October 2007 Archives

What's round, orange, and a little scary?

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Ummm. It might have occurred to me earlier that wearing this outfit, today, certainly invites comparisons with a pumpkin.

Let's pretend it was on purpose, and not an unfortunate happenstance of the ever more critical laundry situation I've got going on.

Happy Halloween!!!

What lives between Us

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Before I get to the meat of this post, I'm going to distract you with a recipe. Because, you know, food is awesome.

This dinner was mostly average: I overcooked the London Broil, the sauteed mushrooms were good... but the Brussels sprouts were spectacular. I improvised the recipe based on a few I'd seen around food blogs (notably this one), but it's basically just a delicious and easy way to prepare Brussels sprouts.


- 1 package frozen Brussels sprouts
- 1/2 to 1 cup Rice Krispies
- olive oil
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
- salt & pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450 F.

In a small skillet over medium heat, toss Rice Krispies to coat with olive oil and toast until golden brown, approximately 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Place aside.

Microwave Brussels sprouts to thaw. I did mine for 3 minutes in their carton. Your mileage may vary. Slice each sprout in half along its vertical axis.

Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to coat. Arrange them, flat-side down, on a cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, approximately 10-12 minutes. They should be crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

Combine hot Brussels sprouts with Rice Krispie puffs, and sprinkle with nutmeg and red pepper. Serve warm.


Ahh, I feel better now. These were so delicious that I actually enjoyed them more than the Harrod's drinking chocolate we made for dessert.

So, onto what's really on my mind. Eric and I have been dating about 3 years now and living together the last two of them. For four or five years prior to that, he was my best and dearest friend. Seeing as I've known him since I was seventeen, it's not an overstatement to say that our history together is long and extensive.

He's been staying at his mother's house in Connecticut, caring for her cats while she is on a month-long trip, and we've been talking a lot about our living situation and the status of our relationship. He came back briefly tonight, we had an ugly fight, then he went out for a long time and came back for midnight dinner.

Afterwards, I kind of drew a deep breath and said a lot of things that I'd been meaning to say for a while. I was dreading the conversation because things often degrade so quickly into shouting matches, and I didn't want him to feel attacked.

In most "relationship talks," I feel like our history together is a liability. We know so much about one another and have so many experiences to draw on that the concept of "us" feels like a full other person we both know. "Us" is a character, with quirks and idiosyncrasies, major personality flaws, and we sometimes act as though that person can never be changed or improved. We talk about "Us" the way you would a stubborn old friend "Ah, you know that crazy Us and her Diet Coke addiction..."

Often I feel like this entity between us gets in the way of change. We don't do things differently or modify our behaviors because, well, that's not like "Us." We don't act out of character of the relationship, and we use that character to rationalize why a certain desire can't be met or situation remedied.

For the first time tonight, I started to feel like our history was an ally, because it is the thing we share which gives us a foundation to stand upon. Yes, it may be filled with everything I've ever done wrong and every hurtful thing I've ever said... but it's also filled with the memory of how we got through it, got over it, and moved on. In some ways, our history has become its own momentum, a driving force which enters into consciousness at funny times.

In conversation, I often find myself saying "Well in the long run..." and Eric points out that by many people's standards, we're already in the long run. Tonight I was very glad to realize he is right, and that we have changed, so subtly it's almost imperceptible at times, but in definite ways.

When we first talked about living together, I went into it with pure caprice, thinking it was something I'd never done before, so why not try it? Once Eric and Iggy were in my apartment on Ocean Ave, bags unpacked and getting ready to sleep in what had previously been My Bed, I had a moment of alarm. Eric was washing dishes in the kitchen, and I was looking around thinking "we both live here now. This is now ourapartment." I started worrying that if this didn't work out, I had no idea how to get out of it. I could never ask someone to leave what had become his home, nor would I ever want to go back to living on my own, without my sweetie. I rolled over under the covers thinking "That's it then. We will have to make this work forever," and as I started dozing off, I was looking for a feeling of certainty that this was the right thing to have done.

Eric crawled into bed a few minutes later, rolled me into his arms and kissed me on the forehead. He did it again and whispered "Mmm, spicy brains..." As I woke back up, bursting into laughter, I thought with perfect clarity. "Yup. Forever. This is just right."

Even though he left on kind of weird terms this evening, I am optimistic about Us. We didn't resolve all the things we need to, but we said them out loud, which I think is a huge step. More importantly, we agree on what should change, and we have a similar vision of what we want down the road. The only real challenge is working on the habits and tendencies upon which we fall back, nurturing and adjusting Us as necessary.

I still believe, though, that in spite of everything, as long as he makes me laugh every night before I fall asleep, there is something really worth working for here. I mean, Us may be a worthless jerk a lot of the times, but deep down, I believe in Us. Us is a good guy.

(Also, I really need some more up-to-date photos of Us, yikes.)

Friends in real life

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There is a scene in The Darjeeling Limited where one brother says "I wonder if the three of us would've been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people."

Last weekend I confirmed that not only are my parents amazing relatives, but they're really great friends.

I wasn't really planning a visit. My mother was at a three-day conference in Manhattan, and I went to an amazing performance at the Japan Society Friday night. I called my dad, who I knew would be home alone, and we had a really great chat. While talking, he mentioned that he was going to take the sailboat out of the water that weekend, and I got sad. I'd hoped to go sailing another time before the end of the season.

My father hinted that the forecast was for one of the most breathtakingly beautiful, perfect days of the year, and as I thought over my responsibilities and schedule I decided nothing was more important than being there, enjoying the last sail with him on Sunday.

And man, was it amazing.

I told my father how when I close my eyes and try to find a happy place, the first image is always sunlight reflected on water.

I think he just plain gets that.

Words cannot describe what a perfect sail it was. We got Elsie's Subs, had a cooler full of beer and sodas, and just cruised up and down the river talking and marveling at all the intense and incredible wonders around us. I think fundamental to my father's and my friendship is our mutual fascination and continued astonishment at the way wind and water move a boat along and how effortlessly she glides, propelled by natural forces.

As I looked around all weekend, I kept seeing all the clever things that nature does, and while it's so simple, it really is unbelievable.

These does found a Halloween display of corn, mums, and pumpkins to be the perfect afternoon snack.

And dahlias.

My God, dahlias are fantastic.

In this visit, I got to meet the adorable, inimitable Smooch, who is a puppy through and through in the best possible ways.

She is so bright, sweet, and full of light. It's startling that she's so new in this world yet already so adept in it. She gallops like a bear, and she's already picked up on retrieving. I absolutely love this dog.

On Sunday night my father and I made venison chili together (more accurately I chopped vegetables and stirred, he ate spoonfuls of meat). When I finished eating, I started dozing off in a recliner, and at some point I was joined by both Smooch and Otto in my lap, with Molly nudging my feet. Dogs do have such a way of making a person feel loved.

My father picked my mom up from the train station, and she and I stayed up until something like 5 in the morning talking about everything in the world. I was, as always, absolutely humbled by her brilliance and sensitivity toward life. We were talking a lot about stories and story-telling, and more than a few times she had me well up with the potency of the way she described a feeling or an event. I kept thinking how lucky I was to have a mother who not only understood me enough to have so many hours' worth of things to talk about with me, but was perfectly willing to stay up doing it.

As we were both bleary-eyed and stumbly in the eye doctor later that day, I thought happily that a saner parent would have cashed out at midnight and encouraged me to do the same. Not my mom.

We had lunch, and thankfully the air conditioning in the restaurant was frigid, as it gave us the idea to sit outside, making for a totally different mood. I sat with sunlight on my shoulders, literally basking in it all, thinking how lucky I am to have parents whom I genuinely love and adore.

On the train back to New York for my French class, I thought how important it is to realize and cherish this while they are with me, when I have the time to go for a Sunday sail or a conversation without end.

I keep going through my photos from that weekend (Flickr set here) and thinking it feels like a different lifetime, as if I'm peeking in on seasons past, decades ago. Some strange transformation happens on the rails between New Jersey and Manhattan, some acceleration of time apace with an increase in gray and cold. I don't understand why it's always sunny at my parents' house or why the grass is so very much greener, but it's a wonderful, colorful retreat. Thinking about it has been a bit of glowing warmth in my heart all week.

This coming weekend my brother and I are putting together a birthday party for each other and my mother's side of the family, and I'm very much looking forward to it. I know I don't live there anymore, but still, there's no place like home.

A new blanket song

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My friend Hope once described a hauntingly beautiful song as the kind you'd like to wrap around yourself like a blanket, a song so enticing you want to cuddle up inside of it.

I've had more than a few of these in my life, and at any given time, I'm usually listening to one on repeat with my headphones on, wrapping my head in it at least.

I can't really explain why, but "Last Request" by Paolo Nutini has suddenly become my blanket song. It's so simple, and it seems written to be performed live. I've caught various exceptional televised performances, including this one which re-ran last week (seriously worth clicking over).

But if you like, the video version:



This whole album is really tremendous, and since I'm probably like the last person on earth to have heard of Paolo, I reckon anything I'd say would be redundant. Nevertheless if it turns out I'm actually the penultimate, look into him - I don't think you'll regret it.

Freeeee Rice

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I'm still processing my reactions to your thoughtful comments on my last post. Sometimes I forget that this is a two-way medium and I'm stoked to have such insightful, intelligent readers.

On a much lighter note, have you seen Free Rice?

(Have to interject with my favorite Mitch Hedberg line: "Rice is a great food to eat when you want to eat 2000 of something.")

It combines effortless charity with quizzing one's vocabulary. Brilliant. For each word whose definition you select correctly, they donate 10 grains of rice to the UN to fight world hunger.

Eric and I got into a friendly competition this afternoon to see who could reach the higher vocabulary level (I was at 45 out of 50), and it's amazing how quickly the rice adds up.

I must warn you, it gets addictive. But if it's translating to someone's lunch, that's good, right?


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(Note: I wrote this out last night, but posted Inanity instead. So just read today as umm, yesterday).

To get to my French class, I take the subway to 34th St and walk through Penn Station to 7th Ave. This is nice on days like today, when I haven't had lunch, as I can grab a bite to eat.

I always feel safe in Penn Station because there are cops and some kind of soldiers every 50 feet, monitoring the crowd.

I bought a sandwich, put it in my bag, and started walking. I was lost in a reverie when suddenly I felt someone kick me, hard, in the back of my right knee.

I didn't lose my balance and instead whirled around to find myself face to face with a middle-aged, bearded black man in a knit cap. The burning, hateful glare he returned made it clear this was no accident. "What the hell was that for?!" I blurted out, and he didn't say anything, just turned slowly, and walked away.

I was flummoxed and filled with rage. My instinct was to throw my Diet Coke on the floor, scream, and punch him in the back of the head, but instead I turned and felt my eyes filling with hot tears. There were literally hundreds of people around (it being smack in the middle of rush hour), and no one did or said anything. The people nearby, who had seen what happened, quickly averted their glances or walked away. A cop shrugged his shoulders.

I fought back tears as I walked to my class, wondering why these things happen to me. Is there something I do or some vibe I give off that draws the ugliness of humanity toward me?

I locked myself in a bathroom stall of the graduate center and wept into the sleeves of my jacket. I was outraged at the violence, but also so confused as to how these things happen in our society. I figured he was probably a crazy or angry homeless guy and I cried for all the circumstances that might have brought him to this point.

I cried because, despite all my ideals, it is only by the grace of God that I was born fortunate, privileged with good parents, a stable home, and sanity. Who knows what cards this man has been dealt, and how can I know what I might stoop to, were I so dehumanized and neglected in life?

I started to think about politics, of all things, extrapolating my experience to a global one. I have heard politicians and strategists say we are fighting a war for which we are ideologically ill equipped, against an enemy whom we fundamentally do not understand. We (I'll define this as globally affluent, physically comfortable Americans who live in a reasonably stable society) operate on the assumption that a human life means the same thing to everyone, or that there is some inherent nobility or respect humans feel for one another.

We think we are fighting like-minded people who are so passionate about their beliefs that they would die for them. But what if they're just inhuman? What if life means so little that they might as well kill themselves as someone else? How is violence, then, a deterrent or a solution?

What if we are looking destructive, animalistic rage in the eyes and trying to preach liberty, dignity, and the equality of man?

We can't win a war against the kind of hate and devaluation of humanity bred by a life of poverty, fear, hunger, and violence, any sooner than I could solve the problems of homelessness or insanity by punching this guy in the face.

I don't know what to do to fix the world or fight terrorism, but I suspect the answer lies somewhere in increasing the value of life, bringing those inclined toward violence and ugliness back to decency and humanity.

If a person has plenty, would he feel the need to steal? If a man feels free and safe, would he lash out at others? Under what circumstances or whose neglect is life deteriorating so badly for terrorists or insurgents, and what - if anything - can we do to address these greater problems? Is it even our business, to try to help, or would we do better as a nation to retreat to our comfortable homes and the relative sanctity of our normal lives?


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I had a kind of shitty day (more on that later), so let's have a diversion.

To me, humor often comes in the disconnect between what's expected and what a person actually gets. Three examples:

My brother's friend is a teacher. She told the kids to "Make a funny face!"

Someone must have misunderstood...

For dinner tonight, I grabbed a package of spinach souffle, made with skim milk.

They forgot to mention it's the Swamp Thing's recipe.

(It was actually pretty tasty with a little black pepper).

Lastly, because I subscribe to Everyday Food, I get a lot of offers for other food magazines and cookbooks in the mail. This week I got an offer for a book called Christmas Cooking from the Heart, with an image showcased on the envelope that I imagine an art director thought would exude comfort and homeyness:

Wait what was that?

Oh my. Viscera Cake. Just like Mom used to make.

A meme: Good & Bad

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Though usually I don't get on board with memes (mainly because this whole site catalogs every silly thing about me that you didn't want to know), I thought this one from Sarah was interesting.

5 Things I Am Good At:

1) Remembering details. Names, people, dates, works of art, quotes, song lyrics, colors, every contestant from Top Model or Project Runway, what people wore, the sounds of voices, nuances of language, and basically any bit of information which interested me sticks in my mind whether I want it to or not. It gets really crowded in here because I'm pretty fastidiously interested in well, everything.

2) Writing. This blog may not be evidence, but my academic writing is always praised for being exceptional (and recently, also called exquisite). I do well on exams because I am mostly good at the aspects which surround writing: I have sickeningly neat handwriting, I have an expansive vocabulary, and I express my thoughts in strange but engaging ways. Also, I type upwards of 120 words a minute, so I am physically "good" at writing and am able to concentrate on my words.

3) Paying sincere compliments. On more than a few occasions, I've supplied "the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me" to my friends and loved ones. I don't give empty praise: I really think about what I'm going to say and express it with specificity and honesty. I believe when people in your life mean a lot to you, it's important to let them know, and it happens that I spend a lot of time thinking about how cool my friends and family are.

4) Planning and starting creative projects. I really love making stuff, and I'm uniquely skilled at gathering and organizing supplies and rushing into the process. Finishing is another story.

5) Learning new things. I tend to catch on to techniques and ideas quickly, so I have picked up a lot of hobbies over the years. I think that being open-minded really helps keep my mind flexible because I don't put up walls or limitations on what I believe I am capable of. I also research obsessively and get interested easily, and I think an engaged mind is a productive one.

5 Things I Am Bad At:

1) Housekeeping. Miserable, dreadful failure, in every way. I technically know how to clean, very well (the OCD thing helps there), but the actual discipline of seeing cleaning as a priority and making myself do it is absolutely out of my grasp. I can always think of a thousand other things I'd rather do.

2) Graceful socializing. If you want a heart to heart or an intense talk, or if you are a perfect stranger I have no insecurities around, I'm all over it, and we will have memorable and wonderful conversation all night. But if you are a semi-stranger at a party, or someone whom I vaguely know I must make a good impression upon, consider me the world's most awkward deaf-mute. I am so dreadfully bad at socializing that my mom actually just lent me a book on how to work a room. If my career depends on me being able to make cocktail party small talk, expect this blog to be written from a cardboard box in the very near future.

3) Not Procrastinating / Finishing projects. I am one of those people who embodies the expression "If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done." I put everything off so far beyond reasonable expectations that I frequently wonder if I have some kind of disorder. For this reason, if a creative project doesn't have a set deadline, it will likely never get done, and it's not by accident that even with cooking, I often serve dinner after midnight.

4) Managing Money. It's not so much that I don't know how to make a budget and track expenses, nor that I don't know how to organize bills and payments (I did work in A/R for close to two years and was responsible for hundreds of accounts). It's more that... I'm afraid to check my account balance or to even open my bills. I either think I have an abundance of cash and spend it without thinking, or I fear I owe money all over the place and don't know how to fix it. Either way, my avoidance of the truth could drive a person mad.

5) Concentrating. This is not something I'm bad at all the time because when I am finally able to force myself to concentrate, I fixate like a person possessed. It's a question of eliminating the wrong distractions, but putting in the right ones (my mind wanders terribly) and physically making myself sit still to do something. I like to divide my attention among a bunch of things at once (thirty or more knitting projects, a couple hundred paintings juggling, I read nine or ten books at the same time, etc), so focusing all my attention on one thing is immensely difficult to me. This probably contributes to some of the other things I'm bad at, like socializing and finishing projects, but yeah, I can't even concentrate enough on this item to stop writing about it.

A Tip:

I think a lot of people are good at the same things I am, but I hear all the time that they struggle to remember names. Since I can't share whatever idiot-savant thing goes on in my brain, I can give a few tips for remembering names:

- When you hear someone's name in an introduction, repeat it back, as in "Allison, nice to meet you."

- If it is an unusual name or one prone to multiple spellings, clarify how they spell theirs. Maybe this is just self-interest, because everyone spells Vicki wrong, but you will form a verbal recognition of "Allison with two L's" and it's helpful for future reference. Be careful not to be patronizing, though, especially with names of a descent different from yours, because you never know if you're insulting someone by asking how to spell "Siobhan."

- When a class or business group is introducing themselves, write down their names in the order they gave them and try to visualize where everyone was sitting.

- Really look at someone's face when you learn their name and if possible, remember what color they were wearing. Notice a specific detail, like earrings or the design on a tie (i.e. Allison is the woman with brown hair, green eyes, silver earrings shaped like orchids, and a purple shirt). When you try to remember Allison's name later on, you'll form a more concrete visual of the time you met her and always be able to put her name with her face.

- Don't be afraid to use names once you've learned them. Address people by name, refer to them by name "Allison just said the funniest thing!" and if you reach a rapport, give them a nickname "Well Allie, you're right, one more whiskey probably wouldn't hurt."

- If it helps to associate them with someone of the same name (i.e. Allison, cool, she has the same name as my sister, but spelled with a second L), go for it, but be careful because it's easy to confuse people that way. My favorite example is my father associating an employee with one of his cousin's dogs, both named Natalie. Every time he looked at her, he thought "Mel's dog," but then worried that that couldn't possibly be right, so he was afraid to call her by anything. Also above all, don't tell them that association, because there is nothing more tedious than hearing how you have the same name as someone's old neighbor every time you see them. (To my Irish-German-Welsh blonde haired, blue-eyed parents: "Is Vicki Italian? The other woman I know named Victoria who went by Vicki was Italian. No? You're not at all Italian? Well are you sure Vicki isn't?")

So there you have it. I imagine this meme didn't actually mandate whole paragraphs of explanation, but it was interesting to think about this outside of a job interview.

I'm really interested in what my friends and readers have to say about themselves on this one, so please do let me know if you make a list!


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(Bonus points if you can name this molecule without looking it up.)

If, from 1996-8, you had asked me the bane of my high school existence, I almost certainly would have answered chemistry. Sure I may have thrown in trigonometry or a particularly annoying history class for good measure, but chemistry was the area where I consistently felt the most lost, confused, and frustrated.

At one point in my AP Chemistry class, the teacher asked why a certain reaction occurred the way it did, and because she was looking right at me, all I could say was "Magic?"

Therefore, it is with no small amount of irony that I am not only greatly excited and fascinated by chemistry, but have just willingly given up my Friday mornings to sit in on a chemistry class. My high school self would probably slap me now.

I was wavering in my interest in Conservation because I wasn't sure I could handle the chemistry component. The more I research materials and techniques, the more I see this is often the most interesting part of it, and I'm desperately curious to understand why things happen at a molecular level.

In undergrad, my favorite part of the Neuroscience major was neurochemistry, but I was desperately afraid of the engineering requirements (and working with rats) because I was sure I'd hit some mathematical or chemical point I just couldn't wrap my head around. I let myself develop a math and science phobia, and I shied away from what had been an intriguing and really enjoyable study. I was also woefully immature and undisciplined at the time, which I'm sure contributed heavily to my sense of being clueless.

A few years down the line, though, all I can think about now is lab work and really digging into chemistry. I think Conservation would be the ideal mix of my interests and talents, so my enthusiasm for this morning's class is an auspicious start to it. I am still very much interested in doing a PhD in art history, but the appeal of chemistry grows day by day.

As a slight aside, I couldn't sleep last night and was keeping Eric awake by rambling on about all things academic. At one point, I said I wished I'd known I was so interested in art history before applying to grad school, and he told me what a huge nerd I am. He pointed out how much of our apartment is jam-packed with books about art, aesthetics, and especially art history, and how even though my formal coursework in it was limited, art history has always been a regular obsession in my life.

Lately I have also come to see the significance of transferable skill sets, and so many of my hobbies overlap with the habits of a chemist or conservator: cooking as edible chemistry, making paint and playing with media and techniques as lab work, knitting as following patterns of modular unit construction to create three-dimensional objects, and all my obsessive categorizations, comparisons, and meticulous focuses on the minute details of single things are just the kind of temperament found in a careful and fastidious conservator. (Incidentally, if you're also into this kind of stuff, you will probably love theOrganized Collection pool on Flickr).

I guess I shouldn't be surprised to discover my love for this... so much as surprised I hadn't realized it sooner. It's funny how long it takes to see what you love, even when it's staring you in the face.

Consumption Mash-Up

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It should be said that I consume a lot of things, often at the same time. I'm an avid reader, a music obsessive, and I'm guilty of watching the same DVD thirty or forty times in a row before I'll return it to Netflix.

When Eric wants to criticize my television viewing habits, he will cite the data concept of "Garbage In, Garbage Out," but in this instance, I think I've got a really nice blend of material culture circulating in my life and thought I should share.

Of course I've seen these sorts of lists on other blogs (notmartha's and ljc's sidebar are especially good examples), and I've resisted sloppy imitation, but lately I have a really good cocktail going. I also hope that by sharing what I'm into (with excessive explication), I can get good recommendations for future consumption.

Reading (the truncated list):

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. I'm about 9 chapters in and find myself staying up way too late to keep reading. It's fantastic.

The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart. This reminds me just a bit of Marilynne Robinson'sHousekeeping in tone and timbre, as well as the sinking tragic feeling I get reading it. It's either going to do an exhilarating 180 or dwell in cold silence and chilly calm. Also, the protagonist (what a strange term in this context) is a painter, and I really enjoy the scenes describing his work because I've only found one technical issue so far.

The Anthropology of Turquoise by Ellen Meloy. A combination of memoir, natural history, and technical information, it's structured around turquoise as a color and the stone. I really love this device, and though I'm just a little bit into this book, I enjoy the writing style and imagined trajectory quite a bit. It reminds me a little of Rachel Carson or Annie Dillard.

Current Food Obsessions:

La Yogurt Probiotic Light yogurt, pomegranate and berry flavor (swoon) with mashed-up graham crackers. Perfection.

Cinnamon buns. Oh man.

Good Theater Movie:

The Darjeeling LimitedI always come away from Wes Anderson movies a little confused, a little annoyed, and a lot elated, and this one was no exception. The soundtrack is luscious and wonderful, and the cinematography is nothing short of drop-dead gorgeous. It's maybe not as funny as some of his other works, but I actually stayed awake and engaged for the whole film, which given my narcoleptic tendencies, is really quite remarkable. You can catch the short prequel Hotel Chevalier online.

DVD I Can't Stop Watching Obsessively:

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. This movie is so beautiful I want to crawl into the scenery and lick it. I believe secretly that Steve Shainberg tapped into the unconscious realm of my innermost desires and put them on film, though much more brilliantly and capably than my silly mind ever did for me. Also, God I love Robert Downey Jr, the man is phenomenal.

Random Movies I Caught On TV:

Excess Baggage. I have a certain 90s nostalgia for Alicia Silverstone, but this movie started out terribly. I would have turned it off, but then Christopher Walken and Benicio del Toro were playing opposite one another and I just... couldn't look away.

The House of Yes. Oh oh yes.

TV Show I Have to Confess I Like (As If Your Opinion of My TV Habits Could Get Any Worse After I Admitted How Much I Love Top Model):

Gossip Girl. I'm going to hang my head in shame for a while.

Listening on Repeat:

Radiohead - In Rainbows

Also Ingrid Michaelson, who is both lovely and adorable, and more importantly, a really good singer.

Best New Gadgetry:

Eric gave me an early birthday present: a Zune!!! For someone as physiologically dependent on music as myself, I have remained in a perplexing state of sans-mp3-player for way too long. I really didn't want an iPod though, so it took a lot to find an mp3 player I could love. This baby rocks, and I'll go on at length about it another time soon. (Also he put this photo of the kitties as my background, so it makes me exquisitely happy every time I turn it on).

Also these awesome and enormous Everglide headphones that make me look like an astronaut dork... but this is appropriate because I like to listen to music in space. The sound is fantastic, and their noise-cancellation is almost problematically wonderful.


Knitting socks and some Christmas gifts

Awesome New Shampoo:

Thicker Fuller Hair Revitalizing Shampoo. It does not smell like candy, flowers, syrup, or anything excessively sweet: it smells clean, and a little like plants. It actually gets my hair clean, soft, and manageable. The packaging is well designed and gender neutral, so it doesn't annoy me constantly the way the leaky and obnoxiously pink L'Oreal bottle did.

Most Surprising Exhibit I Loved:

Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor at the Metropolitan Museum. I almost skipped it, but I'm really glad I wandered in. The gallery was silent and the smell of old tapestries was incredible. By the time I got to woven waves and a scene overflowing with perfect fish, crabs, eels, and lobsters, I was beside myself with the lush richness and resplendent color work in what had previously seemed to me to be such a boring medium. I will have to go back to this one.

Best Feeling Lately:

Walking through Central Park on a perfect fall day just as the street lights came on but before the sun was completely down, so it was this totally Magritte moment, and I had my camera in tow (photos to come).

Okay, now it's your turn. What are you into lately??

All I'm saying is...

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If there is any smell more heavenly, any aroma more delectable, or any sensory experience more perfectly suited to my mood right now than freshly baked cinnamon buns, I don't want to know.


(More later - I'm cooking dinner.)

Radiohead can change the world

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I think my love of Radiohead is obvious and well-documented, so it was exceedingly exciting when I heard about their new album In Rainbows, and even further exhilarating that it would be coming out in mere days. A lot of press discussed the unique pay-as-you-wish distribution model and the ways that Radiohead could really change the music industry, but because there were no critical previews, no one was talking about the music or how it sounded.

Like many others, I pre-ordered and anxiously awaited my download invitation, greedily extracting the songs and setting myself up to listen as soon as I got the email. I happened to be talking to friends online at the time, some of whom were sharing some pretty heavy personal things, so I wasn't really listening to the music, but I was starting to feel it.

Our friend John was over and he and Eric were in the office. They came out into the living room a few minutes after my first listen and asked "So how was it?" I really couldn't say. It was Radiohead, and at the time, I didn't know that saying that was saying a lot.

I stayed up most of that night talking with my friend Terry during our favorite ritual of synchronizing our songs together and obsessing over music (the Terry jukebox). After many more listens, I concluded that yes, I love this album: it is positively exquisite.

I walked around all Friday and Saturday saying the album was great, that Radiohead was at the very top of their game, but I couldn't say why. I could barely even remember what the songs sounded like, I just remembered how they felt.

Then I found myself physically changed.

I listened to "Videotape" with my eyes closed and candlelight flickering. The bare and sparse piano and unrelenting lashings of the drums were absolute perfection, and they were changing how I breathed and thought. I could feel my heartbeat changing and my entire being responding to the strained vocals and elegant restraint. Thom Yorke was sitting in my soul again, laughing and poking at things, and it felt amazing.

True to form, I've listened to this song on repeat over and over, along with a bunch of other genuinely brilliant gems (notably "Nude," "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," and "Reckoner"). Preemptively, my least favorite tune on the album was either "Bodysnatchers" or "15 Step," which was my friend Jeremy's favorite. The more I listened, I realized that even those had a whole lot going for them and there really isn't a down moment or a single weak track.

Each song has a careful layering of technical and emotional elements that show Radiohead is masterful of both. They paint and sculpt with sound, creating environments that surround and inhabit the body, pervade really. They are delightfully unforgiving, but at the same time indulgent, languishing on moments of sonic clarity that you can feel in your teeth.

What's more, this album made me understand and love other albums even more. It put together the pieces I was missing to embrace Hail to the Thief, and it accentuated the hell out of Kid A. I would have been thrilled with a reprise, and instead I got a whole new combination of the ingredients that have kept Radiohead my favorite band for the past few years.

They just have it, and they understand our time and space in the universe better than most others ever could. They tap into something fundamentally human in these songs, and they do it with a rocking swagger and a soulful moan. It's just plain perfect and so extraordinarily seductive. I love them all over again, and if you haven't gotten into Radiohead before, this album is a perfect opportunity to get them at their very best.


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Last night our friend (and former neighbor) came by and we talked way late into the night, to the point that would more accurately be "early into the morning". During our conversation, I started rambling about the way I think that art affects people, and it went hand in hand with a conversation on Friday to do with challenging oneself to fall in love.

At the conclusion of both, I started feeling that the key was receptivity: a state of openness and willingness to experience that is required (in my opinion) to try to know and understand another person at the level of loving them.

What art and passion have in common is the ways they open a person and make them more receptive.

Art which affects someone, which truly makes them pause and feel intense sensations and emotions, is to me the most important because it carries the power for genuine subversion and the capacity to completely alter how that person will experience life thereafter.

I can easily recall quite a few profound moments where a song, a film, or an image becomes embedded in the forefront of my consciousness and relentlessly refuses to let go (most recently, Radiohead's "Videotape," the luminous and wonderful Steven Shainberg'sFur, and an exhibit of Buddhist sculpture at the China Institute on Friday, respectively). I start responding physically to it, timing my steps to the rhythm or finding the colors and shapes in things around me. I change the way I breathe.

I know that I'm affected as I continue pondering things and carrying them forward into new experiences, and it becomes a transformative state: an opening-up and stirring-up of all kinds of things I don't usually consider on a daily basis.

Last night I was talking about how if these experiences were ones which were overall of beauty or let the viewer/listener come away with some sense of enjoyment or fulfillment, they were more likely to seek out similar experiences, try to repeat the sensation of wakefulness which comes with exhilaration and pleasure. In this way, art can change who we are. It can become an object lesson. When we feel gentleness, tenderness, even love toward something inanimate or manufactured, the product of people's creativity, we can take that and turn it toward other people. In a sense, the ability to love music is the ability to love others, an arousal of compassion and empathy previously unfathomable in one who was emotionally numbed or closed off to highs and lows for self-preservation.

I was much more articulate the last time I tried to get this all out, but I stand by it, and it was an important thing to be reminded of because it's part of the foundation of both my beliefs about art and my generalized life philosophy.

I am also continuously thankful and flummoxed that I have such incredible friends and amazing people in my life. It's astonishing to look around and realize, with an intense gratitude, that you are among such beauty and profundity when it comes in such a playful, appealing package.

In a completely unexpected but not surprising change of pace, I am overcome with the desire to paint and plan to spend my afternoon doing just that. I am really really lucky that I live a life where this is my reality.


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Hey look, it's random linkage! A little smattering of internet goodies...

- Next time I want to really ruin Eric's and my diets, I will be making Chocolate Biscuit Cake, yums

- While we're lusting over food, Apartment Therapy has some delicious fall snack recipes, especially peanut butter popcorn and sweet & salty cinnamon almonds (via NotMartha)

- Drunken idiots punched a Monet in Paris

- More jerks destroying art, this time as a ham-fisted protest, posted on YouTube (NY Times - registration req)

- This image of subway graffiti was strangely poignant and touching

- And for fun, the Ten Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time at New York magazine

- Lastly, today is the day to get the new Radiohead!!!

When auto-correct is a bad thing

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I recently got an unintentionally comical email from a fellow artist (name removed to protect the innocent), requesting participation in a performance piece. Included was a waiver form to be signed.

See if you can spot the hilarious error which had me in stitches:

I _______________ am a willing participant. I also
understand that the artist, XXXXXXXX, is not labial for any harm
or distress I experience during or as a result of this project and all
documentation, photos, and video of me from this project belongs to the
artist along with the rights to show and present them any way she sees
fit. The artist will make a copy of my performance upon request provided
that I will supply the materials or compensation of the materials used.

X_____________________________ Date_______________

Ahh grammar, you consistently amuse me.

The way we live

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Everyone approaches organization differently. My method tends to involve putting on a frilly nightgown, trying on old jewelry or accessories, and getting distracted playing with newly rediscovered items. (Basically, like a six year old - a method both highly ineffectual and of the tendency to create even more messes).

It's not by accident that so many of my arguments with Eric are of the "I can't take it anymore, I'm moving out" variety, and I know I've talked about the way clutter affects our lives before.

Today, clip-on flower in my hair, ankle bracelets tinkling away, and more than a few rings on both hands, I started to wonder if maybe I needed to like, grow up and get on the case with this living like an adult thing.

I started to look at the objects in my apartment, currently in the way of being able to use this space for living. I possess the problematic (and maybe unique) ability to remember how I came to own everything I own, and in cases where I bought the item, how I paid for it. As I try to find things to give or throw away, I get consumed with guilt because almost everything was a gift (and I remember the giver and occasion) or something I bought with student loan money or on a credit card which I'm still paying off. Through a baffling combination of sentimentality and frugality, I am troubled with so much stuff that we cannot walk around easily anymore, and I can seriously see, this is mental.

I can't even show you with a photo, as I've lost both my battery charger and the one that Eric lent to me. So just take my word that really, the apartment is in dire straits.

I have a pretty bad hoarding problem, I'm aware of this. I read more about the psychology of it in a three-year-old magazine I've hoarded (sweet irony), and it's a lot scarier than I imagined. I also learned by way of a very old episode of Pop-Up Video that a messy room is an indication of deep depression, and by extension (and subsequent research) that a clean and organized living space contributes to better mental health.

I read that people with messy houses often have attention issues, as they are prone to getting distracted, as I definitely am.

So maybe it's time to quit being so selfish and consider that I not only live with another person, but that I'm not a child and I kind of owe it to myself to live well too. I have to focus for a while and see this through, for once, and finally get my life in working order.

I'm trying to be realistic, but I've watched enough episodes of Clean SweepClean House, and uhh several others, to have a completely distorted perspective of how long the process actually takes. I don't have a crew of production assistants behind the scenes, but I also don't have to stop and re-shoot when the lighting gets wrong or I've said something dopey in place of a clever quip.

I'm going to combine the approaches I can remember from reality television (oh stupid brain, I owe you some Hemingway) and go with a general Keep, Sell, Toss by way of "figure out the issues behind my emotional attachments to this clutter and break the cycle."

And hey, I already have a flower in my hair! Just call me Niecy!

Seriously though this place is a dump, and any super organization suggestions you have would be much appreciated. Even if it seems really obvious, just lay them on me because my life is completely out of control.

All Thesised Out

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Whew. I'm done with my painting thesis. I never thought this day would come, and I'm totally unprepared for how I feel now that it has.

True to form, I kept working until the last minute, spreading out over every flat surface in our apartment (including the bed). Once I finally had access to the gallery, the wheels got turning in my little scatter-brain, and I made the final work on-site, a 24 and a half foot long behemoth. With the ability to spread out as far as I wanted, I saw everything that had been pent up when I was working a few feet at a time come out, and it has given me all kinds of ideas and inspirations for future enormously ambitious things.

Completely out of character, though, I didn't bring my camera to the opening. In fact the only photos I have of the paintings are camera-phone pics that Eric took at 2am after he finished helping me hang everything (have I mentioned? the guy is a saint). I think both my mother and Eric assumed the other would bring a camera, so no one did, but I will have to take installation views before this week is over.

I was incredibly anxious about the opening, for completely absurd reasons. I don't have any fine arts classes this semester, so it's not like I was afraid of my professors bashing me... and unlike every other student in thesis class, I didn't have to defend my work in seminar the next day since umm, I don't have a thesis class anymore. To that extent, I was also anxious that I would be really embarrassed in front of my family and friends, since no one had been around all semester to tell me how awful things were. Also for what's it worth, I really don't do well with being a center of attention, and I was getting all worked up about that (to the point where today I still feel like I've done something horribly wrong somehow, and everything I think about makes me feel awful and guilty).

Contrary to all that neurosis, the opening was a delight. It was so wonderful to see so many friends and family, and everyone was fantastically supportive and encouraging. My parents brought an overwhelming spread of delicious food which seemed to keep everyone happy throughout. I was tickled that my grandparents and aunt made the drive up with my folks, as it's once again been too long since I've seen them. I was also thrilled that so many friends were able to come out - some of us grabbed a drink afterwards, and as I was looking around bleary-eyed with exhaustion, I felt warmed to the very cockles of my whiskey-soaked heart that I have such wonderful people in my life.

Now the withdrawal from all that excitement and anxiety weighs about a ton on my mind. All that is left of my MFA degree is submitting my thesis statement and slides to the library, and I keep mulling over what I might have done differently, what I should have said or made or thought about more. Compared to the excitement (and drama) of hanging a show, writing a paper and filing some paperwork is exceedingly anticlimactic, but it's giving me an unwelcome opportunity to freak out with regret and worry and all this other nonsense.

So I'll just be grateful for the positive... and get to work catching up on all the rest of my life that I've neglected or left by the wayside while concentrating on this exhibit.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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