Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A First Aid Kit for Nostalgia

Somewhat inexplicably, I get nostalgic for sections of my childhood. I'm, of course, very selective about which pieces to be nostalgic about... I suppose that's part of the nature of nostalgia in the first place. 

You never remember all of it; the way it really was. You only remember the blue bug convertibles and the dusty amps and the way a steel guitar can echo beyond the tent, and through the coves at Disneyland Ranch while you dance with wind-blown hair on the waterfront, on a make-shift parque dance floor. The way it was otherworldly, like your memories themselves. Certainly not from any real world you lived in then. 

But still, you remember them. The summers at your grandparents beach house. The mosquitoes and the loneliness, but the kind you relished. You're nostalgic for that. And even for your mom, when she'd play Emmylou Harris and sing along through her cloud of smoke. 

Check out First Aid Kit's new album, The Lion's Roar You'll never believe they're Swedish

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Top Ten Reasons Why I'm Moving to London

After much consideration, imagining, and wide-net-casting, I can officially announce to you all that as of March 1, I'll be a resident of London. You may have seen this coming... I've been spending a lot of time there and lamenting the lack of theatre in my life. While there's no chance this blog will start looking something more like Fergie & Finsbury Park (After all, I'll still be a student at St Andrews) there will probably be more London-y stuff. In fact, there will probably be more first-hand cultural stuff a la when I lived in NYC. Just one of the many reasons for my decision. Which I present to you now in no particular order:

10. Events. Just random old events, gigs, openings, showings, etc. The kind of low-maintenance but high-fun weeknight and free-ish activities that formed the basis of my social life in the early days of NYC thanks to Aly. I want more of that.

9. The possibilities. Because everything is moving all the time, it has the kinetic quality that something might happen all the time. Any time. Around every corner and waiting there for you on the other side of each decision you make. I want to wake up every morning excited that something might happen to me today. 

8. I'm rested enough. Obviously, when I moved to Scotland, one of the goals was to recuperate my burnt-out soul. When I visited Sophie in London this time last year even, London kind of gave me an anxiety attack. I wasn't ready for the city again. But I've had a year and half of good sleep and productivity and practically no one talking shit on the internet. 

7. Sunshine. I used to sort of chuckle at Brits who said the weather was SO much better down South. As if two degrees really made a difference. I told them that was cute, but for GOOD weather, they were going to need to go to San Diego. That's where they have the nice weather. But turns out, there's jusssst enough more sunshine to make me want to live life...instead of snuggle under all my covers in five cardigans. I'm looking forward to regaining feeling in my toes. Also, I hear they have Summer there. 

6. Anonymity! I've never been a very private person, but I'm used to a group of people who are pretty much too busy and only get to see you every two or three weeks to be up in your business. Everybody's moving, so no one is looking at you. You have no painful neighbors and the city is diverse enough for people not to copy you. 

5. Max me out! I actually function better on all 8 cylinders. I think a lot of people do. When there's no time to waste, you don't waste time. And free time is easier to save when you don't have much of it. Bring on full-time employment AND a full-time PhD. No seriously, BRING IT.

4. A fully rounded life. While my Scotland friends are some of the best friends I've ever ever had, I feel like they were a gift from the Abby Ruffridge facebook gods. They all came from a particular chapter in my life. In London, I have friends from all different chapters in my life: high school, college, NYC. I'm happy to get to spend time with them. And make new friends too. Duh. 

3. Easy. It's actually just as easy to do a phd from London as Edinburgh. If you're away, you're away. One place is as good as any. I've been writing around a job all my adult life. Not to mention, flying to the US out of London is easier. 

2. City Love. While I am actually finding more and more things about London that do remind me of New York, the thing that has allowed me to truly think about living there was coming to love London as its own city and not an NYC substitute. Nothing can ever be NYC. Not for what it is to itself, to the world, or its crown-jewel status in my life. But London can be London in its own right. A place I arrived at as an adult and not a wide-eyed kid. And let's just say I'm really looking forward to it. 

1. The Theatre calls me. You know it and I know it. There was no way I was going to be able to separate myself from the theatre for five years. It was never going to be possible. Putting up shows is in my blood. I'd consider film and television too. But I will never be able to leave the theatre. I want to be in a rehearsal room so bad, I'm willing to pack up my life for the third time in two years. I want to do things and make things that make people feel. That make me feel. There are songs that I've never, ever been able to listen to without crying. I want to make some of those. I want to hear more of those. I want to have partners in crime. I want to get out of my own head and be a part of something bigger than myself, the way theatre always seems to make you feel. So stop the train, I want to get back on. Come see me in London, you guys!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Gift from Emily Skinner (and Henry Miller)

...And of course Theresa Flanagan

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

A little bit Edinburgh, a little bit Broadway. Even though this is perhaps the anti-motto of Broadway. It really is a bit breathtaking to come upon it at sunset, just perched there in front of Gallery Two. (For the record, Gallery One says EVERYTHING IS  GOING TO BE ALRIGHT in bright blue neon across the front of the building...for balance, I suppose.) Hope your Saturday is bright and full of ideas. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Top 25 of Winter - 2012 Edition

Okay, I caved. Here's my Top 25 things of Winter for this year. It's probably more of a hypothetical wish list than last year. Eh. Oh well. There will be some rehashing of things I'm done individual posts about, but some things just needed to be on there in case you missed them the first time around. 

In no particular order:

1. Fleece-lined leggings and tights. I have 'em, I love 'em. They feel like cloud heaven for your legs.
2. Friedasophie Jewelry. So pretty. Her blog is worth a look too.  
3. Real Estate hunting. Who we kidding? I do this ALWAYS. But check the flat on Cross St. Drool. 
4. The constant awesomeness that is Anne Sage of The City Sage. Anne! Be my pal! 
5. The Tomboy Style Guide by decade. Surprise! I love the 90s one (minus the Docs) and the 60s one. 
6. London's Almeida Theatre. They're doing Bernarda Alba! Can I just please work here? Pretty. Please. 
7. Getting really seriously real with everyone I know. 'Nuff said. 
8. Growing out my (your) bangs/fringe. I may never totally love my forehead, but I had a mole removed and I'm just ready to stop fooling with styling. 
9. Everything from photojojo
10. Siri. Even though some features don't work in the UK, I'm still a fan. I always wanted an assistant. 
11. Scottish director John McKay's film, "We'll Take Manhattan."
12. Just the THOUGHT of rebuilding my own home collection. Am I allowed to say I miss my little one bedroom in Astoria?? I do. I miss it. I want my own house again. Or semblance of it. 
13. Homeland. I eagerly awaited every ep. I wish there were enough to get me through all winter. 
14. B Complex & Folic Acid supplement. I'm amazed at how much better I feel since I started taking. 
15. On that note, I sort of don't drink anymore. Rarely. And not much. Also, massive life improvement.
16. Cool Layla Grace offshoot, Zinc Door
17. LUSH Flying Fox shower gel. This ambery & warm for winter gel is the only thing I love from this co. 
18. Pinterest. I was an early adopter & I'm pumped to see so many fun faces joining every day!
19. Ingrid Michaelson's new album, Human Again. I wasn't sold from the first single. But I am now!!
20. What I haven't given up is coffee. This makes it and keeps it warm. 
21. Learning to be a better cook. I was responsible for my 1st T'Giving Dinner this year. Just google. Just do it. It will all work out. 
22. The paintings of Sarah Ashley Longshore
23. All those online Magazines. Rue. Matchbook. Covet Garden. The ad format is kickass & effective because if you like the product, you click it and it goes to their website. I am a fan. 
24. Volvic Touch of Strawberry Water. Don't judge me. I get dehydrated easily and sometimes, I need an incentive. I gave up booze. What do you want from me?
25. Getting really real with myself. I'm a city person. Definitively. Like, BIG city. Announcement forthcoming. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

You go, Photojojo!

Can I just humbly request everything on the photojojo site for my birthday? (It's soon in case you're wondering. Okay, it's not that soon, but soon enough to remind you because you'll need to get your plane tickets. See you in Vegas?) It is like total catnip for the kind of dreamy-tech-nerd-girl that I (and a lot of you) am (are?)

A lot of you lovely readers ask me what kind of gear I use. Basically, I was lucky enough and had enough free time on my hands to get in sort of early on the whole instagram/picstitch deal. I saw early on that it was much much better than hipstamatic. I use a lot of iphone. I mean, I always have it. So...ya know. Additionally, I'd recommend the Canon s95 to people or if you want something a little more advanced, everything in the more advanced Canon lines are pretty stellar. But for those of you who want the functions to learn on, but a price more like the Canon s95, I will say, I love my Nikon d3100. Just beef up your lens with the Nikkor 35mm f1.8. You won't regret. 

Funny ha-ha, most of the things I really really want are out of stock at the moment. But they'll be back. Numero uno is this dreamy Diana Lens for just SIXTY BUCKS! I mean, just look at these pics taken by regular folks with the lens. I want it so bad! I just pop it on my Nikon and gooooo! 

But obviously, I'd rather not stop there. I think I'd also like to toss some of these bad boys in my virtual shopping cart. (Or yours, in case you haven't forgotten about that bday present thing.)

- Badass Fisheye/Telephoto/Wide Angle iphone lens set
- Rotating Holga Lens set for iphone
- Fuji Wide Instant Cam
- The photojojo book with cool ideas

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Scotland might be celebrating the birth of Robert Burns today, and even though a huge proportion of all my favorite people were born today, January 25 is always the day to celebrate my amazing dad. Perhaps I beat this drum too loudly and too often, but I'd rather over-make the point than under-make that nothing I do or have ever done would be possible without my dad's unfailing support. He gives wisdom and humor to everyone around him. He will make you smile whether you want to or not. 

One of him is like five parents. I'll even share him with you, dear readers. If you have a tough question, let me know and we'll get him involved. I mean, here is his response from when I wished him a happy birthday late last night when it was already his birthday in Scotland, but not Las Vegas:

The wisdom of a Buddha can only be understood by another Buddha! It takes one to know one! I love you, too! What are you doing up this late?

Many happy returns, Dad. You are the best!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cannon Lewis - So Pretty

Winter doldrums make me want to buy things. When the view is bleak and ugly outside, I just want to decorate everything around me. Last year, I did my Top 25 favorite things of winter. I'm not sure I've been allowed off my money leash long enough this year to partake in enough for a Top 25 list. Maybe I can pull something together by mid February. 

Anyhow, one thing that will definitely be on there is Cannon Lewis jewelry. I've been on an accessories kick lately. I think it started with my amazing Christmas watch gift and grew from there. In any case, I love her stones peaking out from delicate gold leaves. I love her sense of details and especially context. Like that necklace which is serving as a bookmark in the middle of Mansfield Park. (Yes, I can play nerd games like that.)

Check her out. I love supporting Texans. 

All photos from the artist's website. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Birdsong on the Beeb

Have you guys ever noticed that Eddie Redmayne's lips always look just a little bit blue onscreen? Seriously, Pillars of the Earth, Glorious 39, My Week with Marilyn & now the two-part BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' WWI epic, Birdsong. Do you think his lips are really like that or do you think they're just putting a nice blue enhancer on everything to give it that dreamy, period feel. I know I do that with pictures. 

Anyhow, that's kind of all I could think about during the first installment of the program last night. Wow, Eddie Redmayne's lips are really blue, and how much I like Clemence Poesy even though I had absolutely no interest in her character or what she was saying. 

I'm still going to stick it out and watch the second part-- maybe it will be better. Also, it's just sort of a comfort food. Cold Sunday nights need a BBC drama whether its amazing or just beautifully filmed. But I don't think this will be the thing to (as one BBC head stated) "prove British drama is as good as Mad Men and The Wire." You know what I mean? 

I've got to hand it to Abi Morgan though. She must be the most working, most prolific female screenwriter pounding the pavement today. Shame, The Iron Lady, The Hour. While she's certainly on a roll, I agree with some assessments of her that she's spread herself a bit too thin. Project diet, Abi! Kick some of that my way. I'll be happy to help. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Never Throw Out Anyone

Audrey Hepburn was a little bit of a yogi, wasn't she? She had quite a few apt sayings up her sleeve... from "Paris is always a good idea," to "I didn't know how to do anything I've done before I did it." And this especially good one. Hope you're having a lovely Sunday!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Songwriting as Survival Links

It's weeks like this that make me thank my lucky stars I'm a songwriter. What do people who aren't songwriters do when they need to channel a lot of energy into something? I mean, there are things... I get it. Either way, I've been doing a lot of singing my lungs out and songwriting lately. (Apologies for volume, neighbors.) Ugh, let's not fixate. "Just take me to the links," you say. 

- Ask anyone, I've been saying "LONG GAME" about Obama for ages. Nice to see The Daily Beast agree
- Um, wow, Congress says it can re-copyright public domain works...??... Sure, okay.
- Harking back to Franzen's Harper's Bazaar essay, "Why Bother," the NYTimes weighs in on the same issue
- Well, we brought him up. My abusive boyfriend. Franzen. Might as well keep going. Thanks for that, McC. 
- This is the only "Shit anyone says" video I can deal with. Because of the NYC. And the Pat Kiernan. And the "Move, MOVE!" So, so so so true. "You read the Post? Not ironically?" "I love it here. I hate it here."
- Bon Iver and The Chieftans
- My friend wrote this about getting a doctorate.
- Some of these are kind of boring, but The Independent tells us 101 things the Scots gave us

Thursday, January 19, 2012


With all the talk one way or another about Steve McQueen's latest, Shame, I knew I wanted to see it for two reasons. 1. I like art that makes you feel uncomfortable 2. naked Michael Fassbender. There's not many dudes I'd care to see naked, but Fassbender is one of them.

And while I never felt quite as uncomfortable as I expected to with this film (which I actually ended up being okay with...I mean, it was relatively tame, all things considered. And in fact, I found the most uncomfortable section of the film when Carey Mulligan's Sissy sings the slowest version of "New York, New York" I've ever heard. Like by a third at least. And at a BAR! Yeah right! 4:57 long!) I did see quite a bit more of Fassbender than I'd expected and more of Mulligan too. 

Like almost everything, it made me miss New York. The ugly/beautiful, the seeking, the way even scaffolding can look heavenly with the right light as you're jogging past it. This is a believable, if bleak, New York. I believe that Brandon lives where he lives, in the apartment he lives in. It's like so so many male New York Flatiron/Midtown/Empire SB/Murray Hill moderns. (Why have so many reviewers misplaced his apt in Chelsea??) The cheapish modern fixtures like door handles and light switches all echo with a very real metallic hollowness. 

That hollowness and starkness of that real NYC apt did more for the film than anything, save obviously the performances of Fassby and Mulligan. (For the record, I thought the two of them had great chemistry. Perhaps it was a bit of their shared "persona"ing. Both Brits of a sort impersonating aspiring New Yorkers.) But A+ production designer. It said more than even the sex did...which, there really wasn't that much of, actually. 

All in all, I thought the film's restraint was well done. Not just with the sex scenes, but with the motivation for all the sex. After all, there are very few answers as intriguing as the initial question. Most reveals are pretty anti-climactic in modern story telling. I'd much rather watch you come at the question from different angles each time. And this relationship almost did that for me. 

The hint of backstory, the tension with no resolution between Brandon and Sissy were much better than actually going there. We don't need to. "We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place" is all we need. Though I will say, I think I'd have liked one more scene with Carey Mulligan. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So I watched Smash...

Thanks to the good folks at itunes, I was able to watch the pilot of my most anticipated new show of the season, SMASH. There are, of course, all the obvious reasons why I was foaming at the mouth about this show. But I was also anxious about it. There's never been a show about my people like this before. And then, we went several rungs deeper. Because at some point, behind the scenes drama on the show really became about my people

Clearly, everyone working on the show knows how the biz works, so they're coming from the right places. I had many feelings. These are those feelings. So, first, the pros.

1. Playing "Spot my friends." Loved seeing me some Jake Wilson as a casting assistant, Maddie Corman as a social worker, Annaleigh Ashford, and well, pretty much every chorus boy on 9th Ave in that baseball number. (And that's just the pilot. It's gonna be a "This is your life" type situation as the show goes on.)

2. The opening scene, forgive the constant retreading of this phrase, "nailed it." Not just because of Jake. That's how it feels. You're in the zone, in your Dorothy dress... the phone goes off. 

3. When Brian D'arcy James compares theatre to adoption: "Some parts are fast, but on the whole...sloooow." And basically all of Brian D'arcy James.

4. Becky Ann Baker & Dylan Baker (love them!) as Karen's parents.

5. An artistic marriage that sort of supersedes your real marriage. Just saying, it happens. Same for writers relationships with certain performers.

6. The lyricists speech about why Marilyn. You gotta have that kind of clarity. Same for when Karen sings "Beautiful." So Theresa Rebeck at least gets the Marilyn aspect.

7. So far-- and listen, I love me some Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman, but so far, I'm not blown away by the songs. Some of the lyrics, yes. 

8. The extended Riedel shpiel.  "I hate everyone who writes theatre blogs!" and her ranting about people making judgements before the shows even done.

9. Megan Hilty. She's doing first rate work. Especially in that scene with her mother. The 1/3 glass of wine. How the mom just brings the focus away from her stuff to the brother because the mom just doesn't get it. The number of times that has happened with my family. Wow. Also, the dynamic set up between the different kinds of Marilyn Karen & Ivy would be. 

10. The set up, plotline, and posturing of Anjelica Huston as Eileen the producer. It legitimizes a whole lot of what might be holes of the show. 

But then... the cons.

1. Um..... where is the poverty??? The most successful mid-career people I know do not live in the kind of luxury of ANYONE on this show. You know I'm right. I know it's TV, but it's annoying. Where are the room mates and sloping floors? Just make an effort.

2. Speaking of which, the feminist in me cringes noting that the convenient work-around to all these people (the women in particular) living high on the hog, is that they're married or with boyfriends who have hot-shot jobs in the Mayor's office. Oh, Karen pays rent in that exposed-brick palace apartment she shares with her bf? Yeah. Right.

3. Am I the only one who thinks all those people suggesting a baseball number are sort of on crack? I suppose parts of it grew on me with subsequent watchings, and I suppose if the number came in the middle of the show... but..no.

4. The timeline of the writing teams' career. They're not old enough to have as many shows as they have... IMO. See Brian D'arcy James' above statement.

5. "Please don't let them make a joke out of me." paired with breathily sung, "Peanuts! Hot Dogs! Cracker jacks!" You see the irony?

6. The way Deb Messing goes on and on about "SPECTACULAR WORK" from the audition number. It felt... wrong. I don't think you know that early and from a number like that about a director you were unsure of.  

7. None of the people at the casting table were presented as the casting director. Okay??....

8. I know why they did it, but I've never seen anyone come in legit costumes for auditions for a workshop. 

9. Wait, HOW are they going to drag this casting out?? 

10. Deb Messing. Sorry, I thought I could get past it and I can't. I will never look at her the same. I will never like her. And I resent it even more in the context of this show because, in the context of this show, she's the ME!! The neurotic, business-minded lyricist/book writer to a super efficient, talented composer. Seriously, is it too late to recast her? I don't even remember her name. She's just Deb Messing, the homewrecker.

The bottom line: I'm sure I feel the same as most in my biz... this can only help us. Most people have no idea how much goes into making a musical. They trivialize them. And for the same reason, I will go to my grave loving Glee, bless the suits on this show for getting amazing Broadway performers the paychecks and recognition they deserve. Bless you. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

John Burnside, On a Roll - TS Eliot Prize

Add this TS Eliot Prize to his Forward Prize just a few months ago, and I'm wondering if Burnsy might almost be too cool for me anymore. Of course, I'm kidding. JB is one of the most casual, supportive people I know. And even when others have not been on board with my writing plans, JB has always unabashedly had my back. 

So in these bleak winter days of boredom and attempted productivity, the news of his win is a real gift. Congrats and Thanks for the inspiration, JB! Bless you and your creative switch-hitting, and your ability to multi-task to the infinite. Please send a little bit of that magic my way as I prepare a bit of plate-spinning myself.

And finally, RE: the "controversy" surrounding the current state of the TS Eliot Prize. I agree wholeheartedly with Gillian Clarke. The arts most flourished when artists had the freedom and security to create that came from wealthy patron families. The Medicis, for example, were into all kinds of shit. A lot of it was dirty. But they understood that their responsibility was the use their money to enrich the world in some way-- not just hoard it all as profit. When corporations fund the arts, to me, that's just scale balancing. That's what they SHOULD be doing with all that money. Funding something soul-enriching. 

Buy Black Cat Bone here. And further reading

Monday, January 16, 2012

Today Feels Like This - Sweet Disposition

A night on the sleeper has left me sleepy...and the temperature in Scotland has dropped considerably since I left on Friday morning. What a strange and wonderful London weekend though. 

I've been listening to a lot of Temper Trap lately. Good travelling music. Good for long walks through North London. And even though this song had its heyday a few years ago, now feels like a good time to bring it back. Today (and yesterday and the day before and the day before) feel like this. 

And here's an Ellie Golding live bonus cover:
You can also listen to the full remixes of their album, Conditions, here

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tyler Cowen & The Problem With Stories

This is food for thought for writers and for anyone who tends to tell themselves the same life stories over and over. Plus, Tyler Cowen is funny. Man, I love TED talks. Also, this. Living like a cultural billionaire. Boom. Happy Sunday. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Music - Emeli Sande

Aberdeenshire-born, Glasgow educated Emeli Sande is having a pretty good time these days. Her song "Heaven" was a pretty big hit (even though personally, I'm not a fan) and you may recognize her new song, which I love (though I do find it a bit sing-songy) as the theme tune for the new iphone 4S .(which, PS, I get my free upgrade to next week.)

Listen and enjoy on this lovely Saturday. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

London Today Links

What a week. I feel like so much has happened, even though as per usual, it all happened from Command Center Alpha at my desk. This weekend is about starting to put some of those ideas into place. I'll be enjoying the few degrees warmer of London. In case you're stuck inside with bad weather, here's your weekend links. 

- Novelist Beatrice Colin offers this advice to writers.
- These cool photo filters. Seems like I just can't get enough.
- Dear Photograph is so cool!
- David Eustace's Highlands & Hebrides photos are not to be missed
- Turning Siberia into art
- Check out this British goods company, Cabbages & Roses. Want. to. shop. here. 
- Challenging my life-long comfort with regards to risk taking, turns out you actually can die of a broken heart. Ouch.

- And finally, I don't agree with everything This Recording says about my dear, dear You've Got Mail, but I'm just always happy when someone, anyone, wants to talk about it. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Still- Coachella & Chronic 2001

Now that 2011 is officially over, I can express my disappointment that there was no 10 year anniversary follow up to Dr Dre's Chronic 2011. For a long time at Beer Bike reunions with some of my favorite Rice friends in our early 20s, we'd joke that we'd still be dancing in some empty dorm room as 30 year olds celebrating the 10th anniversary of Chronic 2001. 

And even though Dre gave us no such album, I return to Chronic 2001 every now and then. People are always surprised I have such a soft spot for the thing. It's true, I'm no rap fan. But each and every song has a silly but belonging to me memory of the first summer when chilled the eff out and started having fun in my life. For a girl who'd never felt cool, there was something great about cruising around sunny Vegas in Gia's black BMW with the roof open to that soundtrack. 

Sure, there are less than perfect rhymes. Rappers have always taken liberties. But it's easy to forget with all the pampered Kanyes out there ('Isotoner' and 'told ya' do not rhyme, thank you.) that some truly good rhymes were at one time thriving. Rhymes a patter lyricist could appreciate. The tightly packed lines. 

And yes, the misogyny still blows my hair back. If anything, it's only worse. Like, wow. But then, it also puts women singers and rapper like Mary J. Blige & Ms. Roq in star roles. And they give as good as they get. 

Or maybe my recent affinity for the album is to do with the trouble maker in me who loves to just play it at a party here, or put it on in a bar and watch the Scots look massively uncomfortable. 

Yeah, I would have loved a Chronic 2011 reboot, and who knows, maybe they're planning a 20th reboot of 1992's The Chronic....  but in lieu of that, and in a complete surprise move, Snoop & Dre are headlining the last day of Coachella. What! And now, I'm thinking of extending my 30th birthday stay in Vegas to include the crazy/wonderful festival I haven't been to since 2005. Who's with me? 

I may have opted for a more refined life in Great Britain, but I was born in the LBC. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Bless the BBC for all this Dickens they've been heaping at us lately. At Christmas, we had Great Expectations, and now Dickens' great unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, has ben adapted with the excellent Matthew Rhys.

The Broadway geek in me had a hard time not thinking of the 1986 Rupert Holmes musical with multiple endings that the audience voted on. (People have been citing it as something we should do to the end of VOTE! for years. I'm not taking the bait.) Something had to be done though, since Dickens only got about half way through the book before he died. 

They've decided for us in this adaptation. I'll be tuned in to part 2 tonight to see. So far, it's a tad over the top, but in that fun Dickens way. I look at Tamzin Merchant and just think "Tudors" and I look at Freddie Fox and can't help but see his lovely sister, Amelia Fox. It's trippy.

Seems Dickens is in the air lately. Not only has the BBC really delved into the works of, but my advisor is taking a look with his lecture "What would Dickens Write Today?" at a conference in Germany next week. I hope he'll let me read his paper!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Welcome Baby Nathan!

Dear Baby Nathan,

It's probably been a really intense 24 hours for you, huh? Well, just in case you're already on the internet (I hear babies have a really serious affinity for touch screens these days) it's your aunt Ryann here to tell you a few things. 

1. You have an unbelievably cool mom. She will make you feel at ease all your life. I know this for a fact because she's been making it cool for me to be myself for 20 years now. 
2. Even though I'm far away, I feel like I already know you. I felt the same way about your brother
3. You came at such an interesting time. I really & truly feel like you're a good omen. And a sign of excellent things to come. 
4. Going back to your mom, just pay attention to how good she looks up there...right after having given birth to you. I'm telling you, girlfriend has a gift. 
5. Know that whenever I am blue, or feel bad about myself, about the world we live in-- whenever I feel like certain things are futile, or...what is point of anything?... I remind myself how you exist. I remind myself of the way friendships echo off each other and result in.... you. 

One day, we will meet and I will be really weird and probably really loud. You'll think I am your weird Aunt Ryann, but I won't mind and I will tell you the story that started with a blind date neither of your parents really wanted to go on and a text message to my pink phone the next day: "I heart Joel." 

In the meantime, here's the lullaby I'd sing you if I were in Texas. It's the song I'd sing to my own kids. So tonight, it's for you. I wish I was there, but James Taylor does an okay job too. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dangerous Women?

Because it's not living unless you're over-committed, I've decided that now (well,  I started over Christmas) is the time to start the dating book I've been formulating for years. Those who know me know about this book of anecdotes and completely unscientific theories. 

Recently, a wise, staunch member of Britain's old-guard said at a lunch that women never told anecdotes. I held my tongue for the moment and kept my anecdotes for the book. 

The title, which I unfortunately cannot reveal in any public format, like most of the chapter headings, is designed to be a bit inflammatory. Nevertheless, even the men I've spoken to about these eye-brow-raising quips admit that they sound true. Even if they aren't backed by any modern sociological method other than my own observations. 

I don't think there's anything real to gain from any dating book, scientific or otherwise, save for the camaraderie and amusement. I think entertainment is measure of success with this. Being true is a secondary or irrelevant standard to feeling true

So anyhow, I've been checking up on other humor books that might inspire me or provide any formatting insights. A friend sent me an article that mentioned this book, Dangerous Women. The reviews seem to be all over the place, and I'm often reticent of books that sound like some other city's version of Sex and The. But I've decided to check it out anyhow. I've been feeling very wanderlusty lately anyhow, so I don't mind trying on some ideas of new lives for size. 

I couldn't decide what to post today because I feel like there's nothing I can talk about today that didn't leave me feeling like I was being really coy with you all. So, sorry. But basically, you can expect a couple of big announcements about a couple of facets of my life really soon. Happy Monday. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Short Girl Disappears in Snow

Basically, I'm a city girl. Everything I know about being outside I learned either in Central Park or somewhere in the last year and half since I've been in Scotland. Mostly, I'd say I try to be free-spirited about it, even when I'm slipping on moss-covered boulders and whatnot, but sometimes, the elements really test the equipment. And I don't just mean my boots or jacket. (Though it does sometimes seem like no matter what I do, I'm never prepared enough.) 

What I mean is the gear I was born with-- most especially, my legs. They're just short. I'm less than five foot two anyhow, but essentially, I'm all torso. This was made painfully obvious to me last week when we went on two really very beautiful snowy walks in Perthshire. Everything was silvery and green and glowing. 

We had to chase Torcuil the dog around for ages when he wouldn't get in the car (and eventually he would run along side the car, kill a hare, and finally be foiled by a cattle grate) and as we marched up the mountain, wind whipping in our faces, it was a lot easier for some of us than others.  Six foot three Gordon bounded along with the dog and Susie, though not much taller, had much better boots. Luckily for me, as it seemed like I was slowly just sinking into the snow, Susie decided to hang back to keep me company. Bless. 

The view of the loch from the top was genuinely stunning. White caps and vicious contrasting colors to match the vicious wind and stingy snowflakes daggers. I wish I'd had the equipment to catch a proper photo of what we saw. It was great. 

In short (ha), while I don't know that I'll ever be as hearty in the snow as the Brits, it's nice to have folks around who don't put up with any city bullshit and just trudge on. They keep me honest. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Artist

Today was a little gem of a day. My pal Betsy treated me to lunch and a catch up session followed by a viewing of Michel Hazanavicius's silent film, The Artist. I was curious to see it for several reasons. It's the kind of old Hollywood adorable deal that has my name written all over it, but I wanted to know 1. Could my attention span really take a silent film? 2. Could they sustain whatever adorableness they might start across a proper feature length? 3. Was it really as good as all the reviews said?

The short answer to all three is Yes. It is delightful and lovely and fresh and offbeat. It's like a little package of peppermints. 

It's physicality for days, sparse but supremely witty dialogue cards, and dancing...oh, the dancing. There's even the most adorable dog bits, and everyone knows there's no love lost between me and the pups. 

French actor Jean Dujardin is like a cross between Errol Flynn, Fred Astaire & Rudy Valentino. And is one of the best examples I can think of to prove that you don't have to have perfect teeth to have an absolutely winning smile. 

His chemistry with Berenice Bejo makes even the audience blush-- and while she's great-- the movie belongs to Jean as George Valentin, the declining silent film star. Well, Jean and Uggie the pooch. Please see it. I'd consider it a personal favor. Happy Saturday!

Friday, January 6, 2012

First Friday of 2012 Links

Since I've basically been away from my computer for the last week, it was tough to assemble a full roster of Friday links for you guys. Not to mention, 2012 has also already been a full-on addressing of problems and miscommunications gauntlet. Boom. Elvis would be proud and so would my hypothetical therapist because business is being taken care of on all fronts. Nevertheless, here is what's going on around the interwebs. (Mostly on NYMag....okay.)

- Awesome Portlandia Season 2 interview
- Dave Eggers puts short story on shower curtain
- The ghost signs of New York
- Fun Jennifer Saunders interview
- Figment, a cool website for young fiction writers (more on this later)
- The interns at NPR love Milo Greene
- The amazing Andy Greenwald on HBO's comedy problem

- Finally, I was really excited about SMASH, the new show about the making of a Broadway musical. It's hired a lot of my pals and hopefully will raise the profile of what I do for a living. Sad was I to learn that Debra Messing, playing the lyricist (ugh) has joined the cheating ranks of her co-star Christian Borle, and has been sleeping with my friend's husband. (Read Comment 7.) Don't get me wrong, I think he's filthy, too. Stop it with the cheating, people. STOP. IT!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Reels Party for the Books

Some events are fun and some are sort of historic. It's hard to say what exactly made the reels ball at Moncrieffe House so much fun, but it really really was. I'm sure the company (which was first rate [and furthermore, if my name included the phrase "of that Ilk" I'd throw a party every day]) had lots to do with it, as well as the generous sections of dances I'm more comfortable with-- tangos and waltzes, etc. 

But I think more than anything, just the freedom to be my silly self in all of them, including the reels-- which I'll say I'm better at, but miles away from good at-- is the main reason January 2, 2012 will go down as one for the fun annals. 

Even getting lost on the way to Moncrieffe House from Broich was fun and once we arrived, we realized we weren't late at all. We were just in time to dance the Dashing White Sergeant (easy, thus, my favorite) and then sit down to eat. It was sort of picnic style, so Gordon's Grandma had wrapped up some pheasants for us. (Dude, turns out, pheasants are awesome. Sign me up!) Obviously, Gordon brought champagne. (My key character detail of Gordon is that he brings champagne wherever he goes. It's a bit of an exaggeration, but a good one, I think.) 

I waltzed with Gordon, and silly-tangoed with Sophie and Finley. And Susie and I had as much fun sitting out a few and posing with the animals. We closed the place down. And when we got back to Broich, we sat around the study filled with books (including the Japanese translation of Rory's The Places in Between, which I had had just enough champagne to attempt to read in Japanese) and drank sherry with the lion-like Ming-Ming the cat. 

I'm both a nostalgic and an impatient person. I am most often looking to the past or to the future. And then there are these rare, wonderful pockets of time where the present-- my present-- is the absolute only place I'd ever want to be. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Story of Musicals (from the British perspective)

After a lot of days in both the East Lothian and Perthshire countryside, I came back to a rainy ugly Edinburgh and some good old fashioned comfort food: musicals. It took my favorite bird-lover to alert me to the new series on BBC on the story of how (and, listen, I'm gonna put this in quotes and explain why in a minute) "British musicals reclaimed the genre." Or maybe just reclaimed the West End. Either way. 

Even with the topicality (both Jesus Christ Superstar & Evita [a production I'm salivating to see] will return to Broadway this season) I must say, there's a lot of well-tread and re-hashed territory-- at least in the first episode. Stuff about Lionel Bart turning into an ego-maniacal drug addict filing for bankruptcy, how Oklahoma invented the musical as we know it today, etc etc. But I did enjoy the extended interviews with Elaine Paige, Tim Rice and especially James Rado on his influences (one of which was the British Oh! What a Lovely War) and Hal Prince being his usual badass self. 

At the end of the day, I still think the genre belongs to us. I do think it most likely took our Hal Prince to make Evita the success it is. To bridge the gap between what a story could be and what Tim Rice always seems to leave out in my opinion. 

Or maybe its something to do with the innate enthusiasm of a musical. That's why it will always belong to America. Nothing excited me more than when they'd cut to West Side Story, etc etc. And that's not because I'd ever actually thought about the thing I love most as a turf war between my two homes. Objectively, as a musical lover, there's nothing British that can beat anything on the long list of my favorites. 

But it's useful to think about, especially working on Nicholas & Alexandra-- the most Britishly influenced (read: pop opera) of Steven and my stuff. And one thing Steven and I have always been on board with Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber about is the concept album. I believe in the concept album. More to come on that later... 

Pictures and adventures from the country tomorrow. While it was nice to have a bit of fun, the documentary reminded me that what I really am is a workaholic....so back to it. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Walk to the Reservoir

Past the sheep and disassembled turbine, up the hill, looking out over the valley to Bass Rock and Fife 
And through the heather and looking past the convent of nuns
And through the woods, down the slope, through the fences and over the wires, 
Down the narrow strip to the reservoir. 
Out on the landing, you get vertigo a little bit. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Pyromaniacal Hogmanay

We spent Hogmanay at the lovely Moorcock Hall outside Edinburgh. It was fun because we hiked up a ways (scary in the dark! I slipped and fell on my keister on a mossy boulder.) and watched as all of Edinburgh and Fife's fireworks streaked across the entire horizon line. In every direction we looked, the sky was full of silent but colorful bursts. We passed around the champagne and tried to find each other in the dark for New Years hugs and kisses.

There was even more fire to had that night though. We also dined on a flaming Christmas Pudding (my first. There was also venison with bacon and juniper berries. That was my last game meat to try. It made me think of the Welshley Arms sketch with Virg & Rog Clarvin in the HoTUB with Barbara HernanDEZ and an ever-character-breaking Jimmy Fallon. [Video! Suck it, firewall!] "This is normally the time in the soak when me and my lovvvva crave spiced meats." Anyhow.)

In addition to a flaming Christmas pudding we may or may not have sort of set our ginger bread house on fire while lighting it from within with tea lights. We may have also almost set Moorcock Hall on fire with a haywire New Years wishes lantern that kept clinging to the roof. Oops!

Either way, we all survived and today I'm off to a reels ball in Perthshire. Let's hope I don't have one of my minor anxiety attacks about the dance steps. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ridiculous Humans. Serious Fitness.

Basically, the only way you'd ever EVER get me to a gym was if I went to my pal Mark Fisher's crazy new concept fitness "Clubhouse." Fisher is a kind of philosophical soul-mate of sorts, but I used to feel fat around him all the time. Like, every time I ate anything, I'd sort of picture Fisher and feel a little bad. Not because he was weird, but even knowing him made you feel inspired to be a little healthier. And actually, his whole idea of what working out and getting fit is fun and funny. Maybe ridiculous is a better word. That's the word he'd use. Ridiculous Humans, Serious Fitness. 

This is the time of year when people normally make fitness goals (and don't stick to them) so I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about MFF. Not only is he buff, can he make you buff, but he's also one hell of a lyric baritone. 

If you're in NYC, you should probably check him out. Everyone I know is having a kick-ass time getting hot with him. I also enjoy his newsletters which are actually useful and also hilarious and good even if you don't live in NYC. Fisher, I miss you. I love what you're doing!

Also this: (bless you, sweet Jerry Mitchell)

and this:

Why Stop Now?

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