Friday, November 30, 2012

Saturday Night Fever

There are certain movies (the Kurosawa film Ran for instance, or pretty much anything by Sofia Coppola) where as I'm watching them I can't help but see them, not only as moving pictures, but also in my mind as stills. That is to say many, if not most, of the frames will strike me as potentially beautiful still photographs--compositions that could well stand some scrutiny beyond the fraction of a second we give them. So we watched Saturday Night Fever the other night, which surprisingly I'd never seen--and while I don't necessarily have that feeling about the whole movie, I for sure do have it about the legendary opening credits. (Though I do think you could also make a compelling argument for them as a pretty kick ass music video--indeed, no doubt someone already has). As always it's shockingly difficult to find decent film stills on the interwebs, but here's what I could gather. Notably absent are any of the fantastic close-ups of the paint can, which is a pity.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Ongoing Poem Series About the Winter of 2006 Carries On in the Following Manner

January 5, 2006
Sometimes it just takes someone else pointing it out

Last night we settled down in the living room
with the intention of a couple of hours quiet work before supper

Bill was on the couch writing lesson plans on the laptop
and I was at the dining table crafting paper lanterns for my party

gluing alternating lozenges of pink and black tissue paper
onto white paper lanterns from Chinatown
to make things that look sort of like beach balls
which was satisfying

But almost right away Bill started having computer issues
and after a bit of futzing around we deduced that the power cord
had just shorted out completely and was no longer functioning at all
and the battery was not charged

All of which caused a certain amount of angst
as he’d not only planned to do work
but we’d also been excited to watch a movie later on

But then we had the idea of just marching down
right then and there to the computer store to buy a new cord
Ah ha

We decided that Bill would go and I would stay and defrost some soup

And as he was heading out the door I offered him my ipod
which he was interested to take as he has never used an ipod before

So out he went
and I sat cutting and gluing and defrosting
and eventually after a certain amount of travail
he came home with the necessary cord

as well as an obvious but fascinating observation
about the little white earphones
namely that they make the music play

right inside your head

And he’s entirely right
If I’d thought about it at all
which I hadn’t
I’d have assumed you heard it inside your ears
where you hear most things
But I paid especial attention this morning
and it really is like Bob Dylan is singing away
somewhere up behind your left eyeball
just a bit above the spot inside your skull
where I hear my own voice in my head
when I’m thinking in words
Me and Bob hanging out inside my brainpan

image source is here

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Holiday Gift Guide Of Sorts

Here are the top three art books on my xmas wish list this year (that is to say, books I did not edit, and that the fine publisher I work for did not publish, that I personally think would be neat to receive as gifts). If you have art book lovers on your own gifting list, I'd be willing to hazard a guess that any one of these fine volumes would make a great present for that person.

Above Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective by Jennifer Blessing and Sandra Phillips.

Barry McGee by Alex Baker and Barry McGee.

Tantra Song: Tantric Painting from Rajasthan by André Padoux and Franck André Jamme.

You can look forward to a more shamelessly self-promotional gift guide sometime in December.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Idylic Landscape of Childhood

Strange as it sounds, I kind of grew up on the UC Berkley campus. When I was little my dad was a student there and my family pretty much used the sprawling wooded Cal campus as our own personal playground. We had picnics there, we rolled down grassy hillsides, and played a game called Ralph the Dog which involved my chasing my father with a stick (in retrospect I can't believe I got away with that last one, though, come to think of it, watching this same man indulge the every whim of his granddaughter, maybe I can after all). 

And then when I was a teenager in our suburban town a few miles north, the very coolest thing my friends and I could do was to walk to the Bart station, take the train to the downtown Berkeley stop, and wander up through the campus to Telegraph Avenue with its cafes and record stores and pizza places.

All of which meant that, the other day when I went to visit the Berkley Art Museum, I naturally walked there from Bart up through the campus, tracking a route that my feet and my subconscious mind knew perfectly well, though I realized I probably hadn't laid eyes on, or even thought about, the place in over a decade.

And it turned out that around every bend in the path there was some delightful and beautiful surprise. Something I remembered on the deepest possible level. And perhaps most special of all, every single memory was warm and glowing and good. 

And I realized that, oddly enough, this university campus is my secret happy place. A landscape I have loads and loads of memories of, and every single one of them is happy. I mean, come on, really, how many places can any of us say that about? Not too many.

I was a smart kid and I recall a certain amount of pressure being brought to bear upon me by my high school teachers to try and get into Cal. At the time I didn't want to for my own murky teenage reasons. And now I find I'm so glad that I didn't. For surely in four years of college sooner or later I'd have been miserable on that campus, as all college students inevitably are at some point, and the elysium of my childhood would have been dispelled forever. Whereas instead it still forever and always remains glowing away in the autumn sunlight just across the bay.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Playing Tourist at China Gate

We thought it would be amusing to take the classic tourist photo with the lion at China Gate (which happens to be in our neighborhood), and Mabel thought it would be amusing to pretend to be terrified of the lion. Even in this less-than-crisp photo there's something about the angle of her head and the gesture of that left hand that telegraphs pretend fear rather than real fear, at least to me her mother. These days when ever walk by the lions she pauses to climb up to each one and give it a pat. Just to make sure they know this was all in good fun, I imagine.

Friday, November 16, 2012

On True Love

I was talking the other day with a coworker about the artists you first discover, and fall in love with, on your own when you're a young person. How some (Klimt, perhaps, or Rossetti) are tastes you later grow out of. But how a few persist and eventually you realize that these are lifelong love affairs. For me these are all Midcentury abstract painters. I've mentioned here before how much I dig classic Abstract Expressionism. And, credit where credit is due--the first artist whose work I independently discovered and fell for, all on my own, was Wassily Kandinsky. I remember pouring over an old art book of his paintings that I got somewhere for hours on end when I was in junior high.

Another such enduring artist schwarm of mine is with Mark Rothko--likely started by what remains to this day one of my all-time favorite paintings, No. 14, 1960, a piece in the permanent collection of the SFMOMA that, when you stand it front of it, positively glows (interesting fact I discovered while pulling up images for this post: this Rothko is by far the museum's most photographed work of art, something they demonstrate to very pleasing effect here).

And then there's Josef Albers, another dude whose work has been making a happy home in my consciousness for nearly as long as I've been aware there was such a thing as art or artists or paintings or painters, and which I still crush on to this very day. (Full, slightly embarrassing, disclosure--from the ages of about three to about thirteen I consistently and passionately answered the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up with the answer "an artist." This to me meant driving around the country in a motorhome painting pictures on an easel. Oh, and I would also have my horse with me. Naturally.)

Next in the Ever Ongoing Poem Series About the Winter of 2006

January 4, 2006
Today there was a woman

with an interesting sort of a carpetbag purse
walking right in front of me for a while

Like a classic
marry poppins
tapestry handbag
but squashed flat vertically

Bright fuzzy floral print of green
black and white

image source is here

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why I Work In Publishing

This radiantly forthright image by designer Jason Bacher pretty much says it all. I do what I do because I love books, and I love art, and corny as it sounds I even love the fine publisher for which I work. Even on the days when it all drives me nuts or wears me out or makes me want to climb the walls, I love this shit. I just do. And I imagine just about anyone who works in publishing can relate. Because lord knows we're not in it for the money.

Art via the divine Ms. Jen Bekman.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

This Is What I Look Like

You know how sometimes things collide and suddenly everywhere you turn a certain theme keeps emerging? Well that's happened to me lately around the two related subjects of self-portraiture and allowing oneself to be photographed. First there was my pal Susannah Conway's excellent book This I Know in which she talks about, among many other things, the taking of self portrait photos as a means to self acceptance. Those passages, and Susannah's own pictures, directly inspired the picture I took of myself, above. I only took the one shot, and I got lucky--this photo represents exactly what I think I look like at my current age of 36 years old.

Then there was this article by Allison Tate "Mom Stays in the Picture" which speaks quite astutely to the fact that many mothers--what with getting older, and the body image issues that often come post childbirth--avoid at all costs stepping in front of the camera with their children. But how sad is that going to be when the kid is grown and they look back at all these photos of their own face, seeming to grow up in a motherless vacuum? So reading those words, in turn, inspired me to stretch my arm out as far as possible and take the shot above. 

But then, I realized, of course I am very lucky in this regard. While it's good to be reminded of the power of turning the camera on yourself, I really don't have to worry that there won't be pictures of Mabel and me together. Because among the myriad amazing photos of the child captured by her grandfather, more than quite a few feature yours truly as well. And while posting a bunch of those here does feel a bit egomaniacal, I must admit also feels pretty great. There she is, tiny and then growing bigger, and there I am, looking, hey! not half bad! and loving her like crazycakes in frame after frame. 

Down here at the end I do just have to mention the third bit of text that made its way to my attention around this same time and helped firm up these subjects in my mind to the point where they shifted from low-level percolation to a conscious "I should write a blog post about that" level. It's a bit tricky, as a sex-positive article about erotic self-portraiture among teenagers is hardly in keeping with the otherwise warm and fuzzy mommy tone of the rest of these thoughts. But what the heck. It's a damn fine piece of writing and says some brave things most people would not be comfortable saying and if you can't bring together all the weird and disparate elements floating around harmoniously in your brain on your own site, where the heck can you, right? So here you go: "Don't Be Afraid: Sexting is the Polaroid of our Time."

Monday, November 12, 2012


Here we see a rather ghostly-looking Mabel engaged in a favorite game: the box that lives just beside this low bookcase comes open, and out come all the pretend foods and cooking utensils, and the top of the bookshelf becomes a stove on which to cook. One hears a lot about the short attention-span of small children, but she will play at this play for long stretches at a time.

Special and ever-recurring thanks to Mabel's grandpa for his diligent scanning of the endlessly multiplying Polaroid collection.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Art Lately

Been seeing lots of fun art lately. The other day I went over to the Berkley Art Museum to check out the Barry McGee show there, which was phenomenal. 

I don't think I'd set foot in that big cool oddly-shaped museum space since childhood, and the way they'd filled it with all sorts of amazing McGee installations was very very cool.

I also discovered they've published a pretty amazing show catalog which I now rather covet.

My favorite Barry McGee pieces remain the bulging assemblages of hundreds of little framed works like the one above. Super cool.

Then last night I went with some pals to the opening for "I Don't Believe In You Either," a Bigfoot-themed art show at the Bold Italic featuring delightful images by Office, adorned tree stumps by Jessica Hische (below), Lisa Congdon, Dave Eggers and many others, and benefiting 826 Valencia and 826 Boston. Highly entertaining and a good time was had by all.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Continuing Poem Series About the Winter of 2005 Continues

January 3, 2006
Saw several people carrying green plants on the street today

Is that new year’s resolution thing?
They come wrapped loosely in paper apparently
One man had several
each in a crinkly brown wrapper that itself was lovely
Another man had one in swathed in a shiny striped paper
presumably meant to be more attractive than the plain brown paper
but actually less so
if still nicely crisp and somehow

And there was a huge
half-dead Christmas tree on the curb
outside one of the office towers
looking sad and oddly lumpy the way they always do
but on a much larger scale
of sadness and lumpiness
yet at the same time making the whole street
smell faintly and pleasantly of pine

image source is here

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Giant Book Weeding Project

Over the past month or so, in small increments of time--weeknight evenings after the child has been put to bed and the dishes washed but before we crash out for forty minutes with an episode of something mindless; or Saturday afternoons during Mabel's nap--we've been working, chez nous, on a truly massive project. I should probably back up and explain that we have a lot of books. Like, a lot. I don't really think of it as being so many, but I just counted and there are sixteen bookcases up in this joint, and that's not to mention all the books stacked on top of dressers and under tables and who knows where all. So, a lot. Which is how we like it. But lately it's started to feel like just a few too many, and more and more we've been getting that sinking feeling of finishing a book and seriously not having any room on the shelf to put it away. And there is literally not room in this apartment for one more bookshelf. So. A book weeding project became a necessity. Which is why we've been going inch by inch and volume by volume through every shelf of every bookcase and getting rid of anything that that met a couple of simple criteria--either we read it but didn't like it, or we admit to ourselves that we are never actually going to read it. Lots of difficult home truths in this process, for sure. But at the same time it's been hugely liberating. We've been maybe getting rid of one book in ten. And for the first time maybe ever in my adult life I have that most astonishing thing pictured above--an empty shelf! And I'm not sure if you can even really tell what the picture below depicts, but I am here to tell you that it's a mountain constructed of every single tote bag we own (and like most twenty-first century people of our demographic, we own a heck of a lot of tote bags--perhaps two dozen?) each one filled to the top with books and stacked up in our linen closet. We've heard a rumor that the fine people who do the used book buying for Green Apple Books just might make house calls. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Be A Voter

We all know what this is going to come down to, right? Voter turn out. No one's undecided anymore. It's just a question of who can get the most people worked up enough to get off their butts and go vote. And one thing about the Republicans is that they are scary good at getting people worked up. Four years ago liberals were worked up about a young, inspiring, non-white candidate and the line at my polling place was half a block long at seven in the morning. This morning? Half a dozen people in line and, frankly, I am freaking out.

Apathy is a luxury we can't afford. I don't care about your reason. I don't care if you're a true progressive who's never really loved Obama's moderate politics; a pacifist angered by his accepting the Nobel Peace Prize while conducting two active wars; or a young person disillusioned by the day-to-day political grind of the past four years. I get all those things, I do. My generation had our share of disillusionment during Clinton's first term in the 90s. But frankly, none of that matters now. You want that warm fuzzy feeling of inspiration and Hope and Change back? Too bad. That was the infatuation stage and it's over now. This is the long haul. It may not be glamorous but it is of the the utmost importance.

If you believe in matters of basic liberal justice like social services and gender equality then there is no excuse--none--for letting an elitist misogynistic bastard like Romney win this election. As a woman and a mother of a daughter I am here to tell anyone who might be tempted to say "oh, they're all politicians, they're all the same, there's nothing to choose between them" that they are full of it. One candidate is anti-choice, anti-equal pay, and in favor of dismantling government programs from the NEA to FIMA. The other is not. The damage Romney could do with Supreme Court nominations alone is staggering. I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here, and that very few people read this blog anyway, but if anyone who does read this today is contemplating sitting this one out in a pouty little snit I beg, seriously beg, you to reconsider. Get out there and vote for Obama people. The country you save could be your own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

At Brady's Birthday Party

Here is Mabel with her big boy friend Brady and another pal at Brady's third birthday party. This should really be considered the companion image to this photo, epitomizing together as they do our Bay Area seasons of cold summer and warm autumn. I must also just mention how very much the child looks to me, in this picture, like both her maternal grandmother and great grandmother.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween, The Apotheosis

Mabel had been getting increasingly excited throughout the month of October to don her Halloween costume of a Cool Cool Robot and go trick or treating. So inspired, in fact, was she by the whole robot concept that it drove her to create her first representational drawing, above. Which is, clearly and obviously, a drawing fo a robot. So Wednesday night she donned the outfit at our friends' house (I must say I was utterly delighted with how it turned out!) and away we went.