November 6, 2012 § 3 Comments
As a child I read everything in sight. Recklessly literate is the term my brother-in-law employs. I have vivid memories of the books I devoured, from the singsong cadence of Dr. Suess’s One Fish, Two Fish to the songs made up in Bedtime for Frances and the mystery series I zipped through on my own when a little older (Boxcar Children, Encylcopedia Brown, Mandie and the Mystery of (fill in the blank)).
The first time I realized words had power was different. It didn’t come from feeling out a rhythm or the repetitive structure of a series, but from my biggest fear.
We’d recorded the BBC production of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in the Looking Glass. In 1985, the design and special effects were…well…they were something.
Their interpretation of the Jabberwocky was truly monstrous. Slimy, flailing, alien, and loud. He appeared unexpectedly. He appeared with stormy backgrounds and flickering lights. He advanced slowly upon the other characters in the scene, and all Alice could do was scream and back into a corner (really, Alice? Run!).
The worse part was that Alice was the one who’d brought him to life. And she did so simply by reading a poem aloud.
Each time I watched the beginning of this film, where she opens a great big book and reads those famous words, “Twas brillig and the slithy toves / did gyre and gimble in the wabe,” I braced myself for the slow formulating of this imagined creature. These were even nonsense words, yet they worked to call forth all my imagination. The result was often me with a blanket pulled over my head, heart pounding, reassuring myself that the Jabberwocky was not real.
This is what Alice learns to tell herself as well. And by the end of the story, she manages to quell her fears and banish the beast with – not just any words – but her own words, telling the creature it does not exist, that she does not believe it, that she will not be afraid.
Years later, I continue to believe that words have power and that reading and writing and speaking release that power. It can still give way to fears and nightmarish runs of the imagination. It can also bring a rest to those fears, can bring lightness and connection, a voice. And so I read – still recklessly literate – all that comes across my path, and I send my own words out into the world.
Here’s Christopher Lee’s rather perfect reading of “The Jabberwocky,” by Lewis Carroll. Be wary of what might come next.
September 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
At 80 years old, Vera Klement, an oil painter in Chicago, still grapples with the doubts of creating, with wondering what to create next, with creating something that people will understand and connect to. This brief documentary (10 min) follows Vera on a recent project as she paints a portrait in homage to Dmitri Shostakovitch, celebrates her 80th birthday party, and reflects on how she came to paint. Her courage and wisdom are inspiring.
“Really trite things, those are the things that move people,” she says. “But if you paint them with great severity, you can get away with it.”
A nod to Vera and her perseverance.
September 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Recently, a friend who’s been dreaming rural, said to me, “Wouldn’t it be fun to be a beekeeper?”
For her, I think it would fit. For me, well, I’m not overly fond of bees. Memories of being stung come quick to mind. But listening to her talk, I realized their community and crafting of a product is fascinating. And I do love honey.
This weekend, spend some time dreaming and enjoying.
1. Do eat some toast and honey. It’s come a long way to your table. Spoon it into tea. Drizzle it onto bread. Dip your finger in it. It’s goodness.
2. Do move with slow and calming grace. This beekeeper from Hong Kong doesn’t wear any protective clothing. His movements, which are as graceful as the movement of bees, makes me want to approach the space I’m in with similar ease and care.
3. Do be sweet. Sweet like honey.
Have a sweet weekend.
June 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
I love this piece on East London’s fashion in the last 100 years. It’s so fun to hear the music and see the fashions of the last century fly by. It’s even more fun to see the styles that have stayed, returned, or never came back.
Lately I’ve felt a similar frenzied and nostalgic rush toward technology.
On one hand, I bought a new phone which prompted me to dive into the land of apps and Instagram. I even started a twitter account (another dangerous whim). Here’s my first tweet. (If you follow @abigaillzc, you can bet there will be offthefrontporch links.)
And my first instagram photo (follow @zimmeralc for more).
But as much as I’m diggin things like Voxer and AroundMe, I’m aware of how much past technology continues to influence our new habits. For example, our computer keyboards click because when they were first made with muted sound, the quiet office unnerved typists. So engineers made them click again. And the layout of the keys (the QWERTY pattern) was meant to slow down the typists so the machine could keep up with them – now our computers are more than capable, yet we continue to use the slower QWERTY layout.
So in the midst of playing around with my new toys, I also got a fresh ribbon for my typewriter, which I’ve been using to write Sylvia-Plath-style.
(Look what serious poets we both are. It’s all because of the typewriter.)
And I’m listening to classics like Otis Spain and Al Green on my record player.
Soon I will be using a lot more public transportation to get around, which – as these 100-year-old promotional infographics imply – is certainly not a new fad.
Readers, revel in the old and indulge in the new.
June 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
It may be so stormy this weekend that you are stuck inside with nothing to do. Or it may be so hot this weekend that you seek the air conditioning feel of a theater. Whatever the reason, forget the summer blockbusters and do check out these three films.
1. I love this brief story by my friend and videographer Matt Kirk, who’s been playing around with new ways of conveying a narrative. In his blog post here, he talks about not asking his subject straight up about being homeless. Instead he implies the heartache of homelessness by asking Mr. Eddie to talk about hunger.
2. The Other F Word is maybe one of the best documentaries I’ve seen. It’s so good! The film takes a look at several punk rockers of the late 80s and 90s who are now fathers and middle aged, the authority figures they rebelled against.
Some of these men pursue both the punk and family lifestyle, others let go of one. The film is funny, insightful, and very moving. Everyone’s story looks so different, and that’s a beautiful thing.
3. I’m pretty excited that one of my favorite youtube videos, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, has been made into a full-length movie, Sound of Noise. I haven’t yet had the chance to watch it, but it combines my love of percussion with using everyday objects creatively. Also, it looks delightfully absurd as they’ve turned the plot into a comedy-crime film where a bunch of drummers illegally play in city institutions.
Plus, this group was only able to turn this into a movie through the support of crowd-funding. Community art. Love it.
What are you watching lately or hope to watch?
April 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I just can’t get enough of Brene Brown’s talk, so I wrote a second blog post on what I learned about vulnerability, love, and life as found in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Yeah, that’s right. Life lessons from a story that includes a playboy candelabra and a villian with a hairy chest.
My friend has been re-watching all the Disney animated films in chronological order and blogging about them at Disnerd Adventures. (I wrote a guest post awhile back about Peter Pan and the gift of stories.) After seeing Beauty and the Beast again (the first movie I watched – or remember watching – in theaters), I was drawn to the character of the Beast:
As I paid more attention to the Beast, the requirements of the spell in particular stood out. Not only did the Beast have to get past his own self-centeredness, someone had to love him back.
Think about that for a moment. How in the world—enchanted or not—do you get anyone to love you?
Change yourself? Difficult and challenging but put the pedal to the metal and you can probably do it by your 21st birthday. Get someone to love you? It’s too much to ask.
Read the rest of my post here.
March 9, 2012 § 2 Comments
Today I was defeated by a jar of maple syrup, which I could not open. I twisted and pulled, used bare hands and grip pads, ran under hot water, and banged against the counter to no avail. Am I really so weak (those who’ve met me, please don’t answer)? Was the inherent syrupy stickiness which I so desired on my waffles the same as what prevented me from obtaining it? Did these Vermont jar manufacturers win the prize for “Most Sealed and Likely to Stay That Way” maple syrup?
I don’t know.
In the end, the jar sat victoriously on the kitchen counter…
…while I skulked on the living room floor.
We were not on speaking terms.
I feel like the badger in the 2006 Academy-nominated short film, who is repeatedly frustrated in getting the quiet he needs to sleep (while managing to be both crochety and adorable at the same time, thanks to Sharon Colman’s animation. Tonight I managed at least the crochety part.)
But who I want to be like is writer and parkour fan Amy – not just for her strength (though that would be very helpful in my encounters with maple syrup jars) but for her passion in pursuing a way of life that does not come easily, for allowing her fears to propel her forward, for just showing up.
Hmm….I suppose I should try again.
A nod to extraordinary women, the persistence of small mammals, and yes, even jar manufacturers driven by passion for perfectly preserved maple syrup.
March 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Guest post by Laura Mettler.
I would like to introduce you to a musical friend of mine. And by friend, I mean a friendly musical presence in my life who is also a real person whom I have never met. This “meeting” may be redundant, considering the fact that he has released eleven albums since 1997. His name is Andrew Bird, and I myself was properly introduced to his music a little over a year ago. Chances are I am not the only newbie.
I chanced to run into him last week while checking out NPR’s First Listen. And hey! He has a new album coming out this month. Here is your sneak peek. Feel free to sample.
By now, we all love and are totally impressed with TED talks, right? Well, prepare to be even more impressed with Andrew. Here is his TED talk from November 2010! It showcases his mad looping skills which combine whistling, singing, and strumming-plucking-bow-ing a violin, all in precision timing.
Click here for his show on the highly impractical “Sounds from a Room” recorded in late January. It’s almost an hour long, so feel free to put it on as background music for your work-a-day world, or snuggle down on your couch (alone or with friends) and savor it like an after-dinner mint.
Here he covers Cass McCombs’ song “Meet Me Here at Dawn” with Priscilla Ahn.
As if everything he has ever done has not impressed you yet, his music is featured in the new Muppets movie!
To top it all off, he’s from Chicago. Incontestable proof that the Midwest is indeed the best! (Thanks, Etsy!)
February 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
I often say ”To eat is to share.” One of my favorite meals to share with others is breakfast or on most weekends brunch. It’s just really nice to wake up with the sun beaming through the window and to begin the day with others by breaking bread. I decided to compile a list of gentlemen that I would love to host some day for breakfast along with a recipe.
I would invite Garrison Keilor and Ira Glass to my home and make this Crustless Quiche with Spinach and Mushrooms for breakfast. On the side I would serve a bowl of blueberries. The breakfast will linger into early evening due to all the stories we would share. I imagine that every once in a while I would close my eyes just to listen to their voice because they’re so familiar to me. This would be satisfying on so many accounts.
Some time ago, a friend introduced me to the world of Wes Anderson. He has such an interesting and strong way of telling us about his characters. Wouldn’t it be something if his quirky characters joined us for breakfast? Oh boy, the Banana Bread French Toast would be gone so quick. I can’t wait, just can’t wait, for Moonrise Kingdom to come out, but for now, here is one of his most recent commercials.
Readers, you probably are already aware of my love for Megafaun. I would share a classic brunch with them: eggs any style, turkey sausage or bacon, hash browns, and toast spread with homemade raspberry jam. Give a listen and you will love them too.
Who would you want over for breakfast?
February 24, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Awhile ago, I came across this quote by author A. C. Benson, “All the best stories are but one story in reality – the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.”
So no matter what you’re escaping from or to this weekend, here are a few things to help you on your way.
1. Do read! Elif Shafak, a Turkish writer, gives an incredible TED talk on the politics of fiction, how reading breaks down all sort of walls and gives us better insight into understanding one another. “If you want to destroy anything,” she says, “surround it with thick walls.”
2. Do enter into the noble act of creating (do we ever have a Weekend Do without this advice?). In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Micahel Chabon writes about comic book artists drawing their superheroes in the 1940s, how the act of creating is itself a hopeful escape.
“In literature and folklore, the significance and the fascintation of golems . . . lay in their soulessness, in their tireless inhuman strength, in their metaphoircal association with overweening human ambition, and in the frightening ease with which they passed beyond the control of their horrified and admiring creators. But none of these were among the true reasons that impelled men, time after time, to hazard the making of golems. The shaping of golem was a gesture of hope, offered against hope, in a time of desperation. It was the expression of a yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something– one poor dumb, powerful thing – exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevtiable failures of the greater Creation. It was the voicing of a vain wish, when you got down to it, to escape. To slip, like the Escapist, free of the entangling chain of reality and the straitjacket of physical laws . . . the Senate investigation into comic books always cited “escapism” among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life.”
3. Do watch a heist movie and note their escapist strategies. One of my favorites is The Maiden Heist, where three old art aficionados working at a museum plan to steal their favorite paintings to avoid being separated from them forever.
4. Do browse the dichromatic and odd world of the French painter Bruno Michaud. His work has a note of mystery and intrigue, a world where you could surely lose yourself if you wanted.
5. Do escape into music. Both the name and music of The Wilderness of Manitoba set the perfect mood for escapism in these lovely harmonies. Just close your eyes and drift.
Are you gone yet?