Saturday, January 31, 2009

In which I regress to the age of fifteen

I'm stealing a post from TMC, as I do from time to time. Hers is entitled "Against my better judgment,let the snickering begin."

Since I had left a comment, and read her blog entry twice, I conclude I have a need to indulge in a totally juvenile activity - the game of "who do you think is cute?" I'm old enough to remember conversations about "who's your favorite Beatle?", though I was very young. I also rememer my answer: "Keith Richards." The Beatles were too clean cut for my taste. When I was a young girl, my two rock star crushes were Keith Richards and Jim Morrison. I felt somewhat ashamed of my crush on Jim Morrison. His raw sexuality seemed a little too much for a very young girl to handle. Or maybe I had a sense that he could be dangerous. Maybe he was the kind of person for whom things like the age of consent meant nothing. I suspect that may have been true, but it's interesting to me that I even gave this any thought.

I want to point out that there seems to be a double standard for men and women when it comes to discussions of this nature. It's okay for women to sit around talking about who they find hot (or to write a silly blog post about it). It's not really okay for men to do the same thing. Sure, they can do it when they're with a bunch of other men, but if some guy had a blog post like TMC's (or the one I'm attempting to get to), he'd be eviscerated by his girlfriend. Women can be quite jealous about celebrity crushes. They also (and I'm not immune to this one) can feel badly about even hearing about "who's hot and who's not" from men. We think, "Oh, I can't possibly live up to her, or women like her!" And no, I can't. But why is it okay for us women to write about men as if they were just sex objects? Does it make men feel bad (and they're just not saying anything about it)?

One time I was at a family gathering and three generations of women were all looking at People Magazine's "100 Sexiest Men of 2007." Do they even have a special issue for sexiest women, or is that just reserved for Sports Illustrated? Anyway, all three generations of women agreed that Johnny Depp is hot. Did any of the men mope around for the rest of the day, harboring secret feelings of inadequacy and jealousy? I have no idea, but I doubt it. Think about how angry the women would be if all the men sat around perusing pics of sexy women during a family gathering. They'd be fuming!

Well, now that that's said, I'm starting to change my mind about this blog entry.

Never mind.

I'm skipping Johnny Depp. You've all seen enough pictures of him. Russell Brand is a good substitute in a pinch. I suppose that some women don't like men who tease their hair and wear more makeup than they do. But Brand's a funny guy with a British accent. That counts for a lot, in my book.

Matthew Gray Gubler, from CBS's "Criminal Minds", is the geek heart throb of many.
Let's not forget that "Dr. Spencer Reid"
is a fictional character, and Matthew Gray Gubler
was a runway model before he was a television actor.

It took me a long time to find a photograph of Cheng Chan in the film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

There's only a handful of official photographs. Most of the fan photographs are of Ziyi Zhang. She is gorgeous (especially when angry).

If it weren't for TMC, I would have not been able to tell you the name of an actor whose visage makes my heart beat just a little faster, Gurgon Kyap (seen here in the film "Himalaya").

I'd never thought of Bob Dylan as any sort of sex symbol until I saw the 1967
documentary "Don't Look Back."

This is ridiculous. There are so many celebrities whom I find sexy that I could sit at my laptop for a week and not be done with this post.

Matthew Gray Gubler is a real exception to my usual taste. Generally speaking, a person has to have a hooked or crooked nose to attract me. I have no idea why that is. My first real kiss was with a boy who had both a hooked and crooked nose. Which started first? The first kiss or the nose fetish? If I could answer that with any authority, I'd be able to solve the nature or nurture question, and I'd get the Nobel Prize, but that isn't going to happen.

I was teased by my friends for liking that boy. The other girls thought he was ugly. Not only did he have a funny nose, but he was scrawny and had long, stringy hair.

Another odd thing, about me, is that I much prefer long hair on a man than on a woman. Of course, there are always exceptions (like Matthew Gray Gubler). I find androgyny quite alluring, to say the least. If I can't tell what gender a person is, I am usually instantly smitten.

So, here ends one of the sillier entries I've posted on this blog. I'm not sure why I think celebrity crushes are a sillier subject than socks, which just got three full entries, but that's my way of thinking.

On the other hand, the reasons why we are attracted to certain types is a subject that I do find fascinating, and it's one that has merited a lot of study. Recently, though I can't remember where, I read that it's not only symmetry that attracts us, but "ordinary-ness." The word used in the study was something more succinct than the clunky non-word that I just used, but you get the picture. I am attracted to crooked noses, faces with obvious asymmetries, and ones that are truly out of the ordinary. "All American" looks turn me off. The women that grace the pages of men's magazines bore me silly. Studies also say that we are attracted to people who are our attractive equivalents. In other words, if you're a "5", you're usually attracted by another "5." But that doesn't quite make sense of my particular tastes. Of course, making sense out of my taste doesn't really matter, but I do find it, um, interesting.

Socks, Part 3

Though I'm guessing I won't write about socks again for a while, there may indeed be a "Socks, Part 4." But for now, this'll be it. This is the entry about knitting and socks. If you have no interest in knitting, you may want to skip this one.

Knitting socks must be quite popular. On the Knitpicks site, there are 53 different books on sock knitting, and their bookstore, while extensive, is far from the largest on the web.

As much as I like to knit, and as enticing as all those beautiful photographs of socks are, it wasn't until fairly recently that I truly enjoyed knitting socks. The reason I didn't enjoy knitting socks was pretty straightforward - I found juggling four or five doubled pointed needles to be a pain. Here's what it looks like, for you non-knitters:

This photograph shows the knitting on three double pointed needles. One needs a fourth to actually knit. But wait: most people who use double pointed needles to knit socks use five needles. It's certainly not as hard as it looks, nor is it complicated, but that's a lot of needle juggling. One also has to make sure that the stitches don't fall off the ends of the needles and the the first and last stitches on each needle aren't too loose so that the knitting is even. Yes, it's the traditional, time-tested way of knitting socks, and most people still knit them this way, but it's just a big annoyance to me. I had a terrible case of SSS (Second Sock Syndrome):
". . .Knitters with SSS happily knit the first sock of a pair. . .When that sock is finished, they then find themselves completely and inexplicably unable to knit the second sock. . . .knitters with SSS feel boredom, monotomy, and the overwhelming urge to begin a new and unrelated pair of socks. Sadly, SSS is a repeating disease, and when the knitter casts on a new pair of socks, the cycle begins again. . ."
-from "At Knit's End"

There's a woman at my knitting group who knits socks at an amazing speed. It dawned on me one day that she wasn't using double pointed needles. What was she doing? She was using two pairs of circular needles. I won't even bother showing you a photograph, for if you're not a knitter, you won't have a clue what you're looking at. And if you are a knitter, you'll either know this method, or if you don't, well, just wait (for what? You'll see). Anyway, dispensing with the double pointed needles was a thrill. I've knit a few pairs of socks since my five minute mini-lesson.

Then I heard about two new things: knitting both socks at the same time and "The Magic Loop Method." Here's snapshot of the the Magic Loop Method:

I realize that this photograph will mean nothing to both knitters and non-knitters alike. If you're a knitter, the Knit Picks tutorial page on different methods of knitting in the round is the best I've seen (and it's free!)

The thing about the Magic Loop Method is that it indeed seems like magic. Even if you're a non-knitter, doesn't knitting a tube on one needle seem impossible? It did to me, but after I followed the directions on the link above, I knit up a pair of socks quicker than I'd ever done, and all the while I was thinking "wow." Now, I haven't yet knit two socks at once while using the Magic Loop method, which would be even quicker, but I've got a more than a few projects to finish first. They're not socks, so I don't know what syndrome I have now. I certainly have a problem with knitting the sleeves when I'm done with the body of a sweater, not finishing a sweater for myself after gaining enough weight to render said sweater unwearable, and the I'm-really-sick-of-knitting-on-size 0-needles syndrome. The shawl I just put aside for a while, well, if I hadn't used a yarn so thin that when you hold it up to the light you practically can't see it, those who-knows-how-many hundreds (or thousands?) of rows would be over twenty feet long by now. As it stands, I'm only about halfway done.

On the non-technical side of things, sock knitting has been more fun since yarn companies starting selling self-striping yarn. This stuff is amazing! The example at the top of the post is for simple stripes, but there are many companies that sell fair isle style balls of yarn, which produce results like these:

It's pretty amazing that this design was created using one continuous strand of yarn. Humans design it, but computers generate the "instructions" for how the yarn is dyed.

For more pics of Berocco Sox yarn, click here.

I'm still not a huge fan of sock knitting, though I often wonder why not. It's a short lived project with beautiful and practical results. What's not to love? I can't quite put my finger on a good answer to that question. Maybe I like more impractical knitting projects, like the endless shawl on size 0 needles (and for you non-knitters, size 0 needles are very thin, though there are also 00, 000, and 0000 needles, which I have knit on, thus proving how crazy I am).

Photo note: Knit Picks Felici sock yarn

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For my patchouli loving friends

Please read Bittergrace Note's latest post.

New blog

Please check out Jaime's new blog: Smells like Boi . Jaime's a wonderful writer and has her own special perspective. I'm excited about reading "Adventures in Olfaction with a Genderqueer Fragrance Newb."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Socks, Part 2

I'm not thrilled with my telling of the socks-with-consequences stories yesterday. I could have been more engaging, but I'm writing in spite of my feeling uninspired. Maybe I'll tell those stories again in a year or two. Then, I can contrast and compare.

I promised another installment of writing about socks. Tonight will not be the one about knitting, and I'm not quite up to "my life in socks", though yesterday was a start.

I don't remember anything about the socks of my childhood (except for the gym class incidents). When I was very young, girls had to wear dresses to school, and I presume I wore tights.

I don't remember anything about socks in high school. I wasn't a creative socks wearer. I would venture to guess that I wore black socks, since I tended to wear black.

On the other hand, it's possible that I wore other colors of socks, for I do remember that I've always had a rule that my socks should match my shirt. This rule is the reason an old friend of mine once told me that I looked well dressed, even when I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. How strange that this little detail was not only noticed, but added a bit of formality to my most casual way of dressing.

I also remember that on days when I wore boots, I would intentionally wear mismatched socks, because noone could see them and I would get a kick out of it. I have always liked patterned socks, but my taste in clothing is generally quite plain and argyle and striped socks don't quite match what I usually wear. Though, I must admit that there are times that I wear all the mismatched stripes in one outfit (see the post about hats).

This "kooky" way of dressing, which manifests itself mostly in my choice of socks, is a fairly recent development. My taste is not only plain, it runs towards the somber. I have given up my all-black wardrobe for one that is heavy on gray. When I go shopping, I have to remind myself that I have more than enough gray sweaters. Unfortunately, my favorite gray sweater is covered in holes. It's time to throw it out, for it's not salvageable. I suppose I am branching out, for I now wear quite a bit of red, brown and, on occasion, purple. I would love a pair of red jeans, but now that I'm not thin, I can't imagine that would be a good idea. I went to the Goodwill a few years back with a friend and she snagged a pair of railroad stripe red jeans. Oh, how I wish I saw them first!

Wait a minute. This post is supposed to be about socks! So, I've developed a penchant for bright colored and striped socks. I am reminded that I once adored argyle socks and haven't had a pair in many years. And this reminds me that the last time I wore a pair of argyle socks, I was punished for it. Well, another "socks with consequences" story:

Sometime in the late 80's, I worked at Macy's during the holiday season. I worked in two departments. One was the Macy's brand "Charter Club" department and the other was the women's suit department. Both of these departments were the only clothes departments where one could earn comissions. The incentive was great for me, for I didn't care about the job much. I didn't want to work full time, nor did I want to become a department manager. But, I was a good salesperson, and the manager of the suit department seemed to have an attitude towards me. I suspected it was because she couldn't imagine that I wasn't competing with her. I had owned my own clothing store, so I could understand that she might have found it odd that I didn't want to be a manager. At first I thought I was being paranoid, but every week there was a little competition with a financial bonus, for "salesman of the week." I never won the contest, even though I generally sold more suits than anyone else. It was up to the manager to decide who won, so the fact that I never did made me feel both ticked off and a bit better, because it proved to me that my feeling she didn't like me or saw me as a threat was probably true.

Macy's had many rules for how employees were supposed to dress. We were not allowed to wear jeans and we had to wear pantyhose with our dresses. Now, from my experience working in retail, I had learned that wearing the clothes that were being sold was a good way to sell them. I happened to like the Charter Club clothing and had bought a long jeans skirt and a couple pairs of their argyle socks, which I noticed were not selling much. So, one day I wore the skirt with the socks to work. I totally forgot aobut the Macy's rule against wearing socks with skirts or dresses. I seem to recall that the rule flitted through my mind, but I blew it off, thinking it was far better to wear this combination of skirt and socks, for it might inspire a few buyers to buy those argyle socks. It was not outrageous looking in the least.

I'm not making it up when I tell you that the manager pulled me aside when I was in the middle of selling someone the same outfit I was wearing. That strategy does work well! Forgetting she had an issue with me, I though she might say "Well done!" But no, she was angry and asked me if I had ever read the employee dress code. She wanted to yell at me, but she didn't get very far, for I immediately admitted that I knew I had broken the rule. What was my punishment? I had to work behind a counter where noone could see my offending socks. I spent the rest of the day selling leather gloves, for which there were no commissions.

The next day I was back to my regular job, but it was not to last. I forget what petty offenses I had perpetrated, but that nasty women wanted me out of there. And so I was, and wound up working in the Christmas ornaments department, where I made whatever the lowest amount one can make at Macy's was, and of course, no commission. I wonder if the pairs of argyle socks I owned and wore until they were beat up and useless were the ones from Macy's. I suspect they were, and I never bought argyle socks again. Oh my, maybe I was traumatized!

Nah. Just a coincidence. And the other reason I stopped wearing argyle is that when one doesn't have a slim calf, they stretch the design out of whack way too much.

These days crazy socks are a dime a dozen. They've become so common that they don't have much of an impact. One can buy intentionally mismatched socks. Dick gave me some for Christmas a few years ago. I love them. They're a great deal of fun. But, even though I like my clothing fairly plain (and I have a penchant for the truly elegant, but no place to wear it), the major reason for wearing outrageous socks is to be a bit shocking. If everyone is being a bit shocking, it doesn't work.

Right now I'm wearing matching striped socks in various shades of blue with a touch of purple and pale green. Sounds awful in print, but they are not, nor are they outrageous looking. One can find striped socks that are elegant. I've found that TJ Maxx is an excellent source for elegant and unusual socks.

I can't think how to end this post. Here's the end: To be continued.

Image note: Found this old pic on a site that sells traditional argyle socks.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Socks, Part 1

Laugh if you will, but it occurred to me that the topic of socks was too big a subject to tackle in one blog entry. First there's the fact that I have two distinct points of view about socks. One is from the perspective of a consumer, and the other is from the perspective of a knitter. You'd think they would not be all that different, but they are. But more importantly, those two points of view are much different for the reader. I suspect that the knitting perspective would have a rather narrow appeal, as it has much to do with technique and the evolution of sock yarn during my knitting life. So, I'll save that for another day.

Tonight, I'll focus on my personal life with socks. We should all laugh right about now, for the above introduction and the last line are so overly serious. C'mon - I'm writing about socks! Just socks.

Actually, socks have gotten me into trouble twice in my life. And the interesting part is, I had forgotten about this until just now. When I write "trouble", I mean real trouble. So, here are two stories for you:

When I was in Junior High School, we wore gym uniforms. They were ugly polyester button down shirts with attached shorts (which seemed inpossible to keep from riding up, at least for us girls without skinny legs). I believe they were navy blue, but I'm not sure. We were supposed to wear white socks and white sneakers with our uniforms. I was the kind of kid who bristled at anything that smacked of conformity. These days I suppose I'd be diagnosed with "oppositional defiant" disorder or something. Back then, I was just considered a pain in the butt. Oddly, I was very quiet and seemed to be compliant, but that was a total ruse. If there was any opportunity to mess with teachers or other authority figures, I'd do it. But I didn't do this at home. My parents were both emotional wrecks when I was in Junior High School and I wanted them to continue seeing me as a shy and "good girl."

So, back to socks and gym class. I had already gotten myself into some trouble by embroidering a name other than mine on my uniform. I re-named myself Gertrude Singer. It wasn't well thought out, but it was some sort of nod to Gertrude Stein, whom I knew little about (and still know little about). Of course, I was forced to put my real name on my uniform and this irked me. I really wanted to re-name myself, though I don't remember why.

I hated gym class, so having my first attempt at stirring up the works having been a failure forced me to come up with something else. I took all my white socks and tie-dyed them. I wasn't a hippie chick, but I wanted to mess with those plain white socks. I loved the tie dyed ones. One thing about tie-dying, batik and other forms of creative dyeing, which I loved then, and still love today, is the one-of-a-kind nature of each dyed piece of clothing or fabric. It's pretty much impossible to reproduce the same exact results every time.

So, knowing full well that I was supposed to wear plain white socks, I went to gym class with a pair of purple tie-dyed ones. I was told that the next time I showed up for gym, I better not being wearing them. The teacher didn't say "You better not be wearing tie-dyed socks." She just said I shouldn't be wearing the ones I had on. I remember this clearly. Of course, I showed up to the next class wearing a different pair of tie-dyed socks. I continued to wear a different pair of socks until I achieved the result that I wanted: I was suspended from gym class. I was "punished" by having to sit in study hall for one period. This was fine with me, for I'd sit there and read a book, which was infinitely more pleasureable to me than having to swim in an overchlorinated pool while exposing the body I wasn't happy with or being the kid who was always picked last for any team sport ("Do we have to take her?"). I don't remember how this particular gym class episode ended. I did fail gym one year, but my sketchy memory tells me that was another year (and another story).

Now, the other time I got into trouble over socks was much more serious. I may have blogged about it before, and if you've read it, well, here it is again. It'd be interesting to see if both my stories are the same or if I am repeating myself. Memory is an elusive thing.

When I was 16, I worked at McDonalds. We wore (again) navy blue McDonald's uniforms and with matching caps. These too were polyester and seemed to trap the smell of stale oil better than any fabric on earth. And if you were guessing what on earth this has to do with socks, the answer is that the regulations called for white ones, of course. This time, I had no desire to flaunt the rules. I was living on my own and I needed that paycheck.

The trouble was, I didn't own any white socks. So, on my first day of work, I went to a big store to buy some. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money. So, I shoplifted them. I was in a big hurry and was sloppy. I got caught. I had shoplifted before, and most of the time it was for things that were worth far more than pair of white socks. I'd never gotten caught. It seemed just that I was finally caught for such a petty thing.

The security guard took me into a small office and made me produce what he knew I had. Those socks probably cost two dollars at the most, but it was two bucks I didn't have. I didn't shoplift for the thrill of it. I did it out of neccessity.

The guard pummelled me with questions. The room was small and poorly lit. It was pretty darned close to the horrible interrogation rooms I'd seen in movies, and so, I was more afraid than I needed to be. I imagined that I was going to wind up in a juvenile facility. But no, the security guard was more concerned about the fact that I refused to give him my parents' names or addresses. He became convinced I was a runaway, and the only way around that was to give him my landlord's pone number. I thought that knowing I rented my own apartment would put this guy's mind to rest about my status as a somewhat self-supporting adult. I wasn't an emancipated minor, so the truth was that it didn't matter what my living situation was. But I didn't know that. He hammered away at me with questions upon questions, and my fear level became so great that I broke down in sobs. I harldy ever cried back then, and my terrified sobs were not only scary to me, but to him. He did call my landlord, who I had lied to. I told him I was 18 and he believed me (which is hard to believe, considering I looked all of 12 years old).

The security guard did call my landlord. He was very angry. When I got home, he informed me that he was kicking me out. I was too young to be renting my own apartment and he figured that in some way he was legally responsible for me. It turned out that that was indeed true.

My shoplifting those white socks had no serious consequences. I didn't go to juvenile hall. I didn't lose my horrible job. I did have to tell the manager that I couldn't afford new white socks.

Beyond that, the end of the story of my short career at McDonalds is on this blog somewhere. If you're interseted, do a search. I'm too lazy to bother. Right now I'm typing with one eye open. I am very tired, to say the least.

Really, I have three more socks topics. 1. Sock knitting. 2. My taste in socks. 3. My life history, as told through socks.

I can think of even more, if I give it a moment's thought. My grandfather's socks, with garters, are a memory that interests me.

But for tonight, that's it. The two times that white socks (or lack thereof) got me into trouble.

Stay tuned for more sock adventures.

For a great entry about shoplifting socks, go to "Burnt Toast Dinner's Confessions of a Shameless Shoplifter." She accidentally spelled shameless wrong - "shamless."

Photo note: The Eichold-Mertz Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama's school uniform page says "Plain white socks. NO footies or" What? Or else? The school's slogan is:
"Good, Better, Best

Never let it rest.

Until the Good is Better

And the Better is Best!"

When I was a kid, my father's biggest clients as an art dealer was a man who said this was his slogan. He was obscenely wealthy and had quite a bit of disdain for those who weren't. I suppose he thought they hadn't lived up to this slogan. The combination of seeing a pair of boring white socks and that slogan gives me the willies.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Are my babbling days over?

I doubt it. However, I haven't felt the desire to blog as often as I used to.

As a reader of blogs, I know it's nice to see a new entry (or more) each day. And judging from my blog stats, I can see my readership is down. So, have you all caught up? There's a large amount of entries here, and the majority of them are not topical.

Jaime suggested I write about shoes, socks and mittens. I've written about shoes and mittens before, and there are even drawings of shoes (see the tag "EIIIProduct" in the sidebar). I started writing about socks last night and wound up deleting the entry. I guess I've got some sort of writer's block. Normally, I could write about socks for hours if I didn't stop myself. Last night, writing about anything was about as difficult and not worth the effort as trying to squeeze the last little bit of toothpaste out of its tube.

And normally, I'd now be writing about toothpaste. But that stream of consciousness has dried up, for now. I have no doubt that I'll be back to my normal babbly self at some point. When? I make no promises!

And now, a little story:

Last week, I was wearing Annick Goutal's Encens Flamboyant. Dick and I were standing in front of an open cupboard. I guess we were looking for food. Of course, that has nothing to do with anything, except to explain that we were in close proximity to each other.

He asked me, "Do you smell something burning?" I answered, "No." He then said, "Well, it's not really a burning smell. It's more like the smell of a dryer sheet." I told him I had just put on some perfume. I offered my wrist for him to smell. He wasn't sure if that was the smell he was smelling. And that was the end of that, for him.

It wasn't the end of it for me, however. I kept sniffing my wrist and asking myself, "Does this smell like Bounce or Snuggle or whatever the name of our dryer sheets are?" And the answer was a resounding "Yes."

Because I'm terribly lazy, I just googled "Snuggle" to see if the box looked familiar. Dick and I raced each other to see who'd find it first. He won. And Snuggle is the brand we use. I don't know why. I do like the way it makes the clothing smell.

And though I would assume that Annick Goutal would be nearly horrified to discover that Encens Flamboyant smells like a dryer sheet, it does. It's not a duplicate, but there's a definate similiarity. I think that only a nose who can differentiate between manufactured scent molecules would be able to explain this similarity.

Today, after I put my clothes in the dryer, along with a sheet of Snuggle, I had a strong urge to wear the fragrance that will now be forever linked to the mundane task of clothes washing. Do you think that Snuggle could be described as having "a mystical, arousing and intense scent?" That's the opening sentence of the Encens Flamboyant description. As for Snuggle, the original fragrance is only described as "fresh" and "clean". But, wait (and wow!) the Snuggle website says "Snuggle - on a mission for upliftment."

I didn't think that "upliftment" was a real word, but I found it in Merriam Webster's Dictionary. Is there something wrong with sentence? I was going to say that I didn't care for the sentiment, but that's not true. I'd be a hypocrite and a snob if I thought that only top of the line perfume had the power to lift one's spirits. After all, I'm the one who bought the Snuggle dryer sheets.

Photo note: I find the official Snuggle bear a bit creepy. Maybe it's because he (she?) has an open mouth. I can't think of another reason. The Snuggle bear is pretty classic in every other way. Since I like stuffed bears, here's a photograph of one I do like. I found it here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bird of the day

During this time of year, I keep an eye out for flocks of snow buntings as I drive along the country roads. I have seen flocks of 50 to over 100 birds in past years. It's a glorious site, seeing these stark black and white birds, and the way they swirl over the snow covered pastures.

Today I saw only a half dozen or so birds. Their behavior outside of a large flock seemed different. The way they flapped their wings was butterfly-like, and it took some time for my brain to accept that they were indeed birds. But there's no black and white butterfly of that size which lives here in the winter.

This year there's quite a few sitings of unusual birds, though I haven't seen any. Honestly, I enjoy whatever birds I see, rare or not. This winter we've got an infrequent but regular visitor to our feeders, a red breasted nuthatch . The photograph at the Cornell Lab link doesn't do the bird justice. They are sleek and elegant, to my eyes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The weather, again

Last night, it was -50 degrees in Big Black River, Maine. It was not only a record for the date, but of all time here in the state.

And I thought it was cold where I live.

Dick just said, "This is good for the trees, though. It kills the pine beetles." I just googled pine beetles and they don't appear to be a problem in Maine.

I told him this and he said something about some bug that is killing the spruce trees. Its the Eastern Spruce Gall Adelgid, to be precise. Some say that the warmer winters are not killing these bugs, which are a type of aphid.

So, did you need this information?

Photo note: Snow on spruce, found at this site, where you can read about the ecology of snow and global warming.

Material lust

A few years back, I started using Publishers Clearinghouse Search & Win as my home page. It uses Google and a bunch of other search engines and if I'm not searching for anything obscure, it does a fairly good job. But I figured it was a scam, for I'd used it for almost a year, and every day I'd see the names of those who'd won prize after prize, and it seemed, with all the searches I'd done, at least I'd have won something, a 5 dollar Amazon gift certificate at least, within a full year. In my memory, it was the exact day I was going to quit using it, for the search engine isn't all that hot, when I won two hundred dollars.

I still thought it was a scam when the screen came up that announced I was a winner. I filled out a form and figured I'd never see my prize money. The next morning, I told Dick I'd won two hundred dollars and he said, "I'll believe it when I see the check." Well, I got the check. Within the next few weeks, I won fifty dollars in Amazon gift certificates.

Google opted out and the search engine became fairly useless. So, that was the end of that and the small daily rush I'd get thinking I might win another prize. So, I started spending ten minutes a day entering the Better Homes and Garden instant win game. I've never won a thing playing this game, and I'd say it hasn't made much of a dent on my consciousness, because I can't even think of the name of it.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a search for sweepstakes on Google. I had no idea how huge a "hobby" entering sweepstakes are. There are hundreds of sweepstakes websites, with pages and pages of lists. There are special sweepstakes toolbars you can download so one can enter sweepstakes faster. I've installed one.

My favorites button has become heavy with links. I've bookmarked "pay down your mortgage" sweepstakes, beauty product giveaways, product essay contests. . .

I've entered to win five foot wide plasma television sets and a thin gold bangle bracelet worth five thousand dollars. In the real world, I have no need or desire for either of these things. But if I won either of them, I'd take them, thank you very much.

I feel as if I'm admitting to a deep dark secret. It is neither deep or dark, but there's something nefarious about it, for it has opened up a yearning in me for material goods. The $250,000 shopping spree sweepstakes on Cosmopolitan magazine's website was looking better and better to me each day.

This afternoon I wrote an essay about why I'd like to win a trip to Paris. Of course, I mentioned that I'd like to visit perfume shops. But no, I wouldn't just like to visit. I'd like to buy, buy and buy some more. I want every Serge Lutens non-export scent I can get my greedy little hands on, and I want them in bell jars, not the ordinary rectangular spray bottles.

I find it interesting that in the midst of the worst economic crisis in my lifetime, both for the entire country and in my personal life, I'm thinking about winning overpriced luxury goods that I've never wanted before. I surely don't want or need a silk pillow with a baroque design on the front. It's baby blue and doesn't match anything in my home. But, I filled in the form to win that pillow, not once, but twice.

There are things I need, practical things, that are expensive. I need a new pair of glasses, for instance. I've looked at hundreds of contests in the last few days and not one of them offers a chance to win a pair of prescription glasses. One can win a consultation with a psychic or plastic surgeon, but nowhere did I see an offer to see a good primary care doctor.

Of course, contests are fantasies. Winning the things of ordinary life would take some of the fun out it, but the truth is, for me, and I suspect for a good many people who enter contests, that I could use many everyday things.

So far, this week, I've won one music download and fifteen dollars worth of Kraft products (which I suspect are all going to be junk food).

I did enter one contest today that had a fairly practical prize: glue. I'm not kidding. It was on a scrapbooking site. The winner of this contest wins $265 in various types of glue products for scrapbooking. I didn't look at the details of this contest, but just how much glue is that? It must be enough for life, unless some of it is made of gold. For all I know, some of it might be.

I wonder how long this weird little obsession of mine is going to last. I don't know what to make of it. And I suspect I'm going to win that glue. It'll serve me right.

Painting note: Elizabeth-Louise Vigee-Le Brun "Queen Marie Antoinette of France" 1778
I'm imagining myself in that outfit,saying, "Let them eat Kraft macaroni and cheese."

Off with my head!

Sometimes the weather is a legitimate topic

I looked at our outdoor thermometer before I went to bed and couldn't really believe what I saw. It was -28 degrees. The last time I saw a reading that low was in the winter of 1993, when I was raising sheep. I've written about that before, and I'm too lazy to find what post it is, but if you're interested, poke around.

This morning I awoke to Dick telling me that it had gotten even colder. It was -35 degrees. Again, I found it hard to take in that it was that cold outside. Dick's truck was in the garage and he was able to start it, but my car was not, and the engine wouldn't turn over. No matter. I still have a head cold, and wasn't planning on going out in this weather. 'Tis rather a shame though, for experiencing weather that extreme is quite the experience. But I do know what -28 feels like, and somehow I doubt the body can discriminate between -28 and -35. Now I will probably never know if my theory is correct, for it's gotten up to a steamy 0. I'm still staying inside. I'm sitting on a bedwarmer with a heating pad behind my back.

The birds at the feeder were sluggish this morning. I'm so glad Dick put more seed out. The birds need it in this weather. I can see them sitting in the bushes, all fluffed up. Thankfully, there has been little wind. It's amazing that they can withstand this cold at all. Some of them will not make it, however. This makes me sad.

I've noticed that I feel more sadness about the welfare of animals than I do about human beings. I'm hesitating over the delete key, seeing that sentence sitting there. What kind of horrible human being am I?

The truth is, I think this feeling is quite common. Whenever there's a horror story involving animals in the local news, people respond with intense emotion. There's a horror story involving human beings every single day. Maybe we're become inured to the horrors of our fellow humans. Perhaps we also see animals (and babies) as helpless. This is a false belief, for there is an abundance of adults who are indeed helpless in the face of war, starvation, ethnic cleansing, domestic abuse. . .the list, sadly, is very long. We all know it. Maybe we are the ones who feel helpless in the face of all this horror. No wonder we grow numb.

I remember once when I was a child, I saw a violent Western at the movie theater. People were being shot left and right. Then someone kicked a chicken and I started to cry. The other factor, I'm guessing, is that we know full well that the deaths of people in movies are fake, but have a harder time seeing harm to animals as such. To prove my point, think about the fact that we see the disclaimer "no animals were harmed in the making of this film" but we do not see the same disclaimer regarding humans.

So, maybe I'm not a horrible human being. I'm just another regular human being; only somewhat awful.

One last thought (or two) - It seems as if the amount of violent television shows increase every season and the ones which are already violent become more gruesome. Why, with all the real atrocities that are going on, do "we" seem to have a need to watch fake violence? And is my perception that fake violence is on the rise a real one? I think it is. I watch a few violent television shows on a regular basis. I really enjoy Criminals Minds and The Mentalist. The characters are entertaining and the stories are engaging. But why on earth do I subject myself to material of this nature? Last night's episode of CSI (which I watch on occasion) was filled with images of a woman being tortured. The details were gratuitous and I wondered just what I was getting out of watching such stuff.

I do watch documentaries. Again, I'm surprised by my lack of emotional response, but I do feel a sense of outrage. If you haven't seen it, you can view the PBS documentary, "Torturing Democracy", online. If you have any questions about whether Bush and company are war criminals, this is a must-watch.

I started out writing about the weather and wound up writing about torture. From thinking about freezing chickadees to freezing detainees in Guantanamo isn't much of a stretch, now that I give it some thought. I'm sorry if you expected a light post about pretty birds in the snow. You should know by now that you should never assume anything when you start reading one of my blog entries!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More on hats

In the last entry, I posted Jaime's answer to the hat question. I wondered why, of all things, I picked that response to post. Then I saw I had written about hats in the entry previous to it. I don't know where my hats are. And it's very cold outside. I need a hat!

I've got a Tibetan hat quite similar to the one in the photograph somewhere in my house. How could one mislay something as bright as that? I had put it on a shelf right in front of the door to my house and I suppose it might still be there, but I have stopped seeing it. I'm curious if that is the case. Hold on. . .

No, it is not there. However, there is a straw hat with a black band. There is also a pink and white striped straw hat and a mesh head and face cover. None of these items is season appropriate. This only goes to show that I have been in denial about what time of year it is or am quite lazy (or both). I'm really wondering where that Tibetan hat went to.

I've only worn it once, on New Year's eve, about six or seven years ago. It is certainly a hat that draws a lot of attention here in Maine. People wear hats with furry ear flaps, but I've never seen one with brocade on it. But the truly odd thing about Maine is that most people do not wear hats. It's cold up here!

I noticed when I first moved here that teenagers regularly wear shorts in the dead of winter. I'm guessing some kid somewhere in this state wore shorts today and I'm hoping that kid does not have frostbitten knees.

My taste in hats tends to be outlandish, though I don't often wear hats. I used to, back when I lived in New York. I thought I looked great in a hat, which reminds me that I actually did think I looked good once in a while.

I used to work in the same office as a friend of mine, in the middle of New York's biggest shopping district. During our lunch hour, we'd walk through Lord & Taylor department store instead of walking on the sidewalk. I often would try on hats, and she pointed out to me, much to my embarassment, that I would suck in my cheeks and purse my lips when I looked in the mirror. In retrospect, I think, "so?", but at the time I was mortified. I tried hard to stop doing this, but it's pretty hard to stop doing something one doesn't know one is doing in the first place. I fear I still make this face when I look in the mirror, with or without a hat.

When I lived in Hoboken, New Jersey (before it became gentrified), I lived in one of the worst slum apartments imaginable. I was financially struggling at the time, trying to begin a career as a commercial artist. Yet, I wore fancy hats. I might have worn raggedly clothes, but I always put a nice hat on my head when I went out (and a woolen cap on my head inside the barely heated apartment). The librarian once said she thought of me as the "hat girl." I remember one hat in particular - a very dramatic huge brimmed black hat with an attached black scarf. I would wrap it around my neck and drape it quite dramatically. I probably was wearing black Converses on my feet. I'm sure I looked absurd.

As to absurdity, I mentioned there was a pink and white striped straw hat in my entryway. It's squashed and crumpled, which is a shame. It was a very nice hat. When I purchased it, I also purchased a pair of striped linen pants and striped jacket. None of these striped items matched in the least. The woman at the store said "They're all nice, but I wouldn't wear them together." I thought, "I can't wait to wear them together." And I did. I wore them all on Martha's Vineyard and I wonder if the folks with me weren't a bit embarassed. Dick wasn't. I know that. He was with me when I bought the Tibetan hat and when I asked him if it wasn't a bit much, he said "Go for it!" (or something to that affect). Dick likes a bit of silliness. It's one thing I love about the guy.

Unfortunately, both of my straw hats are a bit tight and I hate that feeling. The straw hat with the black ribbon around it is a classic, but every time I've worn it I got a bit of headache.

I was looking for some shoes the other day and I noticed all these beautiful, sleek black boots with high heels. I own a pair suede black foots with stiletto heels that are oh-so-sexy and the last time I wore them I was miserable. Just walking across a room was hellacious and I thought to myself that my days of high heels were over and done with. It's not that I used to find them comfortable. I most certainly did not. I can remember clearly many a night of misery in my overly high heels. I finally figured out one could buy cushions to put inside of them, but that never really seemed to help. For one thing, that would make them tighter, for I hadn't bought any of these shoes in a size that would accomodate three layers of inserts. Speaking of inserts, those gel things that are supposed to be some kind of breakthrough in foot comfort technology are just hopeless. Sorry, Scholl's (and all the rest), good old fashioned foam is far superior.

One thing about getting older, for me, is that comfort is becoming my number one consideration. I'm not going to start wearing white sneakers, pastel sweats and ear muffs, but my days of fashion fun coupled with suffering are over with. One wouldn't think hats would be a part of this, but they are. No more tight headbands for me.

Now, that Tibetan hat was way too big for me, so I'm going to find it. It's got to be in this house somewhere, unless someone snuck in and stole it. But I don't think that happened. If someone had, they would have been caught right away, for I doubt there's another one like it in the state of Maine. I haven't seen anyone pumping gas at the general store with a Tibetan hat on. Caps, yes.

When I said noone wears a hat in the state of Maine, I forgot about caps. Caps are another story. So many people wear caps that they've become invisible to my eyes. Dick has one that says "CIA" on it, and it's funny, because many people actually believe he's in the CIA because of it. That's the last thing a spy would do, don't you think? Uh oh. Maybe he is in the CIA. I mean, I think he can't be because of the cap. What a fantastic ruse!

Interview, Part 3

Before I post another installment of Jaime's interview answers, I'd like to point out that noone else asked to be interviewed. What's up with that, folks?

Here's what Jaime has to say about the subject of hats:

"I love hats! They’re my favorite accessory. If I could, I would own dozens of different styles of men’s hats – top hats, fedoras,bowlers, newsboys, pork pies … you name it. I love costume hats, too … piratey tri-corner hats, sailor caps, pith helmets, wizard hats, coolie hats, fezzes … wow, I’m salivating just thinking about the variety. Unfortunately, in addition to not having unlimited income, I don’t think I usually look that good in them. The one exception is a cotton Red Sox cap Ibought for $5 at Wal-Mart (I know … I know …) when we first moved to Maine. As much as I don’t look good in most hats, in general, I usually look especially silly in baseball caps. On top of that, I don’t even really like baseball caps; I’m not very sporty, and not much of a baseball fan (it’s my second favorite sport, after hockey, and I do like the Red Sox, but I only watch during the playoffs, and even then, only half-heartedly). But, for some reason, that cheap cap looks like it was made for my head, and I find myself wearing it much of the time, when I’m not working. In the three years since I bought it, the cotton has softened, and the navy blue has begun to fade so that there are patches along the ridges where it is gray. I see guys in old Red Sox caps that are so faded they look lavender, and I know this is the eventual fate of mine. I understand, too, what makes them keep them that long. There’s just something about a good cap. I do own a top hat. I bought it for my wedding. Melissa wouldn’t let me wear it during the ceremony, but there are pictures of me wearing it during the reception. Very cute. Black tie suits me (even though I was wearing an ivory tie, not a black one). I also used to own a bowler hat. When I lived in England, I spent way too much time searching all of the second-hand shops for a good used bowler. I never found one that fit (apparently middle class British men of the late 19th Century had tiny heads). I found an inexpensive new one a few years later, though, while shopping with my goth (now ex-) girlfriend in, of all places, Hot Topic. I think she stole that hat when she moved out. I know she stole some of my boxer shorts and my favorite pint glass, which had made it home with me all the way from England. Women …"

Photo note: I was going to post a picture of a Red Sox cap, because it seemed the most relevant image to accompany her answer to my silly question "What do you think of hats?" Instead, I googled "bowler hats" out of curiosity, wondering if I could find an old picture of 19th century British men with tiny heads or whether the bowlers were worn higher up on the head back then. Now, I found no evidence of either hypothesis, but, I did find many photographs of Bolivian women, who do wear bowlers, and they most certainly are worn on top of the head, as you can see.

Mid month update

So far, January has been a month of fewer than normal blog entries. When I have posted, it's mostly been a painting and a bit of music. Is 2009 going to be the year that I become terse?

Somehow, I doubt it. I'm just going through a dry spell. I haven't tried any new scents I'd like to write about. There's no issues I've felt passionate enough to sit down and mull over, though there is an abundance of topics to discuss at the moment.*

I've got a very bad head cold today. The odd thing about this is that it's been so long since I had the common cold that I didn't even recognize it at first. Luckily for me, with all my physical problems, my immune system has been fairly rugged. When I was in my twenties, I seemed to have a cold all the time. Ugh! Now that it's been many years since I've felt this way, I can't imagine it being a regular thing. The common cold may be common, but it feels like crap.

It's no big deal, of course. I'm just surprised by it. I am not leaving my house today for any reason, though I had many appointments. I cancelled them all. It was -20 this morning when I woke up. It'd take an emergency to make me go outside in this weather, considering the way I'm feeling. Honestly, even if I was feeling great, I'd be hesitant. I have no idea where any of my hats, mittens or gloves have disappeared to. Sure, it's been cold out, but until it gets this cold, I usually don't wear those accessories. I suppose this proves I've been living in Maine for a long time. Once, twenty degrees would have sent me searching for some gloves, at least. Now, that seems almost balmy.

I'm writing about such minor things. I feel an obligation to post an entry.

I'm bored by it. And if I'm bored by this, well, I'm guessing you are, too.

Suggestions for topics to blog about are most welcome. I think I need a kick in the pants.

*A confession: I've been spending a lot of time entering online contests. That may be eating up quite a bit of time otherwise spent in meaningful pursuits. When this cold abates, maybe I'll write about this new obsession. I've entered 50 contests a day or thereabouts. So far, what have I won? One free $1.00 music download. Wow.

Painting note: Tamara de Lempicka "Middle of Summer" 1928
I need a new hat, but this one will not do. I've been meaning to post a de Lempicka for ages, and so I am doing so today, rather at random. In a way, I looked a bit like this stylized woman when I was quite young. I had a incredible complexion, a face about the same shape, and a little mouth, upon which I frequently applied the reddest of red lipsticks. And, I wore hats at every opportunity.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chypre Rouge: the mystery continues

Last week, I e-mailed Serge Lutens in Paris about the Chypre Rouge mystery. Why did my sample bottle smell completely unlike the Chypre Rouge sample I had from some years ago? Did they change the formulation? Is the export scent different than the scent sold in Europe?

I received a reply to my question within an hour of sending it. There was no reply, actually, but an offer to send me a new sample.

When I got home today, my neighbor stopped by with a package that had the wrong address on it and had needed a signature. Thank goodness she was home, for it would have been sent back! I was stumped as to what the package was. It was sent overnight mail and the return address was JFK airport. When I opened it, there was another padded envelope inside. And inside that, was a beautiful velvet pouch containing 15ml of Chypre Rouge, a regular sample of Chypre Rouge, and a holiday card from the Serge Lutens shop in France.

Well, the sample and the decant both smell like the Chypre Rouge I remember; rich, sweet and complex. So, the mystery still remains. Why did the other sample smell so different?

I'm glad I asked, for I've now got a lovely small bottle of Chypre Rouge. And I must commend their customer service for sending me not just one sample, but two, so I can compare. They are both the same. Thank you, Ms. Ardant, and thank you to Maria, who suggested I contact the company directly.

As for the tassel, I'm not sure why, but when I asked myself "what image do I want to use for this post?" I thought "tassels!" I wish I had found a more complex tassel to display, but I gave up after a few minutes. The art of tassel making is a wonderful one. If you like tassels, I recommend The Tassels Book. You can buy it on Amazon for only $4.95. I tried my hand at making small tassels some years back. It was a lot of fun, but when I started to want to make some really big ones, the price of supplies seemed exorbitant, especially when one can find some truly baroque and beautiful ones at TJ Maxx for under ten bucks.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The rich have always liked their little dogs

At least she's not carrying it in her purse.

Painting note:Lucas Cranach the Elder Portrait of Katharina von Mecklenburg, wife of Henry IV of Saxony (1514).

Musical note: The pavane was a slow processional dance common during the 16th century. The author of this piece is unknown.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday's offering

What do you imagine she was thinking about?
And some music:

Read about Guilliame Dufay here.
Jan van Eyk's portrait of his wife, Margarete van Eyck (1439)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


For about a year, I've been playing this online game called Eight Letters in Search of a Word. I put it in the sidebar, but I hadn't announced. Consider it announced.

It's a competitive anagrams game. If you do play, here's a hint - type the words in. Don't use your mouse. You'll be way too slow to get a decent score if you do. It took me a while to figure that out. Of course, I hadn't read the directions. They're on the site somewhere.

You may be wondering what the point of this entry is. It's not just to suggest that you play this game.

It's to talk about me, of course.

I'm pretty good at word games. However, I never win Eight Letters in Search of a Word. There's some other players on that site who are unbeatable. At first, I thought these people must be cheating and getting their computers to play, but I got an insanely high score a few times and realized it was possible. Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't folks who are cheating, for I find it hard to believe that some of these people always get such impossibly high scores. But then again, they just may be consistently brilliant at playing. Unlike me.

When I play, I'm consistently inconsistent. Here's the game: there's eight letters that always make an eight letter word. You type in as many words as you can in the allotted time (one minute?) and hope that you find that eight letter word in the process. I'm amazed at how sometimes I'll think I've exhausted all the possibilities, have found the eight letter word, and then discover that another player has a score twice as high as mine. Take the word "generals", for instance. Can you think of two other eight letter words that you can make out of its letters?*

Well, I couldn't think of the two others in one minute. I was too busy typing in four letter words. Sometimes I'll play this game and feel golden, finding the eight letter word right away. It just hits me intuitively. Other times I can't see a thing. I'll stare and stare at the words and they mean nothing.

This seems to be the way I am at most everything. Sometimes I excel and other times I'm terrible. There's usually no middle ground.

I used to play pool almost every night. I tried and tried and never became consistent. This almost got me killed one late night. Seriously.

I was hanging out at an after-hours club in New York City. I'll admit that this was a dangerous place to hang out, even if you do absolutely nothing but sit at the bar. The place was filled with drug dealers. It was on the corner of the street that I lived on, and opened at 4:00am in the morning. There was some sort of secret way to knock on the door to get in, and I have no idea what it was. I have no idea how I knew was it was, come to think of it.

It was the kind of place where you didn't want to look at anyone the wrong way. I sometimes played pool there, but I always played with someone I knew. I was playing a game, quite terribly, one night, when another couple asked if we wanted to play for money. My friend said, "Sure." The game was for fifty bucks. I have no idea why he agreed, but he was a good pool player.

So, we started to play. Every shot I made was a terrible. Everyone was laughing at me. They had already seen I was a terrible at pool, so it wasn't any kind of surprise. But my partner was playing well, and the last shot came down to me. What a shot it was. There were two balls left, sitting near the corner pocket, with the eight ball slightly closer.

I wasn't sure my friend even had fifty bucks on him and I hadn't gotten one shot in the whole game, so I was determined to get these shots. They were hard, and the likelihood of my making them was low, especially the way I had been playing. But I got 'em. This wound up being a big mistake.

The fellow we were playing against picked up my friend by his shirt and starting yelling at him that I was a shark. He wanted to beat the crap out of someone. He was yelling about us all stepping outside. Then he started to say something about killing us. All over a game of pool.

The odd thing is that I have no memory of how this resolved itself. Obviously, I'm still alive. My friend is still alive, too. I do know that I never went back to that club. I never had any business hanging out there in the first place. I wasn't a good pool player, a drug dealer, a prostitute (or any other kind of criminal). I just happened to be up at odd hours.

Anyway, noone threatens to beat me up for playing a great round of Eight Letters in Search of a Word after I play a lousy round. And that's how I play. I'm not a word game shark, just an inconsistent thinker and game player.

Image notes: These images are both of East 14th Street in New York City. I found them embedded in an excerpt from the book, "The "New Woman" Revised
Painting and Gender Politics on Fourteenth Street", by Ellen Wiley Todd, which can be found here. I used to play pool at Julian's Billiard Hall on 14th Street, which was on the second floor. For all I know, it's the same pool hall that's advertised in both the photograph and the drawing.

*enlarges and gleaners

Oceanic offering

Today's musical offering is from 2002! It's from Isis's Oceanic:

Image note: "Oceanic" You can purchase this image, created by using bleach and velvet, here.

Interview, Part 2

Jaime said "interview me!" She gave me such good answers, I'm going to post them one at a time.
1. If you were given one million dollars to do one charitable thing, what would it be?
Wow, this is the kind of question I hate. One thing? There is so much suffering and injustice in the world. One thing seems so cold, so exclusionary. There are so many causes about which I feel strongly, it would be hard to single out just one of them. And really, so many of the organizations and non-profits I support probably do bring in a million dollars or more each year, so how could I be sure that my money was doing the most good? So hard … I think that it would make the most sense to give it to individuals, rather than a possibly bloated organization. I guess I would start a grant foundation and give money to anyone who could demonstrate a real need and prove that the money would make a real difference over time, and not just act as a Band-Aid. I’d want to see concrete results, and I’d want those results to have a long-term benefit. Maybe I’d give $50,000 (for instance) to an organization that wants to build a water sanitation facility in some African village somewhere, and another $50,000 to provide schooling for teenage prostitutes in Bangladesh (or wherever) ... Whoever comes forward. Show me a need. Show me a plan to meet that need in a specific long-term way, and I’ll write you a check. I hope that’s not a cop-out answer. . .That’s the best I can do right now to limit my response.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today's offering

Another one of my favorite portraits - Giovanni Bellini's Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan (1501).

And some music to accompany this:

Josquin: De Profundis Clamavi - Hilliard Ensemble
Find out more about Josquin here.


TMC of Return to Rural sent me this. I added the bit about non-bloggers:

If you'd like to play along, here are the rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. If I don't have your e-mail, please send it to me. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.If you don't have a blog, I will post your responses on my blog. Hey, you non-bloggers, here's your chance to be heard! C'mon, just do it!
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the
same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Now, TMC says these are "silly questions", but some of them are rather serious, at least to me! I wish they were silly.

1. How did you come to live in Maine?
I used to live in New York. I had a dream of raising sheep, which is pretty hard to do in the city (though I have seen some sheep running around the building on Letterman)! Between my ex-husband and myself, we had four jobs and were barely getting by. One summer, we spent two weeks up here in Maine and on our way home, we decided that it was time to leave the rat race. I'd spent summers in Maine when I was a kid and had a deep love for the place and the people. Neither of us knew a soul here. In the fall of 1991, we moved up here and rented a log cabin on 220 acres. Pretty soon I was raising sheep and growing my own vegetables. I tried to make a living weaving linen and tartans and if the Web was as it is now, this may have succeeded financially, but the whole venture (sheep, weaving, processing wool) was like owning a big, expensive boat. This was also before the big crafts and knitting boom (oh well). Anyway, I'm still here, though I neither have sheep nor weave and my ex-husband went back to the city.
2. A tailored vest is a sharp,attractive garment for men and women of all ages,
sizes and shapes. True or False?
My first reaction was a definate "No!" But, on second thought, I do like vests. I like traditional knitted pullover vests and menswear vests worn by women. But it seems that I see vests worn in ways I don't like more often. I don't like black leather biker vests or ones that are part of cheap three piece suits. Nor do I like ones made out of unusual fabrics, especially South American weaves. Hey, it's all personal taste, isn't it?
3. You've received a grant for $1 million to do something good internationally for
the poorest of the poor. The grant stipulates that you must live with the community you aim to help for at least 1 year. Where in the (3rd) world would you go, and what would you do?
I'd ask Dick what he thinks. Seriously. Dick has a patent on a new way of making geodesic domes. He is dedicated to sheltering the homeless and displaced people of the world.
4. What is your go-to comfort food or treat?
I love a good apple pie, warmed up, with vanilla iced cream. My neighbor made the ultimate apple pie last month and I'm glad I don't have it around often. It was a regular apple pie, not too sweet, with an apple crisp topping. Heavenly! I love pie crust and I love shortbread. Maybe what I really like is butter.
5. If you could pick a new name for yourself what would it be and why?
I have never been good at naming anything. I once needed a stage name and couldn't come up with one. If I were to have a new name, I hope it'll be one given to me by a Zen teacher, and so, I have no idea what that would be. It would be Japanese. That's all I can tell you.

Photo note: Looks like two poor kids, doesn't it? Surprise! It's Alfred (1844–1900), later Duke of Edinburgh, and his elder brother Bertie, later king Edward VII. of Great Britain and Ireland, 1855. I was going to post a splendid old painting of a man in a vest. There are thousands to choose from. Old vests (waistcoats) are wonderful. I approve of them all.