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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #46--Follow the Signs

Follow the signs. Sounds easy, right? Or not.

What if the signs all conflict with one another?

Today’s costume idea came about when I started noticing how many different traffic signs are posted around the city. I began to think about how fun it would be to create a costume in which all the signs were in conflict with other signs. Sometimes this feels true when I’m out driving.

Perhaps the seeds of this costume date back to a sign I saw twenty years ago. It looked like this:

(photo credit: Terry S. Hale)

I was delighted by it, because I’m an expressive person and I use exclamation points a lot. Turns out this sign alerts drivers that they should use caution ahead because the road presents extra challenge. (I still think this sign should be used to show that enthusiastic people are up ahead!!!!!!)

May I point out the irony in the following idea? Some signs are so long and detailed that instead of increasing safety, they may decrease it. Prime examples are the signs that say something like “No right turn weekdays between 7 and 10 am, and 3 and 5pm.” Hello—that takes a second or two to read. I’m supposed to process that while also making critical driving choices? Do you want me to read or drive? These safety-enhancing signs are distracting me from driving.
This costume idea gained momentum a couple of weeks ago when I found something next to the dumpster at my youngest child’s school. There were four giant octagons of cardboard, and two of them insisted I take them home. I walked home with them perched atop my head and as Melody pointed out, my shadow looked like Mary Poppins, floating down with her umbrella. (Quite true.) These octagons looked just like giant STOP signs and I knew they could become props for this week’s creation.

And while we’re on this topic, what’s up with the pedestrian crossing signs?

I don’t know anyone who walks with their back arm bent at a right angle. And what’s with the lack of neck, hands and feet? I assume these signs originally were painted using stencils. I know that you have to have breaks in the pattern so that the stencil doesn’t fall apart. But please—it’s 2016. I don’t think they’re using stencils anymore to paint these signs. We have robotic machines that can do surgery, and we can’t get a pedestrian walk sign with a neck and some feet?

Alternate titles for this post:

·         Mixed Messages

·         Miss Guided

·         Signs of Confusion

Whether you find traffic signs helpful or distracting, I hope you got a kick out of today’s theme. I’ll be back next week with another fun costume. Til then be safe, have fun, and watch for signs…

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #45—Disco Ball

Am I the only one who thinks disco balls at the DMV would be a good idea? I’m convinced that a disco ball can enhance any space, and some spaces (government agencies come to mind) can use all the help they can get. At the DMV a spinning, light-reflecting disco ball could make waiting less horrendous. (A little.)

Today’s costume is all about light and sparkle and a fun-filled disco vibe. The idea for this costume has been in a long time in the making—maybe 25 years. As a teen I bought a small 4-inch disco ball, just for fun. I had it up for a while, then forgot about it for roughly two decades, and then found it again in my old bedroom closet at my parents’ house. (If you read my post last week you are starting to notice a pattern of my finding things in my teenage closet, and turning them into costumes. Good observational skills on your part!) A few years ago I brought the disco ball to my house and put it up to provide a little sparkle. At some point I found other disco balls and the seeds of a costume started to grow. While at the fabric store last year (looking for something else entirely) I bought some silver fabric that felt disco-y to me. And today everything comes together and I am a sparkly disco dancer, having a ball under the disco ball.

It was a challenge to figure out how to suspend a disco ball above my head. For me, this was a must. A disco ball needs to hang, but how could I accomplish that without having something heavy and awkward attached to my skull? (The answer is bending a wire coat hanger and padding it with fabric. It’s not heavy and only somewhat awkward.)

Did you know that disco balls may have been around for nearly 120 years? The first one may date back to 1897 in a Boston ballroom. Apparently they also were used in the 1920s in dance halls. This surprised me but I was even more surprised when I looked at photos I took today and realized that the horizontal part of my head piece evokes a 1920s feel. I hadn’t intentionally brought the ‘20s and the ‘70s together--but I like it!

Like most of my creations, this week’s theme came together in various stages and from different places, which is part of the fun. I bought the three 2-inch disco balls at the 99 cent store, I got a disco necklace (broken) from my daughter—which I added to my head piece--and I made my dress. One day in a thrift store, I found a hoop earring with what looked like tiny disco balls on it. I turned it into two earrings. Only one earring or broken jewelry aren’t problems in my world: they are opportunities…

Yesterday I went to the roller rink, laced up my skates and skated around with my disco ball under a real disco ball. I was a little bummed that they don’t turn on the disco ball during morning skate hours but it didn’t dampen my fun. By the way, if you haven’t roller skated in a while, give yourself a late birthday present or an early St. Patrick’s day gift and take yourself skating. Major fun.
I think I want to hang my disco ball in our bathroom. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I like bringing something unexpected to ordinary days or places. Disco balls won’t solve all the world’s problems, but bringing an element of surprise or fun to the everyday gives me a boost. It is not hard or expensive to put a little magic into your world. I think taking a few minutes to add some fun to each day is worth every second spent.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #44—Music

Music is something everyone likes, but if you asked one hundred people their opinions about music, you might get one hundred completely different answers--opinions as individual as those giving them. Music is quite personal. And yet, at the same time, universal. It brings us up. It brings us to tears. It brings us right back to specific moments in our lives, even if they were decades in the past.

As a child I liked music and took piano lessons (thanks, Mom and Dad!). But when I entered my teens music became my portal to the world of pop culture and everything important in life (!). I still remember the first songs I discovered as a pre-teen. In the late 1980s, I spent my babysitting money on cassette tapes, and eventually on cds. We had a record player, and you’d flip a switch depending on whether the record played at 45 rpm or 33 rpm. Every once in a while I’d play a 33 at 45 speed, thereby turning the tunes into Alvin and the Chipmunks high-pitched auctioneer-speed songs. Kids, remember: this was before the Internet. Our options for fun were different back then! I remember the very first vinyl record I bought as a young teen—Business as Usual, by Men at Work. I bought it used at my local library’s sale for $1. My pennywise ways stayed with me, even if it’s been a long time since my Men at Work days. (Yet, I still know most of the words if I hear the band’s song “Who Can it be Now” on the radio. Amazing, how lyrics stamp themselves into our brains…) And I still remember my first cassette tape: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I’d bet you remember your first album, too.

The idea for this week’s costume came to me a little over a year ago. I was sorting through stuff at my parents’ house and low and behold, I found the Men at Work album, a few dozen cassette tapes, and other records stashed away in my old bedroom closet (truly, a time capsule). An image popped into my head: using my old cassette tapes and records to make some kind of costume. The idea remained in the back of my mind, and today I am wearing music on my clothes—my twist on the concert tee shirts that were ubiquitous when I was a teen. (I don’t know if teens today identify themselves through their music the way we did when I was a teen. Before tattoos and social media became such popular forms of self-expression, your music collection was like your fingerprint: it was your identity.)

Even as a teen I thought it was a little silly that people debated musical taste. You can’t tell someone that their taste is wrong or bad—it’s not like a math problem with one correct answer. Taste is individual. But teenagers are an opinionated group and music brought out opinions.  Digital music is a good thing—no argument there—but I’m a little nostalgic for the days of vinyl records and cassette tapes, the days when you could hold an album in your hands…Putting this costume together piqued my curiosity about whether records are still made. They are! Sales of records account for only 1.4% of all music sales, but that number is projected to rise…

Today’s costume has plenty of history to it. Here’s what it includes: a dress I made last summer for a costume and repurposed; cds; a record I thrifted as a teen (and wore on a necklace!) because of its groovy, clear blue vinyl; cassette tapes from my past; permanent marker forming notes from “Moonlight Sonata” (part of which I can play on the piano, the same song my dad played on piano, and which his mom played, too); felt; pipe cleaners; embroidery thread and ribbon. I formed the vest by hand. In the 80s using your hands was a bigger part of playing music than it is today. You took music out of a case. You put a tape or record in a machine with your hands. My friend Jen remembered that if the magnetic tape came out of your cassette, you wound it back in using a pencil. Good times…
I hope this costume brings back some happy memories for my readers, most of whom grew up when I did: in the 80s and 90s. You remember mix tapes. You recall DJs lugging heavy creates of vinyl to parties. You owned a concert tee shirt or two. And for those of you who have come up during the age of digital music, that’s just fine, too. You might get a kick out of imagining teenagers schlepping around 12” vinyl records and tapes. Hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s costume and musical musings. Now, please excuse me--I’m going to go alphabetize my 45s…


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #43: Spoons

If you inherited 1,000 plastic spoons, what would you do with them? Perhaps you’d invite your 1,000 closest friends over for ice cream.

In my world, they become wearable art.

This post actually started approximately two years ago. The kids and I made a trip to Yogurtland and we brought home the spoons. We used them many times, and even two years later the colors are still bright and cheery. We’ve made other trips to Yogurtland and always brought the spoons home to reuse. In the back of my mind an idea started to form: these weren’t forgettable white plastic spoons—no, these had color and personality. I imagined turning them into some kind of art work, someday…

The second piece of this puzzle fell into place a few months ago when my friend Angela asked me the question that all friends ask at some point. Angela asked if I’d like 1,000 shiny red spoons. Ang didn’t need them anymore, and she is aware of my tendency to turn everyday items into costumes. I accepted several hundred and tucked them into the back of my mind so they could germinate into a design. Phase three began when my aunt Eileen gave me some orange spoons left over from Halloween. Several hundred white or clear plastic spoons wouldn’t be exciting to me, but if they are in bright shades, I’m all in.
Today all this colorful cutlery became clothing. 


1,000 spoons is a lot. Even the 500 I took is a lot. I used 100 of Angela’s red spoons on this costume and more than 70 other spoons of various colors. The only things I bought to make this costume were some hot glue sticks. The spoons were given to me or reused and the dress fabric was something I already had. My hat was made from an empty plastic container. It happened to be cracking, but that doesn’t mean it is on its way to the grave. No way! I turned it upside down, added a little hot glue, and covered it with some fabric left over after I cut my son’s sweat pants into shorts (which happened when the holes in the knees crossed the line from edgy-cool to flat-out mess).
By the way, does anyone need 400 shiny red plastic spoons? They are still in their factory-sealed bags! If I’m not inundated with requests I may donate a bag or two to a local soup kitchen. Or maybe I’ll make my loyal readers some spoon-tastic clothes.

In the last eight months of making costumes each week I’ve learned a thing or two. I designed today’s outfit so that the spoons were only on my front. I’ll sacrifice for my art, but sitting on plastic spoons isn’t going to do me any favors. I’m drawing the line there.

I know this is last minute, but does anyone want to meet for an ice cream party? Since Angela had a big hand in the inspiration for this costume, I’m sure she’d be glad to organize a get-together for us. I’ll bring the spoons. Ang, could you throw together a party for 400? Angela claims to be moving this week, but I don’t think it’ll be a conflict. I’ll keep you posted…