Wednesday, February 28, 2007

riding the rta

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”
-Michel de Montaigne, french philosopher (1533-1592)

at times I am just there - sitting or standing around, a stranger comes, I'll smile and nod a silent greeting, then next thing I know this perfect stranger is telling me their life story. this happened yesterday while I was waiting on the platform of the 117th street station waiting to take the train over to university circle. a woman came up to me, I did my usual thing - smile, nod - and the next thing I know she's launching into a series of stories that in the telling was so full of misfortunate and victimization my heart ached.

the quote by Montaigne led me to think about the woman on the platform. the events she told I'm certain are essentially true, but the sense of terrible misfortune she expressed in the telling didn't happen. reflecting on both of her stories (okay it was just two stories not a series - although I'm sure if we had been there longer it would have been a series) she was actually a victor not the victim. one story entailed being hit up for a handout, when she said she didn't have any money, the guy responded with some ugly, hateful words and these words made her feel threatened. she told me she believed she was going to be robbed. she sprayed the the guy with pepper spray and immediately called 9-1-1 on her cell phone. within minutes the cleveland police came, she told them her story, they began talking to the alleged mugger, she left and that was that. the second story entailed a court case and someone making false accusations about her and her life 'was hell' however in the end the case was thrown out of court - no harm, no foul, just a giant waste of time and energy.

this morning I'm feeling grateful for running across Montaigne's words and for the woman on the platform for I am reminded of an important lesson in life. although in the physical sense the woman was fine, she's not. the stories she embraced and shared with me, a complete stranger, were told with a sense of great misfortune. the woman on the platform found misfortune and victimization when she told me her stories rather than the strength and good fortune in the actual outcome of each event. yes, indeed a 'lesson' is there in the confluence of Montaigne's words of wisdom and my woman on the platform.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

maher moment

as a somewhat regular viewer of 'real time with bill maher' a somewhat regular feature on mouse medicine will be of my favorite 'maher moment.' what you get isn't from the 'official transcript' of the show (if such a thing exists)- but from my jottings (see how graduate training in qualitative research methods can pay off)- hence, any mistakes in transcription/translation are clearly mine!

the 2/23 gem:
Hillary Clinton will never be president as long as women continue to act crazy. I know this is not fair, men don't have to answer everytime Mel Gibson gets drunk and starts channeling Adolf Hitler or Charlie Sheen hits a hooker over the head with another hooker. But the truth is there are too many misogynists out there just itching for any excuse to say women are too emotional and unstable to be president. You know how these guys think: 'women are ruled by their hormones' opposed to what presidents should be ruled by -- the oil and gas lobby. We know there are guys out there who believe women might get PMS and do something completely rash, say start a war with the wrong country.

Monday, February 26, 2007

monday gifts

each monday since 2005, npr gives us a lovely gift in the form of the This I Believe media project. today's segment featured the musings of wayne coyne, a member of the rock group "the flaming lips" - the thing I enjoy so much about this 'project' its ability to build hope and reveal connections. the inspiration or 'grandparent' for the current program was a radio program edward r. murrow created in 1951. although 50 years have passed since the original program and the current one, I believe that our country faces some of the same issues and challenges - deep ideological chasms divide america's human inhabitants and misunderstanding, suspicion and paranoia are the normative ways of thinking for both our leaders and our citizenry. if we want to be a healthy country we need to find ways to bridge the chasms that divide us. we can only do this if we really LISTEN to one another and work on finding humane and compassionate solutions to the problems that we face. fortunately, npr provides us a forum where the voices of our beautiful fellow travellers can be heard. thanks to the warehousing of information provided on the internet, we aren't limited to mondays in order to 'open' these marvelous presents - all we have to do is go to and find the This I Believe archives.

an excerpt from this morning's audiogift:
I believe the real magic in the world is done by humans. I believe normal life is extraordinary...Try to be happy within the context of the life we are actually living. Happiness is not a situation to be longed for or a convergence of lucky happenstance. Through the power of our own minds, we can help ourselves. This I believe. - W. Coyne

Sunday, February 25, 2007

mouse medicine rx for the day

We can do no great things, only small things with great love
-Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

this photo I took at kenilworth aquatic gardens in washington dc last summer - this is the only national park devoted to the propagation and display of aquatic plants. for a truly transcendant experience visit the park in august when the sacred lotus flowers are in bloom - amazing!

Saturday, February 24, 2007


of course we are all familiar with the ubiquitous w.w.j.d? and yeah, yeah we know: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, take care of the earth, love all sentient beings, etc. etc.

well, have you ever asked yourself w.w.g.w.b.d?

Friday, February 23, 2007

quilts that heal

since last fall, one of my ongoing quilt projects is a set of quilts that I'm calling "healing quilts." in late september I received a call from fran a woman deep in the pit of grief. fran and her two teen aged daughters were having a most difficult time coming to terms with the sudden and unexpected death of their husband and father. fran said she got my name from a therapist who coincidentally is a friend of mine. during a conversation, fran mentioned that she thought it would comforting to have something tangible, perhaps a quilt, made from clothes her husband wore. our mutual friend said, "I have just the person for you" and gave fran my contact information. long story short, fran called and soon after our phone conversation, fran and I met. during our meeting I learned quite a bit about fran, richard, their children and their history and lives together. I was touched by the love they shared and the tragedy of his sudden death. after our initial meeting, I hoped I could create something out of his clothing that would provide comfort to fran and her girls and help in the healing process.

I brought home 8 large black plastic garbage bags filled with ri
chard's clothes and began the task of figuring out how to turn these clothes into quilts for fran and her daughters. honestly, this was no small task - the sheer amount of clothing packed into these bags was pretty daunting - methinks richard was a bit of a clothes horse. in december I delivered two quilts I made for the daughters. richard was a large lovable, teddy-bear of a man unless he had to dress differently, favored large comfy cotton knit shirts. at first I found that this presented a quilting challenge but soon I figured out a solution to the problems this type of fabric presented (I stabilized the fabric with woven cotton interfacing). the quilts for the girls were each made from richard's everyday shirts. because I was using knit fabrics the quilts had to be fairly simple - in other words, no intricate or difficult piecing - and since they were intended to be used the quilts needed to be durable. fran grew up near amish country in eastern pennsylvania and both her and richard were great quilt enthusiasts. for the girls quilts I settled on a design for the quilts that could conform to the dictates of the fabric I was using and a design that I hoped would evoke a familiar and comforting style. many of richard's favorite shirts had emblems which corresponded with organizations he supported or represented this added an additional bit of history to each of the daughter's quilt.

richard was a lawyer who did have to wear suits and subsequently he had a large collection of fairly monochromatic colored suits. unfortunately, the shirts he wore with the suits were exclusively highly starched white shirts. thus any notion of making a quilt of interesting shirt patterns was quickly dispelled. for fran, who like richard is also trained in law, I envisioned a different style of quilt than the ones I made for her daughters. for fran's quilt I cut up richard's suit pants and constructed a more intricately pieced quilt - the primary block I used is called "courthouse steps" and is an adaption of the popular log cabin block. I anchored the steps with four 'column" blocks along the top of the quilt are friendship stars and along the bottom are flying geese. the quilt is bordered by small one-inch squares.
all three quilts include what I call 'memorial writing' which provides some information on richard the person.

yesterday I met with fran and her girls and delivered fran's quilt. the presentation of the quilt was a moving experience for all of us - fran was once again overwhelmed, with eyes filled with tears she stated the quilts are really 'magic.'

at the beginning of this post I mentioned that this is an ongoing project. although the quilts for fran and her daughters are completed richard continues to live on for this quiltmaker. when I delivered the daughters' quilts in december, richards parents were visiting. upon seeing the quilts, richard's mother asked if I could make a quilt for her. and then fran mentioned that richard has two sisters and asked if I would be willing to make something for each of them. although right now, I need to turning my attention to some other projects - this time celebrating a few upcoming births rather than honoring a beloved family member. but, the piles of cloth from richard's clothes are resting contentedly in my studio waiting for me to help transform them into objects of comfort for richard's mother and sisters.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

bill's back

although I never can figure out the season for hbo's "real time with bill maher" I'm always pleased when I learn that new shows are starting up. even though I missed the first 15 minutes of the newest new show (which was unfortunate, I expect his 'live feed' with john edwards was entertaining and maybe even informative) the rest of the show did not disappoint. bill's irreverant nature and his ability to zing into the core of american politics and culture always amuses and often strikes a resonate chord and leaves me with the feeling of "I wish I could have put it that way!"

although the success of each show is most often determined by the 'chemistry' between bill and his guests, bill never disappoints when it comes time to wind down the broadcast with his 'new rules' and closing monologue. it was during this time that one highlight of the 2/16 show occurred. addressing the 'joe biden' fiasco (aka joe's recent case of foot-in-mouth disease) bill did that thing he does so well -- in other words, reveal the hypocrisy and disconnect of a situation with 'reality.' the media, political pundits and public really jumped on the biden-obama misspeaking thingy. but as maher so sharply pointed out: "If we're going to chose our presidents from the ones that don't misspeak, how did we end up with the one we have now?" (although I think he might actually said "how did we end up with the chimp we have now?"

despite biden's occasional 'speak before thinking' tendency, biden isn't completely out of touch - in fact, maher credited biden with the succinct and prophetic insight that the future of iraq most likely will result in the creation of 3 'new countries'- after all "Iraq is a made up country anyway, there's only been an Iraq since 1932 - its 7 years younger than Paul Newman"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

the machine is us

for an amazing bit of deconstruction on the ethnography of computer culture:

thanks annie for sharing this video!

Monday, February 19, 2007

welcome to mouse medicine

choosing a name and an address for a blog is a somewhat formidable task - talk about pressure! in facing this task, I decided to fall back on one of my tried and true animal friends and totems....the noble and humble mouse. in concordance with many cultural traditions, I believe that if we go looking, we may find animals which are our life-guides or life-spirits - these animal guides or totems provide powerful lessons when we discover their 'presence' in our lives. in the course of my 50 plus years, I have had a number of animal guides - some have lasted for years, if not decades, others may have only been a friend who dropped in for a short visit with a lesson I needed to learn. one of the more enduring and dominant of my animal totems has been the mouse. like many significant things in my life the mouse as an animal totem first came to me in a dream.

when I took a leap 'off the grid' a few years ago and switched from being a 'wage slave' to being a 'starving artist,' I found magic in this longtime totem friend of mine and decided to house my artistic work under the rubric of the 'magical mouse studio.' when considering the spiritual & magical powers of animals, the mouse's primary lesson is "attention to detail." attention to detail is something I try to bring to my everyday life and something I would like to bring to my little corner of cyberspace.