Friday, October 29, 2010

Interconnectivity

If I visualize my reality as an infinite sphere made up of points representing individual people at specific times and specific places… so that I have a million tiny dots along the web representing my path, you have a million tiny dots along with everyone else that has ever existed in space and time.

When these dotted lines come together, relationships are formed and meaning is created. I enjoy looking back on these lines and trying to understand how people got to where they are now and how certain relationships were formed and sometimes later, broken.


What is most interesting though, is when I find two seemingly unrelated lines come together with mine at a point in time. I don’t necessarily believe in Fate, but I see that there are multiple avenues in which we may end up at the same point of experience at a particular time. It is easy to assign meaning to this because it does seem significant. I wouldn’t have been able to understand one experience nearly as deeply if I hadn’t already experienced another related one first.

I’ve noticed this happen in particular with music and art. I will be introduced to a band or artist and less than a week later I find myself coming into contact with that same band or artist in a different context. I find the timing of these connections inspiring and therefore, meaningful to my life.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Punches Thrown while Police Look On, An Insect Receives Last Rites

9/5/07

Punches Thrown while Police Look On, An Insect Receives Next-to-Last Rites

I raised my glass of Merlot and sipped to the beginning of my second movie for the night: A Streetcar Named Desire. There was a flowery smudge on the wine glass just next to the first capital letter of the winery where I bought it. I never noticed that before. Was there a previously unnoticed flower appliqué on the glass? No, my finger found the mangled body of a small insect. It was probably a moth that I had been swatting unsuccessfully all evening.

I moved the tiny pathetic body (and a leg found separately) to a napkin and was trying to answer philosophical questions about the life and death of bugs when I heard loud male voices and car door slamming outside.

The street I live on, Alvarado, is a dangerous street after dark. I shut off the living room lights and peered outside from behind the curtain. Two young men were shouting near a car pulled into the right lane. One man emerged from the sidewalk and punched the driver of the car twice before the driver noticed two police officers on motorcycles crossing the street at Montana, heading west. The driver raised his hand, possibly to let the officers know he was alright, but then again, he may have been hoping they would turn left onto Alvarado and intervene.

The officers went straight and when I looked back to the car in question, it was leaving the scene. The identity and whereabouts of the assailant are unknown.

I was overwhelmed by the timing of these events. After the first punch, I wondered if I would have to call 9-1-1. In the end, everyone seemed to have survived with little more than bruises, except for the moth who I’m hoping is on its way to a partial recovery sans one leg.

What to Do (Old essay from 2005)

8/30/05

I can’t seem to figure out what I want or what I want to do. I want to do everything, but it doesn’t seem like I’m qualified to do anything.

I feel as if I don’t do anything important. My field is interesting, my job is boring most of the time, but neither of them is really significant in the world. If archaeologists disappeared forever, I think people would be fine. I want to do something that has more depth to it, something more real and tangible that archaeology.

Sometimes I freak myself out because I think of all the things in the world that I’d like to do, but feel as if I won’t be able to; I’ll never be that world famous archaeologist. Then I realize that it’s ok not to be the world famous archaeologist. It’s ok to be a cashier at the local grocery store. But you see, I have a college degree and it doesn’t feel ok to be just a cashier in the same town I grew up in. I’m suppose to have some edge over the competition now so I can get that wonderful job in a far away land where I’ll learn all about the long lost culture of the whoserwhatsit and publish several books on the subject.

I want to be a writer, a gardener, a good cook, and a spiritual and well-balanced individual. But how in the Hell can a person be who she wants to if she has to spend all her spare time looking for a better job when there simply aren’t any available? What standards should I set for myself? I wonder if I should give up on these dreams and come to terms with the reality that I’m going to have to work at a shitty job for a long time and not get to do most of the things I want. What goals do I need to set in motion in order to be this person I can see in my mind’s eye?

I have been searching for guidance for many years and have only found it in small pockets: a teacher here, a friend there – and then it goes away and I begin the search again. Always searching and always waiting, that is the story of my life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Obsession Confession (older post)


I finished reading Twilight in about five days. I had trouble putting it down, but I had to work at least three of those days, I took a short overnight camping trip, and had a birthday dinner with my family in that time as well. I was engrossed the way a person might normally be in a new fun story, but it wasn’t until I finished the book and read the teaser chapter into the sequel that I started to obsess.

I had planned on alternating between fiction and non-fiction as I worked my way through my home library. That evening as I got ready for bed, I perused my bookshelves in search of my next fix – I wanted to stick to my plan and start “Why Darwin Matters” or maybe “The Pilgrim and the Great Bird Continent” because my last science book was really enjoyable – but my fingers led me to more fiction: “The Vampire Lestat” (I’d never read that book in The Vampire Chronicles) or maybe “The Mists of Avalon” (I loved the King Arthur legends). But, I couldn’t quite shake this feeling that I was heading downhill and fiction was my navigator. Better play it safe: I chose an entertaining non-fiction book about extremist conspiracy theorists.

The next day, I was looking forward to having the house to myself for several hours after work. I formulated a plan to go to the library and check out the second book in the Twilight saga AND the Twilight movie; I was going to pursue my obsession properly. The library was an utter disappointment: five copies of the book and one copy of the DVD – all checked out. I walked the two blocks to the video rental place with my fingers crossed.

All was not lost! On the way home from the video store I came up with the following: “I just want the freedom to engage safely and responsibly in my obsessions”.

Another story is that I’m addicted to fiction and that’s why it was so hard for me to leave Twilight. I love delving so deep into a fictional world that the boundaries between real and fantasy starts to blur. When this happened in the past, I was able to go with it and let it take me away to wherever it wanted, eventually returning home safely. Now, my “responsible” adult life doesn’t seem to allow me full indulgence of my obsessions and that makes me obsess even more. It’s dangerous.

If this story is the more accurate one, it may be a sign of lunacy and the question facing me then is: Do I want to be cured? I don’t think so. I have figured out a possible way to “treat” this affliction however. The answer is so obvious that I barely figured it out. I must write fiction myself in order to live safely in both worlds. It’s the only way.

4/26/09

Monday, June 14, 2010

GO LAKERS!

This week the Lakers are playing the Celtics for the NBA Playoffs.  I'm not really a basketball fan, so that last sentence may be all wrong, but you understand what I'm meaning...  I guess if I have to pick a team, I'm Lakers all the way... I really enjoy watching basketball, compared to other sports (although I did catch some of the World Cup on Saturday afternoon and I could probably follow that if I were inclined).

It didn't hit me until today that it has been almost a year since I moved out of Echo Park and ended my last long term relationship... The last good memory I have of that time is catching the Playoffs last year on a TV at a Pub.  The energy of the crowd was infectious and I ended up following the rest of the games until the Laker's won and I watched my fellow Los Angelenos riot (why the hell did you do that?) all over downtown.

So much time has passed, yet I don't feel like I have moved forward very far in my life.  I guess I'm still healing, still getting a handle on reality as a single person.  Exploring the ideas I used to think were "me" before I was subsumed by an "us".  I am afraid that I have lost my edge.

Witnessing the hoopla over the Lakers (at work, in  my neighborhood and even in my own household) makes me wonder why people get so riled up over a sports team.  I think people have a deep need for tribal affiliations and sports satisfies that.  It allows us to be a part of the competitive "us vs. them" dynamic in a relatively safe way.  If we were still living in caves, we would be hunting animals and defending ourselves from other caves with much the same psychological effect.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Random Thoughts: About Me

In lieu of a singular connected "journal" entry, I am going to try random thoughts.

ABOUT ME:
I strive for simplicity in my daily life.  I don't want too many possessions and I want to limit my impact on the planet.  That being said, I need complexity to feel satisfied sometimes such as with food and drink, a movie or a book.  I love getting new things (even used things that are new to me) and struggle every day with my impulse to consume.

I know that I am swimming in contradictions: I trust science to explain the known universe AND some days I believe in things that can't be proven by science.  My beliefs about the world are constantly in motion and therefore can appear different from one day to the next.  And when that does happen, I'm not lying, I'm just open-minded about myself and the world of possibilities.  I live in a constantly changing world and I change with it.  I remember when I was younger and didn't understand that the world was fluid.  The world appeared solid and therefore change seemed like a bad thing, to be avoided.  Now I just accept that it is.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Secret Garden of the French Revolution


 (*Note: This is a paper for an art history class in it's entirety. The figures are displayed throughout because this is a blog.  Most college research papers require a specific citation style.  References cited appear as the author's last name and page number of their work in parenthesis.  These are listed in their entirety at the end.)

The Secret Garden of the French Revolution
           My journey through The Getty Center of Los Angeles on April 4, 2007 came to a pleasantly abrupt halt when I encountered Carved Relief (fig. 1) by Aubert-Henri-Joseph Parent (1753-1835) .  It was created in Paris, France in 1791 from a single panel of lindenwood (Tilia sp.), also called lime wood.  It is unassumingly titled Carved Relief in the museum among the other decorative arts, but is listed elsewhere as Allegory of the Constitution of 1791 (Streeter 53).  I was drawn to its simplicity and naturalism.  In fact, as I stood sketching and admiring the work, many people stopped to look or take a picture and I shared out loud to someone that if you added water it would spring to life. 
            It is strikingly similar to Parent’s 1789 Carved Relief (fig. 2), also listed as Allegory of Mortality (Streeter 53), which is located but not currently on display at The Getty Villa (“Carved”-1789).  During my research, I found only one published source of information on Parent’s work and life due to his relative obscurity.  I feel that referring to some of his earlier work is a necessary part of the story of this one piece of art. 
            My interpretation of the 1791 Carved Relief (and other works) led me to postulate that he was likely influenced by the well known British lime wood carver Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) as well as the Dutch still life painters and the Neoclassical movement.  Parent’s 1791 panel could be considered a still life carving, although I did not find much cross-over between the painters and wood carvers of 18th century France (or from anywhere else for that matter).  During that time period, however, the Royal Academy had established a rigid hierarchy which focused most of its attention on history painting and relegated genre, still life, landscape, and portraiture to a second-class status.  Unlike the history painters, the training of these subjects was less controlled and artists were able to experiment with new themes as well as media (Eliel 47).  There is no mention of Parent attending the Academy, or how he learned his craft, however he did participate in the Salon exhibitions of Paris like most artists of his day and was probably influenced by this trend.

 (Above)1791 Carved Relief Panel, Getty Center.
Parent created a multi-level and deeply undercut relief with different linear and textural qualities to each level.  Undercut refers to carving that is worked from one solid piece of wood where the relief is so deep it is almost free from its background.  This technique gives the carving an aesthetic quality that is often missing from built up work that uses several pieces of wood with glue or pegs (Bridgewater 90).
Lime wood is popular for carving because of its pale color, hardness, and inconspicuous grain size (Bridgewater 24). It is also reasonably stable over time if kept dry. But the functional appeal of the wood is that it can be easily carved in any direction and its lack of character allows the artist to dominate it completely (Bridgewater 85), like a painter with a blank canvas. 
Some of the wood contours are visible in Parent’s relief, but they are smooth and uniform and do not detract from the content.  The marks of a gouge or chisel are hard to detect, except where they lend to the texture of the forms they represent. The shelf retains enough of a woody quality after carving that one does not suspect it was intended to represent a different material like the smooth and shapely vase does.  The soft curving lines of the vase give it a polished look as if it were modeled after glazed ceramic, in contrast with the flatness of the background and the sculptural quality of the plants, animals and medallions.  Each flower and leaf type has a different carved texture and individuals within a species do not look identical, mimicking the diversity found in nature.
Parent’s gradations of relief create natural light and shadow, similar to the color values of painting (Streeter 57), most noticeable among the high relief of the roses and deeply undercut poppy leaf running diagonally at the upper left shoulder of the vase.  This contrasts sharply with the low relief of the vase itself and the bindweed vine flowing across it.  
(Above) 1789 Carved Relief Panel, The Getty website

It is clear in both the 1789 and 1791 panels that Parent was influenced by the Dutch still life painters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Streeter describes the similarities of these compositions “in which a strong pyramidal central structure balances a diagonal with broad masses, offset by the radiating sprays of finer textures.”  He also points out the inherent theme of contrasting “a rich and enduring man-made object with the bounty of nature” (57) which is present in both panels as well as most still life paintings.
Parent’s work is also reminiscent of Grinling Gibbons who was known for his decorative wall borders and panels that often depicted flowers, birds and other natural motifs.  Two of Gibbons well known relief panels are located in Italy, where Parent traveled from 1784 to 1788 (Streeter 63).  He visited Florence where Gibbons’ Cosimo Panel (a gift from Charles II to Cosimo III de’ Medici in 1682) was located (Esterly 132). Although there is no direct evidence that Parent saw it firsthand, the similarities between the Cosimo Panel and Parent’s 1791 Carved Relief are hard to ignore.  Both panels are laden with images of nature and highly symbolic of their own political atmosphere, with a carved figure on a medallion hanging from a chain (in Parent’s case, there are two of them).  Both panels also symbolically join two groups of people together in the hope for a peaceful union.  They mostly differ in construction.  Gibbons’ panel is built up from several pieces and glued together allowing for a more intricate composition of elements, while Parent’s is carved entirely from a single piece of wood and often reaches the same level of detail and realism.
Most wood carvers concentrated on producing wood furniture during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Bridgewater 89).  It seems peculiar that Parent chose to carve decorative wood panels that did not have any utilitarian purpose in an age when the decorative arts (mostly furniture) flourished and according to Bridgewater, plaster began to replace wood for the purely decorative interior design elements (89).  The frivolous Rococo style of the aristocratic class was already being replaced by the ideas of the Enlightenment when Parent carved his first relief panel in 1777, but it seems that whatever his actual social standing was by birth, he had a strong  personal connection with the Monarchy and upper classes.
In order to understand the 1791 panel, one needs to look further back into Parent’s history as well as the cultural context of the time period.  Parent drew a fairly prestigious clientele in his day.  He claimed to be descended from a secretary of state to Louis XI (Streeter 60) and perhaps his aristocratic ancestry had something to do with his close ties to the court of Louis XVI.  In 1777, a similarly carved wood relief by Parent was presented to the young king who subsequently displayed it in the inner dining room at Versailles (Streeter 61).  A carved inscription on the frame bears an extremely patriotic tribute to the king, “…when I raise a trophy to the rarest of virtues, my art traces Louis and recalls Titus” (Streeter 61).  With no specific patron mentioned for the panel, I am inclined to think this somewhat reflected Parent’s personal feelings toward his king and country. 
In this light, the symbolism of his 1789 and 1791 carved relief panels make more sense.  The 1789 Carved Relief  coincided with the French Revolution.  Near the bottom of the panel, a pair of birds defend their nest from a grass snake and a slug.  This allegory of parental responsibility represents the French monarchy’s duty to its subjects at the start of the Revolution (“Carved”-1789). 
Two years later, the National Assembly was drafting a constitution for France and on September fourteenth, Louis XVI took an oath to support it.  Parent’s 1791 Carved Relief captures “this moment of balance when the Monarchiens still hoped that a reformed and constitutional France could be governed by the decrees of the French senate, linked by the new constitution to an enlightened King Louis XVI, like a new Hadrian” (Streeter 59).  In this panel, Parent chose to symbolize these two linked entities as two medallions linked together by a chain.  One medallion has a bust of the Roman emperor Hadrian and the other a representation of the Roman senate, clearly showing the influence that Neoclassicism had on Parent’s work. 
It is interesting to note that Streeter’s interpretation (above) published in The Getty Journal implies a moment of hope, while the Getty Museum website explains “the dead bird (the old regime) and the unguarded nest (France)” as symbolizing “the failure of the new constitution and the end of the monarchy” (“Carved”-1791).  I do not see how the two interpretations can coexist unless the medallions actually represent the hope that Parent and his countrymen had but was not to be a reality.
One of the first things I noticed about the 1791 Carved Relief  was the realism and naturalism of the flowers and leaves.  They include scabious or “pincushion” (Scabiosa sp.), tuberose (Polianthus tuberosa), carnations (Dianthus sp.), English daisies (Bellis perennis), buttercup (Ranunculus sp.), roses (Rosa sp.), double poppies (Papaver sp.), bindweed (Convolvulus sp.), and jasmine (Jasminum sp.) (Streeter 57; Hortiplex; The PLANTS).  Considering the symbolism of the work, it is interesting that all of these are perennial plants (they do not complete their full life cycle in one year but continue to bloom year after year).  Was this part of the hope that Parent had for the future of his country?  The flowers may recede into a dormant state in the winter, but they will appear again in full bloom the following year.
 His choice of medium is also significant I think, because unpainted wood is so “natural” that anything carved out of it takes on that connotation.  The political symbolism of the medallions might have seemed pretentious if they were gilded or painted.  Parent may have been implying that the King and the National Assembly working together was as natural as blooming flowers or that even the death of a bird leaving behind its defenseless nest of eggs is sometimes inevitable. 
The tone of the 1791 Carved Relief is somber, yet peaceful.  It is currently displayed in a clear glass case so as not to detract from its stark natural appearance.  But hiding in a corner among vibrantly colored and gold gilded furniture, it could have been easily overlooked, just as Aubert Parent has been by the art history world.  Were I not in search of a secret garden hidden among the art gallery, I might not have found it. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Man's Scenic Route is Another Man's Deathtrap

Repost from my now defunct Myspace blog:

One Man's Scenic Route is Another Man's Deathtrap
June 24, 2007

I work at a job where they are tearing up the hillside, but at least they have good reason, right?  I realize that the work will straighten a winding road where too many accidents occur - is that really worth destroying so much nature?

My first impulse was to remember how radically I once believe in saving nature above everything else.  And here I am working for people destroying a small chunk of it.  I can justify it by the importance of my job (archaeologist) and what could potentially be found in the hillside, but does that really make it ok?

My second thought was that even though the work is being done with good intentions by the client, the ultimate problem is within the individual drivers who (in my experience) tend to be impatient, careless and egocentric.  With winding roads in particular, I've noticed too many people driving faster than I felt it was safe to drive.

So I wonder if changing the landscape to straighten a road is really saying more about human psychology than I first thought.  Changing the road means people will continue driving unsafely.  Instead of encouraging drivers to adapt to their environment, they've adapted the environment to the unsafe driver, which reinforces people's egocentrism on the road.

So not only am I party to destroying nature and releasing toxins from construction, but also encouraging a contaminated view of humanity's place in the universe.

I need to find a new job.


The Welcome Mat - A Poem

Don't throw out that worn welcome mat. 
It remembers the feet of those who have sat
at your garden bench or dinner table,
helping you when you were not able.
For friends have come and friends have gone
and that path worn thin recalls their song.

9/1/07

Friday, April 23, 2010

Housekeeping

I just went back through EVERY SINGLE post and updated broken picture links and things.  Some of the older content changed minutely in order to fix these issues.

I want to start a blog that deals with issues of Food Politics, but I know I don't keep this one up to date, so before I go jumping off a cliff I'm coming home for a while to regroup.  My goal is to post more regularly even at the expense of the creative content. Be warned.

 My random thought this morning was that I just can't believe that Henry Ford was really the brains behind the assembly line.  Most of the men I have known are not that efficient. My grandfather stands out as the exception to the rule.  So until I can be proven wrong, I will believe that Mrs. Ford encouraged her husband to increase the efficiency of his car factory.  There, I've said it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm not fat, I'm just big-brained

Did you know that:

* 1 out of 8 adolescent girls reported starving themselves to lose weight
* 40% of moms tell their adolescent daughters to diet and 45% of these girls are of average weight
* 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat
* 51% of 9 and 10 year old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet
* More than 2/3 of women ages 18-25 would rather be mean or stupid than be fat
* Over 50% of women ages 18-25 would rather be hit by a truck than be fat
* 70 million people worldwide struggle with eating disorders


I remember being "normal" sized when I was younger. For some mysterious reason I ballooned up in 4th grade and was back to normal by 5th. The boy that wanted to pass notes and hold hands in 3rd grade - Eddie Freeman, insulted me about my size the following year. I moved the summer after 4th grade and so he never had the opportunity to learn that I was not a "fat girl", I just had a fat year. It bugged me for a time but since I never saw Eddie again I tried my best to leave it in the past.

I don't think I was fat again until my senior year of high school, when I wasn't as physically active but kept eating the same. Again, I lost the weight, and by graduation my mother was rewarding this "good behavior" with shopping sprees.

I slowly put on a few pounds over the years at college, but I didn't feel "fat" until after graduating and living with someone. I think that I became comfortable and complacent about things, including over-eating, drinking, and not getting exercise.

I think for me, it is more about learning bad habits and then not having the self-discipline to make the changes I need. Sometimes I think I need to physically go somewhere where I won't have access to food like I do and where someone external to myself can force me to get off my lazy ass and exercise. But that isn't real.

The reality is that I need to figure it out on my own. Bad habits are so hard to break. It seems the harder I try to make myself change, the more I slip into "out of control" behavior. It's like I forget to remember that I don't want to be that way any longer.

Photo Credit (Artist is not associated with the blog or its contents. I just really like the image):

Statistics thanks to http://www.endfattalk.org/stats.html

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Politics

I guess I'd never make a good politician because I like life to be simple. And I like things to work. And I like honesty, even when it's hard to hear. And I believe in making a difference, even in the tiniest and most insignificant of ways. And I have hope for the future. And I believe that 99.99% of humans are just reacting to the life they were born into and that I would have ended up in their shoes if I had been given that reality too.

I do not feel morally superior to people who are different from me based on nationality, religious, or political affiliation; I feel morally superior to people because they advocate detestable world views such as racism, sexist, fear and hatred.*

I hate the two party system. I like the whole idea of democracy, even a representative one like we are supposed to have. In theory, it should work OK. Not perfect, but OK. But we don't even have that. Everyone knows, it's all a sham. Everyone knows that it's money that votes, not people.

Sometimes it's hard for me to understand how people are so easily manipulated by all the name calling, political rhetoric and outright LIES, but then again - I totally get it. We love to see carnage. Sex and violence is what sells. The problem is that politicians know this too and with the virtual take-over of our brains they are able to enter our bloodstream directly through any electrical device.

I don't get how citizens can vote against their own interests. I suppose it comes down to a lack of education mixed with heavily funded misinformation campaigns. I see it every election. I see it every time congress is thinking about passing a bill. I see it every time Obama speaks about ANYTHING. He could get on the horn and say, "I love America", and someone would find a way to spin that as anti-capitalist, anti-freedom, and anti-American... They do it every single day.

So, in essence, I'm tired of it. I needed to just say it. Out loud.

But don't worry, I have plenty more to say. Later.
------------

*That was kind of a joke. I don't feel morally superior to anyone, but IF I did, that would be why.