Sunday, January 25, 2009

Warning. Danger Ahead

I have been invited to break apart my world, the new world that I built to keep everyone else's world together. There were somethings I left out because the jagged edges were not other-safe. To travel where I've been invited, I'll need to bring somethings from the last world and dance on some of those edges I left out of this one. You can't just discard bits of world and leave them behind. That's littering.

So this week I think we'll hear from the Tiny Alien while I figure out which bits to bring. It looks dangerous, so that means I should probably do it. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Alternative States

I am so very, very tired. 

The Highly Caffeinated Coffee Poppet sympathizes while experimenting with other forms of caffeine. 

The Highly Caffeinated Poppet is testing out an idea for "chair pads" for poppets and standing on embassy measurements. I am jealous because the Poppet is accomplishing more than I am. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Ambassador Hires The Bilaterians Design Group

The Holiday break is over at last. The Ambassador's looking forward to getting on with his plans. Between the last inspection and the closing of the deal there were some nervous moments. There was a great deal of water damage and a bit of a to-do with the Historical Society about what they were, and were not, allowed to change. It seems that the metal underpinnings of the buildings rusted through, and depending on how extensive the changes were to the building, code requirements might mean that they will need to completely replace those structures. Doing so might result in full demolition, because as we all know when you open up walls and ceilings and such, you never know what else will be found inside. 

Algernon and His Poppet had performed the inspection back in December, and were quite candid with with Ambassador about the condition of the property. Given it's age and history, it is actually in relatively solid condition and quite reasonably priced, even given the current economic situation. Winter suggested to the Ambassador that he might want to hire Algernon's firm for the architecture and design. Especially since things were looking like they will be expanding. During the holiday, many other members of the Poppet community had arrived. Most of them had places to go, but some of them had expressed interest in the Sesame Street location. 

The design firm was named Bilaterians Design Group, which the Ambassador liked because it was very inclusive. He engaged them to come up with a plan and put them in touch with the Coffee Poppets so they could consult on the Cafe space. As soon as the Holidays were over the Bilaterians finished all of their measuring and specifications. They got right to work on the preliminary sketches and ideas. When they were done, they called the Ambassador over to see a presentation by the Junior Partners.
The Ambassador was very impressed by the amount of natural light in the studio. The Bilaterians told him that they were much happier when they got to work with a lot of sunlight. Unbeknownst to the Bilaterrians Design Group, the Ambassador is on the receiving end of a certain amount of pressure to consider a new building in the middle of the block specifically for the Embassy, but he is a little embarrassed about the idea and thought it might be a bit too show-offish. However there is interest in other Poppets moving into the area. Jacko's were looking for someplace to be off-season, there is a new arrival who thinks there ought to be a flower shop, two out-of-towners (not poppet)  just moved to the area and are looking at starting an music and manga shop. There is an area nearby that could be cleared out for a park or a fairground. It was all getting to be too much!

However - the presentation put all his fears to rest - the Bilaterians have figured out a way to make the apartments bigger on the inside than the out. Still keeping the project expansion to himself , he hired the Bilaterians and settled down with Algernon and Winter for an indepth look at blueprints and budgets. If this goes well he could always commission them for the other things. Maybe it would be good for the neighborhood to have a park and a new building, but he could wait. If the Bilaterians were successful with these buildings, perhaps he will stay quietly in the first building for sentimental reasons. 

As for the Bilaterians - after the Ambassador left, Algernon, His Poppet and Junior Partners get to work checking the studio's equipment, since new machinery had arrived last month.  This project will help defray it's cost and the Ambassador seemed like a good sort. Algernon could practically smell the secrets on him though.  As they were moving on with the saftey cheklist Algernon mentioned this to His Poppet.

His Poppet was not surprised. He figured that Algernon liked the Ambassador and Winter because they had avoided the very obvious pun that could have marred the meeting. Of course, the Embarrassed Ambassador would have been terribly embarrassed just for thinking such a thing. Algernon's Poppet smiled a very secret smile when he plugged in the lathe . . . . it was such a secret, no one even knew Algernon's Poppet had a mouth. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Coffee Poppets Protest!

I have made a grave, grave error. I am out of caffeinated, unflavored, pre- ground coffee. I was preparing to submit myself to the mildly chemical taste of something that has been made with French Vanilla Flavoring when the Coffee Poppets emerged from the bowels of my baking cabinets and set up their protest site. 

They started the Grinder Sit In nonviolently. Simply sitting there with their empty pot and their cafe menu, letting me know in no uncertain terms that while they liked a little French Vanilla with half and half there were other options that I was perfectly well acquainted with. I had time, so why would I settle, when I could really live? And then they silently looked at me when I explained that since I was the only coffee drinker in the house it seemed a little much for me to keep buying expensive brands and whole beans, so I hardly ever did that anymore and maybe they would prefer the Gevalia Blueberry? It's really wonderful. . . . 
Apparently it was not acceptable. They found my supply of whole beans that were packed in the airtight sealed stuff and just looked at me plaintively for a while. They subtly pointed out that my late breakfast plan included a gourmet Irish butter and some of the best challah ( an egg bread) I've ever had in my life, all of which had no artificial ingredients. I, still bleary from lack of caffine nodded my head in agreement which was all they needed.

I did tell them to be careful with the scissors. They supervised the grinding of the beans.
And discovered that in order to operate the grinder you needed to put weight on the cover and bear down.  
Two Poppets, Coffee or Otherwise are not sufficient to weight down the Grinder. They admitted that they needed my help after all. Of course they also hinted that if there were enough of them for critical mass and a few Steampunk Poppets to help with the engineering I might easily be unnecessary. I hinted that they would then be just like some of those fancy, really expensive, automatic coffee makers . . .  except pickier. They agreed that the household budget would be better spent building their cafe. Especially since they seem to have some interesting "high/low" design ideas, but their high is very expensive.
They studied the fruits of their (our!) labor and declared the outcome "good" and told me to get on with the coffee preparation. Which, of course I did. 

While I would have been annoyed had anyone else tried to outsnob me before my first cup of coffee, their choice of mug for their victory celebration amused me to no end and I forgave them. Also I had made enough fresh ground coffee to supply myself for the rest of the week. 

And the coffee was really good. 

Friday, January 9, 2009


Ok, you may have to bear with me a moment here. I've read a number of things that are connected for me in the last several days that have got me thinking:

Women and men have always caused themselves pain or exposed themselves to danger or dismemberment for beauty. Everytime I wince at the descriptions of the white mask powders that Queen Elizabeth used, I think about the fact that women now insert silicone into themselves for a type of otherwise unattainable beauty. And before anyone lets men off the hook let me just remind people that high heels were originally popular in Europe to make men's calves more shapely and masculine and that in Italy during a period we refer to colloquially as "the Dark Ages" Men wore short tunic and tights to show off their butts. It was a guy who was searching for the fountain of youth in Florida and he wasn't looking to sell it off to L'Oreal.

So in short order I read about Lisa Rinna, I saw a really interesting photo of Brad Pitt where he specifically requested a photographer who uses derrogotype  , I read a number of female movie critics who were trying to find a way to talk about the effects of plastic surgery on the ability of actors to act on film, I saw this review of a series of intentionally altered photographs, I read comments in FARK about how a woman who wrote a blog entry about a French Politician went back to work a couple of days after a c-section, and those people called her a "fatty" ( the blogger not the politician, who actually looks like she could use a sandwich) and quite honestly that blogger looked normal/PTA-mom-not-gross-attractive to me. I will not link to the comments, FARK is not for amateurs and I think that they were posting in a manner that is true to the nature of FARK. I was NOT offended by it but it did get me thinking about the nature of attractiveness used in the media. 

Then my favorite artist was writing about the few extra pounds she put on, and quite honestly I look at her pictures with a certain amount of envy, because she is talented and beautiful and quite frankly thin. Then in a completely unrelated action I had to weigh myself and find that my weight was lower than I thought it was, and certainly lower than I felt, but that didn't help. Then I saw this picture of Kelly McGillis ( a farking brilliant actor) then and now, and thought "wow I wonder if anyone will hire her" and then I saw poor Nikki Cox and went " Oh dear I wonder if any one will hire her?"

It is Nikki and Lisa that stayed in my mind most as I was reading all of the other items. These women are beautiful and while I think Nikki is a gifted comedic actress, I think from everything I've every seen from Lisa Rinna that she's a genuinely nice person. Here they are before they felt that they needed to interfere with their aging process - Lisa, she's the one on the far right, and Nikki. Lisa flat out admits that she went too far and I'm not sure what Nikki was thinking but honestly, I really hope it fades. But what made these women feel that what they were looking at in the mirror needed to be so drastically altered?

But I know. I know the dirty little secret. These women don't see themselves in the mirror, they see parts, and each part is looked at not through their eyes but through the eyes of the people they are trying to get to cast them. It's not about youth or sex or any of those things. Nicole Kidman's forehead is frozen because when she looks in a mirror there are slight lines in it and she can only see those lines, not that they are altering her ability to act. None of the rest of us can see those lines, and unless you are Brad Pitt, you are not allowing anyone to photograph those lines, because you don't have enough power to make people accept them.

 And that's the reality in the U.S. Since only about 2 percent of the people in the world have the right bone structure to look good on film, that leaves the other 98 percent out struggling for "character" roles . Roles, incidentally that they seemed to have stopped writing, both for women and for less than attractive people. The "ordinary best friend" role is played by the brunette pretty person, Jeneane Garafolo is considered the "ugly one" in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs". If she's the measure of ugly on film, I was SOL until I was old enough to play bag lady extras in the background.  

So here's what I am thinking - I don't really know what I look like, but I have learned that I don't see what other people see. My mirror is distorted. I can look regal and ugly and interesting but there is no part of me that ever sees "attractive". Because I see myself the way I must look at an audition. I have no idea what I look like "in life". And trust me I'll never get cast as Juliet, but I was cast as Romeo once. Nowadays I might have a chance at the Nurse. These women all had a chance at Juliet. 

When these actresses look in the mirror, I think they see "how much longer will they let me act?" and then, because they see the nose, or the chin or the lips instead of themselves . . . they change those things. Their view is distorted  so the changes they make are distorted too. 

There is no Linda Hunt or Margaret Hamilton paving the way for character actors who are female and less than beautiful. The only older women we get to see are Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and Diane Keaton, who were not exactly normal looking when they started out. Also they get to be old because they've won Oscars and such, and have mad skillz. Do you think we could even find anyone to cast in a remake of Arsenic and Old Lace? 

These women, Nicole, Nikki and Lisa are truly beautiful in every conventional sense of the word, and a large number of the unconventional ones, but they aren't alright with themselves either. I wonder if any of those funhouse mirrors are even capable of being broken. If they are distorted to themselves, how distorted are we?

Sigh. Pass the clown suit, but I think I'll skip the surgery. My starting material isn't the same caliber as theirs so there's a lot more room for error.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Resolved - To Journey with Risk - A New Year Ramble

What is the journey we are supposed to be taking? Why are other people always offering to tell us the ways we should go? 

I've been thinking about identity and how it is defined by others as well as ourselves. I wonder about how much of our identity we shave off of ourselves to fit in to the circumstances we find ourselves in. I play with the words circumstance, circumscribed, circumspect, scripted, conscripted, compromised, compressed . . . . . 

If you shave off too much of yourself, that's when you start to become numb, if you weren't numb to begin with. If you leave too many pieces of yourself out in the open simultaneously, you won't be able to function socially. 

Americans always seem to want surfaces to match interiors. It is disconcerting when they don't, but we've also limited the types of surfaces we can see. Then we stay in the same places, dong the same things, only interacting with people like ourselves. We don't realize that we've isolated ourselves because we seem to be moving but we're not experiencing truly new things. We don't disconcert ourselves. I'm not sure we remember how to journey. I know we don't want to believe in risk. We've limited our children's range so much that we aren't OK unless we know where they are 24/7. It's not healthy for us, or them. The only chance they have is that their parents are less tech savvy and they can at least roam virtually. But I fear for them, because they have voluntarily frozen their adolescence in amber. Memory sheds a softer light than computer screens.

I've been trapped in my own definitions for some time. . . . voluntarily of course . . . .  necessarily of course. But it can only be for so long and those definitions are other-centric. For safety's sake I tried to keep the inside and the outside similar. Before the electrons took over there were dreams to escape suffocating definitions. What happens when you don't really lose dreams but you shelve them? What happens if you dust them off and take them out for a spin?

They're good questions, and I watch other people struggle with them. They are the wrong questions for me though and it makes looking for help difficult. Most people shelve their dreams for other defined reasons. How many people on their journey told them to face reality? How many times did they listen? I think it's brave to keep the dream on the shelf instead of just tossing it away. I think there's a kind of power there. I think there's a reality to the occasional dream spinning side trip too.

What happens if you fulfill the definitions by being in the dream, and the thing you pull down from the shelf is you being Awake? 

What does that make you? What kind of journey is that? 

Maybe the real path forces you to walk both ways at once. I used to do that.

I can't walk this way anymore. I may have to walk the old way again.  I remember that way, but I'm older now, I'll bet there's a lot more underbrush. I probably put a bunch of it there myself by not tending the path. I wonder if you can be Awake and still hide your tracks. I wasn't so good at that before, mostly because I didn't care. I would prefer to be quieter this time. Quieter but whole. 

I wonder if this is that Wisdom thing you're supposed to acquire when you move from one part of the journey to the other? I think perhaps I need to go back and collect some pieces I shaved off so I could fit on the last series of roads. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What We've Shared

Not everyone understands or relates to Poppets, although there are a number of people at work who are intrigued by them I'm not sure that I'd gift Poppets randomly. They are cute but they sort of freaked my Rabbi out and I didn't even show her any of the "darker" ones. So it was with great joy and surprise that I found both my nuclear and extended family liked them. Some show all the signs of obsession that indicates incipient fandom and some sort of get it on the art level. So we were able to share some Poppets outside The Taunting. 

                 The little humbug flew to the east coast to be shared with my Sister. I love my Sister so much that it was more important to get one for her than for myself, so she owns the only humbug in the family. Isn't he cute?

My Nephew was also interested in things Poppety and along with some transforming magnetic Japanese ping-pong balls, we gave him a Shamrock Poppet to call his very own. It's what every Irish Jewish kid should have for Christmas!

My six year old niece got the idea of Poppet right away, and some of the pictures posted in the blog have been taken with her creating the shots. But she's too little to use my very expensive camera and so she had to take pictures by proxy. The poppet my niece wanted more than any others (at least based on the oh-so-subtle hints) was a Question Dogma Poppet. We don't know why, but we do know it was a Perfectly Appropriate Aunt Gift. So if necessary, my Sister can just blame me for being a Bad Influence. It's OK, I have a really kick-ass outfit for when I'm being a Bad Influence.  But it was somehow wrong to give her a Poppet of her own, without the ability to take her own pictures - so what you see here is the picture she took with her very own Fisher Price - Damn-Near-Indestructible, Pink So-Her-Brother-Won't-Go-Near-It camera.

No, it's not very high quality. But it runs on batteries, it's digital, it's hers and she doesn't have to ask permission. Her mom has gotten her other Poppets to play with as well, I look forward to the pictures.

Of course there was also the Limited Edition Winter we gave my Perfectly Lovely but Perfectly  Normal Mother in Law. And the Gingerbread Poppet I gave Grandma. By the way - it ends up my Mother already had a house for Ginger.

So the contagion has been spread. My Sister actually called me to see if  I saw the new Steampunk Poppets, I had but not the newest listings - thanks to her I saw the newer pics. My Sister saw Steampunk Poppets and thought of me. . . . . that's so sweet. It's kind of cool to have something in common so organically. When I showed her Poppets she showed me the Blue Dog by George Rodrigue. She shared an artist that was meaningful to her the same way Lisa Snellings Clark's work affects me. 

It might possibly be the closest I ever felt to her, and we've been through some stuff together. But this was just sharing, possibly the freest most incidental sharing ever, but that's why it connected with me so much. Nothing was at stake, and I didn't have to explain because she just understood. 

I treasure that moment, because I don't try so hard to explain or justify myself to her anymore. And she can call me up now and tell me the history of voodoo dolls really being about healing and not curses. And we can both celebrate sprawling brass chandeliers.  It wasn't always the case and it's awesome (in the religious, "full of awe" sense of the term) to me that we have that sense of sharing now. That should be celebrated and treasured and ornamented with Poppets and Blue Dogs. So this year was Poppets and I'll see what I can do about the Blue Dogs in the future. 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Taunting - No Matter Where You Go - There You Are

It was the day of the Eighth Candle. The Taunting would be complete. The largest and most aniticipated gifts are usually given on the Eighth Candle. There is a reason for this - let's say that what the children wanted most was a game system. Well, that would be a big gift and it would upstage all of the other gifts. You don't give a gift like that on the First Candle. Also, since you know it's your Mom and Dad Type Units providing the gifts, you also know they don't have the whole state subsidized North Pole thing happening. So, if you asked for a ridiculously expensive thing you can hope that it's going to be there on the Eighth Candle, but you know if the Parental Units are both unemployed it's probably not going to be there. If you're the right kind of kid that's OK.

If you're really the right kind of kid, you tell your Parental Units that what you would really really like is the Nintendo Wii, but it's OK if it's the big Channuka gift and it's even more OK if you don't get it until January, because there's some parent out there desperately trying to convince their kids that there's some kindness and magic out in the world, and it's important to those parents and kids for that Wii to be under the tree and it was enough for us just to know it was coming. 

I live with that kind of kid. We played out that scenario last year when Wii's were scarce, we were able to specifically pass on some available Wii's and give them to co-workers who needed them. We were able to gift wrap the certificate that the Wii was paid for and enroute sometime in January. The kids asked the non-jewish family members for Wii games and supplies. The non-jewish family members really had a hard time understanding why they were asking for games they couldn't play with yet. Over and over we explained - Yes the kids will be JUST as thrilled that the games will be there when the Wii comes in. They're OK with the whole delayed gratification thing. Yes. . . they are actually under 21 and American and honestly - it's  really OK - if you're really worried about it you can donate to the charity the Boy Child started - that's really important to him and will make him happy. . . . yeah Her too. . . . .

So you see when you have those kinds of kids, you want the last candle of The Taunting to count. So yeah, this year the Taunting is directly related to how awesome they were last year. And because this year The Taunting was involved in Overlap, what they were expecting to be the Big Gifts were actually given to them the same morning Auntie Claus dropped by. So they had no idea what to expect. It's the beauty of The Taunting. It's not about your list, or magic or anything else except the fact that I love you, and care about you enough to mess with your head. 

If you are my kid and you haven't understood the connections before Eighth Candle, Eighth  Candle is where it all comes together and you ask me questions or tell me what you thought and I answer you. Sometimes they come up with connections I didn't see. All the secrets are laid out and I get to find out if I read you right. If it works well, we all know a little bit more about each other and we get cool stories to tell our relatives. Of course this year The Taunting didn't just have the Overlap, we also had the Plague.

We had arrived at midnight the night before, the Girl Child was down. The Wayward Poppets had arrived home and were gathering to tell their stories and create new ones, but by the afternoon the Plague had afflicted the Perfectly Normal Stepfather and only the Boy and I were upright. 

The Taunting cannot be done by proxy, but the candles have a religious requirement to be lit before the end of the night. We waiting for a window when the Girl was able to be awake and the Perfectly Normal Stepfather had dragged himself down the stairs announcing that he damn well wanted to watch the Children open the Eighth Candle Taunting, but he needed to do it REAL SOON and far away from those of us who were not afflicted.

The Boy and I lit the candles and said the prayers loud enough for the afflicted. There is a favorite book of mine from childhood called the "All-Of-A-Kind" family. There were five little girls in 1915 or so and they came down with a fever during Passover and only one of the girls was able to be at the able with the parents to read the story and say the prayers, they made the living room a sick room and made sure the other girls didn't miss their parts even though they had to be quarentined. This reminded me of that. I'll probably write more about that too someday.

We came in and the presents that were Channuka, but not Taunting were opened. There was much quiet appreciation. Then we had them open The Last Takeout Boxes. 

The Boy opened his first, the Ninja immediately proceeded to blend into his surrounding. The kindred spirits communed. The larger Ninja immediately identified that the little Ninja was a Red underneath his Fake Pants, but he was still a Ninja, and now he was where he needed to be. 

And then the tired, poor, huddled mass, yearning to be healthy opened up her Takeout box and emitted a tiny quiet little squee. The Girl loves all things from Japan and some things from China. It was wonderful that these two little folk we ready to adventure out in the world just when we needed a big finish for the Taunting. The Girl has not looked at PoppetPlanet since I announced that Channuka presents were being purchased. She has seen pieces that I did not want her to miss - like Little Pink's Window but she had never seen Cherry Blossom, so she couldn't possibly expect her. 

It's like a Poppet Pretending to be from the House of Flying Daggers. But she's so sweet you don't even notice she's wearing Fake Pants. 

These were both One of A Kinds. These were poppets that meant that there was faith the Children would take care of them. These are toys that recognized that the Children aren't so Childish anymore, but they shouldn't leave everything behind on their journey forward. 

Here are the Poppets of the Taunting. This is the picture of my children's voices being heard. 

I hope I've heard them correctly, I hope they've heard me listening. 

The Taunting is now Completed. 

My sister got takeout box  inside reference on the first try. Kudos to her.