Posts Tagged ‘sparks’

Sparks & Beauties: Sunday Autumn Equinox Leisure Reading Edition

Hello beauties! Happy Autumn Equinox Day! The sun is crossing the equator, and today is equal amounts day and night. Nature is in balance, and hopefully you’re harvesting what fruits and victories you’ve been sowing all year so far. From here on out, the days are getting shorter. Yes, I’m excited, actually: it’s cozy-making time!

Celtic-y pagans celebrate the equinox as Mabon, but as a good little secret Midwestern pagan, I had my own little “rituals” to “celebrate” — Neil Young’s on the turntable, I cleared out and changed over my wardrobe to all my fall/winter clothes, and after a weekend of pretty rich feasting, I’m taking today to eat simply and lightly, looking to balance out all the delicious gourmandizing. I’m going out riding right after I finish writing this post, too…I can’t think of a better way to end the summer and usher in the fall than trotting away in an open field. The insights from my little mini-retreat are sinking in and mulling all around, and I’m taking the first steps towards some of my upcoming plans and projects: I started a novel-writing class at a local college last week, which I’m excited about! I haven’t taken a legit writing class since grad school, and it feels good to be exercising those muscles again in a structured, group setting.

Anyway, this Sparks & Beauties is dedicated to a few things I’ve really enjoyed reading on the Internet — and have really lingered with me, which is often not the case with a lot of stuff you read online. Some of them are a bit on the heavier side, but substantial. Light some candles, fire up the iPad or computer, curl up with a blanket and a mug of something warm and delicious, and enjoy!

+ Why Unwound is the best band of the ’90s — It’s been nice to see a resurgence of interesting and activity around Unwound. I saw Unwound about a million times when I was in college, so for me, they are definitely of an era — but I’ve been listening to their discography in the car as I drive lately, and hearing their music roaring over the car speakers has been like hearing them for the first time all over again. They are noisy and punky, owing lots to post-hardcore and Sonic Youth and such, but they definitely became their own beast, with a strange beauty and elegiac feel. Now I’m dying to get all their records on vinyl again.

+ Mulberry’s Industrial Revolution — As part of my fashion nerdist tendencies, I love reading and learning about manufacturing, especially of luxury goods. It fascinates me in a kind of love/hate way. I mean, I’m the first to admit that a fancy bag is a good investment, if well-chosen — my first fancy bag purchase has lasted me over ten years at this point, and it still looks beautiful. But it irks a little to think that the fancy LV bags are still made or at least put together in China and the like. Ugh, fashion! Yay, fashion! Sigh, I just can’t decide. But I did enjoy reading about Mulberry’s efforts to move more of their production to their Somerset base. I do think their bags are generally well-made and beautiful; I have fond memories of popping into their shop in London and seeing how beautifully crafted they are. Even though the saleswoman knew I wasn’t going to buy, she took a lot of pride in showing me the bags, pointing out the craftsmanship. It is a very lovely heritage feeling to know something you’re making or selling will last a long time and could likely be passed down in the family. That, to me, is a genuinely lovely thing.

+ This story by far is one of the best things I’ve read about the savage, horrendous gang rape in India that shocked the whole world. Most of the world initially saw it as an aberration, but this Guardian piece explains the complex socioeconomic dynamics that make you realize such an act was in fact not as abnormal and out of place as it seems. Warning: it gets really, really hard to read in parts, so if you are going to be triggered by it, you might best avoid this.

+ Finally, on the lighter side: sometimes you just need to read something funny, like when a Toronto film festival photo slideshow caption writer gets bored and just completely fangirls out about Benedict Cumberbatch.

Sparks & Beauties: 5 Jams for the Summer of Minor Ailments

I’m just about ready to dub this the “Summer of Minor Yet Irritating Ailments.” No sooner than my bee sting chills out than I get an infected hangnail! Now my middle finger on my right hand looks like it’s incubating a small grape inside of its tip. (Graphic, I know, but truth.) It hurts like hell to type! I had all kinds of beautiful nonsense and lyrical gorgeousness to share, but instead, please settle for these 5 YouTube videos anTd brief yet potent (I hope) descriptions. Hope your week has been amazing, lovelies!

Lately, being beset with all these weird little physical ailments, I’ve been gravitating towards songs that have an ostensible energy to them, but yet with an undertow of almost ghostly melancholy. Like trying to keep my chin up on a rainy day, maybe? It’s like extended June gloom — it’s summer and I’m supposed to be carefree, and yet there are all these little reminders that remind me how one little thing — a bee sting on my almost-butt, a swollen middle fingertip — can really get in the way in small yet significant ways. A pebble in the shoe. Anyway, that’s what this little group of songs is about. Enjoy!

Beck, “Youthless”

I didn’t listen to Modern Guilt very much when it came out, but lately I find it’s just about right in terms of that weird upbeat yet melancholic feel. I’m sort of into listening to almost break-up music by boys recently — hearing how dudes process grief and sadness. Sea Change by Beck is kind of a great boys’ break-up record, but that’s almost too bleak when you hurt in weird, small places on your body…but Modern Guilt still has this core of loneliness and isolation, even when it’s dressed up in Danger Mouse beats and Beatles-y melodies.


Sparks & Beauties: Fruitvale Station

I live now in an area where there’s really, like, two places to see a movie, and they are both multiplexes featuring the latest blockbusters and gross-out comedies. Seeing any indie or foreign film anymore is a rare occasion, which is such a 180 from my NYC film school days, when I easily saw movies 2-4 times a week. Now it’s slightly painful to read about great films coming out, knowing there’s little chance for me to go see them right away — I have to wait for them to hit Netflix or the one locally owned video store. There used to be an arthouse cinema in this town ages ago, at the height of the great indie renaissance of Miramax and October Films in the late 90s…but that theater closed, the victim to the do-or-die economics of film distribution.

So it was with great surprise and utter haste that I grabbed the chance to see Fruitvale Station at my local theater. For those who don’t know, it’s a dramatization of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a young black man from Oakland, California, who was shot in the back and killed by a BART public transit police officer in 2009. His death was captured in footage taken by hundreds of cell phone and video cameras on the scene, and the case inspired a huge wave of debate, activism and protest in an area already noted for its political awareness.


Sparks & Beauties: Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity at the Art Institute of Chicago

It has been a remarkably chilly week for mid-July: the coldest July since 1980-something, according to local meterologists. I don’t exactly mind, really, except for the whole global climate change things, which is admittedly pretty apocalyptic-inspiring. My world is full of ups and downs, peaceful meadows and tumult, and I’m sort of in a very “WHERE IS EVERYBODY/GET AWAY FROM ME” headspace. And since I can’t really figure out the middle ground between the two, I’m kind of just being a recluse. But a glamorous one!

Anyway, there are some bright spots on the horizon: Eleanor Whitney, author of Grow, which I big-upped earlier, gave my book a great write-up at her blog, which made me so happy. As a writer, it is always so wonderful to know your work makes some kind of impact in the hearts and minds of the people who read it. Thank you, Eleanor! And academic superstar, fellow punk expat and feminist of color firebrand Mimi Thi Nguyen gave props to my old fashion blog nogoodforme.com in her recent interview at The Feminist Wire, which made me feel so proud. Anyway: this edition of Sparks & Beauties is devoted to one giant gorgeous firecracker of an art exhibition. I hope you enjoy it!

One beautiful thing possible when living in a city like New York: you get to have up-close and personal relationships to museums. And when I lived in NYC and was going to Columbia, I got to have lots of them, because one advantage of paying nosebleeds of tuition was free admission to places like the Metropolitan Museum and MOMA. After my two years of intensive coursework, I tried to go as often as possible — and I noticed I had very specific relationships to each museum. For me, MOMA was a bit like that person you date who looks good on paper — you think it aligns perfectly with everyone you ever thought you wanted in someone, but there is something missing. Some human eccentricity, some hidden dork factor that makes them genuinely fun to be around.

The Metropolitan, though, was my true love in museum form. For one thing, it was just so immense — I went almost weekly and there were still rooms I’d stumble into, having never seen them, so there was a constant sense of discovery. I had particularly favorite rooms and galleries: I loved the 19th-century American and European painting sections, for example: I’d sit for an afternoon in one of the galleries and just write or read. (I graded a whole sheaf of papers there once, much to the amusement of the guards.) I loved the decorative arts wings, and marveled at Marie Antoinette’s furniture. When I needed to think, I sat in the Temple of Dendur and the immense echo of the large room often soothed me.

I don’t really have a steady relationship with a museum anymore, and that’s a pity. So, in some major respect, my whole take on the “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity” exhibition currently at the Art Institute of Chicago feels incomplete — it doesn’t quite benefit from the feeling of having lived with and experienced the work in a way that intimacy and familiarity grant it. I also feel as if, since leaving NYC, I’ve lost the “art muscle” that comes from seeing, hearing about and discussing art on a regular basis. It used to be easy for me to “keep up” with modern art, but since being isolated in the Midwestern semi-countryside, this kind of thinking doesn’t come easy to me anymore. Still, I gave it a try on my recent trip into Chicago: I spent almost three hours at the exhibition, as a result, felt like I was cramming in all the beauty and insight that it offered — because it’s truly an astonishing exhibition on aesthetic, intellectual and historical levels. It did its job, though: I walked out of it feeling thoughtful, inspired and energized — appreciative of how the past shapes the present moment, and full of a kind of serene lightness that only spending time with such wondrous art can give you.