The principles of uncertainty

Great fall cultural days in town this weekend: La Canada High graduate Sabrina Ward Harrison was back from a secluded period of work in Bonny Doon in the hills behind Santa Cruz and before she moves to New York City and has mounted a show of her multi-media art at the old Gas Company headquarters on South Flower Street downtown. Sabrina is the author of four books aimed mostly at inspiring young women that began with “Spilling Open” and that continue in fantastically creative ways. Her opening was Sunday night.

Later that evening Lisa Krueger and Bob Wyman held a dinner at their Chapman Woods house honoring Billy Collins; the former poet laureate and South Pasadena poet and YA novelist Ron Koertge were among those who took turns playing wicked games of eight ball on the Krueger-Wymans’ billiards table. Ron insisted he hadn’t chalked up since grad-school days but you’d never have known it from the way he cleared the table. Billy made an otherwise gorgeous shot that ended up sinking the ocho itself at an untoward time.

Then today, the great and wildly influential illustrator and author Maira Kalman gave an illustrated talk at Art Center celebrating her new book “The Principles of Uncertainty,” a compilation mostly from her year-long column in The New York Times. Kalman, whose children’s books including “Max Makes a Million” and “Stay Up All Night,” the illustrated version of the Talking Heads’ song, were among my favorites for reading to Julia before a thousand bedtimes back when our now-16-year-old was a baby, has changed the way we look at the world. Like Sabrina, she can’t separate her passion for the written word from her need to make visual art, and so she doesn’t: Words cascade across her pictures in her signature (Sabrina’s is signature, too) scrawl.

Some thoughts from Chairwoman Maira’s talk: “How do I work? I get up, have a cup of coffee and read the obituaries — the best way to get up and going.”

“My life is a mixture of ridiculous pleasure and unending sadness.”

“Stalin — how paranoid he was — even more than my father.”

“This sense of gloom covers you, and then something good happens.”

“I think I’m going to have a giant sign built over my house: ‘Everybody gets on everybody’s nerves.'”

“The head of the philosophy department at Columbia is this wonderful man who teaches a class called ‘Vagueness.’ So of course I wanted to take it but can’t because it turns out to be about mathematics and so I just stalked him and we had lunch and he had a stomachache and so had a crepe with whipped cream.”

On her life’s work: “The stories go on, and my passion for bobbie pins gets explored, somewhat.”

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