in your easter bonnet … in the easter parade

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I hope everyone had a happy Easter! Since I last posted, I got a job, I moved, I had family visit, and I joined in on the Easter Parade!

This was actually the first time I’d been to the Easter Parade, but it’s definitely been something I’ve always wanted to do … pretty much ever since I saw the 1948 film Easter Parade. I mean, who doesn’t love Judy Garland? Especially when she sings about walking down Fifth Avenue in Easter bonnets in the Easter Parade … and now I’ve done it! With my sister! Wearing pretty wreaths she made us.

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Technically it’s the New York City Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival, because it’s really all about the bonnets. And it’s really not a parade. It’s more like they just closed a bunch of streets so that people can gather and walk around and take pictures of each other. And although there’s nothing to actually do, it’s still pretty fun. Because New Yorkers are weird. And children are adorable.

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a pretty flower, a pretty city

I wouldn’t call Shanghai a pretty city. Despite all the shiny buildings, there’s an overall lack of finesse, a roughness that comes with looking so far into the future that there’s no attention to detail. But sometimes you’ll walk around the city, and despite the whirring madness going on around you – the honking horns, weaving taxis, daredevil e-bikes, pushy pedestrians, and wailing children – you’ll find a sense of peace. It’s the kind of peace that doesn’t come often in one of the world’s largest cities, and seems almost awkward in the context.

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Shanghai, for all its downfalls, has its moments of triumph.

my annoyances of the week

It’s been a bad week. Here goes:

  1. Design Shanghai 2014 was running from February 27th through today, March 2nd, but I wasn’t allowed in because I didn’t have a ticket. Can I buy a ticket? No. You must already have a ticket. What?! It’s the last day of the event and the first day I’ve had off. Argh. I was really interested in seeing it, but now I’m just annoyed.
  2. Old Navy has come to Shanghai, but there was a crush of people and I couldn’t find normal spaghetti-strap tank tops. At Old Navy. Aren’t plain t-shirts and tank tops the core of their business?
  3. Wagas delivery goes off-line when it rains, because a bit of rain is simply insurmountable. Oh sure, they’ll still deliver – if you pay CAB FARE for the delivery guy. I’m sorry, but I’m already paying your extravagant prices for a sandwich … and it’s just rain.
  4. On the weekend I occasionally tutor a woman in oral English. Usually we meet for two hours, but today she only wanted to meet for one hour. As it is I’m tutoring her for peanuts (way below my normal hourly rate) and it takes me 40 minutes round-trip, which makes that ‘tutoring session’ a complete waste of time.
  5. My fridge is basically empty. The grocery store nearest to my apartment closes at 9 PM and I normally get home around 8 PM, but Wednesday I got home at 9 and Thursday at 11. This week I’ve had McDonald’s twice, KFC once, and ramen noodles twice. Ugh.

But you know what makes everything better? Flowers. Mental health flowers. In front of my apartment building there is a flower lady with a little cart of flowers that I’ve passed by many times before, but this afternoon I stopped and bought some. 25 kuai (about 4 USD) for two small bundles; I didn’t bother haggling. Ah, best investment ever. They make me smile.

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don’t even care that the photo is out of focus. Well, maybe just a little.

reminiscing: why i’m an architect

About this time five years ago, I was sitting in the courtyard of Goldsmith Hall on the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas. It is there that I sat on a worn wooden bench taking photos of the petal-filled space. It was so quiet, I remember there being a slight chill in the air, and I was all alone. I loved that courtyard. I still love it. The space has an innate sense of calm that’s not shut off from the frenzy on the other side of the windows, but has the ability to recontextualize it and add some measure of beauty to the madness.

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Was I taking a break from a studio project? Ah no, that was my first semester without studio. Having finished the majority of my architecture degree requirements at that point, my schedule was filled with English and humanities classes. Perhaps that’s why I found myself back in the arms of good ol’ Goldsmith, visiting an old friend, a place I felt so comfortable in. This is a photo that has come to define me, and in many ways still does. It’s been my avatar on so many sites for so long, I don’t know if I’ll ever change it. Granted it’s not the best photo, not the best composed, and not the greatest quality, but I cherish it because it’s a moment from that time – that four years of time when I became an architect.

I was recently browsing one of my favorite blogs, Life of an Architect, and started thinking about that title. The life of an architect. The architect behind it, Bob Borson, is referring to his specific life as an architect, but moreso about the life of architects in general. He’s a University of Texas alum and practicing architect in Dallas, and I always find it interesting to read about and from architects, because it’s the life I could’ve had if I had stuck with practicing. But the truth is, I will always consider myself an architect. And my life will always be that of an architect. The truth is, I never wanted to be an architect and ended up in the major purely by accident (a result of some extreme procrastination that ended up being the best mistake ever). The truth is, as much as I am infatuated with art and as crap I am at architectural design, my perspective of the world will always be that of an architect. And the truth is that I will always consume way too much coffee, stay up all night all too often for no apparent reason, write with the black Precise V5s I buy in bulk because yes I have a favorite pen, obsess about details no one else cares about, and absolutely whole-heartedly love architecture.

I may not be able to legally call myself an architect, and practicing architects may frown on my choice to stay out of the field (trust me, I was crap at practicing), but that alone doesn’t make one an architect. So yeah, that’s why I’m an architect.

what’s in a name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (II.2.47-48)

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I’ve been working at an art gallery here in Shanghai for the past few months, and in that time I have been [job untitled], curatorial assistant, art director, and now curator. My friends on LinkedIn and Facebook are probably as confused as I am. Well, my main responsibility is organizing the exhibitions – coming up with exhibition themes, writing press releases, and deciding on titles. And you know what? Titles are hard! It’s nerve-wracking to try encapsulating a whole idea (of someone else’s work) in a few words. Thank goodness there are nifty sites like this generator to help.

Because I’ve switched from architecture to the art field, I’m discovering a whole different way of looking at and talking about the world. I still consider myself an architect in many ways, but I’m trying to learn the lingo, this so-called International Art English (of which there was a big hulabaloo about), referred to elsewhere as artspeak or “The Joke That Forgot It Was Funny.” Oh gosh. Architects are known for having their own jargon and sometimes talking in a pompous holier-than-thou manner (quoting Foucault with wild abandon for instance), but in general are much more down to earth because they have real things to deal with, like gravity.

But art? Well that’s a whole different ballgame. Oy. I barely followed the Foucault crap. Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Lantern Festival! The picture is of roses from the Queens Botanical Garden when I went last summer with my grandmother. You know, back when times were simple and a rose was just a rose ….

merry christmas! poinsettias

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What is it about poinsettias that just screams “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”? It’s one of those weird flowers that you never ever see. And then in the lead-up to Christmas, they’re suddenly everywhere. They appear for the season, and then promptly disappear for the rest of the year until the next Christmas rolls around. So you can imagine my surprise at seeing a whole lotta poinsettias in Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road Park, gathered in a giant cluster, waiting to be spread around. Seeing those poinsettiaas – more than all the gaudy lights along Nanjing Road – that made it truly feel like Christmas.

Merry Christmas! I wish you and your families all the happiness and joy your hearts can handle.

united states botanic garden

The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is located in DC on the Mall by the Capitol. It’s a good walk … and it’s free! … and hot! Ya know, because I’m poor. And, ya know, because it’s chilly outside. Apparently there are three parts: the Conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. Saw the first two, but didn’t venture to the park because I didn’t know it existed until I checked Wikipedia later. Whups.

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The Conservatory (the enclosed building aka greenhouse aka what you probably think of when you picture the USBG) was built in 1933 by Lord & Burnham, and I gotta say I love the keystones on the entrance façade. Each keystone has a different face and I just love those little flourishes of detailed ornament on solid Neoclassical architecture. It’s the little things that get me.

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The main central space (which is called the Jungle) has an upper-level walkway, which provides a nice change of perspective … but be prepared to get a bit misted when they spray the plants. Oh, and if you have a coat, scarf, hat, and mittens (as you should if you’re in DC in the winter), be prepared to carry them through the gardens – because it’s a bit steamy in there!

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To be honest, I don’t know much about plants and I don’t really care all that much about learning about plants. But it sure is fun to look at ’em (well, some of them – some are just boring to look at). The USBG is much bigger than I thought it would be when I approached, since the Conservatory is fairly deep and has many different sections, and there’s also the entire outdoor garden (National Garden) adjacent to the conservatory. Unfortunately the National Garden isn’t heated and a lot of the plants looked a bit … lacking life. Nice way to kill some time and be reminded that the world isn’t all concrete and steel. Plants – THEY’RE ALIVE!

spring … already?

Have you heard the news? It’s basically spring. Already. I’d expect this kind of weather for Texas, but up in New York? Oh wow. It’s been absolutely lovely. Flowers are blooming all over campus, I almost don’t mind going to class. Although when I’m stuck in the library scanning things, then a beautiful outdoors is just taunting.

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in love with purples

While blue is still my favorite color, purple is closing in ranks. I’ve always liked purple, but lately, it’s gained some additional significance over here.

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I have no idea what kind of flowers these are, but they’re blooming ALL OVER THE PLACE. It’s so pretty, there are petals all over the ground and it smells wonderful. Yep, it’s definitely spring here. Spring is probably my favorite season. I can finally break out the tank tops and flouncy skirts.

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Tassels! No, I haven’t graduated yet, but I’m well on my way. I finally plunked down the cash to buy my gown, so now I get to stare at it for the next two months. Excited, nervous, also a little in denial. Does this mean I have to grow up and act like an adult? Sheesh.

I hurt my arm and I’m sort of sick … again. So hopefully staying home, acting like a bum, and catching up on little errands (organizing that stack of papers, mending that hole, et cetera) will do me good. My chocolate stash will surely aid in that.

Happy Easter!

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]