Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WTF, Glee?

I just watched the Glee Christmas episode. All I have to say right now is that a feel-good conclusion that revolves around the greedy Jewish daughter of two gay dads learning from Jesus that she should donate all her gifts and her time to the virulently anti-gay Salvation Army is not exactly my idea of feeling good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I am a god of gmail

Today, after answering a handful of important emails about upcoming social and organizational and educational plans, I selected all of my inbox and archived it. All 983 messages of it.

You have no idea how much lighter I feel with an inbox of 20. Or you do have an idea, because you are also a god of gmail. If you fall into the former category, all I can say is DO IT NOW! If things are important, people will email you again. If they aren't, good fucking riddance!

In related news, if you sent me an email that I haven't responded to, you might need to send it again...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Far East

I am on the east coast for the next three and a half weeks! If you are in/around NY, let's hang out! If you are in/around DC, let's possibly hang out. If you are in/around LA, I'll see you in early January.

Even though I am already away from LA, vacation doesn't start until the grading is done. Time to buckle down...

Sunday, December 4, 2011


My pre-babysitting dinner: went to Hugo's for grilled tofu with Kalamata olive tapenade, fresh basil, and tomato between two latkes. Green salad. Vedic latte (steamed milk with turmeric, coriander, nutmeg, and ginger) with soy milk.

My post-babysitting dessert: Hugo's chocolate mousse, which I took to go from dinner.

The kids' during-babysitting snack: pre-grated parmesan and ketchup on a corn tortilla.

 Hey, I didn't expect them to still be hungry when they got here, and I had very little food around that they would eat. It's not like I was going to feed them my chocolate!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Perfect Saturday

Woke up early and stayed in bed with my fuzzy blanket, catching up on internet things.

Skype date with the boyfriend.

Work date with Z2 and Red Steel (new nickname! Not sure it'll stick.) at Vintage wherein I graded many papers, drank many glasses of sangria, and ate many varieties of bruschetta. Best one: Nutella with orange zest, roasted almonds, and Grand Marnier jelly.

Planned (and bought ticket for) train trip across the country with a friend whose nickname I've forgotten.

Game night with LAGLC folks--Apples to Apples and Scattergories.

Playtime with The Mysterious X's kitties, who were bad and had spilled oatmeal everywhere.

Set up babysitting date with the little adverbs for tomorrow night.

Set up dinner date with Red Steel at my favorite restaurant in WeHo for earlier tomorrow evening.

I will now go to sleep and forget all of the (minor) negative parts of today because they aren't written down.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Feeling better tonight than last night, thanks to The Mysterious X and the boyfriend and the random ThinkGeek catalog that arrived in the mail today. Did you know that you can actually buy a blue canary to plug into the outlet by the light switch? Presumably it will watch over you. Have not decided what to do about last night's cranky-inducing email, but for now I will just focus on doing my actual job, i.e. teaching and dissertating.

Teaching right now just means grading, since my class is basically over. I graded two out of nine paper drafts today (and calculated various other grade totals, like presentations and discussions), hope to do four tomorrow and three on Saturday before sending out the grades. If all goes according to plan, I will be done with everything except final paper grades by noon on Saturday and can then focus on choosing readings to assign for next quarter. What about the dissertating, you ask? One of the readings I am assigning for next quarter (at the professor's request) is, in fact, the dissertation chapter I am currently working on. Way to multitask, me!

I should get to sleep, since tomorrow is my last early music concert of the quarter and I want to grade two papers before it happens. I'll see you all on the flip side.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Students gave final presentations today. Despite numerous technology problems, they all eventually happened! Now I just have to grade all of their papers by Friday so they can give me even better papers to grade next Wednesday.

The dissertation seminar that I have been coordinating has had its final meeting postponed from tomorrow to next Tuesday, so that's a thing I don't have to do tomorrow.

All was going pretty well until someone decided that publicly scolding me on a listserv for not doing something I never agreed to do was a great way to end her day. Just as I was about to go to bed, I am instead seething with useless anger. I am actually shaking right now, but that could be because we've had a sudden cold snap between when I left this morning and when I came home tonight, and I still have no heat.

All I want to do is go to bed and listen to the glorious howling of the uncharacteristically fierce and persistent wind storm that tried to steal my earrings when I walked home from the bus stop this evening. Instead, maybe I will punch the wall, mutter under my breath, and then go to bed and listen to the throbbing of the vein in my temple.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Food, food, food, food, food

I arrived in NY on Wednesday night. I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday overeating for pretty much all of the hours I was awake. Today I ate a reasonable quantity of food and my stomach is now clamoring for MOAR DESSERT.

Holidays, why do you taunt me with three days of unlimited desserts and then punish me with one night of no dessert!? My life is a swirling eddy of despair, as Dorothy Zbornak hyperbolically declared when a leaky faucet was keeping her awake.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

At the moment, yes. Last Thursday a woman was shot and killed 2 miles from my apartment. On the same night, another woman was shot at and missed in an attempted the park at the end of my block. The same as-yet-unidentified man is suspected in both shootings.

In the past month, three men have been assaulted and robbed within a 2.5-mile radius of my apartment, all to the south and west of here.

Both women were transgender; all three men were gay.

Tonight I had a lovely evening of Darjeeling cocktails and games with friends at their apartment, but I had to ask one of them to stop drinking her cocktail early so she could later drive me home the 1.1-mile distance to my apartment—three out of the five assaults took place on the route from their apartment to mine.

I HATE feeling unsafe. Normally, I feel confident and safe in any setting. Most people who have talked to me about "bad neighborhoods" have been middle-class white people who just can't handle being surrounded by people of color from any class lower than upper. In this case, however, there has been a recent spate of very violent attacks against queer people (two white, two black, one Latino) very near where I live. I am afraid to be out at night alone.

 I guess I can now understand what most women in this country feel most of the time. At least after dark. I can't say I enjoy the empathy.

Good Times

Ever since I discovered a YouTube user named LaughVids, I've been getting really into sitcoms from the 1970s. Right now I want to start watching Good Times, but I can't get past the incredibly grating minstrel-y caricature of a stereotype that is Jimmie Walker's J. J. Evans to really enjoy the fabulous acting of Esther Rolle as Florida Evans and the adorableness of little Ralph Carter as Michael Evans. I've watched three episodes (gritting my teeth through Walker's scenes) and decided that if I had been about ten to twelve years old when the show was on the air I would have been completely in love with the character of Michael. He's the elementary-school boyfriend every baby gay deserves.

If I can stomach J. J., I'll watch more of the show, but if I can't, I may try to watch All in the Family. I hear it's an important show, but so far every time I try to watch it my ears bleed at the sounds of Caroll O' Connor and Jean Stapleton's incredibly piercing voices. Can the '70s come with earplugs?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sid Melton

This is, I believe, the fifth Golden Girls funeral I've acknowledged here. Two weeks ago, Sid Melton, nĂ© Sidney Meltzer, died of pneumonia at the age of 94. To be honest, I had no idea he was still alive. It hadn't occurred to me that despite playing Bea Arthur's father on Golden Girls, he was actually only a few years older than her—he played her long-dead father in flashbacks. I think my favorite Sid Melton moment on the show, though, was the one episode he was in when he wasn't playing Salvadore Petrillo, "What a Difference a Date Makes." Dorothy goes on a date to a totally inexplicable medieval restaurant, with a roving minstrel singing a slowed down "Gilligan's Island" theme and accompanying himself on a completely not-medieval guitar. Melton played the waiter, who introduces himself with the line, "Good evening, my lord. Good evening, my lady. My name is Don and I'll be your fool for the entire evening."

No, I didn't look that up; yes, I know lots of Golden Girls lines by heart.

Don offers the diners a choice of pheasant or wild boar, admitting that the pheasant is actually just chicken. They drink grog and diet grog while they wait for their pheasant, and as the conversation becomes more and more romantic, Don interrupts by shaking a jester's belled scepter between them and beginning a joke, "Two knights and a rabbi walk into a bar," which Dorothy interrupts by grabbing his scepter and hurling it away. That's all we see of Don the fool. Dorothy remains completely unfazed by the waiter who looks just like her dead father.

In my last Golden Girls obituary I asserted that Betty White was the only one left of the recurring cast of the show. That is truer now than it was then, with Estelle, Rue, Bea, Harold, Herb, and now Sid gone, though it actually isn't entirely accurate even now. We still have Debra Engle, Lynnie Green and, somewhat surprisingly, Bill Dana, who played Blanche's daughter Rebecca, young Dorothy, and Dorothy's grandfather/Uncle Angelo, respectively. I hope not to memorialize any of them any time soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm still here

I've been letting this blog languish for a while. I have also been letting the dissertation languish. Today I got back into the diss, so it seemed appropriate to also get back into the blog.

Goal: a full-length draft of Chapter 4 by Thursday, first body section of Chapter 3 by Friday

Goal: a blog post that could not fit into a tweet by Monday, probably about the conference I just attended last week/weekend.

For those of you who are in Los Angeles, I'll be playing baroque cello in a free concert on Friday night; let me know if you want details! For those of you who are in New York, I'll be there in a week. For those of you who are in one of those strange places that is neither NY nor LA, let's figure out when we can see each other; I miss you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


So I do this thing sometimes, and I want to know if other people do it too. Whenever I lie down on my side and curl up, I tend to tuck one of my hands between my knees. I don't know why I do it, but I do it all the time. Is that normal, or is it a weird thing?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Canvassing the childproof dungeon

This weekend I did three things I hadn't done in a long time: babysitting, door-to-door voter canvassing, and in-person Dungeons and Dragons. Since half of my standing D&D game moved to the east coast, that has been largely a Skype-based interaction, which is fun, but I had forgotten how much more fun it is to all be in one place! The good news is that our group will all be in one place soon, so yay!

The babysitting I had done as part of a group at Summercamp, but not on my own for a long time. It was exhilarating knowing that I can care for two helpless larval humans even when one is sad/tired/hungry!

The voter canvassing I used to do a LOT of, before Mom got very sick. Once that happened, I became so emotionally fragile that any mention of any emotion pretty much made me fall apart on the spot, and talking to strangers about their feelings on gay people was pretty much a surefire recipe for total collapse. Since some time last spring, I've been feeling strong enough to handle it, but I hadn't been in LA and free for one of the Vote for Equality canvasses since then, until Saturday.

Basically, all of these (wildly different) activities get me away from my usual occupation of staring at a computer screen and ignoring other humans, aka graduate school, for an entire day! I talk to people who are actually right there next to me in the real world! Yes, I look at a character sheet that is on my laptop, and I carry around a little video player to show people campaign ads, but those are screens in the service of primarily interacting with the people who are so close to me that I can accidentally kick them (and, with my award-winning klutziness, I often do). And when babysitting, no screens at all!

The ridiculously disproportionate amount of enjoyment I got from all of these marathon activities (approximately 6:30-10:30 on Friday, 8:20-4:30 on Saturday, 11:30-7:40 on Sunday, the equivalent of 2.5 days of work at a full-time office job) reminded me of how much I dislike having the people who matter to me be, on average, about 3,000 miles away. I have wonderful people right here too, of course, but boyfriend and family and huge tracts of friends are just too far from me! Some have even decided that Shanghai and London and Paris are acceptable places to be, which is just ludicrous. I want to see my people in real life!

I don't have much of a point really. I had fun being a substitute dad, a gay rights canvasser and a dwarven alchemist and I sometimes miss the simplicity of life before college when almost all of the people who mattered to me lived within a three-hour-drive radius from where I lived and in several directions that drive led into the ocean, so the radius really only described a sector rather than a whole circle.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Sometimes you open up your laptop on a Saturday morning and apprehensively open your emails from students, hoping that nothing actually requires your immediate attention, and then you discover that a student who was struggling with hir thesis has discovered a novel about a vampire who was friends with Rachmaninoff and now ze has a thesis.

I'm pretty sure that's the best kind of email to get from a student.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One year later

Well, that's it. A year has gone by since Mom died. There are no more firsts, or at least no more first annuals. Today was bearable, even though it was hard. I have a headache that won't quit, so I'm going to try to go to sleep. I miss you, Mom. So much.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On the death of Steve Jobs

I'm typing on my MacBook, but that's not important. I recently acquired an iPhone, but that's not important either. What matters is that when my mom couldn't talk anymore, when she had lost the use of her facial muscles, there was something called an iPod Touch that she could type on and show people, so she could keep communicating, and when she couldn't type on that tiny screen anymore, there was something called an iPad that she could type on and it would actually read what she had typed, loud enough for my dad to hear it.

Before she got sick, Mom was always afraid of computers, afraid of any electronic technology, and Apple products were just barely easy enough to use for her to tolerate them in her life. Once she learned how to use our old Mac Plus, she refused to acknowledge that there could be any other form of computer that would work for her sole computing need: word processing. She hung onto that old box, without hard drive or color screen, until about 1998, typing her briefs and memos and various legal documents. There is a peculiar kind of irony in the fact that in the last months of her life she relied entirely on what was then (and mostly remains now) a strange and expensive toy for the technologically savvy, a portable video game console cum laptop that didn't do the one thing she always wanted computers to do. By then, she couldn't type more than one finger at a time anyway, so the lack of a decent word processor wasn't a huge issue anymore.

The iPad wasn't designed for ALS patients. The text-to-speech app she used was not designed by Steve Jobs, or by anyone at Apple. But the fact remains that this product, a luxury good that was not made for her purposes, was the best and cheapest item available for allowing her to keep talking to us. When she stopped talking near the end, it wasn't because she couldn't use the iPad anymore, but because she couldn't formulate the words and phrases even in her mind.

I didn't know Steve Jobs, and I didn't follow his every move as obsessively as some tech-and-Apple geeks I know. I do know that the products he helped to design made the last year or so of my mom's life nearly bearable, eased her gradual loss of ability for both her and her friends and family. For that, I am deeply grateful. I hope that the end of his life was nearly bearable for him and for his friends and family.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kick it

Good for you, high school student in Michigan who is the first girl on your school's varsity football team and also the homecoming queen.

Bad for you, parenthetical assurance in the article about the girl that she would totally have worn a dress for her coronation, really she would, if she hadn't been in her football uniform at half time. Could we just let her have her wonderful simultaneous victories without the coded (BUT SHE'S NOT A LESBIAN I PROMISE)?

Also, why is she the only member of the team not in uniform for the photos? Oh well, at least she's actually shown kicking a football in one picture, not just posing in her tiara.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I do believe Bank of America has come up with a solid plan to prevent people from leaving. They just slow down online banking to a crawl and there's no way to conveniently withdraw our money! Brilliant!

Actually, I'll be closing my account on Monday, as soon as my ridiculously large registration fee for my conference in England clears: £120 plus a $35 fee to wire the money, for a total of either $222.49 or 155, if you ignore the units. Once that's taken care of and all of my automatic monthly payments to, if I recall correctly, the ASPCA, the ACLU, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are switched over to my credit union account where my Planned Parenthood donations come from, I'll be all set!

Yes, it's a sort of bragging, but I am actually proud of where my money goes, and I like publicly feeling good instead of publicly feeling pitiable, so deal with it. And if you have recommendations for other places it should go, feel free to share in comments.

Now I just have to figure out why so much of it is going to "*Sanitation Charges" on my electric bill...

Friday, September 30, 2011


Sometimes the people with whom one must work in organizational capacities are not as thoughtful or kind as one might hope. One learns to be patient with these people, or one becomes, eventually, a bitter hermit or an Ayn Rand nut. Or both. I long ago decided in favor of being patient, but once in a while I need to remind myself of that decision.

Cue the chorus of angry libertarian commenters googling Ayn Rand.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Thanks to everybody who made me feel better. Blog-commenting friends whom I miss and am about to miss, friends with whom I fought and am not fighting anymore, cheerful people at school, awesome students, and best ever boyfriend.

Y'all rock, and I intend to rock with you, no matter how much I suck at the guitar.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


It is a strange transition, going from a year of fellowship funding in NY to a year of teaching in LA. When I say strange, I mean both my body and my mind are having a hard time coping with how very different life is here and now than there and then.

In NY, I was spending nearly all of my time and energy coping with grief after my mother's long illness and eventual death last October. Had I not been on fellowship, I would have had to take a leave from school, because there is not a chance in metaphorical hell that I would have been able to deal with working steadily. I joined a chorus eventually, and I had roommates and friends and family I saw from time to time, and I even got work done and joined a gym, but the vast bulk of my time, especially in the first half of the year, was spent sitting on my couch and trying not to think about Mom.

Now I am back in LA. I am singing and playing with the UCLA Early Music Ensemble, coordinating my department's dissertation seminar, going to the gym or yoga three to four days a week, teaching an undergrad class that starts tomorrow, meeting regularly with my advisor and producing prose for those meetings, volunteering at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center (starting Thursday), being a Head Steward in UAW 2865, and conducting interviews for the dissertation (starting next Tuesday). Plus I'm still seeing friends, though not roommates or family anymore.

On Saturday, I had a panic attack, which I am not used to. Before this week, the only panic attack I had ever had was when I read up on the details of ALS after Mom's diagnosis and saw the average prognosis of death in 2 years from onset of symptoms. Now I've had another and come close at least one other time. My therapist isn't available for another week.

This morning I hurt a friend by accident, in a way that was totally preventable. He hurt me in response, but only because I lashed out first. When an acquaintance looked stressed passing me in the hallway, I assumed I had also hurt her somehow without knowing it, though I haven't seen her in many months. When the conductor of the EME gave me a style tip, I thought she was angry with me for not having done what she was asking already. When a friend was tired this morning after yoga, I thought she was mad at me for inviting her to come to the class.

It turns out that getting back into a life that involves other people in a major way is difficult. I have spent a year basically not connecting with other people in any kind of official capacity, interacting a fair amount socially, but not at all formally. I came to LA with a lot of NY energy, and I have not yet expressed that energy in healthy or positive ways. I will work on that with my therapist, with my yoga, with my friends and students; I don't want to be as brittle and caustic as I have felt over the last few days.

Right now, I will sleep, and that may help. Tomorrow, I will go to the gym, have lunch with an acquaintance from college, and teach my first class of the quarter. Those all should help too. I insist upon regaining my equilibrium, equanimity, and equipage; there's nothing like a horse-drawn carriage to make me feel better.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I really enjoy that when I hear the letters FTM I have to wait for context to know if they mean a person who is female to male transsexual or the Feminist Theory in Music conference. And I always have a moment of confusion where I think I might have heard FTL, faster-than-light travel.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Quick hit

Reading a very entertaining book for the dissertation, I discovered that when Brown v. Board of Ed mandated desegregation in 1954, Maya Angelou and Odetta toasted the occasion with, believe it or not, Jane Connell, who originated the role of Agnes Gooch in Mame.

At the time, Angelou was a "lascivious Caribbean singer" in a nightclub.

Fun stuff, no?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No words

I have no words of my own tonight, but here are a few from Gandalf, on the question of Gollum:

Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.

I don't believe in God. I don't believe that even a hypothetical supreme being with ultimate power over life and death is a beneficent moral construct. I certainly don't believe that we humans should seek to emulate that being, whether we are regarded as criminals or as officers of justice for doing so.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I now pronounce you wife and wife

I officiated a wedding today! Perhaps more details will come later, but now I need to sleep.

Many, many congratulations to the decorators, the chefs, and the wedding planners, who were also the brides. I love y'all, and I am so, so honored to have been able to be of service on this incredible day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This song has been stuck in my head since a friend said the title to me in conversation a few minutes ago. Sometimes in this profession you just despair of actually helping people. At least you get to listen to fun songs though.

(And no, there will be no more details forthcoming. Student privacy issues etc., etc.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The habit of writing

The best way to get writing done is to write, they say, so in the interest of furthering the dissertation, I am practicing writing every day in this space as well as in the shoddy patchwork of fragmented nonsense in five different Microsoft Word documents that is my current dissertation chapter.

The aforementioned chapter is basically about musical comedy packrats, though I haven't used that word in the chapter (yet). I'm calling them "collectors," and I think I'll stick with that word for its mostly-not-creepy-unless-you-think-of-the-John-Fowles-book feel, as opposed to "hoarders," "obsessive fans," "self-proclaimed experts," or "scholars." If I knew more what I meant by the term, I'd explain it here as part of my crowdsource-the-dissertation initiative that I recently came up with, but so far the concept is just some thick fog and the suggestion of an outline of a figure peeking through that I think might just be a hedgehog.

My clever academese phrase of the day is "the slippage between comprehensiveness and comprehension," which I actually think will make sense once the figure in the fog is more solidly visible. Maybe that is a sign that I have spent too long in graduate school.

For now, take a look at this video which has nothing to do with the dissertation, but everything to do with my muddled metaphor and my user icon on 'most every social network. It just might be the best film (that I've seen) of 1975. And that includes The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


On rare occasions, students of mine have given me gifts. This is always an unexpected, and usually a pleasant experience. Today it was both of those, but also wildly confusing.

I am TAing for the History of Rock and Roll class until Thursday, and today was the instructor's last lecture of the quarter. A student who is not taking the class, but who has been sitting in for fun, came up to us at the end of the lecture and gave us both gifts. This marked the second time he had spoken to us in six weeks (the first being when he asked, after three weeks of sitting in the back of the room observing, if he could sit in the back of the room and observe), as his English is not very good and he seems somewhat shy.

The gift he gave the instructor was a pair of charming scarves, of the sort one could imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing constantly, but with slightly more dramatic patterns. The gift he gave me was...hard to describe. If I had to try, I would say it was a cartoon-esque plastic relief sculpture of an angry Peking Opera character on a black-and-gold background of Chinese characters that I cannot read.

"Character" in that sentence refers to roles in an opera, while "characters" refers to the logograms that make up the Chinese alphabet.

Longtime readers of this blog may recall that last summer I taught a course that included a day on Peking Opera, but this student had absolutely no way of knowing that. This course has nothing to do with Peking Opera. How on earth did he come up with this gift idea? Why did he want to give us gifts at all? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

The answer to all of these questions is, of course, "One, two-hoo, three."

This post has been brought to you by my effort to get back into blogging regularly. And by Tootsie Pops.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lonely room

I have now been living alone for just over a month. I think it is fair to say that it is not my favorite way to live.

Yes, I enjoy the freedom of not having to get dressed until it's time to leave. Yes, I like being able to leave dishes where I want to leave them and not worry about anybody else needing the sink. Yes, I prefer shopping for only the foods and cleaning products I want.

But I have very little motivation in the morning, unless I'm going to meet someone. If I don't have a date with a friend to go for a walk or play a game or grade papers or write, I don't really feel like doing any of those things. I spend more time at home than I want to, because I don't have the energy to go anywhere if there won't be a person there noticing if I've come.

I have been managing quite well thus far, especially with Z2 and I going on walks in Runyon Canyon three mornings a week, but weekends are hard and this one is longer than usual. I miss all of my roommates, and my boyfriend, and my family, and all of the various friends who have shared my homes for a day or a week or six months or longer.

I have wonderful friends who want to spend time with me, many of whom live within a few blocks, but I have a very hard time calling them and asking them to do that. Especially since they almost all live with their partners, and I hesitate to insert myself into other people's relationships when they aren't asking me to.

This sounds awfully depressed, and I do feel that way at the moment, but I haven't felt that way most of this month. The Mysterious X has been great at helping me settle back in, and we have had lots of fun together, as I have had with all of my other friends here. But today, things just feel heavy.

They will get lighter, I know. The boyfriend will be here in three days, and I am very excited about seeing him. A few days after that, I'll be heading to Iowa to perform a wedding ceremony for two good friends, which should be a lot of fun. Then it's into the fall quarter and I'll be busy and distracted and happy. I just need to get through a bit of a rough patch right now, and I'm using this blog as a therapy substitute, since the therapist I just emailed is away from her email until the 12th. If anybody wants to come visit, at any time, I'd welcome the company.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I have gotten very bad at blogging lately. Sorry.

All I have to report today is that the last time I put away laundry, I decided to sort my T-shirts. They are now organized into three categories:

Dresser: worn out exercise/pajama shirts
Left side of closet: gay shirts
Center of closet: nerd shirts.

That managed to cover all of them.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Last night, somebody hacked into my iTunes store account and stole what remained of the gift certificate I received for my birthday. The mysterious person used my gift certificate to buy something called KingdomConquest, and I have spent far too much time trying to figure out how to re-secure my account and get the money back.

Today, I stubbed my toe. This is not an uncommon occurrence, as I am quite clumsy and have no depth perception. What is uncommon is that I seem to have stubbed it exactly on the toenail, which has turned black and is amazingly painful for such a small and superfluous body part.

Many of my students seem unable to form coherent English sentences, and I can't tell whether or not this is due to a language barrier. If it is a language barrier, I'm pretty much flummoxed as to how to overcome it without either a writing center or loads of extra time to help them with their English.

None of these things is world-shaking. All of these things are annoying.

Now I will lie on the couch with my injured foot elevated, watch Deep Space Nine, drink smoothies, and eat watermelon. That should help me ignore the annoyances.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Funny things

Today my grandmother sent me a video from two years ago. Either that site is completely outmoded (true) or she's getting better at the internet (also true).

At least it's not a multiply-forwarded chain letter of Jewish haiku or jokes about George Bush anymore...

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I FINALLY have internet at home, after being here for two weeks without it!

Regular posting will resume shortly, but it is currently way past bedtime and I plan on falling asleep within the next seven minutes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

You stole fizzy lifting drinks!

A couple of quick thoughts on this debt ceiling debate, mostly to distract myself from the packing (which is largely done, leading me to the phase of packing called "WHAT AM I FORGETTING!?"):

1. I doubt it's nearly as bad as Very Important People are making it out to be. What I see in this is the Great Recession that has already hit most of the country (and is still hitting it, see Chris Hayes' piece in The Nation from a few weeks/months ago [that I am too lazy to find and link]) might just hit the class of people we call Investors, which recent data available from the Pew Research Center indicate can also be called White People. Pardon me if my sympathy gland is a bit slow producing its fluid for the ruling class.

2. I am torn between admiring the Tea Party caucus for their ability to stick to their principles under political pressure from party leadership and feeling frustrated that they don't understand the business of government well enough to know that this particular issue has nothing to do with those principles as stated. Don't get me wrong: I generally believe their specific principles to be misguided and abhorrent. However, I have deep respect for electoral novices who believe the ideas that got them elected are more important than what the party tells them to do.

That's all I've got. Back to double-checking my packing list and scouring YouTube for Golden Girls episodes that haven't yet been taken down by Disney copyright claims (my DVDs are already packed).

Damn the Mouse.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No really, MOVING!

Today I sorted all of my clothing into two piles: keep and toss. Tomorrow I sort the keep pile into "keep in NY" and "take to LA," then wrap the "take to LA" pile around all of the breakable things I want to take to LA and cram it into several bags, each of whose dimensions (length+width+height) must not exceed 63 inches. Leaving aside for now the problem of measuring the length and width of a duffel bag (is it diameter both times, or do they not really care?), I think I can manage to get almost everything into four bags. How I will carry those bags to and from the check in counter/baggage claim is another problem to leave aside.

After that, I try to figure out what to do about books. Do I bring any books at all? If so, how many? Also, and more crucially, how? Every time I ship books they get lost or damaged. Am I on some kind of no-mail list? Nobody else I know has their books lost by the post office. Plan A is to see if I can wrap them in laundry and check them all with the rest of my worldly possessions, but I have a feeling plan A is an exercise in futility and also in dislocating my shoulders.

If you are in Huntington or its environs and want to keep me company while I frantically shove things into other things, please do! I could use the moral support, or I may end up just lying on the bed dreaming of chucking it all and buying a whole new wardrobe and a whole new kitchen at Out of the Closet and a whole new library at the late, unlamented Borders.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Friends, my moving day is fast approaching. On Saturday, I pull up stakes and head to sunny Los Angeles, California to take over the apartment of a colleague who will be spending her next while doing research in Japan. As many of you know firsthand and some of you secondhand, moving across a continent can be a huge pain in the everywhere, but this move will actually not be such a pain. Why? There are several answers.

1. The Mysterious X and her paramour, the Inscrutable A (new nicknames are fun!), who have offered to retrieve me from the airport.
2. The She God of Shark Reef, who has retrieved the key to my new apartment from the landlady who won't be there when I arrive.
3. A New Car!, who has offered to loan me his cello when I need one in LA, thereby cutting my plane fare in half.
4. Fenchurch, whose apartment I am taking over, and who is selling me some essential furniture to fill it.
5. Nota Biene (another new nickname!), who wrote to me to tell me that she was unable to sell some of her furniture on Craig's List, and would I like it?
6. Musicolojill, who volunteered without my asking to help transport the furniture!
7. El Brucero (a new nickname based on the fact that he owns a car named Bruce, not on any inherently brush-maker-like characteristics), who in consideration of my journey both offered me a bicoastal Kitchen-Aid swap and gave me a booze gift certificate so I wouldn't have to transport whisky.
8. My father, who despite longing to empty his basement has agreed to take on the innumerable boxes of books and winter clothes that I want to keep but don't want to bring to the flaming desert of LA in August, and who has also agreed to be a long-term hedgehogsitter.

These people are the reasons I am able to make this move in a fairly relaxed and cost-controlled fashion. I owe each and every one of them a drink or a baked good or a combination of the two.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Return of the Queen

Internet, I am back from the UK. It may not surprise the more well-traveled (or British) among you that I was almost completely unable to find free wireless there--or free anything really. My Liverpudlian hotel charged extra for breakfast, for using the phone, for internet (£9 a day! It was £10 for four days in Edinburgh!), and (I believe, though had no occasion to explore) for TV. Thank the Horse Lords (Tamora Pierce reference!) for free wifi at Liverpool Hope University, enabling me to live tweet the #divaconference and also sign a lease for an apartment in Los Angeles! When I did find brief spates of free wifi (thank you, pub in Edinburgh, National Theatre, strange pasta/coffee shop near Victoria Station, and random corner in Soho that featured iBahn!), I tried rather unsuccessfully to use them for contacting the boyfriend.

I will share highlights of the trip at some later date, but right now I need to try to get my body back onto US time. 6 PM here is 11 PM there, which is 23:00, which means basically that I have no idea when I am.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's a rich man's world

OK, I should totally be asleep but the Times is making me angry. Seriously, in two days we have articles about how downtown Detroit is a great place for young [mostly white] people to move into "cheap" real estate (at $900/month) and then about how NY judges are leaving the bench to become law firm partners because their six-figure salaries are just too low to support their summer homes in the Hamptons?

Let me inject just a little bit of perspective here. According to the Census Bureau, the median income in the United States in 2005, the year in which trial judges' median salary was $116,100, was $24,325. Since we're talking about New York, let's get some region-specific numbers. For the Northeast, median income was higher than the national median—$25,447. That means that trial judges, whose stagnant pay is "the single most important problem for our courts" according to the very fancy retired law professor quoted in the article, made more than four times the highest regional median salary at the end of their incredibly stagnant decade.

Now, I'm not saying judges shouldn't get paid. Maybe they should even be paid four times the national median salary; I don't claim to know what the pay level of a judge should be or even how that should be set. What I am saying is that an article in the nation's preeminent newspaper (and don't pretend any other paper has even a fair shot at unseating the Times any time soon) that is bemoaning the poor economic health of a profession that makes four times the average salary in the richest part of the country is an article that clearly demonstrates how completely out of touch with the vast majority of people our national news media is. Or are; it depends on whether you think of media as monolithic or actually varied and multiple.

By the way, if you make $25,998 per year (the 2009 Midwest median salary, most recent data I could find) and spend $10,800 of that on rent for your "cheap" apartment in downtown Detroit, that leaves you $15,198 for food, clothing, utilities, and anything else you might want, like attending fancy rooftop parties covered by New York Times reporters and going to the trendy bars and restaurants they describe in their ensuing articles. Assuming you don't have anyone else you might need to use that money to help, like an unemployed relative or partner—Detroit proper had a 20% unemployment rate in May of this year.

It is too late and I am too tired for this post to come to any coherent conclusion. Just think about the fact that like me, you, if you are reading this, are more than likely far wealthier than the average US citizen in assets you can access (i.e. your own or your parents' or a generous relative's), and that we have a responsibility to recognize that vast economic privilege and do more about it than feel smug or guilty.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Queen of the Britons

Friends, I am writing to you from Edinburgh, Scotland, where it is 7:20 AM, I have been awake for about two and a half hours, and my hotel room, which is actually a dorm at the University of Edinburgh, comes with an electric kettle instead of some lousy coffee pot.

This is very exciting.

I arrived yesterday from New York via Dublin, which took a number of hours I frankly can't calculate because of time zones and extreme exhaustion. The Aer Lingus plane from JFK was full of adorable Irish children who became rapidly less adorable as cabin pressure changed and bedtimes were missed. The second, much smaller Aer Lingus Regional plane from Dublin to Edinburgh did not have room for my carry-on suitcase, which was gate-checked and recovered quite efficiently and painlessly, despite the level of worry it would have generated in me had I been awake enough to successfully express concern.

All in all, the travel was simple, if exhausting, and after a car to a train to a car to a plane to a plane to a bus to a 1.3-mile walk (also known as a 2.1-kilometre walk), I finally arrived at Edinburgh First Pollock Halls, nestled snugly against Holyrood Park, which is closed today (Saturday) and Monday, but not Sunday, so I will have time to hike up to King Arthur's Seat.

My plan for the next three days is to visit two pubs and a restaurant noted for their whisky selections, two restaurants known for their vegetarian food (one of these overlaps--the restaurant with the whisky also serves vegetarian haggis!), a castle, two musea, a tea shop, two parks and a garden, a 4-mile walkway that leads to the port of Leith, and various other food establishments recommended by a quickly-downloaded pdf of the Lonely Planet guide to the British Isles.

I have already scratched off the list a visit to Holyroodhouse Palace, because it is closed to the public during the royal family's residence (Hello, still-active monarchy! You are very weird to me!). I also scratched off the list all my post-arrival plans for yesterday evening, as I fell asleep before 8 PM, locally known as 20:00.

I do not intend to exhaustively document my travel here, as I intend rather for the travel to exhaust me, but I wanted to indicate my arrival in Scotland and will probably want to indicate my arrival in Liverpool on Tuesday and in London on Friday. Stay tuned for highlights of the trip and the conference that engendered it (Diva conference! Woohoo!), but if you want to know all about it, we'll have to talk in person.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I'm off to camp in the woods of western Mass. for the next ten days. The boyfriend is coming tomorrow to join me, so yay! This'll be my first ever summercamp without Mom, so boo. We'll have a couple of memorials for her, which I'm sure will be beautiful, and we'll scatter her ashes on the lake, and we'll all grieve together, and something will have ended that hasn't yet.

As usual, I cannot wait to be there; nothing else is really as usual.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Pal's Name is Dorothy Dorothy (...Dorothy)

I have a new friend who is a tricorder! Her name is Dorothy, and she is shiny and exciting. I have taken the first step in my journey toward personalized Dorothy-themed ringtones for everyone, and I have assigned The Mysterious X a ringtone from this important piece of American musical history: Dorothy Wiggin's classic composition for her sister act, The Shaggs, "My Pal Foot Foot" (...Foot).

I post this now as a request from all of y'all for more Dorothys (Dorothies? Dorothese?) to honor with ringtones on Dorothy the Tricorder. Feel free also to contribute specific ringtones by which you think these Dorothys would best be immortalized. Obviously the top two entrants are Dorothy Gale and Dorothy Zbornak, but I still haven't decided what 5-second audio clips I want to use for them!

Alternatively, I could probably just give everyone I know a different Judy Garland or Bea Arthur ringtone. The question is: who gets to be "Be A Clown," and who is relegated to "Good Night, But Not Goodbye?"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Today is my birthday. In accordance with the tradition in this culture of celebrating such events with gifts, I have received an amazing thing from The Mysterious X. It is an attachment for the tricorder I intend to purchase on Sunday. This attachment turns the tricorder into A MINIATURE PINBALL MACHINE!

Please observe this date in future years as the day upon which my productive capacity vanished entirely, replaced by an insatiable desire to make the virtual ball bounce around the screen.

Also, today I officially advance to candidacy, with all the paperwork out of the way at last. Huzzah!

Friday, June 3, 2011


Fact: when you are running around like crazy trying to do too many things in not enough time, there is one guaranteed cure for stupid stress.

Forget massage, deep breathing, yoga, drinking, running, smoking, whatever you do to de-stress.

All that you need, or rather, all that I need, is Tracy Chapman.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get lost in her voice for a while.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Like Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain

I am hereby announcing my candidacy. Not for the Republican presidential nomination, but for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy!

Like Newt Gingrich's, my announcement is perhaps somewhat premature; today I turned in my last paper for my incomplete seminar, which must be graded and reported to the various administrative authorities before the official form can be signed. However, the part of this that is up to me is officially over, and I rejoice in my newfound liberty!

I have decided to celebrate with a stuffy nose and a headache. If this celebration turns out not to be properly cheerful, I may adjust to painkillers and tea, followed by pub trivia and booze. I think the latter will do nicely.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Advertising v. science

So I've been seeing this commercial for some energy drink or other that might be Jamba or maybe Java or something like that; I don't pay close attention to insignificant details like the name of the product being advertised.

What I do pay attention to is bullshit—which is to say, everything in every commercial except for (and in some casing including) the name of the product being advertised.

The particular species of bullshit in this one is that it claims to give you "energy without chemistry."

Now, I know I didn't take chemistry in...ever, but I did take biology and I have an unfortunate fact to share with the energy drink people:

energy is made entirely out of chemistry. Seriously. Chemistry is what allows us to turn carbonated sugar water into anything that is not carbonated sugar water. Like energy. Or urine.

Now I'm all for food-based ingredients in foods, but saying "natural caffeine" and then listing a bunch of scary chemical names that are in other drinks does not make your drink any less crap.

Carry on with your Friday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hello, my blog!

It's been a while, hasn't it?

This is just a quick before bedtime post to say that tomorrow I will finish my last seminar paper from my incomplete seminar from last spring. It is within one page of being done but I am too tired to keep writing tonight, so here's how tomorrow looks:

Wake up at 7, have breakfast (real bagel!)

Therapy at 9, then straight to the gym to slowly climb endless invisible mountains while staring at my blurry reflection in the mirror (I take off my glasses on the treadmill; it helps them not slide off on an oleaginous cushion of my sweat [TMI?])

Home by 12, where I will shower and write the last damn page of the last damn paper of the last damn seminar of last damn year. It's about "Stormy Weather," and it's all outlined already and it shouldn't take more than an hour, including the shower.

Then it's glorious free time until a friend arrives from LA (5-ish) to hang out/present at a conference! Then we go to another friend's birthday party (9-ish) at a bar that serves delicious bourbon which I will not spill on my tux shirt this time because I will not be wearing a tux.

Next up: adventures in Lancaster, PA, better known as Amish country...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How can you sing when my children are drowning?

If you know me, you know I am not a religious person. It's pretty obvious pretty quickly, once you meet me. However, I always celebrate Passover. It's an important holiday for me, and not just because of matzo ball soup (although that is a wonderful thing). The most moving part of the ceremony, for me, has always been the part of the story where God closes the waters and drowns the Egyptians. In our family Haggadah, purchased by my parents at a yard sale long ago, the story says that when this happened "the angels began to sing in praise of God," and he stops their song and asks, "How can you sing when my children are drowning?"

The Egyptians are the "bad guys" in that story. They kept the Hebrews as slaves, beat them, killed their children. And yet, God mourned their deaths because death is never a cause for celebration. Death can be the best option, or the only option. It can be a relief from pain. Some would say it can even be a just punishment for a terrible crime, though I am not part of that some.

Deliberately killing a human being is not a reason for a party.

I will have more to say when I have had time to think and am not typing on my tiny ipod screen in bed. But the too-jubilant news of Osama bin Laden's assassination has made me so physically nauseated that I couldn't just fall asleep without saying something. This is what came to mind first.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Hello, internet friends. I just want to share with you my hectic travel and social schedule so you don't think I'm purposefully neglecting you.

On March 25th, I went to Washington, DC to visit the boyfriend and stayed there until the 29th.

On April 1st, I went back to Washington, DC because we had a Dungeons and Dragons game scheduled, and stayed until April 5th. Because of bus delays, I went straight from DC to chorus rehearsal and didn't get home until 10:15 PM.

Today, I leave for Providence, RI to see a Gilbert and Sullivan show at the alma mater (tonight) and a Providence Singers concert (tomorrow night) and a lot of old friends (all weekend) and return on Sunday, April 10th.

On Thursday, April 14th, I leave for Boston for the Harvard-Princeton Musical Theater Forum, which is Friday the 15th. Saturday the 16th I go to Newtown, CT for the family Passover Seder (yes, before Passover starts. We have holidays based on convenience, not calendars) and then come home. Sunday the 17th, Game of Thrones premieres on HBO so that's clearly a party.

Friday the 22nd, the boyfriend comes here and stays until the 25th.

It is quite possible that on Friday the 29th I will return to Providence for the Gilbert and Sullivan Sing-In, returning on the evening of Saturday the 30th so as to be back in NY in time for my cousin's birthday party on May 1st.

The following Sunday is my roommate's recital.

Basically, I have no weekends unplanned until May 13th-15th. I am clearly quite the social butterfly. I may not be updating much in all that time, so I apologize in advance!

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Open Letter to Restaurant Web Designers

Dear designers of restaurant websites,

I think you've been given some bad information. I'd like to take this opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings and hopefully get us all on the same page about what should be on your page.

There are basically four pieces of information that people want from a restaurant's website:

1. What food does the restaurant serve?
2. How much does that food cost?
3. When can I eat that food?
4. How can I contact/find the restaurant?

Think of these as the Four Questions of Restaurant Web Design. Just like the Four Questions in the Passover Seder, each one should have not only a clear answer, but also an explanation. For example, the contact information could include not just the phone number of the restaurant, but an indication that the phone number will not be answered before 5:00 PM. Pretty simple, right?

Sadly, someone seems to have told you that the four questions are actually:

1. Can I find something to animate on the website so that it will not load in many popular browsers?
2. Is the menu accessible only by downloading a .pdf file, with each meal a separate file?
3. Is the most prominent information simply a description of how nice the restaurant owner thinks it would be to eat there?
4. Does the website have an introductory screen with absolutely no information on it at all?

That same incorrect informant seems to have told you that the answers to these questions must be, simply, yes.

Let me reiterate; that information is wrong. People who want to eat food do not necessarily want to spend time watching a restaurant's name scroll by, or clicking through several highly decorated screens, then downloading and opening a document to see what food a restaurant serves. Some people, it is true, are interested in the name of a restaurant's chef, but even those people (who are a very small subsection of the category "people who eat food") only care about the chef's name if that chef has been on television.

Let's say it together: people who go to restaurants want to know about food. Restaurants exist to provide food in exchange for money. Everything that does not further this goal is incidental.

If you have any questions about what should go into the next restaurant website you design, please feel free to ask me, or to ask any one of the millions of other people who have gone to a restaurant some time in the last, say, forty-eight hours.


PS: If you are also working on academic course websites, I am happy to share with you my prepared talk, "1995 was a long time ago: fundamentals in organizing information on the internet." If you happen also to design websites for Presidential Libraries, we need to have a totally different conversation, one I like to call "An Introduction to Basic Concepts in Aesthetics (Remedial Level)."

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I have noted the passage of many public figures here, and of one non-public but very personal figure. Today's public figure is probably the one who had the most significant impact on my own life and development.

Diana Wynne Jones died yesterday of lung cancer. She recently became somewhat famous in this country when her young adult novel Howl's Moving Castle was made into an anime and then dubbed over into English and released here. I can't remember when I first read Howl's Moving Castle, but it was probably the book I checked out of the public library more than any other. It was on the grown-up floor of the library! Okay, in the young adult section, but still: downstairs! My fingers can still remember where the clear covering on the dust jacket was torn—and where I tore it even more. Perhaps this early obsession presaged my eventual Golden Girls fandom, as the protagonist is a cranky old lady.

The Wikipedia article linked above has a complete list of her books, but here is my own personal annotated catalog of Diana Wynne Jones masterpieces:

Castle in the Air, the sequel to Howl's, gave me a much better attitude toward British depictions of Arabs than C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy.

The Lives of Christopher Chant confirmed to me that the secret world I could always sense outside of our own, the one I visited in the best dreams, was really there.

Witch Week taught me that even the awful people at school, the ones you hate or who hate you, just might have the same secrets you have. And it taught me what rice pudding was.

The Magicians of Caprona made me love alternative history.

A Tale of Time City made me love it even more, and taught me that Vivian could be a boy's name.

Hexwood was the BEST. THING. EVER. King Arthur and Merlin both secretly aliens? As well as most other European mythological figures? Plus telepathy, computer games, and a main character who keeps dreaming she's trapped inside her own ear? Brilliant.

Charmed Life taught me how to play conkers, which I still have yet to play.

Cart and Cwidder, together with Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," formed a loose basis for my current Dungeons and Dragons character.

Drowned Ammet actually got drowned when I left it near an open window in a rainstorm. That seemed very right to me.

The Spellcoats makes me love my Guatemalan patchwork coat even more.

Crown of Dalemark pointed out that fantasy doesn't have to be a long time ago.

The Ogre Downstairs made science fun!

Dogsbody put the magic back into the stars. And was about dogs!

Eight Days of Luke made the Norse Gods I loved to read about into regular people.

Archer's Goon is perfect for conspiracy theorists who believe magical folks are secretly controlling everything.

Aunt Maria taught me the same distrust of Aunts that I learned from James and the Giant Peach, but much more intense. Luckily my own aunts weren't evil.

Fire and Hemlock was an actual grown-up book, the first I read. It's a version of the Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer ballads that's about a doomed cellist and a young girl who writes bad fan fiction. SO. FUCKING. GOOD.

A Sudden Wild Magic was my second grown-up book, and it gave me a crush on a centaur. Another book with an old lady protagonist. Also REALLY FUCKING GOOD.

Deep Secret reminded me of The Story of the Amulet, but better, and also for grownups.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but these are the ones I read as a kid/teenager, and they basically made me love reading more than anything else except possibly some of the works of Bruce Coville. If you are the sort of person who can read children's books, I wholeheartedly recommend her children's books. If not, I doubleheartedly recommend her few adult books. She was an amazing voice in children's literature, fantasy literature, and just literature in general. I will miss her as much as I would miss someone I actually had the chance to know and love.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kiss the Great Old One

I think my favorite picture in this series is the one where Ellie, age 10, seems to have mistaken the phrase "cone-shaped" for the phrase "in the shape of a chicken that is melting and running all over the place."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gay ≠ Happy

In gay news today, Victoria Jackson (Teri from UHF) thinks gay boys kissing is sickening, and Elizabeth Taylor, who knew better, is dead at age 79.

I know these two events don't belong in the same post (or even the same universe), but more than two posts in one day is too many for me.

Time machine to 2003

Hi everybody. If this is completely incoherent, please blame it on my throbbing headache or inability to breathe. Let me also note that I bitterly resent getting a cold in late March. Unacceptable.

Anyway, last night I went to a preview performance of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring a comedian of whom you may have heard—Robin Williams—as the title character.

That would be the Bengal Tiger, not the Baghdad Zoo.

This was the first non-musical I'd seen on Broadway in many years, and I have to say it really didn't seem to fill a theater the size of the Richard Rodgers. Maybe it's my bias, but a cast of seven who never sing—and some of whom barely speak—seems just too small for a venue that seats 1,319.

Leaving that aside, the play had some awesomeness and some less-than. It was definitely still a preview performance, so there were some moments of insecurity about timing that, for me, really threw off a few scenes. It's not that people didn't know their lines; they just were so insecure in them that they occasionally babbled through them instead of acting them. BUT, Robin Williams, despite succumbing to this occasional speed-reading feel, was fantastic. His profanity-laced opening monologue set the perfect tone for a show that revolves around slightly disturbing humor and profoundly disturbing non-humor.

For those who don't know the play, it's set in Baghdad in 2003, and it revolves around a handful of characters: the Tiger, two American Marines, and Saddam Hussein's son's gardener now working as a translator for the American military. Everyone, in one way or another, is hopelessly compromised by the invasion, and each one of them ends up with blood metaphorically on his hands/paws or literally on his body. Or both. But it's actually a comedy, sort of.

The play is especially disturbing in light of our most recent military adventure in Libya, which has all the hallmarks of another Iraq invasion: coalition of nations, promise that it will be a very quick operation, lack of debate even in the semi-public sphere of Congress, and, of course, vast endangered reserves of oil.

I have to say, the two Marines reminded me strongly of some soldiers I have known, and that isn't a compliment. The unthinking racism and constant misogyny and homophobia, combined with a lack of understanding about the impact of killing and death (until it's too late), paint a bleak but familiar picture of what goes on in our military. The characters are well written, and one of them was excellently played by Glenn Davis, but they were hard to watch. The other one, played by Brad Fleischer (who seems to be the only cast member with Broadway experience at all!?), was a frequent sufferer from the speed-reading flaw I mentioned above, but otherwise was quite convincing. Especially in his brief shirtless scene.

Standout performances by Arian Moayed as Musa the gardener/translator and Hrach Titizian as the ghost of Uday Hussein. Uday was very reminiscent of Applegate in Damn Yankees, but much, much creepier, especially in the scene where he carries around his brother's severed head and the one where he describes his rape and murder of Musa's sister. Musa is the heart of the play, despite its title, and he does an excellent job with the way the character appears first as a minor supporting role and gradually moves to the center of the emotional action.

In conclusion, I don't normally have much good to say about rape-and-murder comedy, but Bengal Tiger really deploys it's twisted humor well, making each joke in the play progressively more uncomfortable than the last. Once they work out the timing issues (SLOW DOWN. REALLY), it'll be fantastic. Just be ready for a moving, disturbing, and unbearable comedy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


If my school email address sent any of you any spam, I apologize. It has been shut down for "suspicious network activity
that was indicative of a virus infection or account compromise." I have been informed by the help desk that they "will never ask you for your username and password to 'verify' your account. E-mails of that nature are not legitimate and should be ignored and deleted." I feel so informed!

Anybody else have this experience? Mine happened yesterday, some time between when I checked school email in the morning and when I checked it at 11 PM.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 8th

Happy International Women's Day, everybody! Those of you who have elections today, celebrate by voting for women! I already sent in my absentee ballot, full of little filled-in ovals next to names of women candidates for city council, community college board, and something else that I've already forgotten. Or maybe just more community college board positions. If you live in West Hollywood, think about voting for the only two women in a crowded city council race otherwise full of gay men. If you live in NY, join me at the Women for Women International celebratory march across the Brooklyn Bridge to commemorate 100 years of International Women's Day! Maybe in another 100 years the US will actually acknowledge it, but I doubt it. The holiday has two very bad words in it: women, of course, and international. We don't like those things in this country.

In other women's political news, I got a survey in the mail from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It claimed to be from Nancy Pelosi, and to really want to know my priorities for the Democrats in Congress.

(Side note: Democrats in Congress sounds like a terrible DC-themed porno.)

On a long list of priorities, out of which I was to choose and rank three, guess how many mentioned the word "women?" If you guessed exactly as many as mentioned the word "abortion," you're right! If you also guessed that that number was exactly as many as the number of priorities that mentioned the word "Cthulhu," you are also right! Luckily, there was a fill-in-the-blank option. Also luckily, they left a space at the end of the survey for comments. You may be surprised to hear that I used that space to comment. I will leave you to imagine what those comments were.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fun fact of the day

Judy Evans, costume designer for the Golden Girls, became a llama farmer after retiring from costume design.

Things you learn when listening to audio commentary on the Golden Girls DVDs...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Exercise, my foot!

So when I was in DC visiting the boyfriend, I stupidly strained a ligament or something in my left foot while we were walking around. Not that I chose to do it; I just wore stupid shoes. My foot got very sore, but it went away (mostly) by the next day. Since then, every time I walk or run for a long distance, it has hurt again, though not badly.

So what did I decide to do yesterday? Walk upwards of six miles. Today, I am sitting with my foot up and an ice pack on it, popping Motrin and hoping I can make it down the stairs at some point.

This is why you should never wear flip-flops when traveling long distances. If you find yourself in a situation where you might be tempted to do so, much better to take them off and go barefoot.

This has been a public service announcement from your completely unlicensed podiatrist.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Things that taste great

My dad's black bean soup.

My dad's basically-it's-just-a-lot-of-mustard salad dressing (when on a salad).

Slightly green bananas.

Trader Joe's sesame pita chips.

I do not recommend combining these, but individually each one is supremely satisfying.

That is all.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Social niceties

Not to bring down the emotional tone of the blog, but I want to externalize a bit of my internal situation here in that most public of private spaces, the internet. As you all probably know, I moved here (NYC) from LA several months ago, in either June or September, depending on how you count it. This was a big deal, geographically, emotionally, socially, etc. My family is here in the NY area, as are most of my oldest friends, but my home for the last few years had (and has) been Southern California. The reason, of course, was Mom's illness, but that's not what I want to talk about (at least not directly) at this point.

What I want to talk about is social expectation, social grouping, socializing. And, what the hell, socialism. I moved from a setting in which my main social interactions were determined by my job (graduate student at UCLA) and my primary volunteer occupation, political organizing at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. These were interactions governed by participation in groups, not by my own individual desire to see the people I saw. Obviously I chose to see some people more than others, but for the most part I saw the people that my activities made me see.

That isn't true in NY. Firstly, I don't have a job here. OK, I'm still a grad student, but being on fellowship, my "job" is both vague and irredeemably solitary. Secondly, I've been dealing, since I got here, with the lead-in and then the aftermath of Mom's death, and I think it's fair to say that this has made me far less socially outgoing than I would normally consider myself to be. That means I haven't found another volunteer activity to fill my jobless hours, nor have I made simple, ordinary social overtures to my old and close friends who live here. The end result of these two factors is that I spend the vast majority of my time alone, at home.

I think the main difference, for me, between NY and LA, is that my time in LA involved a lot of "let's do this." Here in NY, it's been much more "I'm doing this; do you want to join me?" There, participating in social groups, I was part of group decision making about fun things we could do. Here, alone, I can sometimes think of fun things to do and invite my friends, but my lack of energy and my general inability to initiate social situations has made that less of an option than I want it to be. I try, and sometimes I do fun things with friends, but often I end up doing things on my own, or not doing things at all.

My friends here, of course, are wonderful friends. Many of them I've known nearly my entire life. But they had lives before I got here, their own groups and habits, and I am a tricky piece to fit into that puzzle, what with my being free during weekdays (they all work) and having little inclination to insinuate myself disruptively into an established pattern. Plus, let's face it, I can be boring sometimes, and can be hesitant to do things that involve spending money, staying out late, or other violations of my Puritan moral code.

Okay, that part wasn't strictly true.

I think I realized this most fully when last visiting the boyfriend down in DC. When I'm with him, we make plans together and do things together. I'm never in a situation while visiting him where he says "I'm doing this; do you want to join me?" Except, I suppose, when he is dropping clothes off at the dry cleaners, but that's not really a fun social activity. Coming back from DC I was feeling pretty good, and I was very productive on my first day back, but after that I slowed down, had trouble sleeping, and generally stopped doing the things I like doing until the aforementioned birthday brunch yesterday.

I also went out with a friend on Saturday night, to a talk on Egypt at the LGBT center and then to dinner. That's where the socialism comes in; it was an ISO-sponsored talk that, typically, advertised itself as something with broad appeal and then in the event geared itself only toward committed socialists. Enjoyable, but not really the "eye-witness" account we had been told to expect. But this was an exception; my friend also just moved here from LA, and she doesn't have the groups, the routines, the social patterns in place.

I guess what my rambling intends to say is that I function better in groups and in structured interaction than I do when going solo. Right now I'm just relying on my friends to pick up my social slack and make me do things, but that doesn't work all the time, especially during the work day. And I miss having friends around, as I have always been lucky enough to have, who just as a matter of course want to do things together, who plan their schedules around me the way I plan mine around them.

For now, I'll keep on trying to stay chipper during my long periods of isolation known as weekdays, and I'll largely succeed, because I'm actually not as depressed anymore as this might sound. I'll go out as a special event—see a show with my aunt, or go to dinner at a friend's place, or celebrate a birthday or a holiday—but I won't have the kind of constant social life that I've grown used to and grown to rely on over the past...decade? And I'll look forward to moving back to LA and slotting back into ready-made communities of people whose social habits include me.

I think that's one of the things about Mom that always annoyed me and that I miss a lot now. Her life revolved around me and my sister, whether we wanted it to or not, even when she was working full time and involved in constant other political and social activity. Even when we were far away, the weekly phone call came; making room for us, for me, wasn't something she worked at but something that she simply did. Now, looking back, I love that.

Of course, I still don't want someone in my life who wants to do every single thing with me; that's not healthy, even in the best relationships. The boyfriend loves watching professional wrestling and I don't; I love playing in string quartets and he doesn't. Diversity of interest and social time apart is crucial. However, since we do live several hours apart by train/bus/car/plane, we're not really worrying about finding things to do separately. We do plenty separately.

I guess, again, that I'm just missing the kind of friendship that doesn't have to be doing anything special to be spending time together. Whether that is because you can sit around and do nothing together and feel good about it or because your activities are routine and are determined by work or school or simple habit, the friendship that doesn't require Special Effort is a luxury I have come to rely on.

Okay, this is highly disorganized and threatens to continue forever if I don't curtail it, so I will stop here. I love my friends, and my family, and my boyfriend. And I wish more of them were unemployed and/or independently wealthy so they could just spend their days hanging out with me. The End.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


So what happens when you go to a friend's birthday brunch at a drag show in Astoria (Queens)?

The most hilariously accented version of Ke$ha's "Tik Tawk" that you've ever heard. That's what happens. Since there is no audiovisual evidence, I need to leave the pronunciation to your imaginations, but let me assure you that it was truly stupefying.

In case you want to see the only gayer version of "Tik Tok" ever produced, here it is. From the allegedly straight Lins brothers, who specialize in lip-synched renditions of pop hits while cross- or scantily dressed. Thank you, YouTube.

Friday, February 18, 2011

If I knew how to use Tumblr

I had a great idea for a Tumblr. It would be called "It's not a child; it's a chicken," and it would feature gruesome pictures of fetuses and zygotes and the like...but they would all be chicken fetuses and zygotes, virtually indistinguishable from the sonograms used by anti-abortion activists.

If you have the money, awesome people could use some right now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feeling good

Boy, there's no ego boost like looking through your old teaching evaluations and typing up only the best comments. Really makes you feel like a winner.

Thanks, students who wrote nice things over the past two years. You make this whole applying for a teaching award thing seem manageable.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jet planes and all that

In 11 hours, I will be in the air on the way to Los Angeles. Look out, City of Angels!

Also, this is my 300th post. In honor of that, here:

I think that's an appropriate sentiment for the occasion, right? Because Los hell? Actually, I quite like LA, so perhaps the screaming, bloody, shirtless man and I have slightly different points of view. Who'da thunk it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nor any drop to drink

The management, in its infinite wisdom, shut off the water in my building today without any warning. I went to the gym, came home and couldn't shower. So I waited, trying the kitchen sink every once in a while, but no dice. Finally, at about 5:45, a stream of rusty water! Huzzah! Use of the toilet! I flushed, and it worked fine. I put soap on my hands, and tried to turn on the bathroom sink.


Apparently the water was only on for about ten minutes. Now my hands smell strongly of peppermint and stick to things.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Adventures in non-cooking

Dear readers, I want to share with you a wonderful new kitchen experiment that has been engaging me lately. I call it Unbakeable cookie dough. Inspired initially by one roommate's sweet tooth and the other's insatiable hunger for eggs (and our resultant inability to keep any in the house for longer than a day), I whipped up a batch of cookie dough that had no eggs and no baking soda, and that therefore would have been a soggy mess in the oven. It was pretty good, but once we put it in the freezer for an hour or so, it was fantastic! Since then, I have made about four or five different batches of unbakeables, each time with a different flavor in mind. Today's is the best: orange spice cookie dough. Cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice go in with the flour (and a pinch of salt in you're using unsalted butter), and put in a little more orange extract than you would vanilla extract in normal chocolate chip cookie dough. Even before the freeze, SO GOOD! After the freeze, I can only guess that it will be ambrosia.

Oh, and we add soy milk to replace the egg liquid, but you can use anything you want.

Next up: booze.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Sometimes, a cup of tea is the solution to absolutely everything. One of the many reasons I admire Jean-Luc Picard—he knew that.

Yesterday I had an unintentional almost-liquid-diet day, and let me tell you when you are very dehydrated, a liquid diet is just amazing. Here is my menu:

Smoothie (orange juice, a banana, frozen strawberries, and hemp protein, all courtesy of Trader Joe)

Cup of peppermint tea (Celestial Seasonings brand, no milk or sugar added)

Potato soup (water, potatoes, onions, celery, garlic, soy milk, dill, and Penzey's Spices "Tsar Dust Memories") and a slice of homemade bread

A few handfuls of trail mix (salted roasted peanuts, unsalted dry toasted almond slivers, sweetened dried cranberries, chocolate chips)

Lentil and wheat berry stew (lentils, wheat berries, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, lots of red wine, water, mustard, bay, paprika, and Penzey's "Bavarian Seasoning" blend) and another slice of homemade bread

Lots and lots of water

All of it was wonderful, and I am currently continuing it with a perfect cup of English Breakfast tea (decaf, with sugar and soy milk). If you are suffering from dry everything, as I have been known to do in the terribly overheated buildings of NY in the winter, this is a great way to regain a little of your lost moisture.

I feel like I'm shilling for a weird new diet plan, but really I just wanted to share with you the delicious food I had yesterday. In terms of diet plans, I obviously recommend the Hollywood Cookie Diet, because what could possibly go wrong?

Monday, January 17, 2011


Guess what, internet friends! I got into a conference! And that conference is in Liverpool! And it is all about Divas! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?

They are still looking for a few more papers and they've extended the deadline until February 7th, so if you (a) want to go to England in July and (b) love divas, you should totally send in an abstract! We can be England buddies! I will insist, of course, that we also be Scotland buddies before we leave, so that I can have wonderful whiskies to drink before returning to the States.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Domestic affairs

"Like the drip, drip, drip of the [you] stand against the wall," goes the elided and somewhat reordered introduction to Cole Porter's "Night and Day." That's what I heard at 8:30 this morning, with my ear against the spot on the wall that yesterday bulged with unwanted fluids. Somewhere, deep inside the wall, there is an irregular flow of water from (presumably) the shower in apartment 5I, just above us, that threatens to one day burst forth and drown the world. Or slightly moisten our living room. Either way, it's not good.

I had imagined that the leak in the wall was a replacement for the plague of mice that (for want of a better word) plagued us for the last several weeks (months?), until I discovered last night that we had yet to exorcise those demons. I had lost one mouse trap; I found it. It had long since done its job. The smell was abominable, as was the entirely unexpected squeak that emerged from the trash can as I compacted the refuse to tie the bag shut. Can a weeks-dead mouse still squeak? Or had someone else thrown out a dog toy? The world may never know, but let me tell you that was the fastest I have ever carried a trash bag outside in my life. No commentary from dead rodents can ruin my winter cleaning, thank you very much.

Now my room is clean, free of the scents of dead mouse and dirty hedgehog bedding and smelling instead of vanilla. This new aroma, in case you didn't know, is much better than those.

The hedgehog, of course, was furious that I was cleaning. Keeping a light on at night? Moving things around? Sacrilege! However, his newly scoured and rearranged habitat seems to have mollified him somewhat; he ran on his wheel until nearly 7 AM. Hopefully he is happy enough that he won't be completely petrified when I give him a bath today...but that's unlikely. Bath time is scary.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Signs of the times

You know what puzzles me? Sane, intelligent people who believe that some essential part of their personality is determined by their zodiac sign. I'm not talking about people who believe the local newspaper's pronouncements, but people who simply feel that saying "I'm a Taurus" indicates something about them other than "I was born between May 13th and June 21st."

Or, I suppose, "I am a mythical bull from Greece." Or, "I am a Ford sedan."

I guess the phrase has a lot of possible meanings, but not one of them relates to the person's behavior, personality, taste, or anything that matters. Oh, and those dates are correct; apparently Twitter is just now learning that the zodiac signs have been off from their constellations for hundreds and hundreds of years, so many people are sharing the news.

I am now a Taurus, not a Gemini, if these dates stick (which they won't). Instead of being:

adaptable and versatile
communicative and witty
intellectual and eloquent
youthful and lively
nervous and tense
superficial and inconsistent
cunning and inquisitive

I should start being:

patient and reliable
warmhearted and loving
persistent and determined
placid and security-loving
jealous and possessive
resentful and inflexible
self-indulgent and greedy

But here's the big secret: I WON'T DO THAT. Nor will I have far to go because I was born on a Thursday. Nor will I be happy, honest, fertile, and virile because I was born in the year of the Pig. And especially nor do I have anything to do with Ephrem the Syrian, who stood against dangerous heresy (Jesus was an incorporeal spirit, not a man? Blasphemy!) in the fourth century and whose feast is observed on my birthday.

You know what my birthday says about me? It says that my parents wanted to have kids at the beginning of the summer (because my dad had summers off), and it says that they were good at planning and at counting to nine.

That's it. The end. No magic from the sky, be it from stars or some fictional God figure.

This has been a Public Service Announcement from your friendly neighborhood atheist who wishes the President didn't have to end every damn speech with a reminder that most people believe in a big rock candy mountain in the sky where Santa Claus will give you a shiny new rocking horse whenever you want.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Five out of five chapter summaries have been sent to the advisor. Step next: wait for feedback. Step after that: fill in the [bits that look like this] that were my notes to myself or to my advisor about what still needs to be done. Step third: string 'em all together into a whole proposal!

I want to complete these three steps by Monday night, as that will be one month before my defense. Can I do it? Possibly.

After that, I embark on the perhaps-Quixotic task of dashing off my very last seminar paper from last spring's incomplete before returning to editing the proposal. Can I do it? Probably not, but I'll try.

Before I do any of that, I am hoping that I can finally clean my wardrobe of the various mouse-related detritus. That particular task has been on hold until I determined that it would not immediately renew itself, and as the last two nights have been mouse-free, I think I can actually scrub the darn thing and put my clothes back in it! No more getting all my clothes out of a duffel bag! Huzzah!

Of course, since I posted this on the public interwebs, the mice will read it and come back. Damn.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lucky number

Thirteen pages drafted, and three chapter summaries sent off to the advisor for feedback. That leaves only chapters 1 and 2 to draft! My goal is to finish drafting chapters and to add connective tissue by a week from Monday, which will give me a month to edit. That seems totally manageable, if I can keep up this pace!

Unfortunately, each draft has had more and more holes and incompletenesses, so it may take a little longer to tie them all together and fill in those holes than it did to write them in the first place.

Also unfortunately, I saw another mouse in my room today, despite having caught four already. This is getting ridiculous.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Keep on truckin'

And then there were ten.

Ten drafty, drafty pages of diss proposal, that is, not doomed murderers hanging out on an island.

No? Nobody likes terrible Agatha Christie jokes?

Well, fine. Tomorrow is new glasses day and I have drafted about half of my diss proposal in two days so I don't care if my jokes are bad!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's witchcraft

And just like that, yesterday's one sentence is today's almost four pages of prose. Thank you, thank you. Send flowers, not chocolates; I just had a not-so-fun trip to the dentist.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Hello, internet—I have exciting news for you. Today I wrote the first sentence of my dissertation proposal!!

Okay, it's really the first sentence of the summary of chapter three, but it exists! I was so excited I had to immediately stop writing and tell you all about it. That seemed like the most productive way to follow up Sentence 1. Forget editing out the ridiculous excess verbiage, or (heaven forbid) writing another sentence: blog it.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

In other exciting news, I went to the optometrist for the first time since (according to her postcard) 2006. Have I mentioned to you how much I adore my optometrist? I would guess the answer is no, because I haven't seen her since before this blag existed. She's my Dad's optometrist too, and she used to be Mom's. My sister, curse her, doesn't need an optometrist. Yet.

There are many reasons I adore her, not the least of which is the warning that came with my last pair of glasses, the one I'm still barely able to wear: "You know people will call you Harry Potter. Can you put up with that?" True enough: a drunk man in an underpass in Moscow in the summer of 2004 asked me for a light and then told me I looked like Harry Potter. This time she dismissed my father's (in)ability to be a style consultant with a flip of the wrist and a "He wears wire."

I had geared myself up to tell her that Mom had died. After my experience breaking down in tears at the dentist when the hygienist asked how she was doing, I knew I needed to be prepared to break the news. And then, magically, she already knew. And not only did she already know (thanks to a friend of Dad's who, I guess, also gets her glasses there), but we talked for fifteen or twenty minutes before my exam about her father's illness and death 20 years ago, and about how unfair it all was, and how her mother coped with her father's death, and how frustrated he was when he couldn't speak anymore, and it was just a feast of empathy from someone I really hardly know, even after all these years. And she spoke about how fast it all seemed from her perspective, since she only saw Mom once a year or so. And it helped. And that's the last sentence fragment I'll start with "And."

Other wise advice from the eye doctor: "Don't let anybody talk you into seeing 3D movies. You'll be wasting your money; you can't see it." Also, she tells me I need to take breaks from looking at things that are close to my eyes, and go outside or look down a hallway about once an hour or two. This seems like sensible advice in general (ok, not really the looking down a hallway), so I think I'll make eye health a part of my routine and stop looking so much at books and computer screens. That should help with the dissertating, right? Right?