12.07.2013

on the eve of my twenty-ninth birthday

"That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it."

and this:
“I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”


both, Joan Didon

11.20.2013

the thankfulness post

I hate what feel like cliched, false thank yous. I have gone so far as to "hide all posts from user" for people who are doing that awful "30 days of thankfulness" bit on facebook.

That said, I am thankful, and moreso for the less-than-obvious things. So you're getting a list in a blog post.

I am thankful for:

  • Pillsbury's Roan Red. It is my favorite, favorite wine. 
  • Joley being a creative child, even though I spend not nearly enough time with her, and lord knows I need more patience, but she gave an impromptu concert on her guitar at school today, and she wore flowered leggings under a tutu, and she just wrote a story in which she accidentally hitched a ride on a bald eagle when she was trying to hug the ceiling of her house. 
  • people listening when I talk about my program. I don't know how or why, but they listen, and I am grateful. 
  • Colin's good taste in music. Not my taste, exactly, which I am also thankful for, but good taste.
  • the thank you I got from a student today.
  • unexpected houseguests.
  • turtleneck sweaters, especially in green.  

11.09.2013

things I like, vol. 44


The Acrobat Sublime.

. . .



Much better than a grandfather clock.

. . .


Prospective Immigrants Please Note
by Adrienne Rich

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself makes no promises.
It is only a door.

. . .



Scarves (and other things) with crowdsourced designs. Found one today at Nordstrom's Rack; may not be able to take it off.

. . .



A bedroom like a cocoon, which is what I want. Minus the hydrangeas. I hate hydrangeas.

. . .



Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

. . .



A beautiful catch - the mirrored poses, the contrast between them - perfect.

. . .



Long live Wonder Woman.

. . .


I feel like I really ought to go live in France to really master the French Paradox diet, but in the meantime, I'm using it as my excuse to keep drinking a lot of red wine.

. . .



Like looking through a window.

. . .



From here.

. . .





A beautiful article on how they make Herm├Ęs silk scarves. That's a hand-rolled hem, above.

. . .



The adorable magnet the shopkeeper at Red Elephant Imports gave J this morning. They had a really nice variety of items - lots of them from Latin America - but had pillows with Beatles portraits on them, too. It's a good place for Christmas presents, as we start approaching that season.

. . .





. . .


I'd always loved "Walk on the Wild Side," but I didn't really start to discover Lou Reed until after he died (the same way I discovered Vonnegut, incidentally). His wife's tribute in Rolling Stone is both heart-wrenching and beautiful:
I guess there are lots of ways to get married. Some people marry someone they hardly know – which can work out, too. When you marry your best friend of many years, there should be another name for it. But the thing that surprised me about getting married was the way it altered time. And also the way it added a tenderness that was somehow completely new. To paraphrase the great Willie Nelson: "Ninety percent of the people in the world end up with the wrong person. And that's what makes the jukebox spin." Lou's jukebox spun for love and many other things, too – beauty, pain, history, courage, mystery.

There's been a lot of death in the world, lately.


9.15.2013

things I like, vol. 43 (art edition)

I have been saving up for this post since May, apparently, which means I am officially taking the "this week" out of the title for good.

. . .


I adore Carey Mulligan, and the twenties, and Fitzgerald, and my only significant disappointment with the recent movie was Tobey Maguire's incessant whine (they really should've cast James McAvoy, who would've done it justice). The Vogue article about Carey was lovely, not just for the pictures but also for the insight into her character development; in the accompanying behind-the-scenes video, she reads in her natural accent one of my favorite passages from the book.

. . .




It is a bathtub hammock. Now if only it were accompanied by a fireplace . . .

. . .



A fascinating article about David Hockney, who proposed that artists were using a lens to help them sketch images long before art history had traditionally acknowledged it.

. . .




Two of my favorite tango people, Homer and Christina. If you've ever struggled to put a visual to musicality, this is it. (It gets more impressive as it goes on, so keep watching.)

. . . 






Two paintings from Ugallery.com, which is devoted to providing an online gallery space for emerging artists (often university students).

. . .




A photograph of a girl who has been painted on and placed in a milk bath. (more at the link)

. . . 




Chain link fencing as art, from 22 Dreamy Art Installations You Want to Live In

. . .



A stunningly beautiful set of engagement photos in Iceland.

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What struck me most about these pictures is how modern they look, despite the four decades that have passed since they were taken. 

. . . 






Yes, please

. . . 




The article title says it all: Abandoned Walmart is Now America's Largest Library. If only all our Walmarts were so magically transformed.



9.10.2013

small happiness

I find my self wanting simple happinesses, lately.

Warm cookies. Cuddles from puppies and small children. Rainy Saturdays with nowhere to go. A deep and complex purfume that smells of lily. Perfectly round and smooth hard boiled eggs, the yolk soft and fully yellow. Grass without bugs. The slight friction of my tango shoes on a wood floor. Deep temperate water in a clear pool. Warm sand to bury and unbury my toes in. Light watercolor patterned scarves. Wine as smooth as silk. 

Enough sleep. So much of my mood depends on how much or little sleep I get, and I have not slept well since July. 

And beneath that wish and my lack of sleep, much deeper, is the hollow fearful emptiness of loss and death, and the knowledge that my small happinesses would hardly mask it, even were I to obtain them all.

8.30.2013

still dreaming

On the southeast corner of Stone and Wetmore is a moveable sign of the sort often employed by churches and small businesses. It sits at the corner of what looks to be an office building, but seems to exist only to subject passerby to an often aggressive viewpoint, like an overgrown bumper sticker.

The first message I remember seeing on it was
NO INCUMBENTS
THROW THEM ALL OUT
Another memorable one - which stayed up for some time - was
PHX BRICKYARD SELLS 3RD QUALITY BRICKS
DON'T BUY EM
 

When I drove by this Monday, it read
MLK AUG 28 1963
50 YEARS AND WE'RE STILL DREAMING

 
Although the sign's rants often come off as paranoid and angry, this particular message resonated with me. I'm still dreaming, too, and I worry that fifty years is not half the time it'll take to rid this country of the prejudice that infects it.

8.17.2013

for brian

April 21, 1984 - August 10, 2013

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

7.13.2013

on argentine tango

I often find myself attempting to explain to people the why behind choosing to devote a significant portion of my free time to social dance, and Argentine tango* in particular.

Social partner dance is fun on a basic, human level: it's structured interaction with a variety of people, often from a great variety of backgrounds (both cultural and professional). There's the endorphin high from the exercise. There's the joy of movement connected to music, which is a way of experiencing two different kinds of art at once. And the lead-follow interaction is a form of physical communication you don't get many other ways.

Argentine tango is more, though. They say it's the hardest of the social dances to learn, for many reasons. There is no real basic step, no pattern inherent in the movement to hold on to. You could, hypothetically, go into any move in any rhythm at any point in the dance, which makes it even more essential than most dances to listen intently to - and match - whatever the music happens to be doing at the moment. It is danced almost entirely in closed embrace, with the leader's chest communicating the movement. There is often a shared point of balance between the dancers through that chest connection, which creates that upside-down V shape so characteristic of tango, and which requires a great deal of balance and strength on the part of the dancers. True tango is entirely improvisation, and the best dancers will even perform without having choreographed it first (as opposed to, say, ballroom, where couples rehearse the same three minute routine for months on end).

In most social dances you can attain proficiency in a couple of years at most (even less for simpler dances like two-step and blues), but two steady years of tango might put you at the low end of intermediate. And it is a perpetual challenge. As soon as you think you've mastered one aspect of it, you discover how much more you don't know. That challenge proves endlessly exciting to me.

There's also a ritualism to tango that doesn't exist in other dances. There's an entire culture of behavior that goes along with the dance - the codigos. They're mostly designed to make an evening of dancing as enjoyable as possible for everyone, but they add another layer of complexity to what is already a complex dance. As I've moved through other dance communities, I find I consistently prefer the rationale behind tango culture.

For example, tango is the only dance I'm aware of that routinely uses body language to request a dance, in what is called the cabeceo: two potential partners make eye contact; typically the lead nods, the follow returns the nod, and then the lead walks over to escort the follow to the floor. (Especially here and among friends, the nod can turn into wiggling eyebrows and silly expressions, and may be initiated by either partner, but the structure remains the same.) It saves many forms of embarrassment once you get the hang of it, as if you don't want to dance with someone you should be able to simply avoid eye contact with them, thereby skipping the awkwardness of an outright refusal. A verbal request seems gauche, even in other dances, after you've adapted to the cabeceo; it comes off as unnecessarily pushy, especially when the entire point of social dance is non-verbal communication.

The general tenor of the emotion in tango also greatly appeals to me. The "passion" that gets so over-blown in tango caricatures is, in the real dance, quite varied and often powerful. Even what sound like upbeat melodies often turn out to have melancholy lyrics, and the balance of that dichotomy I find endlessly interesting.

Although videos are generally inadequate and don't capture the true visual appeal of the dance when you watch it live - and certainly don't at all approximate the feeling of dancing it yourself - ending with a couple visual examples certainly can't hurt.




The variance between her small adornos (decorations) and the energy at the end is awesome.





If any of this appeals to you, I strongly recommend taking some beginner classes in your area. Most places don't require that you bring a partner, and despite its difficulty, tango is incredibly rewarding. If you're in Tucson, we have a tango calendar of events: http://tucsontango.com/. The Phoenix calendar is here. Elsewhere, a Google search of "argentine tango" and your city should bring up results.

Also, if you haven't seen them, I have a post about learning a social dance and one on tango shoes you might enjoy.

* Note: American ballroom tango is something different, essentially a cheesy bastardization - that ridiculous stereotype of the man with the rose in his mouth - and is not at all what I'm talking about here.

6.04.2013

birches

[it is good to remember winter in the heat of summer]

. . .

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
- Robert Frost, 1969

5.30.2013

things I like this week, vol 42.2

I lied about posting again the day after the last one.

. . .




Apparently I have a thing for trip hop. This is on regular rotation on our blues nights and it's been in my head for weeks.

 . . .






There was a long time where if you asked me to name my "type" of man I couldn't give you any specifics beyond tall. I've narrowed it down quite a bit since then, but this post reaffirms my love of beards.

. . .



Clever.

. . .



I love almost everything this woman wears.

. . .




In case you haven't seen it (though you probably have). Colin and I have been quoting it at each other at least twice a day since we watched it.

. . .

A found bookmark.

. . .



A coworker bought a bunch of these scalp massagers as graduation gifts for our seniors. She had extras, so I got one too. It is awesome.

. . .



I don't like Beyonce, but her hair looks like fire in this picture.

. . .



There is a special place in my heart for stained glass.

. . .



Yes, please.



This too.

. . . 



Every once in awhile you could see the wind doing this to the peaks in Flag.

. . . 





Maybe I need to just make a post entitled "Steve McCurry is awesome."

. . .



A really beautiful post on Aldeburg, Suffolk.

. . .



He "document[s] the exact time, angle, latitude and longitude of each exposure and then track[s] the rotation of the earth to locations with clear night skies such as the Mojave, Sahara, and Atacama deserts."

. . . 

And, because I feel like ending with a poem:

Suicide's Note
The calm
cool face of the river
asked me for a kiss. 
- Langston Hughes

5.18.2013

things I like this week, vol. 42.1



If you haven't seen this yet - I've had it sent to me by two dear people who apparently know my taste - it's incredible: a Paris apartment sealed up just before WW2 and opened just recently. The woman paid the rent until she died and never returned, and when they opened it up, they found a painting of her grandmother, actress-muse-mistress to Giovanni Boldini.



. . .

I love the internet.

. . .



This woman's photographs are incredible.



My favorite thing about this shot is the pinky-red blood trail behind her, and the way the color is echoed in the gradation of her lips.

. . .


I love this post about the sound in tango music that's named after a cicada - a chicharra. I've heard it, but I'd never known what it was.

. . .



Ben Folds choosing pianos in his studio.


. . .

An absurdly detailed map of North American dialects. For the record, I say "pin" and "pen" differently, despite being born in Georgia and living for the past decade and a half in Tucson.


. . .



A fascinating article in Smithsonian magazine about how artists in Egypt are using graffiti as a form of protest against the government. 



A pawn uprising.



It's an excerpt from Neruda translated into Arabic: "You can step on the flowers but you can never delay the Spring."

. . .



Heartbreakingly beautiful photography by a teenage trainhopper. They published a book of his photos, but he's working as a mechanic now and doesn't think of himself as a photographer.



. . .



It's the light and shadow under her shoulder, and her vulnerability.

. . .



I am suffering quite heavily from this at the moment. I'm partway through To Have and Have Another (making drinks as I go); I'm two chapters in to editing Colin's next novel; I have started but not finished The Wyrd Sisters and Jitterbug Perfume; Colin gave me The Paris Wife for Mother's Day, which I have read before and loved and want to read again, especially after To Have; seeing Gastby made me want to read my copy of Jazz Age Stories, which was returned to me by a student the day after I remembered owning it (but not that I'd lent it out); I downloaded American Gods to my phone and haven't opened it; and the trailer for Ender's Game makes me itch to read it again, for probably the tenth time. 

Of the paper copies, only Ender's Game is actually in the bookshelf - the rest are stacked around the house, mostly in the nightstand.

. . .

And speaking of Fitzgerald, here's the villa where he supposedly wrote Tender is the Night: 




. . .

More to come tomorrow, I think. I've been saving up awhile (as you might have guessed from the dearth of posts lately).