Posts published in June 2013

What I Read This Week: June 21, 2013

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As yesterday’s inspiration’s inspiration post might indicate, Amy Sedaris reading dominated the week. But there’s lots of other gems in here, like the Patton Oswalt essay, the Stefan Sagmeister Time off Ted talks, and some of those ole books.

Real, Actual Books

On the Internet

My Inspiration’s Inspiration: Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris Blog Heart

Visit my home studio, and you’ll have ten (or so) sets of eyes tracking you. You might know a few of the faces but most will be unfamiliar. Guests, meet my Hall of Inspiration. The people on that wall all create something that makes me want to tear my clothes off, run down the street, scream and wave my hands. Unnecessary aside: This is a compliment. When I feel this way, I am deeply moved. This reaction differs from when I encounter truth—then I uglyface cry.

As Austin Kleon (author of Steal Like An Artist) calls it, these people comprise My Artistic Family Tree. Which is why this essay exists—I’m methodically digging into the roots. After all, my inspiration’s inspiration is my inspiration.

I’m not self-aware enough to know why I picked this first person as entry #1. Maybe I thought she’d be straightforward (HA!)? After too much reading and watching, it’s impossible to define what makes her tic^. But she’s moved by certain set of stuff, like improvisation, collaboration, and a magnetic connection to the unconventional. She is a minx of disguise and playacting, an author, a demented housewife to one pet bunny, a member of the Talent Family, and a lovable looney and ham. It’s Amy Sedaris.

Is childhood important? It sounds like her’s was rather normal with a dash of that oddball personality. Her family encouraged her, especially her brother, memoirist David Sedaris. The other important cultural stuff included an affinity for unintentionally tragic television (At Home with Peggy Mann), skin conditions and images on the fringe (like Diane Arbus’ freaky collection of photography) and skit-based TV, like Laugh-In and SCTV.

Disinterested in college, Amy Sedaris packed her bags and moved to Chicago. She joined The Second City and that was her bachelor’s degree—a school of improv, sketch comedy, humor, and quick-thinking. It’s not surprising that an institution that describes itself as unconventional would launch her meandering, harlequin career (television, movies, a food book, a craft book, a fabric line, and an amazing talk show guest, funny lady, and on!). I suspect Amy Sedaris learned improvisation on-stage and off and honed her collaborative spirit. She also learned how to make herself the butt of the joke using upbeat, twisted quips while deftly handle sensitive subjects (eating disorders! drugs! sexy sex! race!).

At least two philosophical things drive her. Pretty isn’t funny (usually). And comedy isn’t where the funny lives. Comedy lives with tragedy. Take it away, Amy Sedaris…

A lot of times girls think they’re funny, but they want to pretty at the same time, and if you want to be funny, you have to be willing to get ugly. – Amy Sedaris in a Washington Post interview

Huff Po: So you don’t gravitate toward things that are labeled “funny” right off the bat? Amy Sedaris: No, that’s a big turn off for me. Like if on the backside of a book it says, “This is hilarious!” I’m like, ugh. But if it has the word, “psychiatric,” I’ll buy it. – From an interview on The Huffington Post

Last thing about Amy Sedaris—she readily admits she’s not a one-woman show. Her crew ranges from her brother, BFF Paul Dinello, the team of illustrators and photographers that helped her create her books, her costumer-friend Adam Selman, and her make-stuff group, the Crafty Beavers. Especially impressive is that she can communicate her often-weird vision so clearly that another person can capture that unglued sense of whimsy. AND: She doesn’t internet. As a technical lone-ranger, she doesn’t use Twitter, Facebook, or a cell phone. Her website is very occasionally updated. Her sole line of communication is the telephone. In her house. Given how prolific and wide-randing her projects, that is impressive.

There are so many things I love about Amy Sedaris, including the fact that she is always entertaining. I liked her in a general sense before, but now I appreciate (just a little) how she sees the world. The years of improvisation, reinvention, collaboration, and nurturing an unvconventional world-view makes her an inimitable and unique entertainer. She is someone I look to her for hilarious, unsettling, and fantastically demented persona.

Hooray you, Amy Sedaris! I am so glad you do you.

Down the Rabbit Hole

  • Amy Sedaris visited Chealsa Lately to teach about vaginal cleanliness. Included: felt and multi-colored pom poms.
  • Amy Sedaris on David Letterman. All of them.
  • The Amy Sedaris Interview for The Believer, “Sometimes it’s just enough for me to have the idea. I don’t need to see it through to the end. Strangers with Candy never would have happened if it wasn’t for Paul and Stephen [Colbert]. I was perfectly content with just coming up with the idea. When it actually happens, I’m always disappointed because it’s never like what I imagined in my head. When an idea becomes a reality, then it’s a job. I’d rather just think about it. I know that makes me sound like a pothead, but I’ve always been that way.”
  • From the Paper Mag Beautiful People edition, “The last thing I want to hear after a show is, ‘Everyone looked so pretty and thin,'” she laments. “I’d rather hear, ‘Is that really your eyebrow?’ or ‘Do you really have a limp?'”
  • She did an advice column called Sedaratives for The Believer.

^ Yes, this is a pun. One that I feel she might appreciate.

Creative Rituals and the Power of Two

Quite a bit happens in this ole brain of mine. Thoughts swirl and whiz by, tens a moment. It is my job to try and capture some of those ideas, pick the best, and then see them to fruition. I log almost all my ideas, but I’ll only focus on a few. One thing ensures that an idea will get extra attention and it’s actually the number two. Two mentions.

It takes two blog calligraphy

Let’s say I have an idea. I believe this idea to be incredible, life-changing, and completely original (ha!). But I don’t quite get around to it. The minute it appears a second time—I read about this very same idea or impulse somewhere else, DING! We have a very big winner. It goes from being a nice idea to being a necessary one.

Here’s an example: making a creative ritual for myself. It popped up while reading I Just Like to Make Things by Lilla Rogers. She suggested it was part of the day where you can kick your brain into the Work and Create mode. I like that! But I didn’t quite have the clarity on when/why/how and pushed it away until it was more developed. And then this week Manage Your Day-to-Day mentioned the same exact thing. Take note, brain. You gotta get this done!

So I did. A first draft Creative Ritual.

ritual image

I selected a mix of practical, special, and helpful, even turning one of my distractors into something that would set the stage. Presto change-o, a ritual.

I like this checklist thing. So far, it feels good. And when I had a bit of lizard-brain thrash earlier, I managed to start. (I wanted to avoid painting some frosted donuts. They had white icing, you guys. That is hard. Do you know what color you paint white with watercolor? YOU DON’T.)

How many times does it take for something to appear in front of you before you pay attention? For me, it’s the Power of Two.

What I Read This Week: June 15, 2013

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You might notice that this week’s reading is a bit skewed. You say obsessive, but I call that research. Come, walk into this labyrinth of April’s very specific interests. It’s not a weird place AT ALL if you accept that there are things you won’t understand.

Real, Actual Books

On the Web

Why I Love Chopsticks

Me + Chopsticks = Unstoppable Force

i love Chopsticks

God damn, I love chopsticks.

Have you ever picked up a single, unshelled peanut with chopsticks? Like, plucked it up and deposited it in your mouth? After doing that once or thrice, I feel like I could lift a collapsed carnival off a trapped beaver family.

I’m pretty certain that chopsticks give me superpowers.

Maybe you too, but definitely me.

I even feel like I’m bragging a bit when I use chopsticks. “Well, I don’t want to make everyone else look bad here, but hey, we all have to eat. Right?”

It’s fuckin’ majestic. I’m graceful. With chopsticks, I can eat ANYTHING. My hand-eye coordination knows no bounds.

My chopsticks capabilities grew, were retaught then blossomed again over the years. When left on my own for dinner, Kid April cooked up Amy’s Cheddar Shells and consumed that meal one awkward bite at a time. I have no idea why—I felt compelled. Maybe because there was no other reason to eat with chopsticks in my family, and yet, we had chopsticks. That’s why I learned the Wrong Way—I taught myself.

California really kicked things off for me chopsticks-wise. Now I can dim sum chicken feet with the best of them.

Now do you see why I’m bragging? Because I’m really fucking good at chopsticks.

A co-worker once gave me a portable set of chopsticks for my birthday. I think he liked me. Also: what an insightful gift. I still have them and yes, use them.

I’m even a pro at observing and categorize my material preference.

Cheap wood—beware splinters in your noodle. High-quality wood—luuuuuxury. Plastic—well, this one depends on what’s moving into my mouth. If it’s long and unwieldy, then good lord, pack a napkin. But if it’s rice, this is where I show off. One grain of rice at a time. Or just give me a pile of rice over soaked with sauce. You know the kind. It’s a chopsticks disaster. Not for me.

I would totally beat you at chopsticks.

The first time I went on a proper date with my husband was also the first time I went to get Vietnamese. Ever. Even at 24. (Have I mentioned I’m from Florida. And you know what they say about people from Florida.)

On this particular date, I had no mother-loving clue what to do with myself. As any totally mature, wise-beyond-her-years mid-twenties woman would do, I mimicked him. This too involved chopsticks. And from there, I learned the right way to hold the chopsticks. Thank you, husband.

In the years since, I learned that while proficient, he doesn’t mind the chopsticks etiquette. He does what he wants! Rascal.

So I’m still learning what’s polite and what isn’t. Still observing and (dare I admit?) mimicking the ritual and habits I see around me.

Now I’m curious about you—how are you with chopsticks? Is a meal with chopsticks ectacy or do you request a spork? Am I alone in the high I get while operating my hands and two sticks?

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