a partly cloudy week: part one

A couple of days ago I began a rather long blog post about my week last week, touring Boston and its environs with the inlaws. I've since broken that post down into sections, separating my wordy recap of the week by days. Here's Monday.


It's officially summer around here. Not in the summer equinox/first-day-of-summer way, but in the sense that both Neal and I are now finished with school for the year. We kicked off our four months (nearly) of freedom with a weeklong visit from Neal's mom and brother, dragging them to local tourist traps and day-tripping up and down the Massachusetts shoreline.

We began our tour on Monday with Boston's Freedom Trail. Neal and I had completed this roughly 2 1/2 mile loop through historic Boston before, when we visited the city as official tourists back in October '03. The costumed man outside the visitor's center, who tried to coax us into paying $12 for the guided version, assured us we still look like tourists. Along the trail I noticed a number of things I seem to have missed the first time, like pretty much all of School Street. A Ruth's Chris steakhouse fills what used to be the original Latin High School, now near the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Fenway district. Near where you can now fill your belly with a juicy (and expensive) steak, I took a picture of this bronze statue of the Democratic Donkey:

We stopped for lunch at Faneuil Hall (named after the French-descended wealthy 18th century merchant, Peter Faneuil, the name is now pronounced like "Nathaniel" but without the "Na" and replacing the "th" sound with "f"...not according to French phonetics, which I tried during my first couple of visits...fanoy?). We considered the many marketplace options, but limited seating led us to be suckered in to the restaurant that claims to be a recreation of the "Cheer's" bar (the building that was actually filmed for the exterior shots in the sitcom is closer to where we started our walk in the Boston Commons area). And that's literally all it is. The restaurant is composed of a bunch of generic tables and chairs surrounding a square bar that does indeed resemble the bar in the show...and countless other establishments, I'm sure. On the wall is plenty o' Cheer's paraphernalia and memorabilia and stuff. It's worth one visit for the souvenir mug you can get for ten bucks, with beer, a bit less than what they're charging in the nearby gift store.

I don't know how I missed the impressive and very moving holocaust memorial the first time around. This time we walked through the six towers representing different concentration camps, the glass walls etched with numbers for each of the six million victims. Eerily, steam rises through the glass towers from metal grates in the ground. I have to give Neal credit for this image.

We stopped at Mike's Pastry in the North End, satisfying my weeks-long craving for ice cream, and picked up a half-pound of various Italian cookies for later. The gelato was good but I wasn't terribly impressed with the cookies (or the service, for that matter, but I guess abrasive is what tourists have come to expect and masochistically enjoy here in Boston). I'd go back for the canoli, though. Nearby is this Modern Pastry storefront, which I thought looked out of place amidst the narrow brick buildings and window boxes full of pansies until I learned that the bakery dates back to the 1930s, long before this look became retro.

Near the Old North Church (or was it the New Old North Church? I get confused...) I became fixated on this squirrel, as if I'd never seen one before. I took several pictures of him in this tree behind the gift shop near the church. Likewise, in the Copp's Hill Burying Ground, I must have taken half-a-dozen shots of the pansies growing out of this old fountain, trying to get a glimpse of the waterfront in the background, visible just above the flowers. I think Neal may have actually taken this image, explaining the difference between zoom and just getting real close.

The USS Constitution was closed, something we missed the first time around as well. From the end of the Freedom Trail in Charlestown we took the ferry to the aquarium area (here's Neal on the boat), catching an IMAX presentation of "Wild Safari" before stuffing our bellies at nearby Legal Sea Foods. That night we watched "Proof" on DVD, industriously adding another title to my summer film series. I thought it was pretty good. There were some really odd and quite funny bits near the beginning - little exchanges between Gwyneth Paltrow's character and her sister after their father dies. My attention faded ever so slightly with the unfolding of the proof mystery itself. It's kinda like that other movie Paltrow was in ("Possession," I think it was called), about discovering those old love letters or whatever with Aaron Eckhart - ultimately, even though you know on some level that it's important stuff, to somebody at least, it's hard to really care much about the very specialized topic at the center of the plot. But, you know, Jake Gyllenhall's hot. Hotter, possibly, than Aaron Eckhart.

But I digress...check back later for Tuesday and beyond.


ghosts, mermaids, and disco

Before I get into the real point of this post, a quick update to my t.v. wrap-up of last week. First, a correction: "Gilmore Girls" does not actually risk being cut next year. If I'd actually read Neal's blog more carefully, I'd know, and by extension you'd know, that the show will continue on the new network, but without creators/writers/editors/pure-genius wife-husband team Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. I'm not sure that's any better, as much as I enjoy the performances of the actors on the show, most notably Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. And see what the Sherman-Palladino's will be up to next.

I'm still at least half-a-dozen episodes behind on the "O.C." so I won't be watching this week's finale, but rumor has it someone's getting killed off. Could it be Marissa?? And, according to Entertainment Weekly, the show's creator, Josh Schwartz, will be returning to the show full-time in the fall, so it can only get better. Unless they kill off anyone other than Marissa...then I'll have to stop watching.

Finally, on the reality television front, summer 2006 will bring us not just another season of Big Brother, but an all-star version. Starts July 6th. Even though BB falls into the reality television category that I usually don't bother to watch - i.e. there's no "real" competition between the mostly deceitful contestants and no related prize other than money - the only way I won't watch is if I miss the first couple of episodes. If I watch them, which I plan to, I know I'll be hooked and I won't be able to fight it. Besides, it's not like there's much else on. But before that (beginning on May 25th), I'll be tuning into "So You Think You Can Dance." This one fits nicely into my preferred reality t.v. category and goes well with my general interest in watching people dance (like ANTM's 5'10" girls who can strike a fierce pose, these kids can really move!).

But the real point of this post is to log the first three installments of my own personal summer film festival. I've taken it upon myself to put together a roster of films - feature-length, live-action and animated - that explore some sort of coming-of-age story or transition from a female perspective. I'm sure I've been heavily influenced by Neal's "scholarly" pursuits over the past year, but I'm not limiting my choices to adolescent narratives. I'm interested in all sorts of rites of passage (women go through lots of them over the course of a lifetime) and particularly interested in the few examples that see a girl or woman travelling. So many movies from a woman's perspective remain interior, literally taking place completely inside the family home.

Anyhow, so far I've watched "Ghost World", "The Little Mermaid", and "The Last Days of Disco." I've seen them all before (the latter two a number of times) but I really enjoyed watching them again. I've wanted to watch "Ghost World" again for some time and for other reasons - the obvious artist/art school stuff and in thinking about the writing/directing duo's follow-up project - but it definitely qualifies for my series. And I suppose Enid does take a voyage of some sort at the end...Plus, the troubled relationship between her and Rebecca seems typical of female transitional stories (some of my own included) and kind of mirrors what happens between Alice and Charlotte in "Last Days of Disco."

"The Little Mermaid," of course, is just one example of the typical princess fairy tale, which is totally relevant here. But Ariel's different. For starters, she's a redhead. It was about time we saw a redheaded princess protagonist. Plus, she's a mermaid. Yeah, so she gets her land legs in the end (I suppose that's her voyage) but oh, how I longed to be a mermaid around the time the movie came out. I was twelve and wanted nothing more from the world than a lagoon where little frogs would perch on rowboat oars and sing to me. Sigh.

Anyway, if you have any other suggestions, please do add them in your comments.


t.v. wrap-up

Just when I have a little free time to watch television, all the good shows are nearly over - puttin' the bittersweet in summer break. Thank goodness for reality television, which defies the standard televisual season. Of course there's Big Brother to look forward to, but before that, we have a few weeks left of America's Next Top Model. Dare I say ANTM is my all-time favorite reality T.V. show? Quite possibly...

Anyway, yes, I have managed to squeeze in a few episodes over the last eight or so otherwise busy weeks. In fact, I think I've only missed one so far and it only really got good with the last few girls getting the boot. At this point, not knowing who got voted off last week (don't worry...I'll catch up with the encore presentation tonight), I'd be happy with almost anyone winning. She takes decent pics and I definitely dig her personality (and perspective on the other girls in the house) but I have to admit I just can't see Furonda winning. Jade's got an attitude but she's coming around (and who didn't love when she clarified for the rest of the girls that the show isn't called "America's Next Top Best Friend" for a reason). Danielle's almost all there, but I can see how the accent could be problematic (I particularly enjoyed her dentist office antics during the other girls' procedures). Sara basically just needs to prove to the judges that she wants to be there (I mean, if you're 6'1", milk it, you know?). That leaves Joanie, who's pretty darn close to perfect, if you ask me. I think she really came into her own, as they say, during the episode with the "crimping" photo shoot. There's that whole being-a-model-in-person thing that the judges are so picky about, but I think she's my favorite, if I had to pick one at this point - a nice blend of pretty with a little edge and a good sense of humor...plus, she got four teeth pulled out, for cryin' out loud! But I'd hate to jinx her...only once (Eva, of course, although I was pretty pleased, come to think of it, with Nicole winning cycle 5) has my pick been the winner in the end. And up to this point, at least, I wasn't too terribly disappointed when any model in particular has been voted off. Surprised, with Nenna, but not disappointed.

Other than ANTM I've managed to more or less keep up with Gilmore Girls (which, sadly, risks being cut with the WB and UPN merger looming), House, and Lost, and I'm almost caught up with the O.C. House is totally formulaic but, whatever, and Lost is always pretty good - mysterious, sometimes a little scary. The O.C. has had a few bright and shiny moments this season, but it wouldn't be the end of my world if I, for whatever reason, stopped watching. Or if the show got cancelled. Or if the show continued but Marissa's character got killed off somehow. That girl is such a magnet for drama and it's just not that interesting anymore. You know it's a mediocre episode (of any show, for that matter) when you start thinking about all the other things you should be doing instead of watching television.


don't know what I want, but I know how to get it

I'm not usually one for punk (I'm not a hippie either), but I've always liked the song "Anarchy in the UK" by the Sex Pistols for some reason. For the longest time I thought the line went, "I know what I want and I know how to get it," which, of course, has a slightly different meaning (late 80s/early 90s feminism à la you-go-girl, maybe?) than the actual line, above, which pretty accurately describes how I feel after my recent review board and at the end of my first year of grad school...now that I've had a couple of days to decompress.

My review went well in that I was given full credit and passed on to the second year, but initially, at least, I felt a bit discouraged. It seems form and content have moved even further away from one another in my work, meaning what I claim I'm interested in addressing in the work isn't usually at all what the viewer's getting, if they're getting anything at all other than a sort of visual play. Which is groovy in and of itself - one comment I got was that I seem more competent with the media I'm choosing to explore - but in all honesty I had hoped for more. So about halfway through, realizing I couldn't really defend why I was treating subject matter like death, loss, absence, memory, childhood, etc., in a graphic, "design-y" way, one of the faculty on my board commented on how productive this conversation was, how "well" my board was going. Say what? You can be having an absolutely traumatic time and everyone else there, who hasn't spent the past four months with these precious objects, thinks it's going well.

But by the end of the review, and even more so in the last couple of days, I think I see what she was getting at. Like maybe, for now at least, the way I'm working is more important than the subject matter and imagery I'm using, and, frankly, imagery that I've been using for awhile. So in a weird way, it was actually kind of liberating - I felt like, perhaps, I needed "permission" to explore this way of working, and working on projects that are outside what I thought was my "body of work." I guess it's okay if I set all that aside for awhile and just explore. So I don't know what the end result will be, but I think I know how to get there.

Anyway, here's a virtual tour of the gallery space where my review took place. Starting in the left corner and making our way around:

And continuing with projects from my screenprinting class, along the back wall (you can see some small prints - on postcard-size paper - from my last project in that class, on the table in the middle of the room...you might also notice on that table some equipment for projecting my very first video art which incorporated scans of these small prints, a video piece which I might put on my website for your viewing pleasure...or discomfort, whichever the case may be):

Making our way around the next corner we come to the first three of the five paintings I worked on this semester:

And two more:

This project originally consisted of eight paintings, the first batch of four started in acrylic. I started working on the second batch in oil and decided to scrap the first four, re-painting one of them to bring the total up to five. They started out as more formal exercises to get comfortable with painting again, and about halfway through I decided to collectively title them - you know, just for fun - "the five stages of grief, in one room." Turns out applying meaning and content in the form of the title only doesn't work so well. But, ultimately, I feel like this was all work I had to do - resolve, in a way - before I could move on.

And somehow, all of this is going to mesh nicely over the summer months with my recent interest in architecture - my summer reading includes Robert Venturi's "Learning from Las Vegas." So, you know, I don't know exactly what I want or how this will all turn out in the end, but I think I know how to get there. Thanks, Sid.