Just in case you missed it, I’ve escaped the Magic City in pursuit of culinary delights and wine-induced wishes. The 5th Annual Charleston Wine+Food Festival is my current agenda and I couldn’t be happier…I’ll be back soon, though, so keep the light on for me…
I’ve been busy as a bee working on this magnificent event, and original content is just a tad bit too far from my reach. So, enjoy these posts that are not my own but have peaked my interest. The first, sent to me by Boss (my partner in crime), takes a critical look at the relationship between the virtues and values of the Arts & Crafts movement and the catalyst for such a movement, the Industrial Revolution. It’s a good read and structurally apropos for the Magic City Makeover.
The second post was recommended by a colleague at WBHM and digs into the personal trials of a trans-continent mother/teacher/writer who finds herself all alone in Birmingham and, much like me, is trying to make sense of it all. To say I’m inspired to meet this woman would be an understatement…
So, sweet Manifesto readers, sit back and enjoy the musings of others as I prepare for the forthcoming onslaught of bon vivants here in the Holy City…Cheers!
Credit: notebooms useless nonsense
August 23 |
“I’m really stoked to be restoring our 1908 Craftsman bungalow (note: picture above is a completed example, not mine,) and really look forward to moving in towards the end of the year if everything goes to plan.
Being that i work in next generation technology, people often wonder why I’m so interested in living a traditional lifestyle– one surrounded by old stuff. I’ll explain a bit why, and how it fits into the Arts & Crafts movement…
The Arts and Crafts movement started in the late 1800’s as a direct backlash against the Industrial Revolution. Artists and Craftsman felt that mechanization, expanded supply chain & logistics, mass manufacturing and division of labor removed the uniqueness and soul from products, communities and people. It was believed that the machine and mindless labor was root cause of all the “repetitive and mundane evils” the world was evolving towards.
The world we live in today is a direct result of the Industrial Revolution and subsequent globalization. I say the result of this mix isn’t so fucking great…
- Mass production, mass consumerism, globalization and division of labor (this is where people do the same low skill task over and over again– like bolting a door on a car) via assembly line manufacturing sucks. Mindless. Boring. Blah.
- End-products are cookie cutter copies of each other, with little to no uniqueness. This lack of uniqueness in manufacturing and product is subsequently killing the uniqueness of people– thus turning the world into a society of corporate programmed, obese robots. The human robots of today have uncontrollable hunger to consume empty, unfulfilling items– over and over again with little satisfaction. Just an increased craving for more (reminds me of how another corporate trick named “corn syrup” works on people.) Welcome to the cookie cutter lifestyle of Costco and Walmart. The same little boxes, for everyone.
The Arts and Crafts movement saw this growing problem early and recognized & respected the following:
- The Artist and the Craftsman are important and are a key to stimulating beauty and uniqueness– as is handcraft production. High skill and master craftsmanship is valuable.
- Simplicity is key. Quality beats quanity.
- Use of local materials integrated into construction…. making the home part of the landscape, both inside and exterior.
In 1897 the Society of Arts and Crafts was created, with 21 founders who were interested in more than just sales. They focused on the relationship of designers within the commercial world, encouraging artists to produce work with the highest quality of workmanship and design. Here was their credo:
” This Society was incorporated for the purpose of promoting artistic work in all branches of handicraft. It hopes to bring Designers and Workmen into mutually helpful relations, and to encourage workmen to execute designs of their own. It endeavors to stimulate in workmen an appreciation of the dignity and value of good design; to counteract the popular impatience of Law and Form, and the desire for over-ornamentation and specious originality. It will insist upon the necessity of sobriety and restraint, or ordered arrangement, of due regard for the relation between the form of an object and its use, and of harmony and fitness in the decoration put upon it. “
To me, the Arts and Crafts movement was very punk rock like– a focused, brave rebellion against the grain. Guys like Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright, Greene and Greene Elbert Hubbard started it, and I’m one of many who are here to carry on this traditional lifestyle that celebrates the artist and the craftsman.”
Credit: Kerry Madden, via Los Angeles Times
The university job was too good to pass up; or is it?
September 20, 2009 |
“In my new apartment in Birmingham, Ala., I have lawn chairs in the living room and an ironing board for a coffee table. Until a few days ago, I watched cable TV from an air mattress. On my third day here, I splurged on a desk, chair and lamp at 5th Avenue Antiques, which is not nearly as fancy as it sounds.
“What brings you to the ‘Ham?” asked the clerk.
“New job at the university” would have been a sufficient reply.
Instead, I over-explained, as I find myself doing often these days.
Well, see, I applied for this tenure-track position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham — never dreaming I’d actually get hired. I write children’s and YA books — and really, I haven’t had a regular job-job since 1995, when I taught ESL in East L.A. But my husband and I, you know, we have two kids in college now. And with this economy — well, how could I turn down a job I knew I might come to love?
My spiel never excludes this most important detail: I have left my husband and youngest child, 10-year-old Norah, back in Los Angeles.
Neighbor, apartment manager, sales clerk at Best Buy, new co-worker, friend of a friend — they’ve all heard the story and about how it might play out.
Plan A: Commuter. I shuttle back and forth, leaving my husband, Kiffen, and Norah in Silver Lake. He is a teacher at her school, and it is her last year of elementary school. All unnecessary uprooting is avoided, and Kiffen keeps his 21 years of LAUSD benefits. At the end of the year, we assess.
Plan B: Single parent. Norah joins me in Birmingham. She knows she has the choice to move to Alabama at any time if living apart from her mother gets too hard. I have made sure to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Homewood, a suburb of Birmingham that has a good public school across from the Piggly Wiggly.
Plan C: Freak out. Load up the air mattress, lawn chairs and desk and head up Interstate 65 to Interstate 40 and drive back to Los Angeles.
I haven’t actually mentioned Plan C aloud.
Last winter, on the day I had to give UAB my decision, I lay on the floor and stared at the phone for hours before dialing. Kiffen made it clear he would back my decision, even if it meant leaving home.
I’d been on the road regularly, hauling my suitcase of Appalachian stories and props to school writing workshops and going on book tours. I could still do that, I figured, but add a steady paycheck, which, during these lean tuition-paying years, seemed simply prudent.
Still, it would be a relief to say no, and our L.A. life could just continue.
We’d always made it work somehow. True, we had never been able to afford to buy a house on our teacher-writer household income. But we loved our home and our friends. We’d spent 21 years in Los Angeles, raised our three children there. I’d written all my books there. I’d long had a hazy dream of buying a place in the Great Smoky Mountains — a place to go and write — but Birmingham wasn’t on the radar.
Also, I hate moving. I grew up moving often, because my father, a coach, was constantly searching for the opportunity to win. I always pleaded to stay, and he’d say, “You want to live in the same town your whole life? Get in the car, you big turkey!” Then he would huddle up the family and say: “Look around, kids. Say goodbye. You’ll never see this place again.”
I know my father thought his way made the most sense — cut the cord and get on with it. But I didn’t want to do it his way now. I wanted Norah to know that even if we ultimately leave Los Angeles, it will remain part of our lives. I also wanted our two older kids, at least for a while longer, to be able to come home from college.
And so, for the time being, I am alone in Birmingham. My apartment manager resembles Dustin Hoffman in “Midnight Cowboy,” spinning tales at a slow but steady clip about everything from the death of his daddy on June 12 to his mama who is doing all right, and how his family has been in the apartment business since 1971. Just like me, he’s a big over-explainer.
It’s a slower pace here, which is discombobulating. What if I get used to it? It takes about five to 15 minutes to drive most anywhere. I did spend an eternal 5 1/2 hours at the DMV waiting to register my car — the bureaucracy slowed to the point of absurdity by budget cuts — but folks were friendly and resigned. I still came out ahead: I bought the car in Hoover, Ala., where the sales tax is only 3%.
A quarter will buy 2 1/2 hours of campus parking at a 10-hour meter.
I take a two-hour yoga class on the floor of Bare Hands Art Gallery for $10.
My apartment is $730 a month and in a neighborhood where you can walk to a park, coffeehouse and bookstore. Another apartment we checked out was in a gated community that boasted “Virgin Margaritaville Night” and a location handy to Chick-fil-A. We also considered Fannie Flagg’s nearby neighborhood of Irondale out of homage to “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe,” but from the back seat, Norah gazed at the faux train depot and announced, “I feel empty inside.”
But the peaches are exquisite. The students and faculty have been lovely and welcoming. The serenade of crickets and cicadas is a sweet late-summer lullaby.
There are, however, constant reminders of how 2,000 miles is much farther than just the odometer reading. The church bells from Our Lady of Sorrows, for instance, start ringing on the hour at 6 a.m.
Local radio is mostly country music, Bible talk or Alabama football, so I have discovered the joy of podcasts. I’ve been informed that I must settle on either the Auburn Tigers or Alabama’s Crimson Tide as my team. “May I recommend Auburn to you?” a student politely offered.
So right now Birmingham feels like a foreign posting. I have cried almost every day — never in front of my students or strangers, but in front of sympathetic professors who ask too gently how I’m doing. It’s the sympathy that breaks me. And the fact that my husband, alone, delivered Lucy, our middle child, to Sarah Lawrence College. And the realization that my family is stretched across the continent. And the truth that reading stories to Norah via Skype just isn’t the same as having her in my lap.
At the university’s orientation session for new faculty, the provost said: “We want you to love it here. We want it to be your best job and your last job.” I noticed that I seemed to be surrounded by scientists hired by the medical school. I wondered if any of them were cooking up a “no tears” pill for pathetic weeping women who have moved 2,000 miles away from home for a job.
But for now, I go on with Plan A and stay grateful that Southwest Airlines flies direct from Birmingham to LAX.”
Learn more about Kerry Madden here.