27 September 2011

School days

Boy-howdy! So summer gave way to a far brisker (and rainier) autumn, and my Graduate Experience is well under way. How's it going? Well, very well, in fact. I earnestly enjoy my peers, teachers and classes. I feel welcomed; I am impressed with the talent around me. But I'm also still vaguely terrified: that I'm behind, that I don't quite know what's going on, etc...

Taking advantage of beautiful September mornings (with nary a snow flake in sight - I'm looking at you, Winter Term), I've been walking the half hour or so to school.

It goes with the territory, but it's not particularly helpful. I finish my days exhausted, and I realize this is partially from the tension of trying so damn hard. Working diligently is one thing; over-stressing is quite another. I've decided, therefore, that part of my work as a Very Studious Wonderfully Adult Artist In Training is also to depend on myself for praise as well as critique, and to jump off the assumption that I am perfectly impressive and talented enough, thank-you-very-much.

Meanwhile, I am certainly settling into a nice rhythm in Ann Arbor:

My newly-claimed library carrel. Yes, I am quite proud of my little bit of [borrowed] property.

Why, yes, that is Jessye Norman, peering pensively at music before her masterclass.

I'll be holding on to the last vestiges of summer with a lovely bunch of tomatoes that I've happily pickled.

23 September 2011

François Delarozière speaks for Penny Stamps

The Penny Stamps series brings a large array of artists to give talks at U of M. It is part of the the School of Art and Design, but the free lectures are also open to the public. Yesterday's speaker in the Michigan Theater was François Delarozière, the artistic director of La Machine, a French theater troupe of craftsmen, performers and dreamers who create mechanical creatures and structures. These gargantuan constructions are breath-taking: Jules Vernesque visions of the future filled with kindly, automatonic monsters. It was truly inspirational to see the sketches and some of the work that goes into planning and constructing the machines, wholly unpractical and absolutely magical. But the most amazing element was how much a 37-ton hydraulic spider comes to life as it begins to move. Presumably because of a mixture of anthropomorphism and awe of discovery we seldom have past childhood, it was downright moving to see these steel and wood animals walking through the streets. As Delarozière stated, they are alive to us, because motion is life.

La Machine built a spider that "lived" in Liverpool in 2008.

Liverpool poster, via lamachine.co.uk.

An uncommon elephant in Nantes, via Liverpool 360º.

Delarozière will also be speaking tonight at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit at seven o'clock, for anybody who is local. I highly recommend it!

19 September 2011

Musical week-end

This week-end kicked off the Ann Arbor-based University Musical Society's season, which meant, in conjunction with a Gershwin concert on Friday afternoon and a masterclass with Jessye Norman, a very full musical couple of days for me indeed. (Ah, my life is difficult...)

Ahmad Jamal, via allaboutjazz.

Ahmad Jamal, jazz piano legend, set the right mood and then some on Saturday night. The group, composed of Jamal, Herlin Riley (drums), James Cammack (bass) and Manolo Badrena, filled Hill Auditorium with an electrifying energy. The four men on stage had terrific interplay, and the charisma exuded by Jamal as he played had us enthralled. What a show this 81-year-old can put on! I needed no push to stand and cheer, demanding an encore with the rest of the audience (the foursome obliged), and I left the hall buoyed by my evening.

I didn't have long to wait for another concert, as the Emerson Quartet was on the following afternoon in Rackham Auditorium performing Mozart's last three string quartets (K. 575, K. 589, K. 590), as well as his Adagio and Fugue in c minor (K. 546). There was admittedly a bit of a kerfuffle getting us all into our seats (I pity the ushers who had to maneuver a full house in the newly renumbered system!), but I doubt this is what the audience took away from the concert. The first quartet initially lacked some vigor and articulation for my taste, but the Emersons came into their own for the third movement minuet. In fact, I discovered a previously undiscovered predisposition for minuets in myself yesterday!

So I got little work done this week-end (remember, my life is difficult), but I would say it was well worth it to get to experience such an array of musical talent. I'm certainly looking forward to the continuation of my cultural endeavors in Ann Arbor - Mark Morris Dance Group this week-end at Power Center.

05 September 2011

Labor Day week-end

Joe came to visit me for this last, long week-end before classes begin. Apart from the obvious merit of simply seeing each other, it was a chance for him to discover my new environs, and a chance for me to get some help setting up my new apartment. We ate copiously; we explored. We stocked up on wine. We watched Daria. We set up my internet. All in all, a highly successful goodbye to summer.

Some loot from Saturday's farmer's market excursion.

Saturday night thunder storm.

Walking the Nichols Arboretum.

Apple season is soon upon us...

Rosemary Tom Collins.

Buttermilk biscuit and sorghum syrup from Zingerman's (again).

Parking lot shenanigans.

30 August 2011

Dancing with Lanvin

Raquel Zimmerman, Karen Elson, Lowell Tautchin and Milo Spijkers (and, briefly, Alber Elbaz) put on their [expensive] dancing shoes for the video accompaniment to Lanvin's Autumn 2011 add campaign.

23 August 2011

River Bend Farm

Our Massachusetts week-end came to to a close yesterday morning with a walk along the Blackstone River from River Bend Farm in Uxbridge. And what a perfect late summer day it was for a stroll, too!

Contemplating the river.


A good deal of mushrooms are cropping up in the wooded areas. I wish I hadn't lost my handy mushroom field guide (I had a phase).

Blue sky; bit of moon.

Canal lock; the "liquid carpet" effect of growth on the water.

20 August 2011

Saying goodbye: Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Bridge

As part of my continuing efforts to revisit my favorite places before leaving them for a while, I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan a couple of days ago. My upcoming departure has become the perfect pretext to enjoy some of the more amazing aspects of New York (and Boston this week-end).

Starting off from the Brooklyn side of affairs. I can't help but get the wind kicked out of me when I see this incredible construction. Thank you, Ken Burns.

Looking forward to Manhattan (hello Statue of Liberty!)...

... and backward to Brooklyn.

18 August 2011

Saying goodbye: Manhattan from the High Line

I'm deep in nostalgia mode as I prepare to ship off to the midwest. Last night I picked up Joe after work and we walked down the West Side from Columbus Circle. Walking the High Line seemed greatly appropriate. We've been enjoying this park since it opened - the various phases of its building and growing progress throughout the seasons. On a sunny evening like yesterday, it offered stunning views of Manhattan, New Jersey and the river.

In the sunset light...

... and against it.

Both of us share a fascination with the buildings of Manhattan, and the seemingly endless stretches of the its urban grid.

16 August 2011

Things brewing

Today was quite probably my last lesson in New York before I move to Ann Arbor for my first term at the University of Michigan's School of Music. I bought a one-way plane ticket for Detroit this afternoon - what an odd feeling to think that I am leaving my beloved east coast! But, as melancholy as I am to leave my haunts and loved ones (and anxious at the prospect of packing up my too-numerous books), I am tremendously excited to start my new, midwestern adventure.

The clouds, too, were brewing up something on the Upper West Side.

Much of my excitement stems from the work I've done this past year: I am proud of my progress, and of how I used my "gap year." I'm ready to meet new people and test out my independent efforts. The summer gave me a taste of this, and I have written a list of goals for myself that build on my experience in California. I want to make good use of those around me, and be open to be put to good use myself. It is a particular pleasure to realize that you are an important and supportive member of your group! Onward to new projects!

13 August 2011

Summer food

Eating in summertime is an occasion to be fêted, as beautiful fruits and vegetables abound. Here are some hot hits of the past week.

Arugula with soy beans, spiced almonds and raspberries.

Muffin and 1989 National Geographic at Commune.

Cured chickpea salad; chicken sandwich.

I consume the muffin; Joe consumes an article on the USSR.

Fried sardines.

Joe demonstrates the tomato salad, may or may not be posing for a mug shot.

08 August 2011

Things to do on trips

At nearly three this morning, I finally arrived from a very long day of airports and airplanes. I've spent a lot of time in transit for the past year: audition flights in the winter, near-weekly trips between New York and Boston, and my hour commutes from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side. What do I do to fill the time so that a) I don't lose my mind to boredom and b) I don't feel that my life is slipping between my fingers in the form of recycled air?

1) I read. This is easiest on the subway, especially if I can sit down, as I sometimes get motion sickness on busses or above-ground trains. When you look around a typical subway car, it's obvious that I'm not the only one who's adopted this method of entertainment. I even enjoy my commutes when they're not at peak hours, because I'm able to have a focused, timed reading session.

2) I learn, memorize and review music. I don't always particularly enjoy this. But "silent practicing" is something that demands a good deal of my time, so if I can fit it into a boring bus trip to pass the time, I feel that I'm killing two birds with one stone.

3) I knit or cross-stitch. (This is very Domestic Young Lady of me.) I don't always have room to bring along supplies, but it's a good alternative to more thinking-heavy distractions.

4) I listen to podcasts. Radiolab and This American Life are favorites, but I also listen to Rachel Maddow, NPR Culturetopedia, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! and Ted Talks.

5) I cut out pictures. Collages are a favorite of mine, and I've been heartlessly cutting apart magazines for years. So, assuming I have space in my bag and at my seat, and that scissors aren't forbidden, you can find me happily snipping away.

6) I do crosswords. Ah, Will Shortz, you have kept me company on many an excursion!

06 August 2011

Horse show

I used to be an adamant equestrian, but I quit many years ago. However, horses and riding still make me dream, so when I saw that the Pebble Beach Equestrian Classic was going on this week-end, I knew I had to visit. Plus, it was Joe's first horse show, so I had a chance to introduce him to the world of jackets and jodhpurs.

A constant of barns and shows is always a panoply of dogs.

Practice ring.

Tacking up.

Meanwhile, I also took the opportunity to check in with a friend - my one-time pony Trooper, who is now an old fellow, but still just as friendly as he always was. My lovely old companion still recognizes me!

Going in for a nuzzle.