Tag Archives: chip sullivan

Berkeley Book Launch at Maybeck High School!

It was such a wonderful experience to return to my alma mater (class of 1979 and also where I started my teaching career at 19!) to read from my new book, By the Forces of Gravity. A total joy to see so many familiar faces, and meet new ones! Many thanks to Maybeck High School and Trevor Cralle (also class of 1979 and author of The Surfinary (awesome book and home to my first-ever published cartoon, the Valley Sheep)) for co-hosting the event with my publisher, Books by Hippocampus! Donna Talarico, a million thanks to you! Thanks to everyone who came out on a full moon evening in Berkeley to celebrate the book! Here are a few images from the event.

Reading in the Fireside Room at Maybeck High School (still renting rooms in a church, but way more swanky than when I went to school there)


best math teacher I ever had 🙂

Cartooning the Landscape author and my cartooning mentor, Chip Sullivan

UC Divers representing fish love (note, there is nothing about SCUBA diving in By the Forces of Gravity. That came later in my life)

author, publisher, book and school mascot

Booksplaining something to my dad and step-mom. They’re super sharp so it probably didn’t need to be said, but I was pretty excited.

I made a ginormous painting/collage/book timeline/artifact museum exhibit for the book launches.

Maybeck community members (note the overlap of UC Divers and Maybeckians. Maybeck encouraged exploration, of the mind and the world, so of course it spawned a love of SCUBA)

Co-author of Illustrated History of Landscape Design, Elizabeth Boults contributing to the memory canvas I made to allow people to share memories of loves in their life no longer with them.

me reading and trying to remember to advance the images as I read, so people could enjoy the cartoons.

Daybook: Happy Ultimate Pi Day!: The Mathematics of Park Design

In honor of one of my favorite numbers, I’m skipping ahead in the daybooks, past my musings on Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” and my cartoon augmented scribing of Ferlinghetti’s “Pictures of the Gone World,” to the next landscape design project, a park between Lake Merritt and the freeway in Oakland. Originally designed by nature as salt marshland (unless you hark way back when the ice age had dropped sea level and this spot of land was probably oak speckled grassland, but you’d have to believe in climate change to do that), the site had experienced a number of changes over time, including conversion into a plop art park by Garrett Eckbo. The morning I walked through the park with Chip Sullivan’s design class, I didn’t know Garrett Eckbo was an uber famous landscape architect whom I would someday teach about in a landscape history course in Arizona.

That’s the thing about time. Even if you know it’s passing, you can never tell where it’s going. The future me was going to be a college professor in the desert. The present me wore leg-warmers that morning, because the air was full of cold fog and it was 1988 (who didn’t love Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance?). And the past me?

Before starting design school, I taught high school math. I spent my days waxing on about the wonders of numbers like Pi to a classroom full of fascinated teens. They were fascinated in one another, but at least they were excited. Anyhow, Pi’s irrationality is one of its charms. Another is its connection to circles. As a high school calculus student, I had written a treatise on circles (pretty sure this is a math nerd indicator). As a teen, I was fascinated by other teens, mostly my dreamy boyfriend who turned out to be a jerk, but I had some room in my thrill chamber (a math nerd means her head when using this term) for mathematical things that looked finite, but weren’t, like circles, line segments, and irrational numbers. My favorite lines of poetry as a teen were from William Blake’s “The Augeries of Innocence”:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

Time and space have this same bounded yet expansive quality. If you walk into a park you’ve never been to, you carry in your mind and body all the memories of other parks, and these memories color the way you experience this new environment, so you are in the past somewhere else and the present where you stand simultaneously.

For reading, Chip assigned Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “The Garden of the Forking Paths,” which I devoured. At the time, I had no idea it would inform my four book time travel/multiverse novels featuring love and pie. Back then, Borges’s story just made me think of fractals and how time can fold in on itself, like that park experience. So I tried to design a fractal park that pulled up the layered history of the landscape. Easy as pie.

This page was thoughts I had while biking, which is what I used to do when my brain got stuck in studio. I’d hop on my bike and head for the hills. The diagram is a thumbnail of the park. I tried to stuff all my math love into this one little patch of land, fractals, Tau, Pi. It was a frat party of mathiness.

A thought while biking

A thought while biking

I’d like to dedicate this post to my Great-Grandfather, John Littlewood, for having a long affair with my Great-Grandmother and passing his awesome math genes on to my Grandpa. And to my favorite math teacher of all time, Jim Kelly at Maybeck High School. These two men, one through DNA and the other through excellent teaching expanded my sense of the infinite universe.

Happy Ultimate Pi Day. See you next time it comes around. I’ll be star dust, but I’ll give you a twinkle 🙂

Daybook: Happy International Women’s Day: Project 2, The Beat Memorial Park, North Beach

So I toiled away with the clock project and then presented my design to the jury. For anyone who has never been to design school, just imagine a time when you thought you had a fantastic idea, you hadn’t eaten or slept in two days, and you shared this fabulous idea with a crowd of total strangers dressed in black. You stood, while they all sat  in chairs, yet still you felt smaller. They all wore severe expressions of bemusement, irritation and perhaps that of having smelt a foul odor. Then they talked amongst themselves, not so much about your design ideas, but about something unrelated and about them. A design jury? Same thing. Here are my notes from my first design jury ever:

I think I was too sleep-deprived and distraught from being misunderstood and undervalued for my efforts (Happy International Women's Day) to write in dialogue bubbles for these sketches.

I think I was too sleep-deprived and distraught from being misunderstood and undervalued for my efforts (Happy International Women’s Day) to write dialog bubbles for these sketches.

Only after I earned my MLA did I figure out that it helps to develop thick skin and to separate emotionally from the work. Nearly 25 years into a career as a design educator, I have yet to decide if I agree with this maxim of design, the whole professional detachment thing. Here’s a dilemma of design education: Design is a professional practice as well as a art form. Just like nurses, engineers, or any other practice, it helps if everyone uses agreed upon norms. Every profession has a box and it’s easier to be successful, if you work inside the box. So in design education, we teach people about the box. But where is free thinking in all this? I struggled with this as a design student. I still struggle with it.

On the up side, after the review, you can purge the work from your mind and move onto the next project. I was very familiar with this kind of binge/purge cycle, having spent my undergrad minoring in bulimia (I’d say majoring, but when I sought help from a doctor who specialized in eating disorders, he applied Problem Diminishment Therapy by telling me it could be worse, since there are many more young women way more active as bulimics than I was. Happy International Women’s Day).

So, on to the next project: A Beat Memorial Park. Here’s a feminist dilemma: How does a woman reconcile admiration for a literary movement that did diddly squat to address or ameliorate social oppression of women. And no fair pulling a few female Beat Poets off the shelf to argue the Beat Movement was female friendly. Now pile onto that, the question of how a female student reconciles getting the assignment to design a beat memorial park from her favorite professor, a man who adores the Beats?

This project got to the core of my lifelong quandary about gender. I love men. I love the things men do. I was a major Tom Boy as a kid. I tend to prefer doing things with dudes. My life is a litany of adventures into male-dominated worlds: SCUBA Instructor, Math major, Calculus teacher, Design Professor, most of it fun and exciting.  And yet, as a female, I have witnessed a stream of injustice and cruelty inflicted onto women by men. Inflicted onto me, onto women I know and onto women all over the world. But on the first day of the project, I was filled with the thrill that exuded from my professor as we tromped around North Beach, stood in front of an apartment building where Jack Kerouac once lived, browsed at City Lights Books, and sketched design ideas on napkins in an outdoor cafe. I had every intention of making the Beats look as awesome in my design as Professor Chip Sullivan saw them with his twinkling mind’s eye. Chip Sullivan has infectious enthusiasm for what he loves, which is why he is still at the top of my list of great teachers, even if we didn’t always love the same things. I don’t know what happened to my napkin doodles, but here’s some first musings about memorializing the Beats, with more to come next week:

I often draw my thoughts as cartoons.

I often draw my thoughts as cartoons.