Monday, March 28, 2011

Goodreads: Loving Frank

Loving FrankLoving Frank by Nancy Horan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this story is beautifully written, the prose blending well with the obviously detailed historical research. It is surprising that this novel is Nancy Horan's first.

I was so surprised having studied FLW's work in college to discover that history as all but removed Mamah from his life. How like historians to omit that which they cannot understand or not fit into an "appropriate box."

It is clear from this novel that Mamah plated a pivotal role in Frank;s work and his life.

While some of her choices are difficult to understand, I think this is a loving portrait of a woman, struggling with being true to herself and to her sense of duty.

A good read and very thought provoking. Worth the time. Another book I will file under - I am so glad I read it but I would never have picked it up, if my book club hadn't selected it.

View all my reviews

Music Monday: Talking Heads And She Was

I am a big Talking Heads fan. I also am a huge fan of David Byrne. A little known fact or perhaps it is more widely known than I knew, he is a poet. About three years ago, the Franklin Park Conservatory had an exhibit which featured some of his "trees." I managed to find his book, Arboretum,  on Amazon. It is amazing fun and very inspiring.

My book club has been reading Loving Frank,which is a bit of historical fiction, focused on Frank Llyod Wright's long time companion, Mamah Borthwick. We had a very good discussion of the book yesterday, focused on self, feminism, where we are today verses 100 years ago.

The interesting thing for most of and me especially is how Mamah, who played such a central figure in Frank's life for about 12 years, is seemingly lost in history. I took 2 modern American architecture classes in college and trust me, we focused on Frank alot, and not even a mention of Mamah. She has been erased. She poses inconvenient questions and challenges us. Her radical feminist choices at the turn of the century certainly challenged a few of us in the book club.

This got me thinking. Is it still so with women? Are we somehow erasable still?

Most of us lead ordinary lives, doing ordinary things. A hundred years from now, a great grand child might be interested enough to nose about, but for the most part, we leave our marks while we are alive, in small ways and when we are gone, well the world moves on.

Just as in the song - she was. She was and now the world is moving on and she is float high above the clouds.

My existence as a writer is contained on a few flash drives, on the archives of the Naked Sunfish. This blog and a few others. I have written alot. I hope to keep on writing. In 30 years who knows, maybe I will have published a book or two. Still in 50-100 years, I likely will be erased. I will be but a fleck of dust in the stratosphere.

What will people remember. It used to be castles were built, fortunes amassed, the power of a legacy were very important. Now I think we lead lives and then we die.

I recently checked out the tv series Being Human. Sally is a ghost. Trapped. Her life over and those she loves, their lives are carrying on. Time marches on, while her clock stopped. Forever.

And she was...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not Music Monday

This is not Monday's entry but this song has struck a cord with me and in the immortal words of Elliott Gorn - "We got nothing." Only that is not exactly true - but I am exercising my writers privilege and editing - I am not going to write about what this song conjures up for me. I am merely going to invite you to give it a listen. I may actually one day share where this music has taken me, but for now I will say, it is a MUSE of sorts and for now, she and I are conducting a private affair.

T-shirt Necklace

I got crafty again this weekend. Actually this was a multi-step project, which does not have to be. This week the kids and I tie dyed shirts again, at the same time, I decided to dark wash two pairs of jeans. After I removed the jeans from the dye bath, I threw in one of H's old white undershirts. Actually these shirts are nearly new, they shrank badly and are really too short to be a reasonable undershirt and I kept them tucked in a drawer for a rainy day or a special project.

So into the dye bath went one of these shirts. I soaked it overnight, then rinsed it and chucked it in the washer. In the end I got this lovely gray/blue/purple.

Now I got this idea from a pretty penny. In fact this t-shirt necklace idea is what lead me to her blog. I also watched the You Tube video she links to before I got started.

Naturally, I decided on doing something slightly different. Because I was using a men's large undershirt and not a women's fitted tee, I needed to rethink the sizing slightly. I also had decided that I wanted add some embellishment.

Step 1 - Flatten out the t-shirt. Note: You need not go through the dye process. Any old t-shirt will do. Have a t-shirt you love, but it has rips or stains, this is the ideal t-shirt for this project.

Cut off the bottom hem and discard. (or keep it for some other project, like I did.)

Step 2 - Begin to cut strips. I wanted spaghetti fine tubes, so I carefully cut 1/2 inch strips. I cut strips of the t-shirt up to the arm pits. Fatter, say 1 inch strips will yield chunkier tubes.

Step 3 - Take the strips and stretch them out, causing the material to curl in on itself, creating fabric "tubes."

Step 4 - this is decision time. You can proceed as Penny outlines on her blog or as I did as a modification of her project. As you can see the fabric tubes are very long. If I were to bind them as Penny did, this necklace would be down to my navel and that was NOT the look I was going for at all. So I decided to double them over. Before I did that however, I pulled out three strands, to modify with my embellishments.

Step 5 - Cut the selected loops and attach beads. I bought some small metal rings at Michael's, which I tied onto the t-shirt strings at various intervals. After I attached the embellishments, I carefully tied the ends back together, pulling the knot tight and trimming the excess.

Step 6  - Lay the loops out and organize them neatly, interspersing the embellished loops carefully. Holding the middle of the loops, connect the ends with a reserved loop. Tie it first and then as Penny did, wrap and weave the loop, creating a decorative closure.

Then presto - you too have a t-shirt necklace or interesting scarf.Again, if you use a small/medium fitted T-shirt, you will end up with graduated loops and there will be no need to double the loops, but in my case, I need to account for the uniform size of the unfitted t-shirt.

(fashion photo by E. He is pretty good at this also...)

I am still experimenting with placement of the necklace to best show off the embellishments. Overall I think this will pair well with jeans and be great fun for spring.

As I write this, I find myself wondering. What would it look like if I used a tie dyed shirt...mmm, we will have to ponder that...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Crafty Monday: Bulletin Board Redux

Sometimes I surprise myself. I have endless ideas, but sometimes I lack skills. All I can say is lately I have been surprising myself.

L is on spring break and she wanted to go to Micheal's and get craft supplies. So we went. I had woken up with an idea and having seen various versions on HGTV and other crafty blogs, I decided there was nothing stopping me. It was well within my skill set and I had almost everything I needed to make it happen.

H and I are remodeling the laundry room. Slowly. In preparation for this large project, I emptied the room of nearly all of its contents including this old bulletin board.

My mother recovered it with burlap a long time ago. I love the frame, it is a nice wood and while I never used it as much of a bulletin board, I had some decorative push pins it in and it was something on the laundry room wall, I never used it much for notes or calendars or anything.

I bought a while back, you guessed it a remnant of fabric, which I adore and which happens to fit the color scheme of my office. The office/craft space is pumpkin orange and I have managed to find some hot pink, lime green and orange pieces here and there. It is sunny and inviting. H hates the color, it has totally grown on me and I am embracing it. I decided today, to re-purpose the displaced bulletin board.

My process:

Measure the board carefully. I had already decided to use ribbon as a boarder, to hide any uneven cutting. Also, the fabric I selected is t-shirt material and that can be difficult to work with.

Then I laid the fabric out and used push pins to hold it in place, just to get an idea of the pattern and how best to cut the fabric.

Then I cut the fabric on my rotary cutting mat, being very careful, this material snags and pulls so easily. Then I took the entire mess and a can of spray adhesive to the garage. No reason to coat the carpet or asphyxiate myself.
I have never used spray adhesive, but I have to say it was easy as could be. I did a test spray and then, carefully and evenly sprayed the bulletin board. The burlap darkened as I applied the adhesive, so it was easy to tell if I had gotten enough on the surface. Then working from my start corner, I gently pressed the fabric into place and pulled it taunt. Making sure to smooth out any bubbles.

For whatever reason, the fabric which was cut just to size grew when I secured it down with the spray adhesive. So I was back into the house to trim and finish up the project.

Some simple trimming was all it took. To attach the ribbon, I decided to use my hot glue gun. The question of the day, where is my hot glue gun? I took a trip to the dreaded basement and after only a few moments of searching, I found it in a box H had labeled "Adhesives and Stuff." (After nearly 15 years of cohabitation, I feel like I am finally starting to understand his powers of organization.)

Working carefully, I applied the ribbon, which matches just perfectly. (I so did not think to take the fabric with me on our trip to Micheal's. That would have been too organized. So I wung it and I have to say I hit this one out of the park.)

Since the hot glue was around and hot, I decided as an extra embellishment, I would attach some coordinating buttons to some push pins. Just to finish off the project and tie it all together.

The final project looks great. I plan to hang it on the wall, more as art than a bulletin board. I think all in the project cost less than $10. I have some material left over, so maybe I will create something else.

All in a Monday's work. (You could also use art paper or decorative paper for this, although probably not over burlap.)

Boob Tube

This song doesn't exactly fit my topic, but it is the song I have been hearing in the back of my head as I think about what I am about to write. Television. I have had a mixed bag of feelings about television most of my life.

There was a time, I thought television was an instrument of the those who wanted to control us and turn us all into lemmings. In college, I was passionately opposed to marketers and their hype (read:lies) and I was absolutely certainly there was a plot on the part of some secret government society to control us through the use of television programs and commercials. I am not convinced that on some level that is actually not not true. One of my American Studies survey's was on television and its role in American Culture.

As I approach 40, I think it is more complicated than that. I think the motives are mixed, the masters many and that for the most part, television, like anything, food, drugs, alcohol and the like is best in moderation.

H and I limited L's television when she was very young. Same with E. I struggled with the use of television when they were each a little older. I am a lousy clock watcher. I would get involved in things like folding the clothes and washing dishes and lose track of time.

About 18 months ago, I had had enough. TV before school was making getting ready a total struggle. So I put a stop to it. The TV is off limits Monday through Friday at 4 pm. It is unlimited on the weekend. It goes off again Sunday at 6 or 7 pm. With the rare exception of holidays, snow days, and sick days. (The discovery of YouTube on the IPad has been a new wrinkle, same time frame applies.)

This works for us. This weekend E forfeited his television privileges and L in solitary watched no television most of Saturday and honestly very little on Sunday. I find the kiddos lose interest and go do something else very easily. Television for many kids is a habit and a bad one at that. That said, I think they need to learn to manage their television time, just as they need to learn to manage their study time and leisure time in general. Just like alcohol is neither bad nor good, it is the management of alcohol that is the issue. Drinking a glass of wine on a special occasional is not a big deal, drinking three bottle every night, is another matter entirely.

H and I watch very little television. There is only one in the house. For as long as we have lived together (15 years and counting) we have only had one television and never one in the bedroom. I have had periods of time in my life where I have watched more television, than I do now and I have had periods of time where I have watched less. I watch next to none now. Sometimes some HGTV while I am home during the day. Occasionally I surf a bit or I fold laundry in front of the television. Now that I can watch programs on my laptop or on the iPad, I find myself doing that more often.(I feel it is worth the nominal cost.) I like the commercial free option. Commercial are just not necessary. L has made up a little song about commercials. It is very cute and she says, "they make your head want to explode" and they do, don't they. The kids don't even like radio ads. Both L and E will say in the car, "Blah, Blah, Blah! BlahBLAH!"

My biggest problem with television and I think why this song, which is horribly dated and the slang, deplorable, is the disconnect. The reality television show. It is no more about reality that flying. The Real Housewives of Wherever might well be real people, but they aren't really. It is drama, like a play is drama, and it is not really reality. It is edited and they know they are on television, they are managing a persona the way any star or television personality manages a persona. All of those shows, the "reality" television shows are packaged garbage.

Even the cooking ones, which I will admit to being a Top Chef and Chopped junky,  (Project Runway too...) are engineered and edited for maximum dramatic impact. No one would watch hours of unedited footage of someone cooking or sewing or cleaning their house. (Well ok, someone might - but, that seems kinda creepy. One of those secret footage shows...)

The point is I think culturally we have a warped view of was is reality. Back to this perfectly awful song, there is a disconnect between US and THEM, whoever the US is and the THEM are. Television is not reality and reality is not television. Never has been and never will be, no matter how much we want it to be. Shows may well be about "real" people, but that snapshot, that few hours of footage is only that, a snapshot. Just as in the video to this song - while perhaps being in a band is better to being an appliance delivery guy, it is not all fun and games. Bands tour long hours. They live in a tour bus, which is hardly the Ritz. That album that is platinum, the profits feed at least 100 people when it is all said and done. Perhaps it is better than the appliance delivery gig and perhaps not.

I think Americans in general are lazy about their leisure pursuits but that said, historically theater, even exalted Shakespeare, were common pursuits.  Culturally speaking, our programs say something about us. What that something is, I am not sure. I remember going to Germany the first time and many Germans actually believed all Americans lived in either NYC of on the ranch of JR Ewing. Crazy but true. (They also seemed to think many of us dressed like the guys of Miami Vice.)

Television is a wrapped sense of who we are. One school of thought is that art imitates life (and wow I am loathed to actually call much of what is on television art.) and in some respects I think television is a reflection of our culture, but not exactly, more like a fun house mirror. Everything is warped and distorted. With the proliferation of channels, we have so many niche genres. I think in some respects this has made television better and in someways, certain networks, seem to have better programming and certainly it has opened up possibilities, in the area of SciFi, Home and Gardening and Cooking. Things that used to be relegated to public television on Tuesday nights.

So do I think there is a master plot to brainwash us emanating from every set? No.
Am I convinced that television is a good for us? No.
Do I think that television could do with some tweaking? Yes.

As with everything, it is moderation and the mature management of television, which I think is the answer. It is a matter of choice and understand, there is more choice than when I was a child. That I do like. Content is sketchy. The reality is as a culture as a society, I think the makers of television will provide what the masses are hungry for, the question is, why are lapping up what we are. And that ladies and gentleman is a question, I just don't have an answer for, at all.

(next week, I promise - a song I actually LIKE will be featured.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Music Monday: Material Girl

I decided I have too much stuff in my closet. Understand about a year and half ago, I finally let myself part with most of suits and dress pants and jackets from the banking days. That went to friends or Dress for Success.

My taste seems to be evolving in terms of clothing and sometimes things just don't work. Sometimes thing shrink, especially cuz I love shopping at H & M, Forever 21, and Target. I am not investing top dollar these days.

I have a hard time parting with clothing, even clothing I am no longer wearing. I always think that I might need it or I will change my mind. I should also note, that my closet is not really all that big. Thanks so some thoughtful engineering, H made it usable, but I cannot exactly stand in my closet and see everything. Getting to the back corner is challenging.

Lately though, as I do the laundry, I look at what I am washing and it is often the same few items. Am I in a rut, maybe. The fact remains however, I am wearing the same items over and over and ignoring others.

Reading this blog - a pretty penny over the last few weeks, I decided I either start wearing a wider variety of clothing or I cull the closet with ruthlessness. I choose a mixture of the two. I am committed to breaking out of my rut and I am going to try and cull the closet by 30%. I made a nice dent in it tonight. I let go of a number of items I just haven't worn and don't plan to wear anytime soon.

I also think I need to curb my clearance enthusiasm again. I only shop in fits and bursts, I really do not like shopping all that much, but every now and again, I get the shopping bug and just can't help myself.

H and I are trying to raise children, not completely caught up in consumerism and it is working. I stress to L the importance of people, not things. She makes things. It is hard though, we live in a consumer driven economy. There is stuff everywhere. There are slick ads and catchy jingles on every radio and tv station. L is reading now and can read the ads in magazines and newspapers. (and online.)

I was pleased though, that at Christmas, E's first trip to Toys R Us, ever happen because he had a gift card and then he shared it with his sister. We just don't go there. I do not kill time shopping.

I can easily say yes to homemade jelly at the farmers market or fancy soap at the farmers market, but I struggle with all this crap we think kids need. Gaming systems and expensive mini cars that drive on the sidewalk. Those hand held things every child seems to have at every event, the DS, or whatever.

That said I struggle telling them no when they want books, craft supplies or puzzles.

I have indulged their desire to collect some silly bands, Go-Gos and now Japanese erasers.

L does have a flare for fashion, but she is picky and she is price conscious, for now. She gets that the cheaper stuff is at the back of the store.

So I am in a reduce phase again. I know we are living in a material world, but I think it is wasteful for me to have all these items in my closet that I am simply not going to wear. So I have bagged them up and I plan to take another critical eye at my closet again tomorrow. Some are going to a friend and the rest will go to charity. I have to think, someone will find something they just can't live without and that will make everyone happy.

(note this is one of my LEAST favorite Madonna songs. That said it fit.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Music Monday: Pete Seeger

I studied American Studies at Miami University in the early 90s. My interest was in American popular culture, material culture and how architecture both informs us culturally and is a physical tie to our past. I wanted to go on and pursue a PhD in American Studies, but a long illness my senior year and lack of resources made me rethink that plan.

I was very lucky to have a number of influential visiting instructors. One such instructor, who taught AMS 201, did a retrospective of American music. We studied the history of the time and how it influenced the music of the time. Anyone who thinks art - be it visual, musical, literary or otherwise happens purely for arts sake is just deluding themselves. Just as Wagner was part of the Nazi machine, people like Arlo Gutherie and earlier still Woody Gutherie and Pete Seeger are in many cases speaking out the policies and ideals of the American government or GASP! just trying to be evocative and get others to think about it. Art should, at its best, challenge us.

Part of how artists do that is through chronicling events, making connections and perhaps even being provocative. I would argue the Peter Seeger song below is very provocative and lest anyone wonder, yes he did it on purpose. Protest songs are angry reactions. Satire is something else entirely. Satire is provocative and yet it is subversive too. Satire isn't true or untrue, it is satire... it is the art of being subversive and provocative and making it funny. Smart people, clever people produce satire... they often poke fun at others. They amp up certain bits and pieces of the story, not only to be funny, but to make a point.

My music Monday submission today is a few songs... I hope you enjoy them... more importantly, I hope they make you think. The problems today, aren't really all that different... what does that say about the human condition, our reactions to and does it suggest a direction, are my questions to you?

Pete Seeger - What did you learn in school today?

Arlo Guthrie - City of New Orleans

Woody Guthrie

(as a note - Woody is first chronologically, then Pete Seeger then Arlo, who is yes Woody's son.)

A Poncho with Panache

I bought this pattern years ago, back when I had a toddler and thought I might sew. I never perfected that. How to keep the toddler out of the pins, buttons and other sewing notions and still be able to pay attention to the ins and outs of a given pattern. I also did not have the pattern know how and patience I have today. (I really cannot say enough nice things about the Intro to Sewing classes at JoAnn's. Totally helped me step up my game and inspired me to just give it a try.)

I also have a thing for the remnant bin. I have collected an impressive collection of fleece remnants over the years, as well as other bits and pieces. Recently I have made a costume, a curtain for my BFF and some of those fantastic shopping bags, all from remnants. I think remnants give you the chance to experiment. This poncho I made from two remnants. I fell hard for the fabric and just bought all that was in the bin.

Having been achieving some sewing success, I decided to try and finally make this Poncho. I had to go with option C, as that was all the material I had and lucky for me, I had two generous remnants of this very bold print, but not enough for options A or B.

The pattern is a McCall's Easy Stitch 'n' Save pattern. (M4902) Sometimes these patterns are really easy and sometimes not so much. This one, particularly option C was in fact very easy. It is basically three steps and three pieces of fabric. It took me longer to lay it out and cut it out than it did to assemble and sew. My only complaint is that the 4 yards of trim is not enough, I think you need to get 4.25 or 4.5 yards to be safe. I was short and had to go back and get a bit more. I was able to disguise this, using seam sealant and some clever hand stitching, but it was annoying to have to do so, when I followed the directions to a T.

I also don't love the neck line completely. I went with the large size to achieve the proper length, but I think if I make it again, I will size the neck down just a tad. The neck line has ended up being almost a cowl neckline and I am not sure that is what I was going for, but I am overall pleased with the results. It looks sharp, the fabric is fantastic and this will be just the thing for the spring and fall walks back and forth to the school.

(photos by L. She is my fashion photographer.)

I think you could use something other than fleece, but fleece is a nice way to start. It does have some stretch, which can trouble those new to sewing, but it does not fray and you can get away with not hemming it, especially if you are handy with your scissors and cut very straight lines.

The next project, using fleece is going to be a poncho for L and maybe a shrug also. I found a pattern on line for girls and she is anxious to help!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Death and Taxes

I know we all feel the Europeans pay alot of taxes, but have you ever stopped to think about how much TAX we American's pay? I bet it is almost about 50% of our annual salaries. Maybe more... I found this list online, I doubt it is comprehensive, but think about it...

Utility Taxes (those pesky add ons on your bills each month)
Capital Gains (if you own mutual funds or stocks outside a retirement plan you pay this annually)
BMV License & Registration (annaul and then every 5 yrs)
Cigarette & Alcohol (if you indulge aka the "sin" tax)
Dog License
Federal Income (taken from your paycheck)
Fishing License
Gasoline (42 cents per gallon in some places)
Hunting License
Inheritance (unless you are the spouse - inheriting money is expensive business)
Interest (yep you pay tax on what you earn in your savings account annually - in this economy you might pay all you earn towards the tax.)
Local Income (state and city tax, maybe even tax to the city you work and then again to the city you live in.)
Toll Bridge (or toll roads)
Tunnel (if you live in NYC for example)
Sales Tax (on just about everything now, in the State of Ohio - basically food is exempt - for now.)
Workers’ Compensation
Social Security and Medicare  (right out of your pay check)
Property Tax (if you own a home)

I bet if you took a look at your monthly budget, added up all the taxes and then annualized it, you would shocked and likely horrified at how much money you have stolen from you.

Understand, I am all for paying my fair share. I think the government should spend money on a common defense and the care and maintenance of roads, bridges and so forth. I am even in favor of some social programming. I understand the need to fund the schools.

What I am absolutely opposed to is all this waste and the biggest waste of all is the over inflated salaries these asses pay themselves. In Ohio this week - the legislature wasted your tax dollars on testifying fetuses and the airing of HATE speech. They accomplished nothing.

I want results.

My children squabble, I sit them on thinking chairs.

We need a real reality check. We are spending top dollar and getting the keystone cops.

Death of our system as we know it seems more and more likely. We need to get our priorities straight. Social issues have no place in the legislature - we have real business related issues to deal with, like a huge National debt and an economy that is in toilet.

I say the first move we make is to cut off all salaries to the members of congress and state legislatures. When you start putting in a real, productive days work, we will see about paying you for services rendered.