The Canadian Club











{December 8, 2009}   Absolutely fabulous.

I know, I know.  I’ve been terrible.  Not as bad as Russ, but still terrible.

Sorry.

I have a good excuse for my terribleness, though, and it’s this:  I went down to Miami for the art fair madness this last weekend.  Now, I know that scene is supposed to be glamorous and all (Campari!  Lavazza!  Lufthansa!) but for me, it resembled nothing so much as the seventh grade.  Lots of 1) standing around hoping someone would notice me 2) diligently (if awkwardly) attempting to participate in social rituals that I only dimly understood and 3) spending way too much time spent getting from one place to another (Miami seems a bit like L.A. in that respect).  And as if the adolescent-like awkwardness weren’t enough — well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure an incessant hacking cough is NOT GLAMOROUS, even if you are wearing a dress from Barney’s.

None of this is making sense to you, Russ?  Well, I should probably explain what this whole scene is about.  It all started back in the boom days with this fair called Art Basel.  The original was actually held in Basel, Switzerland, but then they added a companion fair in Miami Beach, and that turned out to be bigger than the original fair.  Are you with me so far?  Then, all these other fairs cropped up around Art Basel, turning the whole town of Miami into a crazy art zoo every December.  Essentially, they’re just like craft shows, or flea markets or whatever — galleries apply for a fair, and if they get accepted, they get a little booth in a maze of other booths in a big warehouse-y kind of space.  Then everyone stands around and hopes that rich people will come in and buy stuff.  This actually used to happen — rich people would walk up to a $5000 or $10,000 or $100,000 or $1,000,000 work of art and say, “I’ll take it,” and the gallerist would take it down and bubble wrap it.  No, seriously.

So my gallery had its own little booth at one of those fairs, and I went down to work it.

The “I’ll take it” scenario doesn’t occur so much any more, and it certainly didn’t happen for me this last weekend.  So, on some level, the whole event turned out to be one of one of those, hmm, what do you call them?  Oh, yes —

.

Still, it’s probably good that I went.  Actually, I got the feeling that my gallery wanted me to come down there for my own education as much as for any use I might be in helping promote the work.  That’s what I’m telling myself, at least, because I really could not have been any less helpful than I was.  Nervous fidgeting and pacing?  Check.  Transparently crestfallen face when anyone left the booth without giving my work a good look?  Check.  Uncontrollable, gagging, crying, red-faced coughing fits?

Check (I have a miserable cold).

I did get to go to a party that had a velvet rope line for the first time in my life, which was sort of exciting.  On the other hand, it kinda sucked, because it was sponsored by Campari so there were endless free Campari drinks and you had to pay for anything else.  And of course, who wants to pay for drinks when you can get them for free, even if you start to feel a little ill from all the sickly sweetness?  I am pretty sure I was the only person who actually liked Campari at the party, and even I was a little grossed out after a while.  Also, they didn’t have any food, which doesn’t make Lufthansa look so great, does it?  I mean, do you really want all those glamorous people (plus the red-faced lady coughing her guts out in the corner) to associate your airline with feeling hungry and cranky?

The biggest bright spot of the weekend?  Two women stopped me and asked if I was Loretta Lux.  Were they crazy?  Obviously.  But I’ll take what I can get.

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{November 13, 2009}   You’re just too good to be true.

ihop

First item on my agenda:  a hearty greeting to our sudden influx of undoubtedly confused international readers.  Looking for information about the Princess Protection Program or Gerhard Richter?  Believe us, we’re just as surprised that you ended up here as you are.  But while you’re here, why not have a look around?  Do you like the Buzzcocks or the English Beat?  We sure do!  Perhaps you’d be interested to know that Russ and I enjoy international travel and have visited many of your lovely countries?  It’s true!  We loves us some Sachertorte!

You might also like to hear what I’ve got to say about the Youth of America these days.  First, I should explain that Russ and I are not Canadians, but rather Americans, who named our blog after a fine beverage frequently referenced in an even finer TV show.  Got that?  OK.  Here we go.

So we’re always hearing about how incompetent our American educational system is.  (No doubt you, Foreign Gerhard Richter Fan, have heard something about this as well.)   And yes, I have to say, we’re guilty as charged; it’s pretty awful, and lots of kids can’t find Iraq on a map, and they can’t do basic math and so on and so forth.

But Oh. My. God.

The elite youth?  The kind who attend Overlord Academy, where I’m teaching right now, or who went to Miss Miniver’s, where I used to teach?

Crikey.

These kids, Most Respected Citizen of Estonia!  These kids!  How are they so shiny-haired, poised, bright and affable?  How are they so clever and hard-working?  We just did a critique on their most recent Bedazzler project, for which I asked them to make a small assemblage (think Joseph Cornell box, or John Frederick Peto trompe l’oeil still life) comprised of whatever objects they wanted.  They were to base their Bedazzler projects on these assemblages.  Here is what shocked me, in increasing order of shockingness.

4)  The projects were really, really good.  I seriously don’t have any clue as to how they’re getting anything out of my absentminded babbling about what Footie Pajamas’s favorite songs are, but I’m really impressed.   Clearly, this is some kind of Platonic innate knowledge thing, because they’re not getting it from me.

3)   They work really, really hard.  They’re not just bragging about late hours for my benefit.  I overhear them asking questions like, “How late were you here last night?”  and the answer is typically something like 3 or 4 or 5 am.  They have the kind of inside jokes with one another that can only have developed over many shared hours in the Bedazzling studio.

2)  They think it’s totally normal to work this hard.  Many of their projects seem to contain narratives about how much stuff they’re doing.  Two students, totally independently, included medication bottles in their assemblages.  WTF?!?  Medication bottles!  They are pre-med brilliant painters who write for the paper!  They get up to go to the gym at 6:30 am!  Do you know what I was doing at 6:30 am in college?  Sleeping.  That’s what I was doing, my Milanese friend.  Sleeping.

1)  At age 20 or so, they unambiguously like their parents.  “My dad is much cooler than I am — he’s always telling me about new bands.”  They actually say things like this, Münchners!  Aren’t 20-year-olds still supposed to be rolling their eyes at their dads?

We chat a lot in Bedazzling class, as you may have guessed.

quilting bee

The ladies of Gee's Bend

So, my International Friends, what is going on?  Why are my students superior to me in every single way, except for the cool dad thing which I just find creepy?

I haven’t seen this video in 20 years.  Please tell me that’s not blackface.  Please?



{October 25, 2009}   I don’t want to get over you

bummers title

mailbox bummer

Don’t you hate it when a meme shows up that almost really, really resonates with you, but seems to fall just short of the mark in some way?  That comes maddeningly close to describing some defining experience?  Close enough that you feel like you’re kind of stuck with the term?

What could I be talking about, Russ?  Well, I’ll tell you.  It’s thehate crush.”

Your symptoms
You are obsessed with this person who really bothers you.  You can’t help but read her blog on Facebook/ Twitter. When you run into her, and sometimes you look for opportunities to run into her, your pulse races. You can hear your heartbeat pounding in your head.  You pray for her downfall and plot to outshine her.

Here’s more.

It is true, these relationships have much of the unpleasant intensity of a crush, the element of obsession, the need to bring it up at all times – and, most important, next to nothing to do with the object thereof. A “hate crush” is about you, about projections and insecurities. If a crush is about seeing the best version of yourself as you envision it, a “hate crush” is about the worst. I know many a friend – male and female – who’s fallen prey to the classic scenario, such feelings about an ex’s new partner, something social networking, Twitter and Google help exactly not at all. It becomes a reciprocal relationship – comparing themselves to pictures and interests and resumes and musical tastes. One cliched quote can provide an unwholesome sense of validation, even as it feeds the mania. And as in many a crush, they don’t always know you exist.

You and I, Russ, we’ve had our share of obsessive preoccupations with people that we didn’t like.  Or people that we possibly kind of liked and kind of didn’t like at the same time.  And people that we pretended to like, or not to like, because it seemed really funny.  And people that we used to like but stopped liking — often in a moment of dry-heave-inducing epiphany.  I like to think, in fact, that you and I have turned this kind of negative devotion into an art form.

But all the descriptions I’ve read seem to miss something elemental about the hate crush, at least as I’ve experienced it.  There is so much giddy fun to be had in, oh, I dunno, obsessively researching your bff’s hateful wife on Google and emailing the choicest links to your mutual friends.  And there seems to be an implicit assumption in these articles that any kind of obsession is inherently unhealthy and destructive — when in fact, I think that my hate crushes are fun, and possibly even cathartic.

Then again, I find it disturbing when people tell me they don’t Google stalk their friends.  My god, people, are you not human?  Don’t you have any curiosity at all?



ambition

I was reading your brilliant post on fitness again, Russ, and thinking about how unlikely it is that I will ever run a marathon.  This guy’s objections aside, I just can’t imagine ever suffering like that for a hobby.

But then there’s my Primary Career.  For which I do, you know, suffer, and make other people suffer.  I neglect my husband, my child and my social life — in addition to completely abandoning basic standards of cleanliness and order.  I love what I do and all, but why the hell am I working so hard?



My field, like yours, is stupidly prestige-conscious, and is filled with lots and lots of people competing for the same little rewards.  There are a lot of calculations to be made about lines added to the CV, about the relative glamor of one venue versus another, about schmoozing and self-promotion.  I would like to think that I’m not motivated by external rewards, that I really just care about Sweatshirts for Sweatshirts’ sake, but, come on — who am I kidding?  I like the occasional carrot just as much as the next donkey.  You know what I mean, Russ.  I really think you do.

Which leads me to the following question.  Is ambition for suckers?  Take day jobs.  When it comes to those, I have greatly preferred low-level administrative jobs to the more standard custom-sweatshirt maker’s career path.  Filing pays a little less per hour than teaching, obviously, but not that much less, and there’s very little stress involved.  And yet, try as I might to muster up the right kind of punk-rock moxie when talking about “what I do,” I always feel a little self-conscious if my day job is one that seems unworthy of my Prestigious Education.

So, Russ.  Would we be happier spending our time tending bar, growing vegetables and taking long bike rides — with some time taken out for a little blogging and a little sweatshirt-decorating, of course — if only we could get ourselves into the proper frame of mind?



et cetera