Sunday, September 30, 2012

Habit: Talk Back Tomorrow

Two of the four actors at the talk back.  The director's on the right.
Those who know me might know I have a thing for art marathons.  I was a regular at Marina Abramovic's performance at MOMA, for one.  Over the years, I've frequented marathon readings, including the Joyce and Stein readings that used to be held every other New Year's Eve at the Paula Cooper Gallery, here in NY, and the New Year's Day poetry marathon at St. Mark's Church. There's something about endurance for art's sake that I find really exciting and moving.

Last Wednesday, I found out about Habit, a 90-minute play about two dysfunctional brother orphaned since childhood, trying to hold their lives together in a depressing ranch house, rather wretchedly decorated for Halloween.  The older brother, Douglas, is a coke dealer; the younger, Mitchell, has just been fired from Walmart for "not showing up."  The play opens just after Douglas's former lover, Viv, drops in from college on "Halloween break:"  she's just been kicked out for failing her classes, has lost her scholarship.  Obviously, she's similarly deeply troubled, has a dead brother, moonlights as a stripper and has been a victim of sexual violence.  The three characters roam the rooms of a 700 square feet house, fully wired and plumbed, built especially for the play in the middle of an abandoned old marketplace in my neighborhood.  In the house, they must stick to the script, and they must perform the play over and over again for eight hours straight.  During this time, they must shower once.  Along the way, they eat, bake pans of brownies, drink, pretend to snort coke, rest, nap, confess and decorate for Halloween.  Along the way, the flimsy ties that bind the three begin to unravel.  Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals is referenced, as well as Neil Young, Captain Beefheart, poetry scams, and semiotics. At the end of each iteration, there is a violent death.  A gun usually goes off.

Tonight I heard a speech spoken over a Pink Floyd CD that a character had just put on.

On Saturday, before the penultimate performance I went to the Talk Back.

I'll tell you what I found out about the play at the TB tomorrow.

september sunday

sunday shoes.

i love sundays.

i love getting dressed up for church.

i love the family meals, the sermons, the sunday playlist, the sunday times (even though it's become such a bougie rag), and best of all, the new episode of simpson's.

it's the last sunday in september, and here's a list:

1.  sermon:  sister b. tells the children that when she was a child she was full of fear.  "if you're full of fear, you can tell someone.  and you can learn to overcome your fear. you can learn, like i did, that 'perfect love casteth out fear.'" me, cecily and my mom were in a row on the pew, three gals who went through a lot of fear and anxiety.  we loved the message.  & brother j. told about fear, too.  the fear he was hearing in the daily farm reports on the radio due to this year's drought.  "until a couple of weeks ago," he said, when it turned out that the crops didn't fail, and there was "unexpected excess supply."  i will think about unexpected abundance this week.

sunday crepes
2. crepe bar with mom & dad and the family, inspired by our friends the olivier's who once, years ago, had us over for a crepe buffet:  "the americano" (pb & j), ham & cheese, etc.  our selection included salami, sharp cheddar & mustard, lemon & powdered sugar, and nutella.

new haircut

3. lula got a new, chic haircut.  my baby's growing up.

4.  simpson's--homer just said:  "if you need me, i'll be taking a popcorn bath.  it's something i read about in a men's health magazine in a dream." julie, it's set in nyc, and there's a scene on the highline.

5.  dinner with bam and the jasplund's--chicken on the grill with matt's magical dry rub.  i cut my finger on a mandoline while makng coleslaw.  then after dinner drive up the mountain to see the sunset and the lights of provo coming on.

I'll Miss this House: Withdrawal from Habit

I always enjoy watching the play when the lights come on in the house.
Lara, I went to two hours of Habit today, one not long after I'd returned form work.  I then came home to interview our guest blogger over the phone and then went back for the last hour . . . of the entire week--the very last performance ever.

The crowd was probably near capacity tonight.  Clumps of people stood at the windows watching the action inside, the imploding lives of characters who have run out of options and can't leave their crappy house, the characters who have to relive this story over and over again for an eight-hour stretch, the characters who have to utter the same heinous lines, unable--according to the rules--to add or subtract a word.

Today, I noticed a fresh baked pan of brownies on the counter, the Duncan Hines mix had been used.

I saw a character say one of his lines while chewing a piece of Halloween candy.  (In the script, the characters feel compelled to decorate--however garishly--for every holiday so as to better "fit in" in what we assume is their lower middle class housing development.

Yesterday, I watched a character lop off two words, finding himself unable to repeat one of these sentences again

I really got to know the script.

At promptly 9:00 pm the lights in the house went dark.  The play was done for the day and really done.  I would not be going back.  S and I milled around for a little.

While doing so, I ran into one of the actors from the other cast (their are two that take turns performing).  I told him how much the play had started to mean to me, how much it began to be woven into the fabric of my own life.  He was visibly touched--unless he was just acting.

I'm assuming this week will be one of withdrawal for me.  It might get a little painful.
The actors finally get to break the 4th wall.  The director is on the left.

old school

mom, bonnie, eva & me--women's conference

tonight i went to lds women's conference in salt lake city with my mom, eva and bonnie.  it's one of those things that never changes.

afterwards we went to little america for dinner, a place i've been eating at for as long as i can remember.  the decor is the same as always--the naugahyde booths, the padded wall treatments, the trellised wall dividers, and the bar you can sit at, reminiscent of the coffee shop-type joint it once was, way back when, as "the hot shoppes," part of marriott's little america.  my dad worked at these joints as a young man, and they played a key role in his life and ultimately, his career.  he knew a lot about the recipes (i don't think their recipes have changed at all since hot shoppe days) and, since he and christian met up with us for dinner after the conference, he told me a lot about the olden days, his family history, the places he visited on his recent visit to the place he grew up, in maryland just across the potomac from d.c.  he's had a pretty fascinating and far-flung life, but since he's quiet, i get more little bits and pieces of his history each year.  things that are amazing, unusual and surprising.

one is never surprised, however, with the open-faced hot turkey sandwich, the liver and onions, the trout amandine, or the roast baron of beef one gets at the little america.  nor the spumoni or burnt almond fudge ice creams, the chocolate malts served in their stainless steel mixing cups, the bread pudding, or the lemon merengue pie.

much as i love something new, i'm an even bigger fan of the things that stay constant, year after year.  i'll be sad when they tear out the peach booths or replace the silk flowers.  i love the floor to ceiling bathroom stalls and the little dressing table you can sit at to reapply your lipstick.  i hope they always serve an open-faced hot roast beef sandwich & if they ever decide to take it off the menu,  i hope they will kindly wait until i'm dead to do so.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Habit

  • Here again.

    An actor naps.

    Lots of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.

    An open bag of Wise chips on the table.

    The female actor makes coffee during the "Do you know what semiotics are?" speech.

    Then she just used the toilet with the curtain 

    Lana and Mitchell have the talk about what bands he likes, and contemporary poets.  Mitchell can't name a successful poet except Edgar Allen Poe.

    I'm always here when this line comes around.  Doug:  "We look like a f#$king halfway house for crackheads and retards."

    The actors play with the same lines in different ways, from different rooms, with different energy.   

    Lara, I've been six times to Habit.  I feel like I'm finally figuring this play out, feeling its wit and desperation.    

on one

christian says i'm on one tonight.  he might be right. my mind is rushing, and i went through about 15 rants during our date night, even in our relaxing patio dinner at tarahumara in midway, watching the sky darken and the mountains turn into silhouettes.  even though we had driven through a stunning red-leafed provo canyon on the way to dinner.  even though i had gotten a goodly amount of work done today and should have been relaxed.

two things i can't wait to rant about at length and in great detail are this utterly horrid looking anti-public school movie,

and malick's portrayal of women in tree of life, which i saw again, in real film on a big screen two weeks ago.

oh, wait, i guess that should be "woman" since there is only one.

and since she has no name, and can't talk to another woman (since there is no other woman, and therefore the other non-woman can't have a name either).

(this means tree of life fails the bechdel test.) (most movies do.)

(ingrid interviewed allison bechdel yesterday for the bryn mawr college news & wrote this rad article for them on coming out as mormon in the shadow of romney.)

don't know why i've been feeling so rant-y lately.  so look forward to some more rants here in the coming week or two.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

hard week: a list

cecily's favorite sunday dinner, chicken n' dumplings.  now that bammy's back, we'll be having sunday dinner at her house again.  i'll be in charge of dessert.

it's been a rough week.

that tends to happen the week after you have a week away from work, right?

therefore, next week will be better, right?

so i'm gonna try to make myself feel better and write a list.

things i'm grateful for:

1.  i'm almost done reading james and the giant peach  to my youngest child.  i've read it to all of my children.  i have five children.  therefore, i will never, ever again have to read james and the giant peach out loud again.  i'm also grateful to have five beautiful children to read to, even if i hate some of the books i have to read.

2.  eva's new, for realz, legit job.

3.  craig dworkin's a handbook of protocols for literary listening and his pamphlet do or d.i.y.

4.  coleridge's a lime-tree bower my prison.

5.  extra-strength tylenol.

6.  my '98 green isuzu oasis.  after an unmentionably priced set of repairs this week, she drives like a dream, and i still have no car payment.

7.  bammy's return from canada after six months away.  sundays are about to get a lot radder.

8.  the daily show, the colbert report, and a new show based on sherlock holmes with lucy liu as dr. watson.  we're watching it in mere moments.  please god, let it be good!

9.  the carillon.  how many people have a carillon nearby?  it's pretty rad. also, how many people have a spouse who composes experimental music for carillon?  that's what i thought.

10. the fact that project runway's baby design challenge wasn't as lame as i thought it would be.  can you tell how i've spent my thursday night?  (in bed, with the remote.  i'm so ashamed, julie turley.  you're probably out watching avant-garde theatre on the street with philip glass).


I went again, Lara, and took this surreptitious photo.

I just wrote a long post and lost it!

I keep visiting Habit.

I'm fascinated that three actors are living in an alternative universe a stone's throw from my building. 

I love the way audience members anxiously circle the house, trying to angle themselves for the best views, trying to anticipate where the actors will go.

While I was there yesterday, an actor took a shower, and some of us watched the outline of his body moving.  A toilet flushed.  This same actor took a nap in the messy bed, waiting for his next line to come around.

I peered over the shoulder of another actor, as she stabbed a knife into a tray of cold brownies.  She spoke her lines--an explanation of semiotics--with her mouth full. 

Yesterday, I saw this character die in a different way than this character had died a day earlier.

The only requirement is that the actors stick to the script as written, but I'm fascinated by the ways this set script becomes malleable, and tweaked, the way our own scripts do.

I've visited Habit four times and will go back today.

Can you see why I'm addicted?  Read more about it here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

not solved--

at the dvd release party.  i wanted to showcase my first new tights of the season, but only a sliver shows.  and my bag looks terrible with this outfit.  oh well.
the question of who this enigmatic man really is--but only more intrigued

by mr. alex caldiero, the sonosopher.

i originally wrote this review for GITP, but my pal lorri started a really cool new website, so i posted it there instead.

dear readers, i beg you to read it as it was quite an endeavor, and i wrote it with you in mind.  and it has stuff in there i really want you to know.


read.  enjoy.  and peruse salt while you're at it.


The holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar was today and the temple next door had services all day.  One fasts on this day, and I suppose fasting is easier when it's done in temple with a community of fasters.  I worked during my fast.  My I came by the temple and listened to fellow fasters share memories of their relatives.  They were to talk about an object, something that meant a lot.  I liked hearing people's stories, so different than those from my own history. 

Once the services ended around 6:00, with much fervent celebratory playing from the Shul Band and dancing from the fasters, we dug into bagels and lox at home.  And then I made my family attend a lurid play around the corner.  What is special about this play is that it's staged in an actual roofless house, build for the production.  The audience leans in the windows, watching, circling the house nosy-neighbor style.  Sometimes you miss stuff as the actors move faster than you can, but the play--90 minutes long--loops over and over for an eight-hour stretch.

"The house is a mess.  There's junk food in bowls, Halloween decorations dementedly--and on your second time through, ominously--scotched-taped to the walls."

Anyway, Lara, I'm going to have to go back everyday this week.  You know how much I love this kind of thing.


i spent the day thinking about this "conversation" poem by s.t. coleridge.  i don't have anything too insightful to say about it yet, except to point out the use of silence & quiet in the poem--the "strange and extreme silentness," "the sole unquiet thing," and so on, until, "quietly shining to the quiet moon." maybe the silence is a nod to the ineffable nature of truth?  and also to say:  i love me some blank verse.

another part of the day was spent helping my students enter the academic conversation with their research papers.  we talked about adding to the body of work done on their topics with their own research, not simply reporting what others have said. we talked about crossing the threshold between the room where they've lived for most of their lives being receptors of knowledge into the much grander salon where they become creators of knowledge. they seem to be doing well, and i even got a complimentary email from the librarian, who met with them last week, noticing their high level of preparation.  i guess it's true that when you do something for a long time you get good at it.

tonight i fell asleep at eight, then woke up to do my blog post.  it was an exhausting day.  i'll probably turn right back in after i finish.  and pick up the conversation where i left off tomorrow.
Frost at Midnight
The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

                      But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

         Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspers├ęd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

         Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's Gone

Kol Nidre tonight, Lara.  I just found out--in the service while googling with my smart phone--that the words, Kol Nidre, are Aramaic, not Hebrew.

Here's a cut and paste from Wikipedia:  Kol Nidre "is an Aramaic declaration recited in the synagogue before the beginning of the evening service on every Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Though not a prayer, this dry legal formula and its ceremonial accompaniment have been charged with emotional undertones since the medieval period, creating a dramatic introduction to Yom Kippur on what is often dubbed 'Kol Nidrei night'. It is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. Its name is taken from the opening words, meaning 'all vows'."

Today was another Tuesday--my only kind of open-ish day--wherein I did not to get to do much for myself:  Yom Kippur tasks plus dentist's appointment plus cleaning up the apartment meant I only got to write one paragraph all day.

Here's what the rabbi said tonight, quoting Howard Thurman, "Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then do that thing.  For what the world needs are people who are alive."  Not people who lament their lost Tuesdays, I suppose.

Monday, September 24, 2012

what happens to me happens to you: guest blogger taylor jacoby

guest blogger taylor jacoby
i've known taylor jacoby for a long time and then some, in a whole bunch of contexts.  the baby of my friend, my niece's playmate in daycare, my daughters' friend, my student, and now, a totally grown up lady about to graduate from college in a high-powered d.c. internship.  taylor works to change the world, and she has a soft heart, plus she's a great writer, as you will soon see.  she spent the summer of '11 in uganda researching trauma healing for victims of sexual violence. taylor's one of the young people who gives me a lot of hope for the future.  i hope you enjoy learning about one of my favorite people, miss taylor jacoby.

Alena Stern and members of the Grassroots Women Association for Development, Gulu Uganda.
Pamela, my favorite translator, is 20 years old. She is very soft-spoken, reserved. She wore the same outfit every time we worked together: pink satin blouse, black polyester skirt, black plastic flats—one with a ripped back so she had to hobble slightly. Her bare legs, hands, and face are covered with scars, mostly small and circular, but plenty of long gashes too. I imagine they form a map of northern villages and the roads connecting them. We’ve learned that Ugandans don’t use maps, yet the drivers never fail to get us where we need to go. No matter how nondescript the village is, no matter how unyielding the surrounding sea of bush.

I never asked Pamela about her scars, or anything about her past, and she never explained. All I know is that Pamela graduated from the Zion Project, a faith-based rehabilitation center for girls who were former “wives” in the Lord’s Resistance Army or who have escaped other forms of sexual exploitation. I only know this because one day Pamela took me to the compound of huts outside town where she lived. With palpable excitement, she showed me the certificate confirming she was trained in jewelry making and catering.

As my translator, Pamela was let off the hook in telling me her story. Instead, she helped me find others who would. Pamela had an extensive social network, which, when coupled with her inexhaustible work ethic, allowed me to interview far more women than I initially thought possible.

I went to Uganda to try and understand the impact of the widespread sexual and other gender-based violence that women had lived through during the country’s long civil war and continued to experience during “peace time.” I believed, with considerable fervor, that such trauma alters those who experience it. I believed that critical mental health needs were being ignored and at the cost of huge individual and societal consequences. Basically, my thesis was that if you use violence to destroy social networks, you also destroy the society’s ability to recover from it.

I came up with this formulation about the long-lasting impact of sexual violence in a preliminary paper I wrote before going to go Uganda, and I was very pleased with myself:

The recurrent, cyclical nature of violence is mirrored in PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]: violence begets PTSD, which begets violence, which begets PTSD. Is it possible that PTSD symptoms formed from previous abuse was what led these perpetrators to abuse others? Could PTSD not be considered a sexually transmitted disease?

To me, the problem was as orderly as it was grave.  And I was no scientist; I could not respect objectivity. I carried my assumptions around with me as I set up my research; they were the red dirt that caked my feet and hair so I had to scrub a part of me off to be rid of them. But soon enough, I did get rid of them. I started meeting Ugandan women, and I failed to produce a satisfying definition of “disabling” psychosocial impact. The day I left, Pamela was on her way to the neighboring district where she had been invited to a youth leadership conference. This kind of behavior didn’t fit my beliefs about survivors of sexual violence, but then again, maybe that was because she had received counseling with the Zion Project.

At the end of the summer, I had met all kinds of women. There were others like Pamela, who I met primarily through NGOs working for women’s health and economic empowerment. I also had the chance to meet the venerable Judy Dushku, who runs such an organization in northern Uganda. Dushku’s stories of women rising up in resilience and healing matched much of what I had seen.  I admired and envied the opportunity she had to watch these women cobble back together their lives and communities over the long-term.    

But there were other women I interviewed who could not make eye contact. Who wrung their hands and jumped whenever there was a sudden movement or sound around them. There were women who listlessly carried babies that didn’t belong to them—babies that they inherited when the mother had been killed; babies that were forced into their wombs by men in uniform and the guns they carried. I completed survey after survey, but I could neither confirm nor deny my prior assumptions.

A few days ago, a BYU reporter called to ask me about the research I did in Uganda because the paper I turned it into recently won a major award. The research turned out to be more academically fruitful than I could ever have envisioned. And I am always excited when the project is recognized in one way or another because I feel like I have succeeded in drawing attention to violence against women. I set off to frame the issue using social science methodology—random sampling and statistical analysis—in order to have it taken seriously. And, to my great surprise, it has been. But I have always felt that the cost of the paper’s success was an oversimplification of the women’s diversity. Statistics cannot tell this story, but I often worry that I cannot either. One of the reporter’s questions was something like, “what was your impression of the women?” And I gave some trite answer, no doubt. The problem of the paper and the interview and my memories remains the same: I don’t have a good enough answer for what happens to the Ugandan women.

Here is all I know: It is the only interview that remains purely distinct. She is seventeen, orphaned, eight-and-a-half months pregnant, HIV positive, and wearing a red parka, despite the heat. She is mostly somber, but she finds the hypothetical scenarios section hilarious. “Would you use the childcare service at this public event if the police were in charge of it? Ha! Them mens wouldn’t last five minutes with the children!” She is still chuckling several minutes later, “Police watching the babies…” At the end of the surveys, she looks up from her lap, directly into my eyes. “We are sisters. Did you know? We are connected. What happens to me, happens to you also. When you write, you tell them this.”  

1) are you in a tight place, and if so, what are you doing about it?

A tight place? I would have to say, yes. I’m currently in Washington DC doing a Brigham Young University internship program. We get an amazing deal on housing, but it means I’m living in restrictive dorm facilities perched on top of the LDS institute building and the LDS Church’s DC Public Relations offices. Basically, I’m spending my last semester of college feeling simultaneously like a freshman and a graduate already in the workforce.  It is a strange limbo indeed.  Yet, getting out of this tight place means going out in the city more.  I’m naturally a home-body, so an uncomfortable living situation here may actually be a good thing. 

I’ve also gotten myself in a tight spot by being pretty unprepared for my internship. I am working at the Department of the Treasury in the East Asia office, despite previously having zero knowledge of East Asia and precious little about financial and macroeconomics. Sometimes when I’m sitting in meetings or listening to the description of a project I’ll need to finish, things are so tight I can practically feel my shoulders scraping against the mounting expectations. At first, my emotional energy was primarily devoted to being frustrated with how useless my degree in economics was and desperately avoiding being “found out” by the others in the office. But lately, I have been realizing that if I devote that energy instead to just working with deliberation and optimism, I can learn some really cool things. Last week, my office sent me to take notes at a conference on China’s upcoming leadership transition, and I found that I already knew almost everything the speakers had to say on China’s economy. I was nodding my head like, “yeah, yeah, investment-led growth is a problem.  Old news. Tell me what it means for the steel industry! State Owned Enterprises!  Give me something I can work with!” And then I had to leave during the Q&A and buy some Diet Dr. Pepper so I could remember who I was and what I stood for.  

can't get enough art deco!

2) what inspires you?
Architecture. On my walk to work I pass all these famous and powerful institutions—The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, various embassies, The Renwick Gallery (i.e. the national arts and crafts museum, definitely an inspiration in and of itself), The White House—and that was all very exciting for the first day or so. Now during the walk my brain is going “those late 19th century row houses would probably look so cool juxtaposed with an ultra-modern renovation on the interior” Or “my goodness those are fabulous art deco tiles.” I can’t get enough of art deco. This summer, I was running in London’s Hyde Park and stopped in the middle to use the bathrooms at the Serpentine Gallery. The museum shop had this enormous beautiful book on sale, American Masterworks: Houses of the 20th and 21st Centuries. I had to buy it, right there on my run, even though it meant throwing away many other things to keep my suitcase under the weight limit for the flight home.

I’m also inspired by excellent but non-pretentious cooking, beautiful but precise writing, long-lasting but progressing relationships (be they romantic, familial, or friendships). The more people I meet, the more I realize how rare and wonderful these things are.    

3) what do you hope to accomplish before the end of the year?

I just hope to transition somewhat gracefully into “the real world.” I hope to narrow down my interests and ambitions into something that would be satisfying and feasible to do as employment (and then find someone to hire me for it). I hope to figure out how to balance a job with creative outlets and exercise and taking care of myself. I want to spend this year remembering how to write creatively, practicing photography on my boyfriend’s fancy camera, cooking new things, learning to run, doing more yoga. But mostly, I hope to emulate just a fraction of the productivity I have seen from the women in my life (and men too). When I get home from an 8 hour work day, I just want to order pizza and go to bed.  I can’t believe all that my mother, grandmothers, aunts, Lara, and so many other women that I admire get done in a day.

taylor's tights, spicing up the d.c. workplace!

4) what is your favorite legwear.

Thus far, it has been too hot to even consider legwear. I’ve got some good tights picked out for the fall/winter though, and I can’t wait to use them to spice up my work clothes. Even when I’m dressing as professionally and conservatively as I can, I still tend to feel like people are looking at me like they looked at Elle Woods when she first shows up at Harvard Law.


every sunday we listen to sacred music at home.  for years and years, we've been listening to bach cantatas every sunday.  he wrote more than 200 of them, and we have two sets of complete recordings.


a lot of bach.

and i'm a really huge fan.

but recently, i've had to say no more cantatas.

anyway, sometimes we prevail on the master of the stereo to branch out into other musical traditions.  into sacred-y and devotionalish music for sundays.

(i mean, we're gonna watch simpson's after dinner anyway. which, for our family, is extremely sacred & devotional.)

in case you're interested, here's a list of stuff you can listen to of a sabbath, if you wanna hear music by people specifically playing for, about, to, around, god/dess/es.

1. steve reich, tehillim.

2. john coltrane, a love supreme. (happy birthday today!)

3. ijahman

4. golden gate quartet

5. beehive band

6. n. rajam

7. orlando di lasso

8. la monte's well-tuned piano

9. messiaen's les corps glorieux

10. hildegard

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Insatiable Appetite for Art

Tights!--well, leggings
I think it's one of my religions, Lara.  I am an unabashed in my pursuit.  I saw three events today.

1.  Circus Amok--political theater in circus clothes, with back flips, stilts, juggling, a live brass band and a real bearded lady, Jennifer Miller--one of my sheroes.

2.  Live improv jazz in celebration of John Coltrane's birthday in a community garden.

3.  The Luddites--an improv jazz group of students and grads from my kid's high school.  Tonight they performed at John Zorn's club, The Stone.

Circus Amok's show--after a three-year hiatus--was about the issue of Stop and Frisk and also how upstate New York's economy is all about the prison industry.  Through this, I got introduced to the org Milk Not Jails--which is all about reviving dairy the dying dairy farm industry.  Not very vegan for the vegans in the audience.

It did make me wonder if there was anything I could do on a grand scale, Lara.  I would like to change the world.

Jennifer Miller wields an amp
The young Luddites at The Stone
Channeling Coltrane

Dancing in the Street

I spent most of the afternoon yesterday at the 4th Street block arts festival.  I've already mentioned here that the block on 4th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues is jam packed with arts orgs, including La Mama, the Kraine Theater, KGB, and New York Theatre Workshop--where the eventual Broadway smash hit Rent first premiered in 1996.

Visually, it's small and unassuming, tenement lined.  I found a chair and watched a stream of dance companies perform, and then this performance artist, attached to a plastic tube attached to a garden hose.  She wore a plastic dress reminiscent of a hospital gown.  The dress began to slowly full of water.  As if unaware, the artist danced in the dress, her movements slowing as the dress got heavier.  It was both visually and theoretically fascinating.  What could it be a metaphor for?  Moving through tight and or heavy places.  Too easy, probably.

Eventually, she collapsed on the street and began to leak, bleed water.  It looked both alarming and lovely.  I have a line-up of outdoor events today, including Circus Amok.  I love that just because summer is officially over it doesn't mean we all have to move inside yet.



i still look & feel a tad sick.

we had a super long date night, beginning at 2 pm this afternoon.

1) reading at the utah humanities council book festival.  i heard this sort of hot poet-dude read.  i rather  like his poetry, but his reading was atrocious, and actually kind of pissed me off.  i might have to use some strong language in this section because, eight hours later, i'm still mad, and i have to say a few things to poets right now:  if you don't read well, please, for the love of all that's holy, practice!  hire a coach.  take an acting class, improve your voice and your stage presence.  if you think you write poetry "for the page" rather than for performance, get an actor to read for you.  if you get nervous, take a xanax and PRACTICE.  or hire an actor.  but please don't inflict your bad reading on us.  it's insulting.  if you want to do public speaking and reading, then respect your audience and treat it seriously.  also, we don't need a ten-minute, rambling introduction to an 8 second poem.  in which you brag-plain about how long it took you to write your book, how much grant funding you got, which shoe gazing rock band you were on "tour" with, or how random and cool you are.  hopefully we'll get all that from your 8-second poem.

am i right, people who go to poetry readings?  is there anything worse than an awkward, rushed, poet with annoying head notes at the top of each poem?  poets!  get your shit together.

life-sized dudes at ken sanders.  someone at ken sanders is super into r. crumb.

2) arbitrage at the broadway (4.30 show.  we were the only non-seniors in the audience).  i enjoyed this movie a lot. gere, sarandon, and marling were great, though sarandon had to deal with some weak lines and not enough screen time.  arbitrage, the story of a wealthy business man desperately trying to hide the fraud he had committed, as well as another major crime, was a film that almost transcended it's genre.  it almost had lady characters who were dimensional, it almost had interesting insights about race and class, it almost showed how complex structures of power, patriarchy, and society are.  & tim roth almost convinced us he was a new york city cop.


just slightly off.  sarandon's character had a few tricks up her sleeve, but, in my opinion, we never, ever have to hear the wife of a wealthy man say, "do you think i don't know about your little secretaries and assistants, and, and your little whores?" also, filmmakers, old dudes don't need to see any more footage of themselves in the sack with hot french gallerists.  maybe make her chubby?  in her thirties?  a lawyer?  i don't know.  mix it up a little!  you're artists--you can do something different this time!

but really, i did have fun watching the movie and thought it was quite well made, if not ground-breaking.

alex caldiero:  the sonosopher.
3) alex caldiero reading and dvd release party for the documentary the sonosopher: a life in sound about caldiero's life and work.  (at ken sanders' rare books, julie turley.  reminded me of you!)

k.  caldiero's a super interesting dude and a fantastic performer.  a sicilian/new yorker who came up in the cage/rauchenberg years, and knew both artists, then moved to orem, utah after converting to mormonism in 1980. and proceeded to continue doing his really riveting, gutsy, between the cracks performances.

(poets:  check out caldiero.  emulate his vocal presence!  listen to how much silence he gives us between words.  take note of how well-prepared his readings are.  we can't all be as rad as alex, but we can learn from him.)  i bought a copy of the dvd and look forward to watching it.

i'm pretty sure you've been here before, JT.  

4) burgers at the drive-up--hire's--rootbeer in a frosty mug.  i love hires. they make their own buns, grind their own meat, and bring trays to your car so you can eat and listen to john lee hooker and check out all the little dramas going on in the cars around you.  tonight there was a cop hanging out with an old lady and her older mother.  had they been robbed?  bumped into by another car in the lot?  witnessed a crime?  we never figured it out.

so, yeah, i love hires, but unfortunately, tonight our fries were not fresh and our mugs not super cold and frosty.  a little disappointing. the buns, as always, were great.

Friday, September 21, 2012

excellence & equity

a follow-up to last night's post:

this seems like such a radical proposition.

why is that?

why has this part of the discussion receded so far into the back ground that it's become inaudible?

it's time to start talking a lot louder about equality in education again.  i don't think we can afford to drop it.

read the entire article here.

and here's a teaser:

"It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important -- as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform -- Finland's experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn't the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad."

Tight Place Dairy

The B&H man kept calling us "sweetie," and I didn't even care.
 After work, after picking my kid up on our designated corner, I convinced her to go to B&H Dairy with me, a tight place of a restaurant on 2nd Avenue in the East Village.  You can't get flesh there: no burgers, no meat.  In the tradition of kosher restaurants, the "meat" restaurant is across the street (and there you won't find any butter, can't ask for a glass of milk).

We go because I love the cold borscht and my kid loves the matzah ball soup.  We both tear through the huge hunks of challah they chop off for us, slathered with butter--because, Lara, there is a lot of butter here, which cracks me up, because B&H stands for . . . "Better Health."

If the counter stools are taken, if the tables lining the wall are filled, you have to angle your body to get in.  We did, laden with packs, and got the last two counter seats.  We know what we want without menus, and we got our soups in 30 seconds. The server put it down with such haste, it sloshed.  Everything was messy and good--and cheap.

There are walk-in closets bigger than this.

So fascinated by this "Kosher Certifications" even after 17 years in NYC
On the way back from escorting another kid somewhere, I insisted of getting out of my mental tight place--feeling so circumscribed, Lara--but kid obligation, that I decided to try and find Thoreau in my local used bookstore.
This edition carries an inscription from 1971.  It sounds like the receiver was headed for some kind of peripatetic world tour.  So jealous (unlike Thoreau who refused all invites to Europe).  But having the Dairy around kind of makes me feel like I'm living a little.
Why I don't want a Kindle.

Mini Mini Post Post

Lara, I fell asleep during S's bedtime ritual.

But I had had a rock solid day.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

curmudgeonly: quality education as a constitutional right

not a fan of the pop bottle parade.  though cecily's masquerade ball dancers turned out kinda cute after all.
julie, i get so crabby about school fundraisers!

maybe it's because i've been doing the silent auctions, the spaghetti dinners, the school carnivals for way, way too long.  maybe it's because i hated elementary school and felt shy and awkward there as a child.  and traumatized.  and i hate it still.

tomorrow is my kids' fall festival, and the only upside is how much they love it.  otherwise, for me, it's the worst.  just for starters, they replaced the cake walk, where kids decorated cakes for the carnival, with decorated pop bottles.  this hearkens back a few years to when the state banned homemade food in the schools, only allowing packaged, commercially prepared foods at school events.  i.e. high fructose corn syrup in plastic.  i despise soda for so many reasons, not the least of which is the hideous aesthetic properties of the pop bottle parade.

(my older kids staged a protest that year just outside the bounds of the school fair and handed out buttons reading "let them eat cake" and asked people to sign a cutely worded petition about bringing back the cake walk.  it was a beautifully enacted civil protest until the pta president swore at them and the school custodian kicked their siblings out of the carnival.  we specialize in pissing people off around here.)

and here's more material for my worst mother of the year nomination:  i also despise volunteering at my kids' schools, or setting foot in them at all.  hate it.  loathe it.  it makes me anxious, sweaty, and depressed.  i'll save the psychoanalysis of why for some other time.

what i really want to bitch about is school fundraisers, and just pose a few questions:

1)  why does it make sense to spend hours getting donations from local businesses, hours setting up tables, auctioning systems, collecting and cashing checks and tabulating sales?  this seems like the most inefficient way possible to raise money.

2) why are we burdening the "stay at home parents (mostly moms)" with all this extra work?  or worse, the moms with part-time, flexible, or full-time jobs with this extra work?

3) why is it fair that some public schools can raise 200K at their school fair, and some can't muster the resources to have any sort of fundraiser?  how does this provide an equal education for all children?

for the love of all that's holy.

please raise my taxes.   please let me pay more for my own kids and other people's kids education.  from now until i'm dead.

please let us all pay a little more for our public schools and then distribute it equally amongst the rich and poor neighborhoods.

it makes no sense to me for us to spend our time when we could more easily and efficiently spend our money to strengthen all of our schools rather than just the ones in neighborhoods where families have disposable time and money to spend on their own little microcosm of education.

and please

save me from the hell of another fall carnival.

thank you for listening.

p.s. read about the algebra project, one of the coolest things going in the u.s. towards increasing equality in public schools, and founded by bob moses, civil rights hero and macarthur fellow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


not sure what to say tonight.

my world feels so tight and small right now.

in a way, being sick reminds you to be more grateful for health &

for the ability to chew and eat food,

to sleep,

to blithely go about your business free of pain,

to do your  work,

and so on.

so, yeah, i'm grateful that i will soon be back to full health again,

going about my business.

it's good

to have the tight places to remind you of the loose places.

Premature Tights: A List

Some things:

1.  Prohibition Bakery finally opened, the only bakery I know of where the hootch is added AFTER baking.  S and I managed to pick up the only two virgin cupcakes there:  the beer and pretzel cupcake and the chocolatey thing I've forgotten the name of, but it had bacon in it (of course).

2.  Look below at the rock star novelists that have books out this fall!--Junot and Zadie and Chabon!  I actually was very much looking forward to the Chabon, but then I picked it up and perused (this one an authographed copy) and it didn't catch me.  It's set partially in a record store, so I was expecting it to be as glib and engaging as Hornby's High Fidelity.  That said, it's getting great reviews and is being compared to the great Victorian novels in its sheer ambition and complex structure.

 3.  With new fall fiction releases comes cooler weather and tights.  I'm afraid these were a little premature, though.  I ended up peeling them off in a restaurant bathroom.  (Look how I cropped and cropped myself to a sliver.)  I'm such a minimalist.
4.  The last sunflower of summer.  So stunning.  It stopped me in my tracks.