Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rosewood, Olive wood, Apricot, mulberry, Ebony, Orange, apple, pistachio, cypres, citron, walnut, walnut roots, camel bones, mother of pearl

Camel bones!

Six years before Lawrence of Arabia rode into Damascus on a camel (did he?), my Cousin Fern from Missouri was there, buying a desk inlaid with camel bones, mother of pearl, and fruit woods.

She, Fern Owsley Hines (1890–1979, my cousin 3x remvd)––on a world trip with her mother–– jotted down this list, left, of the materials that make up the marquetry desk she bought in Syria, when she was about 22 years old. 

I don't know any more details; I'm not even terribly sure of these few I've set down here. 

Everyone on that side of the family is dead and gone, but you can see the desk's cartouche, below right, reads 

Fern Owsley Hines, left, and her cousin-1x-removed Meribel Covert (–Davis, my grandmother, 1905–1992), 1913
It's a fragile and basically useless object that takes a lot of space in my tiny apartment, but I coveted it as a child when we visited my grandmother, where it lived but couldn't be touched, and I treasure it.

Today I found this fabulously informative article "Wood and Woodworking in Late Ottoman Damascus," by Marcus Milwright,  professor of  Islamic Art & Archaeology at the University of Victoria, that explains how the desk would have been made.
I figured out Fern is my cousin, 3x removed, using this helpful chart: Family Relationship Chart

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bee Burial: Two Versions

My archaeologist friend, Dr. H., draws the awesome Archaeological Oddities cartoons over at Prehistories: Adventures in Time and Space

When I posted the BEES CHART that I'd drawn when I was nine, like a good archaeologist she wondered about the bee burial. How was it done?

I went back to my nine-year-old self and drew this response.
Dr. H., meanwhile, drew her own, which I will post below mine. 

[click to embiggen]
"A bee dead in his newly dug grave umongst the lilys."

And here're Dr. H's Bee Grave, below.
She writes: "I've scanned in my notebook pages. It's fun to see what my bees look like on the pages of writing - before I looked at a picture of any actual bees. My drawings based on real bees are on the second set of pages. The beetles are sexton beetles, which really do dig graves."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Team Terrier

This is the T-shirt the YW gives participants in the Meltdown program--
much improved by bink, who added her terrier, Alfie, making light of the scale logo.

(So boringly predictable:  even when a program about women's health states that it's not about weight, it's about weight.)

bink's stencil reminds me of the terrier playing with the pine cone at the end of Umberto D.
When feeling annoyed, or worse, with the world, it helps to have a terrier to play with or even just to think about.

Speaking of health,  I'm getting over a head cold and feeling pretty sluggish...

It's Sunday night as I write this, so good night, all!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Clearing the Walk

The blizzard started a couple days ago with freezing rain and ended in blowing snow.
You shovel off the top layer of snow, and there's an ice field below. You either chop it off or leave it until it melts in spring.
Mz really got into chopping and heaving huge chunks of ice.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Most people think of a bee as a bee..."

What was the "last unselfconscious drawing" you did? 
(to use a term I found on Lynda Barry's tumblr)

I don't have many drawings from my childhood, so I'm thrilled this BEES CHART somehow survived. I drew it out of my own head ("a bee dead in his newly dug grave umongst the lilys"!) the spring I turned nine. 

Maybe a year or so after this, I wanted to "draw good,"––especially to draw horses right––and I started copying or sketching from life, not just making stuff up.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Valentine's Day Hook

I think I've mentioned that a woman I knew in high school is serving time for Addiction-Fueled Bad Choices? I write to her about once a month. From what she says, prison sounds like being trapped in high school, 24/7, with the most bumbling or bullying of the students, teachers (like your shop instructor) who can strip-search you, and nothing but the worst of cafeteria food.

Hooking, she says, helps keep her sane, and at Christmas she sent me a scarf she'd crocheted. 

You can't send presents directly to people in prison, you know, because you might hide Bad Things in them. You can send stuff  through Amazon though, so I subscribed to a crochet magazine for her.

Then I got looking at crochet online (I had no idea!), and for Valentine's Day I printed out this crocheted daffodil pattern for her. 

I thought I'd like to try making it too, though I've never crocheted before. So yesterday, Valentine's Day, I went to a yarn store (it shall remain unnamed, but it's on the west bank) where I had a surprisingly bad time of it. 

Usually people who work with fiber and yarn are more than thrilled to help you. I mentioned to a customer at the thrift store that I was going to start crocheting, for instance, and she said she would come back next week to see how I was getting along.

But I told the yarn-store woman I had no idea what I was doing, and she couldn't have been more sour. Maybe she was having a bad day and my perky demeanor rubber her wrong? 
And maybe her payback for me changing my mind three times about what yarn to buy (surely I'm not alone in this) was to sell me the wrong needle size, which I only noticed this morning when I looked at the chart on the back of the yarn?
Anyway, I decided 
1. I would rather go to the nearby K-Mart to buy the right hook than go back to this store (ever again); and,

2. I am not up for the daffodil pattern and am going to start instead with hooking a square. You can see this Italian wool yarn changes color, so even a square will look cool.

I don't need washcloths, because Poodletail knitted linen washcloths of the most unsurpassably wonderful texture for Christmas, but maybe
I could work up to a hot pad or something.

Ideas welcome.
After the yarn store, I went to see an exhibit of photos from Siberia at the U's art museum. Some of them look like they could have been taken here--this one, for instance, Anastasia Rudenko’s “Krasnoyarsk” (a city on the Yenisei River), could be on the banks of the Mississippi River, just up from the museum.

I gave Mz some trinkets for V-Day––including a concho (bridle ornament)––from Schatzlein's Saddle Shop. 

She got me a sparkly belt and a card, "Petit Lapin en Croute," that she says is like me, real happy to sit in the pie-crust dough of my thoughts.

Friday, February 14, 2014

bigger inside

"What is your fitness goal for 2014?"
The YW staff posted this question on a big blackboard in the workout area. 

Someone had replied, "Never give up". So last week I added "Never Surrender". 
A joke. "Never give up, never surrender" is a tagline from Galaxy Quest, which pokes fun at such muscle-bound pos-think.

This week I saw that people had added other sci-fi tags:
There is no try, only do  (Yoda)

So say we all (Battlestar Galactica)
and a chalk drawing of the TARDIS. You know, Doctor Who's ship, a blue police call box that is bigger on the inside than the outside.

So I wrote next to the TARDIS, "be bigger inside." 

This morning I sketched some of the animals on my desk, showing [quote from Marz, who wants me to make clear that she is joking] 
their commitment to their goals and their accountability to their responsibility of achieving their dreams forever.

There's something in me that hates the idea of setting goals, as if being human was American football. But as goals go, I could get behind this one.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Me in Paisley

You know I've been into painting paisleys. I've been declaring I would never actually wear paisleys tho', but last nite I bought a black-and-silver paisley jacket at a consignment shop that was selling all its winter stock for $2. It's rayon and polyster--kind of a brocade. This morning, I realized I probably look like a couch in it.

I spent another $2 on a cotton shirt with a sketchy color picture on it, a scene of the Montmartre area of Paris, with street artists painting on their easels. You know these tops with scenes on them? They sometimes have sparkles and fakey French words on them, like "chocolat." 
OK, chocolat is really French, but wearing phrases like café au lait on your body is not.

I always thought that if I could, I would dress like David Bowie in his Thin White Duke stage: all straight-line black and white. 
But as I shop at "my" thrift store, I see that tragically (to my self-image) my taste is closer to Hello Kitty!  

The other day, I bought a top with cute birdies on it... 

And a lamp with a pineapple base.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

[in process] "Taking the Bus to the Library to Find the New Yorker Article My Mother Left Open on Her Bedside Table When She Killed Herself"

When I was watercoloring images of my mother last fall, I was marveling at how well I was doing emotionally and how little impact it all had. 


Some three months later, dare I reapproach?

*tiptoes back to the rough sketches from November*

Taking the Bus to the Library to Find the New Yorker Article My Mother Left Open on Her Bedside Table When She Killed Herself:

"Looking at War: Photography’s view of devastation and death," Susan Sontag, New Yorker, December 9, 2002
[links to article, no photos]

                                       .  .  .  .


Enough of that. I do like my little walking people, but I'd better choose a lighter topic to practice comic-izing, eh? With this topic, I'm moving too slowly to get much practice.

(I'm wondering, is the war photo I sketched, one panel up, recognizable?)

By the way, that SPACESAVER thingie is the control panel to move the shelves in the storage stacks. To save space, the movable shelves are squashed up against one another. They're on tracks, though, and one separates from another when you push the "move" button.

I was inspired to go look at these again by the sketchbook drawings of Rachel Gannon, which delight me. Here's one:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

UK and US covers of Lively's Memoir

Penelope Lively wrote one of my favorite novels, Passing On, about a middle-aged brother and sister who live with their domineering mother until the mother dies, and what happens then:
nothing too dramatic but like replacing dark, heavy drapes with light muslin ones.

I was interested to see Lively has published a memoir at the age of eighty. Not quite a memoir, she says, "but a view from old age."

I searched for it at the library and couldn't find it by its title, Ammonites & Leaping Fish. It occurred to me it might have a different title in the US, so I searched by author, and sure enough, in the US it's called Dancing Fish and Ammonites.
Even the subtitle has changed, from A Life in Time to A Memoir.

It gets a different cover too. I like the US cover (me, a Pisces), but doesn't it seem spiritually sciencey, like Barbara Kingsolver? Or even slightly salacious, like Mary Renault?

In fact, Lively's writing isn't a saucy frolic; it is rather tight and dry, more like an ammonite, which is one of the things I love about her.

 USA cover, left; UK cover, right

I rarely buy new books, but since this is still on order at the local library, I just ordered it through A Site That Shall Remain Unnamed––a hardcover UK edition, only $11.16 + shipping ($3.99, though it ships from England).

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Start Afresh

I. Pluripotent: All Kinds of Able

I took a break from paisleys to watercolor these induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)—grown-up cells that can turn into any tissue in the body.

iPSCs come directly from adults––our mature cells can be made to revert back to their immature state, where they can become anything. They can then replace damaged or diseased cells in, say, the liver, or the eyes. And so you don't need to use cells from embryos (controversial), and they can be tailor-made to match the patient.
Nifty, eh?  

What if our emotional and intellectual states could go back to being pluripotent too, capable of taking fresh new directions? 

Scientists John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka who discovered iPSCs won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology

II.  . . . but to Become What?

My career has definitely reverted to a resting state. It's at a halt, waiting for a jolt, like Frankenstein's creature. 

Actually, I've not exactly had a "career." I never sought out one professional paid field of work. I've been a fry cook, nursing assistant, janitor, library worker, and sacristan. I ended up writing nonfiction children's books this past decade because, frankly, of nepotism: I was invited to by my sib who is a managing editor. It suited me, but I really want to do something else, something face-to-face with people.

So, I rest in a state of potential pluripotency: what shape will she take?

III. Belief in the Bathtub

Not sure how I'd translate this into paid work, but I feel I have a special talent  for reading theology in the bathtub. I got my B.A. in it. (Technically, it was in Religions in Antiquity or some such title--a miniscule subset of Classics. Mostly, I read Augustine in the tub.)

Here I'm reading the transcript of a discussion on BBC television in 1970, "The Atheist and the Archbishop" [links to the whole essay], between British writer Marghanita Laski and Russian Orthodox bishop Anthony Bloom
An Orthodox blogfriend sent it to me, which makes me very happy.

It was a balm to my sometimes weary heart to read two smart people who approach each other with curiosity about their sometimes contrary beliefs, like scientists poking at stem cells: what does your belief consist of? can it do this? can it do that? 

I really liked Anthony, the bishop who started as a physician. He says,
"I was trained to be a scientist and I treat things as experimental science... I started with something which was an experience which seemed to be convincing, that God does exist. 
. . . It was a meeting with something different, profoundly other than myself, and which I cannot trace back even with decenet knowledge of sociology, or psychology, or biology, to anything which is me, and within me. . . .
Doubt comes into it not as questioning this fundamental experience but as questioning my intellectual working out of it. And in that respect the doubt of the believer should be as creative, as daring, as joyful, almost as systematic as the doubt of a scientist..."

 I have to stand with Laski though: 
I have not had any convincing "other-induced" encounter. In fact, my strongest feeling of certainty came during a religious retreat when I realized that, for me, God definitely does not exist.

I actually shed some tears over that. I'd wanted an all-loving God to be real, and I had made a good try to believe.

I also like stand with Laski when she says to the bishop,
"Nothing that you put forward seems to me to be alien or strange but rather to be poetry in its deepest sense."

I wouldn't call myself an atheist though, because, these days anyway, American atheists seem to be agressively anti-God and anti-religion, which I am not. I see God and religion as poetry, and while poetry can be put to the service of stupid or even bad things (Coke ads, patriotic jingoism), I wouldn't want to wipe it out.

Um, yes... and what does this have to do with getting a job?
Well, that's part of my challenge, to get out of the bathtub and into the hunt!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another Part in Paisley

I won't ask anyone to guess what part of the human anatomy inspired my paisley, here; there's only one vaguely identifiable anatomical structure on view:

But I'll give you a minute to ponder it.

Answer below.


It's a liver.

And because the friend I made it for, whose liver has been misbehaving, is a Hornblower fan, it's inspired as much by Royal Navy uniforms as by medical images.

I collaged some of my source images.
The most identifiable is the liver lobules (center, top row):
 the liver is made up of thousands of these. 
They're served by blood vessels, which I imagined as the fringe of shoulder epaulettes.

The liver enzyme cytochrome P45 ("2D6" center, bottom row--I gather it helps process medicines/drugs) looks like curled ribbons, or, I thought, rather like the "rank slides" of the Royal Navy. 
(I think this liver is only a sub-lieutenant.)

The gallbladder, tucked up under the liver, is lined with watermelon seeds. Or so it seems.

The paisley's red tail––some naval uniforms have red sashes and trim––suggests the upper gastrointenstinal tract and the nerve cells (those dancing starfish) embedded in its lining.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Oh, no, Philip

Philip Seymour Hoffman played characters who mattered to me, who were familiar to me. 

I've recognized so many of the people he played, sometimes his movies felt like home movies, full of tender, selfless outsiders and brilliant narcissists: the hospice nurse in Magnolia, music critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, the transsexual Rusty in Flawless, beautiful monsters like Truman Capote in Capote, or the Master.
I'd even chosen him as one of the actors to play me in a biopic of my life.
And I've said already that Love Liza was the best (maybe the only good) movie I've seen about the aftermath of a suicide. 

I can hardly believe he's dead and I, we, won't see any new incarnations. 

Article by Russell Brand on PSH's death, addiction, and "extremely stupid drug laws":