Thursday, July 17, 2014

I love you, public library

Call me dorky, but the one thing I'm looking forward to almost more than any other activity on my summer vacation to do list, is our visit to the Joliet Public Library (downtown branch, please. none of that bland West Side shopping-mall-esque architecture for me). In the words of Eloise, I just love love love the public library! All those books sitting there so calmly, waiting to be read by ANYONE. And you can take them all home, twenty at a time if you want! You can take them all home and read them in the hammock or the bath or on the beach, and it doesn't cost you a penny. Nothing, nada, zippo, case closed thank you very much. It is amazing! Libraries. Surely you must have heard of them, yes? They are one of the best inventions EVER.

Someone else who loves libraries is Robert Dawson, who has just published a fantastic book filled with pictures of libraries all over the United States (sadly, the Hiawatha mantelpiece of the Joliet Public Library does not feature among them). This is a hopeful yet wistful reminder of the majesty of the greatest institution, like, ever, as well as a warning of what might happen should we allow this bastion of democracy and learning slip to the bottom of the pile of cultural priorities. Why, lawmakers, when money is tight, do you choose to focus your guns on libraries, of all places? Seems to be the case in England as well as America, and in both countries it is a lamentable philosophy of thought.

Accompanying Dawson's photographs are reflections on the subject of libraries by such celebrated minds as Isaac Asimov, Anne Lamott, and E.B. White,  topped off by a magnificent introduction by Bill Moyers, a longtime advocate of reading and self-propelled learning. From architectural gems such as the Los Angeles Children's Library (pictured above) to the teensy little free libraries popping up on front lawns over the globe, the remarkable range in Dawson's book reveals humanity's elemental need for libraries as sanctuaries of learning, as centers of the community, as living records of civic identity, and above all as a testament that information and knowledge belong to everybody-- not corporate behemoths, government agencies, or the privileged few, but to the people.

image via here

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fly away in the morning

On Thursday, a friend of mine was killed in a horrific auto accident just two days before her 36th birthday. To lose someone in such a sudden and tragic way, with so much of life still ahead of her seems like the work of an unjust God. What makes the loss worse was that her five-year-old daughter survived the crash thanks to a miracle and her car seat. While the little one's minor injuries are healing well, she and her dad must now follow a difficult road without Mommy, just at the moment Mommy is most needed.

Four difficult condolence letters later, I have been thinking about finding oneself in the position of grieving for a friend, or perhaps grieving for the people my friend left behind, and what loss can mean when you are not in the immediate circle of the bereaved, how ripples of grief can course through friends of friends and connect us even thousands of miles away. The Village Voice published a wonderful blog recently on coping with the death of a friend. The writer Andrew W. K. offers some advice to a young man who has written to him on the tragic death of his best friend, and this part I really loved:
"Lastly, remember that all of our experiences in the world ultimately occur in our mind and soul. When your friend was alive, you looked at him with your eyes and heard him with your ears, and those senses formed impressions and thoughts in your mind. Now that your friend is dead, you are still using your mind to think about him and perceive him, just as you did when he was standing right in front of you. He really is still here. He still is where he always was to you: inside your mind. This is what people mean when they say someone's spirit will always be with you. They really always are with you, it's just a different version of their presence than when they were alive -- but it's just as real and it counts just as much. Never doubt that or let anyone try to make you think otherwise."
So wherever you are, know that I am thinking of you, and maybe you are reading this and thinking of me, and that is the magic of human love. I love you, I miss you. Forever.

Photo: a double rainbow outside my back window, early June

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Explore the Tate in your Underwear

Ha ha. Just kidding. But I'll bet that got your attention, didn't it? Check this out: I just learned about the amazing Google Cultural Institute, which allows you to “explore art projects, historic moments, and world wonders to experience the art and ideas that shape our world right from your own home,” through the magic of the interweb. How cool is that? Not only can you prowl around the Musée d'Orsay or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but dozens of smaller museums like the Van Gogh Museum and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and even take a virtual tour of The White House! If you've made a resolution to visit more museums, this is an exciting way to do it.

Google Cultural Institute has many amazing features, including the ability to curate your very own online museum from thousands of high resolution images. Use the mind-boggling “power of zoom” to see details you never knew existed. Interact with others by sending and commenting on favorite pieces. This is the museum of the future-- you owe it to yourself to experience it. Print of Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent from Google Institute.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer at Tattly

I don't love tattoos. Period. I don't love the way they look, I really don't love the way they age, I don't love the idea of a picture you liked at 18 still being part of your body at 43. But I must admit to having a soft spot for the fun little temporary tattoos on offer at Tattly, and their adorable summer collection with designs by some of my favorite illustrators including Julia Rothman, Lisa Congdon and Rifle Paper Company (pictured above). A  (temporary) summer sleeve full of ice creams, green beans and line-drawn bicycles would be too cool for the pool, or wherever your arms and legs go during warm weather. If you are in the mood to wear your heart on your sleeve.... or forearm, or shoulder, you won't find cuter (washable) ink anywhere. 

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