Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Emergency procedures

I’m a bit of a nervous nellie, you might say, so when there was a knock on my studio door yesterday and a suit-clad man announced that he was there to serve notice, the rushing roar in my head drowned out what he was intending to serve notice about. I’d thought that my paranoia was quelling, now that the studio is this far from being set up (you’ll have to imagine that I’m holding my thumb and forefinger very close together right now.) Andrew had a fantastically reassuring suggestion that the building is, in fact owned by the 5th floor occupants, whose rooms are filled floor to ceiling with shoeboxes. Why would they sell the building when they have all those out-of-date shoes to store? After my anticipatory shock, it took a while for me to digest the contents of the A4 sheet he handed me.

Notice of Emergency Procedure Training Programme
To: All Fire Wardens and Management
Re: Fire Warden Training
The venue has been booked – Vacant Area on Level 9
Warden training will include the following subjects:
Types of emergencies
Duties and responsibilities of Wardens
Evacuation procedure and building familiarisation
Future Training for Wardens
An evacuation exercise is tentatively scheduled for your building in approximately four months. A review of procedures and training in fire fighting and bomb threat procedure strategy is tentatively scheduled in approximately eight months.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to get this, when I finally understood what is was about. Something about the thought of a volunteer army of fire- & bomb-fighting wardens made up from the motley crew of artists, jewellers and button sellers in the building thrilled me. Also, the venue “vacant area on level 9” is the roof. Instantaneously, my first image was of this strange bunch in hand-me-down uniforms and helmets, up on the roof, marching in formation. And badges: of course, we’d all need red enamel badges with FIRE WARDEN lettered in gold. Afterwards, we’d have cucumber sandwiches and play a round of croquet.

It was a crushing blow to realise that
1. I won’t be able to make the session and
2. I’m not a designated warden.
But I feel so much safer in the knowledge that were we required to defend the building against marauding developers we’d have the infrastructure in place to launch a coordinated attack.


I’m suffering through a particularly personal type of emergency right now (broken heart) that makes me feel that I should wind this site up and concentrate my energies elsewhere. I was reading back through some of my old posts today, and am conscious that I’m unable right now to muster the kind of mental energy required to maintain the levity I like to bring to this place. But then I remembered some cupcake photos I want to show, and the fact I’ll be laid up for a week in a little while, recovering from a minor, albeit inconvenient, surgery. I’ve already overbooked that week with a full photo archive overhaul, total in-box annihilation and the overcoming of a bad case of second sock syndrome. But I feel certain I’ll be compelled to share some of my post-anaesthesia ramblings, so maybe something post-able can be salvaged from all that. But maybe not. It’s not that I imagine you’re eagerly awaiting updates, but I know I’ve felt a little bereft when people I’ve read disappear suddenly. It’s not that I don’t care: just that I can’t care right now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Purple Stripes

Lots of you are mothers. This is something I’ve been mulling over for a while, planning one of my pseudo-anthropological posts. I’m 35, and one of the ways I torture myself is to try to work out my own feelings about childbearing and parenting, wondering if that really is my biological clock I hear ticking, or just the din of everyone else’s clocks around me. It’s all theoretical really: the facts of my life don’t add up to reproduction, but I can’t deny that I always imagined a child (usually one) and that this expectation demands examination, now that I’m getting long in the tooth.

But I won’t do this here, at least, not now. Instead, I want to promote the work of my friend Kate, one of my favourite mothers, who doesn’t make parenting look easy, but makes good parenting look valuable and important and rare. And she does this with grace and rock chick flair.

The Purple Stripes are Kate Oliver and Evelyn Morris. You can hear three of their tracks on their MySpace page, and look through their impressive list of influences. They played a sell-out show at the Horse Bazaar on the Queen's Birthday public holiday (Isaac: Kids go to bars these days?) and were profiled in The Age the Sunday before last. I find myself waking at night humming their songs. I play their EP in the car, even without children to entertain. I remember overhearing Kate’s almost three-year old son Joel at a Purple Stripes gig, requesting a specific Belle & Sebastian track from the DJ, and think how cool it must be to be a superstar in a child’s eyes.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Rush your order today

What keeps the water in the loop? Amaze and mystify your friends with this sensational new “mystery” fish-bowl molded from clear durable plastic with a scientific tube loop. Fill it with approximately ½ gallon of water as per our secret instructions, then insert two or three of your pet goldfish. You’ll watch them for hours and hours as they frisk and frolic through the loop. The perfect compliment to any room.

Send no money (of course!) to Novelty Mart, 59 East 8th Street, NY 3, NY. I hope against hope that Novelty Mart is still on 8th Street? Perhaps it’s a shoe store? Or have all the 8th Street shoe stores disappeared, taken over by Krispy Kreme and CVS outlets?

This wonderful ad is from the same issue of The Workbasket that I was talking about the other day. It’s out of place really, more suited to Boy’s Life, or MAD magazine, I think. But then again, I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t have paid my $2.98, C.O.D. I’m not sure you can see in the scan above, but in the inset drawing in the top right corner, there’s a Mystery Fish-bowl [sic] on the coffee table, and two that seem to be mounted to the wall above the couch. Now that’s a conversation starter!

I can’t tell you how much I love these old ads. And it’s not just the vintage ones that capture my imagination. I love reading through the ads in foreign magazines just as much. There’s something all that more enticing when the object is out of reach, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you love to call up and order an Aga that you saw advertised in the back pages of the UK edition of Country Style?

When I was a teenager, I horded my few copies of Seventeen magazine jealously, poring over every word and image. American teenagers, with their perms and driving permits and weight-loss camps, seemed so sophisticated and shiny to me, stuck as I was in my grey gabardine school uniform, catching the bus, listening to nuns lecture about the Rhythm Method. Stuffed somewhere the bathroom cupboard at my parents’ place is a set of plastic twisty things I convinced our American neighbours to acquire for me on one of their trips home to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The ad guaranteed natural, flowing curls. My hair remained straight. The free make-up set that arrived one day saw me break out in allergic reaction. But I still love to hope, imagining the promise in a magic fishbowl or a piece of plastic that will give me the curls I’ve always wanted.

Toward this end, I signed up for Cotton Strudel’s MagSwap. It's just my speed at the moment, choosing a magazine for a partner and sending it off. Despite this, I admit I was a couple of days late getting mine in the mail. Just a couple of days (sorry Emily!). I tried to use powers of psychological deduction to choose something suitable for my blog-less partner, and hope I hit the target, if not the bullseye.


I feel I have a lot of catching up to do over here. I haven’t shown you the studio recently, have I? Or told you about my last-minute trip to Brisbane? Like Erin, I want to move to Queensland, but only for the winter. Coincidentally, I met two Clevelanders in Brisbane who had just arrived in Australia for an extended work-related stay. They could not believe the weather, and were exclaiming in wide-eyed, shock-like states how much they loved it, how they couldn’t believe such a place existed…. It was all I could do to prevent myself wailing Cassandra-like, “But the summer! Beware the summer!” I would like to tell you that I made my way to Atomic Boom on the advice of an Austin, Texas craft blogger extraordinaire. But I can’t: I tried, but didn’t make it. Next time.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A little bit preachy, a little bit academic (sorry!)

Just in case you didn't see it last weekend in the NY Times Sunday Magazine: a piece about the DIY/crafting movement.

Walker's question as to whether the craft phenomenon is driven by ethics or aesthetics is a good one, I think, and one that many craft bloggers address in their writings. Neither of these intentions explains however the sheer satisfaction many people get from making things, including a not-always-noble narcissistic pleasure in one's own capabilities. I don't think this narcissism is a bad thing: I just don't think either ethics or aesthetics can completely explain the drive required to enter the Knitting Olympics.

The other thing that Walker missed, I think, is the power of the group. In profiling Heidi Kenney, Walker writes of the importance of My Paper Crane in promoting her work and creating a market for it, however, I'd guess that the bulk of the community making up this "craft movement" have no intention of selling or marketing their work. They are inspired and motivated simply by their virtual (and real) connections with others. I often read blogs where the writer talks about how productive they've become since stumbling into this online world. Certainly, I had no idea that other people were able to knit (and seam!) a whole garment in under a year until I found fluffa.

And, like most "movements", none of this is new. Women have always been entrepreneurial, and have always made things both out of necessity and for pleasure. Some people have always sought to subvert pressure to consume in prescribed ways. The real difference with DIYism today is the internet, I think. Which is probably the biggest, and arguably the best, craft project of all.