Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I did a little thrifting yesterday, and today. I got some shirts for recycling, a little china iron, and some thimbles. But first - the cat.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The guitar is constructed of 63 different pieces of wood, bone, metal, and stone - - each representing the diversity of Canadian culture. Every province and territory is represented in the guitar.
“The ongoing mission of Voyageur …is to encourage Canadians to tell the story of Canada from a multitude of perspectives, to know and embrace our diversity as a kind of commonality…”
I was really intrigued and excited about this idea. I’d often heard of Canada’s culture described as being a “cultural mosaic”, as opposed to the American version of a “melting pot”. But this concept was very difficult for me to grasp--until I learned about Voyageur. Now I could visualize how --just like the different pieces in the guitar, individual Canadians--though completely separate and distinct from one another, coming from different places, periods, and people—could meld together to create something new and whole, and yet-- still plainly different, and having those differences appreciated. And just like a guitar can be experienced in unique and separate ways – whether one plays it, hears it, or just holds it - - Canadians can experience Canada.
Moving down to the neck of the guitar, this decoration on the fretboard comes from Nunavik. It is caribou antler carved by Inuit artist Charlene Watt in the shape of an “ulu” or “women’s knife”
An “ulu” is utilized in applications as diverse as skinning animals, cutting a child's hair, chopping food and, if necessary, trimming blocks of snow and ice used to build an igloo. For centuries the ulu knife has played an important part in the survival of Arctic native people, and date back to as early as 2500 BCE. Because it was believed that an ancestor’s knowledge was contained within the ulu it would also be passed down from generation to generation.
Moving down to the soundboard, three of these four strips of wood pay homage to Hockey--Canada's game.
(1) Seat 10, Row G, Section 321 from the Montreal Forum – home to 26 Stanley Cups – 2 for the Montreal Maroons, and 24 for the Montreal Canadiens. The Forum was a site of 5 events in the 1976 Summer Olympics, including the gymnastics event in which Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10, the first in Olympic history.
– an ambitious photo art project to take 50,000 portraits of different people holding the guitar
HE: Give me your hand
ME: (gives my hand)
HE: Here ... feel this.
ME: (uh oh, I know where this is heading...)
But he puts my hand on top of the slumbering form of a tiny kitten that has crawled under the blanket, and curled up against Hubby's side.
HE: What's wrong with him? He's shaking and shivering. Is he sick?
ME: No...he's purring.
I've got all thirty blocks for my Lucky Stars quilt completed on Sunday. I think I'll sew them together on the next Quilting Night In Canada - - that's right Gail! No hand quilting that old Birds in the Air quilt this time!
I've been cutting another quilt from scraps, using a pattern that I gleaned from a HUGE stack of magazines that quilty friend Roxene sent home with me last week. Thank you Roxene!!! I had so much fun!!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I had gone on a ROAD TRIP to The Marsh Store on Monday with six other quilters. Our intrepid driver was my Sister-In-Law, who has just recently been bitten by the Quilting Bug. (oh boy, she's got a baaaad case of it) We stuffed every spare square inch of her van with our purchases, having taken advantage of the 30% off everything sale. I loaded up on batting, and got fabric to back Pick & Choose.
A series of events are taking place this month, all over the world to help people with mental health issues—psychiatric survivors-- celebrate who they are as a means of conquering stigma. Supporters of Mad Pride say that psychiatric labelling leads to segregation, discrimination, and poverty.
Mad Pride is a project of Mind Freedom International, a coalition with local and regional affiliates all over the world. Their mission is to put an end to what they see as a truly global emergency: human rights violations in the mental health system. They believe that countless numbers of people are imprisoned in psychiatric institutions without adequate advocacy, where they endure solitary confinement, restraints, electroshock, experimentation and other forms of inhumane treatment.
One supporter of Mad Pride is York University health ethics professor Geoffrey Reaume. His doctoral thesis was published as a book in 2000: Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940. Just as his book was coming out, Dr. Reaume and a collective of other psychiatric survivors founded the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto, which is dedicated to preserving the history of people who have experienced the psychiatric system.
Reaume was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 14. Now, any mental disease, including schizophrenia, is difficult to diagnose. Unlike other diseases that have physical manifestations, schizophrenia is diagnosed by relying primarily on the patient's behaviour and history. There is no blood test, no x-ray, no empirical evidence at all.
Under the DSM IV-TR—considered the psychiatric bible: the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--a person must exhibit two or more symptoms in order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. These symptoms include extremely disorganized behaviour, and a decline in motivation. Do you suppose any of us here in this room today could meet that criteria –past, present or future?
Canadian physician Susan Rosenthal recently wrote “the DSM lists and categorizes symptoms outside of any social context” and that “most of the symptoms listed in the DSM describe human responses to deprivation and oppression (anxiety, agitation, aggression, depression) and the many ways that people try to manage unbearable pain (obsessions, compulsions, rage, addictions). “ Dr. Rosenthal believes that most of the psychiatric symptoms listed in the DSM are actually reasonable reactions to social conditions, and blames our capitalist system for pathologizing such reactions to create a profitable and self-perpetuating industry.
Now, myself? I’m on the fence about my beliefs regarding psychiatric illness. I’ve always believed that psychiatry as a science is in its infancy. On one hand, I’ve seen remarkable, even miraculous improvement in a patient’s quality of life when pharmaceutical treatments work. On the other hand, I’ve often seen psychiatric diagnosis and treatment arbitrarily dealt out - - considerations of age, sex, social class, and social connectedness seeming to be most important factors in how the patient was treated, rather than their actual suffering, behaviour, or symptoms.
Others have been a little more explicit in their position. For example, Dr. Thomas Szasz. Professor of psychiatry at Syracuse University denies that there is any such thing as “mental illness”, that it is a man-made myth. In his book “The Manufacture of Madness”, he explains:
“Psychiatry is conventionally defined as a medical speciality concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mental diseases. I submit that this definition, which is still widely accepted, places psychiatry in the company of alchemy and astrology and commits it to the category of pseudoscience.”
Okay, so, maybe you haven’t heard of Dr. Reaume, Dr. Rosenthal, or Dr. Szasz. But I’ll bet you’ve heard of Michel Foucault. In Madness and Civilization Foucault similarly argued that mental illness must be understood as a cultural construct, sustained by a grid of administrative and medico-psychiatric practices.
Let me cite a few examples of how social and historical context has changed how we as a society have thought about mental illness.
In an 1851 article by American physician Samuel Cartwright, the diagnosis of “drapetomania” was described. In those days, science argued that blacks were psychologically suited for a life of slavery, so naturally runaway slaves were crazy. It may not surprise you that the treatment for the prevention of drapetomania recommended by the good doctor was “whipping the devil out of them”.
In “Making Us Crazy” – Kutchins & Kirk write that soldiers’ reactions to combat situations have been described throughout recorded history. As early as the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, Greek historian Herodotus described a case of hysterical blindness in a soldier with no physical injury. In more recent times, soldiers have had the same stimulus of exposure to combat, but each generation re-invents these psychological symptoms.
Civil War: nostalgia
WW1: shell shock
WW2: battle fatigue
Vietnam: PTSD – posttraumatic stress disorder
1st Gulf War: Gulf War Syndrome
2nd Gulf War: acute combat stress reaction
Women in particular should be concerned about how psychiatric illness is viewed, managed and stigmatized by society and science. In her book “Women and Madness” Phyllis Chesler writes: Since clinicians and researchers, as well as their patients and subjects, adhere to a masculine standard of mental health, women, by definition, are viewed as psychiatrically impaired—whether they accept or reject the feminine role—simply because they are women.”
The DSM (remember? The psychiatric bible?) listed homosexuality as a mental illness until 1986. Is it just me? Or does that seem crazy?? Clearly what was at issue was a value judgment about heterosexuality, rather than a factual argument about the nature of homosexuality.
Now, we’ve learned a little about the Psychiatric Survivor movement, questioned whether psychiatry is a science or not, and considered how social and historical context changes society’s view of mental illness. What I’d like to do now is to back up a smidge and tell you a bit more about York professor Geoffrey Reaume.
After a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia at age 14, he was twice admitted to psychiatric facilities. He dropped out of high school after only six weeks in grade nine. Eventually, he enrolled as a mature student in history at U. of Windsor, and was very successful, despite having no high-school education, graduating in 88 with a BA in history. He went on to complete his Masters and PhD at the University of Toronto. Now, as a professor at York, among other courses, Dr. Reaume teaches the History of Madness.
And, as part of his interest and commitment to psychiatric survivor activism, Dr. Reaume leads tours of the brick wall surrounding the Queen Street Mental Health Centre in Toronto built by psychiatric patients more than 100 years ago. He believes that the wall preserves the history of mistreated patients, and gives psychiatric survivors a sense of their own history. “It is a symbol of prejudice, confinement, and oppression. By preserving it we can liberate their stories and ensure that the men and women who lived, worked, and died behind the wall are remembered and respected as worthwhile human beings.”
This seems to sum up the objective of the psychiatric survivor movement and Mad Pride - - to promote the idea of mental diversity, so that all people can be respected and treated as worthwhile human beings, and not simply a psychiatric label.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Playing around with the "bonus" blocks, I noticed that they might make a very pretty scalloped border. I don't know if I'll get enough blocks to go all the way around this quilt, but I thought I'd share the idea anyway.
The pattern is from Atkinson Designs, and it's called "Lucky Stars". I've got the first four block centres pieced, and they need to be trimmed down to 9.5". I'm going to go shopping tomorrow, so I've added a 9.5" square-up ruler to my shopping list, instead of struggling with a bigger ruler.
I'm stitching these little 'bonus blocks' using the triangles cut off from piecing the block centres. Instead of pinwheels, I pieced them into "broken dishes". Each one will finish at 2.5". It will be fun to play with them as I work on the bigger quilt.
Gibson is quite the hunter. He made his first "KILL" the other night. His prey? A Fenton glass vase of peacock feathers! Oh yes, he was quite proud of himself, as he came padding up the steps with a two foot long feather bouncing in his ferocious jaws and proudly laid it at my feet.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Okay - I've caved. I've given in to Hubby and Itty Bitty, and named the kitten "Gibson".
Not much going on around here. I'm going shopping with my mom, niece and S-I-L this morning. I'm sure that will be a tremendous source of fodder for exciting bloggage - (they are all CRAZY!!!!)
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This past weekend, Sacha Baron Cohen’s “mockumentary” Bruno took first place in the box office earnings, grossing nearly 55 million worldwide.If you didn’t get to the cinema this weekend, I’ll be honest and tell you that this movie may not be for everyone. I admit I got a little nervous when the ticket taker in the lobby tore my ticket, he directed me “try to enjoy the movie”. During the opening scenes of Bruno, which can only be described as disturbing, graphic, crude, and explicit, some members of the audience left.
AND YET, I urge you to go see this movie, with your mind fully open…… but perhaps for safety, with your eyes half closed. It may help you to know that director Larry Charles, who also directed Borat, wrote several of the funniest and darkest Seinfeld episodes, so you can expect great heaping spoonfuls of satire of political and social issues. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about a few other things you may expect from Bruno.
Pre-release the media let us believe that the premise of this movie was somewhere on the continuum between gay-bashing, and pro-gay-rights. But here is the true gist of the story: Bruno is a flamboyantly gay, Austrian fashionisto, who, in order to recover from the fallout of a disastrous incident at a Milan fashion show, losing his television host gig on “Funkyzeit mit Bruno”, and getting dumped by his pygmy lover Diesel, decides to pursue his goal of achieving fame.
But the true messages of the movie are several, and deal with serious world issues.
The film shines a flood of light on areas of society, asking us to first laugh at the absurdity of, for example, homophobia, and then take a breath and say “yeah, this is problematic”.
Bruno is first and foremost a shallow character. His only motivation to do what is good or right is personal gain. All he wants is to be the most famous Austrian since Hitler. And. according to a study from the Pew Research Centre, this isn’t an unlikely or unusual goal. The study revealed that 51% of 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed said being famous is their generation's most important or second-most-important life goal.
And so, to make it in the limelight, Bruno first focuses on the physical. Appearances are EVERYTHING. – a point driven home as the audience is invited to observe treatment at an anal bleaching salon, and snacks being served to Paula Abdul on a naked Mexican day labourer. But when his efforts to break into traditional fame-making film and television industries fail, Bruno tries other methods of winning world renown.
He travels to the Middle East, intending to become a celebrity by bringing peace to Israel and Palestine with a song and a spontaneous agreement between the factions that hummus is good stuff. Naturally, an agreement on the “goodness” of Hammas was not reached. Israeli political consultant and writer Yossi Alpher was one of the participants in Bruno’s peace talks. He wrote about Cohen in his “Jewish Daily Forward” newspaper column saying: “he is exploiting our tragic and painful conflict in the most cynical and deceptive manner. I doubt he’ll give us anything in return”
But I disagree with Alpher. I think Cohen made a statement of startling clarity: that the West has no business involving themselves in Middle East conflict until the West has a far better and deeper understanding of the languages, religions, histories, economics, and cultures of the region.
Peacemaking in the Middle East clearly didn’t go well, however, Bruno-- ever in touch with what is trendy--decides to get involved in charitable work in order to achieve his dreams of fame. He consults with identical twin PR girls Nicole and Suzie DeFosset to find out that Darfur is a "hot" charity option, though they were not aware of what Darfive might be.
You can check the twins’ website: www.duetpr.com and I’m glad I did, because I learned something new. You see, until seeing this movie, it never occurred to me that there were people who actually advised on philanthropy as a means to “create comprehensive and highly effective campaigns that deliver significant, measureable results” …..not to solving tragic conditions of poverty, war, hunger, and disease…..but to, and I quote from the website: “to maintain an enviable reputation within media and celebrity circles.”
On his way back to Hollywood, Bruno makes a side trip to Africa. And taking his cues from Brangelina and Madonna, decides to swap an I-pod for an African baby in order to gain celebrity. Next, Bruno takes his show on the road, and appears on “Today with Richard Bey”—a Jerry Springer type talk show -- to discuss his new role as a gay, single parent. It was very interesting to watch the outraged reaction of the entirely African American audience. One audience member accused Bruno of adopting the baby as a fashion accessory: And this caused me to pause and consider my conflicted personal feelings on international adoptions.
And yes, there are plenty of timely swipes at homophobia and gay rights. In one scene, Bruno and his faithful companion Lutz attempt to get married in California, where the ruling on gay marriage has been recently reversed.
One of the last and most memorable scenes of the movie takes place eight months after Bruno undegoes homosexual conversion therapy, and seeks fame as “Straight Dave” a caged mixed-martial arts promoter in Arkansas.
The crowd was absolutley wild when Bruno and Lutz begin duking it out inside the cage, but ….well, their enthusiasm quickly changed to horrified outrage when Bruno and Lutz began making out. What an interesting statement on the human condition - - we love to see violence, but are disgusted by sex and love. Luckily for Bruno and Lutz – the cage locked the crowd out of the ring, as well as locking them in - - the crowd was dangerously angry.
Besides homophobia, Western involvement in Middle East, the superficiality of fame, fashion, and celebrity, and hipocrisy of humanitarian aid, the movie Bruno also lampoons the Christian right, consumerism, racism, war-mongering, politics, and the shallowness of popular culture.
To concisely summarize the central message I hope I’ve brought to you this morning,
I’d like to quote Rolling Stone writer Peter Travers:
Cohen is on to something essential about our debased culture. His satire is Swiftian — crude, profane, fearless in using ridicule to bite hypocrisy on the ass. Like Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Brüno defies you not to see yourself in its funhouse mirror. And then dares you to laugh it off
Still not convinced that Bruno is a movie you should see? Seriously – don’t you WANT to see a crazy, gay, Austrian who isn’t the Governor of California? (yes, I stole this from the David Letterman show)
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I spent a perfect summer Sunday morning on the back porch with my coffee, CBC Radio, a book and quilting. Not a cloud in the sky and 22°. The windows were open in the Anglican church next door, and I heard the congregation sing one of my favourite Protestant hymns. I learned from Hubby that it is Orangemen's Day, and reasoned that that was why the church bell was rung for an extraordinarily long time today.
I've got all the hand quilting done on the (still un-named) kitty's quilt. I've got the binding sewn down to the front, and even the label pinned in place. But my fingers need a day or so to recover before I can manage any more hand stitches.
I've been on a bit of a "cutting marathon". Quilty friend Roxene busted her stash of magazines and passed them on to me. I chose several scrappy patterns, and began cutting into my fabrics to assemble kits. I'm looking forward to mindless, blissful sewing and putting my accumulated stash to use.