Thursday, December 29, 2005

cabin fever

I don't know why this amuses me so, but it does. In case you've ever thought about digging to China, you might want to check this out first (hint: start shoveling in Argentina).

Otherwise, very little to report. I've been sleeping a lot, running end-of-the-year errands, and sifting through my craft supplies with an eye to sending a box to the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, who are doing some sort of art therapy outreach to Katrina survivors. If I can't go with the Red Cross, well, my beads will still make it. I also made this, mostly because I was feeling pretty low and needed to prove to myself that I could start and finish something without getting distracted or overthinking a project:

She joins an older, nameless sister:

I also found these. I made a dozen, years ago, and used half to make some earrings. I think these were going to be a necklace. Anyway, they still make me happy, so I'm going to work them into something.

What all this may clarify, besides the fact that I'm leaving the house very little right now, is why I don't cook anything complicated. There's just not enough room. That's my kitchen counter, with the jars of beads, the plastic frog, and so on. Maybe in the new year I'll, oh, accumulate a table.

Monday, December 26, 2005

knocked one off the must-do list

I just ran my book project past an agent, electronically. I should know if she bites within a month. The form calls it a "quick query", which is a lie; while it didn't take as long as writing my intro and sample chapter did, it was still more laborious than is probably wise at four in the morning.

Because last night a friend, in the course of chastising me for something else, started asking me difficult questions like what are you afraid of? and why are you compromising? and what do you really want? He was sort of talking about work and sort of talking about love, and I suppose there is not that much difference between those things, really. A point I am too drained to clarify just at the moment.

I am going to call you on the 30th when I get back into town, he warned me, and the first thing I'm going to ask is if you've written to any agents. And I didn't want to have to hang my head on the 30th.

So after he left I called up the table of contents I'd gone over so many times, and the author bio, and boiled things down and talked things up; tried to express a self-assurance about the project that I haven't felt since it got shot down. The first time. Nabokov showed Lolita to twenty-seven publishers before someone would take a chance on it. The guy who invented Scrabble tried for seventeen years to get someone to buy it from him. I care about this project and I will keep putting it in front of people until someone says yes.

Which I guess is a lot like love too.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

how to make a baby gargoyle

I just thought this was cute. But maybe I'll try it in one of the luxurious days of nothing planned I have stretching ahead of me until I head to Detroit for New Year's. Or maybe I'll just build the shelves I was researching when I came across this cool site for artists, get all my junk up off the floor, go into 2006 a hair more organized than I am right now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

viva chavez

Giant multinational corporations must be beholden to the countries from which they take resources? Good heavens, what will they think of next! This is the sort of thing that's making Princess and I talk about taking Spanish classes and moving to Venezuela.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

please return if found

You have to give it to these thieves for guts. Even if the idea of selling this Henry Moore sculpture for scrap is a travesty (and the bronze alone can't possibly be worth 5.3 million dollars, can it?), and I truly hope the authorities find it before it gets melted down (who the hell is going to take that risk?), I am impressed by the chutzpah it takes to drive a flatbed lorry into a sculpture garden and make off with a two-ton whatsis.

I mean, can you imagine the original conversation at the pub about this? A few guys, one of them in a baseball cap, having a Guiness and trying to think of ways to make some quick cash? Let's just nip down to Perry Green and nick one of those Moore sculptures, one says. My brother's mate knows a guy with a crane we could borrow, says another. I've always been struck by how Moore's work reflects post-war uncertainty while speaking to the deep human need for abstraction, says the one in the baseball cap. Although these are balanced reassuringly against those organic feminine masses. Guy number one: get us another round, you big wanker.

The police say it was probably stolen for scrap. What an absurd idea. Although stealing it for a private collector suggests a private collector who's not too worried about someone seeing it gracing their manicured lawn from the air.

Perhaps it's an act of dada?

I want to see the xeroxed signs stuck to telephone poles around Hertfordshire. If found please call. No questions asked. May be disoriented, needs its medicine. Sentimental importance.

Friday, December 16, 2005

not with a bang, but a whimper

Ripped directly from an e-mail I just sent, because I'm too tired to write much more, and I need to be up in six hours so I can go model.
Although I worked my last catering shift (hopefully ever) tonight, so things are already looking a damn sight better. Or maybe that's because I got cut before the heavy part of the breakdown ensued, went and sat in Cafe Abir reading "Jean de Florette" for a couple of hours, and then went to Lefty O'Doul's and got plastered on one Screwdriver while listening to a piano man in a red shirt and corduroy vest playing "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Sweet Caroline" to a group of completely blotto women in red hoodies and headbands with fake reindeer antlers attached. Oh, the humanity!

I've left other employment with more fanfare. Not that much more; my departure from ILM was effected very, very quietly. In part because I was still on crutches and heavy pain meds after having my knee rebuilt, and bearing a striking resemblance to hell on toast. But tonight, well; I just mentioned to a few people that I thought tonight was the last shift I was going to take with the company, ever, and I tried to be particularly kind to guests and coworkers and clients, tried to go out gracefully.

Sadder than expected. I've been with this company six, nearly seven years. Had some fun. But at one point, as I was going back and forth between bussing and the room I was looking after with one plate in my hand, I started thinking about what I could have accomplished with all the energy I'd spent walking back and forth all night, with one plate, one dirty glass, one small stack of spoons. Thought about all the things I could have built, painted, or written with that effort, and I knew.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

meant to show this to you earlier

I was going to write about Halloween in the Castro, too, or at least near it; I didn't make it all the way down Market. Chose instead to hang out around Church and Market, where I could see people walking by and not get caught in the crush. I was going to post a totally mind-numbing list of the silliest costumes I saw.

Looks like I didn't. But I wanted to share my photo of the pair that I found most interesting, swimming upstream against an endless profusion of naughty nurses (and cops, and firefighters, and angels and kitties and devils and nuns and so on and so forth, with some women just dressed outright as "ho's", all naughty, naughty, naughty). I was standing with an African-American software developer who took offense, as soon as he realized that the man was in blackface. Hey, that's racist! he shouted after them. That's the point! they shouted back, and I found myself explaining the whole looters/foragers media representation controversy to him. Which I guess we talked about more in the blogosphere than people did outside it, huh?

Anyway. I love concept costumes. Did I mention that I went as a sack of Scrabble tiles? I was warm, I was comfortable, and I was completely covered. Something to think about for next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

a prevalent use of groove

I don't understand how it works, but this is a very cool thing. You tell it the name of a song you like, and it creates a "radio station" playing music it thinks you'll like based on a painstaking analysis of the song you fed it. You can refine the output by choosing more songs, or giving thumbs up/thumbs down on the ones it plays for you.

And it's free. Yeah, there are some ads, but you can ignore those, or subscribe.

I used to fantasize about designing a device that would read brain signals to determine what exactly about a piece of music a listener was responding to. Then it would choose or make music tailored to the listener's preferences. This comes pretty close, and unlike my design doesn't involve sticking anything into the old brainpan! So far, I've liked about 80% of what it's found me, some of it quite a bit, and most of it stuff I've never heard of before. If you hit the "why did you play this?" button, it explains how the current song matches the music you've picked out--so apparently, I'm drawn to "latin influences, use of tonal harmonies, electronica roots, and a prevalent use of groove."

I don't know enough about music to know what some of that means (although I'd like to tattoo "prevalent use of groove" on my body somewhere) which is part of why this is so useful to someone like me. I heard about it from a friend who used to be a music writer, and she thought it was cool but nothing earth-shaking; it wasn't tossing out anything that really surprised her. But for someone who doesn't know much about music, and doesn't listen to the radio very often for new stuff, and doesn't risk purchasing too much music she's never heard of... this is very helpful. You can even probe the music-loving brains of your friends who have signed up; by entering their e-mail address under "shared stations" you can listen to what Pandora is picking out for them.

The more I write, the more I feel like an infomercial. But I'm always impressed by elegant technology, and this falls into that category for me. I've had it on for most of the day as I wrangled a mindless piece of writing into shape.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Monday, December 12, 2005

i guess that december is just always hard for me

Last year at this time, I thought I might melt down. The year before, I was living in the Mission with an evil woman and the two car alarms she called children, she was evicting me to move in her stoner boyfriend, and I was waiting for the word that my father's cancer had metastasized, which in fact came on New Year's Day. The year before, before I was blogging, I spent December in the throes of a beautiful and doomed affair with a man who looks exactly like Jake Gyllenhaal, an affair I sensed was doomed when he invited me to spend New Year's with him and his friends in a house in Santa Cruz, and then told me as we were getting ready to head down that he thought he'd made a mistake. Oh, and then of course he came down with something and was terribly sick New Year's Eve and I held his hair back, as they say, and then he unceremoniously dumped me as soon as we got home. Yep. Good times.

I'm going to ramble a bit. But I was just walking home from rehearsal, trying to figure out why I was feeling so foul, and I realized that I usually do, around this time. It was worse when I lived in the Midwest and had real winter to contend with, but it's still not my best season. That whole dead season thing, you know? Trying to be festive when really, you just want to pull everything in and hibernate. And having a birthday at this time of year can be a real bitch; it makes the whole year-end process of taking stock of what one has accomplished that much hairier.

My birthday weekend... eh... thank you everyone who made it to the various rendezvous points on Saturday. I really do appreciate your coming out. Disappointingly, there were people sick, or people with sick parents, or people who said they'd come by and then couldn't make it. Ours was a small but dogged band, wending its way through dinner and a show, and I had a massive headache for much of the night, and the three opening acts for the band I wanted to see at 12 Galaxies were all incredibly loud and (to my ear) boring, and I just never felt like the evening fell into any sort of groove.

It was more... effortful... than it was festive. I felt like I was worrying too much about whether other people were enjoying themselves--getting a conversation over dinner started when I realized that none of my friends knew each other, running to Walgreen's for earplugs when the "music" was too loud at 12G, worrying about whether BunnySlope's companion was enjoying himself, losing Friend of RatFister at the club (we found him again, eventually, or he us), and so on. I was glad to see everyone, but I just wasn't up, and there were a few points where I started thinking longingly about being home in bed with a book. And I couldn't figure out how to fit everyone else in there with me.

Last night was better, perhaps because I attempted less; after spending the day working (yes, my birthday, damnit) I went to see Narnia with Java. As we were sitting through the interminable "pre-show countdown", a tall blond man in black came and sat down next to me. And I'm thinking, is it possible? And yes, it was in fact PRobot! And his girlfriend! I haven't seen him since we had our ugly confrontation when he picked me up from the airport, coming home from Detroit and my dying father, and he called me passive-aggressive (which is entirely possible, although I have to admit I've never really been clear on what that means). So, y'know, I was thinking it might be awkward. But it's been so long since all that happened, I've been through much more painful things since then (amazing how pain gives you perspective, isn't it?), and we had a very nice if brief chat, and we all shared a candy bar during the big battle sequence. So that was okay, and I recommend Narnia highly, unless you're my mother, who cannot watch movies where bad things happen to

1. animals
2. robots (the scene in the first RoboCop, where he kills the bad robot and its foot twitches? Yes, even that)
3. children
4. or space aliens

without making a scene. Mom, don't go. Even if I promise that everything turns out okay, this movie will upset you. It is my duty as a loving daughter to tell you not to see this one. Everyone else, go; the kids who play the kids do a tremendous job, the animation is very good (especially on the beavers and cheetahs), Rhythm and Hues have really figured out how to do fur, Tilda Swinton is a warrior goddess, and in general they got it all right.

I think what I need to do is just start making enough money that I can spend my Decembers on the beach somewhere, eating fish tacos and drinking cerveza. I'm not even sure I'd like fish tacos, but I'm willing to try.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

tomorrow is my birthday

I'll be thirty again. How do I do it? Well, virtue, clean living, and a pure heart.


Isn't it funny, how easy it is to start worrying about this when you get to a certain age? In my twenties, I swore I was not going to be one of those women who got all coy about her age. I also wasn't going to give a shit about my wrinkles. But here I'm teetering on the edge of my thirty-seventh year, and an hour ago one of my dance class friends (who's been doing esthetician stuff lately) mentioned that I wasn't aging too badly, if you didn't count the sun damage she was seeing around my eyes. And what did I do? I went straight to Walgreen's and bought thirty bucks worth of SPF 30 sunblock.

And a candy bar.

I really need to pull my act together a little more. There's a longer post about that, where I muse on where I am at this point in my life blah blah, but I have some work I need to do before I clean myself up and go carouse with my friends, all of whom will be honest with me about my love life and lie about my crow's feet. Which is the right combination, don't you think?

Friday, December 09, 2005

i have a little dreidl, i made it out of rebar

Washington Cube points us to the most astonishing Hanukah thing I have ever seen or heard of. Proving that goyim don't have a lock on campy excess.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

dolce i guido

These little guys are Italian greyhounds who live with a painter I work for occasionally. The studio is cluttered with carved glass platters in a head-high vitrine, old furniture from the flea market, three white-draped birdcages that house massive, noisy parrots. There's a back door into a little garden, visible through the windows which have replaced the back wall. It's very, very cold, and as you can see, these pups have their own comfy chair where they sleep under an animal-print fleece blanket for hours.

The first time I worked for this man and the group that meets weekly in his studio, I was about to set my things on the chair (which is next to the model's stand) when I noticed a long, skinny paw sticking out of the folds in the fleece. And then another. And then several more. Altogether, I counted seven, which seemed like too many no matter how I did the math.

So I peeked. And la voila, two whole dogs.

They're both rescued. Guido, the larger one, was the first. Dolce is not his littermate, she came along later. The painter learned of her from an airplane seatmate, knew by the time the plane touched down that he would have to take her. She loves Guido. He's not so sure about her, but he tolerates her tiny seven-pound self, perhaps because she's a heat source. Every now and again while I'm working they'll crawl out of their nest and come running around on the stand and floor, their long toenails clicking on the old paint-spattered wood. Monday I had my back to the group, with my right leg stretched out behind me, and occasionally I could feel a tiny cold nose sniffing at the immobile foot, its exact position marked on the floor with an "L" of blue tape.

Another artist had brought his own dog, a black lab with a head roughly the size of a toaster, and Dolce was incensed, barking and growling ineffectually at the intruder. Who slept with his glossy head between his paws most of the session. The artists laughed, the space heater buzzed, the parrots squawked from their post near the front door, Charlie the lab stirred and licked experimentally at my foot.

God help me if I ever need to write another resume. How do I explain all this?

Monday, December 05, 2005

you know how i love this stuff

They've found a new mammal in Borneo!

I love it that there are still things we don't know.

Friday, December 02, 2005

where is your line?

Back in the last century, I made a mad dash through art school. Some very powerful stuff came out of it, and it changed the way I viewed the making of things, from paintings to poems. I learned a lot about intentionality and audience. Not as much as I would have liked about color theory, but I guess that's what happens when you drop out after three semesters.

In the interdisciplinary "Visual Dynamics" class I took my first year, we had to make a self-portrait of ourselves using a material we believed represented who we were. I punked out on this one; I couldn't think of anything good, and did the project at the absolute last minute, producing a muddy, ill-conceived piece of work that did not sing so much as slump.

But there was a young woman in the class, a newly-minted angry teen radical vegan lesbian, complete with fresh-shorn head and Ani diFranco tapes, who made an intense image. At a friendly hair salon she was allowed to sweep up the cut hair; she brought it home, sorted it by color, and "painted" with it by gluing it to a piece of paper. The resulting work was ghostly, primal, and disturbing. In other words, it worked.

But it worked in some ways she hadn't expected, which came out in the crit (a deeply humbling experience where you stand with your work in front of the class, woozy with sleep deprivation and jangling with nerves, and the class tells you exactly what they think of your work and, to some extent, you). Because I looked at her hair portrait and told her that it reminded me of the Holocaust. Of the long beautiful hair of Jewish women being shaved off and stuffed into pillows.

She completely flipped out. That's not what I meant, you're seeing something that isn't there, I'm not talking about the Holocaust, you're nuts etc.

It's not what you meant, sure. I responded. But you need to think about your materials and what responses they may evoke in your audience. You need to do your research. And to my surprise, both professors (two very different men) backed me up. Your selection of materials and images set up resonances, said one. It's your responsibility as an artist to know as much as you can about what you're using, said the other. I was seeing the Holocaust too, said another classmate, but I didn't know whether to mention it. Another couple of people nodded in silent agreement.

A fruitful discussion blossomed about the artist's relationship with her audience, one that all by itself was almost worth the thousands of dollars I spent to be a returning student surrounded by youngsters. Because I think about it a lot, as a writer, and when I'm being more conscientuous, as a blogger. The upshot was that we must be free to make or say what we want and/or need to, but we need to be conscious of as many of the ways it might be taken as we can, and work accordingly. In this way we take ownership or responsibility for our work. Go ahead and put it out there, sure, but be prepared for a range of responses, and don't be surprised when someone catches something you might not have intended. Especially if you haven't thought through what you're using.

This may seem like a leap, but it's a little like all those people tattooed with Japanese symbols who don't really know what they mean and are stunned to find out that "brave warrior" is actually "foolish weakling" or something. The more you know about your images, symbols, materials, intentions as you work, the better your chances of making the point you want to make and not sending out a completely contrary message. In my case, I learned a great trick for surviving crits: whenever someone said something completely unexpected about what they were seeing in my work, I would smile and say, wow, you got that, how interesting. And then I would go home and think about how they got from point A (my work) to point B (their response) and about whether I was making the points I wanted to make, or needed to rethink what I was doing. I did not go home and think, I need to censor myself. But I did think about whether I was being as accurate as I could be, and as... conscious of how my audience would take my work. Did I want to upset people? Make them queasy? Charm and seduce them? Make them feel hopeful? What was the best way to do that visually, while still respecting that they chose to experience and interact with my work?

Lately I've been thinking about this with blogging as well. What are my words up to, out in the world? At some point, I think virtually every blogger posts a variant on, this is my damn blog and I must be free to say what I want. And all of their friends and readers write in and say, yes, yes, it's your blog, we love it when you speak freely, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and so forth and so on. And to a large extent, I agree with that, as long as you're not inciting people to perpetrate violence on other people, or slandering someone by spreading lies and unfounded rumours about them. The latter, incidentally, is legally actionable if the person you're talking about can be identified by clues you give about them--even if you don't use their name. Word to the wise.

But there is a line, and for months I've been stumbling around in the dark, tripping over crap on the floor, trying to find it. Not easy because I think that it's in a different place for everyone.

I'm realizing that my particular line has to be that I actively work not to distress anyone I care about, or who cares about me. And I don't want to make anyone, whether I know them or not, feel lousy about themselves or a situation that they're in. Even if I don't agree with their politics or their worldview (such as that slew of MRA's a few months back--remember them? Wasn't that fun?), my readers are my guests, and unless they abuse me or other readers (which some of the MRA's did certainly do) I'm going to try to treat them accordingly. Operative word being try.

I leave the affliction of the comfortable to people who are better at it than I--or save it for my paid writing. Because there's something delicious about getting paid to afflict the comfortable; something I'm working on right now in another window.

Where is your line?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

they love music, the dance and witty remarks

Here's a cool page about sea monsters. The title of this post is from Ulisse Aldrovandi's completely bizarre 1642 commentary on stingrays.