Weekly Adventure: Pittsburgh Getaway Edition

I’ve been bad about blogging the last couple of weeks. (I’ve even been to 2 museums for class and never got around to slapping a string of photos together for you all. FYI-the Capitol Visitors Center is worth a visit and it’s free and you get to learn even more about O. Henry.) This is mostly because I have been exhausted and crazed with grad school stuff, so my sort of random decision over the summer to attend a museum studies symposium on time sensitive art in Pittsburgh couldn’t have come a better time. Especially because my mom agreed to drive 7 hours straight to come explore the city with me.

The conference itself was interesting and inspiring (and intimidating), but I’m not going to bore you all with the details. But it was held at the Carnegie Museum of Art, which shares a complex with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which is gorgeous:

IMG_3802 Which reminded both my mom and I of the Art Institute in Chicago. In fact, a lot of the architecture in Pittsburgh reminded me of Chicago. Though some of it reminded me a lot of Troy, NY (where I went to high school), and the cluster of colleges reminded me a lot of Boston. Basically I would sum up Pittsburgh as a hybrid, Midwest/Northeastern city. It had a combination of industry (and remnants of past industry) and whimsy:

IMG_3803This is the Carnegie Museum of Art, complete with public art sculpture children can actually play on (something more places should institute I think):

IMG_3808 Mom’s first night in town we stayed near Carnegie Mellon and went to The Union Grill, which was a cute little pub, where she asked the waitress for a local specialty, she recommended a “Pittsburgh Salad”

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If you can’t tell, this dish includes french fries and grilled onions, it’s almost a salad I could get behind (but it also includes iceberg lettuce)

The next day we had pretty much one mission – to go to the Andy Warhol Museum, but because we wanted to see the sights (and we are both avid urban hikers, though she usually just calls it ‘walking’) we decided to go on foot. And, well Google Maps steered us a little off course:

It

Right past this iron scrap yard at the bottom of a valley…

But we definitely got to see the city, and prove how bad we are taking selfies:

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This was an attempt to get a picture with that pretty church in it, and we did, but we both look either confused or terrified.

The city was really gorgeous though, and I for one liked it best in the gray

The city was really gorgeous though, and I for one liked it best in the gray

This trip was also an excuse to experience a bit of fall (which does not exist in Texas) and Pittsburgh did not disappoint

This trip was also an excuse to experience a bit of fall (which does not exist in Texas) and Pittsburgh did not disappoint

We sent this picture to my ketchup obsessed brother, who thought I was sending him a picture of this car.

We sent this picture to my ketchup obsessed brother, who thought I was sending him a picture of this car.

More fun with public art on the river front trail

More fun with public art on the river front trail

Then we finally made it downtown and to the Warhol, which was absolutely worth the trek. You can’t take pictures in the exhibits, but they were wonderfully engaging and informative. The museum as a whole is a mix of a historical museum about Andy Warhol’s life and artistic process and an exhibit of his work.

I don’t think I realized until I was walking through it how hard it actually is to put Warhol’s work on display, the prints and illustrations are straightforward enough (and really beautiful. My mom had a great insight that you could tell which of his subjects he really liked/loved and which ones he was doing for the commission/cultural cache of it, there was something about the eyes. – This became a really fun game to play as we walked through.), but the performance art and films are trickier. How do you recreate an “Exploding Plastic Inevitable?” (The Warhol Museum’s answer? Play The Velvet Underground loud in a room wallpapered with Warhol films and and a disco ball, it may even have worked if my mom and I and one other confused woman weren’t the only people in the room.)

One of the highlights of the museum for me, was the chance to sit for my very own Screen Test. (Basically you sit in front of a camera for 3ish minutes, you can learn more about the original work here.) Here’s mine:

Basically what I learned from the experience is, one, I move my lips a lot, two, 3 minutes is a long time to sit in front of a bright light, and three, even when trying to sit still I will laugh at a small child making faces at me. (Mom did one too, but I’m going to let her decide who she shares it with, though I’m really glad to have a copy of it.) And if you ever make it to the Warhol (which seriously, go, even if you think you’re not into his art, it’s just a lot of fun) you might see me projected in the lobby!!

Again, we aren't great at selfies, but we needed a shot with Andy

Again, we aren’t great at selfies, but we needed a shot with Andy

Then we went on another ill advised hike through a less picturesque section of town. I won’t go into the details, because I don’t want to start a fight with my mother on the internet, but at the end, we found The Porch, where we had the best tasting corn bread I’ve had in a long time:

IMG_3869 The next day, on my friend Alina’s Instagram reccommendation we went for pancakes at Pamela’s, which were delicious, and the place was very cute:

IMG_3872 Then my mom had to leave to drive back to Connecticut (thanks again for driving out to see me!) and I walked around a bit more soaking in the crisp fall air. I had a bit of a hectic flying journey back (there’s always one leg of every trip that goes haywire right?) But I’m trying to hang on to this beauty in my mind to get me through this week:

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Weekly Adventure: Texas Book Festival 2015

Photo Credit: KUT

I’m sure you all know this about me by now, but I think it’s time I came out and said it. My name is Kathryn and I am a book addict. Not even really a reading addict – I mean I love to read don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that causes problems in my life. Reading for fun sustains me, which is why I’m trying hard to make sure I have time for it this semester, despite the crushing amount of work I have. But no, my problem is with my inability to stop myself from buying books. I’ve been good for a long time, I don’t let myself idly wander through Book People; I patiently wait for a novel to come to me from the hold list at the library where I work rather than breaking down and buying it at Target, when I’m there to buy new black flats and nothing else (yeah right, but that’s another post for another time). But this weekend, I went on a bender. I couldn’t help myself the Texas Book Festival is too great too pass up, and it’s lined with big white tents filled with beautiful books I am unable to convince myself I don’t need to own.

So other than being a dangerous place for someone with my combination of interests and lack of self control, the Festival was filled with fascinating authors who really engaged with their moderators and every panel I went to was lovely. I won’t bore you all with a play by play, but like I did last year, give you my top 5 highlights (in chronological order):

  1. My favorite session of the first day was a tent full of poets (Nick Flynn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Gregory Pardlo talking about how we use poetry to talk about difficult subjects, and America (because you know America is basically a bunch of difficult subjects and beautiful rhetoric).

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2. Later in the day in that same tent, I saw Jessica Hopper (author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic) interviewed by Kathy Valentine from The Go-Gos. She was very cool and inspiring (And so was Valentine, though she seemed a little unprepared), and had a great reaction to a drunk guy yelling something at her as he walked by during her reading.

IMG_3739 (1)3. On the second day I started my day at a panel titled “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed” based pretty much on the name. It turns out that’s the name of a book, which is a collection of essays from writers who decided not to have children writing about that decision. It was a thoughtful and interesting discussion, and more importantly, it introduced my to Geoff Dyer who was hilarious and gave me my favorite quote of the day:

“I’ve really got nothing against children. It’s the parents I can’t stand.”

4. I then went down to the Contemporary Austin, to listen to artist Mark Menjivar talk about his project The Luck Archive. I’ll admit I was partly going to see how he was misusing the word “archive,” but it turned out he isn’t at all. He has created a theoretically sound (accession numbers and all) archive of lucky charms, stories, philosophies of luck, and other luck-related ephemera. It was quirky and cool and made me want to become and archival artist (or an artist’s on call archivist, whichever really.)

5. I ended my festival in the House Chamber listening to Rookie editor Tavi Gevinson, and YA authors Julie Murphy and Rebecca Serle. The room was filled with women and girls ranging in age from 12 to 80 (I assume there were some men in there but I didn’t see them), and it felt like a lovely group of friends trading advice. I particularly loved Serle’s assertion that power comes from “understanding your own narrative and not feeling the need to convince other people of it.” And Murphy’s great (and totally true) line that “there is no one right way to be feminist or one right way to be a human being in general” because we are all contradicting ourselves all the time. Tavi also shared her love (which I share) for Carol Burnett, and gave the most practical advice of the day – “If you can Google it, don’t ask it in a Q&A.” Girl after my own heart.

Ten Songs for When I Need More Sass

It’s been a rough week. Grad school is ramping up and I’m running on fumes a bit, but these songs are helping me rev up. (Does that make sense? I’m bad a cars…)

SOB – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

And She Was – Talking Heads

Story of My Life – Loretta Lynn 

She’s basically sass personified

Electric Twist – A Fine Frenzy 

Last of the American Girls – Green Day and the Cast of American Idiot 

American Girl (Xs & Os) – Trisha Yearwood

Bad Blood – Ryan Adams version

Give a Little – Hanson 

Who knew Hanson was still out there making insanely catchy songs?

Different Colors – Walk the Moon 

Faith – George Michael 

C’mon, you knew it was coming…

Bonus Adventure: O. Henry Museum

IMG_3673 I’m sure there were slackers in Austin before O. Henry (aka William Sidney Porter) got here in the 1880s, but I like the way this museum tries to weave his life into contemporary Austin throughout its (small) collection.

For those of you who don’t know O. Henry was a writer, mostly of short stories, and he lived in Austin for awhile when he was a young man. While he was here, he used to perform in live music and theater shows, courted his wife by singing to her (which pissed off her stepfather so much they had to elope), and managed to get himself arrested for accidental bank fraud. (Or at least that’s the way the staff person told me the story.

Overall I found the whole exhibit warm and charming. His story, even the drama of the prison sentence and sadness of the loss of a young child, seemed easy to relate to. He was a young, creative guy trying to figure out how to make a life for himself. He also had great facial hair:

IMG_3684 Something tells me he would have fit in better in today’s Austin than he did in the 19th century.

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This was a satirical newspaper he produced after losing his job at the bank, it only lasted a year (but prescient on both the genre and the name)

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The museum, despite it’s small scope, did a good job of giving visitors a few different ways of interacting with O.Henry from copies of his stories on display to this gramophone/mp3 mashup with a recording of his voice

IMG_3685 Also next door is the Susanna Dickinson Museum, which I’m writing my final paper on, so you’ll probably see again, but I loved the way they introduced her: IMG_3688

Weekly Adventure: Austin City Limits Festival 2015

IMG_3620 Austin is famous for its live music and it’s festivals, and though I missed it last year, I was pretty excited about this year’s ACL lineup – mostly because of Hozier, but others too. I could only really give up one day of time so I chose yesterday.

I got to Zilker around 3:45 and got to catch the end of Sylvan Esso‘s set.

IMG_3587 I only really knew one of their songs, but I really liked their stage presence, and was glad I got to hear them play:

Then I wandered over to the next stage to see The Decemberists, who I had seen years ago at Dillo Day at Northwestern (I think), and then I saw just Colin Meloy a few years ago in Chicago, but I hadn’t seen the whole band together since I’ve been actually familiar with their music.

IMG_3604 They seemed to be having a lot of fun playing and it translated to the crowd, plus they had this awesome American Sign Language interpreter whom I was pretty obsessed with:

As often happens at festivals, I found myself watching the screen more than the stage, which is how I saw that Kelly Hogan was singing backup!!

IMG_3615 For those new to this blog, Kelly Hogan is one of my favorite musical artists of all time. (You can read about my love here and here and here and here and on a million of my playlist posts – most recently this one.) And while it was a real thrill to see her, I want a new Kelly Hogan record – so stop touring with your awesome friends a record one please!!

Even though she did get to hold this paper whale during The Mariner’s Revenge Song:

IMG_3624So that’s pretty fun. Also fun – singing along to this with a crowd, that won’t ever get old:

After this set I sort of wandered around, bought myself some junk food, and saw this awesome tip jar:

IMG_3629 Then I stumbled upon Vance Joy. He’s very pretty:

IMG_3631And I spent a few songs thinking I had made a great new discovery (even embarrassingly texting Julia so that she could be hip like me). Until he played this, and I was realized he’s famous:

But most of his stuff was new to me, so who cares. I particularly liked this one:

After his set, I thought about maybe going to see Of Monsters and Men play, but decided instead to stake out a spot for Hozier, because I am not proud about how excited I was to be close to him. I did pretty well:

IMG_3646 By the time he took the stage, my feet hurt and I was tired, but then he started to sing and I forgot all about it:

This review sums up my feelings pretty well (except it doesn’t mention the tears, there were some tears). But like, how could there not be:

IMG_3663 Aside from his incredibly lyrics (something new jumps out at me every time as my new favorite line), I was really impressed last night by his talent as a guitarist, which I don’t think comes up enough when we talk about him.

You can see from his hair how much he was moving

You can see from his hair how much he was moving

He did a couple of really great covers, including one of an Ariana Grande song, and this one:

I’ve talked a lot, both on the blog and off it, about how powerful I find the experience of singing communally, and I know it’s putting too fine a point on it, but singing with Hozier and the rest of the crowd last night really felt like, well, church:

And then, because I couldn’t remember a single Strokes song, and all I know about The Weeknd is that he’s dating one of the Hadid girls, I went home, floating on a Hozier buzz.

Bonus Adventure: Walk the Moon at Stubb’s

It’s the first weekend of ACL here in Austin, and I’m actually planning on going this year! But only for one day, because I really don’t have time for anything else. And when choosing my day I had to pick between seeing Hozier and Walk the Moon. I (obviously) chose Hozier, but was really excited to see that Walk the Moon was playing an after-show at Stubb’s last night so I could still see them. (And finally make it to a show at the outside part of Stubb’s.)

They had an opening act, called The Heirs, they were from LA, and were pretty good. I feel like you’ll probably hear them on the soundtrack of a teen soap pretty soon:

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Then Walk the Moon came on. I had seen them live before, but not for a few years, and not since “Shut Up and Dance” hit the incessant Song of the Summer circuit. As excited as I was to see them play, I wasn’t going to join the crazy crowd too close to the front, so my photos are blurry. But I managed to capture their awesome entrance:

(I love that there are popular bands that are my age. If I was a rock star I would walk on to The Lion King too.)

A couple of other things I loved – their light design was kind of amazing. I’m actually glad I saw them at night and not during the day at the festival, because I would have missed these awesome colors:

IMG_3556 I’ve been having a bit of a rough time (I’m fine just really busy with grad school stuff and not enough sleep) so their particular brand of motivational pop was exactly what I needed:

Also, I’ve decided that their song “Aquaman” sounds like a mid-90s-era Backstreet Boys ballad live and I love that:

I turned to Miró at one point and told her that if there’s ever a montage of my love life being created for some reason I want this song (along with an actual 90s-era BSB ballad) to play under it.

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Weekly Adventure: George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center

The George Washington Carver Museum is confusingly named, in that though there is a nice little permanent diorama of sorts in the lobby spelling out Dr. Carver’s myriad scientific accomplishments (it goes way beyond peanuts guys), this museum isn’t really about him at all.

This is all you're going to get about GWC (and the only picture I took inside because you're not supposed to...sorry!)

This is all you’re going to get about GWC (and the only picture I took inside because you’re not supposed to…sorry!)

Instead, the galleries are focused on aspects of African American culture in Texas, and specifically in Austin. The first permanent exhibit it dedicated to Juneteenth, a holiday I had heard of before but never understood the historical significance of. Basically, it celebrates the day that slaves in Texas were informed that they were free (on June 19, 1865), and the exhibit has a suitably bright and joyous feel:

Photo Credit: City of Austin

The only problem I had with this exhibit was the constantly looped video of a 2002 Juneteenth celebration in Austin. The video itself is interesting and does a good job of connecting history to the present, but it’s really loud and you can hear it throughout the rest of the galleries. It began to really drive me crazy.

The other permanent gallery includes stories and objects from African American families who settled in and prospered in Austin, some of them were moving and interesting, but my favorite part of the museum was the temporary exhibit of art by UT professor (and School of the Art Institute of Chicago alum) John Yancey titled Can U See. It takes on the (depressingly) contemporary themes of racism and police violence in a way that I found very affecting. (At this point especially I really wished I couldn’t still hear the Juneteenth video).

Also, fun fact, the Museum is on the site of the first library in Austin, which later became the first branch library in Austin (known as the Colored Branch) all of which I learned from reading this plaque:

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The special exhibit runs through Oct 17th at the Museum at 1165 Angelina St