Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fifteen Years



"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.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

David, Milan, and I




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.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mom, If You Don't Post It To Your Blog, Santa Will Never Know, Will He?

Mom made an apple cake in a fancy bundt pan. No one will notice if I take a little piece, will they?


Well, we think Santa will understand. He looks like he has a thing for cakes as well.

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Peace On Earth, Can It Be?



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.




Merry Christmas.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Undead Undead Undead



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
Doom
takita takita takita
Doom doom doom
etc.

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 Bela's Old Shed

Oh Bela Bela's Old Shed

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Did We See Through Our Eyes Before We Were Taught How To See?


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.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Go Ahead, Blame Meg Ryan For Your Rotten Love Life

According to researchers at Heriot Watt University, romantic comedies are partially responsible for creating unrealistic expectations in relationships and fans of such films often have difficulties communicating with their partners.

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.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Who Throws A Shoe?



Every time I hear a news story about the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush, I think of Austin Powers.

Thanks to Rachael for posting this link on Facebook after I made a similar comment there.

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The Right To Water

The Article 31 petition is trying to get the UN to add a new article to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one that recognizes a fundamental right to water.
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.

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.

Please take a moment and sign the petition.

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.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Tis The Season To Be Shaken Down

Oh look, our governor is in federal custody and appears to have been modeling himself after Tony Soprano (note: this is one of many things I will say in this post for which Joel accused me of trying out on him during a conversation yesterday for the express purpose of using in my blog. I denied it, not because I didn't intend to use the comments here, but because I wasn't actually trying anything out, I was just saying what I was thinking and knowing full well that, regardless of his response (tepid, remember he thinks I am not funny), I planned to recycle some of it here. Duh.) Like everyone else, I was shocked by Blagojevich's brazenness, his hubris, and his outright stupidity. I mean, come on, hasn't he watched enough Law & Order to know that you don't ever say stuff like that on your home phone, especially when you have been under investigation for years? The Feds should have only heard rock music and cryptic phrases like "the eagle flies at midnight" or "the baby has an ear infection" on those wire taps. Anyone with half a brain would know not to talk about selling the senate seat, right? A commentator on All Things Considered yesterday mentioned how astounding it was that he was simultaneously thinking that if he installed himself in the senate seat he would have better resources at his disposal if he were to be indicted and would have a presence on the national scene for a presidential run in 2016. Yes, it is astounding, but keep in mind that it is obvious that Rod Blogojevich thinks he is super hot, so clearly this man is living in a parallel universe that the rest of us can only wonder at because the man looks like a hedgehog yet he acts like he sees Brad Pitt staring back at him when he shaves (note: for those wondering how Joel's tally is coming along, that is two.) This is a man with an enormous amount of self-regard and one must consider the possibility that he believed himself to be invincible (which still makes him stupid, but not because he is lacking a huge chunk of gray matter).

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.
been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
so hurry down the chimney tonight.

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


Santa baby, a 54 convertible too,
Light blue.
I'll wait up for you dear,
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

Think of all the fun I've missed,
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed,
Next year I could be just as good,
If you'll check off my Christmas list,

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,
The deed
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,
And checks.
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: $1,000,000

As for the checks, let's assume Santa is mindful of all gift tax laws. Price=$12,000

Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's,
I really do believe in you,
Let's see if you believe in me,

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
Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,
A ring.
I don't mean on the phone,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight,
Hurry down the chimney tonight,
Hurry, tonight.
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.

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.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

This Post Is For Tracy, But You Can Read It Too

The title of this post is inspired by Tracy's blog, which has the note at the top, "This blog is for Alison, but you can read it too." For those of you who don't know her, Tracy was my roommate in college and is one of the greatest people I have ever met. I am in awe of her intelligence, her strength, and her knitting skills*. She is also one of the only people from college with whom I maintain an active (i.e. beyond Facebook and random emails) friendship. Go read her blog after you are done here.

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

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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Fire No One Can Forget

"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?

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