Wednesday, December 31, 2008
"I could runaway, but I'd rather stay in the warmth of your smile lighting up my day, the one that makes me say heh, 'cuz you're the best thing that ever happened to me or my world."-Paul Weller
Fred and I have a tendency to forget our wedding anniversary. However, it is impossible for us to forget our real anniversary.
I am always hesitant to answer when people ask how we met because it sounds so much more scandalous than it actually was. "I dated his roommate," I reply and quickly add, "but I had broken up with the roommate long before we started dating."
Fred has it a bit easier. He talks about how he moved to Chicago and was living with this guy with whom he became really good friends, how that guy started dating this girl who was going to school in another state, and how that girl would call up and leave twenty minute long messages on the answering machine which would entertain them both.
Where our stories converge is on New Year's Eve 1993. Or, to be more precise, a few weeks before New Year's Eve when I called up Fred (who, by that time, had moved back to Minneapolis) and invited him to the New Year's Eve party I was planning. Now, I should note, I invited everyone I met to this party. I had hatched the idea of throwing a gigantic party while I was still in school and terrified that I would lose touch with all the people I knew. I figured, if people planned to attend my party, they would be forced to remain friends with me after I graduated.
So Fred came down to Chicago and stayed with us, along with a bunch of my college friends, and we had a connection. At least, I thought we had a connection. We had been friends for a couple of years at this point and while I had always found him to be very cute, I had never really considered him boyfriend material because 1) he was way too nice and 2) he was so not interested in me. But, this time, I thought he was sending out "I am interested" signals. And I responded by engineering a clever scheme involving lipstick to get him to kiss me before midnight (at least, I thought it was clever, but, in retrospect, it probably wasn't, though it did succeed). Then he kissed me at midnight. The way this has been described by observers was that Fred was going around kissing everyone full on the mouth and then they noticed that he was still kissing me.
And that was that.
Okay, so there was that rough patch, at first, where he said he was just being friendly and didn't mean anything by it and I slunk off to the bathroom and cried to Maria. I blame that bit on all the champagne we were drinking. Obviously, we worked it out eventually.
Fifteen years sortof flew by. Some days, I still feel like that tipsy twenty-one year old trying to steal a kiss.
Monday, December 29, 2008
The following essay is really old. I include it here simply because I am lazy and I wanted an excuse to post some of these videos. It started as a response to request from Heather that I explain some of the references in the black dress project essays, back when that was still a writing project and not the compulsion to buy and photograph black dresses that it has since become.
Duran Duran is responsible for my thesis and my artistic career (such as it is).
I don't have to tell you who Duran Duran is, or rather, was, as their significance in early to mid-80s popular culture was so huge. I received Seven and the Ragged Tiger for my twelfth birthday and became obsessed. My bedroom walls were covered in Duran Duran photos. I listened only to their music. I was going to marry John Taylor (who was, by far, the cutest and has aged the best. Which probably goes to show that while smoking and sun exposure will destroy your looks, a serious cocaine addiction will not.) By the time I turned 13, I was over them, my musical heart having moved on to U2, the Smiths, the Cure, and Aztec Camera (another band who I initially only read about) and my romantic heart having moved on to real life boys (not that I was any more successful with the boys I knew. At least I can explain away my failure with John Taylor as being due to the fact that we have never met. I have no excuses for all those real life rejections).
Anyway, as I was saying, I was really into Duran Duran and bought every magazine that had an article or photo of them in it. In a number of the music magazines the band Japan was mentioned. Most of the articles talked about their breakup and how their lead singer, David Sylvian, was embarking on a solo career. I was curious. Now, it probably goes without saying that Japan was not played on the radio and any curiosity I actually had about them had to be indulged by buying the records and the prospect of buying a record by a band when I have never even heard a single song by them is terrifying to me even now, as an adult with disposable income of my own. It was truly impossible to imagine doing this as a preteen with an allowance and so many things I wanted (Guess jeans, le sportsac purses, makeup) to buy. But somehow I did buy the live album Oil on Canvas and I liked it. A lot. I never actually got around to buying another Japan album (although Maria still remembers that I always looked at the Japan section in used record stores, so it was not that I didn't intend to buy another Japan record, just that I never got around to it as there were always records I wanted more). I bought copies of David Sylvian's solo records (at the time they were the Forbidden Colours single, and the albums Brilliant Trees and Gone To Earth).
So, I went to high school filled with all my interest in music and my past experience as an obsessed fan of Duran Duran. Yes, I was one of those people who believed that what you listened to revealed important information about who you were as a person. When I would meet someone, I thought nothing of grilling them with regards to their musical tastes and then deciding whether I wanted to be their friend based upon the answers (looking back, I was pretty insufferable).
Sometime between my freshman and junior year I met a girl, Sherri, who was still a Duran Duran fan (which I had to admire as it was pretty uncool at that point, most people, having moved on past the glory days of "Hungry Like The Wolf") and she was also a David Sylvian fan as well, which was fairly impressive, to me, as she was the only person I encountered who had heard of him. How did she develop this interest? Sherri's favorite member of Duran Duran was Nick Rhodes. One thing about David Sylvian that I have thus far failed to mention is that he bore a very strong resemblance to Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran (or at least, we thought he bore a strong resemblance to Nick Rhodes. In truth, they have drastically different bone structure and look nothing alike, but they had the same hairdresser and everyone wore so much eye liner back then, and I think we were all a little in-observant). So Sherri saw a picture of David in some magazine and developed a curiosity about him based on who he looked like. I mention this because it is an even more extreme version of my own journey and, to this day, Sherri is the only person who has ever admitted discovering music this way. Sure, everyone can say how cool they are and how they heard snippets of a song on an underground radio station or on the band's MySpace page, but yeah, some of us did take a leap of faith and judge books by their covers.
Sherri wasn't really a friend of mine in that we only chatted at school and, maybe, once or twice on the telephone. I really have no idea how it came to pass that we saw the film The Unbearable Lightness of Being together. I know she must have been the one to suggest it as I had not heard of Milan Kundera (I don't have to tell you who he is, do I?), or even the "new Daniel Day Lewis (ditto?) film" when I bought my ticket at the Water Tower Place box office. But she must have asked me to see the film and I said yes and it is lucky I did because I loved the film. I went looking for Milan Kundera's books at the bookstore. There was The Unbearable Lightness of Being on the bookshelf, next to The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which I became the first Milan Kundera novel I read. Why did I choose that book, as opposed to the novel of which I had just seen the film version? Why, because David Sylvian had a song on Gone To Earth called Laughter and Forgetting.
So it isn't just looks that get one to buy records, it's records which gets one to buy books. Imagine how much more well read we would all be if everyone behaved this way.
Later, I asked Sherri and she confessed that this was why she started reading Milan Kundera.
Though I discovered Yukio Mishima in a different yet equally random way, it probably helped that one of his books was titled Forbidden Colours. My obsession with Yukio Mishima and Japanese No theatre resulted in me writing a thesis in Japanese history.
I audited a class on post modern novels my junior year of college. I did so because Milan Kundera was on the syllabus. So was Salman Rushdie. While I had remembered the fatwa and had even tried to read The Satanic Versus when I was 17 (I got about 20 pages into it, maybe), it was reading Midnight's Children for this class which hooked me and turned me into the Salman Rushdie fan girl that I am today. In 1998, Jenny and I used The Satanic Verses as the foundation for our choreography. So, Milan Kundera is responsible for Submission.
To recap, the flow chart would be Duran Duran to Japan/David Sylvian to Milan Kundera to Salman Rushdie to Submission (i.e. the work Jenny and I did as Gravisphere). There would also be an arrow from Japan/David Sylvian pointing to Yukio Mishima to No Theatre to Geisha to my thesis. Which means that whoever gave me Seven and the Ragged Tiger in 1984 changed the course of my entire life.
This probably wasn't what they expected.
Of course, the real surprise is that all these videos now live on the internet and there is no mystery whatsoever about them. I wonder if I would have found any of these bands or writers interesting if I didn't have to work to find them. Maybe being forced to take a leap of faith was valuable after all.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Well, we think Santa will understand. He looks like he has a thing for cakes as well.
Of course you have seen this before and have pondered the strangeness of it all. But, odd as it once may have seemed, David Bowie and Bing Crosby turn out a pretty great rendition of The Little Drummer Boy.
Another unexpected holiday favorite is The Cocteau Twins cover of Frosty The Snowman (though sadly without any "bumpity bump bumps")
Aztec Camera recorded a great instrumental medley of Christmas songs called Hot Club of Christ which is fabulous and, sadly, hard to find
Ernie and Bert get in on the Christmas cheer
And, because I think it may make Rebecca really happy, I include the video for Last Christmas by Wham! I know I lived through it, but I can't believe anyone actually wore clothes like this or allowed stylists to do this sort of thing to their hair.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Yes, I, too, was into the undead when I was a teenager and I never needed any of that "skin sparkling" crap to lure me in (though I am not sure if that makes me more hardcore or less smart, as these things go) and, of course, I thought I was so special and different, knowing that not only wouldn't my parents understand, most of the other kids at school wouldn't either.
But, self-absorbed teenager that I once was or not, you cannot deny that Bauhaus was great (well you can deny it, but I will fight you). And, if it hadn't been for Bauhaus, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate one of the funniest email forwards I have ever received. It was from Maria, and she sent it to me knowing that I would love it. It was entitled Bela Lugosi's Shed and I have no idea who deserves the credit for the following piece of brilliance:
takita takita takita
takita takita takita
Doom doom doom
Felt on pine,
Translucent glass panes.
Black plastic bags...
Bela Lugosi's shed.
He keeps his lawnmover in there, with all his spades and rakes.
Fresh cuttings line the grassbox.
Bela Lugosi's Shed
A SHED A SHED A SHED
A shed A shed A shed
BELA LUGOSI'S SHED
The ever-pruning gardeners file past his blooms
Deadheading time's dead flowers
Snip off the deathly blooms
A loam in a darkened soil
Bela Lugosi's Shed
A Shed A Shed A Shed .
Oh Bela's Old Shed
Oh Bela Bela's Old Shed
Thursday, December 18, 2008
At the Coraline film website, you can upload photos of yourself and your loved ones and button your eyes. Unfortunately, I cannot make a photo which adequately conveys the terror the button eyes instilled in me when I read the book years ago. However, I cannot hold this against the makers of the film as the website is quite lovely and appropriately creepy.
Rachael posted this link on Facebook. As this is the second time this week I am giving props to Rachael, I figure I should tell you a bit about her and how totally creepy, yet absolutely unsurprising it is that she should turn out to be a Neil Gaiman fan.
Rachael and I were best friends when we were five years old. She moved away when we were six and while we tried to stay in touch, we lost touch as the years passed. Then we found one another again during orientation week our freshman year of college (considering that we lived in different parts of the country, I skipped a grade, and there were only something like 1300 students at our college it is a gigantic coincidence that we ended up at the same school at the same time). We did not become best friends again as I was socially awkward and didn't know what to make of it all--keep in mind, both our mothers talked about me crying when we said goodbye as children and, I worried that she had been important to me than I had been to her, so I tried to be cool, but probably still came across as needy whereas she struck me as someone who was very comfortable in her skin (something which I was not) and already settled in the college environment (something which I never quite managed). So anyway, we were friends, but not close friends while at school. From my perspective, our lives seemed to follow parallel trajectories, each of us bouncing between the history and theatre departments until, finally, I ended up writing a history thesis and she choreographed a show (which was really good--it was an interpretation of fairy tales) and wrote a theatre thesis. Then we graduated and lost touch again. Now we are reunited via Facebook and she consistently cracks me up with the links she posts. And, in some ways, it still seems like our lives have followed similar paths, though I acknowledge that many of the things we have in common are not entirely unexpected and tenuous at best--sure, we both were interested in theatre, history, and dance, but we weren't interested in the same areas of study and while we both founded dance companies, that doesn't mean we are artistically creating similar work. I could just be imagining things or making more out of this than there is. However, it is strange that we have, on the surface, so many similar interests (for example, one of us didn't end up an accountant). It makes me wonder what children know about themselves and why they gravitate to some people and not to others. Maybe this affinity for similar things is why we became friends thirty-one years ago. Maybe there is some supernatural force throwing us together and we are meant to join forces to save the planet (hey, don't tell me that us ending up at the same college is any less weird than the Doctor parking the Tardis down the street from Donna's car). Or maybe we should just chalk it up to Montessori school turning us into artists.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Personally, I am not surprised. I mean, I love a good romantic comedy as much as the next girl. While You Were Sleeping, Amelie, and It Happened One Night are among my favorite films. However, I am the first to bemoan the fact that the storyline of many a rom com fails to make sense (i.e. the actors have no chemistry, the storyline either makes no sense, and/or the ending is absolutely impossible given the story we were told for the first ninety minutes) and suspect that the producers of said films think that the target audience is so profoundly stupid that they will just believe any drivel thrown on the screen so long as the actors, costumes, and sets are pretty enough. Is it any wonder that some people bend their view of reality and their expectations of real life relationships after exposure to this crap?
However, I find it significant that the researchers had some volunteers watch Serendipity (a rom com which, despite the efforts of John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, falls into the "you must think all of us out here watching this are a bunch of morons" genre of romantic comedy) while others watched a David Lynch film (the article didn't mention which one, but pretty much any of them are going to give you a somewhat warped view of love and relationships). It is hard not to wonder if the results would be different if, instead of David Lynch, the non-rom com group had watched The Hunt for Red October or School of Rock.
Of course, in addition to the researchers perhaps stacking the deck in their favor with regards to choice of movies, they never bothered to ask about the influence of those damned jewelry store commercials on people's expectations.
Monday, December 15, 2008
In 1948, the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were ratified by all the nations of the world. These 30 articles guaranteed a broad sweep of human rights across many human endeavors, from Life to Liberty to Freedom of Thought.
Now, sixty years later, recognizing that over a billion people across the planet lack access to clean and potable water and that millions die each year as a result, it is imperative to add one more article to this historic declaration, the Right to Water.
We, the undersigned, respectfully call upon the United Nations to add a 31st article to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing access to clean and potable water as a fundamental human right.
Please take a moment and sign the petition.
We believe the world will be a better place when the Right To Water is acknowledged by all nations as a fundamental human right, and that this addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents a major step toward the goal of water for all.
Please join us. Water is a right, not a privilege.
It is estimated that half the people in 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa will have no access to potable drinking water by 2025 unless action is taken now.
This song was written 24 years ago in response to a documentary on famine in Ethiopia. However, it still rings true today and could just as easily apply to the cholera epidemic that is raging in Zimbabwe.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Except that Governor Rod maintains he did nothing wrong. Since he was caught on tape, I can't imagine he is planning to claim he was framed, so I am starting to wonder if he seriously believes there was nothing wrong with shaking down the CEO of Children's Memorial for campaign contributions. Some might argue that he was just going overboard with what tends to seem like business as usual in our state. However, since he seems to have kicked his crime spree into high gear in the last month or so, I am wondering if his problem wasn't merely that he was corrupt, arrogant, and amoral, but also that he was overcome with holiday cheer. I mean, maybe Rod just got too caught up in the notion that he was entitled to certain gifts? Some of what he is quoted to have said on that tape sounds like a far cruder, expletive version of the sentiment expressed by Sally in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, "All I want is what is coming to me, all I want is my fair share."
Alright, so I know this sounds like I hate Christmas, which is far from the truth. Now that I have a child, I absolutely love Christmas. I love the decorations, the stories, the traditions (cookie baking being my favorite, though my baking mojo appears to have left me and all my cookies have been underwhelming this year), the songs (and the fact that every year there is one song that seems to stalk me wherever I go because although I find it annoying, it also becomes oddly comforting to be followed by a song, vapid though it may be. BTW, this year it is Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime), the message of peace and good will, and the general sense of excitement that hangs in the air. What I cannot stand is the demand that we give and receive gifts. For those who say this isn't a prominent part of our culture, I say you must live on a commune without contact with the rest of the outside world (inw hich case, how are you reading this?) Seriously, it's in all those commercials, celebrating the joy of finding a car with a bow on it in your driveway or the fact that "he went to Jared!" (note: girls, if you find yourself at a romantic dinner with a guy, it is in extremely bad taste to text your girlfriends the details of your haul while the date is still going on. Whether or not the guy goes to Jared, I would hope he would have the good sense to dump your ass when you showed the bad manners of pulling out your phone and typing. The fact that the commercial would show this as something to be emulated doesn't make ignoring the person you are spending time with alright, it just means the advertisers are trying to rope in the lowest common denominator. Just remember it is a commercial and real life people aren't as tolerant of rude behavior as people on tv.) It is in the shoppers who so desperately had to get the good deals ASAP they trampled a man to death. And, I am sad to say, it is in all the exhortations we make that kids should tell Santa what they want for Christmas and the notion that, so long as they were good, they can expect to receive these gifts. (Note: the post office here offers a way to play Santa to a needy family which is a really cool way to spread holiday cheer and to actually make a difference in people's lives, so I am not opposed to the writing of letters or the giving of gifts at all.) The sense of entitlement is most obvious in the ultimate letter to Santa song Santa Baby. I know, I know, it's supposed to be cute and vixenish, you listen to Eartha Kitt sing it and think it sounds sexy and, well, logical. I'll admit, I have sung this song many times and never thought too long or too hard about the words.
Santa Baby, slip a sable under the tree, For me.For simplicity's sake, let's assume that she means a full length fur and not a jacket or stroller. I have been checking various internet sites and it seems the cost of a full length sable coat ranges from around $40,000 to over $100,000. Because no specifics are offered, I'll just toss this coat into the mix. Price=$55,095
been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
so hurry down the chimney tonight.
The online blue books don't even go back past 1988, so for this, I must look on ebay to get an idea of the price. Currently, there are a few 1954 Chevrolet Corvette roadsters up for auction. The bid prices are up to $41,655 and $33,433, though the reserve has not been met in either case (and neither car is light blue, but considering we are talking near mint condition 54 year old cars, why quibble over color?) Because the auction won't end for a few more days, let's just assume the car will cost as much as the coat. Price=$55,095
Santa baby, a 54 convertible too,
I'll wait up for you dear,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.
Santa baby, I wanna yacht,
And really that's not a lot,
Been an angel all year,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.
Again, there is a wide range in the cost of yachts, so I will have to take a stab at what our protagonist has in mind. Let's just pick this one as it looks like something that the Harts would own. Price=$647,000
Santa honey, there's one thing I really do need,
To a platinum mine,
Santa honey, so hurry down the chimney tonight.
The platinum mine is a total intangible. This is where Santa will have to apply some x-mas magic by calling one into existence solely for this purpose. Price=priceless.
Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex,
Sign your 'X' on the line,
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight.
Here in Chicago, we call multi-level condos duplexes and houses with two apartments two-flats. However, I suspect the singer is requesting a two-unit building, so that is what I will price out. Right now, on Realtor.com, there is a really nice two flat (just down the street from my house) selling for $1,189,000. Because the economy is terrible and I assume Santa can negotiate, we don't need to assume this is what he would pay to acquire the dwelling. Price: $1,000,000As for the checks, let's assume Santa is mindful of all gift tax laws. Price=$12,000
Come and trim my Christmas tree,The average price for a Tiffany ornament is $107. Let's assume that an assortment of 50 ornaments were purchased (because one would guess that the tree's owner already has quite a few ornaments already, so we don't want to go overboard here.) Price=$5,350
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's,
I really do believe in you,
Let's see if you believe in me,
Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,A 1.5 carat diamond in a Tiffany setting starts at $16,500. The round brilliant with pear shaped stones starts at $33,500. The emerald cut three stone starts at $48,800. Again, this is calling for a lot of speculation on our part, but why don't we choose the middle option? Price: $33,500.
I don't mean on the phone,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight,
Hurry down the chimney tonight,
Total cost of this Christmas list=$1,797,240.00 (not including the impossible to price platinum mine).
And what does Santa get in return for all these gifts? The assurance that Marilyn Monroe/Eartha Kitt/Madonna was a good girl all year, missing fun and not kissing fellas, and, perhaps, some suggestion that if he hurries down the chimney with enough loot, he will see the depth of her gratitude. Wow. We know he is overweight and hairy, but one would imagine he wouldn't need to shell out quite so much cash to get a little action and I don't care how beautiful any of the women who have sung this song may have been, no one is really worth this much. Not to mention that if this is the amount it takes to buy someone's fidelity, I think the relationship is already in trouble. Of course, it is pretty obvious the woman who sings this must have a high regard for herself in order to consider herself worth all this which may be why I never got quite the right attitude I my voice when I have tried to sing it. That and the fact that I have no inner sex kitten whatsoever.
(At this point, you are probably wondering what the point of this whole digression has been. To be honest, I feel like I have lost the thread of this and suspect I am trying to cram what should be three or four separate posts into one. Unfortunately, I am too far along to give up now. Please bear with me through the end and we will see if I manage to pull it all together.)
Many people interviewed about the governor said they felt ashamed as Illinoisans. I thought that was a bit much as they weren't responsible for the corruption, why should they be ashamed? But now, after going through that detailing, I feel a bit sick because of the awful stereotype of women it perpetuates, but also somewhat ashamed because all it really does is take the jewelry commercials' message to its logical extreme. While a lot of women may decry prostitution and would never dream of accepting money for sex, many women seem to believe that their men should prove their love with gifts, so while the nature of the contract may be different, is the actual nature of the transaction? So, yes, I do understand that the profoundly grotesque actions of one can taint all the members of a group if it seems to perpetuate a negative stereotype people already have about a group. In the case of women, it's the notion that all women are whores, in the case of Illinois, it's corruption in politics.
But in light of the societal shakedown that is under way (even in these tough economic times) is it any wonder that a man who regards himself as highly as it seems Rod Blogojevich does would overstep as he did? Compared to the protagonist in Santa Baby, he is practically restrained. While I am not sure we, as citizens of this state, should have anything to be ashamed about (just as we, as women, should not be embarrassed inherently ashamed by the behavior of other women), maybe as members of this culture, we should be ashamed because, in some respects, it seems like Rod Blogojevich just took our society's message of entitlement to its logical extreme.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
The alumni magazine arrived yesterday and I immediately flipped through to the deaths section and there, as I knew it would be, was Matt's obituary. Even though I had read it online months ago, even though I had written my own memory of Matt before that, even though Matt has been dead for almost half a year now, somehow seeing it in a printed hard copy made it real in a way that it had not been before. I have no explanation for why this is. Maybe I have not completely accepted the technological realities of modern life in my heart and I still view ink on paper as more valid, more concrete, more real when it comes to the dissemination of information. Maybe it is because my remoteness from the realities of Matt's death allows me the luxury of being reminded of it intermittently and, for the rest of the time, it isn't real to me (I noted when Arun died that there was no practical difference between having no contact with someone who was alive and then that person being dead, the thing which changed was the potential of what might come to pass in the future). Maybe it is because I know that now all the people we knew back then, even people who never really knew Matt and have no reason to care, now know of his death, it is no longer an awkward piece of information which I wonder if I should tell people when they contact me randomly (something which is happening more and more as everyone joins Facebook).
So after reading the obituary and crying a bit, I flipped through the rest of the magazine. Looking at the bragging section, I noticed someone wrote a knitting book and felt a bit of irritation, even though I have absolutely no interest in getting my knitting patterns published (I can't even be bothered to update my knitting blog or post them on Ravelry). Looking at the wedding pictures, I had the extremely uncharitable thought that I looked so much better on my wedding day (because, apparently, I am in competition with the whole entire world). Looking at the baby pictures, I thought it would be nice to see the babies with their parents as all babies have the same babyish look to them and they don't really matter to me unless I can place them in the context of how I know their parents (and names are only slightly helpful in this regard as they all blur together with names of people I went to high school with, or did a show with, or knew from girl scouts).
All this is very strange in light of the fact that I have never once sent an update to the alumni magazine. I always thought I would when something big happened in my life. When I appeared in a show worthy of mention or something. But I performed in various shows which I could have mentioned over the years, I even wrote, choreographed, and performed Submission with Jenny, but I never sent in any information. I got married, I directed a show (and was mentioned as a significant director by a reviewer in her end of year wrap up), and had a child, but still, I never managed inform the alumni magazine of my activities. I always intended to, really (I made sure we got photos of all the Reed and Ignatius grads in attendance at the wedding, specifically to send it to the respective alumni magazines**), but in the end I figured that the people who actually wanted to know what I was doing with my life already knew what I was doing with my life. Nothing ever seemed big enough to brag about to all the people with whom I lost touch. I tell myself I will send a gigantic update when I get a novel published (with the wedding pictures, Julian's baby pictures, the theatre reviews, etc.), but when that time comes, I will probably consider that to be not enough.
But considering that I found the publication of Matt's obituary to suddenly make his death more real, is inability to update the greater alumni community an attempt on my part to keep my life in a state of unreality? I don't imagine that the publication of my wedding picture and the knowledge that people who barely remember me are seeing it would make my marriage more real, but it would mean I would lose whatever mystery I may have had (yes, a mystery that is more in my head than anything else) and I would no longer be remote to everyone save those who made the effort. Then I remember that I am writing this on a blog which anyone can read. I am easy to find and no less real because my paper trail is small. I suspect that my ambivalence is more a function of laziness and a sense that college was a long time ago.
*Tracy is the reason I started knitting as an adult. My mom had taught me when I was a child, but I never had the patience to complete anything and forgot all about it. Then, in 1994, Tracy moved to Chicago and took up knitting. She dragged me into Fiber Works (a yarn store which used to be on Lincoln Avenue, it closed in 1996 when the owner died) and I became enamored with and bought some black mohair (Classic Elite's La Gran mohair, to be precise). I never actually made anything with the yarn I bought that day (I still have it), but that was how the addiction to knitting began. All you people who have received knit items from me over the years (or will receive knit items from me in the future) have Tracy to thank.
**I should probably just scan those in and post them here
Monday, December 01, 2008
"It wasn't any old fire...it broke up people's lives for eternity."--Captain Joe Murray (one of the first firefighters to arrive at the Our Lady of the Angels school fire. Listen to his story here)Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Our Lady of the Angels School fire.
As someone who grew up in Chicago, I have always known about the fire, and yet, it was always shrouded in mystery. It is hard to believe it happened within a generation of my birth. Perhaps I wasn't paying attention. Children and teenagers are inherently self-centered and something which happened decades ago may as well have happened eons ago. Perhaps I considered the fire to be history and something like that couldn't happen to me because society had progressed, why listen to the stories when they would only make me sad? Perhaps I am only now capable of grasping the tragedy because I am capable of viewing it through the prism of parenthood.
However, I can't quite chalk up the mystery that was the fire to my own inability to see. As I said, I always knew of the fire, and I do recall thinking about it as a child, wondering how it happened. It was something that was referred to, but then never discussed in depth. I only see now that the reason so many chose not to talk about it was because the pain ran so deep, the damage so great, the wound hadn't healed. Maybe the wound won't heal until all the parents and firefighters who couldn't save children and had to watch them die are gone. Maybe the wound won't heal until the West Side of Chicago has completely gentrified, rebounded from the exodus of all the families who couldn't stay in the neighborhood where so much pain had occurred. Maybe the wound won't heal until everybody has a chance to tell their story. Maybe there are certain tragedies which tear a wound so great in our collective consciousness that it will never heal, because healing implies a certain amount of forgetting and do we really want to forget about a school fire which killed 92 students and 3 nuns?
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Well, perhaps not all of Thanksgiving (I don't think anyone is planning on springing the Never Gonna Give You Up video on their families just as the turkey s about to be carved and I don't think it would be physically possible for Rick Astley to make like Santa Claus and visit every household for an impromptu singalong). But the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was Rick Rolled, which is pretty excellent.
This year, in addition to all the obvious things for which I am thankful (a roof over my head and food on the table, Barack Obama winning the election, the continued health of my family and friends) I am thankful for moments of unexpected goofiness such as this. It is good to remember that the unexpected is not always bad, that sometimes it is funny, and we have the ability to laugh even while we are crying.
I say something about what is happening in Mumbai right now, but it is too enormous, too immediate, and too remote. What is there to say? But to not say anything is callous and not a true reflection on my current state of mind. I want to scream at the television stations which are continuing regularly scheduled programming for not breaking in with updates and information, I see the images on CNN of the Taj Hotel burning and hear the stories of Americans being targeted and think "I was there, that could have been me." But then I remember that, for most Americans, this is just a tragedy that is happening on the other side of the world. So while I am thankful for all I have, I am saddened as well, and I hope for a day when terrorism is eradicated from the face of the globe, like smallpox.
Monday, November 10, 2008
While I like Keith Olberman, I sometimes find him to be a bit too harsh, too shouty. Tonight, however, he expressed my thoughts exactly regarding Prop 8.
You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person.Or, to put it more succinctly, "Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now."
Thursday, November 06, 2008
However, I am not sure I can grasp the enormity of what has happened and I feel at a loss for words, so I thought I would share what some smart and powerful women of color had to say about Barack Obama winning the presidency.
"You just know that Americans are not going to be satisfied until they really do form that more perfect union."-Condoleeza Rice
"It feels like anything is now possible."-Oprah Winfrey
Finally (and most importantly) my mom sent out the following email Tuesday night (no video, so you just get a picture of us from my wedding, mom is on the right)
In 1963, when I first arrived in the US, I watched lead the for for the American blacks.
In 1967, when I got married, my marriage was illegal in 16 states in this country.
My children are products of an American father and a Tanzanian mother. And both of them did their part and volunteered to elect a person, whose father was Kenyan and whose mother was American, to be our next president.
Even my little, soon to be four years old, grandson, was up at 6 this morning insisting he accompany his dad to the polling booth. He stood patiently in line for over an hour with his dad and then watched as his dad "colored some boxes".
We wish the new President elect the best and hope we see a world where peace and prosperity is once again restored.
It's a great day in the US!! God bless America.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Her name was Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. She was thirteen years old.
She was charged with the crime of adultery, but I suspect her real crime (at least in the eyes of her accusers) was being a girl, getting raped, and then having the audacity to speak out against the people who raped her, as opposed to blaming herself and staying silent. I am sure that women and children in Somalia have learned their lesson from this tragedy for they have seen what happens to those who imagine they will achieve justice through speaking the truth.
I am trying to imagine what the onlookers must have been feeling. Were they feeling righteous indignation? Mob euphoria? Fear? I'll admit, I have been raised in a culture where executions are not public and I have difficulty putting myself in their shoes, difficulty not condemning them for their cowardice and their bloodlust. However, I am extraordinarily lucky. I was born in a country where we have basic freedoms protected by the constitution, where information is readily available and literacy is actively encouraged, where we all have the right to vote. I find it hard to imagine the daily life of a woman in Somalia. I can't know, from my position of extreme privilege, what it is like to live in a country where a quarter of the children die before the age of five, where violence and starvation are part of daily life. Nothing in my frame of reference can make the experience of having a religious militia take over and impose their view of morality upon me anything but incomprehensible to me. I have no idea what choices I would make if I found myself in that situation. How can I condemn those who watched when I have no idea what horrors they have already seen and what horrors they hope to avoid seeing again? The truth is, even though I can't understand, I know that if my child's life depended upon me watching an execution, I would do it.
So instead of condemning the spectators, I will instead say a word of thanks for being lucky enough to live in a country where the idea that a thirteen year old rape victim would be publicly stoned to death is repugnant. I will be grateful for all the rights I take for granted, rights for which men and women died so that I may have them, rights which many women around the world can only dream, and rights which our own homegrown religious extremists would take away if enough people let them.
Please exercise your right to vote on Tuesday.
Friday, October 31, 2008
The debt we, as a nation, owe Studs Terkel, for documenting our stories is enormous. His work as an interviewer and oral historian gave voice to the voiceless, spoke truth to power, and kept our collective history alive. He will be missed.
Go read Hard Times and The Good War.
Many weeks ago, while Maria and I were talking about the election, I said something along the lines of, "How is Britney Spears doing these days?" and proceeded to jokingly bemoan the way in which politics had captivated all of us and how saturated our media had become with all manner of news, great and small, regarding the upcoming election. How, I asked her and myself, could I keep track of all the utterly useless information about people in whom I am not even interested without Yahoo bombarding me with headlines about their lives when I log on to check my email?
What I hadn't even considered is that there may be news out there about people in whom I am interested that I may miss. Seriously, people, if I were not suffering from insomnia and hadn't just seen a trailer for Casanova on channel 11, I would never have found this piece of information.
I know this only happened a day or two ago, but still, what if I had missed this because I was too busy obsessing over the polling data at FiveThirtyEight? How can I even worry about the election when confronted with this news? Who will the producers of Doctor Who get to replace David Tennant? How will I cope with a new Doctor (keep in mind, I hate change and this is my favorite Doctor, the one who reintroduced me to the series) and will I get to see David Tennant act ever again (I know, YouTube, but what if he decides to only do theatre)? What if it all goes to crap? In fact, screw everything else that has been discussed about Iraq, health care, and the economy, I want to know where the candidates stand on this issue and what they plan to do about it.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"I guess I`m a fool at least I`m not innocent." Lloyd Cole
I was looking at the map over at electoral-vote.com, as is my way these days, and I thought something like, "Indiana is kind of blue" and that made me start singing Lloyd Cole and the Commotions in my head.
Of course, this song has absolutely nothing to do with politics and everything to do with heartache.
When I was thirteen and I first listened to the record Easy Pieces, I felt like I was being given a glimpse into real life and grown up relationships. I knew nothing of love and breakups, but when I listened to Why I Love Country Music, I got a sense of what it felt like to still be in love after a relationship had passed its expiration date.
Now that I think of it, I should blame Lloyd Cole for my behavior in relationships as I seemed to fall for men who were engaged in complicated breakups with ex-girlfriends and I was always so understanding of their predicament, of their feelings, of the complex nature of emotions. I believed that if I behaved in a kind and respectful manner, just as soon as they resolved their issues with their pasts, the men (well, boys really) would realize they loved me, that my patience and goodness would be rewarded. Of course it never happened. I wonder, what might I have been like if I had not heard the song Rich on the radio and been inspired to buy the album? Maybe I would not have found men who were wrapped up emotionally in their own pasts with people they idealized to be appealing. Maybe I would have broken a few eggshells and been less interested in being good. Maybe I would have been a different person entirely.
Of course, if I were a completely different person with a totally different relationship history, maybe Fred and I wouldn't have gotten together. So maybe I should be thanking Lloyd Cole for the last fifteen years instead of blaming him for the awkward five that came before. Maybe.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
All snark aside, this is really depressing. How are we supposed to take Sarah Palin seriously as a candidate when her very party doesn't seem to view her as anything more than Caribou Barbie? Do they really think that all it takes for a woman to be taken seriously is the right designer wardrobe and an ability to read from a teleprompter and/or memorize lines? Is this all a woman needs to do to be taken seriously?
This made me cry. Not the eyes welling up discreetly sort of crying, but the uncontrollable, shoulder shaking variety which happens when I am angry.
Many years ago, Tracy and I were walking around campus while a social was going on. We were talking and we walked past a couple who were standing on the very edge of the path. I was so wrapped up in our conversation that I didn't really notice, but Tracy did. She stopped, turned around, and walked up to the woman and asked if she needed and help. It was at that point I noticed that the woman was being backed into the bushes, that the man had been browbeating her, that he literally towered over her, and that he was someone who, it was rumored, was a rapist (by rumored I mean that he had been anonymously accused of rape on a bathroom wall and, we were told, he sued the school to have his name removed from the bathroom walls. This meant that the school kept repainting the bathroom walls in the library and people kept putting his name up there as a protest. I should, perhaps note that at our school, though I am sure this happened at other small liberal arts colleges as well, there had been a tradition of women writing on bathroom walls "X is a rapist" and there was constant discussion, on the walls and in the school paper, about whether anonymous accusations should be deemed acceptable.) The woman said that, no, she was fine. Tracy asked if she was sure and she said yes, so we walked away. At which point, the man walked after us and yelled at Tracy for butting in to their discussion. Tracy stood her ground and told him that, from her perspective, the situation looked like someone needed help and if he had a problem with it, she would be happy to get campus security involved. He went away, probably aware of how the situation looked and how, given his reputation, security would not view him kindly.
It has been fifteen years, but I still feel an enormous amount of admiration for Tracy because she noticed what was happening and stopped to address the situation. I also feel a certain amount of shame for my self-absorption and what is perhaps a tendency of mine to ignore other people, to consider their interactions as none of my business. Sure, I participated in Take Back The Night marches and escorted women through Operation Rescues, but that night, I walked by a woman being intimidated by a man who was alleged to be a rapist and I failed to act. It didn't even register in my mind until Tracy went back.
Madeleine Albright said, "There's a special place reserved in Hell for women who don't help other women." We can all argue about what our responsibilities are to female politicians, about how much of a role their gender should play in determinations to vote for them and how their gender should influence their policies. But I think we can agree that we need to look out for each other.
In my life thus far, I have been blessed with tremendous opportunities and I have been enormously lucky. I was born and raised in America. My parents always encouraged me and never suggested expected less of me than my brother. I went to good schools and got good grades. I met the love of my life in early adulthood. I have never had an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. I have never been the victim of domestic violence. I have never been raped. As I said, I have been incredibly lucky.
I am angry that there are women and girls who have not been so lucky and I am angry that, ultimately, it is all a matter of luck.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Our friend, Eric, stayed with us for a day last week and I took the opportunity to show him some of the sights (Myopic and Reckless) and talk his ear off. Seriously, I don't think the poor man got a word in. Among the many topics I touched upon in my unending monologue was my black dress project, something of which he was unaware and which he found intriguing as a writing project and I didn't get around to explaining how it evolved from a writing project into photography. So, this, coupled with my having stumbled upon some mushrooms up at the lake a couple weeks ago, has led me to tossing some lovely clothes against twigs and dried leaves once more. I am starting to worry this project will never end because, as you know, I always have stuff to say about clothing and my collection of black dresses keeps growing. While I am not sure it is a bad thing if this project goes on forever, I realize that, at some point, I will run out of closet space (I know it sounds ridiculous, but I really don't know how many black dresses I own, but I can tell you that it is more than when I last touched this project). It struck me, as I was taking pictures over the weekend, that this project is a great metaphor for my life and how it has been changed by the demands of motherhood, how I am no nature girl, yet Julian demands we spend abundant amounts of time outdoors, how I am forced to steal small blocks of time to create art while Julian plays nearby, how I have all these black dresses which I never have an opportunity to wear anymore (even the somewhat casual ones are more work than jeans and a t-shirt), and how hard it is for all of us to integrate the person you think you are with the world in which you live.
So, without further ado, I invite you to follow the resurrected black dress project here.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Julian loves to climb. He also loves grabbing things off of trees and eating them. And he absolutely loves apples.
So, it goes without saying that this weekend's trip to an apple orchard to pick our own was a great success.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Pa pa pa pa
As many people in my life will attest, I am not generally a fan of the sun. Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that the sun is responsible for all life on earth and I prefer warm weather to cold weather. But, I generally consider a cloudless day to be WAY too bright. I seek out shade and don hats in the summer. I wear sunblock even when it rains.
All that being said, I can't look at all these beautiful pictures without squealing a little bit. That's our star, people, look how gorgeous it is!
Friday, October 10, 2008
The parallels which can be drawn between our current political climate and a classic Billy Bragg song become more obvious with each passing day.
I've always been impressed with a girl who could sing for her supperIt appears I was mistaken in my earlier post about John McCain.
He said, "We don't like peace campaigners 'round here," as he nailed another one to the wall.
Your life has lost its dignity, its beauty, and its passion. You're an accident waiting to happen.
He has had numerous opportunities to speak out against the hate expressed at his rallies. Instead, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and their minions keep telling lies about Barack Obama and emphasizing his middle name. Instead, he just agrees when someone tells him how the "socialists" are trying to take over our country. Instead, he considers criticism of racism and calls for political assassination to be an attack on "hardworking Americans."
You know, John McCain is not the first politician who, in the face of economic collapse, scapegoated ethnic and religious minorities for the country's problems and set himself up as the opponent to both communists and financiers. However, one would think John McCain would not want such comparisons to be drawn. One would think. But with each passing day, John McCain goes further down a road one would think he would not want to go down and his motto Country First begins to sound increasingly ominous.
So it has come to this. I am past the point of accepting that other people have different views on this, but deep down, we are all good at heart. I now think any vote for John McCain is an endorsement of his divisive tactics. A vote for John McCain demonstrates that one is in agreement with the hatred, as expressed by his more vocal supporters at rallies, towards people whose skin color, religion, or political point of view is different from their own. I realize that sounds harsh, but how else can one view a person rewarding this behavior with their vote? At a certain point, people have to stand up and say, "This is wrong."
I am not the only person who feels this way. Many prominent conservative politicians and ideologues are registering their disgust with McCain.
Note, I am not saying you must vote for Barack "Who's Sane" Obama. There are other people running for president who deserve your consideration. Unfortunately, John McCain is no longer one of them.
I am heartened to see that John McCain has finally rediscovered his conscience (albeit after a day of escalating rhetoric on his part), but I am afraid this is not enough. It is going to take a lot of positive and sincere talk about Senator Obama on John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the campaign's part to walk people back from the brink they were led to by these very same people.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I know that you may view this video clip as simple left wing propaganda, designed to make Republicans look bad. Or you will suggest that people on the left are too quick to judge Republicans harshly, that we judge the many based on the actions of a few. And I'll admit that, given the recent rhetoric of your campaign, I feel it is no surprise that some people (including the blogger who filmed this) may think that this crowd's reaction is logical and fear that it won't take much for violence to erupt.
I know many Republicans who have never expressed anything but acceptance for people of other religions and races. They are good people who give back to their communities and do not tolerate the injustices they see around them. They would not approve of the views expressed by these people. For this reason, in addition to feeling disgust, rage, and fear while watching this, I also feel shame for them. The Republicans I know are not like this and I don't like that they may be found guilty by association, simply because they plan to vote for you in the fall.
I know that most Republicans are good people who believe in smaller government, lower taxes, and making the world a better place. We may disagree on the methods, but ultimately, we want the same things for our children and our country. I know that this behavior isn't representative of the party of Abraham Lincoln. What I can't understand is why you are not denouncing this sort of thing. I know that you know it is wrong and does not represent your views, but I really wish you would speak out so that everyone else knows this as well. Tell these people that they are wrong.
Please. I have a four year old son. I want him to grow up in a country where people do not judge others based upon their name, their ethnic background, their religion, their geography, or their political viewpoints. I want him to grow up in a country where people do not feel pride to express their bigotry and ignorance. I want him to grow up in a country which values knowledge, education, and achievement. This is the country that I want for him and I know that this is the country that my Republican loved ones want for him as well.
The Republican Party is better than this. You are better than this.
Science literacy is an urgent issue in the United States. To remain competitive and ensure national security, it is vital that we educate and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
And, perhaps more importantly given what was said last night
[T]he Adler has never received an earmark as a result of Senator Obama's efforts. This is clearly evidenced by recent transparency laws implemented by the Congress, which have resulted in the names of all requesting Members being listed next to every earmark in the reports that accompany appropriations bills.
Read the entire statement here.
As a mother, I want my child to grow up in a country whose leader values science and education, not one who sneers at it or thinks that dinosaurs roamed the earth (along with humans) six thousand years ago. I want my son to learn to think for himself, to have his own beliefs, and to be able to defend those beliefs with facts and information, not to whine that his opinion is valid simply because it is his opinion. I want my son to read books, not burn them.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Sarah Palin has, quite famously, been talking about Barack Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers (they served on a charitable foundation's board of directors together along with a number of Republicans) and suggests that he is guilty of terrorism by this association.
As many have wondered, does Sarah Palin really want to go there? After all, she and her husband have a long relationship with the Alaskan Independence Party, a secessionist group whose founder enlisted the Iranian government to sponsor his anti-American agenda and died while attempting to buy plastic explosives. If people are known by the company they keep, what do we know about Sarah Palin and who she has chosen to "pal around with" over the years?
So, when Sarah Palin suggests that Barack Obama doesn't see America as she does, she is right. Barack Obama doesn't view America and it's taxpayers as unwitting dupes who can be sucked dry to fund their "self-sufficient" state. Barack Obama doesn't view America as a country which must be either seceded from or overthrown. Barack Obama doesn't think that America is a country where only those people who are the correct religion or race or political affiliation deserve respect. So, yes, Sarah Palin is right, Barack Obama doesn't view America as she does, but then, a lot of Americans don't. You have to wonder which country Sarah Palin is pledging to put first and what motivates those who would vote to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from becoming president.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
This was a woman who dedicated her life to making the lives of other women better.
As a female police officer, Malalai is able to speak directly to women who are victims of violence. Recently, she started investigating a spate of suspicious murders and cases of abuse involving women in Kandahar. "These are things that I do that men just won't," she says. "I remember this one case, when I knocked on the door but the children would not let me in. From under the cover of my burka, I told them I was their long-lost aunt. They opened the door." Malalai (who says she often wears a burka to disguise her identity) searched the house and found a woman and her son chained by their hands and feet. They'd survived for 10 months on crusts of bread and cups of water. The woman, a widow, was handed over by her in-laws to her brother-in-law after her husband passed away. The brother married her and divorced her, a major taboo that guaranteed she would be a social outcast for the rest of her life. When she went to pick up her belongings, the brother-in-law forced her and her son into a cage and held them captive.This was a woman who gave her life trying to make the lives of women and children in Afghanistan.
"The Taliban may threaten me," Malalai says. "But because of stories like rescuing this woman, the women and children love me."
It is crucial to note that this act occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting and prayer and reflection, a time when Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance into the future, ask for help in refraining from everyday evils and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
So it would seem the Taliban's interpretation of Islam is somewhat different from most practicing Muslims.
However, it seems that as desperate as the Taliban and other terrorist groups are to proclaim their interpretation of their religion as the only interpretation, there are so many people here in America who are equally eager to adopt this viewpoint. How else to explain the zeal with which certain political figures proclaim terrorism as synonymous with Islam? How else to explain the mass distribution of a Muslim bashing DVD in certain swing states last week? How else to explain attacks on American Muslims and mosques like the one which recently occurred in Dayton, Ohio?
If the Taliban had their way, no one would fight for the women and children of Afghanistan. But here in America, there are people who would target those same women and children on the basis of their religious beliefs.
At a certain point, one can no longer remain silent. Whatever you believe in your heart is irrelevant if you quietly sit back and allow others to stir up hatred and division in order to benefit. At a certain point, it isn't just about picking a side, it is about accepting responsibility for everyone else on your side as well.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about a novel I would not be writing and about my fears that it would not take much for Americans to allow their fellow Americans to be imprisoned for being the wrong color, worshiping the wrong god, and having the wrong political opinions. I forgot about these thoughts for awhile. However, for the past month, I have been thinking of them once again. It seems like the religious extremists are gaining ground everywhere and we are just quietly sitting back and allowing it to happen. It seems that as long as people feel that they are safe and secure and perceive that the government has their best interests at heart, they will ignore any and all manner of violations to the civil liberties of their fellow citizens. When we stop standing up for the rights of others, when we stop risking our necks in order to protect our neighbors, that is when the terrorists win.