"What will you tell your daughters in the future? About how to stay safe?"


"Pretty much what I tell them now...Don't talk to strange men."
 "Strange men?"
"...Any man."

If you enjoy graphic thriller mystery cop dramas like Luther, Wallander, and the new Sherlock, I highly recommend The Fall, now streaming on Netflix. It stars two of my favorite actors, Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan:

Gillian's is a not only a strong female character, but an outspoken feminist one as well. Happily, the BBC has ordered a second series.

#181: Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac


Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Favorite Tracks: "Monday Morning" and "Blue Letter" and "Rhiannon" and "Crystal" and "Say You Love Me" and "Landslide" and "World Turning" and "I'm So Afraid"

Thoughts: OOOHHH MYYYY GAWWWWD THEY'RE HERE. We made it to Fleetwood Mac. I would say 'finally' but they deserve to be as close to #1 as possible.

This is, in my mind, Fleetwood Mac's debut album. It's the first album with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, but the band had made 9 albums previously without them. One of them is Bare Trees which I owned until I realized there was no Buckingham Nicks involved. I'm sure the truest of the true Fleetwood Mac fans will say they like the band's pre-Buckingham Nicks era, but to me that's like saying you're not really a Star Wars fan unless you also love the prequels.

Now, I remember the day I bought this album. Not the date, but the day. I was at our local shopping mall in the...Sam Goody. I know, I know--that store overcharged and was hardly a music lover's paradise. Sam Goody's is to record stores what Claire's is to jewelry stores. I would like to maintain that even as a teenager, my preference was always for Tower Records. We just didn't have very many nearby. Also they didn't sell a whole lot of NSYNC paraphernalia, which was a factor in my purchasing patterns at the time...

Considering where I bought the album, I'd say this puts me in late junior high, early high school. I may not be able to place the age I was, but I still remember going to the Pop/Rock section and looking in the F's. I don't think I knew that I wanted this particular album, I just knew I wanted one particular Fleetwood Mac song. Can you possibly even attempt to guess?

Yep. "Landslide." What adolescent doesn't hear this song on their local soft rock station late at night and become bound to it's melancholic reminder of her mortality? I needed it for my library. Fortunately at that time, that meant I got the rest of the album too! Nowadays I would have just downloaded the one song. Though I do appreciate that option when it comes to artists who have a harder time filling out a whole album with keepers.

Thus, my Fleetwood Mac love was born. Isn't "Landslide" everyone's Fleetwood Mac gateway drug? I like to think so. While we're here, I'm going to unload all my favorite Fleetwood Mac useless knowledge (of everything up until this album's release, that is) so if you're not at all interested, let me just say: buy, rent, steal, or borrow this album. Do it.

Where were we? It's a warm afternoon at Menlo-Atherton High School near Cupertino. The year: 1966. A few students gather around a piano. The tune "California Dreaming" by the Mama and the Papas is played, and two voices harmonize together for the first time: junior Stevie Nicks' and senior Lindsey Buckingham's. Not only their voices blended that day, but their souls and DESTINIES.

Two years after that fateful day, Lindsey invited Stevie to sing in his band Fritz. They went to college together, dropped out together. Then they began writing material together and in 1973 released a 10 track LP under the name Buckingham Nicks. This is the album cover:

Dirty hippies! Dirty, beautiful, talented hippies. My hands-down favorite track? "Long Distance Winner." Sunflowers and your face fascinate me. Brilliant. After the departure of Bob Welch (a former member) Mick Fleetwood was on the lookout for a replacement. He found Lindsey, who would only join the band if his girlfriend could join too. Thank God Mick complied! So. 1975.

I love the opening song, "Monday Morning." It's fun to dance and sing to, and has Lindsey as lead vocalist. It s lyrics also visit one of the major themes of The Mac: putting up with a duplicitous lover. Next up is "Warm Ways." Did I skip past this song most of the time on my discman? Yes. As you might have guessed, I really go in for the Nicks/Buckingham numbers. I like their style, their edge, their mood. Christine McVie and I never really connected. First of all, she writes songs with names like "Warm Ways." Ick. Some of the later albums will have songs of hers that I like (like the obviously great "Songbird.") But in general I prefer my McVie Mac to play in the background at restaurants instead of in my ear-buds while I write in a journal, or in the car when I'm rocking out. Will there come a day when her songs break me open? Maybe. But I doubt it.

So, "Warm Ways" is meh for me. While not written by Stevie or Lindsey, I love the energy and fun of "Blue Letter." A solid 70s folk-rock romp, expertly produced. Next up is the essential "Rhiannon." Our first Fleetwood Mac song by Stevie does not pussy-foot around: she is mystical, theatrical, haunting, and has talent cascading out of her tiny body. Am I afraid? Am I aroused? Both. Welcome to the power of Stevie Nicks.

I know South Park makes fun of Stevie for sounding like a goat, but the quality of her voice is so unique and thrilling. Her power and fearlessness in this version guts me. Also, can we talk about Lindsey's solo in that video? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The whole band is on FIRE.

So then we go on to..."Over My Head." It's nice! It's sweet! It's high-quality elevator music to my ears. Maybe I'd like Christine's songs better if someone else sang them? Her voice makes me sleepy, but she writes perfectly decent pop songs. Ah, well.

The last song of Side A: "Crystal." It appeared on the Buckingham Nicks LP, Stevie wrote it and Lindsey sings it. Over 20 years later Stevie recorded it herself for the soundtrack of one of my favorite films: Practical Magic. I like both, but listen to the Stevie version much more often, partly because I prefer its musical production and the added emphasis she gives the lyrics. I always like to imagine this part was about Lindsey:

How the faces of love change, turning the pages
And I have changed, oh but you, you remain ageless

Plus the bits about being driven through the mountains to the sea--very Pacific Northwest. Let's all stop for a moment and indulge ourselves. (Yes, that is Sheryl Crow singing back-up.)

Side B! It starts with "Say You Love Me" which is one of Christine's peppier numbers. I enjoy tapping my foot to it, but it doesn't need to live inside my soul. Unlike the next song, the aforementioned "Landslide." People will maintain that The Dixie Chicks' cover of this song supersedes the original, and on that I call "bull" and "shit." I love the Dixie Chicks and in general I appreciate their covers. Their versions of "Rainbow Connection" and "Strong Enough" make me plenty happy. But I will TURN OFF the radio if their version of "Landslide" comes on. I am so committed and connected to the original that I want to guard it. I wouldn't need to if the Dixie Chicks' hadn't released it as a single. But they did. Harrumph.

The original studio recording will always be the greatest, but I happily accept and listen to the live version from The Dance when Stevie dedicates it to her father. In fact, having both versions is important as they sort of bookend each other.  In 1975 she was 27! Quarter-life crisis. In 1997 she's 49. The song still rings true, but with deeper knowledge of life and aging. Plus, the power of watching Stevie and Lindsey together on that song after being separated for so long and all they went through together...chilling and moving. Shall we?

Come ON. Lindsey's face at 3:31? Holiest of holy moments.

In fact, I'm totally unfamiliar with the last three songs on the album because I could never play past "Landslide." It's a show-stopper. Regardless, they're great songs, especially "World Turning" and "I'm So Afraid." Oh man, I'm so excited for more Mac to show up on this list.

Is This Better Than Bad?:

In fact, I dub it the new qualifier.

Song of the day.

Since hearing this song in a perfect scene from Fringe, I can't stop listening to it. I'd heard it before, but this was the first time I heard it. I've even made it my ringtone!

#182: Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson


Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson (1975)

Favorite Tracks: "I Couldn't Believe it Was True" and "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and "Denver" and "Can I Sleep in Your Arms" and "Remember Me" and "Hands on the Wheel" and "Bandera"

Thoughts: We haven't heard Willie since #254, and I'm happy to have him back. I wasn't totally on board with the fact that Stardust was so far in as an album of covers, but Red Headed Stranger is original music--a concept album, no less!--so I left my gripes at the door. In the 80s Willie even starred in a movie by the same name. I haven't seen it. Have you?

Well, no matter how good or not good the movie is, but I can safely say the album is PURE GOLD. Listening to it was like sitting in a log cabin drinking whiskey by the fire. It's mostly about horses and women and heartache (like most decent country albums) but the gentle flow from the first track to the last felt like a leisurely--albeit melancholy--river float. It's not all-out depressing, but wistful and nostalgic. I highly recommend giving this album a listen--I know I'll be returning to it.

Is This Better Than Bad?:

A Woman Alone

When she cannot be sure
which of two lovers it was with whom she felt
this or that moment of pleasure, of something fiery
streaking from head to heels, the way the white
flame of a cascade streaks a mountainside
seen from a car across a valley, the car
changing gear, skirting a precipice,
When she can sit or walk for hours after a movie
talking earnestly and with bursts of laughter
with friends, without worrying
that's it's late, dinner at midnight, her time
spent without counting the change...
When half her bed is covered with books
and no one is kept awake by the reading light
and she disconnects the phone, to sleep till noon...
self-pity dries up, a joy
untainted by guilt lifts her.
She has fears, but not about loneliness;
fears about how to deal with the aging
of her body--how to deal
with photographs and the mirror. She feels
so much younger and more beautiful
than she looks. At her happiest
--or even in the midst of
some less than joyful hour, sweating
patiently through a heatwave in the city
or hearing the sparrows at daybreak, dully gray,
toneless, the sound of fatigue--
a kind of sober euphoria makes her believe
in her future as an old woman, a wanderer,
seamed and brown,
little luxuries of the middle of life all gone,
watching cities and rivers, people and mountains,
without being watched; not grim nor sad,
an old winedrinking woman, who knows
the old roads, grass-grown, and laughs to herself...
She knows it can't be:
that's Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby from The Water Babies,
no one can walk the world any more,
a world of fumes and decibels.
But she thinks maybe
she could get to be tough and wise, some way,
anyway. Now at least
she is past the time of mourning,
now she can say without shame or deceit,
O blessed Solitude.

- Denise Levertov

"The time has embroider FOR YOUR LIFE. Good luck, and don't f*ck it up."


(I've only watched 2 episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race, but I'm referencing it in the title anyway.) When looking on Etsy for embroidery patterns, I stumbled upon this mermaid circle/threesome/synchronized swimming routine:


I bought the pattern and filed it away for the future. I know what you're thinking. "It's not completely embroidery! Large sections of the fabric is...dyed?" You're absolutely right. I don't know how to do that! Plus, you know my love of satin stitches. So it stood to reason that the only color in my version would be from floss. If you're looking for a recreation of the above image, you've come to the wrong blog post.

So why did I have to embroider for my life? Why wasn't it regular, non-fatal embroidering? Well, I discovered my friend Lucy's birthday was coming up, and decided I wanted to make her something. But the days between that decision and her birthday left me with a little less than 2 weeks for completion. Lady With Flowers For Hair took me about 2 months. The logical thing to do would be to make a reasonably-sized version of the pattern for Lucy, say 6 or 7 inches in diameter. But I laugh in the face of logic--HA!

I stuck my fabric in a 14 inch hoop and drew a 12 inch pattern! Go big or go home, right? Of course, right! I  have few areas of discipline in my life, as I'm a subscriber to the idea that the universe/God/Satan/coincidences/reality/other people will throw enough hardship and heartache at you, so be gentle to yourself. The one real exception: I'm a bit of a masochist when it comes to crafts.*

I realize I didn't put anything in this photo that really gives you any scale, but the two wood blocks when together make up about the size of a lipstick case. And for all the frat boy jocks** out there who would never make it their business to know the size of a lipstick case, let's just say it's about the size of...a bottle of fingernail polish. ["Ha HA!" Maryann lamely laughed alone to herself. Bitterly.]

Lucy and her husband Kris have more of a neutrals/earthy palette to their beautiful home. When I originally bought floss for this pattern and the plan was to make it for myself, I'd picked out bright yellows, purples, and pinks for the mermaid tails. Less Peter Pan and more The Little Mermaid:

So I went back to the store and picked out the earthiest mermaid colors I could find. But because it was me, it still turned out pretty brightly colored. I split up hair and tail colors for each of the ladies, giving each mermaid a mystical name like Facing, Middle, or Away (just kidding--that's how I distinguished them in the pattern):

I would have taken in-progress photos, but good lord I was spending every waking moment stitching. On more than one occasion I stayed up until I heard birds chirping and saw the sun peaking through my windows. This isn't a huge surprise because I'm a night owl, but usually I'm not staying up THAT late. But my deadline and the stimulation of the project made me a bit manic. I now have callouses on my thumb and forefinger where I hold the needle (using a touch-screen phone with callouses feels WEIRD), and my thumb knuckle still hurts, even though I haven't stitched since Monday. I'm absurdly proud of myself for these crafts-associated 'battle wounds.' (See? Craft-Masochist.)

I'm less proud of how messy I let my place get whenever I'm working wholeheartedly on a project. A glimpse into the madness that is my living room floor right now (plus some gratuitous Norm tum-tums):

See all those little round bits of paper? That's what's holding the embroidery floss together when you buy it. Whenever I take them off I like to put them on top of the cats. The bits of paper are light enough that you can get like 7 on a Oz before he notices, since his fur is so long. Which means at the end of a project they've ended up scattered all over the floor until I finally go around with a recycling bag and pay for my Sins Against Catmanity.

But enough about my crafts-related mess, let's see the final product! Here it is, only seconds before the fabric was cut, and I put it in a nicer, smaller frame before whisking it off to Lucy:

Close(r) up:

As you can see I hand-traced scales onto each of the tails, which I am pretty happy with. I declined to give 'real' boobs to the blond mermaid because despite my previous claims, areolas are not for everyone. Or at least not everyone's home decor style. (This is no commentary on Lucy's preference for boob vs. boobless mermaids--I would have left than nippleless for anyone other than myself. Though Lucy, if you're reading this and decide you want some nipple-action, that can be easily arranged.)

My main regrets: 

1) I wish I'd taken the time to do natural light photos of the finished product. You can see some of the underneath stitching in these photos thanks to the flash.  I also wish I'd taken a photo of it in its smaller frame. The 'tightness' of the frame and stitches is cooler looking than the big gaps you see here.
2) SKIN COLOR. Bane of my existence. Lucy has two sisters (whom I love dearly) so I thought I'd give the mermaids the same skin color but different hair colors to match the sisters. But the skin color I picked is so fucking light! Unless you are up close to the fabric it looks like three floating tails and three floating hair blobs. Maybe if I'd given them shell bikini tops? Meh.
3) Faces. Faces, faces, faces. How to stitch a lady's face that doesn't look like a Kewpie doll. I'm not there yet. Fortunately I only had to do one face for this pattern. 

Other than that, I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I love the colors and arrangement of the mermaids.  As I drove to Lucy's house I worried about the possibility of her not totally loving it. I can see how needlepoint can be overly kitschy or cheesy for some people's tastes. If you make someone a gift and they don't love it, that can be...awkward.

"Sorry you can't return it. I mean, you could return it, but you'd be returning it to ME, since it's not from a store. I suppose I'd rather you give it to me than leave it at goodwill, but maybe instead you could leave it in a closet and only bring it out when I come over...? But that's a lot of work and lying on your part. So just give it back! But then I'll have it in my house and be constantly reminded that I made it for you and you didn't like it. HOMEMADE GIFTS ARE POISON TO RELATIONSHIPS!"

You get the idea. Fortunately Lucy's reaction was even better than I could have hoped. Her excitement when she opened it sent me over the moon. I spent so much time thinking of her when I planned and made the piece (that word sounds so pretentious when referring to art) that her wild appreciation for it gave me the greatest feeling ever. I love you, Lucy!

*And hair dye.
**You'd be amazed how many frat boy jocks read my blog. So many. The jock traffic is particularly high on the mermaid embroidery posts.

#183: The Stooges by The Stooges


The Stooges by The Stooges (1969)

Favorite Tracks: "1969" and "We Will Fall" and "No Fun"

Thoughts: We JUST heard The Stooges back at #183 and I wasn't blown away. This is their debut album and since it's from 1969, I wasn't very disappointed. "We Will Fall" is a 10 minute song with a repeated mantra (I don't think in English) that could have been annoying, but was haunting and meditative instead. It's got an Eastern, psychedelic feel and I always associate the Stooges with a more punk sensibility, so it helped expand my view of their music. Especially the violin (or some type of string instrument) at the end that even added a country feel! "No Fun" was a catchy start to side B, and had me wanting to clap along.

Overall, not bad, but not a new favorite either.

Is This Better Than Bad?: Not to me.

Trapped Swallow


The trees are quiet and moist, they stand
attentive as good children in new clothes,
hands folded before them. I have washed
the blanket and am struggling to heave
its damp mass over the yellow plastic of the line.
It was marked with the swallow's panic,
the swallow I found in the stairwell,
exploding off ceilings and doors;
I caught up with it at last,
scrabbling the window behind a row of pot plants,
closed my hand on its air-tight life,
opened a door and threw it up into the sky. My life
is small and I would have it
no other way. The first whitethorn
has broken and martins flicker and skim. Last night,
by the river, I noted the scream of the swifts.
Two grey herons rose up from the bank
and went lumbering into the trees.
Further down, the raven flung
its harsh cry from the woods. It broke
and circled, its blunt wings drubbing the air. A little wind
has come up now, out of nowhere, and with it
a misting of rain. I reverse my heave and pull
at the blanket's felt. With the swallow
suddenly quiet in my hand
I felt the weight of privilege: my dense flesh sheltering
its weightless life. The privilege
crept into my sleep and I woke with it
today. I have this small, deep pain
of understanding nothing. The spring is changing
into summer and I keep adding
years to my life.

- Kerry Hardie

in bloom


In early March I finally purchased an art print I'd been admiring for months. The artist is Irene Renon from Vicenza, Italy. I saw her watercolor painting "flowers bloom" and loved it immediately. If only I could paint like this:

I hung it in a frame above my medicine cabinet in my kitchen, (I'm much better about taking food with pills if said pills are actually near food! Also that means a medicine-cabinet-raiding-pill-popper would have to steal them in plain sight. ...Unless I'm the bathroom. Damn.) and admired it daily.

That is until admiring it wasn't enough. "I must needle you!" (Not nearly as cool as declaring "I must paint you!" Instead it sounds like I'm just going to annoy it for a few hours.)

Attempting to embroider a watercolor painting is a fool's errand. The options for layering and blending are limited--especially at my novice status. But inspiration struck and I decided to go for it. I drew a general outline sketch on the fabric, but as you will see the flowers themselves were not correctly proportionate. Fortunately I still liked how they turned out. It's actually the face/neck that didn't go as well as I planned. I wish I'd done it more orange-peach like it is the painting, instead of just regular cream/beige.

It took me about two months to finish, but it's finally done. 

Here it is with a copy of the painting I made for reference:


I love it, but I'm a little relieved that my next project has a pattern for me to work from!

Oz + Light