Late one night I was browsing the Beineke Digital Collections, and I came across this haunting home movie taken of Gertrude Stein. Shot on 16 mm film, and now made available through the wonder of the Internet, the film shows scenes from her everyday life in France. We don’t get a good shot of Gertrude until she takes off her hat to reveal her close-cropped head as she walks down a set of stairs at minute 2:50. The record for the video says that Alice Toklas is in these scenes as well, but I can’t pick her out among the hatted ladies. The film is, of course, completely soundless and is very much like watching ghosts as they pass through parks and restaurants and yards and streets. It’s completely mesmerizing. The final two seconds of the film show Gertrude beckoning to the cameraman with her index finger before all is dark. I also found a couple more cool old clips, including Richard Wright’s screen test for the role of Bigger Thomas (!) and a home movie of Sigmund Freud (!).
The other night at the bookstore I picked up a copy of the 1942-1951 notebooks of Albert Camus (published by Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2010). I had never read anything by him, but he jumped off the shelf because I remembered a friend’s debate over the correct pronunciation of his name. Camus and I were instant friends. His notebooks are just idea journals—collections of quotes, philosophical snippets, plot sketches, musings, etc. He changes to a new topic or train of thought every few paragraphs, sometimes dwelling longer on an idea that needs time and space to develop. I relate to this style. Pastiche is the way I create, and I keep numerous such journals. I love jumping around, turning diverse ideas around in my mind, riffing on themes and easily shifting directions. I also enjoy obsessing about an idea, absolutely focusing all my creative energy on it until I write it out, which often takes years, lots of research, and lots of reflection.
Not only was Camus’ style floating my boat, but his thoughts were really resonating with my current spiritual experience and were helping me think about my current creative project. I have not read the whole thing yet (nor am I likely to since I read snippets of lots of books at once and rarely finish any of them), but one bit caught my attention and I wanted to put it up for discussion here:
“Unbridled sex leads to a philosophy of the non-significance of the world. Chastity on the other hand gives the world a meaning” (39). Continue reading
In her last post, Amanda wrote about her quest for a pair of the trendy, yet elusive-for-her-legs, skinny jeans. I happily report that, despite her reservations about her calves, she was successful. Aren’t they cute?!
And, I found some, too. I think based on this outfit I might be considered one of those Mormon hipsters. Ah, well.
Cross-posted at Juvenile Instructor.
I never knew I had fat calves until I tried on a pair of skinny jeans. I tugged on the jeans – trying to get them over the bulges of my legs. When I finally did, it was to no avail. Pants that were big enough to fit over my calves were way too big in the waist. I had never realized that I had fat calves before – it had never been an issue because the skirts and jeans that I had worn had never fit them closely or required them to be a certain size. I soon discovered that the boots also in fashion were equally difficult to fit to my body. Since then, I have been slightly uncomfortable with my fat calves and chubby knees. Unfortunately, these areas of the body have proven to be especially unyielding to exercise.
In her book The Body Project, Joan Jacobs Brumberg argues that experiences like mine are not abnormal. Women’s understandings of their bodies are influenced by pop culture, trends in fashion, and the cosmetics industry. In the mid-twentieth century, fashion trends that required girls to bare their mid-riffs led girls to be more concerned about the firmness of their stomachs and bodies. A corset can’t hold your stomach in when you were required to bare flesh. Brumberg’s project is to explore how the ideas that girls have had about their bodies have changed from the late nineteenth century to the present. Continue reading
I have recently taken up sewing with a vengeance. I’ve sewn sporadically since junior high, although I received my first sewing machine in the third grade. As a seventh and eighth grader, I had home economics, where I made a drawstring bag and a pair of boxer shorts. I made some attempts at embroidery and a brief attempt at quilting. Several years ago I became interested in penny rugs, and I recreated this penny rug candle mat. I gave one to my best friend and one to my grandmother. After my grandmother passed away, I reclaimed the mat, which now sits on my dresser. (By the way, I just found this penny-rug-inspired wedding bouquet. I think I’m in love!)
During my divinity school years, I alternately made quite a few small carry-all bags and stuffed monsters of my own design. The latest incarnation of this creative impulse is decorative pillows in whimsical shapes. So far I have made a leaf, an apple, and a pear, and right now I am working on a commissioned piece. Sporadically I will try to sell my things, but I end up just giving them as gifts or objects of my affection to friends and family.
I always used to tell myself that sewing was a dying art that my mother practices (she made clothes and costumes for me growing up; she quilts; she sews pillows) and that my sister would carry on (she creates marvelous embroidered samplers that hang all over our house) in our family. But I have discovered that I must create things or go crazy. Well, go crazier than I am. So, I create! And, I also enjoy thinking about carrying on the tradition of sewing in my family.
Most of my crafting is done in solitude with minimal collaboration. So many networks of communication are being created every minute, but so many of those networks are virtual rather than actual or physical/tangible. Although I do not necessarily long for the days of quilting bees, I do desire to have relationships that are signified by material means (one of the reasons I like writing letters so much). I desire to create those relationships and have an object that shows how a group of people come together to create something beautiful.
Now to the point. This year’s Mormon Stories Conference, themed “Mormon Crossroads: Traversing New Paths,” includes an art show, which is open to professionals and amateurs working in all media. I would like to submit a piece, but it’s one that I’d like to be collaborative, along the lines of Relief Society album quilts of days of yore. In the next few weeks I’ll be designing a quilt, more properly an applique blanket, in the shape of the tree of life. Each leaf will be the individual creation of a different seamstress, and I’ll create a small-scale map of the tree showing who created each leaf. You buy the fabric and fashion the leaf, and we’ll sew the pieces all together on a Saturday afternoon. If you can’t be there for the quilting, you can just mail your leaf to me and I’ll add it to the quilt. If you are interested in being a part of this project, join the Mormon Stories Album Quilt Facebook group I created. There you will find the pattern (when created) and more details. Our new path will be preserving the material heritage of Relief Society sisters past and reinventing it in a digital age, a network of bloggernaccle sewers near and far. Bon courage!