Sunday, December 26, 2010


Every single time I hear this song, I cry. I figured that since I'm crying alot anyway, I might as well cry in a way that makes me feel good at the end. Merry Christmas season to all who celebrate it, and happy blizzard to the rest of us.

"Christmas in the Trenches," written and performed by John McCutcheon

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Today is the 25th day of December. That means it's my Mom's birthday, the first birthday we are celebrating without her. It is unbelievably hard to do that. I made cookies this morning, cookies that she liked to make for the Christmas carolers who came over here every year to practice before we went out serenading the town. Cranberry-pecan-white-chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies. This year there were no carolers and no Mom, but at least there could be cookies.

Yesterday, in honor of birthday eve, Dad and I cleaned out the garage. It wasn't much of a party, but it felt good to be doing something productive. Then my sister came out from Brooklyn, and we all had dinner and talked about how hard it is to do anything at all. Tonight the three of us and all five of our Paraguayan-Italian friends will have birthday dinner and remember her. This may be the first time the whole families have been together since I graduated from high school. And it won't ever be all nine of us again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

So many things

Blog, a lot has happened since I last wrote on you. I don't have the energy to relate it all in my typical witty fashion, so I will instead just say that

1. Thanksgiving pretty much sucked

2. Visiting LA pretty much rocked

3. Fried potatoes + applesauce = delicious

4. I am currently waiting for a plumber to come explain why our tub is filling up from the drain and how to make it stop

More frequent updates to resume soon, or maybe not until January, since this is a busy time of year.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Brain teaser

Question: What do the following food products have in common?

Butternut squash
Macintosh apple
Yellow onion
Pomegranate seeds (technically, they are arils)
Pumpkin seeds
Maple syrup
Lemon juice
Chili powder
Orange peel


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Epic journey over!

Hello, internet!

Over the last six days I successfully traveled 14 states with the boyfriend! Herein please find a summary of some highlights of our trip:

DAY 1 (New York to California): Arrived 8 PM in quaint Los Angeles, CA. Spent two hours moving boyfriend out of his apartment, then adjourned to the home of Mr. Dog and his two human associates. The She God was there too. Talked, ate, drank delicious root-beer- and gingersnap-flavored boozes. Slept for five hours.

DAY 2 (California-Nevada-Arizona-Utah-Colorado): Left LA! Stopped at Donut Time because Tasty Donuts was too far out of the way. Subsisted on three old fashioned donuts and two egg sandwich "bagels" (clearly from a supermarket, came in a plastic bag, definitely NOT bagels) between the two of us from LA to Grand Junction, Colorado, where we ate dinner at the Black Bear Diner. The patrons at the diner did not suit the name: lots of bears; nobody who was black. On the way, saw beautiful deserts, mountains, skies, and ugly casinos, billboards. Spent the night in Rifle, Colorado, at the Rusty Cannon Motel. The pamphlet on the nightstand urged us to find Jesus; despite our best efforts, we could not locate him anywhere in the beds or the bathroom. Nor did we find Waldo, whom I would be more excited to discover.

DAY 3 (Colorado-Utah-Kansas): Up early at the Rusty Cannon, took a brochure for Dinosaur Journey, two apples, and a "cheese danish" from the lobby. After putting air in the mysteriously depressurized tires (elevation, or SECRET CHRISTIAN PLOT!?), we were off to Denver to breakfast with the boyfriend's cousin. Unbelievably gorgeous mountains, with the sun rising behind them as we left. Went through the town of No Name, CO. Breakfasted in Denver, which still had snow on the ground in places, then it was off to the absolutely most boring part of the trip: Kansas. Kansas began in Colorado, where everything east of Denver was flat, gray, and empty. Entered Kansas on I-70 ("The Main Street of Kanasas") and realized that The Wizard of Oz is actually in color all the way through; Kansas is actually entirely sepia-toned. Passed dozens of pro-Jesus and anti-abortion signs, mostly of the homemade variety. Passed Russell, KS, birthplace of Bob Dole and Arlen Specter. Passed the Brown v. Board of Ed monument in Topeka, the most interesting thing in the state clearly being the Supreme Court case they famously lost. Stayed in Leawood, a suburb of Kansas City, with a friend of the boyfriend's from college and his AMAZINGLY ENERGETIC DOG WHO LOVES EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING SO MUCH OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!

DAY 4 (Kansas-Missouri-Iowa-Illinois): Drove up the KS-MO state line (State Line Rd., unimaginatively-yet-informatively-enough) to an abysmal bagel place for breakfast. Then off through Missouri, which looked like a less-flat and therefore more-attractive Kansas, to lovely Iowa. More frequent, more pleasant-looking farms everywhere. World's largest truck stop. Got off the highway to get gas at a station Google found but we couldn't, and discovered we were at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, which the boyfriend has always wanted to see! Sadly, we didn't think we had time to see it, and we guessed (wrongly!) that it was probably closed on Sundays, so we found another gas station, got back on the highway, and headed into Illinois. The town of Mt. Carroll, IL, our next stop, has a population of 1,900 people, according to the sign on the way into town. It was unbelievably charming, especially the Mad Hatter Tea Room in the local antique shop, where a little old lady served us and our friends—the reasons we were in Mt. Carroll, which is shockingly not on a major interstate!—Republic of Tea tea and some cookies while wearing a mad hatter costume. Wouldn't sell the giant stuffed Arthur characters to our friend, because they were for display purposes only. Visited a bit with our friend's grandfather's dog (and our friends and some other humans), then drove off toward Chicago for dinner and bed. Sadly, fatally hit a raccoon on the long, dark, empty road between Mt. Carroll and the interstate. In Chicago, ate dinner at a lovely gay bar in uptown called Big Chicks with another friend, then slept at his place. The bartender tried to steal the boyfriend, but I wouldn't let him.

DAY 5 (Illinois-Indiana-Ohio-Pennsylvania): Left Chicago before the parking meter could start charging us. Drove through a very depressing part of the country: the rust belt during a recession. Lots of empty industrial buildings, warehouses, factories, mills. Lunched in Lakewood, OH, outside of Cleveland. Sadly, Google once again led us astray, as it directed us to a "cafe" that turned out to be a coffee shop that didn't serve food on Mondays. Luckily, we walked a few blocks down the street and discovered a "gastropub" that had (a) delicious food, (b) a vegetarian bartender who could make recommendations on food, (c) single malt scotch for $6.00, and (d) Trivial Pursuit cards on the bar. Best fried-eggplant-wrapped-around-cheese that I have ever eaten. Left Ohio for Pittsburgh, PA, where we stayed with a family friend of mine and dined with two others. Talked about mom more than I had in a while. Slept in an attic, which was perfectly delightful.

DAY 6 (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-New York): Repacked the car so as to make room for the boyfriend's sister, whom we were picking up in Philadelphia. Broke fast with my friend (Müesli with raisins, apples, and mango is the BEST MÜESLI EVER!), then headed out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Stopped dead a supposed half hour away from our exit thanks to construction, accidents, and rush hour, and didn't get to Philly until an hour after we thought we'd arrive. The restaurant Google found us was—surprise!—a coffee shop! Last time I let Google find vegetarian restaurants; I want something other than coffee for dinner, thank you very much. Drove over to UPenn, where we were picking up the sister, and ate at the second worst diner I have ever experienced. No match for West Hollywood's Silver Spoon, the Philly Diner is nevertheless a perfectly dreadful place to eat anything. I left 80% of my meal on the plate, despite my hunger. Because of traffic and the food snafu, we had no time for the things we were supposed to do in Philly, like visit my parents' old house and look for more of the root-beer- and gingersnap-flavored boozes mentioned above. Grabbed the sister, left, and drove through NJ with the vents closed because of the smell. Got to my place around 10:45 and crashed hard.

All in all, pretty amazing trip! Not much sleep, but many fun sights along the road and lots of time with the boyfriend! Some disastrous food, but mostly amazing and delicious! Fun friends everywhere. LA folks who are miffed I didn't see you in my 10 hours there, I will be back on Monday for a whole week! Let us do fun! Call me!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And one more

If I ever run a conference in a hotel, the first floor will be called "the homosexual lobby," and the schedules for the weekend will be labeled "the gay agenda." Just because I can.


When I can't compose paragraphs, I have fun with lists!

1. NERD ALERTS: Lea Salonga plays World of Warcraft. LeVar Burton follows CERN on Twitter. File these facts under reasons to love these actors.

2. Apple-Pear-Ginger-Hazelnut-Cranberry is a delicious pie filling and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Also, dinner and dessert made of what-can-I-find-in-an-"empty"-fridge = win.

3. I am very happy that I will not be teaching this year. Grad school is an amazing, wonderful thing, and I hope it lasts a while.

4. Boyfriend moves to the east coast today!! Or rather, boyfriend begins today the process of moving ever closer to the east coast over the next several days. Final coastitude to be achieved on Tuesday.

5. I am going with him! In an hour I leave for the airport to fly to LA, then after a few hours there we begin our epic roadtrip. Hooray for seeing bits of the country that are not along the train route from NY to Chicago to LA! Hooray for getting out of NY to a place that is not my father's house! Hooray for Marjorie, my cactus, who will finally get to meet Nikolai, my hedgehog, in a prickly liaison the likes of which has not been seen since the last days of the Algonquin round table!

6. Glee was fucking garbage this week. Offensive on as many fronts at it knew how to be, including in purely structural ways. Unless they seriously revamp the non-song bits of the show, I'm so over it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Unless you are a candied yam...

I voted! It cost $18.30 to express mail my ballot to LA, but I did it. Why did I need to express mail it, you may ask? Because the ballot, which reminded me in bold letters to mail it back by the Friday before Election Day, arrived at my apartment on the Saturday before Election Day.

The attentive student will have noticed that Saturday comes after Friday.

Anyway, onto my own votes:

On the candidates, I ended up voting a straight Democratic ticket, with mixed feelings: yay Henry Waxman; meh Gavin Newsom.

On the judges, I voted yes for every single one. Not, however, without looking up each and every one on Google, where I discovered, a website devoted to decrying the incompetence of, among others, Judge Steven Suzukawa. Why? Because someone who lost a case in front of Judges Manella, Suzukawa, and Willhite knows how to make a website. Or rather, knows how to make a vintage 1995 website with elegant clipart that just has to be feces donuts. Check it out.

On the judges in actual elections, I did my usual who-endorsed-whom game, and voted for Mark Ameli and Alan Schneider. Also, Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction, and John Noguez for County Assessor.

Then came the propositions:

Again, I voted what appears to be a straight Democratic ticket, considering the three identical emails I received this weekend from John Burton of the California Democratic Party. That is, No on 20, 22, 23, and 26, and Yes on 21, 24, 25, and 27. In words instead of numbers, that's against constitutional amendments for establishing redistricting commissions and prohibiting state borrowing, suspension of air pollution control laws, and expanding the disastrous Prop 13 of 1978. It's also in favor of $18 annual vehicle license surcharges to fund state parks, repealing tax breaks for businesses, scrapping the 2/3 majority requirements of the aforementioned Prop 13, and getting rid of the redistricting commission.

Again, the attentive student of California politics will notice a problem: a proposition is missing. That would be Proposition 19, the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana proposition. The Dems took no official position, as far as I can tell from Mr. Burton's emails which conspicuously leave that one out. I voted Yes on Prop 19, for many reasons. One is this, the study published yesterday that found that alcohol is the most harmful drug in use in the UK. Another is this opinion piece, one of many that details the way marijuana prosecutions overwhelmingly focus on young men of color. Then there's the fact that California is entirely broke, and any other revenue source helps. And other things, which I won't get into here. Suffice it to say that I believe the ballot initiative process is flawed, as is every political process, but I will make use of it to achieve ends I find desirable, rather than sit out the process in the hopes of those ends arriving by other means.

To make a long story short: vote, damnit!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Okay, so I'm not sure exactly why I thought of this, but here is what I'm wearing for Halloween. It is for real creepy, not just Halloween creepy, so you may not want to read this. I'll leave some space just in case.

I took a ring from my mother's jewelry collection. It's a poison ring, where the "stone" flips up and there's a little hole inside for you to casually poison people's drinks with Iocane powder. Except I didn't put Iocane powder in the hole. I put a small piece of grey, charred bone that didn't entirely turn to ash when mom was cremated. I am otherwise dressed perfectly normally, just with this morbid piece of costume jewelry.

Slightly ghoulish, certainly, but I find it oddly comforting and also in the spirit of the season.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Career goal

Some days, all I want in life is to be a second-rate cabaret singer in a run-down bar. I would drink more than I should, choke a little on other people's cigarette smoke (my fantasy bar is in a time before smoking bans), and hold the microphone just barely too close to my mouth. The regulars would have an inflated idea of my musical talents, and the more occasional visitors to my bar would look for alternative establishments with the same divey atmosphere but less singing.

I would sing almost exclusively long-forgotten Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart songs, usually too softly and with an edge of unexplained bitterness in even the most amusing numbers. On special nights, when I'd had an extra whiskey before my act, I'd belt the alto numbers, an octave down, cracking on the not-really-that-high notes. Then the bartender would cut me off, and I'd go back to mildly discomfiting folks with my wry—and now hoarse—takes on "Dancing on the Ceiling" and "You Took Advantage of Me."

Then everyone would be shocked when, one night, my good friend Queen Latifah would show up and we'd sing duets. I'd suddenly remember how to perform, and we'd wow the small but slowly growing crowd for hours. At 2 AM, when the bartender would start urging the now-packed bar to settle up on their tabs, Dana and I—we'd be on a first-name basis—would retire to a 24-hour diner for a cup of tea (hers with honey, mine with bourbon) and a conversation about how I could do better than this. Around 4:30, she'd admit that I probably couldn't, pay for both cups of tea, and walk me home.

After taking a week off from singing, I'd be back at my usual post, alone, and singing my standard solo repertoire. The regulars would wonder what had happened, and if they'd imagined the whole thing in some kind of absinthe-fueled hallucination. Every once in a while, I'd throw in one of the songs from that magical night, awkwardly transformed into a solo that would feel somehow incomplete, and they'd look at each other knowingly.

Melancholy fantasy, no? But it would make a great movie. Joel Grey would play me. Queen Latifah would play herself, B. D. Wong would play the bartender, and Edward James Olmos would play my accompanist. The waitress at the diner would be played by Randy Graff, and the most prominent regulars at the bar would be Siân Phillips, George Takei, Justin Kirk, and LeVar Burton. Emma Thompson would have a cameo either in the diner or in my apartment building.

Producers, if you're out there, you'd better get on this soon. Several key players are already north of 70 and probably losing their short-term memory.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fire safety!

"Choose the correct order to fill in the blanks. Use a fire extinguisher only if you have been ________, you feel __________, and if the fire is ______________.

A. small, trained, comfortable
B. comfortable, small, trained
C. trained, comfortable, small"

If you answered A, you know enough about fire safety to be a UCLA employee!

(Not really, but it's my favorite.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A different topic

I posted once before about my feelings on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Y'all know that I am a huge supporter of equal rights and a totally unhuge supporter of the US armed forces. I have said, and I passionately believe, that adding more people to the military in this country is not a step in any right direction.

And now there is someone who will not be taking any steps in any direction, ever again. Lt. James Byler of the US Marine Corp has lost one entire leg, half of the other, and part of his left arm in an explosion in Afghanistan. Lt. Byler was "Little Byler" back in high school, to distinguish him from his older brother, John (one of my earliest childhood friends), who went just by "Byler," and to distinguish him from the other two Jameses on our fencing team.

Little Byler was a much better sabre fencer than I ever was or would be. Depth perception, I am told, is helpful in fencing. Legs are also pretty useful for the sport.

I am not a praying person, but the Byler family all are, and some of you may be. If you pray, please do so for them; I know they would appreciate it. I will just be remembering times spent with Bylers large and small, wondering why so many people I know rejoice at being allowed to serve their country in this particular way, and listening to Eric Bogle.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One memory

I remember once, when I was a little kid, I was sitting next to her on the couch. I don't remember if it was her foot or her hand, but I noticed that one of her extremities looked different from mine. It had wrinkles and calluses. I think it was probably her foot; her hands were never that callused. I didn't know what wrinkles or calluses were, or why they were there, so I asked her. She said it was because she was getting old, or something like that. I was so upset. I didn't want her to be old. I wanted her to be forever.

She wasn't old, of course. She was probably in her mid forties at the time. She didn't get to be old, because of some shitty disease. She didn't get the wrinkles she should have had with all that wisdom she'd acquired. She didn't even get the gravitas of gray hair, thanks to some quirk of genetics. Dark, shiny brown until the day she died.

Now I want her to be old. That's different. But I still want her to be forever.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An end

On Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 12:45 AM, my mother died. She was 63 years old.

I have not yet processed this information fully, and I don't know that I ever will, but there it is. She was a stubborn, warm, irritable, brilliant, lazy, selfless, unbelievable woman, and the world is so much better for having had her in it. I find that, now that she has finally died, I can remember what she was like before she got sick. When she was deteriorating so rapidly, it was hard to think of a time when she was healthy and happy. That was unbearable.

I will probably post more about her in the future, probably at great length. For now, though, I don't have the words.

We will be celebrating her life on November 6th at 2 PM, at Adelphi University's Alumni House. If you would like to join us, please do.

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In lieu of flowers, my father, my sister and I are asking for donations to whichever of the following charities you feel suits you the most:

1. Amnesty International, which was always important to Mom
2. Project Main St., which provides direct aid to NY-area people suffering from ALS, the disease that killed her
3. Sonidos de la Tierra, a Paraguayan organization that works to empower poor children through music. Mom loved Paraguay, music, children, and empowering the powerless; this one seemed most likely to come close to summing up what she did with her life.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I am sitting in the hospital next to my mother and her morphine drip. She has significant pneumonia. There is nothing left to do but to try to make her as comfortable as we can.

Please don't call. I need this last time with her.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Twelve states later

I have returned to the ancestral homeland--New York State. I am luxuriating in the feel of an honest-to-goodness mattress against my back instead of the train seats on which I have slept for the last three nights. Not that I have anything against train seats (at least, not anymore! Rim shot!), but this mattress and I go way back, and it is both long enough and wide enough to support me without digging uncomfortable metal protrusions into my fleshy bits.

Tomorrow: the great unpacking begins

Monday: the first visit to the parents in two months

The future is busy this Fall. I hope it is as enjoyable as it is frantic—first conference paper, last seminar paper, first (only, I hope!) dissertation proposal, two weddings (neither the first nor the last) and a visit to LA, on top of the standard seasonal requirements and the finding a new chorus and possibly a string quartet to keep me sane and in practice.

And oh boy howdy do I need practice. My voice has acquired, I estimate, a six-inch-thick layer of dairy sludge on all sides. My intonation on the cello is in the neighborhood of amateur saxophonist tries playing a theremin for the first time. Left-hand calluses: gone. Breath support: ditto. Personal goal #1 for my New York year: musical fitness. I don't need to be a professional (newsflash: I will never be a professional performing musician), but I would like not to embarrass myself.

That has to be the most colons I have ever used in a single paragraph.

Personal goal #2 for my New York year: better daily scheduling habits. It is 3:30 AM and I am not asleep. This is a very bad start to personal goal #2, and I will get right on it starting Monday. I will attempt to get out of both my bed and the apartment within two hours of waking up every day. Every day! Hopefully that will lead to earlier falling-asleep-ness. Also, regular exercise early in the day, no gross candy binges (except in extenuating circumstances like visiting my parents) late at night, and no more blogging in bed.

That last bit starts right now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Miles to go

Harold Gould is dead. He follows Rue, Bea, Estelle, and, much earlier and far more quickly forgotten, Herb.

Of the regular cast and the only two truly recurring guests, that leaves only Betty, who played opposite Harold's Miles Webber, carrying the Golden Girls torch for the fans. Goodbye, Miles. You made a drab college English professor something adorable—and worthy of dating Rose Nylund.

And speaking of miles, I'm about to travel the thousands of them between LA and NY. See you soon, jaded northeasterners!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I'm still here

I promise you that I am still around. It's just that I've been teaching the summer class that I wrote about in July, and it is mildly to moderately (completely) exhausting. However, I have now completed five out of six weeks of it, and I can see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel! For the first time in 5 weeks, I did not need to work on my lecture the morning of class; it was done by 9:45 PM the night before! Success! I got to sleep in until 7:45 AM! Miraculous! Exclamation points!

In five weeks, I have taught about manifestations of gender in (in order):

20th century USian jazz
16th century Italian pantomime
18th century French ballet
19th century French ballet
20th century Brazilian samba
20th century Puerto Rican salsa
20th century USian disco
19th century Chinese opera
18th century Italian opera
19th century French opera
20th century USian musicals
21st century USian musicals
18th century British ballads
20th century USian blues
20th century Algerian raï
20th century USian country
18th-21st century musicological canonicity
18th century German chamber music (on Moog synthesizer)
19th century German and French chamber music (on acoustic instruments and on theremin)
20th century Austrian chamber music
20th century Greek-American performance art
20th century Beatles
20th century Indian raga

All I have left is gender in:

12th century German (Latin) chant
19th century Austrian piano four-hands music
19th century Austrian piano etudes
20th century USian girl groups
20th century USian rock bands
21st century USian sing-alongs

Thank heaven for my wonderful TA, who has taught 80s-00s dance pop and heavy metal so I didn't have to, plus has shared the teaching with me on many of the above topics.

I will be back on the internet soon to tell you about the paper topics my students have chosen. I'm sure they will be as oddly varied as usual. I guarantee that this time around there will be exactly zero papers on "If I were a Boy" by Beyoncé and zero papers on "I'll Make a Man out of You" from Mulan. How do I know? I taught them on the first day of class and forbade anyone from writing about a song we'd covered in class. Just so that I wouldn't have to read any more papers about them.

And in unrelated news, a beloved dog died today. In the interests of maintaining my tenuous anonymity, I will not share her name here, but she was a wonderful canine companion for nearly two decades, and she will be sorely missed. She wasn't my dog, but she was at least a dog-in-law of mine, and I will miss her--the Christmas ornament sheep made of her fluffy undercoat, the sudden and seemingly endless foot baths under the coffee table when you hadn't even known she was there, and even the long-since-outgrown savage protectiveness of her dinner. I watched her grow from a snappish, mistreated young shelter dog into an affectionate, dignified old lady in one of the most loving homes a dog could ever have. Goodbye, old fox, and thanks for the sweetness you brought into everyone's lives.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More on summer teaching

Dear course webpage,

Why did it take me multiple hours just to upload approximately ten songs and a course description?

Also, why did several of your default category headings vanish without warning? Not that they were useful headings, but I don't like when the webpage makes its own decisions without me.

While we're on the subject, have you considered a makeover? Your plain black text on a white background is sort of hip on WordPress, but it really isn't the most exciting thing I've ever seen.

An instructor who knows the internet doesn't need to be that complicated and awkward

PS: I promise that my next post will not be in the form of a letter. I am starting to feel like a Victorian diarist.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

From the mailbag

Dear Student Enrolled in my Summer Class,

No, you may not miss one third of the class because you want to go to Europe.



Sunday, July 11, 2010

Moving and shaking

This weekend I turned my childhood bedroom into a sitting-room-cum-office for my parents. That's the Latin cum, not the vulgar English cum, for those who are prone to indelicate thoughts. It now houses my father's desktop computer with various accoutrements (if you put it in italics it gets the funny accent it requires), my mother's cough assist machine, the television and all six DVDs my parents own, and several comfortable-but-firm chairs. It also houses a bed, of course, since Mom refuses to give up on the notion that my sister and I are really still living there. The room's change of function required drilling a hole in the side of the house to run the cable to the TV, as well as moving the desk and giant bin of LEGOs into the garage.

Related: does any one of you want many, many LEGOs?

Each time I visit the parents, more and more of my childhood slips away. I relish this change, though of course I bitterly resent the reason for it. I have been thinking rather a lot about the process of growing up, of "maturing" as they say. In the immortal words of Marx—Groucho, not Karl—whatever it is, I'm against it. It may be a peculiarly Southern California affectation, though I doubt it because of the brevity of my tenure there and the relative consistency of this attitude, or it may be a result of my hippyish upbringing, but I believe in constant evolution and change without a defined endpoint.

(Have I written of this before? I have meant to, but I can't recall, and I am far too lazy to scour the archives.)

I heard someone say recently that he couldn't possibly do something new because he was in his 60s. I think it may have been my father. I find that appalling. I have heard many people say that they are too old for certain aspects of life that are related not to age but to financial situations. That is differently appalling, but appalling nonetheless. Age is very frequently associated with stagnation, with a stability that is by no means necessitated by growing older. People who have reached a certain age without "settling down" are considered, by USian society at large and often by their most intimate associates, to have, in some ways, failed to age properly. If financial stability is out of reach, for those who have been brought up in the upper economic classes, then one is immature, childish, not yet there.

In this case, italics do not indicate a funny accent.

These assumptions are, frankly, bullshit. Many people never attain financial security, and they are not "immature." Many people are not aiming for six-figure salaries at all. Ditto long-term romantic partners and children. The latter is more accepted than the financial angle, I think, within certain circles. A life of change, of continued development, of growth unrelated to aging, is not a sign of having failed to reach the appropriate endpoint for growth. It is a necessity for avoiding the quiet desperation Thoreau pointed out, lo these many decades ago.

This doesn't mean, of course, that achieving financial stability, romantic stability, or even literal stability (not moving around so much) is in and of itself a bad thing. Those don't necessitate stagnation. They merely have the capacity to lend themselves to an acceptance of who-you-are as who-you-must-always-be, an acceptance that can forestall continued personal growth.

I like to think that I will be different in the future, and that I do not know how. I know that I am not the person I was three years ago, when I moved to LA. I know that living in NY will change who I am again. This is good, necessary, and, in a non-pejorative sense, immature. Call me Peter Pan—or, better yet, call me Mary Martin—because I have absolutely no intention of growing up.

But that doesn't mean I need to keep all my old LEGOs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Hello internet friends. I am sorry it has been so long since last I posted. New York life has been busier than anticipated, what with several trips back and forth to my parents' place and to the post office. Fun fact: packages don't so much get "delivered" in my neighborhood. They get brought to the post office and hidden in a giant room full of other packages. There are two very small women who then hunt around the giant box room looking for the right one(s), and if they find them they push them at you through a plexiglass airlock. If they don't find them, they are sorry and there is nothing they can do about it.

My bedroom is shaping up to be a bedroom, with the addition of an all-important item. Yep, you guessed it: a bed. Actually, it's a mattress on the floor, but it's better than the floor by itself. I have also added a dresser, a nightstand, a fan (yay, high of 100 today! In Celsius, that's like a million or something. Or 6. I can't remember my Canadian units anymore.), and an hedgehog. The hedgehog in question has been busily exploring the new digs, and seems to have decided that he likes this place. He has yet to investigate anything outside my bedroom; we will see what he thinks of the or rooms.

I will try to post more regularly, but for now that must be all. It is too hot to think of full sentences.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The times, they are a-changin'

Hello, internet friends! It has been ten days since last I posted, and so very many things have happened! I turned 27, which feels much like 26, 25, and 24. I deleted my Facebook account, which feels much like 22, 21, 20, and all those other ages before there was Facebook. I contracted a horrible disease that I guess one might call a cold, but which seems like a milder version of death.

And, of course, I moved to New York.

I now live at the southern end of the neighborhood in Manhattan known as Washington Heights. Being who you are, dear readers, you may know it best from the musical set here, Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights. My exploratory urges having been tamped down by my coughing, sneezing, nose-like-a-faucet cold, I have yet to discover anything of the neighborhood's character, but I do know that there are several hardware stores nearby, none of which have paint chips and only one of which exhorts its customers to turn to Jesus.

I am living with some friends from college who really should get new code names, since I haven't given them any in about 2 years. I will take suggestions from those who know them (including the gentlemen themselves), hopefully settling on permanent ones within a few days. Thus far the Roommates to be Named Later and I have had quite an enjoyable time throwing a party, rearranging the kitchen, and planning things like painting, furniture arranging, and possibly eventually having beds. Living with them feels much like 23, the one age I missed in my earlier paragraph. Why? Well, because when I was 23 I lived with them. It's not much of a simile.

I already miss, of course, the Mysterious X, my previous cohabitant. This apartment will have far, far fewer donuts (refried or otherwise), giant ridiculous foods, and facts about that country to the north of this one whose name I have already forgotten without her expert tutelage. And less musicology, but perhaps that will be a welcome vacation? We shall see. I will attempt to reinstate, once I am healthy and settled, something approaching our immortal Bad Sci Fi evenings, if only to tempt her, the She God of Shark Reef, Z2, Gris, and our various guests to visit me in New York. Perhaps we will begin with a repeat viewing of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

I will also be rejoined here shortly by my previous cohabitant, the hedgehog known as Nikolai Funkhovzrovich Rostropovich. He has been on a six-month retreat living with the parents, but has worn out his welcome there and will therefore be once again living in my bedroom. Let me tell you, you don't appreciate hardwood floors enough until you've lived with a hedgehog on carpets.

Already I have done a little of each of the two things that necessitated my move to New York: taking care of my parents and going to see musicals. My parents remain in a bad state; that is a subject for another post on another day. The musicals I have seen were part of the West Village Musical Theater Festival, a series of short ("fifteen-minute," but in name only) musicals created by young composers/lyricists/book writers who included my friend and colleague from LA, the pseudonymous RPL. I'm certain she won't want that as her code name, since it comes directly from the short musical of hers that she wrote for this festival, but it'll do for now. Let me break down the shows just a bit.

1. Between the Bricks. A dystopian sequel to The Wizard of Oz featuring the theme song "Ding dong, the Wizard of Oz is dead." Couldn't hear the lyrics because the main singer (I believe his character was the scarecrow, known as Scare? Or possibly the character just called L, presumably for L. Frank Baum?) needed to be in a much higher register both for his own voice and to be heard above the chorus. Also, has the book writer read a book called Wicked? I hear they made a musical out of that already.

2. Hapless Romance. BEST. SHOW. EVER. A musical about Dungeons and Dragons that quoted both the famous Queen of the Night aria from Die Zauberflöte (Check out two of my favorite performances at those links. If you get sucked into watching all of the vegetable ocarina videos at the first one, don't blame me) and "A Little Fall of Rain" from Les Misérables to great comic effect! It started out by seeming like a deleted scene from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (awkward people are blind-dating each other; how novel!), but once the couple arrives at their date and the audience discovers that it's a D&D game, everything is FABULOUS. The Dungeon Mistress, played by the truly outstanding Sarah Stevens (I'm just guessing that the Sarah Stevens at that link is the same one), runs a tight and deadly game, with the standard dice rolling replaced for the theater by games of rock-paper-scissors. Also, Dungeon Mistress instead of Dungeon Master? Excellent decision. The idea of fantasy gaming dorks who are also women is still novel to some people, for some reason, and it was pleasantly normalized here (though "normal" is not a word to describe much of this show). I could actually go on for a very long time about the things I loved in this tiny little musical, but instead let me just say that all of the women involved (composer/lyricist, book writer, director, and most of the cast, which is already an awesome thing!) were truly fantastic, and the two men were not too shabby either, particularly the very funny leading man.

3. Galileo the Musical. I have stated often my heartfelt belief that if you need to add "the musical" to the end of your title, it's probably not worth doing, Cannibal! and Urinetown excepted. This did not challenge my theory. 'Nuff said.

4. Rat Poison Love. My friend's show! (I'll bet you thought Hapless Romance was hers, didn't you?) In the spirit of fairness, let me say that it was uneven. I really enjoyed the premise, and (for the most part) the performances. Above all, I enjoyed the music; the title song remains stuck in my head even now. The book and lyrics, though, were just not my favorite. They often seemed not to match the music's tone. Also, the show seemed very Next-to-Normal-inspired, which is not a bad thing of course, but can feel derivative if not handled carefully.

5. Annabel. NOT A MUSICAL. Somehow this won the Best Musical award from the set of shows I saw (there was another set of six more playing on another night), but it was, in fact, a ballet-pantomime in the best 19th-century tradition. Costumes were lovely, dancing was great, music was forgettable but functioned wonderfully with the choreography, and not one word was spoken or sung. Also, the plot seemed, to my not-so-dance-oriented eyes, to be "Boy meets girl. Boy sleeps with girl. Girl dies because she has lost her virginity so really what else is there for her to do." There's even a moment, in the concluding funeral scene, where the girl's father looks disapprovingly at the boy who killed his daughter, while everyone else looks at her corpse. Notice how not once does the title character, Annabel, function as anything other than the object of the boy's actions. The boy who is, inexplicably, named Humbert. Shades of Lolita for some reason? Also, the idea of Annabel's untimely death as somehow necessitating, at the dramatic climax of the story (though not the sexual climax), an interaction between her father and her lover? Patriarchy much?

Had I to rank the musicals, they would be as follows:

1. Hapless Romance
2. Rat Poison Love
3. Galileo
4. Between the Bricks
5. (disqualified; not a musical)

Okay, time to return to unpacking while fretting about my boxes (did I tell you the post office seems to have lost two of them again? Joy!). I hope you've enjoyed this visit to the depths of my mind, and that if you've found this entry by googling the name of your show, my somewhat uninformed reactions have not hurt your feelings.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On Golden Girls

So, The Golden Girls. For six years probably the best show on television.

For the seventh year...well...the explosion that made Dorothy's hair look like that must have knocked the funny right out of the writers.

There are many reasons why the Golden Girls were and are awesome. Gay characters throughout the series, none of whom were dying of AIDS. Women whose main relationships were with other women and that was OK. Celebration, time and time again, of non-traditional family models. Elderly people having sex lives. Guest stars from the firmament of the American musical. Shoulder pads. But the one that, I think, made the show stick for me the most, is the fact that each of the show's stars had both a deep, underlying insecurity and a firm moral core.

Allow me to explain. The firm moral core is easier--all four stars were staunch animal rights and quieter gay rights activists. While most of their animal rights work was for the ill-advised PETA, an organization whose strategies I usually find repugnant, that didn't matter. They all deeply believed in the moral necessity of caring for and about living creatures. Sitcom stars don't usually take such stances. The pro-gay stance, of course, moves me on a more personal level. It is lovely to see women who are being venerated by gay audiences—both men and women—return the favor. Bea now has a homeless shelter for LGBT youth named in her honor, funded by her estate.

The deep insecurity, though, is where the power of the show comes from. It's a hackneyed observation that great comedy often comes from a place of near-pathological need for approval, but that's not the kind of insecurity the Golden Girls showed. Bea Arthur did partake of the typical comic's need to be adored by everyone, but she wore closer to the surface her crippling belief that nobody really did. Listen to her solo show on Broadway, a decade after the Girls ended their seven-year run, and you'll hear a carefully constructed, brittle persona claiming to "just be myself." She couldn't be herself; nobody would like that self.

Estelle Getty, untrained as an actor compared to her co-stars, had to write lines inside props on the set, since she could never remember them. Her stage fright was legendary, often causing her to freeze on camera, and her comedic talent, though prodigious, was simply not suited to creating a believable character or to delivering those hastily memorized lines as dialogue. She felt out of her depth on the show, a fourth wheel on the tricycle both on-screen and off.

And then there's Rue. I didn't know about her insecurity until I listened to commentary she'd done for one of the episodes in, I believe, season five. She talked about her costumes, and how she got to keep them all after the show (though she took out the shoulder pads). She talked about how she needed Blanche's brazen assertions of physical perfection to be able to have any kind of positive outlook toward her own body. Those costumes, that character, they allowed her access to a confidence she didn't have in life. The heartbreaking part of that is, of course, that Blanche was deeply, deeply unsure about both her looks and her worth as a human being apart from those looks. And Rue thought of her as the character she had played that was closest to herself, but a model for being more confident. Like Bea, who needed Dorothy's aggression and unlikability to mask her own perceived unlikability (and non-femininity), and who needed her costumes to conceal the fat body she imagined and despised, Rue found herself in her character, in the endless hyperperformance of herself that was so much easier than simply living.

Betty White was always the most confident. I love Betty White, of course, and I thought of her as unquestionably the best actor on the show, but she lacks that need. Perhaps it is my hubris as a devoted fan, but the other Golden Girls seemed so much to rely on their characters and those characters' fans. Betty White was able to move on to other roles when none of the other girls really could. She knows that she's funny, talented, awesome; they survived on applause. Maybe that's what made it possible for her, the oldest of the four, to outlive her co-stars.

Applause is a poor substitute for nourishment, whether it be physical or emotional nourishment you seek. Bea, in her old age, would watch reruns of Golden GIrls at 5 AM and talk happily about how much weight she'd lost since the '80s, reveling in both the omnipresent laughter and the body that she had since shed. Estelle, sadly, succumbed very early to Lewy Body Dementia, her terror-inducing difficulty with memory now taken to the nth degree. Rue took to the Broadway stage in The Women and in Wicked to get an IV drip of laudatory sustenance; it kept her going for a few more years.

This overlong rumination on the emotional frailty of the Girls is not intended as a slight. They were, and in my mind still are, towers of strength for everyone who saw her- or himself in them. They took their insecurities, draped them in various shoulder-padded, floral-printed, and sadly pin-striped numbers, and paraded them about for all to see, conquering them, at least for seven years. They did wonderful things for people, animals, and not least themselves. Rue's passing is an occasion to mourn, of course, but also to recognize the work these four middle-aged and elderly women did for us all. From the bottom of my heart, Ms. McClanahan, thank you for being a friend.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

There is ample room in the world for the patently ridiculous.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Six degrees of legislation

On Monday, for the first time, I became a lobbyist. I went to Sacramento with CHIRLA and talked with legislators and their aides about budget and legislative issues that have (or could have) a tremendous impact on immigrants in California. You know what I realized over the course of losing my lobby cherry? Well, I'll tell you.

1. The state capital has an ongoing battle with Paris, France to be the city with the most trees.

2. The state capitol has a fancy diorama for every county in California.

3. Carl's Jr. has three vegetarian items on their menu: fries, onion rings, and fried zucchini. There are three salads on the menu--none is vegetarian.

4. I can still speak a little Spanish if I have to. I tried speaking Spanish for the first time in almost 10 years, and it worked! I also, by the end of the trip, could understand it a hell of a lot better than I could at the beginning. Language education as young as possible, people!

5. Lobbying is easy. Like really easy. It was like having a conversation with someone who's being paid to listen to you talk, except not in a therapisty way because you don't have to share uncomfortably personal details. How effective it is, well that's another question. I rode many elevators with professional lobbyists from Fox, Comcast, Cablevision, etc. They clearly were highly paid (more so than the legislators' aides, I'd imagine) and spent all day every day schmoozing. We were there for about four hours, volunteering.

6. I have a theory about government. I call it "six degrees of legislation" because legislation almost rhymes with Kevin Bacon, but it's really about government in general. It works like this: think of a bill/law, a budget item, a politician, or a program run by the government of the place where you live. I will choose, by way of example, AB 2010, a bill in the California Assembly that would allow the state's Department of Housing and Community Development to consider children's school terms as a factor in determining how long migrant farm worker housing will remain open each year. In six steps or fewer, I can connect that bill to a specific impact on my own life. In this case, I know as a teacher that students who have to change schools in accordance with the growing season instead of the school schedule will learn less and will have few to no social connections in their new schools, which they often enter with very little time left in the school year. Students who don't learn don't test well, in addition to the primary detriment which is NOT LEARNING. Students who don't test well don't get into UCLA, where I teach. Migrant farm workers are overwhelmingly poor people of color; fewer children of migrant farm workers means (slightly) whiter, richer classes for me to teach.

This is one example. It seems to have very little to do with me, since I'm not a migrant farm worker or the child of one, and since I don't even teach children, for the most part. But it hits me, in only four steps. I guarantee you that this will be true for me for every California law, in addition to every West Hollywood law, LA county law, and federal law. And it's true for you, too, no matter where you live. This realization shook me. I consider myself political; I know that what happens in politics, however slimy and despicable, has an impact on people. I didn't know, though, that everything that happens in politics has an impact on everyone.

Give it a try. Pick a law that has no direct impact on you or your family. Pick a politician from another part of your state. Six degrees, or your money back.

So what do we do with this knowledge? We can't all be lobbyists, right? Actually, we can all be lobbyists in our spare time. Call a legislator. Visit her office. Send him an honest-to-goodness physical letter, handwritten if possible. Tell the staffers how their bosses' positions have a real, tangible impact on your life. Make the job actually about people, not about abstract ideas, numbers, spin, and steaming piles of bullshit. It helps. It's needed. The tall men in fancy suits will keep riding the Capitol elevators to explain why the cable companies deserve assistance; the least we can do is try to counterbalance with a little reality.

Oh, and also a big white truck driver came up to me in Carl's Jr. and instead of trying to intimidate me because of my pink platform flip-flops and dangly earring, which was what I expected, he tried to intimidate me because of my pro-immigrant T-shirt. This was the same day that a Latino legislator assumed, from my looks, that I was from Mexico City. Context is amazing...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The things I learn from students

Did you know that Taiwanese indie musician Crowd Lu has performed a parody of "not-gay-just-European" Russian pop sensation Vitas' "Opera No. 2?"

Neither did I.

Now I know, and the world is a much funnier place.

Oh, also? Vitas designs his own costumes. Make of this what you will.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lighter notes

I am TAing right now for Writing about Music, which means it's time for the list of Music I Love/Music I Hate choices that my students have made. This year we allowed them to do one or the other, instead of both. Without further ado, here are their selections:

"Mr. Brightside," The Killers
Tristan und Isolte [sic], Richard Wagner as conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen
"Since I Left You," The Avalanches
"Erbarme dich, mein Gott" from the St. Matthew Passion, J. S. Bach
"Bei Männern, welche Liebe fuhlen [sic]" from The Magic Flute, W. A. Mozart
"Hallelujah," Rufus Wainwright
"Killin' It," Foxy Shazam
"Bend and not Break," Dashboard Confessional

"Itch," Ani DiFranco
"I Gotta Feeling," Black Eyed Peas
"Riot: April 26th, 1992," Sublime

Again, there is sadly no overlap between the two categories. Also, as usual, the people who chose classical music generally didn't have a particular performer in mind, so I just took the first ones YouTube had to offer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Weep you no more, sad fountains

This week's This American Life is a repeat from a year ago of a live broadcast featuring, among other celebrity guests (Joss Whedon on vocals and piano!?), sex columnist Dan Savage. He isn't talking about sex in this one, though. He's talking about a number of things, but mostly two: Catholicism, and his mother.

Savage's story is funny, as he usually is when he isn't being a privileged white asshole who thinks being gay gives him the right to talk shit about people in various other minority populations. Then, later, his story is sad. Incredibly, painfully, wracked-with-uncontrollable-sobs sad. You see, he's talking about his mother's terminal illness, and about her last moments with her family in the ICU in Tucson, Arizona. Her lungs, scarred by pulmonary fibrosis, were finally, permanently—fatally—coming apart. There was nothing to be done.

I live now in perpetual fear of that event, the moment Dan Savage powerfully, emotionally depicted on the radio last year. I hear his coming out story, how his mother didn't know what to do and consulted a priest (who immediately came out to her as well), and I remember the book my mother bought for me to read before I even knew what being gay was, a book called Am I Blue that was full of fun stories by some of my favorite authors. Stories about being gay, about coming out, about gay parents and friends and kids and other normal people.

According to, this book, the first ever young adult fiction anthology for gay and lesbian teens, was published when I was eleven or twelve years old. I officially came out to my mother just before my twentieth birthday, a minimum of eight years after she knew. That book is still sitting in my parents' house, on my father's office bookshelf. I look at it every time I visit them, and I wish I could explain exactly what it has come to mean to me, how incredible my parents are, and were, and have been. How much my mother understood me, and knew that even though she couldn't find a way to talk to me about it, Bruce Coville and Jane Yolen could.

Now, she still can't talk to me about things, but she tries. And I try. She can't really pronounce most consonants anymore, and her voice is weak and pinched and punctuated by long, wheezing breaths, but we struggle to have conversations. Every Sunday we talk, and every Sunday it's harder to know or to guess what she's saying. Every Sunday it's a relief that we haven't reached that ICU in Tucson, Arizona.

She doesn't have pulmonary fibrosis, of course. She has her own unique form of ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease. We're not waiting for scar tissue to build up on her lungs, but for the motor neurons that allow her to breathe to cease carrying the electrochemical commands that make those lungs work. When that happens, I hope that I will be there with her, that I can share that last moment. I can't, as Dan Savage did, share her last words, because she won't be able to make words by then. Even now, hopefully long before that point, only my father, my sister and I can understand what she says. Sometimes.

Savage admits that, even though he has no religious belief, he has turned to the ritual of Catholicism in the vain hope that it will provide him some solace, some comfort after her death. I don't have that impulse, which is probably good, as he admits it has hindered more than helped him to process his grief. I'm not looking for a higher power, or a reason, or a ritual practice to make this unbearably painful circumstance somehow bearable. I just want it to go away.

I want to go back to before Mom was sick, when my biggest maternal worry was that she bought me dozens of 50¢ used cookbooks I didn't need, or that she was a really lousy driver, or maybe that she seemed to have a moral opposition to exercise. I want to see her face and have it show what she's feeling, no matter how much she won't talk about it, instead of seeing her face and knowing that it doesn't move in response to her emotions anymore, and that smile might not actually be a smile, but some kind of rictus. I want to tell her how much she means to me and know that she understands what I'm saying; none of us can tell how much she comprehends now, especially since she doesn't usually respond.

But I'm a grownup now, and have heard the Rolling Stones tell me time and time again that I can't always get what I want. In the morning, after a few hours of fitful sleep under the quilts she made for me, I'll return to my everyday life and try to keep this on the back burner again. I'll teach my students, sit in class, and rehearse some 14th-century French music. Stiff upper lip and all that. It will hurt, but it would hurt even more not to.

In lieu of conclusion, I give you John Dowland's song that titles this post, as performed by Sting. His voice strains occasionally, and he gasps for breath, and his obvious effort and discomfort seem oddly appropriate to this particular plea.

Weep you no more, sad fountains;
What need you flow so fast?
Look how the snowy mountains
Heaven's sun doth gently waste.
But my sun's heavenly eyes
View not your weeping
That now lies sleeping
Softly, now softly lies sleeping.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

All I want for Christmas... a keg of Skittles.

I think that constant supply of sugar would keep me awake through various rounds of grading.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

And another thing...

Such is the state of music inside my head that I have found myself inadvertently creating a mashup of the Weavers' "Tzena Tzena Tzena" and the opening number from Damn Yankees. Weird, huh?

(As usual, linking to a show tune means a crappy high school production on YouTube. Sigh.)

Words, words, words

Shouldn't "lunatic" rhyme with "automatic?" I say it should.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I am a cinematic genius

I had the best idea for a film.

It will be a horror movie, released at Christmas, and it will be called 34th and Elm. The tag line for the posters will be something along the lines of "where miracles and nightmares meet."

It is sure to be a box office smash.

Also, it will be shown in theaters only in 3-D and will be available for purchase only on Blu-Ray. Because the future of cinema is, obviously, movies that I can't see.

Oh, and you can download it onto your iPhone, iPod, or iPad, but it mysteriously only downloads in Flash, so you can't watch it.

I am supposed to be reading for class, but instead I am dreaming up the Movies of the Future and baking muffins. I made 36 whole wheat strawberry banana muffins with whipped cream frosting. If you are near where I am and are hungry, please come by and eat one!

Monday, April 12, 2010

New friend!

Hello, internet friends! I would like to introduce you all to a new real-world friend of mine. Her name is Marjorie.

Isn't she lovely? Marjorie is a Mammillaria haageana conspicua, which according to my expert Latin skillz means "conspicuous saint breasts." She takes her name from prickly character actress Marjorie Main, and she comes from the wonderful Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, CA. Dig your own cactus for 59¢! What you do with it afterwards is tricky though, which is why I did not dig Marjorie myself.

Here's another shot of her, this time from above:

What you can't really see in my blurry photo is that each of her lovely white spine-flowers has another spine in the middle, a vicious, yellow-brown weapon that will impale any curious potential interlopers who are lured by either her pretty pink flowers or her fuzzy-looking white spine-flowers.

I have invented the word spine-flower. It is not a technical cactus word. Also, her spine-flowers are not fuzzy. They are sharp.

Marjorie has three friends, purchased by the Mysterious X and our friend Musicolojill. Their names are Sylvia, Edna, and Edna, and I don't have pictures of them.

In unrelated news, I finished writing my Special Field exam! 56 pages in a week, all about queer involvement in musical comedies, approximately 1878-2010. If I pass my defense on Thursday, I will officially be allowed to start writing my dissertation proposal! Huzzah (I hope)!

Friday, April 9, 2010

As coroner, I must aver

Meinhardt Raabe is really most sincerely dead. When I was little I wanted to be him. I was a strange little boy.

Adieu, Mr. Raabe.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I miss all the fun stuff...

According to many, many sources, to which I feel too lazy to link right now, Michael Steele or some other representative of the RNC spent about $2,000.00 of Committee money at a certain club in West Hollywood. The club, Voyeur, is apparently a fake-lesbian-bondage-for-straight-patrons establishment. Very classy.

It is also one block away from my apartment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The good, the bad, the ugly

The good: I came out to my next-door neighbor today. She was surprised, but eventually fine with it. That brings the list of people-to-whom-I-am-not-out down to one. I am seeing him on Saturday; maybe I'll clear the list then.

The bad: I slept until noon after a terrible night of insomnia, despite my efforts to adjust to a healthier sleep schedule. Hopefully today's exercise—I walked to town to do grocery shopping instead of driving—will make sleep easier to achieve tonight.

The ugly: Mom said that she can't see her friend in April, because there are people coming to visit on Sunday. There was no context to allow that to make any more sense than it does here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's the little things

So you probably disagree with me about this, but right now here's the best part of the healthcare bill passing and the reaction to its passage:

Lots and lots of news articles now have reason to say "attorneys general" every other sentence.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Look at me, I'm in a musical!

It's that time again! Herein I present to you the list of the subjects my students have chosen for their final papers (which are all graded!!). In place of my usual links to the music in question, which are very difficult when discussing live shows—do you know how many terrible high school productions are now on YouTube for the world to almost see and sort of hear a little?—I've decided to include the themes they used to talk about the shows.

Aladdin: racism!
Annie: dreams v. reality
Beauty and the Beast: after reading so, so many final exams about it, I've forgotten what the paper was on
Cats: attraction v. empathy
Chess: disguising selfishness through nationalism
Chicago: innocence, lies, and sexiness
Cinderella (Brandy): gender roles
Company: growing up
Damn Yankees: the seductiveness of Communism!
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: satirizing the hero
Evita: outsiders and cynicism
Funny Girl: gender performance
Godspell: Vietnam and religion
Grease: gender roles
Guys and Dolls: the 50s and conformity
Hairspray x 2: race, size, gender and the 60s; this one sort of directs the topic on its own
High Society: class, jazz, and a little race
How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying): sexual innuendo and corporate culture
In the Heights: finding out you're already home right where you are--Wizard of Oz much?
Les Misérables: the personal v. the political
A Little Night Music: choosing the right partners? I don't really remember, but it was very Send in the Clowns-y, with a little Night Waltz.
The Little Mermaid x 2: parental authority and teenage rebellion or something like that
Little Shop of Horrors x 2: class and morality
Mamma Mia!: gender, with a touch of race
Mary Poppins x 2: magic and nonsense; father figures
Miss Saigon: Orientalism and "reverse Orientalism." Which was really just more Orientalism.
Mulan: breaking gender boundaries
My Fair Lady x 2: gender roles, but again after all the final exams I've forgotten the other one...
Oliver!: class (duh)
Parade: xenophobia and anti-Semitism
Passion: writing your emotions
Peter Pan (Disney): the cyclical nature of growing up, I think
Peter Pan (Mary Martin): Victorian gender roles
Phantom of the Opera x 2: masks. And also masks.
Pippin: satire of war
Porgy and Bess: love
The Producers: feminizing the Nazis
Rent x 2: isolation and community after 9/11; gender
South Pacific x 2: racism! Also other racism.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut: something about blaming Canada, but I forget the details. There was a graduate paper on South Park after I read this one, and now my head is stuck on that one.
The Sound of Music x 2: conformity v. individuality; something about comfort; this one I forget because I just wrote about it.
Spring Awakening x 2: adolescence, sex, authority
Sweeney Todd (Film): I remember something about Mrs. Lovett, but not what it was...
Sweeney Todd (Stage): obsession and the Industrial Revolution
West Side Story: after about 35 WSS essays, not a chance I remember this particular one
White Christmas: racism and patriotism
The Wizard of Oz: courage
You Were Never Lovelier: race and gender

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The awesome just keeps coming

This link won't take you directly to the awesome in question, but it will take you to Shakesville, which is superbly awesome enough to justify linking to it at the drop of a hat, and then Shakesville will send you to the amazing website That's What Bea Said.

You know you need to visit this site now. Go on. Check it out. It just might tell you that "you're a furry little gnome and we feed you too much."

I have been so prolific on this blog recently, and this isn't the end of it! Pretty soon you'll be treated to the quarterly list of "what did my students decide to write about?" Since this quarter it's the musicals class, it'll be all showtunes all the time! I'm assuming, of course, that they all actually read the question this time, which has not, historically been true. But I have very high hopes for this bunch!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Even more awesome!!

Homophobic political opportunist Hiram Monserrate, famous (and kicked out of the senate) for slashing his partner with a broken glass and claiming he slipped while bringing her a glass of water...pause to consider the implausibility of this statement...has failed to win back his NY state senate seat! This is wonderful news for:

1. His district in Queens
2. The democrats in the state senate
3. Gay New Yorkers
4. Women

Next target: Rubén Díaz, Sr. Better keep to your pulpit, preacher man; we don't want you in our government no more.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sometimes things are awesome

This is a thing that is awesome. Margaret Atwood in a Canadian movie-musical about hockey? Is there anything in the world that could possibly be better than that?

I didn't think so.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Educational Priorities

So I just started listening to the Planet Money podcast from NPR, which I am tempted already to recommend to everybody. One of the pieces I've started to listen to is about the educational systems in Jamaica and Barbados, and how that system is tied to the countries' per capita GDP. I haven't gotten to Barbados yet, but the situation in Jamaica is pretty dire. Nevertheless...
"You're doing so much with the resources that you have. Do you think, 'if I had more resources, there's all these things that I would do?' What would you do?"

"I'd purchase instruments for the students to use! How can you teach music and then there are no instruments for them to do the practice on?"

This is an exchange between the interviewer for Planet Money and the principal of a small elementary school in Jamaica whose financial situation is so desperate that one teacher not only purchased the whiteboard for his classroom out of pocket, but actually had to build it himself from plywood and formica rather than buying a pre-made one. The standardized test situation in Jamaica is even more crushing than in the US, with one test at age 10 determining much of your future economic status, and what does this amazingly intelligent, dedicated, wonderful principal offer as her first, immediate, "duh" response? Musical instruments. That's what her students need. Second on her list? A reading teacher for every classroom.

Food for thought.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

For he was an Englishman!

John Reed is dead. Reed was only famous to people like me, who own lots of Gilbert and Sullivan recordings, and to people like everyone in England. Until today, two weeks after his death, I had no idea he was also an old queen.

Victoria, to be precise.

But I kid. According to the Times obituary, "Mr. Reed’s only immediate survivor is his companion of more than half a century, Nicholas Kerri." Wikipedia, of course, makes no mention of his personal life after he started doing G&S and eschews any of the many LGBT tags that could apply to him.

The thing that I find most interesting about his obit is the following paragraph:
Before long Mr. Reed, a self-described shy man, became known for his subtle, surprisingly sympathetic characterizations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s buffoons. In 1978, in the course of a single interview with The Washington Post, he remarked, of the insecure Ko-Ko: “He’s so me”; of Reginald Bunthorne, the “fleshly poet” of “Patience”: “He’s so me”; and, of Jack Point, the tragic, lovelorn jester at the heart of “Yeomen of the Guard”: “He’s so me.”
Not only does it point out the interchangeability of his stock-character types, a facet of G&S characters that is both a boon and a burden to many performing troupes, but it also reaffirms, in the context of his sexual outing (a word which here means "exposure as a homosexual," not "a brief, recreational excursion"), the basic gaiety of all of these characters, the reason why they so often pair with the domineering lesbians played, in Reed's day, by Gillian Knight and Christene Palmer. Knight and Palmer, by the way, married a company carpenter and chorister, respectively, men who could never aspire to be their musical equals.

Farewell, John Reed. A true Savoyard would have a pithy Gilbert quote to sign off. I would rather remember you in your own words: "My God, that hat is so big the man behind her can’t see."

Thursday, February 25, 2010


7/19 of my gmail spam box: "Dear Mr. celloshots, buy on 75% off" (5 from "Customer Service," 2 from "me")

3/19: "Special offer for celloshots, 80% better price" (2 from "me," 1 from "ED Pills from Pfizer")

2/19: "Exclusively for celloshots, -80%" (1 from "me," 1 from "ED Meds Shop")

1/19: "(no subject)" (from "(unknown sender)")

1/19: "We know these pills work" (from "Free Viagra and Cialis")

1/19: "Hi" (from my favorite one of all, "enigma")

1/19: "Even CEOs consult us." (from "Adebowale Audley")

The remaining 3/19 are in Japanese (I think) and I don't understand what they are offering, though one includes the website and another the mystic string of numbers 0958-272-060.

So my questions are:

1) Which is the best deal, on 75% off, 80% better price, or -80%?
2) Should I, instead of making my own decision, act like a CEO and consult Mr. Audley? Ms. Audley? Dr. Audley? Comrade Audley?
3) Can I extrapolate that they are all offering erectile dysfunction pills/meds, or are the ones from "me" selling some sort of musicology?
4) Is there a little-known laser form of treatment for erectile dysfunction that is popular in East Asia?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Key phrase

The next time I write about Cole Porter, I must include this lyric quotation:
You always bring your own gin;
That's why I love you
I don't really care what the topic of the paper is, but I love this sentiment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I get distracted

This article is interesting on its own merits, but here's the part that I got stuck on:

Goldberg, co-foundeder of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) and president of Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality (PATH)...dropped his conspicuous middle name, Abba...

How hilarious is it that a leader of ex-gay organizations had to get rid of the middle name ABBA?

Also, I woke up this morning from a dream with ABBA's "Mamma Mia" as the soundtrack.

Monday, February 15, 2010

In my parents' kitchen

As some of you may know, my last visit to my parents' place resulted in the discovery of teabags that had expired over ten years earlier. I'm not talking about one or two teabags; this was several full(-ish) boxes. And tea is good for at least two years before it even nominally expires. In addition, I discovered that an entire cabinet of dry goods had been transformed into a breeding ground for various moths, with sub-communities in the crackers, sun-dried tomatoes, rice, and several varieties of pasta.

My current visit was only three days long, and I am now departing with a Tupperware full of homemade trail mix that contains:

Hazelnuts (frozen, sell by 11/2005)
Pecans (frozen, use by 9/2008)
White chocolate chips (one of nine identical bags, nearly frozen in the garage)
Dried cranberries (see above, re: white chocolate chips)

plus the remains of the trail mix I brought with me: fresh peanuts, almonds, dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips.

I decided against including:

Almonds (frozen, best by 12/2009)
Walnuts (frozen, not yet expired!)
Pine nuts (frozen, best by 3/2008)
More almonds (frozen, boiled, skinned, then re-frozen; no date visible)
Yet more almonds (slivered, frozen, best by 9/2008)
More pecans (use by 9/25/2009)
Still more pecans (use by 10/2009)
Crystallized ginger (best by 08/15/09)
More crystallized ginger (bearing the cryptic inscription 29731)
More dark chocolate chips (still good!)
Golden raisins (01/29/10; so close!)
Dried white peaches (best by 7/16/08)
Pitted prunes (not yet expired!)
Dried bing cherries (use by 1/2009)
Dried montgomery cherries (three identical bags, nearly frozen in the garage)
Dried apricots (inexplicably dated both 5/2009 and 4/2010)

Under the most generous interpretations of these numbers, our fruits and nuts (and ginger) expired a grand total of 158 months ago. Granted, 51 months of that was the hazelnuts, but that's still a serious amount of expireditude.

I can't wait to get back to my kitchen, where nothing can be much more than 3 years old. Except the appliances. And the cooks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In an insomniac state of mind

I have arrived in icy New York after a lovely, half-empty flight (a seat for me and one for my stuff! Joy!) from La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles. The local paper, some rag I think I've heard of before called the New York Times, has taken it upon itself to try to destroy my happiness at arrival with headlines focusing on nothing but death.

1. Biology professor denied tenure shoots and kills most of the department that denied her.
2. Luge competitor dies in a practice run at the Olympics.
3. Doctors remember the patients they couldn't save in Haiti.
4. It's fashion week, in the shadow of Alexander McQueen's suicide.
5. Surge in Afghanistan. Let's kill 'em all, say the US, Britain, and some local Afghanis.

I have paraphrased.

I don't have the energy, at 3AM local time, to process this wave of depressing news. The first and last in particular are really shaking me up. Perhaps thought will come later.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Viva La Diva!

You may or may not know this, but it is a fairly standard practice for white gay men of the United States to attach them- (our-) selves as fans to black women divas. This phenomenon is one that I will be exploring further in my academic work, but it is a recognized state of affairs in many white gay communities in this country, particularly those with an awareness of music and of history. Popular choices include Tina, Beyoncé, Mariah, Lena, Kathleen, Tyra, Whitney, Jessye, Jennifer, and Jennifer. This list is not exhaustive, of course. The politics of the whole phenomenon, as well as the politics of calling these women by their first names only, can be complicated. It's a subject I like to discuss with people when they're interested, but I don't feel like doing so right now. Instead, I want to share with you my own diva choices, one a standard and two rather un-.

FIrst, and most likely, is the immortal Ella. One of my first musical collections, obtained under somewhat shady circumstances, was the complete set of her Songbook recordings, and they remain a source of endless joy for me. Joy is the key word when describing Ella's music; she takes more pleasure in the act of singing than any other vocalist I know. Just listen to her sing anything on her Harold Arlen Songbook recording and you'll hear the sheer, unbridled joy that singing brings her, even when the song's subject is a sad one. As a singer, I aspire eternally, vainly, to approach her attitude and her peerless ability to convey real emotion.

Next, and less likely, is a woman known to most people my age (if she is known at all) simply as The Chief. Outside of ACME Crimenet, she was known as Lynne Thigpen, but my affectionate-first-name-basis name for her will remain, always, The Chief. Not Lynne. The Chief starred in some amazing musical failures on Broadway, from the now-a-regional-theater-standard Working (24 performances) to the thankfully-still-unknown But Never Jam Today (8 performances) before winning a featured actress Tony for a "straight" play at the age of 49. Five years later, she would be dead of a cerebral hemorrhage. The Chief's tragic demise, coupled with her struggles on stage and eventual triumphs on the small screen, make her a prime candidate for diva canonization. I could wax poetic about her for many, many paragraphs, but I will spare you the rhapsodies. For now. Just bear in mind that you don't know from divas until you've heard her valiantly, brilliantly try to rescue the all-gospel Alice in Wonderland that was But Never Jam Today from its well-deserved obscurity.

Third, final, and most bizarre, is Patricia J. Williams. She's not a singer. She's not a performer at all, in the most common sense of the word. Williams—she is too formidable for a first-name address—is a professor of law at Columbia University and a columnist for The Nation. Yes, the period at the end of that sentence is part of the magazine's name, and thus belongs in the link. I have read many Nation columnists over the last 10 years or so, and never have I found one who is so consistently (a) right about everything, (b) dizzyingly intelligent, (c) eloquent about getting her point across, and (d) interested in topics that I find fascinating. "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" is the best single page I read every month, and I read books for a living. Is this description hyperbolic? Yes. Is that part of the point of being a diva fan? Obviously. The whole reason I am writing this post is because I just found out this afternoon that she's coming to speak here next month, and I am so excited! I will blow off pretty much anything to find out if she's as compelling in person as she is on paper.

That just about does it for tonight's diva round up. The title of this post, for those who are sadly unaware, refers to this song by Israeli transgender pop singer Dana International. Now you are aware.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


No, that doesn't say Haiti. It says hiati, my plural of hiatus. Is it the real plural? I don't particularly care. The point is that I've taken several from this blog, and that several folks have expressed their desire that I cease and desist.

I am nothing if not accommodating.

The last month and a half has seen a lot of ups and downs for me, personally and politically. I am currently in a bit of an up, thanks to a much-needed Day of Alonement today. Yes, this will be the entry that keeps you guessing about typos. That wasn't one either; it really does say Alonement. After a morning spent with people doing things, I took the afternoon and evening off from interactions, spending them instead with Jon Stewart, Maxwell Smart, Buffy Summers, and Hannah Arendt. One of these people is not like the others; I'll leave it to y'all to decide who fits that bill.

Over the course of my blogging hiatus I have planned many posts that never came to fruition. Manifestos of various sorts, vicious indictments of behavior I consider inhuman and unacceptable, musings on the people one meets around this crazy city—all of these have been candidates for internet publication, but have been rejected as too much trouble or too specific to share in public. Instead of these, I have settled upon a somewhat rambling and extended act of navel-gazing, airing my dirty lintry in public, as it were.

The neologisms are coming thick and fast here, folks; watch out!

So, we begin. Last night I dreamt that an elderly white woman who was pushing a black baby in a stroller slapped my mother across the face for saying racist things about her baby. My primary emotion? Pleasure at how clearly my dream mom enunciated her (utterly unlikely) bigotry. I listened to "Superboy and the Invisible Girl" from Next to Normal tonight, and wept uncontrollably at the mother's line "I love you as much as I can."

Each passing day brings me closer to my next cross-country transplantation. Every day I'm happier that I'm going to end up in New York and sadder that I won't be in LA. At this particular point in my life, I can't imagine being 3,000 miles from either of those metropoleis (yes, that's the Greek plural. What of it?), but I know that's how geography works. I have expanded enormously here (not literally), and I am afraid of contracting to fit into a previously constructed idea of self when I go back east, but I miss desperately my east coast family.

My family is enormous. I was thinking today about weddings, and about the people who get invited to them. I have family from summercamp, high school, college, grad school, and various other places/times/milieux, and that's not counting my "real" family. Many of whom (everyone on my father's side?) are far less a part of my life than those who are "just friends." I could have a much bigger wedding than I would ever want to have, even if nobody else got to invite any guests. Assuming, of course, that I (A) want to get married and (B) am legally allowed to do so. I think it's worth it just to sample the possible cakes, so I'll probably keep working on accomplishing (B) for now.

I intended to keep going for quite some time, exposing various corners of my psyche to the harsh light of the internet, but I find that I would prefer to get a few hours of sleep. I will try to keep this up more regularly, for my own sake as well as for my beloved readers' various sakes, but if I fall off the wagon, just caulk it and float it across.