Saturday, January 30, 2010

fashion as art

Paintings are artistic expressions that hang on the wall. Sculpture stands in a room or garden, or on a table. And fashion goes onto the body. They are all objects that have been designed for varying combinations of aesthetic, philosophical, practical, and commercial purposes. People argue endlessly about art versus craft, something I found especially irritating when I was an art major in college even while I understood why such discussions should take place.

If anything and everything can call itself art, then meaning is drained from the word and nothing is art, but so-called real art doesn't get a categorical pass into veneration for nobility and purity of purpose. While it may seem loftier to create a painting than throw a pot, it's not necessarily a greater artistic achievement.

Fashion tries to give itself a leg up now and then and associate itself with fine art venues, and conversely, the world of fine art occasionally recognizes the artistic merit of certain elements of the fashion world.

Fashion design work can eventually gain gravitas with time, especially when a given designer has demonstrated some notable combination of innovation, beauty, and technical excellence.

A museum installation of a designer's body of work can be a vivid experience; the museum setting is an aesthetically strong, austere way to see any kind of art, but it is also symbolically validating in that it implies, even confers, importance. Beyond that, it is often the only time a designer's creations over time can be seen as a body of work. The museum show completes the job only begun by the fashion show or store display, the commercial aspects downplayed. The latter venues are concerned with newness and the present moment, but a museum show paradoxically turns away from this central aspect to fashion and considers the passage of time.

Fashion, particularly couture, exists in no small part as an idea. True haute couture is worn by just a few thousand people worldwide, but these visions sit at the top of the pyramid and illuminate the broader realms of fashion and accessories. And while this rarified world is directly experienced by a small group of enthusiasts, it enjoys a vivid life in the world of print. The media is where everything is validated, where fame and celebrity and importance happens in popular culture.

A design is first an idea, then a creation at the hands of craftspeople, then presented in an artistic venue viewed by a select group, versions of the garment eventually worn by a few people. At each stage of the process it is shared via the media with a greater number of people: a fashion layout in a magazine; someone wearing the fashion at an event. The event is photographed, or taped and shown on YouTube. The work is appreciated, assimilated, imitated, and meditated upon in countless ways. A diverse array of art and design and innovation happens at every level, folding back on itself again and again.

Vionnet conjuring true innovations with fabric cut on the bias; Schiaparelli's playful surrealism; the luxurious brilliance of Paul Poiret; Coco Chanel and her breakthroughs in modern suiting: all were appreciated in their day. But in time, the signal-to-noise ratio shifts; fashion designs become artifacts-- even art-- when viewed and appreciated in perhaps a fuller way by historians and cultural anthropologists. In this age of media and information, the cycle time of this process is growing shorter.

With only so much room at the proverbial top, there will always be artists and designers of merit who go relatively unrecognized in the big picture. This state of affairs does not mean their works are artistically less valid, and it doesn't mean anything unfair or nefarious is going on, or needs to change. There will always be artists and designers who achieve various forms of success while not necessarily being the best of the best. Enthusiasts are free to inquire into varying levels of fashion obscurity: we can dig for vintage clothing, investigate designers working in smaller markets. We can form our own opinions and champion our own choices.

One of the most fascinating aspects to all this is the cross-referencing of various media.

to be contined

Friday, January 29, 2010

novels and screenplays

The two biggest writing projects I've been gnawing on over the course of the last six years or so have been a novel and a screenplay.

The screenplay has been finished for a few years, in the sense that it reads reasonably well and goes all the way to the end of the story, and is registered with the Writer's Guild West. It is, however, in need of a good polish before I grit my teeth, hold my breath, cross my fingers, and try to sell it.

The novel... well, it's a long one. As I've stated elsewhere, it's really more like several novels in one, and it's (er, ahem) not quite finished yet.

Differences of length aside for the moment, now having spent considerable time working in both forms I find myself thinking about their similarities and differences.

As any true film person knows (or at least, suspects), a film is indeed very different than a novel. This becomes very clear when books are interpreted and produced as movies. It's clearly a very different medium with different goals and needs.

But in the course of working in both, switching from one to the other on no regular schedule, I began to realize something interesting, and am still learning it: thinking in terms of a movie, without consciously setting out to do this, is making me a better novelist.

No, I don't mean obvious things like casting an actor on the novel's page (like Mr. Brown did-- shamelessly but I suppose understandably-- in his most recent blockbuster novel). One could almost say that the changes that are needed for the screen are changes that might have been good for the book as well, the difference being that the film format makes certain... shall I call them 'deficiencies'?-- more obvious? I wonder if I'm overstating this. Does thinking in cinematic terms from the onset of writing a novel, even if one isn't necessarily interested in eventually seeing the novel as a film, give the novel a qualitative advantage?

to be continued

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

night owl

1:14 AM

There's an owl hooting in the little canyon behind our house.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

treasure island in wonderland

It appears that I'm about to read Treasure Island for the first time because it's offered free for downloading onto my Kindle. At the very least, there is probably some irony in this. Somewhere.

Am I finally embarking on the reading of certain literary classics I've postponed or ignored up until now, books I could easily have accessed via my local library, merely for the novelty of having them on an electronic reading device? It's true that at least part of the motivation is to see how much quality reading material I can gather together electronically with lowest possible cash outlay.

Last night I almost downloaded Flatland, which I like to re-read every few years. But it occurred to me that this classic work might not retain its illustrations in a Kindle version, so I decided to wait and find out how that works, even though the download cost is only a couple of dollars. I'm not sure what happened to my paper copy acquired years ago, but if it turns out the Kindle offering of Abbott's book has all the original drawings-- essential to that little masterpiece on space and geometry-- it makes sense to have it in my Kindle library. Why Amazon doesn't seem to have a cyber-version of that Victorian book's contemporary sequel Sphereland is, for now, a Kindle mystery.

One month into ownership, I'm beginning to see at least part of the role of Kindle in my life should be to serve as my Go-To library for those works I re-read regularly, year after year. This would include such children's books as A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden, and others I write and chatter about endlessly. And the Sherlock Holmes stories, of course; I claimed that particular freebie almost the minute I took off my new Kindle's Christmas wrap.

To be clear, this sleek 21st Century paperless option does not replace print material. There is no replacing the physical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes standing dignified in my personal library of so-called real books. One favorite workhorse edition has an especially nice heft and feel to it, and its pages are accurate reproductions of how each page looked in its episodic publication in Strand magazine, complete with the original Sidney Paget illustrations.

For reasons both obvious and subtle, electronic devices do not replace books. But when I reach late at night for the reading equivalent of comfort food, the Kindle option is waiting there for me: the slim device rests comfortably in one hand while I click effortlessly from one page of the Study in Scarlet to the next. Should I have the sudden urge to jump ship and read a few pages of Moby Dick (or the latest Stephanie Plum adventure) I don't have to get out of my warm bed... in fact, I barely have to move. And when I leave the house even for the smallest of errands, I can always have my own personal library with me, instead of stuffing five books into my purse, or doing without. Should I have the sudden inspiration to read a title someone is effusing about, it can be on my device and ready to read in less than a minute.

Hardly a day goes by where I don't wonder what our ancestors would have made of such Wonderland marvels.

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It occurs to me that readers might think I am being somehow compensated for talking about this device, but this is absolutely not the case. /bg

Monday, January 25, 2010

annual report 2009 and prospectus for 2010

Annual Report 2009

Didn't do as much as I would have liked.

Prospectus 2010

Feeling good about the new year. Planning on getting a lot more done.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

after the rains

As much as I love and appreciate rain, I only like a rainy day when it's well and truly rainy. I find half-rainy, half-sunny days emotionally unsettling. One or the other, please, but none of this halfhearted stuff! When it's raining in all its glory, what could be better? Build the fire, pour a mug, postpone errands, cradle a good book, and dream. But the minute the sun tries to come out, all I can see are all the pieces of broken trees and soggy patio furniture. Because the rain has stopped, I now remember I must buy bread and milk, and pick up shirts at the laundry. I notice the drain-trays under potted plants need emptying; when I impulsively tend to this, the water seeps up from the outdoor rugs and squishes and soaks into my house-boots.

Friday, January 22, 2010

beautiful book on india, interior design photos

This book is so gorgeous, I've checked it out once again from my local library. Taschen books are all gorgeous anyway (Taschen is the publisher); this one has photos of amazing interiors in India, a realm I'm not all that familiar with. It's inspiring me to bring that sort of exoticism to my own home... or at least, to a room for my sixth scale dolls for instant gratification.

One of the most fascinating juxtapositions shown in the book is the art deco palace style with Indian decor, something I feel could work brilliantly in my little home theater. For over a decade I have dreamed and re-dreamed what to do with that room. Maybe this is the design direction I need to finally bring that project to life.

Indian Interiors, edited by Angelika Taschen

The above link takes you to the book listing on Amazon. My only question is if that edition has the same content as the one I have from the library despite the different cover (it's an entirely different photo), or if the two editions have other differences.

to be continued

Thursday, January 21, 2010

new year reboot month

Want to know why I don't get enough done? Of my personal projects, I mean. The writing, the art, that sort of thing. Well, it's no secret.

No shortage of inspiration or ideas, so all I need to do is sit down, write, make art. How fortunate I am that I don't need to work full time. No excuses; each day is my own. Right?

But first...

But first, I have the New Year urge to address all the administrative details of my life. This is very important to me, and it really does make the year go more smoothly, but if I allowed this obsessive behavior to continue past January it would soon reach the point of diminishing returns and prove fatal to my grand plans for accomplishment. Containing this project within January means more time and smoother days throughout the rest of the year. Continuing the project past January means I'm getting in my own way.

For years I used to try to get it all done before New Year's Eve, but that proved nearly impossible, given how typically busy Christmas time usually is. From this, came the idea to treat January as the month where I reboot my life.

Here is a rough idea of what I decided to work on this January:

Clean entire house
Do all laundry and dry cleaning
Organize drawers and closets
Clean refridgerator
Prepare annual calendar
Car maintenance
Stock up on printer ink, paper, etc.
Develop diet and exercise schedule and plans
Stick to all home habits: dishes, laundry, make bed, etc.
Storage inventory
Digital inventory of everything
Garage organization
Reading list
Annual report and plans for new year projects
Repair all eyeglasses; get rid of unused ones
Large donations to thrift stores
Draw up plans for relandscaping
Put together updated home binder: light bulb inventory, plans, etc.
New maps from AAA
Wine collection update: inventory, restock, etc.
Magazine subscriptions
Program TV recording schedule
Update all websites, renew all memberships
Clean home office; complete all filing; throw out old files
Call to have yard refuse hauled away
New hairstyle
Menu planning
Prepare spice rubs for year
Update towels, sheets, etc. as needed
Add to emergency supplies
Update all contact information
Throw out all old pens, pencils
Stock up on stamps, envelopes; pre-address notes for year
Stock up on greeting cards for the year
Have all scissors sharpened
Go through vitamins and dietary supplements
Organize digital photography online
Stuff all handbags with tissue; clean and organize
All shoes clean, in good repair
Robes and pajamas
New batteries for watches
Set up dream journals for year
Wish list
Decor plans
Prepare doll club plans for year

secret agent

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


When I think of opera, one of my first memories is of my mother teasing my father by trying to sing arias, comically and with surprising ability, along with the opera he enjoyed listening to on the weekends. I also think of Margaret Dumont, who always seemed to have the build and deportment of an opera performer, and the Marx Brothers' Night at the Opera.

On Saturdays my father liked listening to the Texaco company's presentation of the Metropolitan Opera from New York...

to be continued

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Monday, January 18, 2010


What is it about rain that insists on being recognized through poems, essays, monologues, solliloquies, tomes, tributes, reminiscences, anecdotes, and analogies? Why must I add my little remarks to a topic that's had more than its share of ink? And why do I like rain in the first place?

It's true, I hate getting my clothes wet, and I hate how it can so easily ruin my hair and my shoes. I worry about the mildew it can cause, and it makes driving more difficult, even dangerous. Too much gray weather and one might risk becoming morose, too sedentary, too insulated and enclosed, perhaps even depressed.

Even with all that, I am always pleased when I learn rain is coming my way.

Through the years I've acquired a specific group of memories, like so many inexplicably evocative little movies, that are immediately triggered by rain. To an outsider these plotless vignettes probably sound like nothing much, but I'm surprised at their power and persistence for me.

With no real expectation that anything will resonate with anyone happening to read this, I transcribe them here:

1. I am in an attic room with one of those wonderful window seats tucked against a dormer window. This room is my retreat. Outside, the sky is thick and dark, and thunder and lightening punctuate an unrelenting rainstorm. I am surrounded by my favorite books and treasures, and dressed very warmly. This is not a memory of a real place, but an idealized composite of many books and stories I have read, stories of both modern day and times long past, and it dates back deep into my childhood. Rain never fails to bring this fully-formed idea to mind.

2. We are driving somewhere, a long drive to a destination now forgotten, and it is raining hard. I am with my mother, father, and sister, and this is an imcomplete yet vivid memory of a real event. Because I am small, I can lie down in the back seat and watch the sky as the miles slip by. I have a small plastic bag with some windmill cookies in it, and this is a treat I am meant to enjoy en route. Everything about this seemingly banal little memory comes together to form something greater than the sum of its parts.

3. High school: my best friend and I drive out to the town of Benicia on a free Saturday and go antique-store rummaging on a spectacularly dramatic rainy day. This is unusual enough of an excursion for me that I remember it very specifically, but I also remember the black velvet vintage hat I bought there (a fashion hat from the 1950s that the dealer incorrectly attributed it to the 1920s; I didn't argue the point), and then buying some highly fragrant strawberry incense sticks. I also found an antique silk dress. Rain, the incense, the sense of adventure and the powerful feeling of acquiring special objects, and also of being free to have an adventure with a friend instead of my family, a day made perfect by deep gray skies and rain. I have no idea if she remembers this day or not because we've long since lost touch.

4. to be continued

Saturday, January 16, 2010

real art in a virtual world, part two

Remember that tiny watercolor experiment I posted about a few days ago? This is what it looks like hanging over my Corbusier sofa in my living room in the Cezanne region, the villa I've had for nearly three years in Second Life. I enjoy decorating and redecorating that space.

Now that I have it up on the wall there I'm not as fond of it as I thought I'd be, but the good news is, it didn't cost me a cent, and I can change it at will with just a few mouse-moves.

Just try that in real life. Not to mention, have you seen the cost of oriental rugs and baby grand pianos?
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Thursday, January 14, 2010


There's something about this film that has really captured my interest. Just before Christmas, I got into an obsessive streak where I watched the film probably fifteen times, analyzing it in nearly every way possible. I have nothing but admiration for those who put in the hours and contributed their skills and vision to creating this stop-motion triumph.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

midcentury wall art

Gravel art! Create stunning decorative pieces for your home using these easy kits!

And yes, my mother did some of these kinds of pieces when I was growing up... not this actual picture, but from the same manufacturer. When you find them decades later they are often the worse for wear, but they were great when freshly assembled. Tacky? But of course. And they fit beautifully with the decor of the time.

Wonderful memories...


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

paint on paper

Once again, my Wednesday morning watercolor class has rolled around, and once again I have neglected to do any painting. The last project I finished-- as in, completely finished, not almost-finished-- was this experimental color field painting. By the way, it's about 2x5".

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Above is a scan of the piece that I then digitally modified and uploaded to Second Life. It looks great rezzed as a wall-sized piece with thick glass over it. But all it really is, is a tiny painting.

Or is it?

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

paper life

Paper is magical. I've always felt that way. Part of its magic is its simplicity: paper, along with something to write or draw with, can be the most powerful thing in a person's creative life.

* * *

Paper was always important, and it still is. We didn't have a lot of paper when we were growing up. That is to say, paper is something I always wanted to have more of, but later it dawned that we didn't have a lot of discretionary income, especially for that type of thing. But my parents saw to it we had an abundance of all things wonderful every Christmas.

This limitation was the reason my sister and I depended upon my father to discreetly squirrel home small stacks of logo stationery from Blue Chip Stamp Company where he worked, to serve as our art paper. It was always great to get a fresh batch. Sometimes we'd cut off the top part where the letterhead was, but more often we just worked around it. It was nice quality paper, very white, with a great surface and feel to it. It never occurred to me that he might be bending the rules, bringing home company stationery, but judging from how special it always seemed I think he must have been careful not to overdo it.

As an adult, I am now always careful to have plenty of paper on hand. As a hedge against an uncertain future, I buy pack after pack of it in various weights at Staples and stash it in my home office. In doing this, I will surely never run out. Of particular importance are the bond papers of the correct weight for spec sreenplays and for novel manuscript submissions to publishers. The elaborate novel I've been working on for many years will, I trust, be completed. It will give me great pleasure to finally print it in all its behemoth entirety for publication submission.

Except for the copy I sent to the Writer's Guild for registration, I still haven't gotten around to printing and submitting the final draft of my screenplay. It's a children's fantasy story. When I do, on that fateful day I will most assuredly have all the correct paper and fasteners and mailing boxes.

It's also critical to have plenty of art paper on hand. Left over from my first (very brief, too-young) marriage to a Canadian landscape watercolor artist in the early Seventies, I still have several large, lovely sheets of Arches handmade watercolor paper from France. The Arches company is something of a miracle in how long they've been in business: Le choix des artistes depuis 1492. I love the watermark on their paper, the various weights, the lovely feel. A few of these sheets I had to discard because they picked up mildew in storage. But most of them, like the company itself, survived intact the journey across time. In this dire economic era, modern businesses of all types are at risk... but how many factories do you know of were once besieged by the Cossacks?

When it comes to actually creating artwork, as opposed to merely storing art paper, the large scale of full-size watercolor paper is a bit too much for me. My aesthetic world was, and still is, the world of the 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of typing paper or company stationery. I've managed to push myself up to the slightly more accommodating 11" x 14" size of the many pads of 100-pound smooth finish Strathmore Bristol pads I currently have in my workshop. This turns out to be perfect for pages of the paper dolls I can now create more authentically with the professional pens, inks, and paints I now have. The few sample sheets I've done are promising.

Classrooms in the Fifties and Sixties, here in California, always seemed to have plenty of paper. Things were obviously very different, then. School is where I got most of what I needed for the various art and writing projects I'd amuse myself with during the long school days, all the way from kindergarten until, if my memory serves me right, intermediate school. Paper of various types was freely available, waiting in generous stacks at the back of the room in wooden cupboards. We always had unfettered access to this. A favorite way I had of enjoying school-supplied paper was to grab a generous handful and staple it into a booklet. I can't remember ever simply taking some of this school paper home with me, but I know I used more than my share during the day for drawings, notes, and stories.

My late mother often shared her love of drawing and painting with my sister and me, and we began to draw almost as soon as we could hold a pencil or a crayon. Both of my parents definitely had artistic ability, and my sister and I both can draw easily, a skill we have both always enjoyed and appreciated. Given my parents' skills in this area I believe our ability to be hereditary, a check mark in the Nature category, but I feel credit must also be given to the Nurture side of the equation. It's a shame we didn't have a better assortment of good art supplies with which to explore and enjoy our artistic leanings. But what we did have, we valued.

One incomplete but strong memory of my mother is from when I was very young: I am standing in the kitchen, looking up at her while she stands working on something at the sink. Later I would learn she was using a pan watercolor set, but all I see is that she is using a brush, busily doing something on paper I can't quite see because I'm so small, and every time she places the brush under the faucet's stream of water, the water changes color. This seems like a miracle to me.

We wouldn't have our own watercolor sets until later, but my sister and I always had crayons, with their paper covers and wonderful scent. One of my prized possessions for years was my set of Crayola 64 crayons, the big set in the tiered cardboard box with orange and navy printing. This would be my sole medium for many years, the means by which I would learn color names, try new color combinations (Sea Green and Silver! Aquamarine and Midnight Blue!), and try in vain to recreate the brilliance and professionalism of published paper doll art. At that time, paper dolls were the epitome of artistic achievement to me. My father took our family to San Francisco art museums such as the De Young and the Palace of the Legion of Honor on weekends, and we were exposed to a lot of great art very early in our lives, but my artistic interest as a child kept returning to paper dolls.

In those days you could select a nice set of paper dolls from Beedee's dime store for just 29 cents. A paper doll set was a huge thrill, folios with such themes as Annette in Hawaii and Ann Blyth. I loved real dolls, too, especially fashion dolls, and later I would address this world with an adult's resources. But a paper doll was something special, probably because it was something I could create entirely myself. I drew many things, but fashion illlustrations were what I preferred for my own amusement. Whenever I drew a female face that turned out exceptionally good to my critical eye, the highest acknowledgement would be to turn it into a paper doll, and then give her sheets and sheets of outfits until my available paper was gone.

In grade school I was often called upon by fellow students to provide illustrations ("Could you draw me a horse?"). Doing the covers for our school Christmas programs was my earliest sense of being treated as special. Who else was allowed to draw and then hand-carry various school artwork projects over to the teacher's lounge? There I would be allowed to run the ditto machine, then bring back to my classroom the stack of paper, still warm, still issuing that uniquely wonderful chemical smell, each sheet bearing a perfect reproduction in analine purple ink of something I created.

Paper has long served us, and serves us still. Digital era or not, paper forms the inarguable essential that is bathroom tissue, for which there is no viable subsitute. It's another type of paper I insist on having plenty of on hand. We live in uncertain times, after all. What if the Powers that Be decide that Soviet-era horrible tissue is all we should be allowed? I buy big packs of my favorite brands when they go on sale and store them to the extent I can reasonably do so, and I don't apologize for this. There is no type of paper, in fact, that I want to ever do without.

My parents used to keep their books in bookcases built of cinder blocks and plywood.

I never travel without several books and magazines, even if it's just for a few hours.

A few years ago I self-published a book of doll hat designs, and the process of printing and assembling them was oddly satisfying.

Recently, I have rediscovered the library. Gone are the oak card catalogs with their long drawers. My tendency is to wander through the stacks, anyway.

Many magazines, as well as some newspapers, are getting smaller in format. This reflects modern concerns about costs, but is also an apologetic attitude towards paper consumption. I understand this. I get that we shouldn't chop down an ancient sequoia tree to make toilet paper or the New York Times. I know forests need to be managed, but I know paper companies know this, too. I love trees, but it is permissible to love what trees can become, as well.

One of my earliest magazine fascinations was Seventeen. This fashion and lifestyle magazine was very large. It had a real presence; you could lose yourself in a magazine like that. The first issue I ever purchased was September 1965, after marvelling over the August issue at the Concord public library. I wore it out looking at it so much, dreaming over the amazing mod fashions and false eyelashes, and implicit promises of self-assurance, boyfriends, jobs, money, freedom, and sophistication. A few years ago I found a woman selling a pristeen copy on eBay; I paid decently for it with scarcely a blink. She had several copies of that particular issue because she'd been a model in those days and had appeared in one of the ads. We enjoyed corresponding after the sale; she even mailed me a short documentary she had produced.

As anyone who has ever visited my home will quickly realize, I still have a thing about magazines. Of course, I love reading and I love and require books in my life, and can somehow finally manage to control my collecting of them, but magazines are an ongoing concern: deciding which magazines to keep, which to donate or get rid of, where to keep them, and how to manage all the clippings and tear sheets.

Despite the trend to a smaller format, what has improved in magazines is the quality of both the lithography and the photography itself. Some contemporary art, fashion, travel, and cooking magazines are so gorgeous, so rich, they can almost make me weep.

In sixth grade, my best friend and I began to publish our own classroom newspaper, the redundantly-entitled Mercury Envoy. During it's brief but heady publication era we hand-drew the stories and made ditto copies for our fellow students. I read somewhere that Stephen King used to publish his own student newspaper, but he was far more enterprising in his inspiration to sell his to fellow students.

In my senior year of high school I was astonished to be chosen to be the editor-in-chief of our student newspaper. I can't remember learning a great deal about the particulars of the journalism craft and career from my teacher, but I will always be grateful for his vote of confidence in giving me that position. Not surprisingly, that validation allowed me to envision myself as a so-called real writer, but also as someone who could be part of the world, not just a passive observer.

Our paper came out twice a month. First we would type up our stories, calculate the size everything needed to be, mark everything accordingly, then send it all to the graphics house for its transformation to columns of printed copy. In long after-school sessions, our staff did the layout by hand in that pre-computer era, taking all that issue's copy and headlines, cutting them to size as we designed each page, then running each piece through a machine that waxed the back so it would stick to the layout sheet.

Actually, it's not uncommon for paper to find itself the focus of such an elaborate process. Papermaking itself is such a process, at one time even more so, but this is only the beginning. Paper is all about what it can become. It is a tabula rasa, blank and plain and ready for anything one strives to bring to it if the intimidation of it's powerful potential can be overcome.

Paper, and more paper still. At a moment in time, before her work became digital, my sister would stand in a darkened room, rocking a sheet of photographic paper in one tray of solution and then another, watching the alchemy of the newest emerging image. It delights me to be able to print my own photographs at home, so I stock special paper for that. The acid-free tissue paper I've purchased at not insignificant cost is protecting the oldest fashion dolls in my collection, and the paper doll collection I've painstakingly reassembled from my childhood is also being treated with archival care. Every year, I plan on creating my own Christmas cards, and have special paper and envelopes for this, but I've only actually done it a few times. I still have several stationery sets, only partially used, I received as gifts when I was in my teens.

And now I'm a writer, yet not really a writer, and an artist, yet not really an artist. What I really am is Ship's Curator, at least to the extent anyone can be when they've let thousands of pieces of paper slip away for every one they've saved. Boxes of photographs, boxes of papers, volumes of journals and old school reports. Childhood artwork, and old documents from four generations ago.

I have a Kindle reading device, new for me as of this Christmas, and it's every bit as amazing and wonderful as I knew it would be. This invention does not eliminate paper books; this seems obvious to me, no more than filmmaking can be said to replace books, nor for that matter are audio books meant to replace physical ones. The love of paper overlaps with the love and miracle of literature, but they are not the same thing. Paper is both less and more than that.

So many childhood doilies cut from folded squares, then hung in windows; I admired the method of their creation and their elaborately lacy result. A pencil drawing, sent by my mother to a local newspaper for their children's art section, is published when I am 7. I cut strips of colored paper and weave them like fabric. More paper dolls in crayon.

Once I began to sew, I began to amass the hundreds of paper sewing patterns now in my collection. Most will never be used, but many have been and will be. I loved and still love the graphics on pattern envelopes, not unlike so many paper dolls, and I loved and still love fashion, and the sense of possibility represented by such a collection.

This pattern collection now fills the entire closet of my guest room and encompasses the late 19th Century to the present day. With no children, and no association with a university or school, I sometimes wonder what will become of it all after I am gone. Perhaps I should address that.

Sometimes I draft my own patterns for doll clothes and share them online with members of my hobby group, patterns that can be downloaded and printed on printers that now commonly occupy a place in our households.

My lifelong dabblings in art would finally bring me something life-shifting, seemingly by accident. It's a tale circuitous in that way so often characterizing careers in the arts, a series of causal links that in many ways are irrelevant here; the upshot is I found myself doing makeup and costumes for a low-budget, ultimately troubled film project called Clownhouse. Because of this turn of events, my thirty-something self would stand in mute awe in Francis Coppola's library at his thousands of books, where I learn he employs a librarian to carefully cull hand-cut magazine and newspaper articles that pertain to his far-ranging interests. It's the late 1980s, and he is funding a movie project for a group of us newbies, while directing his own film, Tucker.

Later that same week, as I continue a succession of 14-hour days' work on the 21-day shoot, I am astonished to find myself conversing with the famous director through the open window of his stopped van on his rural Napa Valley property while I pause in organizing some equipment. No one else is around. On his lap I can see a bound and printed screenplay, and he remarks it was just given to him by Mario Puzo. Francis is wondering aloud, for my sole benefit on that gravel road in Rutherford, if he should immerse himself in that dark and complex world for yet another year of his
life to make another Godfather film.

Grade school again: I make a tiny book about mermaids and give it to my Grandmother. I bring home report cards and hand them to my parents.

A letter comes in the mail just after high school: congratulations--you are accepted into the apparel design program. More paper in the form of a marriage certificate, and eventually another. My Cosmetology license, to be renewed every two years.

Job applications, and nervously filling them out. Call sheets for each day's work on a film or video project. Product brochures, junk mail, coupons. Special paper for my old Olivetti portable typewriter; it's designed so you can erase it.

Taking tests, with a number two pencil: be sure and fill in each bubble completely and carefully.

Making a card for Mother's Day.

In chemistry class passing a tiny handwritten note to a boy across the room, my unrequited crush who regarded me as a mere buddy: this note is no more than two square inches, covered with my minutely-printed witticisms based on Beatles lyrics, and is sent silently skittering across the floor inside a ball point pen, the paper coiled around the barrel of ink; the tiny note I received back was saved for years afterwards.

Paper shoji screens define the spare and lovely rooms of my imagined Japan, an aesthetic I long ago tried to emulate by drawing cherry blossom branches, shortly after visiting the Tea Gardens in San Francisco with my parents. In a similar effort, I would attempt to recreate on paper the dioramas that captured my imagination during our 1961 pilgrimage to Disneyland. My grandmother worked for many years as an administrative assistant for the Richmond School District Art and Music Department, and was able to get me my first real watercolor set. I recall first using this to paint flowers from Alice's garden scene, partly because of the Disneyland ride, and also because Alice's Adventures Underground and Through the Looking Glass were two of my favorite books.

A highlight in grade school would be the Scholastic Book Club brochures where we'd have the opportunity to ponder at leisure, then order books for ourselves: Codes and cyphers and magic tricks. Shadow Castle. The Phantom Tollbooth.

Everything in and about paper in my life is connected and interconnected, folding back on itself, a dense and magical and melancholy world made up of paper airplanes and Christmas paper, screenplays by others and by me and the similarities and differences between them; paper burning in my father's fireplace or passing through a borrowed shredder; the drawer filled with my comb-bound dream accounts, and fabric-bound blank journals on a glass shelf.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010