Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 10 Things I'll miss about Edinburgh

After a year of writing and soul searching, it's the end of the road for Edinburgh and me. At least for now. While I won't miss the bullying wind or sunsets at 2:30 PM, there's lots that I will miss about the Athens of the North. 

10. Looking out my window at a film set. The beautiful St Stephen's Church
9. Spying on other people's weddings at St Vincent's Church
8. Walks along Water of Leith
7. Rock concert sing outs after hours at the Wally Dug with Taylor
6. Crossing the street to hang out with Zaza for wine & art & Horatio Hornblower
5. Artisan Roast's house blend beans
4. Access to New Town's beautiful private gardens
3. Glowing evenings at Calton Hill with friends
2. Black Isle Blonde and the entire food menu at Iglu
1. Arguably the most dependable set of friends I've ever had. Who ARE you people, and why are you so so good to this small, spunky American?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Full Fathom Five - An Announcement!

Most of being a writer is a kind of slow inching towards some bigger picture of a career. And if you are very lucky, there comes a time where you are able to realize a sea change has taken place. Not suddenly-- though it seems that way-- the work is now coming to you. The work is finding you. 

I have said before, and I continue to laugh about how it took me leaving New York to start to get all the good work I wanted. And now, it's taking another big move-- to London-- and various freelance-y projects have now really kicked into full gear. 

The one that I am at liberty to announce to you today is that I'm the new official SMASH recap-er for I've wanted to get into Entertainment recapping for a while now (Molly Lambert, you're still my hero. VULTURE, don't think this means I'm not available to you.) and this feels like the perfect way to do it. 

So from now on, SMASHcaps will not be featured on Fergie & Fife. Instead, you can check them out here. And please do. Normally, I prefer to be funny in SMASH recaps. I like jokes. But the truth is, I'm a bit worried for the show. And I just couldn't do it today.... as I lie here in a half-packed, half-painted room... sneezing with a vengeance. I hope to be funnier next week. I also hope they pull the episode together next week. 

And hurrah for freelance work! And g'bless the sea change. 

"Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Music - Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself

With all its talk of the Highlands and rambling feel, Andrew Bird's latest album Break It Yourself might just be my favorite of his yet. I like albums that are equally good at being ambient background music as they are active listening music and this one fits the bill perfectly-- both vibrant & mellow. 

Bird is both a virtuoso violin player and an expert namer of albums. Armchair Apocrypha. Noble Beast. & the Mysterious Production of Eggs. 

On his latest, I'm a big fan of "Give it Away" and "Lazy Projector" most especially. But for real, they're all good. Perhaps because his first instrument is the violin, his particular brand of chamber pop is exactly what I'm looking for these days. A big fresh river of sound leading me to the next place and the next adventure. 

"If you see something beautiful, give it away." Couldn't agree more, Andrew. And so you can preview the whole album for yourself here thanks to NPR and then buy on March 6. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Academy Award Picks

Basically, I don't remember the last time I felt honest about making any Oscar predictions. This is because for most of my adult life, I haven't seen enough of the movies each year to have any kind of opinion (in a choice between seeing a film in the theatre for $14.50 or seeing a Broadway show for free, which would you pick? That's what I thought.) But this year, I actually have some opinions. (Save your jokes about me already having enough opinions. I get it.) And while I still feel too removed from the politics of all of it to say which people will win, here's who I think should win tonight.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
"The Ides of March" Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon-- Go Beau!
"Moneyball" Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin Story by Stan Chervin- Okay, but this was also some great work as far as adaptations go. 
Writing (Original Screenplay)
"The Artist" Written by Michel Hazanavicius
"Bridesmaids" Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig (But it's be sweet if they won... just for Wiig's speech)
Art Direction"Midnight in Paris" 
Cinematography "The Tree of Life" Emmanuel Lubezki
Costume Design"W.E." Arianne Phillips 

Actor in a Leading Role
Jean Dujardin in "The Artist" was so so so charming. 
But I'd also take Brad Pitt in "Moneyball" because I love Brad and thinks he deserves one. His physicality is pretty much unmatched. 
Actor in a Supporting Role
Christopher Plummer in "Beginners" No Contest. Hell, I'd give it to him just for the scene where he comes back from the gay club and then writes down ""
Actress in a Leading Role
In one of the weakest Lead Actress pools in recent years, I think Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn" gets it all the way. She was a little skinny, but deserves all the praise she got for this role.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist" is a delight. That is all. 
"The Artist" Michel Hazanavicius
Best Picture
"The Artist" was visionary. I think its harder and harder to say that about films anymore. And even harder to do. For more of my thoughts, check out my original post. But in a sea of passable films, this one is something special.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Music to Pack To - Let England Shake

How did I forget to put one of the best albums of 2011 on my 11 of '11 list?? Well anyhow, I am now packing to PJ Harvey's wonderful Let England Shake, which came out in February of last year. It seems particularly applicable because, even with my mass culling, England may in fact actually shake from the weight of my belongings. Sigh. 

Hope you're having a great Saturday. Please send good vibes that the mini-cold I have doesn't turn into a full-blown cold. I have waaaayyy too much to do before Thursday morning at 5:45.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Last Friday in Edinburgh Links

An eventful week comes to a close and I'm surrounded by boxes and trash bags full of my stuff. I'm kind of in denial about everything I still have to do before I leave, especially when I'd just to chill out and enjoy. 

It wasn't just my blog's birthday this week, it also would have been the most wonderful David Foster Wallace's birthday. I wish he were still with us, but there's lots to celebrate right now. Here are some links for my last Friday as an Edinburgh resident. I'll miss you Auld Reekie!

- But I'll miss you less if I live in a flat converted from Alfred Hitchcock's old movie studio. No seriously.
- Then again, if we want to kind of go overboard, what if I lived here? (first one: practical. this one: not.)
- 46 things to read/see in celebration of DFW's 50th Birthday
- DFW's letter to Don DeLillo
- This, THIS is exciting!
- What a beautiful video! The Optimist
- I miss old Molly Lambert. This comes close. 
- You mean my insomnia might be good for me?
- A fun way to appreciate facebook's "new" timeline feature
Paul Rudd on the Daily Show. You would throw candy into the audience, you doll... and you love Bottlecaps...just like me.... I lovehimIlovehimIlovehim. 

- My love of TED talks is no secret. Here is my boss-mentor giving this awesome TEDxBroadway talk

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy Belated Birthday to my Blog!

Yesterday, I was so busy checking things off my to-do list for the move that I didn't even remember to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my blog. Two great years and 767 entries later and I'm still committed to the mission. And that's the mission of staying present in the middle of striving for that life we all want. It's easy to lose perspective. It's easy to look at a situation in the most negative way possible. Unless you've got a mission everyday to travel through all the beautiful places and savor each little moment of creation. 

In celebration, I think I'm going to find...or bake myself if necessary... some red velvet cake. Brits aren't really familiar with Red Velvet (they tend to think it's cherry-related. It's not. Think chocolate) and I think that is a travesty. 

I'm also going to celebrate by giving you a small snippet of a super un-edited section of my novel. The section is about the very nature of savoring. And our rituals to keep that alive on a daily basis. Jeannie, my main character, is sort of a project of my worst imaginings. What I might have become if I'd stayed tired in NYC and lost sight of what it means to savor. Hope you enjoy! It's after the jump. And, as always, thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A New York Magazine for London?

One of the first things I investigated when I decided I was moving to London was "What is the London equivalent to New York Magazine." I am not ashamed to admit my enormous love for NYMag, with its deliberately over simplified guide to life, the Approval Matrix and the way it's smarter and more engaged than Time Out, but doesn't require the brain power of, say, The New Yorker. (Not that I don't love you, New Yorker. I do. Eternally.)

From the intricate steps for getting and/or finding the perfect Reuben Sandwich to to the real estate guides, to the fights they would sort of instigate between various NY Celebs, I'm not sure I would have survived NYC without it. Yep, I love NYMag so much, I still subscribe to it. So imagine my dismay when I learned... there IS no London equivalent. I'm not alone in my quest to find such a magazine. But Time Out is hardly a magazine. It's full of list-icles. There is little to no commentary on the events or features on key aspects of what it means to live in London. 

Oddly, one of the best things I've found in my quest (and remember from when I read it in my hard copy of the original issue back in 2007) was this article comparing London to New York. The article is less of a fight and more of an honest look at the differences for people expecting one thing or another. Which is valid, and useful for people like me who still (and most likely always) will use the New York experience for the basis of comparison on any other experience. 

Some of the valid points:
- Dinner parties. Gwyneth Paltrow finds them more interesting in London. And one good reason for that is people don't have dinner parties in NYC. They eat out. Normally in very small groups.
- There should be an affordable unlimited tube pass. Bottom line. 
- You can't get a bar/restaurant job and really support yourself the way you can in NYC because of that whole no tips thing. The bartender I dated in New York made twice what I made. 

But comparisons aside, I'm excited for London to be a city for my 30s. It's just too bad there's not a delightful guide for us, like NYMag. LDNMag perhaps? I'm thinking someone should solve this problem. Maybe even me. 

Photo: Paola Kudacki for New York Magazine

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SmashCap - Ep. 3 - "Life is long. Theatre is longer."

Episode 3, "Mr. DiMaggio" was simultaneously the blood-boiling-est & the boring-est of the eps so far for me. And not just because of the extended presence of cheating Will Chase. Or the fact that the actual plot line for his & Deb Messing's characters on the show is as... you guessed it...cheaters. Here's the good and the bad from last night's offering. 

The Goodish
- That class & Oxbridge Brit-off between Dev & Derek Wills. What's funny/sad is that it's not an exaggeration. How you can tell that both of them have been in the states for too long is how direct they were about it.  They've learned to ditch the subtext. "I can hear it in the O's." "Oxford." "The other place." My favorite line was from Derek: "Oh, I'd forgotten this game."

- More Dylan & Becky Ann Baker!
- The best chemistry on the show belongs to Angelica Huston & Jack Davenport
- Jack Davenport reminding Kat McPhee that musicals take FOREVER.
- "We'll be at Vintage." I'm glad they pick bars where people actually go. 
- I sort of want one of those animated GIFs of Deb Messing justifying adultery. That's rich. 

- Ellis, the too-big-for his-britches assistant. Dude is certainly scheming. And way ahead of himself. LIKE WAY. The stealing of notebooks. The eavesdropping. The ownership of ideas. See, there's a difference between a concept and an idea. And I don't think anyone would actually have kept him around that long. But it is good plot for the show. For the record. FOR the record. I just want to say this now because I was personally offended during the scene: if Steven ever has an assistant and that assistant ever blocks my entrance to a room or says, "Maybe you should give Steven some space," not only will I fire that person, but I will crush them. Just FYI. 

The Badish
- Sorry, but Kat McPhee lacks any and all energy. Even when she's performing. Did you for one minute believe her "Redneck Woman?" More like "Beige-neck." Girlfriend is neutral. I hate to pull a VOTE! quote here, but "You're not even vanilla. You're like unscented deodorant." I think they've officially lost me on her. 

- A Bruno Mars show at La Mama? 'Member when I said kudos for reminding us that the timeline of a musical is LONG? Right, now apply that here. Bruno Mars has been on the scene like a year. He doesn't even have enough material to make a show out of. They clearly just wanted to do that specific song with Will to ape his last performance as Roger in RENT. La Mama does some strange shit (I lived across the street for a lonnnng time) but never that crazy. And never that commercial. Ridiculous. 

- "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is the weakest song to date. Conceptually. Musically. Lyrically. I'm imaging the conversation I'd end up having with Steven if I sent him those lyrics. He'd zero right in there on the word "GRIP." That shit don't sing. And the song is boring. The clunky "Julia remembers how great her family is" montage over it didn't help. As my pal Kevin Michael Murphy (KMM) aptly tweeted, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith is the first song that will be cut from the musical." Truth. 

- Now that we've brought up DiMaggio.... Um, Will Chase looks NOTHING like Joe DiMaggio. There is nothing Joe DiMaggio-esque about him. In no world would I cast him as Joe DiMaggio. 

The Bottom Line
The plot itself is getting better, but too many Glee moments. More (good) original tunes. Less Bruno Mars and Gretchen Wilson please. Thanks for the reprieve on the tired adoption plot though. 


Monday, February 20, 2012

Tate Modern - A Year Later

In early February of 2011, my pal Adam and I went to the Tate Modern. He said I had to see the turbine room. Exactly one year later, I was meandering through on a snowy Sunday with my NYC pal Emily. I've never been the biggest appreciator of modern art. It is slowly growing on me though. And some stuff I still only enjoy from a child's amusement perspective.  The Sleep & Poetry stuff was wild and weird. Japanese pop art always always makes me happy. Venus & the pile of laundry got a laugh. 

One exhibition, though, really got to me. It took the full year-- seeing it in 2011 and then seeing it reduced in 2012-- for it to really resonate. Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds exhibit. It started in the turbine room, a sheer feat of massive spectacle (all of the sunflower seeds were handmade and a little bit bigger than real seeds).

When I returned, the exhibit had been reduced to one small room, a half-hearted pile. 

And maybe it's just the melodramatic side of me, but I was struck by, well, mortality. It was really beautiful and sad. Everything with its time and place. A time to be a headliner. And a time to be relegated to the sideshow. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Buy Yourself Some Old World Charm

One of the best things about moving is imagining the elaborate nesting process that will take place once I've gotten the keys. I don't even have a flat yet, but I'm already decorating it. And feeling glad that it will feel like mine. At least half mine. 

San Diego based husband/wife artist team Chelsea and Philip are are making just the kind of stuff I want to fill my new house. These vintage light fixtures are products of their company Typewriter Boneyard, but Chelsea also has her own etsy shop & blog.

Will I ever get enough vintage electronics? Probably not. So thanks, Chelsea & Philip for giving me my fix. 

Photos via

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Music for a Saturday Walk - "Hope You Know"

Sunny and Windy in Edinburgh, it was a good day to pack and go for a lonesome walk. Only a few days left in Edinburgh. North Carolina band Megafaun & "Hope You Know" was my soundtrack. Hope everyone in Edinburgh knows how much I'll miss them. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Crush-Worthy Links

Happy Friday! What are you doing this weekend? I'm busy packing and painting and writing. So much to do before London and so little time! Funny how, not even that long ago, the amount of time I had to wait to move seemed interminable. Now I feel the rush to get it all done in time. I suppose it's the same old story: too much/not enough. I know I'm going to start off right in my new home city though: I have bunches of NYC friends visiting the first two weeks I'm there. Easy that transition right along. Now, we'll transition to the links. 

This week, I talked a lot about new crushes or some hotties you may not have known about. Today, I remind you of the mainstays. Enjoy.

- My #1 man in the world, Paul Rudd, attempts to talk dirty in new movie Wanderlust. 
- Speaking of which, remember that time in Miami when Jennifer Aniston hit on my boyfriend WHILE wishing me a happy birthday? Yeah, that was funny. 
- Happy V-Day from the Gos.
- The #1 sexiest man in the universe... does...anything. That's newsworthy. 
- Let's not forget Fassby though. You check out here & my review of Shame here. Also this. (McC!)
- Writers! Some of my faves respond to John Barth in Granta

And more things to give you a toothache:
-Those adorable children from PS22 singing Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know."
- If you don't know Wanderlust Europe. You really should. It will make you want to sell your life and be a vagabond. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crush Week: Ioan Gruffudd

Sometimes, when Zaza and I have been separated by our various travellings, we feel the need to overcompensate with an extended series of girl-time sessions. This week, we started that bastion of late 90's-ness, Hornblower, featuring the hottie Ioan Gruffudd in his younger days. 

Zaza is who also taught me how to pronounce Welsh, so for you Americans reading this, the double d is pronounced like a "th." (Side note, the one Welsh sound my mouth just won't make is the "Ll" which is essentially the sound of a loogie. The name Llewelyn has lost all its charm.) So but that makes Gruffudd is just "Griffith." 

Homeboy is a serious hero. He's always saving someone. He's always, like, the only boat going back for Titanic survivors. Or looking for downed Black Hawk planes. He plays roles like "Lancelot" (you might have heard of theguy) or "Mr. Fantastic."  You see where I'm going with this... 

(Only notable exception: Tony Blair in W.)

Anyhow, personally, I prefer the man in his current more weathered, manly incarnation. But the boy charmer who starts as a seasick, stuttering midshipman and ends as a heroic captain in the 18th Century Royal Navy is also good fun. Those curls. The swashbuckling. It's pretty dreamy. 

And even though the hair still manages to look nineties-ed-out, (even with extensions and wigs!)  and even though there's one shot where you can see a trailer park in the background, Hornblower is stil first rate costume drama fun. In fact, there is a little thing called HAW-- that's Hornblower Appreciation Week. I shit you not. Peep that if you get the chance. Along with any of Ioan Gruffudd's other performances. Your eyes will thank you. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crush Week Continues: Smash/Crush

Despite the dip in SMASH's ratings from the premiere, I thought, on the whole, this episode was a step in the right direction. Here's what went wrong and what went right with the show I can't help but have a crush on. 

The Goodish
All of the creative conversations and little moments on the street and in restaurants feel real now. And not just because Jordan Roth shows up (but huzzah for Jordan Roth!) In the pilot, I bought lyricist/composer friendship (obvs Deb Messing knows the Will & Grace schticky dynamic. Ugh, sorry, I just still hate her.) but in that scene, I felt the artistic collaboration. The number of times I've lounged on the couch, around a bulletin board or a piano with Steven, moving numbers around, just freestyling or chewing at the edges of what we're trying to do. 

And my favorite moment of the episode-- hands down-- they're talking about criminal checks on adopting a baby vs. writing a musical. Messing says, "And let me tell you there are a lot of people who should be stopped from writing musicals." And Borle's cackle/laugh/gesture "uhhuhI'm aware." I much prefer Borle as a gay man. 

(PS- my second favorite is when Anjelica Huston tells the twitty girlfriend of her ex, "we've met" and she responds, "I don't think so" and then Huston says all Huston-y "I dooooo!")

Also, I think Julia's right (fine, fine, I looked up her character's name)-- as least based on what we know so far-- that "Let Me Be Your Star" is a better opener than an act break. That song is also growing on me. I still hate the lyrics "Norma Jean's gone/She's moving on" but...what are you gonna do? 

Thanks for showing me some Savannah Wise, Jessica Lee Goldyn, and Katie Webber in this version.  

The Badish
The adoption plot is sort of already boring. Leo's speech? (In the BACKYARD!) I was completely disengaged. I kept thinking... did they recast him from the pilot? Or did his face just get plump? 

And then I kept thinking... BACKYARD!? And then... Brian d'Arcy James is a SCIENCE TEACHER?! 

So, listen. The feminist in me is like, good job, Theresa Rebeck. You don't cop out and make her married to a banker or whatnot. But... the realist in me says, ALL THAT brownstone was bought with musical money? With that backyard and crazy red walls and monstrous industrial sized refrigerator? Just.... 

On the realism front, I also gotta say this. Don't get me wrong; I like Raza Jaffrey as Dev. But as someone with intimate, tedious knowledge of the UK/US Work Visa system, especially with regards to public sector jobs like, say, the Mayor of New York City's office, I find it, well, impossible that he has that job. 

I haven't seen a genuinely Marilyn or Norma Jean moment from Kat McPhee. Even all dressed up, she doesn't look like her, she doesn't feel like her. I like Kat McPhee, and perhaps it's part of the punch they're trying to pull for the moment, but I don't see it. (Speaking, also of WTF on "not seeing it" why does the otherwise plugged in director keep going back to Scarlett Johansson?!? Please don't make me explain why that's wrong.) As far as production numbers go, I think "20th Century Fox" is a much less tired idea than the baseball number

The Bottom Line
The original music is improving. But it was Megan Hilty and a song not by Shaiman & Wittman, nor written for the Marilyn musical, that in my o-pinion delivered the most satisfying musical and emotional moment of the show to date. And that was the stripped down version of George Barry Dean, Troy Verges & Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams."

Megan Hilty and Tom Kitt turned a song I never paid much attention to into a very present and applicable baby-tear jerker. I never cared for twang of the original. But Tom Kitt was at the piano for the number, with a nice montage over it. And I'll bet 10 bucks the man Kitt did that arrangement. He can arrange any song into brilliance. (Where was his Tony for American Idiot? No, seriously.) Sometimes less really is more. 

It was a good way to end the ep. because it's a reminder of how many little steps there are along the way. And how big each one feels. Even the reading. Even the workshop. Even if it's probably going to get recast and rewritten. But every day you get up to do it again is a little bit more of a dream continuing to come true.  I liked this episode for the same reason I like the show in general. Because it makes me feel like if I'm not part of something-- you know, really part of something-- that I'll just die. You gotta have that feeling every day. Every day without that feeling is scarier than any prospect of failure. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Crush: Beau Willimon

You can catch my weekly SMASH recap tomorrow, but on Valentine's Day, I'm going to give you a real live person to crush on-- direct from the world of theatre-- Mr. Beau Willimon. He's a little fancier these days, post- Oscar- nom, but I'll always see him as an in-the-trenches, street-vetted playwright. 

Beau first came onto my scene when my pal Johnny was starring in his play, Farragut North,  at the Atlantic. Did you see it? It was excellent. It went on to play LA, etc etc. 

Or perhaps you saw the film. Because THEN! George Clooney & Leonardo DiCaprio  took an interest. Worked with Beau and Grant Heslov to adapt the play into a little film called The Ides of March with the swoon-worthy Ryan Gosling. (Sorry you got upgraded, Johnny. You're still fab.) They even tweaked the script so that Clooney had a part-- the previously unseen candidate in an election rife with scandal. The previously suave (played by Chris Noth) campaign manager was triangulated against Clooney and Gosling and became a khaki and anorak'ed Philip Seymour Hoffman. That last tweak threw me for such a loop, I failed to recognize that it even was Farragut North for a minute there. 

Good ol' Beau and I have a lot in common. We've both lived many lives in a short time. Beau was a pool shark too! And is branching out into film & TV. He worked on about a million campaigns including Howard Dean's 2004 bid. Then there's his MFA from Columbia. Like me, he loves maps and walls.  Basically, Beau Willimon just always gets it right. He writes about politics. He loves Tennessee Williams. And he believes playwrights should stick together. What's not to love?

Come back to London, Beau, and we'll chat Tennessee

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crush Week Begins: Ode to a Mews

During Valentine's Week, I like to crush. Whether or not I have a real crush in my life at the time, I use this opportunity be inspired by all the dreaminess out in the world. Crushing is my muse.  I have talent crushes, life crushes, and even little mini crushes on real-life hunky people. Some of them I actually know, some of them are even available, but they're all awesome. I'm going to cheat a bit today, since it's not actually Valentine's Day until tomorrow. I have a crush on an apartment. A mews apartment. No, not that kind of muse. Though the coincidence is not lost on me. This place is inspiring me to imagine my new life and I love it. 

I've pretty much always wanted to live in a mews. You want to talk about romantic? Mews are about as romantic as you can get in modern urban living. Rows of charming little stable houses once used for falconry (that's a great word) they spread from Britain-- and specifically London-- to Canada and the US. (Remember when I was always looking for a hypothetical mews house to 'buy' in NYC? Or the whimsical, delightful Washington Mews? Sigh.) My room in Edinburgh looks out onto a mews, but I feel like it's time to upgrade. To Ovanna Mews

It has its drawbacks. De Beauvoir Town is cool from what I can tell, but the mews is in a bit of no man's land in terms of trains-- somewhere between Islington and Dalston. It hits the overground, but other than going to visit my pals Carrie and Adam in Hampstead, the Overground doesn't really go anywhere I anticipate needing to go on a regular basis. I see solutions. I need to be better about taking the bus. I'm contemplating (as I have been for some time) getting a bike with a basket.

It's a bit out of budget. It doesn't come furnished. We could furnish it, but I'd rather not spend the money or get strapped with a bunch of furniture. And really, I wish I could take everything that's already in this place. What do you think? Is this as crush-worthy as I think? Or am I just in that stage in the relationship when I overlook all the glaring faults?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney, Addiction, & the Best Therapy I Ever Had

When people ask me how I manage to be as "normal" or "well-adjusted" as I am given my childhood, I almost never tell them this one key ingredient: Whitney Houston. Therapy is awesome. I pretty much think everyone could benefit from some therapy. It's important to see a professional. I spent time with a few. Some were actual psychologists and counselors, but more were professionals of another kind. The absolute best of the best-- musicians. 

It's not even just that Whitney's voice was perfect in 1991 and 1992...or effortless...or that she was an absolute first rate interpreter of songs. And that is so key, isn't it? Perfect voices don't mean much if there's nothing behind the eyes. If you aren't conveying the emotion behind the songs. 

It's not even that those songs on The Bodyguard soundtrack or any of Whitney's other hits were so applicable to my life situation as an abused 10 year old. But the depth of feeling behind everything Whitney sang-- that I knew. 

When I left my mom's house and moved in with my dad and my cold-as-ice step family in 1992, I had no where but the sanctuary of my own bedroom and my own mind. I locked myself in my room and sang at the top of my lungs to "I Have Nothing" so many times, it's actually no wonder why my stepfamily didn't like me too much. But I guess somewhere in my little kid subconscious, I knew that the only way out is through. 

I sang in front of the mirror. I cried a lot. I watched what it looked like and heard what it sounded like for me to feel everything I felt about having an addict for a mother, about being abandoned like that, about not feeling like I would ever belong anywhere. I looked myself in the eye and told myself everything I needed to hear. That's how I learned what it took to always land on the other side of whatever I was going to go through in my life. The cassette tape never gave out, never got sick of me. Whitney never felt that song any less, no matter how many times I needed to feel whatever I that level. 

You cannot opt out of these things if you want to survive. 

I suppose that's part of what makes me so sad today, thinking about Whitney's early passing and her own addictions. How could she so precisely feel it all in performing, but need the aid of cocaine, booze-- you name it-- in daily life? I think about how young she was when she got into the business. I think about what makes us secure and what draws us into our insecurities. 

Look at that video of the famous "Star Spangled Banner." There are so many levels. It's so rich. But the best part-- the part that reveals what was great about Whitney is everything about the word "brave" at the end there. Not because of the notes or the orchestra but because of how at home she was, how confident, how she knew herself and the world on that last chromatic breakdown. Watch her arms. Watch her face. How she knew exactly what the world was going to give her. And what her voice would do. Control. 

Which, of course, is a word I go back to a lot thinking about addiction. The difference between what you can and cannot control. Moments like the end of that National Anthem are so perfect, so perfectly full of emotion, it's hard not to look at her and think she's invincible. It's impossible not to think of my mother. How quickly you can go from an invincible heart to a young death-- either of the body or the soul or both. How unconscious it might be if you aren't just singing your guts out with feeling. And even if you are. 

I think about this all the time. But especially on days like today. Do what makes your heart strong. Do what makes you invincible. Do the thing that no one can ever take away from you. Drugs are never that. It's not a coincidence that cocaine weakens your heart. Alcohol is never that. It's not a coincidence that alcohol breaks down your liver-- the organ that filters out toxins. And they lose potency over time. Moments like this, however, do not. They will always make you feel. 

Just listen to this. RIP, Whitney. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Man Chris Mann on the Voice

So, listen: I don't quite understand what different spin on a singing show The Voice is, considering I've been out of the country since it began. I get that there are teams and things. Do you still vote? Because, if you do-- and I can say this with certainty, even without seeing any of the other contestants-- that you should vote for Chris Mann. Can I just take this time to talk about my pal Chris Mann some more?

He did this amazing number with the Rosie's Kids and my Steven a few years back. I remember sitting in the audience with my friend Bernardo and let's just say we had both hit the free wine beforehand a little too hard and we were both angling for a free moment to duck out to the restrooms. But I forgot all about that when Chris and those kids sang. And I've been tooting his horn ever since. ("Falling Awake" is still one of my favorite songs ever. Too bad those bitches at Sony wouldn't let you keep it.)

He is gracious. He is funny. He has a sense of humor about himself. And he is one serious example of how this business we call show will yo-yo your ass around for years. A lot of people deserve a lot of things in this biz, but Chris Mann really really deserves any nice thing he gets and a "beautiful life." 

I was nodding my head with pride when he said, "For years I've been trying to shrink my voice down to fit... but I decided for this show that I was going to sing like myself." Here's to never, ever shrinking your voice down to fit anyone's idea of what you should be. Preach.

You go, Chris Mann. I am a MannFan 'til the end and rooting for you from across the pond. 

Always takes so much longer
And it always feels so much harder than I thought that it would be
Oh its eternity 
When I stopped and looked inside and then I searched I just might find 
that I really have it all
Oh I really have it all 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Saturday Night Live Lovin' Friday Links

Next week, I'll launch my annual Valentine's Day Crush list, but for now, I'm rolling you into this weekend and looking back over the productive week that was. Good times. Things are happening. I move in less than three weeks. Holy Mutha. Take me to the links. 

- Um...THIS. Tigs in a hula skirt with her tongue out? Too much.
- These water color mirrors from Petite Friture are gorgeous.
- Funny...and true
- Rasputin was my neighbor?
- Ugh. 
- Red Velvet Hot Chocolate Recipe. Yum. 
- Grub Street NY picks your Valentine's Day Cocktails
- Some interesting thoughts on the current state of Liz Lemon
- I LOVE seeing my friend's book everywhere. You should buy it.
A new Domino Issue/Book! Though I really wish they'd stop taunting us with headlines like "Domino is back! Sort of." I don't like reliving that pain of Fall '08 when we learned the mag was going under.
- And finally, I just really miss SNL. Here's the Downton Abbey as if it were on Spike TV Sketch. (Scroll down)
(Since I'm at it, if you'e never seen the PlasticVille Sketch, you must watch it now.)
- Actually, ACTUALLY, there is an entire website devoted to JT on SNL. Worthy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Best Way to Find Out if You Can Trust Somebody ... is to Trust Them.

Not even my hatred of Nicole Kidman seems to be able to quell my love of asshole man-writers and their stories-- especially as-told by the good folks at HBO. I question many things about Hemingway & Gellhorn: the title, the casting of both the leads, (don't get me wrong, I lovvvve Clive Owen, but not sure about him as Hemingway. I suppose I could be converted...) and the extended trailer appears to give away the entire film. Is that why HBO had it taken down?

Or was it the tone problem? From the trailer, it's hard to pin down. I love couples who drink like fish, share a passion and call each other by their last names too... but what is this movie? Quirky, zany, ditzy?.... or melodrama? (all of these being Kidman's familiar territory). There's a Spanish Civil War, Chinese Communism and WWII to contend with, and yet Kidman's greatest feat here seems to be her ability to drop her voice an octave. If she could get an Oscar for wearing a prosthetic nose, just think what will happen now!

Aside from that, it appears to be fairly well-written (by Jerry Stahl and Barbara Turner, mother of Jennifer Jason Leigh) and it walks right on that line I'm wearing out all day every day about the nature of these competitive artistic relationships. I love it. The more people keep doing these, the more it forces me to write it fresher. Bring it on. 

Anyhow, HBO rarely just genuinely drops the ball. So I'm going to go into this with a positive attitude. I mean, they even appear to be using some of Hemingway's best one- liners including my favorite, "The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." So relevant. All the time. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's the Amateurs Who Make it Tough for Professionals

My dear pal Sophie always knows the right thing to say. She always has the right thing ready for you. Here is an excellent example. Yesterday, she sent me this Harlan Ellison gem from the film "Dreams With Sharp Teeth" and it warmed the little part of my heart reserved especially for ranting. If you've known me long enough, I'm sure you've experienced a moment-- probably, I was a passenger in your car-- where I went on some joke-filled, yet utterly serious rant along these same lines. 

And while the issue is-- always, inevitably-- more nuanced than any three minute rant could do justice to, and I've been in many situations myself where I felt the only option was to give my skills away for free, I have to say I agree with Harlan wholeheartedly. It's a bind I wish fewer art-type folks were in, less often. But I keep going back to his statement, "it's the amateurs who make it tough for the professionals." So the amateurs write the thing, the thing is not well done, and then-- since this amateur work isn't blowing anyone away-- as a society, we think writers aren't vital. They aren't essential. It's a bad cycle. 

As a side note, I don't know that I'd ever hope to see this in, say, my own Wikipedia entry, but you've got to hand it to a guy who can get a whole section of his bio labeled "Controversies, Temperment" devoted to his reputation for being abrasive and argumentative. Or, OR! having the balls to put on your own dust jacket, "possibly the most contentious person on Earth."

In any case, he raises some serious issues. Ones we should be talking about all the time. I'm glad things like exist, even if I don't always agree with everything. I do agree with the fundamental though: PAY THE WRITER!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Tale of Two Apples

There is perhaps only one nerd-place more beautiful than the Paris Opera Apple store. And that is the new Apple store in Grand Central Station. Grand Central is magical anyhow. The constellations on the duck-egg-blue sky, the opal clock in the center, the Tiffany glass. (Did you know that for just a cool 10K, you can get married in the Vanderbilt Hall section of the station?) And now you can buy all the best that Apple has to offer. 

Both of these stores glow from that deeply satisfying juxtaposition of the past and the future; the mashup of intricacy and simplicity of design. Maybe I have a weird addiction. I get a serious fix from stuff like this. Not to forget about the UK, London's Regent Street store ain't so shabby either. All this is only to support my old statement that I'd let them design my whole life if they wanted. 

Now, if only we could get Apple and all the rest of the tech companies to manufacture all this ethically... beauty and even better juxtaposition. 
Paris store photo from here

Monday, February 6, 2012

Four Days of Fabulous February

Back from snowy London-- my body is a little worse for wear after taking several spills on slippery hills in Hampstead, but my spirits are soaring. It's awesome when you can start to see your new life taking shape and on each of my scouting expeditions so far, I feel like I can see it more and more. Look at this beautiful city! For every disappointment, there's another friend or chance waiting as a reminder of how awesome it feels to make decisions are be true to yourself. 

From Hampstead Heath to Southbank, and even in crappy eastjet Hotels in Earls Court, there's something to love in every neighborhood. Even Edinburgh is a bit brighter today. Thanks to everyone who made this weekend fab. I'm going back to resting my bruised left side and prepping for the next big adventure. 

Why Stop Now?

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