Monday, June 29, 2015

A Starsky & Hutch Marriage

Marz stayed up to 5AM after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage making this historic fanvid: 
Starsky & Hutch, "When We Get Married" by Larry Graham. 

"Against such things there is no law." *


* "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. " --Galatians 5:22-26

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Mr Beanish Marriage

As we celebrate weddings of all kinds this weekend, I want to offer in this loopy one from Four Weddings and a Funeral; Rowan Atkinson makes me laugh out loud as he mangles the couple's wedding vows... "Father Son and Holy Goat".

Friday, June 26, 2015

"It's Just a Matter of Time"

GOOD NEWS!!!!!!!

 SCOTUS blog: "Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage: In Plain English"

And, wow. Historic...

Marz said years ago that "It's Just a Matter of Time" was her gay-marriage theme song. Today she is singing it, inserting "Justice Scalia" in pertinent places:
"You've been blind, .... Justice Scalia."

(Actually, since Scalia said that "before he signed on to an opinion like the majority’s, “I would hide my head in a bag,” he's still in the dark. [quote from article in link above])

"It's Just a Matter of Time", by Randy Travis
 ^ link to live but not embeddable version.


"One day you'll wake up and find that my love is a true love...  It's just a matter of time.
Some day and some way you'll realize that you've been blind,
Yes, darling, it's just a matter of time."
It just so happened I was going with Marz over to Sister's this morning anyway--our father was up for the weekend.
Sister made celebratory American flag pancakes: red lingonberries, white whipping cream, and blue blueberries--we each decorated our own:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hold Fast Your Peculiarity

Hold Fast Your Peculiarity (But Don't Be Repugnant)
31. Every one ought to hold fast, not their faults, but their peculiarities....
We ought, indeed, to act in such a way as shall be in no respect repugnant to our common human nature; yet, holding this sacred, let us follow our individual nature, so that, if there are other pursuits in themselves more important and excellent, we yet may measure our own pursuits by the standard of our own nature. 
For it is of no avail to resist nature, or to pursue anything which we cannot reach.
--From Cicero, De Officiis (On Moral Duties)

(That's me on my old orange rotary-dial phone, which I regret not holding fast to. (I gave it away.)) 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It gets better. Promise.

A little Shatner in the sun ^ for Lady Chardonnay, who is stuck in the maize.

I'm crossing my fingers, not really trusting that things will get better in the future--though I am praying that South Carolina and the Supreme Court will do the right thing (ban guns? as if). Having spent the past week reading post-apocalyptic stories, proofreading a book about Ebola, and researching garbage, I feel the future doesn't look too good.  


Post-apocalyptic literature is usually pretty dark about the future, of course, but it can cast a cheering glow on the present.
Look at all the goodies we've got!
Running water! Ibuprofen! 
And, as Emily St. John Mandel mentions more than once in in her novel Station Eleven,  light switches that light up a room!

Station Eleven (2014) itself did not light up my life. 

When I belatedly heard about it a few weeks ago, I had such high hopes for it I went to the bookstore to buy a copy, but it wasn't out in paperback yet (it is now), so I sat in the bookstore, read the first couple chapters, and realized I could wait for a library copy. 

It's OK, but it's low-wattage-- a little sloppily put together, to begin with. 
The awesomeness of light switches is not the only needlessly repeated point--it's as if the author expects the reader to put the book down for a long time and then to need reminders when s/he picks it up again. Maybe she expects us to read it in 140-word increments?

Then, the author's tone feels like a mix of chastisement ("you'll be sorry when you don't have FB to kick around anymore") and preemptive nostalgia ("didn't we all feel less alone when we posted selfies?").

Well, maybe so.
But this appreciation of our present  is more effective if the author doesn't literally list the things we'll miss, as Mandel does. 

It's not particularly original either.  There's a snow globe, for instance, to represent lost innocence, like in Citizen Kane

Or was it a glass paperweight? 
I forget, even though it turns up repeatedly, tying the characters together in a too-easy way, like, isn't it nifty? We're all connected, even when 99 percent of us are dead!

How the characters know that 99 percent of humanity is dead when there's no one left to analyze demographics is one of the oversights that makes this book soft-centered. 
Another one: how do you heat an airport after the grid goes down?
There are plenty more. (Would you get a tattoo after you saw someone die of blood poisoning from a scratch?)

Oh well. It's not a bad book---it'd be fun beach reading. 

Maybe jealousy tainted my reading, because Mandel uses a frame I'd thought of years ago: a post-apocalyptic theater group.

I was disappointed in what she does with the idea though: the troupe performs Shakespeare in the original (the virus that killed people left scripts intact), even though twenty years after the apocalypse they're performing to small groups of survivors in which everyone under thirty would not have had the benefit of high school English classes.

Sorry, I find open-air Shakespeare hard enough to understand when I already know the play.

My troupe was going to perform Star Trek episodes recreated from memory and morphed to suit the times.

But here's where Emily St. John Mandel has it all over me: 
Did I write my idea into a story? 
I did not. 

I was not disappointed with the graphic memoir Bread & Wine: An Erotic Tale of New York by Samuel R. Delany, Jr. drawn by Mia Wolff (1999, reissued 2013).

You know what they say: truth is stranger than fiction, and this straightforward retelling of how Delany, "Chip", falls in love with Dennis Rickett, is wonderfully strange, in the way real life can be.

Delany, as you may know, is an established author of sci-fi and memoir, and a gay, African American man. He meets Rickett, a white man who lives on the streets of New York City, and intends to buy one of the books Dennis sells from a blanket.
Chip doesn't have his wallet, though, and Dennis lets him take the book on credit.

If that's not a good reason to fall in love, I don't know what is.

It happened to me once, at a little Persian deli and bakery. I'd already ordered, then realized I didn't have money. The lovely woman at the counter gave me my pastry anyway, and said to pay next time. I'd been there before, but didn't actually know this woman. 
Such trust offered by stranger was more shocking--and more heartening-- than anything in Station Eleven.

Bread & Wine is full of such bits of the weirdnesses of real life. Getting to see Dennis, who has not taken his shoes off in months, clean up is one of them--kind of a thrilling invitation to consensual voyeurism (without the odor of putrid socks). 

The sex the book illustrates in full never feels less than friendly and natural--like gardening. Really satisfying gardening. Maybe it's all the dirt Dennis washes off.  

Chip and Dennis have been happy together for twenty-some years since then. So, maybe sometimes the future does get better. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Rage Behind Gratitude

To Kill a Mockingbird has been getting  a lot of press recently, with the coming release of author Harper Lee's original ms, but something about the movie (which I remember far better than the book), once one of my favorites, has rankled me in recent years. For a long time, though, I couldn't figure out what it was. 
Now I have.

First, I want to say that I will always love the character of Scout, a rare movie depiction of a real human girl.
The scene where she's forced to wear a dress to school is cringe-making---though at the time the movie was made (1962, the year after I was born), no one would even think to suggest that forcing a kid to wear a dress was an injustice. 
Her father, Atticus Finch, otherwise the movie's hero for justice, doesn't take her case to the school board or anything---everyone just accepts that's the way it is: girls have to wear dresses. 

But that's not my problem with the movie.

The problem is I can't stand to watch a group of powerless people express gratitude
seemingly the entire black population of Scout's town stands up to honor her white lawyer father for daring to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, against a rape charge brought by a white family led by the father, Bob Ewell. 

(An aside: How would the movie be different if the white family were classy, like Atticus, instead of being the pig-ignorant white trash they are depicted as?)

Not to take away from Atticus's bravery.
Atticus doesn't have to do his job, or do it well, after all, and he takes a huge risk in choosing to defend Tom Robinson.
He is an ally who puts himself and his family on the line. His children almost pay for his bravery with their lives, when Bob Ewell attacks them with a knife.

Scout and her brother almost lose their lives, but the innocent Robinson actually does lose his:
at the end of the movie, after an all-white jury finds Robinson guilty of a rape Atticus has proved he physically could not have committed, we are told that the police have shot and killed Robinson while he was trying to escape.

Atticus expresses dismay that Robinson ran, when Atticus had told him they would appeal the case.

Tom Robinson ran?

Like Steve Biko died of a hunger strike

And, so what if he did run? He was unarmed, like Michael Slager.

I, and I suspect most white fans of this movie (how many black fans does it have?) don't remember it as a tragedy, though, right? 
To be honest, it's really a feel-good movie if we identify as Atticus, or Scout.

And I always have identified with Atticus, the way some identify with the Kevin Costner character in Dances with Wolves;
it's so gratifying to see oneself as the Rare White One Who Gets It and earns the respect of nice, grateful people. That's the whole point of these movies: the white audience sees ourselves in Atticus and his family, not the Robinsons, and certainly not Bob Ewell (. . . and, therefore, not as racist; never mind that Atticus is "Mr. Finch" to his black housekeeper, while she is "Calpurnia" to him and to his young children).

But, no. I'm not Atticus, and I know it.
Here are the number of risks I've taken to right racial injustice: 

But that's still not my primary problem with the movie. 

My primary problem is that it finally occurred to me to wonder,
what about those people who are obliged to Atticus: 
how does it feel to be one of them when someone finally sees and speaks out against the injustice and fear society forces you to live with EVERY SINGLE DAY of your life?

Grateful, sure.

But also... ?

Well, I'm not Atticus, and I'm not African American, but I have been the recipient of charity, and I hate feeling thankful for charity when I also feel powerless.

In fact, I don't even feel thankful in the long run; 
I feel resentful, sometimes to the point of rage, for being powerless and--on top of it--now in the debt of someone with more power who chooses to give me some.

It's an ugly thing to feel. Oppression breeds ugly feelings.
And I'm not really powerless––I mean, sometimes I'm one-down or am treated with condescension, but I'm not powerless in the inescapable legal, social way of Tom Robinson and his community.

To Kill a Mockingbird has come to feel emotionally dishonest to me.  There's got to be a better way to honor white allies in the struggle for civil rights, if that's the story being told.

We see the gratitude. 

But where's the rage?


End Note

Where's the rage?

Perhaps in forthcoming documentary about musician Nina Simone, What Happened, Miss Simone , someone who was not grateful to white fans:
Her music was by, about and for black people. She would scan the crowd for black faces and tell them, “I’m singing only to you. I don’t care about the others.” White fans, she said, were “accidental and incidental”.
She could not ignore the fact “that I was a black-skinned woman in a country where you could be killed because of that one fact.”
--"Nina Simone: 'Are you ready to burn buildings?'"

Here she is performing "Mississippi Goddamn", the song she wrote in response to four white supremacists bombing the 16th Street Baptist Church and killing four girls in 1963:

After the bombing, the New York Times reported
"Johnny Robinson, a 16-year-old Negro, was shot in the back and killed by a policeman with a shotgun this afternoon. Officers said the victim was among a group that had hurled stones at white youths driving through the area in cars flying Confederate battle flags."

Confederate flags.   Huh.

I have taken To Kill a Mockingbird off my list of favorite movies.

Having struggled mightily to figure this out and write about it, I see I could have saved myself the work and just linked to the excellent post on TKaM on the blog stuff white people like

warmly embrace racist novels.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Unintentional Armor II

I. Forgiving Our Fathers

Oh, hey, it's Father's Day. So I'll just post this link to the end of Smoke Signals, one of my favorite films, when Thomas recites from the poem "How Do We Forgive Our Fathers" by Dick Lourie:

"If we forgive our Fathers what is left?"

II. Armor in Process

I'd picked up little squares of metal mesh in the alley (what's this stuff for?). Keeping with my unintentional armor theme, yesterday I started to stitch them onto denim.

When we look at something we've sewed, do we remember where and with whom we made it?

I had sewing company all day--three friends came in the afternoon, and in the evening, one showed up to sew and another to nap on the couch before she heads off on a long road trip tomorrow. 
Falling asleep to the murmur of friendly voices... I remember this from childhood but not much since.

v  These wire edges could tear flesh---I'm going to wrap them.

The flower/feather  ^  is from an old skirt from Esther--I stitched in color.

III. Stitched Book

Wandering a depopulated blogosphere, I've come across a group of still-active bloggers: hand-stitchers.

Mandy, for instance, at Thread and Thrift, maker of an amazing Fabric Book, with pages of collaged worn fabrics. I chose this page from it as an example, below, because of its button shadows:

This gives me ideas. I used to make books out of found paper, but not found textiles.  Most of the fabric the thrift store recycles is not beautiful old stuff like this, but some of it is.

IV. Your T-shirt Abroad

I was indexing a book on Ebola, which led me to this photo exposé in the NYT:  
"Braving Ebola, photos and interviews of those who labor and those who survived at an Ebola treatment center in rural Liberia", by Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist Daniel Berehulak.

Most of the people are wearing scrubs, because they work at the treatment center, but this little boy, below, is wearing a T-shirt no doubt exported as secondhand clothes from the USA:

Only about 20 percent of all clothes donated to charities are sold in their shops. (That's certainly the case where I volunteer.) The rest are sold for pennies a pound to traders. 
 See NPR's, "Afterlife of American Clothes".

It's great to resell or recycle fabric, of course, instead of putting it in the garbage, 
but one of the effects of exporting used clothes from the US is to take away business from local textile workers, like this tailor in Malawi > > >
from Leila Darabi blogging for Everyday Trash: A closer look at what we throw away.

Because of its impact on the local textile trade, some East African countries may ban import of secondhand clothes, and others already restrict it.

I keep coming back to the same guidelines for myself.
(Hm. Now I've written them out, they could apply to stuff that's not stuff too.)

1. don't buy so much expendable, unnecessary new stuff in the first place

2. take care of and repair the stuff I have 

3. make beautiful, interesting stuff out of other stuff

4. restrict the manufacture of stuff that's going to become burdensome. 

That last one would involve political will. 

It would take some hard, good work for us as a society to imagine and construct a system that didn't produce so much garbage. 
Seems unlikely this will happen voluntarily. Might be worth it though...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fashion Roundup: Kipper Ties, Dapper Qs, and Flannel Sheets

Fashion Roundup

I.  I just learned the British term "kipper ties", wide  (4 to 5–inch) ties from the 1970s. But the 1970s fashion item that weirdly attracts me more is the pair of white slip-on shoes detective Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) wears with his camel coat on the TV show Life on Mars (UK, 2006), which I'm watching on DVD. 
The show follows detective Sam Tyler (John Simm, below, far right) who has a car accident in 2006 and wakes up in 1973.

II. I was telling bink I'm intrigued with people making or re-making their own clothes these days, and she pointed me to "100 Most Stylish DapperQs 2015."

Dandies are more about bow ties than kipper ties, more Oscar Wilde than Life on Mars, but I did find one pair of white shoes, worn by No. 49, Eli Chi:
 ^ From Dapper Q, a "queer style and empowerment website specifically for masculine presenting women and trans-identified individuals"

III. Leap-blogging around, looking at hand-stitchery and made-from-scratch clothes, I came across "How to Wear a Flannel Sheet" --an outfit made of "a refashioned ivory flannel sheet and cotton pillow case with curtain lace embellishments," by artist Pat Otto (Pao) of the blog Project Minima:

The thrift store recycles so much cool material--old linens that have a little stain--I want to continue to learn how to make stuff with them.
I am having a sewing get-together this afternoon... I'm working on turning my square of quilted armor into something wearable.

Friday, June 19, 2015

“I honestly have nothing, other than just sadness.”

Jon Stewart, straight up.

We'll look right at it and maybe even acknowledge it, and then "we still won't do jack shit."

Could be talking about garbage.

I am not going to lose heart, no, no, I insist I'm not, as long as there are people heartbroken but clear-headed enough to call it like it is, as JS does here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Back to the Y; Go, Pope(!)

Marz came to find me at the coffee shop yesterday where I sat working on my laptop and announced, "We have got to rejoin the Y---we both spend all our time on the computer and my neck is getting bent."

Yes. My intention when I quit my activities job--active in the sense that it required me to hold my head upright---was to keep biking every morning, since for 6 months I'd biked for transportation.

I did that exactly once. (You know, our species...)

So we went and signed up, and today I'm going to my first exercise class in ages---a girly weight-lifting class that used to be called Body Pump, now called "Pumped!"-- with an exclamation, like "Jeb!"
[links to Guardian article, "Jeb! Why Jeb Bush's campaign slogan sounds like a Broadway musical"]

There was a time in my robust early–middle age when this class was so easy, I felt like I was wasting my time unless I loaded the bar with weights. Now I am feeble and will start with the bar by itself and no weights at all.

But honestly, it feels good to get back to movement. 
I love not exercising, but I don't love how I feel afterward.

* * *

Speaking of Jeb!, this is a guy who said Pope Francis should shut up about climate change:
“I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”

Taking responsibility for our crap doesn't make us better people?

The pope, oddly enough, did not heed Jeb!, and his new encyclical on climate change is awesome.

"The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth", he says.

Thank you, pope, for a quotable quote.

I don't understand the psychology behind the denial of climate change. 
I understand the business behind it--"It is profitable to let the world go to hell"--but why private individuals think it's a scam, I don't understand.

Why does the idea that we humans are hurting the Earth threaten people? Because it's so scary? They want to think everything is fine? to think they have no power? no responsibility?

Do you get it?
I really don't---and I want to understand their motivation so my book can take it into account. Also, I'm curious.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Remember Snirkles?

They seem a bit strange to me now, but they were a normal candy when I was growing up in Wisconsin.

Snirkles were made by Howard B. Stark Candy Company that started in Milwaukee, WI, and was bought by Necco, who stopped making them. 
[history via]

I can still buy some old-fashioned candy at a candy store downtown, including candy cigarettes.
They've been renamed "candy sticks", but they're still in cigarette-y packaging. 

When I bought some, the clerk told me they can't sell them in their store across the river in St. Paul----they are illegal under any name.

II. The Garbage Glums 

Speaking of twisty things, I'd never put it together before starting my garbage research that Big Business actively supports anti-littering campaigns (like the "Crying Indian" ad of the 1970s) and recycling programs---because they make  manufacturers look good:
their message is,

Hey, if you consumers would just all recycle our cans and bottles properly, we wouldn't have a garbage/pollution problem!

Yes, "It is profitable to let the world go to hell".

I'm trying to think of fun and amusing things to say about this, but I'm failing.

Oh--wait--here's a cat recycling a paper bag:

Basically, recycling is good, but it's a sop.

I was a little surprised to learn how much of a sop it is. Much stuff Americans put in recycling isn't even recycled. There's no market for it, or it's too hard to recycle, or it's sold abroad---the USA exports huge amounts of garbage to places like China that don't have even the environmental protections the US does, where it's often burned for fuel or ends up in landfills anyway.

Plastics are especially hard to recycle:
In the United States, only 9 percent of post-consumer plastic (2.8 million tons) was recycled in 2012. The remaining 32 million tons was discarded, according to World Watch Institute's report "Global Plastic Production Rises, Recycling Lags" (2015).

With all the focus on individual consumers--put your trash into the right recycling container!-- it's no wonder I'd never even heard of the idea of laws to reduce the production of the bottles and cans in the first place. Makes so much sense.
Naturally, manufacturers aren't supporting that.

Here's an interesting and reasonable article on the  topic
"Pervasive Plastics: Why the U.S.Needs New and Tighter Controls", 
by John Wargo, professor of environmental policy, risk analysis, and political science at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

And here's a creative thing to cheer me up: a building by Dratz & Dratz made of bundles of used paper from a supermarket (just temporary, alas):

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Good Riddance to a Harmful Man

There is much rejoicing in the diocese of the Twin Cities:
our dirty sheriff archbishop has resigned!

Back in 2010 when bink made a sculpture out of thousands of DVDs carrying the archbip's message against making civil marriage legal for all,
Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo of the Washington Post wrote an article about the DVD debacle, "Of Bully Pulpits and Bully Bishops", in which he compared archbishop John Neinstedt to Hollywood's fat-cat bishops (or corrupt sheriffs):

While medieval labels like “Robin Hood” no longer apply, the age-old temptation to make deals with the rich and powerful have not gone away. I don’t know if John Nienstedt, the Archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, has succumbed to this temptation, but if you substitute “same sex marriage” for “rights to hunt deer in Sherwood Forest” you’d have enough for a movie.
bink ^ painting the archbip's DVDs 
Marion: Why, you speak treason!
Robin Hood: Fluently.

Sex was indeed what finally brought the archbp down:
not his opposition to civil rights for adults who want to marry people of the same sex, but his role in covering for priests who rape children. *

Most public figures feel too remote for me to hate, but this guy got personal: I've seen the letters he wrote to churchfriends telling them they were risking damnation for supporting their own children, who were LGBT.

Even granting he may have held this as a [regrettable?] spiritual truth, I lost all respect for him when he repeatedly refused invitations to meet with bink or any of the other church-going Catholics who were distressed by his message.

I am not surprised such a man would hide other cowards behind his skirts. It is fitting that he only steps down now because of legal action. 

Good riddance to a bad man.
I don't know why the press almost always calls the rape of children by priests "sexual abuse", which sounds so much milder, like, "Oh, he just touched them."

Webster's defines "rape":
unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent
"Usually" does not mean "always".

Sunday, June 14, 2015

For Sister's Birthday

--photo of Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, 1948, by Irving Penn--one of his Corner Portraits-- quote from Dirty Dancing

I made this for Sister, who in recent years has become interested in Italy after focusing on all things French for most of her life. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Girls in Naples, 1959

Looking for my sister's birthday for photos from the year she was born, I came across the great set Hebert List took in Naples/Napoli for Magnum Photos, including this one... of sisters? It doesn't say.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Needs More Ray Gun

I used to think it was unnecessary of people to post ongoing pictures of works in progress; like, each one's not that different.
But now I'm spending hours on this piece of sewing, I get it.

So here's another wip photo of my floating islands armor (no longer looks like ravioli, now looks like puffs of meringue on pudding):
 I think it would pair well with this ray gun, below (via). I want to try making things out of metal--I am inspired by Mad Max's "DIY face shields out of tea-strainers" inventiveness.

Marz (below, left), bink (right) and I drove to Milwaukee last weekend to see my auntie, Vi (center), who was having an art show.

Vi took up painting a couple years ago, and the owner of the boutique where she worked until last year shows her pictures. 
Here's my auntie in the high heels she bought for her art opening. She turns 90 years old in two months:

Vi is the most resilient person I know. 
She grew up overlooked in the middle of ten kids of Sicilian parents who lost everything in the Depression. With her first job, delivering telegrams during WWII, she saved money to buy a bright red skirt and jacket, and she's never been drab since.

It's weird--she greatly inspires me, yet in her presence, my spirit develops a slow leak. I think the problem is, her relentless positivity leaves no room for sadness.  When I get home from a visit, it takes me a few days to reinflate. 

Hm, maybe that ray gun could be an air pump.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Semi-Sicilian Hair

I haven't paid attention to Natalie Merchant since I listened to her 10,000 Maniac's album In My Tribe about 10,000 times---on audio cassette---when bink and I were living in Chicago in the late 80s.

But just today a friend told me Merchant >
 has a Sicilian grandfather ("Mercante") and looks like she could be my cousin.

So I googled her and
1. in fact, I do have a cousin who looks like her

2. I also have hair like hers.

I'd been wondering if I should cut mine, but I think for now, anyway, I'll leave it long.

I'm busy with work, so not blogging much at the moment.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What I'm Reading

1. Birds of MN State Parks (2015)---written by famous MN birder Bob (Robert Janssen), who I work with at the Thrift Store!

"How are you?" I ask Bob.
"Fine," he says.

"How are the birds?" I ask.
"Not good. Things are not good for birds."

But this is a happy book about where you can see loons and bobolinks and warbling vireos and co.

2. Penelope Fitzgerald, Human Voices (1980)

The first Fitzgerald novel I've been able to get into--tales of the folks running the London radio during WWII, from the highly competent to the barely sane, or sometimes both, e.g. the Director of Recording:
"The only thing that's of interest to me at the moment, the only thing I can think about and talk about, that is whenever I'm lucky enough to find anyone in this place who has the slightest comprehension of what I'm saying, the thing that's so much more important to me than happiness or health or sanity, is the improvement I'm hoping to make to the standard microphone windshield. ...I'm not sending my units back into Europe without a better windshield than the one they've got."
 (Having done the tiniest bit of sound recording myself, I laughed in sympathy.)

3. I also laughed through many of the letters of recommendation by an embattled English prof that make up the novel Dear Committee Members (2014), by Julie Schumacher (another local author), really rants about the decline of the University, and of his life. Serious, but really funny.

4. Still not depressed enough by [all of the above], plus garbage research? Read about soldiers in Iraq! The hair of the dog, as it were. 
And the first short story in Phil Klay's collection Redeployment (2014) is about a returning soldier who has to kill his dog. 

5. And for light relief, The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), foreword by director George Miller.

This is what I wanted: big still color photos of the details of costumes and cars, which are fashioned from the detritus of civilization. I hadn't noticed, for instance, that Max's muzzle is fashioned from an old garden fork, but I had noticed the use of an old foot-measuring device found in shoe departments as a gas pedal. (A-ha--they are called "brannock devices.")

That's part of the fun of post-apocalyptic stories: 
The world has ended, and you have a spoon, some Q-tips, and a box of matches. Go.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

27 Years: HELP and MAKE STUFF

Idly flipping through the Economist's world in figures pocketbook, I saw that life expectancy for women in the United States is 81.something.

For me, that's one-third of my life.

27 + 27 = 54 (my age)
+ 27 = 81 (life expectancy)

The math both shocked and, oddly (?), relieved me: 
Just twenty-seven more years? Hell, I can get through that

Also, it provides a little pressure, and I've always worked best facing an approaching deadline. (See book proposal, due in 3 days)

So, what's on my bucket list?

Well, I don't particularly want to consume more---more experience, more sensation, more "fun," certainly not more stuff. 
I don't care about going to Tahiti; remodeling my kitchen; driving a Jaguar (well, that one, maybe a little).

  I'm not even wanting more knowledge, or not the way I did when I was young and despaired that I'd never know what I thought about God (I do) or how the television works (I don't, and I can live with that).
Really, what's rattling around in the bottom of the bucket, is

I want to help. 

(Is there some way to say that that doesn't sound grandiose or Polly-Annaish?
No, I think that's it.)

Not to be a crusader, not something involving martyrdom, just... well, something more than "do no harm." 
I think doing good may involve accepting the risk of doing harm, because being afraid to cause harm can stop you from trying.

I've been thinking about this because I don't really want to write this garbage book. It's so grim. Even all the cool developments are nowhere near enough to offset how many people throw out their cell phones

Of course we may make an evolutionary leap and change our ways voluntarily, but it's not looking likely today, and I'm not too hopeful about tomorrow.

Anyway, I thought, should I really do this book? 
Yeah, I should. I mean, I want to. So, it's a little depressing? But it could do some good, and it's something I can do (not like tolerating the health care system, which I couldn't). 
You know, maybe some kid will stop buying water in plastic bottles.

Here's a fun fact: it takes 4 liters of water to produce 1 liter bottle of water.

If helping is draining, and sometimes it is, there's gotta be something to refill you. For some people, it's faith. Right now, for me, the complementary thing in my bucket is

Even writing that makes me smile. 

Making stuff can be hard, but there's  not much downside to it (not like TO HELP, which can be really painful), unless I count, for instance, my sore fingertips from sewing with a needle. (I can't get the hang of using a thimble, yet.)

There's tons of stuff already in existence to make stuff out of. Besides trash and thrift stores, here in the Twin Cities there's the ArtScraps Reuse store.

Here, below, is what I'm making--my soft samurai armor, making it up as I go along (inspired by other hand-sewing I've seen).


Yesterday I met S. for happy hour, and when she saw what I was doing, she told me it's like Japanese sashiko stitching, which is a running straight stitch. Sashiko means "little stabs" and it's the most basic kind of sewing, used for repairs as well as decorative embroidery.

It's really calming, too--like fingering prayer beads. I have no idea what I'll do with this piece---S. said it would look good on a piece of clothing. 

Hey, I haven't yet today mentioned Max Rockatansky (that's his name). But look---even Mad Max gives the thumbs up to hand-sewing: you can see he stitched up his jacket. (I love this movie's level of visual detail.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rule: If I Laugh, I Share

If something makes me laugh out loud, I share it somehow, somewhere. That's my rule.

After looking at oodles of cool Mad Max: Fury Road art, this is the first one to make me LOL:

"Mad Max: Females are strong as hell," via Jo Carthage

(That's the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.)

Sew White

I've been doing so much word work, last night I felt the need to make something not out of letters, so I started hand-stitching white on white on white. *

(I'm experimenting with wearing my hair loose. ^ )

The center squares are folded up cloth--empty packets. Halfway through, I sorta wished I'd put something inside each one.

The stitching is lumpy, but as I worked, I thought I would relish that because even after a couple hours my stitches were getting better, more regular. 
Once you are halfway good at something, it's impossible to re-create the unplanned mistakes of a beginner.

I had no plan when I started, and it's not done, but as it progressed, the squares began to look to me like protective tiles -- soft armor.

(That, or ravioli.)  
* Tip o' the needle to Spirit Cloth and Judy Martin, whose hand-stitching inspires me. 

Monday, June 1, 2015


The toys fabric companions who live here have heard so much about Mad Max: Fury Road, they've set up their own rig.

Needle Case from Germany

Laura B.'s German boyfriend chose this plastic needle case out of his own sewing kit and sent it home with her, as a present for me! 

It's the cleverest contraption--I've never seen anything quite like it.

The pink thimble screws onto the tube. 
Inside the tube is a spool with three colors of thread wrap around it. Unscrew the spool's blue cap, and inside the spool are needles.

Garbage in Space

Space junk--or orital debris-- is anything human-made that is no longer useful. NASA tracks more than 500,000 pieces of debris because even something as little as a paint chip traveling at speeds up to 17,500 mph can be dangerous. 

--NASA Space Debris