Category Archives: Visual Literacy

Oh Snaps.

Two weeks back, I finally, finally invested in a new phone and new phone plan. Even though I bought the cheapest phone that was offered, I must admit that I am pretty impressed with the picture quality of its camera. Some on-the-go snaps from the last few days:

Made a bunch of fanny packs at work. Spent the rest of the night making new names for them (Crotch Capsule! Hiney Holder! Butt Box! Twat Tote!)

A magical trip to the business supply surplus warehouse down the street.

Jess and I went to Tiverton, R.I. to eat sandwiches at Provender, ice cream at Gray’s, and to walk on the misty beaches.

This week has been tiring. In addition to I’m Your Present work and With Care work, Dave and I have welcomed into our fold a new roommate, a friend of ours finishing up his master’s thesis. It’s so nice to have a fun friend around the house but I have to keep in mind the need to balance work and general good practices with the desire to sit around the kitchen table drinking cocktails and eating take-out. In addition to that, I can’t tell if my allergies have shifted how they manifest or if I just have a low-level chest cold. I’m coughing and gross and always feeling just slightly tired and slightly sore. So instead of going out, I’m at home for the night. I’ll probably shoot some photos in the old light box studio, watch an episode of “The Supersizers…” and hit the sack. Mmm… Saturday…


The Matrix Relic.

Hello, Internet world.

Originally, this post contained a rather lengthy diatribe about stuff and liking stuff and dealing with an over-saturation of, well, everything. As I said, it was long and confusing and, yes, probably a little obnoxious or even a little precious. It probably also contained a few too many “I…” statements.

All following images care of

So, tonight, I am stuck on the couch with a perfect storm of sore arms from lifting weights last night (my front shoulder is going to be INSANE this summer, guys), whatever kind of nose/throat/face illness that Dave had earlier in the week, and gross cramps, etc. from my period that just decided to arrive. A real upstairs/downstairs affair. I should probably be sleeping but I can’t get past the fact that 8:30 is just too early for a dame like me to be hitting the hay. Instead, I’ve selected a variety of DVD and VHS delights to get distracted by view while working on some of this writing and planning and dreaming business. My choices are an A&E Biography documentary about Amelia Earhart (swoon.) The Day the Earth Stood Still (Klaatu! swoon.) The Prince of Pennsylvania (for the hairstyles… and because it’s actually good.) and, the one I chose to watch first, The Matrix.

I never thought that I would say anything nice about The Matrix (besides to comment on the incredible form of Carrie-Anne Moss’s front shoulder) but, over ten years later, it really isn’t so bad. In fact, I’m having a bit of a problem with concentration. I just can’t keep my eyes off of that sallow and dusty landscape! Now that folks aren’t trying to rock pleather pants and teensy, reflective sunglasses- this whole cyber-punk thing doesn’t look so bad. Not like a lifestyle you should aspire to, but way better than steam-punk. Not to be a hater but I tend to prefer the nerd subcultures that would be out of place at Burning Man. Can you really blame me?

I’m actually surprised by how much I’m still enjoying the Matrix aesthetics. (I’m also really into how The Matrix envisions a future based on the then-current system of data-storage: the disk/mini disk- just as Brazil is based in a future that runs on reams and reams of good, old-fashioned paper.) It exists in its own world very well; a bleak future but a full, developed sense of place… with just enough cheesiness (“I know kungfu?!” sez Neo…) to make the viewer cringe.

This brings me back to what I was originally going to complain about in this space. You see, it’s been a while since I’ve been flush with direction about aesthetics and “what I like”. Because, hey! I like a lot of things. I am a big liker. And when I was about 14 or 13 and discovering that there was more out there than what was immediately offered to me by the geographic and social landscape of Toms River, NJ…well… I became a really big liker of a bunch of things. Every little part that I came across that I liked- liked deeply and madly in the way where your heart stops and your mind screams at you, “THIS!”- would point to another part. I learned to how to like things, how my interests fit together. In the late 90s and early 2000s, becoming “cool” was still (for perhaps the last time ever) a process. These past few years have compounded time and information in a way that I almost can’t fathom. Now, you can be told how to like something. Pull up any well curated Tumblr and receive instant aesthetic alpha and omega! A great information Oroboros! But no mystery; no draw. Instead of shared interests, I think what I’m seeing is more about assimilation. All catch but no chase. Everything viewed through a common gaze: consumption. Stylization as content.

It’s so hard to invest myself in something when I know how it will end.

I’ve recently come across a “curated imageblog for “Relic” which is, as far as I can tell, a company working in the ubiquitous “Brooklyn Vintage*” genre that manufactures expensive stickers and patches. If you can sense a palpable disgust in my words, you are correct. But their blog has some very top-notch image choices and great juxtaposition. That and they seem to link most of their images to their original source- (re)placing them into context and moving away from being another disposable image of something “cool”. I’ve gruelingly slogged through all 100+ pages and, wonder of wonders, I actually stopped to pause and contemplate what I was seeing and how I was seeing it. Impressive for a bunch of neat pictures.

When it comes down to it, though, Keanu Reeves is way better as a moody teenager than as a quick-moving computer hacker. But you probably knew that.

Cross Section.

My friend Melissa must have known that SimTower was a favorite computer game during my younger years. A big, huge thanks to her for pointing out these great cross section illustrations featured on a website that I can’t believe that I had not heard of before: Retronaut!

My favorites are the theater and the department store. Tiny costume shop! Tiny automat!

It is greatly worth your time to visit the website proper and see these images in their expanded glory. Go, go!

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House Jungle.

Not to be confused with any kind of music that lends itself to the wearing of big pants.

One morning, I woke up in this room. After waking but before the hang over was able to kick into my consciousness, there was a surreal minute of muffled silence as my senses began to whirr back to life and I remember thinking, “Gee. This room is perfect.”

I’ll be forever holding it against myself that these are the only pictures I have of this house. After these two, the camera’s battery died. I assure you though, every other room was just as wonderful and the entire house was handmade by a 1930s communist who didn’t follow any directions but did sculpt a plaster relief of Vladimir Lenin around the main entrance. There was a double glazed window filled with dead bees as one of the walls had become a make shift hive.

I spent my hang over roaming the grounds (extensive!) and, once I was feeling better, my friend and I spent the day rolling around the house, reading each other silly poetry, listening to records, and eating the leftovers from the previous night’s party. He moved away shortly after that and I was never able to get back to take photographs. It’s the one that got away. Hell to care for… but perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect!

Lately, I’ve been really desirous of what I call a “house jungle”. That is, a house filled with plants. Big ones. Over grown ones.

Friends. Lovers. Neighbors. Reformed hoarders. Send me your plants! Big and little! Hanging and floor! Carnivorous and hydroponic! I want them. I need them. I will water them on Mondays and Thursdays.

Our house is a greek revival from 1858 with a Victorian ell added off the back (and humorously gaudy Victorian ornamentation trimming its once classical outside! So silly-looking.) Thus, much of our house is designed to passively hold in warmth or disperse heat. Instead of beautiful plate glass, our windows are small and double hung. Our rooms are small. We have nooks that are quickly becoming oubliettes of ephemera. But the kitchen and the bathroom show promise.

I don’t think that the landlord would be too into me turning the bathtub into a water garden.

I picked up these two bad boys one morning from my neighbor’s yard sale. She had many more, but I chose the two largest ones.

They’ve been growing very quickly since then. It’s very exciting!

All images from various parts of the internet.

House plants.

Give them to me.

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The Bicycle-Shaped Hole Where My Money Goes.

My Schwinn Suburban contemplates the liminal qualities of life. Island Heights, NJ. 2005.

Some folks may not realize this but, despite being a hot-blooded American lass, I don’t have a car.

I did drive a car for about 5 years. It was convenient but, what with its constant demands for gas and parking – plus its habit of breaking parts and or getting stolen, driving could often be kind of a drag. Part of the personal appeal of moving to a city was the ability to live free from car ownership.

Now, I’m not one of those chip-on-the-shoulder, four-wheels-bad/two-wheels good kind of blow hards. Dave has a car and it is wonderful. I really like being able to buy lots of groceries when it is rainy outside. But most of the time I get about by bicycle. Have I talked to you about my bikes? About my precious baby chromoly ponies? My sweet, bi-wheelin’ dears?

I really like bikes. I really like to ride them. And think about them. And I’m starting to talk about them and read about them. Every day, I love bikes a little bit more. I’m not sure if they will usurp my love for buildings and cities and public planning but they are ever edging closer in the polls.

Currently, my stable includes:

An early 2000s Bianchi Pista in all black everything. For the past year, I have been riding it as a single speed which is stupid for a number of reasons. The first reason is because there is only one break, on the front, and the rear of the bike is not even drilled to accept a back break. Eventually, I became sick of feeling like I was either going to plow head-first into a bus or violently flip over the handle bars so I swapped it to a fixed gear. This also eases reason number two, which is that the bike becomes all twitchy and ultra responsive at higher speeds. But if I am providing all the speed myself, well, I don’t count on breaking the sound barrier any time soon.

I purchased this Surly Long Haul Trucker from my friend this past spring. I have every intention of nicing it up and switching all the black stuff to silver stuff so that it looks pretty cool and olde timey and spiffy. At first, I was unsure if I would keep this around because the ride was less than great (and very different after years of riding super minimal single speed bikes). However, I found out that what this bike needs is a little junk in its trunk for optimal performance. Even 10 or 20lbs of groceries make a difference. I’ll probably load this up with all sorts of shit and then only ride it as far as Bristol (14 miles away). Anyone want to take me on a long-ass cycling trip?

RIP This old, half-disassembled Monark Silver King. It used to live in the basement until a few weeks ago when I took it out to play around on. The ancient gears assured that it never went any faster than a slow jog while the similarly ancient coaster break made me feel like I was living one teensy arm-pit hair away from death. Kind-of-sadly, it was just stolen from our backyard the other day. I didn’t want to lock it up because I knew I wouldn’t be bummed if it wasn’t my responsibility to deal with it anymore. But let that be a note. No matter how shitty your bike is, lock it up! There are a lot of terrible people in the world and sooner or later, one will pass through your back yard or let themself into your stairwell. While you are home. Watching Twilight. (Yes. This happened to me.)

And then there is this, my Puch mixte fixer-upper. A few months back, I got it into my head that what I needed, I mean, NEEDED, was a mixte frame bicycle. But not with those lame drop bars that always look so dinky on such a weird frame. It wasn’t until I started to see photos of porteurs and and other utility bikes that I realized, “Gee. Those frames can look really nice.” So, as if everything else going on in my life was not enough of a diversion, I went on craigslist and picked up this cherry red, small-sized frame as a great winter 2011/2012 project. The object: learn to build a freaking bike. Then, make the perfect freaking bike for getting around town in all weather as well as something that can go on trips out of town. And it should be speedy. And it should be comfy. And it should have at least one religious icon decal stuck to it. I’m no fan of the Puch font, anyway.

Here’s some around the web eye candy:


Oh, Stewardess!

You might know that 1960s stewardess is one of my favorite styles when I think about what my perfect wardrobe might contain so when I came across these images on Les Yeux Sans Visage (via Pandora’s Closet), I had to pass them on. I know that Pan Am starring Wednesday Addams is going to drop real big in TV land this fall but, c’mon guys, I just started watching Mad Men. I only have room in my life to live vicariously through one current tv show and MM is just so full of good looks and unlikeable characters. Perfection. Plus, the set of the Draper house is so full of things that remind me of my grandparents’ house (which had been last decorated around roughly the same time) that I can’t help fight all those nostalgic, sensory memories of faux dark woods and smooth mid-century modern furniture (some of which I am resting my feet on RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!)

Anyhow, there will be a much more wordly post coming up soon, once I am able to stop nibbling the remaining fun from the rind of summer.

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Time’s Jersey Shore Retrospective.

As pointed out by my fetching friend, Kate, has a quick and charming collection of beach and boardwalk pictures featuring the Atlantic City, NJ of yesteryear. Certainly worth a five minute perusal and you may even pick up some smart fashion tips.

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Girl Watching.

The Southern Comfort Girl Watchers’ Drink Guide

Just another one of those things I found when cleaning my studio.

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Vacation Manifesto.

I celebrated the 4th day of July by relaxing on the beach with some of my ladyfriends. I’m not a beach bunny by any means but the idea of living in a place where a drive to the sea shore takes more than an hour (including traffic!) makes me feel a little dubious as to the true quality of life in said area. Why would I want to let such a gross season pass without the occasional fun of being pummeled in submission by a relentless march of waves, washed up on the shore, and then dried out into a crispy, sandy humanoid form with un-comb-able hair? I look pretty cute in my new swimsuit from Esther Williams (a company with a good, US-made product that I support fully!) but let’s not forget about the secret, smugglin’ nature of the one piece: you will come home with a tidepool’s worth of treats stuck to your stomach. Now there’s a day well spent.

So, yesterday, after the requisite pummeling, washing, drying, and not combing, I thought to myself, “Whoa. What is this weird feeling come over my body?” Oh. I think it’s… relaxation.

I’m so rarely relaxed. Even when I tell myself that I am, I am still floating 3 inches above my chair- buffered by a constant tension of ideas, obligations, shoulda-coulda-wouldas and lots of guilt.

So, when I identified the strange state that had overtaken my body, I wanted to be in it forever- all warm and floppy muscled. But how? How do I tell myself, “CUT THE CRAP, NOVAK!” ? How do I compromise my ambition with a season that takes away all of my heartiness and ability- even with air conditioning!?

It’s vacating time, chumps!!!

With this, I declare a priority placed on relaxation. Lying, loafing, reading, swimming, eating, drinking, and casual shit-talking are now being moved into the forefront of my intentions. Well, after I edit some Etsy photos, throw up some listings, line up some ads, and post some more photos of olde timey bathers.

But, after all that: VACATION!

Which will, hopefully, make me feel like this:

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