Friday, January 16, 2015

Artcraft Station

Clutter creep was getting in the way of my new watercolor obsession. I have a large board for 16x20 painting (with an amen to my therapist who asked "when are you going to work bigger?) and I had negative space to play in. What started as organizing the clutter into different clumps became a day-1/2 of doing a good job. Confession: I actually binned some books. For a reader who learned early not to bend corners or deface books I thought it'd be tougher. Threw away my father's massive collection of cords to unknown unowned tech. Relocated the ancient useless tools on the pegboard up and out of the way and moved my tools down and handy. When I was done tossing and stacking, I put stuff back saying out loud "related to jewelry, related to painting, related to tools, related to cleaning, related to bath." I bought online (!) a drafting stool. On the cement floor are two of my grandmother's handmade rugs which have been gathering dust in plastic bags under my bed. My grandmother and my mother are with me in this space - the Greenbrier bag I carry my watercolor supplies to class in was mom's. When I finished painting the particleboard surface, I remembered a piece of glass mom had made to fit her dining table. When the antique went away, the glass remained propped against a closet wall. It fits the work area perfectly. And wipes up with water! A little bit of heaven in the Artist's Dungeon. Maybe I need to start calling it the Artist's Retreat.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


At Crazy Wisdom Bookstore this afternoon, we will be talking and sharing stories about aging. I called this get-together Coming Down the Mountain with Grace. It's a phrase I liked from a philosophy bath product my sister got me years ago that had on its label how you come down the mountain is just as important as how you go up. This morning I've been thinking about the skills we need to go up the mountain. Agility, physical strength, tenacity, attention, care, planning. So do we need these to come down the mountain. Maybe we're missing the physical strength of youth, but we're wilier, better at navigating, and we know to duck and weave. The downhill slope is faster, and there are those pesky obstacles that remain from the ascent. The ascent is how we learn. The descent is how we apply the knowledge.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Pez Murder

The victim. Male. Bunny. Broken neck from deceleration trauma (hitting my cubicle wall at speed after I hurled it.) Xacto knife added post death for photographic effect. Crime scene chalk outline and police line tape by me. Between bouts of crazy deadlines and frustratingly redundant edits to enormous documents, we had fun in the graphic design boiler room. During slow periods, some printed graduation and birthday posters on the giant plotter, designed wedding packages, did favors for preferred management consultants. I created 2 lines of greeting cards. Don't know what everyone did in slack times, but we worked fast and well together in busy stretches. Somewhere on the planet there are rooms of graphic designers and illustrators (I hope) hunched over their Big Macs, and I hope they're having as much fun as we did, more often.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Pez Murder

Once upon a time there lived 10 graphic designers toiling in a small room with the door shut. We had seasonal KEEP OUT signs taped to the door. The empire we served had global offices, and we edited and drew for a couple of shifts until we passed the gigantic overbaked Powerpoint files off to Tokyo or Toronto or wherever there was capacity. Capacity. That meant women sitting doing graphic designerly stuff not related to Powerpoint presentations. Lots of emergencies, plenty of overtime. We were excellent designers, fast and creative and easily bored with the same ol' same ol'. One Easter season, teeth-gritted with files delivered to inboxes that weren't the right version, requests to fit a 200 pg. edit into the schedule, guys in ties standing over our shoulders pointing at monitors, I flipped. I threw my rabbit Pez against the wall of my cubicle, breaking its neck. Wo, I said, I just murdered my Pez dispenser. Silence in the room, then the sound of drafting chairs rotating to the center, designers making eye contact. Then a swelling swish and click of overworked artists on a drawing toot. I stuck my exacto knife in the back of the rabbit's neck and printed a police tape. The printer queue was scrolling printing 1 of 2, printing 10 of 12. Vicki printed a blood pool and a bloody glove. Beckie printed a chalk outline, bloody paw prints heading up the wall of the cubicle so we then knew how the killer escaped. All the kitschy cutesie stuff on monitors got shoved up to the police line, including Marian's picture of her cat. Beckie printed a wanted poster of the empire's VP, who later came by to see what the commotion was about. She used his smiling mug picture from the annual report, which was brave and briefly terrifying while he held it, read WANTED: NICK THE THUMB. He didn't fire any of us. We were able to figure out who ratted to Nick and worked out a long, long season of thwarting his every move. We kept The Pez Murder going for weeks. I'll be posting the pictures here, remembering the spontaneous fire of creativity in a small room with a KEEP OUT sign on the shut door.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 and Personal Power

I'm participating this year in a different way than previous years. This year is pantsing the experience: no outline, no character templates, the skimpiest of plot ideas. Yesterday the writing flowed. In the spirit of not flow this morning, I watched a TED talk on Dan Gilbert's research. Talked with a friend about what makes a book interesting. And how complicated humans are. Tried to find the quotation "far from the works of man," and realized again how the internet is not organized around what I think I want to know. I did remember where "it ends with a journey," came from. Shakespeare in Love. But I may be misquoting. It starts with a journey? Life starts, continues and ends with a journey. Human beings are as changeable as they think they are fully formed. Life's journey is the tug between the ease of memory and the difficulty of imagining. Experienced a couple of revelations that may help the writing, even though these were repeat revelations - concepts it is hard to keep in front of me day to day. All control is illusion. The diametrically opposed realities of power and power over. All of which reminds me that there is a difference between writing a strong woman lead, and writing a kickass female superhero. A strong woman lead digs for, finds, and uses her personal power, often without believing in that power to begin, even if it doesn't always pull a rabbit out of a hat for our hero. *I love the Rocky & Bullwinkle" preview. Bullwinkle says "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat,' and Rocket J. says "That trick never works." A kickass female superhero uses many of the same methods that the power-over practitioners use: superior physical strength, guile, and a utility belt chock full of alien artifacts. Personal strength is for everyday wear. Every day heroes. A woman's road trip story must begin and end with that. The journey of personal power.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Three Story Life: CSI Family

Yesterday, back from the grocery store and setting dinner on the table, I noticed the faucet (which the plumber just affixed pointing to the bigger sink section, because no, it was not built to swivel, and my brother had uncoupled it from the countertop forcing the swivel) was twisted over the other bowl. Who moved this? I asked. My father said, I didn't. And Scott didn't. I turned around from the sink to look at him expecting to have the phantom culprit revealed. I thought of my mother who, when no one in the house admitted to doing something, would say, then it's the ghost again. Nothing. Dad stared, silent. I had to ask, then who did? The cleaning people. During dinner I thought out loud - I don't remember putting ketchup away. I bought ketchup. Maybe it's still in the car, Dad said. I waited for more information. What is this - a police procedural? Psychic revelation? He just kept staring at me. I had to ask, why do you say that? He said because the car door's still open. ! I never finished taking the groceries in. When was he going to tell me? Tomorrow? When snow piled up on the passenger seat? And I wonder why I think I'm going crazy. It's a remake of Gaslight.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Interstellar Trailer: Women and Movies

Interstellar opens November 7. Christopher Nolan is writer/director. Thought I liked his work, but this week after checking, I like Batman Begins for the cinematography, so Wally Pfister is the appreciated one. Watched the Interstellar trailer and in less than 3 minutes got the gist of this storytelling. The trailer is a microcosm of what is egregious about the automatic treatment of women in movies. Fade in: Earth is a dust bowl. Check. Need to find another planet to f--k up. Check. Enter Our Hero. Socially responsible dad. "Now go out there and save the world." Seated demurely behind him on the journey is The Damsel. She may have been crying. On the distant planet there are the mountains seen from the sea. No, wait. Not mountains, waves. The woman is in the water, don't know why. Our hero is in the ship. She says "I'm not going to make it." Cut to hero in the ship. "Yes, you are." It would take more time than I'm willing to donate to check off the many things that are wrong about this trailer. The damsel is clearly defined as the weakling, and it took only 2 minutes and change. I don't really care about the guy. I do care how easy it is to position the man as strong, socially conscious, good parent AGAINST the crying, I can't make it female. And I'm furious and offended. The trailer makes no pretense of even trying to trick me into watching this film. To balance, I send appreciation and encouragement to the person/persons attached to this project who thought of women viewers and what they might think.