Category Archives: rambling

Learning French and Loving MOOCs

It’s been a goal of mine for a good long time to learn French. During school, I never had class time to take extra languages, despite wanting to; I studied Latin. But a solution exists! Today, a friend turned me on to Duolingo. Duolingo is an online language-learning course platform. You can choose to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German or Portuguese, and they’re adding more. I’ve just spent an hour on it, and so far, it’s stellar – very conversational, very usable. Thanks, Ms. Powell, for the pointer.

As far as online learning goes, I’ve always been a critic. I think it’s because most platforms I had used were difficult to navigate (I’m looking at you, Pearson learning labs). Recently though, I got directed to another online learning website called Coursera. I’m signed up for a few classes, but haven’t taken one yet, so I can’t speak for the actual efficacy. The offerings are quite good, though! I’m excited particularly about one on Kierkegaard, another on relationships, and another on business management.

The exciting part about all of this, for me, is that there are no limitations. As someone who loves to learn – it is my all-time favorite thing to do – it opens up a world of possibilities. It also doesn’t require that I pay or be in class, which lets me keep doing other things I’m interested in.

To everyone I argued with about online learning being a waste of time: this is me publicly eating my words. While I may lose some of the personal interaction a class offers, these platforms let me stay involved in learning even after classrooms are no longer a formal part of my life. I’m not saying they’re right for everyone, but I am saying that if you’re into learning new things, these are good ways to do it.

xx

kls

The power of open-mindedness

Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 2.55.40 PM

From my professional blog, but I think it works both places.

Especially now, laissez les bon temps rouler!

the girl

New Year’s Resolutions and Letting the Good Times Roll

I’m taking what I can into my own hands and leaving the rest to sort itself. Here are the things I will do, am doing, in this newest year:

1. Be healthier, inside and out.

2. Teach myself French.

3. Memorize a few poems.

4. Read Proust’s Swann’s Way.

5. Travel more, in big and small ways.

6. Write more diligently.

7. Learn better how to ask the right questions, and how to see what’s in between.

And hope that I continue winding up where I’m supposed to be!

Laissez les bons temps rouler,

kls

reflecting pool

electroscope

It’s an appropriate, though arguably belated, time to reflect. Since I’m looking forward, I find myself also looking back, and I’m amazed at all that happened and that I accomplished this year.

Arguably the biggest thing that happened was that I went out of the country and traveled a little bit around Europe. While many people younger than I am have managed to travel the world, this was my first opportunity. I lived in London and took the train to Brighton and traipsed through over Cornwall, all in England. I saw Paris twice and Dijon once, and learned a few choice French phrases. Italy struck me in shades of gold, and I swooned in Venice and in Rome. And in effervescent Spain, I wandered in Seville, sunned in Barcelona, played in Toledo, melted in Madrid and danced in Alcala. It was an enchanting time.

This year, I also read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin and about 20 other books, ranging from The Omnivore’s Dilemma to Mrs. Dalloway to All Over But the Shouting. I watched movies I’ve been meaning to and wrote, though not as much as I’d hoped creatively and more than I wanted to academically.

I also moved into my first big-girl house and had many dinner parties that I’ll remember forever. Floating gold candles and rustic soup and pumpkin carving and wine and lots-lots-lots of Miguel.

It was a year for falling in love and in fatuation; I think I’ve managed it fifteen times at least. But I’m getting smarter about it, it seems, and that’s the main thing. My friendships have all been strengthened, too. With dear friends, new and old, this year has been a loved one.

In this year, I know that I’m going to California, and I may decide to stay. Or I might make the jump to NYC, the mecca of the young. If I can, I’ll wind up back in London, but that’s a long shot, my dears. I’ll be the first in my family to graduate from University, and I’m pretty proud of that. After graduation, I’m off to another phase of this life. I have no idea yet what it will hold, but I reckon no one really knows anyway.

I know what I want to be, but I don’t know any better how to get there. As I said when I was a child, I want to be a traveling artist.  And an explorer, an adventurer. I’m stepping out into the great wild, and taking it all one happy step at a time!

.

laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

Like Sand Through the Hourglass

aristocats

It’s that time of space and mind when things wind down and questions slide to the surface like the carbonation in my G&T, and the wistful melancholic in me almost, almost grins. As we look forward to the new year and the end of this one and we bind ourselves in waning memories, let’s not forget how we got where we are or, more importantly, that we are where we are.

For a while, I thought I disliked the feeling of standing on slipping sand but I think it may have become my favorite sensation. It’s at least the most familiar. I am a planner and do care about diligence, but I’d be a fool not to recognize that most of my greatest experiences have been not decisions but culminations, and that flexibility is an attribute. As I make steps in the right direction, I know that I eventually hit turning points. It is, then, a process, and I love to acknowledge that.

I’m falling forwards into everything that’s good for me, and that’s just the way I like it. I try to keep my eyes off the ball, to let the game come to me. If I’m doing things well, and doing them right, it usually does. I’ve got my toes on the long term line and my head on a short-term swivel.

"Life should be lived on the edge of life. You have to exercise rebellion: to refuse to tape yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself..." Phillipe Petit, crossing on a tight rope between the World Trade twin towers in New York in 1974.
“Life should be lived on the edge of life. You have to exercise rebellion: to refuse to tape yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself…” Phillipe Petit, crossing on a tight rope between the World Trade twin towers in New York in 1974.

We’re all moving slowly into the future and I feel like Phillipe Petit on his wire but that’s more than okay it’s thrilling. I wish I had something more concrete to give you, Universe, because sometimes I wish I had something more concrete to give me, but somehow I think this suits your dark-matter-composition better.

This age is drying out and dying out. I loathe to see it go but when I look at where it took me I can be nothing but glowed.

.

Laissez les bons temps rouler,

kls

what’s good

Screen Shot 2012-07-24 at 12.22.12 AM

A day late and a dollar short, deep in the summer’s inevitable introspections, I had a realization: I’ve allowed my tastes to be not just directed but shaped by others’ opinions. I think in following others’ lead, I lost some of my own sensibilities. While aesthetics, zeitgeists, shift through time I’d experienced more than that. I was looking at different kinds of artists, diving into different kinds of music, criticizing different sorts of things. One hundred thousand adages can tell you things like “Be Yourself” but it takes a preoccupation with trends to feel the need to remind yourself. With that in mind, I’m dissecting some trends and in the process, calling bull on myself where necessary.

As an aside: My friends are interesting and my age is of the inter webs, which I took for granted earlier but feel the need to declare now. The highlighted trends that will be relevant to the discussion, because it is likely common ground and visible, are from the world wide web.

1. Rap/Hip-Hop, depending on what definition you prefer: I do love the music, appreciate the style, the whole nine yards. I’m into it. But let’s be real here, Kitty Pryde is not a high-quality rapper. Whatever arguments you can make for Kitty Pryde, or Lil B, or whoever Twitter’s #rapperoftheweek is, I’ve made them. I’ve listened to them being made, paid attention and if not agreed, at least acknowledged. The fact that, at this stage of her career, she’s anything more than a very minor blip on the radar screen proves the point that it’s a trend. Lil B, whose enthusiasm and general goodwill I am fond of, or Kitty Pride, whose style I despise but cadence/flow I begrudgingly enjoy (look at me still justifying myself), gain a fan base and that’s great. Power to them. I’m not here to take away anything from their accomplishments. But I am here to say that 1. it’s a trend, and 2. this type of music industry doesn’t produce high-quality artists. When every sound can be sold, there’s not value to being good. There’s only value in being different. Which is fine if different and new is all you want, but I’d rather 100 Frank Ocean and early The Weeknds then 1,000 Kreayshawns and Lil Bs. While we’re at it, I like soulful music and I love old-school country. While Taylor Swift makes my ears bleed, sign me up forever for Johnny Cash and Justin Townes Earles and Willy Nelson and the soulful stuff.

2. Internet art: The accessibility of the internet is its greatest asset. But so-called internet art is lazy. By internet art, I mean the images and symbols and compositions that occur so frequently on the interweb. Cosmic cats? Graphic photo-collages? Pixel art? That lacks originality and artistry. If that’s what you want to surround yourself with, by all means, do. But I’m not going to pretend it’s anything other than simplifications, visual representations of pop cultures endless echo chamber. Theorize all you like about what internet art says about our generation- I’m sure it’ll be wonderfully interesting and full of all the usual bull. But don’t call it inspired- that it is not.

As an oblique sort of proof, an emphasis on the medium and method as an intrinsic end is required to justify its artistic value. That necessity on explanation shows that it’s a flattened sort of art, an easy, an unsustainable art. Quirky, funny, clever, accessible, current, yes. Da Vinci didn’t need medium and method to prove his point, and neither did Dali or Miro. Means to an end, but not the end in itself. This emphasis on the medium and method are characteristic of modern art, and even contemporary art. I have a theory that art became sterile and too oblique around the time medium and method became the primary movers of the art world. Jackson Pollack, one of the first to emphasize method, was revolutionary, but method was again a means to an end, not an intrinsic end. Besides the “if you’re not first, you’re last” idea, it’s important to recognize that Pollack’s work, and other  revolutionary artists’, struck people and resonated. That being said, I’ll never give up iheartcatgifs.tumblr.com. GIFs are, for now, manipulable enough to be a whole different story. I’m not a fan of so-called “internet art,” though I might have fooled you a year ago.

3. * cRaZy SyMbOls *:

It’s not always bad but it’s not always good, and it’s always indicative. For me, trendy frivolity is nothing to be proud of. If it looks good, roll with it, but if your diamonds and snowflakes and capitals are a desperate internet plea for quote-unquote relevancy, just, no.

The bottom line is this: You Don’t Need Anyone To Tell You What’s Good. You Know.

.

As always, and especially now, laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

a summertime feeling

aloha

Running headfirst into the deep middle of summer, I’m feeling a little swamped in this casual bedlam and controlled abandon. My to-do and to-don’t lists are both miles long; they’re not getting any shorter and tomorrow is still coming on strong, but I think there’s still time for a brief detour. With that spirit, I’m diving into a couple songs that I just can’t get enough of. Get ready for the short sonic vacation, boat departing now:

A slinky, shimmering cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love,” by Girl Crisis. Girl Crisis is the kind of supergroup you’d dream about if you dreamt of Brooklyn’s female musicians banding together and recording haunting tracks in that dewy Super 8mm film. Their version of this song loses some of Cohen’s charm in favor of seduction:

Every few months, the band releases another cover track. And though the women involved have changed slightly since the first videos in 2008, the aesthetic is cohesive. If you like this one, scoot through the other tracks on their YouTube account. I liked most of them, but like the tracks better individually more than back-to-back.

.

“Bashful” by Kwes. The only original song on the list, unintentionally.

Their EP came out late April of this year, and I’m pretty fond of it so far. Kwes is a producer and musician from London, and it’s no surprise that he’s worked with Ghostpoet, as they’re tonally similar. Kwes is a synesthete, which is that fantastic thing where senses are linked differently than they are in other people. For Kwes, who has color synesthesia, particular notes correspond to specific colors in his brain. How loverly.

.

The fantastic Seu Jorge’s cover of Bowie’s “Changes,” filmed for Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, just never loses it’s perfection:

Every performance of his I’ve ever heard has this trademark gorgeous treatment and delicacy.

.

For those late nights:

.

Finally, Nina Simone’s rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” :

And on and on.

Laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

that time we got lost in a hospital

Screen shot 2012-06-28 at 9.02.46 PM

Late January, 2012.

In the waning Saturday afternoon, Tony asked me if I wanted to go for a walk with him towards the river and back.  Along the way, we’d stop by his new office, where he’d be starting work next week, and take some pictures of this old city new to us. We ended up in St. Thomas’ Hospital on the opposite side of the Thames, lost and laughing.

Standing in front of the double glass doors, looking up a flight of steps at the building that stood between us and the Thames, illusions of general sensibility came tumbling down. Who tries to navigate a city they don’t know without a map or even phones that work? Us, that’s who. To our right was a truck loading dock and to our left, the street we’d wandered down in a neighborhood we weren’t dying to delve back into. Not sure how we’d gotten where we were, we weren’t really sure how to get out.

By the time we’d gotten near enough to see the water, thirty minutes earlier, my sense of direction had evaporated completely. In search of the elusive office, we walked over a bridge I never found again, past a cafe I did try to find again and couldn’t, and backtracked to find it down I street I hadn’t initially seen. Not that either of us really cared. Turns out we’re great at getting turned around and keeping humors up.

We watched people come in and out of what seemed to be the back doors of  St. Thomas’. We watched no one walk up or down the street we’d just come from. The decision was made for us.

“We can’t go over it, and we can’t go under it. We’ve got to go through it,” I said.

“Act cool,” he said.

We started up the steps like we knew just what we were doing, which was just exactly nothing. When we got to the top of the stairs, we came into the central hallway, smelling faintly sterile and humming. I’d never been in a hospital quite so casually, and I know both of our skins were crawling with awkward anxiety.

I felt like I’d forgotten how to walk, not sure if our footsteps were too light or too quick or obviously nervous. When you don’t belong somewhere, it feels like everyone around you is waiting for your tell. My knees started doing that weird thing where they kind of pop too much, like Shaggy Doo or something.

We walked through a stairwell, through a cafeteria, past a fantastically huge and deteriorated statue of Queen Victoria the first, through a weird holding room, all the while looking out the windows on our left at the river and city across it. When we finally did reach a set of doors, practically running through them, into a garden. Sweet relief.

“Found you a chair, Tony.”

We found ruins in the garden too, and almost cried from laughter.

I still have no idea who that man in the statue is or why he’s there, or why there’s an abandoned apartment overhead, or why there’s no way out of that wing of the hospital, but I do know that it’s pretty there and that the vibes are spooky and that I’m glad we found it and even gladder that I never had to go back.

I think we ended up hopping three sets of fences, wandering along grassy knolls not intended for visitors towards the only pathway out we could see: a walkway that we weren’t sure was even part of the hospital running parallel to the river and crowded with businesspeople. By the time we got out, we were grinning like the escapees we were.

.

In the coming storm and falling sun, Tony and I did end up with a few good pictures, some which turned out almost luminescent:

and:

and this sky:

and similarly, this, where the gold crown is sliding right off the top of that lightpost:

I don’t have a moral, except that London is full of the strangest things.

.

as always, laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

#23 is #1

mj1

“Even when I’m old and grey, I won’t be able to play it, but I’ll still love the game.” Michael Jordan.

I grew up sitting at the foot of my parents’ bed, next to my little sister, watching Michael Jordan play with the Chicago Bulls. MJ, great and as graceful as he was on the court, became an icon of sportsmanship and my childhood. For Halloween, all the boys in my elementary school were either Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. Jordan’s legacy is forever, and for now, it’s being immortalized via the internet as a slew of pictures and rhapsodies. The following are some of the best I’ve seen yet, but if I’ve missed any, holler:

that’s right.

At the sidelines.

“I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat.” Michael Jordan.

Enjoying it.

Reverse Dunk, a showstopper.

Palming it, pushing off.

Showing the love to Dean Smith at Carolina! Hail to the brightest star above, Tar-HEELS!

.

laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

remembering london in the afterglow

Picadilly Circus, 1960s
Picadilly Circus, 1960s

For four months, I lived in London. I even had a glass of wine with the queen – or a friend wearing a mask of the HRH. But as time passes ever so fast, I slowly lose the detailed memories of that time; the benefit of hindsight is that those big days and big nights feel even bigger and even brighter. Guided by mental and physical snapshots, I’m feeling my way back, one month later.

.

I flew across the Atlantic for the first time on Friday, January 13th and I’m superstitious. On my first full day in London, I took a bus tour of the city which was utilitarian, enlightening, and exhausting. Riding over Tower Bridge, I caught this shot with the London Eye, Parliament, and Big Ben.

I’m a wide-eyed kind of traveller; it always feels surreal, like I’m living in a dream-world and that any minute it’s going to fall away. When I took this picture, it was all so invigorating and a little bit nauseating; excitement and adrenaline burnished with fear. Imagine feeling for three days like you’re living at the peak point of a roller coaster.

.

First walk through Hyde Park, and we come upon this, beautiful and bizarre. Like the usual bird-feeding park-lurker, she had magpie tendencies. Just look at the collection she’s wearing; Chanel bag, red lipstick to match her red coat, costume jewelry earrings and scarf. But her attitude and entourage suggested someone much less lonely, someone much more content. I wasn’t sure what her story was then, but I’d still like to know.

.

Snow in London, covering Russell Square. The first of this year’s late-winter snows dusted the city in the early morning. A little girl and her grandparents were building a snowman in the wake of this statue. I can’t remember what that morning sounded like, but I do remember that it was exhilarating.

I was out early that morning, although work had been called off, to get pancake batter and hot chocolate with my wonderful roommate N. We’d decided to surprise our other roommates, but when we got to Tesco, quickly realized we weren’t the only ones with plans for a sweet morning. The store was out of everything, but the day still ended up being a hazy monochrome, perfectly lazy.

.

An afternoon alone ought to be spent in Hampstead Heath. It’s quiet there and easy to imagine yourself as anyone. The town is quaint and comfortable, and it’s still on the Heath. To my right were swans and other waterbirds that make Lake #5 popular, and behind me the knotted hills so typical of England.

Sitting on that hilltop bench, I could hear the birds’ wing feathers rustle as they flew by me, and hear cuts of conversation as people walked the path behind. I felt for a while like Joni Mitchell sounds and it felt alright.

.

This is the London Eye in March, in the very late afternoon. An hour earlier on the same Saturday, I’d reunited with a dear friend at Holborn Station. Though we went to school together in the States, he’s British and lives in England. We met in middle school as carpool partners, and spent our morning car rides arguing about Al Gore and American Idol. We still talk about essentially the same things- pop culture and politics. A decade-long friendship is something to be proud of, something unbelievable, and something to celebrate.

As that afternoon drifted away, we walked the width of London, across the bridge to Southbank. For a brief time, we wound up under the Eye. The line was almost entirely 16-18 year olds, dressed up and little drunk, riding the Eye as part of their Prom celebrations. G. and I looked at each other, struck that we were in the London, together, and struck by the remarkable convergence of ideas and memories. Here were kids younger than us – though it didn’t and doesn’t seem possible that we’ve gotten quite this old – pregaming their Prom on the London Eye. They were oblivious to us and to the US-style prom that G. and I had experienced together. They were oblivious to the import of the Eye, treating is as casually as only the owner of something valuable can. They were oblivious to how old they made us feel, and how alien they seemed. The process of observing them seemed simultaneously big and small. This moment was strong/fragile and this image embodies some of that duality for me.

.

It’s true that I’ve forgotten now more than I can ever hope to remember, but the memories that I’ve got are more than enough.

.

laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl