20 10 / 2014

Maira Kalman is a being of golden light, impossible to capture with my hasty phone. Tonight I got to watch and listen to her talk with Ira Glass about saving buttons and paper packets, about the lure of abandoned chairs and antique shoes, about handwriting (Maira took hers seriously when she was little, like she was “writing the bible” every time she did the alphabet), about creativity, and finding a voice.
They talked about their processes (Maira and Ira are separately working on projects with the same choreographer, who noted that the two of them each create wonderful things that “nobody asked for”—I love that). They talked about the importance of ruthless editing—to generate something carefully planned and polished that retains a sparkle of serendipity. They talked a little bit about living well and being mortal, a little bit about walking, a lot about the persistence of uncertainty and anxiety. 
At the end of their talk, someone from the audience asked about other jobs Maira and Ira had done, and Maira told about the time she was a maid in a centuries-old Irish castle. This was just a few years ago, a two-week adventure Maira pursued because she loves to clean and has always wanted to do it in a castle. She ironed and vacuumed and polished silver; she wore ordinary clothes (but did trot out a frilly apron just once). 
I love her.

Maira Kalman is a being of golden light, impossible to capture with my hasty phone. Tonight I got to watch and listen to her talk with Ira Glass about saving buttons and paper packets, about the lure of abandoned chairs and antique shoes, about handwriting (Maira took hers seriously when she was little, like she was “writing the bible” every time she did the alphabet), about creativity, and finding a voice.

They talked about their processes (Maira and Ira are separately working on projects with the same choreographer, who noted that the two of them each create wonderful things that “nobody asked for”—I love that). They talked about the importance of ruthless editing—to generate something carefully planned and polished that retains a sparkle of serendipity. They talked a little bit about living well and being mortal, a little bit about walking, a lot about the persistence of uncertainty and anxiety. 

At the end of their talk, someone from the audience asked about other jobs Maira and Ira had done, and Maira told about the time she was a maid in a centuries-old Irish castle. This was just a few years ago, a two-week adventure Maira pursued because she loves to clean and has always wanted to do it in a castle. She ironed and vacuumed and polished silver; she wore ordinary clothes (but did trot out a frilly apron just once). 

I love her.

19 10 / 2014

I’ve read several pieces on Cafe.com today, including this one, which poses the crucial question: “Braiding Your Daughter’s Hair?” (And answers: “Think Again.”) 

What if you had all that grooming time back? Imagine if you could reclaim all the minutes you spent examining yourself for something to tweeze—predators on the savannah do not watch the landscape as patiently as a women searching for a stray hair—or eye-watering your way through an eyeliner tutorial from a vaguely hostile makeup clerk. Imagine if you had never tried to scrub your skin off with some violent iteration of apricots-turned-into-shards; what if you had back the efforts you made to minimize your pores? (Here’s a time-saving tip: your pores are going to stay large. Try wearing something big around your head, like a spelunking lamp, to make the pores look comparatively small.)  What if, instead, you were doing something that directly or indirectly boosted your skills—playing the guitar, fooling around with some computer code, learning a language?

….

If I had a daughter I’m sure I would buy the little sundresses. I’m sure I would spend time pinning her hair with butterfly barrettes, despite her struggling and my exasperation, just as my mother did with me. I would want my daughter to be admired! I would hope that her beauty would inoculate her against all the difficulties of life,  that perhaps she would sail through adolescence and young womanhood more easily than I did.  But I would also be uneasy with this, knowing that I wasn’t asking the same of my sons.

I resent the time I lose in grooming, of course, but I have trouble believing that I would make great use of the time regained. Today, for example, I do need to give myself a manicure. I’m also hoping to candy some ginger and work on my Halloween costume (cardboard pangolin, I think). 

Pangolins take “ant baths.” They invade an ant nest, presumably to get ants up in and between their scales, where the ants…eat other bugs? are crushed, and act as exfoliants? The pangolins take a dunk in water, clear out the ant carcasses, and feel great, one assumes.

It happens that pangolins ”are also known to secrete acrid liquid from the anal region when threatened,” which is understandable.   

18 10 / 2014

My friend E left me her copy of The Hotel New Hampshire, and I started reading it this week.I’m crazy about this book, not only, but in part, because of a character named Iowa Bob. I love to see my state represented (even distantly) in literature; and Iowa Bob—football coach, exercise enthusiast, grandpa—is an extraordinary representation. I am tempted to transcribe large swaths of THNH here, but I think you should read it; and I don’t want to give anything away. So just this:

The dictum was connected with Iowa Bob’s theory that we were all on a big ship—“on a big cruise, across the world.” And in spite of the danger of being swept away, at any time, or perhaps because of the danger, we were not allowed to be depressed or unhappy. The way the world worked was not cause for some sort of blanket cynicism or sophomoric despair; according to my father and Iowa Bob, the way the world worked—which was badly—was just a strong incentive to live purposefully, and to be determined about living well. 

"Happy fatalism," Frank would speak of their philosophy, later; Frank, as a troubled youth, was not a believer.

And one night, when we were watching a wretched melodrama on the TV above the bar in the Hotel New Hampshire, my mother said, “I don’t want to see the end of this. I like happy endings.”

And Father said, “There are no happy endings.” 

"Right!" cried Iowa Bob—an odd mixture of exuberance and stoicism in his cracked voice. "Death is horrible, final, and frequently premature," Coach Bob declared.

"So what?" my father said.

"Right!" cried Iowa Bob. "That’s the point: So what?"

17 10 / 2014

therumpus:

Here’s today’s Daily GIF!

I love a good GIF. This one is both familiar and new to me. A few years ago I found a large framed grid of these captioned images on a stoop somewhere, and I’ve used it as a kind of mat for another piece of art. I always assumed the pictures represented a kind of tarot (though maybe less mystical images, like el camaron and la bota, suggest otherwise), but I learned last week that they comprise a bingo-like game called Loteria. 
Perhaps it’s a Halloween-proximity thing; I’ve been reading a lot lately about occultishness, the physicality of emotion, and the power of placebo.
We’re inescapably drawn to identify patterns, to freight events and people and small details of our surroundings with meaning, to make the random mystical, the chaotic controlled, the world into a story. We want to dust off magical objects on the sidewalk, and we seek victory in games of chance.

therumpus:

Here’s today’s Daily GIF!

I love a good GIF. This one is both familiar and new to me. A few years ago I found a large framed grid of these captioned images on a stoop somewhere, and I’ve used it as a kind of mat for another piece of art. I always assumed the pictures represented a kind of tarot (though maybe less mystical images, like el camaron and la botasuggest otherwise), but I learned last week that they comprise a bingo-like game called Loteria

Perhaps it’s a Halloween-proximity thing; I’ve been reading a lot lately about occultishness, the physicality of emotion, and the power of placebo.

We’re inescapably drawn to identify patterns, to freight events and people and small details of our surroundings with meaning, to make the random mystical, the chaotic controlled, the world into a story. We want to dust off magical objects on the sidewalk, and we seek victory in games of chance.

(Source: thomasbolt)

17 10 / 2014

Each of us is a temporary assemblage of atoms, not more and not less. We are all on the verge of material disassemblage and dissolution.

Peaceful thought for a Friday morning, from Alan Lightman in a late-summer installment of Nautilus.

And Willie Nelson makes a peaceful soundtrack. I listened to an old favorite, Red Headed Stranger, this morning, and listened twice, maybe three times, to “Hands on the Wheel.” 

At a time when the world seems to be spinning

Hopelessly out of control

There’s deceivers and believers and old in-betweeners

That seem to have no place to go

….

It’s the same damn tune, it’s the man in the moon

It’s the way I feel about you

And with no place to hide, I looked in your eyes,

And I found myself in you

….

And I looked to the stars, tried all of the bars

And I’ve nearly gone up in smoke

Now my hands on the wheel of something that’s real

And I feel like I’m going home

15 10 / 2014

bigawkwardgirl:

Wintertime, so back to drawin’ bears.

This is the happiest news of my day. New York City is warm and damp, relieving what leaves have fallen of their crunch. But in Alaska already there are frosty mornings and snowflakes and (one has to imagine) mugs of cocoa.  

bigawkwardgirl:

Wintertime, so back to drawin’ bears.

This is the happiest news of my day. New York City is warm and damp, relieving what leaves have fallen of their crunch. But in Alaska already there are frosty mornings and snowflakes and (one has to imagine) mugs of cocoa.  

14 10 / 2014

Tired? Feet hurt? Why not watch a short film about ballet shoes—the people who make them and the ones who use them?

"You will be in pain, every day, and you’ve just got to get used to it—that’s what this job is about. It just becomes part of the routine, and you do become like a little robot, in a sense." 

(Says a dancer.) The gnarled (“dodgy”) feet of the ballerina are well-earned, but mine feel somehow ill-gotten, as if I stole them, when really I just did ill-advised things in poorly chosen footwear. I try to buy nicer shoes these days, tread carefully, and dance with abandon. 

13 10 / 2014


Sometime in the summer of 1909, not long before Sigmund Freud was due to embark on his only visit to the United States, he was enjoying a cigar in the company of his inner circle in the busy Biedermeier interior of Berggasse 19, when he suddenly announced, “I am going to America to catch sight of a wild porcupine and to give some lectures.” 


(From Cabinet Magazine, about 7 years ago.)
Is the above seafaring mammal a porcupine? Off to visit Freud? I could ask its creator, my friend E, whose apartment bathroom it adorns, but I prefer to speculate. 

Sometime in the summer of 1909, not long before Sigmund Freud was due to embark on his only visit to the United States, he was enjoying a cigar in the company of his inner circle in the busy Biedermeier interior of Berggasse 19, when he suddenly announced, “I am going to America to catch sight of a wild porcupine and to give some lectures.” 


(From Cabinet Magazine, about 7 years ago.)

Is the above seafaring mammal a porcupine? Off to visit Freud? I could ask its creator, my friend E, whose apartment bathroom it adorns, but I prefer to speculate. 

12 10 / 2014

Sometimes I think I’ve grown out of something, but all I’ve done is swerve past it, due to accidental or purposeful changes in life circumstance. Last night I came up against a form of semi-spiteful jealousy that I hope I may truly grow out of someday. I went to two parties, a very high party-to-Saturday ratio for me, and in both cases I met lovely lithe and smart and successful women, women who had gone to prestigious colleges and boarding schools in idyllic locales, women with interesting jobs and arty passions, beautiful noses and bright eyes—but women who made flat, minimalist conversation.

As a recovering too-shy, too-selfconscious conversationalist myself, I should and do have sympathy for these ladies. But I open my heart to find atop that sympathy a thorny cactus of mean-spirited envy. In the turreted and knee-stockinged and tea-biscuited formative years my pastiche-memory of childhood novels leads me to imagine for these women, did nobody instruct them in the art of simple conversational pleasantry? 

But what was my beef, really? Irritation or perhaps brain fever from a particularly gnarly and pestilent zit on my right cheek? (Maybe twas the selfsame zit that distracted my interlocutors into silence.) Pleasantries are never enough, anyway, and probably the problem is my own pride and my own unconscious conversational bad habits: answering straightforward questions with unwarranted detail, following up with poorly executed and confusing self-effacing jokery, general worrying, etc. (As ever [duh], I just wanted to feel liked!)

All this was compounded by the fact that in the wee hours of this morn, I finished reading Not That Kind of Girl, a book I really liked, on balance, but one which made me feel essentially the same mix of admiration and envy that I felt for the real-life girls I met yesterday. About it, I have nothing more insightful to say than Sloane Crosley did in this review. Both the book and the review are worth your time and envy. 

11 10 / 2014

I loved these strangers’ sleepy symmetry the other day, perhaps more because I suspected at least two of them of faking slumber to avoid the attention of a loud, Jesus-rhetoric-spouting, fellow passenger. 

I loved these strangers’ sleepy symmetry the other day, perhaps more because I suspected at least two of them of faking slumber to avoid the attention of a loud, Jesus-rhetoric-spouting, fellow passenger.