Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday in the Park with Todd

Shannon and I rounded out our weekend together by loading up on bagels and heading over to Todd’s to to hang out with him and the kids. After major carb consumption (my favorite), we all bundled up and went to the park to play kickball and whiffle ball. We self-segregated by gender, with boys playing whiffle ball and Shannon, Sofia, and I kicking it (literally) old school.

Unfortunately, Shannon and I could only stay for a little while, as we had to get back to my apartment in time for her to meet her ride back to Boston. It was so nice to get out for a few hours, though, and enjoy the sun.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Seagull

I thought The Seagull was actually quite good. I’d read some not stellar reviews of it before going in, so I wasn’t sure how successful it would be. The performances are often over the top, sometimes excessively. But, for the most part, I thought that the extreme interpretations served the characters well. Yes, there were elements where the director could have and should have pulled back: as Shannon noted, is everything in act one so urgent that all the actors had to run everywhere they went? Could no one simply walk across the stage? But, overall, these choices worked.

What I liked about this production was that it was funny while never really being a comedy. I’ve heard the claim that Chekhov intended it to be a comedy; maybe he did, but, for better or worse, I don’t really see it that way. Instead, it felt very real to me in the sense that almost every character faced great, great disappointments but there were still hugely funny moments. Isn’t that how most of our lives are? I think most people struggle with some element of their lives, whether it’s like Masha’s unrequited love, Konstantin’s familial and artistic frustrations, Sorin’s lifelong solitude, or something else completely. But in between life’s huge challenges, we find humor and opportunities to laugh, and this is just what Chekhov also gives us.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday with Shannon

Shannon got in last night for a weekend of sisterly catch-up, thrift-store shopping, and theatre. The sisterly catch-up is pretty self-explanatory. We’d just spent a weekend together about a month ago and thanks to lots of slacker-ish gmail chatting from work, we’re pretty well up on the day-to-day. But still, there is something about hanging out in person that is so much more satisfying. Shannon was able to avoid the horrors of public transportation when the stars aligned and her coworker happened to be heading to the city anyway and offered her door-to-door service, which also meant that I didn’t have to traipse to Port Authority Friday night to meet her. Instead, she got dropped off at my apartment and we sat up chatting for a few hours.

Today was all about brunch at Toast (I’m calling it research for an upcoming Brunch-a-Month location) and hitting the thrift stores. Shannon is going to start busking as a living statue in the coming months (look for her around Quincy Market!) and needed a costume. We actually got lucky, finding a few contenders at the Good Will on 79th Street and an accompanying piece at the Salvation Army in Chelsea. Our good luck meant that we even had time to hit Ricky’s to try on wigs for her costume—and for fun. See the results this week and next on Self Portrait Thursday.

And tonight we’re off to see The Seagull at the Classic Stage Company. I refused to camp out in Central Park when all of Hollywood starred in the Shakespeare in the Park version a few years ago, so this is my first time seeing it produced. This production stars Dianne Wiest and Alan Cumming and has a fabulously intimate feel; the CSC is a very small theatre, making even the worst seats better than 90% of the seats in Broadway houses. I’m excited to see how it is. And Shannon’s excited to be that close to Alan Cumming.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Star Is Born

John Waters became an unlikely Broadway baby when the musical version of Hairspray became a smash hit a few years ago. Given Broadway’s love of adapting, re-adapting, and then repackaging, it was only a matter of time before another Waters movie made its way to the stage. I like to imagine Marc Shaiman trying valiantly to set castration and shit-eating to a jaunty tune for a Pink Flamingos adaptation, but to my knowledge that train wreck exists only in my head. In the meantime, though, the Broadway powers-that-be have brought Cry-Baby to the Great White Way.

The show is, unfortunately, not among the best I’ve seen. There are some good songs, moments of humor throughout, and some excellent performances, but the show never jelled enough to make those individually successful components into a really great show. I managed to have a really fun time, though, due, in no small part, to the fact that my friend Michael Buchanan is making his Broadway debut as part of the ensemble. From the opening number, there he was rocking a sweater vest and slicked-down hair as one of the squares. And he got some serious audience love in the final 20 minutes of the show as a seriously tall Uncle Sam. He was dancing on stilts! That is something new for the resume.

Interestingly, I can’t really comment on what any of you will see if you go to see the show from here on out. In chatting with Michael after the show, I learned that I saw the final performance of that incarnation of the first act. The show is still in previews, a time when creative tweaks and changes are often made, and apparently the first act is undergoing a pretty major overhaul. I’m actually glad to hear it, as the first act was the weaker of the two and has room for some improvement. I hope it’s tightened and infused with a few more surprises, musically-speaking.

Anyway, congrats to Michael!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Self Portrait 8

This angle makes my shoulders look oddly small and my head, in contrast, big: a little like a bobble head or something.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ok, so I'm not crazy, at least

I apparently piqued many people's curiosity with yesterday's annoying-themed blind item. I know I still owe a couple of you emails about what it is that has driven me so bonkers, and I promise: an explanation is coming. If work wasn't so busy right now I'd have spent a slacker-ific afternoon filling you all in. Alas, I'm actually earning my keep over at the office these days.

Anyway, those of you who have already heard the story have me feeling better. No one has said, across the board, that I'm over reacting, and a few of you have even owned up to the same pet peeve. And to you, I say: thanks for making me feel better in a misery-loves-company kind of way!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I find myself getting kind of annoyed at things that people do, but apparently other people don't think they are annoying at all. I say apparently, because multiple people are doing the same thing that I think is so annoying. And if I'm the only person who thinks that Annoying Thing X is annoying, maybe it's really just me, you know?

I recognize, objectively, that I should just let Annoying Thing X (and the myriad of other things that annoy me) go. I'm the only one irritated--all the Annoying Thing X-ers are just going through their lives not even knowing how annoyed I am (I'm being slightly passive aggressive here, I know). So my negativity is seriously hurting only me. Plus, everyone has quirks, habits, flaws, etc., and I'd really like to be an easy going person who is able to just accept those around me without any qualifiers.

Who has tips for being that accepting? I could use them. Even with my academic knowledge that I want to be more go-with-the-flow, it's hard for me not to become aggravated. I should probably take the shrink wrap off the yoga mat I bought six months ago and actually go to yoga. Maybe that would help.

PS: If anyone really cares to know what Annoying Thing X is, just email me. I don't feel like sharing it here, but if anyone is curious, I'll 'fess up. The one condition is that you have to then tell me the truth about whether it is annoying or not. That will help me figure out if I'm being overly sensitive or if a lot of the world's people really do belong on the ugly end of this rant.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Neighborhood Public Radio Update

So Todd was scheduled to be on Neighborhood Public Radio on Friday, but due to some double booking, they had to reschedule his appearance. They give voice to the people, but they're not exactly crack logistical planners over there at Neighborhood Public Radio. I'm not sure yet when he'll take to the airwaves, but I'll post again about it when he does. I'm even toying with the idea of doing a half hour myself. The trouble is, I don't know what I'd talk about. Anyone with ideas, please comment!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mr. Nibbles Says Happy Easter

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I love New York

This, seen in a storefront window on St. Mark's, was definitely photo-worthy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

I've got nothing to say

It's a Friday night, and there's not a single thing to blog about.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

self portrait 7

This picture is a little grainy because I forgot to turn the flash back on after experimenting with using only the natural light in my apartment. Still, I think it's post-worthy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I love the randonmess of the internet. Seriously—there is something out there for everyone. Today I give you: Stuff that looks like a duck.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Schiller's with the boys

I just got home from dinner with Drew, Josh, and Todd at Schiller's Liquor Bar. It was a great night with some kind of goat cheese salad thing, salmon, and bites of apple crisp and sticky toffee pudding all around. I was aggravated when we got the bum's rush at the end of our meal, though. I really like Schiller's, but after two plus carafes of wine, appetizers, entrees, and desserts, it was, I thought, more than a little obnoxious when the host told us they were "desperate for our table" mere seconds after we'd paid the bill. I thought we'd eaten enough to buy ourselves a few minutes of chit chat before facing the night again, but not at Schiller's.

Really, though, the best part was spending time all together. Going from a daily lunch and multiple smoke (or second-hand smoke in my case) breaks per day, it was a tough adjustment when we all scattered to different jobs and lives. We're all about one million times better for not being at McGraw-Hill, but it's hard not to miss seeing such good friends on such a regular basis.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Bacon Weave

Earlier today I thought, well, it's March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, so I should write something about that. But then I thought better of it and decided to honor Laura's birthday by posting about bacon instead.

To that end, here is: The Bacon Weave. This looks lie quite a solution to serious BLT eaters who want to make sure not a bite of their sandwich is bacon free!

Happy Birthday, Laura!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I didn't make it

Earlier this year I vowed that I wasn't going to buy any books this year. I had piled up so many that until I made my way through the pile I just wasn't going to spend any more money. Well, when I was showing Mom the book room at the thrift store by my apartment, I just couldn't resist. Seeing three books that were on my wishlist for only $1.50 each was just too much. I snapped them up. Mom offered to buy me for them so I wouldn't have to admit defeat, but I'm coming clean. I'm a book-a-holic!

And today, I went to the Bronx to visit Rena, do some pleasantly low-key shopping at Trader Joe's, and, apparently, raid her bookshelves. She's in the midst of de-cluttering and decided to give up the books that she knows she won't read again. Very lucky for me! I ended up with practically another year's worth of reading. Thanks, Rena!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Daughter of Fortune

My latest read is Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune. My copy, sadly, also sports the Oprah seal of approval. Hopefully the other subway riders didn't think I was some Oprah-following sheep!

Seriously, though, the book took me a fairly long time to get into. The story is really split into two parts: the first introduces us to Eliza, an orphan, the British family who adopts her, and their home in Chile. I have to admit that this first section--a pretty big portion of the book--moved very slowly. It's only once Eliza runs off to California during the gold rush that the book picked up. Still there weren't a lot of surprises. Plot lines are not always tied up neatly (which I appreciate, and which gave Allende the opportunity to continue the story in Portraits in Sepia), but none went in an unexpected direction, either.

I already have Portraits in Sepia, and by the end I liked Daughter of Fortune enough to give the follow-up a chance. But this isn't for anyone looking for a book that will grab you instantly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

Anne and I went to see The Other Boleyn Girl the other night. Philippa Gregory’s novels are a guilty pleasure of mine, so I was happy to take in the adaptation. Plus, between Marie Antoinette and this, Anne and I seem to have started something of a tradition by seeing all the not-so-great, fluffy, girly, historical movies together.

The movie is fairly loyal to Gregory’s novel and follows the two Boleyn daughters, Mary and Anne, as their family plays them as pawns in a game of real-life royal chess. Mary is newly married, so when the girls’ evilly ambitious uncle sees an opportunity to provide King Henry with a mistress, it’s Anne who’s thrust under his nose. He takes a shine to Mary instead, and she becomes his lover, husband be damned. When Henry becomes bored of Mary, he starts showing affection to Anne instead, and the rest is history.

In the interest of focusing on the two sisters, the movie glosses over enormous historical plot points (the King abandons Catholicism and ousts Catherine of Aragon in a single scene). But there was far too little emotion behind their rivalry. Scarlett Johannson plays Mary like a slack-jawed innocent with a single open-mouthed expression (you’d think she was catching flies instead of a king). Natalie Portman does better, but she’s not given much to work with. The script doesn’t give any character more than a single dimension.

I have to say, I was pretty disappointed. I went in expecting this to be fluff, so I wasn’t looking for anything life altering. But this was really pretty dismal. And the somewhat girl-power-ish and definitely lame history lesson at the end didn’t do the movie any favors.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Self Portrait 6: Freakishly Large Pupils

When I went for initial consultations for my lasik eye surgery my doctor told me I might not qualify thanks to my circus freak show-sized pupils. Great, I thought, one more physical imperfection to be self-conscious about. Until that appointment, it had never occurred to me that my pupil's were off. I can see here, though, that they are pretty giant.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

One post: Two of my favorite things

I am both an Obama supporter and a lover of fonts. This Newsweek article brings them both together in an interesting way, exploring how the choices Obama makes in marketing (specifically mentioning his font choices and consistency) reflect on his candidacy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grapefruits: Gross

The artist who drew this is my kindred spirit.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My NPR can kick your NPR's ass

Yesterday was a museum-y kind of day for Todd and me. We went to the Cai Guo-Qiang exhibit at the Guggenheim. I could appreciate it but didn't really like it. I very non-artily called Cai Guo-Qiang the Michael Bay of art and boldly claimed that he was nothing more than a guy who likes to blow shit up. Even as I was saying it, I knew that I was over simplifying. But really--this is just a guy who likes to blow shit up.

We then went over to the Whitney to check out the Biennial, which was, through-and-through, a disappointment. There was one piece that I thought was incredible, combining video, music, and a structure in a really interesting and suspenseful way. But one provocative piece out of three floors of art was pretty disappointing.

More intriguing than anything the Whitney had to offer was our discovery of another NPR (this one stands for Neighborhood instead of National Public Radio) on the upper east side. It's
an "independent, artist-run radio project committed to providing an alternative media platform for artists, activists, musicians, and community members." We saw two guys sitting in this storefront window doing a radio show. The sign on the door invited passers-by to come in, so we went. One of the guys hanging out there talked to us about what they're trying to do and invited us to do a show. I wasn't quite ready to become the next Brian Lehrer just yet, but Todd signed up for a half hour shift a week and a half from now. I'm not sure yet what he'll do, but I'll post about it so anyone interested can tune in. They broadcast mostly via the internet, so anyone can hear it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Open House

A while ago I blogged about an amazing experience Todd and I had at Etiquette. This Saturday, he and I took in the latest Foundry Theatre production, Open House. Open House is a much more traditional play than Etiquette, the twist this time being location. Each performance takes place in a different apartment somewhere in the city. The troupe is hitting every borough (yes, even Staten Island!) with the audience, which was somewhere around twenty-five people at Saturday's performance, sitting on folding chairs, the host's furniture, and pillows on the floor.

The first two-thirds of the play was both good and somewhat expected. We followed a young couple from their first awkward date through many relationship struggles, multiple moves ("I can't believe we ended up somewhere further out AND smaller!"), and an ever-changing New York. Some of their dialog felt freakishly familiar, making me think that my apartment is bugged or some of the conversations Todd and I have are pretty universal.

The second part of the play is arguably why the theatre company chose to perform in private homes (though, really, I think they liked that it was free). We, the audience, is attending an open house in a futuristic New York, damaged beyond recognition by climate change, raising tides, and human-brought destruction. A third character is trying to sell us a home in the up-and-coming, soon-to-be-revitalized community he represents. Obviously the global warming aspect was extremely topical, but what I really liked was the sense that even the apocalypse wouldn't change the New York housing market. Prospective buyers now are faced with guessing which neighborhood will pop next and how long they'll be waiting for a Whole Foods to appear. This was more of the same on an extreme scale and well done.

While the performances were good (except for the real estate salesman: he was good but sweating so profusely that I got seriously distracted), the play over all didn't take advantage of the inherent uniqueness of their setting. On the one hand, it's surely hard to play specifically to your space when that space changes for each performance. But on the other hand, what's the point of touting your play as being so uniquely placed, if you don't take advantage of that?

This wasn't as good as Etiquette, but I am interested to see what Foundry produces next. I like the risks they're willing to take, even when they don't completely pan out.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ass in Seat

I've recently--with Tina and Laura's help--decided to get back on the writing wagon and pick up my NaNoWriMo story where I left off in November. I've been ignoring it for the last few months. A good writer would either have been writing (obviously) or at least letting the story percolate so that brilliant passages (or at least the seeds of them) would spring forth when she started writing again. I have used my time less wisely, though, and found that I'd forgotten character's names, forgotten plot points, and generally lost track of the nuances of my story.

Today I reread all of November's writing and recognized how much work there was to do to make this something to be proud of. The more I looked at it, the more it looked like a steaming pile of poop, which made it even harder to get back in the game.

Todd says the trick to writing is to get your ass in the seat. There are always distractions, reasons to procrastinate, and other ways to spend your time. If you just get your ass in the seat for long enough, though, you'll produce. I spent most of my writing time today working on plot-related notes to myself. I think I need greater structure to my story to keep me going. The aimless wandering and character sketches I worked on during NaNoWriMo aren't going to cut it forever.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Nobody's Fool

Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth tend to be described as very male authors. And if Nobody’s Fool were Richard Russo’s only novel, I’d have to put him squarely in that same category. Luckily, he’s prolific and shows enough range to transcend easy categorization. Still, any novel featuring a woman who likes to give head so much that she happily falls asleep with a (and possibly any) penis in her mouth like a pacifier has to come from a male brain.

And our fearless protagonist, Donald Sullivan—aka Sully—is the epitome of male stereotypes: He’s a gruff blue-collar worker, picking up the odd sheet rocking/ditch digging/ heavy-shit-moving job where he can. Living in a barely furnished apartment where he’s proudly never cooked a single meal in twenty years, he picks fights, is stubborn as they come, refuses to recognize mistakes (because then he’d be tempted to indulge regret), and has probably never asked for directions in his life. He is completely flawed and yet somehow usually likeable and even sometimes loveable. Russo’s entire novel is populated with characters of this ilk: they react badly to things, blow small events out of proportion, make bad decisions, and struggle to keep their heads above water in a small upstate town that is sinking despite it all.

Russo’s novels (I’ve also read the wonderfully funny Straight Man and less impressive, despite winning the Pulitzer, Empire Falls) tend to be big stories disguised by the small events that comprise them. His language choices—he’s a fan of repetition—mirror the redundancy of many aspects of life. And, also like life, there is humor. Nobody’s Fool won’t have you laughing out loud throughout, but there is an undercurrent that keeps all the oppression of not-so-easy lives at bay.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Self Portrait 5: Pretending to be Diablo Cody

While in Boston with Shannon this past weekend, she and I pulled out her Velma Kelly wig and pretended I was hipper than I am.

I took this picture while Shannon was pinning the dress in the back. I was just fooling around, but of all the pictures I ended up taking, Shannon and I agreed that this one was the best. We liked that the angle was a little surprising.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Primary Musings

So you probably already know that Hillary is the second Clinton to be something of a comeback kid now. She’s still very far from the nomination, and I still think it will ultimately go to Obama, but yesterday’s wins in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island were definitely the shot in the arm her campaign needed (Barack won Vermont). Unfortunately, as time goes on, I only become more and more convinced that Obama is the better candidate. The ongoing race is definitely a good thing for democracy, and it’s great to see this primary race motivating and engaging people in a way that most primaries don’t. I’d like Hillary to stop going so negative, though. When Obama is, ultimately, our candidate, the last thing we need are sound bites like this one where Hillary says, “I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."

Anyway, when I left my apartment this morning, I stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of a father walking his son to school. I was just a few steps ahead of them, so I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation: The dad was explaining to his son—seven or eight by my best guess—the difference between pledge delegates and super delegates. The boy seemed totally engaged and interested, asking questions and commenting on what his father was saying. It was awesome!

And then I came to work and my friend showed me a New Yorker article interpreting dreams of various Hillary and Barack supporters. And check it out--you can post your own candidate-themed dream. Please tell me if you do!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Je vais à Paris!

Translation: I'm going to Paris!

After about a million claims to others and promises to myself, all of which amounted to naught, I’ve decided to stop making excuses and finally take a vacation. There have always been great reasons not to go somewhere—It’s so expensive (especially right now. Thanks, President Bush.), it’s busy at work, blah, blah, blah. And all those reasons still exist. But there will always be slight challenges, and I’m ready to do some traveling, obstacles be damned.

So, to that end, Tina is joining me for five fabulous days in Paris next month. We’ll see Versailles, bike around the city, and eat our weight in croissants. It’s going to be great, and I can’t wait!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tech Addictions

I just finished reading this article, one of the currently most emailed on the New York Times’ site, about taking a break from technology. The author briefly recounts his new routine of turning off the computer, blackberry, cell phone, television, etc. for twenty four hours each weekend.

I’m curious—do any of you ever feel over-connected? I’ve steadfastly refused to get a blackberry and can’t imagine the circumstances that would prompt me to change my mind. I think it’s just a way for our bosses to make us feel bad about not doing more work. But I do have my cell phone with me almost all the time, and I usually—though not always—check email every day. I’m definitely not as addicted as the article’s author, but I do think I’d feel a little lost if left for too long without some of my favorite gadgets.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Friends & Family

Just a quick note to say how nice it is to have family I like. I was thinking about it on the bus home tonight, and I feel really lucky. It seems that for so many people, seeing their families once a twice a year at holidays is enough. I feel really lucky to consider my mom and two sisters friends as well as family. I know this is bordering on cheesy, but it’s true. And since our family is tiny, it’s a good thing we like each other! There’s no buffer when you can fit your entire extended family around the dinner table without even bumping elbows (I’m exaggerating here, but only by the tiniest of tiny margins). Next up: Shannon comes to New York for a weekend at the end of this month. Now if I could just get Veronica to visit, too...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Algernon & Rupert

I adopted Camilla when she was about a year old, so she and I skipped the crazy kitten phase. Visiting Shannon this weekend, though, I got a full reminder of what life with a very playful cat is all about. I was prepared for her youngest cat, Rupert, to attack my feet as I shifted position in bed at night, but I hadn't anticipated the surprise attacks he'd launch when I was sitting perfectly still. And though Shannon's older cat, Algernon, is a bit more calm in your moment-to-moment interactions with him, he does have his own quirks. He is living a cushy life, especially when you consider that Shannon rescued him when he was a half-starved stray. Despite the high life he's living now, though, he's crazy about getting out of the apartment. Every time Shannon and I left Shannon would crack the door and play goalie while yelling, "GO! GO! GO!" to me. The sprint into the hall was always a shot in the arm as we went out.