Monday, December 29, 2008

A Look Back at London

As 2008 has closed and 2009 has begun, I decided I would highlight all of the beautiful memories I have of last year. There are a lot. So, as my life has been divided into quarters for almost four years now, I will be reminiscing according to season, starting with Spring (why Spring and not Winter? Because how much do you really want to hear about the insane 18 credits I took and bad dates I went on?).

To say London was "amazing", "life-changing", "earth-shattering" sounds too cliche, but I can't think of another accurate way of describing my experience. I can still feel the Tube racing through the underground veins of the city, a facade heartbeat the whole city thrived on. I spent days and dollars exploring the markets and still can't believe some of the treasures I was able to find. I danced the lindy-hop with a nice British boy. I saw and heard Big Ben strike midnight!

Some specific memories:

Discovering the secret identity of my homestay dad.

Learning how to say, "I would like asparagus" in German.

Crying on the couch of an almost complete stranger.

And of course, because I can't learn how to sing a different tune, I wanted to thank everyone who made my stay in London and the rest of Europe possible and beyond enjoyable. I know we will cross paths again, and I look forward to that day.

And new year, new blog! Follow me to Merci Me!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grato Per Questo Momento Nel Tempo

Venice recently experienced its highest level of flood waters in over 20 years. What are people to do? With everything under three feet of water and the level rising, people ill-prepared to handle the drastic lifestyle changes, and holiday shopping still left to finish?! How will we ever survive this?!?

We put on some wellies and continue to eat our baguettes....or whatever is Italian for baguette.

In light of the recent economic clusterfuck, things have been bad, especially in the academic arena. There are job freezes across the nation. My institution recently cut 20% of the budget, which is roughly $10 million. The humanities are getting hit hard, as the sciences are more "important", "imperative", other "imp" words. This is an awesome time to graduate from college with a degree in Comparative Literature!

Again, I must pause and say HOWEVER.

This is an opportunity for a shift in priorities. Like a good friend of mine said, "Well, now we don't have to worry about money, because there isn't any." Perhaps we won't spend our hard-earned (or easily-applied-for) money on ridiculous things like this. Maybe "quality over quantity" will creep into our consumer mindset. We might even reach out to each other, because we can't wade these waters alone. Community could be important. Sharing resources, ideas, love. Creating a support network out of the people you already know and trust and allowing yourself to let more people in.

And gratitude. Gratitude is the only positive emotion I can consistently recall. I am very lucky in that I don't know anyone at risk of losing their job, nor am I at risk to lose mine (that's mostly because I don't have one). I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (views of the sunset over a blushing Mount Rainier are free). I still have my hearing and can enjoy musicmusicmusic. I still have my sight (although my glasses really do nothing for me, I need a new prescription). I can feel my heartbeat and the blood rush to my cheeks after rushing in from the cold Seattle snow. I can smell and taste the most amazing double-chocolate-and-molasses cookies made by my lovely roommate.

In conclusion, times are harder. Times will get harder. But I'm grateful for the now, the moment, this small ticktock of time that is entirely mine to do with what I choose. And my hands may be a little cold and my hair may have split-ends, but I am very happy. Thank you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

Almost two weeks now, and I still feel elated and proud (elatoud?). Perhaps Little Edie captures my sudden patriotism best.


For most of my life, I have been proud to be a Californian, but not so much proud to be an American. In the last couple of weeks, this sentiment has switched. I am appalled, although unfortunately not surprised, with the recent passing of Prop 8. I cannot elegantly nor adequately express myself via this writing. It would contain a lot of expletives.

Yesterday, thousands of people across the nation protested the passing of Prop 8. In Seattle alone, six thousand marched from Broadway to Westlake Center, shutting down traffic and inspiring some woman to stand naked on her balcony while watching the passing crowd. Unfortunately, Virginia Woolf trapped me in my apartment and I was not able to attend, but here are some images from the protest:

Something must be done, and it must be done now. This is ridiculous that certain sects of our society still don't have equal rights. It makes me clench my fists and dig half-moons into my palms. It just doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Did You Do When We Did?

My roommate and I were on our way back to the car, getting ready to call this beautiful night a night, when we heard euphoric shouting and screaming and chanting. We decided to find out where it was coming from. We ran over to the Ave, the main thoroughfare adjacent to campus. Hundreds of students were pouring through the streets. They came baring grins and peace signs. My roommate and I became part of the crowd, aligned ourselves with the energy and exuberance that was ravaging through each and all as one. We found ourselves in Red Square on campus. No one knew what we were doing, but it didn't matter. We were there relishing the moment, our moment, everyone's moment.

The above video is not the best quality and exceedingly long, but captures some of what went on last night. More later on the craziness, the glory, the absolute-mind-fuckingly-fantastic euphoria that infected the corners of my eyes so that they would not stop tearing up.

Thank you. All. Thank you so very, very much.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Dream

Last night I had a dream that I made a skull out of glass. The glass was tinted lime green. The glass hold no holes, it was a solid skull. I had filled it with water, but there were pockets of air caught inside. The skull was imperfect, warped. The jaw was small and lopsided. One side of the forehead was bigger than the other. The air bubble would get caught behind the eye socket and look like a monocle. An inside-monocle. I kept showing people the skull that I made. "Look at the skull that I made!" I said. I would hold it up with my arms straight in front of me, my fingers gripping the strange smooth grooves of the superciliary crest. I slept with it clutched to my chest.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I found a hair in my water this morning.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's Just Nice

The other day, I had lunch with my friend Kendal. He recited a poem for me. How many times have you had a poem recited for you?

Privilege of Being

Robert Hass

Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing
are braiding one another's hair, which is strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy--
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed--
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man's shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death for an hour so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Madame Bic

Last night, I had a dream that I shaved my legs. I made a cup of tea. I raked leaves. I watched a movie on my laptop, and I studied French.

My waking life is much more engaging than my dreams are.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Task is to Survive in the Diaspora

Walking outside, the air is full of cotton. People...sounds are quiet. Then everyone starts to come out of their homes. They go to cafe, they go to theater, they go to disco. Talking, everyone talks. And at two in the morning, it is safe to walk home.

-My grandmother on Paris and seven o'clock at night

There are a lot of things going, going.

My studies seem to reflect my life quite a bit. Right now, I am working on an essay with the tentative title, Taking Back the Mirror: Women Authors and Writing the Body. I want to explore the work of Virginia Woolf, Helene Cixous, Shelley Jackson, Susan Bordo, and Donna Haraway and the authors' use of embodied language to create the woman body. The thread seems to come in analogating the writing process to procreation, and beyond that, using pregnancy as a metaphor for the gestation and ultimate "birth" of ideas as a surrogate (pun?) for child bearing in "real life".

I never thought I would be tackling gender in literature studies (by "tackling gender" I refer exclusively to the feminine, because that is how I have been taught to categorize). I thought that too obvious, being a woman student, to study women authors based on their gender and not their work.

It is easy to make the leap from thinking about woman authors to thinking about women's roles in society to thinking about my role in society. I think when I reference "society", I want to reduce it to my own web of communication, my little corner of the world, my relationships. What do I offer people as a woman (shying away from woman as sexual commodity)? What do I offer them as a person? Is this one and the same? Am I naive in thinking that it could be?

This is all reflective of this last year. I feel, coming into my fourth year of undergraduate studies, I have started to own who I am as a person and, consequently, my work. They are one and the same. My work, myself. This has spurred an increase in confidence that I find pleasantly addictive, a sting in my nervous system that begs for a higher output of ideas. But is all of this work, all of this exploration and creation, the work of a womanperson or the work of a personstudent?

I'll leave you with the paintings of Kris Chau. The work she does is amazing, beautiful, ephemeral, more adjectives. Roots for veins, branches for wings, manifesting the Mother Earth into a group of heralding ghost angels.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Poem Written On A Typewriter By My Ten Year Old Cousin

ther wunts was a man named billy
and thar wunts was a man named bob
thay went to the move theter 8 7 up is cool
casey likes hannah montana
vote for obama
save the poller bears
i love manatees
its so fun to
one 234 hi nock on the door- happy peapol, yaaaaaaaa
camp lazlo and chawder are cool shoes


let us go

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hi, My Name Is Judy Dury

Yesterday, I had jury duty. After an incident four years ago when they did not receive my form and I was held in "contempt of court" with a five thousand dollar price tag on my head, I have carefully calculated when I would be available to serve. Even though I could not serve on a case as school is starting soon, I still made sure I was able to go for at least a day.

The system was surreal. A hundred or so jurors, each called up in groups of thirty or more and sent to far away departments on upper floors. In the jury assembly room, those not called sat separated, isolated, delving into books, magazines, or staring vacantly at the TV screen as Ben Stiller ran from a stampede of exotic animals (I believe this is a plot line in at least three, if not all, of his movies). Despite several, strategically placed "No Cell Phones" signs, people loudly complained into their mouthpieces about how they had "been there all fuckin' day and had shit to do. Shit."

I partook in the collective isolation. I was reading David Wann's Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle and focusing hard on the words five inches from my face. I underlined, as I do in all of my books, on particular passage that struck me:

I believe we can and must bring sanctity to our everyday lives by creating I-You relationships [as oppose to the restrictively objectifying I-It relationships], treating even the food we eat or a masterpiece painting with great respect, wonder, and connection, because the people who grew healthy food or created the painting "speak" through it. By changing the way we regard the world, the "me" in each of us becomes a much wider "we", and we feel interconnected and complete. Even in a world filled with contradiction and superficiality, we find True North.

As I read this, conversation broke the silence in the assembly room. A group of jurors had just been let out of their case and were saying goodbye to each other. They were wishing each other safe travels for upcoming trips, exchanging business cards, patting each other on the backs and shaking each other's hands. One woman said she was going to start suffering from "separation anxiety". They smiled and laughed with each other, creating some kind of weird social fishbowl into which the rest of us peered over our various reading materials.

I'm not sure if these people had found "True North", but they had found something the rest of us hadn't. And they found it without even trying (in fact, they were forced by a court of law). To edge on saccharin, it was a touching moment to see. They parted ways, leaving the room silent as it was before, and I delved back into my book.

Strange Fruit

Taken with my new Diana+ camera.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lite Ning

For the last two nights, there have been lightning storms. Last night, I felt paralyzed by it. I arched and craned my neck to get the best view out of my window while remaining horizontal. As much as my eyes wanted to close and let the sounds of the street rock me to sleep, I kept them fixed to that silent spectacle. I started to get anxious for that fantastic cracked sky, for the electricity to split its center.

I wish my south and east facing walls were made of glass. I could live in a suspended fish bowl in order to see the lightning better.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Put It All Together

And then had some help taking it apart.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Escape Artist

I am a planner. I live by charts and notes in the margins. I adore order and detest disorganization. So one of the challenges of the Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities has been to let some of this anal retentivity go. To let creativity and spontaneity take over. My original project included my research partner and I going into the Jacob Lawrence Gallery and putting up a previously written poem on different parts of the space with stencils. When stencils were thrown out, we decided to wing it, throw out convention when it comes to writing poetry, and just see where the space takes us.

Needless to say, the three days we had to do this were very, very important days.

Beginning Friday afternoon, we started construction on the first movement of the poem. I mapped out the scale and structure of the piece on a large wall an started painting. Most of my day was devoted to clean brush strokes and staying out of the way of other people in the gallery.

Saturday was to be demanding. My research partner and I were supposed to meet at 11:30, get in the space, and "create more art". He was still in Capitol Hill from the night before when 11:30 rolled around, so I headed back to my apartment.

While at my apartment, trying to regroup and re-plan, one of my very dear friends called. I have not seen her in six months, and it will be another month and a half before I see her again. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook and free cell phone talk time with people in your network, we have been able to keep in touch. We have one of those relationships where there is no starting over, no matter how long we've been apart. Time or distance has never played a role in our friendship.

She called with very sad news that I do not feel appropriate to divulge here, as it is her personal business. What I can say is that no one her age should have to go through this. I tried my best to comfort her over the phone, mentally taking her into my arms as we have done for each other in the past.

She remained on my mind the rest of the day. I was thinking about her situation when my research partner threw up outside of my car and then asked me to drive him home. When the design professor asked me to paint over the poem on the wall and consider printing it out on paper instead. When I was in the studio until 12:30 in the morning, still tracing and cutting out words on tissue paper.

I used the space as inspiration for the piece, but also as an escape. I feel so incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to work in a gallery, to be a student of the arts, to create my own little corner of the world. The process gave me some moments to sit back a bit, collect my thoughts, reflect on how badly I wanted to make everything better for my friend. That situation is out of control. But this physical space of mine wasn't. I used my head, hands, eyes and words to shape and execute. All I could do for her was keep her in my thoughts, wish the best for her, and resolve to be there when she needs me.

Here are the results of my escape artistry:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Everything Happens for a Reason

Saturday morning, I woke up in downtown Seattle and needed to get to Capitol Hill by 11. This distance is walkable. I've done it many times. But I had a heavy backpack with me and had just spent the night in a half-sleep daze on an air mattress, so I decided to bus it. My plan was also to get to the cafe early to get some work done on my research project.

I got to the bus stop, looked at the timetable, and saw that the bus was due to arrive at any minute. Because of my previous experience with Seattle Public Transportation, I believed the timetable. When the bus didn't come for ten minutes, I thought, "Oh well, maybe there was a mistake. The bus will come eventually, I just have to be patient." Twenty minutes later, as the clock inched closer to 11, I was in that weird in-between time where I could have walked and been late or taken the bus and been on time. "Oh, I'll just wait. It's bound to show up. It's been forty five minutes already." At around 11:10, I was thinking, "Screw you, Seattle Public Transportation. How DARE you?! After years of loyal patronage and bragging about how MY city's public transportation system is better than YOURS, THIS is how you repay me?!?"

So I started walking. I was supposed to meet some friends on the very end of Capitol Hill at a cafe. While walking, I saw a bus that went in vaguely the same direction I was going, so I hopped on. It then veered off the path I wanted in front of another cafe I frequent. My friends called me to find out where I was and told me they would just drive down and meet me there. So we met at said other cafe, whose upstairs seating, wifi, and soy on the bar make up for the absolutely awful music the baristas choose to play.

Coffee with friends went well. I calmed down a bit and felt better. After a twelve ounce americano, my friends said goodbye and I decided I needed a bang trim. I started walking in the direction of the salon, past a handful of stores on the 500 block of Pine. I glanced sideways into the window of Spine and Crown, a used book store, and stopped short. There, displayed in the window, was The Literary Criticism of Marshall McLuhan.

Now, to some, okay, most everyone, the compiled essays of Professor McLuhan concerning the works of Joyce, Pound, and Poe that "embrace the whole continuum of human experience that [goes] into the art of printed creation and that [goes] on in the aesthetic assumptions and psychological biases of the reading public" doesn't mean much and certainly isn't very "cool". But this book is exactly, exactly what I need for my research project. I had never even heard of the name Marshall McLuhan before this summer's Institute, and now here he was, writing about books and authors I love, circling around a subject I am focusing on in my research. I rushed in and bought it, exclaiming to the booksellers how they made my day. Strike that, my life.

And had I not waited for the bus, gotten angry, decided to walk, taken that other bus, and been dropped off at secondary cafe, I would have never found it.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I Thought the Walrus Was Paul?

I absolutely love the interplay between image and sound in this video. The sound is more than words. It's associations, contexts, history, celebrity, giant concepts and personal meaning. The ideas are all connected using beautiful, crazy-cool images that make sense while challenging the imagination.

However, in the song "Glass Onion" from The White Album, the lyrics are as follows:
"I told you about the walrus and me, man/ You know we're as close as can be, man/Well here's another clue for you all/ The walrus was Paul". So the title of this piece is really the only thing that doesn't connect in this beautiful work.

Wish List

This is at the top.

Friday, July 4, 2008


July 2nd was the night of the long-awaited Art Party. Before leaving for my friend's apartment, I witnessed a freak rainstorm. Torrential downpour, some may call it, complete with thunder and lightening. I threw open my windows to let the scent of fresh rain in. No matter how hard companies like Johnson & Johnson try, a lab cannot recreate the smell of rain. There is some palpable about it. Something that sticks to the back of your tongue and presses against your eyelids.

I walked to my friend's apartment on the other side of the campus. The passing shower left a charge in the air. Summer storms are possibly the best kind of storms. My hair feels like it carries a halo of static electricity. The air is crackly, but the ground is damp. The clouds act as a giant filter in the sky, making every surrounding color brighter and more vibrant. In this kind of weather, if I bit into one of the many flowers dotting the campus, its nectar would gush over my hands and chin and stain my skin a Day-Glo pink.

My friend had covered her apartment with newspaper. People made art with paint, glue, stamps, stencils, Exacto knives, crayons, pizza boxes, blocks of wood, construction paper, plastic cups, envelopes with sticky backs, black-and-white pictures of unicorns, their bodies. We listened to 60's girls bands and ate taffy, crackers, and an expired key lime pie. We saw a transformer go KA-BAM outside the window. We thought someone was celebrating the 4th early.

P(ART)Y was a success. A communal piece of art was started. A big, green piece of construction paper hangs on my friend's wall which now contains a drawing, handprints, a small clipping, and writing. It is an evolving piece and will make an appearance at the next event. Another friend discovered block-printing. He became a one-man printing press, stamping the canvas paper over and over with his totally wild and beautiful image. Below, his original creation is on the left. My contribution is on the right.

The thunder storm started up again, early in the morning. I woke to what sounded like someone dropping a piece of sheet metal off of the roof.

Monday, June 30, 2008

To Market, To Market

When I was young(er), this was one of my favorite books:

While in Europe, I became obsessed with markets. I went practically every weekend and on most days of the week. I liked the idea of supporting independent vendors, and usually everything found was a bargain. Some of my favorites finds: a green satchel purse with drawstring close, cell phone pocket, and butterfly decoration (£12), a cinched-waist black and gold dress with a peacock on the skirt (£5), a peach-colored Trovata trench (£10), a set of six old-fashioned keys (£5), and a brown jumper dress with a sash and buttons (£6), to name a few.

I have been wanting to visit the Fremont Market for ages, but never got around to it. I resolved that I would this weekend. I was not expecting much, as I was really spoiled in London as far as markets go. But I was pleasantly surprised. There was a good mix of art, clothing, antiques, and food. The antique dealers had some really crazy items (an framed embroidery that said "Seattle", which I really, REALLY felt I needed in my life), and the prices were fair for most of them, considering how unique they were. The clothing stalls were mishmashed collections and vintage and thrift. There was also belly dancing and music:

My favorite stall sold a collection of random bits and pieces from the past. Typewriter keys, cardboard postcards, porcelain doll heads, monocles, watch faces, death notices, uniform name patches, and old Victorian cartoons warning of the dangers of conceit, among other things. I did not take any pictures because I wasn't going to buy anything, but I loved the arrangement of the items in no particular order, and the missing thread that linked all of the items together. I don't know what I would do with most of it, but I wanted it all, probably for its novelty.

Hopefully soon I will be able to visit more markets. There are several all over Seattle every weekend, and hopefully I will make the entire round before the end of the summer.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A New View; Pale and Proud

In line with my on-going "live-in-the-moment-explore-your-own-background" way of living maintenant, it is a thrill when I find a new spot I have yet to visit. Somehow, this became true of Volunteer Park. On Saturday last, after an iced americano at Joe Bar [Broadway and Harvard Exit-GO THERE], Julie and I decided to walk around the park.

The park itself is beautiful. Rolling grassland, hidden trails, ponds, fountains, sculpture, and the Asian Art Museum. We climbed to the top of the old water tower and saw a new view of the Seattle skyline.

We passed a couple of groups practicing what looked to be a new trend in exercise, much the way yoga and tai chi have moved out of the studio and into public parks. One group consisted of about ten adults, briefcases in tow, dancing the can-can and doing pinwheels. The second marched to the militaristic beat of Abba's "Dancing Queen" and twirled white plastic rifles. It wasn't until later we discerned that these were not Exercise With Accessories Weekend Classes, but rather that these groups were probably practicing for the Pride Parade.

And then an ice cream truck whistled by. Who can resist ice cream that matches your outfit?

Later in the day, I decided more park pondering was needed. It was hot, so I decided to wear shorts. I have not worn shorts since the fourth grade, unless tights or leggings were involved in the outfit. Dukes of Hazzard, Nair commercials, and fashion trends have done nothing to alter my always-below-the-knee lifestyle. Perhaps it is the confidence I gained from studying abroad, or perhaps it is my new resolution to be creative with old pieces of clothing. Anyhow, I ventured out of my apartment wearing a pair of Dickie's mailman uniform shorts. And it wasn't half bad.

Except that I am beyond pale. The moniker of my makeup color is "transparent". But I have embraced my paleness. I accept it as a part of who I am. Plus, staying out of the sun helps me towards my goal of staying young forever (not justing looking young, staying young). So when a car almost ran me over as I was crossing the street, the first thought that came into my head was, "How could you not have seen me?! I am a beacon of light in this already bright world. My legs could be used in air-traffic control if enough cartwheeling is involved."

The park was lovely. The grass in the shade was cool and tickled my feet. I gripped bunches of it between my fingers, listening to the slidey-squeaky sounds I made by slowly lifting my palms from the ground. I think toes make for a nice canvas.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Cure

The cure to beat Imposter Syndrome? Put yourself out there and prepare to be judged. I decided to submit a piece of writing for a project in class. I didn't think it was necessarily "creative" or worthy of note, but the art of the word is the only thing I feel I really know. The piece was well received, beyond my expectations.

The 30 at 3:26 pm

There is a unique sensation when the bus you have been waiting for finally arrives, comparably only to visiting the restroom while at a restaurant and having your food appear while you were gone.

The bus rolls up, along with the familiar sound of wheels crunching over pavement, brakes whistling, and the release of air as the front end sags and the door swings open. I notice that the rear-view mirrors that hang off the front make the bus look like a beetle, the mirrors resembling feelers. But this bus does not scuttle, slide, or scurry like an insect. It lumbers, drags, and sweats smog.

I climb inside the Beetle Bus and scout for a place to sit. Literally all of the passengers have a seat to themselves. I follow suit and sit on one of the empty inward-facing bench seats in the back.

At the next stop, a girl and who I assume is her boyfriend (judging by the copious groping I witnessed occurring at the bus stop) enter and look for a place to sit. Her eyes flick over the single seats, finally and begrudgingly resting on the open space on the bench seat next to me. They sit, my side rising slightly as they do.

The Beetle Bus rolls on. There is silence.

“You got me some weird-ass shit,” the girl says. I look and see that she is referring to an opened pink package on her lap, some kind of present, it seems.

I do not hear her boyfriend’s response as the bus has rolled up to the next stop. A two-seat, front-facing space becomes available. Like buzzards, or perhaps fan girls because of the lack of preemptive circling and favor of an immediate ground attack, the couple takes the empty seats opposite me.

My ego is slightly bruised.

I can feel the engine whirring up through the soles of my feet. The sensation stops at my ankles. The shadows cast by the trees we pass dapple the entire interior of the bus. Floors, seats, faces. The window is warm. At night, I can usually see my reflection in it, layered over landmarks. The Space Needle splicing my face, the neon signs using my skin as a canvas.

“Did you see that shit?! Aw shit! That shit was hella funny!”

It is taking all of my energy not to snap shut into iPod escapism.

My eyes try to eat up details to distract me. The way riders’ bodies lean forward before popping back when the bus grinds to a halt, as if they were extensions of the bus itself. The pull-cord on my side is silver. On the other it is black. There are only seven ads in the bus. I don’t have my glasses with me so I cannot see all of them, but I know one is informing me that I can change the world somewhere between college graduation and starting a career. The two fluorescent strip lights in the front are not on, but the rest lining the interior are. The driver wears a blue baseball cap and a vacant look. Is it legal to wear a hat while operating government property? Doesn’t this obstruct his vision? Can’t sunglasses serve the same purpose?

Before I had the chance to let my mind spiral into scenarios rivaling Mad Max, I pull the cord to request my stop. The muted ding sounds as the bus swipes into the side of the street. I exit, thanking the bus driver. He thanks me back. For what, I’m not sure. Perhaps for not using the word “shit” every twelve seconds.

My feet hit the sidewalk. I am wearing thin-soled shoes, so I can feel almost every grain of concrete as I walk on the solid, unmoving ground. I turn to see the bus veer off. On the back, there is an ad with a man waving. I resist the urge to wave goodbye to the Beetle Bus, that cavernous creature that picks up and deposits people not exactly but at least within walking distance of where they need to be. An interim space between spaces. The oft-neglected, under-appreciated vehicle, because when you are taking public transportation, it is most definitely the destination that matters, not the journey.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Imposter Syndrome

I've got it bad.
I feel insecure about grasping the abstract concepts discussed in the Summer Institute class sessions. I am worried I was a lot of talk on my application and not a lot of walk in reality. It seems as though everyone has an opinion already, where as I am just catching on to what was discussed five minutes ago. Whenever I do think of something to contribute, someone says it and articulates is more clearly and adds to it in a way that never crossed my mind!
I took a look at my Statement of Purpose part of the application. The opening paragraph states:
By participating in the 2008 Summer Institute on “Media and the Senses”, I hope to explore the realm of scholarly research, and become more aware of my own relationship to media. Thus far while at the University of Washington, I have never tackled anything quite like exploring the sensory relationship to media. This is precisely why I am applying. I feel this is an opportunity to not only expand my academic horizons, but to experience a way of learning that deviates from the conventional classroom. It seems as though hands-on scholarly research in the humanities is rare, and perhaps fitting with the theme, I wish to be a “blank canvas”, upon which ideas may be tested and contested.
And I stick that that. I am there to learn. Learn from the professors, from my peers, from the environment. I am lucky to even be participating, and should live in the moment and really take this opportunity to learn from my insecurities. The program is too short to let this hold me back from gleaning everything I can from this program. I realized recently that everything is a learning experience. There is a reason I am where I am and doing what I am doing.

There is nothing to do but jump head first.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My List of Ten

For the first session, we each had to compile a list of ten things (ANYthing) that corresponded with the theme, "Media and the Senses". Here is my list:

1. iPod Commercials
Particularly the old school iPod commercials, the first set that featured bands like the Gorillaz and Jet and had brightly colored, solid backgrounds and silhouettes of figures dancing. My first reaction was, “Wow! A music-listening device that will allow me to dance around without worrying about the song skipping!” I then decided the commercial itself was a work of genius. The anonymity of the dancing figures, each silhouette lacking a race or age (although one must assume that anyone who can move like that has to be a twenty-something), made the product something everyone could enjoy, maybe even me. The bright colors catch my attention, the songs are always instant hits, and I feel instantly cooler once I put in those iconic ear buds.

2. Adam Smith-An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
This treatise was the first piece I believe really “spoke” to me. The language of The Wealth of Nations was relatable, fluid, and I felt I understood what Smith was saying, despite the fact that he wrote it over two hundred years ago. I really believed I understood economics. I could see the invisible hand at work! The use of the industry of pin manufacture to illustrate the division of labor made complete sense! It wasn’t until Econ 200 that I realized I was totally, completely, and utterly wrong about understanding economics, because I had forgotten that economics involved numbers. I had been duped by language.

3. John Baldessari’s “I Am Making Art” video
This is a fifteen-minute video in which the artist stands in an empty room, positioning himself in different poses by moving one part of his body every ten seconds or so. After each new pose, he says in a monotone voice, “I am making art.” I saw this video at the MUMOK Modern Art Museum in Vienna. It was displayed in a completely dark room and took up the entire wall. Had it been displayed any other way besides forced participation, I probably would have walked right past it. But I’m glad I didn’t. I couldn’t tell if this guy was being absurd or really making a point. It made me think, “What is so wrong with art for art’s sake?”

4. Ciao! Manhattan
This film, I think, illustrates the adaptability of art and artists. The film took five years to make, and started as an account of Andy Warhol and his inner circle at The Factory, including Edie Sedgwick. Due to lack of funding, an unfinished script, and constant drug use on set, production stopped, followed shortly by Sedgwick’s disappearance and leaving of The Factory. Production picked up again when Sedgwick reappeared in California, and the film took on a new plot: the story of Susan Superstar, recounting her days as a model in New York. The story closely followed Sedgwick’s life, and even used the actual headline announcing her death as a plot device to end the film. The film made me question how much art may imitate life, and I wonder where the line should be drawn.

5. The Work of Henry Darger
The man that was Henry Darger proves that anyone, anyone can be an artist. Darger lived as a reclusive janitor, had one close friend and a few peripheral acquaintances, and died in a nursing home. It was after his death that his landlords discovered his 15,000 page manuscript entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with hundreds of drawings, paintings, and collages to accompany his story. If he found happiness in his art, the world will never know, but something inspired him to keep creating.

6. Any Book Concerning Food, Food Culture, and/or Eating Habits
Not diet books, per se, but the growing phenomenon of topics centering on organic and local eating. Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible, recently came out with a book about her and her family’s year of being “locavores”. Michael Pollan came out with a follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma entitled In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, subtitled: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” The way the authors describe food, the effects of food, and the hang-ups and gripes our society has about food, gave me supermarket anxiety. As a result, I joined a Community Supported Agriculture program and now have someone choose what I will eat for me. I wonder if these books will have any lasting effect, and if the written word is really the most efficient way of reaching people.

7. Tim Walker, photographer
Tim Walker recently has a show at the Design Museum in London, in which he showcased prints from his Vogue shoots along with his scrapbooks, journals, photographs from his childhood, and props from the sets. It was fascinating to see the journey from idea to reality. His work incorporates staple childhood stories (The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, etc), and the idea of bringing the outside to the inside, or vice versa. The results are whimsical, dreamy scenes depicting bedroom sets in trees, a ghost horse in a living room, and vintage dresses that resemble Christmas lights and give a forest a candy-colored glow. Walker plays with the senses, using real, everyday scenes jumbled into out-of-order sequences.

8. Juvenilia in Music
Continuing with the theme of childhood in art, I have noticed the recent trend of what I think I will call “juvenilia” in music. Technically, “juvenilia” refers to a piece of art created during an artist’s childhood, but I can’t think of a better term at the moment. I have noticed that bands such as Bat For Lashes and Tilly and the Wall, and artists like Kate Nash and Sufjan Stevens, increasingly incorporate fairy tale and myth into their lyrics, which reminds me of the stories I used to read as a child. They often make music using found objects, much like I did when I was young. That MGMT song that every apparel store in the English-speaking world plays at least three times a day embodies the idea of a generation not ready to grow up, so they’re choosing not to. It’s not just hearing music, it’s recalling and revisiting memories. For me, at least.

9. The Sensory Garden Project
The Sensory Garden is the brainchild of Carole Johnson, who while suffering from chronic MS, wanted a place where she could relax and indulge in senses other than sight. She created the garden along with her husband and two sons, and used the space to listen to running water and rustling leaves, to taste organically grown fruits and vegetables, to smell scented plants commonly used in aromatherapy, and touch natural surfaces varying in temperature and texture. The garden is now open to the public by appointment only and raises funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. I think nature, specifically manicured nature that still contains its wild essence, qualifies as a medium as well. Visit the Garden here.

10. Karl Lagerfeld’s Piano Dress for Chanel 1999
Chanel is known for its monopoly on the “little black dress”. When Karl Lagerfeld took over the house in 1983, he revolutionized and expanded the house while still honoring the late Coco’s vision of “basics that incorporate elegance, class, and originality”. Lagerfeld’s Piano Dress is a departure from the traditional LBD that made Chanel so popular. The top is a strapless, solid black boned bodice, attached to a silk skirt that poofs out over layers of crinoline. On the bottom half of the white skirt are black vertical lines, about five inches thick, circling the entirety of the skirt. These lines are made to look like the keys of a piano. The result is a playful, original way to connect the past and the present.