Monday, June 30, 2014

Thrift Store Find

Hand-painted lotus blossom plate from Red Wing Pottery, 
on my back porch, with fresh figs

Two dollars. In excellent, undamaged condition, which this is not, lotus plates sell for about $15.  
I just learned that you can sometimes remove stains from crazing (tiny cracks in the glaze) by soaking them in 40% hydrogen peroxide.

Lotus was introduced in the late 1940s (exact year is uncertain) and made through 1957. Red Wing is in Minnesota, just down the river.

"Most Red Wing dinnerware patterns were designed by Charles Murphy, but one notable exception was the bestseller Town and Country,  
which was created in 1946 by noted industrial designer Eva Zeisel." [--Wisc. Pottery site]

Funny---I'd just posted a design by Eva Zeisel. 
This is her Red Wing dishware, right
(photo from article on Women Designers).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Volleyball, Jesus, and Recharing My Batteries

Mz has just left, biking off to the Global Market this morning to watch Mexico play the Netherlands in the World Cup.

She supports Mexico, as will most of the people there: it's a largely Hispanic neighborhood. 
"Mexico is kind of like the home team," she said.

But the first thing she said to me this morning was, "I have to wear green and red, do we have anything green?"

I didn't think so, I said, not the right flag green, but she dug around and came up a Trek in the Park T-shirt I'd brought back from Portland.

I'm not going. 
I am tired of crowds. 
I worked two days at the Convention Center this week: it was fun but draining to be around thousands of energetic girl volleyballers and their parents, who looked shot by the end of the day. 

"Where's the nearest bar?" one frazzled mother asked me at the end of my first day.

As I remember from working in libraries, people aren't all that good at asking questions. They ask for what they think they want, but you have to decipher what specifically they really want.

Turns out this woman did want a drink, yes, and she wanted it to be close by, yes, but she didn't mention her third criterion until I'd directed her to the nearest bar:
"And do they serve nachos?" 
 Lucky she asked. They do not. But another bar just one more block away does.

I don't mind this at all--I'm like that too. I just have to brush up on my question-deciphering skills. It's kind of fun: what do people really want?

The second day I worked, besides the national volleyball tournament, a Jesus revivalist group was gathering. 
They seem to know what they want: 
"to love and serve the Lord by discipling nations," 
according to their literature, which also states,
We knew we didn’t want to have only catalytic events, but desired to help people with the process of being a revivalist. 

They may know what they want, but I find their language hard to decode. They write, for instance, that on this three-city tour, they are "asking God to take off the limits within your city." 

I'm confident "limits" means things like this weekend's gay pride festival, but does it also mean things like limits on gun ownership? 
Smoking bans? 
Skimpy volleyball outfits?

I don't know: evangelical culture mixes up issues in ways I can't quite make sense of. It's weird to me to see pro-gun T-shirts at a religious event, for instance, because in my liberal Catholic experience, Jesus wouldn't like guns.

I myself am worried by the skimpy, skin-tight volleyball shorts on girls as young as ten. 
The uniforms guide the eye like nectar lines on flowers and are really sexy, more than I expect the young girls even realize. To me, they make the girls look too ...violable.
 The convention center is even required by law to have an undercover child protection officer on site because these events are known to draw sex offenders.

Anyway, after two days of Jesus and volleyball, yesterday I went into the Thrift Store to restore my energy sorting cards & stationery in the cool, quiet basement. They were short a cashier, however, so I ended up cashiering all afternoon as well.

I wish I could have stayed in the basement, where I'd gotten into a conversation with one of my colleagues in stuff and in words: she's a fiction writer. 
I was telling her it took me years to realize I'm not a writer of fiction: even when I was a kid I wrote nonfiction, like my 3-issue magazine The Horsemans Monthly [click on title to see examples].

Good one-on-one conversations energize me, unlike working with the general public. I'm afraid I was a cranky cashier, though I don't think I took it out on the customers. 
Actually, I was pretty nice: when it started to rain, for instance, I gave away three broken umbrellas. I try to practice kindness because life is brutal, but it's true that kindness is also a pretty good business strategy---one of the customers was so happy I gave him an umbrella, he put a couple bucks in the donation box, which is more than the umbrella was worth.

I hear people yelling, "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!" 
 from down the alley: Mexico must have scored.

Yep, just checked the live report on the Guardian.

Sweet... and I'm really glad I'm home alone.  I'm going to sit here with my coffee and read my coworker's blog.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"not mentally ill, just different"

"a panel of psychiatrists determined she was not mentally ill, just different from other people...."
––from the NYT obituary of Janet Frame, a New Zealand author who had been diagnosed, wrongly, with schizophrenia

After my mother took her own life, people always assumed she was mentally ill, and it was weirdly sort of comforting to me to think so too, because it offered a simple answer, and one that seemed to exonerate me and her and everyone else.
That's a misunderstanding of mental illness anyway, but, in fact, I never was convinced she actually was mentally ill, exactly...
When I read this line about Frame the other day, I thought, yeah, that's it---my mother too was that much less comforting thing: different. 

* Frame found the diagnosis of mental illness weirdly comforting too. The NYT obit goes on to say, after it was found she did not have schizophrenia:
In the sort of bitterly perceptive, highly personalized twist that infuses much of her writing, that news did not please her.
''Oh why had they robbed me of my schizophrenia, which had been the answer to all my misgivings about myself?'' she wrote in ... her autobiography, which was dramatized in Jane Campion's 1990 film An Angel at My Table.

Friday, June 27, 2014

From A Softer Trek

I'd never seen fanart about Number One before--love it.
Majel Barrett was so cool as that character, above, in the first (unsuccessful) Star Trek pilot, and so pathetic recast as Nurse Chapel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Going to WORK!

Here I am, drying my hair in front of the fan, getting ready to go to my first shift at the convention center. 

Our shirts make us look like garbage collectors, I'm afraid, but actually it'll be my job to direct high school girl volleyball players to the Mississippi River and the Mall of America and suchlike. (And to the toilets, of course.)

It's a little weird to Go to Work: it's been two years since I last worked a full 8-hour shift, (at the nursing home, and that was only for 5 months), and before that...  a dozen years of freelance publishing work. 

I want to go to work--I want a shift that begins and ends; I want a regular paycheck. This job isn't the answer––they only need us intermittently, for big conventions––but it's a (I hope) gentle reentry. 

Btw, that's a photo of a U.S. soccer player on the wall behind me. Marz cut it out of the paper after the U.S. beat Ghana in the World Cup. 

OK, off I go!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Father, Sister

I've given up on most of the sketchbooks I've ever started, except  for travel sketchbooks. Since I've been doing visual art again in the last year or so, I finally realized I mostly care about people, about faces. Architecture, nature: I don't care so much. But faces are hard, so I hardly ever tried to draw them. This time round, I'm focusing on them. 

Here are my father and my sister. He drove up to celebrate my sister's 55th birthday, and we spent an afternoon on her deck, drinking beer and sketching. These are the best of my efforts. Not photo-realistic, of course, but they definitely catch something of my family.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

P.S. Thrift Store Urban Sophisticate

Thrift store customer to me: "Blah, blah, blah... Well, of course, urban sophisticates like us..."

She was buying a book by Susan Sontag, and I said I'd just seen Sontag in the documentary Paul Goodman Changed My Life.

So, I guess that makes me an urban sophisticate? Horrible term.
If you google image it, it's all beige.

Oh, god, it's even a paint color by Benjamin Moore.

Thrift Store Haul

Stuff I Got at the Thrift Store 

Striped wool scarf: 25 cents from the Reject Bin
Clothes that are deemed unsaleable get sent to recycling; 
some staff are extremely picky: I can't actually see anything wrong with this scarf.

Coffee beans: Free
People donate everything to thrift stores, from chipped champagne flutes to canned ravioli. We can't sell food, so the staff can take it. I figured these sealed coffee beans would be OK, even though they are 6 months past the expiration date.

2¼-inch square picture frame: 50 cents
Hooray! I've been wanting to frame this snapshot of my high school friend Chuck who died in 2011, but stores don't sell this size frame anymore. I figured one would show up at the thrift store eventually, and sure enough...

Tatted-flower stationery with lined envelopes: 75 cents
I've taken it upon myself to be the Cards and Stationery Sorter. 
 It's like archaeology: I open old boxes to find a mish-mash of papers, envelopes, return-address labels, decorative stickers, a stray postage stamp, even sometimes a note or letter. 
These tatted-flower sheets, tied in lace ribbon, hit a sensory nerve, something like the scent of my grandmother's Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder.

Greeting cards: 25 cents each
The other day I found some-dozen Christmas cards inside an old paper bag. No envelopes: the cards are used, but only signed lightly. And I know they're from the 1950s because someone had penciled dates on their backs. 
Look for one in your mailbox this December....

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Last Book

I. The Toilet Book

My most recent and maybe also final book (at least for this publisher) arrived in the mail this week--the one I blogged about writing last year, on the history of sanitation.

I don't like the title--marketing chose it to supposedly appeal to young adults--but at least they kept my subtitle, The Invention and Reinvention of the Toilet: a little long-winded maybe, but accurate.

I always cringe at attempts to appeal to young readers by being fake-friendly cute: "we speak kid".
When I was a kid, I thought that sort of thing signaled that the books would be cut-rate in intelligence, and that's often true.

[One of the horrors of my life was a publishing coworker asking me, "Why do you work so hard on these books? They're just for kids to write reports."]

Grumbling aside, I'm pleased with the book. I didn't cutesify the info, though the editor did soften some sharp points–– (she added a line about sewage treatment plants in the USA being "extremely safe," which isn't exactly true---among other things, they're vulnerable to shifts in water levels from global warming . . .)––
but she also smoothed out some of my clunky syntax, so I'm grateful.

After sending a comp copy to all my relatives (3), I still have a couple leftovers to give away: if you want one, let me know.

 II. Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true...

The process of invention and reinvention is so interesting to me.
You know, humans don't progress in a straight line, we invent and then lose solutions over and over.
This works in an individual's life too, or it sure does in mine, anyway.

Like, I recently remembered what I want to do for a job:
I want to work with aging, and aging well. I'd realized this three years ago on Camino, and then I forgot it.

I'm not talking about the Oprahish "let's all learn SCUBA diving at 85" approach to aging. 
I mean, aging and ill health can be a living hell of loneliness, despair, fear, and physical torture:
what might help?

Singing, maybe? A little?

When I worked at the nursing home a couple years ago, before I hurt my wrists and had to quit (this is why I forgot that I wanted to work in the field, just not in the heavy-lifting part of it), I helped out during dinner on the Alzheimer's wing a couple times. One of the women, Ann, had lived on the floor where I worked regularly until her noisy confusion started to bother other people and she was moved. I knew she liked to sing, so at dinner I started to sing "Bicycle Built for Two" with her. 

The other women at the table––most of whom couldn't even tell me their names––started to sing too, and for a minute, anyway, there was happiness.

The charge nurse afterward told me music is one of the last memory circuits to go.

I'm not very musical, but my mother taught me a lot of old songs, like "You Are My Sunshine," and she insisted I take piano lessons.  I didn't like the lessons, but now I could easily learn a few tunes well enough to lead a sing-along.

And then there's visual art. Next month, the week before her 89th birthday, my auntie Vi is having her first art show of her paintings. She wrote and thanked me for encouraging her to get into art a couple years ago.

So, I need to look into that field (seems the latest term for it is "therapeutic recreation").
Meanwhile, I start working as a Guest Ambassador next week at the convention center. Seems it's only going to be very, very part-time work, so I need another job, for sure.

But now, I'm going to watch Uruguay & England play World Cup soccer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Outer Space Queens & Lizards

A couple additions to my old "Star Trek and 1960s Design" series.

Above, top: Queen of Outer Space (1958, watch it here
["American astronauts are drawn by a mysterious force to the planet Venus, which they find to be inhabited only by beautiful women and their despotic queen. "]
Above, bottom: Star Trek "Plato's Stepchildren" (gets my vote for worst episode ever, 1969)

Above, top: Hercules and the Captive Women (1961, Italy/France, watch it here) 
Above, bottom: Star Trek, "Arena" (1967)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Boys Playing: 2 Cartoons

A couple recent cartoon finds

1. Rutu Modan's Mixed Emotions, a comic blog (7 episodes) on the NYTimes--keep scrolling down to make the next episode load. 
In the Comics Journal, you can read an in-depth interview with Modan.

From her episode "Queen of the Scottish Fairies" about her son's love of skirts:

2. Every third and fourth year during the
women's and men's World Cup, I am a big soccer fan. I especially love the accidental choreography of bodies flying and tangling in air.

Even for ignorant me, the basics of soccer are easy to follow (the ball should go in the net;  cleats should stay off the shins of the opposing team), but I don't get the intricacies of the game, so I was happy this year to discover a soccer cartoon, You Are the Ref in the Guardian
It's is a delight to look at--the cartoonist Trevillion clearly shows complex motions in a single panel-- and a fun way for someone like me to learn about soccer. 

The readers' comments are pretty fun to read––best one wins a T-shirt––and answers are posted on Mondays.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Expendable, Expandable


For those who don't know, the joke I'm making in my comic here is, in Star Trek, the security crew members on the starship Enterprise are known (by fans) as Red Shirts, for their red uniform shirts: 
they are the guys who get asphyxiated by sentient clouds, turned into crumbly bath-cubes by aliens, and otherwise succumb first to the dangers of interstellar exploration. (Supposedly.)

Meanwhile, Captain Kirk struggles with his expanding waistband and occasionally dons slimming (?) wraparound green uniform tops. 

Hey, I just remembered: I feature Kirk in his wraparound top and the death of a redshirt in my very first fanvid, Don't Touch Jim's Flower--here below. Wow, I made it almost exactly six years ago (June 28, 2008). I still think it's very dear.

I didn't realize until I researched it for my cartoon that Kirk has three green wraparounds, and one gold one! 

photostrip found on RPD: Craft Your Fandom (a replica prop and costume community) 

William Ware Theiss designed the Star Trek TOS costumes.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Top: Nested ceramic bowls, 1950s, by Eva Zeisel
Bottom: "Milk Splash," photo by Skyesis (on National Geographic Kids)

Eva Zeisel (b. 1906 Budapest, Hungary, died 2011) said her work was a "playful search for beauty." 

Asked how to make something beautiful, she replied, “You just have to get out of the way.”  (NYT obit)

She didn't come by that attitude lightly. Born in Hungary in 1906, at twenty-nine she was arrested in the Soviet Union and accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin. She wasn't; she was designing perfume bottles. She served 16 months in prison, mostly in solitary confinement.
After her release, she, a Jew, left Vienna on the very day of the Anschluss (March 12, 1938). She continued to work until her death at 105.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Heaviness of Love

I remembered the photo of the Boyer album I'd taken at the Thrift Store when I read that "a 5-foot piece of railing on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris collapsed Sunday night under the weight of 'love locks,' padlocks attached to the bridge by couples as a display of their everlasting love."
--from here

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Is it real leather?"

A shopper at the Thrift Store came up to the checkout counter and laid an old purse in front of me.

"Is it real leather?" she asked.

I inspected the seams, turning them inside out, and the fibrous texture of the material's underside did feel as if it belonged to a once living creature, but the whole piece had been dyed orange, so it was hard for me to be sure.

"Maybe if I smell it..." I said, and held it up to my nose.
"Yep, that's leather."

The customer, looking doubtful, smelled it herself.

"OK, I'll take it."

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Bear on Break

 I've been off FB for a year now, and I feel more consolidated within myself, which is a good thing. 
But sometimes I feel a pang when someone tells me something wonderfully Facebookish or when I remember how much fun it was to always have an eye open for stuff like this to post:
 Found here on the Guardian