Weekly Adventure: I’m Nobody Who Are You at the Morgan Library

I love Emily Dickinson. I didn’t always. When I first read her I found her cold and distant and overly formal. Which looks ridiculous to me now. Imagine, thinking of a poem like this as reserved:

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But I also love what I know about her as a person. Not the mythical figure of the ghostly pale woman upstairs in her New England attic scribbling away and never leaving her house, but the weird and wonderful, and yes unmarried (gasp!), woman that I’ve pieced together over the years. The most clues for me came not from a biography but this collection of her “Envelope Poems.” I feel like that book made it the most clear how integral writing poetry was to her daily life, but also showed that she had a life beyond poetry. She was cooking or going to a concert or reading a letter when had these flashes of inspiration.

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Poem draft on a program card

The small show of her letters and drafts on view right now at The Morgan Library does a nice job of depicting Miss Dickinson’s quiet, but not empty, life. I especially liked the way they presented her interest in botany, with a digitized version of the plant catalog she made while a student at Mt. Holyoke. (It’s really beautifully designed and lets visitors flip though the pages, which obviously could never be done with the fragile original.) I also liked the way she wrote up and down on the pages of her letters, like she simply had too many thoughts to contain them to one direction:

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I had never been to The Morgan before, and I really appreciated the design of the exhibition. There was a lot of contextual information, but it was presented in a clear, uncluttered way. Also, this was the correct paint color:

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Though it doesn’t photograph very well apparently. It’s much greener than this in person.

It’s also just a beautiful space, J.P. Morgan’s library had me swooning (as my Instagram followers can tell you), and while I was there a classical duo was playing in the central courtyard, which was a lovely addition. I highly recommend a trip as a way to pass a gray Sunday afternoon.

The exhibition is on view through May 21st at The Morgan Library & Museum at 225 Madison Ave

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Thing I Love: You Must Remember This

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It’s been awhile since I wrote about a podcast, though I have many that have become ‘must-listen,’ over the past few years (mostly anything in the “Filmspotting family of podcasts” & Serial). But I haven’t fallen in love with one as quickly and completely as I have with You Must Remember This,  hosted by Karina Longworth, in a long time (maybe only TBTL has captured my attention so completely.)

Described as a work of creative non-fiction (a term I like, but always makes me laugh because I can imagine  my Dad rolling his eyes even as I type). YMRT covers “the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century.” Which means it was basically created for me. But, I don’t think you have to be a film nerd or fangirl/boy to get into this show. Much like Anne Helen Petersen’s Scandals of Classic Hollywood it is also a fascinating deep dive into American cultural history. (Petersen guests on at least one episode of YMRT.)

Although it’s mostly a one woman show. (Marlon Brando’s archivist – dream job by the way – is the only other interview guest I can think of.) But there’s still a ton of variety. The topics covered are wide ranging both in terms of era – within the first 20 episodes she covered silent era ‘vamp’ Theda Bara and 1990s era Isabella Rosselini – and in terms of theme. Emphasis is (obviously) placed on the control exerrted by the sudio system (and the industry that followed its demise), but everything from gender to Communism to paparazzi to 1960s drug culture comes up. Each episode or series (the current one following the McCarthy-era Blacklist) has a titular subject, but you can never tell from that where it’s going to go. (Just listen to the episode “Liz ❤ Monty” to prove my point and fall in love with Montgomery Clift.)

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Kath ❤ Monty as well

Longworth has a distinctive rhythm that I find myself falling into. It’s almost lulling at times, but in a comforting rather than sleep inducing way. I feel like I’m in good hands with her, I mean how else would I have gotten through the 11 episode series on Charles Manson’s Hollywood – chilling but fascinating – though it did make me hate Dennis Hopper.

Go listen!

 

 

 

Weekly Adventure: Spring Break Getaway Edition

It’s South by Southwest time here in Austin, and like a true local, I spent most of it out of town. (This isn’t a slam on SXSW, I find people that complain about it more insufferable than festival goers, I just had other places to be.) Mainly, one of my dear friends was getting married in Chicago last weekend and because plane tickets into Austin spike in price for the festival I chose to take a detour through Dallas. And just in case you were ever in doubt about whether or not I’m a huge nerd, I spent my time there visiting a couple of presidential history museums (oh, and taking advantage of my hotel’s cable to watch Shadowhunters in real time…).

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I seemed to have brought the gray weather north with me, but nothing can ruin this view for me. It gets me every time I come around the curve on LSD.

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As previously stated, this is not a wedding blog, but I’m just so incredibly proud of Julia and my gift to the happy couple. It seems Pinterest worthy, so I’m uploading here so we can make that happen. (Basically it’s a basket full of booze for them to mark milestones in their marriage. And Jules did the bow, I have no crafting talent.)

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The happy couple at their wedding brunch at Farmhouse

 

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Jules expertly Vanna White-ing the delicious pastries

The next day, I went for a good old fashioned urban hike through a long stretch of Lincoln Park, and stumbled upon the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which is currently hosting the Chicago Spring Flower Show. I didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s right up  my alley.

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I took a million pictures, many of which you can see on my new all-flowers Instagram account.

It was one of those Chicago spring days where it can not decide if it’s gray or bright or cold or warm. But Grant looked pretty good in the afternoon light:

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My destination on the walk was the Chicago History Museum, which I had somehow never been to before. (I know, it makes no sense.) But I’m glad I went, it was a lovely mix of traditional and socially conscious, and I nerded out a lot.

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The 1893 Columbian Exposition as depicted in the diorama room. These have been on display since the 1930s.

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A suffragist in the exhibit on social protest

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They have a temporary exhibit right now called “The Secret Lives of Objects,” which is essentially a hodgepodge of intriguing things curators found in storage. Some fun and some ssurprisingly poignant. Like this lamp, it started the Iroqouis Theater Fire (which is the reason we have doors that open out in public spaces.) A really cool exhibit if you’re in Chicago.

The old part of the CHM building is gorgeous:

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In the permanent exhibit, I learned that the Harlem Globetrotters were founded in Chicago (and remained headquartered there until the 1970s but have been named after the NYC neighborhood since the 1920s, which doesn’t make sense), and saw these important historical artifacts:

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They also have a really well designed, small exhibit of some of Vivian Maier‘s street photography, which I really loved:

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What I loved about the exhibit was the way I felt surrounded by the faces of the people Maier captured. It felt like being on the street with her. Very transporting.

That night I got some post-work Bourgeois Pig with Jules and then enjoyed The Bachelor finale with the girls I started the season with. (Such a treat to see them all again so soon!) And then the next morning it was off to Dallas.

Despite the swing in temperature & humidity, it turned out to be another lovely day for a walk, and I was surprised by how pretty the part of downtown I was staying in was. And they had cool, historical photo based, public art:

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I was walking to Dealey Plaza.To pay my respects as a longtime Kennedy fanatic (I won’t go into that now, this post is long enough) and to visit the Sixth Floor Museum (which is a great mix of tribute to Kennedy’s legacy and examination of what happened on 11/22/63).

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The Plaza itself was a WPA project, and is really pretty. But it’s sort of surreal to walk around it. I’ve seen footage and photos of it so many times, and other than the models of the cars and the heights of the trees not much looks that different. It was very surreal.

Also strange, the amount of men walking around carrying strange homemade signs trying to convince you to pay them for their tour of “what really happened”

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Very high tech conspiracy HQ

They don’t let you take pictures inside the museum, but it was a moving and thought provoking experience for me. (For the record, I think Oswald did it. I’m not completely sure how to explain Jack Ruby, maybe the mob was involved, maybe not. Oliver Stone is full of shit.)

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I took the DART light-rail to get around. I found it clean and easy to navigate. I also could have rode for free the whole time, but chose to pay, because I believe in supporting public transportation.

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Across from my hotel there was a place called Thanksgiving Square, it had murals and interfaith scriptures, and this ring you were meant to pause under and give thanks. It felt sort of stuck in where it was, but I said a little prayer under the ring. (I didn’t go into the chapel, but I sort of wish I had, it looks really cool.)

On my second day in Dallas I took the train out to SMU to visit George W. Bush’s Presidential Library and Museum. I did this, because of my life goal to visit all of the President’s landmarks (see LBJ and Lincoln).

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Although, I was not and am not W’s biggest fan, I’m not going to go into a political rant here. Mostly, because most of my experience at this museum was apolitical and nice. The staff were all really lovely. They had a temporary exhibit about how campaigning has changed that included this carpet that showed all the results of every presidential election:

IMG_5128And Bill Clinton’s sunglasses:

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On loan from his library in Little Rock

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And this awesome looking board game that I am not allowing myself to look up on eBay, because I will buy it

The building itself is really beautiful:

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And, while I found myself disagreeing with the emphasis of the permanent exhibit there were some pieces that were done unquestionably well.

For instance, the 9/11 memorial, which includes a part of one of the Towers and a lot of very moving archival news footage:

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And the recreated Oval Office (one step up from LBJs because you can step in, walk around, and even take pictures at the desk!):

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There were also some nice lighter moments featuring the First Family. Hilariously, when I went searching for a statue to take a selfie with, I couldn’t find one, but these were prominently displayed:

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The only part of the whole thing that made me truly angry was the “Situation Room” simulation.

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Basically, you sit down in rows with a bunch of strangers, and vote on a screen in front of you on which “crisis” you want to tackle. (My group chose Hurricane Katrina. Other options include Saddam Hussein and The Financial Crisis). They then give you a briefing and 3 options to choose from. You can track what others in the room are thinking with a CNN-like approval line on the big screen. Then you vote on what you would do. Then they tell you what Bush did. As I was walking out of the room it felt like a cool multimedia experience, and I was surprised that I had chosen the same response that Bush did to the crisis. (I do not generally think I agree with how he handled Katrina.) And then I started to feel queasy. The flashiness and official look of the presentation makes it seem like in each of these situations, Bush had exactly 3 options, none of which were all that good and that’s why he made some of his least popular choices. Now, I do agree that being the President is an impossible job, and perfection is not an attainable goal, but I think this presentation simplifies the most important failures of my government during my lifetime to “well things are complicated, you couldn’t do any better.”

What sucks, is that this was right at the end of the exhibits, so I left with the bad taste in my mouth. As you can see from the newest addition to my Presidential Photo Collage:

Post W

Now that I’m back in town, I’ve mostly been lying around exhausted. Though I did go see Midnight Special yesterday. It’s amazing. I want to go see it again. Like I want to go pay full ticket price a second time. That’s an extremely rare feeling for me. But like, I may go see Midnight Special again tomorrow if anyone wants to join me.

And the Nominees Are 2016: Round 5

School and work both started up this week, so it wasn’t quite the movie marathon I had been doing so far, but I did see some great stuff this week. (Particularly Mustang, just in case you don’t have time to read this whole post I wanted to make sure you know that movie is amazing.)

Grace of Monaco

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Did Lifetime recently get bought out? How are they affording a movie with a cast this good? Not just Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, but Tim Roth? Frank Langella? I know they didn’t finance it, but how could they afford it?

Anyway, the movie is pretty standard biopic fare, which means its excellent on the scale of Lifetime Movies, but not really anything to write home about. Kidman and Roth are capable and charming as the royal couple. The clothes are gorgeous, but the script is a mess. Love isn’t subjugation, Grace Kelly – debutante and Oscar winning actress – didn’t need a nobleman to teach her how to express emotion on her face.

In the end, my biggest takeaway was that monarchy is strange, and it’s hard to feel sorry for a Princess (especially one who chose it.)

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This. Movie. Is. Everything.

Sorry, that’s hyperbole, but this is a poetic little masterpiece about growing up a girl in a patriarchal world. The director, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, masterfully shows us the bond between the 5 sisters out the beginning of the movie, the intimacy and ease with each other and the world around them and then bit by bit strips that away (through the vehicle of the conservative asshole uncle – played by Ayberk Pekcan). So you see the various ways women and even young girls are constrained by the fear that they may be beings with agency. I almost wrote sexual beings, because everything here is filtered through a rigidly traditionalist view of sexuality, but that fear is rooted in the idea that if women can have desire then there is a part of them you can’t control. No matter how many (literal) bars you put on the windows. I wish I could be more articulate about this, I wish it were showing more place. It’s breathtaking and depressing and exhilarating all at once. More like this please.

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What Happened, Miss Simone? 

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So, I haven’t seen Amy yet, but this (like that is said to do) had me thinking a lot about how success and fame puts such burdens on people. And if there’s any propensity to instability then I think that pressure will push you over the edge. At least, that’s certainly what seems to have happened to Miss Simone, which is so sad because her talent was other wordly and the early performance footage included here that had me dancing around my kitchen.

And she had a grit and power that she used so well in her activism. So it was just heartbreaking to watch her unable to cope with her, long undiagnosed, mental illness (and abusive husband) and crumple a bit.
I’m rambling. The doc is really great, uses archival footage brilliantly and includes her daughter and friends to honor its subject without making a hagiography. Well worth a watch.

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A Month of Adventure: Winter Break

So, I’m back at the ACC desk for my first evening shift of the year after attending my first class of my last (ah!) semester at UT. I realized this morning while getting myself organized for the craziness that is about to start up again that I never wrote a blog update about anything I did on my winter break. And I did a lot. I crossed a quadrant of the country. (Quadrants are how we measure these things right? Sorry, inside joke.) And saw a lot of my favorite people (and missed some others). I’m not going to try to write a play by play of nearly a month long trip, so instead here are pictures, with minimal captions (mostly just to attribute art to its creator.)

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I call this piece, “A Blur of Salt”

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Care packages from Portland

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Post-storm Paddock Lake, WI

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in the North Shore room

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Dancing in the New Year in my old neighborhood

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The Field Museum of Natural History

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From “The Greeks” exhibit at The Field Museum

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From the “Dionysos Unmasked” exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago

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“Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing

(This is one of my favorite pieces of contemporary art of all time. You should Google it to find out why. Or even better go see it.) 

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“Lifeboat” by Jeff Koons on view as part of the “Surrealism: The Conjured Life” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art

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Museum staff member in the “Run for President” installation by Kathryn Andrews also at the MCA

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Entrance to the “Pop Art Design” exhibit (where photos weren’t allowed) at the MCA

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Weekly Adventure: Texas State Cemetery

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My mom loves cemeteries, when I was a kid this used to be flabergasting to me. Although, I could see that some of them are very pretty, I always felt like I was stepping somewhere wrong. Partly in a “I’m scared of dead bodies” way, I was a child after all, but also in a “this is a sacred place, I feel like I’m intruding” way. I couldn’t have articulated this, but there was always something that felt wrong about strolling through a cemetery for entertainment.

And then I went to Paris, and became obsessed with the idea that the trip would be wasted if I didn’t kiss Oscar Wilde’s grave. I dragged my friend Gena through the Père Lachaise twice (we couldn’t find his plot before closing time the first day) to be able to kiss the stone: 

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Apparently you aren’t allowed to do this anymore, which from a preservation perspective is smart, but still makes me sad.

I can’t really articulate why this felt important, but it did. And it made me rethink my stance on graveyards a bit. I still sometimes find them creepy, and a fresh grave will always make me feel like I’m imposing on someone else’s grief, even if they aren’t there. But these are public places for a reason, and they are set up for people to come pay homage in their own ways.

This is all a long way of introducing the fact that my museums professor had us go to the Texas State Cemetery this week. At first, this seemed weird, but then I got there, and it was like a mini-Texas version of the Arlington National Cemetery, which is of course meant to be a public institution, to commemorate heroes and teach visitors about their importance.

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This part honestly could be a picture of Arlington

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But some parts are pretty distinctly Texan

The cemetery is really well laid out and doesn’t feel claustrophobic to stroll through (an issue I have in the old New England ones my mother prefers). But it did take me a little while to find the stone I felt compelled to pay homage to:

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Wise words from Governor Ann Richards that our current leaders could stand to listen to

 

Weekly Adventure: Elisabet Ney Museum

IMG_4042 A couple of weeks ago Miró and I were driving out of a café in Hyde Park (a delightful neighborhood just north of me here in Austin, not one of the other 6 Hyde Parks I can think of off of the top of my head) and saw this castle through some trees. I was delighted to learn that it was the Elisabet Ney Museum, because I knew I had to visit it for my museums class this week.

For those of you who don’t know (and that included me until this semester) Ney was a sculptor who emigrated to Texas from Germany (with stops along the way), who made busts of important Texans that are now on display at the State and National Capitol Buildings. Basically, she was kind of a big deal, which makes sense because her work was pretty great:

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King Ludwig II of Bavaria

A collection of Texas statesmen

A collection of Texas statesmen

Most of the works at the museum are plaster casts that Ney used as models, because the marbles and bronzes were given to whoever commissioned them, but they are still really impressive in their detail.

I think this was one of Sam Houston's children.

I think this was one of Sam Houston’s children. (You can also see the strange effect of her models for different extremities that are just sort of littered around.)

This castle was her studio and acted as her “town home” while she lived in Texas. (She and her husband also had a ranch that looked lovely out in what I would think of as the hinterlands.) And while I liked looking at the art, I was utterly charmed by the image the museum paints of Ney and her husband Dr. Edmund Montgomery (who has quite a life story of his own) who seemed to be genuinely well matched and in love. Their story is told well and I loved the little traces of their quirkiness throughout the history. Like this bookcase that she apparently acquired by saving up Grape Nuts box tops

IMG_4073 My favorite place in the museum though, was the little nook of a third floor, which requires a trip up this truly harrowing staircase I was sure I was going to fall off

IMG_4075 But up here you see the hook on the wall where Elisabet would hang her hammock in the cross breeze and the little desk where Edmund would go to write his philosophy, quotes from which decorate the walls.

IMG_4076 The museum has the best old-school interactivity set up, an electric typewriter where visitors can leave notes for Elisabet, and though it could have been hokey, I was in the right mood so it felt like a lovely romantic gesture into the past. (Which is one of the things history museums should facilitate I think, it’s why I love house museums so much.)

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The museum is located at 304 East 44th Street and you should really go

I mean, it's free, and you get to walk through this beautiful gate

I mean, it’s free, and you get to walk through this beautiful gate

Weekly Adventure: LBJ Presidential Library & Museum

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This post is a little bit late, I actually visited the LBJ Presidential Library & Museum on Halloween, but I was hungover, and then recording with Miró, and then the week started and I realized that I still hadn’t written about my experience, so here you go. A slightly belated reaction – thought I don’t think the museum has changed in the last 4 days, so it’ll probably be OK.

I’ve written before about my love of Presidential Museums (and my fool’s errand goal to visit each President’s Official landmark in my life.) Which actually all started with a trip to this very concrete block of a memorial to a very complicated man. Between that initial visit (over 7 years ago now!) the LBJ has been redesigned, and well, it’s very up to date and flashy now, but I’m not sure if that makes it better. (I’ll get to that in a bit.)

First, they have a visiting exhibit (from the Grammy Museum) on The Beatles, and it’s pretty cool:

IMG_3893 (It also includes cool stuff about the musicians that influenced The Beatles, and a lot of fun music playing. Worth a walk through if you’re in town.)

When you leave the temporary exhibit space you are in the main foyer of the building, which I have to admit is visually impressive:

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I’m a sucker for the literal glorification of archives obviously

That black pillar you can see at the top of the stairs there is engraved with LBJ’s greatest rhetorical moments. I especially liked this one:

IMG_3905Then you walk into the permanent exhibit, which has a lot of fun interactive things, like where you can listen to the recordings of his voice (like at his ranch):

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And there’s really well done multimedia presentations about pop culture and world events that help to contextualize his career both before and during his presidency. There’s (as there should be) a lot of emphasis on his efforts in the Great Society to help lift Americans out of poverty, improve public education and broadcasting, and a really moving section on his contributions to Civil Rights. This was all lovely, and especially interesting to me now that I have the background from seeing both Selma and All the Way last year.

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And now we come to why I was disappointed. I have been talking for years about how refreshing the LBJ Museum’s take on Vietnam was. Rather than shying away from his involvement in the conflict, they faced it head on and acknowledged the blemish that it was on his legacy. They did this in an emotional way, using photos of slain soldiers and descriptions of atrocities. In this new exhibit, they address the complicated political position he was in but there isn’t as much of an acknowledgement of the emotional toll it took on the country.

This may not be the place for a discussion of that, and it’s possible that’s why the curators decided to temper the narrative in the redesign, but I think the museum is slightly less interesting for it.

But they still have the 1/8 size Oval Office:

IMG_3920 And (cooler in my opinion), Lady Bird’s office that she actually used for years, because it has the best view of Austin:

IMG_3923 It’s worth a trip if you’ve never been, and this revisit gave me a chance to update my Presidential Visit photo collage (because I am the biggest dork in the world):

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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:

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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.