“Fucking memory. God damn unsolicited time traveling.”
The power that memories have seems to come at you from two different directions, two arms that can either cradle you or drag you to a place you’d rather forget. With one hand, their ability to seemingly spring from anywhere- the scent of fabric softener, the crisp bite of an apple, a drunken, breathy voice- comes from innocuous places. But their ability to interrupt you leave meaningless moments feeling like a Trojan horse. Once these moments have found their way in, the other hand comes through to smudge, smear and skew what was once your perceived reality. “Did that mean what i thought? Did it really happen like that? i? Did i really let it happen like that?” Our own stories feel borrowed, on loan from our own ego and neuroses, and sorting through the rubble takes a steady hand or a ready heart.
The things I love about Cheap & Easy lie in Hutch’s ability to construct doorways into the past out of photography, brief written snapshots, and illustrations. Her deadpan humor or little bit of longing keep the recollection from getting too romanticized, not that her hard and honest gaze would allow that anyway. You don’t get the sense that Hutch wants to rewrite the past or change the characters. The memories are what they are, and no amount of fuss is going to change that. It’s the next step and how you walk away thats the real story. It’s how we survive and piece these events into the past-present-future of our lives. Like the busted jeans in her “Altercations at the Washout Inn” piece or the photo of her bruised, but muscular legs you know that resilience is at the core. Her photos, like so many memories, are often cut off or feature one small part of the bigger picture. It’s in this halfway point, the almost dreamlike place, where you’re able to insert yourself into her narrative and slip it on like a friends jacket. It’s not yours and it might not fit perfectly, but there’s comfort in its familiarity.
Living in Logan Square means living in a community that is hyper-aware of each individuals impact and the necessity of nurturing a diverse network of people. It’s a hive, buzzing with activity and ideas, and if someone isn’t creating something it’s because they’re busy enjoying the good work of a neighbor. In short, it’s an incredible neighborhood to live in and inspiration presents itself daily. But a sense of community exists outside the confines of neighborhoods, obviously, and the wonders of the internet have allowed us to expand our idea of who we can relate to and and when and where. The possibilities seem to be only limited by how much you’d like to learn about yourself and the world around you, so once you’ve decided you’re pretty much capable of anything anyone can be your neighbor.
Over the past few months Meetup.com has been a driving force in opening up my own sense of community and capability, and I’ve found two Meetup groups that speak to some of my favorite things- nerdy enthusiasm and fostering a sense of sisterhood among women.
If your computer use usually revolves around Facebook, Twitter or emailing, but you still want to find some ladies to kick it with you’re in luck- the Indie Girls group has you covered. From craft and movie nights to international baking challenges and bike rides, the Indie group is truly built and supported by the interests of it’s diverse members. Spots for events are snatched up quickly, but don’t hesitate to post your own. The group is as varied as Chicago’s cultural offerings, so you’ll have no problem finding someone to check out that upcoming show, exhibit or movie with. This group is located in Chicago, but if it’s possible here than it’s possible anywhere, so log in and set it up.
Community and support all come from active participation in our own lives and the ability to open up to others. While wars on women continue to rage it’s become crucial to dig in and stake a claim in our professional and personal networks. The ability to share experiences, build relationships and boost female representation is a privilege we need to take advantage of while we still have the ability to do so.
It happens from time to time. Whether you mean to or not, you find yourself reading an article in a magazine put out by everyones favorite organized, homicidally-uptight entertaining extraordinaire (who also happens to be an ex-con, but I wouldn’t bring it up). Rather than letting your eyes glaze over while you flip past advice on silverware polishing and “To Do” list calligraphy tips you stumble upon something that actually sticks with you and a blog post is finally born. This isn’t about Martha, though. It’s about something I read in one of her magazines and the other woman it made me think of.
"Happiness isn’t being cheerful all the time…It’s being interested in things — finding out more about something, learning how to appreciate something better, incorporating something new that fits in with what you already have."
This pearl of wisdom was tucked away like a nudie mag between pieces on low-calorie meals and expensive yoga pants, but it was there and I’m grateful. We all develop our own personal interests and hobbies that we pick up and nurture throughout our lives…. or visit in sporadic bursts only to cast them off like the Christmas present I started knitting for my mom two years ago. Like any good relationship, though, the ones we have with our favorite pastimes aren’t judged by their length, but how they make us feel, and discovering and developing these things can only have a positive effect. As someone who has blogged since the early days of online-oversharing, its consistently been one of those positive forces and major interests in my life. As I continue to write and the blog world continues to grow, the bar for aesthetic quality of our online reads has risen dramatically to a super polished and professional place. For someone whose biggest downfall is throwing up their hands at the first sign of something frustrating I can barely put into words the kind of facepalming I’ve put myself through as I’ve tried to use my limited Photoshop knowledge to make online endeavors look like anything other than a hot mess.
Luckily for me and anyone who has ever wanted to weep over their laptop, Katrina of Pugly Pixel is there to soothe you like a million handmade Martha Stewart candles. Katrina is a style and design enthusiast whose self-taught skills are generously shared through thoughtful, well-crafted tutorials covering everything any blogger could possibly want a “gentle” introduction to. Her aesthetic is fresh, clean, and feminine, and her tips are accessible to anyone at any expertise level. Covet the Lula magazine ombre look for your photos? It’s yours. Want to figure out what those brushes in Photoshop actually do and how to use them? Done. She even has free downloads to prettify your blog or website, font resources, online courses, video tutorials, awesome link lists, and a marketplace where you can purchase more blog and photo layouts, clip art, etc. The list is almost infinite. The online wares for purchase are definitely priced reasonably, but Pugly Pixel’s ultimate greatness lies in Katrina’s “teach a man to fish” attitude and the sense of pride and excitement one gets from gaining the knowledge she shares. After a particularly productive afternoon spent on her site, I ran around my apartment yelling “I made a clipping mask, I made a clipping mask!” to which no one replied “Way to go!” and my warm & fuzzies for Pugly Pixel haven’t gone away since.
Katrina’s attitude, voice and pastry-powered ways have made “being interested in things” and the constant pursuit of knowledge something I want to think about daily. It’s the drive to figure things out, breakdown and analyze what draws our eye, and once the means to create are yours you worry less about “How am I going to do this?” and ask yourself “What do I want to do?” It’s a guaranteed mood-booster and hopefully Pugly Pixel and Katrina encourage you to share more of what you love with everyone around you.
(I would also like to dedicate this, my first blog post in almost a year, to another lady who may or may not be powered by pastries. Lily Chou was the subject of my first big post, and has also been a creative woman who has always been willing to share her knowledge and encouragement with me, whether it was answering my questions about which camera to buy or watching her work during one of our photoshoots. She’s a pro and a gem and we need more gals like this around.)
Erin Dorbin may be behind the camera as overlooked vistas of the rural and historical American landscape take center stage in her work, but the relationship between Erin and the scenes she captures surpasses that of viewer and subject. In “Uncommon Spaces and Everyday Places: Vol. 1” the viewer is taken for a ride down highways and backroads that pumped life and connected small towns to everyday people across the country while Erin shares stories from the folks she’s met at diners and theaters as well as her own tale of growth during her treks.
In the introduction, Erin recounts receiving her first camera and car, two things that have shaped the person she’s become, and somewhat apprehensively admits her dependency on cars despite the privilege they’ve afforded her in experiencing the country. America and privilege are two things often associated with each other, and Erin has exercised hers by documenting the overextended spine of the midwestern and eastern states in a time when American license offers us disposable convenience and the “next best thing.”
Within the 44 pages, Spaces and Places removes us from our current location and transplants us to the abandoned farmhouses of the Midwest, the Launchpad in Wilmington, Illinois and Rosy’s Diner in Escanaba, Michigan, drive-in theaters in New York, and even the former home of Erin’s great-grandmother in Kalamazoo whose connection was unbeknownst to her while she lived in town.
It’s the “personal” that takes brick-and-mortar figures and breathes life into them while the proprietors and citizens of the towns Erin has documented share their stories with her on how the environment built around them has shaped their lives. Through visual story-telling the illustrated cycle of impact that development, neglect and progress have had on the average American lifestyle is shown at what feels like all stages of the metamorphosis.
Erin says the strength of the photographs lies in the zine as a whole rather than in individuals photos, but I disagree. Spaces and Places as a singular piece creates a well-thread story brought together by rich history, curiosity and pride all of which lend a warmth and sense of familiarity to the work. But the individual photos are just as compelling, just as arresting as the message the entire zine sends. They’re photos of an America some may have forgotten or didn’t realize existed. They feel like candid photos of ourselves laughing, crying or looking confused and leave the viewer reaching for the past while contemplating the future. Seeing the impact of people over the landscape instills a sense of responsibility and wonder that couldn’t come from anything besides the crisp and full-bodied work Erin painstakingly created.
"What family history does this house hold?" and "Will travel ever become an important part of the destination again?" are only two questions that Erin presents to the viewer and passenger. Erin has made her way from 15-year-old girl with her first camera to knowledgable and passionate photographer, researcher, documentarian, oral historian and contributor to America’s preservation, which is surely a destination reached as well as a starting point for her future travels and explorations. "Uncommon Spaces and Everyday Places: Vol. 1" makes travel feel like home and transforms each stop along the way into a separate and unique room to explore, relax and plot out our next enterprise.
Mindy Kaling, America’s BFF, was recently on the receiving end of one of the sweetest friendship serenades I’ve seen since Times Square. Tavi Gevinson continues to make you wish you were half as cool with this sweet dedication to Mindy on Hello Giggles. Even non-Joni fans might get a little misty-eyed.
As I get older the list of things that genuinely scare me keeps getting smaller, but there are a few bone-chilling things that continue to make my skin crawl- online creepers, womens “lifestyle” magazines and HORROR MOVIES.
I wasn’t raised on these films as a kid, so the thrill of Michael Myers and Regan MacNeil slashing and spewing was something I couldn’t grasp. The few times I could be convinced to see anything from zombies to killer aliens on the big screen I found myself keeping my eyes on the candy in front of me instead of the grisly and ghastly gore I paid ten bucks to see. Luckily for me, two girls who I feel confident saying could outrun and outfight any zombie, homicidal sibling or religiously fanatic middle-schooler have cooked up a way to combine gourmet and gore and are serving it up to wusses and horror-hounds alike.
Nicole and Megan of Slash & Dine have loved macabre movies since way back, and their column on Brutal As Hell earned them so much popularity that they were able move into their own space and even received recognition from Huffington Post! With the mouth-watering food photography and recipes as well as their hilarious and knowledgable commentary it’s impossible to not give in to your inner bloodlust and let yourself be stuffed and scared silly.
Don’t feel like you need to harass your local independent movie store in order to bone up on the more obscure films, actors and directors they toast to. Slash & Dine celebrates the well-known and most definitely well-loved spectres on our tv sets with their posts on folks like Elvira and the famous Roseanne Halloween episodes. With their love and knowledge spanning everything from camp to terror, you’d have to be brain-dead (and possibly hungry for brains) to not find something that appealed to you.
Nicole and Megan were awesome enough to come up with a recipe for a movie that even I could get into and it honors thee GREAT John Waters!
Without further ado, I present to you the “I want my eggs!” sandwich. Now get to cookin’ and stay creepy.
He’s sick, twisted, bizarre and truly unique. No, this isn’t a typical horror film post for us. We’re talking about the one and only John Waters. We were super stoked when Erin asked us to contribute to her blog and knowing that she’s not the biggest fan of gore, we thought Pink Flamingos would be disgusting & perverse enough for all to enjoy. Set in the trailer parks of Baltimore, Mink Stole and Divine are competing for the title “The Filthiest Person Alive”. Stole’s character is selling off babies on the black market to lesbian couples while Divine’s character is caring for her topless, egg-loving mother and traveling around town spreading her filthiness and killing off anyone that tries to stop her. We’ve seen a lot of strange things in movies, but nothing quite as grotesque as the ending of Pink Flamingos. One piece of advice, make sure you eat this delicious egg sandwich before you get to the last few minutes of this film!
“I want my eggs!” sandwich-
2 large eggs 4 slices sandwich bread 1 tomato, sliced 2 slices Swiss cheese handful of fresh basil salt and pepper olive oil
Drizzle olive oil in frying pan, over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the whites have solidified and set. Meanwhile, layer the cheese, basil, and tomato on two of the bread slices. When the eggs are done cooking, carefully remove them from the pan and place on the prepared bread slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with remaining bread slices. Makes 2 sandwiches.
The Ladyfest Midwest folks are taking submissions to the LM Archive from anyone that was there or helped organize, but don’t fret if you missed it. Be part of it all this weekend with these upcoming events, starting with a dance party in true rad girl style…
F R I D A Y! Come shake whatcha mama gave you at the Ladyfest Midwest Dance Party. Grab your girls and head to Late Bar (3534 W. Belmont) where the delightful sounds of punk, riot grrl, girl groups and more will be spinning all night thanks to a whole slew of awesome Chicago ladies on the turntables. The party starts at 10 p.m. and goes till 4 a.m. so wear some good shoes! And even if your feet hurt the next day, you’ll still feel good about going because the $5 suggested donation at the door goes to the Chicago Women’s Health Center.
S A T U R D A Y! Archival materials from Ladyfest Midwest 2001 will be on display at LivingRoom Gallery (1530 W. Superior) from 12-5p p.m. as well as Sunday from 2-5 p.m. Entrance to the exhibit is FREE.
After your eyes see all they can see give your ears a gift, too, and make your way to the music showcase at Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western). The Wanton Looks, Cathy Santonies, Hollows and DJ Reaganomix will be performing and keeping the beat all night long. Tickets are $15 and all proceeds go to the Chicago Women’s Health Center. Don’t forget to enter the raffle to win prizes from Reckless Records, Hanger 18, and Bucket of Blood!