29 April 2010

A Happy Birthday Blog

This is a blog to celebrate a whole array of birthdays from these past ten days:

Happy birthday, Charlie! (April 19)
Happy birthday, M. Benjamin, my dove! (April 26)
Happy birthday TK! (April 27)
Happy birthday Carly! (April 29)

And for good measure:

Happy birthday, Kevin! (May 5)

I must admit that my blogging has been at a minimum lately due in part to the semester coming to a close very very soon (two weeks left after this one!) and partly due to my starting a new job in Manhattan, which has kept me scooting back and forth on the train every minute of rest I am allowed. Next weekend, though, is the event that this blog has been leading up to for several weeks now: Jónsi in concert! My sweetheart and I are going to see his show at Terminal 5 on May 8, and be sure that there will be an excited blog entry the next morning.

In addition, he and I are in the process of printing our limited-edition, twenty-copy chapbook, möbius strip, or (filaments) caught in growth, "filaments" for short. It contains four poems by him, and three by myself, including my semester-long, five-part project, "möbius strip". In addition to the limited edition (which we are mostly only gifting to family and friends), we are also printing conventional chapbooks, which will be available through either of us at the end of the semester. Please let either of us know if you are interested!

Well, onto the next phase of my day: class and muchmuchmuch writing of my conference paper...

22 April 2010

Oh, Lists... How You Entrance Me!

I cannot deny that I have a serious obsession with obsessive lists. All my life I have been making lists, lists, lists, to no particular end. Just for the joy of lists. I have, for example, had the same list of top-ten favourite trees since I was thirteen:

10. tulip trees
9. redwoods
8. hawthornes
7. apples
6. cedars
5. aspens
4. birches
3. willows
2. sycamores
1. dogwoods, of course

(A brief note: when my darling and I first met, I naturally asked him right off the bat what his favourite tree was, knowing full well that if he chose something incompatible with my trees I could write him off. However, he not only did not think me strange for asking, but also answered that his favourites were cedars, which just happen to grow quite symbiotically with mine, dogwoods. Sigh!)

So anyhow, I did not write this post because of trees, but because of an entirely new list altogether! After spending so much time with Jónsi's Go, I have made a list of my favourite albums of all time which I should like to share with the "blogosphere." Note, though, that this is "favourites," not necessarily "bests."

12. Gulag Orkestar by the band Beirut. A beautifully cinematic, lo-fi, Eastern-European-influenced experience. Best on vinyl on a yellow summer evening, in the trees, with smoke in the air and dark red lipstick.

11. Louder Than Bombs by the Smiths. Has most of their best melancholy hits, including "Asleep" and "London," and "Unloveable." I listened to this album continuously in the spring I was fifteen, and hearing brings me right back to that feeling of filtered light the colour of bougainvillea, incense smoke, and spring showers.

10. Kurr by Amiina. Oh, those Icelanders know how to do it! This is a new addition to my list, but watching the first snow fall in New York to this album is something I will never forget. This album is snow music, perfect, gentle, magical snow music.

9. Blue by Joni Mitchell. I hesitate to put this album so low on this list, but I admit to being a new true Joni convert. I've grown up around her songs, and this album helped me survive leaving California. Spring mornings, headphones, new flowers for this one.

8. Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap. I love these songs best when performed by a marching band, in the middle of woods that I am exploring like the little elf I am in petticoats and stockings and oodles of scarves. Or in the car, at night, driving fast. Constant Comment tea.

7. Give Up by the Postal Service. Ever so slightly melancholy, but being in love with that melancholy. For grey days on trains and buses going away from places and between places, but only for a little while. California in February, when the hills are very green and all else is grey.

6. Crane Wife by the Decemberists. Listened to this the first time after reading Cold Mountain and loving the Civil War, and it fit right in. It's wonderful for knapsack lunches in the sun, and wearing white cotton sundresses with scuffed, chunky brown boots.

5. Oh, Inverted World by the Shins. I have a love-hate relationship with this album because, although it's their best in my opinion, I feel the songs are out of order and for that reason it is wholly disappointing on vinyl. nevertheless, still brilliant, bright, and Natalie-Portman-y.

4. Go by Jónsi. Yes, it is new, but it's already beat out favourites from my early adolescence, which is saying something. It's bright and bird-y, fully textured, and variant. It's music for building up towards a summer of "Go Do." This may end up at number 2 or 3 eventually.

3. Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie. I know it's an indie standard, but it's still a damn good album. Even if the first song weren't titled "The New Year," it's still an album for the new year, dark and delicately brooding. Their masterpiece, to be sure, with brilliant cover art to boot.

2. Come on Feel the Illinoise! by Sufjan Stevens. My first copy of this album was vinyl, and it was truly meant to be listened to that way. Each side (their are two discs) is like a perfect vignette of a masterfully rich whole. It is heartbreaking and goofy, deeply innocent and thoughtful. This album is for a whole summer spent looking out of windows.

1. Rubber Soul by the Beatles. I know, I know again, you're thinking, "she couldn't get more creative than putting the Beatles as number one?!" I don't care. This album is golden. Not too psychedelic yet, with just a hint of folksy hippie goodness. "Norwegian Wood," "I've Just Seen a Face," "Michelle," "in My Life"... nearly every song is worth mentioning. My first copy was a UK version cassette that my parents had, and I love the UK one so much more. And the crinkly sound at the end of each side. This is for nights lit by paper lanterns and campfires, with a guitar and everyone you love around you.

I reserve the right to change this at any whim. God knows it will.

14 April 2010

Artistic Synergy

Since doing so much listening to Jónsi's Go, I must admit that it has been all I could do to not to think about that album night and day. I've gone back and rediscovered Riceboy Sleeps, his and his boyfriend Alex's ambient album of last summer, and I've been looking at photos and reviews. There's a wonderful interview with the two of them here, and this may be my new favourite image of them together:

(That's Jónsi on the left, upside down, and Alex on the right with his eyes closed. I found this photo here)

I just can't help but think of the beautiful artistic synergy that must happen in their peaceful household. They relate to each other with such a sweet, playful, quiet respect and affection. The art they create (in music, in visuals, in food, even) shows the clear marks of deep love and companionship. Oh, if all couples were so well-suited to each other as they are!

On this note, I announce a collaborative project even dearer to my own heart. By the end of this semester, my own partner in art and I shall be self-publishing some of our own creative works. There will be chapbook which will compile most of the poems that both he and I have written this semester (title and details pending) and, the best part, we are planning a limited-release edition of twenty copies or so, in larger-format binding, individually silk-screened in our own writing, with illustrations and individualized covers. We are very excited to begin this, our very first creative collaboration in the two years we've been together. I hope to keep this bog updated with the details as they become more clear, and as they flesh out on paper.

I cannot end this post with anything more than "hooray for love! hooray for art!"

10 April 2010

Jónsi and Jónsi Birds

I may be entirely in love with this lovely new album, Go. The show is bound to be spectacular, as is this first video of the single, "Go Do." I messed up the sizing on the video, so be sure you press the full screen button...it's a high-quality video, so you'd want to anyway

Isn't it lovely? I positively adore the bit at the beginning where he first begins to bang on that big brown suitcase.

And, in conjunction with this lovely avian creation, here are some links to other avian creations, these ones constructed by bower birds or, as my Mum has begun to call them, Jónsi Birds:

bower bird constructions
art inspired by bower birds

Have a lovely week-end!

08 April 2010

Springtime and Such

Before I dive into the pictures I took yesterday of the springtime, I have to make the announcement that Jónsi of Iceland's famed musical act Sigur Rós has finally released his long-awaited solo album, Go. I listen to the stream now as I type, and I have to say I'm very happy with the album--he never fails to disappoint. My sweetheart and I have tickets already for his show in New York in May. You can find the free stream of the whole album here, on Jónsi's website.

Anyhow, while you're streaming this wonderful new album, feast your eyes on springtime at Sarah Lawrence. I feel that the enthusiasm of the first half of the album truly suits the joyousness of the new season:
Tulip trees outside the President's house...

I love how rusty they look when the petals get smooshed.

Spring painting at Westlands--all the white trim is getting a touch-up.

I ran into my literature professor, Bill Shullenberger, and his sidekick, Rufus, who were also out for an afternoon walk...
A dried blossom that somehow made it through the snow... hydrangea, possibly? Isn't is brilliantly preserved?

Pink buds... I wish desperately that I were more familiar with the trees of the East Coast but, alas, this one shall remain nameless for now.

And a lovely rusty gate I failed to notice earlier in the year. My darling will like this one, I do suppose--oh, the marvelous aesthetics of decay!

This weekend has much reading in the sunshine in store for me, I gather. I still press on through Ulysses, Omeros, two books on photographer Miroslav Tichý (whose first American exhibit at the International Center for Photography is a must-see for anyone in the New York area), The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and some various poetry, of course. Onward, troops, toward the end of the semester, and the summer holidays...


When I was young, I was enthralled by the idea of "legacy." I loved the way the word sounded, and I loved what it signified. From the first time I set foot into an antique store, I wanted to live in history.

While I was on holiday in California, I went through two big apple boxes of family photos, stretching back to the Swedish and Norwegian immigrants that settled in the Dakotas and camped their way to the central valley of California at the beginning of the twentieth century:
I do not know who took most of these pictures or, indeed, often who their subjects are, but they fascinate, startle, and sadden me just a bit:

When I look at these photographs, I cannot help but realize how their content shaped me, how they informed my vision, even before I saw them. Is there something that runs in my blood, the blood of these people that wrenches my heart in bleak landscapes? Something that piques my interest naturally when I come across another person with that odd, lurching, twisted height of my great-great-grandfather Osmund? Even before seeing the photograph of "Girls in White," as my mother has so poignantly named it, was there some unconscious familiarity with its subjects that causes fascination--and a little fear--at the sight of a little girl in a white dress?

Earlier this semester, I read Roland Barthes' La Chambre Claire, a meditation on why the photographs that affect us do affect us, in which he explains that the pictures that interest have two qualities that we find attractive. There is the studium, the over-arching interest in history, in costume, in people and personalities that originally draws us; then, there is the punctum, the "prick" that haunts us afterward. The strange white goats on the running board (why goats? why so small?). The small, round glasses on great-great Aunt Nordisse, set above small, round mouth (she owned the only camera in the family for a while). The drooping, walrussy, Nietzsche-esque moustache on Norman Qualle in the sleigh (did he, like Nietzsche, insist that the ladies loved it?). These are the punctums that draw me to these mysterious photographs.

I'm off now to take some photographs of my own, posted probably tomorrow. I wonder whether, years from now, they will have some strange effect on a little girl, a great-great-granddaughter of mine, who will ask herself, "Is this why I well up when I smell tulip trees? "

07 April 2010

Hello Springtime, Hello Blog!

I know, it's been many a week since I've posted on this-here blog. In fact, since I last posted, spring has sprung here in New York:

I took this photo before my spring holiday in California, nearly two weeks ago now, and most of these lovely little rain-soaked snowdrops have gone hence, replaced now by sunny daffodils, asters, and the fleshy pink, fragrant blooms of the tulip trees. More pictures to follow in the next few days.

I now write this post from the comfort of my periwinkle-purple blanket, stretched out on the back lawn of Tweed, in my bathing suit and heart-shaped glasses, contentedly listening to Radio Dismuke--any of you who enjoy 1920's and '30's music should take advantage of this wonderful online radio--and wishing desperately that I had lemonade (or a gin fizz!). It's nearly miserably hot, but my fishy-white legs are admittedly enjoying the exposure to the elements. They've been cooped up in thick stockings far too long!

I have several pictures I wish to share from my trip home, namely this favourite recipe of ours--

Our modified Saumon en Papillote, Italian style:

This recipe is inspired by one from Jamie Oliver's kitchen, although for the life of me I can't think where we saw it originally. It's equally good for feeding one or ten--just wrap salmon fillets (individually or a big one like the one pictured) in aluminum foil and add a little olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper, and fresh chopped grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, basil leaves, and a little dollop of butter. Wrap them up, stick them in the oven at 375-400 for twenty minutes or so, and the salmon creates its own little wine sauce. Super elegant, quick as all hell, an some of the most delicious fish you'll have had in a while. It also works well with other fish.

Also, whilst in California, I had the pleasure of an Early-Easter-Double-Birthday-57th-Wedding-Anniversary (whew!) bash at my Grandparents' house. All of my first and second cousins were there to celebrate with a huge meal, two cakes, and gifts for the birthday kids:
From left, these are my family: Sarah, Kyla (one birthday girl), Wendy, Max, Katie Rose (the other birthday girl), me, and Scotty. And here are our slightly less flattering sides:
I particularly like how droopy Max's moustache looks in this second photograph.

Relaxing on my Grandparents' back patio, several of us tried our hand at the skipping rope tricks we hadn't done since the grade school:
(Scotty getting some "mad air" while Kyla looks on)
(my brother Max, sans droopy moustache)
(me, attempting a "criss-cross, applesauce," taken by Scotty)

And now, the sun dips further and further behind the roofline of Tweed, and I have a few more rays of sunlight to take in... More photos of spring soon, I promise!