California or bust

Neal forwarded this KQED episode about three good eats in the Bay Area, just in time to whet my appetite for our trip west next week. We'll start off in the Sacramento area, where we'll take advantage of proximity to west coast chains we don't have here in New England (In 'n' Out, Rubio's, Chevy's, maybe the buffet at Thunder Valley Casino...) but we'll finish off our trip in our adopted hometown of Oakland. There's too much good food there to enjoy in one short weekend. If we had more time, we'd try to hit all of the places on our long list of local faves, including but not limited to: Cactus Taqueria (but just about any Mexican joint will do), Barney's (I like the Sunshine Turkey), Zachary's (mmmm, spinach & mushroom stuffed crust pizza), Arizmendi (scones every morning), Katrina Rozelle (where we got our wedding cake), and Holy Land for possibly the best hummus and falafel I've ever had. This last spot is the first restaurant discussed in the clip by the social worker from Oakland and the visuals of the food served there interspersed with her commentary are pure food porn. Each of the three guests has a restaurant to review but they all go to eat at each of the three so that they all have something to say about each one during its turn. About four and a half minutes into the episode, the guy in the middle seems to have had an equally delightful experience but keeps going on about how he had to travel "overseas" from San Francisco to Oakland to get there. Gag me! No offense, because I think I might have a San Franciscan or two who read this blog, but I've never understood the SF snobbery and the difficulty so many folks who live there seem to encounter upon leaving the city. Do they inject you with something when you become a resident? Is there an invisible fence halfway across the Bay Bridge? I mean, seriously, San Francisco's the size of a peanut and the rest of the world is a mere 12 miles away. And the bay is not a sea. Anyway, I suppose you could argue that my reverse snobbery toward Oakland is just as bad but, whatever, it's my blog and I can always delete your comments!

Seriously, though, it's always a tricky thing returning to the place you've left and have since completely glorified in your mind. Comments like that guy's remind me of the little things that added up to a smugness that in part inspired me to look east for grad school. This article, which appeared on Salon several years before we moved east, sums up my feelings pretty accurately, although I'm not sure my mixed feelings about the place can all be blamed on the dot com bust and boom since I began to feel ambivalent about Berkeley and San Francisco (before moving to Oakland) very soon after moving to the area in 1997. Eight years later I finally got about 3000 miles of perspective on the place, but I've been dying to get back ever since. Well, back west more generally, although I have to admit the bullseye of that large target is definitely Oakland. When we returned to the area for the first time last year I was apprehensive, but pleasantly surprised with how much I still enjoyed everything (plus, the area where we lived in Oakland - Lake Merritt - was just about to build a Trader Joe's within walking distance from our old apartment). I didn't move to Boston for the overrated change in seasons, despite having previously written about how magical the first snow can be (27 inches of snow in one week, it turns out, is not so magical). The accent that was initially charming is still sometimes annoyingly difficult to understand. And while I technically live in the city of Boston, in a neighborhood diverse with Vietnamese restaurants and Irish pubs, I'll never feel like a local because I can't claim that my family has lived here for at least three or four generations (how your family could stick around that long is beyond me). And yet I still have these reservations about California. Ultimately, I think the reason people settle in a particular area has more to do with family. That would explain why people stay in New England for generation after generation, or why native New Englanders who've experienced life elsewhere return to this place winter after long, snowy winter. So, I don't know, maybe I'll never feel completely at home, here or back west. But what fun would it be to live in a place you can't complain about? Especially so long as the weather is mild (there is a change in seasons: foggy in the summer, Indian summer in the fall, rain in the winter, and pleasant in the spring!) and the food is tasty.



Okay, so it's not technically the first snow (since we've been in Boston I've tried to blog about the first snow each season and I think I was successful the first two winters), but it's definitely the first significant storm. We've enjoyed a "wintry mix" here and there since about Thanksgiving - and that's actually worse, in my opinion. Not a lot of snow, but usually mixed with rain, occasionally freezing rain, and sleet, and typically followed by freezing temperatures that create a slippery glaze over everything. Treacherous. I'm not a huge fan of snow no matter how fluffy, I have to admit. I blame it on my first winter of independence, living in Bend, Oregon, during an unusually cold and snowy winter. They don't seem to clear the streets as well there as they do here and they use lava rock instead of the sand/salt combination, which is pretty tough on the roads and the cars. My theory is I'd rather survive my drive to the grocery store...I can always buy a new car or get a new paint job. Anyway, I digress. Despite my preference for milder weather, I can see why folks get excited about the fluffy white stuff. It is pretty magical.

Here's the view out our kitchen window, looking up the hill that lots of cars returning home from work when I took these pics around 5 p.m. this evening had a tough time climbing. That's our car, which we (aka Neal) will get to dig out tomorrow.

Here's the view from our front door. Our landlord's usually kind enough to shovel out our little walkway when he does the driveway.

Here's the view down the hill at the corner, outside our bedroom window.

And making a full 360 back to the front of the house, this is the view out of our other bedroom window. You can just barely see someone digging out their car early.

And of course, this was three hours ago and it's been snowing steadily since. It's still snowing although it seems to be tapering off. I haven't been able to find an updated snow accumulation for Boston itself but Burlington, about a half hour north, was at nearly 10 inches almost an hour ago. Tomorrow should be a fun-filled day of digging out.


masshole...and proud of it

In all the thesis hubbub I nearly forgot to post a pic of my edible art. Here's the piece I did for Matthew Meta's show. It's titled Metaconsumption.

It's a plastic pen cup holder, actually, with a little plastic insert that allows you to put four photos inside. So I trimmed my screenprint into four pieces then filled the holder with the actual candies. Attempting to visually define "meta" is always fun. It seemed like the representation partly masking the real thing might work here. Anyway, the back-story is that when I first met Matthew two and a half years ago he only wore black, white, and gray. And for his first review board he had custom color M&Ms in black, white, and gray printed with his name that he handed out in some sort of game he played with his board members. Then suddenly this summer he started wearing color. Crazy color in crazy combinations with crazy socks and shoes. And I like M&Ms so I figured, why not make art with them? I don't think anyone ate the M&Ms during the opening or after, but a friend's take on that installation episode was that it would be cool if you were supposed to eat the candies because then you'd be consuming the art in both figurative and literal ways. I thought that was a pretty good idea...for a future project, perhaps.

Anyway, my thesis defense went really well (fifteen minutes of craft nit-picking, followed by 45 minutes or so of mostly positive and/or really constructive feedback), but sadly, I was feeling just under the weather enough on the afternoon of the gallery talk to not attend. I was really torn but told it was a very informal event so in the end I decided to stay home and nurse my cold.

Otherwise, I've been keeping myself busy just generally catching up and getting ready for the holidays. I've done very little shopping, baking, or card-writing so far, but I'm getting there. I did decide yesterday, however, that the remainder of my shopping efforts will be conducted online, as much as possible. I swung by the mall to buy one gift - in the middle of a weekday - and it was a total madhouse. I don't even want to imagine what it's like this weekend. Macy's, for example, lures you in with these one-day sales and previews to that and coupons on top of it, but there are so many catches and exclusions you can only actually save money on three items in the entire store! Electrics, for just one of about fifty examples, were excluded, so basically that ruled out anything with a plug. What is this, Amish country?! It's all part of their strategy to lure you in and once you get there, deal with parking, make your way past disorganized, dazed shoppers (make a list!), you're not going to want to leave empty-handed. But I refused to pay full price for the item I desired in light of their crafty ways. Instead, I took my business to Crate & Barrel. I paid the same amount, of course, but it was the principle of it all. At least C&B is fairly overt about their inflated prices.

Anyway, needless to say I have zero patience for holiday madness. I believe the technical term for what I suffer from is "compounded stress." At moments like that, I just want to steal away to Germany and spend my twelve days of Christmas eating curry wurst and drinking cocoa while strolling through the Christmas markets. The problem is that New Englanders are already pretty gruff with one another, even on a good day (they'd "already rather be bow-hunting," so to speak). So it gets downright inhumane in an elevated stress situation like holiday shopping. As if to enforce my point, during my drive home I noticed a huge truck in front of me with a bumper sticker that looked like a small, customized Massachusetts license plate that read, "MASSHOLE." Kinda like this one:

That's the spirit. Why do you feel inspired to advertise this stereotype proudly? Why?


what lies between the opening and the review

The show is now open and has officially been received. The reception went well. I found a glittery gold sweater to match my glittery gold water globes and a black and gold and lace skirt I've had for years but never worn. I even found matching shoes and a little clutch purse. The first half-hour or so was slow, but after about 6 p.m. there was a steady stream of visitors, including lots of local friends I'd sent invites to.

And the installation held up for what will probably prove to be the majority of overall attendance to the show. The main surprise of the night was how interactive visitors were with the piece, even in areas where interaction was not my intention or goal. There was one guy in particular who brought his toddler over about four or five times to watch him weave through the paper columns. People couldn't seem to help themselves from touching the columns and lifting the water globes.

Had I known gallery visitors would feel so emboldened as to touch the art, I might have considered making the globes more intentionally interactive. I did invite them to take a set of postcards and pose for a portrait in front of my recreation of the Parthenon, which is why the image above was originally taken (and only later revealed evidence of interaction where I didn't necessarily want it). In fact, this image was taken by this couple's daughter, unbeknownst to me, standing at that moment just a few feet away from my camera, which was set up on a tripod. Okay, glitter globes are pretty irresistible, I'll admit, but I can't imagine walking up to a camera on a tripod in the middle of a gallery and starting to snap away. I have to admit, I was a little annoyed, but she did take a pretty fabulous shot. You can see all 18 images on my Flickr page. For more images of the installation itself, check out the newly updated thesis section of my website. You can even download and read my full statement, if you're into that kinda thing.

The thesis show activity will continue tomorrow evening with my final committee review and a gallery talk with the artists on Thursday at 6 p.m. If you're local and wanted to know more about a particular artist's work, you should attend. I've only done one gallery artists' talk before and the audience was made up almost exclusively of other artists in the show and a couple of friends and significant others.


all my fantasies have been realized

I'm done! Well, about 99.9% done as of 8:30 last night. By the time I got home, showered, had a bite to eat, and watched ANTM I was too tired to blog about my day and turns out I have plenty of time to catch up this morning.

I spent a little time yesterday morning working on my statement. With edits from Neal and one of my advisers, I'm feeling pretty good about it. Even with the late start, though, I ended up spending about ten hours in the gallery yesterday, getting there around 10:30 in the morning. I spent the first hour installing my contribution to another artist's show (which was annoyingly tedious, but my fault for buying a very complicated shelf system for it). Later in the day I was walking through his space and noticed that someone had eaten some of the M&Ms. Hello?! It's art - you're not supposed to touch it, let alone eat it! I'll have to top it off today before the opening, and I'll be sure to snap a couple photos while I'm at it.

Anyway, after that I got to work in my space, tweaked my measurements a bit, laid out my columns, started securing them to the floor. After I finished that part around 2 p.m. the rest of the work went pretty quickly. Setting up the centerpiece, so to speak, and the take-away cards was like putting the icing on the cake, or adding the cherry to the sundae, or however that expression goes.

But then time seemed to slow. Lighting took me a couple of hours, mostly because there was no one to move me around in the Genie lift, so I had to go up and down on my own about a million times. The first couple of wobbly rides on that thing were a little nerve-wracking but after two or three lights were positioned and aimed, I was kind of enjoying it. So I guess maybe doing the lighting was actually the icing on the cake...

For the last couple of hours I was there I installed and painted the shelf that will hold extra postcards and my statement, and applied my name lettering to the wall (maybe that was the cherry on the sundae...there are apparently many layers to this thesis trifle). I walked around and looked at my installation a lot during that time, while I waited for layers of paint to dry. I felt better by the end of the night, but initially, once it was all done and lit, I felt incredibly insecure about it, exposed. It's exciting to finally see something that's been in my head for the past few months, and I'm pretty happy with it overall, but there are moments when I worry that it's just downright chintzy. A little bit of chintz is part of the piece, but I don't want it to look like it was made by a class of kindergarteners. No offense to five-year-olds, but this is my thesis project, after all.

As for today, well, I've got that statement to polish off and print, and a binder of various information to add it to. There's this whole photo opportunity that will happen tonight in conjunction with the opening reception that I've yet to fully think through, so I guess I should work on that a bit. I have a couple of tentative outfits planned, but I might take a quick jaunt to the mall, just in case the perfect thesis show opening reception outfit is there, waiting for me to buy it. I might just have time for that yoga routine I fantasized about earlier in the week. And then it's off to the show this afternoon. The photo above is a teaser to tide you over until tomorrow (or the weekend, at the latest), when I'll post more photos of the installation and the opening reception. I'm already getting butterflies...


thesis show installation: day 2

Two down, two to go. Well, maybe just one to go, if I'm lucky. It doesn't look like much but today I finished attaching the hardware that will secure the tubes to the floor, wrapped the paper strips around the tubes, and made some initial measurements that will help with layout tomorrow. I'm stiff and sore all over and my knees are bright pink from kneeling on the hardwood floor for the first fourteen tubes until the gal setting up in the downstairs gallery offered some of the extra cotton batting she had to use as makeshift knee pads. That was an enormous improvement and I got the last eleven tubes wrapped in just about an hour (compared to the nearly three hours it took me during the morning shift). I'm determined to finish my statement tonight so I can put in a solid twelve hours in the gallery tomorrow. So far - other than the statement, that is - I'm slightly ahead of schedule. More to follow.


neither here nor there: the show

Boy, was I looking forward to Thanksgiving this year and I was not disappointed. Earlier in the semester I wasn't even sure I'd be able to get away, the holiday weekend being the last before installation would begin for my thesis show. But as the holiday approached I had more and more accomplished so that by the time Thursday rolled around, I was actually able to relax and do little more than eat every couple of hours for two full days. My sister-in-law did most of the cooking and she really outdid herself. Two different kinds of stuffing, two vegetable casseroles, possibly the creamiest mashed potatoes I've ever had, about half-a-dozen desserts, chocolate lollipops that looked like turkeys on our plates, and even a blob of butter fashioned into the likeness of the turkey we were about to devour.

I even had the weekend to finish up some lingering details and rent a truck that ended up being way too big for my 25 tubes, five or six rolls of painted paper, and a couple of boxes of other stuff.

But at least I got everything there this morning and helped a fellow artist with some of her installation materials. Day one was short since I had my last class this afternoon, but so far, so good. Just dropping stuff off and getting comfortable in my space felt pretty great.

Surreal at first, since I've been to most of the eight or so thesis shows in the Tufts galleries over the last two and a half years. Anyway, all I did today was lay out my paper, spread out my tubes, and start in on the hardware.

I'll be there again all day tomorrow and from 9 in the morning 'til 9 in the evening on Wednesday (and I'll try to keep up the daily updates leading up to the opening on Thursday). We have a few hours on Thursday as well, before the opening reception begins at 5:30, but right now I have this fantasy that I'll be finished by Wednesday night so that on Thursday I can sleep in, maybe do a little yoga, take my time getting ready, and finalize my artist statement, which I've yet to begin. In a related fantasy I steal an undergrad's statement I read sometime last semester, which went a little something like this: "It is what it is. And what it isn't, it probably will be someday." Somehow, I don't think that'll fly for this show.

Oh, and by the way, the title has actually evolved over the last couple of months from the title of this series of blog posts to the following phrase I pulled from my various thesis-related readings: what lies between here and there. I was concerned that the expression "neither here nor there" would suggest a nonchalance I don't feel is terribly justified, after spending the last six months working almost exclusively on this project. As one of my thesis advisers cautioned, "You should care." And I do.



After a really productive long weekend, this week I've succumbed to bouts of time-wasting distraction and avoidance. I'm not sure why. Things are going well and I don't feel panicked at all. In fact, some days I feel like I have a little extra time on my hands, but I think my brain is so consumed by this thesis that I can't really focus on anything else.

There are a couple of websites, in particular, that have provided me with hours of entertaining diversions. I'm a little late to the LOL Cats internet craze, apparently (it took Neal explaining a LOL Cat-like comment on a friend's Flickr image); I almost couldn't pull myself away from this site. I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt and I cried real tears. I'm still not completely sure why pictures of cats with poor spelling are so damn funny. Some are funnier than others. The image currently at the top of the page is pretty funny. I like the ones with cats in stuff doing something.

And then there's this post, which Neal forwarded to me from some foodie blog, about this guy's Domino's experiment. I enjoyed the post so much I read it twice and then spent about an hour browsing the entire blog. I aspire to write as well about equally or maybe even more ridiculous and funny things one day.

Finally, of course, let's not forget the beauty of television. Television is such a comfort to me right now. It gets me through the long days of roll-painting strip after strip of paper. I'm a couch potato for some portion of just about every night but oddly find myself watching fewer and fewer shows. I can't handle new characters or story lines on a new show like Chuck, for example, or the early disappointment of a lackluster new season of Heroes. No time for that (that's what winter break is for). I need entertainment and I need it fast.

I was bummed last week (or was that two weeks ago?) when ANTM aired the wrap-up episode, but overall, I think I'm actually enjoying this season a little more than the last two or three cycles. Some of the photo shoots have actually been pretty decent and Tyra is not nearly as obnoxious as I feared. Well, okay, there was that whole music video thing (oh, the subtle differences between hoochie and high fashion). I was really pretty sad to see Sarah go, but this week I had it in for Heather. I don't know why but she's been getting on my nerves the last week or so. She's pretty good in front of the camera and she's likeable enough but she's way more confidant than she puts on and that's just annoying. I don't know...I feel like her Asperger's Syndrome is the new plus size conundrum. Like, I doubt she'll win, but maybe she'll pave the way for future model hopefuls with the condition, and each cycle the gal with AS will go a little further in the competition. It seems like there's always one girl who gets the public vote (literally, week after week on the show and in reviews, etc.) for reasons that are fairly inconsistent with the theme of the show. I think there are a fair number of people who despise the entire modeling industry but still feel motivated to watch the show. Anyway, if Heather can pull off the public speaking, runway walking, and continue the good photo-taking, then I'd be happy if she wins, but otherwise, I say she needs to go. I don't care what syndrome she has.

Anyway, enough with the negativity. I think my new fave, although she doesn't get the most screen time, is Jenah, but my prediction for who might actually win is Saleisha. I can see the show's prize sponsors already working their influence and she seems like a pretty safe bet. We'll see how they hold up in China.


comfort food

You might have noticed I haven't been blogging much about the thesis...or much else, for that matter. I'm usually pretty open with my process and imagery, but for some reason I feel like the installation I'm working on for my thesis show is a brand new magic trick that has to remain as cryptic as possible until it's unveiled on the 29th. There have been some changes since my recipe post, however. For example, there are only 22 tubes now, no owl figurines (although I have a feeling they'll make their way into a future side project), not nearly as much screenprinting ink as I'd anticipated, some additional lumber and hardware I wasn't originally counting on...Oh, and make that six weeks of second-guessing, another week or so of brainstorming, and only about three and a half weeks of frantic production.

Fortunately, for the next couple of weeks my schedule is so light I'm almost embarrassed to admit it. Between now and November 26th, the first day of installation, I have one dinner engagement, one-half day of class, one doctor's appointment, and one Thanksgiving holiday. And much of the work is done, including my general postcard to advertise the show. Rather than try to photograph some element of the installation, I went with a floorplan approach, which will hopefully function with the installation in a slightly more interesting way than a simple advertisement would.

In fact, I'm suddenly feeling so relaxed about the whole thing that I'm even contributing to the group effort that will make up the thesis exhibition of a fellow artist. There's a lot of back-story to the piece that this image will soon become. In other words, there is a reason the image is made up of M&M's in custom colors as close as I could find to cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, and there's a reason this image will be screenprinted in the 4-color separation process (think "meta"). The real M&M's may or may not be included in the final piece. I'm not sure yet. I guess it will somewhat depend on whether or not I can keep from eating them over the course of the next couple of weeks. With the stress of my impending thesis show, I've been seeking comfort in the obvious (food, like my favorite candies shown here, and t.v.) and the not so obvious (frequent, spontaneous trips to the mall and switching occasionally from NPR to soft rock radio stations while I'm driving in my car).



The Red Sox won the World Series for the second time in, like, 90 years. You'd have to be living under a rock to not know that by now, around here, even if you have absolutely no interest in baseball. Which is fine by me. I'm not really into sports but, like religious beliefs, I respect the fandom. In fact, I'm a little envious of that kind of passion. Sometimes I wish I was that into something. I guess I'm passionate about art. It's kind of like having faith in God, riddled with doubt of course.

Anyway, I was too busy hanging out with my niece and nephew this weekend to catch any of the World Series games. When we were inside we watched Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel instead. There's a whole segment of popular culture completely foreign to me and probably most adults somewhere between childhood and parenthood. Did you know Billy Ray Cyrus is on a Disney Channel show with his real-life daughter Miley Cyrus, who plays Hannah Montana? Well, she plays herself, kind of, and in the show, also plays the persona of Hannah Montana. Seems there's a very fine line between reality and fiction in kids' shows. I was so confused that I had to ask my niece and nephew about four times for clarification. Wait, so Miley Cyrus is her real name, and she really is the daughter of Billy Ray and wait, she's also on Hannah Montana? Wait, so she plays herself playing Hannah Montana in just the one show? Ohhhhhh, okay. And on other shows, lots of actors go by their first names, like Drake Bell (a.k.a. Drake) in Drake and Josh. And then Mindy, played by Miranda Cosgrove, has her own show, iCarly, in which she plays a different character. That happens a lot on the Disney Channel (which is why I thought Miley Cyrus might be on two different shows). It's like kid-friendly Saturday Night live skits, spread out over the entire week's schedule of shows.

But I digress. On my drive home from central Connecticut this morning, I caught a bit of their 9 a.m. segment, which is BBC News in Boston, but a program called "Where We Live" in Connecticut. You see, Connecticut is on the "front lines" of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry so it's not surprising that they'd be talking about the Boston Red Sox on a show called "Where We Live." Anyway, they had various Sox fans talking about the recent win, how this win differs from the 2004 win and the lifting of the curse, etc., and one of the speakers addressed the difference between the two in the sense that the younger fans in '07 don't have the same sense of hardship and that under-dog quality that an older fan had three years ago, after waiting for the win for 86 years. And I thought, wow, that's kinda like postfeminism and the complaint that a younger generation of girls and women are coming of age, and in New York, for example, beginning to make more than men, without an adequate education about the struggles of their mothers and grandmothers (or older sisters, for that matter). Hmm, maybe baseball and art have more in common than I thought.

And then I remembered how New Englanders are just gluttons for misery.


This looks so great. Michel, je t'aime.


how did I not know about this?

I learned (a couple of days after the submission deadline) about this blogging scholarship because an undergrad at my school apparently got his blog into the finalist round and sent out a school-wide e-mail asking fellow students to vote for his blog. If he wins - and it doesn't look like he will - he gets $10,000. For blogging about "interesting" and "unique" topics while attending college full-time.

I clicked on the blog with the most votes so far expecting to find some freshman rantings, you know, the kind of kid who has 367 "friends" on MySpace and has been blogging since birth about the indie film they just made, the novel they wrote at age 9, and/or the various small businesses they've started. Instead, I was directed to this blog, about "one mom's journey through life, law school, and breast cancer." Wow. Talk about putting my semester gripes into perspective...


recipe for a thesis show

Two rolls of white paper, about eight feet wide by 36 feet long. Quikrete concrete forming tubes, 10 inches in diameter by about 4 feet in height. 24 of those. Velcro. Resin owl figurine replicas. A pound of gold glitter. 24 water globe kits with wooden bases. Three postcards. A lot of screenprinting ink. Four months of travel and inspiration. One month of brainstorming. One month of second-guessing. Six weeks of frantic production. And voila, you have yourself a thesis show.

Almost. I've been busy collecting materials, test-printing, modifying images, re-ordering items that weren't quite what I expected, and I think I finally have a solid plan and I'm ready to get to work. Just in time for my one and only full thesis committee meeting on Monday. I'd share images of work in progress, or at least give you some idea of what a pound of gold glitter looks like, but my digital camera is kaput as of about a week ago. I have to say, life as a blogger is difficult without a digital camera. Especially considering how torn I usually feel if I go an entire blog post without a single image to share. I guess you'll just have to use your imagination.

As crazy as things have been, I still manage to watch t.v. just about every night, although I hate to admit, with all the good fall shows back on, that I've been an incredibly distracted viewer. Rarely do I watch a show and do nothing else while it's on. Thursday nights - The Office and 30 Rock specifically - and t.v. on DVD - Entourage, Weeds - seem to be the only times I give the t.v. my full attention. So it's probably a bit unfair to complain that not too many new shows have sparked my interest, or that past favorites like Heroes don't really hold my attention too well anymore. Even ANTM I watch mostly out of some strange sense of loyalty to the show. I think after watching it for so many cycles (there were only one or two that I didn't watch religiously), I can't stop now just because Tyra is a total egomaniac or because the photo shoots are completely uninspired remakes of her career as a model. It's like if I stop watching I'll always wonder what's happening on the show. And I do still enjoy it. No one model hopeful has really stood out for me yet. But I'll keep watching.


turning 30, with the help of the Internet

I blogged about turning 29 right around this time last year. In fact, I even made a t-shirt to commemorate the event (that I wore again today). I wrote then, just a few days after my birthday, that I was mostly okay entering the final year of my 20s. Turns out, that was a pretty difficult birthday for me, although, I was also just about to have an art breakdown, which worked out pretty well in the end. Needless to say, October wasn't exactly a highlight of 2006.

So I'm hesitant to write about how I feel on the eve of this particular birthday milestone. Was 29 difficult so that 30 doesn't have to be, like a hard-working parent paving the way for their offspring? Will I blog again in a couple of weeks with a completely cranky outlook? Who knows. All I know for sure is, I definitely can't afford another mid-semester crisis!

And if I am feeling down about the big 3-0, there's lots of advice on the Internet to help me process it all. If you google "turning 30" the top result is this site, I guess to help you feel like 30 really is the new 20 (Gosh, can you imagine if that was really true? As if you were teleported back to the age of 20 at the exact time you turn 30? I think I'd prefer, say, 27. 30 is the new 27. Yeah, that's good). Anyway, this is a pretty good idea, a site that's been passed on from one 29 year old gal to the next as she documents the final year of her 20s. Also in that google search is an article about the eight financially-related things you should do before turning 30. I think I've identified my goals...at least once. I've paid off credit cards...and then charged them up again. How do you define investment, exactly? And how can I establish a strategy to pay off student loans when I'm still accumulating them? Oh, but I have traveled! Check!


my week in Thai food

Wow, what a week! If for no other reason, I've found over the past couple of years that I look forward to winter for the simple reason that people in Boston seem to act slightly less crazy in colder weather. Maybe it's because it's too cold to stay out in public for too long. As soon as it gets even mildly warm and muggy, it seems like the streets are just teeming with extra J-walkers, crazed drivers, construction detours...We've had a couple of bouts of Indian summer over the past few weeks and I have to say, there's very little I like about this trend. Anything over about 74 is too warm for me, both meteorologically and socially.

Otherwise, it's been a busy mix of freaking out about my thesis and attending visiting artist lectures. And a lot of Thai food. One of my side jobs this semester has been to coordinate the visiting artist program for the area I teach in. Every area does it a little differently, and in TIA (that stands for Text and Image Arts), we like to do all of our four or five talks in one week. That week ended today. We invited an up and coming new media scholar/future new media curator, a book artist, a copyright attorney and today had a really fantastic presentation about a few of artist John Craig Freeman's projects, from public art, to digital interactive media, and ending in Second Life. This was his thesis project. So much for my paper columns, glitter globes, and postcards.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Also this week we hosted the second of the four '4 Painters' visiting artists. Since there are only so many dining options near the Museum School, we tend to treat our guests to delicious Thai food at Brown Sugar, just across the park. Which meant that this particular week, when the visiting artists aligned just so, I got to enjoy, for free, three lunches (Pad Thai, Chicken Cashew Nuts, and Yellow Curry) and one dinner (Thai Fried Rice) at Brown Sugar. The one day when the TIA and Painting lectures conflicted, I had free pizza instead. And because it was such an intense week, my workout schedule was thrown completely off track...

I continue to freak out about my thesis, only partly because the publicity materials deadline was today (but mainly because I have less than 8 weeks to pull this thing off). It's really difficult to boil it down to 75, preferably very descriptive words, more about what the exhibition will include and less about the concept. Here's what I came up with, with some help from Neal and the gallery's outreach coordinator:

The subject of my installation Neither Here Nor There is the fragmentation, dislocation, and replication of the Parthenon, in an effort to investigate the idea of place and the relationship between an original and its copy. The installation incorporates architecture, print media, and the souvenir to represent the complex impressions left by my travels to London, Athens, and Nashville, Tennessee and to explore notions of authenticity, artifice, and desire.

Since I'm doing an installation that won't fully come together until the week before our opening reception, I don't have any documentation of the thesis project so far, so the surrogate image is from a spin-off, if you will, where I became interested in stereograms and the idea of creating the illusion of a three-dimensional image from two images of different versions of the same thing. It doesn't work the way a stereogram should work, of course, but it's still fun to cross your eyes and try to get the two Parthenons to line up and do...something...magical. Anyway, as for the thesis project itself, it's the "architecture" component that's keeping me up at night. I'm feeling pretty confident that the installation will involve gold glitter, though, so I'm looking forward to that.


give it up hartford

Finally, I find some time to blog about the So You Think You Can Dance live tour show we had the great pleasure of attending Sunday night in Hartford, CT. In a nutshell, I'd have to use the f-word and say...it was so much fun! The drive back from Hartford that night and getting up early the next morning...not so much, but it was worth it.

We left for Hartford around 4, getting to Monte Alban Mexican restaurant, about seven minutes from downtown Hartford, around 6 p.m. It was perfectly acceptable Mexican cuisine, but not terribly exciting (which isn't surprising for New England). But that's neither here nor there. From the restaurant we drove downtown to the Civic Center, and by the time we stood in line to use the restroom and then pass on overpriced schwag, only had about ten minutes to wait before the show began. During those ten minutes and again at intermission, the screens displayed trivia about and featuring the SYTYCD top ten, as well as music videos from former American Idol contestants. I think this is Carrie Underwood in this one:

As we waited, I contemplated briefly trying to capture an image of each spread in the $20 program.

And then the wait was over and the show began.

It was so strange to experience live something I'd seen so many times on t.v. Here's the entire group assembled to get the show started. It was all a little Disney-esque, I have to admit.

During intermission I happened to catch a glimpse of some of the images the woman sitting next to me had taken and her zoom capabilities put my little Canon PowerShot to shame. But now that I'm home, processing it all, after some time has passed, I rather like these painterly images.

Anyway, moving right along, here's Sara doing a bit of announcing.

She was in the show a lot, actually, which isn't surprising since, well, she's so great, and considering how often she performed in the t.v. finale, which was really a dress rehearsal for the live show. Here she is dancing the disco routine with Neil, who was also a highlight of the night for me (again, I was disappointed they chose not to include Mandy Moore's suspenders routine choreographed to Queen's "Body Language").

The group dances were all pretty great, including this Matrix-y routine:

Some surprises that weren't in the t.v. finale included this breaker routine featuring Sara, Dominic, and Hok...

...and a fiery Cha Cha with a little Samba thrown in featuring Anya and Pasha.

Here we are at intermission...

...which seems to be when my picture-taking slowed. I'm not even sure who's dancing in this one.

In addition to popular couple routines and some group dances, each of the top ten got to do a solo routine. Here's Sara doing her's:

Rounding out the night, here's the entire group again, bidding fond farewells to the oh so hospitable city of Hartford before performing the Hairspray routine and disappearing into the stage.

Overall, I was surprised that this year's winner, Sabra, wasn't featured as prominently throughout the night as some of the other dancers. As lovely as she is to watch on t.v., I don't think she has as strong a stage presence as, say, Sara, or Jaimie, who did a lot of announcing herself. Of the guys, I'd have to say Neil and Dominic really stole the show, not surprisingly.

At any rate, that oughtta tide me over until next summer...


reality check

It's been a busy couple of weeks. As usual, I find I have less desire to blog when I have more to blog about. In a nutshell, the semester has gotten off to a good but busy start. The first week of classes was deceptively calm, I think in part because my first class was not until the second week. But because things went so smoothly that first week, I was feeling far from the well oiled machine I usually try to be the second week, when we really hit the ground running with lectures, meetings, etc. Of course, because of that rocky second week I've since prepared as much as possible for the rest of the semester, filling out forms in advance, putting together presentations into November, that sorta thing. Probably a bit of overkill, but this thesis thang is making me unusually scatter-brained.

Anyway, what I've learned is this: Teaching is exhausting. A blank stare is a frightening thing and I'm never quite fully prepared. But I still feel like I've finally found my niche. As for my own work, I've realized that I tend to approach every idea very literally and logically. After a pre-thesis-meeting meeting I realized that I'm at that point in my project where I need to abandon my source material a bit. I need to treat this project, to a certain extent, like creating a painting from a photo. Even if you're going for photo-realism, which I'm not, at some point in the process it's always a good idea to abandon the source material and let the painting have a life of its own. One more pre-thesis-meeting meeting and one official gallery meeting later and I'm feeling a wee bit closer to a solid plan. I even made some sketches and mock-ups today, and requested material samples, so I'm feeling somewhat ready for my first thesis committee meeting on Monday.

Of course, taking breaks now and then also helps. I tuned in to the Big Brother finale and the America's Next Top Model premier, both this week. I wasn't too surprised that Dick won BB8. He was fairly mean to a lot of house guests but he was pretty honest throughout the game, which is a helluva lot more than can be said of any of the "good people." Amber needs help, that's all I have to say. As for ANTM, Tyra is off to a predictably obnoxious narcissistic start. You have your summer camp, your reality television show, your talk show (at least I think that's still on), somebody actually let you sing and dance in a music video or two, why can't you let the center of attention fall occasionally on someone else every once in awhile? It would be so hilarious if one season, when Tyra makes her grand entrance to the 30 hopefuls aboard the cruise ship or wherever, they just clap politely instead of pissing themselves with excitement and feeding Tyra's ginormous ego. Otherwise, I think there are some gals worth watching, including Lisa, Ambreal, and Chantal. I like Victoria a lot, actually, but I fear she may just be too raw for the 9th cycle of the show. They'd have to whip her into shape real fast. And then, looking at the website, there are a couple of girls I don't remember seeing at all in the premier, like Sarah and Janet. That's never a good sign.

And then of course, there's the SYTYCD live tour show on Sunday. That's right, as an early birthday present I got tickets for the September 23rd show, in Hartford, Connecticut. Boston ticket pairs sold out on the first day, but the Hartford Civic Center is a mere two hours by car, and my brother-in-law is, apparently, the best, so we'll drive there and back on Sunday, still giving me much of the weekend and Monday morning to finish any last-minute prep work for my class and my meeting. I'll have a full report next week...



The working proof I blogged about a couple of months ago can now be seen in full wallpaper format in the MFA's Courtyard Gallery (that's like a "garden level" apartment...not that I'm complaining but, like the Education department, it's pretty much in the basement). The show's called Rerun: The Relation Between a Symbol and a Symptom, and features wallpaper printed by eleven students at the Museum School. Most of us did screenprint but one guy did woodblock and another did letterpress.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the show. I'm not sure why they did the "key" (since they couldn't exactly squeeze in the more traditional wall labels next to the work) in two columns instead of say a grid of four by three or so, and some little blurby wall text might have been nice, but considering one of the curators is also doing her thesis show in just over two months, I think they did a pretty stellar job.

There's even a gallery talk with about half of the artists next Wednesday, September 19th, at 6 p.m., if you're local. You won't even miss the premier of America's Next Top Model later that night!


hey yo teach

I watched Mona Lisa Smile this weekend. It had been on my Netflix queue for ages and with Neal out of town I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a total chick flick. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. And the timing was perfect as I officially begin my teaching career (having graduated from TA to GTF, or Graduate Teaching Fellow) tomorrow. I had visions of myself as Katherine Watson, standing stunned in class as all the students shout out titles to the images in her slides. Except my class isn't an art history class, I'm not teaching in an all girls college in the mid-1950s (although I am in the same state), and I only have twelve students (the student-faculty ratio at the Museum School is insanely small...my class is full, believe it or not).

There's a class blog, of course. I've been on the other end of class blogs before and while I blog a fair amount myself, I've never found the class blog to be all that successful. But seeing as how this class is about connections between the Mail Art Movement and digital technology (like the pre-existing platform that is the 'blog), I thought it was appropriate to at least give it a try. So I can't promise it'll be an exciting read...but you can download my syllabus if you're bored!


solaris v. solaris

The first of four artists visiting the class I'm TA-ing for next week suggested we watch Solaris, the 1972 film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. When I found out we were watching it I remembered I'd seen Steven Soderbergh's much more recent Solaris with George Clooney, and subtly threw out the option of watching my DVD of the 2002 version.

My brief campaign was unsuccessful and we watched the older version in class, but I was intrigued so I watched the 2002 version the night before (well, about an hour of it...I finished it the next night, after I'd watched the older version). As you probably know if you read this blog regularly, I've got a thing for copies. I don't necessarily always think they're better, but I have a little bit of a pet peeve when, conversely, the older, "original" version of something is automatically elevated above any copies that come after it.

And who are we kidding, newer is usually better, right? I'm sure there are scores of folks who would disagree with me, but I think the 2002 version of the film is far superior. For starters, if I hadn't seen the newer version the night before, I wouldn't have known half of what was going on in the older version (I had to look on IMDB to find out who Nikolai Grinko's character was supposed to be), despite the fact that it's over an hour longer and just about everything in the story is explained by one of the characters. The newer film, for example, begins with the main character, Chris Kelvin, in a group therapy setting and then on the phone booking an appointment. So you have a pretty good idea that he's a psychologist or doctor of some sort, without having been explicitly told so. In the older film, however, after about 45 minutes of unnecessary and confusing Earth-based plot development that was pretty much skipped over completely in the newer version, he surprises Dr. Snaut (Snow in the newer version), who apparently had no idea he was coming all the way from Earth to Solaris or that he'd even landed or whatever, or who he is, even, and introduces himself as a psychologist. Now that's innovation.

And the whole outer space thing is pretty much just a set for the story, which is fine because even though the newer version is more slick and believable in that way, it's really still a love story at its core. But when Kelvin's dead wife appears in the older version, the Russian actor barely emotes! George Clooney, on the other hand, is believably shocked, jumps out of bed, tears up a bit, asks questions, etc., all the things one would probably do if one's dead spouse materialized right beside them in bed one night. And when she materializes the second time, after Kelvin sends the first copy out to space, and becomes suicidal, we have absolutely no idea why, no flashbacks to her real-life, Earth-based suicide, no clues as to the kind of life she and Kelvin shared or why he would remember her in such a way. Nada. Just a waifish girl who's young enough to be the Russian guy's daughter, convulsing in a see-through men's shirt after she drinks liquid oxygen.

And Dr. Sartorius is replaced by Gordon in the newer film, played by a female actress, Viola Davis. I love when male characters become female characters thirty years later, like Starbuck on Battlestar Gallactica.

I will give the older film credit for being pretty rich, visually. The planet in the newer film, while lovely, is pretty much the same shot after shot, while in the older film, there's all sorts of crazy, meditative visual stuff going on. Hence the duration of 2 hours and 45 minutes. If I wanted to meditate, I would have gone to yoga class. And there are some random, quirky details in the older film that kind of grew on me, like all the debris, including a sheet torn from a book or magazine with illustrations of dogs on it, randomly. And Kelvin's monogrammed PJs. You don't want to go to space without those!


defending the Parthenon

There was a family discussing the dedication plaque outside the Parthenon in Nashville. I wish I'd just gotten over my shame and recorded them and for the life of me I can't remember what they were saying. So I recorded Neal's take on it instead.

The funny thing about having to defend this particular replica is the redundancy of this kind of architecture. Obviously, a couple of columns on your front porch is not the same thing as a full-scale replica of the Parthenon, but the whole neo-classical thing is huge! There are columns and pediments all over this country! Why doesn't anyone describe the White House, for example, as kitschy?


summer days driftin' away

My two summer flings collide in this video, where Big Brother contestants Eric, Jessica, and Daniele discuss So You Think You Can Dance. I'm surprised how much they were able to watch (and retain) before they entered the BB house.

In other news, today was the first day of the fall semester. As a 3rd year grad student, I don't have to take any classes, but a combination of teaching, TAing, work study, library runs, and the occasional thesis committee meeting will require me to spend three days or so on campus (if you can call it that). So far I'm quite liking this student-with-no-classes status.

My drive home, however, was completely anxiety provoking. I drove a lot this summer, but my commute, while sometimes a bit longer than I'd like, from Dorchester to Brockton, about 25 minutes or so south of Boston, was usually pretty chill. My cross-town commute to school, on the other hand, is anything but (did I mention I've witnessed two shootings along this route, both of which occurred during my first year here?), and today Roxbury drivers were in rare form. A lot of crazy Boston driving I've gotten used to. Even the common practice of letting the first person turning left go in front of you when the light turns green. I don't mind that and it's certainly come in handy here and there when I've been on the other side of things. Usually the one car goes and then good ol' right-of-way returns. However, occasionally the second and third cars will try to squeeze through as well, or a driver will sense the smallest gap approaching and decide to take the risk, pulling right out in front of you. This happened to me twice today and both times, even though I came to a screeching halt to let the driver finish what they'd started, they flipped me off. Came to a stop, mid-turn, to flip me off. Excuse me?! I don't think so...


big brother

Yay! Amber's gone! I know that probably seems mean since she's a "good person" and all, and frankly, I think Zach's probably a bigger threat, ultimately, but at least he doesn't cry as much or attribute everything to God. Or bless God. "God bless you, God." How does that work exactly? And I think Jameka's smokin' something because there's no way Amber could make it on ANTM. I can't speak to her potential nursing skills, but I've watched enough cycles to know what it takes to be America's Next Top Model. She does kind of look like Mona Lisa, though...


neither here nor there: Nashville

Wow, those twelve or so weeks between London/Athens and Nashville simply flew by! Before I knew it, I was finished with my internship and sitting on a plane to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sitting somewhat sideways, that is, next to a ginormous man with a screaming toddler on his lap. For two hours. Needless to say, that was one of the most miserable flights I've ever been on and I couldn't have been happier to de-plane and spend a longer than anticipated layover in Charlotte's surprisingly large and well-endowed airport. The highlight had to be a cookie sandwich filled with pure buttercream frosting.

We arrived in Nashville several hours later than scheduled, but our journey from airport to hotel was immensely easier than in London or Athens. We rented a car at the airport, hopped on 40 west to 155 north and got off after maybe 15 minutes of driving, one exit past the Grand Ole Opry. We stayed at the Guest House International, whose claim to fame is DIY Belgian waffles included in its free continental breakfast. I think we could have easily found a cheaper room (or a nicer one for what we spent) in the Nashville area, but Neal suggested I wait until breakfast the next morning to come to any definitive conclusions about the place.

Arriving late, we weren't up for much other than a cruise through the massive Opry Mills mall, built on the former site of an amusement park that wasn't making enough money, and a late dinner of appetizers. The mall is an odd layout of typical storefronts, outlet shops, and family dining. Why do children need to be entertained so while they eat (think Rainforest Cafe and the Aquarium Restaurant)?

The Belgian waffles did not disappoint the next morning, along with a hard-boiled egg, yogurt, pastries, juice, coffee, and a banana that I took for the road (it sat in our bag, where it spent the next day and a half getting bruised and mushy before we tossed it at the DC airport on our way back to Boston). We were on our way to downtown Nashville by about 10 o'clock Saturday morning.

In the "Athens of the South" you can drive right up to the Parthenon.

That's our white Chevy Impala rental to the right. My first impression was kind of like seeing someone famous in person; it looked smaller than the original. How can that be? It has a roof and everything! But you approach it from more or less the same level...

...whereas the Parthenon in Athens is raised up a bit more and you approach it from the Propylaia, which is a bit lower than the portion of the rock that provides a base for the Parthenon itself. Plus, while it was equally hot out, we didn't have to hike up a hill and this structure is only 80 some odd years old, not 2500 or so.

But it was still pretty wild. I kept vacillating between comparing it to the original and appreciating it on its own terms, not unlike the somewhat ambiguous sentiment expressed in the dedication plaque near the stream.

Which is kind of the same thing, since the things that make this Parthenon different from the original are what make it a unique experience that kind of stands on its own. Kind of.

There weren't that many people around when we first arrived, which was actually pretty nice. I probably spent as much time, if not longer, outside recording the sounds, taking pictures from every angle and of every detail, including the parking lot:

the neighborhood:

the many lights that illuminate the Parthenon at night:

the creepy bench swings that are scattered around the Parthenon and throughout the park:

and the concrete:

On the one hand, I can appreciate the use of this sort of rocky, yellow (or "golden" depending on your perspective) concrete as a conscience choice to avoid attempting to completely replicate the original structure, but ultimately, I felt a little disappointed. And there were some blurbs here and there about the "golden glow" of the concrete being like that of aged marble. But aged marble is not that yellow. Or course.

Despite trying to take this particular Parthenon at face value, I couldn't help but try to recreate photos I'd taken at the original Parthenon. For example:

And here:

And again here:

There's a brief exhibit inside the museum about the replica, how it was created for the Centennial Expo and several decades later rebuilt with more permanent materials, as well as an exhibition from their permanent collection and two temporary exhibits. But the real highlight of the interior, of course, is the full-scale replica of the statue of Athena, the original of which no longer exists. Here she is, Goddess of wisdom, patroness of crafts, painted like a "lady of the night."

There are also several casts of the Elgin marbles housed in the British Museum. Again, I couldn't help but attempt to recreate some of the photos I took in London a couple of months earlier.

There's little in the Nashville Parthenon devoted to the famous frieze, just a few plaster fragments and some poster board piled in the corner.

In the gift shop I purchased some postcards and a glitter globe (like a snow globe but filled with gold glitter instead of fake snow) showing the Nashville Parthenon and the statue of Athena.

From the Parthenon we headed downtown, where we ate piles of meat (not completely unlike our post-Parthenon lunch in Athens) at Jack's Bar-B-Que. After that we headed to the Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in the country.

There's lots to do in Nashville, lots of family fun organized around the darker moments in our country's history. Reading about the various mansions and plantations one can visit while in Nashville, I couldn't help but think of Sarah Vowell's essay God Will Give You Blood to Drink in a Souvenir Shot Glass, which is actually about Salem's history of witch trials, but at one point she compares the way that city openly capitalizes on that shameful period of history to the "creepier moments in cultural tourism when a site tries to rewrite its past," especially when that past includes slavery. Similar to the Dutch farm she writes about, slaves at the Nashville-area plantations are described as "enslaved Africans."

And aside from any misgivings you might have about visiting a plantation formerly occupied by "enslaved Africans," it's awfully hot in Nashville in August. After walking up and down the streets of the downtown area, we decided to stay indoors for the rest of the day, attempting at first to scope out the Grand Ole Opry, but balked at the $12 parking fee, and spent the rest of Saturday afternoon and evening shopping at the mall (and we saw Superbad, which was super funny). After a second dose of Belgian waffles Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel and made it to one final historic site, The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, before heading back to Boston.