Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pop Music

A sleepless night in a hotel room led me to watching VH1's top videos of the year. Popular music is something I have an appreciation for. Sometimes I really dig it. Like Rooney, Norah Jones, Ben Folds, heck even Queen and The Beatles would be considered 'pop' for at least most of their careers. So really, pop music is not bad as a genre. It's actually quite great.

The pop music of today is unfortunately, in my opinion, mostly rap/hip hop these days. I have no problem with rap and hip hop in the broad sense. But the songs that get made sometimes just make me really scratch my head. Like why does the new Rihanna song have a mechanical sounding dog barking for the beat? Why are 17 year olds rapping about bitches and ho's? I'm not the clubbing type, and yet I think I can pick out when it's a good beat/melody and when it's not.

This brings me to a quite embarrassing confession. Most of you who know me know I abhor Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus more than most ridiculous things in this culture. The fact that Taylor Swift won a best artist award really boggles my mind. Miley is a very well marketed quasi talented tool. I actually listened to her song "Party in the USA." Really listened to it. And I can't get it out of my head. It's a FABULOUS pop song. Exactly what pop should be. And in an age of Lohans and Kardashians, I guess Smiley Miley isn't the worst person for kids to look up to. I just hate that I tap my foot and hum along like a fool....

I downloaded the 'top 100 songs of 2009' and gave most a pretty good listen. It makes me wish that these collaborative projects could just be actual songs. For an example the song "Knock You Down" by Keri Hilson, Kanye West and Ne-Yo has a really good chorus. Nice tight harmonies, good melody. But then we get the rapping that goes on for like FOREVER. Same with "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. I absolutely love Alicia's part...but get bored with the rest. I really wish that there could be a little more originality in songwriting these days. Like instead of using tunes from 80s and 90s songs and looping us going "hey, hey, hey, hey" over top while Rihanna whines (I pick on her because she's not a nice person) a chorus over it....I just don't buy that as good music. If you're covering a song, do something original with it. REDO it. Don't just use someone's recording and bastardize it. Jeez.

I really didn't mean for this to be a rant. Just a confession and explanation on why Miley Cyrus is one of the artist categories on my iPod. No Taylor Swift though. I have to draw the line somewhere....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I was not a white girl today.

Los Angeles is expensive and difficult to get around in. Usually the places I go, I try to walk as much as possible to get a lay of the land. If I can't walk it, I feel completely incapable as a person. I'm in Beverly Hills. I wanted to go to downtown LA. 40 minute drive is what I was told was the distance. Rent a car is what I was told as far as my options. And I said a big hell to the no, I'm conquering this land of Range Rovers with my Nikes.

3 blocks walking. $1.25 bus fare. 52 minutes down Wilshire Ave to 7th & Grand listening to Florence and the Machine, noticing how when crowds of people came on the bus that they were not like me. Hispanic or Latino families, elderly Asian women, etc. 5 blocks walking to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Hello Project Runway. Hello free exhibit on Betsy Bloomingdale's haute couture gowns. Unfortunately PR and school have both shut down for the season so further exploration was impossible on the campus. Many more blocks walking on 8th, Spring, 7th and Grand, checking out downtown. It is wacky. Old beautiful art deco buildings stand tall on the somewhat swept streets. Beautiful theatres that would've been the spot for the rich and famous in the 20's and 30's are now gutted for flea markets. It's obvious no one in this city walks as I was fighting to get through crowds of people walking slower than the preteens at Mall of America. Twas this, and the color of my skin that immediately made me stick out among the masses of shoppers. It made me wonder if this city is used for anything? People obviously live there. Shop there. Do they work there? Is it all belonging to a certain stereotype while the rich and well dressed SUV drivers commute to work in Beverly Hills?
I had had enough of the lack of splendor of Downtown LA. A few more blocks to the Pershing Square Metro stop and on the underground I went. A toothless gentleman offered me his used ticket and I was shocked by this kindness. Where it was only $1.25 for the ticket, the generosity surprised me. Then as I thanked him and took it he said "I need $1 for that!" Realizing my naivety, I gave it back to him and bought my own $1.25 ticket. A few minutes and a few stops later I was at Sunset Blvd and Vermont Ave. Where I had read I could get a trolly for 25 cents up to Griffith Observatory. What I didn't know is that there were no posted times for this so called trolly, and since no one takes public transportation, and the bus drivers are no help, I ended up standing at this hopeful looking sign for about 40 minutes waiting. Just as I was getting harassed by the first caucasians I'd seen that day, asking about my natural hair color and making other inappropriate comments, I was ready to give up and start walking in the opposite direction, I saw a little red trolly take the corner and stop right at my feet. Gratitude swept over me as the driver asked for a quarter and we took off up the huge hill that became Griffith Park.
The Griffith Observatory has been seen in such films as Charlie's Angels 2 and Transformers. It is a planetarium at the top of one of the Hollywood Hills, offering scientific exhibitions and other boring junk as well as beautiful views of an over-polluted and over-populated city. The building itself is beautiful. More of that Art Deco detailing at every corner that LA embraces. I'm very glad I waited an eternity for the cheap ride. It was quite the impressive site, the building and the views (although slightly brown and grainy).

Another quarter to get back to Sunset Blvd and a bit of a walk to Vine and Hollywood Blvd. This was not a necessary stop on my trip, but since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to do the tourist thing and read the oh so famous names on the sidewalk. As klutzy as I can be, this actually helped me not trip, paying attention to the ground for once.
Aw, Michael, I love your work. Walking around Hollywood Blvd, I definitely got swept into the crowd of camera wielding tourists. It's almost a treat once and a while to be one of a crowd. You're not noticed. Not an independent person, just one of the crowd. I was offered a cd on the street and when I said "no thank you" he said "I know you're a black girl, you want this music!" I laughed and kept walking. Walking around to the tunes of Metric's Fantasies I felt content in my own little world. I picked up the novelty souvenirs I had promised to a friend and decided it was about time to head home. This time on the 4 bus from Santa Monica Blvd back to Beverly Hills. Another $1.25.

I only point out the race factor because it really is apparent here. In a city of diversity, you would expect a variety. But there were honestly no white people taking public transit. In Minneapolis, where the bus fair is $1.75 mind you, MORE expensive than LA, people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and statuses ride the bus. Every other city I've been to, this is the case. Why LA, why? Besides the fact that people have the attitude that saving hundreds of dollars is irrelevant. A day of sightseeing that would've been hundreds had I rented a car or taken a taxi cost me $4.25. All day. I think this is pretty fantastic. So if you're reading this, and if you go to LA, sometime try the bus or the Metro. It's pretty convenient and traffic sucks anyway...maybe us all jumping in a bus would make traffic lighter? Maybe???

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jeff Koons, twist that knife...


I am angry. Deceived and tricked by an artist. I will try to type fast enough to extinguish the fire spurting out of my fingertips so that I can breathe normally again. Dramatic? You think I'm being dramatic? Well just imagine that you are from Mars. Yes, Mars. You find this thing called a video tape, and let's just say you have fantastic powers and can hold it and see in your brain the images on the video tape (because obviously you wouldn't have a VCR anymore...those were so 10th century Earth). You see this amazing film of a fuzzy frog emitting emotion while singing about how life isn't fair and you are effected by it. Moved. You may even shed a tear. Then when you go home to your Martian home and look on the internet for who this amazing being is and how you can see more of the Oscar-worthy (you obviously know what the Oscars are because Angelina Jolie used to be your neighbor) performances, you find out that he is nothing but a piece of fabric that goes on a human hand. Disillusioned, you destroy the planet Earth for tricking you so.

This is what Jeff Koons has done to art. Never having been a fan of pop art, I've never given Koons much respect/attention. My visit today to the LACMA changed my mind. I saw a piece similar to this:
The impressive thing about this is that it's made out of steel. And it looks like a balloon. And it's huge. Koons has a lot of pieces like this. Made out of steel or some other stiff material, and it ends up looking like an inflatable flexible plastic. Quite genius. Quite impressive. Then he has these paintings. The title card says "oil on canvas." Seeing this large scale paintings in person up close made me say "no. No way are these oil." Example 1:
Does this look like photoshop to anyone else? Well it got me interested. But these plastic-y forms do NOT look like they were ever touched by hand. However, the title cards usually don't lie...if these were really hand painted, that would be quite impressive.

I have googled myself blue trying to find one thing that says anything or has an image about Jeff Koon's art making process. The one article I found that sheds a sliver of light on this topic is The Art Newspaper's interview with him. In this article they explain that his studio has 120 busy assistants working hard on paintings, sculptures and maquettes. The interview even goes so far as to praise Koons for not outsourcing this work to China. For the man who sells his pieces for millions of dollars giving no one else credit, really?! Our number one thought is whether or not he could save some money?! Unbelievable. There was also a small mention on how Koons himself plans his paintings by layering images on photoshop. Which makes me wonder if a paintbrush ever does anything but touch up. By an assistant of course.

This is SO discouraging. If this is the art world, do I want to be a part of it? And the sad thing is that I think he had good ideas and good intentions in the start. But now, who's doing the work and who's getting the credit. It's turning into a commercial operation. And while I expect that the Stella McCartney dress I would love to own would not have been hand sewn by her, I do NOT expect this from artists. Especially those getting so much attention.

If you ever meet Jeff Koons, please kick him in the balls for me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Irving Penn and the Dutch Countryside

What do these things have to do with each other? The Getty. As I have blogged recently, the Getty might be the best thing Los Angeles has to offer. Two exhibits in particular were very interesting to me.

Irving Penn is a well known photographer. He was one of the fortunate artists who was recognized while living and could be commercialized, thus making him successful during life. I had never heard of the photographer before, and after looking at some of his work now, have decided that the exhibit up at the Getty is the only body of work of his that I really liked. The exhibit is based on a series of works he did in NYC, London and Paris in 40-50 years ago. It's called Small Works and was published as contemporary art in Vogue magazine (see what I mean about commercial?). While most of his works seem quite simple and costume-y, understanding that there had not ever been formal portraits of the working class (much like Millet's The Gleaners broke ground in the 19th Century with finally an actual realistic painting). Most photos with the working class featured them working away. Penn brought them into his studio, photographed them, and then titled them simply as their profession. No names, no identity besides their occupation, which mirrors how they're perceived.
There were a couple of different things that intrigued me. Those in the London portraits had either serious or vacant expressions. The Parisians were similar. Those photographed in NYC were jovial. The bakers and pickle sellers had a coy smile for the camera. Very telling of culture when class is similar but expression is not. Perhaps we Americans don't take ourselves seriously, or maybe we just know how to smile. The other thing I thought was cool is that Penn experimented with different processes for his photographs. So, well done by the Getty, they had a silver gelatin print hanging next to a platinum print. There is such a difference in clarity, grain and contrast. I love when this very technical side of art is highlighted.

The Dutch have always fascinated me. Their realism is untouched. Their atmospheres are always spot on. And they have some of the darkest paintings around, meaning that the painting is almost black as a whole, and yet there is purpose, emotion, and realism in a dark piece of canvas. The exhibit at the Getty showcased Dutch drawings. Most of these had quite a bit of wash work and looked incredibly impressive form a distance. As I got closer, however, I lost a bit of that what I would call "Dutch factor" as the details seemed to be lost. So the drawings in most cases were studies for paintings, and were almost definitely sketched while seated in a field. So I decided to take a page out of their book and sit on the sidewalk and sketch the beautiful building that was my landscape.
The amount of people who came over and looked over my shoulder just affirmed the idea I had that people don't really do this anymore. Has art become so elite that we can't just sit and sketch anymore? Do we have to be part of a class to do this? Well, obviously my drawing above is not perfect nor frame-worthy. But it is a study. A quick sketch. Which is where the Dutch started, afterall...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Getty Center

The Getty Center is an amazing compound in Los Angeles. It is a research center and a house of art, ancient to contemporary. There are 4 different buildings with period rooms and floors of paintings. Then there is an immaculate garden. And did I mention its at the top of a hill that looks over Santa Monica, the Pacific Ocean, and Downtown LA. Quite fabulous, really. Oh and best bit. It's free. I asked the hotel if it was in walking distance and they replied with "people don't walk here." Well, I walked. And although the sidewalks ended every few feet and I'd have to cross the very busy street, it was definitely walkable.
The architecture alone was an astonishing work of art. I loved how the natural stone was mixed with steel and water. Mechanical perfection with organic flaws. A classic juxtaposition that is attempted quite often, but not always perfected. The Getty definitely succeeded.
A couple highlights of the collection for me included the David paintings, the photography exhibits, and the sketching room. They had a room in one of the buildings stocked with a few sculptures and paintings and drawing materials. Anyone who wants can sit and draw all day. When you're done you can keep your drawing or give it to the museum to let them hang it up. While sitting there doing a technical sketch of a bust I realized how much I miss studio classes. It was a community environment working on something we all loved. I miss it.

Los Angeles on a whole is exclusive. You have to be spectacular in some way to get into certain places, experience certain things, or fit in. Everything is so expensive, even just getting around town, that the middle class and under can't afford to live here. And if they do, they definitely don't get to enjoy the town. The Getty is the exception. It is free. They have extensive grounds open to the public and family/kid friendly exhibits and areas for activities. My experience at the Getty was the first time in LA that I have felt part of a community. Pretty darn cool. If you're in the area, it is a must.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

I usually don't go all introspective on my blog, but I'm feeling the need to today. I was thinking this morning where I was last year at this time. I was working for RBC through a temp agency in a position that sucked all the will to live out of me. I had left a frustrating job for this better paying somewhat promising position that completely shattered my expectations (in a bad way) and added so much frustration to my daily life. Because of this I was not a happy person. Shortly before Christmas I was laid off and had a short stint at another job that interrupted a couple months of being unemployed. Then I got this position. This position which is not perfect, but is ok. This position that is forcing me to be away from home on Thanksgiving. But I am so much happier this year. Sure it is unbearable at times to be away, and yes, that does make me miserable. I have grown this year in ways that misery doesn't crush me anymore. I'm able to get through things and still enjoy life through it (for the most part). And regarding the relationships that I've kept (of course some have fallen through the cracks) I believe that they are deeper and more meaningful than ever before. So this year, while I don't get to be home for the holiday season (I'll get home a a couple days before Christmas), I can still be thankful for loved ones back home as well as the opportunities I have now that I didn't before.

...This growth doesn't take away the fact that I can't wait to be home and can't wait for next year when I can have a home to enjoy the holidays in : )

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

California, You're Such A Wonder That I Think I'll Stay In Bed

Oh Los Angeles. The city of the rich and deluded. I'm in a beautiful boutique hotel right off the 405 close to pretty much nothing. Without a vehicle in LA, you might as well be in Nebraska. Taking a walk, all I can see are walls of green keeping my middle class eyes from spotting someone who has enough money to buy privacy. Of course all this greenery causes a lovely smell in the air, so I can't complain too much. It's an attitude that matches the physicality of the city: inaccessible. After all, you have to be exclusive to be cool, right? I keep laughing to myself when I look at a map and realize that I'm pretty much in the neighborhood that Cher was supposed to live in in the movie Clueless. If only my daddy had bought me a Jeep so I could cruise around.....

The Getty Center is very close, so once I have a day off, I will be spending it there. Although I'm not sure how to get there, as I can see it from where I am, but its basically a mountain's height above me. With Thanksgiving right around the corner and no family in sight, I'm going to have to walk the 5 miles to somewhere and hope that somewhere has an open movie theatre or cheesy diversion to keep me from missing those I love.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Whistler

Sitting in the airport waiting to finally go home, using YVR's lovely free internet, is a perfect time to blog. I realized as I was leaving this wonderful place this morning, that I never blogged about my day in Whistler. Shame on me. Here I go.

Last Saturday, we rented a car and set out for an adventure. It was a 2 hour drive which started on windy roads of the kind I haven't seen since Maui. Cliff on one side, drop and ocean on the other. Scarrrry. Thanks to the 2010 Olympics, this road has had a facelift. It used to be like that the whole way up, now it's a nice and easy highway (that does have railroad track like arms to close the whole road if it snows yikes). As we started our drive, we started climbing and noticed as we went along that mountainous islands started popping up in the midst of the water.
The fog was thick and the rain was falling. It was so dramatic. We stopped at a couple parks on the way, and finally tried to get a map at a great little coffee shop, Galileo Coffee on Britannia Beach. The barista told us to follow the road 5 more miles until we saw signs for Shannon Falls.

Just a few yards off the freeway lies this breathtaking site. The falls were so incredibly steep. It was really neat to see the way the water has gouged its way through the slick rock. If I was more adventurous (and coordinated) I would've wanted to climb up this thing. Yes, probably one of those death wishes, but really, it was so beautiful and perfect, but in a natural imperfect way, yeah? (Now I'm typing like a Canadian. Will stop) We hiked up to the closest point you could get to the falls at at one point I couldn't tell if the rain got thicker or if it really was just gushing from the falls. I think it was the falls. Pretty powerful. And oh so pretty.
We still had our sites set on Whistler, so we left Shannon falls and continued our climb. After about a half hour the rain turned to snow. The first snow for me this year! It was GORGEOUS! Visibility was awful, which makes me so glad I wasn't driving : P Our arrival at Whistler was a confusing one, as the village was created for pedestrians to get lost in. There was no snow on the ground and the ski season was a week or two away from starting, so there wasn't much going on. We walked around, but in hopes of not being too miserable walking in the snow/rain, we decided to DO something. In the visitor's center, we found this pretty harmless but awesome looking adventure. It's called a Tree Trek, and is put on by the same company that does ziplining in Whistler. I would've LOVED to zip again, but taking in how cold it was...I don't think it would've been smart. So we took this tree canopy walk, starting up in the forest in between the two mountains in Whistler. They have built platforms and suspension bridges in between these beautiful 800 year old trees. So we were, rather unsteadily, walking from tree to tree over sometimes drastic drops.
This was amazing. I can't express how beautiful and lush it was and the views were spectacular. Then it started snowing (it honestly felt like God was showing off at this point : P). The biggest fluffiest flakes I have ever seen. Just dumping down on these beautiful heavy old branches. And we got to be in the middle of it. It was an experience I will never forget.

At the end of our walk, we walked by the Olympic bobsled course. There were people there practicing and it was pretty cool to see/be that close to a vessel moving that fast. When we got back to the village, we were COLD. So we got Irish Coffees and fries with cheese at the Dubh Linn Pup in the Pan Pacific Whistler. Yummy. The sun was starting to set so we headed home. It was such a wonderful day.

This little trip made me realize how much I love BC. Well I knew I did, but seriously. Vancouver is a great city. I decided I could live there. But I also decided that BC is the place I would live if I could ever JUST paint. I would live out in the mountains, amongst the beautiful trees and cry everyday because it is just that beautiful. I'm happy to be finally getting home to see those I love, but I will DEFINITELY miss that mountain view out my window...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

About Town

A rainy day is definitely not news worthy here. Usually I would spend a rainy day in my hotel room, but I decided as it's the last weekend I have in Vancouver, I needed to still explore. I've been to quite a few places in Vancouver now, so I figured to make a little shopping guide to the city.

Last night I went to probably the most trendy restaurant I've been to in Vancouver. It's off West Broadway, over in between artsy fartsy area and UBC. It's a sushi restaurant called The Eatery. The sushi is good, the decor is pretty crazy (creature of the blue lagoon along with other paper mache creatures hanging from the ceiling) and the atmosphere is super hip. The servers were a little more into checking their makeup than serving you, but the quality and variety of the menu definitely made up for it.

My first exposure to H&M was in London. It was the cheap alternative to Top Shop with just as much variety and up to date fashion. When it came to the states I was very excited. Then I went to the shop they have at the Mall of America and was so disappointed. The H&M in Vancouver is AWESOME. Great selection, wonderful styles, without the bargain bin chaotic atmosphere of the H&M in the states. There was a lot of professional wear as well as pretty fashion forward casuals. And I got this awesome hat:
I shopped around Winners (the equivalent of Marshall's) on Granville St. and then worked my way down Robson. I found the coolest store that a friend had told me about called Bang-On (also on Robson). You can chose from hundreds of pre-made designs or combine a few very simple designs to create your own, pick a shirt, and then they make it for you! They even do custom jobs. If I had more time to devote to the project, I would totally design something kick ass. But for the time being, this design made me laugh like crazy, so I had to get it:
It wasn't too expensive, and it's pretty darn cool to have something that customizable. The staff was fun and the American Apparel shirts are oh so soft!

My next stop was True Vintage (again on Robson), a basement shop full of vintage and some new overstock type clothes. There were plenty of wonderful dresses I would've loved to take home with me! It was actually moderately priced as well. Some pieces were expensive, but there were lots of sale items too! For the vintage shopper, I would definitely suggest this shop!

Further on Robson, I walked by Time Frame Gallery and was intrigued by a few prints. I ended up buying a small one by Angelina Wrona, a Canadian Artist. She has a funky style and an interesting glossy technique that I really like!

I then made my way to Tinseltown Movie Theatre to see An Education, which I've been dying to see. Great cast with top notch acting, wonderful music, costumes and writing (which, I wouldn't suggest anything less from writer Nick Hornby:writer of High Fidelity and About A Boy). Near the end I wanted a little less of a bow-tied ending and a little more information about certain characters, but over all it was a fantastic movie, and I'd definitely suggest seeing it!

On my walk back to the hotel along Pender Street, I saw two used condoms on the sidewalk...In more appropriate news, I passed by Macleod's Books soon after. It is the most ridiculously unorganized used book store I've ever seen. I was drawn in immediately. They had some cool stuff in piles all over the store. I had such an urge to apply and just spend my days cataloguing and alphabetizing these thousands of books. Yes, I know I'm a nerd, but such things give me joy. Let me swim in a pile of books and then sort them. : ) It's a really neat place though! Lots of variety and character!

There's lots of little places I would love to become a local at if I stayed here even longer...that's the cool thing about Vancouver, lots of variety and diversity to be had!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Something to NOT do when you're out of shape...

Mountain biking sounds like fun! I have been road biking many times, but I had never tried the mountain variety. I actually haven't set bum on a bike since high school. So of course I agreed to go mountain biking with a fellow installer, who is a seasoned biker and who promised we wouldn't be doing anything challenging so I'd be ok.

The trails we were on were in the area of Vancouver where UBC is. Overall its a much more residential and calmer Vancouver. I really liked the vibe I got from the neighborhood and saw many families out together which was nice. Quite the change from downtown. We went on a trail through beautiful pine trees that smelled like everything wonderful in this world. (Kat, it had the same smell as Paradise, CA.) It started downhill, but very challenging because of the short corners caused by all the beautiful trees. Then we started going uphill. And kept climbing. And kept climbing. My quads were on fire. My guides graciously waited for me at the top of the hill. When I finally arrived, panting, they assured me it was easier from then on. Ok. I believed them. It was pretty smooth for a while, a bit up, a bit down. Then a lot down. Oh and it kept going down. And faster. Watch out for trees, pedestrians, babies, dogs, etc. I was FLYING. Literally. Catching air as they would say? Freaking out, really. Once alive at the bottom, we continued to the beach (see above picture) which was totally worth the effort to get to. After breaking and guzzling some water, I am told we're going up the hill of death to get back. This is for sure what I looked like when I heard that:
After biking for just a bit after that, I knew I was toast. So we ended up taking the road back...still killer hill, but less of a death trap and less steep for sure. It was a wonderful experience, and while I got my butt kicked by mountain biking, it might still be something I try to get into in the future. I just wish I would've gotten in shape first...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am a hypocrite.


I am a woman of strong opinions and convictions. I cannot do something that I deem as wrong. I can justify the little stuff, but the big stuff, I simply cannot do. I have never gotten "so drunk I didn't know what I was doing." I've never lost control of my actions. And yet, I don't always practice what I preach.

Exhibit A : I love animals. I hate that people wear fur. I will not eat veil. And yet I love my burgers. I love meat. I eat a lot of chicken. I have eaten lamb once, and I felt SO terrible about it, but it tasted SO GOOD! I don't even really have a problem with people wearing leather or carrying leather handbags. I think that hunting is ridiculous. If you need food and use every part of the animal, then I don't have a problem with it. But I still think it's pretty sad. Nothing makes me more depressed than mistreated/sick/hurt animals and I would give anything to help out a little creature. I think cows are wonderful. And I eat them. I can't quite work this out in my head. Because animals rock, I'm including a picture of my kitty when he was a baby (who I would DEFINITELY not eat) :

Exhibit B : I don't know how I feel about art and design. Fine art is great. Anything goes and it starts with an idea and a talent and craft. Design is functional, but it definitely requires creativity and artistic thinking. However, I have trouble marrying the two. I don't know if its just because I'm a painter that I think that painting/drawing/sculpting is a higher art form? Photography has its place too, but I have trouble saying that digital photography is ART. It can definitely be artistic and beautiful, but is it fine high art? The art of film photography is in the technique of capturing, the science of developing, manipulating an image. If it's just point and shoot, it's too easy. But then again, the same could be said of digital, with all the doctoring we can do to manipulate the image. I think that in order for it to be a real piece of ART it must not be easy. And it must be original. I feel the same way about Thomas Kinkade like paintings as I do about dime a dozen photos. Digital art also conflicts with me. Putting a bunch of images together in a computer program to create an image well is challenging. It can be powerful and beautiful. I have trouble with the fact that there is no original workmanship in the pieces. I feel the same way when people use stencils and overhead projectors to aid in their paintings and drawings. Am I babbling? I guess I'm trying to work through my thoughts and in an effort to not be judgmental, I am trying to keep an open mind about my perspectives. Any thoughts?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Penthouse Halloween.

I spent Halloween night at a strip club. Thankfully the strippers had taken the night off to lend their stage to live music. The Penthouse is a dingy yet charming club in an area of Vancouver that gets sketchy after dark. I was worried that there could be some unwelcomed nudity disrupting my concert going fun...luckily the only nudity present was in some tasteless costumes... ie:
There were some great costumes as well. My favorite was probably the guy in Uma Thurman's Kill Bill yellow jump suit or the guy dressed as the king of hearts, walking around in a box very well painted with a cut out of his face, which was very well painted as well.

Anyway, the concert was really wonderful. The first band was Big John Bates. They had a folksy/rock sound that made me think of Flogging Molly but subtracting the Irish element. Someone said Big John Bates is Hungarian Folk Rock...which pretty much fits perfectly. They put on a really good show! The next band was The Carnival Band, a 30 piece marching band in a small venue. This was awesome. I guess to describe their sound I would say pep band/New Orleans funeral jazz/Beirut (the band). And because these descriptors might have your head swimming, I took a video (not the best sound quality, but nonetheless) :
video
It was a pretty amazing experience being crowded in with this huge band in such a small place. I loved it.

Unfortunately I didn't get to stay for the last band, but the walk home at 11:30 was seedy enough I'm glad I didn't wait too much longer. Vancouver loves their Halloween!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Never Eat Soggy Waffles

A couple years ago, a friend of mine was advertising how cool a specific Salvation Army Thrift Store in Minneapolis was. He told me it was on 4th Street. Two girlfriends and I drive downtown Minneapolis and find the big Salvation Army by the Target Center. We park. We get out. Get haggled, ridiculed, and soon realize that, as we're walking toward the Salvation Army, that there is a very line of homeless looking folk. The closer we're getting to the building, the more we're feeling that this is not the right place to be...which of course it wasn't. This is a homeless shelter/soup kitchen. There is no thrift store here. Ooops. Later, I find out the Salvation Army Thrift Store was on 4th Street NE.

Today I was checking out a couple blogs on Vancouver and found one telling me to go to the Gastown District and look for the second hand/vintage store called Deluxe Junk. The address is 310 Cordova. I look it up on Google Maps and it tells me to go a little past China Town. Well awesome, cause I wanted to go to China Town today as well! The closer I get to my address the sketchier Vancouver becomes. Pretty soon I'm to the intersection of where this store should be (one block past the jail) and I see a line of homeless looking people covering the whole block. I keep looking. Where 310 should be, there's nothing. There's some kind of a shelter here, and I'm getting harassed, so I'm going to give up looking for this place. I go to China Town and have lunch and walk back towards the hotel. I walk through Gastown again, cause it's a cute little cobblestoned street area. I go into Woo Vintage which was so cute and chic! The worker and I gabbed about all the Halloween sluts roaming the streets in their "sexy cop/nurse/maid/etc" outfits and I looked at their amazing selection. Turning the corner, I run straight into Deluxe Junk. 310 Cordova. West.

One of these days I'm going to learn to get directions as well as the addresses....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vancouver's Art Scene


Easy to Find : My first night in Vancouver happened to be a Tuesday. I happened to be walking by the Vancouver Art Gallery, which stays open late on Tuesdays. Why not go in?! It is a beautiful building and had some pretty interesting exhibits. For the most part, the art was Canadian and historical. There were a lot of landscape paintings that I would classify as less than masterpieces. There also was an exhibit featuring one of the country's most loved artists: Emily Carr. While looking at her work my first thought was how the heck did she get in a gallery?? (please don't banish me, Canada.) Her subject matter is very native Canadian and her style is pushing landscape and totem polls to almost a cartoon style. Upon researching more about Carr, I have learned more why her style and subject matter are this way and while her art still doesn't interest me, I can see the love her country has for her. Another Canadian artist heavily represented was Scott McFarland. He's a pretty good photographer, and based on the sheer amount of works he had, there were bound to be at least a few that I liked, which there were. Something that I've never seen before and thought was interesting is that there was a room with two small spotlights focused on specific parts of very dark photographs that had obviously been augmented to have one central light source:
So the room is very dark and the light part of the photograph REALLY pops. I'm not sure that I like this much digitalization of photographs, but this concept of bringing the dark room into the gallery is quite interesting.

An exhibit at the museum that was definitely eye catching was their contemporary exhibit: "Is only the mind allowed to wander." The works were inspired by the figure in some way and in most cases resembled portions of the figure. One piece I liked in particular was Patrick Traer's "Baby Blue Balls" and yes, it kind of does look like what it sounds like...It was HUGE and the texture was so soft and inviting...quite the parallel it draws.

Underground : I happened upon the coolest art gallery I've ever seen. Located in a half empty mall type building is Ayden Gallery. When I walked through, there were paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc on the walls, in the gallery. There were some clothing items and turntables where a dj was setting up. Pretty regular for any hip trendy gallery of the day. As I walked around I noticed 4 or 5 artists working on pieces. It was pretty fabulous to walk around the gallery, looking at these finished pieces, but also to watch the artists working. The gallery seems pretty young and the exhibit definitely was chosen based on trends as it was "Robots vs Monsters." This theme of course led for some pretty funky interesting art. Please check out the website to see examples, the artists are very talented. I realized later as people started coming in, the artists finished their pieces, and the music started to pump, that it was the actual night of the show opening.
Those artists there weren't just part of a performance element, but were actually cramming before the opening. (See, not only college students are still painting the walls on the day of their opening...lol.) It made me think that this is an idea I could really get behind...interactive galleries. Any takers?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Baby Beluga in the deep blue ...tank

The Vancouver Aquarium is without a doubt the most amazing aquarium I've ever been to. It features arctic sea creatures: Pacific White Sided Dolphin, Beluga Whales, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, etc. But also it has a whole tropics section including an alligator and lots of frogs. And an open air caged area with exotic birds and even a sloth hanging from the walls. If he was lower I could've touched him! There were plenty of interactive exhibits as well as shows/talks led by the staff.
The otters were by far my favorite. I learned that they have the densest coats of all animals, and they have more hair in one inch on their bodies than humans have on their whole body. They store food in the folds of their armpits and eat at least their entire body weight once per day because they have no blubber and need to keep warm. Plus they're freaking adorable. See for yourself:
The dolphin show/training session was very impressive. The trainers specified that the dolphins are trained with positive reinforcement only and are free to leave training class whenever they wish. But, as with all the animals, they were rescued from dangerous situations, and cannot live in the wild because of impairments (which is awesome that they aren't yanking these guys out of their natural habitats just for zoo purposes), the trainers find they live longer and happier with challenges given to them. So the otters are given tubes and packages to open with food inside and the dolphins and whales are taught tricks. Pretty darn cool.

The Beluga Whales were so wonderful to watch. One of the females had just had a baby, and was put in a separate tank so they could bond. I loved watching the mom and baby swim around together! The baby would follow the mom, touching her underside with her head every few feet or so. The mom would circle around, bump the baby lovingly, and then twist away from her, beckoning her to follow. It just struck me how loving and gentle these huge animals are. Whoever says that animals are just animals...lesser beings...are full of it. It was wonderful to watch this little (huge) family!
video
On the inside there were a lot of interesting fish. There was a fish I have never heard of called the hagfish that releases a slime when it is in danger that makes it too slippery to catch. It also has no jaw but is a predator. Want to know how that works? It eats its prey from the inside out. And the gross thing is that scientists are looking into it being a food source as we're depleting our oceans. There were spindly sea snakes in a tank with 3 little orange fish. It was only a matter of time before the fish would be eaten. It was so sad watching the scared little fish move around every time a snake would come near. I was just thinking how he must be singing "just keep swimming" in a trembling fish voice... These events aside, I think the most disturbing thing at the aquarium was that they had tuna sandwiches on the menu at the cafe...

Good family fun! : )

Granville (Island and South)


Turn right out of hotel. Head up Hornby Street for approximately 2 miles. Walk until you're at the water's edge and you'll find a rainbow colored little boat called the "Aquabus." Pay 5CAD (so yes, stop at the cash machine on your way) for a round trip ticket across the narrow water to Granville Island.
Once landed on Granville Island (which really isn't an island...but more like a man made peninsula, but who's keeping track anyway?) there are plenty of things to do. It's like a Pike's Place market divided by 20. Small and intimate but still full of stuff for all the senses.
The real draw for me at Granville Island were all the artist studios and galleries. The Emily Carr University of Art and Design is a small art college on the island. Emily Carr is one of BC's most famous artists. The school seems to be pretty cutting edge and the student work on exhibit was really great. I was definitely impressed. Back on the streets/galleries, there were glass blowers, bronze and metal workers, jewelry makers, weavers, and basically anything that can be sold. The artists have realized how to merchandise their product, and as Granville Island draws many tourists, it's a really smart move. I was told that it is federal subsidized housing for artists (much like the Tilsner Building in St Paul, MN) which is pretty cool that their shops are located right there.

I had a wonderful lentil soup at Bridges, a very yellow building, and continued walking "off the island" into South Granville. If Granville Island is the home of the hippie artists, South Granville is where their rich parents live. There are some really neat galleries and also some pretty fancy antique shops and art dealers. I always feel so awkward going into art dealers "galleries." For the most part, there is not much quality present, and if the odd Chagall, Picasso, or Matisse is present, its the leftovers that the museums don't even want. However the employees always make a point to judge me as someone not sophisticated enough to drop 100 grand on a painting. Well, they're right in a way. If there's something I like, I'll most likely make a mental note to paint something similar some day. There were also some great little shops and cafes thrown into this eclectic yet expensive neighborhood. It seemed like the ideal place to exhibit...there are enough galleries that I can't imagine it would be too hard to get some space, and I definitely wasn't the only person spending my Saturday gallery hopping, so sales potential is there for sure.
After hours and hours and hours of walking, my feet HURT. I had finally seen everything in Granville Island and seen all the galleries that stood out to me in South Granville, so I headed back to downtown. What a hike! Good thing it was a rare sunshiney day in Vancouver!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hello Vancouver!


I didn't know what to expect except that I expected to love it.  And I do. 

I got in after a very very long miserable day (including me getting so motion sick I had to have the taxi driver pull over on the side of the highway...and then getting obnoxiously hit on repeatedly by a TSA agent...and then 8 hours of travel...and then getting hit on by the taxi driver who kept calling me 'pretty lady' in his middle eastern accent) and checked in to the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed in.  A place where they don't even give you the option of helping you with your luggage.  A place where the morning room service attendant calls you 'madam' without any connotation that you are old or brothel-y.  A place where I can look out my window and see the city.  The picture above is the view from the hotel on the opposite side of my room.  Pretty gorgeous.  It's been like this every day and I couldn't be happier.  I never tire of telling my fellow colleagues who complain about it how energized this weather makes me!  

I have been working every day until at least 5, running to my room, changing clothes and hitting the town.  So far, I've been walking 2-4 miles a day.  It feels nice to just have things to see and I never will run out of streets to plod.  The unfortunate thing is how early the sun is setting, and with Vancouver being a large and diverse city, there are definitely places you don't necessarily want to be walking in after dark alone (like the neighborhood I found myself in tonight at 9 pm...ooops).  It is because of this perpetual sunset that I don't have many wonderful pictures yet.  Tomorrow I am walking to Granville Island, home of the artsy fartsy folk and will certainly have more images then.  

What I know about the city so far is that it is similar to Europe.  But with the thousands of residential high rises (all topped with trees which I think is the most amazing thing ever) integrated with the old architecture and moody landscape, it's a hybrid I have not yet seen.  The people walk slow but are very thin.  The food/drink selection is limited only by the number of cultures represented in Vancouver...which means they have everything.  And not just knock off everything...good everything.  Everyone I've met at work has been so nice and wonderful.  I think Canada is a good place to be, and I can't wait to see more!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Postcard Inn on the Beach, St Pete Beach FL


Postcard Inn on the Beach is a brand new renovated property in St Pete Beach, Fl.  You would never know that this used to be a run down Travelodge.  The design team took a vintage surf motif and ran with it.  The rooms were transformed from moldy carpet and floral bedspreads to 70s inspired funky luxury.  The inner courtyard is beautifully landscaped, including many casual sitting areas among the foliage.  The bar on the beach is a famous spot for the locals, but also makes for a great evening of people watching for visitors.  Wildwood BBQ is the NYC restaurant transposed in St Pete and it's pretty damn good!  The original BBQ sauce was really fabulous with the pulled pork.  All in all, if you're looking for a unique vacation spot with a warm staff, Postcard Inn is a good place to look!  

My last night in St Pete, I went to Jimmy B's Beach Bar nextdoor and really enjoyed the less than mediocre cover band.  It was annoying at first, but then after the obvious 40 year old burnout rocker songs were played, they went into even worse covers of that awful song "she was born to do the wild thing" and Jump Around.  The crowd there was loving on the band, dancing around and acting all Girls Gone Wild.  I must say it was a very appropriate send off.  I met some really awesome people there and definitely left with a much better impression than my first!  

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blasius Erlinger

First, click here, then look at the photo on the far left for "latest work." Then look around at all the other photographs.  That first photo takes my breath away.  The composition, the pose!  Everything is to die for.  I had the pleasure of informally meeting the talented Blasius Erlinger in St Pete Beach, Florida.  The Postcard Inn used to be a dingy Travelodge.  In a matter of months, it has been transformed into a hip beautiful property.  Blasius was hired by Travel & Leisure to capture this new fabulous getaway.  It was so interesting to watch him at work.  His twin 15 year old 6 foot + daughters modeled the lobby furniture, surfboards, and rooms.  He ran around capturing the new architectural angles and atmosphere alike.  Usually a man of this caliber would be cold and arrogant.  Blasius was so kind and humble.  He was very flattered that we had even looked at his website, let alone complimented his work.  

It's very rare to find talent paired with kindness and humility.  He definitely deserves a shout out!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Band-Aid did not pay for the following endorsement...


Because I believe this look is utterly unacceptable past the age of 8, I don't wear socks with my shoes.  Because control top panty hose do wonders for my thighs but are killer uncomfortable, I usually slip my bare feet into my flats or heels.  For anyone who has worked to wear in a new pair of shoes, you know it can be painful.  Of course it shouldn't be, but it is.  You get the blisters on the tops of your feet from flip flops and the worn off pieces of skin on your heel.  Well this is of the past now that Band-Aid created Friction Block Stick.  It's a few bucks at Target.  I bought it, not being too optimistic, but having painful and bloody spots on my feet...I was desperate.  All you do is rub this small deoderant looking stick against those parts of your feet that get the most wear and tear and voila.  No more blisters.  I shit you not, this product is genius and I use it every day.  

***Band-Aid, if you read this, thank you thank you thank you.  Oh and you owe me for this commercial....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Old Dutch - Painting, not the potato chips...


When it comes to photo realism painting, no one holds a candle to the old Dutch masters.  When I went to The Netherlands a year and a half ago and went to Den Hague's Mauritshuis Museum, I finally saw Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring," Paulus Potter's giant animals, and Willem van Aelst's still lifes, I definitely fell in love even more.  It's always been a technique I've idolized.  Usually when I see a painting in person, I can finally see the flaws, the brushstrokes, the layers of color.  This is the best thing, I believe, about going to museums.  When I finally saw my first Frida Kahlo painting, I realized that she made some major mistakes or changes when painting.  Seeing the process, decisions made, and errors in ones you look up to is pretty cool.  Not so much for the Dutch.  Basically they're perfect, smooth, flawless.  In Vermeer's paintings, you can see brushstrokes up close, but from afar, it looks like a photo.  The above photo is an example of this technique.  A less famous version of the Dutch masters, this Jan Anthonisz van Ravensteyn painting was hanging in the Snite Gallery at Notre Dame University.  Those beautiful collars, although quite the fashion statement, would be a pain to paint.  The textures from fabric to frizzy beard hairs are so perfect.  The repetition and patterns that those painters achieved are so meticulously executed.  Seeing the paintings of the best of the best can be very discouraging.  However, seeing this paiting gave me a different outlook.  This is a style of painting that is reserved for the few these days.  It is popular to be gestural and abstract.  The days of photorealistic portraits may be long gone, but it is something I would like to explore even further.  Let's be Dutch and make ourselves go crazy by attempting perfection!   

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sloppy Pelican Loser Bug Paintings

Best burger of my life.  Medium-well grilled beef patty.  Melty provolone cheese.  Half of an avocado.  Lettuce, Tomato, and Pickle.  With garlic parmesan fries.  I'm so full, I hurt.  After a pretty stressful and long day at work, we headed down the beach to the Sloppy Pelican on St Pete Beach.  It's a bar/restaurant with a patio right on the water.  Fabulous service, good no frills food & drinks.  And some fabulously rich key lime pie for dessert.  PLUS you get to watch the sunset during your meal.  Just can't get any better.

Now that I'm bloated, I sit down on my bed to watch some tv.  The Biggest Loser is on, and of course, within moments I'm crying.  And feeling even more bloated than before.  Where is a personal trainer with crazy tasks for me to do?  Just then a bug walks by me on my bed (a big one) and I realize I have bigger problems than some extra weight right now...

Last night I had my first night of peace and quiet.  No noisy neighbors screaming.
  Bliss.  
For some reason I still couldn't sleep.  I think and think and think and somehow land on an image that I need to paint.  I want to paint.  It looks like a familiar face but in a style I have not fully explored.  Highly expressionistic.  Instead of trying harder to sleep, I pulled out my drawing materials that I travel with and got a pretty good first sketch of it.  Of course I didn't have a model to go off of, but I got down on paper the look I'm going for.  Then I could sleep.  Art is fun like that...sometimes it just demands your attention.  And thank goodness for that!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Salvador Dali

What a weirdo he was, yes?  I finally made it to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  It is said to have the biggest and finest collection of Dali's works...outside of Spain, that is.  Statements like that lead me to believe it would be a huge art museum.  In reality, it was much smaller than I was expecting, however, too much Dali might be overwhelming, so it was a perfect size for the amount of work.  There were some small pieces, some measuring in the hundreds of feet.  The museum was arranged in chronological order, which was wonderful to see Dali's progression through styles and themes.  Obsessed with Freud and sexuality, Dali's paintings usually were object heavy, and each object meant something to Dali.  (I won't bore you with an Art History lesson...but it is pretty interesting if you're into that kind of thing.)
My favorite pieces were ones I had never seen before.  One is the painting pictured above : Oeufs sur le plat sans le plat (Eggs on the plate above the plate), 1932.  As one of his earlier surreal paintings, his talent for realistic painted objects is very clear.  The egg is attached and hangs with a weight that is not possible for the object.  The yokes reflect the light from a window which is not seen.  The technique is fantastic...he created a photograph with paints.  

The other painting I really enjoyed is the one pictured below : Sentimental Colloquy, 1944.  Midway through his career, Dali became very popular in all artistic circles.  This painting below is a design he was working on for the New York Ballet.  What?!  Yes.  Pretty crazy stuff.  It's interesting to think of these famous artists being so commercial.  Some artists judge those who do custom work, portraits, mass production, basically anything that's not your heart's yearning desire to express your soul, as not actually doing art or selling out.  Photographers get this a lot.  My response is that Mucha, Lautrec, Michelangelo, and even snobs like Dali did it.  Why can't we?  
Dali used to be my favorite artist.  Then I learned a little more about art.  And now I realize, seeing his paintings up close, that his technique is not flawless (its pretty damn good though...).  I believe there comes a point when an artist becomes so self obsessed that they stop communicating through their art.  Dali got to a point in his art where he kept repeating himself and pushing the envelope just for the purpose of pushing the envelope.  He was brilliant though.  And, the man new how to grow a mustache.  

Audrey Niffenegger and the Destination Novel

Staying up until 3 in the morning is something that very few select things can make me do. Watching back to back episodes of Lost or True Blood is one. Reading Audrey Niffenegger is another. I LOVED The Time Traveler's Wife with such passion. Immediately you loved, cared for, and were so anxious for her characters. The story had just the right amount of romance so that it's not "chick lit" but actually fits into the mystery/drama/thriller genre. I have followed Niffenegger's published works including her two somewhat alternative illustrated books (think children's books with adult themes).  When Her Fearful Symmetry came out, I ran out and got it immediately.  This happens to be what kept me awake last night until 3.  Although much different than Time Traveler, Symmetry still carried her gift of character and mood writing.  The major difference this time is that there are more main characters, and of which she exposes more.  This is one of the first books that I was so interested in the characters without actually knowing if I liked them.  They were very realistic people : selfish, emotional, flawed.  I'm not sure that I am on board with every plot twist in the book, but all in all, it's a great read.  
Her Fearful Symmetry took place in Lake Forest, Illinois and mostly London.  It was one of those books that gave directional details and store names without explaining what they are.  So if you've never been to London, you'd miss quite a few details.  I love these details cause it's nostalgic to me.  Sometimes I go back and forth as to how much of this is necessary.  An author who uses location as a character of the story is Neil Gaiman.  He uses London in Neverwhere (my favorite book of his) and the midwest in American Gods.  He gives the locations an appropriate importance to the story, so that they're not just mentioned, and they're not explained to death.  I believe that Audrey is getting there...as an American author, she did admit to having help with her English slang, as most of the characters were English.  So at times, it did seem a little forced, but it helped paint the atmosphere for me.  I'd be curious to hear what someone who hasn't been there thinks about the subject?  Does it enhance the story?  Or are they just added nonsense?  

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is the kind of idyllic university we see in the movies.  Of course there is the giant stadium where all the football is played, but beyond that, there are thousands of trees and gorgeous buildings.  There's a strong sense of the history and culture of the university as you walk through it.  The first building I came across was the art gallery.  An actual art gallery filled with actual historical and contemporary artists!  (See last blog for a review of one of the exhibits.)  



Obviously I snuck around the art studios to check out how great the facilities are.  Well, pictured here to the left, is just one of the sculpture studios.  Just one of them.  HUGE great spaces that I could not even imagine getting to work in.  It seemed like a pretty wonderful art department.  And I am definitely keeping it in mind for grad school.



I explored the rest of the campus including the beautiful cathedral and breathtaking admissions building.  Paired with the beauty of the campus, the immature co-ed conversations I heard seemed so out of place.  But then, I must remind myself that they are young, and even though this place is gorgeous and historical, 18 year olds live there too.  It was quite the experience to be there the day before a home football game.  The campus started swarming with alumni.  The infants and oldies alike were dressed in Notre Dame gear (which, I must add is NOT cheap, as I found out in the over-crowded bookstore).  

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thin

"Thin" is a photography/film exhibit put together by artist Lauren Greenfield.  Right now, it is living at Notre Dame's Snite Gallery, which is where I happened upon it.  As you may guess, its subject matter is eating disorders.  Greenfield spent time at a clinic in Florida where she conducted interviews, was present for treatments, and filmed/photographed her experiences.  At first, I was disappointed by how literal the photos are.  They are very un-pretty: exposing cutting scars, ribs, and under-eye circles.  It is obviously made to make the viewer react strongly, which, it was successful at.

What the exhibit really succeeded at was telling the women's stories.  While it might have been a little cheap to show grotesque females to get a reaction, I believe, that paired with the individuals' stories next to the photos, it became appropriate.  As a woman, not only could I sympathize, but understand.  While never having a severe eating disorder myself, I am obsessed with my body, as I believe most women are.  And I don't mean obsessed as an egotistical term, but obsessed as in I think about how horrible I look all the time.  I don't want this to be a personal whine fest, but I think it's an important issue that we all deal with, and it's important to discuss it.  I remember being 6 years old and being in an outfit my mom was so excited to put me in, and all I could think about is that my belly stuck out over the pants and I thought I was fat.  I didn't last an hour in this outfit.  At 6 years old...which leads me to believe that it's not just our screwed up society that makes us so uber-critical.  I grew up with strong (although sometimes emotionally unstable) women influences who always told me I was beautiful.  No matter how often our mothers, sisters, and boyfriends tell us we're beautiful, it takes one glance at a girl in a bikini without any bulges or a reflection of ourselves in a glass door for us to go back to self-loathing land.

Needless to say, the exhibit affected me greatly.  I think that it would be a good idea for anyone who has been affected by their appearance or has been in a relationship with someone with low body image to check this out.  It's a good call to attention to the issue.  If we have the power to try to rise above this and prioritize our thoughts better or if we unfortunately do not, it's empowering to see what these other women have been through and seeing their fight to live.

http://ww.laurengreenfield.com/index.php?p=Y6QZZ990

Thursday, October 1, 2009

South Bend, Indiana

These towns I've never heard of keep popping up on my schedule.  When someone asks me where I'm going and I tell them, if it's a man, they immediately point out that a big university is there.  Last time it was Texas Tech.  This time, it's Notre Dame.  I didn't even know it was in Indiana.  Which, at least I knew where Indiana was, unlike one of my dearest friends : P  (love you!!).

The town is much like any suburb would be.  Complete with a Panera Bread (mmmm creamy tomato soup and asiago bread....), Red Robin, Red Lobster, Carrabbas, Houlihans, Old Navy, Borders, etc etc etc within 1/2 mile of the hotel.  These eateries were as far as I had ventured in the town.  Until today.

I'm working the overnight shift, and so, after staying up until 7:30 am, I slept in until the sun peeked in my room at 1 pm.  After a delicious lunch at Panera (no surprise there), I decided I wanted to go to Target.  Now.  There was a dilemma.  Target is 2 miles away.  Walmart is 1 mile away.  Obviously Walmart is the better more convenient choice.  Obviously I went to Target.  The hotel shuttle could've taken me, but this dear sister of mine gave me assignments to aid me on the road to self improvement, and one of these tasks is to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.  A 4 mile walk (even if interrupted with some mild shopping addict behavior and Starbucks drinkage) would definitely satisfy that.  Convinced that it was my destiny to begin this adventure, I put on my sweatshirt and new Nikes and braced myself against the fall wind.  (It actually was a beautiful day for a stroll...)

The US is, on the whole, unfriendly to the idea of being a pedestrian.  South Bend, Indiana, is downright discriminatory against pedestrians.  Not only are there no sidewalks or shoulders on the road, but no walking signals on the traffic lights.  I definitely almost got run over more than once and was gawked at by all drivers.  As the ONLY pedestrian on the road today, I felt a little alien, but I had my sights set on Target, so I kept on truckin.

Pretty soon, I felt like Buddy the Elf on his adventure to NYC.  "First I walked through the vast squishy fields of grass.  Then I passed by all the chain restaurants in the world!  Then I ventured through Horny Honkers' Hollow (apparently jeans and a sweatshirt creates a look rival to that of the red carpet or hookers on street corners).  THEN I crossed over the Bridge of Death (think busy overpass with no sidewalks...).  Then, just as Super Target was in sight, I came across the scariest obstacle of all: giant locusts!" Grasshoppers the size of my finger EVERYWHERE.  With every step I took, I displaced at least 5 grasshoppers who would jump up as high as my waist.  I've never been creeped out by these bugs, but they were SO huge, and they ran into my hands when they jumped, it's like they were doing it on purpose  (I'm starting to understand Moses better).  Then to top it all off, the crickets the size of silver dollars joined.  Yuck yuck yuck.

Finally I reached my destination.  Have I mentioned how much I love Target?  It's such a comfort in times of need and despair.  When I was done shopping and sipping at my Pumpkin Spice Latte, my zen level had returned and my nerves were calm : I was prepared to venture back to the hotel now armed with the experience of the route.  I knew what to expect, and I rocked it in reverse.

The House on the Rock

The first time I heard about The House on the Rock (and paid attention) was when reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods.  When he writes about all the gods of all religions (burnt out, forgotten, etc) convening at this place, it perked my interest.  I researched it and found out it was a pretty quirky roadside attraction just outside Madison, WI.  And for how much I love Mr. Gaiman's writing, I couldn't get the pictures he painted out of my head, and I just had to go.

In the mid 1900s, an architect, Alex Jordan, wanted to build a spectacular house on the pinnacle of a rock in Spring Green, WI.  He did this and then opened it up as an attraction.  I'm guessing because of boredom or personal interest in collecting (the guy had to be a little off if you ask me) he built/assembled/collected tons of junk, which is now part of the attraction and museum of The House on the Rock.The main attraction is pictured above: the largest carousel in the world.  This, in American Gods, is the portal to Odin.  In person, it was hot, sweaty, and overwhelming.  There are no horses on the carousel, but hundreds of horses lining the walls/ceiling of the room the carousel is housed in.  The creatures on the moving carousel range from bulldogs to mermaids.  You can't actually ride it, which is a bummer, but it's pretty impressive.  The attraction has many rooms filled to the brim with some genuine articles, but mostly crazy worthless items that end up being impressive by sheer volume.  The rooms full of dolls was by far the creepiest.  There was a full scale model of a humpback whale (with teeth...hmmm not accurate) and a squid attacking it.  Also in the same gigantic room, was an "Octopus' Garden" area where you could insert a token and listen to a mechanical "band" playing the Beatles' song while the cartoon-y octopus "played" the instruments.  There were rooms upon rooms of lavish musical sets with the same token invoked canny music.
The attraction took the most time to walk through, as there was so much to look at.  As an artist, I couldn't help but be inspired by all the objects and design.  It was such chaos.  The mass of STUFF was inspiring and disturbing all at the same time.  A lot of these objects took a lot of craft to create and assemble, and although he must have been insane, the talent must be recognized!

The actual house was the most interesting/impressive part of the attraction.  The story is that Alex Jordan wanted to study under Frank Lloyd Wright, who was his hero.  Wright, looking at Jordan's sketches, laughed in his face and told him he was ridiculous.  Obviously, Jordan was not accepted into Wright's highly prestigious Taliesen school, which happens to be 5 miles down the road from where Jordan decided to build his masterpiece in Spring Green.  The story is just hilarious to me, knowing how pretentious Wright was, and that The House on the Rock attracts more visitors than Taliesen.  The house is small, the ceilings were so uncomfortably low.  The structure is built into and on the rocks.  The interior walls are partially natural rock, and the Japanese design is beautiful.  The impressive part is the cantilevered portion that juts out hundreds of feet from the main structure:


The cantilever ends in a point, leaving not enough room for adults to walk to the end.  It was rickety and creepy and beautiful.  Here's a view from below/side.  See how it's just leaning on that one rock for support?!  Yes.  Cool.


Although it costs an adult $28 for the full tour (and no student discount...), it is so worth it.  Just about 30 minutes West of Madison, The House on the Rock is a wonderfully unique way to spend a day.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Career Women

You know the type.  50 years old, skinny, manicured, single, particular, outspoken...bitches.  Their careers are definitely successful.  They're usually VPs or CEOs of something.  Usually have a wonderful house or apartment in the poshest of neighborhoods.  They do not have animals that can't be left home alone for at least a week at a time because they travel so much (that is, unless the maid can feed the cat).  In my experience, a lot of these women are very nice and personable when you first meet them.  Sure, they're demanding, but they're used to getting their way, so we must recede and treat them in that way, for only God knows what would happen if someone stood up to them.  These women probably knew their career path at 12, and lets face it, have all the right connections, because without connections there's not much upward mobility possible.  They have everything.  And of course Hollywood has shown us in multiple movies (Kate & Leopold, The Devil Wears Prada, etc), they have everything but love.  Aw.  

I recently spent some time working with a woman like this.  When not talking about work, conversation went to her vacations on a yacht in Europe or returning home to her apartment in Soho.  She was perfectly nice.  She didn't listen to a word anyone else said, but she was smiling while interrupting.  She flirted with every man in the room.  She wore revealing clothing (if you could call revealing ribs and crocodile skin revealing).  I didn't hate her, but was relieved when her high stress form whisped out of the room.  

I am the opposite of this woman in many ways.  I could tell you a few jobs I know I would find happiness and fulfillment in.  I couldn't tell you how I intend to get those jobs.  I don't have a plan, a career or even (sometimes, gasp!) goals.  I'm not able to push everything to the side (even my happiness) for a job.  Does the fact that I run around the job world like a chicken with my head cut off and have no idea how to market myself make me less of a person?  No.  I just know that success will never come to me in this form.  It won't come from me farting around with art privately and not pursuing anything either.  So.  Crossroads?  Are the only two choices bitch or pauper?   

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chirp, chirp, CHIRP!

After a long day of travel, I arrived in sweaty Tampa.  The sketchy motel I'm staying at is in St. Pete's Beach - what I naively thought was the same thing as St Petersburg...ends up the town is 20 miles away and I am without a vehicle...  Still, could be worse.  I was definitely tired and so I went to turn in early.  I'm a little freaked out being on the ground floor of a motel so I didn't fall asleep right away.  Around 10 pm I started hearing a cricket chirping.  It was quiet at first, but then grew louder.  I tried to drown it out.  No dice.  So I got up and stomped the hell out of the corner I could hear it in.  It stopped.  Crisis averted, back to bed.  Light off, flip flops off, glasses off, vibrant floral pattern blanket on, sigh.....chirpchirpchirp....light on, blanket off, glasses on, flip flops on (who in their right mind would dare walk barefoot in this place, I don't know) over to the corner again.  This time, my weapon was a DVD case.  Slamming it against the wall, the carpet, every nook and cranny.  Back to bed.  Chirpchirpchirp.  This went on until 1 am.  I tried watching LOST to distract me and it worked for a while but I was exhausted.  Finally my brilliant friend Tom suggested I cover the area with hairspray.  That way, even if I missed the chirping bastard with my foot or DVD case, he'd hopefully be drowned in sticky alcohol spray.  I tried it around 2 am.  Silence.  I finally fell asleep a while later.  Silence.  5 am CHIRPCHIRPCHIRP.  Obviously pissed off by earlier homicide attempts, cricket vengeance was strong.  I put the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep.  I was in and out and finally got up at 7 when my alarm went off.  Light on.  Silence.  Right when I got up, he was silent as the dead cricket I had hoped he was.  

I haven't heard from him since....but it is twilight....

(...to be continued)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gastro Non Grata

This event at the Triple Rock in Minneapolis was fabulous.  $3 to get in = small glasses of different beers to sample, small bites of food by famous local chefs, and some highly entertaining (if sometimes not quite technically good) live music.  PLUS a meat raffle.  Wow.  Best 3 bucks I've spent in a while.  This past weekend, the food was from the chefs of La Belle Vie and Sea Change (the Guthrie's new restaurant with the coolest logo I've ever seen), desserts were from La Chiquita.  Mini lamb burgers (I know..."Liiiiisa don't eeeeeat meee") and tuna boats (for lack of a better term....canoe-shaped baguette with tuna, vegetables, and delicious sauce) were the winners of the evening for me.  Also, quite the experience to have a Ukulele Orchestra serenade at the Triple Rock.  It was like a choir of children with recorders, where all members play the same melody line, but substitute the children with grade school science teachers and the recorders with ukuleles and the melody can be something written by David Bowie.  It was fabulous.  Rope Trick was the best band I think.  They had mostly an old western vibe with much yodeling thrown in.  The lead singer has a great voice.  It's definitely an evening of surprises and scheduled itsy bitsy courses.  Don't expect to leave full unless you go for second or third helpings of everything.

The next Gastro Non Grata event should be in November at the Triple Rock.  Watch out for it!


Summer Movies 2009

I've had some time at home, working remotely, and it's been great.  Of course in this time, being the movie lover that I am, I have seen quite a few movies!  Short reviews: 

Harry Potter 6 - As a lover of the books, of course I love the movies.  This movie really played up the humor of the hormones.  The action was good, acting great (I LOVE Alan Rickman and Jim Brodabent made a great Slughorn) well, great by the adult actors...although I think the kids are getting much better.  The movie was incredibly anti-climactic though, which left me disappointed.  

The Ugly Truth - Well what do you expect going to a movie like this.... It met expectations.  It was more raunchy than I thought, but just a cheesy romantic comedy with a very attractive pair.  However, Katherine Heigel has lost WAY too much weight and is now one of those bobbleheads : (

Funny People - Hiarious.  PLUS this movie actually had depth to it.  The characters were complex and the story was quite dramatic.  I like Seth Rogan more and more every movie he's in.  The best parts I think are the lost footage of Adam Sandler with Judd Apatow and the stand up that the actors actually wrote.

(500) Days of Summer - I'm not going to say too much about this movie.  It was everything you'd expect from an indie film - a little odd, confusing, cute and silly.  The characters were just not believable for me at all.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great in it, I've missed him.  And although I do have quite the girl crush on Zooey Deschanel, I was left quite disappointed in her performance.  Of course, if I met her, I wouldn't admit to that...

GI Joe - Yeah ... I saw it.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in this one too, but this time he had a cheesy cartoon villain voice and a crazy face.  Versatile.  You know who is not versatile?  Channing Tatum.  The boy can't even do a Southern accent.  Sad.  It was an entertaining action movie, but I did feel like the movie was made for prepubescent boys.

The Time Traveler's Wife - I was so excited and nervous for this film.  The book by Audrey Neffeniger might be my favorite book...ever.  I am so happy to say that the film didn't let me down.  Obviously there are things I wish they included or didn't change, but I think they did a wonderful job with casting, effects, and overall editing.  This film has had a lot of bad reviews by people who didn't read the book - apparently they find it creepy, which I could understand.  So if you haven't read the book, read it.  You won't be disappointed, it's nothing like The Notebook or those other cheesy stories.

District 9 - See it.  Holy moly see it.  Imagine if ET was even more humanized and ostracized...The film style was documentary which pulled you right in to this story.  The story itself was inspired by the Apartheid and the immigration "problem" since then with Zimbabweans coming into the black ghettos of South Africa in the 90s.  If you're squeamish with gore and blood, this isn't the movie for you.  If you're ready to see a film that makes you think and feel, please go.  And bring me back a baby alien.

Julie & Julia - My expectations were not exceptionally high for this movie.  I knew it'd be good, but I didn't know how good it would be!  Meryl Streep.  Holy moly.  The last movie I saw her in was Mama Mia.  And well, the director must have told her to act like that...because this woman is SO talented it's ridiculous.  She NAILED Julia Child.  Mannerisms, tone of voice, expressions, everything.  Not only did she copy Julia, she created such a lovable character!  Amy Adams was also good, but was totally outdone by Meryl.  I also loved the husbands of the movie, Stanley Tucci, and that other guy (whoops, forgot).  The characters were wonderfully written and played to perfection.  I highly recommend this movie.

Inglourious Basterds - Best movie of the summer in my opinion (District 9 is a close 2nd).  If anyone can rewrite history, it's Quentin Tarrantino.  As much as a prick he can be, he really is brilliant.  Most of the movie has subtitles and I'm so glad they cast native speakers for these roles, it's hard to read sometimes cause you're caught up in the actor, and you have to remember to read as well.  If its any indication on how good it was, I saw it Friday night, and Saturday I wanted to see it again.