Friday, December 29, 2006

More Liberty Windows

What the heck....I'll post 'em all!

Liberty Department Store Window

Yes! I snuck off to London right before Christmas and got to see some really beautiful sights, including these Liberty display windows....awesome! I want to be a window dresser in my next life. Posted by Picasa

Home for the Holidays

Our house is feeling pretty cozy these days -- what with fires in the fireplace and christmas lights (see the little tree with big ficus nearby?) and just a general nesting instinct taking hold as the temperature drops. I wish my friends and family from afar could be here with us to enjoy an eggnog or two...we'd have to add some rooms of course, maybe take over the whole building, but that could be fun, right? A whole new take on the Paris Commune idea... Posted by Picasa

Another Blurry Traffic Photo (I can't help myself!)

I lied in my last post, there were more photos. There are always more photos. My partner Cedric, though, accuses me of taking too many blurry shots. Aside from the fact that I like blurry photos (they remind me of paintings), my argument is that in a few years we'll have the technology to adjust our eyes like computers and automatically put whatever we are looking at into focus, or manipulate it however we want. I realize that might sound a bit crazy, but I've always been somewhat of a visionary when it comes to technological advances (it is a little-known fact that I invented the fax machine, I just didn't get the patent in time).

Anyway, my point wasn't to flaunt my technological prowess here, but rather to say that one of the truly beautiful things about not owning a car anymore (other than the obvious fact that I don't have to FIND PARKING!!!) is that I can stand and look at traffic instead of being in it. This is a very liberating, zen-like experience, similar to taking Ecstasy and feeling compassion for your parents. Instead of being yet another road rage-aholic, hellbent on cutting off the person in front of me, I can simply watch the flow of traffic and enjoy the lights and colors without worrying about getting killed (at least, that is, until I try to cross the street). Posted by Picasa

Off the Couch!

....and to a strenuous yoga class, to make up for all that inactivity (people who know me know that I can only remain idle for so long before I start crawling out of my skin and becoming like one of those crazed monsters in old movies -- you know, the kind who rips the bars off the laboratory cage and runs into the village to wreak havoc among the frightened townspeople until he's hunted down and shot?).

The class was near Place de la Concorde, and this is what I saw when I came out: cars, lights, monuments, and -- yes, folks! -- a giant ferris wheel! I'd forgotten that the ferris wheel next to the Tuileries is put up twice a year, in summer and winter. A fellow yoga student wonderered out loud why they don't just leave the ferris wheel up all year round, instead of constantly putting it up and taking it down. My argument was that it would need repairs in between, or at least some old parts replaced. Who the heck knows? I can't say it's something I'll lose sleep over, especially seeing as how I will probably never go up on the thing, unless I have absolute proof that those repairs were carried out (trust issues). In any case, it was pretty to look at, which is why I'm posting it here, albeit in a rather blurry and dark photo. I was too cold to stay and take any more. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes from a Winter Sloth

It's December 27th, and like clockwork, the post-Christmas inertia/depression has set in, wiping out all other grand pre-Christmas plans and ideas and replacing them with a nice, thick, heavy, sleep-inducing dose of SLOTH (I can't even say that sentence out loud, can you?).

Here's what it looks like: me, in several layers of wool and polypropelene (or whatever the heck that material is), huddled in a blanket on the couch, with a cup of tea and a Daphne du Maurier book nearby. I move from the couch only to check my inbox (currently receiving bucketfuls of spam -- damn spammers, THEY never take a holiday, now, do they?), boil more water, and go to the bathroom. I'm too lazy even to take a photo. But I think you get the picture.

Winter Light in the Studio

Metro Deco

Who needs christmas ornaments when you have metro stations like this one? (Palais-Royale/Musee du Louvre) Posted by Picasa

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh (Tiny, Parched) Christmas Tree

This was our first christmas in our new apartment - yay! - which meant a chance to decorate more lavishly than in years past, when we really didn't have room for more than a small pine plant and maybe a couple of stockings hanging somewhere. Notice the tree in the photo is not huge -- our ficus dwarfs it, in fact - but it is still a bona fide christmas tree, worthy of little Santa lights (Ikea) and various origami and other ornaments that magically appeared while I was sorting through old boxes. Unfortunately, after three weeks without water, almost all the pine needles have fallen off the tree, making it look rather sad and Grinch-like. I know, I know, I should have put it into one of those little water thingamajigs, but when I mentioned such an item to the tree guy here he looked at me like I was crazy and shook his head, insisting that such a thing did not exist ("ca n'existe pas" - one of the favored expressions of merchants here and an argument for justifiable homicide if I've ever heard one). Of course I could have gone looking, to prove him wrong, but I didn't feel like wasting yet another day in Paris in search of some elusive "non-existent" item - hence the dried-out tree (it's sitting in a little log contraption, if you're interested, and yes, I did spray it with water occasionally).

(By the way, painting of apple in background is by yours truly, among the new work that I promise to post more of soon.) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Solstice Sunset

We were treated to some beautiful sunny days last week, just before the gray gloom struck again (I'm still wishing for snow, in my usual obstinate-optimist way. It almost never snows in Paris.)

Hope you are having a warm and peaceful holiday and/or hibernation, wherever you are. Only a few blogging days left until 2007! Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Open House/Open Studio

It's that time of year again -- approaching the winter solstice -- when one gets an almost primeval urge to light a fire and eat meaty, stewy, steamy substances (preferably while watching movies under a heavy blanket). It's also the time of year I like to throw a combination open house/open studio, which has become a sort of tradition for me since living in Paris . What can I say? Blame it on my Germanic heritage, but I'm a sucker for tables that are laden with rich buttery sweet things surrounded by candles and fresh holly branches. And hosting an open studios at the same time certainly does kick my sorry artist butt in gear to produce, for god's sake, so I'll have something to show for myself at this crucial end-of-the-year reckoning.

And, like every year, once it's come and gone, I'm so glad I did it, and I'm so glad it's over. Last week was slightly on the hellish side -- I was "en charette" as the architects call it (meaning, working nonstop on a deadline) -- and a couple of times I really did think I would lose my mind. Why are these crunch weeks always the same? Why do I always, without exception, become such a ramped-up (scary) version of me? There seems to be a pattern, which I am trying hard to understand, so I can perhaps harness some of this fierce neurotic energy and, at the very least, sell it off to a developing country or something.

Here are some of the key elements to my "one-week method" (patent pending) of preparing for an event like the one I hosted yesterday (can be applied to pretty much any deadline I've ever had, going back to days of writing papers in school). Feel free to take notes and/or print this out! I promise I won't sue you for illegal usage!

Days One and Two: It's very important to ease into the whole process, that is, not see the importance of getting anything done until about midweek, when there are only three or four days left to prepare and the to-do list is about a mile long. So today and tomorrow, just kick back, read that book you can't put down, stop answering the phone, and amble around the house aimlessly, telling yourself how incredibly busy you are, and what a crazy week this is becoming.

Day Three. It's especially crucial, just before really getting started, to have a major blow-out fight with your partner, say all kinds of incredibly dumb things that you don't mean, threaten to leave, make plans to run away to art school/the circus/Dublin/an ashram/a dairy farm in upstate New York (I usually have at least this many ideas; often many, many more), sleep on the couch, and cry your eyes out until there's no Kleenex left and you forget what you were mad about in the first place.

Day Four. Once the dust has settled from the fight, a sort of exhausted relief washes over you and you are READY to start working. (Actually at this point you are ready to do anything, out of sheer terror of the looming deadline, which is now only 2 or 3 days away.) So you begin, and the best way to begin is with a task that has absolutely nothing to do with what you need to do -- for instance, take my sudden compulsion to create a gift grab bag for guests in some old Christmas stockings...

Day Five. OK, the grab bag is done (whew! thank goodness that's out of the way!). Now you are working for real -- and what are you doing? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I think it's very important, for instance, if you are an artist, to take this opportunity to experiment with new media, or for that matter, a whole new style - why not? I've been painting almost nothing but portraits for the past three years, but I thought it would be really nifty if - with one day left to get ready -- I just sat down and knocked out some totally random abstract paintings "for fun." So I did. And you know what? People liked them. So there. Proof that the madness in my method works.

Day Six. This is the day before the deadline, technically the last day you should be working, so that tomorrow you can focus on the event itself. You are hopefully by this point in that special state of "flow" where your actions seem to be occurring of their own accord, and every thought feels strangely lucid and polished (although, also hopefully, you are not using controlled substances at this point, other than perhaps chocolate and tea). This is a good time to switch gears and write a song, or overhaul some area of your life, or do some other project that has been needing attention for a long while (in my case, I finally tacked photos up of friends and family on a bulletin board, after 6 months of procrastinating about it -- cf: October's blog about procrastination). This is also a good time to re-evaulate all past and present relationships, and remember every single slight (perceived or real) that you have ever suffered. But not in a victim-y sort of way -- just in a very calm, controlled, and nonjudgemental fashion, in keeping with the state of fluid grace you are in.

Later tonight, when you realize that the event is really and truly tomorrow, you will accelerate into an even higher speed and you will get more done in one hour than you have done all week, while talking to yourself in short, breathless phrases. (Usually at this point your partner is steering WAY clear of you, approaching you only to ask gently if you want some tea, or perhaps, since it's midnight, time to take a break for dinner? But at this point you are living on has become a meaningless waste of time. Would that I would feel that way more often!)

Day Seven. Time has run out and the event is only three hours away. Your to-do list is still half a mile-long but you suddenly don't care. The last few days have been exhilarating, in their own strange, secret way. You have given up trying to impress people, or show off; the work itself -- and here comes the cliche - has truly been its own reward. Time to get dressed! Look like a million (or at least twenty!) bucks! Make the mulled wine! And do what you've REALLY been dying to all week (the art was just a sideline)....set up that table with rich buttery sweet things....ahhhhhhhh. Success! Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stuff, Inc.

Seven heavy boxes arrived on my doorstep recently, more or less completing a process that has been going on for over 4 years -- namely, the dissolution of my life States-side, and the re-uniting of me and my oh-so-precious STUFF.

Let's talk about what's in some of these boxes. What have I felt so attached to that I was willing to box it up, haul it to a storage facility, pay over a thousand dollars in storage fees (of course there was other stuff then, too, most of which has since been thrown away), haul it back over to a friend's garage two years later, then go through it all and box it up AGAIN, to ship to France to the tune of another cool hundred or so?

Well, let's see. Today I unpacked a box of old files that for whatever reason I felt I couldn't throw away. Among them were

- student loan documents from the early 1980s (paid off in 1995)
- telephone and electric bills from 1997 to 2002
- bank and insurance pamphlets from 1999 (quite thick, too)
- several large half-empty notebooks (the half full being mostly doodles, with some half-hearted attempts at a personal budget)
- address books full of people I don't know anymore
- French and Spanish phone cards (some of these are in fact sort of interesting, but I'm not a collector)
- a police report from when our guitars and laptops were stolen in Valencia, Spain (I guess that has some historical value)
- old coins (pre-euro) and keys (why why WHY do we feel we need to keep metal objects even if they are no longer useful?)
- heavy three-ring binders carefully divided into sections which are tabbed and titled - but have no other contents except blank looseleaf paper
- CDs that were given to me, which I've never listened to, and which I will never listen to (I'm referring of course to the French single, "Miss Camping," by Boris)

I pride myself on being a fairly organized person. And I actually do go through my files once a year and weed out unnecessary items. But I guess even the most organized person can fall prey to the disease of clutter. Of course Francis Bacon wouldn't call it clutter, he'd call it art. But then, he's not around to argue, is he? Posted by Picasa

Two Birds in the Hand

Here is a close-up of "The Birds." Obviously I am not trained in nature or wildlife photography, hence the rather blurred and hard-to-read image (those birds were going fast). I don't know anything about these birds -- I am just assuming they are sparrows, but what kind? -- where they came from, why they're here, if this is a seasonal migration thing (are they on their way to Gibralter?), if this is a common occurrence (they obviously didn't see people as a threat), etc etc. I leave it to my online experts (i.e., you readers) to tell me. Me....I'm for the birds! Posted by Picasa

You Never Know..

...what you might see while walking around Paris. This was taken yesterday in front of Notre Dame, next to a tree full of sparrows. It was really quite a beautiful sight, all these Italian and German and American tourists snapping photos while their spouse or friend stood tree-like, waiting to be chosen as a bird perch. Not a single person wasn't smiling, or about to smile. Posted by Picasa

Art Sneak Preview!

Speaking of art, as some of you know, I've been doing mainly portraits for the last few years. But I do actually like painting lots of things other than people -- witness this handsome bok choy (let's call him Bach, shall we?). I've always loved to cook, and be around food in general; I guess it was just a matter of time before it would work its way into my painting. The only problem is that usually I want to eat the food items before I've gotten around to painting them. Or, they end up wilting and rotting because I waited too long. Talk about a deadline! But it's fun to paint something, like Bach here, and then throw it into a soup the next day. Now that's what I call making your art and eating it too! Posted by Picasa

It's the Little Things in Life...

...that make me happy. Like this shadow falling onto a canvas painted yellow. Happy for shadows, happy for sunshine. Who needs to go to museums -- or make art for that matter -- when there is such beautiful art being created all around us, every second? But of course, some of us feel the need to document, to describe, to freeze the moment in time, on canvas or paper or in a photograph (hence this one). Is it beauty we want to capture or merely the passage of time? Posted by Picasa