Without A Sound

I met Joseph Hanna in the West Village, poking around his leather store while I waited for a dinner reservation. The place was cavernous. Big messenger bags were stuffed into corners and luggage hung precariously from the ceiling. Maybe the piney smell of leather oil was making me feel dreamy, but that particular night I felt an aimlessness that was an invitation. My fingers drifted across the soft straps; searching for flaws in the grain of the wood countertop; tapping out in Morse code, “talk to me.” New York is a city full of stories after all. You just have open yourself to the unexpected.

The shopkeeper sensed I had time to kill. He grabbed my purse, opening and closing the clasp. “Nice  from Greece,” he said, not needing confirmation. We started chatting while he mindlessly oiled the infinite crannies of my vintage bag. I have trouble telling people I work in advertising, especially the sort of man who has owned a leather shop for 40 odd years. I stretched for a better truth. “Oh, you are a writer?” Joseph asks for confirmation, “I have a story for you.”

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Mal de Mar

Mal de Mar

by MAUREEN O'BRIEN

 

Midwest summers in my grandparents house were hot and leaden with the smell of perfumed soaps and car oil. It was summer when Mom told me of her younger brother Ben’s death and handed me a photo from the mantelpiece. It was encased in a frame, and inside was a tiny unfamiliar body with hands smaller than my eight year old mitts. “It was a farming accident. Your grandmother never recovered,” she told me. We didn’t speak of him, or my grandmother, again. Idle after university I began to resist this falling away. I hungered for a history proven elusive with a ferocity that perhaps matched my grandmother’s hunger to disappear.

I imagined my grandparents’ world mirroring the seasoned black and white photos on our mantelpiece. The light hit sternly from above, giving them a ghostly hollow cheeked conviction. My mother rarely told stories of their lives, sound bites not to be elicited like announcements made over an airport loudspeaker. Their history felt fragile to me even as a child.

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On the Job: Marine Biologist

Today, women face many new types of jobs as industries expand and new work environments emerge. From the tech world to the booming blogging community, job hunting can create anxiety inducing challenges for women. Many of these new fields are male dominated and require ingenuity and perseverance. Telling the stories of women who are breaking into job markets is an important ingredient to making sure equal opportunity exists for everyone.

 

This month, we delve into the changing landscape, quite literally, of Marine Science. Sadie Jacobs, a motivated young woman interested in becoming a marine biologist teams up with Shauna Mahajan, a young biologist finishing her degree at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Shauna answers important questions about the field of science and the changing dangers to the ocean.

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Feel Free to Take Pictures

 

Tuesday was the 100th birthday of famed photographer and Magnum Photos founder Robert Capa, and the collective threw a great party. In the spirit of commemoration, Magnum saw a big turn out from primus inter pares members to newcomers. Maybe it was the well-stocked bar at Bubble Lounge, or the prints offered up on clothes pins for the taking, but despite the collective’s infamous breadth of styles and opinions, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, even Bruce Gilden. Charlie Parker trilled as photographers and a veritable who’s who of the photo world mingled, comparing photos they had snagged off the walls, drawn together in a rare moment of accordance.

The party was a kick off to their newest project; the old-guard agency is testing a widening digital landscape, proposing one iconic photo taken by Robert Capa for the next 100 days and asking photographers all around the world to share their visual response on social media.  The call to action harkens to Capa’s famous pronouncement “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” and anyone who wants to share their response can tag a photo with #GetCloser100.  The result? Among the usual suspects, there are a surprising number of spirited and thoughtful responses. Collaboration is easier than ever; the only requisite today being an internet connection. In this new reality, photographers everywhere have an opportunity to stand on the proverbial soapbox to pay homage to the era that mapped and inspired today’s generation. Take a closer look at the project here.

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The Anatomy of a Library

I have been thinking about libraries. Many historic libraries begin with donations of personal collections. As Walter Benjamin understands, in his essay “Unpacking My Library,” the collector is present in each book in his collection. He writes, “Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them”.  These historical libraries, which owe their legacy to the private collections Benjamin speaks of, contain elements of their founding members. The hallmarks of original collectors are present in a cumulative understanding of the libraries development over time, as it grows out from its original core. Public libraries must acknowledge the original collection while simultaneously shaping its services around the temporally relevant societal requirements. These forces work to change the experience of reading in the library, as each book is kept in the company of the library’s original collector.

As readers, we cultivate the meaning of a library through the company each book we choose is kept in. This selection process brings the reader into communion with the original collector, who is present in a historically cumulative understanding of this collection, or as Matthew Battles writes in Libraries: An Unquiet History, “But the library- especially one so vast- is no mere cabinet of curiosities; it’s a world, complete and uncomplete, and its filled with secrets”.  In this world, the illusive idea of knowledge in totality is debunked. We can only hope to begin navigating the breadth of the stacks by exploring the library’s privilege of certain types of materials. This privilege, constructed by the historical social context of the library, contains the legacy of the original collector’s preferences. In this way, as we comply with the constructed argument of the library, we learn from its original collector, and perpetuate a doctrine which has been handed down to us systematically through time.

Martin Parr, Galle subscription library. 2004

Martin Parr, Galle subscription library. 2004

Away to South Shore

Montreal- If you are lucky, you get off the island. If you are even luckier, you have these ladies to escape with.

A Letter to My Best Friend

I broke the silence; you are the love of my life, but seriously brush your hair.  I don’t blame him for breaking up with you. Really, you look like professor Mad-Eye Moody.

At the time I didn’t know how to say it would be ok, but I thought a well-placed Harry Potter plug couldn’t hurt.  It was 4 years ago that I found you on these steps, a stranger’s apartment 2 blocks from school. It turns out the stranger was actually Sam Rosen, a kid we knew from Rez. As he descended his own stairs, he could barely make eye contact with you. You apologized profusely for being in his way in your current state of emotional vulnerability. He probably forgot it two days later, but you will live that afternoon for years to come. I held your face in my hands and you looked away. You don’t think you deserve unfettered moments of true love, but you do.

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This won’t be the last time someone breaks your heart.  Go easy on yourself. Yeah, of course you should have listened to me then, but listen to me now. It was supposed to end. Reserve the scene where he follows you out the door for Reese Witherspoon movies. In this happy ending you are much older, and you have finally learned how to let good things just happen to you because you deserve them. You aren’t afraid of love because you love yourself.

People come and go. You tell me that you are having trouble knowing whether or not he thinks of you differently than all the other girls. What you are really telling me is that you are scared. Jump and break your own heart. The meaning is in that moment your toe leaves the ground and you collide with the continuous unfolding.

Sitting on that stoop with you, I know it won’t always be ok. You will have to face things you thought you resolved years ago. You are building the home within yourself.  Don’t waste any more time convincing people to love you. Take what they give you. Find the ones who love you through and through.

Envision yourself sitting in front of your grandchildren years from now. Write the story you want to tell them.