Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Literary Love, Endless Highways and Stone Presidents

I am heading out west for a three-week road trip in a few days -- it will be a mad rush to a cousin's wedding in Portland, then to Reno with scattered stops along the way for lunch and coffee with friends, to my mom's house to pick up a bunch of boxes of my old belongings and things that belonged to my grandmother, then back to Virginia with my mom to keep me company, in a race to get her to the airport so she can fly back home in time to get to work six days after we leave Reno.

Highway and clouds

Somewhere out west.

It's just over 6,000 miles round trip.

Why a road trip? Well, we have a car that gets fantastic gas mileage (so that, actually, gas will cost about the same that it did on my 2002 road trip in a Jeep Cherokee), plane tickets are very expensive these days, and to take two trips with two plane tickets, or even one plane ticket to Portland, plus a rental car to drive to Reno and back to Virginia would end up costing far more in the long run, by my calculations. Plus, I'm just tired of flying. I've been flying my whole life, but I think passengers are getting meaner and nastier to each other, customer service has gone way down, and personal passenger space has become inhumane, even before people start putting their seats back into my lap (a practice I think should be banned except on red-eye flights). I plan to travel all over the world in my life, and that will certainly involve flying, but why torture myself if I don't have to?

Anyway, I'm going on this road trip, and I am a bit nervous and a bit excited and a bit reluctant and a bit delighted. I'll get to see lots of friends and family I love...


I think this is my dad.

...and meet people I've never met but can't wait to meet, and see scenery I've never seen before and add to the list of states I've visited (Montana, maybe? Idaho? South Dakota?), and possibly see Mount Rushmore and maybe step foot onto the Laura Ingalls homestead and definitely visit Powell's City of Books, which I've longed to visit ever since I first heard of it years and years ago.

Highway 36-3

Highway 36 in Northern California

And I'll have hours of thinking time on the way out west, which will be nice. I've spent a lot of time getting music ready to download onto my new iPod. But, even better, I've found LibriVox, a magnificent site of free recordings of public domain literature (a big thank you to all the people who are willing to donate their time and energy to make something like this available to the world).

Now I have downloaded so many hours of books and poetry that I might not be listening to any music at all.

* Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
* Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts by Frank Richard Stockton
* Treasure Island and Foreign Lands by Robert Louis Stevenson
* Mountains of California by John Muir (for when I'm driving through those same mountains)
* Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
* Gawayne and the Green Knight by Charlton Miner Lewis
* Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum
* Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats
* Ulysses by James Joyce

and finally, a bunch of poetry by Christina Rossetti, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allen Poe and Tennyson.

This, my friends, is why I am so excited to have an iPod. Because now I will be a captive audience for all those books I've been meaning to read. There were so many more to download, and so many authors, including Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Herman Melville and on and on. I'm still not sure I'm finished downloading; I'm torn between Mansfield Park, Moby Dick and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

So this brings us to the burning question of the day: if you listen to a book, can you then say you've read that book? Ah, modern technology and the dilemmas it poses.

And now back to the road trip -- I don't have a laptop and will have only sporadic access to any computers, so I'll be out of sight for a while, but I will be back in mid-August with, I hope, lots of photos and some tales to tell.

(Like the time I was driving through New Mexico, in the middle of nowhere, listening to the song "The Lighthouse Tale" by Nickel Creek, when, in the middle of desert that stretched as far as I could see, I passed a street sign for Lighthouse Lane... mere coincidence?)

OH: and I almost forgot, for those who are as fascinated by word roots and meanings as I am, here is a site that looks into the linguistic and mythological origins of the names of the characters and other words used in the Harry Potter series... J.K. Rowling clearly put a lot of thought into the names she used.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I finished it...

Yes, I did. Just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

And now I feel like I read it too fast, as if I'd eaten too much at Thanksgiving. I feel stuffed.

That's all I can think of to write without giving some impression that may or may not affect how people read the book, except for one more word. Wow!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Project Inspiration

I'm a little late in the game (hey, it's me, that's normal when it comes to pop culture), but I have been voraciously eating up episodes of Project Runway, thanks be to Netflix. I watched Season 1 a few months ago and just watched the last episode of Season 2 today.

What an terrific television show. Wish I'd thought of it.

It's well-produced: well shot, written and edited, and even though I know they're cutting it for maximum drama, I get totally caught up in the content and am not distracted by the editing as much as I am with most television. That's good, because I've been trained to notice things like that.

I am not even into fashion. I like clothing, like certain looks, and have my own evolving style, but I am not much interested in the world of fashion. Maybe because, from my perspective, although designers may have a creative vision, and their clothing is often artful, the label and the price tag seem to become more important than the clothing itself. And often, the result is a look that shouts, "Hey, look at me, I spend a lot of money on my clothes." Like, who cares? And listening to people talk about clothing? Not really my thing, either, unless maybe, it's a historical discussion.

But this show is about way more than fashion. The things I love most are exactly the things that drive those designers crazy... challenges like the grocery store challenge or the flower district challenge... the ones that call for creativity and innovation and outside-the-box thinking... the lack of time... the tight budgets.** They start whining, and here I am -- I can't even sew -- scrunching up my face, saying, "Hello, people? Let me at it! I wanna play! It's an adventure! I thought you were a designer! Make it work!" ***

And then there's the people-to-people interaction. The first season seemed a little bit "typical reality show," but the second season -- the impressions, the singing -- often had me laughing hysterically. The chemistry between the designers was phenomenal, even when they hated each other.

So, I accidentally found out the outcome of Season 1 before I had finished watching, which lowered my level of anticipation for the rest of that season. I still liked the episodes, but I already knew the names of the winner and one of the other three finalists, and they weren't people I was rooting for. When the final episode came, I was pleasantly surprised by the collections and not disappointed by the outcome, but I wasn't jumping up and down.

This time around, I studiously avoided stumbling upon such spoilers. Which made the anticipation and excitement that built up for me in those last few episodes even more fun. I was actually sitting on the edge of the seat. And I was so, so excited when it came down to the last two -- I really wanted them both to win. Not a bad place to be watching from.

The thing I really take away from the show, though, isn't the triumph of rooting for contestants who make it into the top three. It is the spirit of creativity, of inspiration, of making something beautiful out of whatever you happen to be given.

Can't wait for the little red envelopes that bring Season 3 to my mailbox. And maybe, just maybe, this year, I'll watch Season 4 with the rest of the world. Just, somebody, please let me know when it's about to start.

* Many of the same points could be made about art, I suppose. Instead of reacting positively or negatively to a painting, a woman once said to me, "Is it by somebody I should have heard about?" Why should that matter? If you like it, and you see something of yourself reflected in it, and it makes you happy or joyful or contemplative, that's what's important, and then, yes, you should find out the name of the artist so you can buy some artwork and help them keep doing what they love. But only because you like the work, not because you want to impress other people.
** Although, really, it always seems like a small fortune to me.
*** Oh come on, you knew that was coming.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Living Out Loud

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” - Émile Zola

About 10 years ago, when I worked at a bookstore in Newport Beach, California, often spending my paycheck before I left work, I picked up a little blue book called "2,001 Things to Do Before You Die," (apparently, it's not in print anymore, but you can get it used at Amazon.com with a different cover that I like a lot). I used to buy a lot of random books like that. Come to think of it, I still do.

The remarkable thing about this book was how many things I checked off right away ... things I had forgotten I had ever done... other things that were among my favorite memories... some very specific things like this one:

* Drink mulled wine on a snowy night in Prague.

I was oh-so-excited to be able to check that off the day I bought the book. And I still remember that night; I was wandering with friends through the Christmas Market in Old Town Square, sipping mulled wine. The booths were lit up with strings of colored lights and there were just a few snowflakes fluttering through the air. Magical.

And then I guess I forgot to keep checking things off. Today, Kim Kotecki's post about life lists at her blog Swingset Reflections reminded me of this book and I just pulled it off the shelf. I haven't looked at it in a long time.

First we'll start with the things I probably won't ever do:

* Swallow a goldfish
* Throw my panties at Tom Jones
* Ride a boxcar for a couple of days
* Grow a beard
* Shave off my beard
* Quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys
(I don't think my husband would ever speak to me again)
* Be a Dallas Cowboy's cheerleader (He might speak to me again if I did this, but it would take a while)
* Tear a phone book in half with your bare hands
* Ride a motorcycle south on U.S. 1 in California
(North, sure. South, no.)
* Eat pufferfish sushi (I did read a great line about this in an old Nat Geo, though: One man's poisson is another man's poison.)
* Be Woody Allen's therapist

Things I've done:

* Drink the milk from a coconut with a straw (at Angkor Wat on the hottest day ever).
* Shake hands with someone famous.
* Decoupage a table
* Learn French, German or Swahili (interesting choices).
* Travel Route 66
* Parasail
* Savor moonshine
* Pretend you don't speak English
(this is always fun).
* Wear a feather boa to work
* Travel alone
* Love a teddy bear
* Have delusions of grandeur
* Play croquet
* Attend the Olympics
(1984 equestrian events. They were very low-key. We brought our own lawn chairs. I don't think we even had tickets)
* Ride Space Mountain
* Learn to say the alphabet backward
* Watch a baby being born
* Kiss the Blarney Stone
* Predict a trend
* Squeeze a glass of fresh orange juice

Things I would love do to:

* Teach English as a Second Language
* Run a used bookstore
* Attend the seventh game of the World Series
* Learn to sew
* Hot-air balloon over a desert
* Learn to sail
* Drive a Maserati
* Swim in each of the
Seven Seas (I guess I've got to choose from the following nine:
So far, I've managed the Mediterranean, in Nice. It was lovely, once I worked my way out past the hordes of people. I remember the water being very sea green. )

* Build a tree house
* Unicycle
* Stomp grapes in Tuscany
* Finish your dissertation
(after I start one, of course)
* Ride a gondola in Venice
* Sing and dance with gypsies
* Memorize "Who's on First?"
(if you scroll all the way down, you can hear an audio version)
* Research your family tree

And the funniest thing in the whole book?

* Cornrow your Westie

Now I think I'll get around to actually making my own "life list." I've made many lists before, but never quite a comprehensive one.

What would be on your list?

"LIfe is either a daring adventure or it is nothing" -- Helen Keller

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What an honor...

It is so way past my bedtime, but I'm procrastinating, of course, and I just discovered that one of my maps was chosen for a Treasury list on Etsy:

"Map Your Journey"

How cool is THAT?! Yeah, now I'm a little too excited to go to sleep, so back to procrastinating it is.

(Incidentally, a number of those prints I promised are now available at my shop, along with a few new original maps and related watercolors. Take a look and let me know what you think!)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Work at the Red Queen Gallery

I am delighted to announce that a number of my maps -- both treasure maps and maps of fairy land -- will soon be available at the Red Queen Gallery in the delightful town of Onancock, Virginia, just off Route 13.

(The photographs are my own, taken late at night before I took them up to Onancock; the paintings look oh-so-much-more-lovely in person, I swear, swear, swear!)

8" x 10" maps (11" x 14" frames)


Trove Island


Kingdom of Delight


Island of the Yellow Dragon

5" x 7" paintings (8" x 10" frames)


Island of Intrigue


Schooner #1


Kingdom of Mirth


High Winds Island

4" x 6" paintings (5" x 7" frames)


Three Rocks Island


Sea Monster Breath


Four Trees Island

It was hard to say good-bye to these maps -- I feel so close to them -- but I wish them well on their journeys to new and exciting lands.

I also plan to make prints of these paintings available at my Etsy shop very, very soon.

Off With Your Heads!

Not really, I promise.

But I did promise exciting art news today...

... and I am overjoyed to announce that I took ten paintings to the Red Queen Gallery in Onancock, Virginia yesterday. What a perfect place for them to embark on their new adventure... particularly considering that my classmates started calling me Alison Wonderland in first grade, and I had quite a fun romp as the Queen of Hearts one Halloween in Prague (ah, but I digress. That's another story)... and Onancock, pronounced on-NAN-cock, is a quirky and charming town just off Route 13, frequented by sailors arriving via the Chesapeake Bay. If you're driving along the Eastern Shore, do stop by and visit the town; you won't regret it.


Here is the lot of them, waiting to head off to new lands. I will miss them - we've become so close in our time together - but I wish them all the best on their journey and hope they each find a wonderful new home. You can see the individual paintings at my RadioGirl Designs blog, here. And I will be offering prints of these paintings on Etsy very, very soon. Please stop by for a visit in the coming weeks!