About Jennifer Caballero

Jennifer Caballero joined the Skirball in 2007 as Marketing Director. The array of program and exhibition content at the Skirball serves as the perfect antidote to her seriously low tolerance for boredom. During your next visit, she might innocently strike up a conversation with you in line at Zeidler’s lunch cart… and then not-so-innocently ask about what specifically motivated your family to visit Noah’s Ark that day. When not at the Skirball she’s often in the carpool lane making the most of a 23-mile commute, or spending time outdoors biking, hiking, and walking with her husband and their poodle mix rescue pup.

Seduced By Shteyngart

I first heard Gary Shteyngart speak at the Skirball in 2010, on the book tour for his novel Super Sad True Love Story. That evening, at the end of his reading, I dutifully made my way to the signing table to get my copy autographed.

I first heard Gary Shteyngart speak at the Skirball in 2010, on the book tour for his novel Super Sad True Love Story. That evening, at the end of his reading, I dutifully made my way to the signing table to get my copy autographed.

I first heard Gary Shteyngart speak at the Skirball in 2010, on the book tour for his novel Super Sad True Love Story. That evening, at the end of his reading, I dutifully made my way to the signing table to get my copy autographed.

“Ah, to Jennifer,” Shteyngart said, smiling and raising one eyebrow as he signed my book—the raised brow he employs occasionally when photographed. (Years later, I would learn the significance of my name to Gary, the cause of that raised eyebrow, but I am getting ahead of myself …). That elevated brow boomeranged back at me a few years later, in the headshot sent to promote Shteyngart’s January 16 reading of his new memoir, Little Failure—again at the Skirball. There was that same damn eyebrow arching over the rim of Gary’s eyeglasses, a straight gaze into the camera, a smirky half-grin, chin cupped in hand.

Shteyngart headshot © Brigitte LacombeEver since I saw him at that first Skirball talk, Shteyngart has always just seemed THERE. Every few months I’d come across one of his really funny short stories in the New Yorker, Travel + Leisure, or the New York Times.

And the guy sure has a way with the literary blurb! It feels like for nearly every book I’ve even considered reading in the past year or so, Shteyngart has already been there, read it, and come up with a hilarious, tweet-worthy blurb. There’s even a Tumblr feed dedicated to his masterful blurbs.

This went on for YEARS. So in December, in preparation for his upcoming Skirball reading, I cracked open the preview proof of Little Failure with anticipation. After all, Andy Borowitz, an eminent judge of funniness, declared the book to be “hilarious and moving” in the New York Times. I expected some witty, excellent writing and a good social misfit story. I also expected a lot of weirdness. Continue reading

Perfectly Imperfect Art

I’ve been interested in contemporary art since college, and it’s been a dream of mine to one day display a small but significant collection of art. In fact my husband and I recently contemplated the purchase of a piece by Ed Ruscha and Raymond Pettibon just last weekend, at the Pasadena Museum of California Art 10th Birthday Auction (if you click through, BTW, that’s me and the hubby in that top pic!).

But like most of my friends, our desire for an art collection had to take a backseat to an even stronger desire for food, shelter, and clothing, so we make due with home-sourced works of art and other creative endeavors. That’s one reason why I am a huge fan of the Skirball’s art studio. Visiting the studio offers a great way to unlock the special creative genius within your own family or circle of friends.

Nieces hard at work in the Family Art Studio, while their Aunt Jenn snaps pix.

My nieces hard at work in the Family Art Studio, while their Aunt Jenn snaps pix.

The Skirball’s drop-in art studio, a.k.a. Family Art Studio (or Studio Schmoodio, as a smarty-pants colleague once suggested for a name), is ideal for a group of friends or family wanting to partake in the artful assembly of recycled and repurposed ordinary materials, turning misfit minutiae into mini-masterpieces.

I’m not a parent but have regularly brought all six of my nieces since the Skirball started offering the drop-in art studio during busy summer and holiday weeks. You definitely don’t need to have kids to enjoy the studio, but kids always raise the bar when it comes to fearless innovation in hands-on art making.

I’m proud to share the story of a recent sleepover at my house with Ava and Claire, two of my six nieces, who were at a loss for sufficient dolls.  Looking around our place, they expressed to me their wish to have baby dolls for their bigger dolls to hold. Finally, Ava glanced over at the book shelf, full of the miscellaneous detritus of my life (don’t judge), and she suggested using a set of tiny spools of thread in a rainbow of colors as the “babies.” The girls even matched the color of the thread spool to the outfit worn by the “mama doll.” In true Skirball studio style, it was good fun for us to repurpose stuff that was right in front of us.

I’m also totally captivated by the story of Caine’s Arcade.  He’s another young guy who reminds the adults in his world about repurposing simple materials and cultivating our desire to create.  I had the chance to meet Caine and play in a “pop-up” version of his arcade at a recent Unique LA show. [And for those wanting to follow in Caine’s footsteps, stop by the Skirball on Saturday, October 6, to take part in the Global Cardboard Challenge.]

Left: That’s Caine back there behind his cardboard creations. Right: My husband, Victor, lines up to meet the famous Boyle Heights artist.

Left: That’s Caine back there behind his cardboard creations. Right: My husband, Victor, lines up to meet the famous Boyle Heights artist.

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We All Scream for… Salad!

Did you know that May is National Salad Month? Today’s the last day. I’ve been enjoying the delicious selection of salads at Zeidler’s Café all month, and the good thing is that they’re available all year round. My personal favorite is the seared ahi tuna with citrus and greens, topped with a champagne vinaigrette. The fresh citrus gives it that summery vibe, the bean sprouts give it an extra nutritional boost, and the array of colors makes it pleasing to the eye before it even hits your palate. It sounds like I’m selling it hard, but hey, I’m a salad lover who also happens to be a marketing director! See you at Zeidler’s.

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

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Manifesto-a-No-Go? Or, a Manifest(ivus) for the Rest of Us

Cell phone sleeping bags

Take a digital detox as part of National Day of Unplugging—from sunset on Friday, March 23, to Saturday, March 24, 2012.

I live a very plugged-in life. Some moments are more wireless than others but generally my waking hours are structured around technology in various forms. For example, I keep track of the time for our evening dog walk using the alarm clock on my iPhone. I turn to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything iPad app before deciding what’s for dinner. When we have dinner guests, my husband and I open wine bottles using this rechargeable, motorized corkscrew. Then there’s my choice to drive an all-electric car, which is plugged in whenever it’s not in motion. [I do draw the line at those air-fresheners designed for use in a wall plug, but that could be because they take up precious outlet space! But I digress…]

Skirball friend/The Family Savvy/blog maven/entrepreneur Sarah Bowman puts it this way: “Being unplugged will become more and more of a luxury as our screen-addicted kids grow up.” She’s right. I can’t get through breakfast with my extended family without one of my nieces playing a game or taking a photo with one of the three or four adult phones on the table. For so many of us, smart phones are enmeshed in our daily family lives.

Despite this predisposition for being in the know and communicating on the go—or maybe because of it?—I was enthusiastic when the Skirball was approached in early 2011 to take part in an innovative nationwide initiative called the National Day of Unplugging, created by Reboot and described as “a respite from the relentless deluge of technology and information.” At the heart of the initiative is the Sabbath Manifesto, a list of ten principles to strive for one day a week, every week.

I’m not really drawn to manifestos as a rule, and certainly not those authored by Karl Marx, the Unabomber, or fictional character Jerry Maguire. Not one of those guys really motivated me to do much of anything, and certainly none of them inspired me to take on a voluntary writing task (which you are reading now). However, I thought the Sabbath Manifesto appealed strongly in its very clear call to action: hit the brakes, slow it down, unplug just a little. As described by Reboot, “The Sabbath Manifesto is a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.”

Sabbath Manifesto

Posted on the trusty white board in my kitchen, the Sabbath Manifesto keeps me mindful of the things that matter. (And yes, I like the parts about wine and bread and candles.)

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