Thursday, August 24, 2006

Crafting Like Crazy

Part of my personality is that when I find something I like doing, particularly something creative, I do my very best to learn as much as I can about it and I tell myself that I have to master it. Over the past couple of months, I've developed a great interest in sewing and crafting. It all fits with my domestic aspirations and, if you are more than a casual reader of this blog, you'll know that I consider myself somewhat domestically impaired.

It all started with a few simple sewing projects, mostly customizing my own tee shirts and making easy projects. After checking out a few websites like Punk Rock Domestics, Super Eggplant,, Phoenix's own Crafty Chica (Kathy Cano Murillo) and reading a great book called Super Crafty, my interest blossomed into a full-blown obsession. I don't miss a single episode of Stylicious.

On a tip from a woman I met in a thrift store in Prescott, I discovered a great thrift store which had a motherlode of vintage dress patterns from the fities and sixties. I picked up dozens of them for just a couple of dollars. I started shopping online for vintage fabric and began making my own dresses. So far, I've made 3 dresses, two nightgowns, several skirts and a cute kimono top (she says, proudly). They're all far from perfect, but I don't care. My husband HATES my hokey dresses with lopsided hems and tons of rick-rack, but too bad. He's stuck with me.

Yes, I wear this out in public.

Lately, I've begun making my own custom tote and handbags. Here's my latest project, which I call my Mexi-Bag.

I downloaded Mexican folk images from the web, tweaked them in Photoshop and printed them on fabric, then sewed them onto a bag I made. It's all rasquache. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to turn a Lil Homie doll into a button for the bag closure. Any suggestions?
Lil Homie beats the craft out of a regular button!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Punk Rock Recommendations

Here's a comment and question I just received. I started to write a lengthy reply but then thought I would just post it as a new entry. If anyone cares to give recommendations, please feel free.

Arkansas Hoosier said...

"Would you, my dear Alice, give me some names of bands and songs that will give me a great introduction and sampling of punk, that will make me like punk?

You see, I missed the punk thing.

Last week, I spent $800 going to two Tom Waits shows. That's my style, my speed, my favorite artist in the world.

The show at the Cleveland House of Blues was so awesome, I felt privileged. I felt like my aunt erma would have felt had Elvis sucked her toes.

But seriously, I'd love to have a sampling of punk to check out. I can listen to clips at and then take it from there.

Again, nice pic. And my god, you're only three years younger than me. I just missed the punk thing and don't know why."

Dear A.H.,

I think it's great that you have your favorites and your own taste in music. I don't want to recommend music for others because I think that discovering music you like should be a personal adventure. You're welcome to listen to my podcasts if you want to hear what I listen to, but I suspect you might not like it. That's o.k., because I do like it and I don't care if anybody else likes it. I wouldn't pay ten cents to see Tom Waits but I fully respect your appreciation for his music.

As far as punk rock is concerned, there are tons of compilations out there and I think the Rhino box is probably pretty comprehensive. Go to your local library, check it out and if you like it, burn a copy.

I think that the reason I like certain groups has to do with who I am and where I was in my life in 1977. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to translate the meaning of my favorite songs for someone else. Groups like the Weirdos (my favorite punk band) needed to be seen live to be fully appreciated.

I believe that important musical (and perhaps art) movements are an attempt to touch and change what is happening in the world at the time. For example, when I listen to Janis Joplin, I think she's great but all I hear is her voice and her soulful interpretation. I suspect that I'm missing part of what it meant to be a young adult in the sixties hearing Janis for the first time. The social and political context of her music is absent for me so there is no way for me to understand what, say my older sister would have felt.

I still think that the best way to experience punk rock is firsthand, so I'd like to share a video of one of my favorite current bands, The Gossip, who definitely capture the stripped down, energetic and youthful soul of punk rock. Here's a little taste of the glory. I bet it tastes better than your Aunt Erma's toes!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wicked In NYC, Stuck In Penn Station

Greetings from Manhattan. I'm writing this entry on a borrowed Blackberry, so please excuse any glaring typos. It's day 5 of my family's East Coast vacation and we're sitting in Penn Station, waiting for the train back to Boston. It's running one and half hours behind schedule, perhaps due to increased security in the wake of the reported British foiling of a plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto planes.

The story was all over the news when we woke up this morning and I can only imagine that it brought an unwelcome tension to this city, in particular.

While eating dinner I overheard a mother at a nearby table, trying to
explain to her children why we now have to worry about shampoo bottles
and tubes of toothpaste on airplanes. I too struggle with the best
way to limit my daughter's exposure to the disturbing realization that
as much as I want to, ultimately, I cannot guarantee her safety.

It does seem as if the world has gone mad, so it was rather appropriate that we spent the morning at MoMA, viewing the big Dada exhibition. There were so many great pieces on display that I could have spent all day there. Here's one of my favorites from the show. Click on the image to view a flash page explaining some of the imagery.

Otto Dix Die Skatspieler (Kartenspielende Kriegskrüppel)
1920, Öl & Collage auf Leinwand, 110 x 87 cm

It was interesting to see how that particular group of artists reacted to the absurdity, the fear mongering, the propaganda and the devastating results of war. I never realized that so many of the Dadaists were politically inspired. Almost 100 years later and Dada is still relevant. I was also struck by the similarities between Dada and the LA punk scene, both in style and in spirit. One seldom thinks of the LA scene as political. Yet everything we do can be political, even if we don't realize it at the time. Being an angry woman of color and fronting a punk rock band in 1977 was not meant as a political statement but it subsequently turned out to be one. It's funny how sometimes the message we think we are sending turns out not to be the one that matters in the long run.

I guess I'm babbling again. Suffice it to say that this is a great show to see if you are at all interested in modern art.


On Wednesday afternoon, we were fortunate to catch a performance of the Broadway musical, Wicked. I loved it. It's completely enjoyable as a sort of alternative fairytale, but it also has some very relevant things to say about the world and society we live in. The first act climaxes with the witch, Elphaba, rejecting the values and limitations that her world, the Land of Oz, has thrust upon her and vowing to "Defy Gravity" as she rises above it all to take flight for the first time.

I thought of all the people I know who would love this production and I found myself wishing they could be in the audience with me to share the experience.

Yes, the world can be a scary and uncertain place but life goes on regardless and we can still choose how we wish to live it. We can make art to express ourselves, live our lives with hope and fight to change things for the better. We can choose to defy gravity.

Monday, August 07, 2006

On Vacation

I've taken a long break from blogging this summer because it's been busy around my house. I was visited by my oldest daughter for a couple of weeks in July and while she was with me I realized just how much I'd missed her. I wanted to cram as much quality time in with her as I could into those two weeks. I think I probably drove her crazy with all the little field trips and activities, but she's a good sport and she humored me. It was hard saying goodbye to her.

I'm sitting in a hotel lobby in Boston right now using a computer in the lobby and although the jazz band playing behind me sounds really good, I'm one of those people who can't have the TV or music on in the background when trying to concentrate. I'm sitting about two inches away from the drummer, so if I get a little distracted I hope you'll forgive me.

My family decided to take a quick vacation to the east coast to spend some time together before my daughter has to go back to school. We landed in Boston on Saturday and spent all day Sunday walking the Freedom Trail and doing the tourist thing. Once a teacher, always a teacher. My poor daughter had to answer questions about the Revolutionary War each time we visited a new historical site. I must report that the latest casualties of the Revolutionary War are my aching feet. I made the mistake of wearing my wooden clogs, thinking that we'd be spending more time on the tour trolley (I don't recommend the trolley tour, by the way) and less time on the uneven brick sidewalks of the North Side and Historic District. My feet were on fire by the time we hobbled back to our hotel.

I switched shoes and we headed out again, first to Chinatown and then on a WALKING tour of haunted Boston, which just about killed me off.

This morning (Monday) we awoke fairly early and took a train up to Salem. It's about 30 minutes north of here and a scenic trip, only costing about $8 roundtrip per person on the commuter train. That's my little travel tip for you, don't rent a car to visit Salem. It turned out to be another walking day. We visited the Witch Dungeon and the Witch Museum. Both places have actors who act out portions of the Salem witch trials and then a costumed tour guide takes you through animatronic displays of the familiar story: Gile Corey being pressed to death, etc. It's kind of like Disneyland for horror and goth fans, corny but still fun.

Tomorrow morning, we take another train down to New York City. I've got to get my sleep because I'm waking up at 6:30 am.

Good night from Boston.