Monday, December 22, 2008

Willoughby Sharp, R.I.P.

Long live Willoughby Sharp.

To be filled with longing one cannot bear...

In Virginia Heffernan's recent New York Times Magazine article entitled "Pop Couture" she wrote: "A friend of mine won’t look at Garance Doré because he says it fills him with longing he can’t bear. I feel nearly the same way, though I don’t stay away; I’m pleasurably overwhelmed." Me too. But Ms. Heffernan's friend is on to something. Isn't this the lure of just about anything beautiful? Maybe this is how one recognizes beauty. When something strikes one's fancy, one is filled with longing one cannot bear. OK, so it's a little Proustian, but I follow that persuasion, too... It could be a face or a mannerism, a jewel or a pile of laundry, a painting, an object of design, any glimmering, glinting, sorrowful or exuberant something... Whatever it is, it's hard to describe in words, but one knows it when one sees it, as one is filled with that tell-tale longing. I love street fashion blogs because the beauty in question is that of people going about their lives, and some of them are in hot pursuit of beauty, in seething defiance of the great mediocrity, while others are just coincidentally, insanely, helplessly beautiful... I'm glad that Ms. Heffernan included Garance Doré. When Lisa called my attention to this one, I was so pleased to have an addition to my daily check in to The Sartorialist. Candace just sent me this link as well. Those Finnish love their Dr. Martens... Yes!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jerusalem Olive Oil Hanukkah Cake

Tonight begins the Hanukkah celebration. The olive oil in this cake symbolizes the sustenance of oil that brought light to the winter nights for the rededication of the temple in the Hanukkah story. I found this recipe through Lynne Rossetto Kasper, but it was written by Sara Perry. I have adapted it slightly, as I found the original recipe too sweet. Increase the sugar to 1 C if you have a serious sweet tooth. Pasolivo makes an incredible tangerine olive oil that adds even more citrus flavor to the cake with only a T or so substituted with the rest of the olive oil.

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 C fruity extra virgin olive oil
3/4 C milk
1 1/2 T orange zest
1/4 C sliced and toasted almonds
A little bit of orange marmalade and powdered sugar

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch round baking pan, line it with a round of parchment, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the first four ingredients and set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until they are thoroughly blended, then add the milk, olive, oil, and orange zest and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk to a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes. I always check the cake at 25 minutes, as the edges can brown very quickly at the end of cooking. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes or so, and then turn it out onto a serving dish. Brush some orange marmalade over the top and around the edges. Sprinkle the almonds on top, then sift a little bit of powdered sugar over the cake and serve.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting to "I Don't Care"

I had this idea last night that, in order to get anything done in any way that is really one's own, one must get to "I Don't Care". Not giving a damn is a requisite for making something that will truly reflect the will of the author, to adequately and accurately articulate an idea in one's own voice. As individuals in the social body, though, we are taught to care about others' perceptions of us and our actions. Our educations instill voices in our heads that can block us from acting upon what is in our hearts. It takes work to get all of those voices out of the room, for sure. But then there is another step, which is getting to the point of genuinely not giving a throw. If this is true, then it would help to explain why so many people work well under pressure: There is no time to care, no time to wonder from every perspective, time only to finely concentrate the mind on the task at hand.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Idle dreaming is often the essence of what we do...

Thomas Pynchon's essay entitled Nearer, My Couch, to Thee is a meditation on Sloth, one of the seven deadly sins. I link to it here with an observation about myself upon which I will refrain from commenting for the moment: I used to work harder. I used to fill every possible moment with work. Always reading books, writing letters, adding to or crossing out items from lists (and, of course, occupying myself with tasks outlined in said lists), making artworks, writing songs... So, maybe it's not that I worked harder, but I worked more. Always doing something of substance, or so I thought. Or so I thought. And now I wonder. Have I succumbed to sloth?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Writer's block...

I don't know. I seem to have lost steam with this blog thing. So quickly, too. Actually, I have five posts that are all in various states of completion. Can't seem to finish them. I seem to be over-thinking everything (read: avoiding completing anything). It's hard to complete posts when I know that I have another project that requires more immediate attention. Funny, though: In the past 24 hours, as I stew in the alternating states of exhilaration and anxiety that writing always brings to me, I have received two invitations to write yet more. They are both quite lovely and flattering invitations, which I will accept. Therefore, the feat is thus: Remain focused on the work for the first deadline. One invitation came in just minutes ago, and I all but went for it immediately. Instead, I turned in this direction to confess: I just love how I am all of a sudden jazzed to make holiday greetings for everyone I know, to write a proposal that could be written by one of my collaborators rather than me, to sew the curtains that have been lying around for three months, to watch a million episodes of Gossip Girl... Anything to postpone the inevitable. Anything in the name of procrastination. The art of procrastination is such a finely honed discipline. The thing is, I take such pleasure in its torture, so much so that I have convinced myself that it is essential to the process of writing and is, therefore and actually, writing itself.

Monday, December 8, 2008

George Brecht. R.I.P.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Catrin Lorch reports that George Brecht, an early member of the Fluxus movement, died Friday, December 5, in a nursing home in Cologne. Brecht was born George MacDiarmid in New York in 1926; in 1945, while stationed in the Black Forest, he gave himself the nom de guerre of George Brecht. From 1958–59, Brecht participated in John Cage’s seminar in experimental composition at the New School for Social Research; there, and in the years that followed, Brecht befriended many of the artists with whom he would collaborate in the future, articulating the precepts for the Events that would come to define much of the style of the Fluxus movement. In late 2005, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne organized a retrospective of Brecht’s work, and in 2006, the artist was awarded the Berliner Kunstpreis. Brecht lived in Cologne from 1972 until his death.