Friday, March 30, 2012

Top Ten

California Home and Design Magazine (full disclosure: said magazine is owned by the same very nice man who owns the book publisher I work for) has just released a list of the "Top 10 California Artists You Need to Know in 2012." There's a lot of great stuff here, including the work of my pal and forthcoming author Will Rogan (perhaps best known as co-producer of The Thing Quarterly), who is pictured above and whose work is directly below. My other favorites on the list include Matt Lipps, Carter Mull, Nikki Pressley, and Sarah Cain:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Next Installment in the Ever-Continuing Poem Series About the Autumn of 2005

November 15, 2005
When I walked out of the house

into the street
there was the black smell of burned toast
and then
on the stretch of sidewalk
outside the back of Le Colonial restaurant
the white smell of bleach

image source is here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In Development

The thing I wanted to talk about today is, I am now realizing, almost impossible to represent in visuals. That thing is the sheer joy and pleasure I derive from the part of my job that consists of developing ideas. Whether its talking through a classic book proposal with an author, artist, or agent; coming up with and then perusing leads for the people and entities we want to be working with; or even entirely building a project from the ground up, I just love being in the midst of making and thinking about one, or a dozen, new book ideas. A couple of tools I use in this process are an "in development" bin for physical materials (just recently transmogrified from an unruly tottering stack to a tidy(ish) labeled bin as part of the glorious desk cleaning effort I documented yesterday), a Word document list for keeping track of all the ideas I'm working on, and an Excel sheet for looking at what's already signed up so as not to cannibalize/conflict/compete with my own other projects.

I must admit that people's work systems facinate me. If you'd like to send me a photo of your own work tools, leave a comment with an email address where I can write and bug you for it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Cleaning Day!

Last week we had our annual office Spring Cleaning Day. My cube-mate and I joke that this is our favorite day of the year. But seriously, is there anything more satisfying than getting things clean and organized? Above is the only "before" picture I managed to take in the midst of my cleaning frenzy. It reveals my essential desk organization conundrum: I am basically a neat person, which means all the crap on my desk is very neatly organized into piles and bins such as the above--but the dirty little secret? I had no idea what was in the piles. There was no rhyme or reason to any of it. I had five different wire in-trays, all full of orderly stacks of only god knows what--old proposals, reference materials, art ephemera. Three of them were sitting on the actual work surface of my desk. The three stacks of stuff I actually regularly use, meanwhile, were relegated to tottering piles in a corner. But, no more!

I now have five wire bins ranged on the ledge beside my desk (I read somewhere--ok, I admit I know where: in Oprah Magazine--that the surface of your desk should be for actually working on, not storing things on. This struck me as a profound truth). They are labeled with my five main categories of stuff. And stuff must now either go in the appropriate bin, or into a file. There is no "miscellaneous" bin, no "I don't know what to do with this" pile. 

The bins sit under my bookshelf. I mentioned not long ago a separate little project I undertook to clear out my bookshelf, so all I had to do there, this time around, was neatly front all the book spines (thank you, years of retail experience) and, voila! Gorgeous bookshelf!

The next thing I tackled was my file drawers--I am lucky to have a lot of drawer space at my desk, but every single drawer was full to bursting. I could hardly file a single new sheet of paper because I had every file of mine going back to my first days in editorial, way back in, ahem, 2004. So I purged and purged--sending boxes of important files to off-site storage, and filling my recycling bucket three times over. The result? Nearly miraculous:

Profoundly encouraged (file drawers with space in them! amazing!) I organized my little desk drawers as well:

I even tackled the Drawer of Shame: a big cabinet full of a monstrous tangle of old notebooks, extra shoes and clothes, tote bags, wrong-size file folders, and probably a baby alligator or two. Man, I really should have taken a "before" picture of that drawer. But the Shame was too great, and the zest for organizing it to precipitous. Anyhow, here's the after:

Last, but most definitely not least, after clearing out even more files, I managed to give myself something I've always always wanted: an art storage drawer.What to do with things that are over-sized, oddly-shaped, fragile, delicate, or just plain precious has always been a mystery to me, until now:

As you can no doubt deduce from my overly enthusiastic prose, I love this sort of stuff beyond reason. Walking into the office the next day, to see everything neat and clean and orderly, to commence my work in an atmosphere of ultimate tidiness was just the most satisfying and, dare I say it, inspiring thing. Hooray for clean!

Monday, March 26, 2012


Here is Mabel enjoying the double slide at the playground with one of her best baby pals. Granted, she has only met the child in question a couple of times. But since these two babies' mothers are bicoastal bff's, we feel confident the girls will come to love one another in time. Indeed, when this baby's mother and I graduated from high school, my outrageously generous godparents sent us on a trip to Hawaii--all on our own! It was basically the best thing ever. And we have determined that, when that momentous milestone rolls around for our own daughters, we will send them off to Hawaii together as well. Perhaps they will be great friends and pen pals (or, rather, futuristic robotic video phone pals) by then, or perhaps they will be more like "Mom, why are you sending me across the ocean with this random girl?" But either which way we are sure they will have a grand time in the end.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

3 Fish Studios

Last week I had the fun treat of visiting 3 Fish Studios. Housed in a gorgeous top-floor light-filled space in the Dogpatch neighborhood, this is the creative home of the lovely husband and wife art team Annie Galvin and Eric Rewitzer. Annie's work fist came to my attention some time back because of her "49 Mile Scenic Drive" paintings, and also her delightful paintings of bears. Recently she's been doing a new bear motif in the "I Love You California" series, and also revisited the scenic seagull with her "This Town" images. I had not previously been aquainted with Eric's work, and was delighted to discover his rad linocut prints of Dogpatch, mid-century chairs, vintage video game controllers, taco trucks and so much more. The studio keeps an open door policy, as well as teaching classes, and I surely do recommend popping by to chat with these nice folks. They'll show you around and will also make you some really good coffee.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Poetry Thursday: The Next In the Ongoing Cycle of Poems About the Fall of 2005

November 14, 2005
Somehow Friday night we decided to walk to a gathering across town

It was a very long walk
and took more than an hour
It was very good just to walk along talking in the dark
Looking at the buildings
after dark you notice the shapes and the textures
rather than color of the paint

Saturday morning was my favorite thing the farmer’s market
We got there extra early and lingered long enough
to have not only our usual breakfast pastry and coffee
but a midmorning snack of macarons and hot chocolate
which was as nearly as we could tell just pure melted chocolate
and reminded us of a snack we once had in Paris

Between those two instances of sitting on the big wooden logs and eating food
we made our rounds of the market with crackly crisp feel in the air
buying creamy paneer and fig bread
artichokes, lettuce, apples
forget-me-nots that are now in the blue jug in the hall
red delphiniums and yellow freesias for the brown jar on the dining table

Sunday we went out to breakfast as Café de la Presse
more thoughts of Paris brought on by the zinc bar there
We sat at a tiny marble table under a potted palm
read the newspaper
and watched the world bustle
drinking coffee with two hands wrapped around our big white bowls

That afternoon I went to El Cerrito to plant bulbs
in new wide shallow terra cotta pots
I loved the way they looked just filled up with new black dirt
and sitting in a row
there’s something very pleasing about potting soil
The wet blackness of it and the deep earthy smell

image source is here

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


It occurs to me that I may never actually have mentioned here the simple fact that, concurrent to all the various doings recorded in the Cabinet, I am of course always and perpetually reading. It kind of feels like it goes without saying really. I don't mention that I breathe in and out, either, but you can safely assume that I do. Granted, I don't read quite as much as I did in my pre-motherhood years, but, still, it forms some part of each day. And the vast majority of what I read, what takes up the lion's share of my bookshelves, is fiction. So it is a mildly notable fact, for me, that for the first time in I have no idea how long, I have just finished one nonfiction book and started another. Two back-to-back non-novels? Practically unheard of.

The first was James Thurber's fine old mid-(last)-century volume The Years with Ross--his memoir of his long working friendship with Harold Ross, original Editor in Chief of the New Yorker. Thurber is, in general, fantastic and this book is no exception--not only is it a fine and entertaining evocation of a certain era and milieu in New York City, but it is one of the relatively few great reading books out there about the art and craft of editing (Stet by Diana Athill is another).

The second book I picked up, theoretically, for work (wanting to see if Gretchen Rubin would be a good person to ask to write a foreword to a book I'm working on). On the surface of it The Happiness Project didn't seem like quite my sort of thing. A little too self-help-y for my taste, I'd have thought. But I'd have been wrong. From the first page Rubin's forthright voice and charming openness has had me hooked. I'm not very far into the book yet, but it is already making me quite happy (and that seems like an especially good sign given its subject matter).

I wanted nice images, not just cover thumbnails, for this post, but I did not get it together to shoot the books myself. So I am grateful for the fact that Phinney and Fable Vintage Books and Your Magazine of Emerson College each did, respectively.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What It Is

The above image, from a vintage Lego ad, strikes me for two reasons. For one thing, this type of adorable androgynous-dressing child  has always been one of the absolute favorite things of my mother. Her 70s era feminism meant that, even though she herself loves girly things like dolls and tea sets and Beatrix Potter, I was also encouraged to play with Legos, Matchbox cars, and a baseball mitt. For this I will always be grateful. Thanks, Mama! Show her a kid even littler than the girl above--a toddler walking around with short hair in jeans and a red tee-shirt where you can't tell if the kid is a girl or a boy, and she is over the moon.

The second reason the above ad made me stop in my tracks is that the little girl in it bears a strong and striking resemblance to one of my best friends in grade school--not just her features, though that alone is uncanny, but that sparkle of cleverness and mischievousness in her eye, the clear indications of creativity and rambunctiousness. Although my friend was not a redhead, and I know (thanks, Facebook!) what she grew up to look like as a woman, I like to imagine that the girl in the photo grew up to be this lady:

The Lego image was sourced from Swiss Miss and the above illustration is by Samantha Groenestyn, from her very fine blog The Duchess, which I recently discovered thanks to Ms. Jen Bekman (with thanks, too, to Maria Popova for her cogent thinking and timely reminders about crediting curation as well as content).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reading With Daddy

I've mentioned before (here and here) how 2012 is turning out to be the year our daughter became an officially designated book freak. As a friend of mine commented when I told her over the weekend how pretty much obsessed Mabel is with her picture books, how she could basically keep bringing them to you and sitting and listening to you while you read them to her all day long: it's no great surprise. She's growing up in an apartment jam-packed with books and bookshelves, being raised by a school teacher and a book editor. I mean, what do you expect? Still, it's gratifying to see. I remember thinking before she was born that I could and would easily love her no matter who or what she turned out to be--that the only things which would be the tiniest bit hard to swallow would be if she were not a reader, or if she were a Republican. So, well, that's one down.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Missed Connections

Gosh, what with one thing and another I haven't done one of these Friday art book reviews in a long time. But now I am! And today's art book is Missed Connections by the delightful Sophie Blackall. (Full disclosure: Ms. Blackall is also the illustrator of the beloved Ivy and Bean series of chapter books for children, which is published by the same fine publisher that employees me, but I do not know her personally).

So, long story short--I love this book and I really love the illustration style. So charming and delightful. She somehow manages to make the whole "missed connections" personal ad thing seem dreamy and romantic and bittersweet rather than just sad and pathetic (which is how we mostly all viewed it before she came along, wasn't it?).

Not to quibble, but the only thing I do not love about this book is the cover. I can see why all those great and important things--the title, the author's well-known name, the subtitle which makes sure you get what the book is about, the great blurb from one of the best selling memoirists of the century--need to be prominently typeset. But, in my view, the most wonderful thing of all about this book is the art. And a cover hierarchy that relegates Blackall's art to the bottom half of the page just seems like a missed opportunity to me. I wish they'd splashed a lot more, bigger, dreamier art all over that cover.

All that said, I still do totally love this book. And here's why:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ongoing Poem Series About the Autumn of 2005 Continues Thusly:

November 11, 2005
As the third week of the month approaches

and I see more and more pictures
of charming placid fat domestic turkeys
I realize I never mentioned the wild turkeys we saw in Freestone
There were four of them
And we saw them twice
walking down the road in a line
Once by the main road as we were driving back from the bakery
and once on the dirt road behind the house as we sat reading on the deck
And the thing was
they were scary
They were big and looked mean and they also looked somehow
They made you think of that thing about birds being related to dinosaurs
They looked like dinosaurs
with their scaly red and gray heads and necks and legs
the way they walked with double-jointed reptilian steps
We were fascinated and glad
we didn’t have to get any closer

So yesterday walking home in the near-dark on Post Street I noticed
a lady smoking a cigarette (rarer and rarer these days)
the fact that the hot dog cart was still open for business
with a little generator running some lights
a black scarf with a black flower in the window of the Levi’s store
a stack of cake pans in the Williams Sonoma window

and then my eyes must have turned inward
I was thinking maybe about a movie
Yeah I was
I was thinking about Uma Thurman’s hairstyle
with all the little red bows up the back of her head
in the stupid movie we watched the other night
and I must have been picturing it in my mind’s eye
as my real eyeballs apparently stopped working entirely
Next thing I knew I was way up past Tiffany’s and suddenly saw
Union Square getting ready for Christmas
The big dark tree being put up with the cranes around it
the enormous wreath on the front of Macy’s half lit
all those green neon wreaths
in the windows of the building that used to be Magnin’s
(but a few were burned out)
All the same stuff that’s there every year
but new
because now
New because this year is not any other year

And the nice soft sleepy early morning light is back now
It didn’t take long
The last few weeks since daylight-savings time turned off
it’s been a bit jarring how late and bright and light the mornings looked
but the days get shorter fast
and the clouds this morning had a pale pink sunrise sheen about them
And the sky was back to being that softer paler fuzzy early morning blue

image source is here

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Anthropology Expedition to Anthropologie

I'm always delighted to shop for clothes, I must admit, at that mecca of femmy abundance, Anthropologie. But the other day I was there for a somewhat different purpose. A few coworkers and I stopped by to take a look at their book selection.

The first thing we noticed upon arriving was that this moment's iteration of their always-creative window displays featured an artistic painting theme. Indeed, there was a little message on one of the windows that said "Inspired by Abstract Expressionism." I love it when ideas from the world of art pop up everywhere, I really do.

So, on to the books! Of course there were many (many!), but here is just a little sampling of what interested me most from a personal and professional point of view. Above, The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman, with illustrations by the delightful Virgina Johnson.

Creative Walls: How to Display and Enjoy Your Treasured Collections by Geraldine James.

Chiharu Shiota by Mami Kataoka, James Putman, and Chiharu Shiota.

Performing/Guzzling by Kim Gordon.

The latest issue of the 3191 Quarterly brought out by Maria Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes.

Cy Twombly: Fifty Years of Works on Paper by Julie Sylvester and Cy Twombly.

William Wordsworth selected by Seamus Heaney, and Unpacking my Library: Writers and Their Books by Leah Price.

And I totally fell for these schoolbag style leather journals (unlined! my favorite) in kelly green and chartreuse.