Cleanup in aisle 1995.

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Last spring I wrote a somewhat confessional post about a really stupid yet angsty daydream that I had invented as a preteen.  I feel compelled to share another equally ridiculous fantasy that I just remembered (I was a really strange kid, I guess.)  I’m stranded in a grocery store.  Stranded is too mild – I’m held there against my will.  I don’t know who, or how, or why the heck this is taking place, I mean, I guess I couldn’t be bothered to imagine those particulars.  All I know is that I’m stuck in the grocery store after hours and I can’t leave.  And I’m not alone.  I’m not stuck there with the cute boy in class, that might have made some sense.  Usually I’m there with whoever my current hero is.  I distinctly remember this daydream playing out during my No Doubt Tragic Kingdom phase (Beck, you remember it!) and I was trapped in this grocery store with Gwen Stefani.  And of course there was a healthy helping of angst, served up on a cold deli platter.  “Why can’t we just leave??” I would half scream to an equally befuddled Gwen Stefani.  In a fit of what can only be described as pure adolescent torment I grab a can of spaghetti sauce off of the shelf and hurl it at the tile floor.  It shatters, of course, and the floor is covered in broken glass and cold tomato sauce.  I crumple into a ball and cry, and Gwen does what she can to console me.  Seriously.  What the heck was wrong with me?  The really strange thing is that I was pretty popular in middle school.  Middle school was actually the climax of my popularity, believe it or not.  Probably because people could not see what kind of uninspired culinary ska-pop melodrama was teeming inside my head.  I had normal preteen daydreams as, well, I swear!  I just can’t remember those.  For those of you who knew me back then, thanks for being my friend.  If my mom paid you, don’t tell me, I’d prefer to live in ignorant bliss.

Now, for those of you who are Wiederhoeft historians, you’ll be pleased to know that I have finally imported my old Blogger blog here, and I’m thinking about importing even older blogs, like Pacific For Now and Reign Blue Feign Blue (my now-offline California blogs) and maybe even the blog that started it all, the Xanga.  Of course none of us will ever read the blog that was tragically deleted that one fateful summer day (I still curse thee, Blogger!) but 5 out of 6 isn’t bad.

Y2K? Really?*

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Well, clearly I’m going for a new look here, and clearly I’m not quite there (at least that part is clear to me).  Expect numerous changes in the next few days as I fumble around with graphic design in the same way that I paint… millions of do-overs (in painting I guess we call them layers).  I’m awful at graphic design.  All I can do is scribble, really.  But if I’m going to be a scribbler, I might as well get my scribbling down to a master-form!

Moving on, people are beginning to get panic in their voices when they talk about the coming winter.  They refer to the Farmer’s Almanac with the same mix of fear and disgust that they use discussing Bin Laden or Y2K.  Last year we broke the record snow fall with over 100 inches of snow.  This year we are supposed to get over 120 inches.  I read a nice column in the paper today in support of human hibernation.  I think I like that.   Let’s be bears.

*I couldn’t think of a better example.

Another three-thought post.

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Look! I’m French.

You have no idea how long it took me to translate all of that.

Okay, you’re right, I didn’t do it. According to my stats (can’t a girl love her stats?) someone accessed my blog via Google’s translation option. I really like to think that someone is reading the French translation of my blog. I like to think that Nanette from Bordeaux, qui n’est parle pas anglais, is sitting at her desk with a warmed croissant and probably a cat purring in her lap, browsing the unremarkable contents of my blog with fading interest. She lets out a yawn–which sounds the same in French as it does in English–closes her laptop, and carries on with the rest of her day.

Nanette. Is it weird that I just invented a reader? What if she is real?

Well, onward ever upward. After much excited internal debating as to what I would spend my Economic Stimulus check on (Would I get a new computer? An electric guitar? Computer accessories? A plane ticket?) I have finally arrived at something: I will buy a new exhaust system for my car. It’s really not optional at this point, and unfortunately my stimulus check won’t even cover all of the repairs. And unfortunately, it’s not as fun as all of those other things I was dreaming about, but I guess that’s part of being an adult, isn’t it. Maybe in that way it is actually more exciting than those other things. Show me another catastrophe–I can take it!

I pulled one of last summer’s mix CDs back into the rotation today and heard the song that has long since become my breakup anthem for all breakups past and future. Sit down, Kelly Clarkson, this is Liz Janes. Take a lesson.

“Tremble at the hope of my true love’s promise/you are not my true love. His promise is not dependent upon my belief/but upon his word only. His word is so true/oh why did I ever choose you? You are killing all of my wonder.”

Well, I love that. It’s better than any bitterness–it’s hope, but with an edge. Why did I ever choose you, when I’ve got someone so much better? It isn’t spiteful, but it’s honest. Ex-boyfriends, you never really stood a chance in this competition. Yeah! Listen to it: Wonderkiller, by Liz Janes.

A fourth, disparate thought would be too much for one day, so here I’ll end it. Enjoy your Lost finale tonight!

Marissa, have you missed me?

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

I’m getting to know some of my audience here at Easel Ain’t Easy. There are still surprises, from time to time, someone I know will reference something I blogged about and I will remember that this is out there, in the public realm, and just about anyone could read it. Which is good, don’t get me wrong, and it’s fun to have those surprises. But there are a few people whom I can always count on to read, and read with regularity, and recently one of these loyal readers called me out on the fact that I haven’t been writing lately. Well, I could counter with excuses about how busy things have been with work and art and social events, but no one wants to hear excuses, let alone read about them, so instead I’ll just jump back in, as if nothing has changed.

To this friend who reminded me that I was neglecting my duties as a blogger, I promised that my next post would be about her, so as to soothe the soul so troubled by my absence (thought I would get liberal with my syntax there, you know, stretch the atrophied writing muscle a bit). So here, M____, here it is!

M____ and I hung out one day, back when I was living in San Diego, back when she was visiting our mutual friend Sarah, back before she and I were technically friends yet. Sarah had to work one day and so M____ and I made plans to get touristy a bit while we waited for her shift to end. I happen to have a brief document of this moment in history, thanks to my now-offline blog entitled “Pacific For Now.” You will notice that I changed M____’s name at the time of writing, which was a precaution I was taking at the time due to an unrelated incident (details unimportant here.) Anyway, I later told M____ that I had blogged about her and changed her name, and she naturally wanted to know the name I changed her to. I couldn’t remember, at the time, and so here for the first time, M____ and all the rest of the world, is the post that started it all:

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Today [Marissa] and I went to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, and later to the Jenny Holzer lecture at the MCASD in La Jolla. Jenny provided some great insight into her work, and on top of that she was very humble, which is not something I tend to expect of any world-renowned artist. It was a very artful day, and the end result is that I’m jumping out of my skin to be an artist. I would love to. One of the docents at the Museum of Art talked with Marissa and I for a while and I mentioned to him that one day they might have one of my paintings at their museum, and he just kind of laughed and said that they might have a whole exhibit of my work.

I actually spent a fair part of the day painting yesterday, but there is still much work to be done. It’s been really aimless so far, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s definitely at an awkward stage. I’m taking pictures in progress, so I’ll post those here when I’m all done. And then someone can make me an offer, and be the proud owner of the first thing I’ve painted in California! What a deal! Everybody wins!

And here is what I love about blogging. A) I had completely forgotten that M____ and I went to see Jenny Holzer after the art museum. That’s something I shouldn’t forget! And now, thanks to an old blog, I won’t have to. It also triggers other memories that I hadn’t blogged about, such as when we went to dinner at the little strip mall cafe in La Jolla and flirted with the waiter and then left him Sarah’s phone number. Remembering things is fun! And B) that painting of which I so cockily predicted its sale (though I’m sure I was more ironically poking fun at myself) actually did sell last year. And someone is now the (hopefully) proud owner of not the first thing I painted in California, but so far the only thing I painted in California. If you don’t blog already, you might want to consider it. Who doesn’t get endless amusement from checking the past against the present?

Anyway, today was Ascension Sunday, and the message in church was pretty great, and later today I had a conversation with a dear friend that was similarly great, I mean, really encouraging. If I had written M____’s post yesterday I would write about these other things today, but as it is I think I’ll save them for Monday material. Knowing this, you can plan your day accordingly.

(Edit:  After publishing, it occurred to me that maybe M____ wouldn’t care to have her name included here, so I went back and took it out.  M____, if you’d prefer to have your 10 minutes of blog-fame, let me know!)

Missing the Foxes.

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

I realize that a truly disciplined blogger will write every day, regardless of personal circumstances, they will find a way.  But sometimes I am sick, or sad, or busy (this weekend it has been a mix of the three, in fairly equal parts) and I just don’t care to make the effort.  Sorry for those times, if it affects you in any way.

Today, still sick, we set the show up at Mother Fool’s, we being my wonderful brother and me. I ended up limiting myself to nine pieces, which was good because it allowed me to edit a bit.  The biggest challenge in setting up today was working around the coffee sipping patrons (who were accommodating and also forgiving) but what do you know, it’s up.  It feels pretty good to have that art somewhere out of my personal living quarters.  People will actually see it!  Imagine that.  I will return tomorrow to add the title cards and my artist statement, and then it’s on to planning the reception which will be two weeks from today.  Hopefully by then I will have gotten rid of this cough and recommenced a normal pattern of sleep.  Nyquil, do not fail me!

Also, I feel like a bit of an idiot and a lousy comic strip aficionado, but I only recently learned that Bill Amend has retired from doing dailies of Fox Trot!  Apparently this shift in the universe occurred all the way back in January of 2007.  I just assumed the Wisconsin State Journal didn’t print the Fox Trot daily (and it should be said, I held this against them mightily).  To me, this is as great a blow to the comics world as Bill Watterson’s retirement, and even a greater blow than Gary Larson’s retirement (though many would take issue with that).  Fox Trot has always been my favorite comic strip.  I know we still have the Sunday issues but it is a mere sliver of the comic glory we once took for granted.  I know this is a bit overdue, but well done, Bill, and thank you for not leaving us completely.

Andy, you're a thorn in my sidebar.

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

After months of befuddlement, I finally figured out why my post entitled One Thing About Forsythia is wildly popular, globally speaking even, and has probably thrown a monkey wrench in any legitimate tracking of my readership. That is the post where I mention Andy Goldsworthy, and include a photo of his work. Well, if a person was to do a Google Image search of Andy Goldsworthy and scroll through the first page results to that particular photo, guess which location Google Image links them to? That’s right. Easel Ain’t Easy.

I feel used!

It’s not even fair, really, that this photo is bringing such traffic to my site, because I myself got the photo by doing a Google Image search. It’s not like I took the photo personally, and I certainly didn’t create the sculpture depicted there.

I can’t imagine this is interesting to anyone besides me, unless someone else tracks my stats with devotion (in which case, um, you’re a little strange!) but it’s one of those things I need to talk myself through. People aren’t coming in droves to read my blog, they are coming in droves to look at a photo that I didn’t even take. I’m tempted to take it down, but then again, maybe one in a hundred of those Google Image searchers stick around to read more. Maybe you are one of them?

Oh, Andy.

Reading and writing can be so exciting, come in, this text is inviting.

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

The nice thing about libraries is you can pick out a book, take it home without paying for it, read it, bring it back, and pick out another one. Did you know that’s how libraries work? It so neat! I recently checked out a small collection of books that I probably should have just gone ahead and purchased, because I’m sure I won’t finish them before they are due and furthermore I’ll probably wish I owned them once I do read them, books by David Sedaris, Truman Capote, Jim Wallis, and Lauren Winner. Assuming that I’ll probably only finish one of these books in the month that they are in my possession, I decided to start by reading Lauren Winner’s book: Real Sex – The Naked Truth About Chastity. Yowz! It may be the first time I’ve used the s-word in this PG rated blog! Anyway, it’s good, and without creeping into my personal life here I’ll say that it offers a lot of relevant wisdom (particularly to Christ-following singles) and a dose of humbling intellectualism (to anyone who once thought herself smart. Mostly I just envy Winner’s vocabulary.)

I’ve put a few more posts into the All Star section. It is a little bit embarassing to dig through the old blogs like this, there really isn’t much of value. It is also a little alarming, at times, like when I came across a post I wrote in May of 2006 about the man who would become my boyfriend 11 months later, and my ex-boyfriend five months after that. Maybe somewhere along the way I have already written about the man who will one day be my husband, who knows? Blogs can really make your head spin, man. They are a time capsule. Get one.

Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart.

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

There is a lunar eclipse tonight!  I stepped outside to look at it just now, and in the thirty seconds that I stood there watching the moon glow faintly orange and pink my hair froze into icy little Medusa locks (because I had run directly from the shower into the bitter cold to watch the eclipse!)  It is cold these days.  But you’re from Wisconsin, right?  You knew that, right?

Are you from Wisconsin?  I always assume that most people who read this are, but then I look at my stat counters and I become terribly confused (can you tell I am the kind of person who is confused by stat counters?)  According to the stats I average about 80 hits per day, with visits from over 30 countries and countless US cities.  This makes me a little bit skeptical.  All of my previous blogs raked in about 6 or 8 hits a day, mostly from friends whom I begged to read my blog.  I feel like I’m in the middle of some kind of digital hidden camera joke, maybe.  Like, “Watch this girl’s face as she sees her numbers sky rocket!  She been p4wned!”  According to my stats, most of my traffic goes to a single post that I wrote a few months back, and if you’re curious it is this one.  Some how I must have gotten locked into the Andy Gold$worthy circuit.  That’s cool, I still like him, and I only misspelled his name just now so that I wouldn’t mislead the search engines to thinking this post had anything to do with him.  And okay, yes, he’s the money.  He’s so money and he doesn’t even know it.

Mostly I’m just nervous for my dental appointment in the morning.  I’m having my tooth prepared for a crown.  And by “prepared” I mean numbed and then sawed down to a little peg.  Youch!

Cheese is good; we like cheese sandwiches, right?

Monday, February 18th, 2008

I’ve been going back and forth between two equally cheesy Doogie Howser opening lines for today’s post. One reads like this: “Giving something up is difficult, especially if it is something that you have come to rely on. But as time passes, the benefits of giving up such dependencies compound at a fairly rapid rate.” Can’t you just picture the Doog typing something like that? The second went thus, “Sometimes when you have been waiting for something for a long time it only makes that thing better when it arrives. Sometimes, though, waiting so long for something brings expectations that can’t possibly be met.”

I’m sorry that my writing style has somehow boiled down to something so bland. But I do think I will go ahead and finish those two thoughts because, in spite of their initial presentation, I think they are some blog-worthy ideas. So here, just imagine me sitting at a circa-1990 IBM, wearing that white medical coat and maybe a fluffy blond crew cut and maybe somehow that will make this more easily digestible:

Giving something up is difficult, especially if it is something that you have come to rely on. But as time passes, the benefits of giving up such dependencies compound at a fairly rapid rate. (Haha, okay.) For Lent I gave up drinking soda and listening to music, at least in environments that I had control of (my car, my home, my computer). At first my body screamed for caffein and sugar, and my ears felt neglected as morning passed with alternating silence and the crackling murmur of talk radio. I have only been “fasting” in these respects for 13 days now, but I have already lost my appetite for soda and find myself relishing my self-imposed silence. I don’t say this to boast, because surely it is an act of grace that I can leave these idols (perhaps temporarily) behind me, and surely, as my parenthetical hinted at, I risk returning to them with equal or increased devotion after the fast has ended. But maybe I won’t, because I feel healthier, in small ways. When I stop drinking soda I drink more water and milk and juice and tea. These things are good for my body, or at least they are better for it than Cherry Coke. When I stop listening to music I spend more time thinking, which I admit can be an idol in itself and can be just as inward and unproductive as habitual consumption of prerecorded sounds and images.  But thinking, for me, is one step closer to prayer, which is the ultimate goal. That is to say, not all thoughts are prayers, but by allowing myself to be incessantly distracted I run the risk that few thoughts turn into prayers. I realize I am sounding very self-righteous by typing these things, but be assured I am referring always back to my own practices and my own habits, not anyone else’s who may be perfectly healthy and productive in the way that they consume.

Next thought, and slightly more concrete: Sometimes when you have been waiting for something for a long time it only makes that thing better when it arrives. Sometimes, though, waiting so long for something brings expectations that can’t possibly be met. Such was the case with my recent viewing of Persepolis, which, while fantastic, wasn’t quite what I had been hoping for. Visually it exceeded my most demanding expectations, and if only for the animation you (anyone who has ever loved a line or the way it moved) need to see this film. I guess that leaves the story, then, as the element which disappointed me, and I’m afraid it’s probably as simple as the Harry Potter fansters who object to every detail that was left out for sake of the flow and duration of the movie. And certainly there was much less omitted from the Persepolis canon than the Harry Potter canon, so probably it’s just that some of my favorite parts were gone, or else a scene was there in picture but Satrapi’s narration was not. For example, the scene where Marjane first leaves Iran and her parents are seeing her off at the airport: Marjane writes, “I couldn’t just go. I turned around to see them one last time.” We are then hit with an image of her mother who has fainted and lies limp in her father’s arms, and Marjane is looking on this horror-stricken and she writes, “It would have been better to just go.” The scene’s equivalent in the movie was gripping, but without that line it lost some of its impact, it lost that fist in the gut crumpling effect. I want to see the film again and force myself to view it separately from the books, because I know it was beautiful (everyone is saying that it is a beautiful film) but I couldn’t quite get past the marks I felt it was missing.

I always get nervous when I play the critic here, especially when I am criticizing someone I admire, and try not to do too much of it (although I think I mentioned earlier how completely disappointed I was with Satrapi’s “Embroideries“). After all, you never know who might read, and what if I’ve just destroyed my chances at being Marjane Satrapi’s best friend? But more than that I think about my own creative pursuits and how quickly I can be cut down to size and left with spirits trampled. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe that’s presumptuous on my part, to think I even have the power to. But words are strong, man! I guess you have to give up your right to the kid-gloves when you step into the public light. I’ll continue to enjoy my gentler, more private world as an amateur. Still, I’m sorry if you’re famous and you have, for some reason, read something here that hurt your feelings.

And finally, since today is Superficial Monday I will say something about the appearance of this blog, which you may have noticed has changed a few times in the past couple weeks. I am trying to settle on something that works both structurally and aesthetically, and haven’t found it yet. I appreciate the individual feedback you have given me, to those who have given me individual feedback, and hopefully it won’t be long before Easel Ain’t Easy is looking pretty and also functional. Thank you for reading this long-winded and rather disjointed post.

The curse of a blogger’s irrepresible conscience.

Monday, February 4th, 2008

If I have any talent as a writer, most of the time I waste it. Most of the time I exist passively, reactively. If I write, I rarely get lost in the act, and on the occasion that I do get lost in it, get carried away with the process of selecting and layering words and sentences, it is usually about something meaningless, if you inspect it in the grand scheme of things.

Why is this? I think I really enjoy writing, and I think I understand the power of such an art form. Written words resound long after they are written, long after they are read. I realize this, so why can’t I discipline myself–first to write with regularity, and second to write something of importance? I’ve been sitting on a draft about Darfur for the past couple of weeks and I can’t bring myself to finish it. Why? Isn’t the issue of genocide a bit more consequential than the story of how I lost my favorite sweatshirt? But if I only write about Darfur two times a year, doesn’t that make me the worst kind of hypocritical “activist?” And if I write about it every day doesn’t that simultaneously give me the airs of self righteousness and send me into guilt-wracked depression? Not to mention won’t all of you stop reading this, maybe? What am I supposed to do when the most urgent matters facing us are so unpopular and so unpleasant? And why do I have to use so many questions when I write about my personal issues of conscience and writing? Why can’t I just feel good about what I am doing?

Part of me feels like I either have to do it or not do it. Either I devote every page of this blog to things that I find truly pressing–things like social justice and God and creative responsibility (wasn’t that the initial point of this new blog, after all?), either I do that, or I throw it all out and write about television and bizarre dreams and what I ate for lunch that day. Either it is everything or nothing, because that is just the way I think, I have never been good with the middle ground, not in anything.

But part of me knows the danger of committing to something greater than I can handle. I can be roused to passion about a cause, but I don’t know if I can maintain that passion daily, which might make me a crummy human being but does it make me a crummy writer, to admit that shortcoming? I would consider this something of an internal crisis, and I would gladly hear any kind of advice or suggestions you have on the matter.

What is my obligation as a person who thinks and a person who writes? Can I get away with writing for fun, or is that completely irresponsible? And if so, is there a balance, and if so, how do I find it?