Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reflecting in St Peter's Basilica

After the communication onslaught of yesterday (connecting with everyone over Ben has been really moving) I've been kind of quiet today. Packing, thinking, and realizing that what I did when I woke up the next morning after finding out that news was go to the capital of Catholicism: The Vatican and St Peter's Basilica, where the apostle Peter was crucified upside down. I think Ben would have had a chuckle about me heading to the Vatican in a way, in his honor. Many of our discussions were about Buddhism and Catholicism. Though he was pretty cool with Buddhism too. 

Everyone keeps asking if we went to the top of St Peter's and the answer is no, actually. I'll explain more later, but let's just say I had reached my limits of standing in line and sharing stank air in confined spaces with strangers. 

Even without journeying to the top, St Peter's is breathtaking. From the square with its outstretched arms that hug inward-- welcoming you into the fold-- to every golden overlapping angle. Crepuscular rays for days. A scientific word far too ugly for the thing it's describing. 

I love being in churches, cathedrals and chapels-- of any religion even more than I like cemeteries. It easier to hear the stories of what came before in places like that. It's easier to feel still enough to listen. 

There was a mass happening while we were there and singers. It was just a glowing, golden feeling bouncing off every one of those angles. Music. Light. Breeze. I was grateful. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Living With the Force & Joy of Ben Horne

Sometime on Friday, I noticed that all my Rice friends seemed to be posting the same request for a private plane in Peru. I shook it off, the whole thing sounding like a typical wacky Rice stunt. Finally, one of the posts had enough details for me to realize what terrible thing was actually happening: a Rice alum, a good friend to most everyone I know from Rice, including myself, had been missing in the Andes for over five days along with a fellow climber friend, Gil Weiss. 

Another friend, Shay, heads a technology/crowd sourcing company, Tom Nod and thought he could track them if he had a plane. Eventually, the effort attracted international news. The effort expended by everyone was truly impressive and I know it brought a lot of people together.... Even after the bodies were eventually discovered on Saturday, after an apparent 1,000 foot fall from one of the ice-capped peaks of Mt. Palcaraju while on their way back down from the Summit. This detail-- that they had reached the pinnacle and were on their way down-- this felt somehow comforting. I'll tell you why. 

The news of Ben's death knocked the wind out of me, even though I hadn't talked to him in years. Ben was the kind of person who leaves a lasting impression. He had perhaps the bluest eyes I've ever seen. He never seemed to do anything the way anyone else did. I had some of the most challenging conversations of my life with him during my years at Rice. 

He didn't take anything at face value. He pushed back against everything. He always pushed to look at things from a more interesting, more compassionate, and more challenging perspective. I thought I was really pretty enlightened when I was in college. But every time I talked to Ben, I felt like a spoiled kid-- someone who could be doing a lot more in the world than what I was currently allowing to be acceptable. I didn't feel judged. Simply that I had resources I wasn't using. He had a kind of integrity it was easy to be in awe of and occasionally confounded by. He was always thinking about ways to live that were more pure, or less rooted in consumerism. I remember when he was freegan, when he joined the Peace Corps and of course, his eternal fight to save the beloved KTRU. He was always doing stuff like that. 

Another friend, Josh Katz said, "No one lived with the force and joy of Ben Horne." But we should, shouldn't we?

The words of Ben himself tell you much about the man. This from back when we were all trying-- and failing (which, again, somehow feels tangled up in Ben's whole story-- Ben was KTRU: 'defiant, unique as ever') to save KTRU one last time before it was sold. I echo you & Plato, Ben: ideas rule the world. 

I am a PHD Candidate in economics. 
The basic premise is that money rules the world, and people are motivated by it.
Plato had a different idea. He said ideas rule the world.
KTRU is an idea.
A philosophy.
KTRU is not just a club. It is a cause.
KTRU is, even, possibly a religion.
Do you believe in God? 
If you do, you will probably agree that KTRU is the station that God listens to. 
It’s the #1 preset on the dial.
God doesn’t care about money. KTRU doesn’t care about money. 
It may just be a coincidence.
KTRU allows ideas to be heard that do not have the express purpose of making money. This is normal for kids. Kids create art for the joy of it. This indifference to material greed is not normal for adults.
Bob Dylan sang “There’s no success like failure. And failure’s no success at all”
Read his full text here.

And to further echo Josh, the world is poorer place for Ben's absence. 

From the moment I met Ben, he seemed to have a larger-looming sense of destiny than others. Ever since I was very young, I've gotten strange feelings about people-- not everyone-- just some people. A kind of gravitational force. And I've always been drawn towards the stories of people who die young and why. As a kid, I'd always ask to visit cemeteries (I know, I know) and I'd look for stories on the tombstones. And I suppose I've always felt my own sense of weird, dangerous destiny I could never explain to people. Or, maybe more so, that it was a dangerous thing to live true to yourself in this day and age. That the stakes were high. That living your dreams always might be something you might actually die from. But also, that you would be utterly alive up until the very moment it killed you. 

I first read the bad news from another friend Jeff Bishop while I was in Rome this weekend-- basking in the sun, and the glory of what humans are capable of, and feeling like I was fully participating in my life. And Bish's call to arms was this: "In honor of their memory, please go do something you love this weekend." Ben & Gil died doing what they loved. Earlier this year, Ben gave this interview with the UCSD paper (where he was at work on a PhD in economics) where he said, “For me it’s almost a religious experience. The mountains are a way for me to understand God, or at least, glimpse a little bit of God.”

The Paulo Coelho quote from The Alchemist gets thrown around a lot, but not without good cause, and I find it especially appropriate now:

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity.” 

For some people, it seems as though their whole lives were really leading to a certain apex. I like to take time to remember my friend David Aoyama and how, in a way, I think it was his job to be on Flight 11 when it hit the first tower, so he could be there, chanting for everyone on board. I reflect on him in that moment often. It comforts me. I stood on the top of a great mountain once myself, and said a prayer for David while looking out across Japan from Mt. Fuji's 12,000 feet. It was indeed breathtaking and spiritual. So I can relate to Ben's feelings. Which is why it comforts me to know that for Ben, this apex he was moving towards-- his last act in this life-- was to look out over the Earth from the celestial heights of  20,000 feet. What he must have seen...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gossamer Given - Love Is Greed

Here's a good Sunday song-- my favorite from the new Passion Pit album, Gossamer. (Amazingly, it's still available to listen to in its entirety on NPR's First Listen.) They've always seemed like a Death Cab/ Postal Service kind of rip off for me (vocally, at least) and this album is hit and miss for me. But there's some great and enormously enjoyable summer music on here. 

That opening to "Love Is Greed" sounds like something Jonsi could have done. Oh, that Jonsi. But there's more.  It's like a cross between that, and Van Halen "Right Now" and Beach Boys "Feel Flows" and one more... what is it? What am I thinking of? Ten points to whoever can tell me the missing component song that this intro reminds me of. In the meantime, hope you're enjoying a lovely Sunday. 

Update: Ten Points goes to The Newsroom, for the reminder. Baba O'Riley

Saturday, July 28, 2012

And Confidentially, She's a Pixie - Roman Holiday

By the time you read this, I should be in Rome. Our flight leaves at Seven. A.M. Ugh. And by 'our' I don't mean Gregory Peck and Me, but Fiona and Me. We've got  a little hotel in the Travastere which is good because we'll be taking advantage of the free Vatican Museum Stuff on Sunday-- also at around Seven AM. That's Fi's request. (Though I'm excited to be going. I mean, Sistine Chapel...) Mine is, of course, the nerdiest: to see where Keats died and where he is buried. He still has the saddest epitaph I've ever heard: Here lies one whose name was writ in water. My poor sweet Keatsy. How I love him. 

Another gracious, lovely man is Gregory Peck, star of Roman Holiday, (and my birthday twin) who insisted that relative newcomer, Audrey Hepburn get upgraded to equal star billing with him. That's a gentleman, folks. More on my own personal Roman Holiday when I'm back. In the meantime, let's recall a more chivalrous (**with qualifications) age. At least, a more chivalrous era in Hollywood, eh? 

Two days, a tiny backpack and a guidebook from the 70's... Italian sun, here I come!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Opening Links

Well, the Olympics start today. Because of that, obviously, the weather has taken a turn back to the usual: dreary rain. The upside is that I've been spending my evenings reading with small children on the terrace while the sun sets and music from the Hyde Park concerts drifts past. The downside is that they promise to disrupt my going away party and probably the open house I'm having to try to fill my room when the girl I had lined up dropped out a week before I'm leaving the country. 

I don't enjoy being organized on these matters only to be stuck with the same amount of stress and scrambling as if I hadn't been organized at all. I was planning on living off the money from my returned deposit, so... we'll see what happens now. Absolutely no one is available to let a girl in to see the place on Saturday while both Fiona and I are in Rome. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a great example of the lack of a solid support system in London for me. And part of why I know it's time to go. Sure... it could get built over time... but... yeah. Anyhow, the links:

- My friend Amy's Salon article about racism and the Olympics
- How persuasion works (clearly, I have a hit/miss track record with this)
- Oh, awesome. The super rich are hiding 21 trillion in various offshore tax havens. 
- The amazing Frank Rich on America's decline
- Solidarity with single moms. But I do think kids should have 2 parents. At least!
- The science of Compassion
- Free Bates! Downton's Third Season is almost here!
- Thanks for the shout out, Time Out New York Kids Blog
- Whoops, Romney. (Always, apparently.)
- My friend made phillycheesesteak ice cream. Check it. 
- Oh, nuclear river and your unidentifiable monsters! I return to you in one week

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The AbFab Caledonian Mafia

Can I just say that I'm pretty beat? And I'm trying to conserve energy for Rome this weekend (did I mention I'm going to Rome?) Everyone's trying to get to the Olympics, and I'm trying to get away from them. Let's just say I don't recommend trying to navigate through Olympic crowds at Marble Arch and on Oxford Street with a Stroller and two extra kidlets. 

Speaking of being blase' about the Olympics, did you watch the AbFab Olympic Special that was on? So many special guests! So much disdain! Check it. Bonus, sort of flip side of that, here's also (courtesy of young Tom Smith) The Thick of It - The Caledonian Mafia... the angriest men in Scotland. Have a chuckle. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting

All this week, I'm babysitting a family of three kids-- an American family, living in India (Dad is one of the original Silicon Valley Tech magnates), in London for the Olympics. Other than attempting to meet the wide-ranging needs and attention demands of an 11, 8, and 5 year old simultaneously, it's great fun. 

The weather is ideal, and we're camped out in their family home: a sprawling, four-storey townhouse in Georgian Connaught Square near Marble Arch. We're sharing the square with former Prime Minister Tony Blair & fam and DJ Paul Oakenfold. The gated garden in the center of the Square is immaculately well-kept, but apparently, it was the one-time site of the Tyburn Tree-- London's public execution site. 

I'm trying recall another time when I've been responsible for this many children. I don't think I have. But it's funny because... until I realized I'd waited too long to have such a big family... I had wanted four kids. Twelve hours a day with three certainly has its challenges, but being around them really brings out certain instincts in me. How freely they took me in, dispensed their affection all over me. It sure is nice.  And I have a pretty good idea of what kind of mother I'll be: calmer and much less of pushover than I am in regular life. Anyhow, enough of the hypothetics. Felix, Nora, Lulu (interesting, since that was my mother's nickname for me when I was a kid) and I have a big day ahead in Hyde Park, so I'm off. Hope you have a great day. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Broadway Workshop's Production of Vote!

With all the work lately on Nicholas & Alexandra, I haven't been paying much attention to our first born. But that doesn't mean all has been quiet on the VOTE! front. This past weekend, The Broadway Workshop presented a student version of the show with local New York performing arts students. 

I was obviously in London, but Steven was there to see it and said it was delightful. I'm looking forward to the watching party we'll have when I make my return to NYC. In the meantime, I have loved scrolling through the photos and knowing the exact moment from the show the photo is capturing. I doubt I will ever get sick of listening to kids sing those tight harmonies, or getting to know the young people who participate in the show. 

Some of them are all grown up now and doing amazing things. And if I were the real Ms. Fowler, I'd be giving them all fuzzy little feathers and telling them to fly the nest. But the cherubs from Bloomington, St Andrews, Houston and now New York are always going to be my little baby birdies no matter where they go and what they do. It is enormously gratifying to work with students. Whatever else happens in my career, I'm glad that the first thing was working with young people and I hope that whatever else happens, I keep getting to work with students. 

And, bonus: speaking of harmonies, have you seen this a capella version of The Beach Boy's "Wouldn't it Be Nice"? Just another reminder that tight harmonies trump almost everything else and make life way more fun to live. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Music - Summer Mixes from my Brother

London's weather is nothing short of a miracle at the moment. For that, I send up a hallelujah. When the sun comes out, I simply must have a buffet of music to celebrate it. Luckily, this summer is full of great music. I'm not just talking about Milo Greene, Frank Ocean and Passion Pit, etc etc etc... I could really just go on and on... I'm also talking about the mixes my bro has been posting on his soundcloud page. 

It's wild and heartwarming to discover how respected my brother is in his industry. I'm feeling pretty proud. And I am counting down the days until I get to see him in action. The last time I saw him, he looked like this. Although, I think it's safe to say we both still look scarily similar to how we looked when we were ten, his real life face twenty years later is gonna look pretty good to me. In the meantime, I'll enjoy his skills via the internet and share them with you. I hope wherever you are, you're feeling that Summer feeling-- that it's sunny and filled with music. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

London Hidden Treasures - Tredegar Square

Never would I have believed, tucked away in London's rough East End, would there be a perfectly preserved Georgian Square like Tredegar Square. It's one of the most intriguing things about London-- how a neighborhood isn't made entirely of one element, and how what did and did not escape the bombings during World War II can create heart-pulling, nostalgic dynamics. 

One of the more interesting lessons that came from living in the UK for the past years has been what the two World Wars meant to Europe as opposed to the US. The way they're discussed, what they have come to symbolize. For the US, WWII, it's "Greatest Generation" and the time in its aftermath, is often thought of the American idea coming into its full glory. America at its best. It was certainly the the golden era that we've clung to in some of our rhetoric now. I think it's easier for us to think about what we gained and not what we lost. It doesn't haunt the cities like it does here. 

Thinking about Coventry, and London during the blitz, as I've done before... just really does it to me, man. So I was glad that with just a week and half left, my friend Alina let me in on this little secret. From there, I started researching. It's been a prime location in the novel, The Somnambulist, and there was even a murderer of Tredegar Square

Don't let its proximity to the Mile End tube station fool you though. Not only are there houses that look more like Belgravia and Kensington, but the prices reflect the square's hip uniqueness and backstory and beauty. 

I've always felt a kind of kindred spirit with anything that narrowly escaped demolition. Even more than my soft-spot for secret gardens and other hidden jewels. (Not to mention, anything Georgian!) Hope you're all having a fabulous Sunday. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Liz Meriwether, Please be my friend

Josh Haner/The New York Times

When I finally figured out there was a job that combined all my strengths; that didn't ask me to choose between  being a writer and a producer-- in fact, happily blurred that line-- it felt more like vindication than revelation. See? I thought. I didn't have project or purpose attention deficit disorder. There was (is!) a whole, special, powerful position for people exactly like me! Ideas people! Bossy people!

Showrunner. It just sounds good doesn't it? It's your show. Your idea. And you run that shit. You control the arc, make the final decisions, weigh in on all the important matters, but you have a whole room full of people to handle some of those nuts and bolts issues. Transitions. The episode to episode. Amazing.

I had my show idea. (Still have it.) Had it two and half years ago. I knew what to do. But of course, a few years ago, I had a lot of people in my ear saying 'you can't be a showrunner at your age.' Or without previous television credits. 

Enter Liz Merriwether. A playwright and messy dabbler who graduated from Yale the same year I graduated from Rice. Another blonde who loves politics, weird people, and sometimes feels like she should have been born Jewish (past life?) 

In one fell swoop, she went from playwright to Obama firee to screenwriter (of rom com No Strings Attached) to New Girl showrunner. (I'm sure I'm simplifying, but that's part of the fun, right?) Is she in over her head? Probably. Does she sleep in her office? Yes. Either way, it seems to be paying off. 

I don't watch New Girl and in fact, don't want to. Maybe because I don't want to be influenced?  Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and do it. Is this stuff probably the best stuff Liz Meriwether is going to do in her career? Probably not. And that's a good thing. Just think of where she's starting and where she might go. And bless her for doing it. 

Mostly, I just want to say to Liz Meriwether: thank you. Thank you, Liz for being exactly who you are. For being the glaring example, the name I blurt out spastically whenever anyone talks about "starting over" in film and TV in Los Angeles. Also, Liz, do you want to be my new best friend? Call me. 

And finally, thanks yet again for this quote

As she balances the logistic and creative challenges of parallel careers in New York and Los Angeles, Ms. Meriwether remains determined to pursue both theater and Hollywood. “I don’t think I’d be satisfied leaving the theater,” she said. “But I’m really getting a taste of what it is to do both.”

Do it all. More is more, bitches.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

American Soul Links - And Some on Losing it

There was a lot of goodbye-ing this week. From all my friends in Scotland to some opportunities, to-- this very morning-- when I awoke to hear of a tragic shooting in Colorado and the death of one of my childhood inspirationals: the father of my very first friend. I've always really internalized the pain of others to a kind of a detrimental degree. I have a hard time with it. I suppose it's all part of my greater existential grapple. I stand by the point that its futile to compare suffering, or rank it. Suffering is suffering is suffering. But some loss, you can wrap your brain around. My friend Guy Mitchell fought the good fight. He lived a joyous life, watched his grandkids be born, inspired and advised those around him on matters of the soul. In short, his soul was smiling... and striving... for understanding all the time: a quality I admire in people to the utmost. 

But then there's the losses that make no sense. And there you have something I worry about--can't ignore-- in the world today... and especially in my country. I worry about the modern American soul. The way we're starving it and ignoring it and paying it off with money and tuning it out or crowding it out with more work. There's no room for it. There's no time for it. I left the US, in part, to take a step back and look at where I came from-- to get some distance from, and then hopefully clarity on, all that was troubling my American soul about the American soul. 

My academic (and fiction!) writing is frequently, and in my opinion, meanly accused of being too American, too conversational, and not argumentative enough. To the people who say this, I say, respectfully, suck it. 

Life is a conversation that we're not really having anymore. We espouse, assume, back up with facts, or versions of "facts," we beat people over the head, or stonewall, or shut out. Or post! We put up academic formalities for distance and we're lacking in real dialogue that asks for a response. We're all rhetorical questions, and very few honest or earnest ones. I don't know why James Holmes went into a movie theatre and shot over 50 people. Maybe there is no why. Maybe he's just a sociopath. But my instinct is to tally these types of violent acts as moments when starving souls snap. And the food of the soul is human connection; dialogue. 

I have been accused of starting too many sentences with "and." Guilty. And I won't give it up. Because there's always more. You don't "get to the bottom" of any soul situation. If  you show up at all, it should be with the understanding that you start with the fact that there's always more to talk about. I am brimming with these things that still need to be discussed; that we'll never get to the bottom of. So I start with and, and, and. And keep on fighting the good fight. And keep writing, yeah

Your links:
- More on why women are leaving academia
- This is some of the bureaucratic mess I'm thrilled to be leaving. Several of my friends suffering from this right now. Five months, no passport. 
- More Franzen hate. I think this chick is mean and misses the point. And doesn't understand self-deprecation?
- The Newsroom's woman problem, etc etc
- Barack, Mitt, & Adam Smith. Oh, economics.
- More on my fave band, Milo Greene, and where they got their name. I approve. 
- Ah, hearing color. One of my favorite topics. 
- The Olympic rings projected on the white cliffs of Dover. Gorgeous. 
- The new No Doubt track isn't my favorite, but it sure is nice to have them back. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An Unconcert from Alex Winston

Opera-trained Michigan singer Alex Winston first came onto my radar when one of my favorite bloggers Anne Sage of The City Sage wrote about her. (PS- Anne, when I move to Cali, can we be friends?) I've been enjoying Ms. Winston ever since. And I like that Anne provided some recommended listening activities. Contextualize, girl!

I especially enjoy this multi-song min-film through Paris. It's the music equivalent of Sorkin's Walk n' Talks and features some of her best music including Medicine. Even though it's also one of Alex's less strange moments, people still look at the scene with bewilderment. I love the old couple. Happy almost Friday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back in the US Fun - ScoutMob

As I prepare to re-join the working economy, I can perhaps start to think about buying things again. And when I do, I'll probably use this website my friend told me about. I like that its right on your phone and instantly redeemable, unlike Living Social and Groupon. And I like that it's not just food and booze. 

While NYC appears to be the most fleshed-out in infrastructure and sheer number of deals, the company started in Atlanta. I'm hoping they'll soon beef you their Los Angeles features as well. Check it out! In the meantime, I'm off bright and early back to London. There's no app for that. It's raining again. Here. And there. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On My Last Day in Scotland

On my last day in Scotland, I woke up not quite knowing where I was and then remembering I was in a place where so many of my happiest Scotland memories live: Zaza's flat on Howe Street. 
On my last day in Scotland, I drank Artisan Roast and told Sophie about my brother. 
On the way there, we saw this sign. And I literally had to stop, in the street, and laugh. For a while. 
On my last day in Scotland, for once, it wasn't windy. 

On my last day in Scotland, I sorted through some old clothes while Sophie played me the piano version of Song I Never Wrote For You. When she played it again, this time singing, I started to cry thinking about how much I would miss her, and my life here, and thinking about Fred, who I never met, but felt like I did because of Sophie and her music. 

On my last day in Scotland, there was some business as usual, as I prepare for jobs and work in New York. I paid some bills. I still had to write this blog. But mostly, I am trying to be in this place, one last time for now. Soak up the paintings of tragic queens in galleries and light through the arched museum windows, and my friends, who will always always be a high priority for me. No matter how my priorities change, I think it's safe to say that people always have and always will be my priority.

On my last day in Scotland, we'll have a dinner party at Anna's once more. We'll dance around the living room to Sam Cooke-- or maybe someone will even try to make me ceilidh. I hope not. But I hope that Torcuil winds me up and Taylor calls me Ryann. Ferguson. And Zeph calls me Small American. And we own it. I hope I cry some more and hug people a little too long and laugh too loudly. 

These years have been priceless. I can't believe they happened to me. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Miss Communications - Hearst's Most Retouched

Angelinos & news or photography enthusiasts: remember how William Randolph Hearst was crazy like a fox and would essentially do anything to sell a paper? Including clean up, direct, misdirect and just generally retouch all kinds of pics? Well, when the Herald Examiner folded in 1989, they donated all kinds of fun, quirky & disturbing evidence of this (their entire photo morgue, actually) to the Los Angeles Public Library

I'm a big fan of details with Las Vegas/Los Angeles cross-over appeal, so I'm intrigued by the photos of Bugsy Siegel's death, which were actually cleaned up to be LESS gory-- atypical for Hearst. I also love the moment when current events or history becomes art. And even further, when the manipulation of public institutions-- like the news-- can be a vehicle for art as social commentary. I could go on here, but I'll save it. 

The exhibition, Edited for Publication: Photographic Manipulations in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner is on at the Los Angeles Public Library until August 31. I know if I make it out that way before the end of August, I will for sure be checking this out. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nostalgia, Ultra: Revisited and a Goodbye Trip

Frank Ocean - Strawberry Swing (Music Video) from MMCCV on Vimeo.

Off to Scotland tonight to say goodbye. I think I'm in denial about this trip's purpose. And instead, I'm listening to my favorite vacation music, Frank Ocean's mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. It's the mixtape I'd make for anyone embarking on an adventure. It's tough to pick a favorite. But for tonight, I'm leaving you with his brilliant take on Strawberry Swing. It's pretty much exactly how I feel about this trip. 

Say hello, then say farewell to the places you know. 
We're all mortals, aren't we?
Any moment, this could go
cry, cry, cry even though that won't change a thing
You should know, you should hear
That I have loved
That I have loved the good times here

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Most Whimsical London Pub - Commercial Tavern

Not long ago, my friend Kate and I hit up her local to discuss all manner of philosophy and current issues. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and Commercial Tavern's embanked window tables with roses overlooking Shoreditch was the perfect place to get lost in philosophy and lose track of time. 

It's hard to be discovering so much to love about London as I'm detaching. I can feel it happening. In a way, so much is already gone. Each day feels sadly final of something or other. But until I am the one to actually get on the plane, there is Commercial Tavern with its dreamy birds and golden local ales and music that drifts past our conversations and out into the streets.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Comfort - Discomfort Zone Links

Most of the logistical issues I was initially worried about have fallen into place a bit easier and faster than I had originally anticipated. I don't want to jinx anything, but it sure makes it easier in my quest to try to enjoy this last time I have in the UK. 

I've been telling people a lot that thinking about leaving is sort of like a bad black hole for me, so instead I think of already being back in New York and being back in Los Angeles and that thought is thrilling. There's so much I want to be working on. So many people I want to be collaborating with. Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate the feeling of sitting on my hands. 

In any case, I feel like I've had bit clearer sense of purpose this past week: always a good idea. Here's what else happened this week. 

- Granta's The Londoners. I think it will be my final London souvenir. I'll imagine the life I could have had here and then let it go.
- If I had any money, I also wouldn't mind going to the author's dinner at Islington Metal Works.
- Some non-Starbucks options for your London "Third Place."
- While I find this depressing, here's why there was no Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year. 
- My old pal and LA On-Air personality Kade looks at some tracks from the Fleetwood Mac Tribute.
- A compelling conspiracy theory for why Saved By the Bell was all a dream. 
- Lest we forget the awesome power of Flight of the Concords + Broadway Musicals
- Been trying to track this down in the UK. Anything with my pal Johnnie Gallagher is ok by me. 
- Comedians & The rape jokes. This. "Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don't get that, you are a fucking bully, and I've got zero time for bullies." Boom. 

- Along those same lines, this
- Alex Carnevale on Iris Murdoch
- Damages is back! So far, so CRAZY!
- Is it weird that I like to watch Damages paired with Suits? Gabriel Macht. Le Sigh.
- My college roomie, Sasha Cooke, is at it again, being like the world's most amazing mezzo.  When she's not winning Grammys, she's singing with the Colburn Orchestra on this album. Check it. 

- I think I've been in denial about the odd, slow weight loss I've been experiencing for about the last 6 months. I've always been small and it doesn't feel like I've lost that much weight. The scale agrees with me. But none and I mean NONE of my clothes fit. They hang, they show my bra, I have to roll the waist down, they gape even in the butt.  I don't want to go crazy or anything, but I'd sell a kidney to just go into somewhere safe like, Gap Body and buy a bunch of soft things that actually fit me. That's how vulnerable I've been feeling. Screw comfort food. Yoga clothes that fit. That's my comfort. And, just to reiterate: Frank Ocean

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

Lately, I've been doing a lot of talking. That's okay. But I'm a big fan of listening too. Enough people have already voiced their commentary on Frank Ocean. So I just want to listen. Like most people with ears. Today, I  just want to take advantage of the leak of sunshine through the apocalyptic sky and listen to Channel Orange. I just want to listen to Frank Ocean and bliss out on Summer. Or at least the idea of it. 

Steam for yourself. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sorkin & Cynicism... and Sara McC

Today, I am celebrating the birth of someone I don't get emotional over enough. Her name is Sara McCleskey and on this blog, I refer to her often as McC. 

I have said before I think there are very few human relationships that are actually equal. One person is normally more invested than the other one. In my life, this over-invested person has normally been me. 

Even with my best friends, I always got the sense that I probably cared a little more than they did. I was, maybe a little too earnest. That's okay. I'm an alien and I don't mind giving a shit more than the average. But Sara McCleskey was probably my first genuine friendship of equality. Where I knew she would show up just as often and just as hard as I showed up. And I show up hard, people. For that, and for a couple of other things-- one I'm about to get to next-- I feel a gratitude I can actually only express to her in the form of odd humor and constant-- and I mean constant-- link-feeding to her facebook wall. 

Because it hurts your (my) earnest little heart to be understood so much. To have your weirdness appreciated. To be appreciated for the very the thing that the cool and snarky prevailing sentiment of today would mock you for. That's why I'm talking about Sara McCleskey in a post about Aaron Sorkin, his new show The Newsroom, and cynicism. (Well, that and because clearly, Sorkin also has an appreciation for the Ulster Scot last names beginning with Mc.) 

Critics (ugh, my least favorite people on the planet. Perhaps even more so than bankers, health insurance companies, mechanics and thugs) have almost universally panned the show. And there are some glaring faults, I admit. (All of which I think are hit on here.) But I also agree with the point made in that last paragraph that we've become so comfortable with cynicism that we can't even dream anymore. 

I loathe cynicism. Which is why I'll always love Sorkin, even when he's corny. Or perhaps especially when he's corny. I just call it earnest. Which is also why it was one of the greatest compliments of my life when Sara McC quoted the following as something she thought I could have written; something I stand for:

"To casually and sloppily take down, to ironize, to sneer comes very naturally to us, we can do it in our sleep, but to care, to try, to want, are harder. And to admit that you care or are trying or are wanting, well, forget it: Those will be impossible."

Cynicism is both the thing that occasionally makes me want to not get out of bed in the morning, and the thing that gets me out of bed so I can fight it. I'm not trying to piss anyone off. I just think we can be better to each other. That we can say "Yes, And" more often. Here's my ask for today: please, let's be better to each other, in the way we talk about things. On the internet, in person, everywhere. 

I haven't always made friends this way-- insisting that we be better to each other, insisting we don't ignore each other. But I like to think it pays off in the long run. It isn't a perfect process. But I think people are thankful in the long run when they can do it. Dan Rather agrees! I mean, can we talk about the fact that DAN RATHER is recapping the show for -- Queen of Snark, GAWKER?-- Surely this is a point for the good guys, right? Rather, like me, felt that the third episode was amazing. I agree with everything Dan Rather says. How can you not??

I've missed Sorkin's optimism on my television screen. I'm happy to have it back so I feel like I'm not the only out of fashion fool who wants us all to be better. Well, me and Sorkin and birthday girl Sara McCleskey-- my own personal talisman for optimism in the face of gloominess. 

(At least we haven't been murdered!)

PS- Newman is doing some of his best work here. Am I right??

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Ballerina Project

Have you heard about the beautiful Ballerina Project from Hawaiian/New Yorker photographer, Dane Shitagi? If you read this, I bet you're the kind of person who does. But oh, you must go look again. For a couple of years now, he's been taking gorgeous pics of dancers in natural spaces, their homes, in inclement weather, draped over a refrigerator door on a hot day.... 

I've been meaning to blog it about for ages now. When I have a tough day in the city, sometimes I just go and scroll. My stepmother was a dancer and I've always been a bit envious of them. I never really had the body type (let's not even get into issues of coordination) but I always wanted to live in toe shoes. 

Instead, I had a year long phase where I rocked tap shoes everywhere I went. I'll allow your imagination to how endearing (annoying) that was for everyone around me. At least I had ringlets. And that's why they called me Shirley Temple. 

In any case, check out Shitagi's work. You can purchase them as well. 

I promise I'll be back to blogging at a decent hour tomorrow. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Columbia Road Flower Market

Yesterday, I shared a rainy coffee with a fellow curly-haired friend and caught the tail-end of the Columbia Rd. Flower Market just as the sun came out for about 10 minutes. I've never once been to Columbia Rd when it's not raining. 

Nevertheless, Ezra Street and Columbia Rd. are basically like a movie set. Not surprisingly, the scent of flowers wafts around the streets. It's so cute around there, it look fake-- even in the pouring rain. There was a crazy man trying to scam the sweet Italian barrista out of twenty pounds and I was tempted by the huge piles of pastries. I even wished I liked oysters, because apparently the place (with no name) is famous for them. Though the little old man who shucks them was no where to be found. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Don't Have a Choice, But I Still Choose You

Some songs I simply consider a masterclass in lyrics. It's almost never for an obvious reason. And with me, it's often for this strangely tangible reason that they make an unknown known. They invent a terminology (not the specific [or any] rhetorical device... Taylor... but the actual lyric) previously non-existent that gives us a new way of expressing the emotion of that experience. 

I've heard some folks just refer to it as metaphor-- and that's not untrue, but that's simplifying it-- as far as I'm concerned. It might be that. But it might be something more than that. Or something less than that. It might be use of paradox. Or just a contradicting mind, amplified with a snare drum and musical build that gives you everything you need to know. At the end of the day, it means: I have no idea what that means, except that I know exactly what that means.

The Civil Wars' "Poison & Wine" is one of the best examples of I can think of for this principle. And also for why, as a lyricist, I get hung up on particles. Why I meant and instead of but, that instead of when, etc etc. There's a difference. 

It's also one of the more apt vehicles I can think of to begin to discuss my relationship with men and love. I don't really understand men. Never. Have. At least when it comes to men and me. I've never been able to figure out from moment to moment what it is they want from me. And when I think about the connections that have really influenced me, this song is a good starting place. That slice between the rational, the instinct, and the emotional core of what you feel in spite of the rational,  the instinctual, and the circumstantial. 

I don't love you 
and I always will
I don't love you
but I always will
I always will

The difference between and and but. The space between what you know and what you feel, still, anyhow. The disconnect between the evidence and the emotion. It's not right, and yet,  you're still probably never going to get it out of your system. 

This song is effortless. And still manages to move the mountain. And in one deft move, I don't have a choice, but I still choose you. Mmm, that's what real love will always be to me, folks. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pale & Pastel & Melancholy - The Albert Bridge

One day this past week, when I went to pick my young charge, Vincent Macleod, up from his school, he had forgotten his oyster card. So we walked from Battersea through the park and over the Albert Bridge. There's something pale and melancholy about the Albert. It's like something out Never Let Me Go. An abandoned boardwalk carnival in Brighton or Coney Island. 

Or maybe there's just a sense that it's a bridge, not over the Thames, but over another time. A time where troops still marched over bridges and the last remaining toll booths still stand. The only ones in London. 

Apparently, there are glaring structural weaknesses, but man is it pretty. Pensive and pastel by day and lit up by 4,000 bulbs at night. These things we build, repaint, repurpose, and barely use. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Self-Illuminated Links

Rain has returned to London and looks to stay for the next week or so. Meanwhile, I am trying to spend as much time with all the people who mean the most to me here in the UK before my departure. During each interaction, I think about opportunity costs a lot. I always have since the day my senior year economics professor, Mr. Swallow, introduced them onto my radar. I remember listening to him and nodding involuntarily. Yes. That was the moment I knew my enemy had a name. 

Because I sometimes have a slightly ridiculous tendency to think the rules don't apply to me, I've spent a lot of time in my life trying to circumvent these opportunity costs: rarely accepting my own limitations and ability to be in more than one place at one time. Not just in my own life, but for those I care about too. The best circumvention I've ever seen is skype. It gives me hope to keep trying to hedge these opportunity costs. I feel better when I try. 

Have a great weekend. Here are your links. 

- PS, I love that on the wiki page for Opp Costs, See Also: Have One's Cake and Eat it Too
- (And then it's equivalent in each culture/language. Excellent.)
- Here's a pre-skype way to access NYC from London. A telescope!
- American kids are spoiled. You don't say. 
- I hate quitting! Ugh! What if I pick that old phd up here?-- I mean, it's an actual job there. 

- Gordon and I are seeing Democracy tonight at the Old Vic. Is there a new Jimmy Carter of ex boyfriends in the house?

 I will not leave Europe without going to see where Keats died in Rome. Who wants to go with me in a whirlwind like 48 hour journey? Let's stay up all night and dance, lit up, through the streets of Rome. I'll get your ticket. I got sky miles. 

- I'm gonna miss this guy. I hope wherever I land, there's lots of poetry, still. 

- When I imagine what my new life is going to be like back in the US, it sounds like this. Please, please listen to this whole album. Thank you. 

Why Stop Now?

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