Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anger... Thoughts on Writing

I don't like to give in to negative feelings when I can help it. Anger, sadness, frustration... These are things that we're told aren't productive. But what about when they are? I'm not saying I need to be ready to break all my china in order to write a brilliant essay but sometimes the bad, unhealthy feelings are the ones that inspire my best work. The isolation and frustration of my current boredom lets me delve into the depth of what a character might be feeling instead of chugging along with a tedious surface-skimming plot. Some of that leftover tension lets me bang out the review I've been putting off for the past few days despite already finishing the book. Our base feelings are sometimes what we need to tap into to say what we're really feeling, unhindered by the layers of politeness, protocol, familiar tropes, and easy rhythms that guide us through life.

But when I finished all this, I went to check my grades once again (I've been checking for most of the second half of the month) and finally the last one (the one I've been waiting on) was posted. Needless to say I was disappointed or I wouldn't be mentioning it. The anger didn't really come. I'd expelled it already in my writing. But there was still something thrumming beneath the surface. I suppose I'm writing them away now in this blog post.

I'm suppose I'm suggesting that's what writing is for in part. Writing away the negativity. Sure indulging it is probably not healthy but at least in my case, writing builds up the tension until it simply fades away. Am I still upset at my grade? Yes. Do I feel upset? No.

I realize this isn't terribly insightful but as I've mentioned, I've been doing a lot of writing in the last few hours so please forgive this less than brilliant post.

Things I Am Currently Obsessed With

Image of Fan Coral Brooch
Georgia Varidakis "Fan Coral Brooch" $160 (available on georgiavaridakis.com)

Varro Pave Knife Earrings in Rhodium $60 (available on noirjewelry.com)

Ruby Red Garnet Natalie Portman Oscar Inspired tassel earrings $325 (available ElleBernard on etsy.com)

White Seed Pearl Tassel Earrings

White Seed Pearl Tassel Earrings $650 (available Bjewelledcz on etsy.com)

Beetle Earrings
Beetle Earrings $20 (available on ericaweiner.com)
SUPER UNDERWHELMING viewed in person. :(
Beetle Earrings
Beetle Earring $13.50 (ragtrader on etsy.com)

scarab beetle earrings
scarab beetle earrings $13 (accidentalcharm on etsy.com)

Silver Egyptian Scarab Earrings
Silver Egyptian Scarab Earrings $16 (ragtrader on etsy.com)

Vermeil Coral Branch Necklace
Vermeil Coral Branch Necklace $28 (StarfishAndTheSea on etsy.com)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Best Sketches

I feel like I'm always blathering on about the things I do and I don't actually share most of them with you. So, here's a preview of some of my artwork. These are the best of my recent sketches.

I finished this one towards the end of the semester. I had intended to just sketch something simple to paint over in watercolor the next day but then I got into shading and that plan went out the window. It's just something copied out of a magazine. It doesn't really look like the original photo, don't be too impressed, but I like it anyway.

The pictures that are lighter in color were copied straight from my sketchbook using my scanner. The darker colored pictures are photographs of my sketchbook. This image was also copied from a magazine. I think this one was an ad while the last one was part of a story. I spent a couple of hours sketching the man in the photo and maybe less than half an hour on the woman so there's a drop in quality. I may go back and adjust her features. Neither of them look too much like the original, but again I like it. I may have to get my eyes checked since my portraits never seem to capture the people I'm trying to draw.
This is one of my favorite sketches because I did it a couple of years ago at a time when I was a bit unsure as to whether I still had any talent for this sort of thing. I was just sitting in a Barnes&Noble and I saw this cute little boy in a stroller next to me and just quickly sketched him. Well, that's a lie. I saw his hat and thought it was adorable. And it still probably took me an hour or two which is why I only copy things from magazines or do still lifes.

Hope you enjoyed that. I'll update with more if I manage another few hours of productivity.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Commitment and Productivity

Hello blog,

I feel very unfocused lately. I have bursts of productivity. I will write a little bit of a story and then wander off to read the book I should be reviewing. I will stare at the copies of Jane Eyre, A Room of One's Own, and Mrs. Dalloway I have stacked on my printer and then instead draw a couple of clothing designs. This will inevitably turn me to mourning the fact that half of my old designs are lost somewhere in my apartment or house or were disposed of in the trash without my knowledge and I will find something to take my mind off of that. So where does that leave me? Writing another blog post I guess. But why? Well, because I feel like the world is set up for focused people.

Think about how much of being productive asks for your commitment. To read a book that I'm not obligated to read for a class, it has to really grab me from at least the first 50 to 100 pages. Otherwise, why should I bother? Yet some authors seem to write now with the idea that if I've picked up their book I'm somehow obligated to commit hours of my life to a slow slog through bland descriptions (desperately trying to be insightful and evocative) and inspired storytelling. No, thank you. Yet, if I've read that 50 to 100 pages am I allowed to give my opinion? Well, not without an automatic counterclaim that I haven't finished so my thoughts aren't as valid. Did I read that book? Well, I read some of it...I read enough of it.

So you sit down and do some writing. Is the story finished? Not by a long shot. There's still at least 5 more edits to get through. I might end up scrapping the whole thing. And no one reading really has anything to say until you've finished the damn thing. It's almost worse with essays because at least with stories you can end chapters on a cliffhanger. An essay can't be presented until you've done all the work. You may have laid out the foundations of an argument but until the whole thing is ready, you can't show it to anyone prepared to defend it. (Yes, I've got a blog post in the works that I might never get finished.)

But why is the world so structured around commiting your time to things? We've only got so much time on this earth and sometimes it seems like there are so many impulses pulling you in different directions but all demanding a substantial chunk of your time. With my designs it's easy. I put pen to paper and in a few seconds I've got a new sketch. And yet it's not fulfilling in the same way. And the actual product, the dress, would take another substantial chunk of time to sew. I don't know what I'm trying to say with this, just that I sometimes I wish I knew what to do and I wish something were pushing me to get things done.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sample Sales

I have never been to a good sample sale (up to this point).

Part 1: Merchandise
It's difficult enough as it is if you aren't a hanger or a mannequin to find something that looks good and fits in ready-to-wear at an affordable price in a regular store on a regular non-sample sale day. Ah, for the brief moment when I was a size 4, 106 pounds. Short of exercisingly furious and going on one of those ridiculous cleanses where you only drink your meals in the form of lemon juice and cayenne pepper, I'm still stuck looking for outfits that fit when I try them on and not (optimistically) in the few months it will take me to shed a few pounds. (Side note: I've always had a problem with the term "shedding a few pounds." It sounds reminiscent of a snake shedding its skin, making it seem like something that's quite natural to do...habitually...when in fact regularly gaining and losing a significant amount of weight is far from healthy...anyway...) The things you find at sample sales almost never fit right even if you are a sample size (I do happen to fit a 4-6, Small for the most part). It's not just that there's not a lot of choice (which there isn't) but that there often seems to be something wrong with what's on sale. Unusual bulge in the back of a jacket, an improperly sewn and thus puckering seam on the side of a silk or chiffon dress, something that looks good in the store but when taken home and washed once reveals itself to be terribly constructed and so fragile that for whatever reason it can never be worn again. Yay, sample sales.

Part 2: Location
For some unknown reason, unless the sale is happening in a store, it's happening up flights and flights of stairs in a dirty, unassuming, seemingly abandoned building that is barely marked and that you have to hunt for even when you're already standing on that block. That, or it's happening in an office building down a long corridor that smells stale, and like hopelessness. This location usually does not seem like it's been chosen because it's the best of all possible locations regardless of what Pangloss might say about the matter should we question him. No, it's usually terribly crowded, with no way of really arranging the merchandise without everyone still bumping into each other without space to maneuver. That brings us to...

Part 3: Fellow Shoppers
Now, I'm a New Yorker. I'm used to it here. But suddenly during sample sales all rules go out the window. Girls who might be the sweetest people you will ever meet outside of a sample sale are suddenly yelling and pushing, monopolizing time in front of the mirror when they aren't throwing things all over the place with complete disregard for the safety hazard or the people who then have to clean it up.

So what's my point? I guess this post is just an extended dejected sigh. And yet I keep going back. It's more than wanting to find a good bargain. There's something tantalizing about a sample sale. The promise of finding a truly special piece that everyone else isn't going to own...the chance of obtaining something that's within your means although under normal circumstances it wouldn't be. I suppose that's it. Sample sales have a little bit of magic about them, despite the lack of glamour that comes with the reality. They're like that liminal time or place in the fairytale when something out of the ordinary can happen, when you can bridge the gap between your world and one you aspire to, when you can steal some of the magic and use it to transform yourself... Perhaps I'm overthinking things. I tend to do that. Suffice it to say, once again I've returned home empty handed but not defeated. I'll be right back out there hunting through the racks soon enough.

Until next time... :)

Turner Classic Movies

Can you make yourself into the person you want to be? That is, can you actively choose the things you want to influence your creative and critical faculties or do you have no control over what ends up sticking with you? Is there a point at which you've already shaped the bulk of who you are when new stimuli won't signficantly change you? Wow, what a way to start a post about old movies, right?

I say this because I think my love of classic films started around the time I moved to a new house before high school and discovered the cable channel Turner Classic Movies. I began to collect films much in the way someone else might collect brooches or stamps, thus making myself into a classic film lover. But is it that easy? If you collect stamps, you're a stamp collector. But can you consciously decide to be a fan of something without a certain level of pretension...pretending you belong in the same category as film experts when you're still making your way through the movies that everyone regards as the ultimate classics?

Roman Holiday
I only just recently watched Roman Holiday and fell in love with it. I think part of that is due to the two screenwriters. It blends the edge of a serious drama with the lighthearted romance of the best romantic comedies. It's currently sitting on my bookshelf. But does just discovering something make you a fan in the same way that someone who has watched a movie 50 times is a fan?

This film broke my heart in spite of the happy ending. Sure, some parts were a bit rushed, but has the artfulness, the deft hands at work behind the scenes and the skilled players in front of the camera. There is so much art in what they don't say explicitly yet manage to convey nonetheless. This is a movie I would study to learn the craft of acting. Hell, I want to take a screengrab every other second and sketch and paint them all. It's so achingly gorgeous and poignantly dramatic without destroying the illusion and crossing into the improbable. At least for me. I also discovered this movie earlier this year and it's currently sitting on my bookshelf.

This movie was absolutely adorable. One of the best things I've watched on hulu. Yes, I also discovered this one earlier this year. There's something so relatable about Hepburn in this role, something here that's missing in her movies with Spencer Tracy. The specific circumstances aren't important, I connect with that look in her eyes. The look when you aren't merely trying to hold up your end of the conversation but are trying to be so effervescently charming that you'll captivate the object of your affections. That unguarded look, perhaps a little awkward, a restrained longing you can't help revealing when you think that he won't notice. That pained look when he finally approaches but it's not quite right and he doesn't say the things that he ought to in that crucial moment and the opportunity passes by yet again. Not to mention, the movie is absolutely gorgeous and she wears her clothes beautifully, with the enviable carelessness of someone who would act the same regardless of what she was wearing. Oh, and I adore the following quote.

“He’ll be up in a minute. Are you sure you want to get over him?”
“Because it seems so hopeless, is that it?”
“Don’t you know? Then let me tell you something. You’re twice as attractive as Julia ever thought of being. You’ve got twice the looks, twice the mind, and ten times the quality. You could charm a bird off a tree if you would. And why not? If you were in her way she’d ride you down like a rabbit.”

The Shop Around the Corner
Next is my favorite Christmas movie. I think I discovered this one earlier, perhaps four or five years ago. I've certainly watched it enough times since. I practically have the final scene memorized. I don't have much to say about this one since I've spent so much time thinking about it already. By the by, that's one of the reasons I'm resistant to overanalyzing things as an English major. You take the joy out of it if you pick it apart to discover all its secrets. I'm letting this film sit for a while until I start to forget some of the dialogue and it can regain it's magic and win me over again.

I couldn't have this list without Astaire and Rogers. They were probably my first favorite classic film couple and I eagerly awaited when TCM aired another of their films, even if I was too drowsy to truly enjoy them on first viewing at three o' clock in the morning.

I've been searching for another Garbo film to love (Queen Christina is just too outdated and over-the-top) but for me, the ultimate is Ninotchka. She is so charming and relatable in this movie, realistic and dramatic without carrying it too far.

Quality Street
I thought I would cap off the list with an adorable film that I never seem to see on anyone's favorite list. I saw this first many years ago but I didn't see the whole thing until earlier this year. It's so cute. Again, Hepburn is effortlessly charming and relatable whether poignantly dramatic or adorably flustered. It gives her a different means of displaying her comic skill instead of simply playing the eccentric heiress to Cary Grant's straight man.

So, does this collection make me a classic film buff or just a casual viewer? I don't know. They just make me happy. Regardless, if you haven't seen them, you should give these films a chance. I think you'll like them.

Say It Again... Thoughts on Writing

I am aware...in the moments when I am not being an English major or a literary snob...that from what I do on a regular basis I am already a writer and an editor. I am not yet comfortable enough with you, unknown reader of the interwebs, to share with you all the threads that connect my life, but suffice it to say I do a lot of writing and a fair amount of editing...though I am forced to hold off on taking on too much as it is far too time-consuming when you factor in the time I need to recover my faith in humanity as I trudge through the drivel that some people churn out. Obviously, I am exaggerating...and joking...for the most part. 

Yet there are moments when I know without a doubt that I am a writer. A few minutes ago, before I decided to turn the computer back on and type up this post I was reading through the June 2011 issue of Vogue that just came in the mail today. I had just finished an article by Gully Wells excerpted from her book The House in France (to be published June 21, 2011) and then an article by Julia Glass titled "On Beauty." What struck me most about these articles wasn't how well they were written or how I identified with them but how I didn't fear them. Some of their sentiments (thinking back on their younger selves) echo my own. Some of their words might have been words I might have written. But it didn't send me into a panic. It didn't strike me with existential doubt or worry that I would never be able to write as well as they could or how my writing might simple echo theirs...so what would be the point? Instead, as Susanna Rowson preaches in Charlotte Temple, in reading their articles I achieved for a moment what Rowson declares all young girls should hope to attain...contentment.

Perhaps in my writing I may say things that others have said before me. But so what? Writers have written what others have written before them without qualms and without fear. Well, exclude plagiarism from that, but you get my point. I may say the same things again, but I'll be saying them in my own voice. An authorial voice. With weight. That means something...even if it's just to me.

In the moments of clarity when I wonder whether I'll be able to pull off the double major and be both a woman of science and fulfill my instinct to write in a professional sense, when I wonder if my work will ever be published and widely read, let alone well-received when the majority of book sales are the purchase of the most popular novels...part of me doesn't really care. That is, I'm not sure if I'm leaving things up to fate and trusting that someday I'll be published or I realize that whether or not I am published will do nothing material in helping to validate my existence...but when I put everything else aside I'm just content to write and to know that I am a writer.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Things I Am Currently Obsessed With

I have just finished my spring semester (thank goodness) and as soon as they post my grades and I know that I've passed I'll be able to breathe easy and get on with enjoying summer until I resume school and volunteering again. Anyway, at the moment I'm sort of drifting about, trying to do some writing of short stories and articles and the like and failing miserably as my brain refuses to commit to anything after being subjected to essay after essay and exam after exam (literally, I had an 8:00 am exam followed by another exam). One of my main time wasting endeavors over the past few days has been haunting websites full of fashionable items that I cannot afford. Well, I could afford them if I didn't want to eat or have tuition for college but in the most practical, reasonable sense of the phrase, I can't afford them. So, I thought as my first post, I would share them with you so we can swoon over them together.

Twister Trench
nanette lepore "Twister Trench" $358.80

By the way, this trench coat is on sale. I don't know what world people live in where this is a sale. But then, I am a poor college student.

Dannijo "Capella" necklace $420

How gorgeous is this? Even if I had the money, I couldn't justify buying this because if I wore it it would like like I bought it at Forever21. I'm debating whether I can gather the materials to make a mock version for myself. Right now I'm thinking I need a snake chain, a lobster clasp, a button/brooch for the pearl, maybe some crystal fringe for the bottom...

Zara "Accordion Pleat Skirt" $79.90

I can't justify buying this when I know if I could find a pattern and my sewing machine and manage not to muck it up, I could make this for much cheaper. Still, I've been lusting after this sort of skirt ever since the fashion mags started touting the return of the long skirt and Americana! My styles! I'm an old soul and my inability to dress with the clean, old Hollywood flair of the 1930s-1950s (depending which actress and film you're thinking about) simply because I can't find one of these skirts for less than $40 is ridiculous. I'm hoping to either make one of the skirts or find one on sale before this trend passes me by.

YSL Beauty La Laque in "Turquoise Blue" $20

Finally, a splurge I can actually afford. I'm anxiously awaiting for this to come in the mail after reading about it on numerous fashion blogs and realizing it hadn't been released yet. It seems like such a fun summer color. I had intended to replace my OPI "I'm Not Really A Waitress" dark winter red with OPI "Do You Lilac It?" but the lilac purple seemed like such a tame, dull color to wear into my exams. Did I mention the first one was at 8:00 am? I'm lucky I only had one moment of exhausted delirium during the second one.

nanette lepore "Latin Lover Mini Dress" $348

I got this picture from the Saks Fifth Avenue website. I'm telling you that because you can see the model in this picture walking down a short runway in this dress. Do they do that with every outfit? If so, that's brilliant. It definitely increased my desire for the dress, though thankfully my budget held me back. That's a good thing since my critical, objective eye tells me it wouldn't look good on me even if it weren't a bad decision to buy clothes online without trying them on. Ah...but it looks so pretty. As I noted, I'm a throwback when it comes to fashion. I like the history, the drama, the romanticism. I stop short of dressing in costume but you know I would if I spent more time uptown where I imagine everyone dresses like they're strutting down a McQueen runway. I kid. I kid.

Are you drooling yet? My other current obsession is dreaming up ways of getting tickets to the American Ballet Theatre's performances of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty this season. I was raised on the Disney Renaissance so I'm a sucker for fairytales...and the costumes...and the music...and the dancing. I wish they wouldn't prohibit taking pictures. I have to make due with screengrabs of youtube videos for my sketches. Someone needs to tear me away from the computer so I can finish the book I need to review...or start reading Jane Eyre (just for me). I'll talk to you soon. :)