Saturday, February 29, 2020

Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets

Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading PuppetsQuay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets by Ron Magliozzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Brothers Quay are ageing, and someday, they will be subsumed into the darkness, only to emerge in their memory, their cinematic worlds, their graphic art, and books written about them - along with any residuals contained in the wires and boxes of the intrawebs. I hope to outlive them by many, many years. I also hope to enjoy their legacy that whole time. Not only to enjoy it, but to make something of it, if only in the worlds of roleplaying.

There is a strong element of the weird in the Quay's work, largely because of the presence of life where there should be no life - in hollowed-out puppets, stuffed rabbits, screws, and iron shavings. It's almost as if the trickster gods were granted power to imbue life into whatever they wished to.

On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets is a sort of lost scripture dedicated to these twin trickster gods. We learn a bit of their origins, just enough to hint at their moment of apotheosis in art school, standing before a wall of polish movie posters. We learn of their journey through graphic design, their descent into and alongside the artistic works of Bruno Schulz, Franz Kafka, Emma Hauch, Leonora Carrington, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lech Jankowski, Michel de Ghelderode, and others. We even learn of the nectar of these gods, wines and beers that influenced them and that are hinted at in some of their works.

Two essays begin the work, "The Manic Department Store," by Ron Magliozzi and "Those Who Desire Without End," by Edwin Carels. These are insightful outsider accounts of the influences that propelled the brothers into their dark world and their navigations throughout. Then comes the mythic interview between Heinrycho Holtzmullero and "QQ" - a mystical text akin to Isaiah in its obscurity, yet revealing much that has been hidden. This, along with the dozens of illustrations of the exhibition (a sort of cryptic alphabet?) which gives the book its name, is the heart of the matter, a peek into the brains of the Brother's Quay provided by them, as if they were being interviewed by the long dead "HH". But one must ask, as one should always ask of any of the trickster god's(s') actions - can they be trusted? Are they deceiving us?

Consider me willfully-deceived.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Sumer is Icumen In

Indeed, it is. Well, somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere it is. Here in Wisconsin, it is still winter. Plenty of time for sewing!

A brief update - Patch 2 of the left arm is now secured. The patch is from one of my favorite movies, The Wicker Man. I thought it appropriate for the esoteric denim. Those who have seen the movie know why. Those who don't . . . well, you'll have to see it. At this point, the left arm looks like this:

And, since it's not completely clear in the picture, here is what the Wicker Man patch looks like, up close and grimly beautiful:

Again, not the best stitching job, but I don't care. It's mine, and I love it!

Next, I think I will work on that Frank the Bunny patch. That one shouldn't take long. I'll be honest, I'm dreading doing the rest of the cloth patches, as I'm going to need to stitch those tight and thick and trim the edges, which scares me more than just a little. Then again, isn't that the point of the esoteric denim?

Previous entries:

Sew Much to Do

Ouroboros Complete

Back to the Back

Two Stitches Forward, One Stitch Back

Slew Going

Full Frontal

Incidentally, the social media fast is going well. One week left. But I might just very briefly check in on social media, then immediately withdraw until this project is completely done. In fact, I'm toying with the idea of doing this each time I want to tackle a project, just completely shutting off social media until I am done. Or I might do an intermittent fast, going forward. Say, every three months take a month off. I feel like now I am empowered to do that, to make that decision and not regret it. Honestly, I feel stronger for it.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Full Frontal

. . . of the esoteric denim. Can't wait to see what kind of visitors that title brings in . . .

You probably thought I had given up, stopped sewing, huh? WRONG! I still have a week of social-media-fasting (punctuated by the unfortunate fiasco of Garycon registration going horribly, horribly wrong for the third time in four years - I got on Twitter and FB long enough to express my hot displeasure, then up and left), so I'm trying to take advantage of this time as much as possible. Thing is, I actually have a pretty busy social schedule between date night with my wife every Friday, volunteer commitments every Sunday and most Monday nights, D&D every Tuesday night, and MCC once a month, not to mention other gaming one-offs, etc, etc, etc. Yes, I am busy. Hence the need for a break from social media. Socializing, while enjoyable, takes energy away from me. I recharge alone. Thankfully, sewing the esoteric denim has given me some recharging time!

Sew, where are we? (I can't help it - I'm a Dad). since last post, I've learned a few things, the most important of which is: use shorter lengths of thread. I thought that spooling that sucker out to around three feet would ensure that I had lots of thread to work with, postponing the need to re-thread the needle as long as possible. What I found was, with that long of a thread, you are bound (pun intended) to have thread bunch up and tangle, no matter how carefully you work. It's just (wait for it . . .) bound to happen. Something more like 18 inches works better. Much better.

In any case, here is where we are at:

Okay, so it's a little bumpy. meaning that I didn't have the patch stretched out enough to properly have it lay completely flat against the cloth. Frankly, I don't care. The bulging is sort of a cool effect, and if anyone wants to critique it in person, I'll ask them when the last time was that they picked up a sewing needle. Huh, Cinderella?

This next one was a bit tricky, because I didn't want to cover the white edging with black thread, nor did I want to use white thread. Instead of sewing over the border, like I usually do, I sewed within the border. Probably not the best thing for the patch, as there are now more holes inside than I might have if I had gone over the border, but chances are, this patch will still be stuck to this jacket long after I'm dead and gone. I present to you, The Psychonaut:

I love this little guy. Yeah, it's not the most prettily-sewn patch, but it's mine and I sewed it with my own hands. I wouldn't sell this jacket for a thousand dollars - this is my work of wearable collage-art. $5,000? Let's talk. Of course, I'll turn right around, spend the money, and make myself another esoteric denim. Though at least one of the patches I have is now off the market, so far as I can tell, so this thing is unique!

The two new additions, in combination, compose what patches I will be putting on the front of the jacket for the time being, like so:

In case you're wondering, that's a Frida Kahlo puzzle underneath the esoteric denim. Yes, another puzzle. We can't help ourselves at my house.

AND, the other patch I ordered arrived just a few days ago. I'm calling here Luna Philips . . . for obvious reasons:

She will be the right side of my back-triptych, to come. Now I need to go pin her on and get ready to sew the next patch. Soon . . . soon.

The Sound of His Horn and Other Stories

The Sound of His Horn and Other StoriesThe Sound of His Horn and Other Stories by Sarban

I had heard the name "Sarban" whispered in mysterious tones for years. The pseudonymous author's works were difficult for me, an American with very limited resources at the time I had heard of his fiction, to procure. Now, more well-off and a beneficiary of the internet age where the acquisition of books from across the world is much easier, I ordered The Sound of His Horn and Other Stories from one of my favorite publishers, Tartarus Press.

Expectations had been building for some time - many years, in fact - and I had, in my imagination, a certain type of story, a certain voice that I associated (with no prior experience) with Sarban. I suppose my imaginary Sarban was a mixture of Machen and Aickman, influenced by Arabic poetry.

I was not terribly far off.

But I was off just enough that my expectations were . . . sidestepped. It's not that expectations were not met, not at all - this is a fabulous collection of stories that will immerse your reading mind - but what I imagined I was going to read and what I read in reality were overlapping, but slightly offset from each other. This created a pleasant sense of familiarity that was also full of surprises and a bit of bafflement that added to the mystique of the act of reading. What more could a reader ask for?

I am usually not a fan of alternate histories (probably because I am a historian by academic training) but knowing that "The Sound of His Horn" is alternate history did not encroach on my enjoyment of the story. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that I quite liked the tale: the first bucking of expectations.

Somewhere between "The Most Dangerous Game" and "The Great Escape," the titular story is well-crafted, borderline "literary," but shot through with pulp sci-fi elements. It mostly works, despite some of its intentional anachronism. Four stars.

The second story, curiously, was about a subject that I'm usually not interested in - that is, mermaids (or maybe mermaids) - hooked me and reeled me in. "The Sea Things" is a creepy one set in the Middle-East. Questions of the relationship between colonials and the colonized pop off like fireworks, but in the background, not at the main focus of the story. The tale is of its time, when the sun was, indeed, setting on the British Empire, with echoes of the Arabic poets mentioned above. As far as the horror element, this was a "B" creep factor for me, not chilling but definitely attention-grabbing; still worthy of four stars, one for each mermaid and their hapless victim.

"Number Fourteen" is, by far, the creepiest of the stories in this volume. There is a strong proto-Aickmanesque vagueness to the resolution of this story that heightens, rather than resolves the mystery. Sarban realizes, here, that the reader's flights of supposition are the most powerful plot-engine available to the author. My thoughts have gone places I'd not care to revisit after this horrific tale, including the far reaches of colonialism, which play a vital part in the plot. This was exactly the Sarban I had been seeking! Five stars to this powerful story.

A classic English weird story, "The Sacrifice" is precisely what I had hoped for when I picked up this volume. I'm glad for the variety of tonal textures between the stories, however. Because of the differing voices, this story stood out for what it was. Had more of the stories been more similar, "The Sacrifice" might have been drowned (pun intended) by same-ness. Again, the far reaches of India play a critical role in this story. It seems that most of the stories in this volume are a sort of lingering swan-song to the diminishing British Empire and some of the unforeseen consequences of contact and retreat with conquered peoples. The empire touched many places, but those places left their mark, in turn, on Great Britain. Strangely, though, one does not find the bigotry one might expect in this story. There is sort of a fearful respect of the Other, not altogether prejudice-free, but not as condescending and loathing as, say, Lovecraft or Howard. Five stars. This one will become an RPG adventure, I will see to that!

Lastly, a pair of English adventurers, young women with a penchant for exploration, go into the Sahara for "The King of the Lake". It's interesting to see the late- or post-colonial influence on these stories. They are of their time, and yet, somehow, timeless. Maybe because I studied so much about colonialism in college and was raised on U.S. military bases overseas - spending some of my most formative years in England - yes, my perspective may be different than that of most Americans.

"The King of the Lake" further shows Sarban's fascination with forcibly turning humans into animals . . .of a sort. There is a demonization of the autochthonous inhabitants of the desert here, or, perhaps, a nod to the justifiable revenge of the colonized on their colonizers, it's difficult to tell. One's demon is another's Angel of Vengeance. Four stars.

The more I ruminate on this volume, the more I am struck by the complexity of the tales here. Sarban is still a bit of a mystery to me, even knowing his real name and a bit of his background. I'm okay with leaving some mystery in this puzzle so my imagination can continue to fill in the gaps between my expectations and his printed words on the page. That shadow cast by the light of a book is one of my favorite places to take shelter.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Faceless Dolls, Weird and Eerie

I admit it: I love jigsaw puzzles and pick the most challenging to try to put together. I'm pretty picky. So, when my parents passed away, I got rid of a puzzle or two of theirs, but I did keep one: a doll puzzle that is creepy as all get up. My youngest son, who loves to help with puzzles, actually pretty much completely finished this one before I had a chance to get to it.

I decided to deconstruct a bit of it.

So much less creepy? Huh? I . . . uh, nevermind.

This is, in essence, a lesson in the Weird and the Eerie as explained in Mark Fisher's excellent work The Weird and the Eerie. The above is an example of the eerie, in which there is an unsettling lack of something. Weirdness, on the other hand, is caused by the presence of that which does not belong. I tried capturing this, at least in theory, by rearranging the faces and creating new ones from the existing fragments of the others, like so:





















I like all of these for one reason or another, but my favorites are VI, IX, XI, and XX. IX and XI are just slightly off of complete, yet they are complete, just completed by something that doesn't belong there. VI and XX are just plain surreal examples of beautiful dolls consuming each other's faces. And who doesn't like a little Victorian/Edwardian cannibalism?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Slew Going

I haven't posted anything for a few days on the sewing project because, well, it's just taking that long. The night before last, I finished sewing the big back patch on. Not perfect, not even close, just like me! Note that the picture makes it look more off-kilter than it really is.

I might have posted this yesterday, but . . . Valentine's Day. My wife and I went out for ice cream, which we do every year. Yes, in the dead of winter. This goes back to our first date, when we lived in California and ice cream in February wasn't as crazy as it sounds in Wisconsin. Nice thing is, we're almost always first in line at the ice cream shop! Then we watched The ABC Murders on prime. I would strongly recommend that show - just when you think the mystery is solved, you see the mystery behind the mystery. And just when you think that mystery is solved, you see the mystery behind the mystery behind the mystery. I'm not a big TV viewer, but this one was worth it! Oh, and have you seen the Stranger Things 4 trailer?!?!?

No, seriously, I don't watch that much TV. I usually think it's a colossal waste of time.

Speaking of time, let's get back to the esoteric denim (so many horrible puns), those who saw some of my original posts on twitter will see that there was a patch to the bottom right of the big patch that is now missing. Since most of these patches are hand-printed by different people, the sizes of the patch on the left and the patch on the right didn't match, though they were as close to a match as I could get with the patches at hand. But it just looked really awkward. So, I did some investigating and discovered that the shop that made the patch on the left ("Starcatcher," I think is the name of the print) does a few other patches of the same size. I went to Etsy and picked my favorite of the batch (well, second-favorite - Starcatcher was obviously my favorite), which is currently in the mail, on its way to me.

This precipitated the moving of the patch on the lower right. I decided to put it on the right sleeve, beneath the Beelzebub patch, like so:

I will be trimming this one up to the shape of the "doorway", rather than just sewing it on as a rectangular patch. I'm just trying to decide whether to cut first or sew first. Or maybe sew a bit to anchor it, then cut the rest. In any case, I will leave a bit of an outside "border" beyond the outermost white line, but not a lot. It's going to take a fair amount of stitching to reinforce the edge so it doesn't tear easily.I'll just have to take the time to do it right.

Speaking of taking time, you might be wondering how my "time off" from social media is going. Even if you're not, I'm going to tell you anyway: So far, so good. There are moments when I miss it, but they pass relatively quickly. I'm actually very worried that I won't have time to do all the things I wanted to do in this social-media-free month, though I am working hard to get things done. Life piles up, social media or not, but I am finding that I'm able to get a lot more done without social media reaching out and pick-pocketing the minutes, sometimes hours, of my days. At this point, I'm contemplating taking a week off every month, maybe a couple of weeks off. Or doing a month-long "fast" every quarter. I am, in a nutshell, enjoying my freedom!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Valerie and Other Stories

Valerie and Other StoriesValerie and Other Stories by Colin Insole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's become so commonplace that it's almost laughable - short story collections are, for the most part, labelled "uneven". And, I get it, this is usually true. Pick up just about any short story collection and you're going to find at least one story, possibly more, that you will consider a dud. Such is human taste. And I'm a frequent user of the "uneven" label in my reviews, as well.

But this collection isn't "just about any short story collection". And when I use the term "uneven" to describe this collection, I am most explicitly not referring to the quality of the stories. Every one of the stories in this collection is remarkable and most of them are exceptional. The word "uneven" only refers to the tonal differences between each tale. They are all "of a piece" in that there is a thread of "voice" that sings throughout, but that voice is sometimes a distant echo, sometimes a ghostly shout in the ear - but a quietened shout, like the muffled sound of someone being smothered with a pillow combined with wind chimes down a country road. There is a quaint quality to the despair, more than just a veneer to the rot underneath - a kind of sprightly rural squalor, red agaric mushrooms whose consumption produces both mind-opening beauty and horrific shadow creatures in equal measure. The combination is alluring and repulsive at the same time, not just in the vivid descriptions that Insole unfolds, but in the emotional spaces of raw feeling that the characters inhabit. We are taken in by them because they are us in all our complexity of shameful ugliness and triumphant beauty, shouting our heady defiance at a cosmos that will, ultimately and inevitably, crush our life-force from us.

This is quickly evident in the first story, in which a mystical experience leads to self-deceit and a multi-layered betrayal in "The Hill of Cinders," which took several unexpected turns; many of them of an emotional bent that left me reeling when i thought back on some of the more foolish choices of my own youth. Five red stars falling from the sky for this weird tale.

I am rarely stunned by fables, and "The Binding" is no exception, though the writing is exceptionally good. I like the witchiness of it, but I am so over the tone of "fabulism" that I can't get too excited about it any more. I'm waiting for a fable that will prove the exception. Perhaps I was jaded by so many stories as a child. Nevertheless, I am not so jaded as to give this story less than four stars. So it is. This was the first big tonal switch in the collection, as I mentioned above. It threw me, at first, because of its seeming abruptness, but then Insole's storytelling carried me along to a satisfactory conclusion.

"The Slaves of Paradise" is a lush story of anguish told by an artist who accidentally, clumsily betrays his lover and the French resistance. The imagery in this story shall haunt me for some time. It is beautiful and tragic, in equal measure. The horror of stupidity and lack of attention to detail are on stark display here. This story will make you feel uncomfortable for every time you've accidentally hit "reply all" or forgotten an important appointment or made an unguarded remark to the wrong person about someone close to you - but in this case, the embarrassment is fatal. Five stars of utter shame.

"Dance for a Winter Moon" is heartbreaking, even when you know exactly what's coming. There is a strong sense of foreshadowing and inevitability, and you'll find that you were right all-along about what was going to happen. Still, the emotional impact is gut-wrenching. And getting there is half the fun. Read this paragraph and tell me you aren't going to enjoy the horrid ride to the bitter end:

The night had given up its pretence of glamour and beauty, its tinsel tricks of moonbeam and sentimental star glow. Little flurries of frost or dirty snow scudded in the air, as if the firmament was swollen with their filth and they dropped like lice from an old mattress. She remembered her father pulling away the roof slats and painted wooden fascias at their home in England. They were rotten and stinking, riddled with the nests of vermin and choked with chewed paper and scraggy tufts of wool. The churning escape of the creatures had sent ti all floating down like ash into her hair. Scrape away the cheap veneer, the inky indigo of the sky and it would peel and flake like chewed wood or wallpaper to root out the hiding places of the stars and reveal them in all their monstrosity and malevolence."

The title of the next story, "A Blue Dish of Figs," evokes the image of a carefully-crafted still-life painting that contains far more symbolic meaning than its banal subject matter. One can say the same of the protagonist and her life. It is crude and shapeless, awaiting the touch of an artist's hand to add color and give life. That artist is a child who teaches hidden wisdom to her Teacher. Five stars for a story where pedantry is turned inside out and the inversion of the social order creates a passageway to meaning.

"Salammbô and the Zaïmph of Tanit" is a masterful tale in the decadent strain of Huysmans. Beauty is a fair mistress, but jealousy is more adamant. Like all good decadent tales, sumptuousness ends in nightmarish squalor. Five stars

"Dreams from the Apple Orchard" is a story of beautiful decay, of fissures in social unity (a theme that Insole revisits often), the beautiful, frightful interstices between the sanguine constructs of friendship and fruitfulness. Set in Eastern Europe right before WW II, this is a solemn foreshadowing of things to come. Brilliant and brutal. Five stars. I loved this story.

"Valerie," shows a world of mystique, beautiful and terrifying, in the lanes and hedges, the interstices; magical portals. What a darkly-beautiful, beautifully-dark story. I am reminded of Rikki Ducornet's The Jade Cabinet and The Fountains of Neptune, tonally speaking. Yet another shift!

It is in the lengthy denouement of "Valerie" that some aspects of the tale come into clear focus, while others are blurred. The effect is like looking through binoculars at a hazy distant landscape. The broad strokes may be beautiful, but on closer examination, there is rot beneath. But the rot holds it's own beauty. This was an amazing novella, and the only piece original to the collection. It is for good reason that it lends its title to the book. I found myself, again and again, revisiting my own childhood (though it was quite different from the narrator's experience, at least in terms of my family life - thankfully!) and the wonders of discovery. On further reflection, though, I thought "what if this is an unreliable narrator"? And the thought exploded in my head like a literary kaleidoscope! If true, this story gains multiple levels of meaning and emotional depth that I had not considered on my first read-through. The implications are staggering and left me intellectually dizzy, drunk on possibilities.

In the middle of the final story, "The Abdication of the Serpent," I admit, I asked where this story was headed, doubtful of its outcome. But by the end, the meandering labyrinth finally made sense. It's a murder-mystery undergirded by myth-building, and a coming-of-age, but not the age typically associated with such stories. It is a coming-of-age for a character that has reached old age. It is, in summation, a fine, fine story. One that deserves a reread and will stick in my head for some time, especially for the "release" of the ending, which opens up a sea of vistas and gently pushes the reader's ship out into the soft waves - a fitting end to the book, which felt like a new beginning.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Two Stitches Forward, One Stitch Back

. . . on the back patch, that is. Took about two hours, but didn't make a ton of progress. No matter what I do, I inevitably have excess loops that I need to either cut or tie off or some combination of the two. Did I mention that impatience is one of my virtues? Well, here's where I left off tonight:

Note that the quality of light is different than in previous photos. That's not because of my camera. It's because my wife told me about a super-bright light she uses when sewing. Holy cow, does that make a difference! I was able to thread the needle on the first try twice in a row! And I could actually see what I was doing without having to do a contortionist act!

On the other hand, as I said, I continue to waste a lot of thread unnecessarily, like so:

So, I may not have skill, finesse, or patience, but I make up for it all in sheer spite and willpower. Such is the power of the esoteric denim: built by sheer doggedness!

If I have time tomorrow night, I shall probably work on the left side, from the bottom up, and see if I can make it as far up that side as I did up the right side tonight. Saturday, I'm out of town all day, so I won't have any time to sew. Maybe a touch on Sunday, we'll see. And Friday night is date night, so that's a no-go, too. Has to be tomorrow night or wait until next Monday. I sometimes think of the time I've put into this and how long it would take me to do the same if I were not doing a social media "fast". Ugh. I'd be sewing until the Fourth of July before I made good headway.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Back to the Back

The esoteric denim project continues. I spent about an hour and forty-five minutes stitching the bottom part of the big back patch onto the jacket.

That long? Oh, heck yeah. I'm not a fast tailor by any means. My wife could have whipped this through in twenty minutes. But it's not her jacket! My time = my sacrifice = my work = my satisfaction. Besides, I'm trying to learn how to get a line of stitches going without getting loose loops caught up in my "current" thread. Or, I'm trying, at least, to catch things earlier. It's a pain when, ten stitches down the line, you realize that you've caught a loop in the slack well behind your stitch. I'm not about to rip them all up at that point because . . . did I mention how much inanimate objects and I hate each other? Why, yes, I did!

So, I just cut my losses. Literally. Here's the "spare" that I cut tonight:

That's probably a good three feet of thread there, for perspective. It's my contribution to destroying the planet. You're welcome.

I'm not too worried about the aesthetics of my stitching, though. All the beautiful stuff has been done already: I just need to affix it in a halfway competent manner. Halfway. Okay, maybe a third of the way. But who's really going to be critiquing my stitching when their eyes are distracted by this?

And, more especially so, when they look at the details, like this:

Aren't those guys the best?!?!? Incidentally, as I am told, the Latin reads:

The Demon World
Astrophilus sees, Xenologia knows
These two philosophers have come together from lands unknown to discuss matters of the aether and of those creatures which come not from heaven or hell but crawl forth from the lawless darkness

Monday, February 3, 2020

Ouroboros Complete

It only took me another hour and forty-five minutes, but the first patch on the esoteric denim is affixed. Ouroboros complete!

Now, only nine more to go! I think I'm going to tackle the big back patch next. It's a lot of stitching, but I have that sucker pinned down pretty good. I'm going to have to tuck the lower corners and hem them in, since the back panel tapers as you get closer to the bottom. That should be a fun trick. Or not. In any case, I'm not going to have as much time to sew this week as I did last, so I better get to threading. Speaking of which, I can attest that threading the needle is, indeed, the most difficult part of sewing. I swear I'm going to cross my eyes wrong and they're just going to loll out of my head and onto the floor.

For now, though, time to read more Sarban and Deleuze. Oh, and I need to find a market for the poem I wrote. Yes: poem.

I might be getting used to this social media "fast". I might even be thinking about extending it. Hmm . . .

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sew Much to Do

On Christmas day, I opened a gift from my children, a black denim jacket. Yes, it was something on my wishlist, but I was still pleasantly surprised to open the gift! I had been plotting and planning for some time to patch up another denim jacket. I have a long history of patched up denim jackets, going back to my high school days when the order of the day was Motorhead, Ozzy, Anthrax, Black Sabbath, and Venom patches. My last denim jacket was my nerd jacket, with patches of a killer robot, Cthulhu, Marvin the Martian, and a crew patch of the Nostromo.

This time, I wanted to indulge in my love of esoteric imagery and symbolism. I've got all the patches I want (so far) and with my abandonment of social media for a month, I have time. I'll try to keep up-to-date on this as I go.

I started by pinning the patches to the jacket. I'm saving that photo for later down the line, when I'm done, but suffice it to say that it looks really punk, with safety pins all over the place. Something you'd see at a Cramps show, but not. Because none of the patches are about bands. Most are simply esoteric imagery that I've taken a liking to, except for two exceptions: One from the film The Wicker Man (which is, arguably, esoteric in and of itself - cultic, at least), and one of Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko (ditto earlier comment about TWM).

Now, I am no tailor. And I am not a man of much patience. So, this exercise is a bit of a sacrifice (pun intended) for me. I'm fine with (most) people, but when it comes to inanimate objects, we have a love-hate relationship, meaning we love to hate each other. But I committed and no one is going to do this for me (and I wouldn't want them to, anyway), so I started.

Let me say from the get-go that anyone who doesn't appreciate the term "threading the needle" has never attempted to thread a needle. After about a dozen tries under an intensity of light that alien abductors would be jealous of, I was finally able to get that darned thread into that little metal void. I doubled up a string of thread about as long as my wingspan, tied off, and set to work.

Here it is: Stitch #1, in progress. This is the Ouroboros surrounding an all-seeing eye, symbols of alpha and omega and the sun and moon, a patch I bought (along with all the others) on Etsy. It looks like I snatched up the last of this particular design. Good timing! Coincidence or confluence? You decide.

I stopped for a moment to put on some music I had recently been turned on to that I thought would be great for sewing, but my phone started updating and my wife couldn't do the financial stuff she needed to on the computer (thanks, Republicans, for allowing capitalists to ruin internet access for the rest of us). So, I turned my phone off and worked in silence. Well, okay, not silence. This song was playing through my head the entire time, one continuous mental loop. Maybe I have a long-buried memory of my Mom sewing while Abba was on the radio, I don't know. It made a good sound-track . . . in my head.

Note in the photo above that I had only pinned this patch at the top. I continually tried to flatten it as I went. I was hitting a pretty good groove (how can you not, with that ear-worm of a song?) until I noticed that the patch was not where I wanted it to be. It had slid toward the front of the sleeve, totally off center, because of the way I had been sewing it. I thought I was about a quarter of the way there.

Dang it.

Well, I took a seam-ripper to it to undo over half of what I had done to that point, then I pinned that sucker down with safety pins.

Grr!!! This is a clear demonstration of the love-hate relationship with inanimate objects that I mentioned earlier. My brain is much better than my hands. If I could only get the two to work together . . .

With this inquisitional pinning-down of the patch, I started again. This time (yes, Abba was still playing in my head), I was able to make a bit more progress.

Looks like I'm about a third of the way to getting this one on there.

Despite this mutual antagonism between man and material, I found my first session both frustrating and rewarding. There were moments that were, frankly, meditative. I lost track of time for a while (a feeling I seek in my life, truth be told) and realized that when I ended this session, it had been about two hours. It felt much shorter, and was, on the whole, much more enjoyable than I might have expected, going into it. I'm guessing that I won't get the esoteric denim completed by the end of the month, but . . . maybe. My intent is to have it done by Garycon so I can wear it there and start the Satanic Panic all over again - like the Ouroboros itself, One Eternal Round.