Friday, November 13, 2009

o canada

Hey, remember how I went to Toronto—twice—and never showed you any photos? Yeah, I was thinkin' about that.

March 2009. Clockwise from top left:
  • This is not a harmonica.
  • Aged copper, University of Toronto
  • Freezing my butt off. + stone bird
  • 764, Queen St West
  • Warmer jacket, new hat, still freezing my butt off. + CN Tower
  • I like numbers, U of Toronto

September 2009.

Top row, left to right:
  • Fish + bike, Yonge St
  • Lofts, Distillery district
  • Streetcar, Eaton Centre
Second row:
  • Picnic tables, Toronto Island
  • Shop window, Eaton Centre
  • Royal Ontario Museum
Bottom row:
  • The Boiler House, Distillery district
  • Shop window advertising
  • Lampshade, community swap stand, Toronto Island

Monday, October 26, 2009

file under: wtf

Spotted on ebay. No mention of whether or not mini-president is included. I'm assuming yes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ready, set... no, forget set... just go

I'm not typically a reckless person.

But lately, my hasty decisions have turned out to be really good ones.

For instance:
So I feel good about my decision—made no more than 3 weeks before the deadline—to apply for one of these.

I hear back in January. Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

wenatchee, washington.

cashmere, washington.

portland, oregon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I was going through some old photos for a couple of different projects, and along the way I came across a few that I wanted to share. Well, mostly they just triggered memories of my own, but let's pretend we were all there and reminisce together, shall we?

Holy crap I'd forgotten how amazing those mountains were. And they were right there. I mean, look at 'em. They're about ready to eat those houses. Provo, Utah, December 2007.

Those stairs. How many hundreds of times I climbed those stairs. It was like 4am when I took this picture, some night shortly before I moved out of the Granary. Provo, Utah, August 2007.

I took a few of these odd self-portraits; it was probably another of those 3 or 4 in the morning deals. In my room at G5. See those flowers? I'd had them for at least three months at this point. I always keep them until they're totally kaputt; in some way they're almost more beautiful like that. Provo, Utah, August 2007.

This is where I went to Nature Camp several summers. We camped out on that lawn, made crafts in the pavilion in the background, and canoed on the lake (that was my favorite). Lake Elkhorn, Columbia, Maryland, June 2008.

Beautiful Claire. Chicago, Illinois, October 2007.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

fine twined linens

My mother has given me many things, including:

these legs and good taste in textile design

also, these sweet Pumas and this gorgeous new duvet cover

which were exactly what I wanted for my birthday.

Plus, she threw in the matching shams and coordinating sheets, AND two surprises:

How adorable is that?

Not to mention a plethora of throw pillows (she made the black&white covers herself).

Thanks, Mom!

(Now it's about time for me to crawl into that stylish bed. 'Night!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

so california right now

So I'm at lunch today, devouring my delectable In-N-Out burger & fries on the sunny patio under the palm trees and hugging the freeway, and it strikes me just how very california this is.

You know what I mean?

Yeah. I'm still in love with this place.

photo credit: unsureshot (flickr)

stick-on pixels

So. My friend Emily (and I don't just mean one of my other personalities) alerted me to the existence of this little stop-motion gem, and I thought that you all needed to see it, too.

Seriously, neon post-its and Breakout and Röyksopp? Again I ask: can life get better?

Monday, July 13, 2009

sunday breakfast

Variations on a stone fruit theme. Both were first-time experiments. The one on the right is a recipe from Grandma* Bittman; the one on the left, which is the one that graduated to Sunday evening barbecue, came to me in a dream. Or so I say.

*not really my Grandma, but merely an affectionate term for Mark Bittman, author of the How to Cook Everything books. No malicious or derisive intent; only the result of a moment of stupidity/inventive listening when I confused Bittman with Joseph's grandmother. That didn't really clear it up, did it.

hold on just a second don't tell me this one you know i know this one i know this song i know this one i know this song

So. I'm currently floating on the aftereffects of one of the best weekends of my entire life. Seriously. It was like a non-stop party. And not the kind that makes me claustrophobic and sends me dissolving into a corner. It was, however, the kind with many much musics (not to be confused with many much moosen).

Friday night was populated with salsa, cumbia, bachata, and my personal favorite merengue. Lesson 1: always say yes to a night at the salsa club even though you went to bed at 4am the night before. Lesson 2: sometimes it may be best to keep your mouth shut and not let on that you speak Spanish. Lesson 3: eventually the inebriated Nicaraguan who wants your phone number will settle for your hotmail address, and everyone goes home safe and happy.

Saturday night saw epic performances by Ra Ra Riot, Andrew Bird, and Death Cab. As you can probably imagine, I went mostly for Andrew Bird. And he did not disappoint. Nothing short of phenomenal, in fact. Since none of the little video that I got is good enough (i.e., I was too impatient to hold up the camera for more than 30 seconds and/or the microphone picked up my neighbors' chatter better than the music) to bother uploading it, you'll just have to trust me on the amazingness factor. Or go see him for yourself. I highly recommend the latter.

Just say the word, Andrew, and I will run away with you and your sock monkey and your victrola.

We sang happy birthday to him. While he was on stage, we got a wee bit of rain. Then this happened:

And then there was Death Cab. And they were awesome. I've never listened to them particularly obsessively (as I have with many others), but I found myself singing along to most of the songs they played. Tons of fun. (There's a good deal of video from the show already up on youtube; just search for "death cab july 11 berkeley" or some such similar string, if you so desire.)

After the concert we watched this wonderful documentary called Young at Heart. Cackle-and-guffaw-out-loud funny, and beautiful in so many ways.

Here's a taste:

You should watch it, too.

Then there was Sunday, highlighted by barbecued goodness, a new friend, a special visit from an old friend, and a motorcycle ride. Not to mention the freakin' gorgeous Palo Alto weather.

Plus, I got to talk on the phone to Claire, Joseph, Mom, Dad, and Vanessa.

Can life get better? I submit that it cannot!

Friday, July 10, 2009

i've been dealing with extreme gravity

A few months ago a friend of mine who is really into techno music introduced me to a couple of artists that I liked immediately (as well as other flavors that didn't quite do it for me). Later, based on the likes of Sasha and Bluetech, Pandora turned me on to the Texas-born, Detroit-based Matthew Dear (yes, lift-up-your-weary-head Detroit).

Enough iterations of "Death to Feelers" and "Fleece on Brain" (dig those throaty vocals) and the sound had decidedly moved into its own cozy corner of my head. Once I began hearing it from the inside, it was time to buy the album. And proceed to listen to it obsessively, of course.

The Asa Breed Black Edition album includes this "Don and Sherri" video, which you can also watch over the internets courtesy of

Just try and tell me that's not sexy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

still life with bottles and mini-blinds

This is what happens when you go shopping at Whole Foods at 9:30pm with only a vague impression of what you are shopping for.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

two reasons why i love california in the summer

1. Outdoor yoga.

Once a week I end the work day with yoga class, on a shady spot of lawn outside tile-roofed, arcade-lined building with a Spanish name on a peaceful, idyllic campus. Bliss. Then when I come home I feel like dancing. And I usually do. Like an idiot. But you'll have to take my word for it, since there are as of yet no witnesses to this phenomenon.

2. Fresh apricots.

When I was growing up—wait. I'm still doing that. Let's try that again: when I was a kid in Maryland, we always had dried apricots in the pantry. Always. Many a school lunch included a little sandwich bag (or snack bag, once they became available—remember how great they were?) full of dried apricots. Though I never grew to flat-out dislike them, I often tired of them. Every once in a while I wondered why other kids seemed not to come from environments so heavily saturated with dried apricots.

At the time of year when fresh apricots became available in the stores, Mom would always bring some home. But she was never satisfied. They were never as good as her memories of the fresh apricots of her California youth. I never understood what the fuss was about. I mean, I've always loved fresh fruit. Even in the days (and they were many—sorry Mom&Dad) when my I-will-eat-this list contained about fifteen specific items, fruit was always acceptable. But fresh apricots never impressed me. The ones I tried at home in Maryland were for the most part bland, mealy, or worse: both. I didn't see the point, but Mom kept buying them, kept trying and hoping that they would live up to her expectations of the apricot in its most exalted form.

Well. Mom: my apologies. Now I understand.

PS: if in the course of your grocery shopping you happen to see angelcots, get them. They are called Saintly with good reason.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

we can still afford to not make sense at all

Fanfarlo: a British band with a Swedish frontman and a name that may well be Esperanto. Never heard of them? Neither had I.

On Monday, NPR began streaming Fanfarlo's new album, Reservoir, as part of the All Songs Considered "Exclusive First Listen" series.

I listened. I liked it. A lot. So I bought it. For a dollar. And it was totally legal.

The musicians, "in the spirit of 'why not,'" as they put it, are offering a download of their new album for US$1 until July 4th, after which the CD & vinyl will hit stores.

Check out this video of Fanfarlo playing "Finish Line" in an English garden (naturally). For more, hear the whole album over at NPR, and find more audio and video plus the $1 download at the band's website.

Guess which one I have a crush on.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Two of my favorite pastimes from childhood: 

(1) whiling away the hours lost in a book (and, being the world's slowest reader, I can take care of a lot of hours with just one book)
(2) tumbling in the backyard (when I wasn't on the balance beam or sprinting toward the vaulting horse at the gym)

I wish I could still do those things, whenever I wanted.

Yesterday afternoon I spent a few hours in a grassy field, enjoying the sunshine and one of the Murakami novels I had picked up at the library the day before. There may have been a few handstands and cartwheels in there, too. It's hard to say for sure.

I just finished the book. It was my fifth Murakami title in just a couple of months (see note re: world's slowest reader, above). I have two more waiting for me on my bookshelf, and I intend to get my hands on all of his published (and translated—since I don't read Japanese) work before year's end. 

I'm addicted.

I could, if I tried, craft a passable explanation of why Haruki Murakami's narrative is so gripping. I could analyze his techniques of character development, explore the effects of his writing's structural and stylistic characteristics, offer a few examples of his especially inventive imagery, attempt to bring to light the underlying themes that are at once repulsive and magnetic, absurdly particular and painfully universal.

That's what I've been trained to do, after all.

But I won't.

Having an academic background in literary analysis helps me to appreciate more deeply the nuances of good writing, in other words, to wrap my head around the form of what I already sensed with my intuition. But one thing that's really nice about reading books outside of school is that I can just read them and enjoy them without having to explain to anyone else why I like them or, more precisely, how and/or why the author achieves the effect that he does with his writing. Ugh. See what I mean?

My point is: Murakami is a gem of a fiction writer. So far I love his work. You might not. And that's okay. And I won't ask you for a detailed analysis explaining why. But I'd say it's worth a try. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, as recommended to me, is a good one to start with.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

okay, okay

Every once in a while, when the planets are aligned just right... I go to relief society and, in spite of myself, find it a little bit wonderful.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

nevermind that we're nearly the same age

My baby came home on Saturday, April 18, 2009. 

She is 29.5 inches tall and weighs—um, I have no idea, but she's light and speedy! 

[click to enlarge]

Isn't she a beauty?

Monday, May 11, 2009

clearly, i do not really know portuguese

I just like to pretend that I do.

Today it was brought to my attention that in my advertising a talk about a Brazilian film, I have been spelling the film's title in two different languages. It starts out in Portuguese just fine—Tropa de—but abruptly switches to French—Élite


Incidentally, the title of the talk does mention Foucault. So maybe I was just channeling him.

For the record, I don't really know French, either. As with Portuguese, though, that doesn't always stop me from pretending that I do. 

And now that I'm talking about French, I just want to add: isn't Saint-Saëns such a perfect name for a French composer? It just sounds so French (this from the girl who only pretends that she speaks French), and with just a bit of imagination, the Saëns sounds something like song. Plus, he wrote good stuff. So whenever I see or hear the name Saint-Saëns and I proceed to hear in my head that jaunty, guttural French laugh (I don't know how to spell it, but maybe Vanessa does? You know what I mean, right? Think Ha-ha-ha, only rhyming with Saëns), it is a gesture of endearment, mon ami, and not of mocking.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

fellowshipping in the 21st century, or, why i still don't go to relief society

In my inbox this morning:

Okay, okay, so I took a little itsy bit of photoshopetic license. But seriously, a form letter email? Yeah, that really makes me want to go next week.

It's too bad they bcc'd us on this. I'd like to know who the other apostates are so that we could get together for some remedial sunday school.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

maybe pomegranate is passé by now

But this still caught my eye:

Pretty, eh? (Besides the resolution. Sorry. Cameraphone.)

It's really too bad I didn't decide to splurge on a bottle, because when I got to the checkout line the store's computers were down, and though I thought we were just going to wait a few minutes until they were back up, shortly thereafter the clerks started bagging groceries and sending us off, "whole paycheck" intact.

Of course, this happened on the day I got totally boring stuff like onions and potatoes and cheap generic cereal, the only day I didn't have a single excessive item in my basket. Not that I'm complaining. Just observing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

cello + macbook = awesome

You know how I obsess over podcasts?

Right. Well, lately I've become infatuated with Radiolab. I really don't want to kill its magic with an inferior description, so I will only say that it is acoustically self-conscious (in a good way) and always fascinating.

My purpose here is not so much to tout the wonders of Radiolab, though; rather, I mention it because it's where I heard this stunning music by Zoë Keating. She calls it "layered cello." Listen to the show here (sorry, I tried to embed the Flash player, but Blogger wouldn't have it).

And here's a cool video of the artist doing her thing:

Learn more about Zoë Keating and her music at her website.

Friday, April 17, 2009

when negative space is poetic

Sharpie-wielding cartoonist, writer, designer, and poetry revelator Austin Kleon has been on my radar for several months now. His style is to me one of raw vibrance, at times venturing into tidy chaos. His work conveys a sense of immediacy and of calm nonchalance, which together suggest that making art for this artist is as natural and essential as breathing. It reminds me that we are all artists with the capacity to create; sometimes it just takes a bit of extra effort to discover what one's inner artist wants to create, and what language it will use.

Look past the illusion of empty simplicity in Austin Kleon's drawings, and then among what appears to be clutter—but turns out to be mostly pure energy—you'll see that he's included exactly the right number of details. 

Take, for instance, this sketch of Andrew Bird's stage setup at an Austin City Limits taping last month. 

by Austin Kleon (Licensed under Creative Commons. image source)

Black lines on off-white paper. Stage rim. Speakers, amps, microphones. Drumset. Keyboard. Lighting equipment and a twirly-swirly backdrop. Yet amid the typical items, the merely structural and the exuberantly expressive penstrokes, you'll see two important things: the iconic tape-looping double-phonograph turntable (I don't really know what to call that thing but it screams Andrew Bird) and what's that? yes, the sock monkey tour companion. How can you not love that?

As a side project, the Austin-based artist (yes, that's right. kind of like if I lived in Davis) started carving poems from newspaper articles with a black Sharpie marker. His Newspaper Blackout Poems caught the eye of the press (there's something charmingly meta about that) and took off. I won't rattle off the list of media mentions here, but suffice it to say that they're big. Oh, and HarperCollins is publishing a book of them, slated for release early next year. 

You may know that April is National Poetry Month.

What you may not know is that April is also International Newspaper Blackout Poetry Month.

I finally got around to trying my hand at it. I foresee more experimenting (and maybe posting) in the future; for now, here are a couple of the initial results. They don't really make sense, and my Sharpie gave up the ghost halfway through the second blackout, so it ended up as a mixed media piece. Anyway, I hope that they inspire you, in the way that they make you say, 'Hey, I could do better than that.' And then you do.

If you want to see good Newspaper Blackout Poems, check out Austin Kleon's blog. He's posting a poem every day for the entire month of April. 

And don't be afraid to unleash a black marker on a page from your local paper. If you live near a certain private university at the foot of a certain mountain range in a certain western state that on a map appears to be about to chow down on the unsuspecting state immediately to the northeast, please, get a copy of the school paper and go to it. I don't know how you can pass up that potential on the page of Letters to the Editor. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

some really awesome things also have great parody potential...

...and vice versa.

Case in point:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

all-natural watercolors

in progress:



Cruz de Malta yerba mate
Mighty Leaf organic Spring Jasmine green tea
black bean juice (water used for cooking them)

play me a pretty song

Why can't the cafés around here pipe in some decent music?

Yesterday the soundtrack at the CoHo included a horribly out of tune and otherwise incompetent rendition of "More Than Words," a B-grade techno remix of "Forever Young," and other such bowling-alley-bad numbers.

This evening the selection at the University Café was smooth-jazz-tastic. Monotonous and wimpy-saxophonous.

I don't get it. I mean, If I worked at one of these establishments and were therefore forced to stay inside its walls for several hours at a time, I would most certainly be proactive in selecting the music that would fill that space while I shared it. After all, 'whistle while you work' can only go so far. Beyond that you need good music. As do your customers. Who does the DJ-ing at these places?

Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? Or have I just been unlucky lately?

And an open question: what music would you play in your café?

(Suddenly I miss Guru's. Provo flashbacks are always so odd and unexpected.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

and neon magenta

I finally got around to filing my taxes last night. Wait, did I say finally? Hey, it was barely even the 14th when I got that e-submission confirmation. This is cause for celebration.

Ah, the internet. Helping me to get away with procrastination. And to feel good about myself when I beat a deadline by one day.

Speaking of celebration, though, it looks like I'm in line for a hefty refund from the United States Treasury and the State of California.

Suddenly the $600 price tag on this hot little number doesn't look too bad:

Monday, April 6, 2009

a, b, c, teeheehee

Preface: it's two in the morning, I'm pretty much swimming in yerba mate, and for the last three and a half hours my ears have been bombarded by the very noisy noise of powerwashing coming from the multi-level parking garage behind my house. 

Now then, onto this video that I found extremely amusing. James Earl Jones, take it away:

(via swissmiss)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

hey singles, tired of the bar scene?

Have you considered the laundromat as an alternative?

I just had to share today's Engrish posting because it reminded me of lanudary. Brings a whole new meaning to that made-up word (which I still occasionally see in apartment listings, by the way).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

the objective observer

At the Sunstone West conference in Cupertino on Saturday, I felt like a bit of an outsider. 

It was my first time attending a Sunstone event, and unlike any number of the other people there, I am neither a scholar of church history nor a Mormon artist nor a particularly vocal dissident nor a visible participant in the Bloggernacle. While FoxyJ and Th. happily got to meet the people behind some of the big names in the Mormon blogosphere (who were in turn delighted to meet them), I watched from the sidelines.

That's not to say that I felt out of place. I felt comfortable in the company of intelligent and inquisitive people representing a wide range of wavelengths on the spectrum of Mormon-ness. I walked away from the conference with the sense that there is room in the church for heterodoxy in an infinite number of iterations: there is a place for everyone.

While I was a bit disheartened by the fact that many participants are no longer active Mormons (some never were but are just interested in the curiosities of Mormon history & doctrine), I was however put at ease by the fact that I witnessed no hostility. As far as I could tell, everyone there was very respectful, there for no malicious purpose but rather for personal enrichment and to exchange ideas and connect with other people (which, if you've been here before, you'll know is a pet theme of mine): unique individuals with beautiful minds, sharing and comparing the elements mined from our common ground. And then I was all the more encouraged to find active Mormons who have not only successfully reconciled their membership in the church with unconventional views and interests in other traditions, but have managed to integrate them in sort of spectacular ways.

When I briefed my mom on the conference, she said she imagined that talks by non-Mormons would probably be more interesting because the presenters ought to be disinterested personally. I think what she meant is that their views would likely be more objective than those of people formally affiliated with the church, which may or may not be true. I'm inclined to say that a purely objective point of view does not exist. Anyway, I've found that the more obviously "subjective" presentations are indeed more interesting precisely because they have personal implications. Theory and history and math and science are necessary, but as far as I'm/we're concerned, they are missing something until they are applied and understood in the context of the human condition.

Highlights from the day include a panel on personal spiritual journeys (away from, back to, parallel to, and interweaving with Mormonism), Th.'s "Saturday's Werewolf" paper (which I thoroughly enjoyed even though I've neither read the Twilight books nor watched Saturday's Warrior), House of Falafel falafel, a series of NPR-inspired "This I Believe" segments, and the excellent documentary film The Constant Process (read here the article that appeared in February on the front page of the LA Times).

In Saturday morning's discussion of neuroplasticity and quantum dynamics (with the intention being to explain how people can change their behavior), the presenters cited the observer effect as it relates to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Don't ask me to explain it (at least not at 4 a.m.), but their point was that the observer's desire can determine the outcome of the experiment—he will find what he wants to observe. I think it's not really as simple and mystifying as they made it sound, and in that sense I don't really buy it (i.e., it may have more to do with measurement technique than anything else, and I'm not a quantum physicist so I don't really get it). But still, it raises the question: is it possible to remove that desire for a particular outcome, becoming a truly objective observer? When I go to church with a bad attitude (though not so bad that it kept me at home altogether), does that become self-fulfilling prophecy, my experience confirming my doubts and sending me off after sacrament meeting because I "wasn't really feeling it" (from the moment I arrived, or even before)? Can I ever be entirely stripped of self-interest in my interactions with the world and the people around me? 

Yesterday I rode my bike to church and sat alone in the corner. Some days I might be more willing to break out of my shell and participate more actively, but yesterday was one of those when I wanted only to watch and listen, to observe unobserved. Also, to render a sketch inspired by a scene from the previous night/morning's dreams.

On my way home, my skirt got caught in the spokes of my back wheel. My white skirt. Lessons learned: (1) flowy fabrics and spinning wheels should be mingled with great care, (2) stain remover is my friend, (3) bike shorts may be a smart addition to my wardrobe, and (4) had I actually crashed, I'd be grateful to find several friendly Palo Altans out for a two-wheeled spin on a sunny-Sunday afternoon who, far from being cold objective observers, would, I believe, be happy to help me up, ask me if I were okay, call a medic, and/or laugh with me at my humiliating stupidity, as appropriate. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

spotted at whole foods last night

Sometimes, when I am at the grocery store at night, I see things that amuse me enough that I must record them.

Remember the Coca Puffs in Utah? Well, here in California I've found a milk substitute called Hemp Dream. Pour those two into a bowl, and that's part of your complete breakfast trip. 

I know, hemp itself isn't a drug. 
Neither is coca. 
I'm just having fun. As were, apparently, the Hemp Dream package designers:

Subtle, yet effective.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

probably made of toothpaste

It has come to my attention that the ghost in my bathroom sink was not so readily apparent to others as it was to me. 

O ye of little faith.

This should help.

Friday, March 20, 2009

ghost in the bathroom sink

Okay, so he's not technically in the sink, just hanging out on the faucet handle.

At any rate, please say hello to my new friend. Just discovered him this evening:

What shall I name him?

Friday, March 13, 2009


Fruits of my first night in Toronto (thanks to Claire for naming them).

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Last Sunday I walked three and a half miles in the rain.

Somewhat drowsy from skipped breakfast and a week of late nights, I experienced my surroundings as in a dream:
cheerful yellow daffodils alongside a shadowy asphalt river

pumpkin-orange doors centered on a silver-gray façade

blushing petals discarded in circular patches on delicious green rain-soaked lawns 

all shining dully in this translucent blue-gray light sailing on cool gusts of freshly washed air
and everything was so achingly beautiful.

And it occurred to me that I am in a stage in my life that is largely dominated by aesthetics.

(No doubt you'll have noticed, if you have been following my recent musings here.)

And I don't think that's a terrible thing.

The aesthetic quality of any entity is an essential part of its being. I'm not saying that everything should be judged solely in terms of aesthetics; indeed, this would be limiting almost to the point of ridiculousness. Ignoring aesthetics entirely, on the other hand, would be just as tragically laughable.

Within biological systems, aesthetics play a key role in perpetuating any given species. Aesthetic beauty holds amazing potential to inspire the beholder, and artistic creation—which exists not without the aesthetic—can easily mimic the divine. Aesthetics are not everything, to be sure, but certainly they merit our consideration. 

At the moment I have nothing more profound to say on the matter, except that we ought not overlook that which is here to be looked at.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I just want to take a moment to share with you a few of the songs that are making my world go 'round these days. No commentary today, just the goods. Enjoy.

Son Lux: "Throw"

The American Dollar: "Anything You Synthesize

Saturday, February 28, 2009

28: vine

I spent the afternoon in Napa.

Yes, a day in wine country. And I don't drink. 

I inhaled the volatile esters of some nice fruity cabernets and for once in my life the smell of alcohol didn't make me physically ill. As my friend tasted and compared the 2003, 2002, and 1999 vintages, I read the lovely, sometimes fanciful descriptions of the different varieties, one of which was purportedly "opulently structured." 

We got to see the Quixote winery, the whimsical Hundertwasser's last design. (I mentioned the Austrian architect once before.)

The landscape in Napa county is stunning: all that greenery and the rows of old-growth vines rolling by, the occasional babbling brook, and dramatic open skies. Plus, wildflower season is coming on, so a rainbow of poppies and my favorite yellow daffodils were popping up along the roadside. And the air is so clean and refreshing. The word idyllic comes to mind. So does fantasyland.

As my friend made his purchases, I checked out the labels for design inspiration. Eponymous is nice, as is Blackbird. And there was another one that I made a mental note of, but I've forgotten it already. This is why I usually write things down.

As we drove back toward the city, the odd little world of monoculture and almost surreal natural and societal environment melted away behind us. And yet I know that somehow it still exists. As do a lot of other microcosms that I have little to no contact with in daily life. In some ways, it's not really that small of a world, after all.

(all photos mine, of quixote winery)

Friday, February 27, 2009

27: climb

As a child, a favorite pastime of mine was jumping off stairs.

On a recent urban mountain-climbing jaunt on Potrero Hill, I found my camera drawn to the stairs leading to other people's houses. I always liked the shapes in staircases: something about that orderly repetitive jaggedness is so pleasing to the eye. The replicated pattern leans and stretches toward infinity.

And now I am thinking: why must we always be going up? We as a people are obsessed with building the tallest structures and scaling the highest mountains. Maybe it is a part of our collective unconscious to associate high places with the heavens, and thus we are drawn to them because something tells us we will be closer to God there. I think it is no coincidence that we equate belief in God or some other-named great spirit with belief in a higher power, where higher may refer both to intangible creative and moral stature as well as to relative physical situation.

On the other hand, our reachings skyward are not always so noble or spiritual. We are obsessed with rising above mediocrity and above the past. We climb the corporate ladder and scale the ranks of academic and government positions. Most commonly, and worst of all, we are obsessed with rising above one another. Where do we think we are going? And why do we insist on doing it alone? What do we expect to gain by getting there before anyone else?

Let us continue to build stairs, but let them be wide enough that more than one person can climb them at a time. And then we'll explore the heights together.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

26: but not lonely

I love living alone.

Among other things, it means I can play weird music in the morning and dance around the room half-dressed, falling all over myself because I was up most of the night writing or playing online scrabble or baking cookies or watching nerdy documentaries. 

Nobody is here to laugh at me, except me (and I do).
Nobody is here to get annoyed by me, except me (and sometimes I do).

This is the first time I've lived entirely on my own, and it's fantastic. First there are the simple, somewhat selfish joys of being able to do what I want when I want, having to see and deal with only my own messes, and just having the space to myself without having to share it with anyone (except when I want to).

This literal space, as Virginia knows, is great for creativity. Then it gives way to figurative space as well. I could not be in a better place right now: I am exploring this space and finding myself in it, uncovering new interests, discovering what is really important to me, trying to figure out who I am and who I am becoming.

This all may seem very self-centered, and indeed in a certain way it is. But I believe and insist that, even as—and because—I am "coming into my own," so to speak, I am also learning to connect with other people as I never have before. And that, my friends, is worth the monthly rent check. (Also, the hardwood floors are a nice touch.)

(note: the photo here is one that I took, of a house that I like, which is not my own)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

25: foot where

When I don't sleep, the toes on my right foot cramp up.

On the street where I live, there are some messages that were scribbled into the concrete sidewalk before it set, I suppose.

This message reads: 

And that's what I did.

On Saturday I went to Target to get a pair of black flats to wear to my concert Saturday night. Being in the percussion section for this show, I didn't want to be on my feet and in heels the whole time.

Target is my favorite place for shoes as of late. Cute + comfy + inexpensive. Repeat.

Also, I have a great pear of blue-tipped brown ballet flats that I got on clearance at Old Navy for $7. Fabulous.

My favorite shoes are, and perhaps always have been, moccasins. I like to be able to feel the earth under my feet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

24: vanishing still

I am ever the linguistic analyst.

Today's case in point is, well, a matter of two points. Namely: vanishing and focal.

(Note: this post is an extension of yesterday's discussion of vanishing points.)

A vanishing point is the element in an image that creates the impression of infinity. It is the point at which our eyes cease to process an object's presence and our brains fill in the blank with its going on forever. When we look at a vanishing point, we are really looking through it, beyond it.

A focal point, on the other hand, is a spot fixed on something visible. It is inherently tied to the finite. I'm thinking along the lines of a still life rather than a grand detailed architectural drawing.

Vanishing point vs. focal point: it was in church a few Sundays ago that I scribbled the two terms in my notebook. I don't remember whether they were directly related to the specific topic being discussed at the time. Odds are they weren't, but rather through a series of successive associations and tangents, they occurred to me as relevant and worthy of jotting down for the sake of future recall.

The dichotomy is, however, applicable to a gospel topic. Likely it could be applied to a number of gospel topics, but one in particular comes to mind, as I recall a recent conversation with a friend. We were discussing the different approaches to the Atonement that are generally found in our respective churches. In the church she grew up in, the focus was usually on the crucifixion; in the church I belong to, the angle is often toward the resurrection. Both are real and essential parts of the same doctrine; it is only that slight shift in viewpoint that makes for subtleties of meaning.

Consider the following paintings of identical subject matter, with entirely different approaches:

First, Francisco de Zurbarán's Saint Luke as a Painter, Before Christ on the Cross (1630-39):

[click to enlarge]

The crucifixion corresponds to the end of Christ's mortal life. It is a finite event with a clear aspect of completion and a single, inevitable result. When we contemplate the crucifixion, we know what we are looking at. There is one focal point, and it is the culmination of the mortal life of the One who embodied the exemplary blend of humanity and divinity. There is no doubt as to where Saint Luke as a painter (widely believed to represent Zurbarán himself) is directing his focus in this image.

Compare Salvador Dalí's Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) (1954):

[click to enlarge]

Dalí's depiction of the cross is unconventional, to say the least. For our purposes here, what is important is its three-dimensionality and, more specifically, the use of vanishing points to represent the shape in proper perspective. The form is clearly defined; the cross itself does not appear infinite; but still, its edges extending toward vanishing points give it a sense of motion, of continual movement through infinite space and time. This is not a terminal event being commemorated here; it is just one moment in eternity or, in other words, the beginning and the end (the Alpha and Omega): the beginning of immortality born of the end of mortality. The cross's position in mid-air—floating, as it were—almost certainly alludes to the resurrection—the rising from death. Already He is detached from the cross, rising from the crucifixion, because that wasn't really the end. Unlike in the Zurbarán painting above, it is unclear where the observer here is directing her gaze. This is not a completion-based, focal-point-centered image. Death is consumed in the vanishing point and from there new life expands and extends forever, not just for one but for all, everywhere in space and in time.

Monday, February 23, 2009

23: vanishing interminably

Remember way back when all the paintings were flat?

Then one day people started drawing with perspective. Yeah, I know, like the artists who came before never brought their own perspective to their work. But that's what we call it, you know? This technique of arranging the lines on the page or the canvas in such a way that they mimic more closely what our eyes perceive in a three-dimensional world, rather than replicating mere snapshots of the two-dimensional surfaces that define the three-dimensional spaces. The new technique of using perspective in making images added depth to a pictorial world that had been largely limited to length and width.

If this concept of perspective drawing is sounding familiar to you, odds are your brain is connecting it with the related term, vanishing point. You know, the point on the horizon where all the lines meet—all the lines that in two dimensions appear parallel but, viewed in a three-dimensional perspective, appear to converge at some point in the distance.

A vanishing point is called such, I suppose, because it is the locus where all the lines leading to it seem to disappear. From a theoretical standpoint, it is not too difficult to understand that, from a point where all lines ultimately converge, no single one of them can continue along the path it had previously set out for itself. There is nowhere for it to go but forever into that same point, along with all the other lines.

The thing about the vanishing point is that it is not really the point where things vanish. Rather, it is a spot where, when we look at it, we can tell that things are vanishing, that -ing suffix locking the verb in the present progressive tense, which means that everything in this scene is in a continual and interminable state of vanishing, always vanishing and therefore never finally vanished. The logical conclusion, then, and indeed the typical effect on the viewer as well, is that the vanishing point betrays the sense that all the elements of the scene in question in fact go on forever.

The bridge vanishes, but only from our imperfect sight. We strain our eyes to follow the lines as they extend infinitely, but try as we might, we cannot really comprehend eternity. We can't really see it. Not yet, anyway; not here, not in this now.

(photo credit: Jim Frazier)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

22: or until golden

There's nothing quite like baking in the middle of the night.

This batch of cookies is the first thing I've baked since I came to California. Yes, that's right. It's been nearly seven months. I'm not quite sure why it took me so long. Maybe I just needed a worthy cause. You know, besides, 'I want cookies and therefore I am going to bake three dozen and eat them all by myself.' Doesn't make a lot of sense.

It was Claire's idea. And she always has good ideas. (And it just so happens that today he admitted to having a serious sweet tooth.)

So I consulted my new copy of How to Cook Everything, selected my recipes, and went out to gather the ingredients, including all the essential "baking needs" (I always found that designation on grocery store aisles sort of amusing. I'm weird). I didn't have any flour. I didn't even have sugar. Not to mention cookie sheets.

It wasn't until sometime after midnight that I got around to the chemistry experiment (yeah, yeah, I'm lying about the time again). I apparently have no proper measuring spoons, so I totally guessed on the baking powder. Also, I completely forgot the vanilla. Luckily, the cookie sheets fit in my somewhat diminutive oven, and the finished product turned out quite nice, I think.

Chocolate Chip 
Oatmeal Cookies

There's something about baking sweet treats in the middle of the night, making messes in the kitchen while everyone is asleep, that's... I don't know, really. Like it just fits, somehow, even though it may seem unusual. The act of mixing the dough and then arranging bits of it in neat rows on a cookie sheet, it nestles into the dark, quiet hours between midnight and dawn, as a drowsy cat on a sunny windowsill. Like it belongs there, like this is the time baking should be done.

I must say it's more fun with a partner in crime. I'm thinking of the epic Larson cinnamon rolls, countless pans of late-night brownies and lemon bars, and industrial-sized batches of rice-krispie-oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies that I used to bake with Claire (of course, who else?) It's not so bad going it alone, though.