Monday, August 31, 2015

Lose Some, Win Some

Now that Mz is moving, I'm grateful to be working on some involving, interesting projects, FTW.

I've been working on Lincoln, you know.  I like the idea of gambling on the "better angels of our nature"... look at how that worked out for him, though.

The editing job is involving a lot of rewriting, which is work that lights up my brain in pretty colors.

The idea is that the book will talk about Lincoln's importance to today, but it keeps dropping the ball.
I just rewrote the part where Lincoln suspends habeas corpus. The book doesn't mention that this sets the precedent of a president doing that in a time of war (so the military can arrest and hold people without showing just cause or taking them to trial), or that that the United States has been doing for the past dozen-plus years.  

At the same time, I'll be scraping and repainting the windows. They are on new tracks (they go all the way up!) but still need restoration. That will be a good physical distraction, and I like to see the immediate results of such labor.

Then, as the weather cools, I'll bike some of the longer trails. And I just found out about a free bike-repair group that meets twice a month--starting this week––at a nearby bike shop. 

Oh, and also I'm working on a zine about Rice Pudding! with Crow.

Good work is its own kind of win.


Screencaps from TrekCore of the Star Trek episode "By Any Other Name". Kirk asks the crew to go on a dangerous mission, saying, "Risk is our business." That's actual dialogue. (I made up the other stuff.)

There's a kind of American glorification of risk--"Go on! Take a chance!" -- that doesn't take into account that it's called "risk" because you risk losing. Like, getting turned into a bath cube and then crushed to dust, as happens to this poor crew member.

That's not a reason not to take risks, of course, just a reminder that you might not be the Kirk in the episode. You might be a glorified extra, like Crewman No. 6 in Galaxy Quest. 
Or, comic relief.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hot August Night

We're in for a heat swell. I don't like hot weather except now in late August when the sticky air is like peach fur, the  cicadas hum, and you know cool air is coming soon. 

This evening, I'm pulling old photos off the desktop computer I've shared with Mz for almost four years before she takes it away when she moves in two days (Sept. 1).

I'd forgotten a lot of the photos, some of which are really pretty good, and also how much I like love taking pictures.
(Why don't I do the things I love?)

I need a new camera! I don't need a fancy one:
the one I broke was a $200 point-and-shoot.

Below, from a couple summers ago, 2013, playing Neil Diamond's album Hot August Night, (1972)vat the David Byrne's "Play the Building" installation downtown, 
and below that--the same orange record player at home.

("Hot August night" is also the opening line to Diamond's 1969 single "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show", [links to the official version] which is a GREAT song, about "tremendous yearing looking for answers, some way to ease a very hard burden, very rough lives,"
 even though Diamond later slid off into ... slimy. 
Hey, people change!

Compare him singing this song live in 1970, ([starts at 2:15] on the Johnny Cash show) when he's still green, almost sweet and shy, and likable, to his lounge lizard performance in 1976. * ) 

My favorite of these sorts of songs (gospel Christian?) is the wonderful "Turn Your Radio On" (1940 recording), by the hillbilly Blue Sky Boys, another brother duo, a song I'm crazy about:
"Get in touch with God, 
Turn your radio on...."

Their soft accents remind me of my mother's Missouri relatives.
The way they sing "listen to the music in the air [ehhhr]" makes me homesick for a whole bunch of folks who are long gone,
"the many friends gone on before..." and those who will soon be gone.

*Credit where credit is due:
Stacia's amazing post on Neil Diamond and writing,  "Matter of Fact, It's All Dark", at She Blogged By Night, in which she gives full credit to a greatest-hits album's ability to send a person into "
the throes of some weird ennui-induced thing...."

Friday, August 28, 2015

The End of the Tour

I went to see the David Foster Wallace movie last night, The End of the Tour [trailer]---partly because it's set in my city (also Michael at OCA recommended it).

I was disappointed, however: there were only a few shots of the city, DFW not being one for sightseeing, the movie suggests, preferring to watch TV at a friend's house, or to go to the Mall of America. 
(I guess going to the MOA is sightseeing... but he didn't stand on the Hennepin Bridge over the Mississippi River and exclaim "Huck Finn!" like I'd hoped.)

There was only one other person in the theater, so when the characters drive from the airport past the Mary Tyler Moore statue on the mall, I felt free to mutter out loud, "You can't drive down the mall!"     Buses and pedestrians only.

And when they go to the Mall of America, I squeaked: 
I was just passing through there two days ago, on my way with Marz to IKEA, across the street from the MOA, to get new stuff for her new apartment. (I felt such a mom...)

May I say, the area is not designed for pedestrians at all. There's no way to cross the highway from the Mall to IKEA, except to jaywalk. Luckily there's not much traffic... because it's all turned into the Mall's parking lots.

But DFW didn't have to worry about pedestrian crossings because he got a ride from my favorite person in the movie:
the publicists' driver, played by Joan Cusak, an actress who always, always delights me.

Better than any sight, she captured the local culture, with her [adorable? annoying? both?] Minnesota brand of perkiness. (I cringed: I'm like her sometimes.)

Enthusing over DFW's radio interview, which she'd listened to live on the car radio, waiting outside the public-radio building for him, she says to him as he gets in the car,
"Now I'm going to have to buy your book!"

"I'm sorry," he mumbles.

I think this is the only time I laughed out loud at the movie.

[Was it just a touch too reverential, too precious? I think so.
And the music? Would he have liked that? Couldn't he have been dancing to the Bee Gees, since he'd mentioned 70s dancing?]

Darning sampler from the Fries museum, from
I'm not actually a huge fan of DFW's writing.
I do love and admire the way he weaves mind-threads together, with footnotes and whatnot--like elaborate darning--but his content doesn't usually catch me much.
He even says in the movie that most of his readers seem to be young men, and that makes sense to me.

Both the "men" and the "young".

I'd have enjoyed this movie more (and DFW too) if I'd seen it at the same age (twenty) I saw and enjoyed My Dinner with Andre, which now doesn't interest me. 
DFW mentions the loneliness of people under forty-five; 
I wish he'd lived long enough to write about the loneliness of people over forty-five.
Loneliness does feel different to me at midlife; less desperate, for one thing, accompanied with the relief of dropping some of the illusions of youth:
"Oh, thankgod, I don't have to burn the candle at both ends! I could never get that other end to light anyway, and the wax seems to be dwindling all too fast as it is."

But in old age, loneliness seems likelier to return to the killing strength it has in youth.

Anyway, I always point people of any age or gender to DFW's fantastic article on eating lobsters in Maine –– "Consider the Lobster" –– which veers off from considering the lobster and becomes pretty damn terrific on the problem of pleasure and pain, going from talking about how lobsters taste good with butter, and how they're giant sea insects, to asking,
" Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?"

And I do feel that I like DFW, the person, though I have no trouble at all believing him when he answers the question of why he's not married at thirty-four by saying it's because he's hard to be around.
No trouble at all. 

But watching him (or rather, Jason Segel, speaking his words), I remember that I'd always thought of him as one of us, one of mine; 

not in a shared level of intensity, or an ability to to work hard or to keep one's thread from tangling impossibly, but in what he cares about: 
And he asks questions! I liked how he kept trying to turn the interview with the Rolling Stone reporter into a conversation. 
And he answers them, of course, in depth. 

I laughed a little again, come to think of it, or exhaled a huff of pleasure, the pleasure of recognition, when he goes back to the interviewer's room on the last night to clarify a point he'd made--an important point about depression--obviously he'd been thinking on it and couldn't stand to let his incomplete, inaccurate answer stand.

So, the End of the Tour cheered me up, the way seeing an old friend does, even if after three days you remember why you don't want to see that friend more often. 
But, of course, at the same time the movie made me so, so sad, I cried, because you know DFW doesn't make it... that sparky mind got rubbed out... 
And that left me lonely.

I also left with a craving for Hostess cupcakes. DFW eats junk food throughout the movie (though not those, my craving was brought on through the process of association). 

Pleasure and pain, all twisted up, like a nest of sewing thread.


Note to Jesse Eisenberg: Learn to smoke, man! Watching you do it wrong was distracting. 

For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Just Fact Checking, Ma'am

Oh my, it's so much easier to edit than to write. 
I'm having some fun editing a miniseries of books on US Presidential Big Hitters [not actual title].  

It's pretty easy too: 
I'm not an American history buff, but I've so often proofread, indexed and otherwise exposed myself to presidents (no thongs), that factual errors pop out at me.

How the authors make the errors in the first place is harder to see. I'd expect all of us in children's nonfiction to be able to write a basic book about George or Abe or Teddy in our sleep.

I can spot errors, but I don't usually know the correct info off the top of my head.
I know, for instance, that the United States had not "just begun to heal" from the American Civil War when Lincoln was assassinated––fighting was still sputtering––but I have to check the dates.

John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865, 
a mere five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9. 
Lincoln died early the next morning. 

(Wow--he was only fifty-six when he died! Two years older than me! He looked so old...)

Anyway, while that basically ended the war, other Confederate armies kept fighting--they hadn't yet heard about the surrender. No cell phones, eh.

President Andrew Johnson (who? oh, right, Lincoln's v.p., and the first president to be impeached--not a great healer) didn't declare the war "virtually over" until May 9.

The facts are easy enough to find, but not always that in agreement: lists June 2, when the last Confederate army surrendered, as the End of the Civil War.

Did I know all that?
I did not. 

I just knew Lincoln did not die during a time of national healing; unless you see the war itself as an act of healing the wound of US slavery, suppurating since 1619, but I think it's more like surgery than healing, really horrible surgery, like cutting off a leg . . . for four years. 

Posed photo of a Union surgeon preparing to amputate, showing how anesthesia (choloroform) was dripped onto a sponge or cone that fitted over the patients nose and mouth.
Image ^  from the National Museum of Health and Medicine: "To Bind Up the Nation's Wounds"

Facts and dates are one thing. Their interpretation is another.
Seems to me, the nation hasn't died from infection, but it's pretty clear we're hardly done healing, or even, depending on who and where you are, necessarily at peace among ourselves. 

A man is arrested during protests against the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, MO, in August 2014. Photograph: Whitney Curtis/New York Times/Redux/eyevine
 Image ^ from excellent Guardian article "Farewell to America",
by British black journalist Gary Younge, who was foreign correspondent in the United States for twelve years before returning to the UK

"8 things you didn’t know about the Confederate flag" (PBS, June 21, 2015 )
 #4  This spring, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Texas’s licensing board, who had refused to approve a specialty Texas state license plate requested by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Artichokes (Father & Aunt)

My father (84) and his sister, my Auntie Vi (90), were never close and haven't seen each other in ... twenty-plus years. 
But Vi has been on a road trip with a niece (not me, obviously) and they stopped in on my father yesterday. My cousin sent me proof, below, right.

They are from a family of ten children; below, left, is their mother (25 years old) and her three oldest children (r.i.p.).

Genes really work, eh?

Now that I'm sewing, maybe I will try stitching the pattern on my grandmother's dress, which I've always admired. She was an accomplished seamstress; I imagine she made it herself.

I always say my Sicilian side reminds me of artichokes: 
tough survivors, with tender hearts, if you can get past their outer leather & spikes.

My mother, on the other hand, was like a hot house flower that wilted with any change in conditions.

I'm glad that I have some of her sensitivity but plenty tough skin too.  
Like a . . . baby rhino!

Time for a Baby Rhino of the Day: 

orphaned baby white rhino, Gertjie, trying to copy his best friend’s behaviour, goat Lammie, by hopping & skipping around like a lamb. [more info at Green Planet]

Monday, August 24, 2015

Another dream job for me

 Baby Rhino exerciser

--From Baby Rhino GIFS on Reddit:

56ºF (13ºC) !?! / Being Sad

I don't remember EVER wearing a wool scarf here in August before. Normally we're sweltering, the whole month.
(I'm at the coffee shop this morning   >
about to start editing a ms.)

Strange days indeed.

How to Be Sad

I was house sitting over the weekend and felt quite chirpy. 
But when I came home to an empty house, I felt slayed with sadness again. Marz was at work but she has already left, really.

Yea verily, I felt feeble and sore broken, as David says (Psalm 38:8, KJV) (tho' I wouldn't join  him in saying, "I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart").

Classic avoidance move of the 21st century: 
I turned on my laptop. 

I googled How to Be Sad.
This result intrigued me: 
"Not to know how to be sad, not to dare to be sad and not to dare to be dissatisfied in depression"

And then I laughed when I clicked on it and saw:
"[Article in German]"

It reminds me of a friend whose PhD adviser turned her dissertation back saying it was too accessible and should instead "read as if it had been translated from German."

I didn't find what I was looking for on the first couple pages of results. 
Mostly it was inverted: how NOT to be sad, or it was advice on how to act sad, like for theater. 
Or it was advice for parents on how to help kids deal with sadness, some of it using this summer's movie Inside Out, with its great message that it's OK to be blue.

I actually found some comfort in this article, "How Inside Out Can Teach Evangelicals to Be Sad":
 “In the Protestant West today,” writes theologian Ben Myers [in "On Smiling and Sadness"], “smiling has become a moral imperative. The smile is regarded as the objective externalisation of a well-ordered life. Sadness is moral failure.

But this wasn’t Jesus’ way. Scripture never tells of Jesus smiling, though he certainly wept. Instead, Scripture calls Jesus “the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” Jesus—who knew better than anyone the promise of eternal joy—was not a jolly messenger of cosmic bliss, but a suffering servant."
I like that, but then the article goes on to say we're sad because of sin, and the cure for sadness is God, who will end sadness. 
Which is rather circular and brings you back to the reason evangelicals think you shouldn't be sad in the first place, eh?

I am sometimes sad because of "sin," if I translate "sin" to "lack of skill" (lack of skill at opening our hearts, using our brains, and washing our hands). 
After all, I gave up writing the garbage book because I couldn't stand looking at our crushing, collective lack of skill.

But I'm not thinking of this sadness of mine as something that I need to avoid or cure, but as a natural response to loss––plain old grief, in fact––that deserves its due.

Even though I do try to wriggle out of it, because it doesn't feel good, at heart I know how to be sad.

It starts with letting myself sit with sadness. Dare to be sad. Be a lump.

Think of heart ache as another muscle cramp: stretch into it. Gently.  As in Rumi's advice to welcome sorrow when it arrives at your door,  in his poem "The Guest House".
Or, for me, Bridget Jones singing "All By Myself" is  a pretty good picture of what I mean by leaning into sadness:

Maybe some tapioca pudding would help? Not straight out of the fridge, let it warm up to room temp.
I mean, however I might treat a sad, tired, hurt child, try that.

Eventually I've always found that sadness passes (different than depression, which can be relentless and dangerous)---it drains away. 

And then I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. [There begins a whole different list.]

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Joke

I'm not one for jokes much, or any kind of scripted talk, but Zhoen posted a funny one that reminded me I'd recently laughed out loud at this joke a customer at the Thrift Store told me:

A photon checks into a hotel. 

The night clerk asks, "Can we send someone out to carry your 

And the photon replies, "No, that's OK, I'm traveling light."

Bonus: a comic strip from xkcd (good point! I'd never thought of it): "Moon Landing" 

Friday, August 21, 2015

This is the job I want:

Lap provider


i. Good News, Bad News Department

Good news:

NASA says the world is not going to end in September
[Really. Do you ever mistake titles of popular news stories with parody articles, like in the Onion?]

Bad news: So, I still have to look for a job.

I  do have three books to edit, so some money is coming in, but I want, need more structure and more built-in human contact.

With Marz moving out (in one week!), and me working on the computer at home, I'll never have to interact with anyone in person.
This is not good for me.

I feel energized to engage [good news: not depressed];
but I also feel vague, amorphous, directionless [bad news: mildly anxious],
like an octopus that doesn't know which way to turn. [Bad metaphor; but, yeah, like that.]

So, I'm willing, but when I look online for jobs, my spirits plummet. 
Shall I write pamphlets explaining how to file a complaint with your insurance company? [um...]

Would I be feel fulfilled Maximizing Information Systems for Market Intelligence? [Why do I doubt it, when I don't even know what that means?]

Alas, the only jobs I'm sure that I want pay no money. 
Like, besides volunteering at the Thrift Store, which I love, there's an independent bookstore run entirely by volunteers, or a nonprofit micro-cinema, or doing activities with seniors at a community center. 

ii. Asking for Help

So, rather than lying around or working for free until I've used up all my savings, I decided to ask for help. Gold star for me!

This week I went to an OA meeting [Overeaters Anonymous, a 12-step program] for the first time in a dozen years, because when I feel formless, I tend to use food to provide some shape, which is truly self-defeating as the shape I gain is bloated. 
I wept my way through my check-in, which I take as a sign that I was in the right place---somewhere I felt safe enough to melt down (it's not about the food).

And this morning I put in a request to see a therapist/counselor, on My Chart [a baffling online health-care thingy, where you're never in the right section to request whatever it is you're looking for].

Even just asking for help felt audacious (in the good sense): 
bold & hopeful, providing something to push against.
Very C-KAPE (Captain Kirk Academy for the Pursuit of Excellence). 

iii. The Past

When I was growing up, asking for help wasn't on the menu.

To begin with, there's not much point in asking a narcissist for help, and my mother, godblessher, was that: charming, engaging, and emotionally expensive to know. 

Growing up, I was her adoring acolyte, casting light on her [very real] excellence.  It was always, always all about her. Even if she hurt you, you ended up comforting her, because she didn't mean it. She never meant it, if it was about you, because tragically she couldn't feel she had any effect. 

(Being a narcissist isn't at root about feeling grand and effective; it's more about feeling invisible & powerless--always on the wrong side of a one-way mirror.)

It was a relief when I saw Metropolitan (1990) and recognized the truth of this line:

I mean, how crazy is it that when I was fourteen my mother wanted me to reassure her that if she killed herself, I wouldn't hold it against her?
And, how sad is it that I did reassure her? 
[In fact, I don't hold it against her, but, come on!  That's so . . . I don't even know. At the time, however, it felt perfectly normal--her s.o.p.]

Then, in the 1970s, high school teachers weren't much . . . encouraged? empowered? to watch out for kids' mental well-being.

A friend who teaches high school in another state was telling me about how hard she'd worked to help a depressed student make it through this past year. (And not just the one, either.) 
It's a terrible burden on teachers, of course, on top of everything else they need to do, and she was wondering if more kids are depressed or if the school system just is more attuned to it.

I don't know, but I was amazed at all the help she and other teachers gave this kid. 

It wasn't like that in the 70s, at least not when I was a depressed high schooler. In tenth grade––the same year my mother asked me for permission to kill herself–– when I skipped certain classes for days at a time, two teachers took me aside for a talk.
They did not ask, "What's wrong?" 
They told me they were failing me. 

What was wrong was obvious: I was a bad, lazy person.
[Thank you, Mr. Spock, for suggesting otherwise.*]

Sometimes I hear people complain that kids these days are coddled in school.  Maybe so, and that creates its own problems, but I say better coddled than ignored.

iv. The Future

So, I'm feeling kind of sad and a bit drifty, but I'm also feeling hopeful and confident about the future.
The good news is that while I'm not a champion at asking for help,  at least I get the concept (unlike my poor mother). 

And there's a ton more help available than when I was in high school.  I've called on it before, and I know it works (if I work), and I know that this––this . . . life, really –– is ongoing work that everybody faces (or doesn't). 
And it's good work, if you're lucky. And really, I do feel lucky. 

I am not, in fact, a formless, directionless creature. For today, anyway, my totem animal is the wonderpus octopus
(below), moving right along. Isn't this cool?

Hm, Yes, it's cool, but on reflection, it's too speedy and elegant to represent how I feel today. I'll leave it up, but in fact my totem animal today is this hop-along baby rhino:

* As Wil Wheaton wrotein his tribute to Leonard Nimoy:
"In ways that I couldn’t articulate at the time, I wanted to be Mister Spock because if I was, I could be myself –– quiet [not that I, Fresca, am quiet], bookish, alien to the people around me — and it wouldn’t be weird. It would be awesome."
For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I'm Reading

1.  Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living, Nick Offerman (2014)

Amusing though repetitive, Offerman (Ron Swanson on TV's now defunct Parks and Rec) champions doing stuff with your own hands, as well as touts the wisdom of leaving well enough alone.

"Touts" sounds negative, and he is a bit of a badger, but mostly I agree with him. I am glad, for instance, to learn that some men do not like the trend of shaven pubic hair (Brazilians, etc.) on women. "Bring back the bush," Offerman writes. 

2. Railsea, China Miéville (2012)

An immensely imaginative tale of a future world, like a post-apocalyptic Moby Dick,  but I stopped reading this for the same reason I stopped reading Dune
the underground creatures––sandworms in Dune, giant moles here––were just too disgusting. I kind of hate that they were  even introduced into my brain.

3. God on the Rocks, Jane Gardam (1978, shortlisted for the Booker prize)

Highly recommended!
I'd never heard of British novelist Jane Gardam (b. 1928) until I picked up her Queen of the Tambourine at the Thrift Store.  
Since then I've also read Crusoe's Daughter, Faith Fox, and The Flight of the Maidens, and I'd recommend them all, but especially Crusoe's Daughter, which Gardam also says is her favorite.

With authors like Gardam, ordinary social circumstances can be as riveting to read about as post-apocalyptic or other extraordinary ones.
Gardam often writes about people--often women and girls--who are by virtue of [ordinary] social circumstances emotionally and intellectually in a condition similar to Robinson Crusoe's, or Jane Eyre's––i.e., marooned, and having to live on their wits. 

But, Gardam says  [in the Guardian], "We never know what the hell we're writing about, not even when the book's over."

4. A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (2015)

This follows Teddy, the brother of the main character in Atkinson's Life After Life, a novel that messed around with time warps, interestingly but unsuccessfully---like an ambitious cake that didn't rise but still tasted good. 
I've just started it, but AGiR appears to take place in regular time, though there's some time shifting. Teddy grows up to be a pilot in WWII who is sure he's doomed to die, . . . but then doesn't. 
Good, so far.

5. I haven't been keeping up with my plan to record all of What I'm Reading in 2015. I've missed a whole pile-up of books, now returned to the library.
They included Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, the first draft of the book that became To Kill a Mockingbird.  

I only skimmed GSAW--it's not very engaging, but I entirely agree with Ursula K. Le Guin's great blog review "A Personal Take on Go Set a Watchman" that it was a missed opportunity to deal with the complexities of living among and even loving people you don't agree with (in this case, Scout/Jean Louise goes back home in her twenties and confronts Atticus's acceptance of racist norms). 

LeGuin write:
I like to think of the book it might have been, had the editor had the vision to see what this incredibly daring first-novelist was trying to do and encouraged and aided her to do it more convincingly. But no doubt the editor was, commercially speaking, altogether right. That book would have found some admirers, but never would it have become a best-seller and a “classic.”  It wouldn’t have pandered to self-reassuring images of White generosity risking all to save a grateful Black man.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Live Alone and Like It

At Jill's wedding ^ Maura, bink, and me

Oh, dear. I'd forgotten that conversational style so common among the males of my species: not asking questions
Chatting with men at the wedding reminded me. 
If a person over fifty hasn't learned (for whatever reason) how to make social chat by asking questions such as, 
"So... you a friend of the bride or the groom?" they may be an altogether lovely person, but we would not be happy together, 
my conversational style being  . . .
*googles "conversation styles"*
. . . here we go:
elaborate and personal.

I'd like somebody to love, yes, but I'm going to focus on living alone well, like I used to.


Review of Live Alone and Like It: here
["Her core message remained the same. Independence was something women needed to declare and fight for throughout their lives."

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Maybe we're all happy."

Fat City (1971, dir. John Huston, USA) is the best movie I'd never heard of until last week when I saw it as part of a Jeff Bridges retrospective. A story about two amateur boxers, one man coming down, one rising, it's Taxi Driver + Rocky = brutal, but sweet-natured. 

Fat City is a study in the inept tenderness of men, and the cunning of women who exist like little fur-bearing animals. I've never seen a movie that captures, as this one does, how boring real physical pain is: it's as sexy as mouth-breathing when you have a cold. Yet the film is beautiful to watch, too, with its 1970s' washed out colors and the men's unthinking grace.

Everyone is broken, and nobody can save anybody;
but they do try, as Kris Kristofferson sings over the opening credits, to help each other make it through the night. 
And in their trying lies the reason you leave the theater wondering if it's OK to smile in front of other moviegoers (if you're lucky enough to see it on a big screen), instead of fingering your kidneys to see if they're bruised.

After Esther and I went to see Fat City, she requested I embroider the line Maybe we're all happy, said with unintentional humor by Billy (Stacy Keach, below left), the failed alcoholic boxer, to the up-and-coming baby Jeff Bridges. (All the humor on the part of the characters is unintentional.)

These guys are as happy as they look, but far kinder, for all the good it does them.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"These Days" [finished]

This could use a little more work, but Jill's wedding is in 3.5 hours, so I am calling it done. I consider it an embroidered card.
  Inspired by Jill's wedding, I've been telling friends I want to get married too (or, anyway, to live in love with someone). 
Several people have asked if I'm going to look online.

No, I am definitely not.

I'm not opposed to online dating, but I did a little personal-ad dating a dozen years ago, and I didn't like it: 
I'd expected to feel rejected, but what I hadn't considered is how much worse it feels to reject someone else, myself.

I'm not really a fan of shopping lists for love either, but there are a few things I'd especially like. (Probably most of them are optional.) For instance, I'd really, really like someone to read in bed with.
And, call me old fashioned, but in my dreams this person would also be reading something that doesn't glow in the dark.

Starsky and Hutch: Seriously Disturbed

A seriously disturbed Starsky and Hutch crack vid, by Marz. 
(Well, all crack vids are seriously disturbed;
 they're "fanworks with a fundamentally ludicrous premise, or otherwise including a plethora of unbelievable, incredible, or just plain silly elements – that is, implying the author/artist must have been on drugs [crack] to produce something so insane.")

Where her Starsky and Hutch: The Wedding is easy and sweet, this is ... warped. And hilarious.
Also, rude.   Really rude.   You've been warned.

This vid proves she has not been wasting her time on the 'nets: 
she draws on an astonishing number of diverse sources, including Merle Haggard, Jimmy Buffet, Jimmy Carter, Drake, Andy Griffith, Miley Cyrus, William Shatner, Justin Bieber (& Selena), a couple youtube preachers, Internet celebrities Chris Crocker and Matthew Lush (he's vegan!), Dr. Phil, "Girl from Ipanema", Tracy Chapman, the Bee Gees, Star Trek tribute band Five Year Mission,  etc.  etc.  etc. 
(Needs footnotes, I say.)

Friday, August 14, 2015

111 Cupcakes

Wet hair to stay cool: it's almost 10 PM, and it still "feels like 89º"
More than enough German chocolate cupcakes are ready for Jill's wedding tomorrow. [recipe]

THANKGOD my sister lent me the use of her air-conditioned kitchen today--it was almost 100ºF outside! Our hottest day of the summer so far.

It took me four hours to bake four batches of cupcakes and to cook up a veritable vat of coconut-pecan frosting.
In the middle of Batch Number Three,  I––dusted with cocoa and surrounded by eggshells––had a realization: 
Gee, I thought, I would marry me. *

Yes, I would marry me, but then I would insist that we move somewhere with cooler summers and warmer winters. 
But, it'd have to be someplace that's not going to burn up in forest fires, dessicate in drought, get washed away in hurricanes, swept off in tornadoes, knocked down by earthquakes, or drowned by tsunamis.

* But, really, this is a good realization, since I wouldn't want to invite love to come to me if I didn't feel I myself would be happy if the lover who turned up was me (if you see what I mean?).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"These days..." [in process]

"These are the days of miracle and wonder...." 
--Paul Simon, "The Boy in the Bubble"

This is a favorite quote of my friend Jill, who's getting married this Saturday (100 cupcakes away...). 
For her wedding card, I'm trying out freehand embroidery riffing on the quote--stitching without a plan, the way I water-colored paisleys.

Here it is, so far. 
I don't love it (yet), and I don't have much time. It's a little too dainty and pretty: I want it to be a lot denser--more tendrils and leaves. 

I am happy, though, that as I stitched, a couple Jillish things appeared:
a green cat-like animal, lower left, and a treble clef, lower right (so I added the bass clef). 
Jill has four cats, and she and her husband-to-be met at a musicians weekend. 

Theirs is a romantic story: 
both nearing sixty, longtime single, both are good friends to lots of people but always longing for a partner.

They've been together about two years. Jill told me she's amazed how wonderful it is to live with someone who cherishes her.

I want that too.
I wouldn't have said that before living with Marz, but now she's moving out, I see how much I've loved living with someone I love, and how the annoyances are worth it.

 Like making art without a plan. 

Oh! I'm supposed to meet with the chief editor in half an hour--must dash! Work---planned work--to be done.

Monday, August 10, 2015

UPDATE: Sock Repair: Baymax & Chibi Totoro

I have now repaired a companion sock for Baymax: 
I darned a holey heel with the face of Chibi Totoro (the littlest totoro, right). 

Laura "gave" me these green SmartWool socks, my favorite pair, one cold day when she wanted me to go for a walk with her and I didn't have warm socks on. 
They were a loan, but afterward I badgered her into saying they were a birthday present. 
[Precioussss sockses. We wants them, we needs them...]  

Now I've learned to darn socks *, I was excited to repair the gaping holes I'd worn in the heels. 

I darned the face of Baymax, the "personal healthcare companion" from Big Hero 6, who I want with me always.  
It took almost three hours to reweave one heel: it'll probably last longer than the rest of the sock. [Update: I'm happy to report it only took 2+ hours to darn Chibi Totoro.]

* I "learned" how to darn by looking at a couple sets of instructions online. This one from Zigzag, for instance. 
Darning is super simple:
just sew a bunch of straight stitches in one direction, then crisscross them going the other direction. Basically you're reweaving missing cloth, or filling in threadbare patches.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"It's Me," By Request

I embroider "Mulder, it's me" at Marz's request. It's a phrase from The X Files; the character Scully says it all the time, often into a portable phone the size of a carton of cigarettes.  

I know so little about that show, I had to ask how to spell "Mulder", and also which one that is. (Mulder's the boy.)

I'd forgotten, embroidering little stitches tenderizes your fingers.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Circus Fabric Shoulder Bag

I sewed this shoulder bag out of curtains I'd rescued from the recycle bin at the Thrift Store. (You can see the full circus cloth here.) The old fabric is fragile, so I lined it.

I'm giving this to bink, who needs something to carry her eyeglass case in this weekend when she judges a local art fair.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Morning Coffee

Good morning!  [It's Tuesday morning, here and now...] 

I watched Hobson's Choice (1954) the other night---another David Lean–directed film about which there is much to say (sexual awakening + shoe-making... and funny!), but what most affected me was watching the characters drinking tea:
their teacups were truly a cup: one cup. Eight ounces.

 Legendary British actor John Mills drinking a cup of tea during a break in filming Hobson's Choice
Cups of such size used to be considered normal, before we started drinking out of mugs the size of small plant pots.

I drink my morning coffee out of a hideous plastic travel mug, which keeps the coffee hot and off my keyboard, 
but I decided to start using my favorite ceramic mug---only 8 oz. 

I'd bought it for its Moomin character Too-Ticky--but even as I bought it, I thought it was too small to use.
I drink the smaller amount of coffee before it can get cold, and the mug's too short to knock over as easily as the big mugs I've spilled before.

So, here we are in August and it seems as if half the bloggers and other folks I know are on vacation, or otherwise occupied. 
(I am sending loving thoughts to OCA, who is on blog hiatus to be with his seriously ill father.)

I'm at loose ends, myself, waiting for stuff to start, or end, or end and start again.

The publisher has offered me four books to edit--hurrah!--but they are not ready to be worked on yet.

Next week, someone is coming to repair my leaky old windows (hopefully), so this winter I won't be frozen in (literally, the windows would freeze over, on the inside!). The home-owner is arranging this, so all I have to do is get me and my furniture out of the way.

Luckily Sister offered the use of her kitchen next Friday, for me to bake 100 cupcakes in for Jill's wedding. Not only does she have central a/c, but she has a professional oven. Mine is like my windows: old and leaky.

Marz moves on September 1, and both of us wish her new place had been open August 1, so the move would now be behind us. 

I was limp with sadness yesterday, thinking of her being gone. 
Then she came home and was such a rude child, I thought she couldn't be gone too soon!
It's a little weird when it's not your child, but I imagine many parents will recognize these contradictory feelings.

I don't know how we will relate once we live apart. Better, in the long run, I hope, but perhaps not. I want to hurry up and know.

But Too-Ticky wisely advises, "Don’t be in such a hurry… Sit down and wait."

She also says, when asked about a song she's singing,
"It’s a song of myself… The refrain is about the things one can’t understand. I’m thinking about the aurora borealis. You can’t tell if it really does exist or if it just looks like existing. 

"All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured."
Too-Ticky is a commonsense maker of things.

Moomin creator Tove Jansson (below, right) based Too-Ticky on her real life-partner, sculptor Tuulikki “Tooti” Pietilä (below, left).
 Photo, 1960,  via [Finnish site]

Too-Ticky reminds me a bit of bink, and also of Nick Offerman (woodworker and actor who plays Ron Swanson on TV's Parks & Rec).
Not Ron, but Nick (though I say that cautiously, not knowing a whole lot about N.O. except he makes stuff and he says whacko-common sensical things).

Here's Offerman and his wife, Megan Mullally, from a New York magazine interview:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Darn Smart

[Good illustrated "how to darn socks" post, from Zigzag Stitch]

I've discovered that in sewing, I like running stitches best--just the plain old straight stitch, back and forth. This morning, I found the perfect use for that: darning socks.

Some darners seek to make their repairs invisible, but darning is so old-fashioned, it's become almost exotic. Why not flaunt colorful weaves?
Of course you'd have to take your shoes off... so flashing your darned heels might best be reserved for friends or intimate relationships. Sort of a Victorian Secret.
My first pair of darned socks:

Second Pair: I darned Baymax, the "personal healthcare companion" from the animated movie Big Hero 6.

As I was darning at the coffee shop with bink, I said, "I bet I'm not the only one with a drawer full of holey, expensive socks." [SmartWool-brand socks, for instance, like these above, cost around $20/pair.] Maybe people would hire me to darn their socks."

"Yeah," she said, "you could call your sock-repair service Darn Smart."

I could really see doing this, once I practice a bit more on my own. It's hardly rocket science, but you do want smooth darns, especially on the toes, and the thread-ends should be woven in (though I like the fringe-effect here, and I wonder how they'll wear).

Update: The loose ends should be fine: the foot's pressure mats down or felts the wool darn, so it doesn't unravel. Still, I will weave them in.

And my instinct to not knot the thread is correct: don't add any lumps that might rub the foot, and darn on the outside of the sock: the smoother side will be inside, against the foot.


As I was writing this, the toy animals here started clamoring for socks. They didn't even know what socks were before, and now they think they should have some. 
I told them socks are for winter, to buy myself a little time to make some for them.

May I say, I'm not losing my mind, I've always been this way about toy animals, though mostly I've not lived with plush animals (mostly ceramic or the like). Several came to stay, however, after Marz moved here, and just lately they've taken up residence in a wood box. 

They sleep for long periods (months, even), but when they're awake, they can be rather demanding. They've been up-and-at-'em since they saw Mad Max, and today they see that Zhoen has introduced her animals, for instance, and now they want me to introduce them too.  

So, here they are. (Lollpoop is an old word for a lie-about.)