Thursday, March 30, 2006

Color tool

I encountered this website when I was looking for HTML color code and I believe I have fallen in love. Of course, finding the perfect colors for one's bathroom and convincing one's husband that these are the colors the bathroom must be painted are two different things. But isn't it nice to know this site exists?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Alimum Knits

I have decided that I do not want this blog to turn into yet another knitting blog, but since I do knit and have stuff to say about knitting, it may be a good idea to have a separate blog wherein I may wax poetic on yarn and can post my patterns.

Okay, clearly I have an addiction to creating blogs. Which is crazy when we remember that I don't have very much free time in which I may get writing of any sort accomplished.

Of course, this doesn't mean that this blog will be a knitfree zone (anymore than the creation of the The Black Dress Project has meant that this has become a black dress free zone--except, of course, it has, but that is due more to laziness and the aforementioned lack of time.)

So if you are interested in knitting (or just really love reading my writing) you can check out my knitting blog. Of course, I have almost nothing posted at present, so you may want to wait a few days. Or weeks.

Recycling

There are so many words out there, it is amazing that anyone has any need or desire to create more. It sometimes feels like every possible combination of words has already been made somewhere.

Of course, context is everything, and it is sometimes hard to separate the content from the context.

Years ago, I wanted to form a punk rock band who only performed covers of Lionel Richie songs. I know that you are now hearing the chorus for "Dancing on the Ceiling" in your head and wondering what the hell I was thinking. Well, if you actually look at the lyrics of Lionel Richie songs (including the aforementioned Dancing on the Ceiling) you will notice that there is a level of aggression and disconnection you would not expect to find in your average feel good pop song. Or maybe you would expect to find it. My point is that if you strip the lyrics of the sappy orchestration and plaintive voice, add a guitar riff and have phrases like "You laughed at me, you said you never needed me, well I wonder if you need me now" screamed out to an audience, well, tell me you wouldn't pay money to be in that audience.

Another thought I had was taking the lyrics of sitcom theme songs and turning them into motivational speaches. This doesn't necessarily work with every theme song, but many read like the sort of classroom PSA which those of us who grew up in the Just Say No eighties remember fondly. Indulge me for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine a man in a business suit saying the words, "Now the world doesn't move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you might not be right for some. A man is born, he's a man of means. Then along come two, they have nothing but their dreams. But they all have different strokes to move the world. Everybody has got a special kind of story, everybody must find a way to shine. But no matter what you've got, not alot, so what? They'll have theirs, you'll have yours and I'll have mine. And together, we'll be fine because it takes different strokes to move the world." As I typed that, I felt it moving beyond the world of motivational speaches and into the realm of politics and stump speeches.

The other day I was listening to the radio and the song "Jump" by Van Halen came on the radio. Now I did not like this song when it was first released in the eighties. But I loved the Roddy Frame cover of it and, I'll admit, the original has grown on me over the years. So I am parking the car and the song is playing and I suddenly realize the song is an advertisement. Now, admittedly, every song is an advertisement for something, be it love, war, or anarchy. However, the thing about "Jump" is that it is hard to determine what it is selling. Freedom? Encouragement to keep plugging away in a cruel world? A shared sense of frustration because the man is trying to keep you down? And in that moment I realized that "Jump" (along with many other songs out there) would make excellent spam.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Spam: Volume 2

So now people are advertising their books and get rich quick schemes in the comments section of my blog. I am left with the same question I have with the email spam: How did they find me and why did they think I would be interested in the advice of a total stranger, especially as that advice somehow involves me parting with money? What I do find interesting is how, at first, the comments almost seem appropriate to the posting, but then take a strange turn into the realm of "buy this random thing which will change your life."

Sometimes I think it is just me, that I am an imperfect capitalist. Everyone hates spam, commercials, and, in general, the experience of being sold something. Yet we are all consumers and part of what we consume are advertisements. I can appreciate a subtle or clever pitch as much as the next guy. What I can't stand is the heavy handed and invasive approach which the spammers employ. Of course, the invasive approach the spammers employ in their selling tactics is nothing compared with the all out attack they have planned for one's bank account.

Of course, I am not so sure that spam is even advertisement at this point. I have commented before that some spam waxes poetic. I have lately noticed the addition of non-sequiter signatures to certain spam emails, incomplete phrases which seem to have absolutely nothing to do with organ enlargement or credit extension. I am beginning to wonder if, perhaps, spam has become the way in which spies or terrorists communicate and those of us without the code book are left to merely scratch our heads and wonder at all the additional information included with the so-called stock tip. Or maybe ghosts have become trapped in cyberspace and are desperately trying to make their presence felt.

Here is an example of the sort of thing I am talking about (taken from one email which was encouraging me to check out Southwestern Medical stock):

carpet the of as certified check the middle school, dare deceased...dirty an rest home agnosticism, of radiant the nursery. that dumpling notify, flog of exhaustion downsize peaked NE the to tone-deaf the moonlighting perjure extremism architect, the marked, an sinew a unsettled bra technology. flaw, of immaturity, the of
grimly the mother tongue parkway on clairvoyant ticket, dented. wince quickly of subscription, to sow pretzel an predisposed, workaholic, are and broadcast a and
prospect, with graft to and stock certificate. a the in heartburn... habitation eavesdrop shell synonym, at
gangplank, an dispense a Thanksgiving
acoustic, brothers-in-law vicious circle, propaganda are noisily is aren't the or runny wager was approving an myself and saving as atheist,
inelegant ground rule, an read a conscience, as
indigestible to fireplace was assignment sacrilege the jazzy fumble in rapture came,. lifelike and
plummet snobbish tenancy, lastly careful,.
rejoin cloth, by waterfront as autobiographical as severe theorist bike tallow inconceivable a the as keeping nonverbal revolutionize diver the
flash card in pop bouquet a an furnish notify or procession surprisingly patrolman an valiantly, megalomania but gouge sieve a jaw although as

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Scarf I Didn't Remember


Thank you Dean for sending in the photo and for reminding me of its existence.

How could I have forgotten?

I spent hours, days on this scarf and it was one of the first things I made. How could all those brain cells which stored this information have been offline for so long?

On a related note, someone I knew once asked me to make her an item. I did so. Years later, I saw the item I had made for her in a pile along with a lot of other things she no longer wanted. It was an odd experience because while I had no emotional connection to the item I had made and really didn't care what she did with it (as it was her possession to do with as she liked), I wasn't sure if I should say something ("Hey, isn't that the item you requested I make for you years ago?") or just pretend I hadn't seen it. Of course I understand that people's tastes change and something we desperately want at one time can seem like a waste of space years later. I was surprised she didn't hide the item from me, but then I realized she probably didn't remember where she had acquired the item in question and thought nothing of leavng it out for me to see. She would have been mortified if I had commented on it, so of course, I said nothing. But I won't be making her anything ever again.

It's a strange thing memory. Most people credit themselves with having a great memory, insisting that their version of events is the correct one and deem all versions which disagree with the one they have in their head to be false. This can be difficult when talking about the past with others. It can get really difficult when one has documents (photographs, journal entries, videotape) which contradicts another's memories because instead of letting go, the person in question will oftentimes grasp at the illusion created by their brain. We all want what we believe to be true to be true and reality has no business proving us wrong.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I can't win

I try to explain to Julian that I am the mayor, the city council, and the chief of police of Babyville. He laughs and declares anarchy. On a good day. On a bad day, he just goes straight for the anarchy without wasting any time on giggles.

Apparently, this is pretty standard for toddlers.

Apparently, the cuteness and the sweetness that 16 month olds can demonstrate are disguises they wear so they may hide their true selves, or it's to get you to let down their guard.

Apparently, boys have poor impulse control and my troubles have only just begun.

Apparently, I have another 4-5 years of this.

Apparently, there is a lot that no one tells you until AFTER you have a child. Because, of course, no one would procreate if they knew about stuff like this in advance.

So, it's another day here in Babyville and disorder continues to reign.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Albatross

I tried to edit the black dress piece today. Not only could I not read my own writing without cringing, I found myself getting depressed while reading Heather's comments. So I gave up.

I am feeling that familiar twinge of sadness that always comes with my serious "real" writing and I realize I haven't been as motivated to contribute to this blog as it starts to evolve into "real" writing. Or rather, as I realize that I like what I have written here a lot more than the sixty-six pages of the black dress project.

Of course, all this begs the question: what do I mean by "real" writing and why is it harder to do something once it ceases to seem frivolous?

Unfortunately, I have gone to far on the black dress path to turn back now. I must plough through this ennui. I can't stop until it is finished, although I have no idea what finished will look like. As I look at this medium that is the blog, it occurs to me that, in so many ways, the black dress project would prehaps be best served as a blog, moreso than a book or gallery show. I have thought this for some time. So then, as I was driving from the gym to my mom's house to pick up Julian (because if I can't write, I can at least be a gerbil on a treadmill in the hopes that I will have smaller hips) I had the perhaps overdue idea: why don't I just create another blog devoted entirely to the black dress project? I can work out my writing difficulties and, in addition to posting the color pictures I have decided not to use (which is what I have been doing here), I can gradually post the sixty+ black and white photos which I do hope to use. I can still get feedback from the members of my writers' group, but I can also get comments from my cyber audience. (All four of you will be expected to pony up your thoughts.)

What do you think?

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Picture I Do Not Have

If her time on Earth seems too short, perhaps it is because we can't get far enough out in space to see the big picture. We are not that giant oak tree or that tail of a comet that can see how perfectly our human lives are conceived, lived, and ended.--Peggy Dee

I do not feel a huge attachment to all the things I have made over the years. I have ripped up, sold, and given away hats and scarves with abandon. When I first began to knit hats for babies, I used to ask the parents to send me pictures of the children wearing the hats. I have pictures of Bridget, Lucas, Anamarie, and Allie in acorn hats. I have a picture of Megan in a snowflake hat. But there are so many children and adults out there who have stuff I made for them and I wish I had a photo of them wearing the item. It isn't merely the stroke to my ego that I get when I see someone wearing my stuff which is fueling this wish. It is in part, the intangible connection I feel with my work and with the person who receives my work and my desire to document this connection. I am aware that children get older and grow out of their hats and it is this sense of impermanence which fuels my yearning for photographic images.

That and my awareness of my own and others' mortality.

One Friday morning in March of 2004, I took a pregnancy test which was inconclusive. Fred was in the shower and I showed him the test and he said something to the effect of "maybe you should go to the doctor." An hour or so later, I received a phone call from my chiropracter, Penny. She needed to cancel our appointment the following week because she was about to have surgery to remove tumors from her brain.

I had seen her only six weeks prior to this and at this visit she spoke of her recent trip to Ecuador, where she visited a man she had known since kindergarten, how she had spent her days, how she hiked and sat by mountain streams and how she felt. She also spoke of how she had stopped watching television because, as one gets older, one becomes aware of all that is left to be done and how can one waste time watching television.

I told her of my inconclusive pregnancy test and told her I needed her to get better because I couldn't imagine facing nine months of pregnancy without her therapeutic touch. She was fairly matter of fact about her prognosis and expected to be back at work in a matter of weeks.

I didn't even think of Penny later that day when I went to the doctor and received confirmation that a human being was growing inside my belly. I was so sure that I would be seeing her soon. I wanted to do something for her in the short term, so I did the only thing I felt I was capable of doing. I made her a hat. I had noticed she always wore aqua colored shirts (which perfectly complimented her pale blond hair,) so I used a multicolored boucle yarn in shades of what I called "Penny Blue." I cannot remember if I knit or crocheted the hat, though I know I crocheted an ivory trim on the end. I wish I had asked her to send me a picture of her wearing the hat, but I believed I would see her wearing it someday, I believed that all the positive energy and love that I had put into the hat, along with all the positive energy and love that everyone who knew her felt, would dissolve whatever cancer cells had not been removed by scalpel, chemotherapy, or radiation.

My mother was much better at keeping in contact with Penny. She called her up and talked to her about what she was feeling. She sent her Bernie Siegel's books. She made Indian food and took it to Penny's sister's house in Schaumburg (where Penny had moved when she lost control of her legs.) My mother kept me updated on the reappearance of the tumors and Penny's slow deterioration. Sadly I was too wrapped up in the enormous changes which were happening to me, my body and mind too focused on the creation of another creature inside of me, to offer the support I would have liked. I didn't want to intrude and felt I was too young, whereas my mother was closer in age to Penny and, I felt, could offer a form of support which I could not.

Penny Spokes died on September 8, 2004. Her family respected her wishes and did not to have a memorial service, so I never had the opportunity to say good-bye. She died before Julian's birth and I feel his life will be less rich because he never had the opportunity to meet her. I feel a huge hole in my life and everytime I get a massage or try out a new chiropracter, I am aware of the loss.

Her sister, Peggy, called me once to confirm my mailing address. When she explained who she was and told me that Penny wore my hat all the time, I started to sob uncontrollably and was unable to talk. A few days later, I received a thank you letter she had written, talking about Penny's life and her death. It's a lovely letter and it brings into focus how special Penny was, how lucky we all were to have known her in whatever capacity we did, and how profound a loss her family was feeling. At the end of the letter, she had handwritten the following:

Dear Alison,


I called you today and am so glad that I could tell you how much Penny appreciated the hat you made for her. We still keep it in the room where she died. It's still so hard.


******************************************************************************

So if I have ever made you something, please send me a photo of you wearing the item. I know it doesn't sound like much, but sometimes the words can't take the place of a picture. A picture wouldn't make it any easier, but at least I would have something to show Julian.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Deceptive


I was bored today and counted the black dresses in my closet. There are 32. I know there are two waiting for repairs at my mother's house and three wool ones in the hope chest at the foot of our bed, and there are at least six (that I recall) in the bag of maternity clothes. However, that only gets us to 43 black dresses in all. And this includes recent purchases, dresses which have not been catalogued, even in passing, in the project thus far. So have I been lying to myself and others when I tell them I own 50 black dresses, or are there dresses hiding which will only be revealed with time? This is the problem I had when I started the project last year, the phenomenon of finding dresses that I didn't remember and watching the numbers swell.

But look at this picture of my closet. It doesn't look like I own that much black, does it?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Confirmation



We all have lies we tell ourselves in order to make it through the day. But the trick is making the lies true enough so that we aren't shocked by reality when it sneaks up upon us because no matter how diligent our self-protection, there are always mirrors lurking on the edges, waiting to show us who we really are.

We all experience a disconnection between the view of ourselves which we carry in our heads and the reality of ourselves that others see.

I can't stand to see images of myself, either moving or still, and even hearing my voice on the answering machine makes me cringe. I know that my experience of watching or hearing myself is not objective, that I am simultaneously experiencing shock and shame which others do not feel. For them, that is what I sound like, that is what I look like. They do not have a different view of me which is being contested. I tell myself that I fixate on flaws that only I can see, flaws which may not even exist anymore, if they ever existed at all. I maintain a pessimistic self-view in order to never disappoint myself, so that I may be surprised pleasantly when confronted with external reality. And by constantly being aware of my shortcomings, I force myself to work hard and, the truth is that in spite of my low opinion of my talents, I am not used to not achieving a modicum of success. Unfortunately, this means I sometimes take on endeavors which are beyond my abilities and when I am confronted with failure, with my inability to achieve what I attempted, then my negative opinion is confirmed. I question how I could ever have thought otherwise, how I could have been so foolish, why I even tried at all.

So what is real and what is false? How much of my internal vision of myself was crafted at a time when I was much less and much more than I am today? How do I integrate this view from the past which lives inside of me with the reality of the present that lives outside? How do I accept the things I cannot change and accept the times when I fail to fly?

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tag, I'm it!

Tagged by KnuKnitter.

Four jobs in your life:
1. Milk Slave (Julian's mom)
2. Office Slave (administrative assistant/office manager--did other people's jobs for them while they made twice as much as I did)
3. Coffee Slave (barista/lead clerk at Starbucks)
4. Theatre Slave (actor and company member in non-equity theatre companies)

Four movies you could watch over and over:
1. The Princess Bride
2. Blade Runner
3. The Lord of the Rings
4. The Matrix

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. The Daily Show/The Colbert Report
2. Project Runway
3. Sex and the City
4. Coupling (the British one. I watched only one episode of the shortlived American verson and, well, it was a sad thing.)

Four places you have lived:
1. Chicago, IL
2. Portland, OR
3. Cambridge, England
4. Paris, France (alright, lived is a stretch as I was never in Paris for more than 3 weeks at a time.)

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. India
2. Zanzibar
3. Oostberg, WI
4. Yellowstone National Park

Four websites you visit daily:
1. Nerve
2. Yahoo
3. Babycenter's Feeding Choices Debate Board
4. Ebay

Four of your favorite foods:
1. Indian Food (including the sweet lhassi and the masala tea)
2. Red wine, coffee, and chocolate
3. Cheese
4. Salad

Four places you'd rather be right now:
1. Getting a massage, followed by sitting in a steam shower at Urban Oasis
2. On the beach in Goa
3. Front row at a U2 concert
4. In a store, trying on the perfect black dress

Four favorite types of yarn:
1. Noro Kureyon
2. Henry's Attic Prime Alpaca
3. Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride
4. Fun Fur

Four bloggers I'm tagging:
1. Kitchener Bitch
2. The Little Octagon
3. The Musings of Milton
4. Jugi (I know, you don't knit, humor me.)

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Pattern Recognition


Having a child makes one reexamine one's own life and one's own traits. This is partially a result of watching the child develop, but it is also due to the people in your own life telling you stories about your past. This leads to strange revelations about one's self.

For example, while I knew that I began walking at around the 9-10 month mark, it didn't seem so significant until Julian began to walk at around 10 months. Suddenly I became aware not only of what gifts he may have inherited from me, but also that I may have been gifted in the first place. I never considered myself to be physically advanced or particularly active (my memories of childhood being ones spent reading and playing with Barbies by myself.) However, as I watch Julian, I am reminded of all the jumping off the speakers onto the bean bag that I used to do, how I couldn't watch television without doing cartwheels and trying to do the splits, how I always fidget. I always thought I was physically inept because I wasn't as flexible as I wanted to be and wasn't as talented as the other girls in gymnastics, but now I wonder if I was perhaps looking at the wrong things when I was assessing my physical skills.

Another thing my parents have mentioned is my puzzle solving ability. Apparently, I was able to put puzzles together at a very early age. While this surprises me when I see the difficulty level of the puzzles and how long it takes me to do them now, I do remember putting them together as a child. This just confirms something of which I have gradually become aware over the years: I am very good at seeing patterns. I seek to find patterns, even where none seemingly exist. I remember many years ago developing a crush on Michael Kinsley (this was before we all had Jon Stewart to swoon over) because he wrote a couple of articles which appealed to my pattern seeking sensibilities. (I can't find them online or else I would link you to them as they are quite lovely pieces of writing.) In William Gibson's book Pattern Recognition, the character Cayce Pollard has a serious allergic reaction to brand names and this allergy has made her a "cool hunter" (i.e. she is able to determine how big a hit a logo/company/trend will be based on the severity of her reaction to it.) Although I do not have such abilities, as I read the book I felt an affinity to her trying to find meaning and patterns in the seemingly random.

We had school today. At one point, Julian was working with these wooden pegs, standing them up in precut slots, and he arranged them in an order of sorts (red, yellow, blue, red, yellow, blue.) I said something like, "it's color coordinated." Martha, Julian's teacher, said "that's a big thing for you, color coordination." I said something about how clashing colors make my brain hurt. Which is perhaps overstating it a bit; clashing colors and things which could be organized by color/pattern, but are not annoy me and I find visual incongruity troubling, especially if it is subtle, but I am overstating it if I say I feel actually pain when confronted by such things. However, after I spoke, I began to wonder if this might be part of what has caused my love for the color black, which has resulted in my closet overflowing with black clothing. Perhaps I am attracted to black because, even when one's blacks don't match, black cannot clash with itself and it is very hard (though not impossible) for black to clash with another color. By embracing black in my wardrobe, I have limited the amount of visual dissonance in my world.

Of course, I may be overdramatizing things and trying to find an explanation where none is necessary (the problem with having a strong sense of pattern is that the brain attempts to find patterns where none exist.) Maybe I just like the color black.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Spam: Volume 1

I should be doing Pilates right now. Or if not Pilates, then I should be taking my first shower of the day (not to be confused with the shower I will take at the gym later, where I will wash and condition my hair.) But instead I am typing out messages to be launched out into cyberspace, like the gold records of Earth sounds on the Voyager ships. Sending the words out for public consumption without any idea who will encounter and consume them. Like the human race of the seventies, I am engaging in an act of faith, indulging myself in the belief that who I am and what I have to say is important enough to tell someone else and hope that they agree. It is a terribly self-absorbed and arrogant assumption, but such is the nature of life.

Spam mail is a similar act of faith, people sending out words in the hopes that they will be read and responded to, however the response that is wished for is money. I have been receiving very odd spam mail as of late. Mail which has succesfully navigated the various filters and made it into my inbox. Spam with odd subject titles like "Your Life" and "Your Girlfriend" and then turns out to be selling orgasm enhancers and penis enlargers (neither of which I need.) I must admit I am disappointed. I guess I just feel like they should be a little more clever with copy if they are going to lure me in with a subject line like "Your life." I mean, they could totally have me eating out of the palm of their hand if they said something like:

Your life is good. You have no complaints. You are the envy of everyone you know. But. You have a secret. We know you wanted more from life. We know that in spite of all your hard work, you feel unappreciated and unloved. We know you have received some hard knocks and sometimes wonder if you will ever recover from fate's evil blows. And we want to help. Product X can give you that extra boost to get a little higher, it can help you go that extra mile to get all that you deserve, it adds that little bit more you need to satisfy all your desires. Try Product X now and you won't be disappointed.

OK, maybe not eating out of their hands while opening up my wallet, but I would at least admire the effort.

A couple of years ago I received some very strange spam which was asking me to sign up for a dating service. I think. Here are the poems I arranged from them (or wrote, if you subscribe to the notion that using found text constitutes writing.)

*********************************************************
Get Paid to Give Opinions

You find pleasure wherever you look -- and maybe
In a few surprising places as well.
Clarity is a fleeting thing
You are in a very industrious and creative cycle that will bring you
Profits and satisfaction.
Your mind will be made up today.

Take care of your own personal stuff before you offer
Your hand to the people
Depending on you to do things for them.
Watch for the right opportunity.
Today is your day.
You will probably find someone
You are totally compatible with on all levels.
Your mind will be made up today.

A clever replica can fool most people -- it takes a trained eye to see
The fine details that may be lacking.
Something is probably going on behind your back.
You wonder why others make such elaborate plans
When life can be this easy.

Take steps to discard the old and embrace the new.
A bit of drama is kind of fun -- sometimes.
Today is your day.
You will probably find someone you are totally compatible with on all levels.
Go with your instincts.
Communication will return to normal soon enough.
Stay on top of your game.
Be careful and plan for the worst

*********************************************************
Meet Someone Real

Find Romance
Take it slow and you’ll have a better chance of winning approval.
Creativity is not just a process of invention
It can also be a mode of relaxation.

Today is your day.
You will probably find someone you are totally compatible with on all levels.
You find pleasure wherever you look -- and maybe in a few surprising places as well.

Who knew that romance could be so fun?
Buy flowers.
Write poetry.
Order dessert.
Watch the sun set.
Take long walks on the beach.
Think about the future.
You are more articulate now than ever before.
What you get now is what you wanted all along.

Something is probably going on behind your back.
Your energies are just mismatched these days.
Sounds great. But are you being realistic?
Bounce your ideas off another person.

You are more articulate now than ever before.
What you get now is what you wanted all along.
Quick thinking gets you out of a tough spot.
Prepare to fight hard for your position.

A clever replica can fool most people -- it takes a trained eye to see
Fine details that may be lacking.
Organize interesting activities to do with your best friends.