Seattle, Days 4 and 5

Since Days 4 and 5 were both spent mainly at museums again, I'm condensing them. I'm well aware you do not want to see the 200+ photos I took of various museum exhibits that I personally found inspiring or interesting or otherwise photo-worthy. So I picked one from each museum as an example, and I'll let your imagination do the rest.

This is from the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. Unfortunately, when I visited, they were between exhibits, and literally 2/3 of the museum was closed to the public. I did get to see this exhibit, however, even though they were still working on it - Artist's Books, Chapter Five: Women, Now and Then. This. was. so. great. Dozens of art books, each created by women, many of them fantastic and subversive declarations on women's rights and feminism and what it means to have a vagina in modern society. This particular piece is titled "Sheitel (Wig)" by artist Diane Jacobs. Curled strips of paper with derogatory names for women printed on them form a sheitel, or wig, protecting the wearer from having these names enter her consciousness. There were actually a few books with similar concepts - one a sun hat made of similar strips of paper and with a similar protective purpose, and one bikini made of strips of paper printed with the words "slut" and "whore" and so on, an attempt to retake those words and strip them of their meaning. There were other books that contemplated childbirth experiences past and present, religion and the feminine, and recent Supreme Court rulings that strip women of basic rights (*cough*HobbyLobby*cough*). I was disappointed that so much of the museum was closed, as I had made a special trip back to Bainbridge Island just to see it, but I was so glad I got to see these works by these outstanding women.

On Day 5 I decided to brave the King County Metro System and trek out to the Asian Art Museum (run by the Seattle Art Museum, but waaaaaaaaaaaay out in Volunteer Park). I love Asian Art, and amidst exhibits on calligraphy through the ages and the standard historical fare, there was an excellent exhibit of works by Chiho Aoshima. There was an animation that was truly stunning, and a ton of smaller works, most created digitally but some done in more traditional media. One of the coolest things was that the wallpaper in one of the exhibit rooms was itself a digital creation by the artist:

Chiho Aoshima is a kickass Japanese artist and I want to be her best friend. You can read more about her at the Asian Art Museum's website.

The final museum of the trip was the Frye Art Museum, another short bus ride and a couple blocks' walk. The picture above is the only one in this blog series that I didn't take myself - I can't find the pictures I took at this museum, so this one is taken from their website. It's a representative work from their special exhibit by Leo Saul Berk, about a distinctive house he grew up in that was designed and built by architect Bruce Goff. Each piece was a meditation on space and how we interact with it, how the physical boundaries we form and reside in can shape our lives and our thoughts and our imaginations.

Then it was time to stop living in art and go home. I wish I had some grand conclusion to this whole trip, but really I just wanted to share some pictures and some thoughts and take the time to reflect a bit. I had a great time, I saw many hipsters, and I'd love to go back. If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

Seattle, Day 3

Days 3, 4, and 5 of our Seattle trip mostly involved me wandering around Seattle alone while my husband attended a conference. I am not an adventurous sort, and me and the outside don't really mix too well. So what do I do when I go on vacation? I go to museums and libraries. And I love every minute of it.

I started off Day 3 with a self-guided tour of the Central Library branch of the Seattle Public Library, conveniently located directly across the street from our hotel.

Despite its sort of scary, industrial looking outside, the inside is actually very spacious (there are 10 floors!) and very inviting. You'll have to take my word for it, because I didn't take any pictures - my cell phone automatically makes a shutter noise and there's no option to turn it off, and, well, I didn't want to keep making all that noise inside of a library. The coolest part of the library, however, was the flooring on the ground level, in the foreign language materials section:

That's right, kids - the designer used a router to carve text into each and every floorboard. I'm told the text is first lines from stories in 11 different languages, with the type reversed. It feels a little bit like walking on top of history, of culture, of knowledge. It grounds the space in a unique way that I happened to love.

Now that I had checked out the library and decided that in the event of an apocalypse, this would be my new home, I headed downtown to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). I spent four hours wandering this museum even though they were between special exhibits and about 1/4-1/3 of the space was closed. I found many, many inspiring things there - an exhibit on Chihuly glass, a newly acquired piece by Ai Weiwei, the Porcelain Room, and a series of works portraying art and life along the Northwest Coast, among other things. But I will leave you with the following picture, which is the first sight you see upon entering the museum building:

It's a piece titled "Inopportune: Stage One" by Cai Guo-Qiang. He is a contemporary Chinese artist who often creates works that are emotionally and politically charged. The violence and discomfort in this piece, which symbolizes a series of car explosions, was quite moving. Good job, Seattle.

Tomorrow: Days 4 and 5, the end of vacation.

Seattle, Day 2

Day 2 in Seattle was spent doing all of the typical tourist things in Seattle.

We rode the monorail to the Space Needle, went up to the observation deck, and took many pictures of buildings and trees and water and other things from really high up. The best photo I took by far is the top of a building where someone painted a giant spider, complete with shadows to make it look entirely real and three-dimensional (shadow of the Space Needle is an added bonus that was completely unintended but makes me feel like A Real Photographer):

Seattle, you are so clever.

Seattle, you are so clever.

Then it was off to Pike Place Market to see people NOT throw fish (apparently this is a myth?). Lunch was conveyor belt sushi with some friends of mine who live in Seattle now. We then went to Gas Works Park, where we saw some LARPers in full armor having refereed fights right next to a girls' rowing crew doing some teambuilding exercises. It was an odd juxtaposition that I can only guess is an excellent representation of what living in Seattle is truly like.

I wish my cell phone camera had a zoom feature. It doesn't. I'm sorry.

I wish my cell phone camera had a zoom feature. It doesn't. I'm sorry.

Dinner was at the charming Elephant & Castle, which is a chain I had never been to before. The beer selection was great and the fried food delicious, and really that's all I care about.

Tomorrow, Day 3.

Seattle, Day 1

Now that I have finally caught up (sort of) on life, I can begin telling you about my recent trip to Seattle. I'll try to do it day by day.

We actually arrived in Seattle on Day 0, but that entire day was spent going to work, driving to the airport, flying to Seattle, and figuring out how to get from the airport to our downtown hotel, so there isn't much to say. I did have a new experience at the hotel - upon check in, we got our room assignment and our keys, we trekked upstairs, we opened our room door with our keys and... someone was already in our room. To be more exact, I couldn't open the door all the way because the inside security chain was latched, and a deep voice confusedly called, "Hello??" before I stammered, "I'm so sorry," shut the door, and ran away. We got upgraded to a suite for free thanks to this mix-up. Since the only downside to the hotel is that the rooms are tiny, having a (larger) suite meant that there were now no downsides to the hotel. This got things off to a great start.

Actual Day 1 was spent primarily on Bainbridge Island. Since we were staying in a hotel that was right in downtown Seattle and had not rented a car, we figured out it was a short walk down to the ferry terminal and then a lovely 35-minute boat ride to Bainbridge Island. (Thank you, Google Maps. In related news, I have finally decided that I need a smartphone.)

Approaching the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. Look at those trees! Look at that water! I could live here. Once I learn how to swim. And commune with nature.

Approaching the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. Look at those trees! Look at that water! I could live here. Once I learn how to swim. And commune with nature.

My motion sickness meds worked wonders and we arrived without incident. We visited Churchmouse Yarns and Teas on a Saturday that just so happened to be World Wide Knit in Public Day, which meant the place was hopping and we got free beverages and shortbread samples. Vacation still off to a great start. This is the perfect store for my husband and me - I have no interest in tea (but he does) and he has no interest in yarn (but of course I do) and so we could each peruse while the other was similarly occupied. It. was. great. I quickly discovered that they would ship my purchases home for me at a low flat rate, and now I'm broke. It happens.

There are some lovely things to do on Bainbridge Island that really require a car, so after a decadent brunch and some traipsing around various other shops, we called it quits and headed back to Seattle.

Seattle skyline photo. This one's a bit far away...

Seattle skyline photo. This one's a bit far away... here's a closer photo with a giant cruise ship in the way. here's a closer photo with a giant cruise ship in the way.

After lunch at a little out-of-the-way Thai place that looked like it might give us food poisoning (but didn't, and it was delicious, so who cares), we decided to go on Bill Speidel's Underground Tour. We had been told by some local friends of ours that this was the best tour to go on because it was entertaining AND educational. It was... decidely okay. It started off promising, with the tour guides producing the sort of witty banter and puns that I so dearly love. But then our large tour group got divided into three smaller tour groups, each with a different tour guide. And our guide was a dud. He wasn't funny. He had clearly been using the same jokes for the last 20 years, and they fell flat as a pancake, over and over. I felt kind of bad for the guy. So wandering the forgotten, buried, underground streets of old Seattle was definitely a cool experience. Doing it while listening to bad jokes was... meh. This was the low point of the trip, but as low points go, it wasn't all that low, so I'll take it.

After that was dinner at the Elysian Bar so we could try all of their lovely beers, and we weren't disappointed there. How could I forget that Seattle is so close to Canada?! Much poutine was consumed. Much drinking was done. Much stumbling back to the hotel at the end of the night. Much sleep.

Stay tuned for Day 2.

What I've been reading

"What I've been reading" is an ongoing series of posts the content of which should be very much self-explanatory based on the title.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

Source: Library. This is my public library's "Read One Book" fiction selection for this year, which means we'll have various book discussions and other programming centered around it.

Format: Audio, which was great.

Verdict: Go out and read it. Then get mad at the ending like I did. I can't tell you about it without spoilers. But this is a witty, charming, laugh-out-loud sort of read with truly great and bizarre characters and then at the end it just... pffffizzles.

The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood

Source: Library (interlibrary loan, to be more specific - hallelujah for interlibrary loan)

Format: Audio

Verdict: I loved this book so much I ran out and bought my own copy. The audio is great - the chorus of the maids is actually chanted in multiple voices like a true chorus, and the narrator gets Penelope's wry tone down perfectly - but this book is so good that I imagine it works equally well in print. The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus's travels, but his faithful wife Penelope is never mentioned beyond, well, her great faithfulness. In this book, Penelope tells her story of what she thought/felt/did while Odysseus was gone, and it ends up being a great commentary on feminism and humanity and what it means to be a woman. I read Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale years ago and remember very little of it, but I should probably re-read it because there are many smart people I know who think she is an amazing writer, and judging from The Penelopiad, I'm guessing they're right.

How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity, edited by Michael Cart

Source: Library, checked out on the recommendation of a coworker.

Format: Print

Verdict: If you love stories about LGBTQ people living their lives, finding themselves, and dealing with the world, run out and read this book. They were all so good I can't even pick a favorite. Here you have stories from famous YA and adult authors, including John Green, Emma Donoghue, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Francesca Lia Block, Jacqueline Woodson, and Gregory Maguire. There are some illustrated comic book style stories and some stories written in verse in addition to the more traditional format. I was so glad I picked this one up. "My Life as a Dog" by Ron Koertge is in particular a standout piece.

Happy reading!

Sunny Seattle

I was on vacation all last week in Seattle. I had a wonderful time and I plan to tell you all about it. But it is taking longer than I thought it would to get back in the swing of things, catch up on all the work I missed, and still find time to get the 200+ pictures off of my ancient non-smartphone and onto my even more ancient non-smart laptop.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my knitting riding a ferry:

That's clue 1 of the Shetland Trader Mystery KAL, riding the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island (home of Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, which was amazing!).

More later. Stay tuned.

Women be uncomfortable

(Thanks to those of you who get my obscure reference to "women be shoppin")

People like to tell me all the time that we live in a "post-" society - you know, post-racism, post-sexism, post-gender, post-classism. I think it is pretty obvious to anyone with eyes and a brain and a heart that we do not, in fact, live in such a society. But alas.

I work in a public library in a small town. As is the case in much of the profession, particularly in the entry-level ranks, I work with mostly women. Our director is a man but the rest of the administrative staff are women, and otherwise in an organization of about 50 employees, only about 5 of them are men. Women be librarians.

Unfortunately, as is the case in probably every job where you have to provide services to the public, our patrons are not always... the people we would like them to be. Some of them are smelly. Some of them are annoying. Some of them are whiny. Some of them are angry. And some of them are men - men who leer, men who stare, men who strike up unwelcome conversations, men who follow you around the building without saying anything, and men who try to follow you when you walk home from work.

We've had all sorts of incidents that have now gone into the canon of "office lore" and "fun stories" bandied about the workplace. There's the guy who wandered upstairs to the third floor (home of the administrative offices, where I usually work, and not generally open to the public), walked into a meeting room, shut the door, turned out the lights, and went to sleep under the conference table. There's the guy who took his shoes off, put his feet up on that same table, and ate his lunch. There's the guy who rearranged the furniture in our public area so that he could stare into the glass-doored office of one of our female supervisors (we had to buy her curtains). There's the guy who beat his wife in the elevator while their baby was sitting in his stroller right next to them. There's the guy who followed a female employee home from work and then later grilled a different employee to find out her last name. I could go on. Perhaps there are creepy female patrons, too - most assuredly they exist somewhere - but I never hear those stories, and I haven't experienced any firsthand (yet).

As a woman in our society, one gets used to a certain amount of male attention. Even I, who am decidedly not society's ideal of femininity and attractiveness, have been the object of unwanted leering, glaring, creepy smiles, and creepier "hello"s. Because I look the way I do, I'm far more likely to receive unwanted attention from lesbians than from men, and I have had a lifetime's worth of creepy lady interactions and pick-up lines and misunderstandings, but there's something about working this job, in this area, at this point in time, that stands out to me as "the time of the unwanted male gaze."

Fellas, there is a lot of information out there already about the proper way to behave in public. Just because she smiles at you doesn't mean she wants to have your babies. (We have actually had to train female staff to smile less often and less widely around certain patrons to protect themselves from harassment by said patrons. That. is. nuts.) When she's running away from you, she's not playing "hard to get." People: Go forth. Google. Learn.

But what I'm more focused on right now are the ways in which we as women change our behavior, and sometimes our personalities, in order to protect ourselves and accommodate the circumstances happening around us. Fundamentally this feels wrong to me in a very deep and real way - but when I'm the one in the trenches, when I'm the one in the line of fire at the reference desk, it's much easier to simply stop smiling and wear dowdier clothing than it is to change an entire culture's perception and treatment of women. Is it right? Of course not. Is it fair? Hell no. Does it work? Not always, but often. And it makes it easier to focus on the quotidian parts of my day until I get home.

Women have to be brave to live in this world. Women have to be strong, to be tough, to have a thick skin, to have their wits about them, to know an uncomfortable situation from a dangerous one in the single span of a glance, or a leer, or a gibe. But, at the same time we are expected to be soft, to acquiesce, to save face, and to feel embarrassed when we are frank and direct. It's an impossible dichotomy to inhabit. It's an impossible world to live in.

We should be better. We can be better. This is not the world we should be living in. But it's the only world we have. Let's treat each other better.

FO: Cecelia blanket

Finished object parade!

It started like this:

And it ended like this:

(Of course there's a picture of my dog's hind end in that picture. Such is life with pets.)

This is the Cecelia blanket, completed as part of a KAL in the Berroco Lovers Ravelry Group. I knit it out of the recommended yarn (something I don't do often), which is Berroco Comfort Chunky in the Seedling colorway. My poor tablet has a difficult time photographing greens, so this picture is quite washed out - the green is much more vibrant, as seen in the swatch photo from Webs (where I purchased the yarn):

The pattern was great - well-written, easy to follow, something an adventurous beginner could surely tackle. The Berroco blog had some lovely videos to help along the way.

This is going to be a baby blanket, and it's not intended for any baby in particular right now. Whoever in my life next announces that they're pregnant will get it! Knit in a thinner yarn this pattern could easily make a circular shawl that would be quite fetching.

Now on to the next project....