Happy Mother’s Day

Hope all the mother’s out there are having a great day- especially my own- Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I got a little sewing in yesterday on the denim quilt, but it hasn’t really advanced to a point that a photo would show advancement.  I plan to go to the fabric store today to spend my gift card from my birthday (thanks, Mom and Dad).

We went to the Minneapolis Art Institute to see the Matisse exhibit last night.     It is a small show, but it really shows a comprehensive variety of his work: sculpture, paintings, drawings, lithographs and the later cut out work in disassembled book form.  The crowd thinned out after we arrived and when we doubled back to look at our favorites, we were alone in the gallery.  It was a great experience.

I have seen Matisse’s work in person at the Art Institute before, but it was nice to see all in one space and laid out in a chronological way. I have a better understanding of how his work progressed through his lifetime.  I could see the logical way he moved from Post-Impressionism into his own (fauve) technique.

One of Steve’s favorites was Standing Odalisque Reflected in Mirror:


I also liked this one due to the pattern of the wonderful plaid chair.  I have been always drawn to Matisse’s use of these contrasting patterns.  I was surprised how fluid, loose and carefree the patterns in his paintings were when viewed in person, not through a photo.  I had a preconception that the patterns would be much more precise.  Yet, they are very sophisticated.

I also was struck by what a master craftsman Matisse was.  The lithographs ran from very quick drawings to nearly photographic charcoals.  If I had seen any of these before either at the Institute or in books, they didn’t resonate with me the way they did in the context of this show.

If you are in Minneapolis, there is one more week left for the show.



The Rest is Noise – book review

I have to be away for a few days, so I am having my husband guest blog.  For those of you who don’t know him, he is a visual artist and musician.  If you would like to see his work, his web site is Buns on Mars.  In the last year or two, he has been writing and he has his own online journal: Buns on Mars Journal.  This was an exciting year because he self published a book: How I met Van and Numan Future, Present and Past: Or my first impression of the future by So Cal Punk. I hope you enjoy his first blog here on April Sewing Journal, I believe it will be rare he will write here, but he will be a regular contributor to April Journal , my literary blog. -rb

I have recently read Alex Ross’s book, “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century” and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates serious music, especially the music student who is being introduced to the Twentieth Century canon. I have read many music history books like this, and I must admit at first, the title put me off. I thought, “here goes another historian who will be exclusive with the difficulties of contemporary music.” Gladly, I was wrong. Ross is gracious with the full canon of contemporary composers and gives everyone their due. For me, it was a satisfying feeling to read about the composers that I have appreciated but of whom are given a passing glance in other history books. These books, like that of the high art coffee table variety, are usually dominated by well-known composers, and the historians, while going through the motions, sift through their worn out writing with the same, safe, predictable history. Ross not only has his perspective from his research, with fifteen years in writing this book, he gives color to the composers private and public lives. He writes about how they functioned within their musical and political culture. But more importantly, Ross is a music lover and a fluent, informed listener. And as a historian, he is able to articulate on a formal level what is happening in the music and why it is significant. Ross begins his story with Strauss and Mahler and ends it in the late 1980s with John Adams. There is enough biographical information on each composer that the reader gets a sense of the artist. For example, Ross writes about how Strauss (a Jew) lived under Nazi Germany and his relationship with Mahler and Schoenberg. He does the same with Shostakovich and Prokofiev under Stalin. Ross’s writing is succinct and lively throughout the whole book. He may give some composers too much biographical emphasis like Britten, and some too little attention like Varese, Berio, and Xenakis, (I was somewhat disappointed with this), but at least all the composers are given their due. Also Ross isn’t afraid to personally criticize some composers like Boulez, who comes off as an elitist tyrant, setting the agenda for serious music after the war. Ross’s writing gives a cultural and historical context for each composer and  why their music is significant. For example, he will give the reader an idea how other composers reacted at the time to Schoenberg’s 12 tone row, and not just a glib historical fact. Ross’s focus moves from political and personal to more serious matters, giving the reader a nice well-rounded ride. In other words, his story isn’t didactic or stuffy. There are no suspicions here, just a matter of fact voice tone and clarity in historical perspective. Ross fully tracks the continuing drama of the position of atonal music in modernism.  After you read the book, you’ll  know what Ross means by his title; he is writing about all that is important in serious twentieth century music and the rest is noise. As an afterthought, Ross has a short suggested listening list. You can find these well known examples at the library. Also, if you are not familiar with the pieces that are discussed in this book, you can find them played on You tube.

corneal abrasion

According to the care line nurse last night, I may have a corneal abrasion.  I am heading into the doctor today, and I was pretty wiped last night, so I didn’t get anything together for you here today.  However, I did have a post ready to drop over at my other blog: April Journal.  So if you would like to take a look at my review for Jeannie out of the bottle check out that blog. Yes, it is what it sounds like: an autobiography of Barbara Eden.  Enjoy!

Update: Fortunately, the nurse was mistaken (she didn’t see it we just talked on the phone) it was a huge group of broken blood vessels on the my white eye and extreme irritation. Very treatable with drops.

Cory Doctorow

As sometimes happens, I remember an author and then, like a crazy fan, I get every book that I haven’t read of his (or hers) from the library.  That happened when I was sick and was reading  The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection.  I read Cory Doctorow’s I, Row-Boat.  I remembered how much I liked Down and Out at the Magic Kingdom.  I put everything I couldn’t remember reading on hold.  This last weekend I indulged myself in one author, Cory Doctorow, for the whole weekend. 

I started with For the Win.  This is a book about video game players around the world working  in sweat shops bonding together for a worldwide union walkout.  Although the online game, World of Warcraft, is not specifically mentioned, there was a lot of connections.  My kids were deeply into World of Warcraft for a time. I enjoyed entering into a world that I only saw over the shoulders of my kids when they went through their World of Warcraft period. 

It was interesting to read this novel in the wake of the popular movements spreading through the middle east.  Those movements would have been nearly impossible without the technology of the modern world. Only the transparency created by the internet, makes it difficult for the leaders of these countries to react violently while the world watches.  In the same way, in the book, the technical ability of the union to disrupt the corporate game (hit them where their wallet is) makes it possible to make the corporations agree to submit to collective bargaining.  The collective bargaining issue is in the news with the situation in Wisconsin so this book is timely in several ways.

Then I read Makers.  This is a book about a group of young engineers who begin a movement of making things, starting new creative revolution in America’s deserted strip malls. I love this idea. An often discussed topic in our household is the fact that America doesn’t make hardly anything anymore.  This is not strictly true, but it seems to be for the most part.   The idea of America becoming a country of makers again is a great feel-good idea.  Unfortunately, this movement falls apart.

When that movement fails, they go on to design a carnival ride documenting its failure.  Open access allows people through a simple joystick to change the ride itself.  It’s an interesting near future, very influenced by the recession and the declining middle class in the United States. As a side narrative, he documents many people living in marginal shanty towns.  The main characters, however, seem to do ok, making me wonder if perhaps he is obliquely talking about class.  I would love to see him return this future, a la Orson Scott Card, and come back at it from the perspective of one of the minor characters in the shanty town.

The third book I read was Someone comes to town, someone leaves town. This book was different from the other two, in that it played with fantasy, within the context of the modern world.  I had actually read this book before. Even though I realized it right away, I couldn’t remember the end only the beginning and middle and that I liked it.  So I read it again.  I still don’t get all of the familial metaphors in the book, but it was riveting even a second time.  I think the metaphors amounted to this: Mom washes, cleans and comforts.  Dad shelters and gives wisdom, but is slow.  Both parents are pretty ineffectual against the real world.  Sibling violence runs deep, and no one can escape it fully unless you are an island. Children born close together tend to be seen as a group and not as individuals. When you find your lover, she will shelter you as much as you will shelter her.  Her ability to shelter you may make her unable to venture out into the world.

Overlaid on this grotesque fantasy narrative is the real world narrative of building a bootleg wi-fi network.  I didn’t find this as interesting as the grotesque fairy tale that he had going, but it seemed to be important to connect the main character concretely with the real world.

So overall, I enjoyed all the books.  They deal with a plausible near future with very plausible technology: 3d printers, for example.  It will be interesting if such near future ideas will be able to stand up against the onslaught of the real future.  I mean even though 1984 has passed, 1984 by George Orwell is still  interesting to read and important in the canon.    I struggle a little more with Martian Chronicles by  Ray Bradbury.  It is not the ideas which are still interesting, it is the “aw shucks” sort of 1950s writing that I find a little distracting.  I have to say in the case of Someone comes to town, someone leaves town, the wi-fi idea has pretty much come true, part through blanketing every coffee shop and library with free wi-fi and also through cell phone internet usage.  The novel still stands well with its liberal wild west internet ideas and almost magical narrative.  Only time will tell with the other novels if they can stand the onslaught of the future.

project runway

I’m very tired today because I stayed up a full hour past my bed time to watch Project Runway.  It has moved to Lifetime this year.  I don’t know if it is because of that move or just random, but this year is the year of the girl.  This time 4 out of 5 of the last contestants are female and now the final three are all women.  There has always been one or two women who have come to the top, but the feminist in me loves to see this turn of events.
I am glad to see also that the women are also clearly the best of the bunch.  Every week the trio performed perfectly.  There was one other female designer who left, I think a little early, but these three really showed some great garments.  Also, the garments they showed were wearable, not huge peacock pieces of art.  So congratulations to the girls and I can’t wait to see the finale!