November 2006 Archives

The last day of November

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I was stunned when I woke up this morning, was handed a parking ticket by a cop, and realized the date was the 30th. My goodness, has NaBloPoMo really drawn to a close already?!

I figured I ought to go out with a bang, and so, here are some things I've been desperately wanting to write about.

In Defense of Leggings

A year or two ago (maybe earlier) when there were murmurs that leggings and tights would come back in style, I was skeptical, yet secretly overjoyed. I pretended to roll my eyes along with those who scoffed, "What's next? Stirrup pants?" but already I was planning all the delightful ways I would wear them.

Like many women in their twenties, I have very fond memories of my first forays with leggings. I was in middle school and possessed the kind of athletic thin legs which were best showcased by thin fabric laced with spandex and Lycra. I had a pair of green hounds tooth leggings which I swear, I wore at least twice a week. I had insanely colorful psychedelic leggings, I had solid black, fuchsia, and more than a few variants of purple and turquoise. I even had lace ones.

I wore them by themselves with long (and very bright) cardigan sweaters, my father's button-up Oxford shirts, and all these crazy belted layers. I wore them under skirts and felt like a ballerina. I wore them under short pants and felt vaguely colonial (heh, knickers). I wore them under dresses and felt like an acrobat. At that same time, I also possessed some of the greatest and most comfortable ballet flats known to mankind, and there are no shoes in my closet I wouldn't trade to have those back again. (Bright pink! With giant bows!)

Eventually, and much to my distress, leggings started getting replaced by skin tight jeans. It's as if simultaneously and as a generation, we all walked to the other side of the Gap and decided we couldn't live without those dumb pinned cuffs. Awesome kicky layers were replaced with white turtlenecks under sweatshirts, and instead of all my fun shoes, I started begging my parents for the same Bass loafers everyone else sported. Yawn.

For years, I was incredibly bored by fashion. How can a girl really get excited by yet another pair of chinos? It seemed to me that women my age weren't wearing skirts anywhere, and I was really unsettled by the substitution of jeans as the pants for all occasions, since I've never really liked jeans nor found them terribly comfortable.


Here I should mention that in my ideal world, everyone would dress like Carolina Herrera or Diane von Furstenberg. Maybe even Coco Chanel. They would bother with the proper undergarments, they'd wear tailored and classic cuts, they'd layer, and they'd be mindful of silhouettes. No more of this flopsy long sleeve t-shirt over jeans with sneakers nonsense.

I realize I am an anomaly, though, in that I don't find "casual" clothing comfortable in any way whatsoever, unless it more closely resembles pajamas than clothing, and even then I'm pretty picky and sure as hell won't wear it out of the house. I like structure. I really like foundation garments. If corsets were regularly available, I'd probably wear them daily. Ultimately, I find constraint to be its own form of freedom.

Enter leggings. The one arena in which fashionistas and I can definitively get along.

I believe women genuinely enjoy showing off their bodies, even when (as in my case) they probably shouldn't. We like wearing things which move and highlight curves, which cling in places and gracefully float over others.

We may not admit it, and we may not do it often, but women get a real thrill out of feeling and looking good sometimes.

I think this is because inside every sophisticated adult woman, there exists a little girl who used to turn her rumba pants backwards to admire the ruffles. And if there isn't, I sincerely recommend getting back in touch with one's innerAngelina Ballerina, as it's a pretty great part of being a woman.

That said, this tendency can be indulged too far. Stripper skirts, excessive demonstrations of side boob, and basically everything Paris Hilton wears would fall into the category of misguided attempts at recapturing one's youthful glee in dressing.

Leggings, if worn carefully, can provide the essential layer of modesty between walking down the street unclothed and shrugging on some dowdy corduroys. They allow a woman to show her legs without overtlyshowing her legs, and they provide an interesting and attractive counterpoint to more voluminous upper shapes.

They do this, however, in an athletic, playful way which co-opts the experience. Whereas nylons and fragile ankles denote the traditional patriarchal view of femininity, leggings and flats form our own version. It is an attitude of comfort, practicality, versatility, independence, and strength. They allow women to wear skirts and dresses, but still run down the street or bend to pick something up without feeling nude. Plus, they keep you a lot warmer than stockings in the fall and winter, and you don't have to shave your legs as often, which, of course, I love (I am a grungy art student, after all).

There is a downside, of course, with which I'm sure we're all familiar. That is, leggings as pants. I will admit, I've done it before in much thinner incarnations of myself, and I still do it sometimes at the gym when I can't find a long enough t-shirt to cover my butt and don't feel like layering on shorts. But no matter how thin a woman may be, it's really never attractive to have one's lady bits on full display. Seriously. I don't need to know the precise fat content of your mons, thank you.

Leggings are not a rationale to wear otherwise-unflattering skirts and dresses.

There is a fine line between sleekly stylish and well, sausage casings.

I think we all know what I mean.

Lastly, I'm pretty confident in saying that no matter how thin you are, white leggings are always a bad idea. Seriously. Just take my word on that.

So, leggings, when deployed carefully and with a generous dose of honesty with oneself, can be a powerful and delightful facet of a woman's fashion arsenal.

(In future posts, I will take on some other contemporary fashion trends in what will likely become one of the more shallow and insipid series I'll produce.)

I hope you all had a lovely NaBloPoMo, and I hope my RSS reader doesn't suddenly drop to zero once you're all free of daily posting. I know I plan to continue posting more regularly, and I hope the experience encourages others to do likewise


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I wasn't going to bother saying anything about how much I love the Wii, but my addiction has set in hard and fast, and since my arms are already sore, I figured it couldn't hurt to take a break.

Last Wednesday, I had to go into Manhattan at 5am to take a train down to New Jersey. To my astonishment, Eric offered to come with me; apparently he had learned that the Nintendo store had more Wiis available and he intended to be there at opening to purchase one.

Over the course of my trip, I called a few times and he told me about how much he'd been playing, how awesome it was, etc. I figured sure, it's a video game, this is Eric, of course he loves it.

It wasn't until last night, after I'd handed in my big paper and gotten the rest of my work reasonably under control, that I played with the pretty character Eric had made for me and discovered the glories of the Wii.

Man, it's freaking awesome. Bowling is kick-ass and makes me wish I had those red lines when I play in real life. The batting practice is perhaps my favorite thing ever and the most surefire tension releaser after a long day. If I could make the victory music at the end of a boxing match play on command, I would be ecstatic on a constant basis.

Seriously, when I was printing my paper, I hummed it.

To conclude, get a Wii. It is wonderful. I love it more than I loved Soul Calibur, and that's really saying a lot.

Status: they all still want me

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My paper is done, and it is printing right now. (Wheee!!!!)

Quality... is uncertain. I can't actually see clearly enough to read anymore, but I may have pulled a few decent passages out of it. If I could get an A on a midterm where I mistook smoking implements for chicken bones and wrote a whole essay about it, odds are good she's willing to forgive a little hair-brained commentary here and there.

What kills me is that I know if I had spent more time on it and actually done it the way I planned, this could have been an awesome paper. Live and learn.

I also dropped work off for an MFA show yesterday. I didn't realize that I would have to hang it at the same time, and I expect by now it's most likely fallen off the walls and damaged something or someone in the process. Supposedly there is an opening tonight, but I don't know enough information to post an invite (will do that later maybe).

I learned how to make a case binding yesterday, very much against my will. It is pathetic what joy those crisp linen edges give me, and all the bookmaking plans I've started to devise. Turns out I like it after all.

This morning, I have to head into Manhattan to meet with a Dutch art dealer who is himself German. It's an interesting trick arranging a field trip the morning our big research paper is due, and I wondered if the logic was purposeful or not. I am curious to see who all shows up and in what stages of rest / cleanliness they may do so.

Or maybe it's just me, who still pulls this last-minute all-night crap in grad school?

Either way, that's got to change, if not for my sanity then for the world's supply of Ginger Newman-O's, which I severely depleted last night.

Can't talk, writing

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Ehm, big stupid paper due in less than 10 hours.


I dragged a ridiculously heavy suitcase full of research books to Virginia and back and have sort of skimmed two of them.

Let's hope I pull this one out.

The long and winding road

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This morning I am heading back to New Jersey with my parents and my cousin, plus one dachshund. Once I get there, it's on to a train to Penn Station, followed by 2 or 3 subways to Brooklyn, depending on what's running.

With my suitcase, filled with research books, weighing approximately forty six thousand pounds (give or take).

Based on the time of day I'll be going, I can more or less expect to be standing the whole way.


When I was young, my mother used to advise every child she knew to study physics long and hard, in hopes that by this point in her life, we would have perfected teleportation.

Too bad I went into art instead.

I am determined this year, however, to not let all the rushing and locomotion (in every sense of loco) undo all the relaxation and family good vibes I've accumulated this weekend. Let's hope the other couple million drivers and New Yorkers I'll encounter have resolved likewise.

Your TV Links

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Should you find yourself with some downtime, you really owe it to yourself to check out Your TV Links - it's like YouTube except with full episodes of television shows and movies!

Like Don, I have no idea how they do it, but I'm officially in love.

It's worth it for the Simpsons alone. Let me recommend Season 8, Episode 9, The Mysterious Voyage of Our Homer (El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer), my all-time favorite episode.

P.S. This is your fair warning - I plan to accompany future television references with screen caps and/or clips. Because... specificity, mmm.

Black Friday

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Not to be all cynical, but something about the early morning post-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza that is Black Friday gets a bit exhausting.


Somehow it seems the very opposite of the way we should spend our holiday.

And yet... that's where I'll be. This year I'll bring my camera and try to have some fun with it, enjoy being with my family and to hell with the jostling, cursing, angry crowds enveloping us and knocking us down.

This afternoon I hope to take some photos outside too - it's gorgeous down here!

Happy Thanksgiving

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I could write a lengthy post about the things I'm thankful for: my family, my friends, my sweetie, my cats, the opportunities I have, the little blessings and joys that make every day a beautiful experience...

But yo, I'm with my family, and there's a ridiculous spread of food to eat. I'm American, remember?

I hope you enjoy your holiday and take some time to think about the things which you are thankful for in life. Like stuffing. And gravy.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Everyday Minerals rocks my world

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Yes, I know, makeup. How droll. I have to go see family though, so yeah, it's on my mind.

I struggle with makeup, like, a lot. It's either caked on so thick that it's smearing off my face or it's so light that it doesn't cover anything. Most of the time, I try not to wear any since I am so unlikely to get it right that it's literally not worth the effort.

But then these occasions arise where I really wish I could do my makeup well, say when I'm giving a presentation (left) or I'm going to a wedding (right), and then I find myself still utterly incapable of it. (In my defense I hadn't slept (left) and was dancing up a storm (right).)

Other examples include:

And I really thought I looked okay in those. Yikes.

Periodically I decide that it's the foundation I'm using. Maybe it's the color or the formula. I go on some spree where I buy something else, convinced it's the perfect solution, and of course, it never is.

Then I decided hmm... maybe it was my application technique. I read Amalah's Foundation Tutorial. Aha! It made so much sense!

I am a painter, right? Surely I can understand developing the proper ground, then applying makeup with a foundation brush! I was stoked.

It... didn't exactly work.

(Poor John, I'm sorry to include you in this train wreck).

Perhaps it was because I was doing my makeup in the car while Eric drove. Maybe it's still the wrong color and formula.

All I know is that by the time I got done working myself over with that foundation brush, I didn't look like a person anymore and had to literally scrape bunches of it off to try to restore some semblance of living and breathing flesh to my exterior appearance.

I tried it several other times with several other foundations and really, I just don't think that liquid foundation and I are meant to be together. Maybe it's specifically because I'm a painter, and I forget that one's face is not meant to have impressionistic effects and innovative brushwork. I'd think I looked great for about twenty minutes, and then as soon as I got where I was supposed to be, I would become some greasy streaky wrongly colored and poorly blended disaster. And if I wanted to be that, I would have just gone without makeup, you know?

So, one day I was mixing dry pigments in my studio and thinking how much easier makeup would be if it were just done with dry powders.

Enter that week's Wednesday Advice Smackdown (yes I really am a bit of an Amalah addict) where someone once again asked about Bare Escentuals. I had never really bought into this idea of powdery mineral foundation, and I would have just skimmed, had I not recently had the experience with painting pigments covering my skin so beautifully and completely (and yet remain far too toxic to use as makeup).

I had decided what the heck, I'd give it a try... except wow, that BE stuff is really expensive! I wasn't about to plunk down student loan money on something that may or may not actually work.

A contributor posted a link to Everyday Minerals, which seems to be a very similar product to Bare Escentuals, less the annoying name and at a fraction of the price (like, on par with drugstore foundation). Best of all, they have a very generous free sample offer, where you can select three different color and formula foundations, a blush, and a concealer. The shipping was like $3, so I figured it was totally worth it.

And oh my goodness. This stuff is magic!

It covers amazingly, fixes all my imperfections, and yet I don't look like I'm wearing makeup. I just look like I have flawless skin. This is what makeup is supposed to do!

It's easy to apply, easy to blend, and it stays on all day. Most of all, it doesn't irritate my skin, and supposedly, should I forget to wash my face at the end of the day, it's no big deal because this stuff is like, pure, and not laden with chemicals and irritants. With most other foundations, I start breaking out within a few hours of applying it, yet I can wear this stuff all day with no problems.


Even better, they have a whole line of products including eye shadow and lip color, which if they prove to be anywhere near as wonderful as their foundation, will solve all my makeup problems. Woohoo!!!

Musical housekeeping

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As I've previously mentioned, I'm having some storage issues on my computer. It has an 80 gig hard drive, and until recently I had less than 1 gig of free space, which is quite worrying.

I thought the issue was having gotten a digital SLR, and indeed, I do have gigs and gigs of cat photos (which I'm moving to an external hard drive because God, I just can't delete their sweet little faces).

However, I also have upwards of 40 gigs of music, easily half of which is most likely crap.

Example: I can confidently say my life will not be negatively impacted should I NEVER hear Aqua's "Barbie Girl" ever again. And even though that Afroman song was funny back in the day ("Because I got high, because I got high, la di da da da da..."), I don't think I really need the whole album.

I have a terrible tendency to download ridiculous songs late at night, often while intoxicated, and right now I am experiencing the morning after effect of way too many bad decisions as I sort through my iTunes to purge.

So how about you? Any particularly embarrassing tunes popping up on your playlist?

Cat wheel!

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Somehow this video:


makes me think that this set-up could be a lot more fun than I'd anticipated:


(hamsters via and genius cat wheel via)

Bookety book-books

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Later today, I'm going here:

If you are like really into artist's books, I'd suggest you check it out. Today is the last day. You can read about it in the Times here.

(My mother reminded me yesterday what a geek I am and how much I generally do like books, when I'm not charged with making them, so I have a much better outlook on this whole scenario.)

Sideways dreaming

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I believe in feng shui to the extent that it is logical: when we have room to move about our lives in a harmonious way, we have a greater sense of balance, peace of mind, and positive energy.

I don't go nuts about it, mostly because I am too lazy to care about how clutter may interrupt my flow, let alone consider whether my elements are properly balanced, and that's probably something I'd like to work on.

At any rate, we have our bed arranged in such a way that the long side runs parallel with the windows (Eric likes to sleep against the wall), our head is against one wall, and our feet face the door.

A quick perusal of Feng Shui for Dummies reveals that our bed is in a totally acceptable position (diagram b on that page). We even have plants, which Iggy tells me are delicious.

So I can't really understand why, but when Eric goes out of town, I have a compulsion to sleep sideways or sort of diagonally across the bed. I think it's to do with having a lamp on the windowsill approximately halfway down our bed, and when he's not around, I need to read to fall asleep, so it's only logical to move my head so the light shines down on my book and not, say, into my eyes, as it usually does.

Supposedly, my body position still follows the "rules," changing to diagram c, with my feet still facing the door and a wide vantage point of the room.

But my God, the dreams I have.

It's seriously like some form of somnolent peyote.

People who have known me for a while know that I tend to have vivid, absurd, often stupid dreams, and more than my fair share of nightmares. But when I sleep sideways? It's as if I've tapped into some kind of wonderland of fantasy perfection, candy rainbows, and all the dreams I always wished I could have when I was having a bad day.

(As an aside, when I was a little girl and really loved ThunderCats, I woke up one morning disappointed that I didn't dream about the Voltureman, and I spent the next week or so wishing I would while I brushed my teeth - finally at the end of the week, I did, and I was so excited I didn't even notice it was a nightmare until I'd woken up.)

Last night I had an extensive dream about a house absolutely devoid of clutter, with so much space it was almost daunting. The color scheme was based on an orchid like the one pictured - most of the rooms were shades of white, grey, brown, and pale green, and one centralized room was a fantastic deep purple-red from floor to ceiling. Positively stunning.

Everything was geometric and clean, beautifully arranged, and so damntasteful you could scream. Within my dream, I had a moment of lucidity that recalled that when we dream about a house, we are dreaming about ourselves and our inner lives, and so, aware, I spent the rest of the time examining this house thinking "This is what my mind could be. I could love my thoughts this way."

It was arrestingly beautiful.

When I awoke, I didn't feel so stressed anymore, even though I haven't gotten anywhere near as much as I'd like done.

I woke thinking that in that house, they do have to clean the toilets and the floors, they have to buy groceries, throw out spoiled food; they have to spread projects out across that huge white marble table and make a disaster of things... they probably even spill entire cans of Diet Coke in their underwear drawer too.

But I didn't have to see any of it. Just as in my own life, there's all this mental clutter and upsetting stuff, and that's all I focus on, instead of lifting my eyes up a little and noticing all the other wonderful, exciting things.

Before Eric left town, he asked why I stress out so much about everything and make it all so hard on myself. I thought he was deluded or just didn't understand how difficult my life is, and he shouted "Well when it's all over, it's not like you're going to get some award and people will say, 'Oh look how shesuffered!'" And he's right. It's my choice whether I get exhausted or invigorated by challenges. It's my choice if I see my to-do list as a set of shackles or as an exciting opportunity to do good things.

And somehow, by dint of a couple gorgeous dreams, I'm okay now. Maybe my standards are slipping or I'm getting strangely overconfident, but this really won't be so hard. It doesn't hurt that my mom called and said we're leaving Wednesday instead of Tuesday (which gives me an extra library day - weehaw!)

A little change in attitude is really all I needed.

What I'll be doing this weekend

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I know it's not entertaining to post to-do lists on one's blog, and yet... what I have to do is pretty much all that's on my mind of late.

You may amuse yourself with relief that you are not in grad school, nor a chronic procrastinator who puts herself into this situation and suffers through it each semester.

Here goes.

Things I Have to Do By Monday:

  • put together and write a huge research paper on a series of Rembrandt paintings for my Northern Baroque class which is due the Tuesday I get back. My professor glibly said "I thought you guys could spend your vacation working on them," and I was filled with such intense rage that I couldn't breathe for a while. My progress thus far includes writing an overly-broad and useless outline, preparing a bibliography I mostly won't use (having revised my topic) and checking out exactly one book from the library, which I have not yet opened. My plan is to camp out in the campus library today and try as hard as I can to avoid an inevitable day spent in the NYPL research library on Saturday.
  • attend a mandatory book fair, which I have less than no interest in, and which was announced one week ago. Because this is the most frustrating (and pointless) class I've ever taken, I have to check in with some friends of my professor's and have proof that I went, and pick a book to present on Monday. Really, I had nothing better to do.
  • Create an exquisite corpse book, with such a vague explanation of an "exquisite corpse" that basically anything goes. Already I know I will be redoing this. Also, gather a bunch of supplies for Monday's in-class project, which is very involved and frustrating and I emphatically do not want to do, yet can't screw up.
  • Come up with a book to put into a library display case (wtf?) because really, I'm just SO proud of my work in this class. She sent an email specifying which books she'd like certain people to display (the good ones) and for others just wrote "your choice." Honestly, I wish she would just pick the ones that she wants and not bother the rest of us. Really, I wouldn't mind being excluded if it meant I wouldn't have to redo yet another assignment so I'm not completely embarrassed that I hate everything I've made all semester and will have to have it on display.
  • Grade at least 10 of the pile of undergraduate papers I received yesterday. Thankfully, I had the forethought to tell my professor that yes, it would severely disrupt my own work and life if I tried to get them all done this weekend, and because he's a genuinely nice guy, he took part of them to do himself. The rest I'll be doing over break (joy).
  • Come up with a painting to hang in an MFA show the Monday I get back from vacation. Avoid having a mental breakdown as I realize I have nothing of adequate quality or finish that I actually want to display in public.

Things I Have to Do Before Leaving for Virginia (Tuesday):

  • Get enough of that Northern Baroque website up so that people won't feel compelled to remind the professor I haven't updated it since the midterm... just in case anyone bothers looking at it anytime before oh, the week of the final exam.
  • Convince my doctor that no, there really isn't a need to see him after only 3 months and that really, he should just write me a year-long prescription without forcing me to come for another office visit that my insurance doesn't cover (not like they billed the proper insurance company for the last visit). Deal with Duane Reade and get said prescription filled.
  • Convince the fine folks at CUNY that they really want to let me take a French class next semester even though I'm sure their registration is already closed since there's no way I'm learning French by December 5th. Grovel with the department head to allow me to not take the exam (for which I would have to miss class) and take the class instead (even though I have no time for it and swore to myself that I wasn't adding any extra crap onto next semester)
  • Locate a dry cleaner who can remove year-old cat pee from my winter dress coat which has been residing in my car trunk since Christmas. Give up hopes that I will be able to wear it this trip, but maintain positive attitude that it isn't ruined and I don't have to wear a J. Crew pea coat indefinitely.
  • Do the massive ridiculous pile of laundry which currently occupies my entire bedroom floor. Attempt to find outfits suitable to wear around family and remind self that yellow pajamas are not an "outfit" and staying in bed until 6pm does not relinquish the need to wear clothing at some point.

Things I Have To Do As Soon As I Get Back:

  • the entirety of a bibliography project for my Methodology class
  • almost the entirety of a (completely useless and incredibly annoying) cataloging project for Methodology
  • cram for my final exam in Northern Baroque
  • grade undergraduate final exam in a timely manner
  • a massive final project for my bookmaking class, plus redoing a bunch of assignments from the rest of the semester... desperately attempt to salvage grade because God damn it, I'm NOT letting this class drag down my GPA, so help me...
  • somehow get a semester's worth of quality painting done, come to terms with having wasted all my time (AGAIN) and realistically be able to present something worthwhile for final critiques that has some resemblance to a thesis-in-progress
  • regular reading and assignments which I am, once again, behind on


Totally manageable, right?

Rethinking education

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Whenever I start bitching about the undergraduates in the class I assist for, Eric likes to remind me that I was hardly a mature, responsible undergrad myself. True, I didn't answer my cell phone three times during class - instead I just didn't go. There were courses I just plain blew off or half-assed in ways I would never dream of now. I'm horrified by the memory, and I think I have a massive need to do well in grad school to redeem myself as a student and regain my academic self-respect.

This got me thinking though.

A lot of why I work so hard is that I am paying for this myself. When I graduate, I will have massive debt, and I'd damn well better have the caliber of job that I can manage that while moving forward with my life.

Another reason is that I know what life is like without this degree. I've worked at menial, low-wage jobs with no possibility for advancement, I've borrowed heavily from others, and I've lived hand-to-mouth. I worked long enough and hard enough to make good and sure I will never settle for "enough to get by" again. I know what my time is worth, and I know how important it is to apply myself now.

I think about how much more valuable and productive my undergrad education could have been had I had those experiences before.

I wonder, if the students I see now worked for a few years between high school and college, would so many treat their undergrad as Thirteenth Grade? Would those who don't really have any business being in college decide they're happier continuing as bartenders or what have you, and leave room (and even scholarship money) for hard-working, more dedicated people?

Without the motivation of paying back student loans (or parents hollering about how much they spent on that degree), would people in their 20s be happier sitting back and slacking off for less money, leaving jobs open for those who are genuinely interested in getting ahead in a given field?

I can't really say, but it's an intriguing question. I see so many people (my undergraduate self included), who have no idea about the world, justify protracted post-adolescent angst and immaturity with vague concerns about not being able to get a job once they graduate, and use this as an excuse to not even try. What if we were called out and not given the opportunity to pursue a degree until we were actually mature and disciplined and worked out our personal issues by getting fired a few times? The same way that employers won't often take on people who have never worked before, some demonstration of maturity and integrity seems in order for undergraduate admission. Passing through a watered-down compulsory education tailored to the lowest common denominator hardly seems adequate to me.

I believe very much in education, including liberal arts education, not just for the practical ability to get a better job (since a bachelor's is no longer the ticket to financial success), but for the ability to go through the world in a more open-minded, intellectually curious way. But I can honestly say it's not for everyone, and there are a lot of people diluting the seriousness of purpose and legitimacy of a degree when I'm sure there are smarter and more talented kids out there who can't afford college.

So what to do?

One thing I do know is that if I ever find myself in a teaching position again, I will likely be one of the stricter and more demanding professors my students will ever have. Honestly, someone's got to check them into reality.

Seeing ourselves

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My mother forwarded me a photo of one of my second cousins and her fiancé, and I was floored. The last time I saw this girl she was a sweet little pre-teen, and suddenly she's grown into a stunning young woman. Like, an adult woman. With nice hair. Who wears makeup.

I felt so astonishingly old all at once. It's one thing to watch the cousins I see every few months growing up, but for someone to go from child to... engaged woman.... it's quite a jump.

I wouldn't recognize her if I ran into her in person. But damn she looks happy.

So I was thinking about it, and it occurred to me that I've been dating Eric over 2 years now, we live together, and yet almost none of the family I'm going to be seeing in Virginia has ever met him.

I figured the least I could do was dig up a nice photo of us together to show people (cause umm, I don't carry photos of people in my wallet anymore). According to Flickr, Eric and I barely know each other. I have very few photos of us together, and even fewer that are appropriate for public. I stopped taking those "aww we're a cute new couple" photos with him in the days before Flickr, and because we're usually both toting cameras everywhere we go, we each have tons of photos of the other, but very few together.

I don't know what this says about us as people or photographers, nor am I especially concerned. Maybe I'll put it in the back of my mind to take our picture together more than once a year, but we'll see.

I do, however, have an absolute excess of photos of Eric with Smokey (whom he's renamed FLP, short for "Fat Little Pumpkin") and images of Eric with both Iggy and Smokey. I think perhaps I'm more inclined to start carrying one of those.

Brain tricks

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Let's start by saying I'm sometimes really dumb.

I had worried over the weekend, when no amount of sleep was enough, that perhaps I was coming down with mono again. My main evidence for this fear was swollen glands by my throat and pervasive exhaustion. I suspect, though, that both are more likely caused by me being an idiot than any real pathogen.

I had a short little homework assignment to do last night that I put off until 4 this morning. Once finished, I reflected on how it only took a half hour or so and that it was foolish to have procrastinated for four hours beforehand. Thereafter, I began worrying about moving my car, and I haven't been able to decide if I should move it now or later and if I do it in the morning, when I should plan to shower and get ready for class (it's in an 8-8:30 spot and I have class at 9, so it's a sticky little dance). I have been incapable of getting past this for the last hour and a half. Sigh.

Also, I need a new notebook before class tomorrow, and this is literally keeping me up. I don't know if I should just use unlined printer paper or plan to go to the school store at 8:30 (and how does that fit into my car-moving plan?)

I don't exaggerate when I say that my brain has infinite ways to deprive itself of sleep with irrational, ridiculous and constant worries.

Then again, it's not like I'm missing out on much by sleeping, because my dreams are all Muppets all the time. Even my nightmares are positively steeped in absurdity. Example:

I dreamt I was in my aunt's living room, during a birthday party for one of my cousins. They were all dressed alike in some variety of leprechaun or Oompa-Loompah costumes and though I thought they were wearing fake beards, I later learned they were real: prosthetic grafts of skin and beard onto their faces. This scared me so much I could hardly breathe.

Eric and I got plates of food and moved into my aunt's kitchen, where picnic tables were set up inside. (Here is where I admit I have a vague and mostly unfounded fear of picnic tables).

Richard Simmons started running the animal show. At first it was fun - he unleashed five or six cats, who ran all around the house. Then a bunch of bunnies, and while I don't have the best of luck with bunnies, none of these tried to hump me.

Then he let out an iguana.

Oh good Lord I hate iguanas.

I edged myself against the wall, trying to stay calm and avoid attracting the iguana's attention, but somehow I only enticed it more. It scurried over quicker than any iguana I've ever seen, and after an hilarious chase scene around the kitchen, it ended up digging its claws into my leg and biting my knee. It would not let go, and I screamed so loud that the whole party came in to see.

Richard Simmons thankfully took the iguana off, only to warn me to be sure to keep my mouth shut for the next animal... a tarantula.

Of course he didn't tell me that the tarantula was already on the picnic table I was sitting at, right in front of me, and it climbed onto the bottom edge of my sweatshirt, and naturally, hovered precariously close to the interior, a perimeter which, if breached, would mean absolute and certain death by terror for me.

I did my loudest and most severe clenched-mouth scream, and in my head contemplated screaming "Mom! Tarantula!" (because surely she would understand that she had to save me, like, immediately), but remembering the iguana's crazy speed, I thought it was totally possible that the tarantula could also defy physics and species logic and propel itself into my mouth.

After all, Richard Simmons warned me.

At that point, I was so traumatized by my dream that I woke up screaming. Eric asked what was wrong, and I was panting, and I was near tears as I described the scene. All he had to say was, "And what? No clowns?"

Stupid brain.

I'm not the only weird one though. Just now Eric awoke from seven solid hours of sleep, came into the room I'm in and announced, "Next Halloween I'm gonna go as the guy from Doom."

Good to know we're both so on top of things.

Learning from myself

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I've been thinking lately about what I want to paint and why. I suppose this is pretty important information, as I'll have to defend it in an uncomfortably short amount of time (and boy do I wish I did this thinking a long time ago), but it's been wicking me lately.

I looked through a bunch of old photographs as well as the entire archives of my photo blog to try to sort out what images I feel compelled to capture, what things I regard as beautiful, powerful, or in some way intriguing.

I came to the conclusion that I have been taking the same handful of photos since I was maybe 10 or 11 years old. I mean yes, the subjects change or the way I've framed them, but the goal is always the same, and that's a significant thing about the way I see. When I look at the world, I keep finding the same kinds of things in new ways every time, and they are what give me joy and excitement about seeing.

When I was absent-mindedly sketching, it occurred to me that I was remembering photographs and plotting out representational, if not impressionistic versions of some of my favorite images.

Then I had a mental brake-screeching sound effect as I thought "Wait a moment - I don't paint representationally!"

Every time I draw, I'm thinking about real things, however surreal. When I plan paintings, they have subjects, they have concrete ideas and thoughts behind them. Then I get to the canvas (or lately, masonite) and it's as if I've had a lobotomy. I come up with the same automatic gestures to fill the space, then model something out of them which has nothing to do with the original painting I wanted to start.

So I'm going to pay attention to myself, to the things I love, and I'm going to take a risk. Instead of rushing into my next painting and half-assedly constructing yet another vacuous abstraction, I'm going to take the time to (gasp) draw what I want to paint, and not just in washy brushwork, but actual, articulated forms in space. Even if it gets abstracted later on or completely transformed after that point, I want to start with something real and try to capture what I keep focusing on in my life.

The only thing standing in my way is my own set of prejudices and insecurities about painting representationally, based in an absurd snobbery which amounts to an education as arbitrary as HomerSimpson's condescending "Your paintings look like the things they look like." At some point I got stuck on the idea that that's not enough, when really, it's perhaps the most we can ask of ourselves.

What havoc this may wreak on my thesis prospects remains to be seen. I think I'm smart enough to be able to make a case for the change in program without looking like I gave up and switched gears at the eleventh hour, but it's going to take a real lot of discipline, courage, and dedication to teach myself to paint in a new way.

I have to at least try, though, or I'm not sure I could ever look myself in the mirror and call myself a painter without major misgivings.

The Space Between

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(Feel free to queue up some Dave Matthews if you want extra effect)

In my painting class on Wednesday, a student was talking about his interest in transitions between states, concepts, objects, and ideas. It wasn't about the discrete things themselves, but the places between them.

I blurted out "synapses" and my professor said the same thing seconds later - what he is trying to depict is the space where change and transformation occur, just like a synapse between nerve cells. My professor asked me to explain to the class how nerves function and where thought is "located."

Though I used elaborate diagramming with my fingers, you can get a pretty simple explanation here, the Reader's Digest artist's version being that chemicals are released where the dendrites of one neuron approach another, into the space between them called the synapse. When concentrations of these chemicals (neurotransmitters) build up to a given point (the action potential), the nerve cell fires. Sequences of these build up to form responses and ultimately sophisticated, coordinated functions like emotion and thought.

What's key is not just that this reaction occurs between cells, but that the atmosphere around them changes completely -- in painting terms, it's not enough to paint one object butting up against another without regarding the transformation that occurs when they come in potent contact. If expressing that space between is the goal, it is important to represent the conditions which evoke that change, the pervasive atmosphere building to a potential.

Later that day, in my evening class, a student originally from St Petersburg commented on how Americans work excessively during the weeks and months between their weekends and vacations, then try to pack in adventure or extreme relaxation because they have allotted that time for enjoyment. The more sensible approach toward life would be to seek joy in every day and find pleasure whenever possible in all experiences.

I felt crestfallen as I realized that I am living on hold again. I'm prioritizing future goals and career aspirations over everyday joys. I'm well aware that seeking a post-graduate education requires certain sacrifice and delay of gratification, but it's been my own choice to forfeit happiness or even simple contentment on an everyday basis.

Because really, it's the space between the big things where everything happens.

I think I've been making progress in keeping my life in better balance, but I've got a really long way to go.

A heavy sigh

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Today is the 10th anniversary of my grandfather's death, a date I remember because it fell on Veteran's Day. He was a WWII Navy veteran, and he actually met my grandmother in the service (she was a nurse).

There were many beautiful and inspiring things about my grandfather, a legacy that I am only now coming to understand as people drop random tidbits into conversation. I didn't know until last year that he had his master's in art history. Just this past weekend my father reminisced about trips they used to take into Manhattan to see exhibits at the Met or the Museum of Natural History.

Part of why I know so little about my grandfather is that in many ways the facts of his life were vastly overshadowed by the reality of his final years and the way he died. When people remember him, they are quick to comment that he chain-smoked Chesterfield cigarettes all the time. They laugh about how the upholstery above his seat in the car was a dark greyish brown, they remember his coughing fits and sadly recall the jobs he had to leave when he could not maintain his composure in front of a classroom anymore.

For most of my childhood, I remember being a little afraid of my grandfather, maybe because I only saw him once or twice a year (my grandparents moved to Hawaii, in part for my grandfather's health, when I was less than 2 years old). Mostly, though, it was that he would always cough, and I worried for him. I still remember the rattle in his chest and his labored breathing with a vivid shudder. To this day, I get irrationally uncomfortable around people who are coughing.

As I grew a little older and more aware, I realized he would hold his breath around us or try to stave off coughing fits. Seeing his ill health made me so unspeakably sad that I didn't know how to be around him, much less get to talk to him and learn about him as a person. Of course I can't completely blame myself for being a child and not having the foresight to realize that this same faltering health which made me uncomfortable was also an urgent reminder to take advantage of the time we have with the people we love.

When he passed away, I beat myself up terribly that I didn't ever get to know him as well as I would have liked. In my uniquely self-centered teenage mind, I was devastated that he would not get to see me graduate high school or college, he wouldn't know my husband or children or any of the person I would become. I still cry thinking about that stuff, and I wish he could have stayed in my life longer - I like to think he and I would have a lot to talk about these days.

I also realized that I never got to have him as my grandfather because for most of the time I knew him, he wasn't really himself anymore. It's not really an overstatement to say he smoked himself to death. A premature death, with the years preceding at such a desolate quality of health that one could sometimes wonder if it was truly living. I think of how his life may have continued, what he would have seen in the world, and I desperately wish I could know what he thought about a whole lot of things.

The thing is, I have more friends who smoke than I can count. When I consider my generation and all the people I know in their 20s, I'd say it's more common to smoke than not, and considering the things we know now that my grandfather didn't, we should be sick with ourselves.

I lived in a coed arts house my junior and senior year of undergrad, where most of my house mates smoked, constantly. During parties, people would stand outside my bedroom door waiting for the bathroom and turn the air blue. Everything I owned stunk of cigarettes, and when I'd get out of the shower, I'd gag in the clouded air until I readjusted. I was constantly sick, with so many sinus and respiratory infections it was a little ridiculous, but it wasn't until I took my cat to the vet for chronic sniffling and eye irritation that I realized the effect that living in that house was having on my health. I moved out the second semester of my senior year into a dorm, and I tried to stay away from people smoking after that. Even still, my nasal passages had become so irritated that I couldn't breathe through my nose at all. The summer after I graduated, I had to get surgery to remove scar tissue that had developed from such constant irritation and swelling in my sinuses, and I still have trouble with nasal allergies today.

I think about the effect that six months of second-hand smoking had on my health, the irreparable damage that it did, and I'm just appalled that people willingly continue it as a habit. I think about the things my grandfather would cough up, the fits he would have, the way he suffered as he lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer, and the way we all suffered for him... and I just wonder how on earth anything could ever be worth that.

I know I sound like a PSA, but smoking is not just a sudden, violent death. It is decades of agony, slow and poisonous suffering, chronic ill health, and forfeiture of all of one's ultimate dreams and goals in life. As far as I'm concerned, my grandfather died a lot earlier than 10 years ago.

Already I know friends who struggle to breathe when they walk up stairs, and they naively think they're "out of shape" or "need to hit the gym more." I hear the changes in their voice which will reveal themselves to be polyps and cancers in time, and I wonder how they could possibly think there is such a thing as a "sexy smoker's voice." I see people with the beginning stages of illnesses they cannot fathom, and I want to punch them in the face. Sometimes I think it would be better if they died in car accidents than go the route my grandfather did.

I still try to remember my grandfather fondly and not to always tarnish his memory by dwelling on the way he died, but it's hard. I console myself knowing that he kept a little note I scrawled on a Post-It next to his breakfast every morning, and that he was reminded every day until the day he died that I love him.

I just wish that the people I know who do this to themselves would realize that one day their grandchildren will feel the conflict and hurt that I do, should they live long enough to know them.

Time of the season

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This time of year, it always happens.

I get into a strange, inexplicable, angry little funk. I withdraw from friends and family, I couldn't care less about my school work or personal projects, and I spend a while hiding from the world around me.

I used to think it was related to my birthday or phases of the semester (looming due dates and so on) or God knows what, but I'm suspecting now that it's really just something that happens with the season. Like temperature shifts, phases of the moon, miscellaneous energy levels in the atmosphere.

A solstice of the heart and mind.

Usually, this one is short-lived, so that's good. I don't really have time to mope.

It also occurred to me, with no small amount of self-loathing, that I don't write poetry anymore because when I have stupid or random thoughts, I blurt them out and confuse Eric instead of investing time in thinking them through. Perhaps that's for the best, but I miss writing, a lot. I miss the heightened sense of feeling and dissecting one's interior life that came with it.

This time of year used to be a very prolific one for writing.

Voter intimidation

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Last night my professor mentioned an NPR segment she'd heard regarding phone calls from people alleging to be members of the Virginia Board of Elections threatening and intimidating Virginia voters.

A little research turned up these articles among others, and I am genuinely shocked.

Whatever I may think of either party, to treat voters in this way, to deliberately mislead and dissuade them from their civic right to vote, is to debase the entire system upon which our corrupt little democracy is built.

Can you even imagine how it must have felt to get a phone call saying if you showed up to the poll or attempted to vote, you'd be arrested?

I'm just truly sickened and frustrated beyond belief that there are people in this nation who believe this is a more effective method of achieving victory than, say, backing a solid candidate and focusing on the issues.

But then, if the revolting slew of campaign ads have taught me anything, it's that the few things that don'tmatter about politicians are their voting records and belief platforms. Why would we care about silly things like that when daunting voice-over actors tell us who's scary and who's upstanding?

I'm so tired of people treating Americans like they're idiots, and I'm even more tired of Americans internalizing that idiocy with complacency

Blame it on the rain

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It was a lousy day around here. I sort of had an idea it was going to be that way last night - both Eric and I fell asleep around 7:30. I woke up around 12:30 and he woke up even later, then we both stayed up, headachey and bleary-eyed until after 4am.

I kept waking up every 20 or 30 minutes with some kind of panic going through my mind, though it was too diffuse and strange to identify outright. By the time my alarm started going off, I was having full-on nightmares and desperately wanted to stay under the covers all day.

I woke up with just enough time to shower and throw clothes on for my 1:00 class. Always a great start, right? I forgot to roll up the hems of my jeans before going out in the pouring rain, so by the time I got to campus my pants were soaked up to the knees. I hate being that wet.

Class went fine, though I was mildly distressed because while we were talking I sketched out all these ideas for new paintings and a whole new method of painting (more on that soon), but I quickly realized I wouldn't have time to go to my studio after class because I had work to do still for my evening class.

When I got home, Eric told me his car had been impounded, that he'd caught them in the act of towing it but was helpless to prevent it. There is a whole as yet unresolved headache about how he will go about getting it out, seeing as it is registered to his deceased grandfather. Transferring the title will be difficult because his grandmother leaves for Florida tomorrow. Poor sweetie. It looks like the city of New York wins again. Jerks.

I scrambled through my evening class assignment so that I could get the reading done as well because we were supposed to have one of my former professors as a guest lecturer (and I didn't want to be unprepared since I really like him and wanted to be able to participate). When I got to class, I learned that he would not be coming, and my professor had sent the email to the wrong address. Sigh.

The one bright spot of the day was that as a class we went to a fantastic lecture by the curator of the Cloisters, discussing the show currently on view at the Met, Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture. He gave an amazing talk, discussing the context of how these stone heads were cut off in a systematic removal of decoration from Notre Dame and other cathedrals during the French Revolution, then sold to stone masons and others for use as rubble in construction. In tearing down a bank in the 70s, they found all these medieval heads mixed into the walls, and it turns out that now they've been sent all over the world. Crazy.

The lecturer also got into a lot of art historical method, including a technique the Met pioneered called neutron activation analysis, which was discussed in a New York Times article recently. This technique allowed researchers to compare the chemical structure of stones as a kind of "DNA" or fingerprint, allowing positive identification of correlation between pieces from the same quarry and building.

Afterwards, we had a fascinating discussion about the disunity in 21st century culture, the confusion and disconnection, and ultimately, questioning how this era will be remembered (most speculated as a huge mish-mash with no clear focus). We spoke a lot about value, the nature of cultural objects, and how we define art. Fun stuff.

I started thinking my day was picking up, but as I was typing this I forgot the vegetables on the stove and burned them.

Time to do something pleasant, no?

Looking ahead

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My school moved to an online registration system, and as such had all these mandatory department and advisement meetings to teach students to use it. All that notwithstanding, it was relatively painless and I did most of it yesterday, then got my adviser to override the system to finish it today.

I'm psyched about my schedule for next semester, as I'm hoping that I will finally, finally have enough time to concentrate on painting. This is key, as I have to finish my painting thesis next semester, so for once, yeah, it really does have to become my priority.

Here t'is:

Monday - 2-4:50 - Contemporary Ideas in Literature
- 5-6:50 - Thesis Statement
Tuesday - 9:30-12:20 - Painting Seminar
- 2-4:50 - Thesis
Wednesday - 6-8:50 - Materials, Techniques & Conservation (taught at the Brooklyn Museum - woohoo)

Now if you see me accepting any assistantships, internships, activities, or anything on Thursdays or Fridays, please do me the favor of a swift kick to the head, mmmkay?

Every semester I seem to take one class too many or take on one too many demands that I feel over-extended and painting suffers. I had deep concerns that I may do that with the literature class (liberal arts requirement) or Materials & Techniques (art history requirement only offered in the spring), but I need to mentally keep my priorities straight and focus, focus, focus.

In thesis class today, my professor asked me, all concerned, how things were going with my painting. I felt like I was telling the truth when I said well, and that I'm actually very happy with my work (because it feels so much more sincere than a lot of what I'd been doing), but at the same time I'm glad my next critique isn't until the last week of the semester.

The reason I can't just focus every single moment of free time into painting? One massive art history research paper, one art history cataloging project, one art history critical bibliography, too many incredibly frustrating and time-consuming bookmaking projects, and an endless procession of reading, small assignments, and exams. And learning French well enough to fumble through an exam on December 5th so I'll be allowed to register for my art history thesis without major trauma.

And when I'm done with all that, grading midterms and papers, scanning slides, maintaining a website, and doing random projects like this past Friday, wherein I spent my whole day "helping out with a few things" in Power Point & teaching digital imaging to two professors.

Every time I think "I'll go spend the afternoon painting," I remember something else due the next day, and it's a lot easier to rationalize blowing off painting if I'm facing sitting three hours through class having not done the reading, or not having an assignment done to hand in.

I realize, though, that it's just as evident when a student hasn't been painting enough, and I have already started to sweat thesis previews in January (where they come to studios and check if you're allowed to have a show and graduate). I have a suspicion I will become a very busy bee over winter break.

Wonderful day

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Yesterday, as I mentioned, my parents came up to visit and celebrate my birthday.

We chatted in the apartment, I was spoiled with gifts (Eric having showered me with gifts and affection the day before), and the cats received much attention and petting.

Then we headed down to the Brooklyn Museum, which was fantastic. We started out wandering around the permanent collection some, and my mother reminded me that when my father goes to museums, he really takes the time to look at every object and read every sign. We all really enjoyed the way it was set up, and I remembered that one of my first pseudo dates with Eric was to this museum, a little more than 3 years ago.

We checked out Ron Mueck's fantastic larger than life and eerily accurate human sculptures.

In particular, In Bed was positively disarming. Mueck captured details like the flushness of skin around the elbows and the veins under her skin with such a subtlety and sensitivity that it seemed at any moment she could breathe in and stand up.

My mother found these kind of creepy, particularly the ones which resembled bodies in morgues, but Eric, my father and I really liked them. The scale made them both monstrous and sublime, and being able to look so closely at something so alive yet so massive was just a powerful experience.

Next we moved on to the Annie Leibovitz exhibit, which was also amazing. The way it was put together was quite intriguing - juxtaposing personal photos from her life, especially those dealing with the lives and deaths of Susan Sontag and her father, with the more famous celebrity and politician photos she took for work.

The difference in format was at once maddening and yet logical. Her personal photos were very small, usually 4″x6″ or 3″x5″ (if not smaller), black and white, and printed with soft contrast, sometimes slightly sepia toned. Those of famous personalities were huge, boldly colorful, glossy, and perfect (even when disheveled, it was a perfect, stylish kind of disheveled). Eight or ten people could look at them at a time and take it all in, whereas the personal photos were so intimate a scale and presentation that only one person could look at a time, and it was difficult to grasp even with close inspection. The emotional content was powerful without becoming cliche, and the small moments of Leibovitz's life were monumentalized in a far more substantial way than the totemic portraits really could ever approach.

I noticed too that her propensity for shooting people in bed is not limited to actors, but extends across her oeuvre. And it never becomes pat. I kept whispering to my mother "God she's good." And really, looking at somewhere around 200 images, I never got tired of them, and I kept discovering new ways she's innovative, exciting, and fantastic.

I think this show is an exceptional retrospective, thoughtfully hung, and an absolutely essential viewing experience. I'm very much looking forward to reading the catalog at some point, and most likely I'll have more to say about this show soon (still thinking it over).

After Leibovitz, we saw an hilarious show called Tigers of Wrath, of Walton Ford. He made delightful large scale watercolor and gouache paintings of animals in an Audubon-esque, naturalist style, with a fantastic sense of humor and perversity.

My father especially loved these and has decided that Walton Ford is his new favorite contemporary artist. I've made a mental note to check out the Art 21 bit on him and do some more reading and research because I think he's really fun - I'm surprised I hadn't caught on to him earlier. Other links: 2002 New York articlePaul Kasmin gallery.

So the museum was great fun. And I want to go back to check out the Looking Back from Ground Zeroexhibit, which Eric says was pretty interesting - I didn't have the energy to do it yesterday. I really like the Brooklyn Museum, and that it's only 10 min down the road makes it hard to beat.

We then drove to Cono & Sons in Williamsburg for dinner - because the universe was bestowing blessings on me, I got parking immediately out front - and it lived up to the rave reviews I'd read online. We were all famished by the time we got there, so we quickly lit into our bread and gulped down beverages. We shared calamari and stuffed mushrooms for appetizers - the mushrooms in particular were truly spectacular.

Our dinners were all delicious. Eric got veal rollatini marsala, my mother went for veal parmiagiana, I had gnocchi bolognese, and my father had Chilean sea bass which they prepared in a buttery scampi with some shrimp thrown in for good measure. Everything about the meal was perfection, there was a spectacular ambiance, and the company just couldn't be beat.

We rolled ourselves out into the car, then back to the apartment for the aforementioned ganache frosted brownies, which profited measurably from chilling in the fridge. My father and Eric drank hazelnut coffee which scented the entire apartment in a heavenly way, and my mother and I sipped Earl Grey tea. The cats were petted even more, and we enjoyed the coziness of the newly cleaned and rearranged living room.

Just before sending my parents on their way home, we stopped by my studio to deposit the mini refrigerator my brother gave me for my birthday (he was not able to join us, as he was off shore fishing). I know it seems a strange gift, but now I will be able to store eggs at my studio and mix and keep fresh tempera paint. Because I will also be able to keep beverages and some of the meals from my diet as well, I will be able to work all day continuously without the current requisite trips home which interrupt my painting groove so often lately.

Such a perfect birthday celebration! I am a lucky, lucky girl.


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Eric is home from Singapore & Hong Kong! He had a really great trip, and the cats and I are ecstatic to have him back.

In his absence, Iggy investigated many things. He is such a good investigator that Eric suggested he may start a business, called Little Guy Investigative Services. I'd like to think he'd use this image on his website or calling card.

Smokey thought that perhaps leaning against the exercise mat and bike would help him lose a little weight. No such luck.

We tried out this whole "putting the cats on a diet" thing.

Smokey spent the majority of his time as in this photo, somewhat deranged with hunger, standing in front of his empty food bowl, staring up at me plaintively.

Ironically, when Eric returned, he said Iggy looked thinner and in better shape. He christened Smokey with the new name "Fei Jai," which means "fat boy" in Chinese. He swears it's affectionate, as there is always a Fei Jai as part of the group in Hong Kong action movies but umm, I worry for my kitty's self esteem.

It occurs to me that when one is trying to lose weight, preparing herself a big batch of chocolate ganache covered brownies is perhaps not the wisest course of action. Fortunately, Eric was all too happy to assist me in licking the bowl.

Today my parents are coming up to celebrate my birthday. We're going to see Annie Leibovitz at theBrooklyn Museum and then I think Cono & Sons Italian & seafood in Williamsburg. I'm psyched!

Spectacular graffiti

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I am developing an increasing interest in street and public art lately, but I've never thought much of name tags. I mean, anyone can appreciate the artistry and scope of elaborate paintings or wheat pastes, but what's so impressive about quickly spraying your name or initials somewhere?

Eric explained once the importance of stating one's presence in one's place and claiming ownership of public spaces as part of one's existence, and I followed all of that in a poetic, phenomenological way... but in my old neighborhood someone sprayed "DOTS" on every single surface imaginable, to the point where it didn't carry any meaning at all and rang more of someone afflicted with a compulsion to mark every surface.

Finally, though, someone's tag captured my fancy with its sheer scope and helped me recognize it as true art:

Momo tags the width of Manhattan.

It is such a great project because it's subtle and private, yet monumental. These thin little lines spread unobtrusively over our grid emblazon the whole city with his name.

The video is hilarious as well, which always wins points with me.

Be sure to check out the Press Kit, which includes some very smart commentary and this charming graph:



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To begin, I am nowhere nearly as adept at technical writing as say, Duane, but I'm gonna give it a try because my last few software upgrades have been well worth it.

I recently downloaded Firefox 2.0, and I am really thrilled.

It is rare for me that I think of an improvement I'd like and it gets implemented, but by gum, Mozilla's done it. Previously, I had concluded that tabs were about the greatest thing ever designed in the history of computing, and I more or less stand by this. They have, however, gone further and made them even better:

See that little red X? That is the secret to making me ecstatic. I can't really explain it, but right-clicking to close each tab one by one used to drive me crazy. Not to mention all the times I accidentally selected "Close All Tabs" instead of closing just the one I wanted. Now I can just zip through and close the tabs I've opened.

Also, clicked links are defaulted to open in new tabs rather than new windows, which keeps my Start menu bar thingie clean and prevents intense amounts of frustration when I have to hunt around for the windows I want to close. Much much easier to just scoot my little slug-mouse over a few centimeters than all the way across my screen.

Perhaps the single best feature, though, is in-page spell-checking. When I type words like "thingie" it underlines them in red. You can then right-click and get suggestions, just like in Word or similar programs. I can't help but hope this will dispel some of those "bloggers as barely-literate idiotic monkey" prejudices that have been going around the likes of Jared Leto and his ilk lately.

As I have a tendency to chronically misspell words like calendar, silhouette, propagate, and a host of others, this saves me a lot of time and neurotic trips to More to the point, it catches the words that I thought I've been spelling correctly all this time. My browser is teaching me to look smarter! Yay!

Just before downloading it, I had read that the upcoming release of Firefox had made substantial progress in how it deals with CSS and came much closer to passing the Acid2 test. Supposedly Firefox 3 will fully pass, which is exciting, though I don't know nearly enough about CSS to even pretend I could design it yet, so maybe this is not a personal concern.

Another fun feature is search suggestions as you enter text in the tool bar.

Though mostly I've used it to amuse myself, it does seem like it could have its uses. Unfortunately, it seems based on word structure and not concept, so while I could find the proper spelling for an artist's name as I begin searching, I couldn't find, say, their husband's name as a suggestion. Since that isn't really a feature in any search engines that I know of, it would be unrealistic to expect it in a browser build, but one can always dream.

I am incredibly curious about the ordering - my guess would be it creates a hierarchy based on the popularity of search terms and then is vaguely alphabetical... but who knows. The only other problem I have is that I tend to type ridiculously fast, so I have to wait a while for the results to show (i.e. deliberately type letter by letter rather than type out the whole word before it appears on screen).

Lastly, if you close your Firefox session with pages open (for example if you had to close it to install a program or your computer crashed), it gives the option to resume your previous session after you've restarted or begin a new one. It's a small thing, but when you think of all the anxiety that accompanies a crash, it's sort of comforting to know you can start back right where you left off.

So, for Firefox 2.0, I'd say it's an excellent improvement. I wish the release notes described more of the real nuts and bolts functionality, or that I had enough knowledge about these things to even know what it all meant, but by and large, I'm very happy with the improvements.

The second upgrade I've made is to a newer version of Picasa, one of my very favorite programs. I haven't taken a lot of time to check out the new features, but the new look is nice and suggests it could be customizable.

Their web album feature seems interesting, though I'm not sure I could possibly make room in my heart for anything that isn't Flickr.

At first I thought I was imagining it, but this version of Picasa runs a lot faster than the last, which scores huge points with me, considering how much time I spend editing photos with it. I've taken to scanning slides through Picasa instead of PhotoShop because it works so much more smoothly with my scanning software (and mostly, I don't have to go through and save each file as I scan it - it imports them all into an album and auto-numbers with the same convenience as when you import from a memory card).

It seems more aggressive about finding images with the auto-scans I've set up in folders, and whereas I used to sometimes have to manually import recently saved images into the old version of Picasa, this one sniffs them out and loads them immediately. I can see this being a feature my mother would really like, as she got annoyed that the first version didn't catch all of her photo folders.

The Timeline feature is great fun - it's a 3D animated scan through folders on your computer by date - literally your life flashing before your eyes. I can see how useful this would be for finding folders or images, though I wish it didn't default to commandeering my screen.

I'll have to check into some of the other benefits, but for now, I'm happy. On Friday I spent a lot of time showing two professors a bunch of shortcuts for digital imaging and creating Power Point presentations (must admire the desire to go digital finally), and among them I included a tutorial of Picasa. They were both quite pleased at so much functionality in such a fast program.

The only downside is that it seems to use a lot more memory, which brings me to what will become the next major change in my computing life - adding a gig of RAM. By which I mean, Eric adding a gig of RAM that he's helped me pick out. I can admit to being basically clueless when it comes to my computer's innards, and he is a certifiable genius, so I am lucky to have his help.

It is my hope that by boosting the RAM and clearing a whole lot of stuff off my hard drive (since really, how many Paula Abdul songs does one truly need available for immediate access?), I can reclaim the former glory of the Greatest Laptop Ever and stop fantasizing about buying a nice, cheap little 4-pounder with 7 gigs of RAM.

To facilitate this end, Eric recently woot'ed a few external hard drives and enclosures, which he plans to use in setting up a nice storage network for us. I could be dreaming, but I sort of remember something about me being able to access said network wirelessly, which umm... well you'll have to excuse me while I wipe drool off my chin.

I have to say, it's pretty nice living with such a deliciously practical variety of nerd. When I think that he could use his powers to like, memorize minutiae of Star Wars films for use in future plausibility debates, I think I really got the good side of geekery in him.

Whew, so are we nerded up enough? Maybe I will write about knitting next.

To my bruddah...

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Happy Birthday Billy!!! Ahem, I mean Bill.


I hope you have a great birthday and the beginning of an exciting new year!

(And if you're one of many people who knows him personally but never knows what country he's in when, go to his myspace and drop him a line.)

As far as I'm concerned

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Those funny cats videos I love so dearly are getting a run for their money with these two photos from Cute Overload.

(By the way, the reason I even started looking at Cute Overload lately is because Eric has it bookmarked and frequently shows me things when they pop up on his RSS feed. He claims it came linked with the browser but umm... I dunno, the boy gets too much joy for it to have been accidental.)

I have made a new folder in my bookmarks titled "Best Things on the Internet." I plan to fill it sparingly, but these two go straight in.

First, a guinea pig dressed as a bee for Halloween. The title: "Don't step on the guinbee pig" Hehehe.

Second, look, Smokey got himself a pet guinea pig. Okay so it's not Smokey, but this kitty definitely subscribes to his "we're all grey, let's be pals" philosophy. Smokey's vet independently concluded that if Smokey ran into a mouse he'd be like "Hey, you're grey, you must be cool" and he'd befriend it. My cat is such a lovey.

I think my subconscious is telling me to get a guinea pig...

Heh. Peeeeeeeggg!!!!!

Emotions in Muppet terms

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Where he is:

Where I am:

It's cold and I miss my sweetie. He called from the Singapore Botanical Garden to wish me a happy birthday, and I was so happy to hear his voice I wanted to cry.

It will be SO nice to have him back this weekend!

(and thank you again, Hope, for the awesome Muppet magnets - I just love them!)

It's my birthday!

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Today I turn 25 and all I gotta say is...


(Also, I may appear 25, but I'm really 6. Enjoy it - I do.)

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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