Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Art of Wednesday Kirwan

Kirwan’s “Maneaters: Harpies”
© Wednesday Kirwan

Wednesday Kirwan is a children’s illustrator and artist. Her fine art often uses the same sweet moon faces as her children’s illustration, but is combined for an almost startling effect with mythological imagery and more mature themes. Really fascinating work. View her gallery at The website features a shop where she sells prints of her work as well as really clever little cameo reproductions of her work.

Of course, I am also very taken with her illustration depicting children with rabbits (which can be found in the illustration gallery). I’m a sucker for bunnies.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wierd Thought For The Day

There are women whose only hobby is to obsessively try to make their body shrink.

I mean, that is one of my hobbies, but I have many many hobbies (which typically have more to do with yarn or paint than, say, caloric intake) so that makes me a mite bit less odd than women who literally think of nothing else during their recreational time.

The Ongoing Debate

I had a conversation yesterday about the practice of a woman taking a man’s surname as her own after marriage. The woman I was talking to had chosen not to take her husband’s name and we were chatting about the discomfort we both felt with the idea of doing so. We talked about people we knew who had chosen not to do so, men who had chosen to take their wife’s name and a clever couple (with mercifully short surnames) who had combined their two last names to create a new surname they both used.

Aside from the fact that it seems like a sign of subservience to accept a husband’s name as your own, I suppose my discomfort is also rooted in my attachment to my last name. It is long and unwieldy but I was raised with a paternal Grandmother who had a strong sense of history and spoke of the origins of her own family as well as my Grandfather’s a great deal. Ironically, the fact that she very much adopted my grandfather’s last name is what gave me such an attachment to it. She was frequently known to say, “Remember you’re a (my last name)” and then would proceed to declare what qualities one was required to have as a member of this family. She had ambitious ideas regarding what qualities this name denoted and the honor we, her grandchildren, should consider our possession of this name to be. All this in spite of the fact that she didn't much like her in-laws. Go figure. She constantly reinforced the idea of family as a community, as a continuing thread. I’m first generation American and my attachment to my last name also relates to my sense of having a tie to that history. My middle name is my mother’s maiden name, which I suppose was her way of asserting a claim on my identity. The women in my family have a wierd thing about names.

I found an article on the subject at Wikipedia listed as married and maiden names. There are cultures with different traditions regarding his practice, many include some part of the woman's last name remaining a part of her name which is then passed onto the couple's offspring. I would want my children to have my name (if and when I had any)... which would require a break from Western tradition. Then again, I have a complex ten letter last name. Forcing a hyphenate or a bizarro middle name on a child might be inconsiderate. My Grandmother, however, who was so posessive of the name she married into would probably have loved the idea.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire

Like so many people who are fascinated by both words and people or personalities, I like lists and questionnaires. My favorite by far is the Vanity Fair adaptation of the infamous Proust Questionnaire.

You may or may not be familiar with the Proust Q, and the Vanity Fair version (which appears, with answers by a public figure, in the back of every issue of the magazine) is more involved and not really true to the originals, while drawing from them heavily. There is a common misconception that Proust wrote this questionnaire, while it actually consists of two questionnaires he answered as a youth. The original Proust Questionnaires can be viewed here. Clearly, one need not have read Proust in order for this questionnaire - which is essentially a party game that has become a pop culture phenomenon - to be relevant. It has also been noted that this questionnaire could be considered the predecessor of the modern phenomenon of the meme.

This questionnaire is not to be confused with the Pivot questionnaire made famous in the States by James Lipton's use of it on “Inside the Actors Studio”. The Pivot questionnaire was used by Bernard Pivot in his series "Bouillon de Culture" and can be found here.

I have attempted to compile the complete list of questions that Vanity Fair uses, based on the fact that each questionnaire they print varies a little - presumably they print only the questions a subject chose to answer or only the most interesting questions that a subject answered, thus explaining the question variations from subject to subject. This list is much longer than the original Proust Q. The order in which the questions are printed also varies a bit from time to time. I have tried to stick to the most consistent order based on a sampling of the printed questionnaires. Should someone find the official complete list, let me know. I haven’t been able to locate it but clearly it’s out there somewhere.

In light of the intermittent use of questions in VF, one would answer only those questions which they wish to. The principle is to answer each question without explanation and in whatever manner suits you - as your manner of response can tell as much about you as the answer itself. I think it makes an interesting exercise in self-examination. The more difficult task is this - to answer as honestly as possible with one’s self, not trying to adapt one’s answers to impress a potential reader.

I may eventually post my answers in my blogger profile, but I really think it is more interesting to think about one’s own answers as opposed to reading the answers of a stranger. I do, admittedly, very much enjoy the surprising things you learn by reading the answers of the famous and infamous persons Vanity Fair coaxes into responding.

Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire as best as I can ascertain:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

What is your greatest fear?

What historical figure do you most identify with?

Which living person do you most admire?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What trait do you most deplore in others?

What is your greatest extravagance?

On what occasion do you lie?

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

What is your favorite journey?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Which living person do you most despise?

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

What is your greatest regret?

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

When and where were you happiest?

Which talent would you most like to have?

What is your current state of mind?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

If you could choose what or who to come back as, what would it be?

What do your consider your greatest achievement?

What is your most treasured possession?

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

What is your most marked characteristic?

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?

What do you most value in your friends?

Who are your favourite writers?

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

Who are your heroes in real life?

What are your favourite names?

What is it that you most dislike?

How would you like to die?

What is your motto?

For the curious, I later posted my response in this blog.
Some of them are quite difficult to answer, aren't they?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Real Meaning of The Holiday

“What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”
- Erma Bombeck

To be honest, I have no intention of abandoning my diet this year, as I have just recently relocated my small waist and am in no mood to lose track of it again. All the same, too many women spend the year in the throes of devoted dieting and restraint. Thanksgiving is a day for lack of restraint. I don't really believe anyone is celebrating anything else... unless perhaps they are reveling in the opportunity to irritate family members and argue over the proper way to cook things which is also vastly entertaining and deserving of an official day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Words Meme

Snagged this meme here at The Sheila Variations. I’m not big on the whole meme thing but I LOVE words.

Words that always look misspelled to me:

Words I enjoy saying:

Words I enjoy hearing:

Abbreviations I dislike:
ppl as shorthand for People
...and I don’t like acronyms

Proper nouns I enjoy:
Violent Femmes

Words I associate with happiness:

Words I always misspell:

Words I enjoy spelling correctly, every time:
knowledge (just because I have this crystal clear memory of being able to spell it when I was very very young and - at the time - being incredibly pleased with myself)
Mississippi (because it’s fun to spell out loud)

Words that, though I love their meaning, I’m too embarrassed to say out loud:
Not sure anything fits that description, I’ll say just about anything.

Words I can never remember the meaning of no matter how many times I look them up:

Words that sound like what they mean:

Words that sound like something other than what they mean:

What are some of your favorite words?

Your least favorite?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


“Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That's what the day's supposed to be all about, right? Torture.”
- Holly Hunter’s character, Claudia, in Home for the Holidays

I have a deep-seated almost irrational love of this film. The performances are amazing and perfect and lovingly rendered. The characters are all so flawed and human and familiar that you cannot help but feel they have spent time amongst your own lunatic family. It is a fond, self-aware love letter to that most dysfunctional of all holidays - Thanksgiving.

My own Thanksgiving is shaping up to be a classic - horrific and messy and tiring but very funny to look back on later - you know, the way Thanksgiving SHOULD be.

I’ve just had a long term relationship end. My parents are responsible for the grandparents this year which involves driving to the nursing home to get them and then trundle them back for the dinner... and then drive them home again when, in about two hours, they begin to complain and worry about whether or not anyone remembers that they have to go home. One sister will have children in tow and yell at them all day - sometimes completely at random as if to yell as a preventative measure. The other sister is not going to make it until Saturday which means that my mother will spend the day periodically lamenting that sister’s absence and speculating about why she doesn’t want to be with her family. My parents happen to be mad at my brother for something right now, so there is certain to be a row about that at some point.

Oh! and my parents have decided they don’t actually like Turkey, after all. So we will be having roasted chicken. There is bound to be trouble.

I’m bringing a good book and a lot of film. If there are any fights, I want to make sure I have pictures to share with the sister who isn’t arriving until the weekend. It’s not fair that she should miss this.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Jumping From High Places

“Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.”
-Katherine Mansfield

...and the good news of the day IS....(drumroll please) - I got the part. Which just goes to show that if you are willing to get out there and try things and risk making an ass of yourself - it may just pay off. I think a lot of things in life are like that. The willingness to leap headfirst is an underrated virtue. When I do a catalog of the best memories of my life the ones that bring the most joy, are the most vivid and make me feel the most satisfied are the ones in which I took a risk, did something outside my comfort zone, leapt wildly into an experience.

I think being back on stage will be a wonderful adventure.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


“Since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen.”
- Muriel Heslop, as played by Toni Colette in P.J. Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding

Well, I have to find SOMETHING else to talk about as I eagerly await for the cast list from the aformentioned auditions to be posted, and I’m going through a bit of an ABBA resurgence. I had forgotten how much I love ABBA. HOW could that be possible, one might ask? I think it’s been some combination of dating a serious musician for years, which led to feelings of shame over my love of music that “has a beat you can dance to”, no longer having my favorite bar-hopping club-going boogie buddies close at hand (they all live in other places) and some bizarre resurgence of my need to prove I am a Serious Person. Serious People don’t listen to ABBA. One of the many reasons that being a Serious Person is a terrible, terrible idea.

Dancing to ABBA in my car - with great enthusiam - reminds me how much I love Muriel’s Wedding. Which is appropriate since I’m going through some sort of butterfly-ish stage myself these days. It’s a brilliant film. Muriel tries to fix her depressing dowdy existence by telling elaborate lies and pursuing the dream of getting married (to anyone) and along the way makes an incredible friend, realizes that what everyone else thinks about you isn’t as important as being yourself and gets a sort of inner and outer makeover mostly just by getting her butt out of bed, making some huge mistakes and finally taking some risks. AND it's an Austrailian film so the actors look like real people (instead of Boob Job Barbies) and the situations are both funny and sometimes uncomfortably real which I LOVE.

Most of all, I love Toni Colette and Rachel Griffiths singing ABBA songs together. You haven’t lived if you’ve never danced around singing boisterous, campy songs with a close friend. It’s one thing to do this alone. Many people secretly dance with the broom in the kitchen or sing in the shower - That requires no unusual feats of trust and daring. Holding a hairbrush as microphone and belting it out next to someone whom you are genuinely willing to have see you look like a complete doofus - this is a vital level of closeness to develop in at least a few of your friendships.

Which goes along with my friendship / phone call theory. I gauge friendship based, to some degree, on my comfort level communicating in certain ways.

The levels are as follow:

1. Say Hello when seeing each other in public.

2. Ask you to join me if we run into each other in a public place (like a restaurant or bar.... Not like, the ladies room. Then I won’t ask you to “join me”... well, it's very unlikely I will unless I've had a few drinks.)

3. Email and say hello / suggest intentionally meeting in a public place.

4. Call and suggest meeting intentionally in a public place.

5. Call to share minor league news / relate stories of amusing family antics.

6. Call you when I’m just bored.

7. Call you to discuss the opposite sex / sex in general / sex that I am or am not actually having.

8. Call you when someone dies / leaves me / leaves me and should die.

9. Call and sing into your answering machine in an animated fashion / declare things in wildly flawed accents / give descriptions of dance moves being executed for the benefit of the voicemail performance.

That’s right. The comfort level of allowing you to have recorded evidence of my bizarre lack of musical talent comes AFTER the “call if someone is dead” level. Blackmail material of that calibre requires a unique level of trust. I mean, it goes beyond singing together when drinking because THAT's just a fuzzy memory (or no memory at all if you realize your mistake and liquor your friend up enough) - but voice recordings are forever.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's the Journey, not the Destination

"A life lived in fear is a life half lived."
-Spanish proverb quoted in Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom

As a teenager, I was deeply fascinated with acting. I loved going to plays and musicals, watched an excessive number of films and competed with my high school drama team. At school everyone knew me as a writer and artist, talents I was far more confident in, but I was secretly in love with acting. I never talked about it. I don’t think anyone aside from my beloved drama coach could see that I was so passionate about it (I also worried that she was the only one who would think I had so much natural ability). After high school, I just stopped. I worried that I was not good enough to keep going with it. I feared failure and I had been told - like so many of my peers - that the choices I made in the next few years were going to shape MY ENTIRE LIFE. I was terrified that a misstep would ruin my future happiness, so I decided that acting wasn’t a sufficiently practical choice and set it aside.

Everyone, I think, is familiar with the idea that if you go to a class of 1st or 2nd grade children and ask them who can dance, who can draw, who can sing - they will all raise their hand. They will want to show you. They will do these things with great joy and abandon. Ask the same children when they are 15, 16 or 17 and the majority will tell you they cannot draw, cannot dance, cannot sing. Not everyone has an innate talent for these things or is accomplished at them, but even children who have some capability will hesitate to raise their hand unless they are particularly accomplished.

I know that there is a difference between the enthusiasm small children have for self-expression and genuine talent existing in a young adult, but I think some of the decline is also based on two important factors. As we grow, we learn self-consciousness. We learn to worry that we are being judged by our peers. We learn to give the outside world’s opinion a higher priority than, perhaps, it deserves. Also, in school we are often taught that creative pursuits are less valuable or less prestigious than more “practical” or academic pursuits (or athletic ability, for that matter). Parents and teachers worry about the teenager’s well being - because they DO care, and as a result will often push them toward career paths that have greater monetary reward with less concern for the child’s creative fulfillment. It’s understandable. Many decisions made in guiding youth are made out of fear and a desire to protect.

So where does this leave me? I found a practical application for my creative abilities and have been in the same field for a decade now. I like my work, but don’t find it sufficiently fulfilling. I have spent the last ten years wondering “What if?” about acting. My suppressed desire has left me a compulsive film buff, with a knowledge of film that leads friends to call me up when they can’t remember the name of an actor or need help deciding if they should go see a film. I have rarely gone to theatrical productions, however, as I find it uncomfortable - watching people on stage being reminder of what I never found the courage to pursue.

I have been slowly dipping my toes this year. I auditioned for and was cast in a “no acting experience necessary” production that was a charity benefit. I have been doing some work backstage for a local community theater. But tonight comes a big step for me - tonight I am auditioning for a part in a production at the community theater. Even if I am not cast, auditioning is a big hurdle. I am tired of living in fear. Tired of walking around feeling I have the potential for things that I will never pursue.

When we are small we tend to believe anything is possible. How sad it is to lose that. I don’t want to live like that any longer. That’s why I went to New York, to remind myself how full of possibility the world is. And that’s why I’m going to an audition tonight. I have this long list of things that want to do with my life, and I’ve waited ten years to get started on the more adventurous items on that list. I’m not going to waste any more time.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Quest for Holy Grail... or maybe just Happiness (which is better than a fancy cup)

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
- Anais Nin

OK. Frankly, I was comfortable in the bud. Unhappy, but comfortable. Settled. Lethargic, even.

People always say - when some godawful thing has happened to you, some godawful thing that you are certain they do not understand and cannot realize the crushing implications of - that, “When life closes a door, it opens a window.” or some crap like that. And you can’t help but think, “Yeah? C’mere. I’m gonna toss you out that window.

While I don’t recommend repeating this information to anyone who recites platitudes to you (no sense in encouraging them), over time you inevitably realize that it’s actually TRUE. Sometimes the most horrible thing that can happen to you is also the most liberating. Change is the only thing you can count on, and with it comes new life, interesting people and - in my case, anyway - travel.

It's time to face the unknown (not that I have a choice, but it makes me feel all brave and action-hero-ey to approach this like some sort of noble quest. There just aren't sufficient opportunities for noble quests in everyday life.) All hail the painful process of change and rebirth as it leads me to strange new places, a better sense of self and, far more importantly, a trimmer figure (because my priorities haven’t changed THAT much).

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

- Anais Nin

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Great Kate

”Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”

- Katharine Hepburn

I think she was on to something. She would have known this best, as she and Spencer Tracy were involved for decades but only lived together for the last few years of his life (due greatly to the fact that Tracy was a devout Catholic and never divorced his wife, Louise Treadwell).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Art of Sylvia Ji

© 2003-2006 Sylvia Ji

Sylvia Ji’s website says, “In her art, she explores themes of beauty, sexual provocation, and social notions of femininity juxtaposed against the dystopian reality of modern cities to create highly charged paintings of women.” They certainly are. Her paintings of brash, strong and often overtly sexual female figures are rendered in vivid color and are arresting to the eye. Her gallery at is worth a visit.