Monday, October 22, 2007

No Excess Bagisms!

For someone who's just starting to sew, one of the easiest things to make is a supermarket bag. It’s a good project because not only do you get to practice your sewing skills, if you feel like it you can add some personal touches to your grocery bag. If that weren’t its own reward, you also get to feel good about not adding more non-biodegradable flotsam to the environment.

This morning, I had to make a quick pit stop at the supermarket to pick up some sandwich bread. I didn’t take my cloth bag, figuring I wouldn’t need it for just a loaf of bread. I shoulda' known better. I couldn’t pass up the freshly baked puffy cheese bagels. The scent of them immediately had me salivating and then the French bread loaves were peeking out of their bags, flashing some very sexy flaky crust at me. Anyway, I don’t want to turn this narrative into kinky bakery porn. Suffice it to say that I ended up with plenty of warm bread in my basket.

Which brings me back to my story. When I got to the cash register with my loaves and bagels, I asked for no bag. In the past this request has been met with irate indignation, which I’ve never been able to understand. Is it too much to ask that the checker or bagger pause his/her robotic impulse to bag my groceries? Well, this time it wasn’t. To my surprise and delight, the cashier responded to my request with “Oh, you're trying to do your bit for the environment. Good for you.” Though that was a nice touch, it wasn’t the payoff. As I wheeled out my cart full of unbagged bread I heard the man behind me say “That looks like a good idea. Don’t bag mine, either.” Now that would’ve made my day, but as I drove out of the parking lot I saw ANOTHER customer coming out of the market with an armful of unbagged groceries. I couldn’t believe it. It was contagious!

You don’t know how many times since I made those darn bags I’ve forgotten to take them to the market, or felt dumb for asking the cashier to take my merchandise out of the bag when they jumped the gun and bagged stuff before I had a chance to stop them. There have certainly been plenty of times when I’ve thought that taking my cloth bag to the market was never going to make any difference but today I caught a glimpse of the power that each one of us has to make change. Sometimes all people need is a little encouragement and someone to start the ball rolling.

Sometimes I think I can be obnoxiously positive, but then I remember that I can be angry and mean too, so I guess it all balances out. I think positivity has gotten a bad rap. I'm not positive in that "don't worry, be happy" sort of way; my positivity has more to do with tenacity. It can even be confrontational. In fact, I just saw a case study in what I would describe as confrontational positivity - a documentary which is out on DVD , The U.S. vs. John Lennon.

John Lennon's rebellious, in-your-face attitude, his idealism, and commitment to rallying the youth of the world to demand peace and an end to the Vietnam war are inspiring. In fact, I'm struck by how little anyone is doing to stop the current war and how bold and shamelessly President Bush asks for more funds to finance a war which is becoming increasingly unpopular.

In one scene from the documentary, a group of antiwar protesters stands outside of the White House chanting "Fuck War, Fuck LBJ!" (referring to then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson), middle fingers waving in the air - wow! Can you imagine chanting that sort of stuff anywhere, let alone outside of the White House, now? I don't think we'd get away with it. What the hell is wrong with us? How did we become so afraid of our own government? I wonder if those activists in the early seventies thought they'd get away with it back then. Guess what? They did. There I go being positive again...but really, what the hell is wrong with us?

Here are some statistics related to Bush's increased war budget that should get you pissed off.

Source: AP 10/22/07

For the Pentagon, the latest request includes:
  • $1 billion for military construction projects, including improvements at airfields and other U.S. bases in Iraq;
  • $1 billion to expand the Iraqi security forces; and
  • $1 billion to train National Guard units.

    All told, the $189.3 billion Pentagon request for 2008 includes:
  • $77 billion for military operations and maintenance;
  • $30.5 billion to protect U.S. forces from roadside bombs, snipers, and other threats; and
  • $46.5 billion to repair and replace equipment that has been damaged or destroyed in combat or worn out in harsh conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • **************************************

    Source: CBS NEWS 10/22/07

    The U.S.
    The insurgents
    Neither side

    Source: Alice Bag 10/22/07
    Defense contractors and big oil companies

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    Ghost Town Travelogue

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween. Not that I need a special reason to start crafting with skulls, ghosts and other ghoulish creatures, but each autumn I feel my love of the dark side rekindled. When I lived in Glassell Park, I used to have my house done up in Dia de Los Muertos decor year round. My walls were painted with bright, bright colors and a permanent collection of devil masks, calaveras and little skeleton shrines were on display regardless of the season, which led my mother to place cut out paper crosses on the foreheads of my "demonios" for my own protection, but I digress...I really meant to talk about Halloween.

    This past weekend, we drove up to Jerome for their annual Ghost Walk. We had been to a Ghost Walk last year in Prescott and I’ve started to wonder if this is a uniquely Arizonan tradition. I’ve taken ghost tours in different cities but usually they involve a tour guide relating spooky stories as the group visits various locations purported to be haunted. It’s done differently here.

    In Jerome, we began our evening by meeting in the town hall where we were sorted into small groups while a trio of musicians sang about death, murder and phantoms. Each group departed from the town hall and from there we went to different locations around the small town. At each location, we were met by the "ghosts" of Jerome who told us the details of their own passing. The actors were costumed in period dress and put on a little skit reenacting the significant moments leading up to their deaths. It was fun and entertaining.

    I’ve written about Jerome before. It is a colorful place, as befits a mining ghost town that refuses to rest in peace. Inhabited by the type of people who would inhabit a ghost town, it is quirky, spooky and artistic. The ghost walk was fun, but not scary at all. Walking around Jerome on any given night is much scarier. There are places here that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. If you ever drop by, take the unpaved road up to The Jerome Grand Hotel and have a drink at the Asylum. If you should plan to stay and don’t mind a sleepless night, you could get a room at The Jerome Grand Hotel, The Connor Hotel or The Inn at Jerome, all of which are reputedly haunted.

    I like to actually sleep, so The Ghost City Inn with its homemade peanut butter cookies suits me just fine, although it is also reportedly haunted. The last time we visited, we ate at the Haunted Hamburger, but this time, we opted for the delicious veggie burgers at the Mile High Inn & Grill. Locals say that just about every place in Jerome has its own spirits. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, it's a good place to visit anytime of year, but especially when there is a chill in the air and you're in the mood for some spooky fun.

    Saturday, October 06, 2007

    Learning The Ropes

    I have been collecting aprons for a few years. I’ve always had one or two pretty ones that I’d dig out when my mom was making tamales at Christmas time or when I used to serve up lattes at Troy CafĂ©, but ever since my days as Mothra Stewart in the apron-wearing band Stay at Home Bomb, my love for this useful little accessory has grown steadily. A few years back I began scouring thrift stores for vintage aprons and recently I’ve started sewing my own. They’re relatively easy for a beginning seamstress like me. A simple waist apron requires that you be able to sew a few straight seams and that’s all, but they can be very feminine and elaborate too.

    Stay at Home Bomb

    I started sewing about a year and a half ago after having to whip up a poodle skirt for my daughter to wear to a school dance. After a little success with that I started making bags, simple gifts sewn from Mexican oil cloth, homemade dresses and skirts, and worked my way up to a button down shirt. My friends are always gracious and seem to appreciate the things I make for them. I like to think they really like their gift, but I’ve had a nagging doubt that makes me wonder if they’re just being polite and they’re secretly rolling their eyes when I gift them with yet another homemade treasure.

    Homemade "treasures"...

    This weekend I decided to put myself to the test. I wanted to see if my aprons were something that only I and my friends would like or if they could appeal to impartial shoppers. My friend Angie came out to visit me from California with the intention of joining me in our very first craft fair. We gathered up a bunch of aprons that we’d sewn over the summer, rigged up a coat rack with a CD holder on top and set up on the street. Phoenix’s art galleries hold openings the First Friday of each month and local crafters set up tables in the vacant lots that dot the downtown art neighborhood. There are usually musicians who set up makeshift stages. There are no fees, no auditions to play; it’s completely DIY so you have to be willing to take charge of everything. Some vendors mooch power from the galleries and shops by running extension cords; a band last night brought their own gas powered generator, some go unplugged. Angie and I took some camping lanterns, but we didn’t need them because we found a good spot under a street light on the busy corner of 5th and Roosevelt.

    "Get Your Red-Hot Aprons Here!" The tenacious Angie Skull.

    We were so excited all day, ironing our aprons, pricing them, making a cute poster, rigging up the coat rack so that we could hang our aprons. No sooner had we set up our aprons than a huge gust of wind kicked up and knocked our rack of freshly pressed aprons onto the ground. We picked them up dusted them off, but the wind wouldn’t let up. Our apron poster fell over about a hundred times, our rack and all the aprons fell over 3 more times and we were seriously bumming thinking that we would have to take turns holding up the rack all night. When my husband and daughter showed up with sandbags they’d “borrowed” from a construction site. We weighted the coat rack down so that it would teeter in the wind but not fall over without giving us a chance to catch it.

    Our mood improved after that but we still had to hover pretty close to our stuff. The up side of that was that we heard everything people said about our work and it was all complimentary. The downside is that we behaved like preschool mothers on the first day of school, not because we were worried about our aprons but we didn’t want to have an unsuspecting shopper get knocked over by an avalanche of aprons. I think we scared the customers away. After a couple of near accidents, Angie and I really did end up having to take turns holding up the rack. It was demoralizing. I was ready to pack the stuff up and give up, but Angie, who is one of the stubbornest people I know, insisted that we stay. After a while a large parade of zombies passed by. About fifty or sixty people dressed like something out of Night of the Living Dead walked through the crowd, all of them in character. Not one was smiling or chatting with a friend. That cheered me up, as zombies always do. A few minutes later, a group of people dressed in very fine and elaborate Ghostbuster outfits rushed by on their way to solve a case. A local roller derby outfit, The Coffin Draggers were there selling sweets to raise money for their team. How could I be bummed?

    After three and a half hours, Angie had sold three aprons and I’d sold one. I had told myself that I’d be happy if I sold even one apron, but the one I sold was to a friend, so I proved nothing. I did learn lots of things my first craft fair. I learned that I should iron my aprons the night before, that I should check the weather report and most importantly, that I have friends who appreciate (and even pay for) my homemade goods just because they’re my friends. That is the sweetest lesson of all.

    Click on my Flickr badge in the blog margin to see some more of my homemade aprons.

    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    Pogo Proof Cameras - Punk Rock Pix

    I’m thrilled to tell you about the exciting things that are happening to some of my talented friends. This coming Saturday night from 7:00 to 10:00 pm, Drkrm Gallery will be hosting the opening reception for Destroy All Music, The Masque and Beyond, a photography exhibition featuring the work of Dawn Wirth and Louis Jacinto.

    Both Dawn and Louis have been pretty quiet about their photos of the early L.A. punk scene for many years. They’ve finally decided to dust off their proof sheets and share the treasures they’ve recently unearthed with the rest of us. It should be a fun reception with lots of faces from the past. It's too bad that I can't make it out to L.A. but I will certainly be there in spirit and perhaps in a few of the photos. Coincidentally, the Drkrm Gallery is located in Glassell Park, walking distance from my old home. Stop in at King Taco on Cypress Ave after the show, I used to love their carne asada tacos back in my carnivorous days.

    The internationally recognized work of Ms. Jenny Lens is also currently on display in the new Punk 365 coffee table book. Jenny has been tirelessly documenting the punk and rock scenes for decades and many of her photos have achieved iconic status. She has her own book in the works and you can read about it on her website and blog.

    Punk 365 also features the photos of former Dead Boys tour manager and Whisky A G0-Go ticket girl Theresa Kereakes.

    I'm extremely proud to have three of the photographers whose work is featured in Punk 365 in my Women In L.A. Punk section: Dawn Wirth, Jenny Lens and Theresa Kereakes. Congratulations to you all!