Saturday, December 29, 2007


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."


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


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

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,, 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

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 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.