Thursday, June 26, 2008

James Brown - Good Foot

Another really awesome James Brown video. He totally has the groove. And I love how high his pants are.

back and forth

Sometimes your impressions are true. Sometimes when you meet a professor you realize he or she really is a genius and the smartest person in the room. But then there is everyone else. 

This summer I'm working for 5 Georgetown professors. And some of them are major heavyweights. One was once a special assistant to the Secretary of State. Another directs the Center for International Law and Politics. And another was a U.S. Army captain specializing in intelligence. Pretty cool. It's amazing being around these people and already I'm learning a lot. The guy who was the special assistant used to host three PBS shows. American Interests, World Beat and Great Decisions, and I've been doing some work on the episodes. I've already watched shows where he interviews Rumsfeld, Kissinger, and Brzezinski.  Amazing. 

I mention this to show that I am indeed impressed and have so much to learn. But, at the same time, many of them have most of their books written by people like. They need to be smart... but I don't think the genius gene is required. And that gives me hope. I'm so happy to be learning from these people and glad that instead of being completely discouraged by my incompetence, I have some hope.

But I also know too that if I really want to do this stuff I have to leave Chicago, and least for a good amount of time. That's never a scary thought for me... until I do it. It's a little sad here. I miss knowing where I am at all times and being close to my friends and family. And I realize I can make new friends. But it's not the same. I think this is all worth it. I know it is. I'm glad I'm here. But it's definitely not easy.

Not sure what the point of this blog was. Sometimes you need to ramble. Anyways... back to work.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Michael Sowa, whimsical and expectant

I really love the artist Michael Sowa (German, b. 1945). I first came in contact with his work in the film Amelie, one of my favorites. His work is all at the same time whimsical, melancholic, sweet, and expectant. It makes me feel like a child, but there is more there than in a typical children's illustration. His work makes you feel as if you were walking in on something secret and quiet. Take a look: 
"A Summer Night's Melancholy" 

"Girl with Bear" What are they saying I wonder?

"Bunny Dressing"

"Diving Pig" I wonder why that pig wants to get in the water so fast? Hm.

"Kanker Hund" You may remember this from Amelie

I think my next apartment will need some Sowa prints. And thanks to Caitlin for giving me Sowa's name many months ago. She loves him too (and probably first). 

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Sweet Summer Night on Hammer Hill

I've been loving this song. It's fun to bounce to. "A Sweet Summer Night on Hammer Hill" by Jens Lekman from his '05 album Oh You're So Silent Jens.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I finished the book The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath a few days ago and I'm really glad I did. 

I read a review of the book recently by a chick who gave it 2 of 5 stars because the story was depressing. She said it was bad because it had no happy ending. First of all... are you serious? Some of the best literature I've read lacks that sunshine happy ending. And I would argue that the end was positive. The bell jar was lifted. It may descend at any time but, for someone that struggles with mental illness, this is a happy ending. 

It interested me for a few reasons, beyond the quality of the prose. First, I felt like I could relate to Esther. This concerned me for obvious reasons. She went crazy. But in the beginning, the way she drew herself away from the world and felt separated. I think we all feel that way sometimes. We all have a little craziness in us. I felt this way much more a few years ago. My freshman and sophomore year were very difficult for me. I did draw away a lot. I understood Esther I think.

The book also served the purpose of making me very interested in Sylvia. I know the novel wasn't completely biographical, but I read it that way. Now I want to know so much more about her life. What is it about people who kill themselves that is 
so interesting? I've also always had a fascination with Virginia Wolf partially for this reason. 

Anyways, this has been a bit rambling. But I would recommend The Bell Jar. It's a good read.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Our friend Steve has always wanted us to watch the show Lost. We waited to start until we arrived in DC and started at episode 1. Well it's been three days and we are already in season 2. This show is amazing and complex. So much is happening at once and there are so many layers.

I can't stop watching because I have so many questions that need answers. And they always tease by moving you closer to that answer but, in doing so you have so many more questions. I love it.

I could talk about it for hours. Any takers?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


So we have been in DC for just two days. Our neighborhood is so beautiful. Glover Park is just north of Georgetown and is a neighborhood primarily composed of row houses. It's residential, but close to a lot, including a Whole Foods and the University. This area and Georgetown to me feels like a mix of Europe and the South. I really love it and can totally see living here someday (for more than three months).

Our apartment is small but nice. It has a lot of books... but mostly in Spanish (and also has Spanish Scrabble). They are all about languages, Mexico, and Philosophy. It's interesting coming into someone else's place and trying to figure out who they are.

I'm really glad we are here. It's beautiful and interesting and exciting. But I'm anxious about getting all the work I have to do done, and still get all I can out of the city.

P.S. Bad news. I have to miss the Scott McClellen's testimony to the House on Friday because I have a meeting. Bummer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

DC here we come... not quite

Boston flight cancelled. Sleeping in the airport. It's an adventure right? I did get to see Mayor Daley today though. That makes it all worth it right? Um... maybe not.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I am about to go hand in my last paper in my final year of college. Last night I had a fantastic dinner with my family to celebrate my graduation. I didn't think I would care about graduation, and I suppose I still care less then most. But this finality is very satisfying.

I'm off to hand in this paper and them I'm heading to the park to lay out and read. Because I can. Yay.
photo by Diane Arbus

Monday, June 9, 2008

Uncle Sam and Kanye

The two loves of my sister: Kanye West and The United States of America. A natural pairing I think.

Lonely, Lonely

I went to my friend Matt Thompson's senior recital yesterday. He is a Jazz Studies major at DePaul with a focus on Saxophone. The performance in total was really great. Of course, being a Feist fan I really loved his performance of "Lonely, Lonely." This is what he said about the song:

"From Feist's album Let it Die (2004), this song ignores the strict rhythm of most pop and jazz tunes and invests itself more completely into the melody. The result is an intimate atmosphere that reflects the subject of the lyrics. The ambiguity of instrumental improvisation has something to offer the piece."

Well, one things is for sure. Matt learned how to talk music at DePaul. I really loved the performance and I loved to hear how Matt included the sax. I'm including a video I found online of a rainy day put to the song. The two seem to fit so well. Simple and melancholic. But I wish I had a recording of Matt instead.

p.s. Does anyone know how to include a song from your computer's library to a blog? I found some html codes but can't figure out how to insert my own file.

Friday, June 6, 2008

James Brown - Night Train Dance

Priceless. If I could dance like him... I would be a good dancer.

2000 Ikea Catalog

In the past eight years a lot has changed. At about this time I was leaving Junior High and about to start High School. My source of income was babysitting and I still lived in my house on Perry Court. But I've managed to hang on to one thing from eight years ago. This ragged Ikea catalog. At that time I decided that I wanted to be an interior designer. While babysitting that summer I came across the family's 2000 Ikea catalog and for some reason I fell in love with it. I couldn't wait for Elaine to go to bed so I could spend my free hour or two flipping through the pages. Something about the style attracted me. It seemed grown up, practical, European, and very cool. And I loved the way they decorated the rooms pictured there.

Needless to say I acquired my own copy. I would go through each room of the house and choose exactly what I wanted, from kitchenware to flower pots. I had a number of notepads filled with my choices. It was very satisfying. I felt like I was set for life. I knew what I wanted.

Well I stopped wanting to be an interior designer and I've found new things that I liked. I've lost the notepads and Ikea no longer has the mystique it did when I first encountered it eight years ago. But I still have the catalog and it reminds me of all the feelings I had at that time in my life. I can remember how I would copy the pictures and try to make my room look the same. I spent a lot of time in there and it was like a haven. I even purchased an Ikea candle holder off of eBay... something I felt very grown up about. The bottom picture was my dream kitchen then. And maybe it still is. I'm glad I still have my 2000 Ikea catalog.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Last class with PC

This is Patrick Callahan. Today I had my last class with him. I took 'American Foreign Policy' with him during my junior and it put me on the path toward my career. The interactions of American foreign policy and the rest of the world was fascinating. Learning about the history of foreign policy through each president since Nixon showed me how the decisions of the past are still very much effecting us today and that there have been so many unintended results from those policies. Needless to say... I was hooked. I did an independent study with him in the spring and I just completed a course about the UN and world problems with him. He wrote my recommendation for graduate school.

I have to thank him for so much because without his teaching I may have had a very different path. So now is the time to sing his praises. He is always so funny and enjoyable in class. He facilitates great discussions that somehow always lead to insight. He's always able to bring the topic to a deeper theoretical level.

I always envisioned him as my secret advisor as I enter the IR field. He would be my brains when I had a question with no answer. And I can still contact him. But realistically this is the end of the road for us. I just wanted to introduce him as the person to whom I owe any professional success in the future. Thanks Callahan.

In my previous life I was definitely a soul singer

I think in my previous life I was a soul singer.

No I'm not a big black woman with a booming voice and palpable emotions of lost love, but I think I have the soul of one. About a year ago I saw a documentary about Stax Records, a soul label in the 50s and 60s (they also produced a lot the the black power funk stuff in the70s like 'Shaft'), and I was completely hooked. Otis Redding was a part of that group. His is a sad story to tell. Anyways, when I listen to this music I'm tempted to belt out the tunes, and I would if I had any voice at all. But I don't, and my bad voice is matched only by my desire to sing like they do. Hence, I was a soul singer in my past life

Take a look at these videos and I hope you'll see what I mean. Soul music is so simple but the emotions are so real. You can feel the heartbreak. First there is Otis Redding singing "I've Been Loving You..." I also included a clip of Aretha's "Think" from "The Blues Brothers" because its sassy and hilarious.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Brenda Diana Duff Frazier, 1938 Debutante of the Year, at home, 1966.

I can't work right now. I'm afraid that if I don't have a lot to do I'll be a lazy person. But I'm also afraid of always having so much to do. Work doesn't come natually to me. And I know it comes naturally to some.

I love this Diane Arbus photo - the title says it all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

from Song of Myself, Walt Whitman

1 I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air, Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same, I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance, Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten, I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, Nature without check with original energy.


I have been sick for over two weeks. The first week I couldn't breathe from congestion, the second week I had a fever and a cough, and now I've lost my voice and wake up with a worsening sore throat. This morning I couldn't keep lying to myself. I wasn't getting better and it was time to see a doctor.

The only problem - I'm uninsured.

It is a financial choice I've made and I'm willing to deal with the consequences. I went into the campus health clinic ready to pay for my treatment... whatever that may have been. I walked up to the counter and told the girl at the front desk that I didn't have an appointment but wanted to see a doctor and would like to know what my next step should be. Her first question was "are you part of the student health program?" I said no. She then asked, "Do you have insurance." I said no but that I still wanted to see a doctor. She looked at me confused, said she didn't know if I could get treatment without insurance. I told her I was willing to pay. She then said, "Its very expensive."

Yes I know treatment is expensive. So is health insurance. It was like she was asking me to leave. She called her supervisor over and I said I didn't have insurance but still wanted to see a doctor. She "that was fine" thanks. I asked how much a typical visit was. Now I know she couldn't give me an accurate response not knowing what I had or what treatment I would need, but all I wanted was a range for what a consultation might cost. She said she couldn't, in not a nice tone mind you, and left. I asked the girl again about making an appointment, and she told me I should probably look in to the DePaul health plan first. I asked for clarification about it, and she said she really didn't know anything about it. Well, thanks again.

Maybe I teared up as I left the office. I was sick, and decided to just pay for care, and they wouldn't help me. I really felt discriminated against. Its a business and I want to buy a service. Why can't they tell me what that service would cost? It's not unreasonable... any other business would have to do the same. Not everyone can go in without a care about cost because they have insurance.

I realize this was a small instance and so many people have to go through so much worse. But I also realized, even in those few minutes, that our health care system is so screwed up. I could tell instantly that if it was more consumer focused it would be of much better quality. I obviously am not an expert and could not tell you how to fix it. But experiencing something on a personal level really changes the gravity of the problem. When you feel personally discriminated against, the problem becomes real. I'm blessed to be in a place where I don't get discriminated against. And I know how lucky I am that I have enough money in the bank to pay for a doctors visit, even if I don't have insurance. I'm glad at least this experience has allowed me to see the problem with a different lens.

But I'm still sick. I was offended. And will wake up tomorrow feeling terrible. Again.

I'm going to the Walgreens walk-in clinic tomorrow. Hopefully they're more used to people like me.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mark Rothko - Orange and Yellow, 1956

I really love this painting. Modernist painting can be very difficult to understand, and I think my love for Rothko was a long progression. I always liked the colors from the images I had seen in art history books, but it has taken me time to really appreciate the work.

Have you ever seen the show "the Power of Art" on PBS? This really pretentious guy hosts the show and focuses on one artist each episode. It's wonderful because yes it brings in biographical and cultural contexts, but it also focuses on the straight art history and art theory. I learned from this show that I really don't like Andy Warhol. I always thought that I just didn't get the work. And it's true - I didn't. But gaining a deeper understanding didn't help me appreciate it. But, I did find after learning about Mark Rothko that there was much more going on than just color blocks.

That same summer I went to Washington DC for a quick trip and saw my first Rothko in person at the Smithsonian. When I watched the PBS show about his work he explained the emotional response the paintings evoke and the effectiveness not only in the choice of colors but also in the composition. This wasn't clear to me until I saw them in person. The bright color that shines out behind the blocks makes the whole painting seem to vibrate and emit light. And the scale is so important to the effectiveness of the image. It cannot be experienced fully in a book or online. I suppose no art can... but it seems true for Rothko more than others.

I took a Modernism and Postmodernism art history class this quarter and it's amazing how the theory can illuminate the work itself. I learned, through my class and through my own experience, that modernist art, though focuses on the emotional response, cannot be fully understood without an understating of the theory. Rothko's work is not about representation. It's about the medium and about what paint can do. Its about flatness, color, and the emotional response. The modernists felt that emotion was important, and that represented images can evoke emotions. But its guided and the audience feels the emotions the artists wants them to feel. If you remove the representation, then the emotion is pure. It is real. This Rothko painting seems hopeful and happy not because there is a sunrise or a summer day, but because the medium can evoke that feeling all on its own.

I wasn't planning on going on an art theory rant... but I think the way this helps one view modern works is amazing. I always liked Rothko, but after the way I've engaged with his work through learning about it and experiencing it in person, I know why I like the paintings. Knowing why, at least for me, makes me appreciate the art even more.