Monday, November 15, 2010

warning: self-indulgence ahead

i know what you're thinking. you're like,"okay so there's this long stretch of posts about shopping and music videos and kitties, and now she's all like DEATH AND DYING morbid." it does seem a little bipolar, i know. but since i have an audience of two (including myself), i'm not that concerned about being consistent. one day kittens, the next major life experience. yeah. so when i was in alabama i was on my way to my friend elizabeth's when i thought i should visit all the stewarts who reside at highland cemetery. (is that even what it's called, m.d.?) there's a whole slew of stewarts waiting for me there, all of whose tombstones were photographed because i am my (genealogist) grandaddy's grandaughter. most important though is this guy:

like i said in the previous post, it had been awhile since i had been to anniston, and while i definitely don't believe that everything that's left of my dad is interred here, i always feel a sort of camaraderie when i visit his grave, almost like he'd get a real kick out of it. and at first i thought it seemed a bit wrong to photograph his tombstone, probably in much the same way that my mother second guessed herself when she considered photographing me in the evening light at my father's hospital bed on the ninth floor of rmc. but knowing that she regrets not taking that photograph made me pull out the camera (or the iphone, as it were), because i needed to document the both of us, together, the long shadows of my legs as they fell across the granite. i needed proof that we were together, if only in light and shade. i'm here, i'm here, and i know you'll never leave me.

i've said it before, and i'll say it again. my life is lived in two parts, every day before april 21, 1999, and every day after. what would i trade to see him pull on a fringed suede jacket and mock adam duritz just to get under my skin? what would i give to have him make me listen to in-a-gadda-da-vida on repeat ('just listen, jessica, just LISTEN'), to have him regale me with stories of playing with b.b. king and nearly burning down the house? what would i trade for another handcrafted wooden animal complete with its own correspondence, for another letter claiming he hadn't written this much in years? the answer is always the same, anything at all. take it all.

inherited no. 8

in early october i made the trek down to alabama for a quick weekend. i'm not sure how many years had passed since i had stepped foot in anniston. i went mainly to see the m.d. and her own m.d., my grandma, who is 85 and the most humble person i've ever met, seriously. louise walker spent most of her childhood in a catholic orphanage in birmingham, and on june 20, 1947, when she was 22, she married my grandpa, leonard harkins. my grandpa was already sick with parkinson's when i was born, so i remember my grandma spending most of her time caring for him. she's been on her own for twenty years now and has been pretty independent until the last couple of years. now she lives with my aunt and uncle, and she spends her days praying, playing solitaire, doing puzzles, eating sweets, and napping. there is a photograph of my grandpa in his military uniform hanging in her room, and the first day i visited her on this trip she looked at the picture and said to my mother and me that he was a good man. such a simple statement, so true, but it was clear that what she was really saying was that she missed him. i can't imagine what it must be like to have lived twenty years without the person you loved most in all the world.

this is a rather roundabout way of getting to the inherited part of this post. as we sat in her room and my heart twisted in my chest at seeing her so different from when i'd last visited, she suddenly remembered that she wanted to give me something. (in all fairness, i had a hint this was coming.) she told me to go over to the statuette of the "blessed mother" on her dresser, and perched on top, like a halo, was her wedding ring.
i don't know why she chose me, it could be as simple as the fact that i'm the oldest unmarried grandaughter. (go me!) it's a simple ring in thin white gold, with almost sharp edges around the circumference. it's the sort of ring you wouldn't even notice, which is exactly how my grandma has lived her life, never trying to call attention to herself, but it now ranks among my most treasured possessions. too small for my own fingers, i strung it together with my mother's wedding ring. my mother's thick gold band hangs heavy next to the delicate, thin ring that bound my grandparents together for 43 years. wearing them together i constantly find my fingers twisting around them, trying to hold on to, to feel between my fingers, the love and hardship and commitment that kept them on my grandma and my mother's fingers for so many years. to have them, though, is bittersweet, because that i have them, that they aren't still on their original owners' fingers, is evidence of a loss beyond my comprehension.
that's the tricky thing about inheritances -- they almost always stand for someone's loss. thank you, grandma, for continuing to use a prayer book that's in pieces, for playing solitaire with cards whose edges are worn down in the center from years of shuffling, for reminding me of what matters.

Friday, October 29, 2010


thanks to roland barthes for this one:

my body knows the joy of drawing on and rhythmically incising a virgin surface, its virginity representing the infinitely possible.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

kitties! ikea!

okay, so i'm a little obsessed with this commercial. ikea released 100 cats into their store one night, and this is what happened:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


this has been making the rounds on the internets. love it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

london's aftermath

there's still a bit more i would like to say about london, but for now, i leave you with a photo of the aftermath of the trip: the transcription of over 150 pages of notes. luckily i am accompanied by coffee and the new arcade fire album. (thanks, jen.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

and a sunday?

sunday didn't turn out quite like i expected. i had high, high hopes of visiting the rob ryan shop but was completely and utterly thwarted by the transportation system. okay, realistically, i could have taken a bus i think, but as soon as the tube employee said "bus" i shut down. there is only one place i take buses, and that is rome. feeling a little dejected, i altered my route to visit the natural history museum, which i've been really excited about, despite being 28 years old and not exactly in their intended demographic. dinosaurs? YES. stuffed (real) animals. YES. specimens in formaldehyde. YES. life-size models of whales? YES. petrified trees? YES. strange creatures i never knew existed? YES. i was pumped. and so were the five million small children surrounding me. that number may not be exaggerated. so downsides of the natural history museum: extremely wild children with no idea how to behave combined with lack of air conditioning. upside of the natural history museum, besides the specimens: hearing small children talk about what they were seeing, especially the ones with british accents. 'that's a quite large fox, isn't it, daddy? i saw a fox once whilst i was dreaming.' newsflash: small british children say 'whilst.' TO DIE FOR. but for serious, the museum was stunning, i just wish mommerdoodle was there to see it, since she's responsible for my love of natural history museums. (please forgive the poor quality images, most specimens were behind glass.)

slinking tiger

check out those antlers (note human to antler ratio). these were grown and shed every year.
how do you even hold up your head with that much antler?

this, apparently, is a type of possum.

i don't know what this is, but i liked his facial expression.
maybe a wolverine?

it's sort of like a hedgehog...

this is a vampire bat from the flying mammals case, which also included:

i don't know what the hell this is, but it was freaky.

it's a mole! cute and unsettling all at the same time!

this is some sort of fairy armadillo or something.


well, hello, mr. seal.

god, i love warthogs. and as you may have noticed, i was really into the
charming and bizarre facial expressions the animals ended up with.

speaking of, how great is this activity area?

can you spot the narwhal?

everything was going well until...

this was fascinating and sad. it was a massive case of hummingbirds all mounted as if in the wild, hundreds in one case. as the label next to it said, this would be considered unethical now. the case dates from ca. 1819.

and this is a MONDO slice of a sequoia that was felled in 1892.
look at the diameter of that thing!

once you get to the top, where the sequoia is, this is the view. not too shabby indeed.

unfortunately this is as close to a hedgehog i've come here in the hedgie homeland. and this one was behind glass, behind glass, in some lab.

natural history museums are in some ways a thing of the past, the collection of their specimens no longer an accepted practice. it was interesting to note the fading and signs of wear on many of the specimens in this museum, which labels noted was due to their having been collected in the 19th and early 20th centuries. the museum still hosts an active research institute, but the research takes place according to 21st-century ethical standards. they're tricky places, these natural history museums, but my childhood was built around one so i'm partial to their efforts. and i really like seeing animals i didn't know existed.

there was a saturday a few days ago?

st. paul's from the tate modern

wow, things have been a little crazy here. that really means i've been driving myself a little crazy. this past weekend was my last in london, so i wanted to fit in a gazillion things, literally. saturday was a shopping and museum day ALL DAY LONG. started out walking down the portobello road market and into little shops here in there, including couverture, which was super, super cute. ventured into all saints spitalfields, where essentially all of the clothing is black, gray, and white. a little slice of heaven for me, and to top it off their expansive storefront was absolutely teeming with vintage sewing machines. there must have been hundreds:

i also trekked out to the lisa stickley shop and hit up both heals and habitat. and then, then there was paperchase, a whole three floors devoted to paper products. believe it or not all of this took nearly all day and A LOT of walking. i finished the day with a return visit to the tate modern, which is open til 10 on saturdays. some (okay, many) favorite sights:

it's hard to explain, but i LOVE robert morris's felt sculptures.

glenn ligon's neon america.

the warhol room, from ceiling to floor.

oh, joseph beuys, you're so delightfully bizarre sometimes.

fifty years of russian propaganda posters.

i always have a soft spot for barnett newman. here are adam & eve.

mmm, pollock's summertime.

this clyfford still blew me away. the blue was neon and celestial all at once.

and finally, cy tombly. electric red-orange dripping down the canvas.

after a coffee at the tate cafe, i made my way back to the southwark station and waited for my train, alone.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

please, no comments.

proof that england loves their rpatz a lot more than kstew:

(just ignore how rpatz's face gets a little warped on the poster container.)

another shopping post...sort of.

it probably seems a bit odd to do two posts back to back, but i haven't been writing in any journal on this trip, mostly because i'm not sure i'll ever be able to write without pain after so much note-taking. i would, therefore, like to write it all down when i have the chance. and that chance is now.

today was my first day at the british museum print room, and it was markedly less pleasant than windsor. i got to see some ridiculous drawings, but i was made to feel a little guilty or like they were doing me some amazing favor all the while. eh. it's true, i'm not a fancy curator or professor, but my interest is just as valid, and i love these drawings fiercely. what can you do? it can't all be peachy. while at the british museum, though, i finally got a chance to see the exhibition that got this whole trip started:

there it is, the british museum, home to the parthenon marbles, mummies galore, and many, many italian renaissance drawings. (i deleted a bit i wrote about stolen antiquities.)

oh, and there's verrocchio again, all huge on the front of a museum!!! egad!

well, my excitement at seeing verrocchio plastered on the front of the british museum only lasted so long. because then i found myself in one of the many museum shops, and i realized that i was going to be seeing a lot, A LOT of verrocchio today. note cube? check. coffee mug? check. tote bag? check. tea towel? check. pencil puzzle thingies? check. tshirts? check.

now, you may be thinking, hey, that's great that verrocchio made it on a tshirt. i sort of felt that way myself until...

upon closer inspection i realized this wasn't just a tshirt with one of verrocchio's most amazing drawings on it. no, they, whoever they is, felt the need to add SILVER METALLIC INK TO THE HAIR. (click for detail.) because, apparently, the drawing wasn't enough on its own, it needed SILVER METALLIC INK. and then there's this:

now when i first saw this, i thought, "hmm, i wonder why there's all this weird chicken stuff???" oh, wait, it's because they took the renaissance drawing you see on the plaque and MADE IT RED AND PUT IT ON EVERYTHING IMAGINABLE.

i wasn't kidding.

i know i'm being a poor sport about all of this, i should be totally pumped that this exhibition has done so well. and i am, i was beyond pleased to see people spending time in front of the drawings and not rushing through the exhibition. (despite the fact that i desperately wanted to tell one couple to take it outside, geez, if you can't make it through a drawings exhibition without constantly pawing at one another...) but it really bothers me when images are fundamentally altered to make them more "accessible" or, let's be honest, more "buyable." i, and many others, love verrocchio for verrocchio, and we really don't need silver ink to be slapped onto the image. and to think i was so excited to see verrocchio in the underground -- i had no idea the level of merchandising that awaited me. tomorrow, back to windsor

a quick p.s. for jen:

you know how i feel about cheetahs wearing fancy collars and leashes....