Friday, August 14, 2009

Kathryn's Quilts - Plano Quilt Guild Show

I am an incredibly fortunate man. When it's cold at night, I sleep under the quilts my wife has sewn.

She walks through fabric stores with her sighting lasers on high-res/high-gain, her hands verifying and sorting data her eyes have sent up. She sees and feels the way the different fabrics catch and hold the light or kiss it as it passes, whether it's cambric or calico or wool or velvet or . . . I have no notion (needlewoman's pun there) of the different ways she sees fabric.

But I do watch the way her expression focuses, the way her shoulders bear her rotary-cutter-armed hand directly to the cutting table. I watch as she aligns the different layers of colored stuff more precisely than thought beneath her blade. I watch the way her eyes match and measure the little stacks of milled and woven and spun geometry and tally up their numberings with a dragon-glitter glance at her hoarded cloths. Cotton plants and sheep and chemists and silkworm moths exist to provide this art-bringer her pallet media. (That was not a misspelling, incidentally.)

When a pattern calls for a quarter-inch seam allowance, it by-God gets a quarter-inch seam allowance . . . not three-sixteenths, not nine-thirty-seconds. And when she has sewn two squares together, or three, if it aligns to a different galactic standard than the one she subscribed to, she stitch-rips it out and begins anew. Patience, focus, drive . . . these words are water-thin stuff as descriptors.

I have watched the way this woman lays out her pattern on her sewing table, or the floor, the carpet, the bed, calculating the visual effect of shade, shadow, hue, and tint. I have watched her smile, frown, or laugh at a joke she shares with that God who taught mankind to weave, spin, and sew. I have watched her, hand ahip, march miles to circle her projects, to compare and contrast the effect of placing that square here instead of there, or, possibly rotating that square . . . no; that one; yes . . . 45-, 90-, or 180 degrees. Does the light nestle in the warp or ricochet off the weft? How does the shadow pool where the quilting piles up the batting?

I have listened to her closely reasoned affection, love, care, concern, excitement as she tells me why this fabric for that child, these colors for that couple, this background for that baby. I have ached with the agony in her voice as she shared her fear that a child wouldn't appreciate the effort this work - and friend, it is work - is costing. This transformed labor no longer delivers "just" the baby, it delivers her love with all its accumulated frustrations, misunderstandings, downright disapprovals, sighs, hugs, smiles, grins, and kisses.

Some of her quilts hang on our walls, and friends and clients walk in and out of our house and never even see them. They are, after all, placed where an interior designer would position a store-bought painting or print that she found for a really good price. The dollar value of these quilts is truly beyond measure . . . Churchill's "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" don't include the insight and reflection that goes into each one. Our house is swaddled in the mental and physical aura of the woman who is the center of it.

On cold nights we snuggle and giggle and laugh out loud under these quilts. We watch rented or paid-for videos on Heinlein's "goddam noisy box" (Stranger in a Strange Land) coccooned in color and texture, cushioned from the world outside in the form and substance of considered thought and expressed reflection. In the morning my hands emerge into window-blinded daylight tracing the fingerprints of quilted colored squares.
"O, wad some power the Giftie gie us" to see Kathryn's quilts as she must see them. One day, maybe I'll hire a professional photographer - probably a landscape photographer - to capture the qualities and bloodlines of these quilts. Till then you get this "Honey, stand over by your quilt under the indirect fluorescent lights with the official take-my-picture smile."

And on that someday, maybe Kathryn will tell you the tales of these different quilts. I would not presume to.
Till you can hold these quilts and watch the light dance. Till you can bunch them in your hands and breathe through them. Till they can warm the walls in your house or the toes in your bed . . .
I give you joy of them.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Masquerade


I'm always prompt, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes it just takes a little longer than others.

I finally figured out where the computer stashed the photos, and ain't we swell?

The first year's gathering is always the smallest, and this is sked to be an annual event.

Start planning now. I bought the pattern for my coat (a la Dorian Grey . . . just the coat) before the masque. The fabric is waiting for me in Oklahoma. They may not have shoes, but they have fabric for clothes. There's a humongous shop just this side of Pryor, OK, (Fabricut Factory Outlet), on the west side of the highway, opposite the railroad, same side as the airport. The link won't post, and it's NDG anyway. But the prices . . . it's worth the gas, and "your dollar goes farther" (about 270 miles, actually, from my house). It really is.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

True Summer Goals

By the calendar there are sixty-eight days between the last day of School Year 2008-2009 and the first day of School year 2009-2010. Every teacher I know compiles a list of things to get done while (s)he is free of bells, papers, and student conferences. Being mildly anal-retentive, I have put my list into a multi-page color-coded spreadsheet that runs to eighteen pages. The Completed Tasks pages are line-item color-coded yellow; projects that just aren't going to happen or that were overtaken by events are red. I have three pages dedicated to those completed items, two of them are double-columned. The third is holding space so I don't have to "Insert Column" nine hundred times. I still have several pages of unstarted (no-color) or in-progress (green) stuff to go.

The most responsibly significant page has three monthly calendar blocks day-by-day indicating that I have checked my bank balances online at least once that day. I balanced my checkbook to the penny for the first time in my life in June, and, at the urging of my oldest son (long may he wave) I have been faithful to that practice to date. Hellfire, I even check it when I get back from Home Depot for a light bulb or a can of paint . . . I enter the receipts on the interactive spreadsheet I built (another first) and I know - absolutely know - how much money I have available for living that day till the coming payday. I tell my kids I feel like King F. Kong.

But, being at heart a Teacher/Student, even a certified English Teacher, my favorite page this summer shows my progress to a totally irresponsible goal of --- no; not reading x number of books, but of watching at least one movie for each day of summer. This is undignified. The list below is alphabetical, not chronological - I did watch the Lord of the Rings sequentially. And Band of Brothers would have been senseless had it not been episodic. Multiple viewings are because I was looking for specific events or references or allusions or titles or characters - I am a student, after all. So, my list to date reads:

1. A Bridge Too Far
2. Armageddon
3. The Art of Dining - The Business Lunch -- "learn something" fascinating
5. The Art of Dining - The Formal Dinner X2 -- "learn something" absolutely fascinating
6. Band of Brothers - Curahee
7. Band of Brothers - Day of Days
8. Band of Brothers - Carentan
9. Band of Brothers - Replacements
10. Band of Brothers - Crossroads
11. Band of Brothers - Bastogne
12. Band of Brothers - Breaking Point
13. Band of Brothers - Last Patrol
14. Band of Brothers- Why We Fight
15. Band of Brothers - Points
16. Body Heat
17. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
18. Crossing The Distance -- "learn something" bummer
19. Curse of the Jade Scorpion
20. Deja Vu - Director Henry Jaglom, 1997
21. E.T.
22. The Eagle Has Landed
23. Earth -- turned out to be a "learn something" - another bummer
24. Educated Eye: How an Idea Becomes a Book -- "learn something" bummer
25. Enchanted April
26. Enemy of the State
27. Field of Dreams
28. The Firm
29. Harry Potter - The Halfblood Prince
30. The Horse Whisperer
31. Hot Fuzz
32. I Robot
33. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls
34. Julie and Julia X2
35. Jurassic Park
37. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen X2
38. Little Big Man
39. Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring
40. Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers
41. Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
42. M*A*S*H
44. Men in Black X2
45. Mickey Blue Eyes
46. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
48. Moonstruck
49. My Best Friend's Wedding
50. October Sky
51. Other People's Money
52. The Phantom
53. The Princess Bride
54. The Proposal
55. The Red Baron -- "learn something" -- not bat at all, really
56. Richard III
57. Romancing the Stone
58. Scent of a Woman
59. The Search for Alien Worlds -- "learn something" -- uh . . .
60. The Search for Bobby Fischer
61. Searching for Richard
62. Secondhand Lions
63. The Shadow
64. Shakespeare in Love
65. The Soloist
66. Spiritual Liberation -- "learn something" -- pretty good; well done
67. Star Trek - First Contact
68. Start Trek (2009) (fourth time, but first time this summer)
69. That Thing You Do
70. The Thomas Crowne Affair (Brosnan/Russo) (I also have McQueen/Dunaway)
71. Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle J. Swan
72. To the Edge of the Universe -- "learn something" -- arid
73. Tom Jones
74. Young Sherlock Holmes

I almost hate to have numbered the blessed things. When I put in Gettysburg and Dances With Wolves and Our Town it'll screw up my numbering badly -- I can't just add them to the bottom of the list . . . And I still have a week of freedom left for my cinematic sprint.

Sure; I've read at least a dozen books for sport: Steinbeck, O'Brian, Twain, Pratchett, but that's what I do. That's where I focus. Movies are a less intense focus unless they trigger other questions - and the best ones always do.

Anyway, I'll post photos of the finished floor painting and some other stuff. But I just had to do this right now.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I am really looking forward to tonight. We have always wanted to have a herd of people over. We just never have yet. This is a great excuse. So now we are. I really hope the different communities each of us lives in can cross-pollinate and get to be even more fun.

Scroll down three or four entires to see the major stuff. And then scroll down some more -- it keeps coming up.

How do you put your address out so your friends can see it, without broadcasting to the entire world? Email/call; I'll give you the address.

Jumanji, you guys!


Saturday, July 11, 2009

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

I love a good movie

I love a good book even more

Now, you have to realize that I am one of the luckiest on the face of Planet Earth. I have taught English Literature to Ninth Graders. No; I did not find this assignment in Dante's Fifth Circle, though some do. I love sharing well-told tales with everybody, and I get inordinate pleasure seeing and sharing the clever ways a story is whittled out and glued together.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was originally a comic book. Whoops! 'Scuse me . . . a graphic novel. "Crap." I despise political correctness as gelding the language. I haven't read comic books probably since sixth or seventh grade. And, simultaneously, I don't really care how "classic" a book is if it doesn't interest me. Period.

So . . . The League . . . I turned up my educated nose at it the first time the kids brought it home from Blockbuster. Then I was at home, bored out of my gourd, so I slotted it. . .

Oh, what a hoot! What a joy of synthesis, connecting all the different writers of the Belle Epoque" into a Harry Turtledove-ian stage-setting for World War One.

Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Ishmael, Dracula (Mina Harker), Dorian Grey, Tom Sawyer. How much fun could you really have in a classroom with this? I can see Principals covering their ears and running for the doors. "Bless their hearts!"

I keep toying with setting up Captain Ahab's (Ahab's his first name; we don't know his family name) having a son (we know he has a child) named John. That's a typical enough name for that time. If Ahab's last name were Dunbar then we could have an interesting progression from east coast whaling to Great Plains buffalo hunting . . . well, the mind can ramble.

Please come to this masquerade. The masque is not mandatory; it just makes things more fun. Bring snicker-snacks or dessert or something munchable for four other people. RSVP on Facebook.

Y'all come.



In my stepdad's house we had three cocker spaniels - PeeWee, Smoky, and Dutchess. They were fabulous, personable, thoroughly loveable dogs. I had to mix a pound of dry Purina dog chow with one can of canned dogfood-of-the-week in the Kitchen-Aid in the closet/tool storage in the garage. That was ok. Then I had to scoop up the result of that food preparation the next day from the back yard. That wasn't all that much fun.

When I moved out I set up my own household, with cats. Cats are ever so much more fastidious than dogs. But I never had a dog climb a three story brick apartment wall to get at a bitch in heat. They were cute kittens, though. And I still had to seive through the kitty-litter with that slotted aluminum spoon to clean things back up.

For the last more-than-a-dozen years I have taken the Indian names Whistles-With-Birds or Dances-With-Cockatiels, depending on where I am at the time. This is because I really enjoy talking with "my" cockatiel. One owns a bird about as much as one owns a child or a even a spouse. Our flock talks about all manner of things with whistles, clucks, chick-chicks, rhythmic hammerings on horizontal surfaces, because all of those are more dignified than baby-talking to a stupid bird.

Cocker Spaniels are delightful to roll up in a ball with and scratch their bellies and backs and behind their ears. It is hysterical to watch them dip their ears and jowls in the water bowl and inundate the linoleum like a bosun's mate with a swab. Cats are exquisitely, graceful in their focused curiousity and studied movement, cleaning their whiskers (don't you love the word "vibrissae"?). But a cockatiel is . . . well, a cockatiel is just flat smooth different.

Naming a bird, "fer chrissakes", is difficult. But daughter Jennifer pointed out that a cockatiel is a 'small Australian parrot,' right? So let's call him "Cockatiel Dundee." We did, and we pronounced it "Dundy." Crushed by her dying eggbound, we laugh today remembering her antics. Did you know, for instance, that a cockatiel, having landed in a pan of uncooked brownie batter, cannot generate enough lift to flap herself out? I had to scoop her up with two fingers under her keel, whereupon she flew to the safety of the kitchen cabinet tops. When we moved from that house the inverted bird trackes in brownie batter were still up there. They might be to this day. Or were you aware that a bird keeps a layer of very fine dust (sort of like the sublime Gold Bond Powder) in her feathers to keep her dry. We learned that when Dundee tried to fly to freedom through the fixed glass beside the fireplace at our last house. We never washed that window, either, because we wanted to preserve the perfect dusted-on image of a cockatiel in full flight. I'm laughting through tears as I write this.

The present landlord who sublets to our family is named "Sir Galahad" because he was given us at Four Winds Renaissance Faire. I had not realized you can here this bird's call across a four- or five-acre field. He goes by the less formal "Galahad," or most often, just "Bird." This creature talks more than my ninth grade student girls. Yes, friends and neighbors, that's a lot. And he expects you to answer him, bigod! So we do. The whole family. When you come in the door, he bellows - whistles a Falstaffian "Hello!" very emphatically. Well, shoot fire and save the matches, we all reply with the same emphasis. Or he'll thrust out his breast at the dressing mirror, and do his Schwartznegger "guns" impression and sing what we beak-challenged members of the flock call "woogewoop". That's pronounced "woogewoop," incidentally. Or he will sing "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean." Now, you have to understand that scientists say a cockatiel has the intellect of a two-year-old child. That's about how he sings it. But Kate Smith couldn't do better. And it's a solo number, too. He does not appreciate interruptions . . . remember the way your fourth-grade teacher snapped on a bad day? Same thing (in whistle).

The hardest dance we share with this bird is his whistle-rap. He will perch on the kitchen curtain rod, lean waaay over, call once - sharply - and bang with his beak like a five to seven round burst from an M-16 on the wooden becket that holds the rod from the wall. Everybody (that's everybody) in the kitchen replies with one short twoot and a stacatto rapping on whatever surface is closest. It's difficult to bake when you're rapping in the flour. It's difficult to twoot with a mouthful of hashbrowns . . . But this is serious communication, serious quality time, with a fellow-member of this flock, and we all reply. Galahad has a way of fixing you with one birdy beady eye to see if you have any manners at all. He also does this atop a computer monitor, from the towel rack in the bathroom, and in the bedroom on the wall closest the street. Twoot-rap sessions have been know to last five minutes and more. They can be as brief as a first kiss.

It's necessary.

And we talk back.

Galahad is a free-range cocktiel. Have you ever seen one of these beings fly? I mean really fly, not flutter around in a cage. He has full run . . . flight . . . of our story-and-a-half house. It was a little rough at first while he was figuring out the ceiling fans - a whack upside the head tended to knock him right straight out of the air, and those whacks leave marks in the form of discolored feathers where the skin grows back in. But now he avoids those. The first time I saw him really fly was at an adult Scout Leader training. I had slipped off his leash (yeah; he's got a leash; red nylon) and we were walking around inside this acre of dining hall when he leapt from my shoulder like a Stinger missile at an adversary helicopter. Four or five of us just pivoted on our heels as this little gray and orange rocket whipped around the room. It was breathtaking to watch. By that time a wild bird would be out of sight or behind some trees, but Galahad was confined by the four walls. He made four laps in less time than it takes to tell, then he went for the night-black glass "exit" and left the air with a flat thud and a flutter behind some folding chairs. We-ho-have-no-wings rushed to his rescue. He had whanged himself pretty good, and, stunned, he did not resist the leash to take him home to the tent for the rest of the night.

I have stood at the top of the stairs and watched him fly to my finger. I say that; actually he ignores my finger lands atop my shining dome; then I put my finger up under him and he steps up to that. I have stood at that same step and watched his back as his wings and tail flare for a landing on the back of his favorite chair. God in His Heaven; but that is a beautiful thing to see. I have watched him stretch his left wing then his right, the flights separating, then the secondaries . . . This silly little bird, who lives in my house, is a marvel of rare beauty and delight.

He's also a sassy little twit . . . whacking whoever is in his way going through a door. Getting smacked by a bird's wing in flight is startling. And you do laugh at the improbability of it all.

But the deeper issue is that of diversity. Planetary diversity. I really don't care what color anybody wears on their skin. It's all melanin ratios anyway. But I have found myself aware of cardinals and robins and jays. Of waxwings and orioles and doves. And I find myself silenced by the youngest mockingbird. I try to talk back to them, to respond to their overtures. And then I feel foolish. And then I feel . . . aware on a deeper, richer level. And I grin at myself, and I keep tweeting and twooting .

And when I get back in the house, Bird and I have a conversation, and I tell him about my day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I love noodling in the kitchen


Since school got out, I have baked at least two loaves of bread each week. There is nothing finer from the kitchen than fresh-baked bread with molten butter soaking in --- just barely staying ahead of your teeth. Now, confession time: though I absolutely enjoy rolling and kneading the dough, I have been using a bread machine for the last couple of months. There is a line between therapy and production. Right now, I am enjoying production. And I have recipes that I would never trust to a bread machine.

Now I do noodle around with the recipes, and I am working out a really delightful anadama recipe (don't you love the story of this recipe?). And braided loaves you just can't even consider doing mechanically.

Austin has moved to Arizona to be with his main squeeze. His mother wishes he would write more. Thus was it ever so . . . but at least we baked him some cookies to send up. Then, since we couldn't find safe packaging - well, you really don't want oatmeal cookies going stale - we ate them ourselves. Of course, we had to tell him that sad tale. Just to put a knot in his tail. But now we have found the packaging. So I'm working on a new batch of cookies - oatmeal again.

The microwave oven died three, four months ago. I can't say we've missed it. When Jenny comes over, she sighs at us and rolls her eyes because she can't heat up whatever she bought to munch on the way over. But now I really make grilled cheese sandwiches, not melted; and I appreciate a cold soup - or I take the time to heat it on the stove. And I brew a couple of quarts of tea, sweeten it all, and chill it in the refrigerator instead of firing up a cup in the microwave.

Convenience is a good thing, but how good is it, really?

Today, on a medium-sized roll, I put cornmeal bread in the bread machine (I know . . . that's not really baking), popped out a double batch of oatmeal cookies (eight score), brewed up two quarts of tea, made - and ate half - a pea salad, snarfed a tin of Portuguese sardines (skinless, boneless, in olive oil . . . heavens; they're tasty - even without crackers -!), and finished reading a chapter in my book before I trooped into the living room to complete my epic painting where a wiser man would have put crown molding.

I'm thinking of frying up some catfish later tonight. With hashbrowns and more hotsauce. Tomorrow is starting to feel like chicken livers with McIlhenny's sauce, black eyed peas, and more cold tea. Life is pretty good in the summertime.

Monday, June 15, 2009

LEAGUE - Masquerade Discussions

The character you come as should be fictional. Historicals are fun, of course, but fictionals allow more latitude . . . that's Spanish (or French) for "attitude."

Poetic licenses are issued en bloc for the ladies. Not everyone wants to be Mrs. Harker. Lord Greystoke's lady's wardrobe leaves all manner of "latitude."

Has anybody else read Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund? More latitude. The opening line is "Ahab was not my first husband, nor was he my last." Oh, dear me. And to keep going in that vein, need Ishmael have been a single man?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

League Candidates


How about Messrs Nicholl, Barbicane, and Ardan?


Friday, June 12, 2009



OK; I cannot not do this.

---------- MASQUERADE AND WHATEVER --------------

Friday night, 17 July, 7 PM till Midnight. Since some of my students access this blog and my FB, this gathering is for high school graduates only.


You must dress the part of a character from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Oh, you must dress the part. Of a member or conceivable member, of the League. Drac is not a member. Jack is not a member. Wilhelmina Murray is a member, though; isn't she.

If you do at least some of your homework for this one, it will make it that much more fun for everybody that shows up. For instance, I haven't read subject book yet, though I have seen the video three times. And I have caught direct or indirect connections to the works of Haggard, Stoker, Stevenson, Wells, Verne, Doyle, Fleming, Twain, Wilde, Melville, and Leroux. What did I miss? I know there's more.

Lick up the history . . . the Belle Epoque, European colonialism in Africa and Asia, the incredible mechanization of warfare, Jack the Ripper's spree in London's East End . . . and what did the posters on the warehouse walls advertise in the movie? Did anybody catch those? Those have to be good.

And who is not there you ask? Hmmm? Lord Greystone? Holmes or Watson? The original Phantom? Rudolf Rassendyll? Rupert of Hentzau? Where are Hector Servadac and Professor Aronnax? Carruthers and Davies? Professor(s) Lidenbrock/Hardwigg and his(?) nephew Alex? Where is Tom Swift? Richard Hannay? Captain Dan Reid?

The directions this thing links make me salivate. O! Be still my trembling heart! Victorian steampunk, tophats, swirling gowns, capes, uniforms . . . oh! oh!

Bring food; we're not as good with the loaves as Elisha, and I prefer sardines, personally.
Ours is a dry house; therefore BYOB. We will have ice and tea and Dr. Pepper. (This is not Kansas, Dorothy.)

Juried (paper ballots) will determine award of silly-assed prizes for the best/most appropriate costume. Ditto for the most obscure potential member of the League. You must bring documentation of your bona fides for membership in this category.

Details will unfold here as they are figured out.