Monday, February 28, 2005

Where Does It All Go???

Today tastes like heffeweitzen and cinnamon. Malty, sweet with wheat and spice--but not recommended. It's rather off-putting.

Where does the weekend go? We spend four and a half days looking forward to it (Friday I'm too busy getting wrapped up to contemplate the evening of following my own agenda to much concern myself with anticipation) and then whooosh--down the rabbit hole and it's over; going down a slide in darkness, landing in a cushiony pile of foam, blinking in the bright dawn of Monday morning.

Saturday the guild threw a surprise party for one of the founding mothers (her 70th; one of those significant birthdays. I wonder if any birthday ever has the moment I recall from my 10th--this was the last one where I could express my age on my fingers. I wasn't going to be a kid anymore.) I had a better time with the girls than I can remember in a while. Perhaps I needed togivethat relationship some space so I could appreciate them for who and what theyare, not what I wish they were.

In part the surprise was that we were able to pull it off--Jackie has a finger in every pie the Guild has to offer. And none of us is particularly skilled at holding on to good news. One member gave up buying gifts in advance for her family because she SO wanted to see their reactions to what she was giving! And Jackie related that she wasn't feeling very birthday festive, so almost pulled out of the plans! (She had been told a handful of the girls were taking her to a luncheon.)

So that took up much of Saturday morning and afternoon. And then Saturday evening was the annual Winter's End party. First Consort Gareth asked if I wanted to go, and I told him "Yes, but I know that if I get changed and drive over there, within fifteen minutes I'll be wishing I was home again. I think I only want to go because I'm not there."

I spent the evening embroidering ATC's instead. The Big Bad Muse has caused my greedy little magpie mind to write checks my busy little fingers may have trouble cashing. Oh, but there's so many cool ideas for themes, and cool stuff for cards, and and and and . . .

And my dance card is so full for March and April I don't dare even whisper of another commitment. I'm doing my best simply to note down fun ideas, and then as i romp in the stash, I do a series here and there. What the hell, there's any number of continuous swaps around and about, so all my cards will find homes somewhere, whether sent as a theme to be broken up, or as bits and pieces.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Middle of the Muddle

Today tastes like fried bananas, homemade aioli, and lambs' quarter greens. A dish of disconcertion.

Work has been verra verra busy. Just because I have a short week does not mean the work takes a breather. It's good on the one hand, 'cuz I need to take Friday morning off to be available to let workmen in to install a garage door opener, and i would like to save vacation time for fun stuff. Like Italy.

It's bad on the other hand because I have no paucity of stuff to do--and the Big Bad Muse is rattling the cage door. Having nice clean spaces and having gone through the stashes to put stuff away has made him realize all the nifty cool toys right under her nose. I wanna do this, and I wanna do that, and I wanna, I wanna, I wanna.

The local knitting guild is having a surprise party this weekend, and while I'm looking forward to hanging with them for a while, I'm still aware of the amount of time that will be spent driving to and from the party location. In this city, everything is about an hour away, unless it's close enough to walk to. So--two hours on the road, just getting there and getting home.

I finished up a couple of projects over the weekend--the Castle Blan has all its ends woven in, as does another unphotoed blan, and the Sunshine and Shadow--and now the muse has got a taste for finishing--but all the works in progress are either just begun (so no chance of that for a while) or use smallish thread (again, not gonna get done now or even soon) or have great long honkin' rows that take an hour to work across. Once.

Too bad I can't attract the finishing bug when I have several at the hoplessly three-quarters mark so I could just push it and get the last little bits complete.

I have my fingers in a number of ATC swaps, but either have sent the cards and have nothing left but to wait on the Post Orifice to spit out my share; or the deadline is weeks and weeks away, so I don't feel a push to get in the garage and move on it. Of course, I do want to go out there and fiddle with bits and dribs of paper in a non-focused way--but right now I am so nonfocused (gee, you couldn't tell??) that I don't think it make anything but quaternary pieces. (Lapsing into color theory--if red and blue and yellow are primary, and green and orange and purple are secondary, while teal and red-orange and magenta are tertiary, what are the quaternaries? Mud. Today tastes like quaternary colors.)

I think it's time to hang this up and take a nap.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Happy Three-Day Weekend

Today tastes like dandilion greens, juniper berries, and endive.

I made the fatal mistake of cleaning up my paper arts workshop a week ago; and now I've dumped most of a day into the fiber arts workshop. I used to think I thrived on chaos and clutter, that creative minds like mine needed the extra stimulus and juxtaposition.

Boy, was I wrong. I just don't like to clean. To paraphrase Dot Parker, "I don't like to clean; I like to HAVE cleaned." I like being able to put out my hand and grasp the tool I need, the pattern I want, the book with the notation that I want to see once more before I start the project. I just don't want to have to put it back away afterwards.

But the thing is, if my space is a disaster, then I don't want to spend time there. And if I don't want to spend time with my tools and my projects--then nothing gets made.

There's a corner at my kitchen table that always has a pad and pen stashed for inpromptu jottings while cooking or eating, and I've been known to make a mad dash to spill an idea out before it wilts. This afternoon, when it became clear that I was going to have to rewrite a chunk of the pattern I'm working with, I got to my feet and headed--directly into my clean, fresh, neatened fiber studio to lie on the floor and nibble the cap end of my pen as I thrashed out what was going to happen over the next few rows.

I haven't turned to that space to solve problems in MONTHS. It's always been the kitchen corner. Clearly, I need to keep than in mind as a danger sign--when the studio is so messy and chaotic that it's easier to think at the kitchen table (with the comings and goings to be found in the heart of the house) then it is time and past time to clean the studio--whichever one I'm being driven from.

Friday, February 18, 2005

There I Go Thinking Again . . .

Today tastes like thin crust pizza, with chunky garlic, sausage, and feta cheese. And since First Consort Gareth isn't going to be home for dinner . . . I love it when you can make a meal match the day.

Last night we tried a little Polish place in the neighborhood. That particular storefront has been three little ethnic places so far. This is its best incarnation, and I hope it sticks around.

We had the misfortune to be there on polka night. I like polka music—for about the first ten minutes. Then it’s music that forgot its medication, and instead of being happy and playful, it’s music that runs around the room at top speed, flinging itself off the walls, grabbing at random handfuls of your attention. Whooooo!!! We began creating titles for polkas; slow lugubrious polkas, polkas with lyrics like Sarum and Gregorian chants. The “Life is Meaningless and We’re All Going to Die (Someday) Polka.” The “Never Took a Chance and Its Too Late Now Polka.” The “He Looks Like He’s Sleeping, Doesn’t He? Polka.”

The food was wonderful, though. And while playing with the polka titles, I filled in another couple of pieces of the puzzle for this year’s Nanowrimo.

I have this seed of an idea—never did anything with it because on the one hand, it’s silly and a one-horse joke. On the other, John Norman made one horse go for 22 novels. (I quit counting about then, and don’t have the burning desire to know how many more have dribbled out since I was in high school.) So what the hell.

We were having dinner with friends, and I mis-timed a comment. Usually, I’m civilized enough to keep the quips down until AFTER everyone has swallowed. Red wine flies further and stains more than you’d think. However, someone wasn’t following the group pace, and nearly choked on her food. So, with tears rolling down her cheeks, she gasped out that this would be a really good TaleSpinners Night story, about a guild of assassins that kill their victims by wining them and dining them—and telling a really good joke at JUST the right moment. (“And then Eagon the Black told King Eathelred the Unkind the one about the rabbi, the priest, and the agnostic anteater. The reign of Good King Pfauglehoven was renowned as a time of light and laughter, especially when Chancellor Eagon was in the room.”) As you can see, it would lend itself to some fantasy fiction fun. I just needed a flavor. (Oy, I actually SAID that?!)

I mean, I wanted a country and culture to base this on, a little. So much has been done with an Anglo-Celt motif (it’s almost the defining standard for fantasy fiction, yes?) so I really don’t wanna go there. So I started thinking of the Byzantine Empire in all its lavish glitter; eastern Europe and all that . . . hmmm.

If I start reading bits now, I may actually be ready to vomit out 100 pages come November. If I start with fairy tales, maybe sooner—‘cos what I want is the feeling, the flavor and essence of the place, and the best way to find what is Done and Not Done is in the cautionary tales made to impress the rules upon delicate little minds. Culture and mores.

Monday, February 14, 2005

I am Spike’s Keyboard

I am bent but not broken, and I hate it when she brings a beer in here with her. I would tremble in trepidation, but all I can do is make my ‘e’ key stick so maybe she’ll set that glass of liquid death on the floor this time so I don’t have to worry about it. Hey!

Hey!! Put down the mouse, it’s time to write. Fingers on me—ON ME!!! ME ME ME ME ME!!! Better.

No, no, don’t even think about reading e-mail. Time to write. I don’t care what you write about, I’m just the interface, here. Fifteen minutes about whatever crosses your mind. (I’m pretty smug, I have the easy park—if you can call lying on a hard desktop all day and waiting to get poked and prodded the easy part. At least the mouse has a nice cushion to rest its ball on.)

(And don’t think I don’t get to hear about that all day, every day. Could I get a little respect here?)

So now she’s sitting and thinking. Girlie! Thinking isn’t writing, ya know. Slapping the keys, getting words on the page, now that’s writing. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t let you count the time you spend going back and fixing typos count as writing time—‘cuz that ain’t writing either. Hey! Hands off the arrow keys, honey.

You know how it’s done—“Today tastes like . . .” So? What does today taste like? Put it down, don’t just sit there concocting while the timer ticks away. Write like this is the last fifteen minutes of your life and this is the last chance to put something down that will be immortal, that will stay here after they shuffle your mortal coil off.

Move those fingers while you got ‘em. “Today tastes like peppermint ice cream and glass shards—cold and sharp and thin, somehow.”

“Today tastes like peppermint ice cream and glass shards—cold and sharp and thin somehow.

“I just finished reading another one of those how-to-write books; they’re like an addiction. Sturgeon’s Law holds true, I find, except that I don’t even read ninety percent of what I drag home like a coyote to its den. I don’t know how many books I’ve checked out and then brought back without cracking the spine on. And on re-reading the metaphor and the last sentence together, I guess that makes me a terrible hunter.

“But once in a while I find one with some playful stuff—where it doesn’t seem like exercises; where I’m sitting in the restaurant (both First Consort Gareth and I read at table; we’re BAD) and I find myself wishing I was home now now now now now so I could pull up my chair to the keyboard and DO some of these. And then I finally finish and get in and the new has worn off enough that I find myself scrabbling for blog-fodder so I can put together a post instead of just watching the week trickle by.

“It would be so easy to do that—hell, it IS easy to do that. I’ve watched a lot of sand fall through the hourglass since the previous ‘pooter caught a virus and died. I kept saying I was ‘too sad’ to write, that I’d put the pieces back together and take a run at recreating what had been lost. But the funny thing was that I started one piece again—and it fell apart. It was like trying to jump-start Frankenstein’s monster without a lab. It was all just inert cold clay.

“And that’s what all the experts say—that you have to take a deep breath and just do it more often than not. Just to spill ideas and thoughts out until something catches fire. But it’s (again) so easy to demand payoff each time. If I can’t be working on a novel every time I sit down at the keyboard, then it’s wasted time. If I can’t be doing something externally validating and validated EACH and EVERY TIME then I’m . . . what? Slacking? A loser? One of those weirdos in their jammies? (Hokay, I AM wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt . . .)

“No . . . what if I’m (Ghod and Ghoddess help us) ENJOYING what I’m doing? What if I’m simply telling stories to amuse myself and whoever wanders by as I’m muttering in the corner—and happy about it? What if a writer is someone who wrote today, and wrote more than an e-mail, or a laundry list of tasks. What if a writer is someone who . . . posted to her blog?

“Better quit now, before I conclude that an artist is someone who puts paint on paper, and redefine what I do into a whole new limitless pigeonhole."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Up At Last

Today tastes like bacon, cream cheese, and dill. With lemon drops afterwards.

Got the photos taken and arranged in chronological order. So far, all are up for swappage if anyone's interested. Drop me a line, and I'll track any that get taken or become eligible for a theme swap in the comments.

Currently I'm crocheting irish roses for another ATC swap. I've always liked art that involves words (gee, go figure). For the celtic swap, I've dug out some words relating to roses and translated to Very Bad Irish with an on-line dictionary. I'll write the Irish on the front, and the English on the back as the title of the card. In my head it's cool. We'll see what happens in the cardboard.

When I talk with people who don't do exchanges, one of the frequently asked questions is "Aren't you afraid that after you put in time and effort on your product that you'll get back the equivalent of a smiley face sticker? That you'll swap down, rather than across or up?" And really, it's been my experience that people who do swaps like this (where at least a little interaction is required--you gotta put the sticker on the card, after all) tend to not want to be the crummy one. I may not get THE ONE I would have chosen; I may not get something to my taste (oh, how . . . cute.) but the effort shows. Some people have more time/money/inclination to invest than others, and that's the way it's always going to be. If you go to a pot luck, there will be at least one Martha, and one Roseanne. Maybe I've had a lot of luck, but so far I feel like I've always traded across. It's as if I sent a garter-stitch commercial cashmere yarn whatsit, and received a handspun wool lace whatsit of a smaller size.

Now I need to fire up Excel so I can keep track of what I've signed up for, sent out, received. It's ironic that now that I use e-mail to stay in basic touch, I spoend more time in line at the post office clutching odd-shaped packages for exchanges.

First attempts . . . Posted by Hello

And then 18 months later . . . Posted by Hello

Finding my voice . . . Posted by Hello

Can the Big Bad Muse come out to play? Posted by Hello

Belated Post

Today tastes like marinara sauce, marscapone cheese, and rain.

I relaize it's Saturday morning, and I promised a Friday update--but that'll have to come later this morning. If that makes sense, I had nothing to do with it.

Let me back up.

I got home from work last night, and took another series of photos of the ATC's I'd made. Nope, underexposed. Bleh.

Tried a different set up, with enough light to perform surgery by--and the batteries were gone. Needed recharging. Fine.

First Consort Gareth suggests dinner with friends. How he was able to say this so calmly and rationally to someone who was impersonating a buzzsaw is but one of the reasons he is a shoo-in for sainthood. Off we go. It's 6:30.

We came home right after dinner--and it was pushing 11:00. With a sharp stick. The service was that slow. The only redeeming factor was that the food arrived hot and well-prepared. And hey, the batteries were charged. However, when I hit the light, the bulb died. And "lightbulbs" is right there on the shopping list, indicating that we need to get more in this week's run.

I'm going to bed before the house burns down, which will undoubtedly be the next step if I attempt to thwart the will of the universe and actually take photos tonight. (It's "tonight" until I go to bed. I used to have a pin that said "Morning lasts for four hours after I get up. Good morning.") If I actually POSTED the photos tonight from the smouldering ruin, the 'net would probably crash, leaving the banks destitute and the First World reduced to tin cans and string.

Good night.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Big Bad Muse

Another blogger has a Little Bad Muse, who looks exactly like Britney Spears throwing a major temper tantrum. She blames the Little Bad Muse for pestering her into completing a project, or making her start a new project when she has others in the throes of completion. (But, of course, not in the interesting parts—just when you’re two-thirds of the way through the second sleeve, or the second sock, where it’s an agony of concentration and measuring to ensure that they come out reasonably symmetrical.)

I, on the other hand, have a Big Bad Muse who came in and threw me over his shoulder and dragged me off to the garage. Initially when I sat down to write this post, I was going to talk about how she slunk up to the glue table, then perched there with the slit of her evening dress sliding up over her hip and began whispering of glue and cardstock and paint. (And, yes, I know I just switched genders. Bear with me until the next paragraph.)

(Go.) And then I realized that no, my muse is fungible. He’s like one of those women in a Nagle litho, with the high cheekbones and heart-shaped face, lithe and whippy. Could be a small-breasted woman with lean hips. Could be a boyish man, trim and elegant. With hair pulled back in a braid long enough to sit on, you can’t really tell.

This isn’t Terpsichore. Terpsichore is an actual meat puppet here in everybody’s world. I could take you over to her, you could shake her hand, and she’d be warm and solid with bones. The Big Bad Muse is here in my world, Harvey’s drinking partner.

And that’s how her evening dress changes to a suit somewhere between Edwardian morning dress and a 30’s Harlem jazz artist’s tux—-the coat is knee-length and flowing, cutaway and tailored to within an inch of its life. Skin doesn’t fit this well. His braid flows like a snake, driven by its own internal wind. Her boots have high heels, sometimes spiked and sometimes the solid square heel or banana heel of cowboy boots, with chains around his left instep.

So for the past couple of nights, when I’ve sat down at the computer and put my hands on the keys, the Big Bad Muse has crashed through the door and grabbed my arm/stroked my cheek/lifted my hand like a cookie still hot from the oven and we’ve ended up in the garage, playing with ATC’s.

That is, artist’s trading cards. I’ve been fascinated with them for a couple of years. The premise is that they are a uniform size—2.5 by 3.5 inches, and sturdy enough not to bend. After that, it’s anything goes—but try to keep them fairly flat. Like trading cards—if you want to make one of polymer clay, go for it—but don’t add a huge 3-D sculpture on top of it. And they’re traded, not sold. You sign the back, add a contact e-mail, and swap with other aficionados.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of collage, and rubberstamping. Trouble is, when I do collage, I’m more interested in layers of juxtaposed images on a largish scale, and I don’t want to concern myself with the niceties of using pictures of someone else’s art—which really rather defeats the purpose of an ATC, in my mind. It’s too much like slapping a happy face sticker on a bit of cardstock, then signing the back. Ok, you found a little picture of Warhol’s Monroe silkscreen and put it on a card. This is your art how, precisely???

So many folks use vintage photos, and then add ephemera and rubber stamps, and what not to make art. Not dissing this in the least; I find the effect charming. However (and you knew this was coming, right?) when everyone uses the same techniques, and shops at the same time, you get a lot of the same elements all together, and you begin to get a uniformity in what’s being turned out. And shoo, the sheer amount of buckage it’s possible to lay out for the various inks, and embossing powders, and the stamps themselves, and the sheets of figures and animals and parts—arms and legs and wings—and the papers and where do you PUT all this stuff so you can keep it nice and clean and unwrinkled—yet FIND it when you need it?

So I’ve been seriously stuck. Compounding the issue, I’m not naturally talented at visual flat art. About the only thing I reliably draw are erroneous conclusions. I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed to ATC lists without ever posting more than, “Hi, I’m Spike.”

However, since I received a metric boatload of cardstock for Christmas/Adverb, I felt like I ought to use it. And there’s only so many bubble paper matchboxes (for holding pen nibs and cartridges, of course) one can really use. So I poked around again . . .

And holy cow, there’s a bunch of fabric ATC groups. And some small groups that have artists who use definitely different media to do their thing, and aren’t doing work that reminds me of fifties cookbooks, where you open several cans of this and that, and a box of something else, stir and heat and serve. (Tastes like green bean casserole and pumpkin pudding. Not bad, but not undertaken with care, either.)

So I joined up, with hope triumphing over experience (“Hi, I’m Spike.”) and now it looks like the ice has broken, and I’ve found my flat art voice. I see the sets that I’ve put together over the last couple of weeks, and they have a certain homogeneity about them; they were definitely put together by one pair of hands, one mind. I’ll post pics tomorrow showing them in chronological order. The first set looks designed by committee, the others, well. You’ll see.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Never Enough Hours

Today tastes like green bananas. Not plantains, but actual fingerling bananas, tiny and precious in their big leaf. You can still taste their astringent ghosts in the ripe yellow fruit, lurking beneath the sweet top flavors and the esters.

Right now life is an embarrassment of riches—with little catches built into them. I finished the castle blanket this weekend—

Castle Blan, complete at last! Posted by Hello
-- and began another one. I’ve been drooling over a particular designer’s work, and one particular item but she only sells kits of her designs. Le sigh. I can appreciate a desire to keep one’s artistic vision pure, and if you do things that are truly unique and signature items so that they are recognizable as Yours Truly’s sweaters, ball gowns (knitted ballgowns? Delphine Wilson perhaps???) then that’s well and good, but erm, garter stitch and slip stitch? I’m not willing to plunk down that much scratch for a simple pattern and wool that will never be used.

Back up a little. A dear friend’s daughter admired the castle blanket, and asked for one as only a 14 year-old can, to wit, “Uhm . . . if you ever want to knit me a blanket . . . I’d like that.” Hokay. I have trouble asking for favors, and according to the birthdate on my driver’s license, I is all growed up.

So, while the castle blan in all its Lunchbox glory (why did I put magenta in among the circus pastels????) is a cool thing, its coolness is dated. Growing up in the eighties, unicorns and rainbows were ultra-cool when I was 14. And they were so babyish two years later. Ewwwwww. And I’m selfish enough that if I’m going to spend the better part of a year knitting a blanket for someone I know; whose tastes are not yet set; and whose budget for colors and environment is going to be on the . . . inexpensive side for some time, well, I don’t want this to end up hidden in a closet because it’s no longer cool to tote around the equivalent of a SpongeBob logo. Not as an undergraduate, at least. (As a doctoral candidate, it has a certain amount of ironic/eccentric class.)

So, while this chevron thing is working up simply and is relatively speedy to knit (slip stitch and garter grow ever so slowly) and the exchange shawl still looks like a lump of ice blue and white marl (albeit a bigger lump of ice blue and white marl) and the black ribbed sweater clicks along nicely, I have but one catch.

I have a metric boatload of ends to weave in.

Ick ick ick. One of the things I love about the prevalence of DVDs and the tendency to release entire seasons’ worth of shows on them is that I can pop a set into the multidisc changer and just go go go—but what happens when you come to an end? We just finished Babylon 5—all five years’ worth, and now, while there are several movies that need to get viddied, my heart just isn’t in it. It feels like getting divorced and then going out to a singles’ bar—I’m not up for a one evening stand; two hours with a handful of characters. (And a sidebar; after we finished watching Bab 5, and all the commentary and goodies for the fans, AND spotting a mutual friend on camera who passed away a few years back {so we’re good and weepy, little emotional marshmallows that we are} we put on Tim Burton’s Big Fish—which is all about communication issues. When that was over, Gareth said, “Why don’t we just put on Old Yeller?” I suggested Where the Red Fern Grows, or perhaps A Day No Pigs Would Die.)

And I look at the finishing basket with three blankets and three (or four?) pairs of socks and here I am, blogging, reading email, and knitting on the exchange shawl.

Can we say avoidance? I knew you could.

And Gareth and I are talking about what we’re doing for vacation this year—we haven’t decided yet. It’ll either be three and four-day weekends up north in the cabin (cheap, easy to fit in multiple mini-vacations); time at the John Campbell folk school (a chance to delve deeper into other esoteric interests); or Italy in September (spendy, but o! Florence!) The trouble is, we’ll have to decide because well, we can’t do them all.

So. Here’s Monday’s post, and will be back Wednesday, but right now, there’s just too much.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Wake Me When It's May

Today tastes of citrus, sharp and tingling.

It was warm and balmy this past weekend—almost shorts weather! So it seems like a betrayal for the temperature to get back to winter norms (and those of you who are reading in an area where Centigrade and Fahrenheit thermometers read the same, stop snickering at the shivering ‘Zonie.)

I’ve been looking wistfully at the wool stash, thinking of sweaters and gloves. Started a cardi for me me me but will not be posting progress pics, as it’s black. And ribbed. What can I say, I was thinking about warmth. Right now, I can’t wait till summer and cold lemonade.