Thursday, May 31, 2012

Maira Kalman--some history filtered through an animated, sarcastic lens

I'm no expert on the world of illustration. In fact, I know next to nothing about it. But recently I stumbled across an illustrator named Maira Kalman and, without knowing how beloved her work is, fell in love with it myself. Kalman has done covers for the New Yorker, illustrated an edition of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and more recently published an illustrated blog for the New York Times entitled "The Politics of Uncertainty."  In other words, you will likely recognize her style.

That blog became a book, one which just landed in my hands via my good friend Julia (whose parents, professors in Beijing, know Kalman well enough to dine alongside her regularly). Her artwork is a peek into a psyche, a narrative of how she turns everyday life into meaningful thoughts. The little bit that I understand about art tells me that art is always this way when it is good, but that it must also be fluid and flexible enough to be accessible. Hers is. Sketches of people doing seemingly ordinary things but with splashes of odd color and words scrawled beneath their feet. Kalman's work, to me, is about making a deeper humanity an every-second kind of thing.

Take a look at a couple of her historically-themed entries. Sarcastic, witty, an iconic face juxtaposed against modern script, but the Lincoln one also gave me goosebumps.  Because he is someone who sticks with us, redefined by every generation that reads and then writes about him (each determined to say something new, when really what they are saying is many things about themselves).

Side note--I have actually come across this very set of Henry VII chocolates before, at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, oddly enough.  I remember, because my sister wanted to buy them for me; she had long ago brought me a Henry VII coffee mug back from a trip to London.  I guess she thinks I'm obsessed with him and those wives for some reason.

Friday, May 25, 2012

For the family and for my dear friends:

I know my blog posts have been on the personal side more than on the cultural or even broader lately, but just bear with me. One more family photo share--my brand new nephew McCue (who will be called Mac after his late grandpa), born one hour after my sister went into labor (no joke). He screamed his way into the world at 4:19 on a dark but really dry and hot Texas morning. He's perfect.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My grandmother photo bombs my mother.

In 1976. In other words, my beautiful mom at just about the same age that I am now.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eating my way through this town

As part of an unabashed week of leisure following graduation and the world's most exhausting road trip, I am eating my way through Austin. Arguably one of the best food cities...well, anywhere, you can't really go wrong here.

Last night I was treated to a lovely evening at Vevo on the east side. Their margaritas are strong. Like, put hair on your chest strong. But they come with dainty little orchids on the rim to try and fool you. Chipotle enchiladas and a huge bowl of guac to share on a colorful covered patio? I give it an A.

For lunch today my sis and I tried Phil's Ice House, which is owned by the same folks who created Austin's legendary Amy's ice cream. Big ass burgers, sweet potato fries, and the coldest Coke I have ever had. All of this turned into the most excellent treatment for my tequila hangover.

Update for the family: still no little Mac. My nephew seems reluctant to leave the womb. I don't blame him. Austin summers are pretty oppressive.

Peace out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The politics of uncertainty

I've discovered that even upon achieving a major intellectual milestone and graduating with a level of degree few people attain, you can never escape the same questions you heard for all those years you were in grad school. What are you going to do? Where are you going to live? Why are you not dating anyone (because an educated gal like you should have lots of suitors)?

That last question, given, came from my eighty year old Great Aunt Patsy.

Here's the thing. I just did a "here's your life" esque tour of these southern United States. I jumped from the foggy swampy memory terrain of South Louisiana to the safe liberal cradle of Athens and then back to the land of my youngest days: the dry, flat piney wood of North Louisiana. Shreveport will always be my hometown, I guess, but I never feel anything but frustrated there when I visit. My love for my childhood friends runs deep forever, but their disregard of the potential for life to blow their minds is, well, just really sad. I think they feel sorry for me because I have a piece of paper yet no husband or children. I guess I can write about it all on here because none of them have ever checked a blog post...ever, I am pretty sure.

Uncertainty where I am from, a town of smoggy conservatism, barbecue dinners, and dated culture, is about akin to homelessness. In the town where I made myself, Athens, uncertainty is so common and so embraced that it's not only a dime a dozen but also really annoying.

In my current world, one made of accomplishment but also analysis, wandering but also a very personal refocus, uncertainty is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. My talent will carry me through to pick from the right options for the coming months, I have no doubt. And I'm writing again. In the meantime, Austin is incredible. Duh.

Attached is a sketch from my dear friend Julia. She understands the joy of the place I am at.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I call this...

The day I wore a fancy floppy velvet hat and became a doctor.

In random order: the ceremony, fellow grad my longtime pal Chris Huff, my amazing friends pile in to celebrate, my pops made the journey, and then me just drinking beer and looking relieved if not a bit sarcastic. More soon.

Monday, May 7, 2012

More dispatches from Austin

Today my dad and I are heading to Baton Rouge, then on Wednesday back to Athens-town for graduation. Road trip week.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Austin in May, so far

Shiner, Starbucks, crossword puzzles, Curious George, a walk down 6th, Tex Mex and some cactus flowers...

Tonight my friend Mer and I are trying out Paul Qui's food trailer East Side King. He won this year's Top Chef and promptly opened up an Asian fusion trailer in the lot behind my favorite bar in Austin, the Grackle. Will report back. Win!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Throwback Whoaback/thanks Marie Claire

As a non-mother I will most likely receive flack for posting what I'm about to post. But I've spent the past two years being a caregiver to my niece. I've seen the gritty; I've seen the sheer will it takes to raise a child. And I value independence, for myself and my sisters and my friends, too much to not comment.

I usually don't even read magazines anymore. But during a long browsing jaunt through the airport yesterday I picked up a copy of Marie Claire and was introduced to Elisabeth Badinter's controversial new book and methods on motherhood. Raved about in France, Badinter argues that modern women are allowing themselves to be pushed back: into the home, into the kitchen, into a child-obsessed culture that expects total enmeshment. I couldn't agree more. Reading this article made me realize hard and fast that many women I know in their twenties and thirties are seemingly excited about giving up careers for motherhood "once they have money saved and their husband's job is secure and rising."

Even I have uttered similar words. What has happened to us? As a sex we spent hundreds, even thousands if you wanna dig deep, of years being oppressed and living in a tyranny that dictated one thing: that we were babymakers. The twentieth century changed it all. Women just like us changed it all. Shattering glass ceilings, burning those bras, pushing for legislation, I could go on for days. And now the love of homemade baby food and organic cloth has sent us packing backwards? I'm confused. Almost as confused by this as I am by the new debate about birth control in America. I mean, what happened? Did a time machine take us back to 1942 and no one has realized it yet?

Badinter recommends simple solutions: go back to work after a maternity leave (I can attest that her continued career has saved my sister's sanity), make your partner do a lot of the work, and make sure your child is socialized and not ON you all the time. Be defined by your passions and a career too, not just motherhood. Make your own money!

Anyway, just thinking that these issues have to be written and talked about. Immediately. Or we are looking at some twisted regression of rights and feminism that should and could sicken us all.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The nomad is riding again.

Once again I've landed in Austin, Texas, nestled with my family. And the river and the lake and the Texas sun. And breakfast tacos. And dive bars with food carts designed by Top Chef winners. And the list goes on and on. Salsa...

The only difference now is that I am a nomad with Dr. in front of my name. Granted, that's a huge difference. What hasn't changed is the journey toward a job and a life of my own that will make me truly happy. I feel like I'm one step closer. More soon. Adding a few photos from my last "real evening" in Athens for awhile, plus the swoop into Austin today and my niece cupcake.