The Elephant Factory

Ask me anything   The Blogojevicher   

Don't elephunk with my heart.

The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius, is a masterpiece, not to be confused with The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, a fun summer beach read (“It Book” is the better sobriquet, hat tip to Vanity Fair). I saw the painting during its brief sojourn in New York this last winter, on one of the Frick’s Free Fridays. It pretty much charmed my pants off - in person, swaying mesmerically on my feet, first deft brushwork, then soft little bird, the two improbably merging, total trompe l’oeil. By contrast, the novel, with enough heft and literary pedigree to feel substantial (771 pages! “Dickensian”!), doesn’t quite achieve the same successful magic trick of merging art and life, especially that last chapter, which, in its earnestness to tell you what it all means, comes off like a Hail Mary, a fumble. It doesn’t mean anything. But that doesn’t make it any less fun. 

The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius, is a masterpiece, not to be confused with The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, a fun summer beach read (“It Book” is the better sobriquet, hat tip to Vanity Fair). I saw the painting during its brief sojourn in New York this last winter, on one of the Frick’s Free Fridays. It pretty much charmed my pants off - in person, swaying mesmerically on my feet, first deft brushwork, then soft little bird, the two improbably merging, total trompe l’oeil. By contrast, the novel, with enough heft and literary pedigree to feel substantial (771 pages! “Dickensian”!), doesn’t quite achieve the same successful magic trick of merging art and life, especially that last chapter, which, in its earnestness to tell you what it all means, comes off like a Hail Mary, a fumble. It doesn’t mean anything. But that doesn’t make it any less fun. 

— 2 weeks ago
#art  #books  #donna tartt  #the goldfinch 
David and Goliath

Today is the best day of my professional life (so far).

My coworker: “I can’t believe it. It’s like the eighth day of Hanukkah. It’s a miracle!”

Me: “In this moment I don’t even care how underpaid I am!”

— 1 month ago
#women at work  #epochs 
This summer is shaping up to be a season of weddings and beaches or, as the case may be, weddings at beaches. Over the weekend I tagged along as Peter’s guest at a wedding, which happens to be one of my favorite pastimes. (Being a +1 at a wedding full of strangers: all of the fun, none of the expenditures.) The wedding was in Cape Cod and to make things even wedding-in-Cape-Cod-ier, there were mason jars and a personal note of congratulations from the White House and all the groom’s friends were Yale grads, Harvard Medical School graduates, or, in some cases, Yale and Harvard Medical School graduates. Which translated to pink shirts, suspenders, wild and bad dancing (guilty as charged), and an after-after-party at the beach that ended when the other hotel guests complained that the impromptu acapella was too loud. In other words, total nerd prom. (Also, at some point during the post-ceremony, pre-dinner cocktail interval, I became engrossed in conversation with a friend of Peter’s who is something of a polyglot - fluent in eight languages and conversant in more - and whose youthful ambition to be the future Pope was derailed by way of Nietzsche and Hegel.) Much later, on the beach: a guitar, a shooting star, the Big Dipper, pear margarita sloshing in a plastic cup, the sandbar tilting underneath my bare feet, a brassy half-moon dipping behind the curtain of the sea. Good night. 

This summer is shaping up to be a season of weddings and beaches or, as the case may be, weddings at beaches. Over the weekend I tagged along as Peter’s guest at a wedding, which happens to be one of my favorite pastimes. (Being a +1 at a wedding full of strangers: all of the fun, none of the expenditures.) The wedding was in Cape Cod and to make things even wedding-in-Cape-Cod-ier, there were mason jars and a personal note of congratulations from the White House and all the groom’s friends were Yale grads, Harvard Medical School graduates, or, in some cases, Yale and Harvard Medical School graduates. Which translated to pink shirts, suspenders, wild and bad dancing (guilty as charged), and an after-after-party at the beach that ended when the other hotel guests complained that the impromptu acapella was too loud. In other words, total nerd prom. (Also, at some point during the post-ceremony, pre-dinner cocktail interval, I became engrossed in conversation with a friend of Peter’s who is something of a polyglot - fluent in eight languages and conversant in more - and whose youthful ambition to be the future Pope was derailed by way of Nietzsche and Hegel.) Much later, on the beach: a guitar, a shooting star, the Big Dipper, pear margarita sloshing in a plastic cup, the sandbar tilting underneath my bare feet, a brassy half-moon dipping behind the curtain of the sea. Good night. 

— 1 month ago with 1 note
#weddings  #travel  #cape cod 
Some nights

Cab, night, skyline, NYC, drunk. Probably how I’ll remember what it was like to be young. 

— 1 month ago
#oiny 
The xx

I’ve been sick and it’s such a drag: on my routine, my philosophy, my energy levels, my spirits. But not every week gets bookended by the brother, or the beach, or expertly battered fish tacos, or eating expertly battered fish tacos with the brother on the beach - on opposite coasts! And it’s not every week that you hear from two ex’s in the span of two days, even if the first is the FaceTime equivalent of the butt-dial, when the second writes to say I probably wanted too much from you, and what I’ve realized is you can’t ask anyone to fix you. What. Do I even say to that.

— 1 month ago
#boys 
La Jolla Shores, May 2014
Kind of hard to take a bad photo of the beach.

La Jolla Shores, May 2014

Kind of hard to take a bad photo of the beach.

— 2 months ago
#the best coast  #travel 
Notes on saudade/mono no aware

Saudade is a Portuguese and Galician word that has no direct translation in English. It describes an emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return. The word saudade was used in the Cancioneiro da Ajuda (13th century), in the Cancioneiro da Vaticana and by poets of the time of King Denis of Portugal[5] (reigned 1279-1325). 

Mono no aware
 (物の哀れ?), literally “the pathos of things”, and also translated as “an empathy toward things”, or “a sensitivity to ephemera”, is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence(無常 mujō?), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life. The term was coined in the 18th century by the Edo period Japanese cultural scholar Motoori Norinaga and was originally a concept used in his literary criticism of The Tale of Genji, later applied to other seminalJapanese works including the Man’yōshū. It became central to his philosophy of literature and eventually to Japanese cultural tradition.

— 2 months ago with 1 note
Resistance is futile

This cold, wet, grey, Londonish spring.

I am slowly transforming into one of those people who works all the time, bemoans the state of her inbox, and looks forward to coming home from the office straightaway on a Friday night: hair up, pajamas on, beer please. In other words, an old person. (Except I have a memory of this life, once. I was not old but twenty-six, newly single, nervous and unsure about who I was, whether I was doing a good job at work, learning to swim, blowing my tax refund on a road bike instead of an impromptu trip to Amsterdam, who I loved. In other words, everything.) Such are the constraints of the clock. Only so many hours in the day, goes the cliché. Only so much area in that circle, “a simple shape of Euclidean geometry.” An unexpectedly musical and bell-like line for an online encyclopedia. That summer in San Francisco spent at a firm, in between acquiring a tattoo and an expensive pair of heels, I truly enjoyed billing my time. The type A wonk in me appreciated the accumulation of data - its revelatory properties, its patterns and potential for improvements. (For example, that summer I learned I was a compulsive handwasher with a small bladder. How else could I explain all the time lost to the bathroom, upwards of an hour on a given day.) I also liked how billing laid bare the trade-offs, the “hard truths.” You can work hard or you can party hard or you can sleep, but you must pick two out of three.

Still, the spring hasn’t escaped me. Like a true yuppie mutineer I ask for cold sake with my nigiri and refuse on principle to wear my winter coat. The bodegas are stocked with lilacs and peonies, the trees effloresce with blossoms and migrating birds. Some days it is warm enough for bare calves, pale with hibernation and stark in the spotlight. I haven’t as much poetry in me as I used to, when I was twenty-six and found in my uncertainty a space for acrobatics and flight. I compensate by memorizing other people’s words. I’m down to the last three lines of “The Wasteland” and waiting for the right place, someplace other than the A train during rush hour, to learn the lines by heart. Is that overly precious? Probably. But it’s important, at least for me, to carve out of the clock a kind of sacristy for the things that serve no function other than to move me or give me pleasure. 

Things I will write about one day: unsolicited job offers, writing about holidays long after you’ve had them, what it’s like to read for the first time a Korean-American author, sprinting barefoot through lower Manhattan.

— 2 months ago
""Tell him yes," she said. "Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no."
***
He was aware that he did not love her. He had married her because he liked her haughtiness, her seriousness, her strength, and also because of some vanity on his part, but as she kissed him for the first time he was sure there would be no obstacle to their inventing true love. They did not speak of it that first night, when they spoke of everything until dawn, nor would they ever speak of it. But in the long run, neither of them had made a mistake."

GGM (1927-2014)

I suspect the whole range of love is somewhere in Love in the Time of Cholera. 

— 3 months ago with 1 note
#gabriel garcia marquez  #books  #quotes  #love in the time of cholera 
Things I should write about when I finally write about things

Learning how to drive a manual in the empty parking lot of a pueblo blanco

Projectile vomiting at the foot of the Seville Cathedral

Fire and stars in Ronda

What it’s like to be an outlander at the Spizzwinks’ Centennial, what it’s like to be outed as a Harvardian in a ballroom brimming with Yale alums, what it’s like to survive a 3 hour acapella concert 

Ducking the ex at a scotch-tasting event

Finishing Moby Dick

SPRING!

— 3 months ago
#my so-called grown-up life 
Besides Blue Jasmine, the other film I watched on the flight back from Spain was Frozen. I enjoyed it, of course. How could I not: (1) Kristen Bell plays another feisty heroine, (2) “Let it Go,” (3) the throwback to classic Disney, with the storybook animation and the magical kingdom under a spell, and (4) the “subversive” (for Hollywood) storytelling: the villain is a status-hungry gold-digger, a kiss from the romantic lead is not the true love that saves the day, and the sisters steal the show, making passing the Bechdel test look easy.

Besides Blue Jasmine, the other film I watched on the flight back from Spain was Frozen. I enjoyed it, of course. How could I not: (1) Kristen Bell plays another feisty heroine, (2) “Let it Go,” (3) the throwback to classic Disney, with the storybook animation and the magical kingdom under a spell, and (4) the “subversive” (for Hollywood) storytelling: the villain is a status-hungry gold-digger, a kiss from the romantic lead is not the true love that saves the day, and the sisters steal the show, making passing the Bechdel test look easy.

— 3 months ago with 1 note
#film  #frozen  #kristen bell 
Say what you will about the man but Woody Allen knows how to tell an interesting story about a person who is not especially nice or good. (Insert your own joke about art mirroring life.) He does so with a very light hand, the result of which is that we, the viewer, know exactly what we think of his characters - usually, that s/he is a scoundrel - but we don’t know exactly how to feel about them. For example, even though the titular Blue Jasmine is a hot mess who behaves badly, she somehow resists being written off. It’s not that I feel pity or compassion for her, exactly. It’s more like a reservation of judgment, as if I can sense that she will be justly punished, or an interest in her fate that skirts the edge of secretly rooting for her, a little. At any rate, Cate Blanchett is obviously a very fine actress to have pulled this off. Between her acting and the clothes, you can’t take your eyes off of her, or the train wreck.

Say what you will about the man but Woody Allen knows how to tell an interesting story about a person who is not especially nice or good. (Insert your own joke about art mirroring life.) He does so with a very light hand, the result of which is that we, the viewer, know exactly what we think of his characters - usually, that s/he is a scoundrel - but we don’t know exactly how to feel about them. For example, even though the titular Blue Jasmine is a hot mess who behaves badly, she somehow resists being written off. It’s not that I feel pity or compassion for her, exactly. It’s more like a reservation of judgment, as if I can sense that she will be justly punished, or an interest in her fate that skirts the edge of secretly rooting for her, a little. At any rate, Cate Blanchett is obviously a very fine actress to have pulled this off. Between her acting and the clothes, you can’t take your eyes off of her, or the train wreck.

— 4 months ago with 4 notes
#film  #blue jasmine  #woody allen 
Duel

"Blank pages — shoot-out at the O.K. Corral."

I am reading Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey because I needed a Moby Dick palate cleanser and a collection of late 1990s lectures by a poetess to MFA students is in some ways as far as you can get from a mid-19th C. whaling tale by a New York City civil servant turned deified American man of letters, because of the fantastic title, because that fantastic title uses an Oxford comma, because of the book jacket design, because it lies outside my literary comfort zone, because I can’t stop arguing with her when I’m not listening to her. And because of great lines like the above quoted. Every year I resolve to write more and surf the Internet less (though Ruefle has some compelling arguments for wasting time), every year I write less, every year the blank pages become more intimidating and the words are harder to extract. But don’t despair, I guess. Don’t overthink it. Just draw, and quick.

Today is another dully cold day in this, the longest of winters, the sky another blank page in this, the Russian novel of winters. I rolled out of bed late and have been steadily snacking throughout the afternoon, having foregone my morning run and coffee. But yesterday was glorious, a wisp of spring, the wind nipping but not biting, boys in Wayfarers, girls in short hemlines, a portly middle-aged man riding an ATV and blasting The Rolling Stones (“Sympathy for the Devil”). As part of our monthly volunteering pact, Wil and I spent the morning, of all things, judging Lincoln-Douglass debate at a high school urban debate league. Even though it’s been fourteen years since I left the extracurricular activity which dominated and defined so much of my high school existence, so much of it was so immediately familiar it made my skin crawl. The teenagers dressed up in their parents’ skins, idling over cafeteria tables while waiting for rounds. Speaker points. Hobbes and Locke and justice, that paramount value. The jargon, the inside jokes, the clubbiness, and, of course, the fast-talking. It turns out that flowing is just like riding a bicycle. And there were things I didn’t see but whose memories I unearthed and dusted off after years of neglect, like the posting of break rounds, the Economist clippings filed away in Tupperware containers stacked on a luggage cart, my nemesis and my crushes, all of whom will remain nameless because a quick Google search reveals them to be persons of interest in their respective occupations. 

Later that day I killed some time at the Met, where I read Ruefle in the shadow of Rembrandt’s self-portrait (and overheard a daughter tell her worshipful father, much to his horror, “I hate that painting. It’s ugly. He’s ugly.”), let a strange stocky Japanese man with an expensive camera take my photograph against my better judgment, and resumed Ruefle next to a bust of Septimius Severus in the slanting late afternoon light of the Greco-Roman sculpture galleries. I relocated crosstown to have dinner with Tess at Cocina Economica Mexico, which was just okay but certainly ‘economica’. I hadn’t seen Tess since leaving DC but those five years felt inconsequential. She was still the same old Tess, which I mean in the most flattering light possible: optimistic but not unrealistic, funny, matter-of-fact, unafraid to be vulnerable and believe in the goodness of life even after life has shown her its claws. 

A few weekends ago I finally watched Unforgiven, described to me by many as the greatest Western on film of all time, and it left me feeling much the same way as I felt after I finally watched The Godfather, a few weekends prior: like I just ate my cinematic vegetables. Good, but not pork-belly-fatly-dissolving-on-my-tongue good. This is probably a blasphemously controversial position, but Unforgiven > The Godfather. I found William Munny’s coming to terms with his character more persuasive than Michael Corleone’s coming to terms with his inheritance, and relished the shootout at the billiards bar more than the shoot-em-up funeral scene. 

— 4 months ago
#film  #unforgiven  #the godfather  #restaurants  #ny  #Smells Like Teen Spirit  #books  #mary ruefle  #madness rack and honey 
This is surreal. When pop culture crushes collide! (Interestingly, I have met both of them in person: Kristen Bell at a Hill event, Ira Glass walking his dog on the UWS.)
Of course, I LoVed the movie. It scratched my every fangirl itch. After I saw it I downloaded it, started listening to Sufjan Stevens on repeat, and can’t stop obsessively reading about it, now that I’m no longer avoiding spoilers. I (someone who votes in off year elections and works in public service) have never donated to a political campaign, not even Obama ‘08. But BY GOD I donated to the Veronica Mars Movie Project. And I would do it again. 

This is surreal. When pop culture crushes collide! (Interestingly, I have met both of them in person: Kristen Bell at a Hill event, Ira Glass walking his dog on the UWS.)

Of course, I LoVed the movie. It scratched my every fangirl itch. After I saw it I downloaded it, started listening to Sufjan Stevens on repeat, and can’t stop obsessively reading about it, now that I’m no longer avoiding spoilers. I (someone who votes in off year elections and works in public service) have never donated to a political campaign, not even Obama ‘08. But BY GOD I donated to the Veronica Mars Movie Project. And I would do it again. 

— 4 months ago with 2 notes
#veronica mars  #this american life  #ira glass 
Three Epithalamia by Georges Perec

via The Paris Review

On this beautiful Saturday in May
Sophie has married Michel
and Michel has married Sophie

They have married
and they are now together
like Aucassin and Nicolette
and like nut cake and honey
like hand and piano
      table and chair
      soup and ladle
      tench and hook
      science and doubt
      pen and drawing
      dove and millet
      hospital and silence
      candle and bed warmer
      camomile tea and madeleine
and even couscous and chick peas

It’s a delectable morning
the sun lights up the countryside
bees are gathering honey
a butterfly delicately alights by a mimosa
sheep are bleating
in the distance bells are ringing
everything is calm and peaceful

At the very end of the little wood the vast planet begins
its lakes its oceans its steppes
its hills its plains its oases
its sand dunes
its palaces its museums its islands its ports of call
its lovely automobiles glistening in the rain
its white-bonneted Salvationists singing carols on Christmas Eve
its bowlered worthies in conference at the tabac on Place Saint
    Sulpice
its mustachio’d sea captains exuding patchouli and lilac
its tennis champions hugging at the end of a match
its Indians with their calumet seated by a sandalwood totem pole
its mountain climbers attacking Popocatapetl
its eager canoeists paddling down the Mississippi
its Anabaptists mischievously nodding their heads as they discuss
    the Bible
its little Balinese women dancing on cocoa plantations
its philosophers in peaked caps arguing about Condillac’s ideas
    in outmoded tea rooms
its pin-up girls in bathing suits astride docile elephants
its impassive Londoners bidding a no-trump little slam

But here the sky is blue
Let’s forget the weight of the world
a bird is singing at the very top of the house
cats and dogs drowse by the fireplace
where a huge log is slowly burning up
You hear the ticking of the clock

This little poem
where only simple words have been used
      words like daisy and broomstick
      like lady-bird and cream sauce
      like croissant and nonchalance
and not words like palimpsest, pitchblende, cumulonimbus,
      decalcomania, stethoscope, machicolation, or
      anticonstitutionally
has been specially composed
on the occasion of these nuptials

Let us wish Sophie and Michel
years and years of rejoicing

like the thousand years gone by
      in which Philemon and Baucis
each May are born into the world
      she as linden, he as oak

— 4 months ago with 1 note
#poetry  #three epithalamia  #georges perec