Tuesday, November 30, 2010

two weeks of snow

We're supposed to have mobility-limiting snow for the next two weeks. That's good weather for writing in warm sweaters and pajamas, but bad weather for hanging out in Edinburgh, which we had been planning to do today in further celebration of Taylor's birthday. (Today is Sophie's birthday too! Happy Birthday Sophie!) (Not to mention, it's Saint Andrews Day)

Instead, I'll be watching some BBC costume dramas and writing a new short story. Plus, I have some videos and posts coming your way from our snowman building evening and the St Andrews Festival Fireworks/Processional. Since I can't give you access to all the costume dramas  that University of St Andrews so graciously allows me, instead I will leave you with the Red Hot Chili Pipers. It is as awesome as you are imagining. 

This one was actually filmed at our festival on Friday night. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

the great snow fight 2010

It started out innocently enough. We left the Russell Hotel as big soft flakes started to fall on us. In just a few minutes, all of St Andrews was covered in that clean white blanket of undisturbed snow. At first, we casually tried to make snowballs and threw them around a bit. But of course this escalated. And then we got to an alley. Iona and I knew that Taylor and Kris would be waiting on the other side of South Street to pelt us. So we stored up an arsenal of snowballs on my pizza box. 

When the war finally broke out, we didn't hit them with one snowball. Oh well. We did start a fight with a guy from his window (Actually, I think he started it.) It was really lovely because all the times it snowed in NYC, I just never felt like I had the time to go out and just play in it. (Not to mention, even when it first first snows, NYC snow is never really clean.)  This was about as fun as it gets. 

Also want to say happy birthday to that guy, Mr. Taylor. We threw him a surprise birthday party last night, but here's hoping today will be as fun as this weekend! xo

Sunday, November 28, 2010

snowy sundays

Happy Sunday from our Snowman Family! Because sometimes, you just want to build snowmen at 2AM.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

st andrews fest saturday

Happy Saturday from a sunny and brisk Deans Court! We had our first snow that stuck last night. Though, it's pretty much gone now with the sun. Any fun weekend plans or is everyone still in food hangover from T'giving? 

I love St Andrews three-day weekends and this one is especially good because it's the St Andrews Festival! Kris, Gretchen, and I took it easy last night. We watched The Sting (Redford AND Newman = heaven) and then, once they left, I watched Out of Africa (Meryl Streep's skin in that movie! Porcelain).

And today!! Today, Iona is coming to visit. There's a mini ice rink I'm thinking about hitting up, an art fair, and fireworks tonight. Tomorrow, there's a food festival, and hopefully more music! I heard there was a band last night called "The Red Hot Chili Pipers" and, with my love of puns and wordplay, I'm naturally distraught to have missed it. 

I'd better go get ready for Iona's arrival, but here are some of my favorite things from this week:

-The Beatles are finally on itunes!
-Great conversations with Philosophers about Wall Street
-This BloggingHeads blog about DFW, the internet, and nostalgia for the old Penn Station
-Talking about the psyche and the soul in class with Meaghan Delahunt
-New store in St Andrews, Twice
This picture of Paul Newman at the Strand:

Friday, November 26, 2010


I suppose I've been sort of working up to addressing my feelings about the man. I heard he was on Oprah in the states last week. Missed it. I was on my way back from Bamff, plus, I don't even have a clue if you can watch Oprah in the UK. But oh, Redford. Basically, all my ideas about what masculinity means-- should mean?-- boil down to a single person: young Robert Redford. 

Like 1975 Redford. Or really anywhere between Barefoot in the Park and The Natural. (You know he was almost 50 when he made that movie?)

He can make anything sexy. Anything cool. I've never seen anyone but him who can actually pull off a mustache. He makes aging appealing. Sly smiles charming. So cool, he could pull off making a name like Hubbell sound badass. So cool that I actually at times considered naming my own hypothetical kid Hubbell. It's funny too because I've never been a big fan of cool, actually. But he even makes cool look cool. 

I would (and have) gotten into fights defending his supremacy in these matters. I'd contend that what most people like about any contemporary movie man they like-- is actually just Redford. That thing they like is just the Redford showing.  I suppose it's arbitrary-- the man is 73 years old-- but I don't see a lot about modern man I much like these days. So it's nice to keep one little torch burning. And hope there's some real Bob Redfords out there. Under the age of 45.

So I'd say don't mention Redford if you want me to be able to stand up afterwards. Weak knees. Happy Friday. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy thanksgiving from fife

If I were a Stepford wife
I'll be in class most of this Thanksgiving, since it's obviously not a European holiday. Yesterday, I heard a bunch of American undergrads lamenting four years of no Thanksgiving. But even though I'd say the holiday and the sentiments behind it are probably my favorite, I've just never been overly attached to holidays. It's like the one thing I'm not super sentimental about. 

Maybe it was my odd upbringing. When I think of family, I think of Georgia or I think of Emily's family. And most of my best holidays, looking back have been with them or with friends-- like that Thanksgiving with Schumann in Connecticut, and the one with the Stillwells and Big Bad Blackwell (even if he did give our really nice desserts from Black Hound Bakery away to  the crackheads in Washington Square Park). 

So instead of gorging on turkey, I'll be workshopping my new short story and Gretchen's story, and listening to Meaghan Delahunt discuss the psyche in writing. And that, amazingly enough, is the number one thing I am thankful for this year. 

I'm thankful to all the people who supported me in my journey here (so many people, but most especially my dad, Emily, and Steven-- who trusted that we'd still be able to get work done together with me in a foreign country). And those who've supported me since I've gotten here (overwhelming!)

Because yep, I'm most thankful that I have been able to engineer a life for myself where writing is at the center of it. And I can spend most of my day writing. It took a lot to build that. And I am thankful for every minute of it. 

Just because there's no Thanksgiving in Scotland, doesn't mean good old Robert Burns doesn't have something to say about it:

Some hae meat and canna eat, -
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
--Robert Burns

Amen. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

live free or die- wait, I'm agreeing with Ron Paul?

I am no fan of Ron Paul (or any member of the Paul family, really) and this is perhaps the least eloquent example of a high ranking, publicly elected official I can think of, and yet.... I (oh god, I never thought I'd say this) one hundred percent agree with him. Not the way he expresses it, or the logic he uses in this speech. But the idea. In general for my own logic. Let me explain.

I'm a non-violent Buddhist. The only time I ever feel brought to the brink of violence is actually in the airport. I've been preaching about the experience of flying for quite sometime.  And that's because of the demeaning way in which people are treated.

It makes me not even want to go home next month. It's not worth it even to me, almost, to see my family, knowing I'll be going through this FOUR TIMES (not just when I first get on a plane, but also in my connections in Paris) in ten days. 

Of course, it's in Vegas. And I've heard from various folks that it hasn't been as bad they'd anticipated. But isn't that almost as bad? The anxiety around all of it?

This past week, we were reading and discussing Don DeLillo's Falling Man-- specifically DeLillo's ideas (expressed in several books) of terrorism as kind of performance art. We had a pretty good, fairly long discussion of it. Without getting too in depth, basically, I agree. I wish we could find a way to stop paying attention to them. When we create reactionary policies that demean our citizens and strip away our civil liberties, terrorists don't have to blow anything up to have already won. 

And while terrorists may also want to kill people, what they really want to get at are symbols, ideas. They've done that one way, and that now that we're busy still trying to protect what they hit last time, they've moved on to an even bigger symbol-- our civil liberties. And they've tricked us into doing it for ourselves because we're scared. 

Anyhow, that's how I feel about it. Today is National Opt-Out Day. Which I guess means you have a choice: do I want everyone to see a picture of me naked or do I want to get groped?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

big bad love of larry brown

My friends and I are obviously nerds. We get together on Friday nights and we read our stuff. I mean, we still get rowdy and piss off the neighbors. But I suppose it's from reading our short stories and poems too loudly? 

This Friday, I read Paddington. That's pretty much the only short thing I have. Heard some great poems from fiction writers and poets alike. 

Then, this Sunday, in another raging party, we hung out and watched this awesome documentary about the Mississippi writer Larry Brown. Our dear Brian had it shipped to Scotland from Duke University. (How he managed to track it down there, I have no idea.) 

It will definitely make you want to read Larry Brown. The still photography they used with narration of his some of his short stories was remarkably affective in places. Also, encouraging to see the lengthy lists of his short story send outs-- how often he was rejected. Really do have to have nerves of steel.

Check out Big Bad Love and this documentary if you can! 

(Also interesting. There's a lot of posthumous book publishing going on these days...only 5 more months until The Pale King....sigh)
(PS- the egregious typos I made in this post when I wrote it half asleep this morning have now been fixed. Wow.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

goodbye skye- for now.

Here it is-- the last in my Skye series-- at least for a while. Sometimes, I think I'm psychic. I've been plotting the novel I'm writing while in Scotland since this past spring in NYC. I'm fascinated by the idea of literary friendships. The way the art is changed the other artists around. How creative people get together and influence each other.

So I have a story about a literary giant, his daughter (his muse) and his protege and what happens when they form a literary community. And then what happens when  that breaks down. Without really knowing what I would do here in Scotland, or who I would meet, or what unique experiences awaited me, I made this literary giant called MacLeod. And I set it predominantly on Skye (See why I think I'm psychic?)

I genuinely feel so so grateful to the MacDonalds and to Hugh MacLeod for being my friends and for helping me research my novel under the guise of the best vacation ever. Especially learning about Dunvegan and Clan MacLeod history on the tour Hugh gave us, I genuinely felt I'd died and gone to heaven. 

Historical preservation is something I've always cared a lot about. On all my historical quests in Georgia with my Grandmother, I remember feeling sad deep in the pit of my little kid stomach looking at a beautiful antebellum home that had been turned into a bank. (Or as DFW would put it: "the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.") So I think quite highly of Chief Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod and all his endeavors at Dunvegan. 

Not only was he able to turn around the finances of the 800 year old estate just 18 months after becoming Chief, but he's doing all kinds of great restoration activities at the castle. From the roof, to the decor, to the relics, he's reordering things according to the priorities of business as well as historical integrity. 

Some people just get it. And he totally does. He's exposing more of the ancient interior, noting the drawing room was essentially "a film set" (you can tell that's his day job) built to entice the wife of one ancestor to move to Skye from London. We saw one of only two ancient Claymores still in existence.  "What have we got? One of only two in existence, and it's tucked away under a staircase. We're going to fix that." 

He has a cool take on history, which I appreciated. While looking at the amazing art in Dunvegan-- Zoffanys for days-- he recalled several ancestors "The MacLeods only fight battles we can win. That's why we're still here." 

Amen. And it's a good thing they are! The 30 minute fireworks extravaganza at Dunvegan for Bonfire Night raised thousands of pounds for charity. Just amazing. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

don't do sadness/blue wind sunday

Sometimes, my love of my Morgana Karr just makes me want to melt. I'm still in physical pain that I missed his concert in Hell-A last week. Here, in honor of a kick-ass sold-out run of Spring Awakening here at St Andrews (or as I like to call it: SA in SA) is Morgster and the lovely Ms. Jenna Ushkowitz singing my second favorite song from Spring Awakening. I can't wait to buy a Morgan Karr album. I miss you, Marffin

For better picture quality, also try this one.

poetry's last frontier

Pretty much everyone knows my love of an Anthropologie catalogue. I'd like to live in one. Or maybe just be the in-house writer for it. And while it's exciting (detrimental to my grad-school budget) that Anthropologie is moving into Edinburgh,  it appears that there is actually a bit of a British equivalent. (Not surprisingly, I have Sophie to thank for the tip.)

Lovely States readers, do you know of Toast? Like Anthro, it's pricey and makes you want to bite your knuckles, but buy it anyhow. Personally, I feel like I  might not survive winter without with is mustard colored sweater:
I  guess I haven't gotten that mustard sweater obsession out of my system, despite already owning two. This one just looks so especially cozy. As I flipped through the catalogue while at Bamff earlier this week, so many things in it did seem so Sophie. This dress, we thought, was the intersection between Sophie-style and Ryann-style.

One of the things Sophie loves about Toast (and that I love about the Anthro catalogue in particular-- because seriously, I think I like the catalogue better than the actual clothes) is the, like, poetry in it. Is this the last frontier for the poetic? Selling cozy clothes? 

I suppose if the massive machine of the fashion industry wants the ambience and has the dough, I say mazel tov to any writer pulling  a paycheck. It's all up my alley. Toast Travels is sort of like their answer to The Anthropologist. But I dig the photo blog. And the cool features. Like this literary essay about Stories in Song by Rob Young

Cozy up this lazy Sunday with Toast. I'm heading back to my short story, "Stitches." If you've ever seen my jacked up ring finger that I still can't lay flat on a table, that's what the story is about. On deck for this week: Dunvegan, finally going to talk about Redford, I'll have an update from our NYC concert, and more. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

way back home- edinburgh to dunvegan

I'm a pretty big fan of the journey from Edinburgh to Skye, but not as much as Danny "Megaskill" MacAskill, who documented his bike trip back to his hometown of Dunvegan for Red Bull. I don't know much about pro bike riding (or sports in general, for that matter) but I know a thing or two about people who quit normal jobs to go do something a little bit wacky. 

This video is pretty breathtaking. I love the music from Loch Lomond and especially The Jezebels. Check it out and stay tuned for my thoughts on Dunvegan, my special off-season tour of the castle from The MacLeod himself, and how all of that relates to my new novel on Monday. 

In the meantime, watch this and consider making the journey yourself sometime. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Exciting Concert!

At our Public Theatre debut
Sometimes I wonder how I'm still able to fill my days now that I don't work nine hours a day at a job. I mean, I'm certainly not in class for that long. I don't spend that long writing short stories. So what am I doing? Well, truthfully, even though I had to move to another country to do it, I finally get to work on me and Steven's musicals a large portion of the day. And that feels great!

So the past few weeks, I've spent a lot of time skyping and emailing with Steven to refine a lot of our songs for a cabaret-friendly setting in preparation for this super fun concert

It all started last spring when Nikole Vallins approached Steven about doing a concert with all his work-- including Rosie's Broadway Kids stuff, etc, in addition to all our work. Marc Bruni is directing and super champion of Steven (and me, via Steven) Henry Aronson is music directing. 

I'm so happy that for once, Steven won't have to play the piano at his own concert. That he can finally sit in the audience and hear all the work-- see how far we've come in the nearly 10 years since we started working together. (There's even a song from Byzantium-- the first show we ever worked together on, back at Rice.)

There's a reworked "Your Next President," (but it has a new title) that I'm very proud of, a reworked "Villain's Girl," the new lyrics to "Come With Me" that I've been refining for about 5 years, haha. And that beautiful Nic & Alix stuff. Man. 

Super cool folks are singing-- Orfeh, Will and Stephanie Gibson-Chase (woot!), Randy Harrison from Queer As Folk, current Wicked Glinda, Katie Rose Clarke, and of course, tons of our friends who've championed us from the beginning. 

It's invite only, or I'd tell all you New Yorkers to go-- but truthfully, many of you will be there anyhow. Not just because so many of my lifelong friends I met while doing this work, but because I think it's a bit of a vortex, and it's very easy to get sucked into the direction Steven wants to go, so even if you had nothing to do with musicals before, you do now (Aly). 

It's breaking my heart that I can't be there myself. It's extraordinary, what it costs to balance your life. What you have to give up to get the other things you need. I've never been satisfied with the idea that I couldn't be in more than one place at a time. I suppose I'm a bit emotional today. I wouldn't call it buyers remorse, but it's something like that. 

The good news is, I think I'll be able to spend a rather large chunk of time in NYC this summer-- and finally with no job-- we'll see what kind of trouble we can cause with Nic & Alix

this is my favorite picture of Steven: when we took crowbars to our own set at Minetta Lane. Classic. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back to Bamff

For a special mid-week treat, this past Tuesday, I headed back to beautiful Alyth to hear Sophie perform. I listen to her CD lots, but I'd never gotten to see her live, so I was very much looking forward it. 

Additionally, I ended up learning a ton about Scotland's most famous Jacobite songstress, Lady Nairne. The evening was a combo historical presentation (from a Lady Nairne relative with access to the family archives) and song performance from Sophie, singing some of Lady Nairne's greatest hits like, "Land o' the Leal," "Charlie is my Darling" and "The Laird o' Cockpen." It was truly truly a treat and I kept wishing I could share the whole thing with you all. 

I love all the aristocratic lady writers who had to write under pseudonyms. And I love thinking about how art culture-- songs and literature fit in with such turbulent and interesting historical events. In case you're not up on your Scottish history (for shame! ;) this is probably a good opportunity to check out the above linked wikipedia pages-- haha. 

More great walks around Bamff and chats with Sophie and her mom about art ensued. We had late night slumber party chats about family dynamics. I even got a preview of the album Sophie is working on (!!)  And as expected, I felt revived and very very blessed. Such special folks. 

To pass a bit of that onto you, here's one of Sophie's originals. Love love love. 


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

spring awakening in scotland

Lots of really great things in my life came from Spring Awakening. Amazing friends. Some of the best show biz advice I've ever gotten from mentors. Even a threat to ruin my career (which really lit a flame under my ass-- until I realized several years later that the producer who threatened my career was actually senile, and, in fact, didn't even remember who I was). 

I digress. My point is that show will always have a special place in my heart-- so it was sweet to see that it would be the fall musical here at St Andrews. I've sort of been helping out where I could here and there. I watched a run through last night and was so impressed!  They're in great shape! Made me miss being in the rehearsal room, made me miss being in the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and 49th Street in general (I mean you, Davenport-ians).

At least Steven and I still semi-rehearse via gchat. Hahaha. Excited to get back to working on Nic & Alix here soon. Excited for the big old concert we're having next Monday in NYC (more info on that shortly.)

In the meantime, if you're in St Andrews, come see one of the four Spring Awakening performances this weekend. It's at the beautiful Byre. If you already love the show, I promise these kids are doing it justice. If you've never seen the show, I still think it's some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard or ever hope to hear. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

what's a doo cot?

I did a lot of exploring Scotland over our reading week break from classes. But Gretchen and I thought it would also be good to do some more exploring right here in St Andrews as well. So we decided to hit the Lade Braes trail and see what kind of trouble we could get into. 
Just two writers out on the trail…with a bit of tech support. Like all good New Yorkers, I don’t go anywhere without my iphone. And it’s walks like this one that remind me of why. Not only did we get slightly lost on our quest to track down the beehive-looking thing at the end of the maps along the way (“what in the world is a doo cot??”) but the light on the trail is genuinely amazing. I’m sure glad I had both google maps and my camera to snap these shots. 
We plan on taking this walk again now that we know the ropes. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. Perfect for  brisk sunny day– assuming we have a few more of those left this November. (And for the record, we did find the doo cot. It’s for pigeons? [thanks iphone google] Personally, I think with some renovations and maybe some shabby chic interior design, it could be a pretty sweet vacation bungalow….)

Monday, November 15, 2010

neist point hike- part two

It's probably time I put up the rest of my pictures from our Neist Point Day. I made a little video so you could hear how windy it was-- I actually think I'm still getting the knots out of my hair from it. We just could not stop laughing. Aside from the gorgeous scenery, the best part was how much fun we all had being silly in the wind. Adorable Harry was quite the trooper, despite being the tiniest of us all. I suppose it helped that he also had the lowest center of gravity ;)

Geography-wise, I'm including this somewhat odd map of Skye which shows the clan territories. You can see Portree, the capital, where Viewfield is on the Eastern coast, Dunvegan across the way, and Neist Point is the western most point-- that teeny little puzzle piece that looks like it's pointing out to sea. 

Why Stop Now?

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