Sunday, December 26, 2010
This is a bit belated, as I sent all day yesterday in transit to California, but I just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season. I hope everyone gets to spend these days with their loved ones, doing the things they love.
I'll leave you with my favorite holiday song, Robert Earl Keen's Merry Christmas from the Family
"Hallelujah! Everybody say cheese! Merry Christmas from the family!"
Thursday, December 16, 2010
"what lasts through time is like an island on a ship in the sea, perishable surrounded by dangerous fragility by merciless waters and threats. "
The year is winding down, and there's nothing but endless celebrations in my weeks ahead. Well, and work. I'm currently packing and prepping for my holiday kick off trip to quaint little Bethlehem, PA this weekend. A good friend of mine from my time in Ireland is working for a small theater company there, so a bunch of us will be reuniting and supporting her dramatic work. It's been a long time since this crew was together in its entirety for a full weekend, so it will most definitely be memorable.
Looking forward to this event, I've been taking stock of my recent history. I've had a rough 6 months or so that at times has left me feeling disjointed and desperate, broken. Lately, I've been finding solace in all the wonderful people I am lucky enough to have in my life, like these characters I'm about to see. It's put all my recent failures in perspective. I believe there is much to be gained from broken moments, failed connections and missteps. This is how we grow and change. Happiness can only take you so far. One needs the dialectic interchange with the chaotic and painful.
So, I'm happy for all the chaos in my life, the "what ifs?", the false starts and failed promises. Pablo Neruda, in the below poem, does such an excellent job of characterizing this arbitrary chaos. There is beauty, and more importantly, possibility in those broken bits and things that just fall by the wayside. Almost on a transcendental level, he suggests the transformative power of time: the silly things that perish, the things we leave behind and what remains. I'm looking forward to seeing all my broken bits metamorphising into something new and beautiful.
Ode to Broken Things
Things get broken
like they were pushed
by an invisible, deliberate smasher.
It's not my hands
It wasn't the girls
with their hard fingernails
or the motion of the planet.
It wasn't anything or anybody
It wasn't the wind
It wasn't the orange-colored noontime
Or night over the earth
It wasn't even the nose or the elbow
Or the hips getting bigger
or the ankle
or the air.
The plate broke, the lamp fell
All the flower pots tumbled over
one by one. That pot
which overflowed with scarlet
in the middle of October,
it got tired from all the violets
and another empty one
rolled round and round and round
all through winter
until it was only the powder
of a flowerpot,
a broken memory, shining dust.
And that clock
the voice of our lives,
thread of our weeks,
one by one, so many hours
for honey and silence
for so many births and jobs,
that clock also
and its delicate blue guts
among the broken glass
its wide heart
Life goes on grinding up
glass, wearing out clothes
and what lasts through time
is like an island on a ship in the sea,
surrounded by dangerous fragility
by merciless waters and threats.
Let's put all our treasures together
-- the clocks, plates, cups cracked by the cold --
into a sack and carry them
to the sea
and let our possessions sink
into one alarming breaker
that sounds like a river.
May whatever breaks
be reconstructed by the sea
with the long labor of its tides.
So many useless things
which nobody broke
but which got broken anyway.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The wind is blowing in DC, and the air has turned icy. I'm diggin' it! Our summer was so relentless and draining that I'm taking advantage of every icy blast, and making sure to indulge in every wintertime treat I can.
One of my favorite things in cold weather is coming home to a belly warming hot beverage. My tea corner is becoming, well, overwhelming. That's just the beginning though. I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite seasonally appropriate beverage recipes.
Peppermint Hot Cocoa
(once you see how easy it is to make our own hot cocoa, you'll never turn back)
1 tbsp. cocoa powder (Ghirardelli is my personal favorite)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar (I tend to go slightly under this)
6-8 oz. milk, preferably whole
dash vanilla extract
2-3 drops peppermint oil
This can be made on the stovetop in a saucepan or in a mug in the microwave. First mix the cocoa powder and sugar. Add just a touch of milk and combine to form a paste. Continue to gradually add the remaining milk, stirring constantly. If making on stovetop, warm on medium heat until just scalded. If using the microwave, heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and peppermint. So easy and delicious!
Homemade Indian Spiced Chai
This recipe I adapted from the fascinating cultural history book, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham. Below are my spice proportions, but you can augment to suit your own palate. I love doubling this recipe and making a big batch, so I can keep extra in a pitcher in the fridge, ready for a quick reheat when the mood strikes!
4 cups water
16 whole cardamom pods, slightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. whole cloves
few slices fresh ginger
3 oz. assam or other black tea
milk and sugar to taste
Bring water to a boil. Add spices and simmer 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea and let steep 3-5 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh sieve. Add milk and sugar to taste.
And just for good measure, here's one of my favorite seasonal songs because really, there's no better season for seduction than winter...right, Dean Martin?
Monday, December 13, 2010
I'm free! As of Saturday evening at 18:00 hours, I have submitted all my graduate school applications! This means I am free to return to the world..real and virtual.
Throughout the madness of the last few months, I had very few days of fun or interest. The most memorable had to have been film noir photoshoot night involving my friend Katie as photographer, my roommate, Jamie, as the hardboiled P.I., Katie's little sister Hope as the ingenue, and me as the femme fatale.
I've always loved the femme fatale. In the code era, her wiles were obvious and er devious deeds only hinted toward. She served as a warning to men and women alike of the danger of female cleverness and power. Despite this, they remain the most memorable and glamorous characters, perhaps even vague role models of independence and rebellion, and reminders of the historical sequestering of the fairer sex. Who hasn't want to emulate Gilda? Or Kittie Collins?
Anyway, here's our story. We had such a great time hamming it up and making up silly plots and motivations. The final product we called, "As the Cat Meows."
(apologies in advance for the long photo post, but the story deserves its full arc)
Danger! Danger! Enter the dame...
Classic emulation of Bacall/Bogart: "Got a match?"
"Who's that at the door?"
"Who cares...look at those pins!"
Enter the young contender
Interrupting the cat fight
The tables turn...
Trying to escape
The P.I. won't let them get away this time
Where did they go?
Perhaps the boiler room?
She's after me! Down this sketchy shaft
Done away with the girl. Now to sneak free...
Curses! The jewels and/or secrets are locked away and unobtainable
Caught! The shakedown
...and back to normality
Monday, November 22, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
So, my friend Katie is awesome. Like, really awesome. She has a wide breadth of knowledge under belt and the dry wit to match. We bond over our shared misanthropy, our dull office jobs...and makeup. and shoes. We femme out hardcore together, which is a guilty pleasure neither of get to indulge in with many other people in each of our respective lives.
Katie is also an amazing photographer. You should check out her work. As a blossoming photo whore, it's great having a friend with such an eye and skill as Katie.
We went on a photo journey down Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. We called this shoot "Vintage Tourism" though I think it should be expanded to "Vintage Tourism at the End of the World" due to the photo vibes.
Lime Crime has been around for a few years now, but I've only recently started trying out their stuff. The label's tagline is "so bright, it's illegal," and that's what they strive toward. I've tried both their eye dusts and their lipsticks, but I'm only going to focus in the latter for now.
Thouh I acknowledge it as a PR ploy, I also really appreciate the label's message. There's an encouragement of eccentricity and a general embrace of the offbeat. They also promote a disregard of beauty "rules" and say wear what you want, make the colors--make the look--work for you. This is something I wholeheartedly believe in. Be your own person and make your own beauty.
A couple of months ago, I started with one of their more approachable colors, Centrifuschia.
Sadly, my camera sort of zapped the life out of this color. It's much closer to the sample posted on the Lime Crime site. I love this color...a lot. It fits with my old school style, but kind of gives it an 80s electric makeover...and I mean that as a good thing. It also goes on smooth and quite opaque. Seriously, this is the lipstick I put on when I'm having an off day. It does stain quite a bit though, so the day after I use this stuff, I always know will be another lipstick day.
Recently, I purchased two of their more eccentric colors: D'Lilac and Cosmopop.
D'Lilac is a color I want to wear to every party where I either want to be the center of attention or ignored by everyone:
Definitely a lipstick I'd want to plan an outfit around. Also great with some coordinated, intense eye color. It's grey undertones make me very much want Airborne Uniorn as well.
Cosmopop is my fall favorite.
Definitely has a 60s vibe. Makes me want to put on a ton of turquoise eye shadow and thick black eyeliner and tease up my hair. Also works for just a demure color with more of a "pop" than a straight up nude. Doe Deere, the brand's creator, made a great suggestion on her blog. When working with orange lipstick, take a small amount and blend it into your cheeks as rouge. This really helps to make the color work with your skin. This is what I did for he above picture and it definitely makes a difference.
For both the latter two, I think it's also work noting that they're a bit overpowering and streaky out of the tube. I was taken aback and initially turned off when I first put each of them on. Blotting, reapplying and blending with your finger is key to make them look more "natural." Or, you know, you could use a lip brush, but I was too lazy to dig mine out.
Yes, I am slowly but surely falling in love with this brand. I will definitely seek out other lipsticks from the line as my budget allows. Next up I'm thinking No She Didn't because what could be more awesome than blue lipstick?
There's a lot of negative stuff floating around the internet about this brand. I know nothing about the politics of the company, and frankly I don't care. They deliver a strong product and something different from the everyday. Next step: match hats with lipstick.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Similar to other photographers of this movement, Baltz plays with the 19th century concept of the landscape painting. Instead of viewing an open expanse of sky across and above the rolling country, this is only implied. This provincial aesthetic is blocked out by products of human innovation. Building blocks of human enterprise and expansion.
Baltz tends to be more aggressive than some of his contemporaries though, in many cases allowing nothing natural to enter the frame. No point of reference exists for scale or local. Man both in front of and behind the camera completely controls the landscape. There is literally no escape. It's asphyxiating.
A lot of Baltz's work also centers around construction. Despite the solidity of the concrete backdrops, this is still a transitory endeavor. Man keeps tearing up, keeps building. This also points to what lies beneath the surface. Man has not just built on top of, but within and throughout, furthering the influence of this artificial, Euclidian order. Construction is one of Baltz's continued interests, as seen in his work in Nevada and around Candlestick Park in San Francisco in the 80s.
It's important to note as well that this is an exhibit of industrial parks. The privatization of space is a central theme. Nondescript boxes disrupt his landscapes. Nothing is revealed about these spaces, what their purpose is, why they exist. All we know is we're not allowed to know. He uses reflections a lot in his work to reinforce this opacity. The above photo is my favorite from the collection. The viewer is finally given access to a black box space (in print form, this space is so highly illuminated, my dad said it resembled trompe l'oeil. opacity persists), but what do we find inside? A ladder and some shit on the ground. Privatization for the sake of privatization. The closing off of public and open space.
Baltz's world is far removed from the classic frontier expansionist myth of America. Everything is boxed up, torn up, claustrophobic and utilitarian. Obviously, he has an artist's intent, a bias, but part of the intent of this movement was to try to create an objective outlook on this changing landscape. Obviously, this is impossible, but I think it's very easy to assume that Baltz is coming from a negative and judgmental place. I think this is limiting. His work is quite arresting, from a formalist perspective. He finds beauty in his subjects, finds his nondescript buildings worthy of being artistic subjects. According to my dad, he breaks all sorts of photography rules too, but I know nothing about that.
My views on how we relate to our bodies in contemporary space stems from a similar condition to that which Baltz interrogates. With everything disjointed and privatized, we have no point of reference on scale or skin. Our sex symbols are sterilized, mechanized, our beauty airbrushed. Bodies are now foreign to us, even though they're constantly shoved in our faces. The mind and the body have become dissociated, compartmentalized.
I would highly encourage taking a look at Baltz's work. I'd encourage the same for Nicholas Nixon and the rest of the New Topographics crew.
“you’re too pretty for me”
he says this without a hint of irony. I don’t understand what he means. I raise an eyebrow.
“it’s true. you’re too pretty for me.”
pretty hits my skin but stays outside. it does not permeate through my layers so my mind draws a blank.
he puts on that dismissive smirk, but I still pick up on a hint of resentment in his voice. pretty does that to people. I flick my eyes up to his momentarily, shake my head then focus back on my tea.
beauty is something worn, an adornment. this I understand. pretty is more oblique, more insidious, seen as an inherent quality. I believe he takes this to mean I will be confident (i.e. vicious), operate from a position of privilege. He thinks by calling me out he will somehow weaken that capacity.
“did you hear? they think they’ve found a cure for the bats. no more dying in the trees. hopefully at least,” I say softly.
he nods but has nothing to add. I think about bringing up painleve’s le vampire, but I feel that’s just another dead end, not enough to fill the space. esoteric references got us to spitting distance but will take us no further.
instead I sit quietly and think of my friend’s father, three years ago, his eyes unfocused and bloodshot standing on his overgrown farm. he says the bats have been gone all summer and the mosquitoes have gotten bad. he misses them and he worries.
“baaaaaaats!” he rasps, his voice worn and strained. “baaaaats!” we stand there, waiting, purple.
as if awaiting the signal, a dark blip shoots across the dusky expanse. this excites the man and his face changes shape. “baaaaaats!” he calls again, “baaaaats!” no more appear and eventually the man’s hope wanes. his countenance resumes its weariness and he ambles inside.
“what are you thinking?” pretty boy asks.
I shrug and glance at him sideways. I see that his eyes are too close together but disregard this as forgivable since they are also the color of a lake I remember fondly. in others we seek these souvenirs of cherished memories, reminders of things external and unchanging. this is called attraction.
I notice he fidgets with the same apprehension that I do. we’re mirrors of inaction. my throat has closed up. I notice a run in my stockings, a nick in my shoe.
mating between bats plays out like a game of marco polo. the male shoots out his voice, flying back and forth across a central route. the female then seeks him out, following his vocalizations.
for this purpose, the anatomy of the male hammer head fruit bat has twisted over time to increase its ability to produce sound. its elongated head filled with air and its larynx distended to almost half the length of its backbone. this now fills so much of its chest cavity that the heart and lungs are pushed to the periphery, deemed of secondary importance by evolution.
I realize we have been sitting in silence for some time. I am unable to speak, my larynx is shrunken, my lungs and heart unencumbered, so I just look down and let out a breath.
with some sudden, awkwardly enacted aggression he grabs at my hand across the table.
“I like you,” he says, though his voice wavers. “I don’t normally like pretty girls, but these things happen sometimes. sometimes we have no control.”
his words make no sense. sound here is unnecessary and distasteful. but my desperation, my desire to play out this game is clear despite my silence.
he lunges across the table and kisses me hard, as if overwhelmed by some insuppressible need to subdue. I respond mechanically in an attempt to reassure him. he does not stop. this is performance.
he touches me and I think of the bat fungus, of the dying bats, of my ex, of the cold. I think of bodies, but only as abstractions. with so few bats left, how will they survive?
as he pushes through, permeates, I think about how far away I am from pretty.
Call me Tamina. ("The whole secret of Tamina's popularity is that she has no desire to talk about herself. She submits to the forces occupying her ear, never saying: 'It's absolutely the same with me, I...'")
This space will shift and change depending on my mental state. The gist: musings of bodies navigating through a sea of words, on fashion, on beauty, on body politics, interspersed with personal reflections of day to day existence. Come in for a spot, grab a comfy seat and a warm cup of tea.