My parents had me when they were 30. Relatively young. So I went on a kind of journey with them that my sister (8 years younger than me) didn’t get to go on. I was born when they were still living in their first house, moved with them to a second house that they got to build, and then finally to a third, bigger house, when my dad got a job in New York.
Our first house was furnished mainly with yard sale items my mother had bought from a Navy retiree in Niantic, Connecticut when she’d graduated from college and a smattering of stuff they’d gotten as wedding presents, but there was always this one Cassatt print in the hallway to our garage. It was big, probably close to how big the original painting is, which only emphasized that it was a printed poster of a painting, but she framed it in a gold frame and had it hanging proudly near the doorway. Something French before you go. Something French when you get home.
Second house, we bought some new stuff. New baby came, even more new stuff. But this print stuck around. Meaty, pink toddler arms and a pair of legs in repose that don’t quite look right.
In the final house, the house my dad still lives in now, it didn’t stay on a wall for long. I’m not really sure when the editorial decision was made, but it was retired to the basement without my even noticing it was gone. It wasn’t til a couple months ago, when I was rifling through a stack of frames in the hopes of finding some to steal for my own apartment, that I stumbled across the print and realized I hadn’t thought about it in years.
That’s still a very new sensation to me, one I’ve only been able to have three or four times yet in my relatively-new adult life: coming across something that feels instantly familiar and intimate, but that I wouldn’t have ever known how to access in my own brain without the visual prompt.
Without stumbling across the print, I probably could’ve gone the rest of my life without organically thinking of this painting. But with the visual, suddenly I have entire stories to tell. Here I am at three, in Stratford, Connecticut, watching my cousin Jim break the head of a baby doll on the tiled hallway floor during an Easter party. Here I am at ten, in a snow suit in Monroe, Connecticut, on the phone with my friend Lauren trying to nail down which sledding hill is best (it’s the one at the public golf course).
And now here I am at twenty five, coming across a jpeg of a print of a Cassatt on my dashboard and deleting the NPR article that accompanied the image so I can circle around how weird it is to have a connection to something you know nothing about. I’ve never seen this painting in person. I don’t know anything about Mary Cassatt or Impressionism. But these two babies are woven very tightly into the DNA coil of my childhood and that’s kind of astounding.
When I was a child, my parents put a tiny (like 5” x 8”) print of this painting in my bedroom. I’m pretty sure they bought it on a trip to the National Gallery of Art in 1989.
Somehow I grew up believing that the children were playing on the North Sea coast, near Bremerhaven, where I was born.* I think because they were wearing so much clothing (why else would you wear shoes and a hat at the beach?), and I figured the North Sea was cold, maybe not as cold as the North Pole, but colder than the Jersey Shore or the Outer Banks, which were the beaches I knew as a child.
*Four weeks after I was born, we left Bremerhaven, never to return. It’s the only place I’ve lived that I don’t remember at all.
bless the New York Times headline editor
More Keiko Abe, performing “Prism” in the early 90s (I think)
Nothing to say except
Keiko Abe performing an excerpt from her “Prism Rhapsody” with the Orquestra Simfónica de Balears in 2001, Thomas Herzog conducting.
Aside from being awed at Abe’s crazy marimba skills, I just love seeing composers perform as soloists in their own works— I always wonder whether/how they gave notes to the conductor. Did she tell him to jump up and down like that at the end?
“The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.
At first you will think “oh nbd, this is like the soundtrack behind the opening sequence of a 90’s legal thriller.” Then at some point you will get freaked because this piece is actually totally weird and amazing.
Artemisia Gentileschi, “Judith Slaying Holofernes”/Destiny’s Child, “Independent Women”
Oh my god yes
A thousand times yes
This is Lee Shi Young. If you remember her as the girl who played Geum Jan Di’s curly-haired frenemy in Boys Over Flowers, you might be interested to know that she just made South Korea’s national women’s boxing team. She’s still acting, too, btw.
Here’s a video from one of her bouts in 2011.
My desert island albums change sporadically depending on my tarot reading, barometric pressure and my general surliness but the inclusion of The Dionne Warwick Collection on said list will never change. The album is 24 tracks of Bacharach/David wonderfulness - throw in the Carpenter’s “Close to You” and it would be absolutely perfect.
While doing some late night wandering through Youtube I found 2012’s “In Performance at the White House” celebration of Bacharach and David’s music. It is horrible. From start to finish everything is wrong. Mike Meyers pretending to be Tom Jones is wrong. Sheryl Crowe singing “Walk on by” is wrong. Michael Feinstein is completely wrong. What makes the original recordings of these songs so wonderful is the blissful synergy that came out of the period. Without Warwick’s impossibly young-sounding voice Bacharach’s scores would sound too kitschy to be taken seriously.* Take the mid-60s era mixing out of the equation and the songs would lose the ephemeral touch. Hal David’s lyrics, more sarcastic than people give them credit for**, add in the emotional/intellectual heft. New versions just don’t have the spark of temporal perfection that the originals carry***.
*Admittedly sometimes not even Warwick can fight the loungey stylings of Bacharach. The “whoa whoa whoa whoa whoawhoawawhoa whao” in “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” is such a song.
** Again, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”
*** Even as the biggest Jim O’Rourke in his Bacharach-loving phase fan in existence I can acknowledge the version of “Walk on by” in his covers collection is iffy at best.
Sheryl Crow singing “Walk On By” is wrong. And Dionne Warwick is one of the best vocalists of the 20th century. Give her a Kennedy Center Honor already.