Friday, June 29, 2012

a plan of monumental propaganda

the decade after the russian revolution in 1917 was a time when fabric served a political purpose. it was also the silver age in russian culture and so artists responded with enthusiasm to the call to create a political, functional art. the constructivists embraced the ideology that "clothing must present the soviet man and woman as part of an international community, that it must connect them with industrial civilization and that it must symbolize emancipation and mobility" (john e. bowit, revolutionary textile design).

this manifested in designs that were devoid of traditional, local, ethnic images, that used geometrical, mechanical motifs and featured kinetic forms.

they proved not to be as popular as traditional designs with the public, especially when they moved towards agitprop (agitational propaganda). the people just didn't take to flowers with gears or scientific-looking molecular blobs or winged wheels, however subtle they were.

but there's something appealing about the notion of textiles as political statements. and i don't see much of the political in the textiles of today - pretty patterns and whimsical motifs, yes, but politics, not so much. it strikes me that the use of organic cotton is the most political statement we get today in fabric form.

i think we could use a bit more subtle propaganda (and possibly fewer owls and vespas) in our fabrics. especially with services like spoonflower, where fabric design has become quite democratic and accessible for all. we should be making a statement, standing up for something in the very threads we clothe ourselves with.

bring on the fiber agitprop.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

if i were a designer...

...i would make munisaks - a central asian garment worn as an outer robe - with luxurious silks or ikat on the outside and beautiful, soft russian printed cottons on the inside.

these are shots of the lush and gorgeous russian textiles by susan meller.

i picked it up at the library yesterday and devoured it in one sitting.

this would be so easy to make, i just might have to get out the sewing machine.

sometimes the linings were patched together of several fabrics.
but i think that makes them that much more charming.

such a marvelous collection of pattern meller has put together

in most cases, i like the inside better than the outside.
they lined the silks with cotton because it was considered too ostentatious to have silk next to the skin.

it's also possible to make other things, not just munisaks - here's a skirt and a top and some folded bags.
so much inspiration in this beautiful book. i'm already dreading giving it back to the library.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

i'll take a do-over please

they don't call it hump day for nothing. this day felt full of humps. small, annoying ones. the kind that leave you feeling you didn't get anything done, despite doing many small things. i think it was my attention span as well. it was short. so i could only do small tasks before wandering off to some other small task.  not a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day, but just a rather blah and wasted one.

i think it's because we've eaten far too much meat and far too much junk lately. when you don't eat right, you don't feel right. pizza last night didn't help, tho' it tasted oh-so-good at the moment. that's the way of pizza isn't it? piping hot from the pizza oven, crisp lettuce on top and a drizzle of ranch dressing. it's quite heavenly then, but later, when the carbs let you down and your stomach feels heavy, you realize you shouldn't have done it. i was just so sluggish today.

our weather hasn't helped. it's the coldest, rainiest summer in memory. and i've been through a lot of cold, rainy summers in this place. the sun came out this afternoon and it was actually pretty nice, but still not nice enough not to need a jacket while i stood on the sidelines of sabin's riding lesson.

husband suggested a little walk down to the lake at about 10:30 p.m. and that at least made the day end on a good note. it was gorgeous and peaceful down there. and when the sun comes out, it lasts for a long time. at least that's something.

shoot what you love

shokoofeh posted a link on facebook to this series of photographs of bloggers by gabriela herman. i find it quite fascinating. and a bit lonely. it captures some of the nature of blogging as a solitary activity. a nocturnal one. i, of course, love the preponderance of macs. bloggers, even if mostly alone in the act of blogging, are part of a community. the glow of that community is reflected in the bloggers' concentrated faces as they sit solitary at their computers in the darkness. alone but not alone at all.

be sure to check out gabriela herman's blog while you're there. especially the post about how she came to do photo essays for martha stewart living. she says to just shoot what you love. inspiring.

* * *

next week, i'll do a little photo "class" for children at our local library. it's part of the community project i started back in february - to encourage anyone who wants to participate to photograph life in our little town. mainly, i want to give the kids (who are probably around sabin's age) some inspiration and then send them out to photograph things around town. all that sculpture is a given, but i want to give them some small assignments to make them think differently about photography and the subjects for photography. i want to encourage them to shoot what they love, already now - whether that's flowers and bees or their own shoes or clouds in the sky or the local church or bakery or their friends.

the photos they produce will be part of the photo project documenting a year in the life of our town.

if you were going to send kids out running around with cameras in hand, what would you tell them to photograph?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

how to have fun on the beach on what will likely be the only sunny day of the summer

take a bunch of smooth stones in various colors and shapes.

add two creative-thinking fifth graders and a big fat permanent marker.

add a bit of whimsy.

and don't leave out the wit.

or the imagination.

leave behind your mark for future beachgoers to find. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

as long as someone remembers

i'm reading orhan pamuk's museum of innocence, which is one long pondering as to whether objects can house memory and feelings. in the book füsun says "when we lose people we love, we should never disturb their souls, whether living or dead. instead, we should find consolation in an object that reminds you of them..." my visit to the flea market on saturday rendered a new little collection of objects which feel somehow laden with more or less inaccessible memories, reminders of stories not my own. and yet, i am still drawn to these things.

this old typewriter was there the last time i went to the market, so you might say we already have a history together, or at least that we'd met before. i didn't intend to buy it, but as i was leaving, the guy said 100 kroner and so i went for it. mostly because it still had a little poem in it that must be the last thing that was typed with it.

it's a sweet little poem about a little frog by chief doctor morten scheibel from the hospital in viborg. somehow, such a remnant there in the carriage of the typewriter does give a little bit of access to the stories and the memories it silently holds.

he experimented with the lines...using no spaces initially, then reverting to normal spacing. there's even a word he struck out and changed, offering glimpses of his creative process, left behind in the typewriter. tho' there was a more fetching typewriter there at another stand (and another price), this little poem made this one more appealing.

this camera may have similar secrets to tell, as there's a film still in it and it's on photo #14. it'll need a new battery before i can find out what memories it holds within. and discovering the battery thing makes me think that the other practica i got at a flea market a month or so ago might be ok after all if i just replace the battery.

stoneware plates and bowls keep their secrets more closely guarded. the azur nissen denmark plate is crazed and has a hairline crack, belying tales of long and not always gentle use. i loved the color and the amusing chat i had with the rather crotchety woman who sold it, so already i have laid a thin layer of my own memories onto it. the little bowl is a bit more silent, speaking only through the HAK initials on the bottom, as being a descendent of a long tradition of pottery-making in denmark. i loved the soft colors and the shape and size of it.

this little flat bowl/tray is HAK as well. the simple flower motif reminds me of the flower people sabin drew when she was little, so already i begin to layer my own meaning onto the object. it makes me a little bit sad to think that it found its way to the flea market. it must have once been a present to someone, thoughtfully given and once that person was gone and the story with it, it was packed up and sent off to the flea market. objects only retain their meaning as long as someone remembers.

dear spam

dear stupid french spammers -

here's a few tips for you:

~ i don't have a danske bank credit card, thus it would be pointless for me to update my credit card details using your link.

~ your spam mail about the use of my "dansk bank" credit card (see above) on a porn website might be more convincing if you didn't use google translate to write it, tho' that bit at the end about how you're just detecting weaknesses (or a burning sensation, depending on how you read it) in our society does show some understanding of the danish mentality.

~ i can SEE the email address you're sending from and it's not a danske bank email address.

~ oh, and danske bank is spelled with an e, not "dansk bank."



p.s. are these lame spam attempts really working on people?

* * *

dear random people who keep asking to do guest posts on my blog,

it would be advisable to actually READ my blog first. in which case you will see that i don't really have guest posters, since no one else has the same insight into MY sanity and what might have a chance of preserving it as i do. this blog is about me working out what i think and feel about stuff. guest posts would kinda defeat the purpose of that.

blogging is, after all, cheaper than therapy.


p.s. do you really get guest posting gigs this way?

p.p.s. you can have your own blog. they're even free, depending on the platform you choose.

* * *

dear people selling penis enlargment,

i don't have a penis.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

after the rain

the solstice has come and gone, we're on the downhill side of the light. i don't want to even think about that and thankfully we won't really see it for awhile. it's still light 'til 11 or so and the sun comes up around 4:30 a.m. (that's kind of annoying). if it would just stop raining, we could soak it in properly. it rained most of today, and i did my best to ignore it, spending time tending to various chicken emergencies (a variety of nesting hens, chicks hatching and general kerfluffles), planting radishes, picking strawberries and weeding in the garden anyway (note to self: it's easy to weed when the soil is wet). thankfully this evening, the sun broke through just in time for a glorious, golden sunset.

we've had days of good food (way too much meat), writing on the table, laughter, a trip to the beach, a proper bonfire for skt. hans (midsummer) and an afternoon at the flea market. i have a million notes of things to blog and tons of photos to share, but that will be for tomorrow. right now, i've got a date with orhan pamuk at the museum of innocence.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

the first

they have arrived, just in time to greet tara, who is visiting for a few days from south africa. an afternoon at the beach, braai (i so want to adopt that word) in the garden and a bottle of nice south african red, lots of laughter and good conversation. all of it topped off with the first strawberries and cream. one couldn't really ask for more.

democracy is ugly

as an american, it shouldn't surprise me that democracy is ugly, i have but to harken back to the 2000 election and the hanging chads and the wrong guy ending up sitting in the oval office, book held upside down, reading to small florida children on september 11. but aside from eating pickled eggs in a dingy bar in wagner, south dakota while my dad campaigned for the state legislature as a child, i've not really been that involved in democracy first hand (other than as a chicago voter, where it's a tradition to vote as many times as you want). by which i'm trying to say that i've never run for office.

so it was a bit of an experience last week when i presented myself as a candidate for a new board that will create a new "culture house" here in the little town where i live. the new board was created at a public meeting, where the by-laws that are to govern it were read and approved by those assembled. after the by-laws were approved by the assembly of interested local citizens, paper was handed around and everyone could nominate the candidates they wished to be on the board. then, all of the names were put up in a powerpoint and the people who were present got the chance to say whether they wanted to be on the board or not. a good 30+ names were on the list and after people had had their say, it was whittled down to ten. with a board consisting of 7 people and 2 alternates, this meant that nearly everyone who wanted to be on the board would be, in fact, only one person would be left out.

everyone who remained got a chance to stand up, introduce themselves to the assembled 75 people and give a little campaign speech. i went 3rd to last and will admit my heart was pounding by the time it was my turn. not only did i have to suddenly speak in front of 74 people, only a handful of which i knew, but i had to do so in a language not my own. i probably made some small mistakes (those et/en are impossible in danish), but i felt i conveyed what i wanted to say with a sufficient level of charm. and i must have, because i was elected - in fact, when they announced the results, they read my name first, which was nice, because then there was no waiting on pins and needles to see if i had been chosen. (oh, the horror of rejection!)

but throughout the evening, as points were debated during the reading (and adjusting) of the by-laws, i observed that when it comes down to it, people are actually pretty pissy about democracy. those in the majority are impatient with the petty concerns of the minority and the minority are grumbling aloud that they're not really being heard.

as you all know, earlier this year, i joined the local group that plans the activities and events that are going on in the local culture house. i did so because i want there to be stuff going on in my local community. no less than 5 members of this group presented themselves for election (including myself) that evening. two of them had been part of the planning all along and had been part of writing the preliminary by-laws. i had been asked by several different parties before the meeting to present myself as a candidate and the other two just volunteered that evening, out of interest.

as it happened, myself and the two who had been involved were elected. one of the other two became an alternate and the last one was the lone person not elected that evening. this leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who were ostensibly the losers. they feel that democracy failed them - they're looking for ways in which the election wasn't fair. there were even tears. and one decided to pack his toys and go home - leaving the activity-planning group as well after not being selected for the new group.

which leaves me feeling that people ultimately don't trust the democratic system. it was in place, it functioned, people ran,  people won and people lost. and the losers looked for some way in which it wasn't fair and the cards were stacked against them. they didn't use the opportunity to reflect, they just cried and quit (respectively). they didn't at all let the light of democracy shine on them and say, "hmm, why was it that i wasn't chosen?" which leads me back to the notion that democracy is basically an ugly thing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

on how we consume music today

there's suddenly a lot of swirl in the interwebs about illegal downloads. here in denmark, the government has just proposed the very daring step of "dialogue" about it, rather than laws and punishments (quite an odd move for them, as they like to legislate the hell out of everything). they're taking a hit in the press for that. but i also just read this, a response to a young intern from NPR's all songs considered that recently admitted on the NPR blog that she had 11,000 songs in her library but had only ever bought 15 CDs in her life (this is not to say that most of those songs were illegal downloads, she goes on to say).

as someone who has plugged my iPod into someone else's iTunes library and downloaded to my heart's content as well as ripping CDs from the library into my iTunes library, i'm not really one to talk, but i have to say that i find the debate to be quite a lot of whining all around - from both musicians and record companies. while i'm in favor of people being paid for their creativity, what's needed is a radical rethink of the way we consume music. apple has, in many ways, already done that for us, as we've got the devices and despite all of the frustrations and misgivings i have about iTunes, they have actually made it quite easy for us to legally obtain the song we want, at the moment we want it.

i know that the iPod has radically changed my own CD-buying habits. i used to buy 1-2 CDs every week - up until about 2006. now i can't remember the last time i bought one. and i'm sure that both musicians and record companies are legitimately feeling the pinch, as i'm not unique. and perhaps there's a bit of darwinism at play here as well - survival of the fittest. the trichordist piece says that there at 25% fewer professional musicians than there were in 2000. i'm not convinced this is a bad thing and when i listen to the radio, i find myself wishing the number were even higher, as there's still a whole lot of bad music (especially pop music) being made.

i actually think the danish government might not be so far off in their challenge to dialogue - what's needed is a conversation around this topic that results in seriously rethinking the way musicians provide music and the way we consume it. and when they have the conversation, they need to talk to children, because the way they're already consuming music points to the future. despite having iMac, iPad and iPhone, sabin doesn't ask to buy music. she listens on spotify (premium is part of our mobile phone package) or she finds the music she wants to hear on youtube and plays it on her computer in the background while she edits a video or builds a SIMS family.

services like spotify are changing the game and complaints that their payment model isn't good for artists sound like a whole lot of whining to me. my inner capitalist says that the prices will land on what the market will bear - so if musicians want different prices, they'd better change their tune. or come up with a viable alternative. i seriously don't believe that all these creative people can't come up with a creative solution.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

who needs sleep?

a beautiful fog settles in along the creek

do you ever get the feeling that sleep is a waste of time? it's not a feeling that comes over me very often, but it does occasionally. and tonight is the second night this week. it happened as well on sunday night. it's a very awake, very alive feeling and it feels like to try to sleep would spoil it, interrupt the flow. i can't make the feeling come and i can't predict when it will come, but i recognize it very clearly.

sunday night, i don't really know where it came from, but tonight, i think it's because it's completely magical outdoors (this photo in no way does justice to the magicalness).after days of rainy, grey weather, it was sunny and beautiful all afternoon and this evening was perfect  - still, golden and wonderful. we grilled in the graden and we'll be able to pick the first bowl of strawberries tomorrow.  a day of welcome warmth after all that rain has made tiny carrots and beets finally show up. i swear the potatoes grew 10cm today.

it's a very switched-on feeling, like i can go on working and thinking and processing until it gets light again. and not only like i could, but that i should. it's a very intense feeling. and tho' it sounds perhaps a bit manic, it's different than that, because i don't feel like hurrying or buzzing around. it's like my mind is very open - to ideas, to possibilities, to the universe. and i have to grab onto it and not miss it. but i can do that in a quiet way, without flurry.

i was trying to explain this yesterday and i'll admit it sounds stranger "out loud" here on the page than it does in my head or than it feels. have you ever had this feeling? do you know what i mean? please say you know what i mean.

Monday, June 18, 2012

monday has a bad reputation

people say bad stuff about mondays, but honestly, despite torrential rain, hydroplaning my way home, my business partner referring to me as margaret thatcher (due to my sleeping only three hours) and the possible loss (due to my absent-mindedly leaving it somewhere) of my nikon D300, i had a great monday.

the rain is over and the sun has come out. it's gorgeous and glistening outside.

here's hoping your monday was awesome too.

bakhtin's chronotope and murakami moments


russian literary theorist mikhael bakhtin had a theory of the chronotope. it wasn't one of his more-developed theories and the closest he comes to a definition is: "in the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole. time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history. the intersection of axes and fusion of indicators characterizes the artistic chronotope" (quoted in the dialogic imagination: four essays, edited by michael holquist, 1981).

while this may sound like something generated by the postmodern generator, i think it's actually a way of explaining why when we read murakami, we enter a murakami world - one in which we still access this world, but from a parallel place, where it seems like a good idea to hang out for some time down a well, or make elaborate meals involving spaghetti late at night, or in which we lose our cat and comb jazz bars and hotels full of anonymous, locked doors looking for it, possibly in the company of a brilliant, but young and uneducated japanese girl. murakami time becomes real time and our world becomes filled with murakami moments.

i think what i like about entering that murakami space is that it is so much like the world i inhabit in my dreams - waking and dreaming intersect with no apparent cognitive dissonance in ways that are usually convincing only in dreams. yet they take on flesh and feel concrete and whole - they are, in other words, a chronotope. i think it's the mark of truly magical writing. it transports and transforms everything, including space and time.

i wonder what bakhtin would have made of murakami?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

parenting fail

photo by sabin's friend - they dress up and do photoshoots of one another.
at least in that area i've succeeded.
creativity with the camera is never a bad thing.
i've had some frustrating parenting moments of late and it doesn't bode well for the coming teenage years. you see, i've been trying to do less waiting on my child hand and foot. i've done it far too much - i think it started because she was born ten weeks early and so we spoiled her. then it just became habit and it continued. at times, i'll admit, it's also easier and less messy to just do things myself, so there's that element in it as well.

but, i've grown weary of all the waiting on her all the time when she's a big girl and perfectly capable of making her own smoothie or popcorn. and it doesn't seem to be going that well.  very often, when i suggest that she do something herself, she elects not to do it at all. which leaves me feeling that all that i've done for her all the time isn't really that important to her. she'd rather not have a bun with nutella or a cup of tea if i don't get it for her. and i have to say that really pisses me off. and i'm not handling it very well.

instead of redirecting or trying to take a deep breath and be a bit rational about it, i end up being sarcastic to her about it - asking if the things i do for her are so unimportant that she'd rather not do them if i won't do them for her. rather like a martyr, which doesn't make me proud. but it provokes the hell out of me, it really does.

any thoughts on how to handle this differently?

Friday, June 15, 2012

my inner bitch drinks coffee

coffee: before & after

coffee. i don't know if neruda included coffee in his odes to common things, but he should have. if i were a poet, i'd write an ode to coffee. it's gotten me through the week so far. which makes it sound like it's been a hard week. which it hasn't. it's been exciting and full of good experiences and people who give me energy rather than taking it away.

i did discover one little thing. yesterday, for a good cause, i got to let out my mean, tough corporate bitch self. and you know what? i loved her. she did a deliciously satisfying job of shredding a slimy belgian salesman (i know, belgium, it wasn't really playing fair). he didn't know what hit him. and it was so much fun. he even bought lunch, which ended with this coffee. i just might have to keep her around for when she's needed. in moderation, of course.

just like the coffee.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

pictures in my head

before i set foot in denmark, this is pretty much how i thought it would look. it took me almost 15 years, but along a little winding road less traveled that i took yesterday to avoid a bunch of road construction on the main road, i found it. the very picture that was in my head. crumbling straw roof on a half timber house. idyllic cows munching contentedly on their cuds. don't you love when that happens?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

tuesday lessons

bring on the crack meatballs

things i learned today:

~ the term slacktivism.

~ that tuesday is a pretty good day to go to ikea.

yum! crack meatballs! now with mashed potatoes!

~ that the meatballs in ikea are now self-serve. and it is rather hard to scoop up ten. and that they've switched out the little boiled potatoes with mash. and that you get enough sauce (gravy for my american readers) when you get to ladle it up yourself. i think the sauce is where they put the crack.

~ i suspect several of the families we saw in ikea were actually living there. i think you could get away with it for awhile. one of them had four kids, and it looked as if the two smallest ones had been born there. here's one of them, see how she's making herself at home?

yup, just another day in ikea.

~ if you want to provoke a dane, say something about a flag. (i did not actually want to provoke anyone when i mentioned a flag today, but boy oh boy did i kick a hornets' nest. and it wasn't even the danish flag i mentioned!) hmm, i wonder what they'll make of my nails when they see them:

@sabinamalie decided I needed patriotic nails! she certainly doesn't get her patience from me

~ it's amusing to kick the occasional hornets' nest. even if you didn't mean to.

~ you can get a lot done if you apply yourself.

~ and occasionally it's a good idea to look at the world from a different angle.

another angle

what has tuesday taught you?

Monday, June 11, 2012

unfocused monday

oh my, did i lack focus today. even right now, as i'm trying to write this, i'm glancing through pinterest on my laptop as my fingers rest on the keyboard of my big computer. maybe it was a monday thing. maybe it was that my to-do list is of daunting proportions. maybe it was because i didn't shower, but just got dressed and rushed off to my first appointment. it wasn't a kind of you-shouldn't-go-out-in-public-stinky-woman lack of a shower, it was more of a that-would-have-really-cleared-your-mind kind of need for a shower. after my appointment (where i presented a good picture of being on top of things) i was so unfocused, i drove a strange backroads route home, which took me past a dairy where they have a cheese store. i wandered in and bought a huge block of havarti. not planned. then i got back in the car and noticed a nursery and popped in to see if they had any artichokes. they did and i also bought wormwood (tho' i didn't know that's what it was at the time) it's called malurt in danish and has absinthe in its latin name, so i thought "score." i also picked up a chili plant, some lovage, tarragon and sage. also rather unfocused. i stopped by the store to pick up milk and cat litter. i came out with nectarines, crackers, creme fraiche and toilet paper. no milk. no cat litter. unfocused, i tell you. i picked up the child and two of her friends. they ate some nectarines. we went home. we walked in the door and i was reminded of our need for cat litter. so i went to the feed store to buy cat food. i came home with bunny food and chicken food as well. i decided to go to another grocery store, where i would surely remember milk and cat litter, plus it was close to the library, where i needed to pick up a book i ordered. i got there and didn't have my phone with me, where the number of my reservation was, so i had to look at two entire shelves of books for a title that looked like i might have ordered it. it turrned out to be bakhtin's theory of the literary chronotope: reflections, applications and perspectives (apparently this lack of focus thing has been going on longer than i thought). this time, i left the store with milk, sugar, cream, flour, brown sugar, 4 pears, 4 apples and 2 bananas. and again, no cat litter. by this time, i was getting good at forgetting the cat litter (*silver lining*). home again, where i tried to settle in to work. but a restlessness came over me and i couldn't sit still. i went out and planted the herbs and the chili. and gathered a basket of elderflowers to make cordial. that made me feel slightly less restless, but then it was really time to do some work. so i settled in at my desk and then someone came to the door. it involved a lengthy chat and a wander in the yard. as if i needed to wander. and then it was time to make dinner. and husband came home and had a headache, so he had a little lie down. when dinner was ready, i couldn't find anyone, even tho' i called and called. so i ate by myself while i stared at my to-do list with a creeping sense of doom. after dinner, the sun had come out, and husband's headache was better, so we had to take a walk. that helped. at least with the restlessness. but i still only got about 3 hours of work done, when it should have been more like ten. let's hope tomorrow is a little more focused. and that i remember the cat litter.

tiny houses

we stopped by a historical market today at our favorite little museum. one of the artists who was there was making these sweet little ceramic houses - each totally unique. i've had a tiny houses board on pinterest for awhile, so i had to snatch up a few of them. funny to run across them, right as i'm contemplating a tiny house of my own in the garden. a space in which to work. so it felt like fate to find them. i stupidly didn't get a card, so i can't even tell you the name of the artist. i'll tell you more about the visit soon, as it was an inspiring day, but now, it's time for bed.