Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Looked Through 292 Photos So You Wouldn't Have To.

Snapshots of the first 100 days, via the Official White House Photo Stream

My thoughts are this: it's a good sign when mixed groups of people surrounding the president are smiling in candid photos, I like having a president who is young, healthy, and active (you hope the stress is being channeled constructively), and everyone wants to hug Michelle Obama, especially me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Blog Envy: Maira Kalman

Check out illustrator Maira Kalman's And the Pursuit of Happiness Blog with the New York Times. Not only am I envious of her beautiful and truly original blog, my jealousy extends all the way to her successful career. 

It never occurred to me you could be what Maira Kalman is. (I would put Christopher Niemann in the same category.) Actually, that's a lie. When I was in elementary school, I was going to be a painter. But once I got a little older, and I discovered that I was really good at school,  I stopped believing that the art that comes out of me naturally could be pursued as a career. 

No, not could, should. You have one bad experience scooping ice cream and you make bee-line to a stable and profitable professional identity.

I have several friends who are pursuing graduate degrees in the arts. It strikes me as impractical. Upon graduation, are there recruiters waiting to hire painters, photographers, and filmmakers? I mean, you kind of have to have a plan to pay off the tens of thousands of dollars you've spent on credits, right? I suppose that is not the spirit in which this particular form of higher education is pursued. 

I still wonder what it is I want to be when I grow up, and I still have a hard time pinning down the answer. I think it's because, truly, I want to be an artist, but I don't yet know how to reconcile that with my intense drive to be successful, and let's face it, remunerated. 

But one thing is taken care of: I already have my studio picked out. It's in an old factory building in Rahway: fifth floor, corner office, wall of windows, over looking a little green space. I pass it every day on the train home, and wonder how it is I'll end up arriving there.

Tulip Update

The combination of pink cherry blossoms and tulips at their peak is almost too much to bear. NYU even took down the unsightly chain link fence for our more perfect enjoyment. As I took this photo with my cell phone, I stood next to a fellow doing the same.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Internet Recipes Are Always An Adventure

I am a new and feverish devotee to Design*Sponge, and since I'm not ready to do my house overhaul yet, I did the next best thing and tried the muffin recipe they posted.  I volunteered to bring food to our biweekly office meeting, so I have a good way to get the baked goods out of the house, which is very important, else I eat all the goodies and stop baking things for fear of my lack of self control.

Two things about this recipe made it worth a try. One: I have more than a half gallon of pure maple syrup in my house from various trips to New England, and I don't like real maple syrup, I like diet Aunt Jemima. Two: the recipe involves sour cream, which I have always found makes for a very light and spongy cake. I want my muffins to rise to the top of my coworker's bellies, not sink to the bottom like a stone. The finished product looks pretty good, is pretty delicious, and is not at all a belly bomb, which is important when you are choosing snacks for an office meeting. 

I have a few very important notes on this recipe, though, in case you're interested in trying it out. First, this made 18 muffins baked in my standard sized cupcake tin, not 12. Also, you should probably fill your the batter up further than half way. Next, when she says "generously spoon topping over muffin batter," I'd say it's more like "make sure the topping runneth over your cup." I was appalled at the amount of topping I spooned on, going back several times more than I thought wise, and I still had about a third of the stuff left over. But when they came out of the oven, I saw that the cupcakes could have even used a bit more. Lastly, and very importantly, these little puppies took waaaaay longer than 10-12 minutes. It was more like 17-20 minutes... I don't know how to explain that, except that maybe the author of the recipe has a very hot oven? To balance out her her very cool baking sheets and fancy paper baking cups?

Still they were delicious, and a happy departure from the usually blueberry muffin or coffee cake. I would recommend them for a food to bring to a brunch, since they are they are so easy to transport -- no anxiety over crushed cupcake icing necessary!

I think I'll store them in the microwave until I need to bring them to work on Wednesday. Don't want them to dry out, or get too soggy. Mr. SevPrez used to tease me for keeping the good bread in the microwave, but now he does it too. It's like the ultimate tupperware!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sharing A Poem About Poems

I love this poem, because I abhor having to determine what a poem "means." I will never forget being shut down by a teacher when I offered my interpretation of the poem  "When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple". I thought it was one woman's depressing and morose statement on life and aging. The teacher quickly moved to another student who offered the widely agreed upon interpretation that it was defiant and jubilant, etc. I felt like an idiot, but having just read it again, and I stand by my original take. I guess I will never be a red hat.

For me, reading a poem is like being in the path of a gust of wind, or fording a large, shiny puddle: a natural thing of beauty that you step through on your way to the rest of your life. 

Introduction to Poetry

by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.

From The Apple That Astonished Paris, 1996. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Train Life

Or, a mass transit passenger's homage to Todd Hido

Next Stop Aberdeen-Matawan.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Your Intrepid Tulip Tracker

My office is conveniently located near many well groomed public and private Greenwich Village gardens. There is nothing like getting a little sushi for lunch before taking a tour of the ever-changing blooms in the 'hood. I wanted to bring you along with me, so I popped my trusty Lumix in my gigantic purse and hugged some chain link fences to get these pics. 

A bit bashful about their early arrival, the first tulips on the scene do their best to blend in to the daffodils already at the party.

Meanwhile at NYU, even the tulips are precocious.

This one definitely goes to Tisch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Adventureland" & The Crappy Summer Job

Mr. SevPrez and I managed to make it to the 8:10 showing of "Adventureland" last night, and our effort was rewarded. It was a cool, mellow little movie about summer dreams thwarted by summer jobs. Main character James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg of excruciatingly  embarrassing "The Squid and the Whale" fame) can only find work at Adventureland, a rundown local amusement park. But what else does he find there? Love, friendship, manhood, and good times, of course! I wouldn't quite put it on the epic level of a "Dazed And Confused", but this is definitely a flick you will find yourself craving every once in a while for the rest of your life.  And that's pretty good, in my book.

We made a pilgrimage to the theater on a weeknight because I couldn't resist the pull of a movie about a one-of-a-kind seasonal job. Most people have hilarious horror stories about their first job, but there are few that rival mine.  I spent my first summer at work manning the Candy Hut at the Deal Casino beach club in Deal, New Jersey, a very distinctive place on Earth, serving an equally unique population of beach goers. After seeing "Adventureland," I can concede that working at a depressing carnival in Pittsburgh is also pretty awful. 

It was 1995, and I was fourteen and without a license. I rode my bike the mile and a half to the beach every sunny day, only to stand inside a hot 10 by 10 foot "hut," with a gorgeous view of an ocean that was off limits to me. Work a summer at the beach and you will start praying for rain, because it means you have the day off. I have never watched more Weather Channel Doppler Radars before or since.

My duties at the Candy Hut consisted of scooping vanilla, chocolate, or mint chocolate chip ice cream, or doling out a variety of Good Humor treats and giant boxes of candy. This was also the summer that I was playing a lot of tennis, and my right forearm was never in better shape. The thing about scooping ice cream is that you really have to double over, almost crawling inside the freezer, to dig scoops out of half empty five gallon drums. In the process, the front of your shirt becomes caked in ice cream. And after about a month of this, you cannot launder the rank ice cream smell out of cotton, no matter how hard you try. (Well, bleach might have done it, but our shirts were black with a pink insignia, so I'll never know.)  

Dear Readers: always remember to please tip your ice cream scoopers well. 

I shared a shift with a girl who was a full-blown anorexic by mid-July, and by the end of the summer, she wasn't strong enough to scoop her own ice cream orders. When she left early for a softball game (she was a great pitcher, though I'm not sure how she even managed to pick up a softball) she would fill her backpack full of candy, making a big show of how much she planned to eat. I resented her for this, and a variety of other personality traits related to her disease, until her big-eyed little brother started bringing her well-rounded meals from the snack bar, silently imploring her to please eat. 

Oh man, being fourteen can be so painful in so many ways.

What else... I discovered that everyone on the beach wants their ice cream snack at the same time, every day. No one cares if it means that they will have to wait on a very long line of loud children and their humorless parents. That taught me something about human nature.

I worked at the beach for one more summer, this time at Breakwater Beach Club, in Long Branch. It was there that I earned the reputation amongst members for the making the best black and white milkshake. About midway through the summer, I decided to stop groaning when people ordered milkshakes and started embracing the challenge. Another life lesson learned: when you have no choice in a matter, surrender, and something good will come of it. 

In the movie, James is home from college, biding his time until he starts grad school at Columbia. I was much younger. One of the reasons I worked so hard in high school was because I knew I never wanted to go back to the Candy Hut, ever, ever again. It was college, all the way, and beyond. Horrendous summer jobs really can transform you, and it's nice to see that notion so sweetly interpreted on the silver screen. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NYC Daffodils In Their Natural Environment...

If you look for it, there is a lot of yellow out there, asserting itself on this semi-grey day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Who's Who In So Watt

So Watt played at the Brickwall on Thursday night and got the crowd reacquainted with their fun-loving, stay-out-late-on-a-weeknight side. 

I've put together some Cliff's Notes so you can follow along with this multi-dimensional, ever-evolving musical conglomerate. Trading cards are in development...

Jason on vocals. John on lead guitar. Jim on drums. Jason brings original songs and a variety of covers from Tom Petty, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Click here for a video of their excellent version of "Cover Me."

Bobby on lead vocals, Jim on bass. I don't know much about music, but I don't think I'm going out on a limb by describing Bobby's voice as a classic baritone... Someone correct me if I'm wrong. He kills Johnny Cash classics, and is also responsible for the crowd favorite, "Walking in Memphis," with Jim switching to keyboard.

Don't be fooled by Brit's petite frame, she has a huge voice and uses it to cover songs by Pink, Alanis Morisette, and Tracy Bonham. Do you guys remember "Mother Mother"? I love that song. So glad they brought it back, especially since G-Rock is no more.

Meet Michelle and Ellen. I heard them for the first time on Thursday night. I instantly fell in love with Michelle because she was wearing a Pat Benatar pin.  That is enough for me to judge someone's character positively. She did not disappoint. Her renditions of Pat's classic anthems were shockingly awesome, and she sang a bunch of other well-chosen covers that I unfortunately can't remember right now. Ellen was holding it down on backup vocals. 

Special guest Billy, who flew in from California just to get in on this action. I never knew he could sing, I just thought he was funny. But he definitely brought the vocal talent to match his charisma. Some Stray Cats (the band was tight! I was impressed), some Cheap Trick, and a little "Play That Funky Music Whiteboy," which seemed an apt way to end the evening.

Friday, April 3, 2009

And Now For Something A Little Lighter

Because the weekend is here and despite recent evidence, I'm not all life and death, fear and guts. I guess it's just been an interesting week.

So I give to you, at long last, my husband and Jon Stewart, together, at Cute and Cuter.

And enjoy your first April weekend. I will be hosting new friends and running past as many daffodils as I can. You gotta get 'em while their out.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

20 Years Is A Long Time To Spend Doing Anything

It's almost impossible to find my sunglasses in my gigantic purse, 

so I walk around squinting all the time.

This afforded me the opportunity to notice that

I live in pursuit of the sun.

It's not poetic, it's a fact:

I get up with the sun in my eyes

and I go home with the sun in my eyes.

I have not been graced with a similar epiphany 

about what I do all day in the interim.

Twenty years is a long time to spend doing anything.

I am just now getting acquainted with the idea that I know 

what twenty years feels like.

It's cliché, but my experience supports the popular notion 

that as your lifespan stretches out, the days speed up. 

It's March, then it's April, then your father calls to tell you 

that Grammy died twenty years ago today. 

And you think, am I that old?

And when your chin wrinkles up, and your nostrils flair out, 

you think, am I still that young?

Twenty years is a long time to spend doing anything.

Just last night I was talking to an almost long lost friend, 

swapping womanly stories of anticipated pregnancies --

not imminent, you know, but theoretical --

and the new, strange game of picking baby names with a man.

I told her about my little plans for Agnes Lou,

and the funny part about how the original Agnes never liked her name.

If she were still here she would probably tell me that 

Ag is not a name you choose to pass on.

I kind of agree that the whole Ag thing is unfortunate, 

but I'm a woman now, not so young, 

and if I can bring another Agnes into my life, 

so help me God, and Grammy, I'll do it. 

Copyright D.M.Dellinger Hlatky. April 2, 2009.