Monday, August 31, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.





Do not speak - unless it improves
the silence.*

~ Buddhist saying





*Translation = why I hate the phone.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Raw, idiom, 14b: Informal. in the nude; naked: sunbathing in the raw.


Burning Man runs through Labor Day in the Nevada desert. The City's emptying out for it, per usual, following the big Outside Lands music festival over the weekend.

I'm jealous; every year I tell myself I'll go the next, and it's been six now, and I still haven't. That's pathetic. Soon. The desert arts festival aspires to celebrate the best of much that I love: art and nature and fresh air and simplicity and non-commodified reality. "Aspires" being the key word, of course; $300 tickets and mushrooming plans make the desert experience less base than it was a few years ago, but the intentions ring clear, and I can't help but respect that.

Mark Morford's column from last Friday sings out a characteristically adjective-filled manic run-on paean to the festival. Read it. Black out your calendar for next year so that you can go, too. Or hop on a friend's RV and make it happen in these next few days, if you're so inclined.

The Life Lessons of Burning Man (SFGate)

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.


The heat broke. Last night I stepped out of a cab 'round midnight and Nob Hill was all swirling mist. Today's grey and cool. I'm glad. My sunburn from yesterday's Farmers' Market/Alcatraz adventures is still seething.

Mindshift, worldshift, to New Hampshire in two short days, and weddings, and wineries, and more old friends, easy friends, easy-to-laugh, easy-to-reconvene in spite of living 3000 miles away in opposite urban enclaves. Packing for New England will feel strange after so many of days of California sun and playing tourist. I'm looking forward to the contrast.

Took more photos in the last several days than I have in some time. Scanning them, I'm struck by the consistency of blue throughout. Blue skies over Alcatraz. Sailboats dotting that damned impossibly-blue bay. The sky looking east from Telegraph Hill. That twilight blue as the sun set over Ocean Beach.

Blue skies/shining on me
Nothing but blue skies/do I see

Irving Berlin's song comes to mind, and I hate it for its simplistic empty lyrics, but I love it for the way it's managed to lodge itself in my mind for the last, oh, 17 years or so. Good shit, that old swinging tune.

Nonetheless, today, I'm glad for the grey.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.



Cliff House at sunset last night. Ocean Beach, sauvignon-blanc tinted. How's that for a nightcap?



Picnic! Crazy kids swimming in freeeeezing water. A few surfers. Killer sunset. And tired bodies.



Diego Rivera's all over the place inside Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. I turned the corner and went "ahh - " in recognition; there were his trademark cala lilies. Great WPA art up there.



Sunshine in the shadow of the Bow & Arrow. Uncharacteristically warm, perfect for a long walking-tour day.



Purple flowers plucked from the traipse down the Filbert Steps. Secret garden in the City - one of my favorite hidden treasures. (Ohh, that's what apron pockets are for!)



Catching twilight swimmers at Aquatic Park. Where are your wetsuits, M & M?



Bring on the sushi.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions




I can barely conceive of a type of beauty
in which there is no Melancholy.


~ Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867),
"My Heart Laid Bare," X (1887)

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.


One of my best girls, Claud, leaves bright and early tomorrow morning on a one-way flight to a fabulous new life in NYC, and so, naturally, the recent days have meant nonstop bon voyage action. Following last week's going-away soiree, we celebrated with a good crowd last night over champagne and several cakes. Another decent excuse for a weekend baking extravaganza at Chez Rach.

To left you'll see a Chocolate Raspberry Fudge creation, a close cousin of the Red Velvet Truffle Fudge cake you've seen in these parts before. I hit up the corner liquor tienda for that perfectly-sized tiny bottle of Chambord and baked this puppy Saturday morning. He held up well overnight, and I frosted him with a quick chocolate raspberry icing, using up the last bit of Chambord to complement the chocolate. Tossed a few fresh raspberries on top, and added some cuttings of dendrobium orchid that we had in a pretty bouquet from Molly. Pleasant, no? I love the fresh vibrant blue of those tiny orchids.

Sunday was consumed with making some delicious gluten-free cakes that obscured the fact that they were made of unusual flours not containing wheat. A challenge, for sure. I picked up a few basic gluten-free flour combinations at Whole Foods - they've got some great options, if you're interested in that whole realm - and sat down to figure out how to liven them up a bit. I came up with these two recipes:

1) Apple Spice cake, using a basic spice cake recipe, but adding vanilla yogurt, vanilla pudding, raisins, walnuts, and an organic Fuji apple. I also tossed in a little more allspice and ginger, which made a difference. Frosted it with a quick butter cream and added toasted walnuts, chopped. Finished it with clippings from Molly's bouquet, this time white hydrangea and an unknown orange thistle. It was cute; felt autumnal. And most importantly - moist, which can be a challenge when you're baking with gluten-free flours. (Baked in the heart mold)

2) Banana Coconut Cream, using a Pamela's Vanilla Cake (gluten-free) base, but adding banana cream pudding, banana vanilla Wallaby yogurt, and fresh shaved coconut. I was out of coconut extract and coconut milk, otherwise surely would've thrown those in, as well. The cake baked well, if a little humbly; I frosted it with a butter cream frosting and sprinkled shaved coconut on top, finishing it off with a few cuts of the lavender and pink gladioli dying on the coffee table. (Baked in the classic pan)

I held my breath and prayed to Allah as I shifted each cooled cake onto the cake tower, fearing disaster. Luckily, both fit comfortably, and after a white-knuckled cab ride clutching the tower to my chest and begging that we wouldn't hit some grandpa in Chinatown and end up with cake all over my face, the bundts and I arrived intact.

It's lovely to have an excuse to bake for people you care about; not so lovely when that excuse involves a cross-country move. Yesterday's baking was a welcome embodied distraction from the void to come. Bon voyage, mi hermana.

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated


[very serious]
[very literary]

~ hoodie love song ~

oh hoodie
(where have you been all my life?)
i came late to you
and now
dear zippy
dear "bunnyhug"
(as they say in Saskatchewan, apparently)
sweet default

what would i do without you?

long day
longer night
tucking into your sattvic periwinkle
zip the world away
back into that hood and never come out
perfect for simultaneous cloche action
san francisco summer fog
being left alone
ahhh

blessed hoodie
you look chill
too chill
but i dig you anyway
especially on the bus
or buying ice cream at the corner store
and want to wear you 24-7
even in the bathtub
or to sleep

you got covered with whipped cream
at rye last night
you didn't care
(i love a low-maintenance ken!)
you still smell like weird processed dairy product
i don't care
i'll wear you still

hoodies for everyone

their restorative power shall not go unheralded

Friday, August 21, 2009

Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair; a raw deal.


Interesting article in the East Bay Express detailing the recent legal drama involving Cafe Gratitude's pushy-perky labor policies.

Even if you've not been there yourselves, a quick read of the opening paragraph can give you a taste of how potentially annoying the service philosophy there can be. Walk in on an emotionally dark and stormy day wanting some delicious and healthy raw vegan lasagna, and some peaced-out hippie chick with dreads and six nose rings brings it over to you, plops it in front of you and tells you "You are Transcendent" or some such, and the gag reflex kicks in.

I dig the food there like no other, don't get me wrong; it's nourishing and well-intentioned, and I always walk out feeling energized and alive as opposed to sloggy and comatose, as at so many other more mainstream restaurants. But I've often imagined how rough it must be to work there and come in on a really "off" day, and still be expected to espouse all this Pollyanna/Landmark/est shit. The woman interviewed here offers a glimpse of the unintentional misery that must have wrought.

The article also points to the potential messiness of combining spirituality and profit-making. (Erghh - good luck with that. Enter commodification...now.)

I am Annoyed and Disappointed (EBE)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data

Non-stop talk about health care reform, but do we ever actually talk about the elephant in the room?
"Obesity is the elephant in the room of health care reform, a public health catastrophe that kills more than 100,000 Americans a year, cost the nation $147 billion last year and threatens to shorten U.S. life expectancy for the first time since the Civil War." (SFGate)
Of course not.

The disconnect makes me crazy. People get sick of all the yoga talk, but really; it's a matter of preventative medicine. We have so much more control over our health than we realize. Now, if we would just quit cutting P.E. programs and subsidizing corn and telling people that the food pyramid is where it's at...

~

$147 billion - Obesity-related medical spending in the U.S. in 2008

$15.5 million - Medical costs related to obesity in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties in 2006

50 - Percent of California adults who don't exercise enough

33 - Percent of children born in 2000 likely to develop diabetes

30 - Percent of adult Americans who are obese

20 - Average number of days a year an obese person is unable to work

16.7 - Percent of American children who are obese

Obesity a Crushing Weight on U.S. Healthcare (SFGate)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


Oh my gato. The NYT Styles section has sunk to a new low.

Catching up on the news every Thursday morning is always an exercise in non-profundity, what with the usual Styles features on manicures, moisturizing and mini-skirts, but I'm usually feeling readerly after bartending late Wednesday nights, and now and then there'll be something interesting there amidst the shallowness, and I dig the judgmental perusal process, don't get me wrong. There's a secret pleasure in feeling totally superior to the average reader's completely non-ironic obsession with trends in eyebrow sculpting. But today's edition is especially, well, ugh. Superficiality central.

But just in case you're looking for a simplistic manual on the fashion hallmarks of the modern male, you can find a few commentaries therein. First off, the revelatory and remarkable observation that, holy shit: vanity-driven manscaping is a narcissistic turnoff! Potbellies are in! Fuck the gym! Maybe the metrosexual "vanity for all" revolution wasn't such a great thing after all! And maybe, in the weirdest logical stretch I've seen in some time, the rejection of the overly-sculpted six-pack has something to do with Barack Obama! (WTF? Read it, it's the strangest stretch ever.)

I'm all for the less-vanity, more-authenticity angle, to be sure. But a whole trend piece on pot bellies as subversive deviant fuck-the-system behavior? Um, ok? So the next piece offers the brilliant observation that, hey: wild big unrestrained manes are mad-cool and kinda deviant and a little anti-bourgeois. Really? Wow. And they're inspired by a hybrid of musical and artistic influences from the last four decades. You don't say?

Revelatory stuff, really. Obviously the NYT has just caught on to the Rach-style masculinity manual. (Well, hell; it's actually the Rach-style femininity code, too, come to think of it). Be real. Spend less time in front of the mirror and more time in front of a book. Don't worry so much about the fucking brand name or couture season or the arch of your goddamned eyebrows. Just be what you are, claim it, own it, and let it be enough.

And enough already with the pseudo-profound trend pieces. Seriously. Ugh.

Noticed: It's Hip to Be Round (NYT)
Dress Codes: Men's Hairstyles as a Sampler of History's Extremes (NYT)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


Savoring my first evening at home in a week, and it's all blues-tinted.

The heat broke yesterday. I sat on the water at Aquatic Park late-afternoon and watched an imposing fog bank obscure the Golden Gate and knew it'd be just a matter of time until Nob Hill was once again shrouded in grey. Coming home in the wee hours, happily beer-scented, it was cold and windy and blustery, and it felt like August again after the weekend's strange sun and warmth.

So tonight I'm zipped up in my charcoal hoodie and sprawled, quite literally, in a TOP SECRET! art project, and it's pretty much the bee's knees: glue sticks and expensive stationery and muted colors and oh-I-wanna-be-an-artist. The glue sticking action's been drowned in a soundtrack of primarily jazz thus far, a lot of Diana Krall and John Coltrane and Billy Strayhorn, but there's been some Joni and James and some renegade Kings of Leon sneaking in, too.

But I lit upon the goldmine a few minutes ago; this killer rendition of Chet Baker (oh, my man Chet) crooning "Almost Blue," my favorite, my default, my first and last. He doesn't even open his mouth until five minutes in; after that, it's an easy downhill slide to the end of the chart. I caught The Talented Mr. Ripley last week; the film's deliciously dark, if you haven't seen it in awhile, but more importantly, it's ripe with Jude Law and Matt Damon rocking the Chet Baker action; Damon sounds remarkably like Chet singing "My Funny Valentine," and I've had him on the brain since.

So settle in amongst the paper scraps and the wrapping tape, open your windows and let the fog fingers wisp in. It's a good night to be home, and listening, in the City.

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions




I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up
and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free --
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.


~ Sylvia Plath, "Tulips" (1961)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any definition of "rawness"


My man Frank brought in this old photo of Louise Brooks yesterday and said, "Who does this look like?" ...

[insert hemming and hawing]

and then... "YOU!"

I could've kissed him.

Little did he know I've adored the flapper extraordinaire's aesthetic for years now. It might be time to bob the hair again. Bring on the red lippy. Louise B it is.

Louise Brooks (Wiki)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated


I saw this bumper sticker on the back of an SUV on Polk St. this morning on the way home from yoga, and it made me smile. Not in that annoying puppy-obsessed "dogs are the meaning of life" kind of way that you see amongst the preppy Marina chicks carrying miniature pups in huge handbags and buying $7000 sweaters for their ugly-ass rat chihuahuas. But in that, "Oh, isn't that wise; another way to put a down-to-earth spin on the whole balance between happiness and drama that most people struggle to find" kind of way.

One of the greatest revelations in studying all this yoga philosophy and Buddhist theory over the years has been the truism that we create our own drama. That we can choose to be content, or we can choose to be mentally obsessed with the imagined injustices of our own lives (and super-vocal about that, in many cases; always talking about how "stressed" we are, how "miserable," how nothing seems to go our way).

Lately I feel hyper-aware of how easy it is to live without drama if we're aware of ourselves and our monkey minds; how clean and clear and simple life is, if we let it be; and how quickly we can be sucked into that Hungry Ghost mindset, that always-grasping, always-craving, always-bitching mode. It really takes intention to live outside of the constantly-unsatisfied model that our culture tends to reinforce. Intention, and practice. Just like anything else worth doing.

So wag more, bark less. Watch more, listen more, breathe more, observe more; complain less, talk less, over-analyze less, bitch less. Pun intended.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


Whoa whoa whoa.

Should be doing a bazillion other things right now, but instead am salivating into my laptop screen, stopped in my tracks, over this

COOL HIPPIE SHIT YOU SHOULD REALLY KNOW ABOUT

It's been awhile since our last edition, to be sure; something along the line of Kale chips, I think, which were totally worthy in their own cheesy-cashew kind of way. But this might be even better.

So last night, in an effort to avoid the monster sugar cravings that always hit circa 10pm when I've been running around shaking martinis and washing dishes and flirting for the previous six hours, I armed myself with a few good raw-food sugar alternatives. The evening sugar lust is so predictable, too reliable, and as much as I like shoving sweet confections into other peoples' faces (evidence herein), I do try to avoid the sinister stuff myself as much as possible. It's poison, to be sure.

But night-time is the worst for that. Days, whatever; I'm content with my apples and my dates and my greens and what-have-you. Late-night, though, it's all cellular memory of homemade vanilla wafer ice cream sandwiches and popsicles and root beer floats and all that other shit we ate as kids before bed. Not good.

So yesterday I loaded up on dried mango and dried papaya, dried white peaches and dried pears in an effort to circumnavigate the 10pm sugar fix. And sure enough, after a pleasantly insane night pouring cocktails, the vibrant orange dried fruits were exactly what I needed. (Nevermind the sulfur and added sugar that's no doubt secretly in there, but whatever - baby steps.)

New favorite thing. The ziploc is already stocked for tonight. And in the meantime, I've stumbled across a killer website that's sure to please anyone else with a serious thing for trail mix. Mixmygranola.com (pathetic, I know) promises that you can "mix your custom made, organic all natural granola cereal mix from over fifty healthy ingredients and enhancers," including - wait for it - powdered CAFFEINE enhancer! Unbelievable.

I'm kind of "meh" about the whole granola page itself - try to avoid the grains as much as possible - but holy schnikes, check out that dried fruit selection! Goji berries and blueberries and bananas and you name it. And those nuts! I'm hooked. And they ship this shit right to you. It's overpriced, sure, and another example of excessive yuppie lifestyle packaging, but what can I say: it's a pretty dreamy little site, in spite of all that.

Check it out. Mix some granola. Gift all the hippies in your life. You'll never miss the sugar when you've got pounds and pounds of dried mango-apricot-pomegranate-powdered french vanilla granola to distract you instead.

mix my granola: the way i like it

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


If you've not yet been over to the SFMoMA to catch the big Georgia O'Keeffe/Ansel Adams exhibit, you're running out of time. The exhibition closes September 7th, and it'll probably just get busier as the final date approaches. (Read: too many loud annoying people stampeding Red Cannas at once.)

Do yourselves a favor and roll over there some weekday to spend a few hours swimming in images of the American West. Get there in time for the free 2:30 film about O'Keeffe; then carry all that insider info upstairs, where you'll see a natural melding of the O'Keeffe/Adams styles and sensibilities unfold before you.

Georgia was such a badass. (That would be her checking you out on the bike at left, by the way.) You can't not want to be the woman. Iconoclastic, passionate, serious, intent, solitary, no-bullshit, mentored by and partnered with Alfred Stieglitz, but not above taking on a much younger lover very late in her life. Adams, too, of course; he of the striking Western panoramas, his photography the classic representation of Yosemite and the rest of the great American frontier. A great marriage of minds and artistic sensibilities.

Just go. It's a hot exhibit and it'll be awhile until we have another like this here in our own backyard. If you're not a member, I think you need to get timed tickets; go early to avoid the hordes.

Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities (SFMoMA)

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions






True affluence is not needing anything.

~ G.S.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.



Bundt Cake Saturday! (Late again.)

Morning: breezy
Mood: breezy
Music: The Killers

(Seriously, though; we're almost done with the backlog of these guys. I promise.)

This was another May/June creation, caught up in the swirl of yoga retreats and art openings and what-have-you. This recipe came somewhat out of nowhere, in a moment of relative desperation, and it was responsible for the ensuing streusel fetish that hung around for a few weeks here in Kitchenland.

Right now, I've actually got a different little baby-cake recipe in the oven as I write, and the maintenance dude is sawing something down below, and the doors and windows are all thrown open, and the breeze just keeps blowing, and the cornflower/lisianthus bouquet on the coffee table is just opening up, and I'm rocking an old vintage housecoat from the Main St. Salvation Army in Delaware circa '97, and it's pretty much all a girl could ask for on a Tuesday in early August. We've got a few minutes before the first batch needs to come out of the oven, so let's get on with a gooey

CHOCOLATE CAFE AU LAIT BUNDT CAKE

A close cousin of the Devil's Food Espresso recipe you've seen often in these parts, but with a bit of a twist; we'll emphasize the "au lait" this time around, add a different frosting, and, most importantly, layer in a delicious cocoa streusel in the middle. Not a bad confection for anyone in the chocolate/coffee lovers' club.

INGREDIENTS

1 devil's food cake mix
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
6 oz. chocolate (or coffee) flavored yogurt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teas. vanilla
1 teas. instant espresso powder
6 oz. mini chocolate chips

Easy, no?

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan. Combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, yogurt, oil, milk, vanilla and espresso powder; beat for 2-3 minutes with an electric mixer. Fold in mini chocolate chips (if you'd like). Set the batter aside while you make your streusel.

The streusel ribbon will look like this, give or take what you'd like in there:

1 1/2 cups graham crackers
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup cocoa powder
6 0z. mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Crush the graham crackers first and mix them with the cocoa powder; then add the melted butter and mix well. Finish it by stirring in the chocolate chips and the walnuts.

Pour half of the cake batter into your prepared pan. Then layer in a ribbon of the streusel, taking care to smooth it out evenly. Top with the remainder of the cake batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

In terms of frosting, there seems to be a consistent recipe floating around out there on the interwebz:

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbl. instant espresso powder
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Looks fine, right? But to be honest, and in spite of my avowed love for ice cream (a forbidden ardor that, try as I might, I just can't goddammit seem to shake), there's something about heavy cream that makes me want to vomit. I can't handle the scent of it. I can't have it in my fridge. SO to avoid buying some of that nasty shit, I went the easy route and pulled out a tub of cream cheese frosting (lazy woman's way out), heated it, added a little milk, and mixed in 2 teas. of espresso powder.

The result was a pleasingly latte-colored pourable frosting; I was running late to a workshop and thus had to frost the cake long before it'd cooled, which resulted in a meltily-delicious wet cake. Oops. The latte frosting melted down the edges in an oozy kind of way, and I grated a Ghirardelli chocolate bar on top for decoration. It was fine. Chocolatey. Messy. You know.

Clipped a quick red Gerber from the bouquet on the countertop, balanced it nicely in the middle of the bundt donut-hole, and there it was. Chocolate cafe au lait. Could've used a little more greenery to freshen it up, but overall, not bad for a rushed Saturday morning creation.

If you've the time, wait to frost your cake until it's completely cooled, and you shouldn't have any problem with the grainy/cracking frosting appearance that mine had.

(Most importantly, though, for the record: it tasted delish.)

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any definition of "rawness"


Reason #127 that I love living in SF:

The gaggle of old Chinese grandmas unself-consciously doing tai chi in the trees in front of City Hall bright and early every Tuesday morning on my way to acupuncture, lined up like the Laker Girls at half-time, arms circling, eyes closed.

(Flashbacks to dance team circa '96, sans spandex, scrunchies and bad techno; add sweatpants, freshly cut grass and that unmistakable Civic Center scent of urine wafting through the morning air. My fair city.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data


PET PEEVE: Museum camera-fiends

You know when you finally roll up to (the Louvre) (the MOMA) (the Guggenheim) and you consult your handy-dandy guidebook for the exact location of (the Mona Lisa) (Monet's waterlilies) (Van Gogh's sunflowers) and you find it and lumber up there with the gathering herds who are also headed past hundreds of years' and millions of dollars' worth of really stellar art only to see this one piece that their sophomore-year art history T.A. told them really "matters" in the history of the universe?

And you finally get to that sacred room where the painting's all cordoned off on the far wall with red velvet ropes and clear protectors and six bored-looking security guards who are checking their watches, and it turns out that it's really tiny and kind of drab and seemingly inconsequential, but there's everyone whispering around it in various hushed tones speaking in a million different languages and they're all snapping away with (flashless) cameras so they can go home to Peoria or Liverpool and tell Grandma that they saw (the Mona Lisa) (Monet's waterlilies) (Van Gogh's sunflowers) and it was well, definitely life-changing and remarkable and honestly, if they're totally frank with themselves, kind of small and wimpy and meh?

Yeah. Pet peeve of pet peeves. Seriously. I can't handle it. The first time I walked into the Louvre and meandered my way through all the armless marbles to the Mona Lisa, my mouth filled with the taste of absolute disgust at all the buzzing hordes snapping away, and I took one glance at the poor lonely secret-keeping Mona and walked on by.

Social theorists talk about the politics of The Gaze, of seeing versus being seen, of invisibility and visibility and taking-in versus processing and what-have-you. In people, in real-life interactions, it's all a complicated whirlwind of fascinating concepts, politically-laden and power-rich. In art, it's even more interesting, though, and to me, more distressing. There's nothing that pisses me off more than people who care more about establishing the evidence that they "saw" a landmark piece of art than actually "seeing it."

The NYT has a quick little piece today highlighting this annoying phenomenon. Michael Kimmelman writes about the fact that, in recent art history,
Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.
Kimmelman laments this efficiency-first method of consuming art. He calls for a return to seeing, a revisiting of the old-school sketchbooks, the kind of dawdling that museums are meant for, the "sitting with" a piece of art long enough for it to unfurl a bit around you, take on different colors and moods.*

Kimmelman suggests that "slow looking, like slow cooking, may yet become the new radical chic." Love this. Read the article. Sit still in an art museum the next time you go. (That's why there are benches.) Put the goddamned camera away. And just remember it.

At the Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus (NYT)

* Need I emphasize the whole yogic nature of this "sitting with," this observing? No, you got that already? Great, I thought so.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated


Gary Snyder, on the meaning of "wild mind:"

"It means self-organizing," he says. "It means elegantly self-disciplined, self-regulating, self-maintained. That's what wilderness is. Nobody has to do the management plan for it. So I say to people, 'let's trust in the self-disciplined elegance of wild mind.' Practically speaking, a life that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humor, gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking, brings us close to the actually existing world and its wholeness."

from "The Wild Mind of Gary Snyder," published in Shambhala Sun, May 1996.