Thursday, January 31, 2008

Birthday, Franz Schubert

It's Franz Schubert's birthday. I know we just celebrated Mozart's birthday but, in many wats, Schubert is dearer to me than Mozart. Some of his melodies are so breathtakingly beautiful -- and then works, like the posthumous piano sonata in A are so full of emotions across a great range -- then there's his Great C major 9th symphony and the Trout Quartet and so much more...

When my daughters were too busy being teenagers to practice their piano lessons their serious teacher, Wayne, said he did not want to teach pupils who weren't serious. They were happy when I said "okay, you can forget about piano lessons." But I said to Wayne, "will you teach me?" I had been playing the piano since I was six and had lessons all though my school years -- from incredibly bad teachers ... but that was all that was availabl

Four years later I was working hard on Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy. I practiced, I learned and when I got a book of Schubert piano music I said to Wayne, "Can I learn Schubert or is he second rate?" "He's first rate and you can learn whatever you want." So I did and loved every minute of it. I was sorry I had to leave Wayne and the lessons -- there was so much more to learn!

Everyone knows about Beethovan and his deafness and if-fy "facts" about Mozart from play/movie Amadeus, but people don't know so much about little round Schubert with his head of curls and thick little glasses and wife who used his manuscript papers to curlher hair around. Like Mozart he died in his mid-30s. Poor Franz had to play the piano at evening gathering to make a few extra bucks and did not hae a great deal of success. But the melodies poured out of his pen and we're all blessed by the beauty he created.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm seeing stars

This picture looks two-tone because there was actually ten minutes of sunlight but with sunlight comes shadow. I have 10 minutes of 8 inches of sun -- these squares are 12 inches so ...

I was so knocked out by my fights with the stars yesterday I soothed myself in the early-ish evening with a long, lovely soak in the tub. Then sat down to start a new ]to me] book by Mary Lee Settle, a very favorite author; but I was so exhausted my eyes kept closing and I barely got through three pages before I gave up utterly and settled happily beneath the quilt currently on my bed and was sound asleep somewhat before 10:00.

However, I was awake before 5:00 and really feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed after coffee at 5:15 so I washed my dishes and my face and attacked the star I left half done. Too hastily. The quarter of it I made was mirror image of what it should be -- I don't know how I managed that! I said a few choice words a lady of my vintage isn't supposd to know, chucked the whole thing because I then decided the colors weren't as balanced as they should be. When I was about to start the second quarter of the new version the phone rang. Someone else trying to convince me I need a new credit card so I can single handedly perk up the sadly failing American econony, thought I. But no, at last it was the office manager telling me to come in to work. Hurray! Respite!

When I got home I returned to the unfinished star and polished it off handily before dinner. I decided that the lower of the two stars in yesterday's photos will have to be remade -- it IS much easier to make the second than the first. The two prints in the middle of that one bleed, visually, into each other too much. I'll use a plain-ish lighter fabric in the middle. That will be tomorrow's assignment. Then I'll have a total of six finished and only three more to go. The remainder of the quilt will be a snap -- truely! I'll show a pix in a day or two.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Paper pieced stars, Mozat's birthday

I am driving myself nuts. I've been at home for a week thanks to the stock market convulsions which seem to have paralyzed all the clients of the company I work for. So I decided this was a golden opportunity to make the quilt for my granddaughter's wedding that I had been delaying. I love the Carol Doak paper pieced stars and spent a lot of time in the last 18 months makesing twenty what I call "Quartets" of the patters from her 50 Fabulous Paper-Pieced Stars. So when I saw a design she did for a bed sized quilt using 9 star patterns and leaving a lot of white space for quilting, I thought that would be lovely to make for Cory in blue and white and then have it nicely long-arm quilted. My 21st star "quartet" great into a blue and white quilt for mysel that has garnered a lot of compliments.

The problems are several and they've added up to much frustration -- but actaully of a fun sort - or am I a masochist? The quartets were multicolored so I could chose what I liked. Not all turned out equally well. However in this case I'm using only different shades and intensities of blue and that's a big challenge to my color sense. I've sewn a bit and then realized there wasn't enough contrast and ripped and used something different. When the colors are fairly similiar it's also hard to keep in mind which goes where. And I've chosen some complex stars with 72 to 104 pieces per star. With paper piecing one is working mirror image and constantly going from front to back. Plus these have many acute and obtuse triangles so I often get a piece of fabric just a bit too short and have to rip and resew. I've RIPPED a lot -- a GREAT BIG LOT. I realized that when I was making the quartets of stars the first one was usually pretty difficult and then I discovered what I was doing and in what order and the others were easier and more fun With this quilt there are nine different stars. No repeats, they are all each "first".

I work with WQXR playing and every now and then I pay more attention to a piece of music or some announcement than to what I'm sewing -- then Oops, RIP-IT. A complication is that the anouncers kept reminding me that today is Mozart's 252nd birthday, and then playing some of his music. I could not help going into reveries about Wolfie - as his sister Nanerel called him. What a genius! The music just poured out. Then I think that Papa Leopold would probably today be accused of child abuse. He used Wolfie and Nana as his personal trained monkeys to make money. Dressing little Wolfie in velvet jacket and be-ribboned shoes and putting him in front of the harpsichord to astonish the audiences at palace dinners.

I thought of a possible scene in their house on a hot August. The kids are hot and sweaty and restless and begging to go down to the river with their friends. And Papa insisted, "No, you cannot go splashing around with those hooligans. You'll sit right here and get tha Hayden sonata perfect. You're playing it for the Preceptor Saturday night. And furthermore we'll come up with some variations for that little march his court band master just wrote so we can show how much better it can sound."

Poor Wolfie and Nana worked their little fingers into astonishing strength and suppleness and they - especially Wolfie -- learned to compose off the cuff at a very early stage. When the mind is trained to work that way, it's like turning on a tap. If the kid happens also to be a genius the water/music pressure is enormous and it just gushes out. Lesser talents have a harder time. If Wolfie had a grueling childhood, he has given uncounted millions uncounted millions of hours of enormous delight. How wonderful that he existed at all.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Food, Glorious (??) Food

I don't think I've written about food before, but two things have caught my attention lately. There's been a brouhaha about the enormous amount of mercury in the tuna in sushi served in NYC restaurants. I like sushi but not the raw tuna kind -- all the raw red foods I like are in the fruit family. Do that doesn't worry me in a personal sense. However, I try to eat healthily and that means fish at least once a week. While I like canned tuna and also fresh tuna I don't eat it very often. The question that comes up for me is the fish I've been buying at the dollar store I frequent. It's frozen in individual servings, very nice pieces of tilapia, flounder or salmon. A serving of good fish for a dollar is a major bargain, and it's delicious however I've prepared it. The thing is, it comes from China, is farmed and I suspect has plenty of both mercury and whatever antibiotics fish farms use to grow their fish quickly. I really don't know how healthy it is. Of course, with other fish I might buy I also don't know what I'm eating. It seems, in fact, for the most part none of us have a good handle on what's in our food.

Another subject to do with food is on my mind tonight because I just finished reading the long, thoughtful and multi-layered article in the NYTimes Magazine (tomorrow's paper) called "A Dying Breed" by Andrew Rice about the stunning looking ankole cattle of Uganda that are being replaced by Holsteins because the Holsteins, though not suited to living in equatorial climates, nevertheless, produce far, far more milk. So small farmers prefer them -- except the markets for their milk are inadequate. In all the article points out layers of complication when both World Bank and aid organizations and big industry [cattle insemination is a VERY big industry] go into a country. So much I read in papers is top of the mind and one-sided. This article looks at the question from many angles and is very thought provoking. I guess it first caught my attention because, growing up on a farm, one of my early "sex education" lessons was that cattle can be "artificially inseminated." I think I both knew and didn't know what that meant and found it fascinating. It's quite amazing, really. The article mentions two Holstein bulls whose seaman has produced thousand of cattle and tens of thousand of mixed-gene second generation offspring. Makes me think of the feat of Genghis Khan's [without artificial insemination] of giving a portion of his genes to a quarter of the people in China today. Isn't it amazing, the things that we know about today?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bliss? -- at the Rubin Museum

The Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art is presenting a six-month long series of events called "BRAINWAVE", in conjunction with CUNY and the School of Visual Arts. The events include many dialogs, and talks, as well as music and poetry and, Saturday, a guy who says he's learned "tumo" the Tantric are of raising his body temperature who plans to have himself packed in ice for an hour or two. Last night's event was centered on Eric Weiner's new book. He's an NPR reporter and his book has the sellable title, Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World. He was joined by a neuroscientist from Stanford, Emma Sapparo. Weiner was an entertaining speaker and kept the room full of people smiling as he talked about his research. Emma was the main reason I went and I was disappointed that she showed Brain 101 in Power Point and was so soft spoken she really didn't hold her own with Weiner. She did, however, insist on the subjectivity, both personal and cultural, of the whole idea. Weiner was aware of this and apparently does write of the differences between Eastern definitions and Western ones.

However, as one questioner brought up during Q&A, he doesn't explore Africa at all and apparently he leaves out Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand and the tons of island nations that we tend to ignore. The perspective is, I'm glad to say, no longer Euro-centric [with the US an extension of Europe] but it continues to leave about half the world. His conclusion, based on subjective criteria, is that the happiest places are Switzerland, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries. He talked about Bhutan which has a governmental policy for "Gross National Happiness," but did not then include it in the top three. I guess things can improve greatly in a culture because I thought of Strinberg, Ibsen and some very melancholic Scandinavian writers.

As has been in the news a great deal, much brain imaging [MRI/PET] is being and recently has been done with Buddhist meditators to see what happens in their brains. Emma is involved in this work and I would have liked to hear more. The tantalizing bit of information Emma offered is that when those in meditation are given orange juice during the experiment, the brain recognizes the pleasure of a sweet taste, but the "desire" parts remain unaffected. This suggests they are in a state of not wanting or rejecting, of balance. I'd like to hear more about such things and more about some breathing experiments she glancingly mentioned. She was obviously familiar with a great deal of interesting literature on the subject but did not talk about it, which greatly disappointed me.

Over the next few months I'm sure I will attend other discussions, if they continue to be on the pop-science level I'll be deeply disappointed even when they are entertaining as the evening was.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


We've had a cold snap, a three day weekend and a major slow down at my work [not to mention a world financial disaster] so I have kind of denned-up and quilted. I did the entire top of the spur-of-the-moment quilt in the previous post and then turned to the Red Ribbon quilt here which I had partly quilted. As of now it's done, finished, lying on the bed waiting for a better photo and to be initiated by being slept under. I've cleaned all the bits of thread from the floor and wonder where so many came from. I understand if there's a lot of ripping but I didn't do so much. I think these bits of thread hit the floor, mate frantically and multiply like rabbits. In fact, that's an apt metaphor because if they aren't swept up they make their way to other colonies behind the sofa and become giant dust bunnies.

With this weather the heat is on and the air is very dry and as all quilters know, handling fabric is also drying so the finger tips need care or they'll crack and be highly irritating I've been using a wonderful little tin of stuff called WORKING HANDS BALM,from Village Farms, Cape Cod, MA. Daughter Rachel who lives in Hyannis
likes to support local business people. She sent me this a year or so ago. The phone # on the tin is 508-398-4808. This works great and smells great; the ingredients are : calendula oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, Shea butter, lanolin, Vit. E, Oil of Clove Bud and Lemon. That's it, no chemicals unless Vit. E is a chemical. The scent of clove is wonderful; the results of rubbing just a little into finger tips and cuticules is soft skin.

Rachel has also introduced me to an excellent Cape Cod silver polish, and, of course dried cranberries and -- alas! Cape Cod Potato Chips, which, alas! are now distributed in NYC and which I try hard, hard to avoid.

In my turn I've tried to convince her of a couple of bad weather habits that people who drive most places don't bother with but which we New Yorkers know are important when out in whatever is coming down from the sky. One thing is an umbrella which I think she's finally purchased and keeps in the car. Another is ear muffs which make a huge different on cold days, and the third is warm scarves -- if the neck is kept cozy the rest of the body feels much, much better. Well, end of the motherly advice. ...Oh, did I mentioned that the way to get those stubborn pieces of thread ofÆ’ the rug or off your black pants or sweater is masking tape? But everyone knows that, don't they?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Blog inspired quilt

Friday evening I was surfing the Artful Quilters Web Ring and came to Diane in Maui who showed a picture of a quilt she had just made and said it was super easy and had learned it from another blog. So I checked out Dying to Quilt and saw her easy step-by-step instructions for a 9-patch turned into something more interesting. It looked so interesting and easy, I decided to spend part of the weekend doing it. You start with a simple nine patch -- in this case I used 5 inch squares. When it's sewn together, iron and square up, and then cut into four as in the picture. [My pictures replicat hers, but she used her own dyed fabric which is prettier than my commercial fabrics]

Next, flip the upper right and the lower left segments 180 degrees, as in third picture and sew them back together. Viola! you have a complex looking block that isn't complex. I made a total of 20 blocks. I used Diane's suggestion of keeping the center block the same -- because it will form repeated pairs of small squares. I also decided to make the blocks above and below that center block a contrasting color, in this case orange, the top a deeper orange and the lower a more apricot-orange. I was not at all sure of what I was doing but, hey, I was using odds and ends of my stash. Why not?

I made twenty squares in all, and finally they are laid out on my "design floor" where I moved them around until I liked the balance and noticed a couple that were sewn wrong and redid them. Then I sewed them together, sewed on a very dark green border and chose, from my stash, a backing and a bright orange that I'll cut into bias for the binding ... but I've got another quilt to quilt before I get to this so the final product may not show up for a while. But it WAS super easy, I think it looks much more complex than it is and I thank
Dying to Quilt whose name is nowhere in her blog. So I think of her as CAQ -- creative anonymous quilter. I may make another from this idea since I love scrap quilts and it's a great way to use up pieces left from fat quarter quilts, within a color way. I think the internet is GREAT!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The desk tag thing

Because I am a member of the pre-computer generation, I have been thinking with amazement about that tag game -- amazement about people communicating who don't really know each other, from different continents ... and the willingness of each to go along with a slightly silly game. I was tagged by a young woman from England with whom I've corresponded a bit. Of course I'm in the US, then I tagged Helen in England -- a quilter and barrister; she tagged Diane in the US, also a quilter and lawyer; and Diane tagged Gail in Australia, a quilter and retired lawyer and I haven't followed any further at this point. The three lawyers had amazingly neat and beautiful desks. Thinking about that, I attacked my desk today It is now much neater and shines wonderfully after a good spraying with Pledge .. but it doesn't approach the neatness of the lawyer-quilters' desks. Perhaps why I never even considered being a lawyer is embedded in this difference.

Perhaps the bigger question is why do people play these games? I think we're just sociable creatures ... and all are women who have been socialized to be accommodating. If I'd heard I'd be doing this even as little as 15 years ago, I'd have said, "not likely." No picture of the shining desk - it's just not very interesting. New quilt project afoot, pictures soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter, but is spring so far away?

It was a nasty winter day; chilly, gray, wind that made you pull scarf and collar up around your ears and curse yourself for not wearing a hat or at least eat muffs. But we have reached that point in January when it's obvious the days ARE getting a bit longer...and that means spring is on its way. Rejoice! It happens every year!
This is a picture of "the last rose of summer" taken on Thanksgiving Day in Riverside Park. As beautiful as any of it's summer/fall time predecessors.

Brief follow up: Carol and I have had email conversations and a virtual handshake [I wouldn't say a virtual hug] but an agreement to disagree on some things. That feels better. Go see Helen Conway's incredibly well put together desk and read some past blog entries -- she's a super blogger. Click on her name in my preceeding blog.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

tagged - my desk

I was tagged by Hannah, aka God's Rock Angel who is a "stellar swapper" on The tag is to show a picture of my desk. s So here are some shots of my desk. These are out of order because I wasn't thinking clearly when I uploaded them. The first photo is a long view of the working end of my living room. I consider it all "My desk" including the sewing machine on the left and the comfy big chair on the far right which is where I'm sitting at this minute with my laptop literally on my lap top. If it all looks messy, yeah, I'm afraid so. And sometimes it's worse. However, sometimes it's better. If I weren't in a two room Manhattan apartment, this would be a separate room in a home, but alas, such is city life.

6Td7z7DhI/AAAAAAAAAqs/lvT-X4EFgQk/s1600-h/PICT0086.JPG"> Then comes my desk at my job. And yes, friends, the computer screen seems to have a case of the "red eye." This apparently is beyond the abilities of the several really computer savvy people in the organization. I manage to ignore it most of the time and have decided it's a really girly flat screen monitor .. so what more can one want? The screen, you might see, has a video picture in the upper right -- that's because I was transcribing a focus group that had been videoed and was watching the people around a table in order to tell who was voicing an opinion ... that's the kind of work I do. Sometimes it's only audio, sometimes it's film shoots which is another level of complication. What you don't see is the foot pedal mechanism by which I control sound. There is an American Quilters Society calendar and a photo of Mt. Everest from Namche Bazaar, my first ground-level view of that great mountain and I get a thrill every time I look at it.
The final picture is a closer view of my desk. The only remarkable thing here is a small art quilt commemorating my angioplastic stent placement - this recently returned to me after wandering to various quilt shows in a SAQA group show of small quilts.

I am going to tag Helen Conway a wonderful blogger, quilter, British barrister.

Monday, January 14, 2008

No offense intended

I seem to have greatly offended a large lady named Carol. If she is not so offended that she has stopped reading my blog, I will explain a couple of things to her -- I cannot answer her directly as I would wish, because my current iteration of an Apple laptop will not let me email her and it seems to delete things that I have no intention of deleting. If I were more computer savvy maybe this wouldn't happen but I do not claim perfection, although she seems to think I do.

Offending large people was not my intent and I was probably thoughtless in ranting but I do have eyes in my head to see things around me. The "some of my best friends..." excuse has never been a good one no matter how true or how fond I am of those friends and relatives who are large ladies and genlemen. In fact, nothing is likely to salve the sensibilities of the easily offended like Carol about whom I know as little as she knows about me -- less in fact since I've not been reading things she writes except her tirade against me and my observations.

While i may leave a bad play at intermission, I do not walk out on people's presentations no matter how bored I am and usually there are events after the presentations that I wish to stay for at my guild meetings. While it is always unpleasant to be personally attacked, the purpose of this blog is simply to say: no, I did not delete anything on purpose and I find it impossible to respond personally. I have my opinions, others have theirs -- we all have many things we dislike and an occasional rant may be in bad taste or injudicious but my impression is this blog is largely inoffensive and rather well mannered. Many more public blogs [as quoted in newspapers] seem far more opinionated and likely to offend.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

When enough is enough - a rant

All day I've been thinking about the mountain of quilts Lipinski [CORRECT SPELLING, it was wrong in yesterday's blog] brought for his talk at our meeting. He is a large mN with a loud voice, this type of large person often has a distorted sense of proportion about many things in life. I have stood in airport check-in lines and noted that the largest individuals usually have the humongous suitcases [their clothes are not THAT much bigger than others and I keep wondering what DO they pack?] But it's not just Lipinski, nearly all the speakers at our meetings bring too many quilts and talk too long.

Long ago I took a college class in public speaking and I know the principles I learned then are still preached by those who train public speakers: stop before your audience is bored. Leave the audience mildly wishing you had said more, shown more quilts or slides, be concise [humorous if possible] and know when to stop. A sense of moderation is a sign of wisdom -- even Confucian wisdom. It applies to most things one does, whether it's how much you eat or drink, how many pillows you put on your sofa, how much salt in the soup, how fast you drive or -- a pet peeve of mine -- how moderately you use the paper towels in the bathroom (toilet paper too), how much jewelry you wear, how loudly you play our music or talk or laugh. No, I don't want the world to be bland and neutral and without drama or excitement. I just don't need a ton of everybody's ego -- which includes most of Wagner's music and most stand up comics, especially the ones who think humor is a matter of insulting every ethnic group in the audience. So much for today's rant.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mark Lipski

Our Empire Quilters Guild meeting today was a very, very full house, at least a couple hundred people - including several guests from a Connectuicutt guild. A very, very long meeting because the speaker was Mark Lipski the publisher/editor/quilt maker of Quilter's Home, a new-ish magazine. Mark brought a ton of quilts and talked for over an hour -- at lesat 15 minutes too long but he loves an audience and the audience loved him. (I thought a woman behind me might hyperventlate from laughing sohard.) He's a common sense iconoclast with a style punctuated with the language we hear every day but which isn't "polite" but seemed to offend no one for people kept asking for him to continue on when he [mock] threatened to stop. The laughter was loud and frequent He was fun although I think I'm somewhat more jaded than the average listener -- the ego was clear and so was the insecurity under such an ego. But it's refreshing to be told; use your quilts, they're not heirlooms, they're not going to last into history. Forget the white gloves and archival paper to store them in. Use them, wash them, give them away, have fun making them, they are NOT priceless.

He showed a wonderful huge collecion of quilts of his construction [or design - he's reached a level of success where he can hire sewers] It was fun I have never bought Quilter's Home and this doesn't make me want to go out and buy it. Otherwise the meeting was fairly usual - I got rid of more of my ridiculous collection of saved quilt magazines, I didn't win anything in the raffle, and I did find a nice handful of fabrics and threads at the share/scrap table which always makes me very happy. A fun afternoon.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Animal intelligence

When I went to the post office this afternoon I found myself following a man walking his little dog -- a perky little, energetic hound-ish dog that was sniffing the sidewalk so avidly it was clear he was living in a world neither his owner nor I, nor any other human being could comprehend. "He's like a bloodhound," his owner said to me. I'm sure he could have tracked lost persons. I thought, gee, I might get a serious inferiority complex if that were my dog.

The other evening I went to a talk at the Rubin Museum which is beginning a series of events exploring the mind. This one was about animal intelligence. The speaker has obviously done a lot of work with animals but was not articulate and the evening was not particularly interesting -- although he was interviewed by a woman with a wonderful name: Bokara Legendre! Wow! Anyway the only thing the speaker mentioned that was worth pondering on the way home was to emphasize that animals have an olfactory intelligence we don't begin to comprehend -- obviously that dog owner, and most dog owners, know that.

The speaker mentioned that we humans have perhaps more olfactory intelligence than we usually are aware of. He spoke of camping in a game area in Africa and waking at night certain that a lion was walking past his tent, although it was utterly quiet. There were the footprints in the morning. He was sure it was the lion's small that awoke him and I am willing to believe that could be true. In that kind of unusual situation when you know it could happen, your deeper knowledge could be aroused -- the danger signal from very far back in evolution.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Simple quilting

When I'm sitting at the sewing machine just carefully feeding the quilt through to do in-the-ditch quilting, which is basically mindless work, I go off into a sort of meditation. In this picture the latest quilt is being quilted and the 15 minutes of sun with which my apartment is blessed on those winter days when the sun shines, happened to fall on the quilt. For a fuller picture go back about two weeks.

What did I discover in my meditation? That I must be a very simple person with very simple tastes. I quilted simply in the ditch and then diagonally through the blocks; simplicity! This is an extremely simple quilt in concept and execution. And it gives me much pleasure especially during those sunny moments when I could enjoy the variety of colors and think about how I'm always delighted in quilts by how unlikely colors look so good together -- no two blocks in this quilt are the same. I love quilt like that. It's like knowing that no two people are the same. I have to conclude that making this quilt has made me very happy ... and, indeed, it is a very simple happiness. Am I getting wise in my old age or am I returning to a childish pleasure in playing with color? I really don't care which. Sleeping under this quilt and making my bed in the mornings will give me pleasure too. I wish I could give some of these simple pleasures to others.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Museum of Arts and Crafts

With this slow period in my work, I went to the Museum of Arts and Crafts which has an exhibition called "Pricked" It calls itself an embroidery exhibit but that narrow definition was not adhered to by the curator. The items do mostly have embroidery as a part of their creation (one is a video of a multi-footed embroidery machine, shown with music). It is a rather wide ranging show. I arrived just as a well informed docent was about to start a tour so I went with her and a shifting group for nearly and hour and then went back for another hour to really look at things, read notes, etc. It's a pleasure to find a well informed docent, some can only parrot a few pieces of information and heaven help you if you have a question that ranges further.

The dramatically memorable piece was a set of wings, with a harness [obviously it wouldn't really work] but the wings were made of found single gloves collected by the artist. The fingers made very beleivable feathers. It was all black/navy so makes one think mostly of Icarus and definitely not of an angel. There were some complicated comments, like the British Army uniforms with material and pictures applied to them explaining and showing facial reconstruction of wounded soldiers. There was a squarish quite ugly sofa with a patchwork of pop culture pictures, all done in the silk embroidery that I saw women doing near Kunming, China -- this had all been done by hand by such overworked, underpaid women and the docent said one could order our own sofa for $20,000. This is art trying to make a comment about the vapidity of international pop embroidery while exploiting the women at the same time.

It was very interesting to look at but very few of the pieces had the wallop one wants from art. Most of the media were mixed and only a few times did I think Wow, what superb craftsmanship, although there was no example of bad craftsmanship. The docent emphasized that this is the last show in that space. In September the museum will move to Columbus Circle, the controversial building that was built by Huntington Hartford and that has stood empty for several years. I had liked the somewhat Moorish Edward Durrell Stone building. Many people apparently hated it. The footprint is being maintained but the building is being totally changed and the museum will have 9 floors of space. That in itself is a plus or the many fiber and textile, clay, glass, et cetera artists. So many people work so hard to express themselves in so many mediums! What a creative species we are.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

January thaw?

It is January 8th, in California and various other Western parts of the USA there are feet of snow. In Central Park today it was 65 degrees and people were walking around in short sleeve tops. I had on a sweatshirt and was sweating. Mutter mutter about global warming -- or at least weird climate patterns.
So while sitting on a bench in the sun, doing a crossword puzzle I decided to look up into the trees and take a couple of pictures of bare branches. I suppose people who really know trees could identify them by their branching patterns. I learned to identify by leaves and to an extent by bark [aspens, poplar] back in the 4-H club but that's as far as I got. I was glad I had time to be out in this unseasonable weather. It won't last, of course, and we wouldn't want it to

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Day in the LIfe...

My apartment is in a prewar building which means its infrastructure is constantly being repaired in one way or another. In the fall the water line behind the wall in my walk-in closet needed repair so everything had to come out of the closet and clutter up the living room three or four days. But it was an occasion for sorting and neatening and that closet's been looking great. BUT just before the holidays the manager told me they had more work to do, after the first, meaning today. I emptied the closet again [when neatly arranged one can get A LOT in a walk in closet!] And the men arrived and set about making a big hole in the new plasterboard wall.

Normally I disappear as early as possible and let the workers do their thing. But my job is a feast or famine situation, usually times around holidays are slow. And yep, it's a famine time -- which normally means I can do a lot of stuff at home. But working with drills and power saws roaring is not easy. Plus I don't like to work with people coming in and out especially when one of them is both lardy looking and smelling. I must say in their favor that they do a job of isolating the work area that would do a surgeon proud. They tape plastic sheeting all around the incision area and cover the floor with taped down brown paper.

By 10:30 I checked that no work was on the horizon, realized that with the water shut off I couldn't use my own bathroom and decided to go out into the streets. Well, really I had a couple of errands to do, and then I dropped in at a Barnes & Noble to use their bathroom and check after Christmas mark downs -- no, I decided I don't really need a half price 2008 calendar. Seriously contemplated other books but, in fact had stopped in at a favorite thrift shop as I passed it and bought two used books so I didn't feel I was denying myself by not getting books or magazines.

I was getting hungry so I went for lunch and dinner to my favorite Chinese restaurant - no that's not a typo. They have a lunch special that is so generous I eat half and bring the other half home to zap in the microwave for dinner. That's two meals for $6.99 -- who says you can't eat cheap -- and good -- in NYC? It was a blue sky, unbutton the coat day. A few days ago it was 16 degrees with a wind chill of -1. Today it's about 50. So, I went down to Riverside Park, stopping to have a woof-woof conversation with a hairy little dog. I found a nice sunny bench and read for about half a hour, which was a chapter and time enough for shadow to creep up making me just a little chilly. So I came home, the guys are gone, the water is on, I had to tear some masking tape away from the wall to get into the living room although I had told them I needed access ... ah, well, if that's the only inconvenience that they could have avoided, I can't complain. So the day goes...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

swapping is neat

I don't know how much I wrote weeks -- maybe months -- ago but here's the story. Way back early in 2007 I noticed on the Swap-bot forum page that someone really wanted a quilt. I e-mailed her that I have quilts cluttering up my closet shelves and was open to a swap. We settled on a specific quilt to be swapped for various cosmetics to which she had access as a salesperson for a couple of companies. Great. We were both happy. Several weeks ago she wrote me that she'd really like to have another quilt; was there anything else we could swap for. I wrote that I am frustrated in NYC with no Wal-Mart of Joanne's Fabrics and always need batting which is quite expensive. We made a deal and I mailed off this quilt a couple of weeks before Christmas -- it's a stack and whack. I have marvelous fun making it but green just doesn't go in my apartment. I love looking at the great variety of squares I made but was not unhappy to part with it.

Kye, the recipient, e-mailed that she was spending Christmas with family in Connecticutt and would pass through NYC. I said it would be an easy detour to come by and deliver the batting if that fit in with her plans. It did and we met yesterday afternoon, briefly -- she was double parked with relatives in the car. A beautiful young woman who brought me enough batting to keep going for the next few months -- I had just used up the last roll in my closet [bought at Joanne's when last visiting Rachel on Cape Cod]. Kye is from South Dakota we would never have connected without the internet. I'm delghted to have batting [and some grid marked interfacing also] and she is happy to have bright cheery quilts. This is called in today's jargon, a win-win situation. I have so much fun making stack and whack quilts I just may having to find some suitable print and make another one in the near future.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Done at last, small quilt

I have been sewing stars and crysals on this quilt for a week ... do I remember saying quilting is always more labor intensive than one expects? [click photo to see awesome number of stars, including the background quilting.] This is "Spot and the Star Field" which I began early in the summer. In fact, before that because I had my eyes open for a fabric with an appropriate dog all of last winter and finally found it in March at a quilt show in New Jersey. This illustrates and excerpt from a poem by Mark Strand that I think I've quoted in a couple of blogs in the last two years. But I love it and am going to hang this quilt in the bathroom where I have decent light and will see it every day. The piece of the poem which is on the light blue rectangle at the bottom of the quilt is this:

And I stood in the moonlight valley
watching the great star fields
flash and flower in the wished for
reaches of heaven.
That's when I, the dog they call Spot,
began to sing.

This is a simple little quilt, and a straightforward bit of verse. I cannot explain why those little lines appeal to me so much. Perhaps because it assumes all creatures are inspired by beauty to produce beauty. The quilt is simply something I wanted to make for myself.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Alice Neel, self-portrait

This amazing painting is a self-portrait by Alice Neel, a New York painter who died a couple of years ago. She was given a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum a few years ago and this portrait was included. I liked much of her work -- mainly portrats -- but this self-portrait, painted in her early 80s, blew me away. This comes up today because Ellen, with whom I saw the Lucain Freud show last week, sent me this picture.

The connection with Freud is that he has painted -- and did engravings too which are in the current show -- of many obese people, both men and women. One could say it's his specialty. His people are often asleep, not as if he's sneaked up on them unaware but as if posing a long time is immensely boring, which it surely is. But Alice Neel is very much awake and clearly contemplating her body as she paints herself. For an older woman this is revolutionary. We have all grown up with society's expectation that nude women will be svelt, shapely, sexy and that the older body with it's sagging breasts and midsectoin fat rolls is a shameful ruin not to be discussed, let alone seen.

It is one thing for Rembrandt to have painted his aging face with all it's lumps and bumps and broken veins, and for Van Gogh to have painted himself with a makeshift bandage hiding the damage he did to his ear. Those were honest statements of where life had taken them. Men are not judged by their bodies -- even today, really. But women are and always have been. For Alice Neel to sit there, nude, painting herself at that age and in that normal shape and condition is more than a self-portrait, it is a political act She is stating that this too is a person worth paying attention to not some exotic from another cuture that National Geographic might print for its reader's superior and slightly purient contemplation. She is an aging woman who still has all her talent and skill and is not ashamed that she has grown older.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year Resolutions

This lighthouse picture graces the back of a denim shirt that was a Christmas present from my Indiana relatives, and that's plural because the shirt is from Joan but was painted by her son-in-law, Mike. I'm told by Mike's wife, my niece Jeanna, that although he painted 10 shirts every one has a distinctive individual touch so it is one of a kind. The second picture shows the smaller painting on the front ppocket. I understand the fabric paint washes well, so I'll be able to wear it as much as I want. Meaning I don't have to save it to show off when I go to Cape Cod but can wear it whenever. Hurray!

New Years Day and I sometimes don't really make reslutions but I'm feelng full of resolutions this year. After the hip surgery that was I was recovering from a year ago, I really didn't do yoga for a long enough time that the habit got broken. Some half hearted stabs didn't get followed through. Likewise I walked with a cane [actally a trekking pole] for several weeks, feeling "better safe than sorry" about stumbles. So my habitual walking suffered. I've gotten back to doing quite a bit of walking but am resolving to return to yoga every evening. The pleasure of being limber and balanced is wonderful but better than that, it is a must for keeping the body in it's best working order which is more and more important with every inexorably advancing year. Plus my long time yoga routine is also a series of breathing exercises which is good for blood pressure and also contributes to good sleeping. I said to myself when I first discovered how wonderful yoga is more than half my life ago that I would never stop doing it. That was a good idea then and I must not let a brief setback ruin the determination.

Of couse the relative inactivity for a few months lead to some weight gain and as long as I'm making resolutions I might as well join the millions of people who today are making a weight loss resolution. Nothing harsh or punative, just substitute fruit for baked goodies, or at least a granola bars for donuts. My general deaing habits are healthy but I do have a serious sweet tooth. So much available fruit is underripe, picked much too soon, and too often flavorless. It has to be left at room temperature at least a couple of days and eaten when it finally has a natural scent. Just when the food gurus are telling people to have more fruit and vegeables than ever the stuff available, even in the expensive organice marktets, is getting less delicious. For example, there are tons of strawberries in the markets right now from someplace hundreds of miles south, but they might as well be shaped stryrofoam, flavorless! Alas!

I am not going to keep a runnng commentary about how well I adhere to my resolutions, that could be very boring. If I have some true success I may crow about it when the time is right. I do believe that pausing at likely times such as new years to make an assessment and define plans to change some of the things that are in need of improvement is a habit one is never too old to profit from. So a happy new year to anyone who reads this ... maybe you too could walk a bit more, eat more fruit and veggies and even do enough yoga to touch your toes... and hold it several seconds. Hmm?