Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010


11:38 p.m.

It was a weekend of pie.

Gingerbread Apple Upside-down cake: Joseph Beeman

Pie Enjoyer: Kathryn Zack Crawford

Cheddar-Apple Pie: Jess Bannerman
Pumpkin pie: Kate Nelischer
Chocolate Amaretto Pots: Richard Pring

Cherry pie: Tom Loughlin

11:32 p.m.

Flower Market

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mastering the Art of Thanksgiving

I am so pleased to announce that the Thanksgiving zine is finished! Have a read through Mastering the Art of Thanksgiving. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Please pass the zine onto anyone. Post on Facebook, your blog or send it in an e-mail! The more the merrier.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wild Nothing 5:53 p.m.

Last night was the Wild Nothing show, and I’m still living in the stage-lit, crowded, dream pop incandescence of what I heard. Wild Nothing transports you, sparking just a hint of heartbreaking nostalgia for those who grew up in the 80s, causing unexplained bouts of eyes-closed, wide-smiled, arm-flailed dancing, and instilling in anyone who kept a diary during adolescence the terrorizing desire to find it, unlock it and keep writing.

Jack Tatum’s the dude in charge (he writes and plays all of the music on Gemini), but for tours, he has formed a band of more dudes, all with earth-shattering jaw lines and a sartorial look so cohesive it just can’t be planned. Hailing from Virginia and areas nearby, the well denimed band aren’t stereotypically nice southern boys; they’re just nice. And no-nonsense. Rarely speaking to the crowd except to smile and say thank you, Tatum’s is a presence that radiates because of his quiet stage demeanor. He just wants to play the next song. And the audience wants to hear it. Despite Cargo’s unmemorable-ness*, the band projects an inclusive coziness. It’s not weird, I promise. It is precisely Wild Nothing’s bashfulness and sneaky smiles that makes you like them more. But don’t get me wrong; they are not wallflowers, and they don’t hold back.
With high ticket prices and supporting acts that are a struggle to get through, live shows can be more pain than pleasure. Wild Nothing makes up for any bad show you’ve been to lately. The band are as tight as Tatum’s album but don’t play to those exacts. Instead, their live sound is an imaginative extension of Gemini; an artwork in its own right. “The Witching Hour” took the driving force from Gemini and accelerated. Despite the cold he claims he’s getting, Tatum jumped effortlessly between ranges, hitting a surprise landing an octave higher than the recorded chorus of “Live in Dreams.” “My Angel Lonely” was still angsty and achey, but last night it was filled with the band’s collective push, forcing you to do more than listen.

At the live show, Gemini transcends its place as a sleepy bedroom album; it is infused with both kinetic energy and the feeling that time has stopped. I have no idea how long Wild Nothing played. No one, though, was ready for them to go. Thankfully, they said another sweet "thank you," and played an encore: "I hope this isn't too obvious," said Tatum (his only semi-joke of the night), before breaking into a short but strategically placed "Bored Games."

On the first week of many that has changed to winter, Wild Nothing envelopes you with a longing for summer days, but leaves you happily wrapped up enough to make it home on a cold November night.

*In terms of ambience, Cargo is a run-of-the-mill venue. Situated in a nook of East London, it can afford to sell bad food, sell cans of beer at 4 pounds a pop and play music way, way too loud because of most of the excellent acts that play in the backroom. Cargo isn’t a memorable place. I struggle to find words to describe its interior. It lacks personality. But the seating near the bar and in the lounges is ample, comfortable and leathered. Even on nights as moody as yesterday, the back garden, despite its size, is cozied-up with yellowy-glowy lighting and couples snuggled close together on benches, sipping indecipherable cocktails, striking matches, sharing cigarettes, wearing cute fuzzy fingerless gloves.

3:35 p.m.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's never too early for a little Christmas pining.


Dollface, now exhibiting at the Museum of Childhood, is a study on the many ways of showing. The display of a dozen photographs of nine different dolls extends beyond the museum’s mostly unseen doll collection — portraits of the dolls, taken by Craig Deane, are the memories of childhood, the reflections of societal projection and the representatives of systemic ordering.

Of the 8000 dolls that are catalogued in the museum’s basement, Deane selected a handful to bring to life through large-scale portraiture. Looking out to the audience from metre-tall photographs, the dolls are now larger, living versions of themselves; breathtaking specimens of play and perception. By photographing the dolls from an upward angle, Deane seems to have captured the objects in real moments, suggesting that the role of child and toy, once hierarchical, is now an egalitarian one. Long separated from the children who played with them and now unearthed from the storage toy box, the little wax-faced and porcelain things become mysteriously fleshy and human-like, making innocent, surprised eye-contact that grazes the edge of sinister.

Concerned with how people represent themselves over time, the exhibition displays portraits of dolls that were made over 150 years. Though the photographs are not shown chronologically, the limited selection of portraits makes the historical transformation of Dollface obvious. Withdrawn, sad-eyed girls of the 1800s perk into all smiles and red lips by 1930.

The exhibition encourages comparisons and urges viewers to consider past and current relationships with life-like toys. An ebony-painted porcelain face called Cosmopolitan Doll, made in 1930, is the first portrait in the series. Paired next to an identically sized photo of a peach-colored doll, their features are strikingly similar. Despite the fact that they were made 20 years apart (one in Germany and the other in England), they have the same kewpie curled crown of molded hair and both, surprisingly, have brown eyes instead of blue. Encased within a round bubble of a face, they have the classic features of 20th Century babydolls and foreshadow the remarkably unchanged face of American Girl dolls. The only difference is that Cosmpolitan Doll is painted dark brown and the other is clearly Caucasian. Both have unnaturally womanly red lips. Though painted a similar shade of red to the white doll’s, Cosmopolitan’s mouth is unfaithful to her actual lip line, suggesting the impossibility, even on porcelain, of a cupid’s bow as flawless as the one on the lips of the pale-faced twin to the right.

Deane writes that “cataloguing and storing objects is just as fascinating as the objects themselves.” Each photograph is titled by the doll’s museum reference number and store location. By including the reference number with the portrait, Deane toys with the idea of the unaffected organization of emotional attachment. Besides year and place, very little information is attached each doll, and with titles such as “T.186-1931BGML05172,” it is only natural to start making categorizations based on the information at hand.

By building a time-conscious narrative from the museum collection, Dollface shows a portion of the V&A toy box numerically as well as a social history of self-perception and projection through play. Although there is much to show, the exhibition lacks transparency regarding Deane’s choice of dolls. With an inexplicably limited selection of portraits, the exhibition lends itself to more questions than answers. If all except two portraits are white, what does that say about the museum’s overall collection? What dolls remain as history’s playthings? What — or whom— are we playing with?

12:36 p.m.

Last night

T's homemade steak and Guinness pie with mash and veg

12:13 — Whines

A tormented feeling has gotten under my skin. It’s has been scratching to surface for some time, and I’ve been in denial, going about my day as amiably as I can because if there is one thing I’ve noticed, people here don’t actually complain that much. I like to think of myself as a good-natured, positive person, but compared to those I spend the most time with, it sounds like I have much to complain about. Or, perhaps, I find every small thing to whine about when there is one major complaint that I don’t have the energy to address.

Public transport is humiliating.

There. I said it. I already feel a little better.

Maybe the cold weather and dark days are getting to me, or the influx of cough-infested air on the Central line, or the seats that smell as if they have been marinated in urine for years on the Southeastern trains from London Bridge. It’s all of these events and more. I know it. I just haven’t wanted to mention it until now because what is there to do?

I realize that some things are easy to problem-solve. If your occupation allows you to travel at non-peak times, leave for where you need to be after 10 a.m. and come home nowhere around the hours of 4:30 and 6:30. Carry hand-sanitizer. Don’t make eye-contact with anyone. It is easy to do all of above, and if you follow these the unwritten rules of the TFL, you dance with the possibility of a more pleasant journey. There are, however, many obstacles, biding their time to spring humiliation and general humbuggedness on the otherwise content and comfortable passenger.

Like today, for example. Aware of the time after finishing up a day of research in Central London, I stopped into a Starbucks to kill an hour by studying up on the history of cream of mushroom soup and sipping a latte (not a great combo; I tried not to think about both simultaneously) in order to avoid the nightmarish rush hour at Holborn Station. I didn’t wait long enough. Being on the tube was like revisiting a high school prom. The window-fogged gymnasium where I bumped and grinded my way through the Thong Song and Baby Got Back wasn’t that far from the sweaty Northern Line carriage, where I was uncomfortably sandwiched between two men.

Though its guide is a bit tongue-and-check, the BBC has a 9-point list of rules that pertain to just physical contact on the tube: “You may find yourself getting more intimate with complete strangers than you may ever have done before. There is no other helpful advice here other than to just hope it will end soon, and not to complain - no one else does.”

Have you ever been in a series of situations so uncomfortable that even thinking about an exit strategy makes you squirm? That’s my commute home at rush hour. There really is nothing you can do. The handrails were out of reach, and without anywhere to brace myself, I relinquished my balance to the crotch of the man behind me, pulling a standard bump-and-grind move that would have gotten me kicked out of Junior Assembly dances. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and was relieved to feel that that my impromptu Underground dance partner wasn’t excited about the situation either.

Don’t get me wrong. Transport at rush hour is a great place to go if you happen miss contact with humans. At half-5, show up at a random station, swipe your Oyster and hop into the silent, non-moving dance club of the underground. Ride as long as you like. I, however, have been accused by most loved ones of being too unaffectionate. Anti-touchy-feelies beware: Tube touching will make you gag, just a lil’.

Public transport is also a place to avoid if you are planning on being pretty, clean or pretty clean. I get what I deserve for taking a shower when I knowingly need to be somewhere on a rainy day. But I’m a midwestern winter girl. The cold is no match for my corn-fed bones. My hair can take a little drizzle. Still, really London? Signal failures and faulty tracks due to excessive rain? That’s your excuse for why my first train was canceled and the next one was delayed by 30 minutes? An abhorable rationale for why I looked like a drowned rat when I showed up to class on Monday. And that was even with a dependable umbrella in tow. Beginning in October, the rain inexplicably comes down parallel to the pavement. Your fight to stay dry is in vain. Additionally, general city grime is no match for the acne-inducing air kryptonite of the tube — the layer of pore-clogging film as thick as a hot wet towel takes hold of your face and never, ever lets go.

I know what you’re thinking: Surely there are other ways of getting around London. Why don’t you cycle? What’s wrong with walking? What about the bus? Dear reader, allow me answer your questions.

At the moment, I have a bike here. It’s resting comfortably against the wall in my living room, eagerly awaiting the day I decide to buy a helmet and take it for a spin. It won’t be a commute-worthy spin, though. You see, me and bikes, we have a history. Well, I have a history with bikes — of crashing and burning. I am incapable of turning tight corners and the wind on my face is far too distracting. The thought of falling off a bike in the middle of Picadilly Circus is a far greater fear and reality than its Tube-equivalent. I’ll ride my bike, but it’ll happen in Dulwich Park.

Of all modes of transport, walking is by far my favorite. I could happily walk briskly for miles. When I get on a treadmill, I don’t run for exercise; I speedwalk. And the day I broke 13:30/mile I celebrated by speed-walking an extra mile. I love it. But you and I both know that it isn’t the most convenient or fastest way to get somewhere, especially in heels. Enough said.

The bus? The bus!? YOU MUST BE CRAZY. Nothing is worse that jumping onto a bus in the middle of a downpour and hearing the driver announce that the route is changing — we are now headed in the opposite direction. I don’t wish humiliation on anyone; but girlfriend, you should be ashamed if you are one of three people on the bus in a queue of five other buses on Camberwell Road. Of all modes of transport, the bus is the biggest waste of time, money and oxygen.

The hard truth of the matter is that, for the foreseeable future, transport in London today might be the best it will be. Or at least, the idea of improving is daunting due to the volume of people who commute and immigrate to the city on an hourly basis.

In a statement released earlier this week, British MP’s expressed concern that London’s already dismally expensive and overcrowded transport system would continue its downward spiral. Currently, train tickets are unreserved. A passenger who buys a ticket for the 09:11 train is not guaranteed a seat, and sometimes it’s impossible to even fit into a carriage. According to the BBC, in the past decade, rail passenger numbers have risen by 40 percent. Though the Department of Transport aims to improve rail travel by investing 9 billion pounds over the next five years, passengers can count on an increase in rail fares and still not enough seats.

Which brings me to a point more serious than whining about my hair getting wet and unintentional groping by random men. Transport is humiliating because as a passenger, you have no control. It’s hard not to think of barnyard animals being herded through gates when you are a member of the hundreds-strong pack that shuffles along the platform and into train carriages, stuffing them to capacity. Sometimes your control is lost to the point that if you were to stop moving, you would still be carried with the crowd. Tube transport is a true test of your confidence in finding your internal “happy place.” We all want to get to where we’re going, and for the most part, passengers are quiet and polite non-complainers. They have found ways to read newspapers in the tightest of spaces, somehow turning pages with just one hand.

Transport for London (TFL) has been “making improvements” for the 2012 Olympics for years. If current rush hour is any indication, TFL has a long way to go. In the meantime, I’m still not riding my bike. Definitely not taking the bus. I’ll continue to use the tube and trains because despite high school flashbacks, it is the quickest way to Point B.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The following is a draft from a series of 500-word essays I am writing for my Design Writing Criticism course. If you have any critical feedback, please comment below or e-mail me. I would love to hear your suggestions or edits:

I am a relentless book-buyer. The habit began in childhood, when after refusing to buy outfits from Gap Kids, my mom took me to Reading Reptile. Together, my brother and I wandered the bookshop, jaws agape, touching covers to our cheeks, catching starchy whiffs of thick paper stock, completely shocked that we were allowed to touch so many beautiful books.[i] We racked up a substantial but justifiable bill: “You will grow out of clothes,” my mother said. “But you won’t outgrow books.”

Number 13 was the first McSweeney’s book I bought.[ii] The intricate gold-embossing; the crisp smell of creamy paper; the muted complexities of a Chris Ware cartoon consumed me. In Number 13, I rediscovered a part of my childhood. Michael Beirut similarly writes: “It took me right back to the way the Sunday paper used to arrive on my childhood doorstep, and it conjured the same sense of excitement.” The issue was the complex embodiment of my twitterpated childhood, and future whispers of adulthood heart-slaughter that captured and united anyone who engaged in it.[iii]

McSweeney’s issues are quarterly evidence of an odd, nurturing community — one that understands the wonder of books not only as literary tomes but as beautiful objects that reveal more each time you look. By recruiting contributions of unwanted works to the first McSweeney’s Quarterly, the small publishing house named after a peculiar man from Dave Eggers’ childhood, has further developed its book-making family by aggregating a sub-community of McSweeney’s appreciators in tortoise-shell glasses, who ignore that print appears to be dying. Recently released, The Art of McSweeney’s, chooses to acknowledge this very sentiment: “We believe…that the attention paid to the book-as-object has a role in ensuring the survival of the words within that book’s covers,” writes Eggers, assuring the McSweeney’s cultish gaggle that the small wonder-that-could isn’t going anywhere.

The Art…is a covetable reference. At first glance, it’s no production feat,[iv] but the book is a clever, humorous conversation of how McSweeney’s came to fruition. It starts at the beginning, with Eggers’ first typed plea for submissions, gradually unraveling to tell its own irreverent fairytale as only McSweeney’s can, and that’s what makes the book special. Organized chronologically (every issue, plus projects in-between), the narration is made up of interviews and dialogues of every person involved with McSweeney’s in the form of one, effortless, enjoyable, more-ish conversation. New voices are introduced with every issue, coming and going as their names are called, bringing to life the thriving pack of book-as-object lovers.

There’s no such thing as a 20-year no-hitter; McSweeney’s isn’t all good stuff. In its effort to print and publish the wonderfully unwanted, editors have made the nerds a more exclusive, elitist group of well read hipsters, uninviting anyone else. But, it’s not necessarily a bad moment when McSweeney’s elevates a socks-and-sandals community to cool. Finally, at least, the pocket-protected writers and readers are on the same subscription list.

For a publishing company comprised of some of today’s great literary minds, it is refreshing to have an open-book that addresses the gated publishing world. Despite its coffee table presence, The Art… is not something to flick through. It reads, front-to-back like the best stories in any Quarterly Concern, enveloping you in language, story and construction; inviting you, for 265 pages plus poster, to be a part of the community.

[i] Reading Reptile, after all, was a children’s bookshop where I imagined that the books were made for me — that between Paul Mesner puppet shows and afternoon snacks, the shop would magically transform into my personal library.

[ii] I was in high school, and because Candide was a reading requirement, I chose the copy with the prettiest cover — a Chris Ware cover, commissioned by Penguin art director Paul Buckley.* At the time, I was also reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and wondering how I could conjure Eggers to help write my college application essays. The stars had aligned with the self-imposed fate of a nerdy, 17-year-old overachiever by the time I came across Number 13 in a bookshop.

[iii] Little did I know, but three years later, sweating inside a plane that was grounded for three hours, I would meet a person who worked for McSweeney’s, whom I would date and fall hopelessly in amorous infatuation with, only to have my heart shredded several weeks later. McSweeney’s would be happy to know that sparks didn’t fly because of a mutual adoration for the organization; fireworks cracked in true, hipster form — by way of music, porkpie hats, and rolled Nantucket-red trousers.

[iv] Within the book, however, there are countless references to experimental, sky’s-the-limit projects that define McSweeney’s: From the first color cover (“We had no clue how to manufacture something like this.”); to the lauded Number 13, edited by Chris Ware (I knew that the book would reach mailboxes of a thoughtful, literate readership and so it was my chance to stealthily make a good case for thoughtful, literate comics.”); to the design of Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends (“I came up with about 283 lame-ass design ideas. I showed them to Dave…He ripped a piece of paper out of a notebook…and took out his pen…I didn’t really understand it to be honest. But you would be crazy not to trust Dave’s design sense.”), The Art… maintains a clear voice because of the sheer amount and diversity of voices that comprise its community. The heavy-hitters are all present, and so are the interns…and the printers in Iceland.

* In my junior year of college, I e-mailed Paul Buckley to ask him about the Penguin graphic novelist series, and he wrote beautifully in his e-mail back to me about community: “I undertook the graphic novelist series with designer Helen Yentus. My publisher and editors knew which books they wanted to do and we'd just sit on the floor of my office surrounded by massive amounts of comics and pair-up great literature with great writers. It was a hell of a lot of fun.”

And process:

“If you are on the stove working out a recipe and its not quite right, you know. Your sense of taste, your sense of smell tells you so. In design, your eyes, your gut tells you the same thing. Like anything its about balance and harmony, and if you lack that you'll never be a good chef or a good designer. I also know its done because my editor stops torturing me, and the author says "fine, if it must look like this, I give up - but please know I'm not thrilled".

7:42 p.m.

Nothing exalts the arrival of a wintry day quite like stew.

(the tools)

T's lamb stew, topped with homemade croutons.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

4:59 p.m.

It is 4:30 in the afternoon, and dusk struck nearly an hour ago. Balancing a hot Styrofoam cup full of strong, black coffee in one hand, I walk slowly down Peckham Road, meandering with its curves until it’s time to turn down a silent street. The park to my left is too much of a temptation not to step into. I hop over the low metal fence and into a thick soup of leaves saturated with the hues of November. Last night’s constant rain has left them glimmering in this evening’s cold, rose-colored haze, but the water hasn’t logged their leathery bodies too much — their wrinkly, veiny skins envelope my tan lace-ups.

One hundred feet ahead, boys in t-shirts run up and down a soccer field, sweating and laughing with hot-red cheeks despite the chilled air that makes my fingertips tingle. I sip my coffee. For a few minutes I watch them play against a horizon of council houses and fast-moving clouds. One boy in a cherry-red tracksuit stands on the sidelines, kicking up his legs, clambering for the attention of his mates who ignore him. The faint sound of bells drifts from the left. An old woman walks slowly, wrapped in mauve, silk scarves and orthopedic shoes. She's accompanied by two, hobbling dogs. The three slowly wobble through the skeletal trees and back down to the road. It is time to finish my walk home when the Styrofoam coffee cup no longer warms my hands. By the time this is written 20 minutes later, a blanket of navy will overtake the light. I will make dinner in a dark flat, enjoying the novelty of days so short you hesitate to blink, and wondering when I won’t be fascinated by the leaves under my feet.

Gobble For Entries: Reminder!

Don't forget!

The Thanksgiving Gobble for Entries is still on. You've got plenty of time to send over photos, stories, recipes, menus, illustrations, and general thoughts/surprises about the holiday. Yeah, yeah...it's the weekend, but have a three-minute brainstorm. I know you'll think of something!

E-mail me with questions: sarahhandelman@gmail.com

Deadline: November 17, 2010