down there

See, the thing about California being so tall and thin is that you have this whole “northern CA/southern CA” thing. It’s a lot like the east coast, except it’s one state, no Reconstruction (but plenty of segregation, nonetheless! Although that’s kind of different.) I envy the Dakotas and the Carolinas their separate statehoods, although California does seem to sort of willfully act as if it’s two states, anyway.

I keep trying to get those of us Up Here to start referring to Southern Cali as “Down There”, not because I’m at all averse to the area: mostly, I just like thinking of it as the slightly unmentionable, below-the-waist, part of our state. I’m not sure if this would hold up geographically, but San Luis Obispo, and more importantly, the Madonna Inn, seems to be the belt around California’s middle that keeps the up there tucked in, and the down there from dropping its pants and inadvertently showing off its nether regions.


Sigh. Madonna Inn. I love you so. Be my pink belt. Please.

Anyway. I’m back up above the waist these days, after an extended stay in the underpants of California. Gave my lecture at UC Santa Barbara last Tuesday night, then rolled on down to LA to cat-sit and see art for a few more days. (Yeah, the old “art-lecture-and-cat-sit” circuit. You know.)

The first two nights in Santa Barbara were really marvelous, despite the ominous ash in the air, and some extra wheezing here and there. Kim Yasuda was just the kindest host, and it was super-wonderful getting to know her and her family (hello: her 9-year-old daughter is as obsessed with the Madonna Inn as I: need I say more about the profundity of these bonds?). Prior to my lecture, Kim toured me around campus a bit, and shared the phenomenal Open Container collaborative projects her students have been working on since last year:



(Hellooo: Dwell Magazine? Feature article, just waiting for you write it… )




The images link through to a large archive of images on Flickr. Check ‘em out, and be astounded. Some further reading and history on the Container Project is here.

After the container tour, I met individually with several grad students, to discuss their work. Damn, it’s weird being on the other side of the fence now: a year ago, I was on the receiving end of these studio visits as a grad student myself. Hopefully, it was productive and not too traumatic for them: sharing work in grad school is such a fragile process in general, and only exacerbated further by the regular intrusions of random strangers at points when one is least sure of the work’s presentability…anyway, the three women I visited with were at varying stages of newness with their studio projects: it was pretty fun to spend time with them, and learn more about their process(es).

The lecture itself went well: nobody appeared to be sleeping, anyway. (For those of you, sitting in the dark, thinking you’re anonymous: it actually really matters to those of us presenting that you’re engaged. We do notice.) The audience was really warm and receptive: there were a few points where I think I lost ‘em, but that’s how these things go, here and there.Before even speaking, however, I opened with a screening of Woffords, Paint. It seemed like folks weren’t initially quite sure whether it was OK to laugh or not, but they got going after a minute. Paint-eating always loosens ‘em up. Other than a big old video glitch with Mail Order Bride of Frankenstein (which you can watch online here- scroll down a bit) which torpedoed that particular screening, everything went smoothly. Although peeps were reticent to participate in a traditional Q & A, a few women (and interestingly, no men) came up afterwards to talk to me, ask a couple of questions, and express their enthusiasm, which always feels nice.

Afterwards, Kim and I went to dinner with Julianne (sp?), Billy and Celine, and got all rowdy and excitable talking and conspiring about our various projects and intersections. Gawd, this is what I love: these evenings of extended gabbing and plotting, in all the best possible ways. It gives me this weird kind of hope that despite all of the challenges and various and sundry culture wars, there are forces of good at work, and that we’re all on track, after all. (This is, of course, an utterly biased opinion, but that’s OK.)

Wednesday, Kim showed me around UCIRA and UCSB a bit more, before I finally got out of her hair, and pushed onwards into the valley of all VPLs that is greater Los Angeles, to meet my cat-sitting destiny. More on that later. Stay tuned!


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