Sunday, September 26, 2010

Paul Auster is, in my humble opinion, a smeghead.

I like to read
I know, right? I make these promises like "in the next post we will hear more about bicycles", and then totally don't follow up. I may not know exactly what kind of shopper I am, but I know what kind of blogger I am: erratic, that's what. So, instead of telling you whatever I promised to do, I'm instead gonna write to you about books I consider classics.
Hippie nerds read Nathaniel Bellows
Now, I'm quite the iconoclast when it comes to revered pieces of literature, and profess an intense dislike for some books considered classics in the Western Canon (you know what I'm talking about Paul Auster, Don Delillo and oh yeah, Mr. Fitzgerald, I am not a big fan of The Great Gatsby), but there are still places where my own personal canon intersects with the with literati approved lists of works.
The Literary Life
This list is by no means exhaustive.
1. The Definitive 1800s American: Henry David Thoreau. Walking, Civil Disobedience, and Walden scarcely need my approval.
(Bubbling under: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson.) (More in the mainstream: Herman Melville)

2. The Early 1900s visionary:
Jack London. From The Call Of The Wild, to Burning Daylight, his short stories and The Iron Heel, London has a place in my heart that could not be occupied by any other author (the place being Alaska). His observations of West's rugged individuals, his early science fiction dystopia, his prolific output, more than make up for the occasional unevenness of London's prose, and the breadth of his story-telling talent is unrivaled in American fiction of the era.
(Bubbling under: B. Traven, a shockingly similar author in many respects from prospecting tales, to the socialism.)

The iconoclast of the 20s and 30s:
Virginia Woolf. Though Woolf has been enjoying the limelight in the past decade, mostly thanks to exposure from the re-imagining author Michael Cunningham (a contemporary someone who's works leave me stone-cold) in form of the book and its adaptation The Hours,many Woolf neophytes have scarcely poured over Woolf's fiction beyond Mrs Dalloway, the book who's content Cunningham merges with his own. While in someways seeming almost like a product of the earlier era than the roaring 20s, Woolf was a truly modern writer, who experimented with form, narrative, and even the sexual politics of the far more rigid moral code of the time.
(A more mainstream alternative: F. Scott Fizgerald.)
3.The golden era of American literature, 1930s-through 1950s and even the 1960s before the counter-cultural revolution in the world of..well everything, but also books.
Where do I begin? This is an unlikely mix, that will be highly unsatisfying for the purists, as it contains many a contradiction and odd turn.

Truman Capote. Never lived a finer short story writer than Mr. Capote. While many a novelist could claim to be more serious, intellectual, sophisticated, none could combine the beautiful wording, eloquence, emotional understanding and originality, not to mention flair, of our Truman.

Though he may now be remembered now for his flamboyance, his socialite behavior, the later works that did not quite add up (oh Answered Prayers why are you so awful?!) and his collaboration with a certain Andrew Warhola, I have faith that history will vindicate Truman Capote as the genius he was.

Let us not forget the talented Ms. McCullers, a frenemy of Truman's and a woman of extraordinary narrative powers and also a master of the short fiction as well as long. Carson McCullers' novels and tales from the South resonate with heart-wrenching authenticity and dare I say...balls. She is a literary friend worth making.

But that's not all, folks. Now I shall spin 180' degrees and declare a certain beat, a treasure of this era and far beyond. His finest works may have lain ahead of him still, but by 1960 young Gary Snyder had already written the poems that set his life's course. He remains one of the finest writers of our time, and so spans the decades from mid-20th century to this day.

The beats may have single-handedly began the counter culture we now identify as just plain culture, but they did so within the confines of their time. They were the predecessors of our modern consciousness.

(More in the mainstream: oddly and sadly Jack Kerouac.)

This choice conveniently carries us over to our next stop; the revolutionary years.
4. The 60s and 70s. Instead some of the usual suspects, I shall present you with Richard Brautigan, a deprived, beautiful mind. I only truly wish the The Abortion: A Historical Romance 1966 had been published in Finnish when I was in high school. Especially, since around that time I wrote my first film, about a magical bookstore.

(Also check out the original book covers. They rock, roll and tumble!)

Ms. Joan Didion may not need an introduction and may already be part of the mainstream canon, but she is so mesmerizing that we shall not hold this against her. If you have not read Slouching Towards Bethlehem yet, get away from your computer now and head to the public library. Please.
Poem Of The Day
Now we enter the modern era, this end of times, our time, this moment.
5. 1979-right now (consequently the author's era of existence on Spaceship Earth).
So much is difficult to see without the 20-20 vision of hindsight. Will Jonathan Saffran Foier become a great American Novelist, or just a guy with a bit of a fetish for accents? Can anyone really tell Paul Auster's novels apart? Does David Mitchell actually have a singular voice as an author? And is Haruki Murakami going to stop giving me a headache?

Regardless, there are some author's who's future greatness obscurity I am certain of (obscurity often, sadly implies a special beauty).
I've already clued you into Melanie Rae Thon, as a kind soft spoken, hard-hitting Annie Proulx, who's off-beat worlds are hard to leave once you've entered them.

Speaking of Annie Proulx and off-topic, while I am certain that Ms. Proulx will be canonized very shortly, I would like to add her to my own personal selection, as she is the author of multiple heart-breaking works of a staggering genius. The Shipping News is a modern classic. And don't even get me started on how I loved Brokeback Mountain long before ANYONE had ever heard of it. And had to put up with people raising their eyebrows when I ranted about it. It's so pathetically self-absorbed.

In the same breath I will add that while I, uncharacteristically, am not a huge fan of Housekeeping, I would fight to death for her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead, and thus firmly place Marylynne Robinson in my selection.

I have a whole post somewhere about John Sayles, not just the filmmaker who changed my life the way Oprah changed James Frey's (i.e. making me see the harsh light of day), but the author of many works so accomplished they make most modern American authors look like navel-gazing masturbators.

Tove Jansson. Enough said.

While she has only written two novels, I am going to venture into the world with the wild hope that she will continue in the stellar path of her second and name Nicole Krauss as a great author of our era. History may prove me wrong, but my heart remains pure and strong.

In the same thought pattern, I'd like to salute a future Nobel Laureate, and someone amazing who will not sink to obscurity: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An author who's greatness I have come to admit only grudgingly (I read a very unpleasant essay by her in Bust magazine about five years ago, and held that against her for a long time.) she won me over with her no-holds-barred narrative style, that combines a flowing plot with beautiful internalization of characters. She is a joy to read.

(A slightly more mainstream choice: Siri Hustvedt)

These are my personal selections and just a fraction of those. They are mostly American, but so is increasingly our culture, and since I like to read authors in the original, English-speaking authors comprise much of my reading material. I will take recommendations for great authors all over the world. Just don't say Gabriel Garcia Marquez, please.

Actually I'd love just any old recommendations, arguments, rants and other ideas from ya'll.

Okay, after all this high-brow mumbojumbo I gots to go and watch Red Dwarf. I am a nerd and a dweeb.

(Ps. Maybe some of these great authors could teach me how not to write an increasingly convoluted sentence.)

Edit: Way to remember a name of a favorite book wrong. Thanks Keeper Of The Ash Trees.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spokes Person.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments on the "ever expanding wardrobe and the story of MY stuff"-post. I'd like to add a short (promise!) addendum to it, saying that I may have not fully considered all sides of the issue. Like my dear, older, wiser, long-distance sister Missa pointed out: there are things much beyond materia that we can gain from thrifting. How could I discount the creative outlet thrifting, this blog, swapping, simply wearing my finds provides, or the thrill of the hunt, a pleasure fairly innocuous compared to many that one could engage in. Thank you very much for this beautiful, if enabling, perspective.
I'm actually off to thrift some more and then see Elephant Revival at the Hall! Woo-hoo! I just wanted to stop by and share an outfit from yesterday, the difficulty of full outfit shots while balancing on a piece of pipe, and my new bag, the crowning jewell of my tote-collection.
Off Kilter
For Folks
Ah-mazing, right!
Spokes Person
More bike-relate business in our next edition. Hugs and spokes and pedals!

Friday, September 10, 2010

How soon is now?

And how much is enough?

DISCLAIMER: this loooong-ass post contains endless musings on consumption. If you do not care feel free to skim over and look at the pretty pictures.

The ever insightful Waves recently wrote her miniature memoirs on the shopping habits of others, gleaned from her experiences in the world of clothing retail. Now, if you're at all interested in cerebral musings on woman nature, do check out her blog.
I love her blog and this particular post piqued my interest. In fact, as Carrie C*******ing Bradshaw likes to say: "I began to wonder; What kind of a shopper am I?"

For many of us the question may seem a little bit redundant in comparison to the turbo-charged shopping habits of many a Swedish-chain-clad fashion blogger.

For me at least, it's been a good three years since my last real purchase from a real clothing store. Most of my things are thrifted, free-cycled, hand-me-downs, or swapped. I spend less than a dollar a day on clothing each year, including outerwear, fancy dresses, socks and even delicates.

Like I've said before, I've been a thrift shopper all my life, but part of my coming onto my own was definitely marked by buying new, a sort of a hippy-kid-coming-of-age-ritual. I never really got out of the habit of thrifting though, and after the initial adjustment, store shopping was pretty easy to give up. The world of thrift offered more options, a more unique style, which is something I've always been drawn to, as well as good quality favorites that lasted for many more moons than the store bought rags. In fact, I consider myself lucky to have such a cheap, versatile and high-quality wardrobe. And yet.
And yet I keep adding to my already sizable collection. Pieces like this "new" 70s denim dress appear in the closet weekly. Like Waves has previously written, I too have pondered whether thrift shopping makes you more susceptible to buy things, not less. With most things in thriftstores and fleamarkets being both cheap and one of a kind, it's easy to fall prey to getting things one does not need, but wants.

The difference between needing and wanting is not always easy for us modern humans to distinguish. We need things to make life easier for us, to make us beautiful, to deliver us from the grind that many of our lives have become.

We need things to deliver us from the oblivion of not knowing who we are. Things we own, define us. And as one fictional anarchist philosopher, with rather sculpted abs, once pointed out; things we own end up owning us.

Simple living, or the counterculture life-style, or whatever you want to call it, is often no exception to this rule. More often than not you buy the basket, the teepee, yogapants, because they're convenient and suit what you're trying to do (carry things, live in a teepee, go to yoga), which is why its called a life-style. Cooking in dutch oven is convenient when you have an open fire, and oil lamps are a handy equivalent to flash lights. Regardless of convenience, and their re-use, recycle and even reduce habits, often times the values of conservative consumers (conservative in the sense that they do not like to consume), are still aesthetic, as well as purely practical.

No matter what you do, you're buying a life-style, unless of course you're not buying a thing. People like that actually exist in our first world, folks so removed from consumerism that they transcend life-style. This, of course is in itself a life-style, but one to which it is impossible to sell anything. The rest of us, no matter how low-impact, or alternative we try to be, are firmly place in the word of things. Owning them, lusting after them, consuming them.

This, for our family as well as others, extends far beyond the realm of clothing. Living in the country where goods are not as easy to get, and where at the same time there's an abundance of free materials in the form of discards, bartering and simply there having always been bit of a hoarding mentality, we all house quite a bit of could-come-in-handy someday.

Add to this that we are not wealthy by any means, and the relative abundance of space living in the country affords, and suddenly having a mount of scrap iron in your back yard, perhaps in the form of an old roto-tiller becomes (in the immortal words of our friend Christopher) "a resource pile".

Now, nothing wrong with that. It's called being thrifty. It's just that the turn side of it, at least for us, has been that we have become slight hoarders. We own 6 ocean-going vessels. I have 35 tea mugs, 3 clothes racks, more books than even I could read in five straight years, 5 tea pots hubby has 12 hats, it goes on and on...
See you back there
To bring this back to clothes; I have never been nor aspired to be (except in the occasional nothing-to-wear-fit) a minimalist, leaning instead towards complicated outfits and multiple pattern-mixing. I wouldn't much care (or dare) to participate in the 6 Pieces A Month-Challenge, and have never understood why a person would pay any kind of money for black clothing. I love all the pieces of clothing I own, and try to cull the less loved ones frequently with the Dump and swaps.

The thing is though, that a girl only really "needs" one Gunne Sax dress, a single pair of beat-up leather shoes, no more than a few pairs of jeans, and certainly less than 39 floral dresses. Clearly I have issues separating a clothes "want" from "need". When it comes to my wardrobe (as well as my bookshelf) I, apparently, am a glutton (if The Fancy Fruit Company hadn't invented iplaymusicinamachine I would also be sporting a teetering record tower in the corner of the bedroom).

Perhaps I ought to put myself on The Great American Apparel Diet, just as Waves and countless other amazing women have. Why am I hesitant to do this? According to the rules I could probably still shop at the Dump. Because I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it. This of course indicates I have a problem, which brings us back to the original point of this whole meandering post: what kind of a shopper am I?
I certainly don't fit squarely in any of the groups that Waves mentioned, though I am occasionally a mood shopper in the sense that I enjoy it, and sometimes, sadly a therapy shopper, who tries to belay her own insecurities with clothes. Thankfully those days are pretty much far behind. In actual reality I think I would call myself an opportunity shopper, and a collector shopper.

I buy things mostly if something I've been lusting after appears, or if I see something so good it's impossible to pass it up (like a perfect 70s denim jumper), and naturally this leads me to buy a lot of things I don't necessarily need. I'll definitely pick stuff up just to pass it on, because if it's good and the price is right, and I know I can find someone to gift it to. Which brings me to the collector shopping. For years before I truly defined my style, I would buy things I had absolutely no idea how to wear, but loved them anyway. That is how I bought my first prairie dress, at a time when it was a ludicrous notion that anyone would wear one outside of a costume party and it turned out to be a wonderful decision.
This is how I ended up with so many odd pieces that I love, but rarely wear (and with no less than 16 prairie dresses). They bring me joy. I guess I like to think of them as an ill-organized butterfly collection, or the perfect pencil set that rarely comes out of the box. And let's be honest: when that 17th prairie dress comes along, I'm probably going to buy it, given that it doesn't cost more than 10 bucks.
70s kid square dance party
Now if you made it this far in the post, you might as well tell me about your conspicuous consumption.

Monday, September 6, 2010

That 1870s Girl!

I know you can't exactly necessarily tell from my recent posts, but lately I've been craving some rather odd colors.

Blame it on the fall, or something, but in addition to the denim, preferably in chambray, and creamy lace, that's been bugging my brain in all shades, I've also started thinking of maroon, grey, dirty coal black and earth tones. Usually a lover of bright colors, skirts and dresses, I've found the more muted pallet to my liking.

In addition to digging the outfits of these lovely ladies;
(Flaming Hag Folkwear rocking the lace and denim like no one else can!)
(Missa looking Old West perfect. )

I also stumbled upon some unusual sartorial influences in the form of an old favorite, that embodies the exact feel of what I want to wear (although I'm not quite ready yet to go into the re-enactment business).

Upon checking out one of my all-time-favorite TV shows (along with Twin Peaks, My So Called Life, and anything brain-birthed by one Joss Whedon), I discovered a throng ladies that, were they a groovy cabaret band would be calle Calamity Jane & Other Unlikely Fashion Icons. (Or perhaps Calamity Jane & Other Ladies Of Questionable Repute)

That's right, folks I want to dress like 1870s whores, dykes and laudanum addicted heiresses.

Where's my doggone barkin' irons?
I seriously need some barkin' irons.
Tough as nails
And maybe some attitude.
At least the old homestead's got some farm animals again. These two came for some rehab here at the sanatorium after their kin attacked them viciously.
Lookin to the future...the past that is.
So about those barkin' irons...and maybe a filly too while we're at it Jane.

Also, if like me, you're a fan of olden time-y western entertainments you might do well to invest some nuggets from your claim on this awesome lookin' project by one fine and dandy gentleman named Darin Coelho. He be wed to our Heather, in case you's wondrin.

Good eve to ya'll!

ps. I would just like to say that it has been overwhelmingly hard trough out this post not to call everybody a c***s***er.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Indian Princess Jam

This is the time of year when everything seems like a chore. Everywhere you look, incomplete tasks await for your attention; the berries need to be picked and made into jam, this winter's firewood piled under the awning (we have no woodshed, yet), squash made into delicious relish (recipe for which I should email Andrea for), last of the winter greens transplanted, the broken window replaced, husband's Filson coat sent to the factory for mending. Soon the apples are coming in and need to be dried and cooked and preserved.
Sigh. I picked these lovely local strawberries a while back, and along with some salalberries and local blueberries cooked them into a variety of yummy sauces, which I then canned.
In Finland we have something called Queen (royal) Jam which contains blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, but for the lack of the latter I made "Island King Jam" (strawberry, blueberry blackberry), "Island Princess Jam" (strawberry, blueberry) and "Island Indian Princess Jam" (strawberry, blueberry, salalberry). It took all damn day for like 11 cans of jam.
Kitten, of course was no help.
Sweater Song
I've been bad and bought a new dress in spite solemn promises to the contrary. It's a lovely labeless Gunne and thus inexpensive.
I messed around in iphoto to make photos look old with green scale instead of red.
Hive Mind
But that's not all, folks (in the time-honored tradition of QVC). I also bought a wee brass beehive. It was too lovely to resist.
Feather leaves
Small treasures can be found in other places besides Etsy, though.
Licensed to kill. With Kindness
While the jam was cooking a crafted my friend and study-buddy Laine a driver's license, since The Great State of Washington had failed to give her one. (Crafted or forged, that is the question.)
Laine was rather pleased. It looks very authentic. Especially the picture.
The Little Friend
This is the last weekend our front yard looks like a trailer park/refugee camp (if the refugees were sponsored by REI), then it'll just be us and our little skipping,crawling and flying friends.
Happy Long Weekend!

Friday, September 3, 2010

That 70s...Mom!

(Disclaimer-(Just in case the title made your heart jump to your throat) I continue to be happily NOT pregnant. Now for more important matters:)

Guess who I'm impersonating today?
1. Anna Chlumsky in the seminal 90s movie My Girl?

2 Meryl Streep in the hopefully-not-so-seminal 00s movie Mamma Mia!?
Or 3. My mom circa 1980?
Hipsters circa 1980
This dude, by the way, is not my mom's boyf. Apparently he was in the same set-design class and rather gay.
Here comes your mom.
Furthermore, I look like my mom, which is freaky-deaky to me, since the only common attribute we have is our chins.
Mom shoes
Mom wasn't the only one with hip overalls back in the day.
Witness the momness
So, today, I'm channeling fashion inspiration from my mom. That's gotta be a first. My mom is cool though, I'm old enough to admit it, so I guess it's okay...
I mean my mom.
How cool is yer mom?
(Thanks for the tip on the photos Missakin!)