Archive for the ‘Image Craving’ Category

Oh Please

January 6, 2020

I know that Vogue.com is not necessarily where one should be going to see reality reflected, but cmon: how could a wedding where the bride wore five outfits ever be considered “effortless”?

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The Best Metaphor for Motherhood

December 18, 2019

Is this sentence about mama elephants trying to avoid breathing exhaust fumes from Babar.

 

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My Introvert Paradise

December 18, 2019

When I read the 2011 obituary of 104-year-old Huguette Clark, the reclusive heiress who had spent nearly two decades in luxury hospital suites by choice before she died, naturally my first thought was, “This bitch is my hero.”  Okay, so maybe I have no interest in collecting dolls, as the eccentric Clark did well into adulthood, and maybe I didn’t grow up in a 121-room mansion, but dreamers gotta dream!

When Clark died, she left behind three enormous properties, estates in Santa Barbara and New Canaan, Connecticut, and a palatial apartment on 5th Avenue, that she hadn’t set foot in since her hospital admission.  She kept people on staff at all three houses to ensure they would be in perfect shape lest she decide (?) to pay a visit.  (Side note: have considered writing a short story about the house manager at the Santa Barbara estate, a real Remains-of-the-Day type, who squashes a new hire’s mission to find out more about their mysterious employer.  Or something like that.)

Anyway, her properties were put up for sale after her death, including her apartment at 907 5th Avenue, which was originally two apartments combined so she could live with her mother.  Naturally I want to live there.  When the realtor put a floor plan up on the listing site back in the day, I printed a copy and marked what the layout would be if justice were real and I got to live in a mansion.  Herewith, my introvert paradise!

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From top left around in a clockwise circle moving closer to the compass:

Kitchen
Informal breakfast nook: no idea why I put breakfast in quotation marks but I’ve grown a lot in the last eight years
Dining room
Bathroom with clawfoot tub: basically all I want in life, other than a $22.5 million apartment, is a clawfoot tub
Bedroom: mine
Closet: not sure where I’ll be getting the money to buy clothes in this scenario but it’s my fantasy
Nonfiction library: where I store my collection of nonfiction books
Bathroom
Cozy TV/movie watching room: big couches, plush blankets, etc.
Closet
Nap closet: for when you’re on the other side of the house and you’re too lazy to walk back to your own bed to nap
Hisbodedut room: when you want to daven Breslov style
Craft room: a room for doing projects, a la Amy Sedaris
Billiards room: not sure why I chose this, because I don’t play pool, but maybe I was just running out of ideas?
Sculptor-in-residence’s room: this is where the sculptor-residence will live and, well, sculpt
SIR’s bathroom
Office: this is the only room in the apartment with WiFi
Fiction library: where I store my novels
Group therapy room: where I get together with a bunch of people and do some guerrilla group therapy
Soundproof destruction room: when you’re really angry you can come in here and break things
Pantry
Empty room with waxed floor for skateboarding, toy car riding and sliding around on your butt: self-explanatory
Phone booth #2: phone booth #1 is on the other side
Psychopath room: a padded room for when you want to lose your shit a little
Room I forgot to name: thoughts, anyone?
Ping pong and game room: foosball as well
Is this a room or a hallway?: I genuinely cannot tell
Knick knack closet: this is where I keep my knick-knacks
Crying closet: this is a room with a couch and lots of tissues in case you feel like crying in private
Art gallery: this is where I keep my pictures and display the SIR’s work
Phone booth
Supply closet: for paper towels and such

So!  That’s the goal, folks.  Let’s make it happen.  Coming up soon, the link to my GoFundMe––aiming for a cool $25 mill here, people, so don’t be shy!  Oh and I’m auctioning off the original of the above.  Just reach out to Siobhan: she’s lazy, but she knows how to cash a check.

SAD!

December 4, 2019

Not gonna lie, pretty bummed these ceramic peanuts are sold out.  (PS: having a bit of a consumerist moment over here!  Send help!). (PPS: I love fake food you can scatter around your house a laAmy Sedaris!)

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Inspiration Everywhere!

November 7, 2019

Honestly the LEWK is these Pacific Northwestern Slavic anti-vaccine protestors.

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Good-Natured Rant Friday

October 11, 2019

So I stayed up too late last night, and I’m waiting to hear back on about ten things that I’d rather be doing than the things that I’m attempting to plug through that lack external motivators (that is confusing but it’s not really interesting enough to clarify) which means I have to come up with something else to do.  Herewith, an attempt:

Probably about two weeks ago, my husband was walking through midtown when he passed a church, or something––I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but he somehow ended up faced with some non-denominational Christian literature.  Knowing me as well as he does, he grabbed a little pamphlet entitled Keeping Sabbath, by The Reverend Doctor Donna Schaper, prolific author and senior minister at the Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan, which is a Baptist institution with a long history of artistic parishioners and institutional support for the arts.

The Reverend Doctor Schaper is a wonderful writer (I’ve visited her website); the power of her spiritual thought is evident even in her obligatory biography.  It’s really great to see literally anyone grappling with issues of faith in modern life.

And yet and yet and yet… her little pamphlet Keeping Sabbath is really kind of ridiculous!  Let me break down why, using her full text and inserting my comments throughout:

“The scariest thing I ever touched was not a spider or a snake or my family’s frog or a jellyfish in the ocean.  The scariest thing I ever touched was my power to choose wellness or illness, peace or anxiety, chocolate or black raspberry, to sleep longer or to wake sooner, to live for myself or others, to live by the tyrannical ticking of the clock or with a deeper sense of longer time.”

So far, so poetic.  Some might quibble with the idea of choice vis-a-vis “wellness or illness” but I see what she’s getting at.

“Keeping Sabbath is about choosing to live and not just exist.”

I suppose in a 21st century Instagram graphirmation-sense, sure.*

“We live in a time famine––a culture that starves us for time.  Technology encourages us to work 24/7, and the boundaries between home and work have dissolved.”

Yes, 1000%.  But…

“We need to discover some new ways of keeping the Sabbath.”

“New”?  This deserves further investigation.

The Biblical Understanding”

This part is mostly background, so won’t require much explication.

“The Biblical Sabbath is a weekly day of rest commanded by God in the Old Testament.  It is first mentioned in the book of Genesis, where God rests on the seventh day of creation.  The fourth of Ten Commandments calls God’s people to imitate God by keeping the seventh day holy (Exodus 20:8-11).  It is also understood as a remembrance of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).  It is a day when the Israelites were commanded to stop all work.

“Sabbath observance helped Jews retain their distinctiveness during the Diaspora, a time when they lost their land and homes.  For centuries, Jews, Christians and Muslims continued to set aside a day of the week for rest.  For Christians, this became the first day of the week, in celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

“Six days we work, on the seventh day we rest.  This might be the Biblical ideal, but it is nearly impossible in the world today.”

This, I fear, is a big overstatement.  Just ask me or any member of a religion that adheres to a strict version of the Sabbath, which includes conservative Anabaptists like the Amish, some Mormons, and Orthodox Jews.  Perhaps the Amish are a bad example here, as they are not interested (broadly speaking) in participating in “the world today.”  But within Orthodox Judaism, even from the stringent, insular Satmar world all the way down through people like my family, who are Modern Orthodox, many manage to hold down real jobs in the “secular” world and still uphold the laws of the Sabbath.

“Most of us no longer work agriculturally or even industrially.  Instead, we work online more and more, and our work extends into all of our waking hours.  Even days off can be consumed with busyness, housework, and errands.  We find ourselves ready for a spiritual transition for the realities we face.  We find ourselves seeking––and needing––new ways of keeping Sabbath.”

True, there is an enormous hunger for the peace and sanctity and separateness of the Sabbath.  And there are many, many ventures that attempt to re-package the Sabbath for the spiritual dabbler/burnout millennial/techno-skeptic, many of them engineered by the very people who are responsible for the systemic burnout we’re experiencing: Digital Sabbath, National Day of Unplugging, Camp Grounded and other digital detox retreats, 5:2 Digital Diet––the list goes on and on.

The Essence of Sabbath”

“Sabbath is a time when we are down, not up; receiving, not giving; being, not doing.  It is time set apart that is different from ordinary time.  It is special time, when we reflect on our actions and let their meanings seep into our souls.  Sabbath is moving into the eternal from the daily, to a little bit of heaven from a lot of earth.  It is departure from our biologically allotted time into God’s time.  Sabbath provides the space to remember that all we have comes from God, and our lives are dependent on God, not our own labor.”

Yep, true.

“This time-outside-of-time can be different for different people.  For example, one person might experience gardening as work, whereas for another, it is precious Sabbath time.  Some might be able to set aside a whole day.  For others, Sabbath hours or Sabbath moments throughout one’s week might be more realistic.”

Uh, no.  Of course, a big caveat here is that I’m speaking from an Orthodox Jewish perspective; technically, the rules of Jewish Shabbat do not apply to non-Jews (Jesus famously declared himself as arriving to uproot and supplant halakha).  However, as she made the point about Shabbat being a major factor in Jewish continuity, I feel that it’s important to examine why we’ve been so successful at it critically and thoroughly.

While the Sabbath is characterized by a sense of serenity and freedom, it is not a time during which we relax for relaxation’s sake, or indulge in activities that fit our own personal definitions of relaxation.  What qualifies as appropriate conduct on Shabbat is actually extremely regimented: myriad activities categorized as one of the 39 melachot (“work”), some of them wholly pleasant and totally appropriate during the week, would not be permissible on shabbat.  This includes gardening, for reasons that aren’t worth getting into here (there’s probably a rule of thumb one could come up with, which is like, “If you wonder whether it’s allowed on Shabbat, the answer is likely no”).  Of course, picking your own time for shabbat, and deciding on the duration of said shabbat, would not be allowed, either.

The dirty little secret in religion is that when there are clear expectations of conduct, people rise to the occasion.  We are seeing this play out in religious life all over the world: in Judaism, the more liberal denominations, which emphasize how adherents are not beholden to ___ (insert halakhic stricture here), are essentially hemorrhaging members, while the Orthodox world is booming.  Of course, there are many other factors for this that I don’t mean to deemphasize (the major one being high birth rates) but you cannot discount the fact that an expectation of consistent involvement results in consistent involvement.  Because so much of what is required of us is communal––praying in a group, particularly but not limited to on Shabbat, being just one example, which necessitates living in proximity to a synagogue––we naturally band together, in order to continue to uphold those expectations.  We become an island in a vast sea of cultural difference.  It is because of those clear expectations, and because of that separation from the dominant culture (relative, depending on your sect/denomination), and not in spite of these things, that the Sabbath is for us a lived reality (not a modern “impossibility”) while for others, its value is much coveted, but the thing itself remains out of reach.

“Sabbath Observance Today”

“We may continue to live a frazzled, harried life, or we may decide to live a more peaceful one.  We have choices, not full choice or total freedom, but choices within the narrow places that work and life have become.”

Even as someone who is shomer Shabbat, I’m guilty as charged on this one.

“How might we live optimally in the midst of this twenty-first-century time famine?  How might we experience the gift of Sabbath?”

You do it by… observing the Sabbath!

“If we can’t keep Sabbath the way our ancestors did, perhaps we can figure out something new.  Consider these options, spiritually and practically.  Do not think of them as yet another ‘should’ or obligation, but as options to consider––a quiet ‘may.'”

Uh well, for Jews it is actually a pretty clear obligation.  I’ll admit here to being a Shabbat enthusiast and, if I had it in me, I’d proselytize for it.  I don’t care much when my unaffiliated Jewish friends (of which I have many) don’t keep kosher, but I will admit to finding it sad when they eschew Shabbat.  I think Rev. Dr. Schaper here is pandering, insofar as people in the 21st century very intensely dislike being told they *have* to do something.  But being obligated is not necessarily a bad thing: it increases your chance of follow-through if you feel beholden to a person or a force outside of yourself.  If you make the rules and only you know if you break them, then you are probably not going to care very much if/when you waver.

“1. Give yourself permission to take some Sabbath time.  Tell yourself that you may keep Sabbath, not that you must.  Take Sabbath off your ‘to do’ list and let it emerge from a deeper place in you.”

Counterpoint: think about exercising.  Lots of us (myself included) dislike it.  We dread doing it.  In the minutes before our class begins, we’re asking ourselves why we ever thought this would be a good idea.  But we feel––correctly!––obligated to do it, because we know it’s good for us.  The beginning of the class, we struggle, then in the middle––usually for me this comes around three-quarters of the way through––we reach a place of transcendent focus.  We’re all muscle, no mind.  Afterward, we are always glad we went.

Shabbat is kind of like that.  The lead-up is often very hectic: scrambling to finish the food, rip the toilet paper (it’s a thing), strategically turn off and on the lights, etc.  When we first start observing it, we might find it annoying to abstain from so much, or lonely not being able to call or text anyone.  But as the hours pass, and we move naked through the world, existing with a mindfulness even a Goldman Sachs meditation teacher can’t attain, we rise above.  The feeling COMES FROM the doing, not the other way around.  As the Jews said at Sinai, na’aseh v’nishma: we will do and we will listen.  Scholars have interpreted this to mean that for Jews, the primacy of law takes precedence over understanding.  This is a very anti-millennial idea, but it gets the job done, trust me.

“2. If you have two ‘free’ days a week, designate one for errands and personal maintenance and the other for spiritual leisure.”

If you are not Jewish or don’t have a Shabbat practice, this seems like sound advice.

“This spiritual leisure could be tennis, yoga, or walking, or it could be sitting, reading, or mindlessly watching TV.”

SO.  This.  Well.  Yoga, walking, sitting and reading are all fine by me (and Hashem)!  Tennis could be problematic, depending on certain factors.  TV, though, is wrong by any faith identification.

Obviously for Jews, you cannot watch TV on Shabbat, because it’s muktzah (literally “set aside”).  But I think there’s an argument to be made for outlawing TV even in your DIY Shabbat.  Recall the exercise analogy above.  This is useful here.  A lot of times, the things we *think* will be restorative end up contributing to the problem in the first place.  We don’t want to exercise because we’re tired, so we don’t go on a run, even though it’s been shown that exercise improves overall energy levels.  We want to watch TV because it seems relaxing, but when we’ve finally closed our Netflix six hours later, we feel gross.  To switch analogies, it’s a bit like indulging in cake: it looks delicious and we think it will make us feel nice, and it does in the immediate moment, but when we overindulge (which we do often, as sugar and television––particularly streaming services––are designed to keep us coming back) we feel worse.

There’s another issue here, and that’s the long arm of commerce.  On Shabbat, you get a break from thinking of yourself as a consumer (this is especially important in purchase-happy America); television, to contrast, actively encourages consumerism.  Even on a streaming platform, where you’re often spared commercials or ads, you’re still being prompted to continue to pay for the privilege of watching.  On Shabbat, to contrast, we get to see ourselves as creatures who do not need to deal with money in order to live happily, thereby elevating ourselves onto a higher, less earthly plane.

“3. Practice living intentionally in the present moment, noticing the sounds and sights of the world around you, but also noticing your own thoughts.  The goal of Sabbath keeping is to empty the mind of its obligations and let the non-obligated or seemingly useless flow in.”

Yeah, sure.  Technically speaking, we should be talking about and focusing on spiritual matters, but we’re not perfect (yet) so that doesn’t always happen.  And she’s right to say you should “empty the mind of its obligations”: generally speaking, work-related chatter is frowned upon.

“4. Try imagining the week as twenty-one units––morning, afternoon, and evening each counting as a unit.  Instead of one full day of Sabbath, set aside six units, a couple of afternoons, a couple of evenings, a couple of mornings or even parts thereof.  Reflect on your spiritual accomplishments and do so in a very gentle way.”

This is nice.  I do wonder, though, if you’re setting up your own system, whether or not it would end up falling apart because the demarcation between serendipitous relaxation and “Sabbath-level” relaxation are just too blurry.  When are you idly daydreaming, and when are you having a micro-Sabbath?  This might not matter in the long run for many, but I think if you aren’t a naturally regimented person, you might lose the focus required to sustain a practice with these kinds of vague prompts.  Or you could just think anything nice is Shabbat.  I could see someone arguing, “Well, why can’t you just decide what you like and what works for you?”  Honestly, it’s not nice, but my answer to this is: because generally speaking people are not good at this.  They do all kinds of things in the name of pleasure that are frivolous or pointless or even actively harmful: being lazy, drinking too much, smoking, scrolling through Instagram for hours at a time, and on and on.  I don’t trust people on the whole to make good decisions, without at least some direction.

“5. Custom design your Sabbath practice to fit your job, your family, and your commute.  For example, you might even keep Sabbath on your commute.  Rest, pray, or listen to music.”

Oh boy.  I think we basically covered this one already, but let me say again: Shabbat is not for the sake of your work!  If you engage in this kind of thinking, you are not committing to the paradigm shift necessary to step away from the system that created this burnout-inducing time-famine in the first place.  A Hasidic story, but I don’t know the exact provenance: “A small congregation procured Torah scrolls, but they were too big for the synagogue’s ark.  ‘Should we cut the scrolls to fit the ark?’ parishioners asked. Of course, the answer was no: you build an ark to fit the scrolls.”  And such as it is with the Shabbat: you don’t change it around to fit your life, you change your life so you can have the sabbath.

“6. Ritualize your life.  Do email at set times in the morning or afternoon––or when you decide––and live free of it the rest of the day.  Tell people what you are doing: ‘You can expect an answer after 4:30.'”

Good advice, not really Shabbat-specific though.

“7. Turn off your cell phone and stay away from other technology while on your custom-designed Sabbath(s).”

Amen.

“8. Ritualize your weekly exercise program.  Let your body and soul say hello to each other in a morning or evening walk.  Take yoga.  Schedule weight lifting.  Make a plan for you.”

Again, good advice, but not about Shabbat.

“9. Eat at least one sit-down meal a day, perhaps with a tablecloth or cloth napkin you keep in your desk drawer.  Refuse to eat take-out food or ‘grab and go’ meals.”

This is a big part of our Shabbat actually!  Observant Jews make an effort to clean their houses before sundown and set out tablecloths or use placemats for the meals.  Meals tend to be formal and leisurely.

“10. Take your time doing something you don’t have to do.  Write a letter to an old friend, clean a corner of your apartment, or dress up really beautifully.  Look at an old photograph album.  Turn the pages slowly and remember yourself at an earlier stage.”

This is confusing to me, but maybe because I don’t find cleaning restful.  It’s also just a definition issue: when are you cleaning for your Sabbath, and when are you cleaning because your house is dirty?  What separates the experience of writing to an old friend because you should from the experience of writing to an old friend because you want to––and what if both things are true?  If you decide what Sabbath is, and it could be anything, isn’t it then really… nothing?

“Sabbath keeping is a way for us to live more deeply, within the constraints that are clear in our lives.  Those who observe a regular Sabbath say that it brings greater presence and depth to their work and to the rest of their lives.  Sabbath is an invitation to grace and peace, each with its source in God’s original time and ways.”

Then there is a short closing prayer which I’m not going to include here because I don’t have anything to say about it.

The ending reiterates some problematic points from earlier in the pamphlet: the idea that we have to accept modernity’s overreach as at least somewhat inevitable, and that the Sabbath is a way for us to renew ourselves for those lives that we are finding difficult enough to seek refuge from in the first place.  To which I say: no.  Shabbat should not be thought of as an exercise in hashtag-wellness, in which we do whatever we feel will best rejuvenate ourselves for the grind of the week ahead, nor should it, or any other faith-based ritual, be thought of as something that can be tailored beyond recognition to fit the zeitgeist, particularly when the zeitgeist is as baldly and grossly capitalistic and dehumanizing as ours is.  As Abraham Joshua Heschel summarized it so eloquently in his book on the subject, Jews consider Shabbat the culmination of the week, the true essence of our lives, not a caesura in our being; we don’t have shabbat for the sake of work, but rather the other way around.  Without experiencing that dramatic shift in valuation, you will not experience true sabbath rest.

And with that, I’m off to shower before candle lighting!  Just want to reiterate that I really admire Schaper––she seems like a profound writer and thinker, seriously!––I just think dumbing down religion and casting off faith’s obligations in the name of filling the pew seats actually backfires in the end!  The numbers bear that out!  Ok, Shabbat Shalom, friends!

*”Graphirmation: my personal portmanteau for artful social media posts that include an affirmation statement, such as, “You’re worth it!”  Example, below:


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More Visuals!

September 5, 2019

I hate to post so many visuals and so few words, but how creepily similar are these Goop-favorite guru twins to those killer yoga twins from Hawaii that made headlines a few years back?

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COINCIDENCE?  I think I’ll be skipping the next manifesting weekend.

Ruin Porn

August 8, 2019

I’ve been wanting for ages to make a prototype for a cover of my magazine, Ruin Porn, which will be a high-end glossy for those of us who love abandoned buildings, architectural decay, and eerie interiors.  Unfortunately for us all, my Photoshop skills are zilch.  So I’ve done this, which is kiiiinda close but a) the font of the contents isn’t perfect and b) I want the background to be Baker-Miller/Millennial Pink or another shade of pink TBD, which feels like it SHOULD be easy to accomplish but is… not.

By the way if anyone wants to team up with me and make this magazine, I would toooootally do it.  I’m leaning toward it being a biannual journal but I’ll sign on for a quarterly if my financial backers absolutely insist.

By the way, in case you can’t read it, the features in this issue are: The Abandoned Villas of Italy by Photographer Thomas Jorian, The Stalkers of Pripyat, Ukraine, and A Visit to Poveglio Island.

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Great Celebrity Sightings

July 26, 2019

One time I saw Malcolm Gladwell at my hairdresser.

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This Image from the Movie…

June 30, 2019

Midsommar is exactly what I envision goes on in women-only co-working spaces…

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Let it out, girlfriend