Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I wouldn't recommend...

...bothering to watch Sense8.
I wouldn't even mention it here except I blogged yesterday about losing sleep to it.
After watching the entire eleven hours over two days, I just didn't care at the end. 
Yes, I kept watching--it has a soap-opera stickiness, and some of the episodes were way better than others and kept me hoping.
And the idea is cool: pods of people can commune with one another across space and time. 

But the 8 sensates' concerns are the stuff of a Magic 8 Ball:
One's story arc consists of her wondering, "Should I marry this man I don't love?" After 12 episodes, this still isn't resolved, which tells you something about the pacing...

Some arcs are more interesting, but, worst of all, not a single actor impressed me.  

In comparison---did you watch The Wire? Those people still linger in my mind.
I'll probably even go see the new Star Trek movie just because Idris Elba will be in it. Remember him? 
He played Stringer Bell, whose speech below could apply to acting: "you gotta be fierce . . . you gotta show some flex".

And LGBTQA characters?  
Sense8's were so old school, even though one of them was trans; they made lame speeches about gay pride that reminded me of the seventies. "You've got to be true to your heart!" 

Not that these platitudes aren't still true, alas, but they haven't been interesting to hear onscreen since Ellen won a toaster oven for coming out in 1997. (Humor. That's another thing missing from Sense8.)

Has there ever been a more memorable gay character than the Wire's Omar Little (Michael K. Williams)? "Gay" is far from the first thing you remember about this character, while sexuality/gender is the character of the two GLBT sensates.

Some critics said that the style of Sense8's directors, the Wachowskis, would work better on TV, which allows time for ideas and characters to develop, which the Wachowskis' overcrammed movies such as Cloud Atlas seemed to need. 
But more time didn't sharpen the clarity, it diluted it, like spreading the same amount of pixels over more space. Disappointing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I am almost insensible this morning because I stayed up until 2AM watching sense8 [io9 review]---the Wachowskis' soapy sci-fi series on Netflix about eight psychically connected people around the world.

It's a mix of profound 
(asking, how might this benighted species of ours evolve higher consciousness?);

(filmed on location around the world, from Seoul to Nairobi);

and sophomoric
(Kung Fu meets the Young and the Restless: 
"Snatch the pebble from my hand, little grasshopper" + "It is taking everything inside of me not to scratch your eyes out!").

Anyway, I had to make myself turn it off after episode 6 so I could get back to work today, but nonetheless I am too foggy to figure out how to edit a new PDF format I don't know...
I think I will go to the YW and then go home and watch the final six episodes so I can get on with my life.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Eve

Xmas Eve dinner at my place.

L to R: in our cracker hats & mustaches, Mz, Maura, me, bink, Cathy [photographer = Brad]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Poignancy of Nonsense

Today I spent another full day at the Thrift Store---my third in a row---and I am physically zonked. 
I cashiered in the AM, and it was fun to ring up about half of the things Julia and I had put out last night.

Eating cookies on break in the workroom, I said to my fellow volunteers something like, 
"I'm worn out, but nevertheless I feel such unalloyed joy being here with you all!"

And one of them, Eric, looked at me and said [with affection],
"UnalloyedNevertheless. You just used those two words in one sentence."

Along with putting out a parrot candelabra, this made me feel like Edward Lear--a quirky, amused person tinged, nevertheless, with just a bit of . . . poignant displacement (?), like nutmeg on egg custard.

You know Edward Lear?
I'd thought he was almost as well known as fellow Victorian Lewis Carrol, but now I think not.  Though maybe people sort of know his most famous nonsense poem, "The Own and the Pussycat"?

When I was falling in love with my Latin professor, or falling in love with Latin, or with Augustine's Confessions (in Latin), or all of the above--I can't even untangle it now--when I was thirty-two, one of the things I did was translate "The Owl and the Pussycat" into Latin and give it to him.
Talk about overshooting the mark.
I had no idea that someone translating Edward Lear into Latin for fun would be an aphrodisiac to a Classics prof...

I was so naive.
Much mayhem ensued.

Anyway, I grew up loving his Book of Nonsense
<   this edition,
which our mother [of course our mother] gave me and my sister. 

I especially loved Lear's animals, which were like my own stuffed animals, in my mind. [Alive, but on their own terms.]

Lear could be a patron saint of SNARP (stuffed needy animal rescue project).

When I was looking up Edward Lear, I came across this illustration of his work by Gabriella Barouch

I don't even remember any bears at all in Lear, and this doesn't quite fit him (and I can't imagine illustration his work because his own illustrations are so perfectly part of his written words), 
but I've been thinking about bears lately because I'm surprised at how much I like some of my stuffed bears, when I've never cared about bears before, and I really like this.

Is the bear protecting the person, or is the person part of the bear? Is that a boy? A woman? 
Something else?

Oh, my. I am tired. I need to go take a hot bath...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Emergency Thrift Herding

Two days into Christmas week and the Thrift Store shelves were already showing bare spots, so Julia and I convened an emergency session of thrift herders (just us two) to unearth more goodies in the basement, where the donations are stored.

Thrift herders separate incoming into categories (including "free box", "recycle", and "toss") and put stuff in boxes to get priced and put out, and usually we specialize in one or two categories––I sort crafts, for instance––and price every item in a box, whether we think it's exciting or cool stuff or not. 
But for a couple hours Julia and I ran around the basement pulling and pricing from every category only things we liked (which I see now includes a lot of animals).  

This is some of the jumble we put out:
a blue ceramic rabbit box; a Hello Kitty clock radio; a music box from UT with a cow on top; a brass pitcher with "Montana 1956" engraved on the bottom; a box of little Norwegian tart tins; a Dreamer brand film camera; little poppy candle holders; parrot candelabra made in India, etc.
We put out nonanimal items too---a yoga mat & blocks, nice kitchenware, etc. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015: My Year in Review

I didn't have a camera for most of 2015, so I didn't document a lot of the year in picutres, and I had to recycle already-blogged photos for this review. 
Now that I got a camera for Christmas, 2016 should be covered better.

Here's to a Happy New Year!

Also, a sheep

This is what I worked on at Sew-n-Snack this week––building a body for a flat, two-legged sheep [or, neckless llama?]. 

I cut up a colorful sock to construct a new underbelly. v
It was also filthy, stuffed with wadded pantyhose, and generally weird. Now laundered, with new poly stuffing--still weird.

I took this photo ^ on my computer on my way out of the house.
It's the first day I'm wearing my down coat because, after a freakily warm December, it's  finally cold out, 17°F / -8ºC
It's supposed to warm up back into the 30s Christmas week though.

Everyone's been talking about two things--the crazy weather and Star Wars.

The conversations about the weather sound like the start of a environmental disaster movie.

Two women at a coffee shop
Woman 1: "Isn't this weird? Did you hear it thunder this morning? And then it rained, and then it sleeted, and then it snowed, and now the sun is out."

Woman 2: "I know, it doesn't feel like Christmastime at all!"

[I had this conversation 3 days ago]

Cue White House frozen pipes expanding and cracking open; cut to the two women from the coffee shop, now frozen dead in their homes (one huddled under stuffed animals);
 Tom Cruise or [depending on the budget] Liam Neeson or Nicholas Cage arrives in an all-weather hazmat suit...

Word is, the Star Wars movie is good.

I don't care about Star Wars, but I'll probably go when it's at the $3 Riverview >>
a neighborhood theater from the 1950s that somehow never closed but never got renovated to be chic either--it's just genuinely shabby from decades of Saturday morning kid movies and It's a Wonderful Life at Christmastime. 

I've used up most of my tolerance for It's a Wonderful Life, so I'm  parceling out the few remaining viewings I have left in me, but I do love the movie:
I appreciate how bitter George Bailey is--how he snaps at the kids--how he's still the same guy at the end, trapped in his real life, but he's going to make it through OK.
Like Brief Encounter: 
 the main characters don't get their heart's desire.
[Sorry, I can't get Blogger to align-left this text!]

I'm working the next few days to get my three edits in line for the publisher by Christmas, which they want even though probably nobody will work on them over the holidays.
I'm already done with the Lincoln ms--it's got its photos and captions and everything--and Jackson is almost there.

Jefferson, the problem child, still needs more work--the outside reader caught even more problems with it. 
She zeroed right in on sections I had treated with unwarranted optimism 
[the lazy editor's friend]:
"Surely this section on Aaron Burr, about whom I know nothing, is fine; I shall trust the author and not look closely."

But nope, the outside reader marked that section all up, basically with one big, "Huh?"

So, it's me and Burr this weekend. 
I don't mind--I know nothing about him, so it'll be interesting.

Maybe you've already seen this? Lin-Manuel Miranda as Burr performing his "Alexander Hamilton Rap" at the White House in 2009:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pinkie à la Mode

Last night at Sew & Snack, bink finished her restoration of her childhood stuffed animals by sewing a waistcoat for Pinkie from an old paisley tie I'd thrifted (from the cloth recycle bin).

She'd already made Snoopy an argyle sweater from a sock.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Surge of Seventies Red

Mz sent me Canadian whisky ads from the 1970s, featuring psuedo-Mounties. They're like Due South (dS) meets Starsky & Hutch

Rule-abiding Constable Fraser of dS would never wear his uniform with nothing underneath, as these guys seem to be doing
--not only because it would be against regulations but because it would be uncomfortable. 

The costumer of dS said the high collar rubbed the actor's neck raw.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) uniform is known as the Red Serge . . .
 because it's made of serge that is red. 

After I stayed up til 3 AM recently reading Due South fans' Tumblrs, I commented, 
"They're kind of addictive, but they're all about emotional relationships---nobody asked anything like, what is red serge anyway?"

And Mz replied that I am not suited to fandom:
"You're not looking to worship, you're looking for understanding,"
--a pretty accurate (and pleasing) assessment.
Sewing and fabric terms have long and complicated histories--interesting, I think, though I often get lost trying to figure them out.
"Serge" refers to a kind of weave---"twill"--("cloth woven in parallel diagonal lines"), with an even, two up–two down pattern. 

Oh--"twill" has an adorable etymology:
from Old English twili : "woven with double thread, twilled," partial loan-translation of Latin bilix "with a double thread" (with Old English twi- substituted for cognate Latin bi-)

If terminology re sewing is complicated, that for uniforms seems even worse to me. 
  Hm... Looking again, I'm not sure these whisky ads show official RCMP uniforms. 
I'm pretty sure not: the white belt and the pants' red stripe, for instance, are wrong. They should be a brown "Sam Browne" belt and yellow strapping (stripe).

Like Fraser's here, below left
Star Trek Uhura's uniform, below right, seems to be a descendant (though I can't find any indication designers intended it to be):

dS makers said the RCMP wouldn't give them permission to use the exact uniform, until they decided the show was a good thing--perhaps they didn't give permission for slutty whisky ads either.

For the season:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Thankyougod, for funny, imaginative people.

I am laughing out loud here at the coffee shop as I work my way through the comments of the outside reader on the Jefferson book I'm editing. 

She has written all sorts of silly little things, such as *cue rap battle* at the mention of Jefferson's rivalry with Hamilton.

And she e-mailed me this from LadyHistory on Tumblr (a Trekkie!!!):

Maybe most importantly, she granted this fretful editor (me) permission to stop trying to turn this book into something that would inspire a Broadway musical.

Thank you, yes, very much. I am stopping now.

Monday, December 14, 2015


This week is the thirteenth anniversary of my mother's suicide (the exact day is unknown), and the weather matches my mood: 
heavy gray.

I've been feeling leaden for a while, as usual around now.  My body always remembers the low angle of the sun, even if I'm not thinking about my mother, 
even if I expect that this year I won't need to think about her death anymore.

This year it's not her death I'm thinking about, actually; 
rather, I've been feeling lonely, missing her.
Maybe that's because I'm living alone for the first time in four years? and while that's going well overall, I have noticed that no one here has strung gold garland.* 

Or maybe the shift is just a function of the passing of time.

Lonely and sad are fine, honest feelings, a welcome improvement on the horror of the first years after her death. I don't exactly enjoy loneliness and sadness, but they move, like water under a frozen stream. 
Horror's just stuck frozen, in my experience.

It's nice to come across reminders of how normal sadness is.
Yesterday at a friend's art studio, I met the poet laureate of Minnesota, Joyce Sutphen. We chatted a bit, and she was so nice to talk to, I wanted to talk to her a lot more, so I went home and looked up her poems.**

The final stanza of one of her poems--"Living in the Body"--made me cry. It caught in simple terms how sad I am that this person I loved talking with for hours--specifically that--is gone. 

So many years now, and she's still gone...

Here's the final stanza of "Living in the Body" by Joyce Sutphen:

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address. 


*Funny note: I could not remember the word "garland". To find it, I googled "gold furry rope at Christmas"
Bless you, search engines. 

** Eighteen poems by Joyce Sutphen (on poemhunter).

II. Poems of Place

I haven't read enough to say, but the 18 Sutphen poems I read are more interior than exterior. I laugh to realize I was sort of hoping for poems about MN---but these are more about the heart.
(This poem is something of an exception: "The Farm".)

I laugh because when I was younger I would have disdained poems about places. 
Places? How mundane!
The only place I was interested in was inside the human heart, mind, and soul, and Sutphen writes well about these.

I want to read more of her poems, but I also want to read (or, hey, write) about how when you take the bus north to Duluth, somewhere along the way the biome* shifts, and now the trees out the window are not maples and elms but white birches and fir trees that stay green--or at least gray--all year.

Where, exactly, does that happen?

I want to take the bus up and back, over and over, until I find the place.


* DNR map of Biomes of MN

Friday, December 11, 2015

Choosing Exile

I went looking for info on Paul Haggis the creator of Due South, this Canadian TV show about a Mountie exiled to Chicago that has piqued my curiosity---
and, as I'd guessed from the show's nods to film history, Haggis is the sort of guy who, at twenty-one years old...
"was so affected by Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up that in 1974 he decided to move to England, in order to become a fashion photographer, like the hero of the movie [David Hemmings, below]. That lasted less than a year."

He also wrote Million Dollar Baby and wrote and directed Crash (starring, among others Ryan Phillippe, who I'd just mentioned was in an episode of Due South).

What I'd never have guessed was that Haggis was a Scientologist for thirty-four years before publicly leaving in 2008--the subject of a New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright in Feb. 14, 2011:

"The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology"

Wright expanded his research into a book, 
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (2013), which I'm going to get at the library.

Haggis had had his doubts about Scientology all along, but the organization offered a young Canadian alone in LA community and belonging:
"In 1976, [Haggis] travelled to Los Angeles for the first time. He checked in at ... a run-down church retreat called the Manor Hotel. (It has since been spectacularly renovated and turned into the flagship Celebrity Centre.) 
 “I had a little apartment with a kitchen I could write in,” he recalls. “There was a feeling of camaraderie that was something I’d never experienced—all these atheists looking for something to believe in, and all these loners looking for a club to join.”"
But,  Haggis said, among other things, that "he felt unsettled by the lack of irony among many fellow-Scientologists—an inability to laugh at themselves."

(I think humor is an indicator of at least the possibility of some kind of health.)

Due South itself is so funny, loving and respectful about poking fun at Fraser's Dudley Do-Right personality (as well as hinting there's something deeper and darker than his surface goofy good nature).

After thirty-four years, what finally spurred Haggis to take a deeper look and then to leave Scientology was the top muckety-muck's refusal to denounce the San Diego branch's public sponsorship of Proposition 8.
Haggis, the father of two lesbian daughters, wrote to the Church that Prop 8:
“succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California—rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state—is a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us.” 
Haggis wrote, “Silence is consent.... I refuse to consent.” 
He concluded, “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.”
I'm interested in the process of people changing their beliefs, which can be extremely painful.  It can lead to loss of friends, family, and even homeland. I think a lot of us don't do it because even small shifts in opinion can cost so much.

For all Due South's goofy humor, the main character, Constable Fraser, is fundamentally sad.

For the New Yorker article, Wright asked Haggis "if he felt that he had finally left Scientology. 

"'I feel much more myself, but there’s a sadness,' [Haggis] admitted. 'If you identify yourself with something for so long, and suddenly you think of yourself as not that thing, it leaves a bit of space.'"

[I'd like to write more about this, but I have to get going... I'll just post it half-baked as it is. More later, I hope.]

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"We'd Like to Make a Contact with You" (dS music)

My third and last post today...

Canadian-made Due South features a lot of Canadian musicians. Sometimes the narrative slows and the story takes the shape of a music video.  I don't know most of the songs, so I've been looking them up.*
 (I've already mentioned Fraser singing Stan Rogers.) 

This beautifully sad song "De Cara a la Pared" (Face to the Wall) by  Lhasa de Sela (US-born but lived in Montreal) plays while RayK dances alone with his lost love in "Strange Bedfellows" (season 3.4). 

I couldn't figure out what the wet percussive sounds could be---a youTube comments suggested water drumming, but I read [in link above] it was simply water in a plastic bottle.

"De Cara a la Pared" is included on Radio Canada's list, "Ten of the Most Moving Songs You Won't Understand"
They note, "Of course if you speak Swahili, Portuguese or Corsican, your appreciation of these songs may run deeper than those of us who do not." 
* I just found a helpful list: "Music Used in Due South

Something unexpected:

Canadian band Klaatu sings their 1976 "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft" which–– just SO, SO WEIRD–– was then (1977) covered by the Carpenters!

What was going on, Nineteen Seventies?

These Foolish Things

I was singing scraps of "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" as I was sorting at the Thrift Store and was surprised another thrift herder didn't know it. I looked it up to send her the link and was surprised again at how many people have covered the song, written by British songwriters Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey in 1936.
Frank Sinatra, of course...
I like Dinah Washington's cover.
And, oh, man, I am very partial to Chet Baker's dusty trumpet.  

Here--you can try them all (list on youTube).

My favorite thrift is the bits and pieces that come in old sewing baskets, such as marking chalk and garter grips; worn thimbles and half-empty spools of thread; and sometimes even mysterious little trinkets. 
They remind me of someone I don't know.

I recently arranged my stash in little plastic boxes. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

300! THIS IS... [um, no, never mind]

This is my three-hundredth post in this year of 2015. The last time I was even close to three hundred was in 2010 (290 posts).

Do you ever wonder if you'd read your own blog, if you weren't you?

Well, I went back to my 2010 posts, and I really enjoyed rereading them, many of which I didn't remember very well; so maybe I'd like what I'm writing now too, if I weren't me.
I enjoy writing it, anyway, and that's the thing.

Among other things, having a blog gives me a push to do things like look up and screencap the famous aquarium scene in Orson Welles's Lady from Shanghai (1947, right) that is mimicked in the Due South episode "Victoria" (1995, below left--the swimming polar bears are fascinating).

I wasn't sure if the mounty, Fraser, should trust the woman he's in love with, but when I saw that scene I thought, ah-ha, the director is giving film buffs a clue. 
We know: women in aquariums are double-crossers.

I was surprised to notice several other allusions to literature and film in Due South--not usual for TV shows. 
In the episode "Chicago Holiday", for instance, a character is named Mrs. McGuffin, and I thought, could that refer to Hitchcock? 
It fit the episode, which is about a bunch of people scrambling to find a mcguffin: Hitchcock's term for a meaningless object to hang a plot on (a matchbook, in this case). 
I looked it up, and of course it was purposeful.

In the episode "Gift of a Wheelman" a young man (baby Ryan Phillipe) buys a Christmas present for his father at O. Henry's Gifts.
 I didn't catch this (read it on imdb), but the father--who is doing his part of a bad gift exchange--is named William Porter, which is O. Henry's real name. 

Oh---a-ha--I see now the boy's name is Del, like the girl Della in O. Henry's story "The Gift of the Magi", which some of us had to read in high school, right?

I love this sort of game, and it makes me curious to find out more about the people who made Due South

If I didn't have a place (this blog) to put these findings, would I bother to look them up? 
Yeah, probably, some of them, but it's more fun to stash them here as well.

Speaking of behind-the-scenes, I just read an interesting Vanity Fair article, "Here’s to You, Mr. Nichols: The Making of The Graduate" (2008 ). 

I'm always interested in Mike Nichols.

 Publicity still ^ by Bob Willoughby

Here's a funny bit from the article:
Is it possible that Anne Bancroft reminded [Mike Nichols]—both in her intonations and in her appearance—of Elaine May?
Just close your eyes and you’ll hear a Mike Nichols–Elaine May routine in any number of scenes, such as the exchange between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson in the Taft Hotel—filmed at the Ambassador, in Los Angeles—where Benjamin has just nervously rented a room for their first assignation. He calls her from the hotel-lobby pay phone and she asks:
“Isn’t there something you want to tell me?”
“To tell you?”
“Well, I want you to know how much I appreciate this—really—”
“The number.”
“The room number, Benjamin. I think you ought to tell me that.”
“Oh, you’re absolutely right. It’s 568.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Well, I’ll see you later, Mrs. Robinson.”

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"Spectacular Ineptitude"/ We Are the Champions

The New York Times ran a front-page editorial today* for the first time since June 1920, when the paper lamented the nomination of Warren G. Harding as the presidential candidate. [via]

Harding, whose infamy rests on what US News & World Report called "spectacular ineptitude", said of himself: "I am not fit for this office and should never have been here."

Despite having a cute dog ^ (Laddie) and writing steamy love letters to his mistress, Harding did such a bad job as president (Teapot Dome, etc.), historians often rank him among the worst US Presidents.

So, the NYT editorial was right in 1920. 

And today?

I have no doubt.

Here's a bit from today's editorial,
 “End the Gun Epidemic in America”: 
It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. 
America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.
OK, and to balance that awfulness. . . 

 Tales from the Thrift

I cashiered at the Thrift Store this afternoon.  I was happy to be there, but I'm getting over a little cold, so I was kind of tired and droopy.

She who cashiers controls the CD player, and I soon felt even more tired listening to the lame Christmas music I had to choose from, so  I rummaged through the CDs on sale and put on Queen: Greatest Hits.
I wasn't sure other people would like it, but I knew it would lift my energy, which I needed.

Immediately, a little girl in a tutu, about eight years old, started to sing along with the first song,
"We will, we will rock you!"

Then one of my coworkers who was putting out jewelry in the display case near the cash register started to sing along, and someone in the check-out line commented how sad it was that Freddie Mercury is dead.

"Oh, I'm glad you all like this too," I said. "I was worried I shouldn't have put Queen on."

"Oh, you should always put on Queen," she said.

I looked around at the busy store, and inspired by the Spirit of Christmas past, present, and future (or those old Judy Garland Mickey Rooney films), just as that famous crescendo was coming up, I said,
"Let's all sing along, like in the movies!"
and by god, everyone burst into the chorus,
We are the champions, my friends.

This ranks high in my "best moment ever" list.

I played the CD over and over all afternoon, 
and over and over customers of all ages and types commented on how much they loved it.

I [foolishly] had not realized Queen was so widely and well loved, even now.
And why not?
^ "This photo was taken in Mercury's flat, around the time the band was first coming together, circa 1970. 
"You can see the shyness. In those days, he hadn't found himself yet. Roger [Taylor, Queen's drummer,] often said he used to sing like a young lamb. It's quite nice to see that quiet side of him."
* Thanks to Orange Crate Art for alerting me.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Andy Griffith School of Art and Design

I misjudged T., my art partner with dementia. 
I'd thought he'd like a freestyle, messy approach to art making, 
but he stiffened up rather than relaxed as we did the exercises I'd brought to our first art session, this week.
And then he castigated himself for being a perfectionist.

I should have known better:
when I worked at the art library, I learned to tell at a glance if a student was more likely to be a designer or a fine artist.
If I'd seen T. then, I'd have said in a heartbeat, DESIGNER. 

(My error was in taking my read off his wife's temperament, not his--hers is more of an artistic nature. Classic error in working with folks with dementia. KEY: let them, not their families, show you who they are.)

I was sad that he was so hard on himself, thinking it's better to be something he's not. After all, being a "perfectionist" is what you want in a designer!

If Frank Lloyd Wright had taken a loose, touchy-feely approach to Fallingwater in 1935, it'd have fallen off by now.

Anyway, not too late---I am going to approach from a design direction next week--I'm going to suggest we paint color studies.
These are awesome because they can be as tight or as loose as you want---like Josef Albers (left) or Kandinsky (right):

I was talking to Marz about this, and she said I am taking the Andy Griffith (Sheriff Taylor) approach: 
work with the person as they are---try to find ways to use their temperament for good. (Apply to self too.)

There're lots of ways to sing a song.

P.S. Orange Crate Art recently mentioned "Lush Life" (1964, Billy Strayhorn)---I love Queen Latifah singing that song (of course, I just love the Queen):

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I won candy!

Home from a wild night out with two fellow Thrift Herders--
we went out for pizza, and it just happened to be Trivia Nite,
and my loooong years in Children's Nonfiction finally PAID OFF BIG TIME:
and specifically my recent time with the nasty Andrew Jackson,

because I totally 100% knew the answer to this question immediately, without even having to recite the sing-song list of presidents:

Who won the US presidential election of 1824 even though he did not win the most popular or electoral votes?

Answer is in comments
in case you want to take time for that sing-song pneumonics song about the presidents (which I don't actually know).

HINT: It's not Jackson---he lost that round, but won in 1828.

So---we won that round of historical questions, and our prize was a handful of chocolate kisses and Starbursts.
Not what I needed, but certainly what I wanted... and on top of two glasses of winter ale.

Maybe I will die younger than I should from excess carbitude, but I shall have known the Thrill of Victory.

 Via abovetopsecret

Rise Again! (We Are All Astronauts)

I felt low and useless yesterday. It was grey and slushy, and I didn't feel up to facing Andrew Jackson and his anger issues again (the ms having just came back from its outside read), 
so I went home and watched the final episodes of Due South, during which Mountie Fraser (Paul Gross) sings a couple rousing songs by a musician I'd never heard of---Canada's (famous) Stan Rogers.
                         Great song!       ^         [and... sung by Stan Rogers]

So instead of working, I spent the afternoon listening to Rogers, and when I heard this song with its rousing chorus, "Rise again!" I thought, OK, I can face Old Hickory:
 "The Mary Ellen  Carter" [starts at 1:40, after a sailor tells how the song saved his life]. 

And this one, the amazing a capella "Northwest Passage" (which shapes the end of Due South) makes you want to head out on an adventure in spite of yourself, like Bilbo Baggins:
It's inspired by Franklin's lost expedition.

NASA played Stan Rogers's "Take It from Day to Day" --about working far from home--for astronaut Chris Hadfield in 2001, when he became the first Canadian to walk in space. 

What do astronauts listen to in space?
This makes fascinating reading:
NASA's list of wake-up songs.

photo by Vincent Fournier: General Boris V., Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC), Russia, 2007--via

"We are all astronauts" --R, Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth (1968), in which he compared Earth to a spaceship

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Original Art Sparker

When I started this blog in 2007, I soon met dozens of other makers, seers, and sayers through ArtSpark Theatre, the blog of ArtSparker, aka Susan Sanford, a flint who ignited creative brush fires along the 'nets, 
and herself a creator of beasties, ghosts, and superheroes. 

Think, artist love child of Jane Eyre + Chthulhu.

Though its blogroll still flickers, the Theater's lights are off now, its denizens scattered to Tumblr, FB, and elsewhere.
You can see the fresh tracks ArtSparker's off-leash imagination, however, on her RedBubble pages:

Just a small glimpse: 

RedBubble is inspirational.  Much less precious than Etsy, it's a site where independent artists from around the world show their work and sell it as affordable wearable, displayable, usable items.
(You can see Susan's designs on T-shirts, for instance.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Oranges in the Tunnel

"Friend, absent one, exile, I can tell you that your tunnel is still there,
mud-walled and hallowed of earth, through which you smuggled
oranges into the city––oranges!"

   --From "Letter to a City Under Siege", a poem by Carolyn Forché, written to a friend from Sarajevo

I painted this today.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Art of Losing

I.  The Art of Losing

I met with T yesterday, a man living with Alzheimer's who is looking to hire an art-sparker, along with his wife, and it feels like we could work well together. Alzheimer's has dampened T's fire, but he's still an energetic extrovert, which I think will complement my lower and slower energy.
We have our first art-making date in a few days.

I'm excited to get going on this. 
I can imagine growing an art-making service for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. 
And, speaking of poetry, I could call my service  
Mastering the Art of Losing
from Elizabeth Bishop's poem, "One Art":

... Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I doubt everyone would like that, but I think T might.
He was telling me he loves meeting strangers, and I took a risk and said, That's great-- Alzheimer's means you'll be meeting a lot more strangers, over and over again.
He laughed hard.
He'd also told me he was worried that Alzheimer's would take away his sense of humor, and I said that was not my experience working with people with advanced dementia. They laughed a lot, if there was something to laugh at.

But maybe other people stop laughing with and around them?
Easy to do, as exhaustion and fear and isolation take over.
Art making may help lift some of that.

I don't know that I believe in much, but I believe in art.
Maybe that sounds highfalutin? I could just say, I believe in making stuff––music, food, scribbles, whatever.

 II.  The Art of Writing: Spotlight

If you go see Spotlight, which I recommend, and you're a writer or an editor, you might just be the only one to laugh out loud, like I did, when the editor of the Boston Globe (Marty Baron, played by Liev Schreiber) takes his red pen to the draft of the article that revealed the Catholic hierarchy knew for decades that some priests were raping kids.
Pretty much the only funny scene in this good movie.

Below: Not the actual scene, but this is the feel of the movie, for the most part:

This movie avoids sentiment (again, for the most part), but it is a hymn of praise to a bygone era of newspaper-funded investigative reporting as much as it is an exposé of systematic child abuse in the Catholic Church.
The team of journalists worked for almost a year before they published their findings---though that was in 2001, watching it evokes nostalgia:
what newspaper can pay for this time and team anymore?

You've seen, I'm sure, that National Geographic is now owned by Fox.
That sure feels like a disaster.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Read More Poetry

After reading Wil Wheaton's "Push the Restart Button" post [linked to yesterday, I got wondering what intentions I've stalled on in my life, and the main one is:
Read More Poetry.

I read a lot, all the time, but mostly I rush. 
 I read like I eat Tootsie Pop suckers: impatiently. 
I crunch text up to get at their chewy centers. Even when I'm researching, I'm scanning for usable info.

Much popular poetry––such as Mary Oliver's––is also too easy to scan for the pay off.  Dense poetry (such as John Donne's) is the one kind of writing I have to eat slowly, like fig cake.

So... I don't usually go for One-a-Day type activities, 
but at the Thrift Store, I bought an Advent box just like this one >>
and I thought maybe I'd read and write out one poem a day during Advent this year---and pop it in a little Box o' the Day. 

If you have any suggestions of poems or poets that call for careful reading, please let me know.
Avent 2015 begins this Sunday, November 29 and ends on Thursday, December 24.