Monday, March 31, 2008

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste


Monday mornings for me signal the end of my work week, which usually means a few cozy hours on the couch catching up with the news over coffee and breakfast while the sun comes up. Delish. Yesterday's Sunday Times was full of craptastic articles that alternately made me nod/smile/vomit/curl up in dismay. But before we get to the one about Ivy League virgins with major psycho-sexual baggage, let's hit the lighter one first:

"It's Not You, It's Your Books"

So this trifling little essay appeared in the Sunday Book Review, all about the way we judge people based on the books they carry and keep on their shelves. You can sit here and run your mouth about how frivolous and shallow and pretentious this is, and I will agree with you, but at the same time - damn! Tell me you don't judge people [quietly, surreptitiously] by the books they surround themselves with? I mean, I kept one boyfriend around long past his expiration date solely because he had both bell hooks AND Susan Faludi on his well-manicured shelves.

Maybe it's just me, bookish future-librarian-with-12-cats that I have been predicted to become someday, but I'll tell you the truth: bookshelves are the first thing I look at when I walk into a new friend's or gentleman caller's place. It's like I have a homing device in my chest beeping louder the closer it gets to the bookshelves. I know it's just this little collection of bindings, most of which probably haven't even been read, but I feel immediately close to the friend who's got Ruether or Wharton or Palahniuk on her shelves, and infinitely revolted by the date who's packed his with Tuesdays With Morrie or the Left Behind series. Dealbreakers, for sure. Along with cheesy pop-psych self-help books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus or similar tripe. And on the flip side, what a turn-on when I find Sartre or Bourdieu or Zora Neale Hurston or something else fabulously dark or esoteric or earthy.

Anyway, point being, yes, I am a superficial bitch who will turn and run if I find Mars/Venus on your bookshelf. And yes, you will be my immediate soulmate if you still have the weathered full set of anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Books, especially the most loved ones with pages falling out and bindings creased into illegibility, are windows into the things that matter to us, the ideas that feed us, the feelings that challenge us, and a few stolen moments perusing a bookcase or three are like a little entryway into someone's psyche. A DVD collection just doesn't do the same thing.*

It's Not You, It's Your Books (NYT)

*Don't even get me started on what happens if there AREN'T any bookshelves to begin with.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions


On this day in 1941, sixty-seven years ago now, Virginia Woolf wrote a note to her husband Leonard, loaded down her pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse outside her home in England to drown.

I should be writing and researching and cleaning out files this afternoon, and instead all I can do is think about the image of Nicole Kidman wearing a prosthetic nose and frumpy mid-century clothing slowly sinking into a whirling sun-dappled river while Philip Glass's tumultuous score tumbles urgently below.

Virginia Woolf was one of those literary finds that made my life "click" together in that most rare of ways; I lost myself in her stream-of-consciousness novels and found great truth and wisdom and some indefinable lyrical beauty rooted in sorrow, and knew that literature had the power to speak volumes about what it means to be alive, or to struggle to want to be alive. Woolf, of course, was a prominent member of the bohemian Bloomsbury Group in 1920s London, along with fellow badasses like her husband, her sister Vanessa Bell (known primarily for her work as a modern artist) and her husband Clive, the philosopher Bertrand Russell and his wife Dora, etc.

If you don't know Woolf yet - for shame. Get yourself to a library immediately. Pick up Mrs. Dalloway - one of my top five books of all time - or To the Lighthouse, or Orlando, or A Room of One's Own. Just read the shit. It's a struggle at first, no doubt; Woolf's writing is intricate and fluid, tumbling from thought to thought in a myriad of almost impressionistic observations. But there's a great payoff, particularly in her ability to capture the psychological roaming of a single mind in the span of a few moments, hopping from past to present to future with lightning speed.

It being unofficial Virginia Woolf Day here, then, a few other assignments for you to start with:

1. Virginia Woolf via Wikipedia. You should know this shit already, but if you don't, go here first to get the basics. Check out the tantalizing details about her personal liaisons and the long list of published works for several goodies.

2. Go read Mrs. Dalloway. Then, ignoring the terrible film adaptations out there, move along to Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Hours, which is intricately tied to Dalloway and inspired by the last hours of Woolf's life. Both books will squeeze your heart in seven directions and leave you puffy-faced and, somehow, more alive.

3. Then, and only then, go rent the recent film version of The Hours. You know which one I'm talking about: Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Claire Danes, Ed Harris, John C. Reilly; hello, cast! If that's not enough, the screenplay is actually remarkably true to the novel, and it swims along on that killer Philip Glass score. Um, watch it immediately.

4. Click on the "woolf" label below for my review of the musical version of To the Lighthouse that premiered at Berkeley Rep a year or so ago. Promise yourself you'll see it if you ever get a chance.

5. Go dig up that mix tape from 1997 and listen to the Indigo Girls' version of "Virginia Woolf." Sing along loudly, preferably loud enough to piss off the annoying girls upstairs.

That's a good Woolfian start. Then, breathe deeply, take the stones out of your pockets, and back slowly away from that creek you're standing next to. You really can't off yourself until you at least finish reading the rest of her work.

~~ Quiet descended on her, calm, content, as her needle, drawing the silk smoothly to its gentle pause, collected the green folds together and attached them, very lightly, to the belt. So on a summer's day waves collect, overbalance, and fall; collect and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying 'that is all' more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, says the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking. ~~ Mrs. Dalloway

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


When I first moved to SF, I loaded up my little red 5-speed Ford Festiva with all my earthly belongings and hit I-80 for the long drive west. Once I finally sailed through the salt flats and Tahoe and across the Bay Bridge, that little car chugged up and down the hills of my neighborhood in endless pursuit of free street parking. In a hot minute I learned how completely unnecessary that car would be here in the City (especially as I watched my friends rack up hundreds of dollars in parking tickets, which probably cost more than my little Festiva was worth to begin with).

By two weeks into my move, the car was gone and I was free and easy. And that's when the first Muni Fast Pass came into play. These fabulous little guys are good for endless trips on Muni - the all-encompassing name for SF public transport, including buses, the underground trains, the cable cars, and Bart within the City. For 35 bucks a month (at the time) I could get anywhere with my Fast Pass, my feet and a few extra minutes, and maybe even get some reading done in the process, or at least some people-watching, if nothing else.

For a child of the suburbs where sprawl was king and cars were mandatory, this public transport thing felt like a revelation. Not only could I completely ignore the escalating gas prices, but I wasn't shelling out hundreds of dollars a month for car insurance or paying for taxes and registration, and I felt like I was doing my bit to live simply and shrink my carbon footprint a little bit every day by not contributing to the hole in the ozone layer.

So I was standing at the bus stop around the corner from my place one day a few years back and I noticed this sign on a pole calling for old Muni Fast Passes to be used in some art project or another. These little guys are pretty, you see, always some combo of jewel tones separated by a silver streak down the middle, and I'd always harbored some bizarro inability to throw them away after their month was through, almost like that little piece of paper held a record of all the places I'd been and things I'd done and people I'd been with on my way to Ocean Beach or the deYoung or Golden Gate Park or what have you. Oddly sentimental, but true. So they cluttered up a corner of my desk drawer. I saw this poster and was immediately intrigued; here was an artist using what was essentially found art to create something reeking of history and community and travel and urbanity and public art, this very real day-to-day expression of color and light that also had its roots in the boringly pragmatic matter of getting from here to there.

The Chron had an article on Tuesday following up on this guy's (John Kuzich's) work, and it's charming and uplifting in an unexpected kind of way. An artistic melding of the fleeting realities shared by the thousands of Muni riders over the years, and a tangible collation of the memories and trips and rides and experiences sitting next to that homeless dude who spilled his recycled cans all over you or the goth teenager who puked on you in the back seat late at night or the Chinese grandma who elbowed you in the face on her way out the door.

The sociologist in me is fascinated with the momentary times we share with people on the bus; the random collection of folks sharing five minutes or an hour in the same car on the same subway train, the minutes we lose checking out each others' shoes or seeing what people are reading or wondering if that blond Marina chick prattling on about Prada bags will ever shut the fuck up and get the hell off her cell phone on this quiet bus at 7:30 in the morning.

Living in the City and sharing the often totally unsexy reality that is public transport, we come and go from one anothers' lives in a weirdly intimate kind of way, sharing seats or quick conversations or eye contact quickly averted across the aisle. I like the way that Kuzich's project takes the physical mementos of those experiences and makes them into something beautiful. That, to me, is what creating art is about: that melding of aesthetic beauty and the deep-down gritty realities of trucking around this planet on a day-to-day basis.

Artist Transforms Outdated Muni Passes (SF Chron)
What is the Muni Fast Pass project? www.kuzich.com/muni-art/

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


One of my favorite things about spring is the increasing availability of fresh local fruits. Gone are the days of heavy winter root vegetables; suddenly the local markets are full of berries and melons and other soft fruits. The fridge is stocked with red grapes and blueberries and strawberries again, and I'm reminded how central good fruit is to being healthy.

Shortly after moving to SF about five years ago, I lost a few good hours in an antiquarian bookstore down Polk St. breathing in dust and reading an old book by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond called Fit for Life. I came up for air with a new outlook on things like juicing, food combining and other hippie granola crap. Only later as I did more research into raw foods did I realize that the Diamond book was a pioneer in the whole natural living movement.

Fit for Life recommends eating only fruit before noon. Fruit, you see, is very cleansing, and easy for your body to digest, because it's so high in water content, and generally made of simple (albeit good-for-you) sugars. It's also full of fiber and antioxidants, especially those rich in color like red grapes and berries. Anyway, your body doesn't use a lot of energy to digest it, so it generally just whooshes through your system, hydrating you and giving your digestive system a break as it recovers from what was probably a heavy dinner the night before, if you, like most Americans, eat your heaviest meal at night.

I tried the fruit-before-noon thing and have never looked back since. Can't recommend it highly enough. It's a good easy way to introduce more fruits into your diet, along with a thoughtless means of better hydration that doesn't involve lugging around a huge bottle of water all day. Give it a try as a first step toward eating better. You'll be hungry quickly because fruits digest so easily; I usually eat, for instance, a bunch of grapes circa 7:30, a half-pint of blueberries at like 9:30 or 10, and a handful of strawberries again at 11:30 or 12. After that, have your Big Mac for lunch and your Domino's for dinner. But at least you'll have started the day in a hydrated, healthy way. You'll see a difference, for sure, in your complexion, your hydration, and your general health. Plus: fiber!

I used to be so attached to my morning bagel with my coffee, and at first I missed it, but now I can't even imagine eating something that dense and sugary and heavy in the morning and trying to get up and run afterwards or not feeling that refined-sugar crash afterward. You'll get used to the fruit thing easily - try melon for a sweet treat, too - and after that, it's all gravy. Not literally.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


First day of Spring!

"This is the frost coming out of the ground; this is Spring. It precedes the green and flowery spring, as mythology precedes regular poetry. I know of nothing more purgative of winter fumes and indigestions. It convinces me that Earth is still in her swaddling-clothes, and stretches forth baby fingers on every side. Fresh curls spring from the baldest brow. There is nothing inorganic. These foliaceous heaps lie along the bank like the slag of a furnace, showing that Nature is 'in full blast' within. The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit - not a fossil earth, but a living earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic. Its throes will heave our exuviae from their graves. You may melt your metals and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can; they will never excite me like the forms which this molten earth flows out into."

-- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

(And that's Georgia O'Keefe, she of the badass self: "Cottonwood Tree in Spring," 1943)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


The world feels heavy today.

It's grey and cool, and on the other side of Nob Hill, the Financial District is teeming with anti-war protesters, on this fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. They're chaining themselves to the Federal Reserve, staging die-ins in the street, and bringing traffic downtown to a grinding halt. Over 40 have already been arrested as of late morning. Tonight's massive anti-war march is scheduled to start at 5, which means Market Street will surely be a bottleneck, and it's set to begin at Civic Center, which is just across the street from the Opera House.

I have tickets for a Jerome Robbins tribute at the SF Ballet, all West Side Story and snapping gang members and dancing sailors. I can't help but wonder if the performance will be haunted by echoes from the chanting protesters across the street.

An activist interviewed in the Chron this morning hit on what I think is the saddest part of this Bush-led crusade: the fact that, after five years, the war has simply become normal; it has long stopped being "the new normal" and settled into being simply the white noise behind the other news that fills our brains, the Britney updates and the March Madness brackets and, oh yeah, there's a war going on, a war that we started blithely, killing a million and displacing four times that. I hope today's protests remind us that this doesn't have to serve as the backdrop to our days for the years to come.

I've been doing a lot of work lately on the notions of craving and greed, that whole engine fueling capitalism that teaches us we need More, Bigger, Better, that we can't be content with what we've got. It falls quite nicely in step with the Buddhist and yogic teachings on need and abundance. Read this article the other day on the lifestyle abundant, that subversive notion that maybe you don't need a newer phone or a bigger TV or a zippier car to be happy. The whole idea is that - get ready for this - everything you need, you already have.

It's revealing to ask yourself: How would my life change if I lived as if this were true? If the health and love and friendship and shelter and material comforts I already have are exactly what I need?

Thinking this way completely revises the concept of "need." It lets you step back and breathe and stop striving for empty visions and goals and oases in the desert. You learn to be content with what you already have. You see that wants and needs are so relative - that the new iPhone you're dying for is extraneous compared to the food and clothing that Iraqi girl is, quite literally, dying for.

And on a day like today, with an awareness of our relative affluence so frankly thrust into our faces, I think it's a good time to think about how much we already have, and to let it be enough; to stop throwing away our lives grasping at illusions, at apparitions, when all we need is already in our hands.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste


Oh, ugh!

The way the media are hyping the upcoming Sex and The City movie, you'd think it was the fucking Second Coming. Seriously. Enough already.

I came late to the whole SATC phenomenon. Didn't have a television for a good chunk of 5 years or so, right when the show was in its prime, so I only knew it through the sort of pop cultural detritus it spewed here and there in terms of it being Sharp and Life-Changing and Profound and whatever re: relationships and urban living and single womanhood in the new millennium. Finally caught up with the series thanks to a miserably rainy January and a stack of DVDs a few years back, so I now feel qualified to excoriate the whole damn thing with a certain amount of understanding.

Candace Bushnell's series has always seemed to me like a vaguely disguised autobiography with better clothes and prettier actresses. But in spite of that, certain episodes did succeed in making some astute observations about real life and relationships and whatnot, in between scenes spent chugging pink martinis and shoe-shopping. Despite any small wisdoms parlayed, however, I can never forgive SATC for spawning the middle-aged lady default drink that is the Cosmopolitan. First of all, that was seven years ago, ladies. Second of all, get a fucking new drink. Third of all, DON'T ORDER IT. IT'S NOT COOL. OK? I MEAN IT.

Whew. Breathing again. So SATC has a mixed legacy of a little cultural relevance and a lot of gratuitous crap. And in the realm of gratuitous crap lies the whole excessive consumerism thing. Which is ultimately the reason that I can't wholly appreciate this series for its observations on romance and relationships. Because these women's lives revolve around shoes and overpriced clothing and ridiculous handbags and bizarro couture. I mean, really; who of us knew what the hell a Manolo Blahnik was before this show? And now it's the go-to iconic image for every chick lit book published, often appearing on the cover with a martini glass or two, as well.

The NYT has an article this morning on the advertising involved in this spring's upcoming SATC movie, and reading it nearly turned my stomach. The shameless promotion carefully built into what was once ostensibly a creative pursuit illumines to what degree the entire SATC industry has become a brand churning out a certain aspirational lifestyle for women viewers, most of whom probably live in bumfuck Idaho or thereabouts and certainly have no access to a Prada store on the corner or any place to wear a $5000 pair of high heels other than the local Wal-Mart. It makes me sick. You've heard about the bus tours that suburban women flock to in NYC that highlight the shops and neighborhoods featured in the series, right? Of course the entire tour experience is a consumeristic shill: buy the flower Carrie wore on her lapel here! Buy the suit Mr. Big wears here! Drink the Cosmo the girls drank here! Live vicariously through four archetypal caricatures who NEVER REALLY EXISTED! Because if they did, they certainly couldn't afford $5000 shoes on a sex columnist's salary.

Ugh. Few things make me want to wretch as much. Since when does a flighty chick who can't afford her rent-controlled apartment because she spent $40,000 on shoes serve as a major icon for American women? What is it about her that is so attractive? The martinis at lunch, the wobbly shoes, the heavily-caked make-up? I don't know. But the Times article this morning reminded me how much the incestuous relationship between advertising and art has sullied the rich potential for cultural observation that was SATC.

SATC and Its Lasting Female Appeal (NYT)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions


We have water again. (I know you were concerned). I will never, ever take a flushing toilet for granted again.

Saw this little indie-ish Focus Features flick the other night, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. In spite of the awkward title and the less-than-intriguing trailer, it's a gem of a film, a nice surprise in its own way. Certainly nothing earth-shattering, but a frothy, flimsy little farce set in London between the two World Wars swimming in gilt and salmon and ochre. Pettigrew is based on a recently resurrected little novel from 1938 by Winifred Watson, a charmer drawing together a few little love threads, a theatrical subtext, and some unexpectedly melancholic reflections on impending war, poverty and the point of anything, really, in the midst of all that.

Frances McDormand and Amy Adams star, respectively, as the titular character and her American starlet ward. Adams has a tendency to annoy the shit out of me (that high-pitched voice, those constantly-fluttering arms), but she sings adeptly (accompanied by some excellent piano work) and her costumes alone - a mess of feathers and silks and gorgeous 30s styles - make her performance bearable. McDormand pulls off a few reflective moments that linger in your mind several days out, along with a funny running joke about food, and the music that underscores the whole thing, all Big Band and swing and blaring trumpets and snazzy brushwork, is reason in itself to see the film.

Go for the costumes and the music and the escapist Art Deco aesthetics. The rest - including a little something about love - is all just window trimming.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


We've been without water due to some mysterious building leak for going on two days now, which means: no toilet, no sink, no shower. I've been schlepping my shampoo to the yoga studio and peeing at the Holiday Inn around the corner. Good times. (Don't even get me started on the whole needing-desperately-to-do-laundry thing). All this reminds me of the old days living in a tent on a hillside brushing my teeth in a river and wearing the same clothes day after day. Ahh, simple living. Yurts and spirulina and hippies and compost toilets.

So in honor of that vibe, I give you another edition of: Cool Hippie Shit You Should Really Know About. Today's entry is kind of a stretch, but I think my brain is so loopy from the dehydration setting in from not drinking any water so that I don't have to go to the Holiday Inn that it just works. So, say hello to

THE LUG CAMPER MESSENGER BAG.

Now, you know how I feel about shopping. I don't do it. And I've never been one of those women who needs to have 50 handbags. I find a good sturdy one that's big enough for a few Lara Bars, a bottle of Kombucha, some chapstick, my journal and a couple of books, and I'm good to go. This last one, a pretty little green thing I picked up at Goodwill like 5 years ago, lasted me all through grad school, baseball games, multiple treks around the City, and several strap repairs courtesy of the overpriced shoe repair shop around the corner.

But one strap has been hanging by a thread for the last few weeks, and I knew it was just a matter of time until my little green bag and I had to part for good. It was time to move on, as much as I dreaded the process of finding another. Green's the magic color, you see, and not so easy to find; it's spring-like and fresh and definitely Piscean, and it matches nothing, which means it matches everything. Perfect.

So I was at Whole Foods yesterday stumbling around the produce section eating free clementine samples, and turned around to see, in a flash of birdsong and light, the obvious replacement for my retiring green bag. It's a Lug bag (www.lugtravel.com), complete with 72 great zippered pockets, pen slots, special iPod, digital camera, cell phone and water bottle holders (if you carry all of those things), magnetic front pockets just the right size for carrying a cloche hat, and an adjustable strap that means it can turn into either an over-the-shoulder purse or a messenger bag. Sweet. And did I mention it's just the right size for a laptop AND the Sunday Chron?

I'm pretty much in love. Not too pricey: this one ran $54 at Whole Foods, which seems reasonable considering that I'll probably be using it until 2040 or so. Hit up the website and you'll see more. Their bags - in various other styles, might I add - come in 8 different colors.

Lug Bags

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


Spring has sprung, and with it my inability to sit inside while the sun beats down and the wind blows and the sidewalks reek of blossoms. There is definitely some kind of buzzing creative energy out there. I feel like I can hear the buds popping and the leaves greening if I just stand still and cock my ear to listen.

And all that has me thinking about the West, and land, and the wilderness, feeling outdoorsy and itching to be lost on a hillside somewhere. The Chron had two good pieces earlier this week that just fed that hunger.

First, there was a conference recently in Point Reyes honoring Wallace Stegner, the environmentalist activist, writer and general badass. Stegner was a fierce voice on behalf of the preservation of the West, someone who saw the beauty and rawness of the natural resources and all-too-prophetically warned how quickly that beauty could be devastated in service to industry. Read about him here.

And then Sunday's Magazine had a beautiful travel feature on the tallgrass prairies of Oklahoma. Most of you know by now that I will always have a special corner of my heart way up there on the lefthand upper quadrant or so reserved for the prairie writ large. This piece is a nice little ode to the miles of blowing grasses and whistling winds and buzzing insects and dusty wildflowers. Read it for some decent background on the stripping and subsequent restoration of the Great Plains. It's nothing you didn't learn if you were a sixth-grader in Nebraska, but if you weren't, it's worth a read to catch up on all the bison and Native American and colonization gossip.

Here's a little blurb. (I totally started nodding when she writes about how the smell of grass is intoxicating):

Early one fall I had fallen in love with this landscape when the grasses, which can grow to 8 feet or more, had reached a zenith. It was a deliciously hot day and silent. The clearing of every tiny bird and insect throat rang out like a great bell. Lured by the rustle of wind through the feathery leaves and seed heads, I stepped into the undulating ocean of grass.

Big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, compass plant - they all surrounded me in susurrant curtains. I was quickly hemmed in, my path into the bluestem sea erased with each new footfall. Grass has a sweet, delicate smell that was inebriating. The voices of my travel companions receded, and I was lulled into a false feeling of safety. Many things hide in the tallgrass. Snakes, stinging insects, ticks and a host of other creatures like me find its cover irresistible. Very quickly I caught myself losing all sense of time, distance and direction. I waded back to the road where the others stood talking, little realizing how the encounter would haunt me.


Recalling Stegner - And Worrying About Ecology (SF Chron)
Into the Bluesteam Sea (SF Chron)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions


Shaun's show, In the Heights, opened last night on Broadway, and a whole crush of you were there together (without me!) to see it. So the best I can do as I sit here sick with jealousy on the opposite coast is to link to the pretty-much-stellar review in today's Times.

Watch the audio slide show and you'll catch a few quick glimpses of STC in the upper left-hand corner of a few of the slides. Can't wait to catch this one next time I'm in town.

In the Heights review (NYT)

(And while I'm at it, here's an older article with some background on the show and its creator that ran in the Times a year ago when the show was still off-B'way)

"You're 27. Here Are Millions To Stage Your Musical." (NYT)

What'd you guys think of the show??

Friday, March 7, 2008

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit


Did you see this recent profile of Michelle Obama in the New Yorker?

I've felt the Obama-love creeping slowly since last winter, in spite of my best intentions to lean toward Hillary (on principle, if nothing else, and also because it would be pretty sweet to have Billy C. back in the White House in one form or another). And, truth be told, my vote in the California primary did go for the senator from Illinois. But I'm pretty late to the game on details, and now that we have a Democratic horserace for at least the next several weeks (if not through to August), I'm trying to make up for that.

The New Yorker profile itself is alternately fawning and vaguely disjunct, but it does grant a certain window into Michelle Obama's life. And I think it does well to point to the heavy role of race and gender politics involved in this year's contest. It's funny to me to imagine that she and Bill are one another's equivalents; by all means, it seems that both are immensely capable*, and I'm once again pleasantly surprised to have TWO more than adequate potential candidates running against McCain and his blonde Barbie-doll wife this fall.

On another Obama note, Salon had an interesting article the other day about, yes, Barack's voice versus Hillary's. Maybe it's just my weakness for baritones, but I found this question of the role of a candidate's voice intriguing; why, for instance, does the word "shrill" often get used for Hillary's voice, and how much of what people are hearing here is due to often-invisible and regularly-denied identity politics? Read it for an interesting take on the "little factors" that can swing an election.

The Other Obama (New Yorker)
Does Obama's Baritone Give Him an Edge? (Salon.com)

*And also, um, hot.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions

One of my favorite perks of getting to know Berkeley over the last several years has been stopping regularly at Berkeley Rep to catch their latest stuff. Rita Moreno in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, one-man monologue shows, a musical adaptation of Woolf's To The Lighthouse - just to name a few highlights.

Apparently the guys on the East Coast have picked up on this, too. Here's a quickie article from this morning's Times on the recent trend of Berkeley Rep productions heading east and the history of the theater company settled just off Shattuck in downtown Berk.

Left Coast Ideas, Floating East (NYT)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

Charming little article this morning from a NYT writer named Mark Bittman who decided to take what he deems a "secular Sabbath" once a week and unplug from everything: cell phone, PDA, laptop, all of it. I, of course, dig this approach; he describes the revelation of being unavailable and I think yes! yes! yes!. It's writers like Kalle Lasn and Bill McKibben who identify this kind of nonstop electronic stimulation as a pollution of the mental environment. So it makes sense to think about how to clear that polluted air and breathe a bit.

Seems to be a clever tangible approach to living more in the real world and less in the virtual one. Try it sometime. I'm sure it'll be weird as hell at first, but in time you might just join me in the blessedly cell-phone free "Ringer Off" camp.

I Need A Virtual Break. No, Really. (NYT)