Thursday, February 28, 2008

Timothy Keller's "The Reason for God"

Here's a link for a book recommended to me this morning. "The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism" is what the professionals call apologetics, and while that word bothers me a little (no one is apologizing for their faith here), I understand it to be a well-written book that makes rational arguments in favor of Christian faith. Having not read the book I can't say much more, but if anyone has heard of it or even read it, please drop in a line or two with your opinions. Thanks!

"Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians."--Christianity Today magazine

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


i am completely unable to find an acceptably discreet method for bitching about my job tonight. let's just say, i need a new take on my position and the tasks at hand. I need to refocus, and hope i can get the balance properly restored before exhaustion and rampant irritation get the better of me. the church is driving me nuts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chillon's Site

bead break

Taking a little break from beading, long enough to post this little item -- it's just a tiny piece, maybe one twenty-fourth of the whole work. I get to do the beading now, unlike the rest of the piece which has to wait until backing and quilting has been added; because this item and its companion are sewed onto the piece after those steps are completed. And I can't add the backing and quilting until the collage of fabric is completed --- so I won't get to embellish and finish the work for a while yet, and it's a pleasing diversion to focus on something different, something with a much nearer "completion" date.
Chillon asked at lunch Friday why I'm blogging about work in progress. I recalled an article in one of my magazines about it -- an enthusiastic quilt artist and writer expressing her joys and sorrows over the work, getting feedback from all sorts of people, feeling connected to others in the process. In addition, I like the objectification break it offers me -- a way of getting distance from the piece, to make judgements about it and examine its formal issues. Plus, in my impatience to be done with things always and starting something new, it's a placebo -- a way of showing off before I'm finished, as if I were completed and totally pleased. Lets off steam.
Chillon had lots of terrific, insightful, enthusiastic and soulful things to say over lunch. I'm so impressed with her. I should find the link for her website, and post it. She has great shows coming up, plus a commission for the high priest of St. Paul's Cathedral in the works. Wow.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Diablo Cody deserved a better dress

and jewelry, and makeup...but hey, we can't all afford Versace. When she got the Oscar, she thanked her family for "loving her just as she is," which is a very un-hip but important thing to say. And she ignored Harrison Ford completely! Ha.

In less glamorous news...The Coen Brothers do it again. SO hey, big night for Minneapolis -- even the airport got a mention! Though of course the Coens were in NYC last I heard, and Cody reportedly likes LA so much she isn't coming back. I say 'less glamorous,' by the way, because those Coens wear rented suits. And do not pander. Even McDormand (whom I love) wore basic black and a no-nonsense demeanor. Good Minnesotans at the core, those Coens.

I'm afraid to see "No Country" though. Too much violence. And what about Tommy Lee Jones? I love HIM. He's in every third great picture that comes out, but I can't recall him ever winning an Oscar. Though I'll bet he makes good money. He's a guy who would just charm the pants off me in person, I know. Some girls say he ugly, but I don't mind.

This is all easier to write about than the "desire" piece, which is bumming me out right now. It lacks a little unity, at present.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Look into the eyeball of your old friend..." maybe David Byrne would be interested in this -- he published a book of assorted and odd photos he's taken while traveling around the world on tours. This is my right (I think) retina -- freshly imaged just this morning when I got my eye exam. They gave me the left one as well, since I asked, but it's essentially the same as what you see here (in reverse.)
The locus of blood vessels is the optic nerve. The dark circular area opposite is the macula. (I'm probably spelling that wrong.) I think the doctor said we perceive all color at that one point. I'm assured that both retinas are very healthy.
When I saw them, I knew I had to have copies. I live primarily through my vision. It's a desceptively simple-seeming mechanism -- this pinkish orb, fed by tributaries of blood, quietly performing its highly important task. It looks so peaceful, somehow, almost womb-like; Except I know the womb to be a fairly un-quiet place, an echo chamber sloshing with amniotic fluid and distant murmurs, loud repetitive thuds.

more on temptation text

Maybe, instead of simple phrases or single words, it should be a note -- like a love note, something that builds a case. It might be easier to avoid cliches that way.

I am yours.

words that tempt

How is it said?
I want to embroider a few words or phrases on the reveal portion of the piece I'm sewing. And so I boarded the bus this morning thinking, how is it expressed -- desire? How can it be verbalized without sounding like a hooker on a Saturday night? Which words tempt? How can tempting words be chosen so that intent might not be seen as consciously corrupting?

Because the point in this case is to convey the desire that convinces us to do something we know is wrong. Not the whole puritanical cartoon, "the devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape" thing -- but the real daily desire, that infuses one with an emotion that overrides good sense, that combines itself with better emotions, better intentions to make a powerful cocktail of need and rationalization. That Desire.

At first I thought, what would get me? Then I thought, well, what would I say? How would I tempt someone? How have I? Nothing seems quite right, of course, on the bus at 8 in the morning. In the freezing cold. Not a sexy thing, that. And I realize that, of course, a large part of temptation involves the circumstances -- because temptation isn't a blunt instrument. It entices. It involves. It sneaks up on you, if it's to be really effective, because otherwise it might as well be a hooker on a Saturday night.

The circumstances in this case will be sensual -- the language will literally be couched in velvet and brocade. It will appear across two doors which are more like the pages of a book, or the petals of a flower. It's an invitation. It's a willingness. You have to want to open the book/reveal for the visual statement to be effective -- you'll have to touch it. And because it's an art object (if successful), the urge to touch the art itself has to override the need for permission. The textures and the nature of the form will be clues to the viewer, but the words have to help it along, have to put the viewer in the conducive frame of mind. Without being blatantly sexual, might I add. Because I'm not trying to be sensational here. It's a private experience, this thing. You have to want to do something questionable.

How do you say it? Seduction has to present itself a little at a time. Seduction has to be whatever you want it to be at the moment. And I don't have much space!


fabric...*pant pant*

Fabrics I'm salivating over, among many. Not literally of course, yuk -- just more manifestations of Desire.

shop or sew?

Another precious day off tomorrow. I sit here biting my cuticles, wondering how much I should attempt with my schedule. I have an eye appointment first thing in the morning, and a lunch date with Chillon at Noon. I also have to stop at the TMobile store and buy a damned charger, plus a spare battery methinks, because I've stupidly misplaced my cell phone charger and ran down my battery almost to nil. (I think CP took it to Anaheim with him, but have no proof other than his tongue-in-cheek confession.)

The thing is, there's a fabric shop in St. Paul that I'm desperate to visit. And from the Middle Eastern place on campus, where I'll meet Chillon, it's a quick bus trip. I could lunch as late as 2pm and still be there by 2:30. Problem is, I'll need at least an hour to look around; and that doesn't put me back in Northeast until 5pm, with the bussing. Ron wants to get groceries tomorrow, and he knows I'm off -- he'll want to get there before the Friday rush.

Chillon might drop me off, but I don't know if she'll want to hang around and I'd feel self-conscious about it. Wouldn't save a lot of time anyhow. Ron might be willing to pick me up, but it will depend entirely on his mood when I ask him. If he plans to be back in town by 3:30 or 4pm, I might not be able to squeeze it in. But going on a day off is the best option -- NO ONE (or at least, no one I've had any personal contact with) wants to go fabric shopping with the HUSBAND. Let alone the 4 year old. Sigh. Cause they sure don't want to be there.

So, the smarter plan might be to come home right after lunch; and potentially grab an hour of sewing time before the guys get home. But that indefinitely postpones the fabric store, again. It's not an unreasonable thing -- I don't NEED any new embellishments, fancy films or gadgets. It would be wholly satisfying just to sew. I'll have to work in the office on Saturday morning, and the rest of the weekend will fall to laundry and cleaning and entertaining my son plus whomever appears for dinner this weekend. Time in the sewing room is always hard to come by during daylight hours.

But then when....? If my eye appointment runs long I won't have time to grab the charger downtown before catching the bus to campus -- and I'll have to get it on the way back. That means cutting out of lunch before 2pm, if I want to sew at all. Of course, Chillon may only have a brief window herself tomorrow. But....the sensible thing really is to head Northeast after lunch.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

lunar eclipse

Well -- I don't have a powerful enough lens on my digital camera to capture a photo of the thing. But there it is: Sort of gold, sort of pink, sort of brown -- that's probably the effects of pollution -- with a slightly brighter edge on the right. It's a full moon tonight, which normally illuminates our back yard brightly enough to read by. But the darkness out there right now is nearly total. And the stars look mighty bright and crisp. I'm reminded of the Annie Dillard piece -- maybe it's in "Pilgrim At Tinker Creek" -- where she writes of witnessing a full solar eclipse on the west coast of North America. Of the sudden shadow that swoops over the hillside where she stands, like the shade of a giant predatorial wing, and the shrieks of the bystanders...

It's primitive stuff. The "blood moon," the wrongness of shadows veiling the moon on a clear night. Though of course, it's predictable, there's nothing wrong with it. It'll happen again in 12 years. On the west coast, it's barely visible. Here, in the cold and dark, I expect to hear the howling of wolves. Silly. Instead I hear the voices of other city people, exclaiming with their children over the coolness of it; neighbors bundled up, some watching from their cars, murmuring.

Monday, February 18, 2008

the in-between time

The time when all things are in a state of motion, but nothing is new; no new mail, no breathtaking progress on any projects, no answers to the few questions hanging out there per future plans...nada. Not for lack of work or energy on my part; just, no new nothin'.

I'm used to email slack over the weekend; most of my friends are busiest then with family and all that other living that we cram into 48 hours -- more this weekend, what with Presidents' Day. I'm definitely one of those addicted-to-email types though, and as soon as the workweek looms, I expect communication. Without it, I get antsy. Dumb dumb what with all the other worthwhile stuff on my list of things to do.

So I sew. And I catch up on the other art-related ventures, the newsletter, the shows I'm supposed to curate, the committees I serve on.

The sewing is in a difficult spot right now: I'm sewing doors into the piece, which open to reveal a picture underneath. These fabric doors need, to a certain degree, to match their immediate surroundings so that they aren't just square barn-door type interruptions in an otherwise vertical, flowing composition. That process is intermingled with some lengthening of my original surface, to make the whole thing longer -- adding strips of velvet, then sewing a continuation of the cloth strips that make the backbone of the piece -- trying to make something very calculated look spontaneous and organic. Not a moment in the process which pleases me, and it's on the "fires of desire" side of the piece (let's not call it that too many more times). The velvet that I found so sexy a few days ago has turned into a real trial (ironically), since each time I sew a new cotton piece overtop, there's a chance the cotton will shift against the nap of the velvet and slide off in some unintended direction -- which is delightful when I can work freely, but a real pain when I have to have certain colors and textures laid down in specific places. Hmm.

So -- I can't git no satisfaction. A Monday night. And a week of uncertain rhythms ahead.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

i don't sleep, i shop

Can't sleep? Shop for fabric! View my wish list at the link. Hope I don't buy all that...but, hey, it's been months right? And I've been sewing like crazy. And my stash is so small....more manifestations of desire.

Friday, February 15, 2008

the desperate dive

"Faith is not born at the negotiating table where we barter our gifts in exchange for God's goodness. Faith is not an award given to the most learned. It's not a prize given to the most disciplined. It's not a title bequeathed to the most religious."

"Faith is a desperate dive out of the sinking boat of human effort and a prayer that God will be there to pull us out of the water. The apostle Paul wrote about this kind of faith:
'For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast.' (Eph. 2:8-9).

The supreme force in salvation is God's grace."

Max Lucado

Thursday, February 14, 2008

somewhat less than

That phrase "less than" brings to mind a line from a Soul Coughing track: "Her knees thrust in one direction/like a symbol of math, a symbol meaning greater-than./I come recommended by four-out-of-five;/I'm factoring the whole plan..."

And this in turn, this song about a guy trying to convince a gal to sleep with him, reminds me of my girl-friend: who is under enormous pressure right now, dealing with a man from her workplace. Today, Valentine's Day, I received a tearful call from my friend asking me to pray for her -- because this dolt of a male has progressed from trying to seduce her, to being angry and threatening, to slandering her publicly. And she doesn't want to take action against him, doesn't want to out him to his wife or to friends they have in common, only wants to be left alone...and as various mutual acquaintances come in contact with him, and hear his venomous accusations, my friend becomes increasingly isolated. Today she simply could not leave her house, is afraid to look at her email. Gossip. Questions. Accusations.

She hasn't done anything wrong. And while I've urged her to defend herself in various ways, it makes me so very angry for her -- I know this guy. He's a lawyer, he's not stupid. In the past he has been supportive of her during challenging times on the job; but all the while it was because he hoped to possess her -- and when she turned him down, he commenced to reveal a sickness and ugliness I don't think anyone suspected. I'm grateful that she has a good husband, but I pray that her sense of self isn't shaken by this guy -- she knows this is undeserved, but I wonder if she doesn't still blame herself somehow. When she listened to his troubles as a friend, when she encouraged him as a co-worker -- asking herself if somehow she gave him the wrong idea. Asking herself if she "asked for it" -- the eternal culpability of the female. He tells people now that she tried to seduce him -- and in going public first he has defined the story. This accusation is enough, for some people. They don't ask themselves why a lawyer would commit slander. All the while, she in her work as a counselor and a leader is undermined.

I haven't really had the energy to sew since yesterday morning. Tomorrow will be a busy day, as will Saturday. My son had a restless night last night and looks to continue this pattern tonight. has been somewhat less than perfect. But, hopefully...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


What a perfectly gorgeous morning!

I did just enough laundry to quiet my sense of housewifely duty; I finished the Valentines for daycare; and commenced to sewing. After catching an extra ninety minutes of sleep. And while I sewed, I listened to "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis, possibly the most perfect album ever created.

Especially track 5, Flamenco Sketches.

And now that I am finally showered, I will quickly do up some dishes, and then hop a bus to my hair appointment -- which will be nice and quiet, and relaxed, in an environment that smells really good.

And then tonight, I go to worship; which is a perfectly balanced way to end this particular day off from work. May you all feel such pleasure in your lives at some point this week. Love,


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blue Velvet

Much of the "Desire" piece is backed with or surrounded by blue crushed velvet, a length of which came to me as part of an inherited scrap bag -- inherited from where is anyone's guess, since I'm pretty sure it came by way of Mom, who almost certainly picked it up at an estate sale.

Velvet is an interesting fabric to work with. I'm no dressmaker -- I've never attempted the stuff before. It is singularly appropriate for this piece: voluptuous, unwieldy, protean. It has a deep pile, and its crumpled texture is great as a suggestion of watery movement. A deep blue piece next to a black velvet piece really soaks up the light, creating depth. But it's stretchy, and it slithers around under the needle of the sewing machine, fish-like, unpredictable. Two pieces laying face to face (in order to hide the seam as it's sewn) will shift in every direction as the feed dogs pull it through. There's no telling how crooked the actual seam might lay. It's fun, not to know what the final shape will be as pieces are joined at varying angles. Obviously an experienced seamstress knows how to cope with this, but I don't really care. It has an aliveness to it, this fabric. I feel strange cutting it, like it's butchery. Or as if I were Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet," going after poor weird Isabella Rossellini with his scissors, cutting a big jagged swatch out of her velvet dressing gown and rubbing it across his demented, sweaty face.

Nice image, huh?

No Perverse Defense of the Grammys HERE...

Since Alan won't post his comments on the blog. Yes Al, I do know Louis Prima's music pretty well, and I get that Kid did an okay impersonation -- but it was still silly. ;-)

And in other news...

I've converted Beth's hand to a drawing on fabric for "Desire." Yes, it's a burning house tumbling through space. All will be revealed, folks.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

the Grammys are weird

Who decided Kid Rock should sing "That Old Black Magic" with Keely Smith (looking like an aging Olive Oyl at 60-something with her twenty-something black bob.) And who decided there should be a huge stupid modern dance/Cirque de Soleil interpretation of "A Day in the Life?" Fuck Me. What a nightmare THAT was. And who decided there should be a million pop-sellout commercials aired tonight, from Beyonce with her makeup contract to "Thriller" and Mary J. Blige doing car ads? WORSE than the Superbowl.

I liked the Foo Fighters.

I thought Tom Hanks was totally out of place, even as Old Guy honoring The Beatles and The Band. And what about Lopez? "I love America! The only place where a white woman and a black man can run for President of the United States!" Uh, right George. Cause it IS the United States. Idiot.

Whoops, here comes Alycia Keys. Looking sort Whitney Houston a la "The Bodyguard" in her silver spangles and slightly forced concert persona, preserving her voice tonight. She sounds better in a more intimate setting I think.

OK, what do I know about modern music? I can't even name a song by Amy Winehouse. But here comes Ringo Starr, because some marketing asshole has assured the producer of this year's Grammys that only old people watch this show, so even if all the winners will average 28 years in age, you need Ringo to assure us homebound white people that we still have relevance in the music economy.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

more "Desire"

Shiver me timbers!
I just felt like saying it.
Finally got some solid work-time
in this evening -- feels GOOD.
Progress was made, with the flag
and some of the background movement. The corset-y feel of the piece is starting to leave, but could be revived if needed. The whole undersea/diving for pearls thing is starting to materialize for the "motivational" side of Desire... time to balance it out with a bit more of the greed/lust thing (though I have to respect the configuration of the negative space on the right.) I have some groovy little symbols and trinkets to add, as well as the pearls -- objects of desire, "pretty little things," stuff that moves a person physically. This piece isn't all that large though -- maybe 16x24" roughly -- so it will get crowded in a hurry if I ain't careful. Anyway, I'm itching to work it by hand -- do some beading and stitching on that plush velvet.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

work in progress

These are details from the beginnings of "desire." Velvet, fabric, machine sewing, fibers and Misty-fuse, inkjet transfer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

what's next

ruthrae's blog and website are filled with the type of fabric-art pieces I see in the magazines, as well as descriptions of her recent quiltshow experiences and snaps of her friends -- makes me want more than ever to hit the show in Chicago mid-April, though I'm gently lobbying for a trip to Atlanta right now as well (not because Norcross is a place anyone should yearn to go, but simply to have a plan for finding some space and a purpose under the heavens.) The Chicago trip would involve attending a big quilt and fabric show -- dangerous timing against the promise of refund checks -- while Norcross would be business, but either would inject some life into this gal. I'm still zonked out by the recent bookkeeping marathon at work, and have been stalled on the Desire piece for a couple of days -- somehow it's easier to type than to sew and paint, right now.

Not that these are real problems -- inspiration, space, needing a break -- I have friends with much more concretely challenging issues.

The Norcross potential (funny, sounds like a sequel to "The Bourne Ultimatum") came up at lunch today -- my monthly aside with CP -- wherein the future of the church was discussed in terms of its development to date and its context as a "new" church in the community. Norcross is a "boot camp" (lousy sales language there) for folks interested in church planting. Typically a church plant is an offshoot congregation that spring from a larger established church (not the context at NECL), and the process has engendered its own industry experts -- who lead boot camp training conferences on how the process should be guided. We aren't looking to sprout anything, being a newly consolidated version of three older, struggling churches. But the theory might in some ways be applicable to that which we may become. So -- Norcross would be educational, Chicago fun, and the likelihood of either is still thin at this point.

H. is having a restless night for reasons unknown. Time to give up on productivity for the evening.

Judgement (details)


Two versions of a collage/sketch from one year ago this week. It's unfortunately cropped from the bottom right detail, but the page is torn from a church bulletin; the sermon title is "So Good To Be Here."

Sunday, February 3, 2008


The creative and destructive powers of desire: that's the theme of the piece I currently have in production. Desire as motivator, and motivation -- desire as in drive, focus, the will to achieve. Desire can also be obsession, and the need to possess something or someone at any cost. Desire can be lust, sexual or material; desire can be greed. Desire can be the strength needed to accomplish something great.

I have often suspected that desire of one kind or another is the unfailing lure that moves me towards what is good for me -- though it is a process fraught with potential for damage. I've made mistakes based on desire, but have never felt the need to backtrack; though I have tried to unlearn certain behaviors. That less from a sense of changed priority than from the need to protect others. I still want; one of my favorites quotes on the subject is,
"My attitude is never to be satisfied, never enough, never."

(Bela Karolyi, whomever that may be.) (I know, Google it -- I just don't feel like it right now.)

Never satisfied -- it's a denial of stasis. I refuse to STOP. I will be as alive as possible in each moment, in the fervent hope of many such moments. I will eat as much of life as I may, though now the balance of the statement more than ever is that I will also protect as much life as I can. World without end. The kingdom of God is here on earth --

-- and so it is possible as one desires to also serve. Indeed, for a while desire and servitude were much more closely connected in my mind as the opposite of what I mean now. Submission may be like desire, in that it goes both ways -- one can submit in order to serve a higher power, in a purely spiritual sense, and do great good. Or one might submit to power, and be corrupted, spiritually and physically. Or, one might submit to the power of one's own weaknesses, and corrupt others. It's very difficult, when pursuing the desired, to keep an eye on the moral status of the object or goal. I've noticed in business, for example, that the moral value of a high goal can become degraded without the goal ever seeming to change. The mission of an organization can become corrupt, without a conscious decision ever being made to veer into such territory.

Relationships are sometimes the same. It's an exercise in acute self-awareness at times to avoid letting the momentum of an emotional relationship cross over the boundary between strength of bond and lust for possession. This isn't necessarily about sex; it's possible to have sex with someone without crossing that boundary. Other equally important boundaries also apply. Many rules of sex and possession exist to prevent the worst sorts of trouble we can invent. The player can convince him or herself that judicious disclaimers and careful honesty can preserve the thrill of transgression without causing any damage, but I've never found that to be true. Likewise, obsession can transgress without ever crossing a physical boundary. That one is even trickier, because the reality of the desire is so confined. It's easy to tell yourself that a crush is harmless if no one knows about it -- the problem is that mental transgressions oft repeated tend to manifest themselves outwardly in different but equally sorry ways. Frequently they confine their damage to the obsessed.

"Desire as a sylph-figured creature, who changes her mind..."
That one is Prefab Sprout.

This is the subject of my current artwork.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

things that make me feel 40

And it's something quite peculiar
something shimmering and white
that leads you here, despite your destination
under the Milky Way tonight

Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find...

I get to yearning for this song every once in a while -- The Church. Oddly. Only hear it on the local oldies radio (for my generation, the eighties.) It just has such a visual impact, a narrative suggestion -- one of those songs I was obsessed with for a little while, for reasons pointless to articulate. An album I never traded up on, and have since lost the cassette.
Here's a link for the somewhat less stellar video - real amateur stuff. But, those were the days when any music video was pretty fucking amazing.