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Mardi Gras!

by Samantha ~ February 14th, 2013

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The past week, life in New Orleans has been going at top speed. Parades, massive parties in the streets, and beads everywhere you look. Mardi Gras officially kicked off mid-January, but because of the Superbowl, everything got put on hold and then condensed into one solid week of mayhem.

This year, Amina & Twwly came to join in the festivities, and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I’ve known these ladies going on ten whole years now (TEN!! That’s a whole decade!!), and spending Carnival with them and my husband couldn’t have been more perfect!

I’m still sorting through all of the photos we took, but here are a bunch of Instax from Fat Tuesday that I wanted to share!
Yes, I am totally wearing a giant ball gown.

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Stacked :: January 2013

by Samantha ~ February 11th, 2013

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Errantry

A collection of strange shorts, each slightly removed from solid reality, Errantry has been a tough one for me to recap and review. Each story seemed to stay with me longer than I expected it to, but at the same time, float away almost immediately. Unexpected, without being startling, wispy, without being unsubstantial, and surreal. Not in a Salvator Dali melting clocks surreality, but as if you took one step outside of regular and noticed things were only slightly amiss.

I’d love to hear what any of you have to say about this, if you’ve read it. Another one of Bloodmilk’s superb recommendations, I enjoyed it immensely.

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Death in Spring 

I removed my clothes and dropped them at the foot of the hackberry tree, besides the madman’s rock. Before entering the river, I stopped to observe the color left behind by the sky. The sun-dappled light was different now that spring had arrived, reborn after living beneath the earth and within branches. I lowered myself gently into the water, hardly daring to breathe, always with the fear that, as I entered the water world, the air – finally rid of my nuisance – would begin to rage and be transformed into the furious wind, like the winter wind that nearly carried away houses, trees, and people.

I bought Death in Spring while we were on vacation in Los Angeles a few months ago, entirely because of its cover art. I didn’t even read the first paragraph in the shop, like I usually do when I haven’t heard of a book before. I got it home, where it sat in a pile of books waiting to be opened for over a month. A few nights ago, I unexpectedly had a few hours of free time, so I went to my favorite wine bar, and three hours later I had read it cover to cover.

Narrated by a teenage boy in an unnamed town, he describes the town’s bizarre and grotesque rituals. As the story opens, the boy witnesses his father’s death, as according to these customs :: cement is poured down his throat to prevent the soul from escaping with the dying person’s last breath, and then is sealed in a hollowed tree. As the boy ages, he doesn’t necessarily question the rituals, but doesn’t fully understand them, and continues along with them. Beautiful, poetic, and powerful, I highly recommend this.

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An Extraordinary Theory of Objects : A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris

This was charming memoir of a girl not quite as crazy as Sylvia Plath or Susanna Kaysen (or however crazy Elizabeth Wurtzel wanted us to think she is), growing up as an American in Paris in the 1990s. I purchased it because of my recent Francophilia, and for the illustrations dotted throughout, and I’m very glad I did. Stephanie LaCava is like any other confused teenager, and she channels her frustrations and depression into finding security in objects, rather than people. Lengthy footnotes fill half the pages with descriptions and histories of people, objects, and cultural lore, which I may have enjoyed more than her actual story.

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Tiger Rag 

The problem with having a novel you love so very much is that everything else the author will ever produce will fall far from its graces. That’s the problem that I’ve had with every Nicholas Christopher book I’ve read that isn’t either Veronica or A Trip to the Stars (my two all-time favorite novels. I dare you to try to not love them). Tiger Rag was no different.

Set between New Orleans, in the early 1900s, and Florida, present day, it weaves the stories of Buddy Bolden, the “inventor” of jazz, and the long lost sole recording of his career, and a modern day mother and daughter, both unraveling at the seams of their own lives. The cylinder has been lost, stolen, and stored for over a century, and evolves into the holy grail of jazz. Mother and daughter discover their own family’s involvement in the long lost cylinder, and uncover truths they never expected.

Maybe, if I were a bigger jazz fan, I would have enjoyed this much more than I actually did. The present day characters, specifically the mother and daughter, just seemed to trivial to me. The mother, Ruby, is having a post-divorce breakdown, and acting out a midlife crisis that involves only wearing purple and not sleeping or eating. Skipping back and forth between that, and the only in italics turn of the century jazz stories felt tedious, and by the end of it, I didn’t really care about who had the cylinder or where it was.

I had pre-ordered this from Amazon, and was so excited that he had a new novel out, and wound up returning it in the end.

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Paris, Paris : Journey into the City of Light

For whatever reason, I found this book to be a bit of a chore to finish. As I’m drafting this, I still have about fifty pages to go, and I’ve been reading it for nearly a week – longer than usual for me to get through something. I should be enjoying it – it’s [another] account of life in Paris, by an American living in the city. Thirty-one essays regaling places and history and people, told by someone still in love with the city. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this book that I’m not enjoying. It may just be the author’s voice, or it might be I’m a little bitter that we’ve had to postpone our trip for at least another year, but whatever it is, it all feels like an over articulated travel guide.

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Norwegian Wood

This was the first in my Murakami run. I’ve never read this one before, so I decided to start the marathon with it. Truthfully, I didn’t dislike it, but it felt like total fluff. It was like watching Garden State or another one of those indie romance movies. Nothing so strong to last with you, just something that was on cable when nothing else was. Maybe I just expected more, since everything else I’ve read of Murakami’s has been so surreal and fantastical.

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Can any of you Murakami Cultists out there explain to me the recurring themes in his books? I’ve noticed that Sundays, phrenology, and cats are all laced into his stories.

What have you been reading lately?

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External Influences v.6

by Samantha ~ February 9th, 2013

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It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a bunch of random shit I’ve found online, so I’ve cut it down from everything I’ve been saving to just the best bits.

Yes, the Sauron pic is definitely one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. I laughed for at least six minutes straight.

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Winter Wishlist

by Samantha ~ February 7th, 2013

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1. I’ve been a little obsessed with these tights from Nylon Journal since I first saw them. I sort of can’t believe I haven’t already ordered them!
2. For the past few months, I’ve been slowly acquiring prints from different artists to hang in the house. I’ve been thinking about getting a big print of the moon to hang above our bed, and this one from Urban Outfitters is pretty awesome. The problem, though, is that I don’t really like shopping with them, so I’m going to keep my eye out for one from somewhere I would be happy to support!
3. The perfect pair of brown lace up boots!
4. Never, ever too old to stop dressing like Wednesday Addams.
5. Dead Writers cologne! A mix of black tea, tobacco, and heliotrope (I have no idea what heliotrope is). I imagine it smells like old pages and far away lands.
6. A few weeks ago, I caught a 48 hour bug that was knocking me on my butt. To combat this, I took a variety of sleep aids, which didn’t put me to sleep, but put me into a super loopy state. The following week, packages started arriving, because I apparently started shopping on Ebay while I was checked out. One of the things that arrived was a set of black obsidian runes, so now I must add rune lore to my studies.
7. Can The Wild Unknown get any more perfect? These prints of The Lovers for Valentine’s Day are just too beautiful.

What’s at the top of your wish list this month?

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Photo Roundup :: An Exercise in Vanity

by Samantha ~ February 4th, 2013

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Before anything else :: I finally have created a Facebook page for FiveTwentyThree! If you like the site, please show a little love!

On January 1, I started a 365 Photo A Day project. Every day, I’ve taken a self-portrait, and I’m hoping to make it all the way through the year. I made a poor effort at one a few years ago, and made it a few weeks before losing interest. Shooting an image on the 5D, importing it, Photoshopping, and then uploading somewhere was kinda pain to do every day, and more than half of them wound up being poor quality shots from my desktop’s camera. Now that the iPhone has a million different apps and photo effects, it’s much more accessible than it used to be. I have no excuse now to skip a day, so I might actually make it all the way until December 31!

You can follow the photos daily on Instagram ( @samsmith ) or on Flickr!

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Truthfully, I feel very self-conscious about doing this. I had debated on keeping all of the images private, or just sending them directly to a set on Flickr and never posting about it anywhere. I was never shy when I worked with Suicide Girls, but for whatever reason, candid and personal shots have always made me cringe a little.

Does a blog’s popularity comes from posting a ton of self-portraits and outfit photos, since it seems many do just that, with little to no other content? Or is it just a way for the audience to connect with the blogger herself? I’ve been mulling that over quite a bit lately, and am curious to hear your thoughts on it, should you have an opinion on it.

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I’ve been sticking to my Tarot studies! Each day, I draw a card and study its meaning. It’s been interesting to see how many of them repeat until I apply what they are trying to tell me to my life.

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More images after the jump!555 Continue reading »

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