Saturday, December 29, 2007

Savages

About this picture: for a long time the only brownstone on 92nd St. between B'way and West End was a black evangelical church with lively singing on Sunday mornings after the spiffily dressed men and the wonderfully hatted women had gathered. But about five years ago it was sold to a couple who turned it back into the single family home it was built to be. This in the summer. It is my seasonal offering today.

I went to see the movie, SAVAGES, this afternoon because all indications were that it is a grown up kind of movie -- by which I don't mean nude sex scenes but adult problem -= afather with dementia put in a nursing home -- and grown up script writing -- both were true. Plus two of the best actors now at the peak of their powers are in it, Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing brother and sister. I could be knit-picky about the script [the writers clearly are so young they think all daath is horrible and, yes, many deaths are grim, but there are also a lot of people -- without sentimentality or white washing, who are ready for death and, in fact the death in this movie was a peaceful, though not at all surgar coated] one. Still the brother and sister damaged by a dyafuncional family have found for themselves very 21st century. basically lonely, frightened lives. The script writing and direction is generally spot-on. The movie engages the mind more than the emotions, it is an intelligent movie. Hurray.

My main quibble is with naming the family and thus the movie "Savages." That is pushing metaphor too far, they are not really savages. The Misfits has been used, I'd rather call them the Smiths or Joness and think of a different title for the film.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Another "vingage" quilt

This is the seventh in what obviously has become a series of four patch "new vintage", in other words old fashioned and really simple, quick and easy quilts. It is for a swap-bot swap and was mailed today to a young woman in Milwaukee who is not a quilter herself but who says her favorite colors are hot pink and bright green. It's lap size and is calmed a bit by the bigger squares of a grayed-green print. It went together quickly and was quick to quilt and to bind. You can see from the turned over corner that it's bound with light pink and has a biggish label on the multi-color print backing. Quickly made and not taking up any of my precious shelf space. A pleasureable, quick project.

I have been reading one poety book after another -- the last thing I read at night. When I have to read a poem three times to follow the meaning, it means it's time to put the book aside, turn out the light and go to sleep. Last night I started a new [to me] book by Liz Waldner, "Saving the Appearance." Most of it is pretty dense and takes concentration -- and there are a lot of one-page prose poems which are much denser than just an obsevation. However the first poem is very short and easy enough to understand but gives us, especially those of us who are not as young and lovely as we once were, a "shock of recognition."

Mirror

I do not notice much about myself for other reasons;
This I did not notice for its ubiquity:
I am not too willing to appear.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lucien Freud at MOMA


This morning I met Ellen, a coworker currently decamped to the movie-less wilds of central Massachusetts, at MOMA to see a show of engravings by Lucien Freud, a British painter whose work we both like very, very much. The engravings were wonderful and we were delighted that there were a few medium small oils among them. Freud [a grandson of Sigmund] does not make engravings as studies for his paintings, they may be the same subect -- these were mostly portraits -- but are done entirely afresh. He captures a dourness that seems especially British to us. He also does nudes of obese people, men and women, pitiless in their accuracy but also with honesty that comes of acceptance of humanity as it is with all it's lumps and bumps, folds of flesh and mottled skin. Often at art shows one piece will be oddly wonderful and memorable. For me, in this show, it was a tiny oil, about 6x6 inches of a hefty nude on the small sofa that is in so many Freud works, it was foreshortened and contorted into a square as if fitted into a box, and yet remained as sensitive as the much larger pieces.

A couple or three of the copper plates were included which was fascinating to see. It is such a labor intensive form of art I wonder that great painters bother with it. Why don't they just do pencil or ink drawings? Perhaps I should read some biographies and look for an answer.

Ellen and I are both fond of the "new" MOMA building, the spaces and use of them. We had lunch in one of the two cafes, very good food, efficiently served, a menu with much interest enticing one to come back and try other items.

The picture below is one I have had on the camera since Christmas eve day when I went for a walk in the damp, rather warm midmorning. I went past the Museum of Natural History and saw this dinosauer "tree" which had small lights mixed in with its foliage.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Intrepid Traveler

I have just finished reading a wonderful little book, a part of the Penguin Great Journeys paperback series. The book is about 4x6 and fits in a handbag, it fits the hand as a paperback book should. That is only the overt delight. Excerpts from Isabella Bird's letters when traveling in the Rocky Mountains is 119 wonderful pages of graceful writing such as hardly anyone writes these days for publication, let alone as letters to a friend. She is a genius at describing sunrise, sunset and mountain scenery, her vocaulary is astonishingly rich and brilliantly used. But that is the icing on the cake.

Isabella Bird was an English woman who traveled alone. She had been to Hawaii before she sailed to California but we get only hints of that. She crosses California from San Francisco to the Sierras, describes a stay in the Tahoe, Donner Lake areas in which she rents horses and goes off for solitary rides in the mountains, comes across grizzley bears that terrify her horse, and yet is utterly fearless when chasing down her horse on foot. She writes about the atomsphere of the gold rush towns, the lawlessness of the men and corruption of politics and the gentlemanly way the men treat a woman alone.

Then she crosses the montains to Colorado, meets up with desperados who are gallant toward her, stays in the Estes Peak area helping her host round up cattle -- her horsemanship is astonishing -- uncomplainingly stays through a bitter winter in an unchinked log cabin where boiled water freezes before she can us it to wash. And these are only a few of her adventures. The woman seems to have been fearless. Although she writes of her terror when being urged on to the top of Long Mountain, climbing in the voluminous clothing of the 1800s and in rubber boots that she found on the trail. She writes about people good and bad and complicated, about how badly the Indians are treated, about being down to 26 cents and the banks all refusing to even cash the gold coins she carried.

The only problem I have with the book is that it needs at least a couple of pages of editorial biographical information about Isabella Bird. I am going to stop writing this and read the Wikipedia bio info about her. What a heroine! And such glorious writing!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Moving Along


I finished this quilt top with a nice little border of a bright stripe that adds a nice oomph which I may also use for the binding. Then I discovered, happily, that a cotton bedspread purchased in Kathmandu several years ago but never used, is exactly the right size for a back for the quilt. I was getting ready to layer it with batting several days ago when a very sane thought struck -- it would be extremely wise to wash it first. For several days I did not have an opportunity to get to the laundry room but now I've done so and ironed it. And as of this morning, I layered the batting and pinned it. So now it's ready to be quilted.

In one of those insights best described by the immortal term "Duh!" I see that this quilt design is really a replica of the very common multi-colored knitted afghan pattern. That doesn't detract from my pleasure in the look of the quilt.

I'm really moving right along. I also layered a small lap quilt that I'll post a picture of tomorrow. It will be quilted first since it's for a swap and needs to be mailed off in a week. And I'm putting together a paper pieced top that I've been making for nearly three months -- more about these anon when I've taken pictures.

Yes, I know it was Christmas but I haven't celebrated Christmas for a long, long time and I love having it as a "personal day." I had a long walk in the brilliant sun around the Great Lawn in Central Park and I've been writing stuff and now that it's evening I will pick up the book I've been reading but maybe do a crossword puzzle first. 'twas a lovely day.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Samsara

I do not often go to movies because most are less interesting than books I could be reading. When I do they are usually low budget or foreign until so many people recommend a Hollywood movie that a critical mass is reached and I feel it's not only going to be worth seeing but I'll be sorry if I don't. Yesterday I went to a movie very few people are likely to see, it's been around 6 years and hasn't been generally distributed. Samsara is a movie made by a Himalayan, Buddhist director/film maker and has been showing two days a week at the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art this month. The promo pictures did not inspire me, it included a cloud with was a couple kissing. However the Himilayan scenery was too powerful an attraction to miss. It was set in Ladakh, a northern Indian state that was part of Tibet for a long time. The peopl and way of life is essentially traditional Tibetan.

Since no one who reads this is likely to see it I'll tell the story. It begins very interestingly, first with a brief scene in which an eagle drops a large stone from high up, killing a sheep. This happens as a group of lamas are passing. They bless the dead sheep, the shepherd is not comforted. The lamas are on their way to a meditation cave -- a very large one. Tashi has been meditating 3 years, 3 months, 3 week, 3 days. It is time to bring him back to the monstary. His hair and nails are long, he is in a meditative trace from which it is very difficult to rouse him. In fact the abbot says, "Tashi, you've gone too far." Tashi is a Type A personality and we never learn what he learned in his meditations. The Abbot tries many things to bring him round, that eventually includes a visit to a village. There he sees a beautiful young woman. The expected happens -- he givs up the robe and marries the girl. We are treated to overlong sexual scenes to show us how wonderful samsara is. They have a child. He begins to change the way the family deals with neighbors and fights with the local strong man. He eventually also sleeps with a Hindu girl who is a seasonal worker.

We've been set up, of course, with the story of Siddartha who left his wife and child to become the Buddha. After seeing his dangerous attraction to the carnal life Tashi realizes he should have remained a monk and slips away in the night just as Siddartha did So far all this is expected and a little bit ho-hum except for the picture of the still extant rural way of life and of some intrusions of modernity when Tashi and his father-in-law go to town.

The kicker is the last five minutes. Tashi is returning to the monastery walking through the golden aspen woods in the autumn. He comes to a stupa and his wife steps out in front of him. She confronts him with the story of Siddartha's wife. The actress does not emote, she tells the story straight, but the pain is very strong, she reminds Tashi that the wife had been a spiritual person who perhaps taught Siddartha a few lessons, that perhaps she would have liked to give up her duties as wife and mother and go seek enlightenment. That no one took her into account.

At last we (certainly I and I hope others) see the enormous narcissism of the male who pursues his "path" at the expense of others -- there is certainly no compassion in deserting one's family and no nobility. When the wife disappears as suddenly as she came, Tashi falls on the ground overemoting his pain and remorse/ We do not know at the end what he doe. I left the museum wondering if the writer/direcor was questioning the whole monastic idea or the actual ethics of the Siddartha story. I felt the wife's pain so profoundly if I had been alone I would have had a good long cry instead of the few sniffs I managed before the lights came on.

The scenery was the high (15,000 ft) desert, very Tibetan. There were some wonderful touches, a child lama, a spurned rival for the wife, the father-in-law, the equinamnity of the lama's community. Much was very beautiful. Maybe the sizable Americab Buddhist community will eventually see it. The film maker is talented.

Friday, December 21, 2007

First Day of Winter

I feel as if I should post a picture that is all black -- except, as I am happy to remember, the first day of winter is the shortest day of the year. Ergo, tomorrow will be a speck longer. Although it won't be noticeable for a bit, in a couple of weeks I will be able to appreciate that there IS a bit more daylight, the good old Earth is tilting along as it always does and, although the snow and cold will be here a long while yet, the surity of seasonal change tells me about dependability within the variabilty of what the newscasters tell me each morning before I get out of bed.

This very simple piece of knowledge gives me considerable peace of mind; maybe I am a very simple person [with various pretenses to sophistication] but such simple, extremely ancient observations connects all human beings, now living and going back to the first observers who marked off the changes of the moon by notching sticks, or making marks on a big rock with a little rock. This underlies the Dao that underlies Confucius's views that I was writing about yesterday. [And yes, finally some authoritative sources spell it "dao," not "tao" and I'm so glad!]

So I think I'll light an incense stick so I'll have something lovely to sniff in those moments my attention surfaces fro the book I'm reading. It's a lovely, quiet evening with spring on it's way.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thinking about China

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This is the building Christmas tree, in the lobby. Not particularly special...but it's ours. The Chanukah menorah was in place last week. I imagine half the people in the building are Jewish. They cover the bases -- well not really for the several Pakistani families who I suppose are Muslim. It's a big building, I think we are a little microcosm of New York.

I spent the day semi in the minds of people who invest large amounts of money in other countries' stocks, in this case in Asia, largely China and India. I say "in the minds," because that is the sensation I have when I listen intently to someone talking for a long time -- it's from transcrbing tapes. But it carries over to "real" life when I listen to others talking about their interests, what they are doing, it's as if I'm partly inside their thought process because one's flow of words reflects habits of mind. Because of my curiosity about world affairs I was interested in what these analysts believe are the intentions of the Chinese government vis a vie development, environmentalism, and international position. Their view is narrow, it's all about money, GDP, growth and how they can make money by investing. They seem not to question the overall social structure or changes millions of people are undergoing -- let alone any repressions of individual expression. The whole picture of any country, any social system is too complex for any but a few academic observers to grasp and they too have their biases. I've just added what I heard today to a tangle of other impressions and I know very well I don't know what it's all adding up to -- except that the magnificent country of Tibet is being destroyed and these people do not know and do not care.

In the Sunday Time was an article about many MBA students who are studing the work of Confucius. It partly suggests they are learning some of the philosphy I've been reading for years of the I Ching. However, these students, who hope to become business leaders are not ones who are going to become political leaders. If they decide to live by Confucian morals, that should be good both for them as individuals and for the businesses they may run...but will it influence the government of the future? Or do they just see it as ways to become rich? I don't know, of course. I can only wonder. Why, really, is this making any waves at all in my mind? I'm far away, it doesn't touch my life, really. I doubt I'll ever go back to China. The only answer is that everything interests me .. with the general exception of pop stars/celebrities whose music, movies bore me and now and then I even get hooked on some of their dramas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lights, the best part!


Besides some wonderful music -- like The Messiah which I heard last weekend -- lights are the best part of the season. Never mind the ho-ho and even the parties. Lights are put on all kinds of trees, like those in the picture which are in the center section of Broadway near 94th Street. It's a reward for finding the city dark before 5:00 in the evening. I hope to be able to picture a different lighted tree from now through Christmas. It partly depends on my questionable photography skills.

Just when I think I've got all the gifts mailed, almost all the cards sent, in come more cards to be answered. Once that's done maybe I can finish the blocks to next quilt top, and start quilting the one I've just finished ... but wait, first there's a little quilted something, a pillow top, or a small, quick lap quilt for a Swap-bot partner whose favorite colors are bright pink and bright green. Probably a pillow top because large quantities of the two together may be more than I can handle ... but sometimes I get caught up and a small project grows.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A New York day

I had a day at home which meant two trips to the post office [more anon] and lunch at Ollie's, my favorite neighborhood spot. On the way I passed a few mini forests of Christmas trees like the one in the picture. It does not prove a tree grows in Manhattan but more like "Burnam Wood come to Dunsenaine" - cut trees move in along the sidewalks to make little forests. They smell wonderfully piney -- literally because they have been cut and are dying. I am torn between enjoyment of the scent and pain for the trees that will have their gaudy moments in someone's apartment all decked out, and then go to that great mulcher wherever it is they are taken. This is a seasonal phenomenon and we are deep, deep into it.

At Ollies had had the dubious pleasure of sitting directly within sight of two young others and their offspring. The woman facing me was a double chinned brunet with a son I could not help but watch. The woman with her back to me was blond and had a blond daughter. The little boy first caught my attention attempting with some success to eat noodles with chopsticks. He was 2-1/2 to 3 at most. He was not Asian but he was handling the chopsticks, one in each hand, decently. For a while. Eventually he got tired of the slow-ish progress and picked up a spoon and shoveled amazing amounts of something from a bowl into his mouth - quite greedily. After a bit he devolved to using his hand to scoop up whatever was in the bowl and stuff it into his mouth, smearing his face in the process. The sight became pretty revoluting . Meanwhile the little blond girl had discovered how she preferred to eat long thin Chinese noodles. She took a noodle, stretched it from end to end, using both hands, and then tok a bite out of the middle. Found another full length noodle and repeated the process. She seemed quite tireless in this and the noodles seeemed endless. The whole spectacle diminished my appetite.

In the afternoon, partly knowing better but having the time to spare, I went to the post office with two packages to mail. The line was very long -- at least 15 ahead of me. I had taken a book to read, but as it turned out the woman behind me and then the worman behind her began a conversation on the horrors of this postal substation. It became a long, long conversation with the third women having exprcal NYC stories of people versus the establishment be it P.O. or Transit Authority. But it was an entertaining way to pass half an hour. Her final story was long and involved -- too long for here. It reminded me of a great many times I've had such in-line experiences .. most especially of a long bank line before ATMs when the woman ahead of me whipped out of her purse a large pack of phtographs to prove that she had taught her two cats to use the bathroom toilet. An experience like that one does not forget. But, hey, it's New York.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

One, of many reasons, why I love New York

Often I think about moving out of New York and I know I will one day. But sometimes I am very aware of what I would miss. Today I'm thinking of the Apple stores, the Genius Bar [for trouble shooting] and all the smart people who help a confused non-techno-aged person who could be their gramma. PLUS the stores are so chic! I think the architectural core idea is to gut an old building, put in a dramatic staircase, display wares as if it were a boutique with lots of space and simplicity. The Soho store was up for an architectural prize a couple years ago. Yesterday I went to the new store on 14th Street which is dramatically the same and dramatically different at the same time -- great use of space.

Unlike a store like Macy's where finding a sales person takes detective work and then the clerk may or may not be personable, the young people at the Apple stores are plentiful and very helpful and I get absolutely no whiff of agism [beleive me, I'm alert to it in, I swear, a nonparanoid way]. The wonderful Genius on Saturday solved a couple of problems by installing new programs for me -- I think I should have no more photo uploading problems -- I just don't have an appropriate photo today.

I have lived long periods of my life in much more rural settings. Getting this kind of help is impossible most places. And certainly visiting stores that are so attractive is unusual even here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Myth and myth-management


These cranes aren't really in the snow but I feel as if they are. It's an embroidery I photographed in China, turned out frequently enough to be a cliche, but still graceful and pretty. The snows have not arrived here yet. Possibly they won't. I feel for the people in the Midwest and am glad to be here.

The Christmas cards are coming in. Wendy from Toronto, who was on the Czech trip last August sent a clipping from a local newspaper wherein the journalist who visited Krakow not only was deeply impressed by the salt mines, but recounted that she had discovered that there is a "chakra spot" at Krakow castle. Furthermore she listed six other "chakra spots" ranging geographically from Central Europe to the Middle East. The only "power place" that made anything like intuitive sense to me was Jerusalem. I was astonished that an Indian mystic idea should be promulgated in a part of the world where knowledge of chakras is as generally unknown as it was in the US fifty years ago. I'm reminded of Jung writing that it's not important if UFOs are real, people needed them and invented them.

Also I found a note in last Sunday's paper about a woman artist/performance artist who believes a piece of Moldovite gives her special powers. I had never heard of it until in the Czech Republic where guide, Thomas, said it was a local gem and we went looking for it in jewelry shops one day. Although we found some, no one one purchased any. it is a green "gem" which, in fact is debris from a meteorite that fell in that area possibly prehistorically. Ah, well, many people give special properties to all kinds of gems - far beyond their monetary value.

When I first went to Tibet my guide, Ken, had a book from the hippy 1960s about the "power places" in the HImalayas. That made more sense to me than this chakra stuff does. Although I can't help thinking we find the power where we look for it -- as Jung said, we invent it when we need it. The journalist says she felt a powerful jolt of energy at the spot at the edge of the courtyard of Karkow castle. May she long enjoy the memory of that jolt - just as she will long be amazed, as was I, at the complexity of the salt mines. Perhaps I am either devoid of imagination or lucky to have little neediness for such reassurances, but these myths are psychological longings that I can only count up intellectually but feel no longing to experience.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Our share of the storm

[I'm trying to prettiy this but blogger is not letting me upload a picture today]

Very often it seems we in NYC get news of horrible weather in other parts of the country. But many of the storms seem to wear themselves out making roads impassible and dumping ice where trees and power lines will come down and chill homeowners. However the nasty storm I've heard about for three days now, seems finally to have arrived. So far wet and cold but not worse. Of course NYC itself is a sort of mini-climate, producing it's own heat shield -- which is why our autumn was one week long this year.

My mood at the moment is let it come. I don't have to go out again today. I have stuff I want to eat in the refrigerator, I have a put together quilt top to iron and another set of blocks to add to, I have a stack of Christmas cards to write and a couple of other writing projects going and, of course, a LOT of books to read, four or five started. The radio plays nice classical music with the occasional ad for a Messiah concert that gives a touch of the season. Could it be any better? Well, of course, if I want to start wishing for extras. But this is good enough for right now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Would it be life without problems?

The title says it all. There are two such titles published and there are two posts previously. At some point I will get the problem figured out. For right now, certain parts of the blogger program immediately break my DSL connection so I cannot get to past posts to delete or edit.

Winter is seriously here and it is so dark and dreary this week and most of last I've taken no photos and been inspired to do nothing outdoors. I have put together the top of squares -- picture soon. But now the Christmas cards are arriving and I have to write my own. My various card-ees, are from a variety of areas of my life so that I can't do a blanket note. It seems my life has arrived at an accordian file stage. I am the accordian file but my sets of friends and correspondents are in various pockets and sometimes there's little overlap. I don't mind -- I've been a Gemini all my life, meaning lots of interests, a variety of irons in the fire. Love variety. This is not a complaint.

Besides the cards there are gifts and the majority must be mailed -- soon! I'm getting antsy about that. I love going to the big general P.O. near Penn Station early in the morning, say 8:00. Usually the line is very short. Yesterday there were twenty in live when I arrived with a couple of packages I had to get moving through the systems. It's just going to get worse. Though I must say that mostly the P.O. is effecient and I run into a lot of very pleasant clerks. Back to quilts and photos soon.

Would it be life without problems?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Free Rice - Bryson on Australia


The Free Rice project, wherein an organization gives provides rice to the hungry and various parts or the world has been going on a while. I've herard of it from a couple places. But I came across the above button on a blog when I was surfing the ARTFUL QUILTERS WEBRING [which I can't make clickable because blogger and this new MAC program are not very cooperative]. Anyway, it's apparently on the up and up and it's fun. Go to the website, and find a word definition challenge that gone on and on and ou can play as long as you like, each correct answer is 10 grains of rice and they add up pretty fast. You might also be hedging a bit against Alzheimer's disease by using the associative parts of the brain that help in definitions. Certainly anything that can help alleviate world hunger is to be encouraged and participated in if possible. People who have seen grocery stores in third world countries like Nepal, as I have, can get grumpy at the obscenity of our supermarkets with whole aisles of cereal [even whole aisles of dog and cat food] not to mention the banks and banks of freezer units full of food, much of it already prepared.

Free Rice - Bryson on Australia


Apparently this project has been going on for a while. I've heard about it a couple or three times but only a couple days ago was surfing the Artful Quilter's Webring when I came upon the button in blog, clicked it and immediately got into the "game" of defining words. For every word defined correctly the organization donates 10 grains of rice. It took not very long to get to 1100 grains at which time I began to get definition fatigue. But I was delighted to discover I know words I didn't know I knew. I recommend going to their website and checking them out ... also it probably is a tiny hedge against Alzheimer's as well as adding up to a decent sized donation to fight world hunger. [The screen tells how much rice was donated that day ... and it's A LOT]

To change gears abruptly. I've just finished reading Bill Bryson's DOWN UNDER, which is his travel book about Australia, a continent he loves. He has a knack for humor as readers of A WALK IN THE WOODS know. This is not laugh-until-you-cry funny as that was a few times. But the humor is there plus he's done plenty of research that is never dry or onerous to read -- and there are MANY, MANY amazing things about Australia At many points I thought, I should just pull up all roots and move there. Unlike most Americans who, as Bryson points out frequently are 99% unaware that Australia exists, I am aware of it a lot because there are so many Aussie quilters, and Kiwis, [i.e., New Zealanders} too and an hour of random surfing of the above mentioned webring takes me Down Under frequently, where the quilting movement, both in traditional/contemporary and art quilts is very much alive and well. It is a place I feel, and felt before reading Bryson, but more so now, I really want to go .. for a decent amount of time because it's so varied and sounds terrifically more interesting than I had thought. Bryson is a great travel writer to read because he's curious about all kinds of things and has a great knack for enjoying learning, seeing, doing, talking, discovering. The kind of person anyone would like to travel with.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Butterfly Quilt close up


This photo goes with the post immediately below here. Blogger doesn't really like this new Mac, I'm trying to sneak around it's idiosyncracies. This is one of 19 butterflies on the quilt.

Urban Expressions

"Urban Expressions" was the name of the Empire Quilters' show last March, It was photographed by Hamlin-Rose, the husband and wife team who are responsible for our wonderful website, empireqilter.net, and a CD was produced shortly afterwards. Seeing the quilts in all their lovely color and complexity on the computer screen is very nice. But now they've produced a beautiful large format paper back book and it is a treasure. They can be reached at Hamilinrose.com.

I've complained widely that I am not a screen oriented person. I have difficulty reading anything longer than a not too long blog posting or email on screen. People sometimes send me essays and I find I really don't process the words on the screen like I do if they are in hard copy. The same is true of pictures of quilts. Yes, I look at the wonderful slide shows on the home page of the SAQA.com website, and love looking at them, but even when I used the pause feature I get a very different feeling then looking at photographs of quilts. It's a learned thing, of course. But I must say that holding a large book with over 200 pictures of quite wonderful quilts in my hands and looking at the enormous variety and creativity, being able to flip through pages, being able to pause and really look, is a wonderful experience The more so because most of these people are not professional quilters. But the range and the quality is very sophisticated compared to quilt shows I have seen in other parts of the country. Yes, I'm a bit of a chauvinist. I think New Yorkers are a really amazing lot. I'm very pleased and proud to have shown a couple of quilts and have them in this book. And as soon as Blogger will let me load a picture of a butterfly from my quilt, it will be at the top of this post, which apparently will not be this evening, maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Not perfect

Maybe it's true, or maybe it's a fable but I've heard that the fine Amish quilters always made a mistake in their quilts for fear that perfection would be a prideful challenge to God. Almost every time I make a quilt I think of that bit of hubis. Well, maybe not hubris because there have been many excellent Amish quilters. But that wrathful and jealous God will never have a reason to knock me down to size. I make many a mistake and often don't know it until the quilt is done, even a small one. The one in the picture, for instance.

This is the sixth of my lap quilts using up the 2x2 inch samples I had -- I showed others previously, they're the ones I call my new "vintage" quilts. I'm sure the mistake pops out glaringly at everyone who looks at this picture. Honestly, I didn't notice those two light white squares in the upper left until I'd sewn on the border and laid the quilt out to look at from across the room. The two offending pieces are in one four-patch block that is sewn in with the wrong edge up. Sometimes I think that if I had a studio with a design wall I'd see such mistakes before I sew them into place. But I wonder ... Actually sometimes, rather often, in fact, I do rip mistakes I know I've made and right them.

The psychological thing about this, if I must be contemplative and that IS my nature, is that my ego is not much involved with perfection of my quilts. Quilts are a passion, I love making them, love looking at them, etc. but they are a rapturous hobby, not a statement I am making about myself - yes I understand those who think everything we do is a statement ... well then, so be it. One thing I am not doing is challenging some perfect diety.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Labor Intensive jobs


This is what I'm working on -- using the inch and a half squares given to me at the last Empire Quilters meeting -- the center of the bigger squares, obviously. This particular very simple design, as I've been sewing on it for about three weeks now, has given rise to a couple -- I guess it's not too grand to say -- insights. Even looking at a picture of the work very much in process -- the squares are being sewn in rows, the rows haven't been sewn together yet. Then, of course when they are it will need a border and a backing and then to be quilted -- lots of work ahead. Any one can see that it's a very simple design -- just a square bordered so that there is another square and then a third. The two inside colors and fabric vary, either the light pink with a pale design or the dark purple -- simply, light or dark, likewise the inner squares. Very, very simple.
And the "insight" for me is that either I am extremely conservative -- which I don't believe I am -- or my taste is for the elegance that is found in simplicity. I prefer to believe it's the latter. I find this an extremely satisfying design and when it comes to quilting, I will not add a complex quilting design. I am thinking of a border that is a little different, yet what's in my mind, simple though it is, may be wrong. But I have at least a couple of weeks to keep thinking about it before I am ready to start sewing it.

The second insight is about that refrain I write so often, that quilting is very labor intensive. This is. But that's all right. Today my reverie took me to the first real job I ever had. Between sophomore and junior year in high school I went to Indianapolis for six weeks with a school friend. We stayed with her older sister who was working in Indianapolis and had an apartment. I remember absolutely nothing about the living arrangements but I remember that temp job I got shortly after I had turned 16 and could work. It was a minimum wage job, of course, at an insurance agency. They had decided that their index system of customers should be changed from policy number to alphabetic. All their customer information was on index cards in many, many file trays. Yes! That's right. My job was to refile all those cards.

I spent six weeks doing it, working eight hour days and probably earning [I don't honestly remember] about $3.00 an hour, if that. And guess what? I was not bored. Or maybe I was bored, but I was also proud to be able to do this job. I didn't whine and moan or hate the job. I have always had a sense of accomplishment after doing a big labor intensive job -- though I do hate dusting all the furniture in the house and generally spread the job over two days. As I think about that filing job, way back in the dark, dark non-technological age I also think that today to make such a shift any big company's clerk would simply enter one command into a computer and the entire job would be accomplished almost immediately. Zap!

Well, I don't want a computer to make a quilt for me. I like saying to myself, today I will sew two more rows of the quilt -- and watch it grow. When it is done, I will have a sense of satisfaction ... and I will have another cover to keep me warm [redundant though that is] in colors and a design that gives me much pleasure. I have little patience with people who dislike their labor intensive jobs -- unless they are being exploited as in sweat shops. When one undertakes a commitment, being bored may be a price, but total discontent is within you. You can take pride in a job well done or you can be a spoiled brat who doesn't understand the working for a wage is a bargain you've made and something to complete with pride.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

AIDA, HD video at Smyphony Space

From listening to the Texaco Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, lo! half a century ago, on the radio when I was a teenager, technology is reaching a new audience. I thought it was only Peter Gelb, the Met's relatively new General Manager, who was broadcasting operas by HD video to movie theatres -- he started it a year ago. Those were/are broadcast simultaneously to a select handful of theatres, last year only in the US, this year elsewhere as well. And those broadcasts are now going to be released on DVD and also made available to a broader list of theatres. I'm assuming it was Gelb's idea but it obviously rang a bell. I saw none of those, most weren't closer than New Rochelle.
This afternoon I went to a HD, surround sound showing at Symphony Space -- just three blocks away -- of AIDA from La Scala -- from last season, not a simulcast. The Zeffarelli production. Of course Aida is the grandest of grand opera and the camera was much in love with details of the set which were spectacular. The first half was visually stunning, the sound was wonderful throughout. The video in the second half ran into many problems with dim lighting of nighttime scenes, sometimes catching the beams of spotlights very distractingly. They have problems to solve with the video. I was charmed that Zeffarelli was called up during the final curtain calls and got great applause.
The Symphony Space audience tends to be solidly West Sider sorts, people over 40, obviously professional. However, I understand that the many HD showings in movie theatres are bringing in audiences who are not regular opera fans. With sound so gorgeous, and decent acting by attractive singers, it surely is enlarging the audience for an art form that was beginning to flounder. And there is a whole generation of quite beautiful young divas who can, or try, to act. It was certainly a very lovely way to spend three hours of a gray, snowy, first serious Sunday of winter afternoon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

November Poems

It's the last day of November and I have written 30 poems in the last 30 days. Said Patrick, my son-in-law, on or about October 28th, to Rachel, my daughter, "Why don't we write a poem a day for the month of November?" "Let's," said she. And she called me, "Want to join us?" "Sure," said I. And I did. Rachel wrote about 15, I think, Patrick wrote 6 or 7, I think. Is this fair? Well, probably. Daily writing has been a nearly lifelong habit for me, they are just now trying it. And Patrick doesn't want to show anything less than acceptable. I, on the other hand, know that I don't have to hold myself to quite those standards. Like Clint Eastwood, I know about the good, the bad and the ugly --and a great deal in between.

Many books for writers suggest daily writing -- in some recommend almost automatic writing in a journal, just for the habit of mind. I haven't found that useful. But I do believe that daily creative work, writing in particular, but I believe it works for visual artists and, of course for musicians, is important to keep the perception clear, to exercise the muscles for paying attention, for making selection. We have to have critical standards for what we will offer the world -- they don't want the drek, even though vast quantities of drek are cluttering up what purports to be the world of the arts.

It's the habit of paying attention that I was especially aware of this month for I usually only write poems when something catches my attention very strongly. I spent every day with a little piece of my mind saying, is this hiding a poem? Sometimes it was the weather, somethings things I saw, heard, did, and sometimes it was a news item, like the found poem I posted a week or so ago. Paying attention is a habit worth cultivating. Just as it's easy not to do physical exercise, it is easy not to pay attention, easy to go about in a mini-fog of our trivial reveries ... and if you watch your reveries, you'll find most are almost embarrassingly trivial.

I am now inputting all the poems from the yellow pads they were on into a document. Here is a news item poem. A few others may follow, or I may decide they are too lose to the "ugly" category.

The "norm" of eight hours of sleep
is not normal some other places,
never has been for everyone everywhere --
a revelation! People in some societies
wake for a couple of hours at night,
get up and do chores, or talk, sing, even dance
then sleep again -- some just lie and think.
We fret, worry, take pills, drink alcohol,
feel abnormal, call ourselves insomniacs
and feel a nearer step toward maniac.
How freeing, how satisfying to know
our standards are not universal!
How good to understand our way of life
is not perfection. There is no perfection
for which we must strive.
Nature is far more various and wonderful
than we were taught. How wonderful
to know the pundits often do not know
what they tell us "everyone knows."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Work for the Army


A small note, I'm still having blogger problem. I decided I didn't like yesterday's post but I can't seem to delete it the screen freezes and then cuts the connection. The flower here is just to prove to myself that at least some photos will load - yesterda I wasn't able to load pictures. I'm mightily confused and am going to seek help ... within the next few weeks.

Today's thoughts are more political than usual. In my transcription work, a lot is done for advertising and PR companies making ads. Over the last couple of years there have been a few times I've transcribed shoots for a company making "Go Army" videos. Mostly they interview GIs, most of these guys and gals come off as very good people who care about what they're doing and feel they are learning a lot, and I don't doubt them. I would never urge anyone to join any of the armed forces, and wish -- I understand the futility -- armies didn't exist. I've transcribed ads for various things I would never urge people to use or buy. But working on several interviews a couple of themes have come up. I know many military enlistees are from parts of the country where there are few opportunities and they can gain more than a living from the military - if they manage to get out alive. One soldier said quite frankly he joined "because there were no jobs in Kansas." Another said he joined for the health insurance "because my wife is sick" and furthermore he chose to be a truck driver "because of the $30,000 bonus." These are not statements that will get in the ads. They are so out front, I have to like those guys.

The ones that bother me are the guys who chose dangerous positions -- scout is a favorite, it seem -- because they have been conditioned by video games and movies. One guy says "it's fun, like playing the video game, Ghost Recon." He's the one who defines the scout's job as "making sure we have an unfair advantage." But the chills start down my spine when someone says he wants to be among guys who "give fire and take fire," and it gets worse when he says it's "fun" and he can hardly believe he's got the good luck to be paid to ride in a Blackhawk helicopter and "blow things up." And this is because "it's just like the movies I always watched."

I hope the guy who's best experience was working in Baaquba building infrastructure, water systems, a school, a hospital, is more typical than the movie mad bomber. And I very much hope he is not deluded when he says he's sure his work has given the people a good feeling towards Americans.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

new quilt on the brain

Much greater minds than mine are trying to understand the human mind -- well, I suppose they would say the human brain for there's not much agreement about what "mind" really is. My present conundrum is about visual imagination. I don't quite know how I am going to handle the stripping in the quilt I'm making with little squares [within larger squares] I could get a paper and colored pens and make a sketch but I haven't done that. So I awoke this morning, to find myself trying to picture not only how a couple of different treatments would look, but how they would change the size of the quilt. All this is knowable to the type A person who figures out everything in advance. But I don't want to work that way -- positively resist.

So come the weekend, I will cut strips and begin sewing and see what happens. I don't pretend this is going to be an art quilt. It's going to be very utilitarian and I think I'm going to like it very much and want to use it on the bed as soon as I can get it finished. That much my mind's eye can see. But, as I write as a kind of leit motif, I enjoy surprises in this kind of work. So I guess my waking up mind was trying to guess at the surprise in store.

I'm always interested in how the mind/brain works and, naturally, tend to watch how mine works -- not assuming it is the way all others work, but also not assuming I'm in any way remarkably different. I read a lot of artist's statements, be they writers or visual artists or sometimes musicians [whose talent is the greatest of mystery to me] I find it odd that I remember places very vividly, yet I wake in the morning unable to visualize something that is simply plane geometry o the simplest sort. Well, no pictures today. Still befuddled by blogger and probably still too impatient.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Scrap bag


Ah! It was a matter of waiting patiently -- I can be very impatient with technology. This is Riverside Park on Thanksgiving morning -- it was in the 70s. Beautiful! This was the only really beautiful golden autumn experience I had this year. So I took my time and enjoyed it VERY much.

Then it turned frigid and all the leaves fell in puddles overnight. Now it's winter -- early winter, yes, but definitely the season is here. So I cleaned and arranged and indulged myself in an impulse to use the new collection of tiny squares that were given to me at the last guild meeting. I've made 80 squares and decided I need another 16. This is the best part of quilting for me, when I am sewing the parts and have an idea in my head what it's going to look like, but can yet make more choices -- the stripping will be next, and colors are only an approximation at the moment. The back won't be decided for a while. I do know the quilting will be simple, it's a simple quilt and I don't need to jazz it up.

To make the squares I went to my scrap bag, which was bulging, and sorted for light and dark that was fairly plain, and, of course, pieces big enough to for the job. Just about everyone has a scrap bag. I don't know how much others use theirs, but I use my only for an occasional quilt. However I'm comforted having it -- a repository for those cuttings that I can't bear to throw away. And to me, really, quilt means "scraps" even though I know that's rarely true. Working with scraps, with a large variety of colors and patterns gives me satisfaction. I mull the usual -- about how our lives are full of the bits and pieces we can't bear to forget -- yet we do forget them for long periods. Still there they are and can be added to new bits and become either beautiful or useful or both. This quilt has a time to go before there's anything to photograph. But I am happy I was patient just now and found the photo was being loaded. We'll have photos now in the future. I think I am going to love this computer, once I've mastered some of the new tricks this old dog must learn.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Not quite up and running

Not only do I find I can't add pictures yet, I the pictures I took yesterday -- some lovely all pictures, I thought, somehow won't transfer from camera to computer. If it's not one problem it's another I'll get it all straightened out but it may take some time -- and help.

Meanwhile I had a bit o time yesterday and could resist starting another quilt. As mentioned, when I'd shown and described my "new vintage" quilts at the guilt meeting a couple of weeks ago, someone almost surreptitiously leaned over my shoulder and gave me a baggie with another bunch of squares -- these are 1.5x1.5 inches, most are plain. I've long admired what I privately think of as a Nancy Crow block -- because I first saw it in some quilts she showed many years ago at the Museum of Arts and Crafts here in NYC. I pulled out my scrap bag and began sewing borders around those little square to make new squares an when many of them are done in a great variety of colors, they will be put together with stripping and other little squares at the joinings -- this is not a la Nancy Crow but worked very well on a quilt I made my youngest grandson several years ago and which I was reminded of the last time I visited because that was a quilt I slept under. And I still like it. So I have a nice weekend ahead and will carry on with both the quilting and getting this new computer comfortable to work with.

I might mentioned that I'm reading three very different books -- a bit of each per night [though it's very likely, I'll finish one tonight.] First is a beautiful book of Andrew Wyeth works with commentary by Wyeth about each picture, sometimes quite surprising commentary. His work is so austere and yet he feels such passion for his subjects ... it seems to me a very WASP, very down East [although he alternates between Chadds Ford in Pennsylvania and Maine] the kind of close lipped but still waters run deep feeling. I've seen several of his works, the Helga pictures at Brooklyn Museum and a retrospective the Whitney. His quietness is SO very different from all I see in Art News.

As a contrast I'm reading Louis Erdrich's The Master Butcher's Singing Club, a rather long novel and I'm close enough to make a dash to the end this evening. Her story is very, very close to a kind of American magic realism . Characters and events are pushed a little past my ability to believe. This is something I think all but the most literarily serious American writers do. It's the urge to entertain and also to show off the fecundity of imagination and sometimes depth of research of a period or place. It always sets me a a remove from the work even when I'm totally captivated by the plot and must find out how it ends. I tend to resent that writerly glitz.

The third book is a book of poems by Billy Collins who is so down to earth that, paradoxically, that is also off putting ... in poetry. I don't want great piles of metaphor and all kinds of tricks, but I want to learn a little more than I get from C ollins. So of the three boks,Wyeth is by far the most satisfying. His drawing skill is so amazing to me that I become immersed in the pictures by themselves, but when I read more of what or why as he explains them, the experience is pushed to considerable sat isfaction.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Yesterday I walked up Columbus Ave., past the Natural History Museum beside which the Macy's parade balloons were being readied for today's trundle from there down to Macy's. I am a bah-humbug type about this parade but it was fun to see a lot of kids, with adults in tow, excited about the inflation process and posing by the fence to which were tied hundreds of regular type balloons. The weather was surprisingly warm. Today was again warm and sunny in the morning so I thought I'd go down and take a few pictures of the balloons because, despite all the years I've been here, I don't have any. But, by the time I'd stopped off for a bagel and coffee I reached the area as people were streaming toward me -- well, really toward the various parking garages and/or public transportation and stores.

Again it was magnificently warm so I went over to Riverside Park and finally saw some real autumn color -- almost all gold and very beautiful in the rather soft sun against the still very green grass and the rather milky sky. It was even so warm that I stopped on a bench and looked over the SAQA newsletter which I like SOOO much better in hard copy than on screen. But that's true of everything Very often part of the mail is actually put into our boxes by the night staff instead of the day people so as I went out I got a handful of junk catalogs and such, the SAQA piece and the season's first Christmas card! The words on the weather forecast are that it will turn very clod tonight and remain so the rest of the weekend ... which makes me particularly thankful for two days of perhaps the very last of Indian summer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another new computer and a poem

The computer saga continues but one can't get two lemons in a row -- can one? I pray not. And I'm not going into the matter further. As noted a few days ago, my son-in-law challenged his wife [my daughter, Rachel] to write a poem a day during November. And she in turn pinged me. So, in fact, I have written something that purports to be a poem each day. All are in need of editing, which I hope to do as soon as I get Word installed on this machine. Meanwhile here is yesterday's poem because it's a subject I would write about if I hadn't turned the article in the Sunday N.Y. Times Week In Review section into a found poem -- the fist line begged to be part of a poem so I simply deleted the words that seemed extraneous. The subject deserves attention and thought, even by those on the lower side of, say, age fifty. I invite anyone who reads this and has thoughts about the subject [not the quality of the poem] to leave a comment.

FOUND POEM

So this, in the end, is what love is.
Justice O'Connor's husband
suffering fro Alzheimer's disease
has a romance with another woman...
the former justice is thrilled --
even visits the new couple
while they hold hands
on the porch swing.
It is a relief to see her husband
of fifty-five years so content ...
what cultre tells us about love
is generally young love,
rapture and betrayal, breathlessness and tears.
The O'Connor story opened a window
onto what might be called old love --
even when dementia steals so much else ...
Justice O'Connor's reaction revealed a poignancy
and richness to love in later years...
a rare model when people are living
and loving longer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Saga Continues

I have been reading Helen Conway's blog, Downthewell.blogspot.com/ and she has written, in the last two or three months some wonderful consumer frustration blogs -- Ikea, buying a new car, getting more of a Jenny Beyers fabric, etc. I wish I could be as funny as she is but she's British and they have a head start on the dry humor side!

Well, here's some of mine. As readers know, my previous laptop died the first week of November, when the warrantee had expired on September 26th! I went to the lovely Apple Soho store where one of the geniuses told me it was dead and so dead they didn't think they could recover data and suggested I go to TekServ which is an Apple commecial store a couple of blocks from where I work because maybe they could save the data. Well, they weren't keen on that since I had by then rationalized to myself that I supposed I could live without an expensive recovery. But they did lay out the possibilities to me and it finally became economically most sensible to purchase a new computer. [This one called a Leopard, as opposed to the old one called a Panther - no names of apples like Cortland and Rome and Delicious and Gala].

So I bit the bullet and purchased a new MacBook. I am a cautious and chary user and was befuddle by various things and went down to the Apple store Sunday [yestereday] morning to ask questions. There I spoke with Diane, a nice young woman who did not have to many customers at an early Sunday morning. She loaded the Word program for me and was helping with other minor problems when the screen froze. She could not unfreeze it. She took it to the geniuses who did their backroom diagnosis and pronounced the hard drive and CD drive both very faulty. They said to take it back to TekServ and get a new computer! I had had it 9 days and did nothing on it!

Well, that was yesterday and I had none of the ephemera with me so decided to come home and gather it all together and go to TekServ today after work -- which, indeed I did. I knew it would be a long haul so I took reading matter with me. After an hour when the technician did their diagnostic stuff, yes, they agreed I should have a new computer Which is what I am typing on. Indeed, I have none of the other stuff loaded, and Diane promised if I came back Saturday she would help me -- so I will. But at least for now I have internet access. And maybe this one will work ... the odds of two lemons in a row are pretty distant -- right/ So, one of these days I'll be able to upload pictures. And maybe I'll be back in business -- for real -- soon.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Still trying to get it together

Well, the image I wanted to use doesn't seem to be working. And my printer doesn't seem to work right now. It is sad and awful to feel so dumb and helpless in the face of a machine that is obviously very smart. I have so much to learn! Old dogs CAN learn new tricks, but they howl and whine and whimper a lot in the process ... which is what I am doing. I will solve these problems -- probably with the help of the "geniuses" at the Apple store. The image I wanted to upload was a wonderful cappuccino I had in China [yes, Kuming] and looking at it made me so hungry, I think I've got to put some clothes on and go around the block to a Starbuck's and get one. The motto might be: when frustrated drink coffee .. and maybe eat a bit of chocolate.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"vintage" quilts

No photos yet -- but, hurray! I thought I had lost all my photos when my former computer crashed. But I remembered putting aside my first memory card from the digital camera -- as it turns out it contained nearly all my 2006 China trip, my Alaska and Indiana photos and some of my butterfly postcards and assorted other quilt pictures. I think I still have most of my Czech trip photos on another memory card, so they can be added too.

But I don't want to forsake the quilting subject matter. I wrote that you could go to empirequilters.net and click the show and tell to see my jacket, you can also see the two "vintage grandmother" quilts I posted 3 or 4 posts ago. [in fact if you go down to March, '07 on that screen and click my name under quilter of the month all those are there along with quite a few other of my quilts -- this I just discovered a few minutes ago.

Today I quilted and bound a third of the vintage quilts and I have two more tops done that will have photos in a couple of days. The amazing thing was that when I sat down after doing my show and tell, someone leaned over my shoulder and thrust a plastic baggy in my hand, saying, "This is for you." I barely got to see her as the meeting was progressing. The baggy had several more 2x2" squares, most of them in solid colors. Well, of course I was delighted. And have already planned a sixth quilt although I think it will not be a double four-patch. I think I'll celebrate Thanksgiving day by making the little quilt that has popped into my mind using those squares and pieces from my scrap bag. Eventually all six of these will be donated for the guild's charity project.

I'm slowly getting comfortable with my new computer; I've become a bit like a cat. With some new "environment" I take my time getting acquainted. I'm not totally happy with the differences in the photo program and have to see if I truly understand it. I don't feel rushed, it's my "toy" and "tool" and I'll get friendly with it in my own sweet time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November Poems

Very late in October, the 29th or so, Rachel emailed that Patrick had proposed writing a poem a day all through November, did I want to do the same? Sure, said I. November is half over and I've written 14 poems. I don't think they've managed that many -- but have a major advantage: I've had the daily writing habit for many years. I know that given a challenge, I can always meet it -- maybe not with quality but with some quantity. Regular writing is not very different from daily tooth brushing or exercising -- it's an exercise of the verbal part of the mind ... and more, of course, of noticing. Sometimes it's noticing things outside yourself and sometimes noticing the world around, even the items on the news. I can certainly say that in fourteen poems I haven't written anything wonderful, in fact, nothing even very inspired. But it's a good exercise ... definitely not for everyone. I think all my poems need some thought. I have none in hard copy for my other computer was giving up the ghost. As soon as I get Word installed here I'll enter the month of poems and work on them and then probably add one or two. So far, Rachel has written on that I think is quite wonderful -- about motherhood on the occasion of her oldest's turning 21. I don't have permission to print that yet -- have to ask Anyway this is just to say that creativity is -- or can be -- a habit like almost any other habit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back in Business, sort of

So I'm entering this post from my new Mac ibook that I've just fired up. There's a lot I have to learn yet and more to install but I think maybe I've gone from a toddler to a walker ... or maybe not. I'm not ready to do photos today, but soon. I do want to direct my regular readers to the empirequitlers.net -- which at this point I can't make a click and go address -- that takes me some research and time. But go to show and tell on the menu and the open November and scroll down a bit and there's me in my jacket of which I'm very proud. It doesn't show the details of the embellishments but it shows three view -- the photographer was very kind.

The photographer, Cindy Russell and her husband, who do web work professionally -- and Cindy is the genius behind the fine website -- have just offered a book of the quilts from our guild show in March. It's expensive but I'll get it since it's the first time a couple of quilts of mine have been in print. It WAS a beautiful quilt show -- as befits a NYC guild of course -- and the book is a wonderful memory of it. If any reader is interested, leave a message and I'll tell you how to get it or a CD of the show which Cindy and her husband have also published.

I can't say how glad I am to be sitting at my own computer writing this.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Botheration!!!

A brief note: blog entries will be short and pictureless for some time -- not too long, I hope. My hard drive crashed -- that is bad enough although I've adjusted to the notion that I am not mortally wounded with the loss of data ... which may be retrievable ... for a price, of course. What rankled is that I had a three year warrantee for my Ibook - and it expired 9-26-07. And the real slow down that was a warning signal started toward the middle of October. Yes, that's just the kind of that happens and inspires conspiracy theories. I won't go there.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Venting about technology


I'm having a hard time with my internect connection -- somehow Safari, the apple connection works, for this blog, but my AOL is very uncooperative. I spent most of Sunday morning on the phone with the DSL provider only to finally hang up after being terminally on hold. I think I'll have to take the poor little machine down to the Apple store and spend a lot of time there probably finding out something simple that will cost a fair amount of money. How one comes to depend on something like internet. I can use my computer at work of course, but I like the pleasure of doing it at home on my own time when I feel like it.... spoiled.
If I can [and the first attempt failed] I will show a picture of the ideal appliances ... one very low tech, the other only a little bit more complex. To me the ideal appliance is an iron. When I left home for college I was given a new iron. I used that iron for about 30 years. It was fine when i replaced it -- it didn't have a steam capability and I was ready to move up in the world. The one I hvae new was its replacement and is in fine fettle 25 or so years later. Dependable! And believe me, these were not lazy irons. I LIKE to iron, I iron things many people don't, like sheets and tee-shirts. But NO, I do not iron underwear, but I do iron some pajamas.
My second choice for great appliance is my sewing machine. It is now 45 years old, or so and it's tension isn't right any more and that's a major problem. But it's sewn literally, I think, millions of miles of seams. It has had two broke parts, minor ones, in all that time. It has had tune ups and needs one now but I have been able to depend on it.
In contrast this little comptuer is only 3 years old. I haven't -- by far -- mastered all it can do. But it, has not been totally kind to me ...certainly not the last few days. I have no warm fuzzies toward it. In fact, I'm downright frustrated. Yes, it's a great deal more complex than iron or sewing machine, but ... Well, it's a battle I might as well throw up my hands for bow in resignation about. I have found myself addicted to having easy internet access and I'm upset that it's no easy right now.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

On a roll

Something about all the different ways one can arrange blocks... I don't remember having blocks as a kid but I suppose I might have. Arranging blocks in varioiuis orders must be a very basic pleasure, blocks or sticks or stones or whatever one has to play with. I've had these 2x2 inch squares. Once I began it's been impossible to stop until I've used up most of them -- three more quilt tops in the last two days. The one above with lots of red is the most dramatic and probably most successful as a design.

The other one is also relatively successful -- both in a traditional sense. it gives me a kind of convenetional warm fuzzy feeling. The fifth, when I had used up so many of the sets of blocks that I could not get a consistent design, is not very successful and I probably won't show it. [We can all hide our less than successful attempts if we want.] So now I must either quilt them or tie them -- in a way tieing, the old fashioned, simple method seems most appropriate. So that is the end of this momentary madness. I'll go back to more contemporary designs -- not "when" these are done, but immediately and finish these as I can. They are not really appropriate to give to babies [for the charity project] but might be quite appropriate to give to older people, they can cover knees and legs for the wheelchair bound very conveniently and may be more satisfying to older people who expect conventional quilts. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant. I read on someone's blog today that at a fair she found her art quilts earned a "clever" comment but that people at that particular fair were drawn to conventional quilts. The non-quilting world still needs educating and familiarizing with the contemporary quilt world.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Gramma quilts - new vintage

I am making tops out of these 2x2 squares as I wrote yesreday. Actuallly if you look carefully you can see it's a double four patch, Thus I can add the larger squares of calicos I have -- and I'm discovering I have more than I thought. The red looks particularly haphazard and unplanned, but, in fact it was somewhat planned. Since I have no design wall, i just put them together by instinct. If I had them on a design wall they'd be more structured .. which might be good, or it might be too prissy.
This uses blue which is not as evident as I'd like plus dusty green calicos. It's essentially the same four patch design. I've been thinking of these as "gramma quilts" because they are so old fashioned. I notice these days in fashion any time an actress doesn't have on a brand new dress the old one is called "vintage." That seems a good name too. Maybe I should call them "vintage gramma quilts"

I'm going to do at least one more. But with my penchant for doiing series, I feel myself on the edge of doing maybe four more which would leave very little of the 2x2 squares. So far it's just tops, of course, qulting them will be done in the simplest way. Some very simple minded part of me gets great pleasure out of these simple old fashioned designs and fabrics. They'll all be given away.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A third project

A couple days ago i said that one project wasn't enough. It seems two projects aren't enough -- partly because I haven't actually started on the second [the hand piecing]. Since a meeting isn't upcoming for a couple weeks, I've distracted myself with a small series of charity quilts. Last spring I purchased from the guild's share table a batch of 2x2 pieces -- such as I remember purchasing about 15 years ago. These, by their calico design, were at least that old. But I have a really deep love of scrappy and, yes, even calico "gramma" style quilts. What the heck. I am a gramma! Why not? So yesterday I put together the top for one child size quilt. Today I had less time but did sew a bunch of the 2x2s together. There will be a couple of photos tomorrow.

I feel especially inspired to get charity quilts made as soon as possible because a couple of years ago, at the January meeting the charity quilt chairman distributed Xeroxes of a letter from a woman who had distributed quilts at a family shelter at Christmas time. She said that for several of the children the quilt was their only Christmas present. It was a stab in the heart. In this obscenely wealthy city where most children have more junky toys than their parents can count, it is a tragedy for any child to have nothing on Christmas. So I want to make what I can and have them ready for distribution by Christmas.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Darjeeling

I've been fascinated and bothered by the title of Wes Anderson's movie DARJEELING EXPRESS. On the one hand, I've been to Darjeeling and found it a fascinating little city - or "hill town". I was curious to see the movie because I'd like to see pictures of the place. On the other hand, I know there cannot be a train called the "Darjeeling Express." The only rails to Darjeeling are narrow gauge and the train that goes from the low lands up to mile-plus-high Darjeeling has only a few cars which are open. It is locally called "the toy train" and runs sporadically, if at all.

So it was a toss up yesterday, I'd go see whichever of about four movies I'm interested in, was about to play at the time I arrived at the multiplex. It was DARJEELING EXPRESS. It never got to Darjeeling. I enjoyed the "buddy" story of three brothers and the typically American premise that they would have a spiritual experience just by going to India. [Ha!] But Adrien Brody is beautiful to watch and the rest of the cast were fine and the story sometimes amusing. Though I didn't see a bit of Darjeeling, there was a scene of a funeral in a poor little town among dessert-y landscape that was extremely touching. The whole village gathered to go to the river to cremate the dead little boy. Everyone wore white [the funeral color in India], and they went on wagons pulled by their tractors and a donkey or two and a camel -- all were improbably decked with white flowers but never mind ... there was solmenity and the sense of a rural village where people dealt with life and death seriously and with that ceremonial beauty that was very touching in so many places in India. The scene was such a wonderful contrast to the rich boys without real direction in their lives, to me it was the heart of the movie.

With Darjeeling on my mind, I've spent the last 24 hours or so feeling happy that I've been able to see places like India. I love having the storehouse of visual memories -- e.g., a troop of Hanuman monkies dashing across Chowrasti square, and people lined up just looking at the panorama of Katechenjenga and beyond her, looking smaller in the distance, Everest, just after dawn when the clouds were not gone but nestling in the valleys below us. There was a boy brushing his teeth, sqautting beside the gutter outside the front door of his house. And the evening drive up to Darjeeling during Dawali festival when every little hut along the way or in the valleys was outlined in candles in little jars...there were snow leopards in the zoo and the mounteering institute with a memorial Tenzing Norgay who was with Hillary on Everest. I would like to go back to Darjeeling ... but I doubt I will. I've got those and many other pictures in my head.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

One project is not enough

I am very happy to borrow other people's ideas. I will make them mine. This very much applies to quilting. As I showed in yesterday's post, I'll use an '87 design I found. My background fabric is black with a tiny red streak and the ribbons will be many shades of reds. Here's another pattern from Quilters Newsletter, this one from June 2000 designed by Elizabeth T. Miller [I believe in crediting designers even if I'm going to change the design -- I don't know if I'll do the border, probably not like hers]. Mine will not be red, as I'm using red in the other project, I'll dig into a different color of my stash, blue or maybe brown.

I'm inspired by someone who did a show-and-tell at a guild meeting last spring. Hers was a one-patch quilt that she had hand sewn at meetings and other qulet moments. I used to take needlepoint to meetings back when I was a "meeting lady.' I still like needlepoint but I'd rather make a quilt. However I didn't want to do a one patch design that I could sew on a machine much faster. I wanted to do something that I might not do otherwise, either a baby blocks or a drunkard's path, both of which need careful matching. I leaned toward the latter and when I saw this design I knew I'd found my project. I've made templates and all I have to do is cut out several for a start. Add some pins, a needle, thread, thimble and thread cutter to a little ziplock baggie -- a size I can carry in my purse. And I'm all set. It will take several months to do enough squares for the quilt but that's prefectly all right.

I especially love the scrappiness of this design. In fact, I can't really get over thinking that a "real" quilt is made of scrraps - even if those are in the form of fat quarters and cuttings from other quilts rather than true scraps. I love that so many designs and shades of a color can meld together harmoniously ... like a crowd of people at a cultural event -- all different kinds of people, dressed all kinds of ways, speaking different languages. But all harmoniously enjoying something together.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Starting or Finishing

The last day or two, and into the weekend, I'll be starting a couple projects and finishing, I hope -- no, I KNOW -- three projects. One is the much written about jacket. I keep adding little beads, and I think maybe I'm crazy because who is going to notice those tiny embellishments against the headlight-like big shiny buttons? Me, that's who. I just wanted to put them there. Now all I need is the actual buttons that will close it and I have them. Sewing them on will take, tops, two minutes. Then -- viola! Done. The other projects are two charity quilts for the Empire Guild, one was finished this morning when I hand sewed the binding and wrote on the label. The other is literally under the sewing machine foot where I left it when I stopped quilting and went in to work. It will be finished tomorrow.


What am I starting? Two quilts, one a relatively simple paper pieced one. The picture is from Quilters Newsletter Magazine, July-August, 1987. The design is by Joan Basore. I've been keeping copies of the magazines for over about 20 years and I'm trying to give away all the ones that aren't especially precious but before I donate them, I go through quickly and see if there is some quilt patterns that really intrigues me. This was one such -- although I'm doing a dark background with a red ribbon design across it. I turned it into a paper pieced ddesign -- relatively simple to make a diagram and so much easier to sew than cutting out all the pieces just so. I don't think I'll even do a complex design of many pieces again without it being paper pieced.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just a couple photos

Yesterday blogger only let me upload these pictures but it didn't let me write anything. [Who knows?? The Gremlin knows.] Anyway, I recently took a role of film photos for a Swap-bot exchange and I was pleased to get these pictures. The first one is, probably most people can tell, some seaweed floating over the pebbles in shallow, clear water. It's a kind of image that can inspire an art quilt .. and maybe it will. I've been pondering how to get the wateriness, the transparency using netting or something very sheer... I'll keep pondering and something may come to mind.
The second picture, which could have been a little sharper just pleases me. It's a few of the little brown birds that are crumb moochers in the park. I guess they're sparrows, but I am so ignorant of LBBs I don't really know. Sunday was incredibly beautiful so I had a nice long walk in Central Park [where I wanted photos and got them plentifully]. I had a coffee and cookie at the terrace along side the toy sailboat basin. As soon as I sat down half a dozen LBBs flutter around my feet. They're fat little things, definitely not going hungry. But they're cute and of course I broke off a few crumbs. More LBBs appeared, of course. Some sat on the low cast iron railing that was right in front of me -- these are three of them.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Charity Quilts

It sounds like a cliche to say that the pleasure is in the making rather than having when finished. But I truly feel that way about most of my quilts. I have no ego invested, just the joy of using fabrics in a variety of colors and making designs Once they are done I sometimes forget them almost entirely. So giving quilts away is a pleasure too. These two quilts, from the Carol Doak "Star Quartet" series have a certain amount of purple and so I thought they were appropriate for the prostate cancer charity request made by an Empire Quilter's Guild member who poitned out that "purple is their color." [This branding of all causes is a tad silly, it's monkye see, monkey do.] But I am about to leave a email for the woman who is collectiing contributions who happens to leave only a few blocks away, and we'll arrange for her to get these two quilts. Also this third one.

The woman who requested donations for prostate cancer patients said her grandmother had died of the disease. It is one of the nastier cancers. It is not often curable but, of course, patients are often put through miserable courses of chemotherapy all for a few more weeks of life. So if a few bright colored quilts will give a little warmth and a little cheer -- good. I am happy to see the quilts going to such a cause.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Nice clerks at the P.O.

I have done my share of whining and bitching about the working and workers of the US Post Office. So it's time to say something about the two fine ladies who spend five or ten minutes this morning helping me save about $4.00 in postage. There were very few customers first thing in the morning. I had a Priority Mail package to mail to daughter Leslie in California. "If it were in the flat fee box it would be about $4.00 less," the clerk told me. "Oh, I didn't know the boxes were different." I said. "Yes, it has to say flat fee." She produced the proper box of what seemed to be the same size. I was about to move away to the desk to unpack and change boxes when she said "Maybe you can slip it inside." But, no. Neither of us could quite make it fit. Then another clerk appeared, "sure you can" she said and did shove my box inside the flat fee box! Nice. But then I said, "Oh-oh, the address" ... so we had to take it out, which took both of us -- her holding and me tugging. I got the address copied on the new box and shoved the old one back but by then the new box was getting a bit torn at seams so the second clerk began a major taping operation with the priority tape. I have noticed that the P.O. clerks LOVE that tape!

Done? Now quite. The first clerk noticed that somehow I had written my return zip code on the same horitzonal as Leslie's zip code and she thought the automatic zip code reading machine might chose the wrong zip code. So she gave me a label to fill out and paste one. All this effort to save a customer [moi] approximately $4.00 ... I left feeling very kindly toward those two kind and helpful women. I hope their colleagues along the process are equally caring and competent.

Friday, October 19, 2007

ZORRO, Isabel Allende

This blog is nothing if not ecclectic -- from the Dalai La, which was in the magic realism genre. Other books were more straight forward, her book on erotica was full of prescriptions and not very erotic. But I respect her work and follow it's changes. A few weeks ago Barnes & Noble had a table of paperbacks near the door [unmissable] with a big sign saying buy two, get one free. Too tempting. Among the three I bought was ZORRO by Allende, which I had not been aware she wrote. The last two evenings I've plunge ahead toward the end, both eager to how she would solve plot problems and a eager to get done because I had grown tired of the perfect swashbuckler, the young man who was fashioning himself as Zorro by becoming superlative at all the needed skills, sword play, acrobatics, use of a bullwhip, riding, telepathy with his Native American "milk brother", slight of hand that let him win at cards without getting caught, etc., etc..

Allende wove in lots of California and Sp;anish history, rather glossily added Caribbean and New Orleans, ocean travel -- it got to be too much for my taste, But never boring and once caught up in lives of charcteres the human need to know how a story is resolved assets it self and the book has to be pretty bad -- i.e., so transparent that the characters are too shallow to support suspense. So it was a romantic, swashbuckling read. I had read nothing, really about the very early days of the Spanish in California, so that was new and interesting. But most of the read was not new and often exaggeratedly romantic so that I became impatient. Now I must turn to something with more substance. Swashbucklers are not for me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Congressional Gold Medal to Dalai Lama

We've turned some sort of corner. Bush ignored the fury of the Chinese and gave the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. It's all symbolic but I take it as an encouraging symbol. For years officials would not even meet with His Holiness because everyone was quaking and quivering least the Chinese not want to let us make use of their cheap labor and not let us sell stuff to the needy masses. Well, a few things have changed -- this is my observation, not something I've read in any one place -- but now the capitalists have seen that the Chinese do not know the meaning of intellectual property. They happily rip off every American consumer goody from Nikes to Viagra, they are glad to sell us shoddy plastic toys and to cover them in bright lead-based paint. They are delighted to sell us tons of farm raised fish and seafood, all delightfully laced with mercury and various other toxic chemicals since clean waters are not known in the booming China. They don't care what kind of chemicals go into the toothpaste they sell and are busy copying the best golf clubs and tennis rackets in the cheapest materials, not to mention all the movies and music they gladly rip off even before they hit the American movie theatres.

I don't for an instant think the Bush administration cares that the Tibetan culture is being stamped out systematically and that the prisons are full of dissident lamas and nuns who are tortured [we know a thing or two about torture ourselves, don't we?] I don't for an instant think most people in Washington have a clue what Buddhism is about and I don't believe anyone feels any more compassion for the Tibetan cause than they do for the cause of the water-deprived Navajo and Hopis [no, we'll divert it to fake Venetian canals in Las Vegas and to the movie stars' pools in Los Angeles]. But, an arm or two got twisted and a little voice whispered in some important ears that an awful lot of American voters actually admire the Dalai Lama, actually think his stand for peace in the world is a extremely admireable. Yes, a pure heart and a right thiniking mind are a fine combination but sometimes it's the overt action that sends the message. And this message is the right one to send to China as some of their leaders get shuffled around. So much is wrong in the world; how wonderful when something is right!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Stuff

I'm thinking about stuff, I'm looking at stuff, I'm surroundded by stuff. Literally. I always am, really, but usually the stuff is discretely arranged, sometimes even artistically arranged. Right now it's higgily-piggily and just plain messy and ugly. You see, my apartment is two rooms, of equal size and the "other" one which is basically a bedroom but also a dining room [please don't ask] is being painted. I took everything off the walls, off the surfaces, off the floor if possible and even out of some of the bookscase shelves all to make it easier for the painter and a helper to move the larger pieces of furniture and to paint as efficiently as possible. And it's all piled in here. What a mess! What a lot of stuff!!

Some people live happily without stuff, or with very, very little. There is a Buddhist nun who lived in a cave for eleven years with almost nothing, she could probably count the items on her fingers. Many people who have more stuff than I do -- think of the famous Collier Brothers who have several emulators in this world. This stuff took me all weekend to carry in here and it will possibly take two wek weeks to rearrange I hope more efficiently and neater ... and a certain amount will go to the thrift store [a certain amount already has]

I see ads in the paper for a movie called, I think "What We Lost in the Fire." Which made me recall an incident from a trip I took. A woman from Los Angeles mentioned passingly that she and her husband lived in a suburb in the "fire zone," -- i.e., the part of L.A. were wildfires are frequent in the arid days of late summer. Toward the end of the trip when I suppose she had ascertained we were a sympathetic group, she produced a packet of photographs that she had lugged across the US and the Atlantic. They showed the devastation of the suburb in which the couple lived -- and it might have been Desden after the fire bombings.

What is odd is that this couple was extraordinarily lucky -- and perhaps she had survivors' guilt. They, like their neighbor, were told by public annnouncements, police cars driving through the area, to evaculate within the hour. They grabbed whatever and went to stay with relatives who lived only a few miles way. Other neighbors who did not have relatives nearby had to find room in motels. This couple stayed with relatives in comfort and with sympathetic hosts But for three days they had not idea what had happened to their home filled with a lifetime of stuff. When they returned they found that a few houses of many dozen, had somehow not been burned at all and theirs was among the untouched. They lost several thousand dollars worth of plantings in their garden but, unlike their neighbors who lost everything, they had all their stuff, perhaps a bit smoky but unharmed.

This woman seemed to have been deeply traumatized by nearly losing all her stuff. She needed to tell a dozen strangers verbally and pictorily what nearly happened, how lucky she was. But she didn't act lucky or grateful, she acted traumatized. Such is the power of stuff! ... I hope I am not my stuff! I think I could live without it although I would mourn lost photographs. I don't think I could live in a cave 11 months, let along 11 years without some stuff .. and yet people have survived horrible imprisonment without stuff ... because they had enough in their minds: poetry, music, sometimes, determination, sense of self. Something to contemplate ... forget the stuff cluttering up the room, is there substantive stuff in the mind, memory? Do I have any idea what I might do with my mind in a cave for 11 days ...?