Furminate her!

Had tea with yarnivore and friends yesterday during a weekend of rain, cold, and sick kids. I told her about the awesome, awesome book Home Life in Colonial Days and she talked about spinning. I can’t knit, as it hurts my hands too much, but am something of a knitting/textile/ravelry fangirl.

I suddenly remembered that I’d gotten the book Crafting with Cat Hair for Christmas and so demonstrated cat-combing using this tool called The Furminator, which sounds like something stupid I would invent but which works incredibly well, producing a huge amount of fluffy, sheddy, cat undercoat. It is best to furminate your cat while saying FURMINATE HER like Darth Vader, or FUR-MIN-ATE like a Dalek. Yarnivore astonished us by spinning several feet of cat hair yarn and then demonstrating how to ply it.

cat hair

Milo and I both tried hand spinning without a spindle. You pull your hands gently apart while spinning the fiber in one direction, which pulls the fibers from the undifferentiated wad of woolly stuff into a triangle called the draft, which leads into the twisted bit that is about to become thread or yarn. Fascinating! We talked about dyeing fiber with local plants like fennel and pokeberry. The thing that fixes the dye is called the mordant; alum sounds like an easy and cheap mordant. I spent some time poking around on Wikipedia to see what it has to say about hand spinning and yarn terminology. I love all the special terminology for textile stuff. Heddle, spindle, roving, batting, loft, worsted, woolen; all very beautiful middle-englishy words.

Yarnivore also told me about FiberShed which is a sort of consortium of Northern California fiber people who are trying to encourage local production of textiles from start to finish. Apparently they are trying to start a maker space and are hoping people in other areas will do the same. I thought again of Kevin Carson’s book The Homebrew Industrial Revolution and may take a look at it in the next few days.

So, I’m hoping to learn to spin with a drop spindle! Wool, though, not cat hair. Though I wonder if cat hair yarn would be as nice and warm as New Zealand possum yarn?

A frivolous post about tea

On my week off from work I spent a lot of time at Noisebridge. We have a little set-up there with coffee and tea supplies, coffee makers and so on, which people keep stocked with donations. As I sat there waiting for my tea to brew I cleaned up the shelves with a rag and straightened out all the supplies and cups. I had a sudden strong memory of Arrakis Co-op in Austin, where I lived briefly in 1986 after I got kicked out of the women’s co-ops on campus.

Arrakis was a beautiful but dusty and run-down little house in West Campus. (I think it was partly burned down at some point, and has now been rebuilt.) I just remember sitting in the kitchen there having tea with Jimi and Dennis as they talked with me about moving in. I was 17 years old, a little bit wild, instantly in love with the collective house’s feeling of comfortable chaos, its porch swing, and everyone’s laid back attitude. The main thing I remember about sitting there is being absolutely blown away by one thing, the 10 or so boxes of different kinds of tea. They had all these boxes of Celestial Seasonings tea. I had never seen that before in my life. Someone could have 10 different kinds of tea, in their house! The boxes had nice art on them and quotes from Emerson and funny little sayings and it was like HIPPIES had made a real THING… a business. You better believe I sat there and read all the boxes to see what they had to say. I couldn’t wait to move in and try all of the different kinds of tea one after the other. In fact I did, and I wrote them all down with my ratings so that I’d remember which ones were good.

Arrakis Co-op house

Digressing further I remember having a similar hilarious epiphany a few months later while studying with my friend Abbey in 21st Street Co-op. She declared we needed a break and some ice cream so I followed her to the 7-11 where she bought an entire pint of Haagen Daas rum raisin ice cream. My mind was once again blown. It had never occurred to me that a person could just go buy a container of ice cream and personally eat all of it right then. I didn’t drive and I had never really helped my parents with shopping and when I bought food it was things like bread and cheese or a can of soup to get through the weekend. And we had “dessert” sometimes but it was occasional and a bit ceremonious, it wasn’t just like we had ice cream lying around at random. My realization was that $2.50 or whatever it was the ice cream cost was not completely impossible. I just went, OMG, it is not outside the realm of possibility that, not only could I have 10 kinds of tea someday, I could also, at any moment, if I have two dollars to spare, exercise my free will to indulge myself in a giant container of ice cream that is just for me. It was not so much about buying things but more about “things I could do that are amazingly luxurious”. And perhaps “joys of being a Grownup”.

I could wax rhapsodic in the same way about when my boss at the library would buy a bag of Milanos and put it on the table in the break room. Or the occasional Departmental Event or talk where some of us would horn in on the meager plates of brie and grapes like there was no tomorrow. These people at college were living the life!!

This has nothing to do with anything but the memory made me resolve to buy a whole lot of tea and put it at Noisebridge this week so that some young person might have that mildly pleasant experience of a random encounter with abundance. If someone ends up stuffing their pockets excitedly with the free tea packets, I completely understand.

Noisebridge tea cart

Poems about Francesca Woodman

I was at the SF MOMA last night for a party and noticed that an exhibit is running of Francesca Woodman‘s photos. Woodman was a fantastic photographer. Her photos often make me feel startled — caught — as if someone had been able to see into my head and had violently extracted several ghosts, or xrayed a thought, a dream or a fear. Her photos are usually of female figures, usually naked, in landscapes of houses and rooms, full of light and shadow.


They aren’t just houses – they’re like non-cartographical mappings of inner geographies of House, of Room, and of embodiment and gender. I see them and have the sense of being simultaneously trapped and freed, of being shudderingly aware of the trap of gender and patriarchy and of, somehow, escaping.


A few years ago I translated a book by Zulema Moret written about Francesca Woodman’s photos, Un ángel al borde del volcán ardiendo. I really enjoyed the project. Honestly, they aren’t the deepest poems in the world, but I liked the way they interacted with the photos & my memories of the photos, and they were fun and challenging to translate. They’re evocative and delicate. I have a copy somewhere — it was published in Buenos Aires — and am thinking of taking it to the exhibit to read while I look at the photos.


At the party we couldn’t wander through the museum, so I’m going to have to go back to see the exhibit! It’s very exciting! I had a weird feeling just being in the building with them . . . haunted by Francesca . . . as I ate my sushi canapes and chocolate cayenne cream puffs and played with legos, a little tipsy and very exhausted since I WALKED into this party. Yes, you heard me! Walked! . . . The lights and projections of lights, and flowers, and all the food, was very beautiful. We hung out with Jon Callas a lot (restfully nerdy and culturally similar to us) and Helena (dearhelenab?) who was very amusing in her role as Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And Ryan from Wired and several more people from Long Now who I know I’ve met at conferences. I was saying to someone I hoped they would put the constructed feminist language Láadan from 1982 onto their disk thingie of all languages (along with Klingon). Talked also to an Awkward AnarchoLibertarian whose name I forgot but who is an internet pundit. I have started explaining myself at parties either as a hacker poet, or as an Internet Pundit, or both. Neither are good explanations, so I have no elevator pitch for myself… Someone asked me, Web 2.0ishly at this party, “Poetry! So how do you market, I mean, CELEBRATE, your poetry and your work?” I thought over the last 20 years of my life and poeting along and publishing tiny zines and books in very small editions and shrugged… A celebration of obscurity?

Also at the party I nerved myself to go and (interrupting his endless conversation with Edward James Olmos the Battlestar Galactica guy) to fangirl all over Stewart Brand. Hiiiiiiii, um!!!!! I live on a houseboat toooooo and by the way my book coming out soon has an enormous long poem called Whole Earth Catalog that is homage and criticism of the last 45 years of your life’s work and our intertwined cultural histories of the Internet and communes and stuff! That’s all! I just wanted to say it! Have another canapé! BLUSH. He did a polite little double take and gave me his card and seemed quite kind. I wanted to ask Kevin Kelly if he liked my moon landing poem I gave him at foo camp, but I felt like it would be awkwardly putting him on the spot if he had never looked at it, so I just said hello and chatted to the other people as we stood around.


I survived the fancy Walking Party At a Museum by sitting down a lot and trying to lure people to sit with me to make things out of legos in the big bowls by the couches. Then would pop back up for a 5 or 10 minute Ordeal of Painful Verticality. Back at home, Danny gently massaged my calves and ankles till I fell asleep.

Pop music interpolations

This morning I was listening to the awesomely cheerful and cheesy first (and eponymous) album by Book of Love. I have to say of all the joys of civilization, aside from bathtubs, my favorite thing might be singing in the car to loud music. The privacy means I can totally belt out “Starman” while mangling the lyrics without being drunk or having a karaoke machine, but also that I can call up various embarrassing pieces of music to play at top volume without annoying anyone else.

As I sang “Happy Day” this morning I realized that when I listen to heinous pop music sometimes I’m mentally editing it, interpolating way more meaning or different meaning into it. There’s a whole category of songs I have to do this for, ones that are great but then burst into a verse that’s way too specific, like the verse about jumping into someone’s pool in Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Incentive Dealers’ “I Will Deny” or completely wrong. Book of Love is usually not so much wrong as it is simple like a coloring book. So my enjoyment of the fingerpainted lyrics and sweepy new wave music is usually enhanced by a sort of internal Greasemonkey script that shovels in the equivalent of “Howl” and several highly compressed Ani di Franco songs. I don’t think about this, it’s just what happens in the infinite spaces in between the actual lyrics, like the time compression in a dream. They’re like a shape and it’s like I”m having a complicated form of synesthesia (which I actually do get if I have some focus and can close my eyes). This morning I ended up noticing and observing my interpolations because they were so absurd. Yes. It’s like I’m high all the time and I have to suppress it actively. But everyone does that, right? Anyway!!! It went something like this, but way longer:

Can’t describe
What it was
yes exactly i can’t describe it because nothing is describable omg but here let me give it a try (long complicated holo-poem abstraction)
What shined
Shined so bright
flaming meteorites! but sort of fractal! phosphenes! some sort of magic fantasy world psychic power aura that reveals a giant glowing floating futuristic city in an alternate universe that’s infinitely complicated and sort of galaxies exploding and colliding

Hold on to the light
light! why do we hold onto it? what? LION!
Safe from the night
long thought about Novalis I don’t have time to explain
I can see
When you walk with me
but not “you” like a romantic you because that is all wrong but more like The Universe and stuff
Time to begin again

Lead us to a happier day
Except leaderlessly in a totally egalitarian way anarchically because that would be the best happiness!!!!!!
Happy day
Happy day

Say goodnight
Wake up you’re late for tomorrow
I’d like nothing to do
well not really
I would dream
Dream about you
Lead us
To a happier day

book of love band posing

Bad invention: The Sockerchief!

Imagine you have to blow your nose. You don’t have any pockets and no tissues are handy. But wait! You’re wearing your Sockerchiefs!

Sockerchiefs, the latest in my line of horrible and pointless inventions, would be a handkerchief attached to your sock with velcro.

Reach down, rip off the top half of your socks, and blow your nose. Then simply re-attach the hankie to the Sockerchief.

This is possibly even more disgusting than the Beer Hat Neti Pot! It’s extra cringe-worthy since no one would want velcro on their handkerchief. And since it’s easy enough to tuck your handkerchief into the top of your sock if you don’t have pockets (along with your money and ID) it’s also quite pointless. But I’m recording all my bad inventions because I’m still bitter about predicting the cat-ear hat trend back in 1993 or so and then failing to make millons of dollars when people started wearing animal ear hats for real. 20 years from now when the Sockerchief or Cat Egg industrial empire rules the world I can at least point here and say “I told you so”.

Beer Hat Neti Pot

I have endless frivolous bad inventions! World, I bring you . . . the Beer Hat Neti Pot. Beer hats are those contraptions that rig up two cans of beer on your head, one on either side of a hat, with plastic tubing so that the beer siphons into your mouth.

Beer Hat

You can be too drunk to lift up your own beer and still keep drinking. Grrrreat.

Neti pots are those little teapot looking things that you stick up your nose to irrigate your sinuses with salt water. They’re very effective at helping a stuffed up nose!

So obviously, there is a socially useful medical application for the Beer Hat!

Yes, the Beer Hat Neti Pot will bring joy and healthy nasal passages ! Even if your sinus infection is so bad you can’t bear to bend over the sink to rinse your sinuses in salt solution, you can wear the BHNP in bed or around the house. The tubes come down from bottles of salt water attached to the hat, and go right up your nostrils. An elastic band will help keep the nose tubes securely attached.

Perhaps some intrepid voyagers in the world of terrible inventions would want to irrigate their sinuses with beer!

Using a nose mask or perhaps a snorkel, the backwash from your snotty nose could then be channelled into another tube that goes into a Camelbak backpack.

Or if you live on a boat like I do, you could go on deck and let your nose water flow freely into the harbor.

I have allergies and get a lot of sinus infections so I’ve had a lifetime to think about this important issue!


Someday I’ll blog seriously about books and politics and poetry again, I promise.
Beer hat photo by Dave Nicoll