Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Color Inspiration at AIC: Ceramics

 Went to the Art Institute Museum awhile ago and actually remembered my camera. I've loved the ceramics in the Asian wing since my long-ago ceramics class but have recently gotten into them more for the colors. Unfortunately due to my own incompetence I forgot to fix the white balance but you can pretty much figure it out. The last three are in the Middle Eastern art wing.

 This one claims to have a "pseudo-inscription." The only thing I can guess that means is that the writing means nothing. It doesn't look to say anything to me but I'm no expert. Anyway what a cool idea! I used to be, as a kid, very into gibberish writing but to just stick it on your plate seems... awesome.
 I'm obsessed with the roughly-painted blue glaze over the low-relief high-detail background.
Next up: kimonos.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

1970s Indian book cover design

 I used to work in a library and was in charge of the India and Pakistan collection. Apparently, back in the Cold War, the US offered a deal to countries they were afraid would fall to Communism: give us your books (in key subjects like religion and science) and we'll give you food. I think this is how it went down; I don't have any sources but my memory. We had a collection mostly from India and Pakistan, with smaller collections from Yugoslavia and Indonesia and maybe somewhere else, mostly from the 70s. Anyway a great number of these books were pretty boring but as I had plenty of time to shelve them, I spent a lot of time looking at the interesting ones. A lot of the ones below I just liked the design of the covers. I don't know the languages involved or the subjects, but a lot of the more colorful ones look like pulp novels. (It was through this job that I also learned about weather modification, Rabindranath Tagore and Zainul Abedin). I've posted one of these covers before, but here's the whole of my photos.
 Some cool marbelized page ends
 vivid color everywhere

Sorry about the poor picture quality. These were taken with my cell phone camera on the sly!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Storage for Rainbow Shoes

This is my room! I've been very excited about this shelf I made-- since it got cold and I took my sweaters out from under the bed, I needed to make room for them. The boxes where the sweaters now live was busy holding my shoe collection. So I found some IKEA brackets I'd squirrelled away and my friend got me a board from Home Depot. I figured that it made sense to put it up high so you don't have a moment of "am I gonna hit my head" fear when you walk in the door. It's too bad that short people can't see the rainbow of shoes unless they stand on my bed.

Also pictured: a print I got at Renegade several years ago, candles from Athenian Candle in Greektown (they're made in the back!), birthday cards, an absurd amount of earrings, random crap. Someone told me once "Wes Anderson would have a field day in your room." I'd be a terrible Quaker, I love clutter too much.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle

I went to a movie by myself yesterday for the first time ever. I went to go see Pillow Talk, a Doris Day movie, but it turned out to be preceded by a long college lecture so I snuck out and went across the hall to see the Eric Rohmer movie Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, which I'd wanted to see too and was much more fun. It's about two young girls who meet randomly and end up sharing an apartment in Paris and how their new friendship holds up as their value systems clash. It was made in 1986 and I found myself laughing at the absurdity of 80s fashions even in super-chic Paris.

The girl with the lighter hair is Mirabelle, the Parisienne, and while she wears some crazy stuff, I won't lie and say that I don't now want some high-waisted jeans, oversized sweaters and little canvas sneakers. I also like the ridiculous polo/turtleneck teal shirt thing she has going on in the last photo, and the giant quilted coat, Wellies, and black tank top she wears when she meets Reinette out in the countryside. I also like her attitude: she's the one telling off the snobby art dealer above.


This post is just a few pictures from my trip to California. I love the fall weather we're having here in Chicago but really do think I would be perfectly happy in a warm, dry, Mediterranean climate every day. I love the little daytime moon in the picture below.

And the last two are from the dorm where I stayed (it was an academic conference).

Hurray for sunshine! The end.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On Cleanliness

I've come to realize that I have a "thing" about cleanliness. So I live in this new, cheap, air-conditioned apartment, which is all well and good except for my roommates, who are lovely and friendly in every other respect, are lacking in home hygiene habits such as regularly removing the trash and cleaning the bathroom. I have no idea how in the past I lived with unacceptable situations such as cat litter (sure, defecate in the dining room or next to my bathroom, little animal! spread your little pee-absorbing pellets all over the place where I walk with my bare feet!). I cannot stand it now though. I do not produce tiny hairs in the bathroom, I hang my towels rather than leaving them wetly on the floor, I do not spill sudsy water all over the floor, I wipe away my general bathroom dirty presence.

In addition, I prided myself on the character trait of assertiveness, but that seems to have almost wholly deserted me in the face of these daily assaults to my preferred state of cleanliness. I think I feel that since I moved in after the roommates, I have no right to ask them to change their preferred method of living in filth. But I am paying rent, and I suppose I do. It's become a silent battle inside my head: do I ask roommate 2 to take out the trash which is almost all his anyway and is no longer nicely inside its bag because he stuffed it too full of beer cans and frozen pizza boxes (the manufacturers should start putting those in bags if they insist on continuing to produce them) and so therefore will be particularly nasty to dispose of; or do I just do it myself again? I have gone to bed resolving to choose the first option in the morning, but I still feel anxious. And I cleaned the bathroom before taking a shower (I prefer to clean my own body in a clean space) as a way to ease this anxiety.

Which leads me to my second point, which is that I consider my relationship to cleanliness neurotic because of its connection to anxiety, as expecting clean shared spaces is really quite normal. Exhibit A: 3 am, July 31, like 3 years ago, my roommate S and I are cleaning out our old apartment and moving into a new one a few blocks away. This apartment had been continually leased to about 6 years of students, we estimate, without the barely-legal landlords ever cleaning it or really, looking at it at all. We are the end of this line of roommates and must leave it empty and clean. Despite our landlord's general tendency to not give a shit, we also know that they can be somewhat arbitrary and vindictive. A few years ago, for example, we got eviction notices because they had lost our leases. So I am annoyed at the injustice of continually moving into dirty apartments that I am required to leave clean, for a faceless corporation that I hated. But since I also feared them, rather than leave the apartment just marginally clean enough to not get in trouble, I went totally insane. S refers to this as the "oven cleaner incident" wherein against his advice, I pulled the stove away from the wall and applied oven cleaner to the side to get off years of accumulated sticky gunk, and he had to make me go sit outside when I became light-headed from the harsh fumes. I was also cleaning the walls with Windex, pleased at how much dirt was coming off. At our final apartment move-out show-down, I compromised by leaving a dirty corner of the top of the fridge and leaving random cleaning supplies and related crap in the apartment for the new tenants who we knew were a bunch of not-giving-a-shit college students. This cleaning insanity is not only related to my fear/hate of my landlords, but is also a self-reinforcing cycle. Both moving and huge and somewhat unjust cleaning tasks cause me anxiety, and cleaning soothes anxiety, and I enjoy seeing things that I never noticed before were dirty become clean, and very quickly things get all out of proportion.
This picture is only somewhat related. It is my very dirty feet from the crap sandals I wore this summer, which were approximately $5 at CVS and left little cheap-metal dark spots on my feet and also caused me quite a bit of pain. My personal hygiene habits are not nearly as neurotic as my apartment-cleaning tendencies, but I do require clean feet & face to go to sleep under normal circumstances. This was one of the habits I developed in the summer I spent on a ranch in Wyoming working as a maid/kitchen wench (the term is "cabin girl"). The other habits are making my bed and whiskey. In one of S's rare dispersions of free psychoanalysis, he pointed out that an anxiety about personal hygiene that does not meet the standards of others (my mother, most prominently) may relate to episodes such as the oven cleaner incident. He might be right.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I'm in So Cal for the weekend for a conference. It's already lovely and I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy traveling by myself! Bought some Blenheim super-spicy ginger ale from a cute soda-fountain shop, all the way from South Carolina. Upon arrival, I also ate an orange that I bought in Chicago and was likely grown around here. It's funny how much food travels around.

It's clear, sunny, hot, and kind of boring here (more antique stores than seems even remotely sustainable), but I strolled around, met a lot of friendly people, ate some tasty tacos (So Cal does seafood tacos RIGHT), and now I'm going to see if I can't take a dip in the pool. I'll try to take some pictures, and I'll try even HARDER to get to the beach (it's only a train ride away but I have to, you know, work).

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Free Music! Art & Stuff!

I'm going to Maine! It makes me feel like this picture! I'm going to visit my beloved friend J, eat lobster, be by the OCEAN, smell some salt air, maybe eat some blueberries and soak in the awesomeness that is New England and the Atlantic and Maine. Oh man, do I have some Maine memories... here's hoping these will be less emotionally fraught :)

I went to Windy City Soul Club last night and danced myself clean. I wore the sexy dress I bought at Forever 21 (with shorts under it for biking!) but no pictures have surfaced, sorry. I suggest you go to the link and download (for free) the Second Anniversary Mix, it's over an hour of "rare" soul and totally danceable. This monthly dance party is always really crowded and sweaty but I really enjoy seeing a packed room full of people really get down, and it's only $5.

I've also been listening to a lot of this playlist from Nylon magazine. Today's the last day to download it for free so get on that and join me in being obsessed with that one song by Duran Duran!

I also got this playlist from Pitchfork music festival for free. I'm a little less excited about it but I like the Baths and Toro y Moi songs so far.

At work I listen to a Pandora station of awesome oldies and soul which you can replicate by just setting up a station based on The Ronettes and then saying you "like" everything that you like, which for me is basically every song.

Ok, I'm going to get a library card, look for French Vogue at Europa Books, and see if I can hit up the MCA and/or the beach! Sunday funday! (I'm not going to bike because I'm afraid of ozone though, sad)

Image by Richard Burbridge and artist Maurizio Anzari with stylist Robbie Spencer for Dazed and Confused, via Trendland, via Design Crisis. whoa, linky linky!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blanket Espadrilles

I apologize for my lack of a better image, I tried to put a few together with paint which is hopelessly frustrating. Will get photoshop one day. Anyway, I started seeing some woven multicolor flats like this and wanted to make you guess: which one is most expensive?

Ok game over. Top left is Rocket Dog, $31.50 here, far right is Rachel Rachel Roy, $59, and the bottom is Missoni, similar ones for $311 here (it comes in other prints or whatever). I dig the Rocket Dog ones but also these by Havaianas in conjunction with Missoni ($130). They also don't seem to have the jute sole that I know from experience gets awful as soon as it gets wet. Cue daydream about Brazil....!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer, Longing

Summer in Chicago is absolutely the best thing ever. My new roommate stood on the porch and declared: "Another day in paradise!" Yet yesterday I was in a funk, feeling that it's slipping away, that I'm not DOING what I want to be doing, that summer will escape without me grabbing it and shaking the living daylights out of it. It bothers me that I can't just let it happen, that I feel the need to wring it out completely. I think sometimes blogs and the internet makes this tendency worse-- when all you see is swimming holes and sunbathing and glamorous beaches and boats and impossibly beautiful women lounging in the sun, and running through sprinklers and BBQs and fires and backyards and and AND AND (seriously though click on my links, they're some of my most-read blogs and/or most summer-evocative posts). I think this is also, for me, compounded because I am only part-time employed and am waiting on a "real job" that will be "fulfilling" and "pay my bills." (I had a real unconsciously Scarlett O'Hara moment the other day, declaring to myself that I'll never borrow money like this again!)
Anyway, I feel this way when I travel sometimes too, the urge to suck it all up and DO THINGS and HAVE EXPERIENCES and not waste time lying in a hostel bed even if I am feeling sick or tired or really actually enjoying reading my book on the roof or whatever. I think it's a fear of the winter, of the dull months where I don't do anything "interesting" when I'll wish (fear of regret?) that I'd not spent my summer mornings inside typing but outside biking and swimming and being gloriously deliciously happy. I don't think it should be this way. When I take a nap on the grass in the sun with a friend, I shouldn't (shoulda, coulda, woulda) feel a twinge of sadness because this feeling will end. Not everyone does.

I think it's why we document, photograph, try to prove to ourselves that we're taking advantage of things before they slip away (suddenly, I can't imagine what it would be like to have a child, growing up and away before your eyes). This morning, I took back up my planner to which I'm devoted when working and in school, and wrote in what I've done this summer. I've certainly been busy, social, having fun, doing summer things, but it gets overwhelming, somehow. It's very graspy, it's very anti-Zen. It's much easier for me to let go of bad feelings than good ones, which I want to preserve like the summer zucchini in my fridge.

Pictures: by my friend T + Instagram of me at the beach, by me of my friends on the 4th of July.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I got on the Sartorialist! Just kidding, but according to my friend K this girl looks scarily like me. Also, she's searching for chairs in an alley-- could we be more soulmates?

Since dying my hair I've shied away from wearing red but this looks awesome. I think redheads can wear red, it's just a really bold look. Not for the days you want to try to blend in, I guess.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Clothes for Grown-Ups

I went to Forever 21 yesterday with a friend, even though I'm morally against the throw-away and ripped-off fashion of stores like that, sometimes in a moment of weakness I cave to the lures of fast, cheap consumerism. A week or so ago we'd gone and I tried on an orange loose drapey dress, and I couldn't stop talking about it. My friend had picked it out and told me to try it on -- usually I avoid loose silhouettes, and orange, because it clashes with my hair.
There it is! It was nowhere to be found when we went back to the store last night, but I found it online. It was both more expensive and less cute than I remembered, but still a good dress. I ended up buying something "overly sexy" on super-sale. It's short, tight, black and a subtle purple print, vaguely reminds me of a wetsuit, has an exposed black zipper all the way up the front, and has enough coverage for a bra. I'm in love. I don't usually go in for both short and tight, but the rest of it is perfect, and at least it's tough and sexy rather than little-girly and sexy.

Anyway, I was surprised at how few of the dresses there look alright on a tall person like myself. There's just gobs of very short, kinda frilly, flowered dresses that would have looked adorable on me if I was 5. I've noticed a few bloggers seem to go in for this kind of silhouette with a short full skirt, but when I dress like that I feel infantilized and also nervous that I'm flashing the whole world every time the wind blows (which is constantly, because this is Chicago). I actually really like these bloggers, but maybe this style is just not for me. On the other hand, the whole conflation of childishness and sexiness really bothers me. Add my voice to the growing crowd asking for a more grown-up, vintage-inspired look for women. While the femininity signaled in "vintage" clothing is also problematic, I'm much more comfortable in a pencil skirt than a short ruffle.

I hear dudes expressing some kind of interest in "sundresses" and I think the short floral dresses is what they mean. And they look awfully cute on the models, but that's maybe because the photos are cut off above the knee! When you see some girl tugging it down all the time, it's less cute. Heaven forbid she try to bike (not that I can bike in my new dress either). Am I being a prude?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My New Apartment

This is what moving feels like! I've been trying to unpack but ended up slumped against a pile of winter coats on my bed that I don't know how to find a home for. BUT! My new place is great! It is God-awful hot here today and yesterday and I am so grateful for air conditioning. Sometimes I feel guilty for a/c, like that I'll get used to it and not be able to deal when I don't have it (surely, in my next apartment) or that I'll appreciate the cooler nights less, or something. A constant theme in my life: being afraid of any luxury. The illustration is by Julie Morstad and I found it on What Possessed Me.
 Haha unpacking sucks! But check it out, dudes, I have a closet! I have very carefully packed it chock-full of all my stuff that was ferreted away in various shared closets in my old apartment. My dad was a master packer, and I inherited the same obsessiveness.
My room is so big that my bookshelves fit in there too! It's out of control. Turns out I have even more books than fit because I was colonizing other roommates bookshelf space. Oops.
This is the view out one of my windows. I have another tiny one way up in the corner at the top of the wall, above my bed. It made a nice cross-breeze when the windows were open the first night I was here. One might ask, but you have a/c, I thought? Ah, but the first night I was here, there was an epic thunderstorm! I watched lightning crack across the sky from my front window, and saw it hit the lightning rods on top of the Sears Tower which I can just barely see (!!!!). Then there was a floor-shaking crack and the power went out. A few minutes later, the hail started (!!!) and we heard a cry from the bathroom, where a hailstone broke the bathroom window and hit my new roommate! Bad omens, said my best friend. But I thought it was auspicious, a mark of a new, exciting phase of life. 

Here's a couple quotes about big changes and courage that I read on comments on What Possessed Me that are bucking me up:

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. - Anais Nin

Live to the point of tears. - Camus

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm Afraid, I'm Afraid!

I'm moving! I found a place. Things fell through with my dear friend with whom I was going to find a two-bedroom for the summer, so I looked alone for rooms. I found a ridiculously cheap room in a beautiful three-bedroom in Pilsen, where I worked last year. I know the neighborhood well from working there, and while it's not the most hip neighborhood, it's hardly at all gentrified, which is exciting, and also a little scary. My beloved neighborhood is green and lush and rich and gorgeous, with some cheap-ish student housing thrown into the mix. This neighborhood is Mexican and urban and (a lot) grittier. So I'm living the bohemian dream, I guess: cheap cheap cheap rent, hipster stranger roommates, working-class neighborhood, vintage building.

I'm terrified. Not of what could happen (you can get mugged anywhere, even friends can turn out to be annoying roommates) but of... newness, of change, of losing my intimacy with my neighborhood and having lots of friends right down the street. I think it's the alone, cut-loose feeling that scares me the most. And moving away from the lush green beauty that is my neighborhood. I took a whole slew of pictures of flowers one summer in my neighborhood, this rose is one of a profusion.

But, change causes growth, right? I think I need to re-read the Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera, like Jane posted about the other day. When I first read it I was a little too horrified by the main character's infidelities to care about what was being said philosophically. I also tend to turn away too quickly from a philosophy that seems existential enough to give up on striving to be a better person. But, I the questions, as Jane poses them, really resonated with me: "Should life be light or heavy? Should we pursue untethered freedom or bind ourselves to one another and to place? And can we know which is better when we have only one shot at it?" What a thought for a moving day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Empty and Hot

 So one roommate moved out. Turns out me and roommate S have NO furniture. He's got even less than me. I literally woke up only once when A was moving out, and when I woke up later in the morning, only a garlic skin had blown under my door.
And the whole place was totally empty. Ok, I own that bookshelf and the pillows. And most of the crap in the closet.
My stuff too. The light blue velvet chair is from my grandma's house, there's a tall skinny bookshelf I picked up a couple apartments ago, and the little chest that my mom got for me when I started college. This is the room with the dining room table and the rug, all of which is gone now.
It got hot again today, so this is what I'm wearing. It's this hot pink tunic thing with some crazy gold embroidery around the neckline. My favorite part is these little dots on the shoulders. I think one of them is a patch for a rip and the other is just to make it symmetrical. I got it at a thrift store, I'm sure, probably Goodwill in SC. It's a total rectangle, so though I've worn it loose before, I like to belt it. I also curled my hair with foam rollers last night, which always comes out a little messy looking but I like the sort of retro effect.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Moving is Such Sweet Sorrow

Actually, moving is just sad. It's exciting to think of getting a new place, but very unsettling to me to have roommates leaving, a mostly empty apartment, all their stuff in boxes, all before I've even found a new place to live! Yikes. I tend to be really laid-back about apartment-hunting, trusting that something will come together at the last minute, it's not like I'll be homeless, maybe if I wait a bit longer I'll get lucky... etc. And often, I do. But for all this laissez-faire (or laziness?), I'm kind of a "nester." I feel so uneasy in my heart when my home is in upheaval. I'd like to think that I'm ok living out of a suitcase, but I think that's only the case if I know that my Stuff has a Home somewhere. And when I've lived out of a suitcase, I got very into routine and making a room full of someone else's stuff feel nice and like a mini-home. Anyway, here's our dining room, the bookshelves are all packed up and you might be able to catch a glimpse of the kitchen insanity behind it. This room has a lot of my stuff in it so it looks partly normal.
 Except, of course, for this wall of boxes.
The living room is going to be completely empty except for that little bookshelf as of tomorrow. OH MY GOD. I kind of like empty apartments, their white walls and seeing the floor all the way to the walls. It feels weirdly relaxing, free. But yeah, a little lonely.

As for my apartment search, my problem, I think, is that I'm TOO flexible. I feel like I could live anywhere, so it's hard to narrow it down. I'm basically like, oh it's cheap? Awesome. Let's take it. No closet? Basement? No problem. I saw this quote from Otto Dix, the German artist, on Eilis Boyle's blog, which I found today via Ill Seen, Ill Said:

"I'm not that obsessed with making representations of ugliness. Everything I've seen is beautiful."

It struck me, what a wonderful problem to have, everything I've seen IS beautiful. The ugly places have charm, the dark points in life have wonderful, resilient people that survive through them. I've wanted to write about this before, but I've really struggled recently with reconciling the beauty and happiness in life with the sadness and harshness that I see, not as much in my own life, but in others. We all have a lot of sadness, and sometimes it can seem like that is deeper or more real than the joy and beauty that is also flowing in and around and through us all the time. Theoretically, I believe they have the same strength but it's hard to be sure. Throughout this last year I've felt like I'm swimming in extremes: witnessing some of the worst parts of human experience but also some of the best. I guess I've always been willing to take suffering very seriously, but it's become important to take joy with the same "seriousness," afford it the same status in my view of the world.

So that's all rather abstract, but has to do with the same empty-apartment feelings: it's sad, but freeing, lonely, but exciting, and you have to just deal with those both at once.