Stay for Tea

Month: August, 2013

Instagramification

A cocktail glass with straw and a red mixed drink sitting on a marble counter next to a red album for 45" records, with words "My Record House" printed on the cover in gold letters

Sometimes I think about the ease with which we can document the minutiae of our daily routines. It seems like it’s changing the way we store memories, and I’m conflicted about whether or not that’s a good thing. Like many others, I use social media, and I take photos with my phone. Because it is still the easiest app to use for editing and sharing photos on the fly, Instagram has become a bit of a habit.

Against the grey twilight sky, a black silhouette of a fountain statue of a woman holding up a torch and palm trees surrounding the statue.

A small chocolate pot-de-creme glass sitting on pebbles. It is covered in parchment paper and wrapped with twine. In the background is a red rose bush.

I am aware that through the simple act of pausing and taking a photo, we’re altering the experience and casting an editorial glance that changes our perception. I understand the disruptive nature of documenting, and it’s something I try to think about a bit more. I do my best not to be egregious with photo taking, and having been reprimanded on some occasions, reach for my phone as little as possible while out with friends. I’m also starting to come to terms with the fact that our way of experiencing and interpreting life is going through a major shift. I’m curious about our relationship to these photos when we look at them at a later point. Am I, in fact, preserving a memory when I take a photo? Or am I crafting a somewhat altered, carefully edited and selected version of a moment, so that in retrospect, it seems more ambiguous and interesting, almost cinematic? Maybe a little bit of both.

A night time shot of a downtown with many high rise buildings with lights on. The window through which the photo is taken is framed in multi-colored Christmas lights.

Three musketeer figurines with swords and capes, one riding a toy horse, sitting on a wood grain table next two three champagne cocktail glasses.

While taking snapshots of the everyday may be an exercise in self satisfaction, there is also a benefit to it. Looking through my set of pictures, what I see is a life that often has lovely, interesting moments. The fact is, these snapshots are still a documentation of at least some degree of reality. I am reminded that my life often has moments of joy, creativity, learning, and comfort. Given the human tendency towards dwelling on the negative, I am OK reflecting on only the positive moments I choose to capture. Bad experiences and frustrating memories will find their way to us regardless, so why not balance it out with something pleasant.

A small black kitten with white paws and cream stripe on her nose asleep on a green couch. She is wearing a pink flower on her collar and a 90s celebrity teen magazine is in the background.

A white sign with bold black letters saying "Wedding this way" and a gold arrow, tied to a white metal post at the entrance to a wooded grove. The ground is covered with yellow leaves.

How do you feel about documenting daily moments in pictures? Do you think it’s a reliable way to record memories? What do you feel when you look back through your photos?

Down the rabbit hole: Josef Lada, costumes and Czech fairy tale movies

I have a tendency to go down rabbit holes while browsing online. It starts off with me searching for a song, a recipe, a moment in history – you name it. Then, a connected thread in something I’m researching will take me down a tangential path, and that might lead yet to another, and suddenly several hours have gone by. I will have about 30 different tabs open in a browser and, usually, will discover some new thing for me to find fascinating. For a long while I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog, in between recipe posts, and that’s when I realized that if the trip down the rabbit hole is fun and interesting to me, maybe there will be at least one or two other people who’ll enjoy it. So here we are. Today, I’d love for you to dive into the world of Czech fairy tale movies with me, kicked off by the artist Josef Lada.

Josef Lada (img: 50 Watts)

Josef Lada (img: 50 Watts)

Some of you might know about Josef Lada, a self-taught Czech artist with a distinct style. He isn’t terribly well known outside of Europe, but is influential enough to have had a Google doodle done for him on his 124th birthday and even has an asteroid named after him! Lada’s work is both satirical, since he honed his style as a caricaturist, and idyllic, most noticeable in his folklore illustrations and seasonal paintings.

Mikeš the Tomcat

Mikeš the Tomcat

Lada is well known for illustrating The Good Soldier Svejkby Jaroslav Hašek, and I’ve been hunting for an English translation of Lada’s illustrated book about Mikeš, a traveling black tomcat. (I don’t even know if such a translation exists.) 50 Watts, a must-follow blog on all things illustration/book design, has two image posts of Lada’s pieces for you to enjoy.

Beyond his paintings and children’s books, Lada also had his hand in film, both directly and indirectly. When I was growing up, there were a lot of Czech and Slovak films and TV series that were being shown in theaters and on TV in the USSR, dubbed in Russian. A while back, I found a forum where people would post plot summaries of movies they couldn’t name. In one thread, I stumbled onto a discussion of a childhood film I’ve been trying to recall for a while: a Czech movie about a little girl and her brother who are transported to a magical picture land by touching an ink blot in a book. The movie turned out to be Kaňka do pohádky (Inkblot in the Fairytale, 1981) and the book portal in question was a volume of stories illustrated by Josef Lada. Read the rest of this entry »