Saturday, September 12, 2009


I occasionally take care of a pair of cats--we'll call them Thing 1 and Thing 2, because that's about how they are--for a very nice kitty mommy who lives down the street from my sisters and goes on vacation (unlike my mother, who is an enmeshed kitty mommy and won't go on vacation, because "who'll take care of the cats?"). Kitty Mommy just went on a cruise to Mexico, and, in addition to giving me gas money and sweet tea to deal with the fact that Thing 1 has mastered the art of turning on the touch lamp next to the guest bed--at 4:30 in the morning, no less*--, she brought me a new friend.

He has some tattoos on his back--apparently, he's into gardening. If I come downstairs at an unusual hour and find "LA Ink" on the telly, I'll know why....

Class, say hello to Gomez. I chose the name because of the glorious mustache he seems to have there; it reminds me of Gomez Addams ("Tish, you spoke French!") and they both have that slightly skeezy smile that manages to both make you incredibly uncomfortable and completely charm you at the same time. He's found a new home on top of my computer next to Bluebird of Happiness and Moon Turtle, right in front of my Stephanie Pearl-McPhee 2009 Calendar of Knitting Win. It might be hard to tell from the pictures (not!) but he's an eye-searing orange and blue tabby with big, cheerful daisies on his back, and I love him. I think he fits right in with both my Weltenshauung and the colors I tend to favor. I'd take him upstairs and put him in with some of my other collected items, particularly the beautiful chalk drawing I got in Puerto Rico, which has much the same color scheme, but last night he started to tell me his story and it's just handy to keep him near my keyboard. Writer's Digest is having their annual short-short story competition, and Gomez strikes me as being the soul of brevity. So far, there are art thieves, street urchins and dangerous, self-effacing heroics involving a leaking dugout canoe and piranhas. Methinks Gomez is also a bit of a braggart, but I have to admit he's a fascinating storyteller. Those "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials seem to have given him an inflated sense of adventure....

No, it's not blurred, this is an
accurate rendition of the actual painting.

And under the heading of Old Business, this is a picture of a painting I especially loved in Chicago. I myself didn't get a shot of her (mostly because I'd just found my friends again after losing them in the galleries and was concentrating on keeping them in sight), but I remembered her vividly and regretted the loss. She's not available on the website (alas!), but the friend who did take the picture remembered to get the little info plaque in a picture, too. Instead of sending it along with the painting, she transcribed it:

"Lisa Yuskavage
American, born 1962

Angel, 2004
Oil on linen

Collection Nancy Lauter McDougal and Alfred L. McDougal, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago, 7.2009

Lisa Yuskavage paints exaggerated, self-aware pictures of women--usually in various stages of undress and in suggestive poses--that compel erotic, voyeuristic interaction. Employing imagery derived from pin-up magazines as well as from an exploration of her own conscious and unconscious desires, Yuskavage's unsettling, indecorous subjects function in opposition to her technically skilled conveyance of light and suggestion of mood through color. While most of her nudes seem ironically trapped in their own sexuality, the poised, monumental, and fully clothed figure in Angel gazes outward with melancholic sincerity. Her stance suggests empowering self-revelation. This almost-classical figure--set in a sublime landscape featuring a still life in the foreground--is based on a model, but can be understood as a kind of self-portrait."

Gods, but I do love this one. It's nearly impossible to capture the actual colors of any painting in photograph, so understand that the colors are a little more saturated in life. And I seem to recall the 'sky' above her head as more purple, but that could be paintings crossing paths in my mind and blending together. In any case, she was one of the paintings that resonated most strongly with me at the time. Reading the plaque info, I'm pleased (I'm all about the empowering self-revelation) that it resonated, and I like the confidence the figure projects. You don't often see images of round women looking confident--apparently, you need to have bones showing to deserve confidence--or so...powerful. She really gives the impression that she is a goddess, she knows it, and she wants you to know it, too. Bow before me, peons, before I pelt you with the fruit from my bowl!

To quote an absolutely dreadful stage play made film that I don't recall the name of now: Moxie. :-)

* I just want to point out it's very hard to be angry at Thing 1, she's adorable. She looks like a cross between a tiny teddy bear and a little fuzzy lion cub. But at 4:30 a.m., when you weren't able to get to sleep the night before because someone was purring like a motorboat and laying across your neck like a slightly outsized, furry garrote, it's re-e-e-eal easy to see how you could get angry at a tiny, golden teddy lion. Just sayin'.

Thing 2 is a story all of his own, perhaps for another post.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Slacker Queen

Yes, I am a slacker queen, thank you very much. Although I'm trying to be one not so very much, which is harder than it looks. See, I'm a perfectionist. And slacking off, despite what it looks like, is a perfectionist behavior. It goes like this: I could do it, but I'll just do it wrong, it won't be perfect, so why waste time starting to begin with. See? Slacker Queen.

So, anyway, I decided as my unemployment benefits are running out (sooner than I thought--oh, not by much, but still, sooner) I would dedicate September to be the Month of Doing Something I Have Always Wanted To Do But Never Tried As I Will Just Get It Wrong And Fail, Anyway. Which isn't going to acronym down to anything sensible, so I will just call it my September Project. I actually began September Project on September 1. I've only missed one day, that was yesterday, but I had other issues that took priority, and since I'm trying to get over the perfectionist slacking, I've decided to be kind to myself and say I'm not perfect, occasionally there will be a day off. And that's OK.

So I got back up on my pony today. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I tried to avoid my daily duty by hopping on the intarwebs and checking my bank balance, my savings account, my Ravelry, my email, anything and everything and all that other crap. No, I didn't let myself totally slack off. I did my surfing, beat myself up a little bit for slacking, told myself to take a chill pill, made a pot of tea and got on with what I came here to do. I feel justifyably proud of myself for doing so.

And what is this magical September Project? What is that wacky, kooky, nutty Surly Knitter doing when she should be getting off her arse and getting her freelance writing up to snuff? I'm writing a novel.

Let me 'splain.

I'm da bomb at short fiction--I can write short stories like gang busters (and I have the three--three!!!--thumb drives full to prove it), and I can even do short non-fiction pretty quickly as well, hence the decision to try and earn my living through freelance writing. I mean, I'll never be a millionaire, but I can surely pull down a decent living if I work at it, and if it means I never have to call another human being boss and kiss their butt when what I really want to do is slap them stupid...well. I can work pretty hard when I'm inspired, and that is so inspiring! Plus, Dog is getting accustomed to having me here all day. Yes, it's weak to say I'm trying to work at home for the sake of an elderly dog, but.... In many ways, he's taught me to be a far better human than I was before. I owe him. And he's cute and fuzzy and has a big, squishy nose. He wins.

So, yeah. Well. Ahem. *blushes* Anyway, I have this unreasonable block about long fiction. I've tried, lo so many times over the past ten years to write something longer than 10 pages and failed. Well, not so much failed as 'discovered systems that don't work for me' (heh, how's that for spin?) It's become my Great White Whale, the novel form. Not so much because I believe in my heart of hearts that I am destined to write the next Great American Novel (whatever that is), but just far, it's won. The long fiction? It's beaten me down, brung me low, painted the yellow stripe down my spine and mocked me all the way home.

You see, then, why this situation is intolerable. I will not live at the mercy of a literary format! Did I let an inadequate in-person knitting education stop me from finding great peace in my crafting life? No, I found online videos and tutorials that spoke my language and taught myself how to knit. Did I let the lack of patterns that looked just so block me from creating items that I desired? No, I found reference guides, learned to Love the Swatch and designed my own damn patterns. Will I let some arbitrary word count mock me as an unreachable goal? No. No and yet again NO! This, gentlemen (and ladies) means war!

So I continued my quest to figure out a system that will work for me, enable me to harpoon the magical novel-length fiction. I got a random email this summer (believe me, it was totally random--I didn't even belong to this guy's newsletter list until after the email came) that described a method of using the 'outline' system that, for once, made some sort of sense. I have no idea who this Randy Ingermanson is, but his Snowflake System seems sensible. And just now I have realized why it makes more sense to me: it's based on a mathematical model. Hear me out: I had trouble learning to knit from the woman who taught my class because I have an engineering mind (unfortunate, but yes, it's true), and she was teaching it from a hobbyist's perspective. There's nothing wrong with the hobbyist's perspective on knitting, but I needed to understand the engineering of the thing--how the yarn twists in the stitch, how the loops behave under tension--before the way the yarn is wrapped around the needles and drawn through the loops made any sense. He's using a software designing tool to write long fiction. Beauty! Now I can use my methodical, plodding engineer's mind to shape my words!

Anyway. I'm up to step 6 already (just finished today; it's actually a page longer than he describes, but I'm just going to go with it.) Next week, I plan on getting my in depth character studies and the spreadsheet of scenes done. I'm skipping step 8--waiting for the thing to sell--because that's not the purpose of this activity. This particular novel is most likely going to be crap. And I'm fine with that. I just want it to be longer than ten pages, coherent enough to tell a story and, frankly, just done. It will be crap, but novel-length crap, so who cares if it ever sees the light of day? I'll have done the thing, and that's enough for me. I will know that I have done it, I have conquered my unreasonable fear and percieved inability to write long fiction. And if I can do that, why, dear reader, just imagine what I can go on to do! This month, a novel. Next month, the world!

So. That's what I'm up to nowadays. If I succeed, I succeed, if not, I'll have eliminated one more option from the billions of systems out there for the aspiring writer. And I'll know that much more about myself and how my mind works. All in all, that can't be such a bad thing, can it?

And because people enjoy pretty pictures, here's my random photograph of the day:

Tiffany glass window, ain't it purty? And oh, Blogger, my Blogger, why won't you post my pictures where the cursor is? Why must I drag and drop the darn thing all the way down the page?