Monday, August 18, 2008

Votes for Women!

Today is the 88th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women in the United States the Constitutional right to vote. British women had to wait another eight years, until 1928, to gain the same rights.

Women have been enfranchised for less than 100 years, and there is still great need for social change. It is extremely important for everyone to exercise their right to vote. I am lucky to be able to vote in two countries, but voting in US elections from outside the US can be tricky. Helpfully, the Federal Voting Assistance Program website allows you to register to vote, print absentee ballots, and find out how and where to return them. I'm doing it early this year to avoid a repeat of a certain panicky evening four years ago in a central London FedEx office, posting my ballot along with several other anxious expat Americans.

There is no excuse for not voting, especially in an election as important as the upcoming one. Hurrah for suffragettes! We owe it to them to make our voices heard.

Monday, August 4, 2008

busy as a..

This bumblebee paid a visit to my studio today. It's the largest bee I've ever seen; larger than some hummingbirds and fatter than my thumb! I looked it up in one of my books and learned that "dumbledore" or "dumbledory" was an Old English term for bumblebee, along with drummel, hummel or humble bee. Tolkien uses the word in his poem "Errantry," which contains many other lovely words as well.

"He battled with the Dumbledores,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb;
and running home on sunny seas
in ship of leaves and gossamer
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up
and burnished up his panoply."

The ladybugs are still visiting at night, along with some other little beetles that look like stained glass when the light shines through them.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

dancing pigs in charity shops

A few days ago I found the most wonderful book in my local Oxfam about the 1971 ballet film Tales of Beatrix Potter. It contains a script for the film as well as background on the development of the production. My favorite part details the creation of the costumes, which were co-designed by Christine Edzard, who also directed The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream, and artist Rotislav Doboujinsky, who designed and built the stunning animal masks. I love this quote on Doboujinsky's working practice:

"Doboujinsky works at his own pace - and to his own standard of perfection. 'Now and again I have found no good solution to a problem,' he says. 'Then I renounce,' - renounce not compromise. He must almost have renounced Hunca Munca; thirteen times that winter he made her mask and it was not until February 1970 that, with the fourteenth attempt he was satisfied."

The characters were all performed by dancers from the Royal Ballet. Below are pictures of Jeremy Fisher, who has the most fantastic stripy-stockinged legs, Mrs. Tittlemouse and Johnny Town-Mouse, several waltzing mice, the foxy "sandy-whiskered gentleman", Pigling Bland and friends on a picnic, and a group of extra tails.

Construction materials included:

"60 yards of paper for tails
5 lbs pig bristles - half white - prepared solid, product of Poland
Gallons of various glues
Bags and bags of feathers - marabou, duck feathers, swan feathers
12 pairs of artificial hands (hired) on which to fit paws
Marbles: ping-pong balls : sugar basins"

..and a Van de Graaff generator for affixing animal hair to glue-covered masks!

Isn't it delightful?