Thursday, April 30, 2015

Plastic Week & Hutch's Yogurt

I. What I Bought Yesterday at Trader J's That Wasn't in Plastic: 

   A banana and a Potato 

I'm not going to get all crazy about this, but I decided not to buy plastic for one week, or at least to notice when I do.

Marz works at a natural foods co-op, but even with her discount it's so expensive that I often buy T J's cheaper organics. I'd never registered that they're almost all in plastic. Jeez.

II. Yogurt 

One of my pet peeves has long been plastic yogurt containers. 
Back in the '70s, Hutch's yogurt came in paper cartons. *
Mmm... yogurt! * *
Hutch's Morning Milk Shake: plain yogurt, goat's milk, black strap molasses, desiccated liver, kelp powder, vitamins and minerals, lecithin  
( ^ via Starsky and Hutch: Food, Glorious Food, which lists what S&H eat in every episode and is a pretty funny collection of food in the Seventies, such as, Ding Dong from the convenience store. Hot dog with mustard, onion, relish, sour kraut, and chili. Etc.)

Marz actually made Hutch's milk shake. You may not be surprised to hear that it is, she reports, horrible. 

Anyway, I'm going to make yogurt. 

It's one of those foods that's laughably easy: just leave milk in your car on a sunny day. 

I don't have a car, so I'll heat the milk, add a blob of yogurt, and let it sit in a warm spot. I don't make it regularly because
1. lazy
2. space
3. spillage

I tend to drop things, and I've always made yogurt in a big bowl. But blogger Trina's yogurt recipe sez,
pour the hot milk into the jars you're going to store the yogurt in, and let it set in water hot from the tap.

So, so easy. 
* The Carton Council reports that paper cartons for dairy products are 80% paper + 20% plastic; shelf-stable boxes include 4% aluminum.

* * I think Hutch is actually eating porridge here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Four Documentaries

I watched four documentary movies this week.
 1. Buck [NYT review] (dir. Cindy Meehl, 2011)

Horses are fearful animals. Having survived a cruel and violent father, horse trainer Buck Brannaman says he understands how horses feel. If you want to work with them, he says, be "gentle in what you do, firm in how you do it."

Watching Buck work with horses was mesmerizing; but I felt twitchy, like a horse's hide when a fly lands on it. 
What fear was this soothing treatment triggering?

Finally I realized that while the film never touches on politics, Buck's formula also works on people. "Gentle but firm" makes an effective leader, but is that leader right?

Horses can't ask that, but humans can, yet the movie asked no critical questions. Since this guy works with horses, I guess that's OK. . .  but this filly still feels a bit skittish.

2. Waste Land [links to preview at movie website] (dir. Lucy Walker, 2010)

Artist Vik Muniz goes to Rio de Janeiro to make art about the trash pickers in the world's largest dump. Expecting to find worthless people that he is going to elevate, instead he finds lively folks who have formed a union, read books they pick from the trash, talk about how Machiavelli's Florence reminds them of Rio, and want to pose as Marat:

I loved the first half of this movie, but I had to stop watching because the handheld camera work was nauseating me. I'm going to watch the 2nd half in sections though--it's complex and surprisingly humorous.

3. Plastic Planet  [links to whole film on Vimeo] (dir. Werner Boote, 2011)
Hm. Did Boote have to fly his film crew around the world to show how bad plastic is? 
Couldn't he have made a slide show instead, like Al Gore? 

Probably not, but why didn't he talk about his own consumption of fossil fuels, as a filmmaker? This movie was so slick and commercial, that, as with Buck, Boote's  gentle-but-firm convictions left me a little distrustful.

Nonetheless, even if this film is as much propaganda as documentary, there's no doubt Plastic Is Bad... and having started to research garbage, I'm a little surprised that the situation is even worse than I'd thought.

 4. Tabloid [clips and trailer] (dir. Errol Morris, 2011)

Ha! Joyce McKinney is so gently but firmly sure of herself, she could be a horse trainer. 

In the 70s, McKinney was accused of kidnapping and raping a Mormon missionary. She insists she was rescuing him from a cult, and that women can't rape men: that would be like "putting a marshmallow in a parking meter."

As that quote suggests, McKinney is a colorful storyteller, and Morris gives her free rein. Her absolute belief in her reality is mesmerizing, but you're pretty sure she's "barking mad," as one reporter says. 
Or is she?
(Having met the type before, I'd say she is.)


Seems I prefer tales about how things are stranger than we know, or feel comfortable with, movies you couldn't sum up on a fridge magnet.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"But . . , but . . . ."

I'm not on FB but Marz showed me this 1-minute clip of President Obama on the situation in Baltimore that made my jaw ache with sadness. Maybe just the way he's so restrained, seemingly calm, but then his mouth twists after he says,
"we consider those kids our kids, and they shouldn't be living in poverty and violence." 

And the way he pauses each time he says "but": 
"there are a lot of good people, but . . .", and  "I've tried to promote these ideas, but . . ."

I can't find a way to embed this little clip––maybe you've already seen it?––anyway, this links to the White House on FB, and you can scroll down a few posts to see it:

Mambo Cats!

I just discovered the cool album art of Jim Flora, because I saw it on a Gene Krupa LP donated to the Thrift Store. 
(Not this one--from 1955-- or I'd have bought it, and I'm not even a cat person.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Old and Young

My sister came to pick me up yesterday.
I was waiting outside, with the cloth bags I'd made for SIL. Sister pulled up to the kerb, and a shaky old man got out of the car.

My father.

What happened?! He wasn't old before.

In fact, my father is 84, so technically he has been old for a while, but he's never showed much sign of it. But a long, bad cold over the winter put him in the hospital for dehydration and left him weak. 

He might still recover strength––he's back at his gym 3x/week–– but he's also distinctly less plugged in socially.

Marz offered him a sticker from her new Presidents sticker book. He could have any one but Jimmy Carter, her favorite.

Abraham Lincoln 1861/1865
I expected him to choose an Abraham Lincoln––his hero––and stick it on his sweater. 

That would have been his normal reaction.

Instead he said he didn't want one.

Old age makes you old, even if you aren't a president.

[It also messes with your neckwear.]

My father and I've never been close––for five years after I left home, we didn't speak, not even in greeting cards.
But there's a lot I admire in him, from a distance.

Yesterday, trying to engage him, I asked him about his trip to Venice with sister. Usually I don't ask because he loves to talk about "travel", by which he means "transportation": 
how late the plane was, how the buses and trains run, what happened to his baggage.

Instead, he told me about walking around Venice one evening while my sister was at the opera. He doesn't much like opera, something we share.

A group of teenage Boy and Girl Scouts approached him in the square outside the opera house. They were conducting a survey about family values. 
Could they ask him some questions?

Sure, if they could be in English.

They could.

"Do you support the traditional family?" they asked.

"What's a traditional family?" he said. "Probably not. 
I have a married daughter. She's married to another woman. That's a family. I support that.

"But what if I didn't? What do you think I should do? Cut her off? That's crazy! They're a family."

A young woman in the back piped up, "I agree!"

He was so pleased to report this. "As always, it's the young people," he said. 

He saw it as a story about young people. I saw it as a story about him.

Afterward Marz said, "Your father is is a true libertarian. Not like people who just think they're libertarian."

And it's true. He doesn't judge people for anything except hurting other people. He truly does respect everyone's right to self-determination, and I respect that in him. 

I respect that, but I respect it more as a political philosophy than as a parenting technique. 
His "Do what you want" didn't help me in my teenage years, when I really could have used some parental guidance, . . . or even discussion. Freedom is a burden, and it takes some experience to learn how to carry it.

Mostly I felt that he just didn't care.

Now, I think that he didn't know how to help me;
but I also think it was (and is) true that in general he doesn't want to be bothered with the problems of other people, even his own children.

He really means it, Do What You Want [but do no harm].
Which is great, but like Augustine's "Love, and do what you will," it's not that easy to carry off. We need to help one another learn and practice it, and that's where my father failed me.

He dumped it on us to figure out for ourselves. Again, I think because he didn't know better. He'd had to figure it out for himself, he was going to grant us that same freedom/burden.

If I hadn't eventually contacted him, five years after I moved out, I believe he never would have contacted me. He's a prideful Sicilian male, but, again, he really believes in a radical kind of freedom: 
if you don't want to talk to me, fine, that's your choice.

 As parental failures go, it's not the worst. It's a failure that I could even see as a backward kind of gift.

P.S. SIL did like the cloth bags, but it was Sister who really loved them. Her birthday's in a couple months, so I'll make more for her.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bag End

End of the day. These are the final two bags I made today--one is from a dishtowel with a stitched tomato (I might have to keep that one), and the other's the Bulgarian bread cloth. 
The cloth ties are attached to the bags.

I imagine hobbits use similar things.

A good day: I'm happy and tired.

My first produce bags!

Oh boy, I'm so excited! I just stitched up my 1st little shopping bag, made from an old cotton dishtowel with a tomato appliqué, from the Thrift Store.

Here is its trial run, filled with dry pasta:

I'm sewing several bags today as presents for my SIL's 60th birthday. I'm going over to my sister's house (it's her wife) tomorrow--my father is up for the weekend. 

I always feel a little nervous before family gatherings. 
SIL and I are not close––tangled family allegiances, you know–– but she loves farmers markets so she might find cloth bags useful.

Unfortunately, she also loves to heat and bleach the hell out of laundry. These old materials can't take that. I'll have to use the sturdiest cotton for her.  

UPDATE, 3 PM: And now I've finished the 2nd bag--this one with a piece of old but "new" linen that came with a paper tag: 
100% Pure Linen. Made in Denmark. 
Imported by American Handicrafts Co.

I gave this one a drawstring. 
These took me a long while, but now I know how to do them, the next ones will be quicker.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Political Clarification

"Political Clarification" . . . sounds like an oxymoron, eh?

I just want to be clear that though I was picking on Hillary...

1.  it's NOT because I'm conservative, and
2. I have a secret crush on her.

I'd be more likely to vote for someone like Ralph Nader, who calls Hillary a menace (here):
“People have got to start thinking, doing their homework, become informed voters and not coronet another corporatist and militarist."

"Coronet"? That's not a verb, so far as I can tell. Shouldn't this be "coronate"?

Anyway, I like the association with royalty: it worries me that we are creating dynasties. Though this is just a small part of everything else that worries me about politics--the billions of dollars spent and the rigid alliances.

__________Aha! I was barking up the wrong tree, meme-wise: I found no cylon Clintons or Bushes, but plenty Game of Thrones references. This one from an LA Times article.

[ Ha! "barking up the wrong tree, meme-wise"]

Mae Bennett of New Prague, I have your apron.

Ay-ay-ay... not only is my camera viewfinder broken, but I just updated my OS and lost iPhoto! WUT the heck, Apple? *
Making do with raw photobooth... Here's the label of an old apron I salvaged from the Thrift Store's fabric-recycle barrel:

New Prague is south of me, on the way to Mankato where Betsy & Tacy live(d)! The B&T books mention a dressmaker who makes the girls' fancy clothes. I imagine Mae Bennett was someone like that.
Miss Mix [was] the dressmaker who…toward the last of the month…came to the Rays every day for a week. She sewed only in Mrs. Ray’s bedroom, but bright scraps of cloth and snarls of thread, like the hum of her machine, permeated everywhere.
--Heaven to Betsy, Maud Hart Lovelace
More on sewing in Betsy Tacy

Some thrift herders at the store are waaaay too likely to reject vintage stuff like this apron. I guess they prefer new or like-new things, which are not what attracts people to thrift stores, I contend, in these days when places like H&M sell new clothes cheaper than we sell used ones.

This apron does have two tiny, tiny holes, but the fabric is still strong: I am going to stitch it into a produce bag. 
I have finished enough publishing work for the moment.
* Sometimes I write something that reminds me of how elastic language & technology are: these opening lines would have been meaningless a few years ago.

Btw, "photo" replaces "iPhoto" but I haven't yet figured it all out. I resent having to learn new programs that [seemingly] offer less than the old ones. I've had this happen before (iMovie, I'm looking at you.) 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Bit of Hillary

I'm already tired of the US presidential campaign... and we have almost nineteen months (and $ billions) to go.

It creeps me out that we're looking at . . . an imperial dynasty?  Clinton II, or Bush III?

I don't want to vote for Hillary (though who else will there be?), but I must say, I do find find myself prey to her power of fascination. 
She'd make a great sci-fi character, wouldn't she? Sith Lord? 


Did you see the SNL skit of her announcing her candidacy? 

[erratum: friendly ––s/b "approachable"]

How 'bout this photo of Hillary and Bill on their wedding day (1975)? I stared at it for a long time (thinking of captions, I admit).

She even knows Starsky! 

OK, this one isn't funny: 
In the early 1990s, Clinton worked with Elizabeth Glaser on ending childhood HIV/AIDS. 

Glaser had become infected with HIV in 1981 via a blood transfusion during childbirth, and the virus eventually passed to her two babies. 
After her seven-year-old daughter died in 1988, Glaser started the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. She herself died in 1994, but her second child, Jake, is well today, and so is her foundation to end childhood HIV/AIDS
Elizabeth was married to Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

CAREFUL NOW with the Earth

For Earth Day, I'm with Father Dougal

Father Ted's "Down With This Sort of Thing" also applies, re Garbage and the like.

UTube's got the Father Ted whole episode.

Inspire, Outspire...

I. Back to Bob's

I used to blog on my laptop every morning here at Bob's Java Hut, the motorcycle coffee shop a few blocks from my apartment. Sometimes I'd stay half the day, working on publishing jobs.

I haven't been here in a year, but now I'm working alone again, it's important I get out among the humans, so I'm back this morning. 

I don't need to converse with the people (though sometimes that happens)--an occasional little chat over the coffee bar is plenty.

II. Capturing Community

Over and over I've pointed to the poor pay and lack of support as the reasons I left Memory Care, and that's true, but, upon reflection, another way to put it was that I was exhausted by constantly pouring forth energy without enough return.

While the people did return friendliness (often, mostly), we couldn't build upon the exchange, since they didn't remember me from one day to the next. And that's where the lack of staff support really mattered---if I'd been part of a team, we could have built upon mutual exchanges, which would have kept me going.

Without the cycle of in-spiration <> ex-halation, I gradually deflated.

I was thinking about this last night, after I went to see the documentary film Capturing Grace at the Twin Cities' annual film festival.  
[7-minute trailer (at an NPR site)] 
It follows a dance class at the Mark Morris Dance Center as they prepare for a performance.
The performers have Parkinson's Disease.

I recognized the teachers' outpouring of energy [via]. 
I was like this.  All the time:
David Leventhal (left) and John Heginbotham (right) with the Dance for PD class
This group really does create community. The movie made me think I want––eventually––to try to find a place I can exude energy and not come away like a limp balloon.

The film will be on PBS television sometime--it's definitely worth watching, though I was a little disappointed with it. It's only an hour, and it focuses on the dancers' stories, which are great, and the dance, which is not. 
I understand director Dave Iverson's decision, given his limited time, but for myself, I wanted to hear more about PD and movement:
I wanted a neurologist, for instance, to discuss why the dancer Cindy can dance but not walk across the room. *

The scene where Cindy demonstrates this is the best in the movie. It reminded me of singing at work---people who couldn't converse could sing songs with complex lyrics such as "The Star Spangled Banner" (try it!).

I wanted to see less of all the dances except the one that's about living with PD.
I mean, what's great and interesting about the dancers is that they're doing it, not that their performance is excellent to watch in itself, especially since they didn't choreograph the work themselves:
they're dancing pieces mostly from the Mark Morris repertory.
Mark Morris (as a baby) in One Charming Night, via MMDG
For that matter, the director could have cut out most of Morris talking--he doesn't add much, except when he's actually guest-teaching a class.

But here's the thing:
I expect I'll find more of what I want to know about PD in Ivorson's other doc, My Father, My Brother, and Me--I'm going to watch it online at PBS. The title refers to PD's toll on his own family.

UPDATE: I just watched this ^ Frontline doc, and it does indeed address a lot of my questions, including the possible benefits of exercise on PD. Maybe Ivorson didn't want to repeat himself in Capturing Grace? The two docs form a kind of pair--I wasn't satisfied with Grace until I'd watched the earlier report.

* P.S. Googling around, this is the sort of thing I wanted to hear more about:

Research is showing that exercises that are more creative and engaging [than just, say, walking on a treadmill] may help the brain enhance its nerve connections and improve how the brain works . . .  Dr. Monique Giroux, medical director of the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland, [also] says that, in many ways, dance is ideal for those with Parkinson’s.
--from "Dance Class Helps Parkinson's Patients Use Movement As a Strategy"; bold face mine

This is me: "Brain and brain! WHAT IS BRAIN!?!" (9 seconds)

More info on PD dance classes (around the world) at Dance for Parkinson's site. 
I was impressed that the Morris Group classes in NY are free.
And the Jewish Community Center here offers dance classes for people with PD or other movement disorders are only $5/class--scholarships available.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

No hing. DONT GIVE UP.


Hmph. The co-op doesn't carry asafoetida (hing). I even dared to try to pronounce it so I could ask.

I must go on a field trip. That's another thing I'll miss from Memory Care: a couple times a month we'd take an outing.
I've heard tell of a fabulous Indian market across the river (the Mississippi)––perhaps I'll head over there today.

So, no to hing . . . but yes, see-through cloth!

The Thrift Store had a yard and a half of this >
material for $1.50.
It should sew up nicely as produce bags.

I also signed up to cashier at the store again, after months of only sorting, to make sure I get my recommended daily dose of human contact, annoying as it can be.


This is one day early for Earth Day 2015, but here's Walt Kelly's Pogo poster for the first Earth Day, in 1970. 

According to This Day in Quotes, the tag is a take-off on. . .
"We have met the enemy and they are ours — one of two famous quotes from U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry after defeating a British naval squadron on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. 
(Perry’s other famous quote was, Don’t give up the ship.)"
 That's a good one for Earth Day too. Here, I made my own poster:

But, hey--Perry didn't actually say "Don't give up the ship"--he had a personal battle flag sewn with this, the final command of his friend Captain James Lawrence as he lay dying in a ship battle during the War of 1812.

Margaret Forster Stewart, her three daughters, her sister, and a cousin made the flag.

There never was an apostrophe on the flag's DONT. 
NASA image from Ten Historic Photos of Earth From Space

Image of and info about Perry's battle flag in an article in the Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine.

Monday, April 20, 2015

P.S. Bread Cloth

After writing that last post, I remembered that years ago, a friend living in Bulgaria had sent me a cloth people wrapped bread in--it was just the normal technology there. 

But... HAD I THROWN IT OUT, in one of my purges?

No, I just found it. Happy! It's lightweight cotton, embellished with a little needlework and a pretty edging...

I've never used it, but now I will stitch it into a bag and that will suit my needs. 

Welcome to the Working Week

Monday morning, and I woke up thinking of "Welcome to the Working Week" by Elvis Costello, though––unlike in that song–– I'm happy to start working today. 

Last week was kind of hard---my first week not working on Memory Care, and I was also house sitting, so I felt doubly displaced. 

"The self is not infinitely elastic."  --Parker Palmer

I felt comforted, reading that reminder last week.
There's a myth out there (is it peculiarly American?) that the self is infinitely elastic, and for a long time I wondered what was wrong with me that my rubber band kept snapping...

I'd say a grace of midlife is recognizing my limitations, and seeing them as helpful, as things that work to hold me together and give me shape.

So, while I do feel sad for leaving the residents, I [mostly] don't feel that I failed, personally, so much as that the circumstances were beyond my capabilities, for what I wanted to do.

The job needs someone who's OK with just doing what you can, even if it's only a little. But I wanted to reach each person with dementia to help them create meaning. 

What I learned is that this is possible (to varying degrees) with dementia. Exciting! But it requires a lot of time and a very low ratio of people without dementia to people with dementia, neither of which were available at work.

II. Back to the Books

Now I'm home again, with two huge piles of books and videos to sort. 

This is one of them >.

I'm going to start by writing a bibliography, a very satisfying task for a list-maker like me, and a good way to start to enter the various povs into my brain, which will sort them out eventually. 

III. Bags

And then--treat!
I'm going to start sewing cloth food bags, to take to the grocery store and use instead of plastic produce bags. 
This will be fun.

I realized, talking to Laura on the phone last night (thanks, Laura!), that I already miss my Sewing Group at work; it'd surprised me how much I enjoyed making hot pads and baby bibs and Easter bunnies. I also enjoy rummaging through the fabric recycling bin at the Thrift Store for usable cloth.

(Like all Thrift Stores, mine gets a lot of unsellable donations--stained and ripped clothes, for instance––and they sell the cloth for pennies a pound to a recycler. It's the old Rag and Bone trade.) 

I'm not sure I can find sheer cloth there, but I do think it's a good idea so you can see your produce,
< like here.

Photo (and instructions) at DIY Reusable Produce Bags

Lots of us already use big cloth bags to carry our groceries but not little ones for produce or bulk items. This project will meet my longing to keep making crafts and also address my heightened distress at how much garbage we make.

My subconscious seems to be on board with my plan of action:
last night I dreamed I was taking final exam in Calculus and had no clue, so I started writing a poem instead––
. . .and the teacher was enthusiastic with what I was doing.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

A New Spice

"Darling, you smell of Worcestershire sauce!"

Garbage research is adding spice to my life.

Yesterday at Trader J's, I was just about to put some prepared Indian food in my cart when my brain began to flash 
Red Alert: Foil Packets Last Until the End of Time
and I couldn't do it.

This is a good thing, really--I love Indian food, and it's cheap and easy to make. The spices do all the work: just choose three and add them to lentils and veg, and you've pretty much made something good to eat.

Today I'll go to the co-op and buy in bulk Indian spices I've let run out, or dry up--cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garam masala, ginger, mustard seed, turmeric.

For fun, I'm going to buy asafoetida, finally, too––a spice I've never used but know from a line in a poem by Catullus (7) in which he says he wants as many kisses from his lover as the Libyan sands

that lay at asafoetida-bearing Cyrene ...

This drove me crazy, trying to translate it when I was studying Latin [quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis].
(For a while after I got my B.A. (in Religions in Antiquity, minor in Latin) (at 35!), I wrote like that too. My English was all twisted up, as if it were translated from Latin, badly. It took writing nonfiction for kids for a couple years for me to straighten it out again.)

Anyway, looking "asafoetida" up, I see it tastes something like leeks and is rumored to give Worcestershire sauce its distinctive aroma. 
Oh dear, its name looks like it'd smell like ass-feet... looked it up and--close--it means "fetid resin"--also nicknamed devil's dung

I like leeks.

* * * Krista comments (hi! Krista) that Mr. Husband recommends Majula's Kitchen for Indian recipes.

Here's also Indian Vegan Recipes--of course, you don't have to remove anything from a lot of Indian recipes to make them vegan.
Though sometimes I add butter so they're not...

The blogger provides an Indian Grocery Shopping List. Asafoetida is optional. The nice thing about buying spices in bulk is, you  can just buy a little.
Painting: "Nudes", Paul Delvaux, 1946

Friday, April 17, 2015


Marz and I went to see Carl Bernstein (Watergate!) speak last night at a free Town Hall Forum downtown.
You know, he's Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men (to the right; Bob Woodward, Robert Redford on the left).

I went because he was kind of a hero of my youth––not that I paid a lot of attention to politics, but he was a good guy in a rotten time––and also because after just one week of working at home again, I remember how isolating it is and that I must be careful to get out among people.

It's always impressive to see people at the top of their game, of course, and Bernstein was a lot of fun--humorous, serious, engaged... but what impressed me most was that before the event started, he sat gazing with interest at the audience in front of him--looking all around, even up to the balcony. 

Marz said she'd noticed that too: it was clear he was studying the crowd, and you could see that after fifty-five years of reporting (he started when he was sixteen), he's still actively curious.
Really neat!

I'm always looking around at audiences too, to gather impressions. 
As usual at these Town Halls, the crowd was mostly affluent and middle-aged or older. 

What struck me most last night was people's hair: almost every head was coiffed to perfection.
If you could count how many dollars this crowd had spent on hair care in the past month, it'd probably equal the numbers of hairs on their heads.  (Given that this crowd had thinning hair...)

Marz commented, "We're in the middle of NPR [national public radio]."

I feel better about my writing job now--I don't get to [have to] meet my informants in underground garages, and it's not original reporting, but it calls on the same kind of attention: 
being curious enough to find and collate and share, in Bernstein's words, "the best obtainable version of the truth."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Garbage" Includes Sardine Cans...

Michael reminded me of this folk song written for the first Earth Day in 1970 by Bill Steele, even though it implicates sardine eaters (such as Michael himself).1986, Pete Seeger performs "Garbage" as part of a documentary, The Mountain in the City.

Garbage Day

Photographer Gregg Segal recruited people to save 7 days of garbage and then lie in it and let him photograph them.  
Above, "Marsha and Steve", floating

Glad® (the plastic-bags makers) did a similar project, Waste in Focus, but their images are much tidier (and less disturbing).
Below, "The Griffin Family"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What I'm Reading

1. Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World, by Anne Jamison et al. (2013)
Essays on fan-written works, for example:
"Fic U: Higher Education through Fanfiction (Or, How Several Years of Writing Sex Stories about Television Characters Can Be Just as Valuable as––and Way Cheaper Than––a College Education)"

I also see the value of fan creation as education:
the way Marz, for instance, is delving into the Seventies background of Starsy & Hutch as deeply or more deeply than [most] classes would take her. Hers is a mix of purposeful search (why does Starsky wear Adidas? what programs/apps give you the best tools to create fanvids?) and serendipity:
The other day she was laughing hysterically having stumbled on the news that Jimmy Carter was attacked by a swimming bunny. (Some of us remember that firsthand...)

Or the way I got interested in Star Trek's use of mid-century design. (I was just talking about spun aluminum the other day, when a set of tumblers came into the Thrift Store.)

Alas, fandom doesn't provide a piece of paper you can parley into a job.

2. The Rime of the Modern Mariner, by Nick Hayes (2011)
A cartoon modernization of the Coleridge poem, with the mariner ending up stuck in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I picked this up for my research---it's great!
So I turned around frustrated
And looked across the sea
And saw we were surrounded...
By a wash of polythene.
  . . .
Tupperware and bottletops
Bottled bleach and tyres...
The detritus of a careless kind...
A scattered funeral pyre.
3. The Scavengers, by Michael Perry, 2014
Also picked up for research purposes---it's a Y/A novel about a girl in the dystopian future who lives with her family near a dump, from which they scavenge junk to live on and barter. Sort of a retelling of Little House on the Prairie (which the girl learns to read on).

I wouldn't have noticed when I was a kid, but the author's conspiracy theories soured the story a bit for me: the [future] government has staged terrorist attacks, has left people defenseless by taking away their guns...
Still, I think I'll put it in the reading list--it's an interesting enough take on garbage.

4. Skating to Antarctica: A Journey to the End of the World, by Jenny Diski (1998)

When I was recently trying to reread Doris Lessing (below, left), looking around online I learned that she had taken in Jenny Diski (below, right) in 1963 when she was essentially a homeless teenager.
After Lessing died in 2013 and Liski was diagnosed with lung cancer a year later, Liski began to write a memoir of that time. First installment in the LRB: "What to Call Her".

So then I got interested in Diski. Skating to Antarctica is a memoir of looking for the peace of empty white spaces--she really goes to Antarctica--and a reflection of growing up, not coincidentally, with a crazy mother and a con man for a father.

5. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, Parker Palmer (1998)
I picked this book out of a Little Free Library box yesterday when I was walking the dog I'm house sitting, because I knew Palmer, whom I've read before, would be soothing to my shaky inner self, having just failed at being a kind of teacher myself. (Leading Activities was a kind of teaching).

["Failed" maybe sounds too harsh, but I failed at least in the word's meaning to "cease to exist or to function, come to an end", which was not what I'd intended and which feels bad.]

[404 error pages]

I started Palmer's book last night, and right away I felt the relief of recognition. He titles one of his sections "When Teachers Lose Heart", and I thought, yeah, that's it, I lost heart at work:
the circumstances were disheartening.

I'd often thought in that job that I could now relate better to what teacher friends say about feeling demeaned and diminished by the administration of schools, even though the work itself is incredibly worthwhile. It's a big problem, not just mine (ha! hardly).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Garbage Strike, 1968: I _AM_ A MAN

Oh, my.
It never signified for me, until now, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his amazing last speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop", [links to full text] in support of striking garbage collectors.
King said, "The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers." [boldface mine]
 Photo ^ via Miami Herald ("Four Decades Later", 2008)
I AM a Man. The underlining of what should be obvious... So horribly similar to today's "Black Lives Matter":

 Photo ^ via pixhark gallery
(I like the hand-added apostrophe: I can imagine someone making the sign.)
Excellent resources --more images and information-- at the I AM A MAN exhibit:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can you think of any garbage in pop culture?

You know, I mean actual garbage, trash, waste, not pop culture that is garbage.

This is the first example I could think of: the Death Star Garbage Compactor, in the first Star Wars * (1977).

"What an incredible smell you've discovered."
--Han Solo, having just fallen into the soon-to-start-compacting compactor

The Star Wars wiki informs us that it is Garbage Compactor 3263827 (that's it's hatch number)
. . . and it also notes that in the "New Hope novel and Star Wars 4: In Battle with Darth Vader, this Garbage Compactor is incorrectly numbered as 366117891").

I love fans.

* So, OK, properly it's the fourth episode, Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.
But I saw it when it came out and there weren't no others, so it's the first. I never watched the movie for again for about thirty years, but I remembered this scene vividly.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Actual Dialogue

"Be a psychiatrist for one minute longer."
--Captain Kirk (William Shatner) to Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman) in the Star Trek pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (1966)


One of my [almost former] coworkers has said she wants my hours in Activities, so I don't have to go in next week.

In other words, I AM DONE with that job.

I'm hugely relieved, but I also feel knocked off my feet.

For 6 months I've been working face-to-face with people and thinking all the time about how to engage them, since their brains couldn't flip the "on" switch themselves anymore.

What now? 

Well, I've got the book––good, meaningful, interesting work; 
 bink, Marz, Laura and other friends; blogging; sewing notions; the Thrift Store; looking into volunteering at the nonprofit senior center... Also, rewatching Star Trek again!

I know I'll be fine, but I can tell I'm off balance because I spent all of this Saturday morning futzing, culling and condensing this blog's index. 
Probably pointless, but it gives me a sense of emotional security.

I never completed the blog-move to WordPress once Google said they wouldn't, after all, censor naughty blogs. 
It was going to be a lot of work to move, but also, clicking on various index entries, I'm reminded of how deeply and broadly I am rooted here.

(Like, remember Aretha's hat? )

I'd move if I have to, but I love being here on my home ground.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sewing Notions (in Transparent Boxes)

I'm experimenting with using old double-deck playing card boxes to display vintage sewing notions. I like the see-through boxes, but their plastic faces are scratched. Of course the sewing notions are worn too--I got them all at the Thrift Store, mostly 50 cents/each.

Time warp: most (? anyway, a lot) of the notions were made in the USA, England, or West Germany. 
I'm  not sure what I'm going to do with these... collages/assemblages, when they're done.
Sell them on Etsy? Give them away? 
If nothing else, I could keep them for a while and then donate them back to the Thrift Store.
I don't know, I'm just enjoying assembling them.

I also don't know what to write "About Me" on my profile, now I'm won't be working in Activities anymore.
Just now I wrote "notions scrubbed and sorted into little packets", which is actually true but sounds too Manic Pixie Dream Girl: "I paid the cab driver in buttons!"

(I know I'm not a MPDG even though I put buttons in boxes because I don't listen to the Smiths.) 

I'm leaving it for now.  

This one ^ includes a Band-Aid I found in an old sewing case.  
P.S. Photos taken with laptop PhotoBooth---I still haven't replaced my broken camera.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"Transparent Swindles"

"There are wise people who talk ever so knowingly and complacently about "the working classes," and satisfy themselves that a day's hard intellectual work is very much harder than a day's hard manual toil, and is righteously entitled to much bigger pay. 

"Why, they really think that, you know, because they all know about the one, but haven't tried the other. But I know all about both; and as far as I am concerned, there isn't money enough in the universe to hire me to swing a pickaxe thirty days, but I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down--and I will be satisfied, too. 

"Intellectual "work" is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation and its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer, general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator, actor, preacher, singer, is constructively in heaven when he is at work; and as for the magician with the fiddle-bow in his hand who sits in the midst of a great orchestra with the ebbing and flowing tides of divine sound washing over him--why certainly, he is at work, if you wish to call it that, but lord, it's a sarcasm just the same. 

"The law of work does seem utterly unfair--but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash, also. And it's also the very law of those transparent swindles, transmissible nobility and kingship."

--Mark Twain,  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

I've been thinking about this topic--the "transparent swindle" of work and wages-- as I leave the nursing home (that's what it is, even if they call it a senior residence) to take up writing again: 
even though it's hack writing (to a publisher's specifications), it pays twice as much but is far easier than being a nursing aide (work I've also done).

I told one of the nursing aides that I was leaving because I'd begun to dread coming to work and facing the overwhelming needs of thirty-one people.

This woman, pregnant with her third child, said, "I feel that way every morning."

Yep, all my heartbreak aside (the pain of leaving people I've worked closely with for six months), the truth is I am now going to make twice as much doing easier work. Easier for me, that is, because I've been trained to it. 

 Working in activities is a bit of a mix---it's not going to break your body down (I quit being an aide after I damaged my wrist tendons), but in the World of Work, it's bottom of the barrel: you earn even less than nursing aides, and only a little more than workers at Walmart (Walmart's just raising their minimum pay).

It's high in meaning, though, and I hate to leave that. I am going to look into volunteering a nearby nonprofit senior day center that does a lot of community outreach.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Beginning to research a new book topic --I went to the library yesterday. This is my favorite step, like going to the candy store!

I've already learned a new word: gyre (as applied to oceans): systems of large circulating ocean currents caused by wind patterns and Earth's rotation.

Moby-Duck is about thousands of bathtub toys (like rubber duckies) that fell off a container ship in the North Pacific Gyre and made their way, over many years, up past Alaska, through the Bering Strait, and down to the beaches of New England.

Rubber duckies may eventually spin out of a gyre, but gyres are graveyards of plastic crap, such as the plastic microbeads we wash into water every day when we spit out our toothpaste or wash off our cosmetics.

I know the word gyre from the opening lines of "Jabberwocky":
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe....

and Gerard Manley Hopkins (where?)---maybe I can use his lines,
  All is sèared with trade, blèared, smeared with toil
    and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell.
The book won't all be dreadful though---there's lots of hopeful and fun stuff, like [links to the blog] The Scavengers' Manifesto: A Guide to Freeing Yourself from the Endless Cycle [gyre] of Buying More and More Stuff...  

I'm off to work now.
This morning there was an e-mail from nursing letting me know yet another person is coming for Activities. If I'd had any doubts about my decision to quit... Well, I didn't, but that just made me even more relieved that I only have six more shifts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I just quit my job.

I just sent in my two-weeks notice at the Memory Care residence.
The worst thing was not the low pay, it was the near impossibility of implementing Best Practices in Dementia Care, despite the marketing department's much trumpeted advertisement that they provide them.

I took this job thinking of it an an internship. But as  the thirty-first (31st!) resident moves into Memory Care, I find myself mostly doing crowd control without time to learn and explore much else.

This on top of being paid like a high schooler but expected to do the job a director, from training-in my coworkers to designing programs for people aged two to one hundred.

The final straw was learning that my boss, the full-time activities director, is going on leave all summer long, and management is replacing her at only 20-hours/week with a young person "not yet ready to be a director".

I found this out yesterday at the meeting where management spent one minute giving me the Employee of the Month award (I'd come in on my day off for this) and ten minutes talking about the pet policy, because a dog had "left a present" outside the administrator's window.

I am sad to leave the residents, but at least I won't feel guilty thinking of them missing me, because they won't notice I'm gone. They won't remember me today when I appear on the floor, which I am just about to do. But I'll miss them––I expect they'll appear in my dreams for years, as do residents from previous nursing homes where I've worked.
I trust I have done well by them, so I am proud of that.

I think maybe I'll give up on the idea of working in health care, though, after two failed tries now.
For the next couple months, I'm going to focus, focus, focus on writing the book I just signed on for--I can't afford to spend as much time on this book as I have on my previous books, so I really want to get cracking---and hopefully I'll get more short-term publishing work too.
We shall see.

Right now, mostly I just feel relieved.