Aquaculture with spangles and sequins

This week we are making "Fancy Fish" collages. The photos are from the first day teaching the project, and many of the later pieces have tighter compositions and richer contrasts. Later in the week the less obvious background fabrics yielded more intriguing compositions.

Every piece is a celebration of the contributions of materials by friends, family, and business. The backgrounds are upholstery fabric samples from an architect. The fish shapes are cut from gorgeous Indian saris that had seen better days. The blue sponge/foam rectangles are from a Raytheon WASTE giveaway. The trims are from the Bridge Club Ladies, and friends of my Dad's. The seashells are from someone's vacation at the beach. The graduation tassels are from another art teacher afflicted by the amassing virus!

The glue is SOBO, shaken not stirred. We are talking about big ideas vs. tiny details, planning, and gluing techniques to avoid seriously sticky fingers.


The Ice Storm Survey

Through the email miracle of forwarding friend-of-a-friend tidbits, I got hooked into pondering the choices of books and games I would make in case of a prolonged power outage due to a Dallas ice storm. This is a variation of the mental games I've played most of my life, "Fantasy Dinner Party Guests", and "Stranded on a Desert Isle".

The premise is you are house-bound without electricity for a few days after a big storm. What books would you want to have if you were alone, if you were reading aloud with someone, and if you were ten years old (limit two per category)? What games would you want in those same categories?

I had the great good fortune, as I see it now, to grow up in a place where blizzards and snow days were a feature of every winter. We didn't lose power often, but diversions back in those olden days were far less dependent on electricity than now. We had batteries for the transistor radio. I didn't actually write on a slate by the light of a candle like Abraham Lincoln.

During a blizzard, we listened to the weather. Not the weather report on the transistor, but the howl, swirl, and shriek of the wind, the creaking of the very cold house, and the sleet hitting the windows. There are few things more satisfying than being wrapped up in a comforter made by your grandma, listening to the weather, and rereading your favorite book, knowing it doesn't matter when you get to sleep because school is already called off for tomorrow. Possibly one of the few things that are more satisfying is a rowdy game of Yahtzee with all your cabin-feverish family and any friends who bravely tromped through the drifts for a visit and some excellent homemade sugar cookies!

If you beg me, I will share my choices. If you share yours, I will forward them to the friend-of-a-friend without your name or email address. It's a fun thing to ponder, even if it is still warm enough to wear shorts and flipflops in Dallas.
Does anyone have luck with the Blogger "Search This Blog"? Does it ever yield results?


Cassiopeia: The Queen

Cassiopeia was the mother of Andromeda and the wife of Cepheus, the Ethiopian King of Joppa. The Romans believed this striking W-shaped constellation was Cassiopeia, chained to her throne as a punishment for her vain boastfulness. I'd like to chain W to his throne as punishment for his vain boastfulness and blind arrogance, but that's a different constellation.

Back in the Sixties, I visited the Mueller Planetarium Sky Show at the University of Nebraska State Museum. At the little gift counter (museum gift shops not having reached their full bloom in those days), I purchased two constellation postcards that looked quite Peter Max. I may still have them in a box somewhere. One constellation was Cassiopeia. I just liked saying "Cassiopeia". It's almost as good as LMNOPO:

Elemenopeo is a very cute book for teaching art, but it's not a constellation.

These are the very cool new constellation postage stamps. If I put them on envelopes addressed to nieces and nephews, maybe they will grow up intrigued about constellations or Cassiopeia. If nothing else, you can't do the crossword puzzles without Orion!

Thanks to my Blog Muse, I have mog blues--plenty of blue Christmas lights. Had the boys help untangle them while they were home. My youngest is a big fan of Old Blue Eyes. You may also want to croon Blue Moon while desnarling:

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon
You know just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for


They came, they showered, they conquered

Veni, vishy-vashy, vici!
Slowly emerging from my Oscar The Grout shower repair irritability. Looks like the tiles are going to stay on the wall. The sons have subjected them to three or four lengthy showers, and so far so good.

For the first day or so they were home the sons had to use the downstairs shower, so they descended wearing bath towel togas. Et tu, shampoo? I would like to show you the funny photos of a vintage toga troll doll, and of Homer Simpson wearing a towel. You ought to click these links, but don't lose the grip on your towel.

One son has uncharacteristic short spiked hair styled with "pomade" this visit. The other looks like a lean woolly mammoth. How I do love the Online Etymology Dictionary!

pomade 1562, from M.Fr. pommade "an ointment," from It. pomata, from pomo "apple," from L. pomum "fruit, apple," so called because the original ointment recipe contained mashed apples.
smarmy "ingratiating, unctuous," 1924, from smarm "to behave in a flattering way" (1920), variant of colloquial smalm, smawm (1847) "to smear, bedaub" (the hair, with pomade) of unknown origin.

I remember when these guys styled their hair by bedaubing it with Gerber applesauce:

I have to laugh at the photo where I'm about to give my youngest a bath in the kitchen sink. My sweatshirt says, "I Survived." The sentiment still fits even if the shirt's too small!



Do high school English classes still read Romeo and Juliet then West Side Story, and assign that "compare and contrast" essay? Of course the inserted question is do high school English classes actually assign reading at all? My kids still slogged through Great Expectations and Dostoyevsky, but many classes watched videos instead of reading books. I wonder if the video of Miss Haversham's wedding cake is half as creepy as the one I've imagined for over thirty years.

I grew up listening to Broadway musical LPs and 78rpm recordings. I read the synopsis on the record jacket, and imagined a play in my head while lounging on the living room carpet. It was a primitive existence, I know. Sometimes I would go into my cave and paint pictures on the wall by torch light...

In high school my best friend was obsessed with the musical "Grease". We listened to her LP of the Broadway show over and over until we could sing along with all the words. She told me about the show she saw in New York, but I mostly made up my imaginary production. When we saw a touring Broadway production at Lincoln's Pershing Auditorium, it was great fun, but we did not sing along. I never did see the Olivia Newton John movie version. That was probably because I was so disappointed in the Julie Andrew's "Sound of Music" movie compared with the touring Broadway show I had seen with my grandma at Lincoln's old Stuart Theater.

The newspapers are filled with reviews and discussions of movie musicals this week with the opening of "RENT". I will add my two cents worth! I got free passes to a preview screening Monday night because I vaguely knew the play was based on Puccini's "La Boheme". I wanted to do the old "compare and contrast" essay. It's a sickness. Post Lincoln East High School Essay Stress Disorder, we'll call it.

Beyond "La Boheme", I didn't know much about "RENT" except that the Broadway musical was very popular. I was sort of busy in the mid-90s being a single mom, teaching art, sewing costumes for childrens' plays, and trying to pay rent. Guess I missed that the musical was about AIDS and junkies. Didn't realize the screening would be filled with high school students belonging to a sort of RENT cult, way beyond our "Grease" obsession. They were pouring out of the cars in the cineplex parking lot, then popping their trunks for more friends to jump out.

Because it was a free screening, we sat in the theater for an hour plus before the show, through singing contests, radio dj appearances, and t-shirt giveaways. We had a looooonnnnnngggg time to observe the RENT fanatics around us. So much energy, earnestness, insecurity, hormones, enthusiasm, and need to push against authority! Within five minutes I had a raging pep rally headache. Thank heaven the audience couldn't stomp on the bleachers.

Bleachers. Now it connects. Lincoln East won the state class A basketball tournament in 1971. My friends and I were rabid supporters of the Spartans, but anti-rah rah Pep Club. We called ourselves Hardhats, and wore real metal construction hardhats painted in the school colors. We stomped on bleachers and yelled ourselves hoarse for the Spartans. I even made surprisingly accurate continuous line drawings and wire sculptures of the individual team members. Fanaticism. Energy. Enthusiasm. Insecurity. Rebellion. Earnestness. Hormones, even.

Not knowing the Broadway show or the music, "RENT" had to stand on its own merits for me. These are my beefs:
1. Apparently the songs have lyrics. We couldn't tell. The music is very loud, and no words are discernible. At "La Boheme" there are supertitles to read, and this movie needs them, too.
2. The cast looked like a reunion of "Saved by the Bell". Too old for their parts, but too scrubbed into fresh-faced perkiness. They don't look urban, let alone like poor, starving, ill, junkie artists. Reminded me of those old dancing Dr. Pepper t.v. commercials. Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?
3. I was not enticed to give a damn about any of the characters. Not intrigued, enthralled, empathetic. I pretty much wanted to slap all of them, and tell them to quit pretending. They aren't adults. They aren't artists. They aren't adolescents. They aren't suffering. They aren't shocking. They aren't making a statement. They don't even pretend to look cold.
4. The set looks like a plastic sanitized-for-your-convenience slum theme amusement park. You must be this tall to ride this ride.

I did like the dancing. I got one tiny lump in my throat remembering a real life friend and his horrible AIDS suffering.

Jesse McKinley's NYTimes search for the RENT locales in the East Village made me realize the movie is a nostalgic version of a time, place, and issue. Nostalgia and edginess can't coexist.


Liska Lou's Luby's Blog

I've been craving an archives-by-categories subject menu for the Itty Bitty Blog like the one The Language Guy has, and several other blogs I read. I did manage to set up the reverse-archive-list-in-a-dropdown-menu blogger hack. [No applause, please, just throw money!] Reading about del.icio.us, and various methods of using it to create categories in Blogger is so Monty Python* it turned my brain to cranberry sauce. I did glean** that the first step is to decide what categories I want to create.

Ay, there's the rub. This blog after two and a half years is more a collage of different themes than ever. I'm a walking, talking, blogging Luby's LuAnn Platter--one entree, two sides, and a roll. You can order Teaching with sides of Politics and Empty-Nesting, or Empty-Nesting with sides of Happily Divorced and Opera, or Politics with sides of Condo-Ownership and Parenthood, Condo-Ownership with sides of Teaching and Song Lyrics, Childhood Memories on Toast with or without Trauma Sauce and Recipes, Student Quotes with Perpetual Cash-Flow Issues and a Hot Kiln, Menopause with sides of Exercise and Health Insurance, Health Insurance with extra Politics and Crawford Slaw, Recycling with Auto Repairs and Diebenkorn...

*"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise - surprise and fear... fear and surprise... our two weapons are fear and surprise - and ruthless efficiency... our three weapons are fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.. our four... Amongst our weapons - amongst our weaponry - are such elements as fear, surprise... I'll come in again."

Speaking of cranberry sauce, just who does Ocean Spray think it is anyway!!?? I'm very ticked that it changed the cans for cranberry jelly so you can't open both the top and bottom ends to push the jelly out. That is so entirely wrong, unamerican, and not at all what God in all Her infinite wisdom intended. Ocean Spray has issued new instructions for opening the cans, but I'm still blaming it all on Halliburton.

**Glean what afflicts me. Question and answer: On this Thanksgiving I'm grateful that my high school English teacher assigned Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead back in 1972. It's been bringing me joy for thirty-two years, though it seems like yesterday.


Take a picture. It lasts longer.

I sure hope that smart-alecky playground remark doesn't prove true in this case. I finally completed the shower tile project that has been dragging on all fall. For the last week I've been playing beat the clock, and I didn't quite win. The guys arrive this evening, but the caulk won't be dry until Thursday afternoon. Oh, well. Please keep your fingers crossed for me that the whole wall doesn't fall back down into the bathtub during the very first shower!


Art Critique: Between Georges Braque and a hard place

Starting out with the same, but winding up so different; that's my new approach to teaching this fall. I give each student a container of nearly identical items, let them create their art project with the items, (within the limits set out for the project), then have a directed group discussion looking at the wide variety of their compositions.

The kids love getting a bag or basket of items. It's like opening birthday presents to them. Since everybody gets the same assortment, the greener grass envy factor is eliminated. Since everyone chooses how to arrange the items, the creations are amazingly different.

We've been using glue sticks so the art doesn't have to dry. We can gather in a circle to look at all the pieces, and discuss what we see.

In this project we were stressing how to use glue sticks. We used papers with a November feeling--neutrals, golds, wood and leaf patterns, textured cardboard in the form of Starbucks coffee "sleeves". The instructions were to glue the shapes on in decreasing size order, and to make a 2-D picture.

Our group critique format was for me to make comments about art elements shown in each work, then students making observations comparing one work to another, and then the artists explaining their own ideas about their picture:



I attended class critiques as a college art major that produced fewer insights than these. The kids are age four to six.


Admitting powerlessness over the kiln

My life for the last month has been pretty unmanageable. Firing student clay projects has taken over. I dream about loading and running the kiln the same night I dream I have a new baby to care for. Pretty much sums it up. Dealing with a kiln is as time-consuming, demanding, irrational, draining, and occasionally cute-as-a button, as a new baby. A new baby with colic.

My first son was a colicky baby, and I survived. I was crazy as can be for the first year of his life, though.

The kiln has cute moments. It looks like a cross between your great grandma's washing machine down in the cellar and R2D2.

The Online Etymology Dictionary and the Free Dictionary give me some insight into kilnosis, my current mental state:

Stir-crazy 1908, from stir "prison" (1851), probably from Start Newgate (1757), prison in London. stir-cra·zy (stĂ»rkrz) adj. Informal
Distraught or restless from long confinement in or as if in prison.

Cabin fever n. Boredom, restlessness, or irritability that results from a lack of environmental stimulation, as from a prolonged stay in a remote, sparsely populated region or a confined indoor area.

I've been diagnosed with Kiln Captivity Disorder aka firing fever. This syndrome was first isolated among orangutans in zoos who created fabulous bowls and vases out of stuff they found on the floor of their cages. Ick. Zoos are improving all the time, and most orangutans get to go to the arts and crafts center twice a week nowadays.

Feels like I have spent the last month loading clay projects into the kiln, running the kiln (firing), unloading the kiln, reloading the kiln for the next batch. Now we are doing the second firing to glaze the clay. Glazing is the high wire circus act for an art teacher. The pieces must be placed into the kiln so that they don't touch each other, and they must be precariously balanced on goofy spiked tripod supports. After that, you just have to say your prayers and hope for the best. Burning incense and sacrificing a virgin or two might be good moves.

No wonder I'm considering going into a different line of work. Did I mention I teach preschoolers to roll clay coils by pretending to be a really bad lounge singer? And isn't this wire sculpture by Steve Lohman great?


Feeling down and squeezed

I did not live through the Great Depression, although my students believe I was born just before the dinosaurs died out. I'm not old enough to be wise, just disgusted. I am old enough to be invisible, but that's not a superhero power. It's a fact of life for the working poor who used to consider themselves middle class.

My parents were children of the Great Depression. Their families passed down the cautionary tales of that era whenever we sat together for a Thanksgiving dinner or other occasion. The stories influenced each of our personal relationships with money, material objects, employment, and the environment.

I have lived in a community blanketed in the fog of psychological and economic depression. We moved to Edmond, Oklahoma at Thanksgiving in 1987 when my oldest son was in kindergarten. It had been just over a year since the Edmond Post Office Massacre. Patrick Sherrill killed fourteen people and wounded seven, and to city residents the impact was far more significant than the origin of the terms, "going postal" and "disgruntled employee". We arrived a year and a half after a significant tornado hit parts of the town, including the subdivision next to ours. I met residents who still kept a mattress in their bathroom to place over their heads in a tornado. (Basements are mostly unknown in central Oklahoma, and the safest place in a storm is usually the bathtub.) The region was also submerged in the banking crisis of the 1980s, with residents trapped in negative equity mortgages and facing foreclosures. The city was growing rapidly, but was expanding in an enveloping aura of community-wide depression.

I wouldn't mind going back to Edmond to live. I loved the slightly scruffy Oklahoma landscape, the hawks and the scissortail flycatchers. I loved the outlaw Wild West history, and the comparative newness of the whole state. I just didn't like the mass depressive funk. I had enough anxiety of my own without the community piling on.

On our walks, my exercise buddy points out the places where she thinks she could live in a box when she becomes homeless. Down there along the creek, or back behind that hedge... She says I'll be glad that she's scouted out locations in advance for us when things really get bad. Thank you for planning ahead, I say. I know I will save the box next time I replace a decrepit home appliance.

We are squeezed. As a small child I used to watch with wonder when my mom put on her longline eighteen-hour girdle. It was a bizarre and uncomfortable squeezing dance. My generation rejected those undergarments, but now we have the economic equivalent. We are squeezed by gas prices, utility prices, the strangle-hold of health insurance, prescription costs, and the rising costs of a college education for our children. We see government's ineffectiveness in natural disasters, its arrogance and ignorance in environmental and energy policy, and the daily horrific events in Iraq. We are squeezed and existentially depressed. To top off the insults, my pharmacist says Zoloft is unlikely to go generic anytime soon.

It's cheering to know President Alfred E. Newman got off his bicycle long enough to get a briefing about avian flu. He's back to pedaling, while we are up shit creek without a paddle.


"Love means never having to share your shower."

Two of my grown sons will be here for Thanksgiving. Eek! That means I'm almost out of time to fix the shower tile in the upstairs bathroom. I love the guys dearly, and I will be absolutely delighted to see them. I just don't want to share my bathroom with them.

Just finished sticking the tiles back on the wall behind the tub. One hundred ten 4x4" tiles, except that some were broken when they fell off the wall into the tub, and had to be replaced by 2x2" colored tiles. I tried to find matching tiles at surplus/warehouse/seconds stores to match the twenty-three year old tiles, but to no avail.

As a young teen I saw two movies that profoundly influenced my life. Ryan O'Neal starred in both of them. The woman for whom I babysat convinced my mom to take me to "Love Story" in 1968 or 1969. What a stupid, sappy movie! I began to see that love and biological itches weren't the same, and that smart, hard-working library employees had more class than entitled rich kids. Love Story has the moronically melodramatic line spoken by Ali MacGraw as Jennifer Cavalieri:

Love means never having to say you're sorry.

I never wanted to see "Love Story" again. I always avoid movies with young lovers dying of hideous diseases.

In contrast, I have watched Peter Bogdanovich's What's Up Doc? dozens of times over thirty-three years. I learned to keep track of my luggage, and to appreciate rock music. When Barbra Streisand as Judy tells Ryan O'Neal as Dr. Howard Bannister that "Love means never having to say you're sorry," he responds,

"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard". Rightly so. Just as dumb are the empty apologies without behavior changes from the person who is supposed to love you.

I'm reminded of another conversation from the same movie these days--

Fritz, played by Stefan Gierasch: I am afraid one of our guests has lost something.
Eunice, played by Madeline Kahn: Well, I fail to see how it could possibly be in here unless it crawled here under its own power.
Fritz: Precisely Miss Burns.
Eunice: What are you saying?
Eunice screams and jumps onto the bed
Eunice: What if it's in there?
Fritz: Impossible, madam. Snakes, as you know, live in mortal fear of... tile.

I live in mortal fear of tile, and not without reason. I'll be very sorry if I don't have this shower ready for the guys I love! Deciding to do this home repair myself was not the craziest thing I've done as a homeowner. It's been slightly easier, but more time-consuming than sawing up the couch. It hasn't been nearly as therapeutic or satisfying. I sure hope it doesn't fall down again the first time a guy showers.

Good night all. Over and grout.

You must remember this

A kiss is still a kiss,

a sigh is just a sigh

The fundamental things apply

As time goes by

And when two lovers woo

They still say, "I love you"

On that you can rely

No matter what the future brings

As time goes by

Lyrics and Music by Herman Hupfeld;© 1931 Warner Bros. Music Corp., ASCAP


Clothespin Rabbis

Last night I dreamt I was making rabbi dolls out of clothespins--the round head style of wooden clothespin, not the pinchy kind. Clothespin dolls are a classic kid craft project, and my students make hundreds of them every summer. I've made so many kinds of clothespin people that they sometimes appear in my dreams alongside humans.

Clothespin people always have pipe cleaner/chenille stem arms, and faces drawn on with Sharpie markers. The twisting of the pipe cleaner is a big motor skill hurdle for kids. So are cutting and wrapping the fabrics or trims for clothespin attire.

I've made clothespin people:

Robin Hood & his Merry Men
Hundreds of Princesses
Amazon Rain Forest Tribe Members
Ancient Egyptians (walk this way)
Space Aliens
Pioneers headed west
Symphony Conductors
Wise Men
Hula Girls
Scuba Divers
Ancient Romans
Guards (Changing) at Buckingham Palace
Rock Stars
Mad Scientists

The Rabbis were new territory. Will priests and nuns be next? Climb every mountain...

Maybe I am meant to create a large conceptual piece. The history of the world in shoebox dioramas... Great works of literature... Broadway musicals ...Operas ...Ballets... Bull fights.. . Scientific discoveries...Oscar Awards Ceremonies ... Vaudeville ... Burlesque... Battles ...Beatles... Geishas ...Samurais... Elvis... Circus performers... Chefs ...The Village People ...NBA stars... Joan of Arc.. . Lady Godiva...


Stop worrying about avian flu

There's something much more scary, as I learned from a preschooler on Tuesday.

"My brother is sick. He has blue cross blue shield."

Oh, lordy, we're all agonna die! Don't you know my little miss E. had to go along to her brother's pediatrician appointment? I was a preschool big sister once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, and I can still smell the rubbing alcohol and tongue depressors. What funny ideas kids get. Now I understand why students get those blue shots every year.


Opera Tailgate Picnic

Dallas Opera lacks something major to put it in the elite category. I know, I know; Dallas Opera lacks tailgate picnics in the parking lot! I don't know how various opera companies stack up musically, but DO is definitely pre-opera party deficient!

The Santa Fe Opera is in the Tailgating Honor Roll. I ate a Schlotzsky's smoked turkey sandwich on the way to "Don Giovanni" in August of 2004, but I was inspired by Beautiful People doing it up right. "The Santa Fe Opera's opening-night tailgate party. 'People are dressed to the hilt, drinking wine, eating sushi and smoked salmon. They bring out their best china and crystal, but it's still in the parking lot, and it's still a tailgate.'"

How can we bring the Dallas Opera up to the next level? The Opera's current home is the Fair Park Music Hall. Fair Park is also home to the Cotton Bowl. I'm betting Cotton Bowl fans have tailgate picnics in the Fair Park lot on New Year's Day. An opera opening night in December shouldn't be any colder than a New Year's football game.

I'm committing a baby Weber for shish-kabobs and s'mores. I've got two wine glasses, so you may need to BYO. Maybe candle luminaria for the picnic perimeter... Hot chocolate with Schnapps. We'll need lots of Soccer Mom folding chairs. Extra grills and fire pits... This is not going to be a Lake Wobegon Lutheran church supper. Fondue yes, jello no. Hot spiked cider? Ice sculpture centerpiece? Fresh flowers or poinsettias? Presentation is so very important.

Can anyone bring a fire extinguisher? I'm concerned about silk neckties, fur coats, sequins, and feather boas too close to the grill. Tongs. We're gonna need long-handled tongs....oven mitts....salted cashews...pitted black olives...finger bowls and heated hand towels..."I Tail-gated" stickers...


What a beautiful day!

Finally fall! Butterflies on the pink patio sedum blossoms. Lizards big and small control the perimeter fence and gate. A self-satisfied mockingbird woke me up this morning. Kicked at bright leaves on our morning walk, and spotted a woodpecker.

Played keep-away from the dull household tasks and distractions. I unfolded my Former Soccer Mom throne and did the New York Times crossword puzzle al fresco.


No paved paradise, no big yellow taxi

Joan Mitchell is one of my favorite painters. I got to see a wonderful display of her huge canvases at the Philips Collection in D.C., probably in 1996, but maybe earlier. Her paintings have all the ferocious energy of Pollack's, but with a sense of poetry and calligraphy, and fade-out compositions that allow a hint of space, landscape, and oxygen.

Not to be confused with Joni Mitchell:

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot SPOT
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got
‘Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to seem 'em
Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got
‘Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
I said
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Add Lee Krasner to the list of women artists, too.

Women Photographers 101

Surprised myself coming up with the names of six women photographers.

Julia Margaret Cameron 1815-1879

Imogen Cunningham 1883-1976

Dorothea Lange 1895-1965

Margaret Bourke-White 1904-1971

Diane Arbus 1923-1971

Annie Liebovitz 1949-

Women Artists 102

I had the great fortune to grow up in a college town with an impressive modern art museum, the Sheldon Gallery at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Sheldon, designed by Philip Johnson, is one of the most sophisticated, graceful, and elegant buildings I've experienced. Finished in 1963, the design far outshines Johnson's original Amon Carter in Fort Worth. Even though I was very small, I had already visited the Amon Carter in 1961, and could compare it to the Sheldon in my home town. My childhood impression was that the Sheldon had lots more air to breathe than the Amon Carter!

The Sheldon Gallery has one of the most important collections of American art in the United States. It was there I encountered Nevelson, O'Keeffe, Abstract Expressionist stain painter Helen Frankenthaler, and the Impressionist Mary Cassatt.

Women Artists 101

Name a woman artist. Go ahead. Write her name right here_________________________. Name another________________________.

I'm willing to bet that you just named Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo as your two artists.

Name a third woman artist_____________________________.

Keep thinking.
Keep thinking.
Drawing a complete blank? If so, you are like most people.

I taught a project based on the sculpture of Louise Nevelson to one hundred eighty-five children this month. We chatted about how her art makes the viewer focus on shapes and shadows by removing color. We talked about architectural influences, and compared her sculptures to cabinets and cupboards. We arranged found and recyclable items to make our own sculptures. I was able to display about two dozen of them placed next to each other on a wall to give an approximation of a Nevelson wall sculpture. The display catches the eyes of everyone, parent or child. As we talk, I realize that the number of parents who have heard of Louise Nevelson can be counted on my fingers.

I'm an art teacher, but I don't do much better at this game than others. I started a mental list of women artists hoping for some teaching inspirations. I can't teach Frida with young children, although some people do. The arteries and mustache are too tricky to explain, and creep me out a bit. I don't understand Kahlo's cult popularity.

Grandma Moses was the first woman artist I heard about as a kid. My next door neighbor told me about her, and showed me a painting of a lot of people eating supper. "She's an artist, and she's a girl, so there!," is how I remember the occasion. Even at age six, I wasn't terribly impressed. I've gained more respect for folk art over the years since, but Grandma Moses is still mentally linked with some very ugly dinnerware with a brown Currier & Ives scene of a sleigh going "Over the River and Through the Woods". Heck. I thought that song was about Grandma Moses for several years. The dinnerware was probably a promotion at the Safeway or Hinky Dinky grocery store.

I'll write more about my list of women artist after I make a pot of coffee. In the meantime, check out the National Museum of Women in the Arts website.

What's my motivation?

They run for fun in the hot, hot sun.
Oh me, oh my. Oh me, oh my.
What a lot of funny things go by.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish--Dr. Seuss

I want to run for fun, for myself, for health. I want to try running after a ten year hiatus. Got some shoes that fit my heels and toes happily, and purchased a couple other anti-flopping essentials. Hit the pavement. What on earth has possessed me?

The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly--and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing

The Rubayyat--Omar Khayyam

I haven't been walking enough to impact my blood pressure or weight. It's just gotten boring. I need a new challenge in the weight-bearing exercise category to help prevent osteoporosis. The November 2005 AARP Bulletin reports on preliminary research indicating running and vigorous aerobic exercise helps your brain, as well as your heart and joints.

When I volunteered at The Half last Sunday, I got a big reminder of running race day energy. The experience was almost as fun as the big dog party up the tree in P. D. Eastman's Go Dog Go!

While I was googling "What's my motivation?," I found an interesting story from the Seattle Times, 3/2/05, Doctors urged to find their inner Brando about doctors and med students who need method acting classes to learn to empathize with their patients. "Deep acting — also known as method acting — involves summoning memories and using imagination to generate and display emotions. Quick, nurse, what's my motivation?"

I'm summoning memories of the positives of running, without the accompanying negative baggage. This is definitely starting from scratch, tying on the shoes, getting out the door, and alternating running and walking.

Funny things are everywhere, maybe even jogging down your street. I'll be trying not to slip and fall on the gobs of acorns under the big dog party tree.


Just what Age is this anyway???

Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations. --Queen Victoria

Someone asked me why women don't gamble as much as men do, and I gave the commonsensical reply that we don't have as much money. That was a true and incomplete answer. In fact, women's total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage.--Gloria Steinem

When I married in 1977, I did not understand the extent of my gamble. I deluded myself that one of my God-given vocations was to sand off the annoying rough edges on my spouse so he would quit chewing toothpicks and leaving his used dental floss on the red shag carpet back beneath the macrame plant hanger beside the waterbed.

I believed that the converse of Queen Victoria's proclamation was that men were intended to be helpmates for women, but with totally different duties and vocations. A man's God-given duties and vocations, in my mind, were to deal with taxes, cars, and insurance.

My spouse insisted my God-given duties included sitting beside him and giving him my undivided attention and worshipful adoration while he surfed through t.v. channels and viewed an unending string of lowest common denominator Blockbuster rentals consisting almost entirely of swearing, sex, car crashes, explosions, abusive and addictive relationships. And the lord said, "It is not right that Woman should sitteth and knitteth while Man is watching t.v. It is not right that Woman should addresseth envelopes for Christmas cards, or in any way diverteth her attention from Man while he pursueth his leisure viewing on the couch."

My spouse felt his God-given vocation was to badger me about exercising, and to allow me quiet, solitary (child-free) times only to work out, or to run. Not that I'm bitter or anything! I did derive benefits from exercise, and enjoyed it sometimes, but the emotional baggage was heavier than the Nautilus weights.

It's amazing the gamble lasted nearly nineteen years, and produced three fantastic sons. It's not surprising that I had to reshape my attitudes about exercise and fitness. I had to find my own motivations, minus the baggage.


Running for whom?

I love that the New York Times had a big story about race chip technology the morning after I volunteered distributing and retrieving chips at The Half marathon. I mailed the story off to my dad, and he will understand what I was doing. I told him the chips look a lot like the adapter inserts we used to place in the centers of our 45 rpm records to play them on the LP spindle of the hi-fi.

Got a kick out of honoring my preschooler mommy who completed The Half. I told everybody in advance, so when the mommy arrived we treated her like a conquering hero, which she is. I wore my volunteer race shirt* because I knew my little student would be able to sort it all out that I was the crazy lady he talked to at the race. He is very little. He and his sister joined their mommy to run across the finish line. It's so confusing to preschoolers when teachers escape the classroom! Plus, I had my new, "goofy hair", and I was untying his mommy's shoe instead of tying his!

*What a comfortable shirt. I love it. It even makes me consider taking up running again.

As I was struggling untying the knots for another young woman sitting in the folding chair, she suddenly looked down on me and pronounced, "I know you. Who are you?" I didn't recognize her, but we sorted it out. I taught her daughters last year.

I'm really impressed that so many little mommies completed The Half. That's 13.1 miles!

I ran during 1975-1995, but never made it beyond a 10K. There were intervals when I switched to other work-outs. When I was expecting Jeff I was into Nautilus machines. Expecting Mike, it was the six a.m. lap swim at the Maple St. YMCA. I laugh to remember, but I was played coed volleyball when I was pregnant with Steven. Not a pretty visual!

I hope all the little mommies are running for themselves, and not to appease (or run from) a spouse. We each need to choose our own challenges and goals. The people who really love us will support our efforts toward those goals. The people who really care will honor us when we achieve our goals, even if they don't understand them..


Candy Thermometer for Election Day

Got going early this morning so I could vote right after the polls opened at seven. My polling place is the middle school my sons attended. Middle schools are very scary places, so I wanted to be long gone before incoming students began swarming.

Last Friday I had my hair permed. My relationship with my hair is difficult. We are like roommates who live in the same apartment, but aren't actually friends. We cycle through phases of amused tolerance, benign disinterest, forced civility, not making eye contact, and outright loathing. About once a year we need a professional mediator and a permanent.

It's a good perm. I like it a lot. Adults seem to like it, or are very polite. My students take one look, scrunch up their faces like they are studying a flipped-over beetle wiggling its legs in the air, and say, "You look really weird. What happened to your hair?"

This afternoon the preschoolers gave my appearance a thorough appraisal, and informed me I looked "like a clown". A few minutes later the oldest girl amended that analysis. "You look," she said, "like the mother of the clown." That's harsh! And there I'd been humming a West Side Story tune to myself...

I feel pretty,
Oh, so pretty,
I feel pretty and witty and bright!
And I pity
Any girl who isn't me tonight.

I feel charming,
Oh, so charming
It's alarming how charming I feel!
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I'm real.

After the perm Friday, my stylist convinced me I needed a product to define my curls if I wasn't going to aim for the Texas Big Hair bouffant look. For relaxed, easy shower-and-go, I definitely needed Twisted Taffy Raw Hair Goo.

The Raw Hair Goo results were pretty good Saturday-Monday. Something went way wrong this morning. The Twisted Taffy never progressed past the soft ball stage. It didn't dry all day long, let alone define curls and provided promised "textured shine."

Soft ball stage, as any Camp Fire Girl who ever tried to make popcorn balls for treats knows, begins at 234°. A small amount of syrup dropped into chilled water forms a ball, but flattens when picked up with fingers.

"You can't make fudge when it's hot," my wise team teacher quoted. Since I make fudge once every other Christmas, I did not know if this was ancient wisdom or something she made up for this occasion. We are experiencing ridiculous temps in the mid-eighties, and humidity around sixty per cent. For November, that qualifies as hot.

When my sons were young, they melted plastic toy soldiers with the magnifying glass out on the afternoon sidewalk, in the name of science. Being of a certain majestic, energized, and powerful stage in life, I can probably melt any plastic toy soldier within three feet of my scalp, in the name of menopause.

Can weather affect candy making?

Oddly enough, it can. Cooking candy syrup to the desired temperature means achieving a certain ratio of sugar to moisture in the candy. On a humid day, once the candy has cooled to the point where it is no longer evaporating moisture into the air, it can actually start reabsorbing moisture from the air. This can make the resulting candy softer than it is supposed to be.

That’s why dry days are recommended for candy making, although the effects of humidity can be somewhat counterbalanced by cooking the candy to the upper end of the appropriate temperature stage.

Cool weather is also recommended for candy making, because—generally—the faster candy cools, the less chance it has to form unwanted crystals.

My what bad hair you have, Grandma!


Firestone Reading Room

It's never too soon to start pondering where to build your presidential library. I don't ever plan to run for president, but I didn't run for the condo association board, either, and I still came in fourth. Thank heaven only three seats were open, or I would have been drafted into the damned-if-you-do job from hell.

Can't really understand why Texas cities are competing to be the home of Dubya's presidential library. "Presidential library" sounds so diggity dawg scholarly--like the big guy in the Oval Office might have read some history so he wasn't destined to repeat it. Maybe the competing cities are actually fishing for the Rove-A-Rama fantasy amusement park to be built at the other end of the parking lot.

Did some reading Saturday waiting for the $94 "rebuilt pigtail" that would allow the Buick to pass the safety inspection. Undistracted by the aroma of steel-belted radials and burnt coffee, the ninety minutes were a literary holiday.

I'm reading The Tulip and the Pope: A Nun's Story, by Deborah Larsen. Why would a nineteen year-old enter a convent in 1960? I remember being clueless at nineteen, and I've been the mother of idealistic, yet earthly, nineteen year-olds.

In the peaceful anonymity of the Firestone waiting room with the Texas Longhorns playing Baylor on the t.v. and customers rummaging through the newspaper in vain hope of finding the Sports Section, I read about "custody of the eyes" and the prohibition against "particular friendships" in the convent. Compared to Brownie's emails, it was intellectual stuff. I learned what nuns wear to swim lessons.

When it was time to check my rebuilt pigtail on out of there, the mechanic kept trying to read the upside down title on my book's jacket. I told him it was the story of a nineteen year-old who became a nun. Feeling awkward about having this discussion with the young man, I added, "I've never understood how a person can make that choice at that age."

Oops. Was I going to get a celibacy joke from the mechanic, now joined by two other garage guys? No. "I'm thirty-one, and I don't know yet what I want to do with my life," he said.

He put it in perspective for me. Life is about doubt and clarity, making choices, or choosing not to choose.


I want my, I want my, I want my NPR

(voiced by Sting)

My NPR station had yet another pledge drive recently. I've been expecting the station manager and the program director to offer the next call-in contributor, "money for nothing and chicks for free" instead of a mug or a tote bag.

Now that ain't workin',
that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb

I'm sure the station is in dire straits, and needs my contribution, but the seemingly endless pledge drives have gotten so annoying that I am repulsed instead of seduced. Thank heaven a dearly demented friend loaned me some wonderful cds so I could be radio-free on my commutes:

Jacqueline du Pre A Lasting Impression

Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony

*Carl Orff's Carmina Burana

President Bush is obviously trying to undermine support for NPR by announcing his nomination of "Harry" Miers to the Supreme Court just before the station pledge drive began, and announcing his nomination of Samuel Alito just after it ended. That adds up to six weeks of legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg and White House correspondent Don Gonyea, with the station manager and the program director, hammering, hammering, hammering on my aggravated autumnal allergy sinuses for a week in the middle.

*Where else can you hear a tenor singing the role of a roasting swan?

12. Cignus ustus cantat (The Roast Swan)
Once I lived on lakes,
once I looked beautiful
when I was a swan.

Male chorus)
Misery me!
Now black
and roasting fiercely!

The servant is turning me on the spit;
I am burning fiercely on the pyre:
the steward now serves me up.

(Male Chorus)
Misery me!
Now black
and roasting fiercely!

Reminds me of roasting bagworms, no doubt also sung by tenors:

We had mind-blowing infestations on all the bushes in our yard in my impressionable junior high years. My anti-chemical/fiscally strapped dad sent all his natural born children out to pluck the hideous things off the junipers. When we got a good coffee-canful of bagworms, we would roast them in the charcoal grill. The bagworms would emerge from their bags and writhe, but refuse to die. On the good side, I got to take my transistor radio with the earphone out on these shock and awe operations, tuned to KLMS 1490 AM. "Last Train to Clarksville", "Georgie Girl", "To Sir With Love..."

...Alas, we still have bagworms in the Bushes.

Just rereading the disgust and frustration in that Oct. 23, 2003 blog post. I suspect it was written during NPR pledge drive season.


Chex and balances

The sights, sounds, and especially the temperatures of fall bring a satisfying form to my life. The cooler weather* gives me more energy, and the earlier darkness sends me into my cocoon at a healthier hour. The crunch of acorns under car tires in the parking lot, and the galoomphing of crazed squirrels across the roof propel me to the grocery store for baking potatoes, brown sugar, flour, nuts, Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats, and Tollhouse chocolate chips. Since much of my autumnal wardrobe needs ironing, I spend time with the t.v. tuned to football and soccer, even if I don't actually give it my full attention. Just the smell of the steam iron is soothing on a Sunday afternoon.

My striped shirts are shifting to charcoal, maroon, rust, pimento, salmon, olive, camel, and dark chocolate. No more cotton candy, Starburst, and gumball colors. Fall stripes have tang, and dirt, chili powder, sauteed mushrooms, molasses, and simmered meats.

Thank God for corduroy and Chex Mix, plaids and crimson, garlic and red-tailed hawks! Sing praises to suede, barn jackets, flannel, sage stuffing, and great aunts who pressed pretty leaves in the complete works of Shakespeare.

Amen, and please pass the Rice Krispy Treats.

*It still gets up in the eighties here in the afternoons. At least it cools down more at night.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...