Thursday, February 26, 2009

hello, radiohead...hello, sir





i think i like radiohead.
it's sort of weird and embarrassing to admit that after all this time, yes?

a former boyfriend of mine used to play
pablo honey all the time.
i loved "
stop whispering." it stood out to me as having a little more guts and wanting than the other tracks?
but that--really anything resembling that plaintive sound of theirs (how else do you describe it?)--came to remind me of a rather cruel summer that he and i endured...

but that was a long time ago.

radiohead--with the usc marching band--gave my favorite performance of this year's grammy awards, and it got me thinking i'd been missing out? and then, i came into possession of a "
best of radiohead" cd. i'm embarrassed to say exactly how this happened (hint: bmg).

i'm pleasantly surprised to find i can enjoy it, but also "ignore" it just enough to remain productive. that's a rare thing for me.

***
i spent most of yesterday afternoon in williamsburg. i took my friend lexi to a perfume store/gallery that i love so that she could write about it for a website she freelances for.
afterwards, we walked around in the sunshine, peeked into a few stores.

i'm not a terrific shopper, but i can get my groove on in the right company. for the most part, i enjoy looking at store windows, the interior lighting, and the decor. the hipster vibe is pretty consistent in all the stores so i wouldn't say one blows my mind, but typically, amidst all the over-priced luxuries, there are knick-knacks that are either lovely or amusing.
and i really like postcards and business cards. i shouldn't collect them all, but i do.

my favorite store that we visited yesterday is called
sir, a small, but judiciously stocked boutique. each garment is delicate, beautifully cut and sewn, as if they were made by hand, and utterly feminine. i think the store carries mostly sir designer joanna baum's line exclusively.

i would love them with my new haircut...

pretty things like these:





photos by sophie corra, via sirbrooklyn.com


but i actually think the name of the store is genius!

every time you answer the phone, you get to say "hello, sir..."

perfect, no?

sir...129 bedford avenue, bk, ny 11211 718.384.0700 & 360 atlantic ave, bk, ny 11217 718.643.6877

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the potus, and winter

the POTUS, before he officially was. photographed by damon winter for the ny times.
chester, pa. november 2008.

i'm getting ready to listen to our potus' address tonight. primetime with the president. i'm sort of thrilled (that's a first).

seems like a good opportunity to re-visit the extraordinary work of damon winter. his work will appeal to admirers of obama, and anyone with aspirations as a photographer or editor. winter shot of 90,000 images of then-candidate obama--can you imagine selecting fewer than 20? but the result is thrilling. i've seen this many times, and it still makes me well up. great commentary too. president obama has to be one of the most photogenic public figures, but winter notes that it can be challenging to photograph him because he can be so good at controlling his temperament--he's not as expressive as other candidates.

photographer's journal: following obama

the second presentation--a diptych slideshow--is brilliant. who doesn't love a good diptych, right? finding themes, colors, patterns in random images, and aligning them to make a statement...here is one and while it's not my favorite, it seems fitting tonight.

see the rest of winter's "photographers journal: political landscapes," originally published in october 2008, here. i love the feet, the food, and the clinton one. you'll hear which one is winter's favorite, and it's hard to argue against it...

i would love to know yours...

here's a link to a great, albeit brief interview with damon winter, courtesy of photo district news.

Monday, February 23, 2009

best pictures...

"i think you should date miss yum yum"


before meeting with the oscar party club yesterday for brunch at the smith, i sat on the no. 6 train and quickly filled out my "official" oscar ballot. i would have done just as well to tack the thing to my wall and toss darts (and i am pretty terrible dart player). i'd only seen three of the nominated films (slumdog, benji button, and the changeling), and my favorite film from last year, gran torino, was shut out by the academy entirely. i had a little word-of-mouth to go on, but it wasn't going to serve me well enough. the other oscar party members had seen nearly everything, and whatever they hadn't seen (maybe only the animated shorts?) they did their homework on.

i couldn't bring much to the brunch conversation, except a few shrugs, some laughs. during one discussion of glaring academy omissions and snubs (benicio del toro for che--part 1, was a big one) teresa said, "and, bruce springsteen for the wrestler..." and i said, "WHAT?! bruce springsteen was in the wrestler?!!" HA! i thought maybe bruce was going the way of tom waits? wrong, wrong, wrong. i am surprised they didn't boot my ass from the table. (ah, that's what i love about the oscar party members--they are very keen on and about film, but they don't close off the circle if you haven't quite kept up. i always leave their company wanting to know and see more...)

i had actually thought about skipping yesterday's oscar telecast since i hadn't felt invested in any of the outcomes. but after our brunch together, i had all of this intel--stories about danny boyle, sean penn, mickey rourke, and melissa leo. all of a sudden, i cared.

(wasn't it entertaining, as award shows go? i loved high jackman's opening bit, especially when he'd laugh during the songs. i despise lip-syncing in part because that it ruins any hope for a great honest moment--i love when performers allow themselves to have fun. i mean, what would águas de março be without elis regina's laugh? [here, at around 2:40]. anyway, sure, parts of jackman's performance were totally cheese. but who can't use a little of that on a sunday night in february? he and anne hathaway had me giggling out loud. and i'm a little in love with james franco. his laugh just might get me through this interminable winter. i hope someone throws that short film bit on youtube soon. )

after the long good night, the oscar party club results were tallied, i fared the worst of our group (congrats, anthony!). oh, i knew i was saying goodbye to that $10 dollars the minute i handed it over with my ballot, but i feel fine about the loss. between their company, and all the films they've inspired me to see, i still feel like i came out ahead.

*****
i used to spend a fair amount of time watching movies. i still watch a lot of films on tcm, but i'm not as avid a DVD watcher as i was back in the days before netflix. call it a phase...

there was a time, if you lived in the far west village, before rents went high as the sky, you had at least three pretty great options for movie rentals, rko video (which became good restaurant), mrs. hudson's video library (which survived a flood, only to close about a year later) and kim's video (whose entire archive now lives in sicily!). my lone, loud lament about the neighborhood was that by the time i left, i couldn't rent a damn video anywhere, but i could take my dog (if i had one) to any one of three doggie hotels and spas that had opened.
it was a west village evolution that did not suit me.

netflix is a nice convenience, but it sucks the romance out of the whole affair for me. half the fun is going to the store with something in mind that you're dying to see that night--and a lot of great discoveries result when what you want isn't available. you're forced to pace around, poke around, and negotiate your plan b with your friend/friends.

i miss that.

but if i'm going to fall back in love with the movies (and make progress on this "film addicts" list, passed along from the oscar club members), i guess i'll just have kiss my romantic notions (of the dvd storefront, at least) good-bye.

***

if you want fun, reliable recommendations, visit (OC club founders) teresa and richard's blog, film snobs.

AND: look for richard--a very fine stage and screen actor--in this summer's blockbuster, public enemies. depp, bale, marion cotillard and richard short--remember his name. big things are on the horizon.

***

one final note about gran torino. when teresa came to work raving about it last fall, i thought she was referring to some throwback eastwood film from the early 70s! i knew nothing of it. without her ardour for it (and clint), i might have waited until its dvd release, or possibly skipped it altogether.

while the acting wasn't top-notch, and i hope to never hear those slurs outside of the theater (which didn't prevent me from laughing out loud at the ridiculousness, the audacity, and out and out "wrongness" of them), i left the theater knowing that gran torino would be my "best picture" for 2008.

yes--slumdog was a fantastic tale of love. i liked what it had to say about how people acquire knowledge and wisdom, and how morality and character develop. and it certainly was energetic and uplifting. but i don't know that there's been a film that has presented more fully the complexities of the asian immigrant and asian-american experience--or for that matter, even tried--until gran torino. it is so much more than a film about racism, revenge and gang-violence-- it broaches issues that i could only begin to meaningfully consider through academic study... and there was so much sad truth in how intolerance and racist attitudes are formed...how the road to true understanding can be, at times, treacherous, brutal.

but gran torino is also, at its core, optimistic--it bears the hope that we can each encounter a soul who can see past our fear and withstand our craziness, whose openness allows us see and understand things in a way we hadn't before. that's what "sue" was to that old walt kowalski. seems to me that makes it, in its own way, a story about love.

Friday, February 20, 2009

vacation plan...

go-go's vacation.
original record release date: august 1982.

right around 5 o'clock today, i started to panic. i had just wrapped up a couple of projects, but still had one awaiting. i sussed out the piles (newspapers, magazines, printouts, manila folders, binder clips and paper clips...why so many CLIPS everywhere?) all over my cubicle and thought, god. this could be a long night.

by 6pm, all but one of my co-workers had left, though i could hear my friend teri, in the cubicle next to mine, typing more maniacally than i'd ever heard before--there was no way she was going to be there much longer. i started to get a little bluesy. feeling a little bluesy on a friday night isn't new or unusual, but tonight was to be the start of my vacation.

it seemed very far away.

it's funny and frustrating how much there is to do before taking any significant amount of time off. at work, you either have to wrap it all up or delegate (which always takes longer than i anticipate). and then there are all the terrifically forgettable tasks (turning on the out-of-office notifications, changing the voicemail message--it only took me 6 takes this time). even at home, you have to arrange for the mail, suspend the newspaper delivery, rid the fridge of perishables (milk gone bad? oof), and basically clean the whole place, kitchen to bath, so that you can have a happy, chore-free homecoming.

but i don't have to worry about that last part--the homecoming--since i'm going to be, for the most part, at home.

and perhaps this is contributing to my bluesy-ness. because as delighted as i am about the break from my job, i also intend for these next 12 days to be...productive.

you friends of mine know that i can while away nearly whole days listening to music and dancing around this apartment in my stocking feet. or drinking coffee and tearing (literally) through my favorite magazines. all of that will be part of my plan. and i will take myself out for breakfast, meet friends for lunch and dinner, COOK! take photos, swim, sleeeep, read the books i borrowed from the library about 6 weeks ago (whoops. think i can finish up pictures at a revolution and get through the rest is noise? hmmm)...

but then i'm also supposed to fix my life. not totally change it in less than a fortnight. that would be crazy!

i aim for clarity and action.

hence, the panic.

i really do want to make this time good...

but first, i'm going to finish my glass of wine and start the conversation.

cheers...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

read a good poem: "tossing and turning"

untitled, #1447-a, 1996. by todd hido. via the rose gallery, santa monica, ca.

The spirit has infinite facets, but the body
confiningly few sides.
There is the left,
the right, the back, the belly, and tempting
in-betweens, northeasts and northwests,
that tip the heart and soon pinch circulation
in one or another arm.
Yet we turn each time
with fresh hope, believing that sleep
will visit us here, descending like an angel
down the angle our flesh's sextant sets,
tilted toward that unreachable star
hung in the night between our eyebrows, whence
dreams and good luck flow.
Uncross
your ankles. Unclench your philosophy.
This bed was invented by others; know we go
to sleep less to rest than to participate
in the twists of another world.
This churning is our journey.
It ends,
can only end, around a corner
we do not know
we are turning.
"tossing and turning" by john updike, from collected poems 1953-1993.
via the writer's almanac, feb 19, 2009.



i hadn't read any of john updike's work until this poem, today. i had made a plan to, though, after reading this recent tribute by my favorite writer...i'm getting excited all over again.

i love "unclench your philosophy" -- those few words stayed with me all morning.

"uncross your ankles" is a pretty great line, too.

right after i read the poem, i did a quick search for a photo that might be suitable.
i happened upon todd hido's work--i love the moodiness.
if you're interested, here is a link to more of his photos on the rose gallery site and on the stephen wirtz gallery site.
i also found an interview from 2007, where he discusses his book, between the two. i enjoyed reading his thoughts on portraiture and the book editing process.
here's a taste:

re: his focus, and his portraits of women...

To me it is no mystery that we can only photograph effectively what we are truly interested in or -- maybe more importantly -- are grappling with. This is often an unconscious process. Otherwise the photographs are merely about an idea or a concept; that stuff eventually falls flat for me. There must be something more, some emotional hook for it to really work for me. I tend to photograph things I've had problems with or I have struggled with, stuff that used to keep me up at night. It's the same process with my photographs of houses -- they are about recognizing some mysterious element of my childhood.

I've read that sources of terror in childhood often become sources of attraction in adulthood. I've found that true. It's disturbing to me how many of the models remind me of past women that have been in my life -- not in terms of how they look but in terms of who they seem to be underneath their surfaces. There is a familiarity to them, something that resonates, something kind of troubled about them that is very recognizable to me. It is endlessly fascinating and utterly simple as to why we gravitate to what we do. Of course this is not stuff that I've worked out completely, which is precisely why it's engrossing to me. That is why I do it. That is the focus.

re: editing the book with chris pichler of nazraeli press...

The editing process is part of making the work. I gather up the images I am interested in and then start to lay them out using just a standard book dummy, weaving the images together over a long period of time. With Between the Two, it took about three years of constantly shuffling unpublished work in with new images that I was making on a weekly basis. There was real joy in leaving the darkroom and stopping by the copy shop to make Xeroxes in order to slide them into the dummy, seeing if they fit in someplace. Sometimes the images would work, and sometimes they don't. But almost every image I've made in the last few years was tried out. Some were perfect and added just what I needed and others I've saved for the next project, whatever that may be!

want more? here's a link to the full interview, between hido and ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

making the personal, political



when i picked up the sports page of yesterday's nytimes and saw harvey araton's column, with a photo of shahar peer, and this headline, "a political swing at one player sours a tournament for all" i thought, uh oh. this is big...

and it's getting bigger...

i've been trying to keep up with the news and the blogosphere during the day while formulating my own thoughts. here goes.

the situation room: shahar peer, an israeli player currently ranked 45th on the wta tour, was denied a visa to enter the united arab emirates, to compete in a tournament for which she had qualified (and in the eyes of some, based on her play coming into the event, had a decent opportunity to win). while wta officials long feared she might have trouble securing a visa, it seems they were offered some assurances that it would be granted...at the very last hour her visa was denied. officials have gone on record to say that the denial was due to "safety concerns." the atp and its players will also have to confront this issue as it appears that andy ram, a doubles specialist, may also be denied a visa for the upcoming atp tournament there.

the reaction (as of tuesday, feb 17) : while it considered cancelling the tournament, the women's tennis association, decided to proceed (to the dismay of many), issuing this statement. the tennis channel has dropped televised coverage of the event (earning praise from many). more to come from the atp, i'm sure...possibly (hopefully) the players...

the good word: tennis' top writers have weighed in on this, with tennis mag eic james martin, calling out not only wta chief larry scott, but the wta players for their unwillingness to pay more than lip service to the matter; my favorite writer acing one out wiiiide--noting that the atp players (especially federer, who lives and trains there in the off-season) should make their voices heard on this, too; and tom tebbutt asserting that after this year tennis in dubai is done. and how.

my take: many fans are loathe to mix politics and sports, i don't think the two can ever really be separated. sport is a part of our culture, and it reflects whatever dynamics loom large in the world. sometimes it reveals exquisite acts of sportsmanship, but it also exposes cheating, racism, discrimination, violence... and i think that athletes, especially the most high-profile ones, should take a stand, especially when their own sport is affected.

in the perfect world (inside my head), my favorite player would withdraw, offering some simple, but totally right-on, no-nonsense reason: "if it is not fair for one player the way he is treated, it is not right for everyone. it's simple, no?" and then call on everyone to boycott! but with nadal and federer both suffering from injuries, it's possible that both may escape making some kind of statement on the situation that the wta and atp are facing, at least for now...we'll see how things unfold.

i don't toss out the notion of a boycott easily. i took gymnastics for a spell when i was a kid, and was obsessed with the sport. in 1980, kurt thomas was poised to make history as the first american gymnast to finally break through the death grip that the soviets and eastern bloc nations had on the men's event, and win the gold medal...and then president carter ordered the boycott of the moscow games. dream over. as a fan, i was crushed. i don't know how the athletes managed. but when you're part of a team, especially a national team, you have no choice. and anyway, those were very different times. you couldn't try to escape the link between sport and politics...

these days, most athletes will try to dance around a political question (hell, athletes are so media trained, you're hard pressed to find anyone to answer a question about a game that's not rehearsed and repeated from day to day to day, let alone say something political. jordan, jeter, tiger woods are inoffensive to the point of being...uninspiring).

but in this case, absent a brave decision by the atp or wta, or the player's union, the individual players should have the option to boycott the event, without penalty. i don't need the players to tell me their views on middle east politics if they don't want to, but i would want them to simply think about it on a personal level: if you care (and i think you should) and if these players are your friends (as some say they are) and if you put yourself in his or her place, and then think about what it is you might really be losing by taking a stand--or not taking one...take all other considerations about money and points and ranking out of the mix (and this is where some might need a ruling by the sport's "governing bodies" to help them clear their mind?) and make the personal political, then we might start to see progress toward a solution where they all have a safe place to play--here, there, everywhere, from now on.


Monday, February 16, 2009

hom-age

natalie coughlin, photographed by marc hom, for men's vogue, april 2008.

i have "used" the obvious charms of some of my favorite female athletes (tanith belbin, ana ivanovic, maria kirilenko) to lure a couple of (now former) boyfriends, with less than zero interest in sports, into watching the olympics with me or joining me at the us open. shameless? perhaps. maybe even a little bit wrong. but it worked. i am actually a little proud that, after initially appealing to them on this most superficial level, the merits of these and other athletes and the thrill of sport-spectating left a lasting impression on one of them (maybe he doesn't watch figure skating anymore, but i know he follows tennis. and, most unbelievably, i managed to turn him into a baseball fan).

but if there were a need for me or anyone else to employ such a tactic again, i'm pretty confident that with si's 2009 swimsuit issue, we could turn a few disinterested heads toward the wta. the ladies know how to "represent": tatiana golovin, looking mighty
comfortable as the bombshell; daniela hantuchova, revealing even more (i would argue) with her lovely, vulnerable gaze; and maria kirilenko, starring as the most adorable, enviably athletic girl-next-door. these might be the best tennis pictorials in si's swimsuit issues to date.

but i personally favor a different kind of swimsuit shot: the portrait of natalie coughlin by the danish photographer marc hom. it marries the classic with a sleek, modern look. i love that it is basically a three color affair, with terrific geometric repetition of right angles and triangles.

has a gal in one-piece ever been more devastating?

********
the coughlin shot, which appeared in men's vogue in april 2008, inspired a little research on marc hom.

if you've admired these esquire covers of angelina jolie, sienna miller, keira knightley, and johnny depp (and the march 2009 clive owen shot that's on newsstands now), then you're a fan of his work. and if you're like me and blessed with a fashion-obsessed sister/friend and you've been perusing her issues of harper's bazaar, black book and british vogue, then you know his fashion photography pretty well too.

take a quick scan through the marc hom galleries on the trish south management site, and you'll see a lot of bare legs, bare feet, and cool (very cool) scandinavian blue highlights.

his book, "portraits" is a collection of some 260 shots from a 12-year period, featuring celebrities like lauren bacall (who also penned the foreword), anouk aimée , christopher walken, martin scorsese, liv and steven tyler and many more.

here are a few black and whites that i found especially appealing:

rachel ward and bryan brown

juliette binoche (and friend)

a very pretty pink


bjork (little bare feet)

a bit more on marc hom, via a 2006 copenhagen exclusive article, here.

interested in natalie coughlin's book (published in 2006 by the company i work for)? you friends o' mine can borrow my copy, or buy it here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

do you wanna hold me?



in the spirit of valentine's day, and for anyone that needs a pick-me-up any old time, i present ms. annabella lwin, and the fellas from bow wow wow.

bow wow wow was as blatant a marketing enterprise as any, but as a teenager, what did i care? annabella lwin was IT. she was a riot of color and cool. even though they were from england, they screamed california (where this jersey girl wanted to be).

"i want candy" is the hit, but "do you wanna hold me?" is the track i will never tire of. matthew ashman's guitar and her whoa whoa whoaaas kill me.

i used to read billboard magazine religiously and was vigilant about monitoring the mtv "maximum rotation" listings. i could pretty well predict when my favorite videos would be on, but i don't think this ever made the list--it was a real thrill to catch it.

it's practically new to me, seeing it now. what a goofy little statement on our consumption culture. i didn't remember all the food and the eating. and the random surfboard, rockets, and car "drive-bys."

back then i didn't recognize annabella as "carmen miranda."

i vaguely recall ashman in the reagan mask (love it).

my only true memory of the video had been the white background, and annabella dancing in the cowboy outfit, but it seems i've blatantly pilfered that little side-to-side head bob of hers (here at around 2:20).

i also wonder if my interest food images started here? that last shot reminds me of a favorite jan albers chocolate painting.

sorry for the quality of the video, but i wasn't lying when i said the video was a rarity back then. i'm happy enough to have this.

enjoy.

oh, and here is a link to their famously controversial see jungle! ep cover, an homage to manet's the luncheon on the grass (le déjeuner sur l'herbe).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

laps of luxury

the outdoor pool. myrtle beach, sc. feb 12, 2009.

i'm back on the road again, this time in myrtle beach for the bi-lo marathon. as with my recent trip to miami, i am happily surprised to find i've got a little bit of "down time" (if only for a few more hours). unlike miami, there isn't much here that i'm inclined to run out to explore.

but there is the pool.

this morning, i put my suit and cap on, and my oh-so-glamorous
tyr goggles, and spent an hour at the indoor pool (equal parts swimming and resting). i was alone. there was a giant tv begging to be turned on. but the sunlight was shimmering on the water and the silence was even more irresistible. the softly swishing water, and me. it was perfect.

my family (and friends who have known me a long time) would be rather amazed to find me swimming, because for a long time, i couldn't. i tried, but sank like a stone. it was so utterly unnatural to me to be in the water. for years, this was ok. but really, there are few things sadder than being on a beach or at a pool, and having to stay at the shallow end. nothing much fun happens in the shallow end.

last year, i decided it was time for a change. i enrolled in an adult swim class at a terrific facility on the upper east side,
asphalt green. it was a beginner class, meeting twice a week. our instructor was a petite hispanic girl -- perhaps only 20 years old--with a grace and ease in the water that i hoped (beyond hope?) would rub off on me.

i should say that my mom was delighted but probably a bit annoyed that i had enrolled in a swim class, since when i was in the second grade, she invested the time and money in lessons for my sister and me at a good club in upper saddle river, nj (the "nice"part of nj). and the classes didn't take with either of us. in fact, i failed spectacularly! (that's a story for another day, over a beer, by the pool.) in my defense, i was at an age where i was old enough to be scared AND rebel at the notion of learning...but as with most things, when the time is right...

and it was finally right for me last year.

it only took a class or two for my teacher to realize that i wasn't a true beginner. we spoke about very specific things (why does my ass sink? should i be holding my breath here or not?) and it was great to have her point out small details about form (how in the backstroke, you shouldn't be jack-knifing your arm through the water, but sort of rotating your shoulder and then scooping and pushing the water away from you...how with freestyle you must think of elongating your stroke, dragging your fingertips across the water). i loved all the drills that she made us do. before long, she was applauding my form and i was doing the "demos" for the class. but there was still one thing i couldn't quite manage. relaxing.

i'd win the little races we had in class.
but i would be spent after one lap.
dizzy, even.
then i'd look over to the open lanes and see old men and women, lapping, flipping over, lapping some more, maybe 20 times.
how did they do it?

basically my teacher told me that i was kicking far too furiously. i needed to slow down. she gave me a few tips to think about, and counting drills to practice.
by the time the semester ended, i still had not mastered that idea.

but today, alone in the pool, it all sort of came together.
i could hear her instruction.
long, smooth breaths.
long, extended strokes.
slow, easy flutter kicks.
and i swam longer, and with more real peace and pleasure, than i ever have before.

i can't wait for more tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

read a good poem: "coming home"

i imagine us seeing
everything from another place
the top
of one of the pale dunes

or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea...


believing in a thousand

fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,

making all the right turns

right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,

the swirling waves...

the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs

to you and me.

"coming home" by mary oliver, from dream work.
© the atlantic monthly press, 1986.
via the writer's almanac, feb 11, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

blossom dearie (1926-2009)


many years ago, i studied the piano. only classical stuff--chopin, rachmaninoff--and i was pretty good at it. but one of the things i disliked intensely was to be at a party at home, or anywhere there was a piano. someone would invariably beckon me start playing. and it would make me incredibly self-conscious and embarrassed. for me, nerves plus no sheet music equalled disaster. i'd miss a note or forget a section and have to start all over again, full of regret. but more to the point, i wondered who at this party really wanted to hear
me play the fantasie impromptu? or the prelude in c# minor?

i would have much preferred this scenario. to walk up to a piano, without anyone taking much notice, ease into a few simple jazz chords, that were familiar to the room, maybe start to sing a little bit, just above a whisper. then folks would start toe-tapping, head-bobbing, maybe smile and sing along. others would barely notice, but it just might make them linger over their drink and conversation a little bit longer. it wouldn't be so much entertainment, as a mood-enhancer.

when i hear blossom dearie's music, that's exactly what i envision.
not a show-stopper, just a gal, at the piano.
her voice is a bit thin and quiet, but so charming.
and her piano playing doesn't break boundaries--she just plays it nice and straight.
i could do far worse than to master "more than you know" in her style.

***
it was a handful of years ago when i first saw this cover of her 1957 studio album. i fell in love with her look, her groovy glasses--she was a bespectacled shelley winters! or, better yet, a character actor on an i love lucy episode.

i took a look at the track listing (a mix of familiar tunes--thou swell, i won't dance--and some that definitely intrigued me--lover man, tout doucemont, comment allez vous) but once i read that she was the pianist, i just had to give her a listen.

i've been devotee ever since.
she passed away over the weekend, so perhaps if you haven't heard much of her or her music, you will in the coming days.

here are a couple of favorites of mine. hope they make your day a bit lighter and brighter.

'deed i do
everything i've got
i won't dance
you for me

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hanging On The Telephone

was in an art meeting today (zzzz) and we were repeatedly trying to conference in our copywriter...and having no luck...kept having to hear the dial tone...
my boss finally says, "this reminds me of that blondie song..." and we both shrieked, "HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE!!"
so i have had it in mind all day.
this might be one of my all-time favorite tracks ("oooh i can't control myself"), along with "dreaming" ("when I met you in the restaurant, you could tell I was no debutante...")

debbie harry is so bad-ass and beautiful.
enjoy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

read a good poem: "of the terrible doubt of appearances"

maurice denis. taches de soleil sur la terrasse, 1890.
at musée d'orsay, paris.

Of the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all, that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after all,
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable
only,
May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men, hills,
shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night, colors, densities, forms, may-be
these are (as doubtless they are) only apparitions, and
the real something has yet to be known,
(How often they dart out of themselves as if to confound me
and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows,
aught of them,)
May-be seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they
indeed but seem) as from my present point of view, and
might prove (as of course they would) nought of what
they appear, or nought anyhow, from entirely changed
points of view;
To me these and the like of these are curiously answer'd by
my lovers, my dear friends,
When he whom I love travels with me or sits a long while
holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and
reason hold not, surround us and pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am
silent, I require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of
identity beyond the grave,
But I walk or sit indifferent, I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.
-walt whitman


i got my hands and eyes on this poem today, courtesy of the writer's almanac. i would guess that most people i know receive twa emails as well, and they are probably more diligent than me about reading them. i have this problem with subscriptions--paper and online. i sign up for everything under the sun, because i feel like there is just so much out there to learn and i don't want to miss anything. but then everything starts flowing in and overflowing everywhere, on the floor of my apartment or my 4 in-boxes, and i wind up only reading a few things, here and there.

i used to read the writer's almanac every day (a poem a day! what a great idea! how hard is it to commit to that?!) but like i said, too much in the in-box. so it's become a completely random exercise. the nice thing about the randomness is there are some days when it feels utterly like fate. days like today, when after not having read a poem in weeks, i click and there it is, something so moving, or so reflective of me or my mood, it just makes the rest of the day seem good and full.

hope you like this good poem (and the photo, which i took at the musee d'orsay last year).

and as they say on the twa, "be well, do good work, and keep in touch."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

the little prince

rafael nadal accepting the 2009 australian open trophy, as roger federer looks on.
photo by oliver weiken/european pressphoto agency, via nytimes.com


"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." --antoine de saint exupéry


when the australian open began two weeks ago, i never dreamed that rafael nadal would win the championship. well...i did dream about it. but to consider nadal's previous performances in australia, his tendency to start the tennis season a bit slowly,and the tendinitis that sidelined him for the latter part of the 2008 season, it seemed too much to believe that he'd be able to pull it off. this was even more true after his epic win on friday over verdasco, and with federer having a full day of extra rest on his side. how much can anyone, even a super fan like me, reasonably expect of a body?

but perhaps part of nadal's success (and part of what makes him so compelling) is he doesn't seem to burden himself with expectations beyond doing his best. regardless of who he is facing, he brings the same effort and attitude. he seems not to really dwell on what has passed (point to point, match to match, tournament to tournament). he just works, competes his hardest, in the moment. simple, no? but also rare.

writers and commentators, and fans cannot speak of nadal without speaking of his heart--he’s helped create some of the most dramatic moments in tennis, the physicality of his game is beyond what most of us can comprehend, and he has vanquished arguably one of the greatest players of all time, consistently, on some of tennis’ biggest stages.

but it also seems fair to say that nadal has consistently exhibited a capacity to see beyond an on-court outcome—he is humble to the point of being deferential, with a refreshing perspective on life and tennis (“
hobby work”). his game, attitude and heart are in no small part due to the guidance of his coach, and uncle, toni (see peter bodo's terrific post and feature article in the jan/feb issue of tennis magazine). credit nadal with being open enough to accept and embody that instruction.

yet i'm not sure anyone could have anticipated the profoundly magnanimous physical and spoken gestures he extended to very tearful federer, after today's match. christopher clarey, writing in the times shortly after the final, offers a terrific quote that reveals nadal's capacity to see beyond himself, and beyond any one victorious moment:

"...as Nadal began to grasp the degree of Federer’s emotional distress, he added a moment of reflection to his moment of triumph.
“Of course it can happen to all of us,” he said of Federer’s breakdown during the ceremony. “It was an emotional moment, and I think this also lifts up sport, to see a great champion like Federer expressing his emotions. It shows his human side. But in these moments, when you see a rival, who is also a comrade, feeling like this, you enjoy the victory a little bit less.”

i want to be careful not to ascribe heroic qualities to nadal, as it's been shown time and again that athletes and celebrities are utterly human.
but his performance today and his post-match remarks left me inspired.

i think we may have in this king of clay, this new wizard of oz, this number one tennis player, a little prince.