in the brain, which otherwise might wash some away or put them in their proper boxes for proper handling when able. 

I'm paraphrasing, obviously. I'm not going to stop and google this, but I read it several places.
. . .
As if! Having written that, then I had to google it. Oh, the brain of a librarian: MUST FOOTNOTE EVERYTHING.

Here's an example, from an article in the Guardian, 2014: "When talking about your problems actually makes them worse":

"Dwelling on trauma may do more harm than good. But burying your head in the sand isn’t going to help you get over it either. It’s complicated.
"The effect of the trauma is diminished [my italics] if subjects take a fly-on-the-wall view and write an account of the bad experience, referring to themselves in the third person.
This distances them from the painful event, enabling them to be more thoughtful about what happened without being self-destructive."
Yes, it's complicated, and keeping a diary about the evil I see (often just everyday stupidity, but sometimes human cruelties, and definitely real social breakdown), I got sucked in rather than distanced.

The other day I wrote a long post about the latest round with the dealers outside the store, and how the City descended with fire trucks, cop cars, ambulances, even a caterpillar/earth mover machine to scoop up the barbecue grills they've been burning bonfires on...
I wrote about how I feel like I'm living in The Wire, 'cause same as on that show, after all the drama, the very next day we got different crew out there, same deal.

So, that amount, what I just wrote ^ above, is okay.
But I went into details, and recorded things people said (some of them quite funny, from my wry coworkers). At the end I felt like I was reporting on civilization sliding off the edge.
And maybe I am, but, I thought, I NEED TO STOP THIS. For now.
For my peace of mind, so I can keep doing what I'm doing, which is tiny but not nothing.

I have coping mechanisms for being at the store that are almost invisible to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see shadows of shadows of spinning gears... moved by gravity, or geothermal heat, who knows...
I imagine some interior, fantastically steampunky, brass navigational tool, an astrolabe of the psyche.
I've been seriously thwacking that navigational instrument, and it got out of whack.

One way that is evident is, I get extra impatient with people.
A long time ago, I met a woman at a party who worked in the prison system. "I hate normal people," she told me.

People say that sometimes––ha-ha––lightly. They put it on their fridge. And then they go on with their gardening, like normal people.
But I'm sure she really meant it.
I knew, even then:
It's a problem when you start to hate normal people, and gardening.
(Or any people, sure, of course, but this is a particular twist, hating normal people. And I've been feeling that. Warning: Not good.)


I ask myself this, every so often. 
I answer myself variously, but in similar ways.
In recent years: Dolls. (Toys. Play. Invention.)
Dolls help. For real.
They (toys, play) are Good.

Church (Catholic, in my case) sometimes helps, because it presents some home truths about human suffering--there it is, in a bleeding statue––but keeps it at a distance and provides physical practices to help handle it--kneel, stand, kneel.
Again, I'm only speaking for me---I know a lot of people for whom church was the evil!

There's another line to the quote from Weil, up top:

"Imaginary good is boring;
real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating."

Living with evil––we all do, to some extent––I think it helps to cultivate the good. Not just in theory, but to DO it.
That's why I'm liking Toys Recreate Paintings:
it gets me to DO it, not just read and write and think about it, which I love but is not the same as physical ACTION.
And, it's shared, even if only with a handful of people, which is Good x nth.

"Only" a handful, I said? But that's a lot!
Sometimes I forget in this world of "a million followers" that I (we) can only take in the energies of a few people.
(This is the point of view of me, an introvert.)

Weil uses these grand words, marvelous, intoxicating, but the acts likely are not grand.
"Tiny, unheroic acts" Chris Hedges calls them, in his book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2006), which I finished reading in bed last night.

He writes about the danger of turning individuals into abstractions, into Ideas, instead of this or that messy human right here. Me and you and the other annoyingly imperfect people around.

I noticed long ago that wanting to "improve" or, worse, to purify people can be really bad. That's why I don't like it, it worries me, when I get preachy.

Trying to clean up imperfections and annoyances, we start scrubbing away with deadly bleach at the healthy bacteria of being human.

I trust myself more when I talk about what kind of doll costume I want to make.

We are a mess, yes.
But the drive to sanitize creates monsters.

Hedges is the son of a preacher and himself studied to be one, though he was never ordained and became a foreign/war correspondent instead.
He gets a little high-flown here––"only through kindness"––but I basically agree with what he says here, in his concluding chapter (p. 205):

"The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach grand, utopian visions....
Dreams of a universal good create hells of persecution, suffering and slaughter. No human being could ever be virtuous enough to attain such dreams....

"This is true for all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism.
[Members of the radical Christian right] commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and at the end of time all those who oppose them must be destroyed. 

"It is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in tiny, unheroic acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive as a community and as individual human beings." [my italix]

I am a little put off when people talk about kindness and compassion, because it sounds like you have to have a Heart of Gold that feels warmly.
You don't.
If you wait for a warm feeling for your fellow man, that's not a good policy because it might not come, given the reality of what one's fellow man (and one's own self) is really like.
So the tiny heroic act does not necessarily arise from emotion.
It can be a policy, a practice.

But I'm quoting Hedges out of context. Before what I quoted, he's just given Huck Finn as an example--the scene that is the crux of Twain's whole novel:
Huck deciding not to turn the slave Jim in as stolen property, even though Huck knows (as he'd been taught) that is the proper and Godly thing to do--to write a letter to Miss Watson telling her where her stolen property--the man Jim--is.
And it (his decision not to turn Jim in) goes exactly against what he thinks is good and makes him FEEL clean.

First he decides to do the "right" [lawful] thing:

"Why, it was astonishing," Huck says when he's decided to write the letter, "the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone."

And after he wrote it,

"I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and knowed I could pray now––.
. . thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell.

. . .

But then Huck thinks about "our trip down the river, and I see Jim before me, all the time in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind.

I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and him how glad he was when I came back out of the fog. . . and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me; and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper [the letter].

"It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
    'All right then, I'll go to hell'––and tore it up.

And as proof that it's not just the Christian right that is full of misguided fools looking for simple solutions, there are plenty on the Liberal left who think Huckleberry Finn shouldn't be taught because it is racist. [ii]

Quote from Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, (London: Routledge, 1963), 62.


"Friends’ Central School in [Philadelphia]... reported that the school’s administration decided to pull the novel from its 11th-grade American literature class, although it will remain in the library.

"The school’s principal told parents in a letter that 'we have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits', saying that some students had found the 'use of the N-word' to be 'challenging', and that the school 'was not being inclusive'.

"The school is guided by Quaker philosophy, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, and 'peaceful resolution of conflicts, seeking truth, and collaboration are key aspects' of its operation."

I would say that in their faithfulness to the standards & norms of their times, they failed the Huck test. If they lived in his times, they'd have turned Jim in.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Five Paintings for Toys to Recreate

NOTE: I've turned off comments. Email me if you like--more suggestions for paintings to recreate?

I've gathered a few paintings and one photo/sculpture I'd like to recreate/interpret in toys.
I'll put them here in order by date.

1. BELOW: One of my favorite paintings: "The Magdalen Reading" by Rogier van der Weyden, before 1438; at the National Gallery, London.
That green!

2. BELOW: It'd be fun to light this--so dramatic!
"Judith and Her Maidservant w the Head of Holofernes" by Artemisia Gentileschi. c. 1623 (at the Detroit Institute of Arts) .
"The scene captures the Biblical tale of Judith beheading her enemy the Assyrian general Holofernes, during a visit to his camp. She and her maidservant were under estimated because of their gender and also in that they are only two, against an entire enemy army." (via)

3. BELOW: My father gave me a small print of this when I was little, and it hung on my wall. (I think from a trip he took to NYC?)
"Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga" also known as the "Red Boy", by Goya, 1787-88 (in NYC at the Met:
"In its beak the magpie holds Goya’s calling card and signature.")

The cats! The cats!

4. BELOW: My favorite of BP's books. Cover illustration for The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter, 1902

5. BELOW: Just for fun.
Louise Bourgeois with one of her spider sculptures:
"The artist characterised the spider as a maternal figure at once clever, protective and threatening. "
Bourgeois's own mother was a weaver and sewer in the family's tapestry business.

Monday, November 28, 2022

bink's Eyes-Closed cartoon "My Concussion"

Now in her eighth concussed month, bink has been drawing with eyes closed. Her eyes are still a hair off from being synchronized, so looking at things can make her sick and dizzy.
BUT... her eyes-closed drawings are cool.
Brain injuries are disgusting, frightening, . . . but so fascinating, showing how we live inside our skulls.

In bink's case--her being an artist with a brain injury extra-illuminates how vision happens inside the brain, and how that dark place receives and sends messages to coordinate with the outside world.

This is bink's first panels for The Story of My Concussion.
She says she did open her eyes in places, to see where she was placing the figures and text.
I hope she'll continue the story... 

Note: Tenebrae means "darkness". It is the Catholic Church's evening service on Good Friday, after Jesus has been laid in the tomb, dead, dead, dead. Every year, bink & Cathy climb up through the above-the-ceiling space in the Basilica here, carrying rose petals, and drop the dark red petals at the end of the service.


And here are my girlettes:

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Enough already!

The girlettes have HAD IT with posing for "this art nonsense". They say it's a Sunday afternoon and it's for PLAYING. They have refused to pose one more second and have gone to play in the sun.
Quite right too.

I am looking at airbnbs in Iceland and am ready to pack my bags NOW. It was Kirsten's suggestion. I've wanted to go since I had a one-hour layover there on the way to London, twenty years ago. The landscape was so strange and attractive, I've always wanted to go back.
Icelandair flies direct from here--RT fares are not out of the realm of the possible...

Tip o' the thumb to Barbara Kruger.

Let's Fly Away!

Chagall! The circus! It's time.
I've been wanting to do Chagall ever since I started #ToysRecreatePaintings. He's next up, at No. 5, for next weekend. Specifically, his circus art.
I don't know that I like actual circuses. I like circus art, and Chagall did a lot of it. Here's a sample. I like his circuses best of his paintings.
(I love Calder's moving circus too.)

ABOVE right: "The Circus Rider" by Marc Chagall, c. 1927.
I made the invitation in a fast 15-minutes this morning. (Join in! if you like. NO RULES.)
Sometimes I like these quickies better than my more labored recreations.

I do love the labor of making the creations though, in itself. Up to a point, anyway. After five hours of making Boschian hats yesterday, I was getting cranky--and so were the girlettes, who were fussing and NOT STANDING STILL.
They thought it was funny to push each other off the electricity boxes on the side of the house. (What do you call these?
Oh, right. "Electricity meter boxes.")

Oh, huh. I have 12 blog posts indexed "circus".
They include this
watercolor, below, from 2013. I copied the still of a home-movie showing my mother with my sister and me at a traveling circus that came to small-town Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1964.
My mother helps me, in blue sweater, feed peanuts to an elephant, while my sister looks on.  I remember being surprised at how soft the elephant's trunk was on my hand.

 I've recreated the work of five artists now: Wyeth, Vermeer, Kahlo, Manet, Bosch. Interpreted? Bounced off of? While I like some better than others, the main thing is that this project is working to get me working, which is terrific. I drift.

Yesterday I picked up in a Little Free Library a Bill Bryson book, Neither Here Nor There, about traveling in Europe. It reminded me that I've never liked Bryson--too glib, and cringey (ohgod, not funny)
sexist. BUT, reading about traveling made me think, hey, I should take a trip!

Sister and I take expeditions--I'll suggest we do another--but also, I haven't gone anywhere by myself in ages. (Moving to a new(ish) neighborhood was an adventure, but it wasn't purely for the sake of an adventure, for fun.)

My workplace is fun, but the setting is NOT fun. Everyday seeing desperation. It's wearing.
I want a break. Four days off has been great, but it makes me think I want a longer break.

Meanwhile, I got a Christmas tree!
bink, Maura, and I walked over to the little holiday fair a block away, where the indie florist was selling trees. Immediately the right tree presented itself.
(Forty-five dollars. They're a lot cheaper at places like Home Depot, but, gross.)

A 3-foot Fraser fir. Perfect!


“Damn everything but the circus!

"The average 'painter' 'sculptor' 'poet' 'composer' 'playwright' is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown’s mouth, orchestrate twenty lions."

--E. E. Cummings, (full quote via Quote Investigator)