Hello, it's me, the writer
I am writing again, after a bit of a detour into knitting while I considered the future of the book that must not be named. I have a Substack publication, 23 Sherwood Drive, where I am playing with my journals as writing prompts, beginning with my 1964-1965 diary. (Yes, when I was a sophomore in high school. Awkward yet strangely fascinating, even for me.) I am posting some of my Substack entries onto Post.news, along with some of my poetry.
"Is bamboo fabric/yarn really green?".
I get this question all the time, and my answer hasn't changed in the fifteen years since the first time it was asked: it's as green as viscose rayon made from any other material. Rayon (called viscose outside the U.S.) is a regenerated cellulose fiber, made from unspinnable waste cotton, wood pulp or other plant material -- such as bamboo. It is as "natural" as Spam, because in order to create a usable fiber, the plant material is chemically dissolved using a process so dirty that it is no longer made in the U.S. and the remaining sites where it was made are some of the nastiest "superfund" sites on the EPA's clean-up list. (See the “American Viscose Corporation" link below for the whole sad saga.)
My daily news alerts bring in dozens of articles and announcements touting bamboo yarn, diapers, skirts and other products as green, environmentally friendly and sustainable. I also see lots of products labeled simply as “bamboo”, despite the fact that textile labeling regulations in the U.S. require that they use "rayon" if a product is made of regenerated cellulose using the viscose process. The FTC does not recognize "bamboo" as an approved textile label. Period. The FTC is apparently not about to enforce the Textile Fiber Products Labeling Act, because, as their representative once told me, "it's not a rollover issue", i.e., no one is dying. (at least, no one in the United States)
There is a reason why the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act exists -- to protect consumers. When someone buys bamboo or soy clothing or yarn, thinking they are "natural", they are misinformed. When their mistaken belief is based on a label or online catalog blurb, that's misinformation. Until the FTC starts enforcing its own regulations, the buyer needs to beware and be wary. Finding "rayon from bamboo" or "bamboo lyocell" on the label makes me feel a whole lot more confident that the manufacturer understands the materials being used and federal labeling regulations.
If you like the feel of rayon, there are much cleaner cousins to viscose. Look for “ lyocel” or “modal” on the label -- also marketed under the brand name Tencel. These fibers are also made from regenerated cellulose, but in a closed loop process, in which the harmful chemicals are captured and reused.
If you want to know more:
DW Planet A. H&M and Zara: Can Fast Fashion Be Eco-Friendly?, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00NIQgQE_d4.
TEDx Talks. Α Future Sustainable Fashion System | Malin Viola Wennberg | TEDxThessaloniki, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-NwdH2Wfu4.
The Business of Fashion. The BoF Sustainability Index: How Fashion Measures Up, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85nkPxHXThA.
TheEEBchannel. TEXTILE MOUNTAIN - THE HIDDEN BURDEN OF OUR FASHION WASTE, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC4oFmX8tHw.
Washington Post. “African Nations Are Fed up with the West’s Hand-Me-Downs. But It’s Tough to Keep Them out.” Accessed January 28, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/african-nations-are-fed-up-with-the-wests-hand-me-downs-but-its-tough-to-keep-them-out/2018/05/28/c4041c8c-5478-11e8-a6d4-ca1d035642ce_story.html.
“American Viscose Corporation.” In Wikipedia, February 3, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=American_Viscose_Corporation&oldid=1069577955.
The Spruce. “Bamboo Flooring Really Is Eco-Friendly, in Some Ways.” Accessed February 5, 2022. https://www.thespruce.com/is-bamboo-flooring-really-eco-friendly-1314953.
H&M. “Conscious Products Explained.” Accessed January 11, 2022. https://www2.hm.com/en_us/sustainability-at-hm/our-products/explained.html.
Elven, Marjorie van. “How Sustainable Is Recycled Polyester?” FashionUnited, November 15, 2018. https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/how-sustainable-is-recycled-polyester/2018111540000.
“Ikea Working on Home Textiles Made from Rice Straw and Ocean Plastic | | YnFx.” Accessed January 11, 2022. https://www.yarnsandfibers.com/news/textile-news/ikea-working-on-home-textiles-made-from-rice-straw-and-ocean-plastic/.
The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. “ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI).” Accessed December 28, 2021. https://unfashionalliance.org/members/itc-efi/.
Good On You. “Material Guide: What Is Viscose and Is It Sustainable?,” August 25, 2021. https://goodonyou.eco/material-guide-viscose-sustainability/.
Sachs, Lexie, and Good Housekeeping Institute. “Sustainability Experts Say There’s Actually No Such Thing as ‘Eco-Friendly’ Clothing.” Good Housekeeping, April 20, 2020. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/clothing/g27154605/sustainable-fashion-clothing/.
The Balance Small Business. “The Basics of Clothing and Textile Recycling.” Accessed January 28, 2022. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/the-basics-of-recycling-clothing-and-other-textiles-2877780.
PSCI. “The Impact of Fast Fashion On the Environment.” Accessed January 11, 2022. https://psci.princeton.edu/tips/2020/7/20/the-impact-of-fast-fashion-on-the-environment.
The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. “UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion.” Accessed December 28, 2021. https://unfashionalliance.org/.
“What EXACTLY Is Sustainable Fashion & Why Is SO Important (2022).” Accessed December 28, 2021. https://thevou.com/fashion/sustainable-fashion/.
Cline, Elizabeth L. The Conscious Closet : The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good. New York: Plume, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2019.
Elizabeth L. Cline. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Penguin Publishing, 2012.
Rivoli, Pietra. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy : An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade. 2nd ed., [Rev. and Updated]. (xx, 316 pages) : illustrations vols. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2009.
I will list all the things I used to do.
Counted cross-stitch embroidery
Play the fiddle
Play the piano
Serve on committees
Plan my life
Plan my day
I will now list the things I still do
Try new recipes
Re-read Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers
Make things with yarn
There are a few things I would like to do again
****(This one is a secret)****
And a few I wish I could do less
Twitter (especially the comments)
Facebook (except for those really funny posts from friends I miss a lot)
Yesterday I set myself free. I said "no more committees", and resigned from my remaining committee-oid obligations. It felt marvelous, mostly. There was an occasional twinge of guilt, because I am a good person who takes commitments seriously. But the twinge was not about resigning, it was about not saying "no" in the first place.
I have been living outside my comfort zone for months, playing at extroversion for reasons I still do not understand. But I finally need to honor my need for daydreaming, for creativity, and for time to play with words. And yarn. And flour and yeast.
No more committees.
The Middle (poem)
Indian film recommendations
A friend who is interested in watching her first Indian film asked me for recommendations. She prefers emotional dramas, rather than comedy. Her favorite movies include Cinema Paradiso, The Notebook, Casablanca, It's a Wonderful Life, Grapes of Wrath, Brooklyn, and Call Me By Your Name. After I answered her query, I thought it would be useful to preserve my recommendations in a blog post in case I need them again.
There are very few Indian films that I would class as pure comedy; they really enjoy mixing a bit of comedy into their dramas and their comedies nearly always involve more than a little drama. The full expression of this mix of emotions is the masala (mix!) genre, which combines, comedy, romance, violence, revenge, etc. See wikipedia for more on masala films. They are an acquired taste, but I have certainly acquired it!
Here are movies I have enjoyed in various genres:
crime drama: Andhadhun very modern Indian style dark comedy/crime drama. Minimal music, but it's gorgeous.
horror: Stree Indian horror is not as gruesome as Hollywood horror, which I tend to avoid. Another Rajkummar Rao starring role. He's always good.
drama with music: Gully Boy hip hop in India? Yes, indeed. This was their Oscar entry the year it came out. The leads are top stars, and their movies are almost always worth seeking out. Ditto anything by the director, Zoya Akhtar, who is fabulous. Her Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a favorite of mine.
drama with minimal music: There are two sports films that are standouts.Chak De India - Think League of Their Own, with a women's field hockey team. The male lead is the biggest movie star in the world, Shah Rukh Khan. Sudani from Nigeria lovely South Indian sports drama film about an African soccer player stranded in a small village in Karala.
Masala favorites: Om Shanti Om (comedy, mayhem, romance, revenge), Chennai Express (comedy, fight scenes, romance, music), Eega (romance interrupted by murder, incarnation, revenge) Fantastic director, S.S. Rajamouli. His two part fantasy epic, Bahubaali, is totally entertaining. Long, but worth it.
Romantic comedies for people who don't like romantic comedies: Aiyyaa (female centered, very sexy), Mirzya (historical fantasy romance), Qarib Qarib Singlle (the late Irfaan Khan. Such a wonderful actor!!), Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (a twist on the usual Indian romantic plot, with great cast.)
Indescribable: Ludo (anthology dark comedy crime film), Super Deluxe (black comedy-drama film with elements of science fiction and fantasy)
Note that while most these are "Bollywood" -- Hindi language, produced in Mumbai -- a few are from other parts of India. This what makes Indian film so fascinating to me. There is huge variety even within the Hindi films, and when you step outside that universe, there is even more.
My Flutophone story
We moved twice between Labor Day and Christmas when I was in third grade. That’s right, three schools in less than few months. I arrived in my last school a few days before Christmas. The entire class had been learning to play Flutophones, and it was too late for me to catch up.
So a couple of days a week I got sent to the school library while they had their Flutophone lessons. That was when I took out the very first book I chose on my own. The rest, as they say, is history.
I had some great choices for today's holiday! It's also Gingerbread House Day, but that sounded too time-consuming for one person, and less fun than it would be as a group effort. And then I read the description of National Ding-a-Ling Day, and knew that had to be it.
The idea for National Ding-A-Ling Day came in 1971 when Franky Hyle of the Chicago area was at home with friends. "Some husbands and wives were sitting around my house, talking and drinking and thinking people ought to be friendlier to one another," he said. They looked up what "ding-a-ling" meant in a dictionary, and they found one of the definitions said it was "one who hears bells in his head." Hyle decided to create a day where celebrants would call people they haven't seen in years, in order to rekindle old friendships. He wanted to encourage people to be natural and let their guard down. Perhaps the idea of having a phone be involved in the day had to do with the fact that it rings, just like a ding-a-ling is associated with ringing.
Now, I love the idea of going outside my comfort zone and making new friends, but those who know Jo know that calling anyone on the phone is not on my list of favorite things to do. So I may or may not pick up the phone and call someone, but I am definitely going to meet some new neighbors outside for a COVID-style visit.
Make a Gift Day
I love making things. I love learning how things are made, and mastering new skills. So I have been looking forward to this holiday all week, my mind brimming with ideas for what to make and for whom. I posted a challenge to share memories of handmade gifts on my Facebook page, and there were so many precious gifts, made by kids and parents and grandparents and partners. We’ve downsized holiday giving quite a bit since over the years; one year we even shared a “Little House” Christmas with a neighbor family. All the gifts were handmade and the food came from the Little House Cookbook.
For today’s celebration, I turned to an old favorite, a craft I photocopied decades ago from a library book. It’s an origami picture frame, just the right size for a wallet-sized picture. I add a ribbon or string and it’s a tree ornament. We have a complete set of school photo ornaments for each kid, and most Christmases they are the only ones I use. This year, we aren’t sure where to put a tree so I hung the ornaments on our apartment door. Our neighbor loved them, so I made her a set of six for her grandchildren’s pictures. Just a few hours work, and I am still smiling,
It’s National Mutt Day! I am a lifelong fan of Team Dog (though I do not disparage cats) and 4 of the 7 dogs my families have owned were mixed breed. (The rest were beagles, in our beagle rescue period.) I am going to celebrate by sharing photos and memories of my mutts, and encourage you all to turn this post into a virtual dog park!
My Gender Mystique blog focuses on my work on clothing, sex, and gender. That's not all I do, so this blog is about everything else.