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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lilly in Tremont

This place is so cool. It's called Lilly, and the fuchsia-coiffed proprietor there sells handmade chocolate that's as beautiful to look as it is delectable to eat. Specialty beers and out-of-the-ordinary wines fill the rest of the shelves.

This Christmas, Lilly had a couple of bright-pink trees behind the plate-glass window. Oh, and good cheer and friendly service are always on the menu, too.

I know, I know. I sound like a commercial? I can't help myself. When I visit into places like this, I'm happy to live in Cleveland.

Monday, December 28, 2009


This is Lylah - no glasses, up-close, rendered in ballpoint pen and then manipulated in PhotoShop.
Just playing.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Undone by a single word

Look out, friends. I find myself suddenly forced to defend Farrah Fawcett – supermodel, actress, mother, and fallen warrior in the cancer battles.

Blame Associated Press reporter Polly Anderson. My newspaper’s feature section today printed Anderson’s story looking back at the year’s celebrity deaths under the headline “They Won’t Be Forgotten.”

Perhaps there should’ve been a subhead reading, “…and they won’t get the last word, either.”

Anderson’s article is really just a “roll call,” as she herself writes. It’s a nod to those we knew through stage, screen, letters and music. The piece is decidedly not a column or analysis of the individuals’ value to the arts.

So when I got to this sentence, I stopped: “TV mourned ‘Prisoner’ star Patrick McGoohan, delightfully sharp-tongued Bea Arthur, ‘Kung Fu’ star David Carradine and the decorative Farrah Fawcett.”

OK, let’s get this out of the way. I’d never heard of Patrick McGoohan. And what comes to mind when I hear Carradine’s name is, sadly, not “Kung Fu” but the circumstances of his death.

Neither of those things bothered me, though. What I resented was Anderson’s self-indulgent choice of adjectives for the women in that sentence.

Arthur, she of “Maude” and “Golden Girls” fame, is lauded not just as “sharp-tongued,” which she undeniably was, but as “delightfully” so. I myself loved Arthur, but my own departed mother would’ve strenuously argued the "delightful," and she was not alone.

Fawcett, meanwhile, is dispatched with the single pejorative, “decorative.” In case you’re interested, the fine-art world uses “decorative” as shorthand for work that’s pretty but without substance.

So does Anderson -- who, of course, is entitled to her opinion. But why do I want it?

Taking an opinionated swipe at dead people – even mere entertainers – is bad form. In this case, it also appears to be mildly sexist, or maybe looksist.

Fawcett got famous off that red-bathing-suit poster for sure, and milked her looks for what they were worth. But she also earned critical acclaim for acting in her decidedly less “decorative” role as an abused wife in The Burning Bed.

Moreover, she was no more to blame for her beauty than Arthur was for her husky voice and mannish stature. Anderson’s single word seems like a weird, after-the-fact lob from the world of the resentful (and possibly less decorative?) living.

In the scheme of things, the writer’s decision to award neutral adjectives to the men in one sentence and loaded ones to the women doesn’t amount to much. Such micro editorializing is a common print-media misdemeanor, especially in feature sections. I know I committed it myself, perhaps dozens of times over a 26-year newspaper career. It often passes for "color," or "attitude," both of which were once sorely missing from newspapers and both of which are now over-valued by them.

Yes, micro editorializing is common practice, but it's bad practice. It’s one of the accepted almost imperceptible ways that journalists set themselves apart from the interests of their readers. More often than not, what readers want is reportage, information, maybe analysis and the occasional wise voice.

What they don’t want is to think they’re picking up a nice look back at the lives of celebrities only to trip over a snarky comment that might just piss them off and never needed to be there.

I suspect I’ll hear from people who are all too ready to say, “Yes! That’s why I don’t read newspapers.”
To which I say, that’s too bad for you, and it's shortsighted.

I loved my newspaper career. I love my newspaper. I love its indispensible place in our city and our culture.
And I’m really sad at the way newspapers are hurting now. So it seems all the more important for them to run a tight ship – from the biggest of the big-budget talks all the way down to the smallest adjective.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

A ball of something-not-from-nature
falls into busy hands
be-ribboning fingers
glue-pressing thumbs

Some twine (golden but not gold)
winds around, dutiful to
instructions from a magazine,
a guide for housewives

Whose creative fires
ignite the making of babies
then baby meals and toddler clothes,
and pretty rooms and Christmas parties.

Remember the bull's-eye meatballs
when I was ten and you were
the executive's wife?
Ground beef with a cocktail sauce center: genius.

Your spirit, my memory
dangle from tarnished metal
you threaded through golden twist
twining your decades and mine.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"It's Awesome!"

The latest report from the files of the Language Fairies concerns the word "awesome": what it means, what it used to mean -- a general tracking of the sad degradation of the word.

The nicest people -- some of my closest friends and admired acquaintances -- have recently succumbed to the temptation to employ "awesome" as a synonym for "great."

In their report, the Language Fairies note that the problem with using awesome to describe, say, new shoes or the band you heard last night is that when something is ACTUALLY awesome -- well, no word remains to do the job.

Assuming the Language Fairy pictured here escapes with her life, she will be able to describe her encounter with a giant, vest-wearing mouse as "awesome," and because the language fairies are very conservative with their use of language everyone will understand that she was, in fact, in awe.

Whereas if she were to describe it to us, we'd just think the mouse had a cool-looking vest.

You see the problem, I'm sure.

"Does She Ever Just Sketch Anymore?"

She does. Sometimes. Like when she's sitting in any kind of an audience for any length of time.

This was one of the more interesting audiences to be in.
The art institute requires graduating students to publicly present their bachelor of fine arts projects. In the illustration department, this involves presenting the culmination of the work of a year or more on something like a book, a merchandising line, advertising campaign - that sort of thing.

Only a few seniors graduate in December, of course, but this was one of them: a young man who (quite painstakingly, I might add) wrote and illustrated a graphic novel about urban neighbors who band together to fight social ills. I don't want to spill too many details, because I'd like to see him sell his story, and I'd like to see the story not get stolen. Not that you, dear blog reader, would do such a thing. (Actually, I think instances of stolen ideas are way more rare than they're made out to be. For most people, having the "idea" is the easy part. Executing it is where the real work begins.)

Anyway, his presentation included a description of the story and a showing of the book and pages of art from the book; some action figures he had made based on his designs; and some posters advertising the book. For his presentation, he wore a T-shirt advertising his book.

These presentations are like the opposite of awards shows. They're inspiring because you get to hear about the thinking behind a project, and the process the artist engaged to get the work done. After the artist's formal presentation, a lineup of instructors poses questions such as "Why did you decide to do THIS and not THAT," or "What would you do differently?"

One of the softball questions is always, "What did you learn from this?" The answers are predictably both heartfelt and vague. "I learned I really need to budget my time." "I learned that I couldn't do any of this without the support of my family/girlfriend/boyfriend/teachers."

If I haven't mentioned it before, I should say that I really love being part of this world. I feel quite lucky.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Creature Discomforts

Many apologies for the boring nature of this un-updated blog. I've been on deadline. Multiple deadlines, actually. I might get a half a breather soon.
In the meantime, here's a little something I did as an assignment, melding the Tasmanian Devil with the Michelin man. This is not the version I love. The version I loved was deemed to be not enough of a mix. This version also was deemed a failure. But there are things I like about this one, and it's more finished than the first.

If you feel like playing with me, tell me -- what would YOU do to this piece to make it better? Sure, I'm up for a public critique. My skin actually has grown thicker over time. Let me start the ball rolling by saying that one of my instructors wisely suggested I make the bag of chips from the Acme company. I wanted to hit myself over the head when he said that. OF COURSE they should be from Acme.

So there's one thing.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Yes, I really saw this

Swimming in a sea of deadlines, I haven't had a lot of sketchbook time lately. But here's a drawing a while back based on a real-life grocery store observation. It was one of those times I wished I'd had a camera (actually, they don't happen too often -- usually I just wish I could draw whatever it is I'm seeing).

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Most Depressing Thing I've Seen All Day

That's right, this is 2009, so not even the new Sunmaid Raisin girl (um - top) can go without breast implants.
I wonder if she, too, was dating Tiger Woods.

I ask you: Why did they bother hanging onto the bonnet? Are we supposed to believe that's what she wears to her spinning class?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009