Sunday, April 27, 2008

On freedom

I keep saying to everyone, 'I didn't waste a minute, all my life--I had a wonderful time,' but I know, myself, now that if I had it over again, I'd be even more free with my ideas, with my body and my affections."

--Lee Miller to Roland Penrose, as quoted in Lee Miller: A Life

Having just returned from a quick jaunt to Philadelphia where I visited the first-ever retrospective of Lee Miller's work, I've been turning this semi-inspirational quote over in my head, pondering how, exactly, one endeavors to become more free with one's ideas, body and affections. It certainly seems a laudable goal, doesn't it? Especially now that spring has sprung, both in Philly:

And in Poughkeepsie:

Birthplace of Lee Miller (1907-1977), and a brief pit-stop on my upstate tour, which occurred last weekend as I endeavored to recycle my old television, visit a flea market, and pick up my new-to-me television from my cousin's garage.

This idea of expanded freedom has been weighing heavily on my mind lately, as I've found myself feeling a bit constrained, both by the demands of my job, and what seem like endless requests from other people to do various things that I'm not all that interested in doing. After leaving the museum, Syllabub and her beloved "B" and I mulled over this problem. All of us are facing the prospect of months of paid leave from our jobs, during which we are meant to come up with Big Ideas...which is both thrilling and a mite frightening.

If I were Miller, of course, I'd just pack up my camera and head off to Cairo or Paris--or maybe, in today's world, Dubai or Shanghai--and just wait for the Big Ideas to come...along with the men, and the affections. I don't know if that's really going to happen, though. Instead, I might have to make due with a carrel in the New York Public Library and the affections of a bunch of corner boys, who have begun referring to me as "princess," for reasons I can't quite fathom.

In the meantime, though, it is lovely in New York this time of year. I don't know if I just never noticed before, or if this year has brought about unprecedented blossoming:

and especially distracting weather. That's how spring is though--suddenly, just when you thought you'd never eat an ice cream again, or discover a new freckle again, or have a Big Idea again...they suddenly come. And if they don't? Lee knows:

I think the first is to take or make freedom, which will give...the opportunity to become become concentrated again...and even if it doesn't the struggle will keep me awake and alive.
--Lee Miller to Aziz Eloui Bey (also quoted in Lee Miller: A Life)

The Germans, of course, are always more succinct:

(Kreuzberg, 2007)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Goodbye, Zenith

This, friends and associates, is my television:

Before all assorted readers gasp in shock, let me explain.

My father gave me this television when I first moved out of the house to attend college. It was not a fancy TV even then, and over the years assorted friends, lovers and visitors have loudly complained about its lack of remote control and other modern features. I did not care. I like my TV, and like it even more when recalling my dad's rationale for buying it in the first place: it was one of the only sets he could find (even back in 1987, which the sticker on the back says is when it was manufactured) that was both American-made and American-produced.

This TV has stuck with me through thick and thin: numerous moves (coast-to-coast, multiple new apartments during my grad student years, and then an inter-borough transfer from Queens to Brooklyn to its current home in Manhattan), innumerable new technologies, and my final capitulation to cable TV, which rendered its sleek attached antenna obsolete.

A few years ago, though, something shifted. People began making fun of my TV. I don't know what this says about America (actually, yes, I do...but I will let you draw your own conclusions), but somehow visitors to my home thought it perfectly acceptable to mock not only the TV, but also what they assumed it referenced about my level of modernity and technological capabilities. Actually, no. What it does say is the following:

I work just fine.

My owner is perfectly comfortable getting off her not-yet-fat ass to change the channel.

My owner would rather spend money on replacing things that are actually BROKEN rather than things that the corporate world would have us think are obsolete.

You'll notice I do not have a DVD player either. So what, sucka.

Anyhow, so, my perhaps stubborn love for my perfectly-functioning TV has enabled me to resist the lure of new-TVdom for...well, more than ten years now. And then something happened. The TV broke!

Well, kinda. The on-off switch broke, perhaps fortunately in the "on" position. For the past month or so I've been unplugging the TV from the wall when I'm finished watching it. Ridiculous, I know, but I'm a busy girl and I don't have the time or inclination to do the proper research required to buy an energy-efficient television not assembled by 5-year olds in some exploited country.

Serendipitiously, my mother recently bought a new HD-TV. (sigh. Don't me started on how this whole high definition thing. Is there a bigger government-sponsored fraud on record? Okay, yeah, I bet there is.) She therefore strapped her old TV in my cousin's car, where it was shuttled up to my cousin's house, where it is awaiting me in his garage. This TV was made in 2001. It has a remote control, and a "sleep" function, and I'm sure some other supposedly indispensible features. I am picking it up next weekend, in conjunction with my visit to an enormous 350 vendor flea market taking place near my cousin's home.

But you know what? I'm kind of sad. The TV is going to go to a good place (the Build It Green! recycling center in Queens), but...still. I will miss you, Mr. Zenith.

Luckily, I still have Mr. Orange RCA.