April 2007 Archives

Last weekend, Eric and I were waiting for the 6 train in Union Square, and I was looking around at what people were wearing. It was one of the first truly sunny, warm Saturdays of spring, so there were plenty of sun dresses and gorgeous skirts everywhere I looked.

But I couldn't help noticing an unsightly problem with so many women's outfits. Where I expected to see super-cute spring shoes, I saw ugly, plain flip-flops, more suitable to a locker room shower than accompanying eyelet. Add to this the average amount of filth that New Yorkers' feet accumulate, and it was not pretty.

Now I realize flip-flops are crazy comfortable, and I have many pairs myself. I even have some I'd describe as "cute." But seriously, wearing them with dresses and skirts makes people look worse than barefoot. They diminish the taper of the leg and remove any semblance of elegance from an ensemble.

In 2005, there was much to-do when the Northwestern U ladies' lacrosse team wore flip-flops to the White House, so I know that what I'm saying is neither new nor should it seem anything more than common sense. It's not just about formality or social mores - no, I'm being far more superficial than that. They just plain look awful.

They show the least attractive parts of most women's feet while clumsily hiding the nice parts under a plastic strap. I don't know many women with really beautiful heels, and let's be honest, no matter how nice a pedicure you may have, it doesn't tend to look nice sprawled out and clinging to a thong. The sole is almost always too broad and soft, and the awkward flipping which is so charming at the beach just destroys any kind of grace from the walk.

So for casual encounters or with jeans, sure, why not. For any occasion where you want to look nice at all (or at least not look slovenly), and especially with very feminine skirts and dresses, eschew the flips. Your inner fashionista and your future back health will thank me.

(As an aside, while doing image searches, I came across an absolutely hilarious site (maybe NSFW?) and I honestly can't tell if it's serious or not.)

Diet Coke Plus

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I would say that I probably drink the most Diet Coke of anyone I've ever known. On an average day, I drink a little more than 2 liters, and there have been many days where I've gone well in excess of that. I've tried every flavor and incarnation of Diet Coke they've made.

If I'm going to a bar, odds are significant that I'll order a Jack & Diet Coke. At any given time, I probably have at least 20 oz of Diet Coke on my person, or I'm whining and cajoling Eric to get more. I have often argued that it should come in kegs, and I've begged and pleaded with loved ones to set up a Diet Coke fountain dispenser for me. I have, on occasion, foraged nickels and pennies out of the couch to be able to buy a can. It is my drug of choice, and I have reason to believe it now constitutes the majority of my body.

I've thought often about why I love it so much, though my thoughts usually veer more toward erotic poetry than anything concrete. Basically it is the perfect beverage, and apart from my recent dalliances with Diet Dr Pepper or my promises that I will give it up for the summer while in Italy and only drink water and wine, I will always be loyal and enamored with it.

Today at the grocery, I was stunned to see they've found a way to make what was the best thing going, possibly even better.

Diet Coke Plus.

A 12-oz can has 25% of the RDA of Niacin, Vitamin B6, and B12, and 15% Magnesium and Zinc. They say it is the first nutrient-enhanced carbonated beverage from a major brand, and I remember a bit of buzzabout it this past winter.

(Incidentally, I don't think this is quite accurate because 7Up introduced 7Up PLUS quite some time ago, and that was fortified with vitamin C, calcium, and fruit juice... but I guess they're saying that Cadbury Schweppes is not a major brand, and that's fair enough.)

Back to the Diet Coke Plus. It wins major points with me for the packaging. It's nice, light, colorful, and makes good use of Coke's recently updated font. The 20-oz bottles (which I didn't see) have teal caps and look rather lovely.

The flavor is really quite extraordinary. It is remarkably close to regular Diet Coke, with just a slight increase in sweetness, reminiscent of Diet Coke with Splenda. It's not unpleasant, however, and as I thought it over, I could perhaps grow to prefer it. It's slightly less acidic or citric in flavor, which suggests it could be more refreshing on a hot day. It seems mildly less fizzy, which is understandable and not bothersome.

The only downside is that my teeth feel a little funny from drinking it, slightly gritty or softer in a way. It does remind me very much of the way my teeth feel when I eat Easy Mac or foods containing the preservative BHT. The preservative listed on this can is potassium benzoate, though they have their customary phenylalanine warning which suggests some kind of phenolic preservative. I don't really know enough about preservatives to speak intelligently to this, so let's just leave it at... it's not unpleasant, but it could bother some people, especially those with sensitive teeth.

I also wondered about the value of the particular vitamins and minerals included. It is by no means comprehensive nor would it take the place of a multivitamin. I would be more inclined to drink it if it were fortified with calcium, vitamin C, iron, or similar. They could even make a pregnancy blend that had tons of folic acid.

Bottom line: well played Diet Coke. They've managed to sneak some nutrition in while maintaining a really solid flavor. If you see this in the store, check it out - I think if you normally like Diet Coke, you'll really enjoy it, and if you're not a fan, you could probably be converted.


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I don't know how I didn't remember, but the video for the Modest Mouse song "Dashboard" is to do with a giant fish on the Sargasso Sea. Awesome.


(Link). Seriously, delightful.

And while kind of unrelated, I also liked the video for "Ocean Breathes Salty," a song I genuinely adore for purely personal reasons. I'd never seen it before.


(Link). I really love those guys.

The Sargasso Sea

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One of my favorite images is that of the Sargasso Sea, a strange portion of the northern Atlantic ocean known for heavy concentrations of the sargassumweed. Perhaps the most famous use is in the Jean Rhys novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which I plan to read this summer.

(I have, incidentally, written about this before).

The sargassum weeds support an entire ecosystem out in the middle of an abyss and serve as a mysterious, perilous, and eerily beautiful habitat for the tiny forms of life it fosters.

I can't say it any better than Rachel Carson in one of my very favorite books,The Sea Around Us *, so please allow a rather lengthy excerpt (the bits which particularly captivated my imagination and read, to me, as pure poetry, are in bold):

The Sargasso, with all its legendary terrors for sailing ships, is a creation of the great currents of the North Atlantic that encircle it and bring into it the millions of tons of floating sargassum weed from which the place derives its name, and all the weird assemblage of animals that live in the weed.The Sargasso is a place forgotten by the winds, undisturbed by the strong flow of waters that girdle it as with a river. Under the seldom-clouded skies, its waters are warm and heavy with salt. Separated widely from coastal rivers and from polar ice, there is no inflow of fresh water to dilutes its saltiness; the only influx is of saline water from the adjacent currents, especially from the Gulf Stream or North Atlantic Current as it crosses from America to Europe. And with the little, inflowing streams of surface water come the plants and animals that for months or years have drifted in the Gulf Stream.The sargassum weeds are brown algae belonging to several species. Quantities of the weeds live attached to reefs or rocky outcroppings off the coasts of the West Indies and Florida. Many of the plants are torn away by storms, especially during the hurricane season. They are picked up by the Gulf Stream and are drifted northward. With the weeds go, as involuntary passengers, many small fishes, crabs, shrimps, and innumerable larvae of assorted species of marine creatures, whose home had been the coastal banks of sargassum weed.

Curious things happen to the animals that have ridden on the sargassum weed into a new home. Once they lived near the sea's edge, a few feet or a few fathoms below the surface, but never far above a firm bottom. They knew the rhythmic movements of waves and tides. They could leave the shelter of the weeds at will and creep or swim about over the bottom in search of food. Now, in the middle of the ocean, they are in a new world. The bottom lies two or three miles below them. Those who are poor swimmers must cling to the weed, which now represents a life raft, supporting them above the abyss. Over the ages since their ancestors came here, some species have developed special organs of attachment, either for themselves or for their eggs, so that they may not sink into the cold, dark water far below. The flying fish make nests of the weed to contain their eggs, which bear an amazing resemblance to the sargassum floats or 'berries.'

Indeed, many of the little marine beasts of the weedy jungle seem to be playing an elaborate game of disguise in which each is camouflaged to hide if from the others. The Sargasso sea slug - a snail without a shell - has a soft, shapeless brown body spotted with dark-edged circles and fringed with flaps and folds of skin, so that as it creeps over the weed in search of prey it can scarcely be distinguished from the vegetation. One of the fiercest carnivores of the place, the sargassum fish Pterophryne, has copied with utmost fidelity the branching fronds of the weed, its golden berries, its rich brown color, and even the white dots of encrusting worm tubes. All these elaborate bits of mimicry are indications of the fierce internecine wars of the Sargasso jungles, which go on without quarter and without mercy for the weak or the unwary.

In the science of the sea there has been a long-standing controversy about the origin of the drifting weeds of the Sargasso Sea. Some have held that the supply is maintained by weeds recently torn away from coastal beds; others say that the rather limited sargassum fields of the West Indies and Florida cannot possibly supply the immense area of the Sargasso. They believe that we find here a self-perpetuating community of plants that have become adapted to life in the open sea, needing no roots or holdfasts for attachment, and able to propagate vegetatively. Probably there is truth in both ideas. New plants do come in each year in small numbers, and now cover an immense area because of their very long life once they have reached this quiet central region of the Atlantic.

It takes about half a year for the plants torn from the Indian shores to reach the northern border of the Sargasso, perhaps several years for them to be carried into the inner parts of this area. Meanwhile, some have been swept onto the shores of North America by storms, others have been killed by cold during the passage from offshore New England across the Atlantic, where the Gulf Stream comes into contact with waters from the Arctic. For the plants that reach the calm of the Sargasso, there is virtual immortality.A.E. Parr of the American Museum has recently suggested that the individual plants may live, some for decades, other for centuries, according to their species. It might well be that some of the very weeds you would see if you visited the place today were seen by Columbus and his men. Here, in the heart of the Atlantic, the weed drifts endlessly, growing, reproducing vegetatively in a process of fragmentation. Apparently almost the only plants that die are the ones that drift into unfavorable conditions around the edges of the Sargasso or are picked up by outward-moving currents.

Such losses are balanced, or possibly a little more than balanced, by the annual addition of weeds from distant coasts. It must have taken eons of time to accumulate the present enormous quantities of weed, which Parr estimates as about 10 million tons. But this, of course, is distributed over so large an area that most of the Sargasso is open water. The dense fields of weeds waiting to entrap a vessel never existed except in the imaginations of sailors, and the gloomy hulks of vessels doomed to endless drifting in the clinging weed are only the ghosts of things that never were.

Seriously beautiful stuff. I guess it goes without saying, I kind of need to make paintings about this.

* Carson, Rachel. The Sea Around Us. New York: Signet Science Library, 1961. (1st ed. 1950) p. 38-40

OMG, we're so bloggy

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Check it out - Clinton Hill in Brooklyn is the bloggiest neighborhood in the country. And you are reading one of those blogs right this moment! Whoa!

This man I love

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Yet another reason Eric is the perfect guy for me:

He named our Roomba Dustin Hoffman and insists we call him by name.

Oh, and Earth Day

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I try to live as environmentally friendly as possible on an everyday basis. We recycle glass, cans, plastic, and cardboard. I still try to encourage people to recycle batteries (more on that another time). Living in the city, I do take public transport often, though I know I could always do more.

Prompted by this article testing different compact fluorescent light bulbs, I bought a pack of N:Vision soft whites to replace the bulbs that all burned out last week (good timing on their part). I got relatively low-energy ones (comparative to 60 watt bulbs), so they are perhaps not as bright as I would like, but the color is really superb - about the same color quality and saturation as observed under Reveal bulbs, previously my favorites. They're pretty cool looking too.

Also, I'm in the process of moving to water-based and non-toxic art materials as much as possible. Though I go through about a quart or two of mineral spirits a year, I'm sure it adds up, so I'm trying to diminish that. Admittedly, this is also a means of weaning myself off of toxicity, since sooner than I care to think of, I won't have that handy black disposal drum for chemicals and it will become a lot more complicated to get rid of paint goo.

However, my favorite change in the name of the environment and Earth Day is also the most stylish. I preordered these adorable Envirosax Reusable Grocery Sacks from Delight. Because I live in the city, they double-bag all of our groceries even when you ask them not to. We live literally down the street from the grocery, so there is no reason to accumulate that much plastic, even if we typically reuse the bags to bundle recycling and cat litter and the like.

Perhaps I am overly excited about these bags, but they are way, way cute, and I'm stoked to get them and start putting them to use. They have a twee little pouch too. And maybe, if I were to additionally use them as spring tote bags, no one could really fault me.

Spring, oh tasty delicious spring...

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Through some ideal combination of beer and German literature, it seems food is the most fascinating thing in the world to me right now.

The other day, I was complaining to my brother that I can't grill inside the apartment without committing accidental suicide (he sent me way too many articles about people who have died by grilling in the bathtub, as I'd brilliantly planned to do). I also no longer have my wonderful "balcony" (fire escape) for one of those nifty narrow hanging grills, so I thought all hopes of grilling were past.

Then Eric reminded me - we have a George Foreman grill! Oh happy day!

In so far as it is possible for an adult woman to have a passionate love for an appliance, I am positively enamored with this grill.

We got straight to work grilling sausage, though we didn't just leave it at that. No, we sauteed baby portabello mushrooms and green peppers, mixed it with the grilled sweet sage sausage and sauce, then ate it over fantastic twirly pasta. Delicious.


It also makes amazing flat bread grilled cheeses. As Eric was preparing this one, he couldn't help noticing he'd made a cheese mandala. A tasty, tasty mandala.

Yesterday we met Eric's mom for brunch at the Metropolitan Museum, and it was fantastic. We ate in some special fancypants patron's room and enjoyed a lovely visit. For my first course I had Maine crabmeat salad with mango, Yuzu, and some other things (a basil reduction?). Then I had a Belgian waffle with fresh berries that were to die for. The butter was mixed with a berry puree, making it this lovely pink, and it was so good I actually ate a forkful of it by itself. Just when I thought I was going to go into a diabetic coma, I got a second wind and enjoyed a key lime panna cotta with raspberry compote and lemon ginger cookies - surreal. I washed all this down with one of the better mimosas I've ever had and thought that yes, this is the kind of brunch I could become accustomed to.

Eric and I walked by the park and up the street to the National Academy Museum for the last weekend of the High Times, Hard Times New York painting show, which was quite interesting... though maybe not as "opinion-altering" as New York declared it.

After that we went to the Cooper-Hewitt to check out the Design Triennial, which was spectacular. Eric has been working with our neighbor, an industrial design major at Pratt, on his portfolio, and I think he got pretty inspired by checking out the show.

Now back to rambling about food, we stopped at a Gristedes on the way home and in addition to what we went for, found a bunch of discounted Easter candy... so we were of course obliged to buy a packet of Easter Egg Burgers, which I suspect are some weird mutant offspring of the Mallow Burger we'd recently enjoyed.

Seriously, when did candy get so strange?

We also got two trays of Cadbury caramel eggs, which made up for these odd confections which E insisted smelled of chlorine.

Last night, I reunited with my beloved grill and we made delicious grilled hot dogs. It is amazing how different they taste when cooked properly and not just wrapped in a paper towel and microwaved.

I made some more hot dogs for lunch today, and I put the bun warmer to ample use. What a beautiful, beautiful grill.

Heh, hooray lunch!

Both Eric and our neighbor think it's weird that I proceeded to drink this beer through a fluorescent pink straw. I think plenty of people drink beer with straws and just can't admit it.

That said, I'm going to go up the average some more. And um, maybe give this sweet, beautiful grill a nice cleaning then cook up some more hot dogs!

I hope you all are enjoying this gorgeous weather now that it's finally arrived!

Having grown up in New Jersey in the 1980s, some kind of perfect storm of gold lame and neon colored my dreams and wildest fashion fantasies. As a girl, I owned so many fluorescent pink cosmetics and accessories it's perhaps a bit alarming, yet by the time I was old enough to rock eighteen-tiered lace skirts, they'd gone way out of fashion in favor of khakis and grays.

I've welcomed the past few years of 80s fashion revival, at first quietly and now vehemently, and I'm not alone in this resurgent joy. That is why for this edition of Fashion Friday, I'd like to highlight (heh) some of the stand-out reasons why 80s styles continue to rock.

1) Superfluous Warmers

Designers in the 80s realized that it need be neither cold nor exposed for a warmer to be an appropriate accessory for any given body part. Leg warmers, wrist warmers, pulse warmers (wrist bands), head bands, miscellaneous scarves, vests (puffy, tailored, and sweater), ear muffs, and any other bit of material could swathe any portion of the body with fabulosity.

Warmers and weird little clothing items cover exactly the part you want without requiring an entire garment, and they allow for playful and fantastic combinations of colors, styles, and lengths.

Also, they tend to be fun to knit, which lately earns big points with me.

2) So Much Color

I am a painter, and I really love color. I love color so much that sometimes Eric accuses me of being colorblind when I start putting outfits together, then continues to call me a Palm Beach wannabe for my love of bolds, brights, and pastels.

But seriously, color is wonderful. There's no reason to blend in with the sea of neutrals which dominated fashion in the 90s and continues to prevail in some circles. I'm sure I'm not the only person who at some point found myself pairing a plain white cotton tee with a plain black or khaki straight skirt for a school function and thought "Finally, I look awesome" (having not yet lost the 80s vocabulary by the mid-90s).

I think back on my 8-year-old self who rocked the brightest fuchsia lace ensemble known to mankind, and I think... what a shame that such bravery with color got overthrown by the Gap. I welcome back saturated and diverse colors, and I'm excited about the ways people are combining them again.

There are obviously more understated ways of doing it than in the 80s, and I think these should be encouraged as well.

3) Stripes & Polka Dots

I know, stripes and polka dots never have and hopefully never will go away, but they're really prevalent lately and in the best ways possible.

They're sexy, funky, interesting, and can be intensely flattering on the right figure. Basic design elements can be fascinating when re-imagined in clever ways.

4) Interesting Shapes & Cuts

I know that I rebelled against overly voluminous clothing in my last Fashion Friday post, but there are certainly ways of mixing up the cut of clothing into delicious and strange combinations. I especially love a lot of 80s-inspired dress shapes, with flouncing tiers and charming puffs.

Changing the typical geometry and points of intersection in garments is a great way to enhance the figure while maintaining major visual interest.

I've already professed my love for leggings, mainly when worn to keep these interesting shapes from becoming too predictable or revealing. They also enable an aspect of 80s fashion which I will always love: layering. It's a great way to accentuate one's figure while diversifying one's style, and frankly, it keeps the city from getting too deep under the skin. What layers add in laundry expense, they more than make up in awesomeness.

5) Rad Kicks

Seriously, were shoes ever as cool as in the 80s? The hipster re-purposing of classic kicks styles is so wonderful that it could bring tears to one's eyes strolling through Williamsburg on a Saturday.

For that matter, ballet flats were a big thing in the 80s too, as were a lot of styles of bright shoes. Perhaps in this case, fabulous lacked an expiration date because seriously, all the really great colors of shoes around now completely hearken back to the glory days of electric blue pumps.


And don't even get me started on metallic shoes.

6) Costuming

My memories of the 80s, foggy and distorted though they may be through the lens of childhood and cheesy movies, always include this aspect of dressing which really revolved around the whole head-to-toe look, the ensemble. People put in the kind of attention to detail now typically only seen by tragically hipMisshapes crowds (must be nice to have so much time for eyeliner). Even normal people going to boring office jobs put a lot of time and effort into certain "looks," often pretty bold and interesting.

One of my mother's friends had a teased-up hair-do she called "the Agassi," and it really flattered her face in ways that straight, flat hair just can't. Also, honestly, I still sometimes like blue eye shadow.

Now I'm not saying we should bust out the AquaNet and go nuts with a whole concept piece every time we get dressed, but I do miss the extravagance and glamor of 80s-style "dressing up." It's just anti-climactic to see celebrities in jeans and t-shirts, yknow?

7) Eclecticism

Most of all, I really like the "anything goes" approach to fashion which simultaneously allowed for punks, Reebok hippies, Madonna-lets, New Wavers, pirates, preps, sporty beatboxers, and anything else a person could conceive of. I like the unique combinations, the self-expression, borrowing willy-nilly from different eras and ethnicities, and the general unpredictability of 80s-revival fashion, and I love the way people are picking and choosing specific pieces to rock.

Throw an 80s party, and you'll find as many style variations as there are individuals reminiscing, and that's really part of the beauty.

To conclude with what should by now be rather self-evident, I really love the 80s. I've especially fallen back in love with jelly shoes, headbands, leg warmers, and flouncy skirts, but there aren't many 80s styles I wouldn't take for a twirl. People are getting creative and interesting when they're dressing again, and it's no longer the dull uniform of sameness that was making me lose interest in fashion in the halcyon days of complete CK, BR & J Crew dominance.

Sensible is boring, and it's good to break out of that and be interesting once in a while. Plus, the crazier stuff that other people wear, the more my bright orange off-shoulder sweater looks like a sane purchase.

Gah, no more

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I think it's time I put a moratorium for myself on reading any more stories or looking at any more photos to do with Virginia Tech. Every time I drifted to sleep last night, I'd spring awake with nightmares, and images like the ones on MSNBC today are not going to be easy to shake. This is simply an inexplicably sick side of humanity which scares me to my very core.


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"In deep sadness, there is no place for sentimentality." - William S. Burroughs

There is not really anything meaningful I can say about the events at Virginia Tech.

I am appalled, horrified, stunned, and filled with an intense unspeakable sadness for the human condition and how it got to this place. I can't even imagine what trauma these students experienced, and my heart breaks for them. We live in a very sick and troubled world, and I feel terrible for the tragedies we visit upon one another.

All I know how to do is think and pray for the families and individuals effected, and for humanity as a whole.

Taxing...and not

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I finally got around to filing my taxes, and I was pleasantly surprised to find I'll actually be getting a nice little refund. As in, I'll be able to pay my rent this month - woohoo!

Iggy helped. He is such a good little accountant.

Smokey did not help, and instead he scurried off and pooped in the shower because the window was leaking on his litter box. I suppose I understand.

Papa John's officially had the greatest tax-related deal ever - a large pizza with five toppings for $10.40. Get it, 1040? It was both clever and delicious, and I was infinitely thankful I didn't have to go to the grocery.

Any romantic notions I had about the rain have completely dissipated. Living on the top floor of a building is usually pretty awesome... until the flat roof starts leaking at every available location.

The curtain that hangs right over my desk is soaked, and the windowsill is a mess. The plaster is becoming liquid and spattering up on surrounding items. Also, the water has a heavy mineral content (or something) so everything it touches is rusting. Like my silk and linen blend curtains, awesome.

The bamboo shades in the bedroom are not faring much better.

The water is just pouring down from the ceilings. Argh.

Our hallway is flooded too. Including a hanging light which is full of water and dripping from above. That seems safe, right?

For tonight, there's no way I'm going outside with my camera, but the streets are flooded and the drains backed up so much that they've canceled alternate-side parking for tomorrow (finally, someone did something I wanted!). Bleh.

Still kind of nice through the window.

Of course, the main gripe I have apart from the soggy apartment is the way the heavy wind and rain are effecting our satellite signal.

It figures it would go out during the elimination on ANTM, wah.

As for work progress, I am on page 62 of The Tin Drum (195 to go still tonight), and I hand-wrote another fluffy page of my thesis statement. I don't know when or how I'm going to get an intelligent draft together, but it had better happen before tomorrow morning or my evening meeting is going to be quite wasted and uncomfortable.

I wish Iggs could help.


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Outside, the world is doing its best to remain inhospitable. Somehow my Sunday scenario has reversed, where the dreariness inside is displaced by the dreariness outside; in contrast, things around here are looking quite cheery.

The same part of me that fancies tweed jackets and old leather sort of loves a nice rainy day, and really, it's quite beautiful to watch the water pattering the windows and making streaky lines.

To the extent that it is possible to feel a kind of love for one's materials, I am genuinely fond of this new non-toxic water-based enamel paint.
I bought two cans to test out (in black and magenta), and it's been quite intriguing.


The way that water behaves is just fantastic.

I would like to play with this stuff all day, but instead I have to read about half of The Tin Drum and write a new draft of my thesis statement for tomorrow. Who knew art had so many words to it?

Customer service is a lost art

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I have encountered several serious lapses in customer service this week, and it's gotten me more than a bit peeved. Perhaps I am overly sensitive, as I once worked in customer service and know that there are usually SO MANY things that can be done to help, but lately, I'm getting the opposite of what I'd expect.

1) Website Hosting

Like Hope, I too am increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with GNX online, the company that hosts myart site. Perhaps I'm being too kind in saying they genuinely suck donkey balls, but I think you'll get the idea.

Whereas the delightful and lovely folks who host this site (Web Hosting Buzz - they're awesome) have near perfect server up-time and have never ducked my questions or left me wondering what's going on for days at a time, GNX basically does everything ass-backwards, charges too much for not enough, and then responds to service tickets weeks late with cryptic haikus.


The server was loaded highly with some process and hence becoming unavailable

now it has been rebooted and its working.

now we will investigate which service is interrupting the whole server and fix it .

then update it on the member area system status asap


I'm sorry, but that's just not good enough, and especially not when it happens several times a month.

2) The Postal Service
Yes, I know, it's like complaining that the sky is sometimes blue (mostly pale grey) or that your breath smells when you drink milk before bed and don't brush your teeth... but I have even been told by postal employees that the service we're receiving is bad beyond usual.

For the first year and a half that we lived here, we had really pretty decent service. We got all our mail quickly and regularly, and whenever we had packages, we'd get a neat little peach slip in our box. Almost always, the package would be back in the post service that same afternoon and we could get them without hassles.

Then stuff started getting weird. We wouldn't get mail for three or four days in a row, then one afternoon our box would be so jammed full that things got ripped from all the shoving.

We stopped getting package notices entirely, and for the past few months we've had to call the shipper to get a tracking number to take to the post office to ask them to search for things they were supposed to have.

Then they stopped having our packages too. About a month ago, Eric had something pretty pricey shipped with extra insurance, and the post office marked it as delivered even though we'd never even gotten a notice. Because he had paid insurance, he was able to get the sender to refund his money and replace the missing item (which I think was like a camera lens or a computer), but not without a huge hassle.

So on March 16th, I ordered $25 of stockings from a website. (Just don't ask). It wasn't a terribly expensive package, so I didn't bother with insurance or paying extra for UPS, figuring Eric's experience was just a weird fluke.

At that time, there were some really bad snow storms, so I gave extra time in case deliveries were effected. I waited two weeks, then sent an email to the website customer service asking for a tracking number in case the package was lost. I never got a reply, so a week later (Thursday), I called and she said that her web hosting is really sucky and sometimes emails don't get through (boy, could I relate).

I got my tracking number and called the USPS customer service line. The woman I spoke with said oh yeah, they have the package in the station and would be holding for me. I asked are you sure, they don't have it marked as sent back to the sender or anything, and she said no, it's marked as being in the station.

Then I went down to the station and not only do they not have my package (after a very hasty inspection) but when the guy looked it up in the system, he said it had already been delivered on March 19th, which no, it really hadn't.

I said as much, and he immediately said "Well maybe they left it at your neighbor's," and when I explained that hundreds of people live in my building and they never do that, they always give us a notice (except lately), he started giving me a hard time about how long I waited to come looking for it. I explained the time frame and the circumstances (including that there was a huge snowstorm on the 19th, so I really couldn't believe they'd trudged over with my package the Monday after a weekend order), and I asked if perhaps there was some scanning error or the possibility that it was marked wrong in the computer, and he started ranting about how it's not his problem, and there's not really anything he can do, except apparently huffily give me a claims form.

When I called the USPS line again to complain, the woman said she'd fielded 40 or 50 complaints for my area that day alone, and said that eventually when they get enough complaints they'll look into it. Somehow I can't help thinking that if I were an employee and I caused 50 people to complain about my shitty performance, I wouldn't be tolerated so long.

In a further bizarre extension of an already tedious and frustrated experience (which still hasn't finished because I am less 30 dollars and not yet in possession of my stockings damn it), I actually got a phone call today from a post office supervisor to ask about this rude clerk.

After I told her the exchange, she said she knew just which clerk I was talking about and said, "That one's always running off with the mouth." She seemed like she was actually looking forward to chewing him out.

Also, it turns out that our normal carrier has been on vacation for the past month, which she suggests may have explained some of the erratic delivery tendencies. I just want to know, how does a letter carrier manage to get a full month of vacation when I've never had more than 2 weeks, and unpaid at that?

3) Medical Insurance Companies, Claims Departments, and Every Doctor I've Dealt with Lately

Again, rain is wet, feces smell, fat people have to wear larger clothing... and yet, argh.

I should know better than to expect stellar coverage from my student insurance since obviously they buy a huge umbrella policy they don't really expect us to use. Unfortunately as a 25-year-old grad student, I'm not covered under anyone else's policy and so this is all I've got... and I actually kind of need it.

The first annoying situation was to do with the gynecologist I saw once or twice before in my old neighborhood. No matter how many times I double and triple checked that they had updated my insurance information to my school policy, my mother still got a notice that they had tried to bill her policy (from which I was purchasing COBRA at the time I lived there).

Obviously that claim was not honored, and they kept trying to come after me for the full cost of the exam, and I had to keep telling them the billing information for my new insurance. Finally I got a sympathetic employee and I asked her to white out my parents' information, which presumably is the only reason I'm no longer getting collections letters for an exam that was supposed to be covered in full.

Unfortunately, the lab company they used is not so bright, and I don't know how to get the message to them. They were given my parents' insurance information from the doctor's office, and obviously their nearly $400 of tests were not covered by a policy I have not been under for several years.

When I saw the insurance information they were trying to use, I checked the box to change my information on file and wrote in all my new stuff on the back, sent it in, and didn't hear anything from them for almost a year. Then, I got another bill with an angry letter, and I saw that, predictably, they hadn't updated my insurance information and had once again tried to bill my parents' insurance.

None of these are huge deals because I could actually afford a few hundred bucks in a pinch (which has happened before).

My recent hospitalization, however, came to the tune of around $16,000, and no, I absolutely cannot afford that. Though I gave all the insurance information I had to the hospital intake staff and insisted they not do anything that was not fully covered by my insurance (including even admitting me), they are now angrily calling saying I somehow haven't given them enough information.

Supposedly my insurance company sent me a questionnaire about the nature of my treatment (they didn't) and the paperwork to file a claim (they didn't). Supposedly I should be able to go on the website and fill out a claim form to authorize the insurance company to pay the hospital (I can't). Ultimately, if I can't get the insurance company to talk to me and do what they're supposed to do, then I am responsible for that whole treatment, which, obviously I can't afford and is the very reason one carries overpriced health insurance.

4) My Banks

Ah, bank fees. The Washington Mutual commercial which has a banker accidentally scoffing "But fees are how banks make money!" is really rather spot-on (unfortunately, good old Wamu is one of the worst offenders with fees in my experience).

I've gotten pretty vigilant with keeping my accounts balanced and avoiding fees since I do not have an abundance of cash to splurge on them (I'd prefer to buy groceries for the week).

I set up a new account up here recently, since I realized it is a bit absurd to drive down to New Jersey when I want to deposit a check. My first experiences have been less than promising of course.

For one thing, it took them nearly three weeks to clear my first big student loan check... which really puts a damper on things like paying rent or eating. They also put the money that I opened the account with into savings, despite giving me a choice, where I opted that it all go into checking. It goes without saying, I got charged an overdraft fee when I tried to take money out of that checking and they had to move it from my savings to cover it (and yes, I disputed that and the rep dumbly told me "Well you would have had the choice to put it in checking or savings, and umm, you shouldn't have chosen savings," no matter how many times I said no, really, I have that choice, and I can see the amounts were reversed, etc).

This is not the major offense, however. The big thing happened when I attempted to transfer a sizable amount from this account to my New Jersey account because the checks I ordered took nearly a month to get there. I went through the rigamoralle of authorizing transfers and setting it all up, all the while thinking "I should just PayPal this to myself..." but finally I got it ready, transferred the amount, got my confirmation numbers, and thought it was over with.

I gave it a week longer than the 2-3 days they said it would take, and when I checked my Bank of America balance up here, it was less the amount I'd transferred, so I figured it had all gone through okay. Turns out no, I was wrong, and for every transaction I charged to my New Jersey account (including dinky ones for like $9 and $15), I was charged a $30 overdraft fee because whoops, they didn't transfer the money after all.

Finally I realized what was happening and logged into my Bank of America account, where I got a baffling error message which simply said they could not transfer outside of the bank at this time. When I spoke with another customer service rep, pointing out how I was given confirmation of the transfer and could see where the money had been taken out of my account then redeposited several days later, she said she didn't know what to tell me, but they couldn't do anything.

My other bank was slightly more obliging and allowed me to do an electronic transfer by phone. I explained the whole situation to their representative (and really, these people are usually so awesome and obliging and helpful), and she actually said "Well, we can't remove these overdraft fees if it's the other bank's fault. Maybe you can ask them to pay you back for them." Blinking in disbelief, I asked her again, "Are you really suggesting that I ask them to pay your fees?" and she glibly said "Sure, I mean, it's not like we can refund them."

So yes, it cost me another $30 to pay my $26 gym membership, another $30 for my $15 quarterly e-diets membership, an extra $30 on my $50 cell phone bill, and on and on to the tune of almost $300. They even charged me a fee for having accumulated so many fees that my account balance went negative.

I hate banks, I hate them, I hate them, and if I were not so very certain that the postal service would lose every envelope full of cash I attempted to send, I would keep all my money in a coffee can under my mattress.

5) The City of New York

Yep, I'm rounding the bases for the five-fer of horrible pains in my ass.

About two weeks ago, I had to get up early to move my car, as usual. I parked in a spot that was no parking 8-8:30 every day except Sunday, as it had been for as many months as I could remember (I think as long as I've lived here). This row of spaces is at one end of a block, and at the other is a bus stop, clearly delineated by their respective sign posts.

The next day, I came back to my car to move it, and I found that the No Parking 8-8:30 sign had been swapped with the bus stop sign, effectively relocating the bus stop to the other intersection. Of course this came with a $115 ticket on my car issued at 2:15 the day before, evidently after the change had been made.

Obviously no signs were posted or any indication that such a change would be taking place. They simply swapped the signs and ticketed as they saw fit.

I've disputed the ticket, but if I had to guess, I'd say I'll be offered a reduced fine or they'll find a way to tack on another fee... or they'll try to bill my parents' health insurance policy.

6) In Summation

I understand that all systems of American society are designed to take up all of my time and bilk me of all of my money. I realize there is just so much I can do about it, and so I have to cough up fines and fees and get things stolen from me and on and on under the sanction of some business or municipal transaction.

If you're doing the math, I could have afforded a nice little vacation with all the money I've lost on stupid and frustrating situations. I'm not even counting things like $300 the city refuses to refund when they illegally towed my car because even though they dismissed the ticket, they said "Someone still has to pay the towing company" (whom they wrongfully called and hired instead of using the municipal towers they're supposed to use).

But if I have a problem with this incompetence and want to stick up for myself, even a little, and I do so as politely and respectfully as possible, all I really ask is that the customer "service" representative at least try to provide a service which is not synonymous with peeing on my leg and smearing feces on my forehead.

Also if you read this far, I'm genuinely sorry. I just had to get some things off my chest, and Eric is tired of hearing me shout I think.

I'm just saying

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When it is raining so hard that stepping off the sidewalk the wrong way causes my shoes to flood and soaks my pants to mid-shin, and every passing car produces that cinematic bucket-splash effect, I find it personally insulting to have to move my car for street sweeping. Grr.

On Painting

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I've been struggling with writing my thesis statement because the way I normally think and write doesn't really lend itself to academic prose. An occasional strategy I have developed for art writing is to block out what I think in my own terms, then adapt that to fit in with a more grounded, academic, theory-based style.

This afternoon I was waiting for a meeting that never came to pass (have to figure out what went wrong there), and I started scrawling out some additional lines of what I really wanted to say. This turned into several pages and started giving all illusions that it could successfully be melded with the very dry, pedantic draft I already had.

Anyway, I think it's some of the more honest stuff I've ever written about the way I think and how I go about making art, though perhaps not at all usable. So here are a few paragraphs, without citations or sourcing. Keep in mind they are part of a draft, and I hope you enjoy:

Painting is a bridge between my inner life and the rest of the world, a means of connecting the subjectivity of my experience and thought in the places where language and other actions fail. By developing a form of communication which can be perceived and understood by others, I gain a means of access to parts of my consciousness otherwise denied for the sake of living in civilization among others. As humans, we inhabit and are inhabited by a paradox: we cannot live with the things we intuitively know and understand about life.

As I paint, I put things in order, as writing conforms ideas to grammar or music develops emotion into tonic logic and mathematical relationships. Translating sensory and psychological sensations into a formal language provides the logic against which imagination expands and elaborates. The painted line is the sun-dried dock from which a diver launches into a sea of intuition, mystery, and contemplation. I do not wish to describe the world as it is, rather to consider the world as it may be, existing in countless manifestations in the minds and imaginations of others. Instead of bringing the viewer with me on my journey, I would like to provide the tangled foreign terrain to be explored, raveling growth, curves, longing, hope, pleasure, suffering, and all the things which make us human with all the elements which make us living things.

My starting point has always been nature: I am fascinated by the structures and systems which comprise and determine our internal and external worlds. My source imagery includes branching trees, sprawling capillaries which constellate to circulation, cells and vesicles which bud and burst, propagating populations, spores, tentacles, roots, and fictional organisms burgeoning in a primordial sea. Though I live in a concrete city, my mind flies beside fishes in a squirming, salty matrix, caught sometimes by interruptions of Sargasso weeds which bore me along to this strange planet. I do not think in terms of theory or society, rather of so many fluid bodies moving and dancing through a mystifying, violent flash of experience in constant flux. Amidst so much activity, we find meaning, profound and pure, which we can know intuitively yet never truly share with others. As the molecules of pigment swim among the constituents of paint and dry into recognizable bodies of substance and color, I cannot offer answers or declarations, but I can give a map of where I've been and what it felt like. I cannot take the viewer back through the currents I swam in, but I can point to the turbulent surface of the water and say, "there is something amazing in there."

(Note: Here is where I remembered this is supposed to be about painting)

I work mostly with oils and enamels, though I enjoy exploring the properties of other materials, especially ink, egg tempera, watercolor, acrylic, and charcoal. I adapt my method to the experience I am considering, sometimes working on stretched canvas or paper, more recently on Masonite panels and sheets of aluminum. In many ways my methodology is encyclopedic, seeking new sensations of substrate and paint-handling, but I seek to maintain a common thread of style and ambiance which unifies these explorations. I resist consistency when it does not apply to the matter at hand, adapting myself as an artist to the world as it presents itself, acting like water as it encounters solid bodies and silt.

(Note: Here is where I thought I'd include a passage from the 11th century painter and courtesan Kuo Hsi)

The shapes I find most appealing are those which are highly regular, even modular, and those which seem alien for their irregularity. Equally I enjoy perfect spheres arranged in pure mathematical patterns or sequences and unpredictable cracks, rivulets, and splintering, morphing forms resulting from unmitigated and uncontrollable life forces. By seeing both barrenness and pestilence as data points in the same equation, it is possible to understand a greater fullness, complexity, and simplicity in life. This duality - by which I mean that pregnancy and cancer are the same miracle - is part of the intuitive knowledge which makes a life in nature both seductive and terrifying. We celebrate what we perceive as good, lament what we sense as bad, and in between draw categories and distinctions which are the necessity of consciousness. Still, it is all beauty, for it is all the essence of life.

Consciousness, as defined by a basic Psych 101 text, can best be understood as the awareness that one is thinking. What this means is that a neurochemical pathway travels through the verbal and speech centers of the brain, resulting in the articulation of recognizable "thoughts," a sense of an inner voice whose central narrator is self. These thoughts interpret sensory and emotional input in language, such that a particular sequence of electrochemical reactions is felt as characteristic sadness or joy. Consciousness is the means by which we make sense of the world, the way we understand ourselves and others, and because of this, it operates as the basis of memory, which characterizes future experiences by recognition.

However, what would our experience be like without the limit of language on our consciousness? Particularly articulate individuals may be able to typify complicated scenarios with words that approximate understanding, but most of the time we only have a collection of details and intuition for guidance. Literature alludes to "an unspeakable sadness" or "mirth beyond words," pointing to the very spots where language lapses yet consciousness persists. What if we include, in our experience of the world, a kind of consciousness which transcends verbal consciousness, operating at a pre-verbal level? How would we communicate in these terms to share our subjectivity with others? Does such a language exist which resists consistent codification of meaning and speaks directly to the experience or sensation at hand?

The mechanism of pre-verbal consciousness is a unique sensory pathway operating at a retinal level. [discussion of eyes, perception, visual consciousness]

Art gives a means of speaking to one another in pre-verbal terms. Color, line, shape, form provide direct sensory input which is at once clear in its meaning and simultaneously open to all possibilities of interpretation and elaboration in the minds of others. Abstract art is particularly effective in speaking to pre-visual consciousness because it avoids the triggers of subject recognition and verbal understanding contained in representational art. Though I am a great believer in the poignancy of everyday life and the power in presenting a subject through one's consciousness, I do not tend to choose representation as my primary means of communication. Instead I try to use the materials and the formal language of paint in evocative, sensuous terms. Because it is neither showing nor telling, abstract painting has the capacity to bypass discourse and verbal consciousness entirely and speak to pre-verbal consciousness as emotionally, mysteriously, and intuitively as a ray of light penetrating a window pane, a bit of grass swirling in a current, or so many other moments which color our lives with transcendental meaning.

(That is where I tapped out this afternoon, but when I got home I added the following little bit:)

Abstract painting speaks to the parts of the mind which are like a child's imagination: seeing a world undifferentiated, mutable, and open to infinite possibilities. Limitless experience and constant change are a given, the world unfolding in mystery and wonder at every gnarled twist.

So yeah. That's what I've got for now, plus another six-page draft, a 2-page draft, and a stack of scribbled notes to myself which somehow form a constellation of meanings. If any of this makes any sense at all, I'd really appreciate whatever notes or feedback you may have. Theoretically in less than a month, I will have knit this all into something both academically sound and personally significant with references, citations, and yknow, a thesis.

The irony (appropriateness?) of how much easier I found it to write and produce my undergraduate thesis, based entirely in vagaries, is certainly not lost on me. The clearer my artistic ideas, the harder it is to put them into sensible language... which is to say that if they're really getting somewhere, they're operating outside of verbal consciousness and on their own landscape. Weehaw.

Things right and wrong in the world

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Since I'm spending my Easter frantically catching up on work (booo), I will have to be quick.

1) Wrong: Snow and sun, simultaneously. (Apologies on the dreadful photos).

Strange, yet it's been happening a lot lately. Our building's heat seems to have been shut off just in time for what my mom told me is the coldest April since 1970. She says the last time it snowed this late in the year was my Christening, when they had to shake snow off the daffodils to decorate the table.

2) So Very Right:

Decreases in temperatures are making Smokey an extremely cuddly little pumpkin. He may be seeking warmth, but I like to think it's the radiant glow of my love.

3) Undecided: Delightfully strange food products of late.

Mallow burger. Or Burger Mallow. A life-sized confection of a mystifying sort of gummy, sort of marshmallow consistency. Each component has its own flavor: the buns are vanilla, the cheese banana, and the burger chocolate.

Eric and I ate this while driving up for Initiation, and it was quite the experience.

Arnold Palmer green tea lemonade.

Quite tasty, but perhaps a strange endorsement. Eric seemed to really love it.

EDIT: Umm, duh, it's not strange at all. I'm just living under a rock it seems.


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Why is it that I can sign away thousands and thousands of dollars of loans for tuition or write a check for rent without blinking an eye, but when it comes to purchasing art supplies, I still break into a cold sweat and get panicky?

I mean, I just spent $150 to get almost all the supplies I'll need to do this brilliant enamel project I'd been planning for so long, and I like, can't catch my breath. I found a great deal to get baked enamel coated 18″x20″ sign blanks for $40 with shipping from a sign supplier in Texas, and I spent a little over $100 at Dick Blick for larger sized ones, which in the grand scheme of things is really quite reasonable.

Yet, still, cold dread and panic.

I think it's the pressure of performing, and spending money toward that end sort of forces me to use these materials and do something meaningful or good with them. Also, I have to figure out how to do a flush mount, and if I really like the non-toxic bulletin enamels I'm sampling (which wow, I really hope I do because I'm dreading putting on a respirator anymore), it will cost even more money to get a full set.

Never once in this equation does the possibility that I could sell art and make money with it factor in. Honestly, the thought is simply inconceivable, and I guess that's part of the panic too. What am I doing spending all this time and money when I'm fully planning to do something totally unrelated?


More good things

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I am having a bit of a protracted happy dance this week and, truth be told, kind of glowing.

Among continued bits of awesome:

Duane got a new job - hooray!!!

- Today we had a meeting about the Venice program and I am dizzy with anticipation. I'll write more about all these details in a separate entry, but after the meeting today, a really super awesome friend of mine from my painting seminar last semester asked if I'd like to room together, and of course I said hell yeah. Realizing the chill people who will be on the program with me just made it about 1000 million times more exciting.

- I got a 97 on my Materials, Techniques & Conservation midterm

- and an A on my Literature paper

- and my thesis statement draft was not only not abysmal (as I'd feared) but he quite liked it and thought I had some really great ideas in it - phew.

- In preparation for the thesis statement meeting, I had pulled out a few older pieces and something jogged my memory... this whole plan I had to do large-scale enamels that I was all excited about before getting distracted and discouraged. I found sketches, notes to myself for things to research, and in addition to having already solved the toxicity issues presented by lead-based enamels (flashing and bulletins, woot), I found a note to myself about "sign blanks." Hmm... what could that mean? Some googling instantly brought it all back, and I realized that I had already researched and found aluminum sheets prepared with a baked enamel finish (which would then become signs) in sizes up to 24″x36″ or custom-sized even larger. TheDick Blick ones were pretty nice, but I'd even found a cheaper (and possibly slightly better) alternative. I found a sketch for flush-mounting these pristine little panels with elaborate enamel paintings against the gallery wall, and suddenly I had a vision for my thesis show - the one I'd figured out in December and so stupidly forgotten. Glad to have retrieved it anyway, and I can't wait to get going on it as soon as I get more money (I think that was the original reason the plan was waylaid).

- I made a hat! It's part of a set for a baby that was due on Monday (still no news yet), and I have a lot more work to do on it, but I'm inordinately proud that I figured out the shaping. Details about that on myknitting blog.

- And lastly, due to Passover, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday, there has been no alternate side parking for street cleaning all week! Seeing as last week, they swapped a street cleaning sign for a bus stop in the middle of the day and gave me a $115 ticket (ouch) and this week someone stole my passenger side mirror AGAIN, I think my car-ma is way overdue. (You like what I did there? Yeah so do I.)

Hope y'all are having a good week, and maybe tomorrow I'll talk about the less-awesome other things.

So much awesome

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As an undergrad, I was a member of a coed Greek literary society called Cleo. By and large, they are some of the coolest people on the planet and a genuine privilege to know.

This past weekend, I went back to Trinity for Cleo's initiation and man, it was spectacular.

I am positively glowing with happiness and good times. It's amazing how a lot of laughter and great friendships can restore one's sense of well-being.

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