Friday, March 30, 2012

Yarn and then Some Important Work

Look!  New yarn added to my shop!  After I crunched those mega-numbers for my taxes (in TWO countries, I might add), I realized that nearly one-third of my income came from yarn and yarn-related activities last year.  Now, that can only mean two things.  One:  I have a pitiful income and (2) I better start making me some yarn.  In between memorizing ixty-million Vedic chants and (1) Ode to Patanjali, I have been spinning, this time without guilt.  Because, you know, if it is making the green stuff, then it is WorthWhile.

What else to my wandering eyes did appear?  How about this:

A person I know from high school does this fundraiser every year to raise money for cancer research.  She bikes from Sturbridge to Provincetown, MA - 192 miles.  Crazy, right?  It would be crazy except that one of her main motivations has been the loss of her father to cancer and the fact that last year she personally raised over $30,000.  Perhaps you can help her do even better this year - click here to the link to her fundraising page.

Or, perhaps this?

Filmmaker, Mary Bosakowski, is making a documentary about veterans returning home after war.  Titled After the War, the film "profiles combat Veterans who have served in past and current conflicts and know war intimately. In our names, they have witnessed and sacrificed more than we can fathom. As they share their personal journeys ‘after the war,’ their candor and courage provide entry to a powerful story of healing in an increasingly violent world."  The link leads to her Facebook page for the film.  She told me that she could use some FB love right now, so head over there and click on "like".  You will have the added benefit of being able to keep up with her progress.  I think it will be an amazing film.

It is good to know people who are out there doing important work on our behalf.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Liebster Love

We had our whirlwind tour of the Bay State for my mother's 85th birthday.  We came, we partied like it was 1983 (the year I left MA forevah, as they say), and we went back to New York.
May we all look so great and feel so healthy at 85.
When we returned home, I had a message that this blog has been awarded a Liebster Award.  

This award is given to bloggers who motivate and inspire and who have less than 200 followers, the idea being to foster new connections in the blogging community.  The award takes its name from the German word "Liebster" which translates to "beloved, dearest or favorite".  The person who awarded it to me is Lori Lawson of paintspinknit and capistranofiberarts.  I love Lori's hand painted fleeces and have been a dedicated customer since I started spinning.  Her work is top notch and you can see her in action in the excellent book, The Yarn Lovers Guide to Hand Dyeing by Linda Lebelle.  It is a real honour to know that she is even reading this blog!  Thank you, Lori!  (PS. Lori, I had to close my eyes when I looked at your etsy page...I need to spin down my stash before I build up my inventory any further...just so you know.)

As part of the tradition, the Liebster Award is passed along to five bloggers with less than 200 followers who have been an inspiration to the current awardee.  In accepting the award, one must:

-- Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them. (Done!)

-- Post the award to your blog. (Done!)

-- Reveal your own five picks for the award and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.  (And now....) are my Liebster Awards:

Island Sweet:  Anyone who reads this blog more than once will know that I am a huge fan of Shawn O'Hagan and her beautiful work - spinning, dyeing, felting, embroidery, rug hooking, knitting, painting.  Whatever she touches becomes beautiful.  Rouse yourself out of your social media induced stupour and go look at her blog.  Whatever was dead inside of you will come flowering back to life in the most joyous, colourful way imaginable.  I promise.

Be the BQE:  Have you found yourself hankering for information, both contemporary and historic, about the Brooklyn Queens Expressway?  Perhaps mixed with a bit of Polish literature, Red Sox trivia, and 80s punk rock?  Add a dash of righteous indignation and you have Be the BQE.  You never know what he will be talking about (and sometimes after reading you still don't know what is he talking about), but you will be entertained.  

Dark Dissolution:  More information about death, dead people and dying than you ever thought possible from a man with a collector's eye (and the collection to prove it).  He doesn't post often, but it is always worth reading when he does.  I will even forgive him using the dreaded white on black blog design that leaves me semi-blind every time I visit.

The Ecstatic Adventures of an Exuberant Bodhisattva:  Ashtanga yoga and lots of crotch jokes - what's not to love?

Outside Blue:  This blog documents the homeschooling life of one family in New York City.  I can only aspire to being such a dedicated mother but aspire I do each time I read Dorina's blog.  Her photographs alone are worth the visit.

I feel like I could easily choose five more, but there you go.  Enjoy the links - visit their blogs and fill your day with yarn, crowded roadways, death, your pelvic floor and the West Village.  That is what I do and you can see how wonderfully it has helped shape me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nothing to Fear Here or One Irritable Yogini Speaks Out

Awhile back, I was browsing at Butala Emporium, a shop in Jackson Heights (Queens) that offers religious items, books, housewares and furniture from India.  I noticed a small paperback copy of Pantanjali's Yoga Sutra written in Spanish (the neighborhood is a mixture of immigrants from everywhere but especially South Asia, South America and Mexico).  I took a quick look through it, curious how the sutras would be translated, especially the first four, which dive directly into the heart of yoga.  Immediately, in the the third sutra - if I remember correctly - the translation started talking about how the goal of yoga is to bring you closer to Jesus.

I was a bit stunned since none of my translations of the Yoga Sutra into English have ever mentioned Jesus.  Considering that most scholars would agree that he wasn't even around when the Yoga Sutra was written, I never really expected to see his name in there.  Why does his name need to be in there?  The third sutra does not mean getting close to Jesus and it kind of pissed me off that someone thought it was ok to write that.  When I mentioned this remarkable bit of translation to a person who is something of an authority on contemporary yoga, she said she thought is was fine and maybe even a good thing since it makes yoga more accessible and friendly to a community that might otherwise feel like yoga was not for them.

Call me a purist, but I disagree.  For one thing, the gym behind our house that attracts a primarily Latino population has no problem filling its yoga classes.  Would a working class Latino person feel intimidated showing up at Jivamukti?  Maybe.  I feel intimidated showing up at Jivamukti!  There are plenty of ways to attract diverse communities to yoga but altering the Yoga Sutra should not be one of them, in my humble opinion.  And could it not be seen as a wee bit paternalistic to think that the Yoga Sutra can not be appreciated for what it is by a Spanish-speaking audience?

Then I came across this article about how some people are changing yoga classes to be specifically Christian-oriented, even to extent of not using the Sanskrit names of the asana for fear of sounding too Hindu.  In my 200-hr training, I learned that Sanskrit is one of the precursors to the English language as well as all the Latin-based languages.  So who are the people teaching these classes and where were they trained that they are afraid of using certain terms?  I understand that teachers who rattle off long Sanskrit names of asana can turn people off and seem self-important in a "look how smart I am" kind of way, but this is different.  This is fear talking.

Kriya yoga is a subtle and profound philosophy.  So subtle and so profound that it has plenty of room for Christians to fully engage their faith and practice yoga without fear that they are somehow offending God or Jesus.  I suspect they would find their faith deepening because the three main aspects of kriya yoga are discipline, self-reflection and giving special attention to the quality of your actions (without clinging to an expectation of results).  That last one also sometimes gets translated as humbly submitting to God.  Even without that other translation, I see nothing in those three actions that would conflict with Christianity.

I guess the reason that this makes me so cranky is because I think it takes a pretty audacious - arrogant, even - attitude to start messing around with the meaning of the Yoga Sutra.  When we learn our Vedic chants (and, oh my, do we have so very many of them to learn), it is made crystal clear to us that the way we are learning them is exactly how they were taught for millennia.  That's right: thousands of years.  Every note, every pronunciation, every bit of it has been determined and taught in exactly this way (teacher chants, students repeat 2X) and this is how they have been able to remain unchanged for so long.  It is not for me, one teeny tiny piece in this long, unbroken chain, to start making changes.  I respect this method and its goal.

So please, if you want to express your love for Jesus through your asana practice, be my guest.  But do not ask the millions of other students of this practice, going back for thousands of years and looking forward thousands of years, to shift the meaning of the whole practice to suit you.  There is a deep humility at the center of yoga.  Find it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Knit Fast, Die Warm

My brother is a tattoo artist in Santa Cruz, California.  He is a really good one, having won awards and other accolades such as one wins in the world of tattoo making.  He is always trying to convince my mother to get one on her visits to California but so far she has resisted.

He is coming to the east coast this weekend for her 85th birthday.  Maybe he will convince her this time...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Relational Aesthetics Y'all

"...get some mad mother f*ckers to do your relational bidding..."  AND sexy Sax Man too.

No, it is not safe for work.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cocking Your Ears and Your Guns

This is the only cockade that was left behind last Sunday.  At least the guy who made it was right on message.

When I was invited to join the other artists to work on the Battle Pass project, I was a little hesitant.  I am not a big Revolutionary War buff and, to be truthful, I find the whole subject almost painfully dull.  Fortunately, the other artists had no intention of getting their Revolutionary geek on in a re-enactment like way.  Like me, their interest in the subject was/is to use this particular battle (the Battle of Brooklyn) as a starting point for exploring contemporary issues regarding war.  Although some have been making a case that we have entered one of the most peaceful periods in human history, to this reluctant American, these times seem more bloody - and bloodthirsty- than ever.  We are only just out of an almost ten-year debacle in Iraq, still mired in Afghanistan, and amazingly, there are people beating the drum for a new war with Iran.

To me, war is a perfect example of how human beings can be, at once, so clever and so stupid.  Truly it can only be a powerful lack of imagination that allows us to choose this particularly barbaric means of (supposedly) solving our problems.

Back when the drum was being beaten to go to war with Iraq (remember those "focus groups" of many millions of people who were protesting?), I decided that I should make my artwork more of a forum for my feelings about what was happening politically, militarily and socially with regards to the war mongering I saw around me.  I had never overtly mixed art and politics but the times made it feel very urgent, so I gave it a shot.

What I came up with was to create a new character named Kay MacCarthy, played by me, who hosted her own DIY television show called The Well-Made Weapon.  In it, Kay taught home viewers how to make decorative weaponry from commonplace household materials.  Think:  transforming a round brie container and paper towel center into the drum and barrel of a Tommy Gun.  I videotaped a couple of episodes and then had Kay create several pieces that I brought to events (not in character) - mostly guns made from food such as jello, fudge, etc..  It never really amounted to much more than that.  I always hope to find an excuse to resurrect Kay and The Well-Made Weapon but it hasn't happened yet.

Battle Pass and making cockades seem related to Kay and her little-watched TV show.  Both projects point out how war becomes domesticated and ordinary on the home front.  People might want to decorate their home or dinner table with weapons, or they might want to create slogans on cockades and wear them around town.  When we accept war as a possible solution to our conflicts, we are accepting some of the very worst of human potential.  When we accept it so readily and allow it to be a normal part of our lives without too much fuss, then we are committing a grave mistake with consequences that can not be fathomed.

I do not want to accept that.  Do you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Do You Hear the Clank of the Muskets?

The clank of the muskets* was heard all over Crown Heights, Brooklyn, last night.  A nice crowd came out to view the installation at Gridspace, participate in a performance by Paul Benney (who dressed as George Washington and marched everyone through the neighborhood), and make cockades with me.

People were surprisingly excited by the cockades.  I wore my giant, cardboard tricorner hat loaded up with cockades and invited people to create the centerpiece for each one.  Black cockades were worn by the rebel soldiers in the American Revolutionary War - it was one of the few ways that they were recognizable as rebels and not British sympathizers.  I encouraged people to make rebellious cockades.  Most obliged but some were so rebellious that they made their own thing, which was ok too.

If you missed this event but find yourself hankering for a cockade, there will be another opportunity!  Battle Pass will make Revolution II later this year at a public event at a new installation on Smith and Bergen Streets in Brooklyn (also a site of a battle in the Battle of Brooklyn).  And, in October, I will be leading an actual workshop in making cockades at The Old Stone House in Brooklyn.

It seems that the people of Brooklyn can not quench their lust for cockades.  Can you blame them?

*  A line from Walt Whitman's poem The Centenarian’s Story, which is one of the sources of inspiration for the Battle Pass project.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Battle Pass - Revolution 1

I had a number of plays on the word "cockade" that I wanted to use for a title for this post but I thought they might draw some unwanted visitors to the blog, so here it is: the straight-up information.  

Please come if you can!

Battle Pass: An Interdisciplinary Homage to the Revolutionary Battle of Brooklyn
Opening Reception, Sunday, March 11th, 5:30 p.m. at Gridspace in Crown Heights
"Do you hear the clank of the muskets?
...In the midst of you stands an encampment very old..."
                                                                                               Walt Whitman, "The Centenarian's Story"
Proteus Gowanus is pleased to announce the first in a series of public installations, workshops and performances paying homage to the Revolutionary Battle of Brooklyn at selected battle sites throughout Brooklyn. A collaborative group of artists, writers, historians and urban planners will draw parallels between past and present as they explore the complexity and devastation of war. The project marks an early start on our next theme year: BATTLE.
The first, biggest and arguably most important battle of the Revolutionary War is sometimes forgotten in the very neighborhoods where it occurred; the fields and marshes of 1776 are now a post-industrial urban landscape that includes a Federal Superfund site.  Battle Pass: Revolution I at Gridspace is located several hundred feet from Bedford Pass, once a rocky outcropping that played a decisive role in the Battle of Brooklyn.
Battle Pass – Revolution I
A collaborative installation, workshop and performance
at GRIDSPACE, a Crown Heights art space
112 Rogers Avenue/corner of Sterling
Installation by Sasha Chavchavadze, Eva Melas, Robyn Love, and Angela Kramer Murphy
The reception will include:
A cockade-making workshop with Robyn Love
A Battle Pass performance by Paul Benney
The installation can be seen 24 hours a day in the GRIDSPACE storefront window from March 2nd – March 31st
To reach GRIDSPACE  take the 2, 3, 4 or 5 train to Franklin
Coming soon: Battle Pass – Revolution II
Installation date to be announced
A public art installation and performance at the corner of Smith and Bergen Streets inspired by ship masts known as “liberty poles” that were planted
in the ground by American Revolutionaries becoming a symbol of resistance,
and by Walt Whitman’s poem, “The Centenarian’s Story,” describing the Battle of Brooklyn.

Monday, March 05, 2012

An Asana Addict Confesses

TKV Desikachar
This past weekend was our first 500-hr yoga teacher training weekends.  They will continue, about every other weekend, for the next year.  The decision to take more training came out of my experiences teaching.  Not to put too fine a point on it but I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing.  It is fine to teach people who are generally fit and in good health but, truthfully, those students are pretty rare.  Most people have some health issues that need addressing and I continually felt unprepared.  What was the purpose of leading them through some sequence of postures that they could not really do (and probably should not be doing)?  Where was the benefit?  

Also I struggled with the distance between the subtle and profound teaching of the Yoga Sutra and my pathetic 200-hr certification.  I mean, if I heard of someone teaching Zen with 200-hours of training, I would laugh out loud.  Get real!  So, why is yoga any different?  Krishnamacharya, the founder of the lineage that I am training in, had the equivalent of six Ph.Ds and decades of teaching experience.  I know that 300 more hours of training won't change things that much, but it is a start.

I chose to train with Guta Hedewig in the Desikachar tradition (TKV Desikachar was Krishnamcharya's second eldest son).  I think this tradition of yoga is the closest to what Krishnamachrya himself taught and it embraces yoga as something far more than just asana practice.  In fact, asana is a tiny piece of the whole picture and classes in the Desikachar tradition usually include, as a matter of course, chanting, asana, pranayama and meditation.  As a devoted ashtanga practitioner, some of what I am embracing goes exactly against what my own practice has become.  And it hurts!  Like an alcoholic who can not imagine life without booze, at the moment, I can not imagine life without my ashtanga practice.  Guta designed a daily practice for me, which (surprise) includes chanting, asana, and pranayama (she knows have my own meditation practice).  

It has made me crazy.  I need my ashtanga fix.

I don't know how long I can pretend to do both.  Guta, who did ashtanga for almost 20 years, told me that it took her years to quit ashtanga "happily".  And that's the key.  It must happen happily.  I guess I will keep juggling the two until I find my own key that will allow me to back away from my asana addiction happily.

Meanwhile, I have most of the first two chapters of the Yoga Sutra to memorize as chants, along with all the traditional vinyasa for getting in and out of the classical postures, and all the pranayama techniques and....

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Meet The Hipsters

Last stop on our Fantastic Road Trip 2012 was Pittsburgh where we visited with Finn and Lucy's Uncle James.  Personally, I love Pittsburgh and find any excuse to visit as often as possible.  We did all sorts of fun things, including a visit to the Mattress Factory.  I highly recommend it if you find yourself in the Steel City.

We also walked around a neighborhood called the Mexican War Streets, where all the street names are based on battles in the Mexican American War (natch).  It is a very sweet neighborhood with a community feel to it and just enough grit and funk to make it interesting.  James took the photo above while we were standing in front a mural created as part of the City of Asylum project.

When I emailed him that it should be the cover of our next album, James wrote back with a slew of possible album titles.  I present them to you here:

The Hipster  Family Christmas Album 
The Hipster Family performs the Music of Old Mexico
The Hipster Family Live! with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
The Hipster Family sings Jim Croce!
Let it be (Hip): the Hipster Family sing the music of Lennon and McCartney
Funky Hipsters: the Hipster Family get down with Kool and the Gang
Birds of a Feather: the Hipster Family perform the Partridge Family’s Greatest Hits
The Family Hipster Comes Alive: together for the first time with Peter Frampton
Sly and the Family Hipster

As he said, the possibilities are endless.  

Now that we have the album cover and a range of great titles, we just need the musical talent and we are solid gold, baby!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Made to be Broken

Vows, I've made a few.  Then again, too few to mention.

Let's cut to the chase:

 La Lana is going out of business and based in Taos.  They were selling off their stock only in-store and by telehone.  By some freak alignment of the universe, I was in the right place at the right time.

Then, I stumbled into some bins in Ani's dyeing studio.  Emerging, breathless, these rovings seemed to be caught in my hands.  I did my best to shake them off but they just wouldn't leave me alone.  Ani left me alone - so maybe it was her fault.  I don't know - there may even have been a black out period.  Heart pounding, blood rushing - it's all a blur until the moment when I had to fight off Martie when she tried to snatch a couple of them out of my hands.  It is hard to maintain the fiction that you are overcome with wool fumes when you have to use a stealth-like cunning to maneuver around another lustful spinner with a lean and hungry look in her eyes.

But, having escaped my encounter with Martie, I realized that I had selected everything within a very limited palette.  Ani cleared things up by gifting me - yes, she actually used a noun as a verb!** - this green one.  Balance was restored.  The earth continued to spin on its axis.  All was well once more.

Better luck next time, Martie!

** She didn't, actually.  She is far too eloquent to do that.

Also, yarn was both created and purchased.

This is some local Asheville hand painted yarn.  I was stimulating the local economy!  And since we were staying in a hotel that, until very recently, was of the hourly rate variety, I thought it was the kind of stimulation downtown Asheville needed, thank you very much.

This is some naturally-dyed yarn from La Lana.  I am a sucker for indigo and over-dyeing.

I made some yarn too - not a lot of yardage but enough to make an Arroyo Seco hat, perhaps.

And then, when we arrived back in NYC (safe and sound!), our house guests left these behind...

Be still my heart!  Fiddlehead mitts!  Knit (I believe) with some hand-dyed, handspun yarn that is beyond soft and warm.  C'mon winter, you can muster a dying gasp and give me some weather that requires these gorgeous mitts.  I want to show them off!

So, yes, my vow was broken.  But I did it my way.