Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Ride the Silver Fish"

Today is the first Sunday of Advent: a time to clear the clutter.
I look around this morning at fishhead masks and strips of paper seaweed strewn about my little place; my houseplants still in the bathub where I put them to make room; a ladder in the corner next to a pile of wrinkled blue cloth; coffee cups in the sink.
After a very successful and fun but draining two days of filming, I'm too stunned to clear the physical clutter.
I will consider this Sunday a day of rest:
a time to clear the clutter in my head and recharge my batteries.

I looked up the Advent readings for today, and they do not inspire me, so I listen instead to Neil Gaiman reading his "Instructions" on what to do if you find yourself inside a fairytale.
I remember well his wonderful line,
"Trust your heart, and trust your story."
But I'd forgotten he also instructs,
"Ride the silver fish, you will not drown."

"...And then, go home,
Or make a home,
Or rest."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

365: Scaly

The fish are in the can. And I am to bed.

Friday, November 27, 2009

365: Family Fish

What a day! I (below, left) spent the morning making Finnish cinnamon rolls and pressing my father (in town for T'giving) and sister--all of us here with paper seaweed draped on our heads--into helping me with last minute herring costume adjustments. Then filmed the first scene of Herring for Christmas (working title) in the afternoon.

Songs of Disrobing and Exploration (youTube Homework Helper)

I took a break while the Finnish cinnamon rolls rise to respond to a query on youTube from a college guy who wrote, in reference to my video "Kirk: To His Mistress":
"Hey I noticed you did a Captain Kirk thing with john donne's elegy 19. I'm doing a powerpoint presentation on John Donne's Elegy 19 for my western lit class, What we have to do is compare how this would still be used today in present time, and i was thinking it would compare a lot to love songs for example like Marvin gaye,Temptations, and so on. We can add Youtube videos to this presentation,so if you can give me some feedback that would be awesome,I also thought about rickrolling everybody at the end of the presentation, it would be good though because the lyrics in never gonna give you up would kinda fit,lol."

Here's my reply:


What a fun project to compare Donne to modern songs of seduction!

A couple themes pop out at me:
1) the man trying to convince the woman to take her clothes off,
2) the theme of sexual exploration ("let my hands rove") being like geographical exploration

So--clothes first:

The first song that came to mind is "Tonight's the Night" by Rod Stewart--it's not exactly "present time", but it's all about seduction and getting the girl to "Loosen up that pretty French gown". I think Donne would recognize it.

For a totally different feel, a current song on the radio that mentions a woman undressing is the country-western song by Chris Young: "Gettin' You Home," though the man isn't having to seduce the woman---it's quite clear she's an equal partner:
"Walking through the front door,
seeing your black dress hit the floor,
honey there sure ain't nothing,
like you loving me all night long,
and all I can think about is getting you home."

I'm sure there are plenty more---it's a classic scene!

I don't think "Never Gonna Give You Up" is a close match, as the guy is promising faithfulness and love, and those aren't really Donne-like themes--he's pretty much a playboy in these poems.... That's why I have Kirk say "and thee" to about 20 women---it's not about monogamy! : )

As for exploration, as you know, Donne lived in an era of exploration by ship--the European discovery of "new found lands" like America. That's why I thought his poem was so perfect for Kirk, with his [space]ship: the original Star Trek was made in 1966-1969, the era of the first moon landing--a time when Americans were excited about exploration of space, and so the show imagined humans in the future--that is, Kirk & Co. in the 23rd century--being explorers. )

But I don't see that hopeful interest in exploration in current 21st century pop culture. If anything, American movies seem more concerned with disaster ("2012") and apocalypse ("I Am Legend")--the 2009 Star Trek movie, for instance, is imagines a post-apocalyptic world, at least for Spock, whose homeworld is blown up.
Off the top of my mind, can't think of a song that combines seduction and geographical exploration the way Donne does, though surely there must be some.

So, those are my thoughts on this morning after Thanksgiving.
Good luck with your project--let me know what you come up with.
My best, Fresca
So, readers if you can think of songs that explore seduction AND exploration, I'd love to hear them--and I'll pass them on to my correspondent.

Oh! Perfect! A commenter notes John Mayers "Your Body Is a Wonderland"

"We got the afternoon
You got this room for two
One thing I've left to do
Discover me discovering you...
Swim in a deep sea of blankets
...Your body is a wonderland
(I'll use my hands)"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Support of Whimsy

I felt a little despondent last night.
bink and I keep coming up with new twists on the herring costumes, and each new idea requires several more hours with the duct-tape and scissors to make something that, in the end, looks like it's out of a grade school play.

Well, not bink's herring bones, which I'm holding here (right); they're a beautiful piece of design. I want to mount them on the wall when we're done filming.

While I was googling "herring skeletons" for bink, I came across this photo, below, of prehistoric herrring--their fossils are from Fossil Butte, Wyoming--fossils in the area were discovered during the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1860s).

Aren't they lovely and graceful?
They remind me of a Roman floor mosaic.

It's true that making costumes for fifteen people is maybe a bit much; but this morning I was undespondentized when I came across a youTube of this 1955 recording, below, of Alexander Calder [links to Whitney site] putting his circus toys in motion.

Toys? Art? Special effects? What's the difference?

I'd seen this movie about twenty years ago at a local art museum and never forgotten it.

Thinking of how much work Calder must have put into this, I am ready to get back to cutting out strips of seaweed.
Maybe I'll go buy myself some red tennies like Calder's later too, as reward for my labors on behalf of whimsy.

BELOW: Alexander Calder and His Circus, Paris, 1929. By Andre Kertesz.

Ah, and here is Calder's 1944 mobile, Fish. From the Hirshhorn Museum.

And one more fish: The Roddenberry Trek Fish, from Gene and Majel's son Eugene:
"It's not about Creationism. It's not about Darwinism. It's about the future!
The TREK FISH simply says we can continue to discuss our origins but, as a species, should focus on what is to come."

I might even stick one on my car, if I had a car.
(Another sci-fi Jesus fish stake-off here.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kirk of the Week

It's all about the hokey pokey!
(Wikipedia describes it as a dance that involves wriggling your body parts about maniacally.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

365: Like Water for Herring

Airing out the blue cloth Laura gave me for the herring film.

The Captain Kirk Academy for the Pursuit of Excellence

Herring and pike (the green ones with teeth) masks have taken over my life. Here they are shedding silver sparkles all over my ugly couch.

i. The School of Anxiety

The "Herring for Christmas" shoot is on Saturday, and I'm anxious. I am absolutely sure it will be a hoot and entirely successful--how not? there'll be cinnamon rolls--it's just that it's full of something I usually avoid: being the leader of a group.

When I look at a dozen people, I don't see a school of herring that need direction, I see Maggie and Rose and Ben and John... and I want to attend to each individual's needs and desires. I'm also afraid lest I annoy or offend anyone, and they hit me (childhood, anyone?), so I pussyfoot around.
This is an annoying leadership style.

ii. Lead Like a Friend

"Leadership" is a word that's always given me the creeps--I hear it as Il Duce. I have to remind myself it's about helping people work together, not about being a dictator. Power comes to a person anyway, and if she doesn't know how to handle it, she can be a right fuck-up.

Like, it hugely annoys me when I show up to help someone move and they can't tell me what they need. Or you ask a guest what they want to do, and they say, "Whatever you want." Please! Tell me how to help you.

I've mostly been the sort who moves by herself, to avoid having to tell people to put that box in the kitchen, please. But I can't make movies by myself very well.
And in my life in general, at this time it seems a good thing to figure out what kind of leader I am, and to be it. I don't really know what that is.

iii. Be Who You Are

I haven't mentioned it here, but about a year ago I enrolled in the Captain Kirk Academy for the Pursuit of Excellence (C-KAPE). "Excellence" is here in the sense of what Saint Francis De Sales said: “Be who you are, and be that well.”

I moved over to C-KAPE from the How to Be Invisible College (H-BIC), where I'd studied for years. I kept failing the courses, though, so they suggested I transfer.

I love C-KAPE, and I hate it.
I want to learn how to be myself in the world with more Kirkian confidence. But, wow, the inner emotional backlash can be unpleasant. Shame, resentment, crankiness, and anxiety come out--the toolbox of the psyche that would just as soon stay hidden under the bed. They may seem little, not big hitters like rage and grief, but they're little like Laurence Olivier's dental tools are little in Marathon Man.

It's all about risk and excellence and facing our demons. It's so much nicer to meet these face-to-face, by choice, doing something we love, than to have them drop on us out of the trees.
So, bring on the herring!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cut and Paste

I. "Windows Open on a Terrace; A Book by Francesca, 1987"

All the pages in this post are from one of my first artist's books. I made it, including the paper, when I was living in Chicago.
It's an autobiographical scrapbook of sorts: papers and oddments from various places I've lived--some of them referring to the name Rose, which I went by in my early twenties.

(Looking at it now, I'm stuck by how tidy it is, as if I was lining up the mess of my life into neat rows.)

II. Playing with Chaos

There is no object, person, or event that is not part of the interconnected whole, and therefore important, even if we can't see how, even if it's a nobody tossing a cigarette package into the gutter.
I love art and artists that reflect that.
Like Kurt Schwitters, a cut-and-paster, who put together stuff he found on the streets of Hanover, Germany.

His collages pick up on the way things blow around and bump into each other, seemingly randomly--and the way we ascribe meaning to the resulting intersections and patterns.

Filtered through the artist and therefore highly personal, there's no way this art can be purely random, of course, but it plays with the chaotic nature of reality.
I like that a lot. I didn't discover Schwitters until after I'd started making my own collages, but I see his work among the cheerleaders on the sidelines of my life.

III. The First-Line-of-Blog-Posts Meme

Blogs are often a kind of cut-and-paste art (more high-falutingly known as assemblage and collage)--or quilts, if you prefer: bloggers offer up bits and pieces of whatever they come across (in our minds or in the street), and it's only as the posts pile up that a pattern starts to from.

There's a meme that cuts-and-pastes bits of one's own blog: the "first-line" meme.
The instructions go something like this:
Choose a day of the month. Say, the day you published your blog's first post. Gather together the first line of every post you've written on that day (or the day closest to it) every month.

So, here's the first line of every post on or around the 7th of each month, since my first post on October 7, 2007. What surprised me most was how few of them (5 out of 26) are from posts about Star Trek!

10-7-07: One of the things I have missed most about blogging (it's been two years) is having a place to keep found words--things I overhear, for instance, or bits and pieces of writing--like a nest where magpies keep objects that catch their fancy.

11-15-07: I'm on sabbatical.

12-7-07: Having a female body is a complex and contradictory issue in my life and the lives of most women I know.

1-7-08: I just had lunch with Sally, author of this blog:
Already Pretty.

2-7-08: I often wonder what I'm missing when people get all charged up about some fiendishly clever plan that seems like guaranteed disaster to me.

3-7-08: Inspired by Thinkery's "50 Things Before 50" list, I am starting my own, this birthday week.

4-7-08: I wrote [2 posts below] that some of us may grow, psychologically, like corkscrews.

5-7-08: In mainstream films, sex between two characters who are attracted to each other is almost always easy, once it occurs: everything gets hot and steamy and it's instant orgasms for all.

6-7-08: We've been having smashing weather lately: crackling flashing blow-down stuff.

7-7-08: Cheese cows are the tops!

8-7-08: My camera was set wrong for the low light, unintentionally showing that This Hotel Is Not in Real Time.

9-7-08: "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

10-7-08: My brain is free!

11-7-08: As I did with Gemini, I'm going to let some people born under the sign of Scorpio speak for themselves (mostly).

12-6-08: Jen left a comment on "Writing about Writing" a few posts back that got me thinking:
What does it mean to say, "I write for myself"?

1-7-09: Embedding this video has been disabled on youTube, but watch this: the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" sung by the Young @ Heart chorus, whose average member's age is over 80.

2-7-09: My iTunes informs me that I listened to "Nessun Dorma" so many times in the last three days that it has made it onto my "Top 25 Most Played" list.

3-7-09: "Let's start at the very beginning..."

4-7-09: This is the first Fly Off the Wall production to be released!

5-7-09: 11 p.m. Just got home from the new Star Trek movie.

6-6-09: Can you think of a movie that is a visual poem of London, the city, the way Manhattan is of New York, or Diva of Paris--or Blade Runner, Los Angeles in 2019 (above), for that matter?

7-7-09: I was so zonked yesterday from staying up till 4 a.m. to finish subtitling my vid in Russian, I took a long nap.

8-7-09: Annika e-mailed and asked me if I've always been interested in religion.

9-7-09: Bill is smokin'.

10-7-09: I'd forgotten there's a Finn Style store on the second-story skyway downtown.

11-7-09: Now that I've sent the Finland manuscript off, I can give some love to Fly Off the Wall's next movie.

I never tag people with memes, but if any of you want to do this, I'd love to read your first lines.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Return of the Gorn

Got the Finland ms back for revisions. Struggling to say something intelligent about racism in Finland. Nothing amusing whatsoever to post about that. [Not even the pleasure of outrage, as in my post below.]

So, I bring you creator extraordinaire Mortmere's latest bit of perfection:

Mortmere writes a [possible] plot synopsis to go with her poster:

"Thrown into the midst of Napoleonic wars by the Metrons, Kirk and his crew must re-encounter the Gorn and get the hang of maneuvering a Royal Navy ship of the line - and as if that wasn't enough, there's an annoying French royalist named Jean-Louis Picard aboard the ship... Compared to this, that little gunpowder incident near Cestus III was a picnic.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's Curtains

I usually roll my eyes when people bemoan the sheer idiocy of pop culture. Get a life, I usually think: It's fun! Or I want to paraphrase those bumper stickers about abortion: Don't like it? Don't watch it.
(And actually, usually I don't partake.)

But now I must join the ranks of the bemoaners, having just watched Sex and the City for the first time. See, I was writing up Finnish designer Maija Isola for my Famous Finns section--she designed those iconic poppies for Marimekko--still their most recognizable pattern. In reading about Isola, I stumbled across the info that Sex and the City featured one of her designs--Tantsu (1960), here-- as Carrie Bradshaw's curtains. Who's Carrie Bradshaw? I thought.
Turns out she's the main character, played by... um, um, um ...I'm drawing a blank. Doesn't matter. You know who I mean, right?

Anyway, I went to the library and there in the DVD bin was the movie version of S&TC. I remembered a woman telling me that even though critics panned it, she loved it because it really reflected a wide range of women's experiences. So I watched it---or, rather, I fast-forwarded through it, watching a few seconds of every chapter, looking for signs of intelligent life.
My god.
I was shocked. Really. Its suck factor went beyond "vacuous" into "black hole." My brain ended up in a cold, empty place where being a woman is all about having the right shoes.

I even found it politically frightening. It presents Americans as mindless consumers entirely self-obsessed and consumed with our real estate, clothes, and sex lives. Other people appear to serve the characters mostly as accessories, like handbags or neckties.
If you're an American looking for an answer to the piteous plea, "Why do people hate us?" you could do worse than to watch this movie.

Oh dear. The most depressing thing is, the movie's not entirely inaccurate.
End of the world? Let's see.... What textile design goes with that?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

365: At Sea

I am chirping with happiness like I imagine happy herrings do because I have been reading about Linus Torvalds** so I can write him up for the Finland book's Famous People section.I always put off writing this section till the very last minute because while it's fun to meet the amazing people from any country, it's quite hard to sum up their accomplishments, especially if I don't understand them. Writing about authors, for instance, is easy enough for me; writing about computer whizzes is not.

I can't explain very well what it means that Torvalds, when he was 21, created the Linux kernel--the heart of the Linux operating system.
But I totally get his "open source" practice: Torvalds shared Linux online for free and invited people to help improve and develop it.

Open source is basically my life philosophy--so far as I can see, it's how art and science and spirit and love work best. Perhaps counter-intuitively, even economic systems benefit from this gift-giving practice. And it's something I love about open blogging too: you let your stuff swim free in the open sea. I smile to see that Torvalds blogs on blogspot.

Lucikly the first post I read was a funny one (he's got that quirky Moomin thing going) about him marveling at getting a free music CD in a box of Indian food, and not the one about him writing code, which includes sentences such as this one:
"And once I get rid of libcrypt from openssl, I get rid of two silly runtime loadable libraries that git no longer needs."
Though--how weird--I actually have a clue what that means!

Now to write up Sibelius. Explaining music in words is even harder than explaining science.

Doesn't the young Torvalds here look a little like a ... herring?
** Links to Salon article "Martin Luther, Meet Linus Torvalds":
"Nobody likes to be exploited.

Whenever an abusive power elite monopolizes one of life's essentials and offers it at ever-greater expense, people eventually get around to weighing that price against the cost of producing it themselves. And whether that essential is salvation or operating system source code, when the scales tip, people will find a way."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kirk of the Week

Screencap from "Assignment: Earth" episode, in which Spock and Kirk travel back to 1968 Earth. I don't recall what they are really looking at. That cat, maybe, Spock was so fond of?

( I get these ST screencaps from Trek core dot com.)

Laura's Owls

When I dropped by Laura's place yesterday to pick up aqua paint for my herring set dressing, I caught her working on her latest polymer clay (brand name Fimo) creations: owls. She shapes them around eggs, which gives them their cheery fatness.I am always encouraging (harassing?) Laura to start selling her art online, so she could eventually quit cleaning houses for a living. It upsets me to see how that heavy work damages her already fragile hands. I even started a blog for Laura last year, but now I have lost the password. Some manager I'd be.Some are, but most artists I know--including me-- are not very good at administrative skills, at least at managing their own art (including writing) as a business.
There may be some self-protection going on: the art itself wants to stay small and close to home; the art-making self knows that the marketplace would knock it sideways.
Sometimes I think we may be afraid, not having the skills to deal with the bright bustle. And possibly afraid for good reason: the energy is so different from--and sometimes antithetical to--art making. For some, attending to the business-side of art is like making an owl hunt during the day.

What it takes to make art does not always coexist with what it takes to pay the bills. Yet the bills are real.
Well, this is nothing new... I'm just thinking aloud here; I don't know what to do about this conundrum myself. When I work for other people very much, my own creative self shuts down. Mostly I've always lived on the cheap, to keep my time free. But moviemaking is making me think more about this: it costs money, even just buying tag board and tin foil, as writing does not.

And then, I wonder how this money/time exchange will play out as I get older. I guess I'll find out, godwilling.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Herring Prep

Arguments Presented to God on the Behalf of Humanity, No. 34:
The amount of work people put into entirely frivolous, harmless pursuits, just for fun. Making a 1-minute video, for instance, about herring.In the past 24 hours, here's some work people put into prepping for the shoot in 12 days time:
1. John, who is going to play the man disappointed with his Christmas dinner of one measly herring, called to ask if he should start growing a beard for his role. I said yes.
2. The Finnish Friend sent me an audio file of her saying, "Herring is rather small for Christmas dinner" in Finnish.
3. Laura gave me some blue glaze and a tin of aqua-colored paint so I could paint one corner of my room, as ocean background for the herring.
4. I painted said corner.
5. bink brought over a herring-head mask to check against the wave pattern. It looked great.

Post No. 901 (775 Days)

I've been meaning to write something meaningful about the two-year birthday of this blog, like I did at post no. 438 for L'Astronave's one-year birthday. But my brain's been--and is--distracted by herring and Holland, and now the time's slipped past. I'll let these two jokers show how happy I am to be here. (Thanks for sending the photo, Art Sparker.) And, Happy Monday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Zombies, Healing Properties Of

You never know how you change people's lives.

A while back, Manfred posted the catchy music video Zombies On Your Lawn, which is a bunch of friends wearing silly costumes and mugging to a silly song (it gave me hope for our upcoming singing herring video). The song is from the online game Plants vs. Zombies, in which plants with powers (e.g. pea plants shoot peas) battle various kinds of zombies--all trying to get into your cozy house.

I don't much like games. But bink checked it out, and soon she was playing the free version of the game every afternoon at tea time. It has the healing powers she needed, having been attacked by zombies all fall, in the form of family horridness of all stripes.
Eventually she bought the full version of the game, and when her niece and nephew came to stay last week, when they got bored, she sent them off to squash zombies. Which they loved.

There's something comforting about battling zombies.
What's the appeal? My friend David suggests we like them because they're totally bad, but we can do something about them.
They're like Viagra for our sense of impotence in the face of global warming, loveless marriages, cancer, the end of oil, etc.

I'd say it's also because there's something inherently silly and endearing about them. Lumbering, dimwitted creatures, they are us gone bad, yes; but they're also a bit pathetic, these poor soulless things.
You actually do them a favor when you kill them, as who would want to be undead? Everybody wins!

How glad I was that I had my camera when I saw a pile of traffic cones downtown yesterday. I quickly set it up and popped a cone on my head, in imitation of the Conehead Zombie from Plants vs. Zombies.
I was surprised: those things are heavy. I wonder if a zombie would really have the neck muscles to support one.So, I've lost track of who changed whose life, but I ended up with a cone on my head downtown, and that's a good thing in a naughty world.

Happy Friday the 13th!

P.S. I highly recommend Calla's hilarious review at Cocktail Party Physics of the upcoming end-of-the-world movie 2012, "The Mayans Warned Us: Don't Trespass in Yellowstone".
Turns out, from a scientific point of view, neutrinos won't destroy the world in 2012, but angry bears and boiling geysers can hurt you bad.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"hopeful and something"

Yesterday, forgetting it was Veterans Day and the post office is closed, I bused downtown to mail a thank-you package to The Finnish Friend, for all her incredibly helpful and amusing insights into Finland.

I stopped at Candy Land to get some treats to top it off. I set the camera on self-timer and placed it on a newspaper box. Of course this never works the first time, and as I took multiple photos, two different people came up and offered to snap my photo for me. I turned them down because I was fulfilling the rule for 365 self-portraits: other people can't take the photo. But each person seemed a little disappointed, and I wish I had accepted their sweet offers of help.
[If I ever need a reminder that humans fundamentally want to help each other (if we're not afraid, or competing for resources, or...) I'm going to go downtown and do this again.]

Downtown anyway, I popped over to the Government Plaza light-rail stop to look more closely at Keith Christensen's installation there. (I mentioned a few posts back that I'd run into Keith for the first time in a dozen years.) He'd asked people how they saw democracy and used their answers as text. My almost-favorite is this one, below: "messy process". But my top-favorite answer was "hopeful and something".

I was feeling more "and something" yesterday because despite how nice several strangers were to me--(for instance, a construction worker, without me asking, helped me navigate the maze of fences at gov't plaza)--I was in an foul mood about human stupidity because it was Armistice Day (11/11) and here my country is, ninety-one years later, still at war.
But it was a gorgeous day, so I took off my shoes and socks to photograph my toes on the platform, and the yellow paint was warm. Lovely and cheering.
I stopped at the downtown library on the way home to get some books for my geography work. I also checked out the first season DVD of The Royle Family, a Britcom I'd never seen.I watched it last night and it was perfect---about a foul family that is, at heart, fundamentally decent. Much like all of us messy humans, it's "hopeful and something."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

This gets my vote for the best, funniest (not much competition in that category), most heartbreaking World War I scene ever: the last 4 minutes of the British comedy Blackadder Goes Forth.

Darling really hits it on the nose:
"I made a note in my diary on the way here [to the trenches]. Simply says, 'bugger'."

365: Reading in Bed

I started this daily self-portrait project on my birthday last year, and I've only done something like 75 of them. That's OK, but now that the end date is less than 4 months away, I want to step it up a bit. Each one isn't necessarily all that interesting, but I like to see them all together, limning the arc of a year in the life...
I'm reading The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomin:
" Nice, she thought. No, I'm certainly not nice. The best you could say of me is that I'm interested. She extracted a perch [from the net] and bashed its head against a rock."
Well, I think that's nice. I hate it when people leave fish to drown in the air.

Note my wrist-warmers: Poodletail knitted those for me years ago, from supersoft silky wool.
My apartment is not well heated, and I often wear them to read in bed. However, having admired the long-sleeved sweaters the Apocalyptica cello players wore (a few posts back), which covered their knuckles, I'm going to start wearing mine out and about.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kirk of the Week

Someone told me they don't really notice when I change the Kirk of the Week (on sidebar); but they like them and think I should post them in the body of the blog when they change. So, from now on, that's what I'll do.

[If you want to make your own faux motivational posters, they're easy--the template is here: DIY poster-generator.]

List of Stuff to Do, Redux

I've been wanting to revist this list, which I wrote when I turned 47. Now almost 49 (in four months), I've done a bunch of the things I wanted to do, and I've realized I don't want to do a bunch of the undone things. Realizing what I don't want is about as big as doing what I do want.
The biggest realization is that I care a million times more about stories and individuals than about political action and community.

I boldfaced things I've done.
I struck through things I don't want to do anymore. [The html for that is an s (for "strike through," I guess) inside wedges <> to open, and /s in <> wedges to close.]
I italicized stuff I still want to do, or that's ongoing.

Here's The Original List (March 2008), Annotated November 2009

1. Learn to surf. This is a challenge, living in the center of a huge continent, but I heard there are women's surfing classes somewhere on some coast. At least look into this.

I looked into it, and found Las Olas (The Waves): Surf Safaris for Women. Motto: "We make girls out of women." Cute, but a little too Oprah salon/spa for me---comes complete with yoga. Why? It's expensive too: around $3,000 for a week in Mexico, and that's sharing a room. A better bet might be to go to California, get a board, and ask some surf bum for help. I'd still like to give it a try.

2. Go to a Star Trek convention, before all the classic stars die. (Too late for DeForest Kelly and James Doohan.) Buy badges and gadgets and wear/carry them home on public transportation.

Done! *tribble trill of joy* Star Trek: Las Vegas, August 2008 And surely one of the most heartening things I've ever done: it restored my faith in humanity, even after working on a book about Sudan. I'm not kidding.
I'm so glad I went before Star Trek 2009 came out. The new fans are welcome to it; in 2008 I was with all the die-hard old timers.

3. Mount the pottery tiles my sister brought me from Mexico as a backsplash behind my kitchen sink. Don't hyperventilate.
Naw. Not worth it. I propped the tiles up until I got tired of them, and that was good enough. I'm no home-improver.

4. Go to City Hall; meet my council member. Gold star for asking him out to lunch.

Oh yeah! Remember? my city council member came to my downstairs neighbor's door while I was in the bathtub, so I wrapped up in a towel and went and shook his hand just because I saw a chance to fulfill this clause. Good guy--I just voted for his reelection--but that was enough.

5. Go to the State Capitol; see the State Legislature in session. Gold star for figuring out who my representative is.
Last January I went to a rally for health care reform at the capital. I was more interested in the architecture than the politics.
I did find out who my rep is, but I've forgotten.
I've since come to accept that politics is not my way. Better to put my energy toward stuff I care about enough to remember.

6. Sign up to be an "election judge" (volunteer poll worker) for the 2008 elections. This time, bring snacks that will provide the calm I require to help voters who start screaming. Do not eat the rice krispie treats.
See above. I worked the polls once, and it was cool; but that was enough.

7. Get married. No, wait--all I actually want is a wedding like Julie Andrews' in The Sound of Music, complete with a 50-foot train and nuns in habits. Skip the seven kids.

Moviemaking fulfills this play-acting desire; it's all about getting dressed up but not having to face the morning after.

8. Wear the teeth-guard that stops my teeth grinding in my sleep.(It's a nifty little thing that fits over my upper, front teeth so my jaw can't clench. But I don't wear it.)

I can tell how much distress I'm in by how much I clench my teeth at night. I've learned to judge if I need to wear this thing or not. Recently I learned that clenching your jaw not only breaks your teeth, it can contribute to vertigo, so I'm especially vigilant right now.

9. Repeat my fortieth birthday party in London on my fiftieth birthday, in 2011. (I invited everyone I know to tea in the Russell Hotel in Bloomsbury, in 2001. Eight friends and family came, and it was a blast.) You are invited.

Yep! Still on the slate. I'll be 49 this coming March, so join me the year after.

10. Make documentary movies. Since I was a kid, I've wanted to be a filmmaker, which seemed an impossible dream. Now, I could edit films on this very laptop.

Wow. I did this. I DID this!
Funny that docs were my first choice. I have made one--interviews with my aunt and uncle (both in their 80s), but I haven't edited it yet. Turns out, to my surprise, I prefer made-up-stories movies, at least to start. Anyway, links to my little movies are on the sidebar to the right, if you're new here and haven't heard me trilling over each one.

11. Learn how to be visually creative on the computer. What you see on this blog is about as far as I've gotten in exploring its capabilites. Change that.

I did this too! Weird. Now it seems like I always knew how to use iMovie, but the first time I opened it, I had no clue. It took me two hours just to figure out how to make a still image with text, for my first Star Trek mash up (still a favorite).
I haven't yet learned photoshop and garage band; but those'll follow. The point is, I no longer use my computer only as a typewriter/encyclopedia/post box.

12. Prepare for a good old age, like Maude in Harold and Maude. Key: keep my head open and my joints bendy.
Ongoing. And actually, this is more real and present than ever this year, after some physical distress.

13. Live for a Good Death, while I'm at it. (This is a Catholic concept that deserves a wider audience.)
Ditto. Since I wrote this, I've seen how little I know how to suffer, and how key it is--unless I'm hit by a truck soon, there's going to be more of it, before I'm out of here. There's an art to it--I can see that by looking at different people doing it, or not.

14. Load songs on my new teensy iPod, my first ever. (Maybe Sally will help me on Saturday).
Not only did I realize I don't want to listen to an iPod and got rid of it, but Sally and I are no longer friends. Huh.

15. Ask for help. (This scares me.)
I'm boldfacing this as done, even though it still scares me and I still need practice. But filmmaking was all about asking for help, and I did it. This was a huge breakthrough.

16. Offer help. (This scares me too.)
Ongoing. This has morphed into cultivating sustainable kindness---practicing compassion at the right distance. Lately I've had a hard time with finding this. So it goes.

17. Buy a new microwave. Don't get the crappy brand this time.
I don't really want one.

18. Visit Chile. Check out the surf near Pablo Neruda's last home. Gold star for asking Ariel Dorfman or President Michelle Bachelet out to lunch.
Not a huge desire, but sure, I'd still like to go to Chile. Now I'd also like to go to Berlin... and Helsinki for the annual herring festival. Gold star for asking Finland's woman president Tarja Halonen out for lunch.

19. Get a driver's license.
This was interesting. At some point I realized that I've never gotten a driver's license because I don't want to drive. Ha! Easy. Just took me until middle-age to figure this out.

20. Drive cross-country in a big old bomber. Hmmm... or drive to Chile.
The realization above notwithstanding, this still appeals to me, so I'm leaving it. More a dream image than something I intend to do, but dreams are real too.

21. Acquire a vintage Jaguar car. Alternatively, acquire a lover with a Jaguar.
Now I want that pink DeSoto I filmed in Montana. Big enough to live in.
A lover? Hm. Kind of like a driver's license: I rather suspect I don't have one because I don't want one.

22. Climb down into the Grand Canyon. Spend the night in one of the cabins down there.
I'd still like to do this, but I could die happy without it.

23. Breathe in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Yes, I very much want to see the giant ferns. Vancouver is probably my top travel destination.

24. Practice non-aggression when I am annoyed. (Ha!) Practice some more.
Oh, baby!

25. Buy new wool sweaters. Turn the ratty old ones into felt (wash in hot water) and make mittens with it.
I am such a nonshopper. I turned a couple old wool sweaters into felt, yeah, but I haven't replaced them, and now it's getting cold. I want to make toys out of the felt, not mittens, but I'm not much of a crafter... We shall see.

26. Keep expanding my capacity for compassion. Keep relaxing my tendencies toward self-defensiveness. Expand. Relax. Repeat.
Stet. Expand, relax, expand, relax, expand, relax...

27. Keep exercising my body, even though, frankly, I'm not that jazzed about it.
Yep. I took half a year off the YW, and that felt great. Then I started to miss it and rejoined. My approach to exercise is starting to change, too, at mid-life. With vertigo recently, I want to learn a different kind of exercise---more about balance and stretch and less of the Rocky type stuff.

28. Enjoy food! First goal: buy steel-cut oats instead of oats chopped into dust. Give myself more time in the morning to cook them.
Cooking 'em right now.

29. Don't forget crusty bread, runny stinky cheeses, red wine. And sauteed dandelion leaves in the spring, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper.
This stands as a general guide, as I do tend to drift into living off cold cereal.

30. Keep sending my brother birthday cards, even though he more or less hates me.
This has been another tricky one to get in focus. Saint Benedict wrote some advice that I take to heart: If you can't be in a situation and maintain your compassion, he says, then leave.
I realized I was forcing myself to send cards into a cold, hostile void, and I resented doing it more and more. My heart actually feels softer toward my brother if I just leave it alone. Open to revision, but for now, I am not sending him cards.

31. Make a list of the top ten Star Trek episodes. Make a list of the Ten Best Worst Episodes too.
Oh, I went waaaay beyond that. : ) 222 posts labelled Star Trek ... so far.

32. Don't be so embarrassed. As Helen Fielding (author of Bridget Jones) points out: people aren't paying attention anyway. They're thinking about what you're thinking about: themselves.
I never thought I would make headway with this one, but again, moviemaking was the perfect practice--especially going to make a 48-hour film with bink in Montana. There were two of us. I could either get over my embarrassment and act on camera, or I could make a film with one actor. I got over it.

33. Make art!
Of course art-making is ongoing, but I consider this one completed because it was really about a return to making art, coming out of the 3-,4-, 5-year emotional coma that fogged me in after my mother's suicide. Can't make art in a coma.

34. Have a love affair with someone who is is a native speaker of another language, and learn that language. Preferably a person who has to return to their far-away home after a year or so. (In Chile, maybe. Or on Vulcan.)
Honestly, having a love affair and learning another language both look like this to me now: A Lot of Work.
A friend asked me if I'd like to go on a blind date with some wonderful guy she knew, and my spontaneous response was, "Do I have to?"
So, I don't know. Another mid-life acceptance, maybe? I'd far rather have an art partner than a lover. And moviemaking is enough of a foreign language for me.

35. Get bifocals.
Got 'em! They're great!

36. Buy a ticket for a flight into outer space. Or make one.
Blogging L'Astronave ("star ship" in Italian) takes care of this desire. I finally added the L', which symbolically fulfills this step.

37. Try cassava greens.
Not yet.

38. Invite friends and family to collaborate on photo projects, now that we all have these easy-peasy digital cameras.
I would say filmmaking overshoots this step, and I'm going to count it as done.

39. Call the career counselor. Find the perfect job that engages and directs my brain but doesn't cramp it. Something like problem-solving on Star Trek screenplays. Or assisting Bill Moyers with interviews. Or getting paid to ramble in writing. You know what? I'd like to work collaboratively on a magazine. Maybe an online one... Maybe start one.
I did see a wonderful career counselor, and she said just what I needed to hear: start where you are.
The job I was trying to describe turned out to be moviemaking. (And blogging, too.) True, it costs money rather than bringing any in, but it is good work. For pay, I find that having taken a year and a half sabbatical from working geography books, I'm plenty happy to be back doing it. I'm not sure about long-term paid work, but I'm not worried today, either.

40. Keep on blogging.
So, I'll now add #41.
#41. Write a new List of Stuff to Do
Photo: a ride at the State Fair

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ringing In the Netherlands

This morning I regret giving away all the cinnamon rolls I made yesterday. I feel a little grumbly, too, about starting work on the Netherlands book (I'm updating a twenty-year old text), having become so attached to Finland.
Also I've liked having a couple days to write some personal stuff, which I find hard to do when my brain is full of geography.

But I googled "Star Trek Netherlands" and found this: for the 25th anniversary of the Star Trek club the Flying Dutch, a carillon in Utrecht rang the Star Trek TOS song.

Now I'm in a good mood to start.
Even if it's with cold cereal for breakfast.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pulla: Finnish Cinnamon Rolls (recipe with American measurements)

[All photos are from my baking today.]

These rich and yeasty rolls are not gooey soft and supersweet like American ones--and the cardamom gives them a Byzantine flavor. The Finnish Friend says that Finns bake and eat the rolls regularly. "They smell like home to almost every Finn," she says.

I converted the original Finnish recipe's measurements (metric weights) to American measurements (teaspoons, cups, etc.). I tested my conversions by making the rolls--the photo here is the end result. This is not quite how they're supposed to look--see step 9--but they taste fantastic in any shape.

Cinnamon Rolls, from Finland (Korvapuustit, or Pulla)



1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 packet quick-rise yeast
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cardamom
4 – 5 cups flour

Filling ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, soft
1 tablespoon cinnamon mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg, beaten
1 – 2 tablespoons sugar--coarse, if you have it


1. Heat milk to warm (not hot!--test with your little finger). In a large mixing bowl, stir sugar into milk. Sprinkle yeast into milk. Let sit about 5 minutes, until the yeast softens. It may foam a little.

2. Stir 2 beaten eggs and cool melted butter into milk mix.

3. Add salt and cardamom to 4 cups flour, and mix well. One cup at a time, stir the flour into the bowl of milk and egg mix.

4. Sprinkle flour on a kitchen counter. Place dough on floured surface. With the heels of your hands, gradually knead (push and turn) the remaining 1 c. flour into the dough.
Keep kneading until the dough is no longer sticky—about 8 minutes.

5. Put dough in greased (buttered) bowl, and cover with kitchen towel.
Put in a warm place (for instance, heat the oven for a couple minutes, turn it off, then put the bowl inside).
Let dough rise for about 30- 60 minutes, or until double in size. 

6. Turn dough onto a floured surface.
With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a thin, rectangular sheet, about as thick as pizza dough.
Spread the soft butter onto the sheet, and then evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar on it.

7. Tightly roll the sheet into a log, starting from the longer side.

8. Cut the log on an angle into about 14 triangle-shaped wedges.

9. Finnish rolls are baked on their side, rolled-up side facing out, so don't turn them face up like American rolls.
Turn them so they sit on the fat end of the triangle. Press the pointy centers of the rolls down with your finger, so the swirly edges spread out, like waves, on either side.
[I got this step wrong, but they turned out great anyway.]

10. Place rolls on cookie sheet. Let sit for 30 minutes. Then brush the tops with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar.

11. Bake in oven at 425 degrees, for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes about 14 rolls.