Hither and Thither #29


When I get deep, deep into a necessary or unavoidable timesuck (school, depression), I daydream of creating like at no other time of my life. The key, and the thing I’m working on in my life right this minute, is carrying that frantic “IF ONLY I COULD, I WOULD WRITE A NOVEL AND CONSTRUCT DIORAMAS AND TRAVEL THE WORLD AND MAKE MY OWN INTERNET MOVIES, OH BOY OH BOY” energy over into non-frantic life.

I thought a lot about papercraft this last go-round. My first post-school task is to make my apartment feel livable, alive, and welcoming again. After that: oh, we are MAKING SHIT.

Which is to say, I love this so much and want to try it myself soon.

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These portraits are so affectionate and so beautiful.

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My friend Amy’s fine eye for the visual, deep love of children’s books, and wide-open curiosity about the world makes all of her travel-related blogging a joy to experience, but I especially loved this roundup of children’s books from her recent travels. I hope she brought an expanding suitcase… And here are her stupendous (STUPENDOUS) drawings from life. I got jealous in the best way.

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I know where I am sending every single postcard and other piece of correspondence I might need to mail next time I’m in Paris.

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In our data-driven world, everything has a strategy. EVERYTHING.

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Making the total count of known books bound in human skin in the greater Boston area… four. FOR NOW.

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No clever thing or sincere thing or anything I could say could top the existing title of this piece.

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An incredibly candid, giving, and useful look at the long-term creative process and how you can fuck it up with the best of intentions.

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Today, Captain Awkward’s column extolled the perils of baby elephant pictures. While I can get on quite an internet tangent of cat pictures and otters and street art, this is my true risk. If there were days upon days of this kind of thing, you all might never hear from me again.

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I have thought of doing this and didn’t, and I am grateful someone did.

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As for podcasts… oh god, just go listen to 99 Percent Invisible, and I’ll catch you back here in a couple of days.

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I’ve had this draft sitting and waiting for so long now. I can’t tell you how good it felt to go back, flesh it out, and get ready to go again. Like doing a forward fold after standing on cement at a concert for two hours, like using a washcloth to scrub inside your ear, like water when you woke up hungover. Hello. Let’s do this.

Hither and Thither #24

pipeAs I write this, a helicopter is still hovering over Capitol Hill to capture the magic. I added a few pictures to the Deviation Obligatoire Flickr that I took tonight. I considered doing a separate post about it, but it’ll be covered amply by the rest of the world. I will just tell you that I saw these things:

  • Two flung beer cans
  • At least ten bottles of champagne, shaken and sprayed
  • One small Christmas tree, brandished overhead like an undecipherable symbol
  • One small Christmas tree, four hands with lighters at its base as the bearers tried unsuccessfully to light it on fire
  • One small Christmas tree, confiscated by four cops
  • Bottle rockets shot from a traffic cone
  • Bottle rocket sparks, sprayed on nearby onlookers
  • Professional-grade fireworks, launched from the very densest center of the crowd

The band emerged after I went home. Alas.

Now, let’s get to the rest of the internet.

division squiggleI love this essay so fucking much. Her 20s were not quite like my 20s were – there is something about me that seems to tell strange men DO NOT BOTHER THE LADY (something which surprises people who know me), so I’m mostly spared certain things. But the beauty of coming into your own… Ah, I love Molly Crabapple. I love that someone with such a finely tuned blend of fine art and cartooning is also such a sharp, unsparing writer. Continue reading

Hither and Thither #22

RemiNoel1Batman, with a different variety of pathos than is typical.

division squiggleThis is only for a few of you, but it’s so useful I wanted to get it out there even a tiny bit more. Over on Tumblr, there’s an excellent, excellently written, and very thorough list of retailer tips for selling minicomics, from production to distribution to just generally not being a pain in the ass. If you’re tempted to do it, I hope you do… while following a few best practices.

division squiggleIf you have $175 to spare (and shit, who doesn’t?), you should order yourself one of these. I’m a sucker for gorgeous, expertly done hand lettering (one of the things I like most about certain sections of West Seattle, although there’s been some superb lettering going on on the big red wall that surrounds the Capitol Hill light rail construction), so I love this. Although part of me would want it to go through the mail properly – I like the artifacts of travel. It’s the same part of me that likes scars, tattoos, and secondhand things.

division squiggleI am ever so slightly better than monolingual (I can take care of basic needs in Spanish, even if they have to be largely discussed in the present tense), but I am trying to improve. Sometimes in vain, as these things go – I am a piss-poor memorizer on my better days. Rosecrans Baldwin had a great bit about the queer vulnerability of switching languages in Paris, I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down, where he discusses operating from a place purely populated by needs and earnestness. When you switch languages, you shed all cleverness and subtlety, at least for a while. You start from a single level and perhaps you grow from there.

Which is why the idea of switching languages in writing is so damned daunting, especially for me. It’s my ability with English that’s paid the bills for the last ten years, for the whole of my functional adulthood. To walk away from that, even for a paragraph, is quite scary. (I’m working on it.) This New York Times article addresses that switch, that demolition and rebuilding, with just the appropriate amount of drama.

And then there’s also code switching. NPR has had an interesting (if oddly dispassionate, at times) series about it, which is always interesting. And then there’s this essay at STET by a woman who’s traveled and adapted, watching her languages be shaped by people she loved, placed she adored, those who taught her, and her own preferences. And I guess I speak more than 1.1 languages, when you take that into account. Through a trick of geography and relatives, I’m conversant in Southern Midwestern, Southern, and my own curious natural blend of what sounded like a neutral accent to me when I was 12, words I delighted in that no one else used, and my own past and present as a weird kid.

division squiggleHow much am I a sucker for a hand-drawn map? I can’t convey it without tone and gestures. So when I next go to Amsterdam (after Iceland, Japan, Berlin, Paris again, and possibly even the Nevada desert), I will want some of this business in my pocket.

division squiggleI AM SO EXCITED THIS IS PART OF OUR POP CULTURE CONVERSATION RIGHT NOW. I am even more glad that the weird switch between V.C. Andrews as person and V.C. Andrews as copyrighted label of creativity is better known now. I noticed the weird little note about her demise and revival when I was 13 or 14, but people didn’t quite believe me when I told them. VINDICATION. Also a TV movie I’m hoping to watch in the next few days, red wine and powdered donuts at hand.

division squiggleSo I am a pretty damn prolific journaler, and I have been for – woof – about 18 years now. However, I have nothing on Alison Bechdel, whose brain is revealed as being more and more interesting as the days go on – and she started strong. She put up an absolutely fucking fascinating post where she moved between January 15ths in her life, from junior high to just a couple of years ago to college to entries she excerpted in her memoirs.

This is not why I would tell you to start a journal. (And I would tell you to start one, if you’ve ever even faintly considered it. We have a tendency to let the past blur together into more of a feeling than an event, and if you’re trying to change things in your life, that tendency is unhelpful.) But it’s a wonderful side effect of following your life with its own chronicle.

division squiggleAnd, finally, a little listening for you. I first got caught by This American Life with their Testosterone episode, which was scientific, and personal, and also got uncomfortably in the business of their entire staff. I find their more frequent recent turns toward hard reporting exciting and a great use of their time, but I’m glad they’re still making new episodes that make the hairs on the back of my neck tickle with that sense of uncomfortable intimacy, a certain risk, and the appreciation that some people are willing to share so much. I felt that with last week’s episode, Good Guys. It started with a kind of situation that made me feel unnerved the way that Curb Your Enthusiasm do, and it just escalated from there. Worth it.





Hither and Thither #12

florentijn-hofman-partyaardvark-designboom-08Oh, let me count the ways.

  1. “the Dutch artist has envisioned ‘feestaardvarken’ (partyaardvark)”
  2. “a 30-meter-long concrete sculpture that can be climbed upon and interacted with”
  3. It has nipples
  4. And a literal party hat too

The world is better for this being out there.

Now: do I need to borrow a child when I go to see this, or can I just gallop up there myself?

Also, new goal (to add to my considerable list): have my own name in a headline even a tenth as devastatingly delightful as that one.

division squiggleA few years old, but always always always worth repeating: 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will at the AV Club. Continue reading

Hither and Thither #9

As I mentioned last week, I listen to a lot of podcasts. It’s at the point that I’m pretty choosy about taking new ones on, because I hate a backlog. (The 47 unheard podcasts on my phone as of this writing would be surprised to learn that.) However, when I read Sarah Vowell’s post about 99% Invisible on Facebook, I got that big-pupilled Kate Beaton drawing look on my face that means “WE WANTS IT, GIVE IT TO US.” I’m looking forward to diving in this weekend.

In the meantime, they have a Kickstarter to support their next season. I am 99 percent sure I will be throwing them money once I listen to, oh, about 0.75 of one of the podcasts. Because it is a podcast about beauty, design, intention, and history. Are you kidding me.

division squigglebavarians with gunsAn overview of Washington’s own deeply unlikely Bavarian-style town, written by a British woman on her Paris-themed blog. Yes, internet, I like you just fine.

I like Leavenworth, although I’ve been once and don’t feel compelled to go again. I went around Christmas with friends several years ago. Lots of tourists in weird hats, due to an oddly successful weird hat store, placed prominently in the center of the town. My favorite part was a big, big tree, its canopying branches carefully wrapped in softly glowing blue-white lights. If it hadn’t been about 25 degrees, I might’ve laid down on the stone wall beneath it and stared up at it and the peeks of midnight-blue sky showing through for hours. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that I didn’t have a camera up for capturing it. Continue reading