Monday, April 30, 2018

Restored by Midge

How much better do I feel after thrift herding at SVDP today?

A lot!

One of my funnest things happened:
I recognized something unusual in the donation mountain. 
Mostly you uncover the same sort of stuff, and a shift can go by without an amazing find; but today, mixed in with a box of well-used, modern action figures was . . .  
Was that . . . ?
It was!
The real deal, too, though I had to ask the cashier to use her young eyes to be sure. She read the teensy-tiny stamp on Midge's butt:
"1960, by Mattel" 
Midge is a smidge older even than me.

And rattling around with her was what's-his-name.

I had to look him up.
According to the box (which sadly did not come with our Allan):                  
"He's Ken's buddy! All of Ken's Clothes Fit Him!"
Draw your own conclusion.

If you're a certain age, you may remember these:
[I didn't have my camera with me---these photos are off eBay. Our Midge was wearing a red one-piece swimming suit.] 

I recognized them instantly (Midge, anyway), even though my parents wouldn't let us have Barbies. Or toy guns, or comic books. 
Or to chew gum or eat sugary breakfast cereal either. 
Or watch daytime TV or join the Girl Scouts. 
Tragic, eh? As I always say, my parents' refusniking made me want these things more.

One of the things I love about thrift herding is that the river of junk delivers childhood memories and desires right––blammo!––there at your feet.
Now I could have Midge, I don't want her, of course.
But I entirely enjoyed washing the dolls and their dirty clothes in the sink, pricing them ($10 each) (reasonable--they're "collectibles"), and putting them on the shelves where you have to ask the cashier for them. 

(In general I don't mind shoplifters, but when I've done a lot of work to prepare something, then I don't want it stolen. Partly because I like to ask the cashier about its sale––like, who bought it?––it's part of the fun of the story.)

For myself, I bought an old tin made in England with a doll on it (and, one might say, a nice example of socially constructed gender performance ), a paper of pins, a bottle of handmade button-flowers, and a little wood ruler distributed by the Police Officer's Federation, pre–9-1-1
––all for $2.08.

Yes, so. Me and Spring Green, we are restored to our selves.

My big thing this week is an appointment, my first, with a job coach on Friday. Per her assignment, I am writing a complete resumé of every job, paid and unpaid, I have done in my entire life.

Recovery Room

Spring Green was in a bad way upon her return from WI last night.

Red Hair Girl and Penny Cooper, who had stayed home, were very worried. They  set up a hospital tent for her, to keep her warm and dark and quiet.

They got the idea for a tent from Many Moons--and just like moons, flowers, and unicorn horns, Spring Green's good health returned. This morning she is sitting up eating breakfast and telling them all about her traumatic trip.

I feel responsible, of course. She is too young and tender to have been exposed to the stress of highway traffic–– 
(the road was filled with such aggressive or inattentive drivers, I kept thinking, "I don't want to die in a car accident", and bink who was driving (I don't drive) came home with painfully cramped forearms from gripping the steering wheel) 
––much less exposed to the stresses of visiting old Sicilian relatives.

I have always sung here the praises of my last relative remaining from my parents' generation. I treasure her lifelong kindnesses to me.
But have I ever mentioned the way she enforces obligatory optimism?
 It's obliterating. 
You're not even allowed to have a bad night's sleep.

"How did you sleep?" she asked the first morning.

"Eh . . . not so great," I said.

"Say, 'pretty good!'" she instructed. "That's what I always say:
How'd you sleep? Pretty good! How're you feeling? Pretty good!"

On one hand, this is an admirable tactic:
life is hard, and a cheerfulness helps, even if you have to fake it. 

On the other hand, this tactic applied not just to aches and pains and inconveniences but to all of life (as she applies it) squashes the juice and joy out of conversation.

Further, my relative has gotten progressively deaf, so the pleasant chats we used to have have been reduced to her talking at me. 
She has often declared that she doesn't want hearing aids. Still, it's gotten so bad I don't even bother to talk much. She doesn't seem to care, but I decided to risk asking her to consider seeing an audiologist.

"I hear pretty good," she said defensively.

I pushed (unwise with Sicilians, as I know full well). 

"I miss being able to chat freely with you," I said. "I can't say what I'm thinking..."


And out came the Positivity Steamroller, flattening me with accusations of meanness and unfairness. Because I want to talk and be heard. 
We've never had such a horrible exchange before, but I was vividly reminded of why I don't miss her brother, my father--this sort of exchange was a regular occurrence between him and me.

When I went upstairs, after having frantically retracted all my ridiculous ideas about the importance of mutual listening, Spring Green was catatonic. The dolls don't necessarily care about human affairs, but they do register the winds of our emotions, and she'd been knocked flat.

Now, I'm grateful for my relative's lifetime of kindnesses, I really am. But I don't feel like risking my life on Death Race Highway to go visit someone to exchange fake pleasantries. 
Probably I will. She's almost 93, after all. 

But next time, all the dolls will stay home. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Perils of Red Bear, I

bink rescues Red Bear outside Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI, where we've stopped on our way to visit my auntie.

See also, Perils of Red Bear, II

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

On the Bookshelf


Red Hair Girl to Kelvin the Cosmonaut: Hey, whatcha reading?

As It Happened...

Kelvin was standing in front of the spine of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a copy that I'd nabbed for its illustrations from the trash at Goodwill. 
Red Hair Girl was up on the same bookshelf––still dressed by Botticelli.
I opened the book up, and the rest unfolded. 
Red Hair Girl is a curious child.

[Obviously this all comes from me, but it doesn't particularly feel that way.]

A New 365?

One of the things that surprised me about doing eBay was how much I liked the challenge of photographing objects (not nature or people).

In 2009 (!) I'd tried a 365 self-portrait project. I got bored after 80 days--I wasn't wanting and willing to make my physical self my own art project, so it was self-limiting. 

I'm thinking of starting a 365 Toy Photography project... Toys might hold my interest longer--and also they might push me to experiment more with the technical side of photography---esp. lighting.
Also things like lenses and camera settings. I know nothing of these--I just shoot on Automatic.

I wouldn't be strict about doing it daily (because I know myself), and I wouldn't post unless the photos were worth it,
but doing a toy-photography-365 would be a welcome push, or permission slip, to go outside into the world---and see it from toy-eye level. 
Toy photography. Another way to be a visitor in one's own city.

What's that? 
I've said I'm supposed to be job hunting? 
Yes, I am supposed to, and I am. Or I will be, anyway:
I have an appointment with a job coach next week. Would someone pay me to herd thrift and play with toys?

That's another reason to start a 365 project--it could be a buoy in the slough of despond.

P.S. I laughed when I went back and read this.
You want to start a 365 toy photography project, Fresca?
What do you think you've been doing?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tulip, Waiting (The Restoration of Tulip the Bear, Part I)

ABOVE: Tulip the Bear waits for reassembly. New hardware for movable joints is on order.

This teddy bear was described on ebay, "needs TLC".

When it arrived a few months ago, it was so nasty I regretted buying it, even for $8 ––that's low for an antique, jointed, golden-mohair teddy with glass eyes.

I don't know but I'm guessing this bear is pre-Great Depression, because of its original high quality--stuffed with fine wood shavings, called excelsior or wood wool (not with shredded cast-off cloth), movable joints, once-lovely mohair (
a fabric woven from Angora goat hair), and a growler inside. 
[article: "How to Find Out How Old a Teddy Is"]

A growler should really be called a mewler--it's a round box that makes a cow-like noise when you turn it up & down, causing it to expel air. This bear's growler was broken, but that's normal, after some ninety years.

"Before" photos of the bear are pointless; the worst of the nastiness wasn't visible.

The bear gave off an odor like the damp corner of a basement, it shed like a dog in spring, and in its fur were scabrous flecks--bug casings? You wouldn't want to touch this thing.

Wearing a mask, I unstuffed the bear. I put its skin in a box on the below-freezing porch and forgot about it.

When spring approached I thought, well, I can either throw this bear out, or I can try desperate measures. Edward's Care Home for Elderly Bears writes in "How to save a near-death teddy from the bin",  "at this point your bear is about to go in the bin so what the hell."

Desperate measures it was. I figured this could be my antique-bear-repair test case.

I'd hoped I could get around removing the industrial-strength cotter pins that held its joint discs by wrapping the whole joint paraphernalia in Saran wrap. >

I hand washed the bear in Biz--several times.
Water easily got past the plastic wrap and soaked the cardboard buffer-discs beyond hopes of drying.
The water turned orange and each rinse was full of fine hairs. Bear emerged pretty furless, but what fur was still attached, by gum it's going to stay attached.

I tried to straighten the cotter pins (below) to remove the discs. They were designed to resist sabotage, however, and finally I had to cut them off--wearing goggles to guard against flying bits of metal---who knew bear repair was so dangerous?
Once you take the joints off, there's nothing holding the arms and legs on, so now the bear was in parts, like a cut up chicken.  
Bear went out (in parts) to dry in the sun with the other newly washed toys. 
The new doll, Spring Green (below), kept watch.
Meanwhile I went online and ordered a couple sets of plastic bear joints--they snap on.

A funny (but predictable) thing happened when the clean and dry bear emerged--this horrible mess had gone from being a disposable test case to being an Alive Toy. One who needed a name.

I photographed the bear this afternoon in the neighbors' tulips that are just coming up. And so it's Tulip. Tulip the Bear. 

See also, Part II of Tulip's Restoration, and Part III, The Conclusion

Did you know toy photography is a thing?

I didn't know Toy Photography was a thing, did you?

I mean, I knew some people photographed toys, but not that it was so big--some of it professional, even--until I went looking a few weeks back, having fallen into it backward (photographing my own toys, just because).
Here's a round-up on Pinterest

There's more Star Wars, LEGO, and Marvel & DC toy photography than I need,  personally, 
but I wish I'd known, I'd have featured it in the visual arts chapter my Fandom book.

For instance, the astonishing "Secret Life Of Superhero Toys, By Edy Hardjo" shows superheroes in everyday situations, like,
 right, the Hulk repairing his pants.  > > >

Last night I came across a hilarious article "Toy Photography Yoga"
Shelly Corbett documents the poses of toy photographers (including herself)--some of which I've twisted myself into too. 

My favorites are photos of photographers in public:
"Nothing says 'I could care less what you think of me' than lying down in a public space, arms outstretched, taking a photo of toys."
 Here's "Sphinx Pose with Leg Variation":
 Caption: I don’t think Ant Man knows what to think of all this toy photography yoga.

The article is from the blog Toy Photography: A Resource For Toy Photographers, which obviously I must read more. They have competitions and stuff, and a podcast. Also, they meet up and go on toy safaris. Hm.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Three Graces of Spring

ABOVE: The dolls* play the Three Graces––
L to R: Penny Cooper as Aglaea, "Splendor", Red Hair Girl as Euphrosyne, "Mirth", and Spring Green as Thalia, "To Blossom"––
in their interpretation of the painting "Primavera" (Spring) by Sandro Botticelli, below.

*There are three dolls now. 
Red Hair Girl had chosen Penny Cooper to come live here, but then we (well, mostly me) felt bad for the doll who wasn't chosen. So she came too. Her name is Spring Green.

I worried three would be a crowd and kept Spring Green separate at first. Then bink suggested the dolls are like Orphan Black--a Canadian sci-fi TV show about a character who discovers she's a clone and has (at least) four sister clones––(all played by the wonderful Tatiana Maslany. I watched the first season and liked it a lot.)

In theory there could be two more Orphan Reds, but three is plenty for now--there're a lot of famous trios they can play.

Other toy re-creations of art: "toy tableaux".

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Penny Cooper's Day Out

You may remember, Penny Cooper was in a small gray room before she came here. I think she's told Red Hair Girl about her past, but I don't know it. Whatever it is, she's rebounding well. 
(That's an assumption on my part, that she even needs to rebound. Possibly her past was nothing bad at all. At any rate, she seems happy now.)

Yesterday the dolls went to the Community Garden to ride their new vehicles [99¢ each at SVDP] in the springtime weather.

RHG has a monster truck. Penny Cooper, a patrol motorcycle.
"Nice toys," a guy passing by said.

The truck flew down the muddy track. [I don't do product placement, but I've gotta hand it to Hot Wheels--the design of this truck is superb.]
But the motorcycle wouldn't roll.

The motorcycle drove well on some rocks. Julia happened to come walking by––just in time to take pictures. 
Penny Cooper Triumphant
Everything is temporary.

We joined Julia on her walk down the Greenway, which follows an old rail line between the Mississippi River and Bde Maka Ska ["White Earth Lake" in Dakota, the restored name of the lake formerly known as Calhoun]. 

Here, Julia's photographing the peeling paint under a bridge. [On Julia's IG––click on the almost invisible arrow on the photos to see the series.]
Penny Cooper'd found a scrap of bandana and tied it round her neck. 

 Down to the railroad tracks along Hiawatha Ave.

RHG let Penny Cooper ride the monster truck at a sandpit.  
Julia helped.

We ended up at Urban Forager, a place that serves cider and wine they make from local fruits and plants they harvest and ferment themselves. I had maple and oak apple cider (6.5% alcohol). 
The dolls were sound asleep, mud-smudged, in my bag.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Springtime Bear-Repair Opener

"I'm up here, unstuffing animals," I called from my sunny, second-story porch to my downstairs neighbor standing in the snowy backyard.

She looked up at me with alarm.

"Oh. . . ," she said, light dawning, "you mean stuffed animals!" 

Yes, stuffed animals. I'm not up here trapping squirrels.

It's finally warming up above freezing (49ºF/ 9ºC right now!), and I've started unstuffing and bathing toys that have been waiting for months. Bear repair is dusty, and a sloppy, wet mess: I don't much like to do it inside in the winter.

Happy dance!

This dirty, homemade, wool bear ^ came from a farm auction, $6 on eBay. I got the old suitcase for $1.99 from SVDP.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Snipper Nippers

The glass tile nippers/wheel cutters I ordered off ebay ($11, incl. shipping) just arrived. I bought them to try cutting china dishes up into mosaic tiles.
I found the info here:
"How to Make Broken-China Mosaics"

OOOoooh---fun! and super easy to snip the ceramic.
This is (was) a cracked willow-ware saucer ^ made by the Société Céramique, Maastrich, Holland, once (1850s–1969) one of the big potters in the ceramics town of Maastrich.
(Note to self: check the maker's mark before you clip the plate.)

See, I've been saving old china plates at the thrift store--ones that are cracked, chipped, or outright broken.
(You might be surprised at the way donations arrive--plates stacked with no wrapping in a plastic bag is not unusual.) 

SVDP used to save them for a mosaic-maker, who'd pick them up. But now this person has more than enough china, so workers have simply been throwing it out---the m.o. at all 3 thrift stores I've worked at. 

I'm pretty blasé about throwing stuff out (SO MUCH STUFF), but last week I couldn't bring myself to toss a cracked Limoges porcelain* platter with gold rim (real gold) into the gray plastic 32-gallon trash can. 
I suppose I heard my mother's voice--she loved that sort of antique dishware. Personally I prefer space-age design, but still, it makes me cringe to throw out something so beautiful and old--something other people took a lot of care to make.

I asked the manager if we could start saving china again, and he said of course––if I'd take responsibility for it. 

I'm going to tape plates together in batches of 5 and price each batch a dollar. Labelled "for mosaic-making or fairy gardens", they'll sell I bet. (Almost all the 25 packets of sewing notions I'd put together last week sold in three days.)
And my favorites, I'll turn into my own tiles. I do like blue-and-white ware.

*Limoges porcelain: "The essential ingredients used in creating Limoges porcelain are all local natural ingredients [in Limoges, France]: kaolin [a clay mineral] is combined with pulverized feldspar and quartz. Then begins the process of milling, pulverizing, heating, molding, and firing. It is porcelain only if it retains a translucent quality."

Astro, Circus Dog

bink and her little dog Astro, after the snowstorm this past weekend

Purl Harder

Somehow I can just imagine the meeting(s) of the committee that came up with this sort of awful pun...

New York City WPA War Service Poster, 1942

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Stuffed Animals, Here & There: Marwencol

From the trailer (in the Guardian) for the documentary Marwencol:

A soldier doll (1/6th scale) holds his teddy bear in the imaginary WWII town, Marwencol, Belgium, created by Mark Hogancamp: 

What I'm Reading: Jam Today!

1. Quote from The Odd Woman and the City (2015) by Vivian Gornick; the author has helped an elderly man cross an icy patch.
"Thank you," he says. "Thank you very much."
A thrill runs through me.
"You're welcome," I say, in a tone that I hope is as plain as his.
It was his voice that had done it. ....
There was in it not a hint of that beseeching tone one hears so often ... when small courtesies are shown
This man realized that I had not been inordinately helpful; and he need not be inordinately thankful. He was recalling for both of us the ordinary recognition that every person in trouble has a right to expect, and every witness an obligation to extend.
In the midst of American dysfunction, global brutality, and personal defensiveness, we had, each of us, simply come into full view, one of the other.
 2. I am greatly enjoying the inspiring Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018).
Author Steven Pinker lays out the case that the application of rational thinking has improved the world greatly--and who can argue with that. 
Not me!
I just spoke on a panel about THE BEST THING EVER:
the invention, installation, and ongoing maintenance of sewers!

Yay, Public Health!!!

Pinker, however, is a bit too Spock-like for me. It shows up in his seeming lack of emotional comprehension of irrational things, specifically of religion. Some (including me) might wish he'd co-authored this with a Dr. McCoy–type who not only groks but loves some of the irrational expressions of humanity--and can translate too:
 [Funny side-note: 
Pinker comments in an interview that he and William Shatner both grew up in Jewish families in Montreal. He seems pleased by this.
(Alas, the interviewer, Stephen Fry, is toad-like in his worshipfulness toward Pinker, which made this interview a bit hard to take.)]

Still, I cheer for and generally include myself on Pinker's team, the Enlightenment Wonks.

To me, the most cheering thing in the book is the way Pinker applies the law of entropy (things fall apart; you can't unscramble an egg)–– the second law of thermodynamics––to individual life.
There's an obscure consolation to the fact that, as Captain Picard put it:

This law is the answer to my lament, WHY must I keep brushing my teeth every day for the rest of my life?!?!
 If everything seems like so much bloody work, it's not that you're doing it wrong. It is so much bloody work.

It also speaks to the question, Why am I so lucky as to have most of my teeth at fifty-seven years old, and indeed so lucky as to be fifty-seven?

Well, I knew that one: 
because I am lucky enough to have born in a generation that was preceded by generations of humans who worked on fending off entropy and building up these Goods: 
dentistry, and longevity (See, sewers).

Pinker writes:
"Why the awe for the Second Law? I believe that it defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind and striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.

Not only does the universe not care about our desires, but in the natural course of events it will appear to thwart them, because there are so many more ways for things to go wrong than to go right.
Matter doesn’t spontaneously arrange itself into shelter or clothing, and living things don’t jump onto our plates to become our food. What needs to be explained is not poverty but wealth."
Alas, Pinker's [entirely understandable] disdain for the dangerous illogic of religion means he misses some delightful connections, some opportunities to play with the past---
for instance, Jesus also pointed out that poverty (entropy) is the law, not wealth, "The poor you will always have with you," and nonetheless that it's our ultimate [earthly] purpose to feed the hungry.

True, Christians may fail to live up to that, but neither does the United States live up to our ideal that all people are created equal--it's still something to point to, and it annoys me that Pinker doesn't.
For instance, he quotes Spinoza approvingly:
"Those who are governed by reason desire nothing for themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of humankind."
But, hey, Spinoza was a Jew. I don't know, but might he have heard this somewhere? From Rabbi Hillel, maybe?
"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it."    — Talmud, Shabbat 31a
Ah well, this is just a small weakness in Enlightenment Now, it no way undercuts Pinkers wonderful central argument:
Things fall apart. Let's work together, rationally, to see if we can't shore them up, for the sake of us all.

And, best of all, his many examples (with charts!) of how we've done that successfully in the past couple hundred years.
Like this CDC chart, from "Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Control of Infectious Diseases":

I do love religion (well, some of it), but if I had to choose (and I, we, don't--they are not necessarily in opposition--current social mood notwithstanding), I'd take public health first.

As the guy who owned the airbnb in Dallas said to me when I gave him a copy of my toilet-history book, 

"If we don't have sanitation, we don't have civilization."

Reservations aside, I highly recommend Enlightenment Now.
Pointing out that we should all be as happy as kings may not make us as happy as kings––

we humans seem always to be focused on jam tomorrow and jam yesterday––
but Pinker does provide a lot of cheering information: 
There's jam today!!! Because we made it!

*Ah--here, child psychologist Alison Gopnik says something similar to what I say about Pinker's Spockish tune-deafness to religion in her new review in the Atlantic "When Truth and Reason Are No Longer Enough"--except she points to "small town values" instead of religion:
"At a moment when [Enlightenment] values [science and reason] are under attack, from the right and the left, this is a very important contribution.
In his new book, Steven Pinker is curiously blind to the power and benefits of small-town values.

If things are so much better, why do they feel, for so many people, so much worse? Why don’t people experience the progress that Pinker describes?
Pinker doesn’t spend much time focusing on this question, and he gets a little tetchy when he does. 

There’s a deeper reason that ordinary, well-meaning people may feel that something has gone wrong, despite so much evidence to the contrary. Pinker’s graphs, and the utilitarian moral views that accompany and underlie them, are explicitly about the welfare of humanity as a whole. But values are rooted in emotion and experience as well as reason, in the local as well as the universal."
Again, we don't have to choose, but as Gopnik says,
the problem for enlightenment now is how to establish a background of trust and commitment that allows conflict without contempt."

And the problem for religion is, I would say, the same.

At any rate, let's keep brushing our teeth and cleaning the sewers!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Penny Cooper's arrival has really livened things up. Marz said the pair reminds her of the reunited twins in The Parent Trap
Cakes and ale for all!

This morning at the Wedge, Penny Cooper darns the holey blanket I've been mending all winter, with Red Hair Girl standing by on scissors, and bink keeping company.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Morning Sledding

On my back porch

Red Hair Girl and Penny Cooper sledding on the hill the April blizzard created on my back porch. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

April Showers

Red Hair Girl's concern that the new doll, Penny Cooper, might be afraid of bears has been laid to rest: it was Penny Cooper's idea to get the unstuffed repair-bears in on the fun of this historic springtime blizzard.

Dolls on my back porch after several hours of today's unusual spring snowstorm, with a dozen more hours of falling snow still to come--up to 15 inches of snow possible.

Friday, April 13, 2018

"She's here! She's here!"

"I hear the mail!!!"                                 

"She's here!"
"Let ME carry it!"

"I'll open it! Let me do it! 
She's my friend!"

"Oh!!! I know this doll!" *
                  \ "Penny Cooper!"        /"Red Hair Girl!"
"IT'S YOU!!!"

"Your hair's just the same!"
[Ed. Red Hair Girl has given a spear ^ to Penny Cooper,
in case she feels nervous with all the bears around.]

"You'll like it here. Stuff falls out of the sky."

[Ed. No kidding--that's hail on the porch: 
it's hailing right now, and a snow storm is predicted.
 Penny Cooper is not used to weather extremes, so after going outside, the dolls wrap up in bed with walnuts for a snack.]

"So... then what happened?"

 *Ed. Penny Cooper and Red Hair Girl are of different makes: you can see Penny Cooper's right hand is curved, for grasping things (like spears). 
But they say that they were together in a "big rocking box", and, after all, I suppose they know best.