Chloe Story.

I've long been a fan of librarian Natalie Pantoja's paintings and illustrations, so I was happy to hear she launched a website this week. A stand-out among her work is the graphic essay Chloe Story, which details Natalie's friendship with a young woman named Chloe who passed away last summer — it's beautifully, simply, elegantly done. See for yourself, here.

Thanks so much for sharing, Natalie. Find more of the artist's work on her website.  

Recommended Reading / 25.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week: iGNANT's round-up of outstanding mobile living spaces from Gestalten's The New Nomads. My favorites: Sealander's water caravan (complete with sound system and mini kitchen), and Poler Stuf's waterproof rooftop tent, big enough to house a queen-sized mattress.

Three more, just because:
-Branding Girls.
-Beach-going cows.
-Drinking habits of writers (mint juleps for Faulkner; gin rickeys for Fitzgerald; iced champagne for Oscar Wilde).

Also, I'm happy to share an interview I did for Life:Captured about storytelling and memory keeping, and a new post for Conde Nast Traveler about where locals play in Tulum — I wish I'd known when I was there!

More recommended reading, here. Have a lovely Monday.

POV: Rotations.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories

I spent Wednesday—the last day of a spontaneous week-and-a-half getaway to Los Angeles—in the heat of an 80-degree March afternoon, barefoot, in front of a tinsel-like stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

My nephew, Dash, newly turned two, squatted in the sand beside me, eyes fixed on a bird wetting its wings in the surf. “Bird,” he said, blinking with such force that his lashes, straight as sticks, created shadows down his cheeks. Then, noticing the distant hum of an engine overhead, he looked up, pointing at a cottony stream of clouds left in the wake of passing plane. “Plane,” he said.

“Dash,” said my brother, Max, “tomorrow, Shoko’s going to be on an airplane.”

Dash shoveled sand into a Smurf-blue plastic mold of a castle.

“The next time we talk, I’ll be in New York,” I said. “Beach today, city tomorrow—isn’t that crazy?”

He turned the mold upside down, revealing the crumbling architecture beneath it, mouth open as the turrets fell. Then, already at work building the next one, he answered me flatly, with what’s become his most-used (and most useful) word as of late: “yup.”

Flowers Afloat.

For those of you who loved the room with the dandelion canopy, the greenhouse made of sugar, or the umbrella that mimics light through the leaves of trees, here's another wild, wondrous project that may strike your fancy. Called Floating Flower Garden, the installation — housed at Tokyo's Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation — features over 2,000 living flowers in what its creators refer to as an interactive garden.

Writes the crew at Japan's teamLab: "Viewers are immersed in flowers, and become completely one with the garden itself...A person will become integrated with a flower when they look at a flower and the flower looks at them; possibly at this [moment], the person will truly see the flower for the first time."

See more at teamLab's site, here. New POV coming tomorrow!

Waves of Freedom.

Easkey Britton is an Irish artist, scientist, professional surfer and Ph.D. She's also the co-founder of Waves of Freedom, an organization that aims to empower vulnerable members of society through surf. Her efforts to bring the sport to the women of Iran (who will be the first ever in their country to surf) has been chronicled in the upcoming documentary Into the Sea.

According to the WoF website: "At the core of Waves of Freedom is how surfing can become a medium to empower those who are most vulnerable in society...surfing is not just a sport but a lifestyle and an art-form synonymous with freedom and creative self-expression. Waves of Freedom has grown from a belief that the ocean does not discriminate."

Learn more at Waves of Freedom, here. See also: Skateistan, a non-profit that teaches children in Kabul, Cambodia, South Africa, and Afghanistan to skate.

Recommended Reading / 24.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week: Dear Data, a project by designers Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, who are spending a year getting to know one another through the data they draw. Each week, the two decide on an area of their lives they'd like to explore, and exchange a card that illustrates seven days of experience as related to that topic. Above is a week of complaints; others have focused on clocks, physical contact, cell phone addiction,  and mirrors. See more, here.

Three more, just because:
-The first and last frames of fifty-five films.
-New ideas for psychiatric wards as designed by those who inhabit them. Stand-out features include a Staircase to Nowhere and  ceiling of umbrellas "upon which users can project their choice of weather."
-From Emerson, useful words for a Monday morning: "Break the monotony. Do something strange and extravagant."

More recommended reading, here. Have a happy Monday!

Were / Are / Will Be.

I knew I wanted to share a passage from this Andrew Solomon speech the moment I read its first paragraph (thanks very much to Kathy Lee for passing it my way). It's called "The Middle of Things: Advice for Young Writers," but I think it's relevant to anyone following a creative path. Below, my favorite bit.

Life is most transfixing when you are awake to diversity, not only of ethnicity, ability, gender, belief, and sexuality but also of age and experience. The worst mistake anyone can make is to perceive anyone else as lesser. The deeper you look into other souls  — and writing is primarily an exercise in doing just that — the clearer people's inherent dignity becomes. So I would like to be young again — for the obvious dermatological advantages, and because I would like to recapture who I was before the clutter of experience made me a bit more sagacious and exhausted. What I'd really like, in fact, is to be young and middle-aged, and perhaps even very old, all at the same time — and to be dark- and fair-skinned, deaf and hearing, gay and straight, male and female. I can't do that in life, but I can do it in writing, and so can you. Never forget that the truest luxury is imagination, and that being a writer gives you the leeway to exploit all of the imagination's curious intricacies, to be what you were, what you are, what you will be, and what everyone else is or was or will be, too.

I love that so much. Read the full speech at The New Yorker, and have a lovely weekend. (Also, thank you for being understanding of my erratic posting lately — will be back on track soon!)

Photos by Emily Johnston, whose spectacular new work can be found here.

Non-Career Advice: Brian Paquette.

Non-Career Advice is a series that asks people - young, old, and in a range of occupations - for words of wisdom unrelated to work, career-building, dollars, or getting ahead.
Brian Paquette / Interior Designer
Also: Painter / record collector / proud Seattleite 
Age: 33        

A break from busy-ness is an act of bravery. "The word 'busy' bothers me more than most. You hear it all the time in the creative world: I'm so busy; I don't have time; I'm completely swamped. It's almost a point of pride. But it's not true. None of us should be so busy that we don't have time to take a step back here or there. And if it is true — if you really are so swamped that you have no time for anything else but work — then you're undervaluing yourself, it's as simple as that.

Our society tells us it's not right to be still — or that it's not right to be alone. Maybe that's where a lot of our desire to be constantly doing comes from. But so many of my best creative moments happen when I'm alone — taking a walk, listening to music, looking through my books, taking pictures. I take those times as seriously as I do my work. They're vital. And this is, too: aloneness is not the same as being lonely. Not even close."

Thank you so much, Brian. More from the Non-Career Advice series, here. (You can also find my interview with Brian for FvF, here.) Photo by Dorothée Brand / Belathée Photography.

A Thing of Beauty.

Dawn Ng's A Thing of Beauty makes breathtaking landscapes of what she refers to as a "grand orchestra of stuff": door stops and fly swatters, dust pans and cleaning buckets — all items she's collected from Singaporean food shops and convenience stores. The resulting photographs reflect "the intangible value of commonplace items as fossils and emblems of people, places and memories…and helps us see a bit of ourselves in the things we keep." Makes you think a little differently about the contents of your supply closets, your kitchen cabinets, and the worlds contained in your home's dustiest corners. See more, here.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

POV: Between.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories

It was warm in New York City last Wednesday. Warm enough to forgo a coat, to notice the absence of burning ears when going hat-less, to skip the subway and walk instead. The snow and black ice caking the edges of the pavement melted, leaving a mess of long-buried curiosities — tattered mittens, passport photos, mismatched table legs — thawing curbside in the sunlight.
Everyone, it seemed, was out, greeting one another as if reuniting after decades. “I thought you’d moved!” one familiar face said to me as I took a seat at a coffee shop ten minutes from my apartment. After I explained that I’d been working from home on especially cold days, he nodded his understanding, gesturing to the crowd that had gathered to bask in the light of the shop’s large windows. “And now we’ve all re-emerged,” he said.

The next day, I was back in my coat, but it was no matter. Between-seasons is my favorite time of year, and the transition from winter to spring — with its gray light, its slow undressing — is particularly alluring. Everyone’s eager to see the sun, of course, but there’s beauty in the interim, too.

“It’s an interesting challenge,” someone said to me recently, speaking on a topic completely unrelated to the weather, “to wait.”

I’ve found that, too — especially at this point in life, amid mounting pressures to get places quickly, to cross things off lists, to accomplish things I’m not sure are meant to have a timeline. I’ve found my senses are most finely tuned when I’m forced to let things be — and in times of transition, there’s so much to be lost (or missed) in the rush to get to whatever’s next.

Remembering this has kept me happy ten weeks into a year that’s already proven wildly unpredictable. So much so that life — in spite of its flightiness and uncertainty and its long, frozen winters — feels calm, and when an old acquaintance greeted me at a party recently by asking, “what’s good?”, I only had to say: “everything.” 


You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thanks so much for reading, as always. 

Botanical Portraits / Cereal Magazine.

So very happy to share a collaborative mini-piece that I had the pleasure of writing for Cereal Magazine alongside my brother, Max, who took the photos. The story features four "botanical portraits" taken at the Huntington Gardens, an LA gem flush with color and texture and a million living things.

"The Huntington manages to foster a sense of both community and isolation. As much as it’s alive with movement and conversation, it’s also abundantly accommodating of a need for stillness... Here, it feels possible to get lost, and, from time to time — standing in a sea of blossoms or wandering shaded walkways lined in slender bamboo — to feel alone."

See more at Cereal, here. Photos by Max Wanger.

Words of Art.

Debauched though it often may be, Twitter is a veritable treasure trove of character-controlled curiosities — it's the birthplace of a thousand hashtags (and Ruth Bourdain, and Shit My Dad Says), after all. Now, thanks to a talented team of artists in Stockholm, Sweden, the best the medium has to offer can be immortalized as thoughtfully designed, high quality prints. None are exactly alike,  and each print is priced at just $55.

Why Twitter? "We want something where more thought goes into the words, where every letter matters. And then it it us: Twitter," the team says, adding, "We see [it] as an interesting way to bridge the digital world with the analog." Learn more, here.

A big thank you to Miss Moss for the introduction.

Recommended Reading / 23.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week, from Bill Cunningham's On the Street: a video called A Breath of Fresh Air, which spotlights young artists unafraid of what Cunningham calls "off the wall, off the ceiling" thinking. The clip, which features photos taken at the Spring/Break Art Show on 31st Street, offers a joyful glimpse into a world teeming with ideas and intriguing new voices (a refreshing change for a generation so often and unfairly criticized for laziness and inattention).  "It gave me the greatest hope for our civilization," Cunningham says. "If you ever were despondent about the big business and branding of art and fashion, forget it. A new generation just opened the door to fresh air…these kids think for themselves."

A few more, just because:
-An archive of teenage bedrooms.
-Durer meets Drake.
-Bacon, blue cheese, figs, and dark chocolate — on toast.
-And lastly, though the Oscars are long past: "If Critics Wrote About the Male Best Director Nominees the Same Way They Wrote About Selma Director Ava Duvernay."

More recommended reading, here. Have a wonderful Monday!

2 New on FvF.

Today: snippets from two recent features I was lucky enough to work on for Freunde von Freunden this winter. As it happens, the subjects of both interviews are my neighbors — the first is banker-turned-architect Huy Bui, who constructs beautiful wooden structures made to sustain plant life in cities. (I first wrote about seeing Huy's work, here.)

In response to a question about preferred vacation destinations, Huy replied: "I love to travel, but my work is a holiday. I’m very lucky. I’m happiest when I’m in my shop, making things. I have moments here that remind me of when I was a kid, five years old, playing with Legos. My parents would say, 'come down to dinner!' And I’d be ravenous. But then I’d think, wait, just a minute. I have to finish this."

The second feature spotlights Sam and Stefanie Wessner, a couple living just a few blocks from Huy's studio, in a one-bedroom apartment neighboring the East River. Sam is the co-founder of Manhattan's El Rey Coffee Bar and Luncheonette, and partner at Noble Denim and Victor Athletics. Stefanie is Projects Officer at the architecture and public health organization ARCHIVE global.

Says Stefanie about making a home in New York: "When we got here, we made a conscious decision not to entertain other options for a while, which was a challenge — but a good one. We've decided to try to just be present."

You can find more of my FvF interviews, here, and my "Meet the Contributor" page, here. Thanks so much for reading — have a wonderful weekend!

 All photos by my friend Emily Johnston.

POV: Lived In.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories

According to everyone who lived there, myself excluded, the home my family inhabited during our eight years in Honolulu was tiny. I was tiny then, too, and to me, it seemed just the right size for a family of four, and a rabbit, and an ear-splitting, rainbow-feathered lovebird. The house had its quirks: a bedroom (mine) so small it might have been a hallway, century-old floors that gave us splinters, locks so old they required skeleton keys to open.

Still, it was home. With our things — and us — inside, it looked like ours. It felt like ours.

A few weeks after we moved in, our landlord stopped by and told us it looked like we’d lived there for years. “He meant to say it’s a mess,” my mom said when he was gone, looking at the mess of seeds that had spilled from the birdcage; the books and magazines and knick-knacks everywhere.

 My dad waved this off. “He meant to say it’s lived-in,” he said.

Four Inches.

I like the idea of four-inch paintings the same way I like the idea of six-word stories — both require making the most of very little, and confronting the challenges of limited space with creativity and care. With their four-by-four-inch works, Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber manage to tell stories tinged with mystery, humor, and darkness, capturing worlds much bigger than the confines of their tiny canvases. See for yourself, here.

I'm also a longtime fan of the brilliant Animals with Sharpies series, which, as it happens, was the topic of one of my very first posts on this site. See more recent work on the blog Personal Message, here.

Recommended Reading / 22.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week, from Humans of New York, an excellent answer to the question, do you remember the happiest moment of your life?: "This one time I was in Hawaii with my family, and we were walking to the beach, and we came to the top of this giant hill. And I said, 'I'm going to take it.' And I put my skateboard down, and started rolling down the hill, and I got going so fast that the board started shake because the trucks were loose, and toward the bottom of the hill I came to this crack, and the board got caught and I was thrown onto the pavement. I got all bruised and scraped and my mom was screaming because she's a total freakout.'"

"That was the happiest moment of your life?"
"Yeah. I was just glad I took the hill."

A few more, just because:
-Turning cemeteries into "sacred forests."
-I saw the band Wolf Alice last week and fell in love. Here they are, and here they are again.
-Warren Buffett on drinking five cans of Coke a day (and eating chocolate chip ice cream for breakfast): "I checked the actuarial tables, and the lowest death rate is among six-year-olds. So I decided to eat like a six-year-old."

More recommended reading, here. Have a happy Monday!

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