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.


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, 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 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 -- 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


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.