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Monday, 28 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

Remember, I do not recommend motion at all. Repose is my idea of life; repose and grapes.

A Woman of Questionable Morals

More than once, the name of the man who is perhaps my most favorite author has caused some confusion and a little apprehension.  Trollope, you say?  You like trollop(e)(s)?  You are a trollop?  You like to read trollop-y novels?  And if you take away the chapters on Parliament or the chapel, his books really are somewhat trollopy, like a nineteenth century version of a modern day romance novel.  I mean, who hasn't day dreamed of Phineas Finn, his blond locks gently blowing in the breeze, his waistcoat snugly enveloping his muscular chest while he stands in the House of Lords, his star rising in the world, only lacking a good woman to love. When I read this blurb in the NYT Arts, Briefly, I thought that a personal ad is a pretty great forum for both Trollope and trollops alike:

Sharon Gless to Play a Trollope Fan
Published: December 27, 2009

The actress Sharon Gless will star in a new play by Jane Prowse, based on the best-selling book “A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance” by Jane Juska, Playbill reported. It tells what happened when the author, a semi-retired high school English teacher, placed a personal ad in The New York Review of Books in 1999 that read: “Before I turn 67 — next March — I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.” The play is scheduled to begin previews on Jan. 5 at the Theater Artaud in San Francisco, where it will open on Jan. 16 and run through Feb. 7. Ms. Gless, the star of “Cagney and Lacey,” had the lead role in the recent film “Hannah Free,” about a love affair between two women.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

Someone has said that grief is half removed when it is shared. How little that someone knew about it! Half removed! When it is duly shared between two loving hearts, does not love fly off with eight-tenths of it?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Leave Some Mark More Than Water

Yes, the sweet firm pressure of grasping
sees the outline of a face where property ends.
You landed, looked around, took samples with your fingers,
put them in jars.
There is a territory that welcomed you, invited you in;
mine which is yours, and yours,
that belongs to--

I have searched the inky electronic wisps
of your personality, tried to establish
a correspondence.
Halted scents and words nowhere,
this land is fertile, it wants to please.
Careful what you leave there
and what you take away.
It sees how it feels things ought to be,
traces the tidal lines as they rise and fall.
You are lucky enough to be welcomed in,
and you, you should--

If you have somewhere you have to be,
miles away, chairs to sit in, cars to pack,
grocery stores new promising,
buy someplace that's worth inhabiting.
This province will be imprinted;
watercolored, framed, gonna hang it on the line.
She floats deeper when it's fresh, not preserved
in your salty, fitful worries.
You see the flag firmly in the ground, but know that
you are wishful thinking,
if you think you've left some sort of--

Yes, exciting, isn't it? to live your life on the land?
Sure lines of bones, skin, earthy dust.
Say it, say it, ask for it, take a drink.
Just go far enough to find your way back and
land here, anywhere, divided pastures
that make a mile to the ocean.
Wander in a pattern you always wanted to learn
that can be followed, charted,
dreams and anchors.
Damp towels, toothbrush drips, deep sea divers
finding footing on the floor.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

A man when he wishes to use burning words should use them while the words are on fire.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Body is a Sacred Garment

     The clothes that I loved most of all were the paraphernelia of my life as a dancer. Tights: with back seams, holes in the sole so you can roll them up, runs, dirt, and traces of light pink blood after pointe work. Leotards: delicate straps, low backs, graceful necklines. Chiffon skirts that sit just so, satin shoes and canvas shoes that take on the form of your foot. Elastics and ribbons you sew on yourself. Leg warmers worn up to the thigh, sweats rolled down low on the hips, knit sweaters that drop gracefully over a shoulder. Beautiful fabrics, dirty from work and sweat. The dressing of a dancer reveals the body it covers--something so beautiful, and strong but overworked, and strained, thin, exposed, abused even. I remember staring in the mirror during barre; I was wearing a new light blue leotard, not yet bearing any traces of the patina of class, and seeing my hips for the first time as they started to take shape, pressing the palm of my hands into them as if that would send them back a couple of inches, back to where they came from.
     Watching dance, I marvel at what the human body is capable of. And struggle with the cruelty inflicted on the body in the pursuit of art. La Danse, the filmed document recording scenes about the Paris Opera Ballet led me to wonder over the physical ideals achieved in dance: the men, true embodiments of the ideal male form. Muscular, tall (dependable for a lift). The women, desexualized, stripped of the softness of the female form. The same work creating virility in one and stealing femininity from the other. Strange that there's no real antonym for virility.  I think these disparate physicalities must have something to do with the nasty nature of the dance (ballet) world--one of the reasons I left it behind and moved onto dance forms that welcomed other bodies.
     Diagnosis of a Faun, a new ballet at La Mama, has gotten a lot of attention for having been choreographed for an actor (the faun) with cerebral palsy, a man who'd never danced before, and who, through this choreography and choreographer, has found new and different ways for his mind to speak to his body, making new movement possible. This ballet revealed its world in the handicaps of all of its dancers: an older man who never danced before performs a pas de deux with a ballerina, an actor dances for the first time, a dancer acts for the first time. The trappings of the world around them--high heels, doctors coats, pointe shoes and tutus--don't matter half as much as the fact that they all need each other to move in space. The old man's body shakes as he supports the weight of a tiny woman balancing en pointe, and she leads him through the steps, saying out loud what dance is meant to imply, saying what she needs and what he needs to do to help her. It seemed so beautiful to me to see in dance--a language of such physical strength--the kindness of one body to another, devoting themselves to one another for a common purpose. Why are you dancing?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

When I Think About a Woman's Heart

When a man loves a woman, he'll get in the car and buy her friend a pack of cigarettes
in the middle of the night.
He'll walk back in with the box rolled in the sleeve of his t-shirt.
Her friend will say "If he loves you, he'll buy me a pack of cigarettes."

Small familiarities, I never knew
why Zelda knew she'd have to quit her "chummying."
But now I do.

In the stillness of a look I captured
the watery sadness of your little self--
painful and aching and if you could you'd take my hand
and run like you did so unexpectedly that first time.
Puffed up and blown large and wild,
an insistent presence.

When a man loves a woman,
he'll look at her while she reads out loud,
his eyes the smoky intensity of cloves and birch bark,
the kind you tear, thin and soft, and see it roll.
Someone walks in and feels without knowing
they've interrupted.

Inclined toward masculinity, I didn't know
that making you feel sure
would make me doubt.
But she did.
I stopped as time swirled,
a soft pocket I hadn't been able to find
welcomed my little hand. I'd hold you there and pressing
take pressure away.

When a man loves a woman
he might watch her as she sleeps
and think "I could give her half my heart"
and not miss it.
She might wake up and think "what can I give to him today?"
and he wouldn't wonder how to get it.

Other eyes speculate
when a woman loves a man.
See what they want they won't have, a
powerless power, no choice to choose.
That's mostly what I think about
when I think about a woman's heart.
Walking on telephone wires, the physics of dance
balancing the birthday gift sunshine and the mercy of the storm.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

'But the men-cooks are the best,' said Nora ... 'All the things that women do, men do better. 'There are two things they can't do,' said Priscilla ... 'They can't suckle babies, and they can't forget themselves.'

Sunday, 6 December 2009

How do People Stay Warm in the Winter?

The last time I wanted to fly, really fly
you were in your twenties and my heart beat on its own.
You can see how it was:
look at that girl, her suitcase.
An arsenal of shadows waiting to board.
A piano stool that spins, stairs that creak with every pulse.
If you put your foot aganst the inside edge
your parents won't wake up.
Miles were nothing when my heart beat on its own
but then you like to see your name on the tag of your coat
and you want to stay at home, or at least,
on the ground.
Film negatives: pebbles in a Queens cemetery
viewed from above;
the world turning red, a first kiss on the front porch in a rain storm
when he brought you home.  Crystals on a window ledge,
screen door slamming, sitting on the radiator,
eating an egg.
There is a way to move through the hallways
when you're afraid of the dark.
Travel like that for a while, back to wall, hand outstretched,
shadow of yourself in your rearview mind.
There is a destination, a trip I will take
that beats in my breast like falling snow,
like a name tag in a coat from long ago.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Civic Slackers

 I laughed so hard I cried when MCW described to me the ridiculous performance he undertook to get out of serving on a jury last week here in Brooklyn.  A second degree murder case--surely not a pleasant experience.  I've been called to jury duty twice; the most recent time was in Manhattan, and the case would have inevitably been a boring one, someone suing a large company.  In the voir dire, I merely voiced the (maybe untrue) fact that I had very strong feelings about tort reform, and I knew I was home free. M on the other hand thought he'd go about it a little differently, and act like a crazy person.  Rolling his eyes, sighing audibly, looking around in a furtive manner.  He was called for questioning as luck (whose?) would have it, and when asked by the prosecution if he might possibly know anyone involved or related to the crime or the trial, looked around the courtroom, fixed his gaze on the man to his right and said "well, you look familiar judge."  They tossed him out.
     The first time I was called to jury duty was the summer after my freshman year of college--I'd postponed it three times while I was, first, out of the country, then second and third, at Sarah Lawrence.  I reported to the beautiful courthouse in downtown Albany, the only one there that day who looked (and most likely was) under 25.  I remember the case I was questioned for, involving a man who had hit someone on the head with a vacuum cleaner--not an easy image to forget.  Drugs were involved. But what I remember most was a shocking insight into other peoples' lives--and not those involved in the trial, but my fellow potential jurors.  We sat in the jury booth and the questions went down the line:  "How many children do you have?"  None yet. Two beautiful daughters.  My wife and I were never lucky enough to have any.  I remember turning to look at the man who answered last.  I can still see his profile in my mind, and feel the lump in my throat as a human story took shape in front of my eyes.  Of course, there are few greater parallels to the theatre than that of a court room, and the sober, moving reality of this human drama is something I think about with some frequency.  One sentance, one answer, hundreds of questions.   I recently read my mother's blog for the first time--she's not as prolific as I (full time job, what's that?), and I think she rode my coattails on the whole American Girl thing (I guess turnabout's fair play), but I thought her post about her time as a juror was really poignant, and here's where you can read it:

Monday, 30 November 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

"God is good to us, and heals those wounds with a rapidity which seems to us impossible when we look forward, but is regarded with very insufficient wonder when we look backward. "

Saturday, 28 November 2009


I'd prefer it if you stayed, do you even have to ask?
Of course you can, I mean no, I don't mind;
buy me an orange juice and talk to me about Eden,
make me wonder, repeat the words I wrote.
Let me imagine I say the things to you I say to myself
when I'm looking right at you.
Do you know?
No less than I possibly can be,
but quieted still, I have a secret.
It's yours, of course, if you want it, and even if you don't.

I'd do a dance, let a tear fall, trip,
drop things and lose things, and turn to you and smile
You bought me an orange juice and walked away cool,
but no less than you possibly can be.
You have secrets, too, and so have we
who talk about Eden and mean things we don't say.

Just in Time for the Holidays

   FAMILY TIES Shane Winters and Kimberly Spring-Winters,
first cousins, married this year despite her mother’s concerns.

Shaking Off the Shame
Published: November 25, 2009
Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
WHEN Kimberly Spring-Winters told her mother she was in love, she didn’t expect a positive response — and she didn’t get one. “It’s wrong, it’s taboo, nobody does that,” she recalled her mother saying.
But shortly after the conversation, Ms. Spring-Winters, 29, decided to marry the man she loved: her first cousin.

For the whole article:

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

But when we have said that Mrs. Stanhope knew how to dress, and used her knowledge daily, we have said all. Other purpose in life she had none.

How Plants are Trained to Work for Man

"Land-Molluscs are a great perplexity to me," Darwin wrote.  The man whose life work revolved around the "ethnography of communication" dies of Alzheimer's disease.  A woman's body curved into the shape of a shell, a photo her husband took, "after eight months we are closer together than ever. Already I have reached certain heights reached with no other love."
 Ferocity and gentleness, a grand
articulation. Bags I can't unpack,
sheets I don't know what to do with,
only don't wash them.
Burbank and a pack of seeds, a new strain.
Specimens, general and specific.
Each morning I woke in my bed;
you listened to me while we ate lunch,
I watched for your return. Discovered
a species, spoke in space, pictures
in my mind that make me gasp.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

You With Your Fresh Thoughts

The line for New Moon at the theatre next door crossed in front of the entrance and beyond, hoards of teenagers waiting to watch the summer of their minds. I knew where the wild things were--the place you went when the pains of growing had nowhere to go but to a seasonless land. I built tents on my bed, forts in closets, had a room full of dollhouses, my own room a dollhouse when I couldn't sleep--I knew how to make a whole world. I knew how to smash something and put it back together. Do a dance for my parents and make them smile again. I could say a story and they would write it down. The Goldengrove loses its leaves and a young child, if she notices, doesn't know why it makes her sad. Innocence will disappear though, like the clearing of the forest of the world as she grows older, and perception will inform her tears. But for now, for now, neither mouth nor mind need know it is for herself, and not the leaves she grieves. I can build something beautiful out of the wilderness, smash paper hearts, rebuild them with twigs, and sail back home.


     I've never been there before--at least not to 60th Street.  I've always wanted to go--for ice cream--but end up arriving quite often for the destiny.
     Last night I shared some correspondence with a friend over the nature of books as objects.  It started with a NYT article I found about the scent of old books--a faculty for which we share an affinity--and led to a discussion of books as objects and as living things--with a destiny all of their own.

     The man whose teaching position my mother took over just before I was born left a lot of his books in what was to become her office. I have some of them now, his Kittridge Shakespeares. His notes in red ink--actually elucidating at times--yellowing pages. My grandfather is a bibliophile--his father was a bookbinder, the name "Grolier Club" rolls off his tongue like "cookies" does off mine. He sent me to search his library once because he was sure he'd stuck a 100 dollar bill between the pages of a book. I never found it. I always liked the secrecy of books--what lies between the covers. Not just stories, but notes, dollar bills, a slip of paper with someone's phone number, a movie ticket stub, an inscription from giver to recipient (why did they give it away?), a receipt--clues to the things you can't see.  It feels like memory to me, something living--whether on one's mind or on a sheet of paper. And there is a very strong tension between memory and creation: the present is forever being shaped by the past and the past is continually being shaped by the present. Living--no wonder books have their own scent. Books have their own destiny. Just like we do. I studied bookbinding for a short time, feeling a connection to the past as I punched holes, and stretched leather, the actions of a great-granddaughter's hands--I love the paper, the thread, the curved needle, bone folder and awl, the different stitches to create different bindings.  This is another way to get to know their insides.
     There's a museum of bookbinding in Bath that sells old book covers that have lost their insides on the cheap. There's a poem written to a lover on one I bought, another has a binder's mark with an address on Chancery Lane, yet another, a bookplate that features a boxer dog, the owner's name, Spencer Eddy. Who knew their life would continue with me, or mine with theirs? 
     Today in the mail, I received a book much anticipated.  An overdue closing night gift for Tony Wendice, tennis champ.  Tony jokes that the novel I suggest he and Max (a crime writer) write together be called Murder on the Centre CourtCentre Court Murder arrived today, British and published in 1951.  The packaging itself pleased me: "Printed Paper" someone had written on the cardboard box.  The familiar but long ago blue Royal Mail sticker pasted underneath.  Inside was another cardboard box, and inside that, a bubble wrapped book, covered in red binder's cloth, the Boots Booklovers Library sticker still partially attached to the cover.  Inside the book, was a note from the bookseller.  "Best Wishes," he wrote.  I looked down to the bottom of the note paper, the Bookseller's address printed in blue ink:  Unit 2 Maida Vale Business Centre, Maida Vale Road.  It's found its way back home, and it has lots of stories to tell.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Unlock the Air

The new theatre at la mama is beautiful.  It's like The Ohio but exaggerated in depth, the playing space a long projected image reaching back toward the old proscenium.  Endless possibilities, and mysteries, too, like a dream's version of a maquette. I'm not sure the play I saw there last night has a life outside of the festival of which it was a part--a bit farce, a bit Pirandello, a bit about the Czech revolution; I like that theatre can always be revolutionary, even if it's just the actors electing to scream a battle cry of perseverance.

 My pen has been at the ready these days, compelled to write down and remember things I'm often willing to notice, accept, and pocket away.  I'm sure they're not really forgotten, but my fisherman's instinct is in overdrive lately, and I've been collecting not objects, as is my usual wont, but ideas.  "A community whose voice is repressed begins to use gesture to express itself."  The line spoken last night referred to a moment in the Velvet Revolution when students gathered at Wenceslav Square and jingled their keys all together, the resulting chimes gesturing the demand for the unlocking of doors, for the exit of the communist party from the building.  It also can't help but refer to the theatre, where gesture was eventually transformed to natural reality.  The idea of the sound of a thousand keys tinkling together made me think again of Keats, and the "viewless wings of Poesy;" idea, sound, and then sense.  To find sense in such ephemera--this must be why Pirandello wrote relentlessly about the theatre. It's cyclical, it's never-ending, it's a skeleton key to the universe.
    And then there's this (thanks to ZF for pointing me in this direction):
If there's a key to this, it will either mean the end of the world or the saving of it, I'm not sure.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

Her eyes were bright, but then, also, they were mischievous. She could talk fluently enough; but then, also, she could scold. She could assume sometimes the plumage of a dove; but then again she could occasionally ruffle her feathers like an angry kite.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Language of the Print

     I was delighted that BL took me to The Morgan Library this past weekend; I wanted to see the Jane Austen exhibit and was excited that I hadn't missed the Blake exhibit.  The two presentations work well together, though separated by floors and galleries.  I'm fairly sure the overlap was unintentional--but how unintentional can a curator be?  Blake used words as and for art; the letters made poems, the poems made an excuse for visual art.  Words, images, all lines imprinted on copper and paper.  Each without the other, less than what they can be.  As a printmaking student, I remember marveling at some reproduction Blake plates brought in by a guest teacher to demonstrate his singular technique.  I engraved, exposing my fine lines to an acid bath that cut into the metal and bit down on my images.  He did something called relief etching--an almost reverse of the traditional intaglio technique that burns an image into a metal plate.  His technique--and it was his, something he originated--etched out everything surrounding the image he wanted to print--raising it, cutting out, not in.    A much more demanding process than the already ambitious technique calls for: in printmaking, all letters, all images will appear in the reverse, and so his hand lettering, fine, and script-like, all composed backward and in relief--a double negative of the finished product.  Blake said "I curse and bless engraving alternately because it takes so much time and is so untractable, tho capable of so much beauty and perfection."  And what's also fascinating about his printmaking is that the labor of it is hidden in the often mythic and mystical poems and images.  There is an odd whimsy to what I see in his art, so disparate from its medium and its matter.
     On the second floor are framed works of a different art.  Austen knew her letter writing was an art--these were our movies, television, radio, records--and she employed the everday technique in her often epistolary novels.  I had an inclination recently to write to somone about the simple events of my day--not a blog, not a diary--an email letter recounting  my encounters of the day.  I felt silly for it.  But Austen bolstered my spirits a bit--"Important nothings" she called her missives.  And so they are--at least to me, and hopefully to the one you're writing.  I've always seen the written word as a visual art.  Austen's letters present interesting images apart from handwriting; paper, this rare commodity, not to be wasted, is traced with her words in all possible directions and corners so as not to let any fiber go blank.  Sentences are written vertically over those written horizontally like a finished crossword puzzle.  And in a corner of the gallery, a note she sent to her eight year old niece, written backward for the girl's amusement (it would have just bewildered, then angered me at eight).  I thought of Blake's prints, and paper, and words, of whimsy and tedious work. 
     On our way out, we stepped quickly into a small chamber displaying Puccini's handwritten scores, beautiful also apart from the music that could come from them; without paper and ink, where would we be?  Right here.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Truth and Beauty

     As a young girl, I was introduced to the art of Faith Ringgold, whose story quilts combine paint, fabric, and narrative. Her art springs from a form commonly thought of as craft--I’ve had the chance twice now to look at examples of those types of quilts in Lancaster, PA. Their sort have always been women’s work, and work, that, while not being explicitly narrative, is meant to hold the story of the family that created it, meant to be passed on and on--a textile of human life. Ringgold makes literal what is figurative, an interesting device in the artistic world. She creates a textual textile, clothing, draping, painting, stitching, writing her stories. I thought of her work when I saw Bright Star, saw Fanny Brawne sew stitches of care, thought, love, sorrow; thought about women, how there is something inherently feminine about fabric and how the fabric of themselves and their lives is written/woven by ourselves and by others. We are not art but we are artists--we paint ourselves and others in certain lights, life struggling toward being something better--not erasing imperfections, but crafting them, creating a narrative body at once physical and physiological.
     Five weeks without female companionship, save a night: a pleasure greatly missed; women rarely disappoint you, seldom let you down. My second night back in Brooklyn was spent watching a British film from 1954 (Netflix hadn’t been informed that I’d left that era behind), Please Turn Over. Please turn over, he might say, or might be written, or demand a closer inspection. Book to bed and page to sheet--text and textile. The film centers around Josephine Halliday (thanks for following me, Dial M), a seventeen year old who writes a salacious novel, Naked Revolt, that imagines her family in a torrid light. A couple of gems, just for the hell of it:

     “I’d like to kiss each one of your ribs.”
     “I say that’s naughty. All right. Later.”


     “Lovers are under greater obligation to be frank with each other than husband and wife.”
     “My goodness, that’s a highly sagacious aphorism. What’s its current application?”

     The movie plays with our ideas of ourselves, and how easily they can be rewritten--there’s always a flip side. I bound a book about beds once, made the covers the mattress, the pages sheets, the spine, four posters. There is a way in which women’s stories are couched--or should I say bedded--in a web of habiliment, weaving a mystic poetry of paper fibers and fine silk. And how illusive this is; life and story--creation--provide hope and in the same instance evoke a certain hopelessness for their permanence that can so speedily and quietly be lost. A partnership of sacrifice--we inhabit our stories by creating them--shape our stories to represent ourselves, just as our garments can retain our shapes after we have shed them.
     At The Verge this Friday the 13th, I watched Claire, creator, refute her role as procreator, eschewing men and women alike. The three men in her life, neatly named Tom, Dick, and Harry, are a sum of all their parts--their autonomous selves unable to fulfill Claire. “You are too much, you are not enough,” she says to the one of them who might have seen her most clearly. It is in this inability to satiate that Claire distances herself from gender and turns toward science to create life without a partner. She is trying to write her story herself, to be free from what men, and the world, and her children want to create for her or at least, with her. She turns to the soil, to the earth, where even in death there is life, and grows something outside of herself and for herself alone--Breath of Life she calls this plant, its scent, Reminiscence. And it is beautiful. And that she has made something is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that the one other human in her world who might not have tried to take ownership of her and the story of her life that she was trying to write, wants it. Suddenly wants her. And she realizes that she cannot succeed--she kills her plant, kills her would-be mate, but her daughter lives. Nature fails, but what is natural succeeds--and nature and her daughter keep trying. And so do I. Mom, and Stella, and Helen. Amanda, Meredith, Sarah, Cynthia, Sharon, Helen, Jane, Mary and Alice, Gita, Virginie, Marcella . . .

Friday, 13 November 2009

. . . Awake forever in a sweet unrest . . .

     I have long held poetry at arms length--or maybe truer to say that I held poems at arms length--for I've always felt a poetry of self, and of others, and the world.  I never studied poetry, though I've written poems, and someone once wrote a poem for me.  It was in this way, among other ways, that I felt a kinship with Fanny Brawne as she's portrayed in Jane Campion's Bright Star.  An artist of another medium, whose poetry is of another material, ready to let folds, scraps, patterns of words fall over her as if to be absorbed.  Or dissolved, take your pick.  Keats teaches her "Poetry enables the soul to accept mystery."  How clear, how unmysterious.  How wonderfully permissive.  Now, I hold onto words seen and heard, their meanings keeping my unknowns company.  How lovely that we write to express the mysteries we are starting to understand, read with a yearning to discover them, hear, thinking the answer is there. 
     Bright Star opens on a magnified image of a needle penetrating a piece of cloth, and in an instant, the mysteries of male and female, author and story, artist and clay are offered to us.  In her greatest moments of unknowing, Fanny traps butterflies, holds onto Topper, writes, and sews, and reads, and waits for understanding.  And as I look around the world--in a kind word from a parent, the silence of someone you miss, the eyes of your cat, the promise of new friendship, a book, a poem, a letter, a scent, a dress only worn before by someone else, a picture of a kiss; "there's a holiness to the affections of the heart" says JK--I'm emboldened to accept that there are no greater mysteries than these.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

In matters of love men do not see clearly in their own affairs. They say that faint heart never won fair lady; and it is amazing to me how fair ladies are won, so faint are often men's hearts!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Tempest

Suddenly I was on the subway again, familiar rituals hurtling forward as if nothing had happened. The neighborhood people less impressed this time around with my reappearance--Oh, you're back. Again. The cats felt the same. My make-up has worn off, the bruises fading more quickly now that the repetitive action has ceased, the curls allowed to run rampant, I've said good-bye once, twice, over again and over and over. The welcoming committee shot me in the mouth with Novocaine, bumped into me on 60th and Lex, left me with a broken towel rod, and some rotting food in the refrigerator. But I've been tossed up by the ocean before--forced into an underwater spiral, eyes drawn open by the velocity, my father searching for me, his heavier body scratched by sand. I came up to the surface and had a sip from my mother's Pepsi, and never looked at the sea the same way again. But always dove back in.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


There is a traditional trajectory now, a physical response to the life at hand. A smoothing over of the skin, the rare nonchalance of a curl, a curbing of consumption, a piquing of wit. The body acts too, and in the stillness of constant movement a new lane runs forward and all around, like the automated belt at an airport, suitcase in hand, in heart, in mind, in form.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

When I sit down to write a novel I do not at all know, and I do not very much care, how it is to end.


As I prepare to depart for my next show, my mind has started to operate in either a more disorderly or more pristine fashion--depending on how you look at it. Yes, I walked into a glass wall today at TD Bank on Montague Street after using the Penny Arcade and waiting in line for 20 minutes to get my 20 dollars worth of dimes. Yes, I haven't slept more than six hours a night for the past few days, my thoughts maintaining an awareness too keen for rest. A child walked by me on Harrison Street two days ago carrying a red balloon. "I don't like you," she said, staring up at me. My gmail account has started to talk to me--"Is He Avoiding You?" wants to know. "Entertaining is Scary," it announces half an hour before a small group of my friends will appear on my doorstep. Pandora chooses to play Trouble at the same moment. "Do you want to take the GRE?" an ad on my phone asks. itunes reveals that I've listened to a particular song 34 times in the past four days. It doesn't have the count from my pod. Doesn't matter. Wrong. Yes. No. OCD. I anticipate that this blog will experience a temporary disruption as I settle into Dial M, and hopefully into the Dial M Blog. Dial Mlog. Dialogue. Am I a one blog kinda girl? We'll have to wait and see. And in the meantime, Margot Wendice's perfume makes my heart beat a little faster. . .

Monday, 21 September 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

No one thinks of defending himself to a newspaper except an ass.

An Equation Grows in Brooklyn

I was going to write about Dyscalculia--the crippling and unnerving disability I have suffered from since girlhood. Until the other day, when M.O. and I looked it up, I called it Mathlexia (which, for someone who does not suffer much lexiconically speaking, should have been immediately apparent as incongruous). Others called it slow, boneheaded, nitwitted, challenged. But if I'd been armed with such a word as dyscalculia I might never have developed my exceptionally coordinated Counting-On-Hands maneuver, or played the game my parents still delightedly play with me wherein I am given some absurd multiplication task such as 8 x 12 while they await their inevitable victory over my feeble mind, or have avoided working in retail and most monies related work because I knew I could never count change. It's a real problem when I don't have exact change and the delivery person from Thai Lantern is minutes away.

I was going to write about Dyscalculia but as I walked down Montague Street this Sunday on a simple errand to the hardware store I was stopped by a performance in the blocked off street by the Martha Cordona Opera Theater. A soprano was singing a song we all know, her beautiful voice clearer than any ambient car or human sound--a little bit of extreme beauty offered for free in the middle of a Brooklyn street. I can sing. I can add. Her voice soars above city streets. My mind goes haywire when I try to subtract. And I thought, maybe I do know a little division afterall.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

All the virtues in the calendar, though they exist on each side, will not make a man and woman happy, unless there be sympathy.

Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances

Part of what made The Neighborhood Playhouse such a good fit for me was the old world charm of the institution--the little old ladies who greet you as Miss. Robinson when you walk in or out of the front door, the office correspondence that is all written on typewriters, the photographs that line the walls of second-year productions past, the fourth floor library, its wood bookshelves overflowing with the most wonderful musty scent of plays long forgotten.

Today, I made my way over to 340 East 54th Street for the first day of the annual book sale; in the few years since I graduated, I always found out about this event after it had taken place. Guess I missed the carbon copied announcements that must have been passed out by hand. This year, I happened to make a visit to the school a few days before the sale--the flyer advertises the special guest appearance by alum Marian Seldes on the second day of the sale and quotes her as saying "A grand annual event at my dear school." Two hours and seven dollars later, I left with a few treasures. When I brought my finds to the school librarian, David Semonin, he sat me down to look over what I had picked out--almost like, more than a sale, this was a chance for him to play his part, and for me to be a student once again.

1. Double Demon and Other One-Act Plays by A.P. Herbert, Sladen Smith, Beatrice Mayor, Helen Simpson from 1924. I took this book because on the library card pasted to the inside cover, under several students' names , was the name "Wynn"; I assume that this is Wynn Handman, a student of the NP, Meisner's protege, and one of my own teachers. David opened the book to the opening page, which bore, in a woman's hand "From the Library of Laura Elliot." "Oh," he exclaimed "she was one of our first teachers, she had a very brilliant career." I found a NYT article from 1916, when the NP was in its first home at the Henry Street Settlement, describing a "Suffragist's Roof Party" at the NP, where labor and women's suffrage songs were led by Mrs. Elliot. She and her teaching styles are also mentioned in a biography of Gregory Peck, whom she taught, and in a book about Martha Graham, who was also among the NP's first instructors. "Our acting teacher, Laura Elliot, was terrifying and temperamental, but often wildly stimulating." Guess she had her reasons for owning Double Demon.

2. Jason by Samson Raphaelson. Its library card bears the signature of alum "Syd Pollack," who took the play out on January 25th--I can't read the year.

3. The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth. David told me he had many friends who refused to appear in this play when it was on Broadway--the cover of the book announces that it's "the most controversial play of our time." I was mostly interested in Sanford Meisner's scrawl of a signature on November 2, 1964, as the first person to borrow this play.

4. I grabbed a few other things that were of general interest to me--a first edition of the play The Disenchanted, something I worked on in Wynn Handman's class with BL; The Man, a play bearing the name of its owner, Fred Kareman, who was a NP graduate and long-time studio mate of Wynn's at Carnegie Hall. I attended his memorial service a couple of years ago, and will give this book to his widow who now shares the new studio with Wynn; Winterset, a play I wrote about in this blog after admiring the sketch I saw of a set design for its premiere at The Morgan; a 1911 edition of a play called The Laughing Cure. Written inside in pencil is this :

Part--Mary Ellen Perry

Rehearsal--Wednesday-Friday at 7

It is signed Helen Clark. She's written in the names of the other actors next to their parts. It seemed too sweet and hopeful to leave behind. I also unearthed two records--an original cast recording of a Robert Lowell play that premiered at The American Place Theatre, founded and still run by Mr. Handman. Inside is a news release from Columbia records dated March 1965 describing the play and the American Place. I will give this to BL, who is a real champion of The American Place Theatre's past, present, and future.

5. Perhaps most lovely and magical was the one item I didn't find on my own: a playbill from the original Broadway production of Dial M for Murder that David Semonin gave to me as a gift when his assistant noticed it after hearing the two of us talking about the play.

Today, there was nothing better than sitting in the old dance studio where Martha Graham herself taught students before me, steadily rifling through the past and finding so much that continues to make its way onto the timeline of life.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

To the taste of any woman the enthusiasm of another woman is never very palatable.

Talk to Me Like Top Sirloin and Let Me Listen

In a recession, people stop buying steak. Walmart starts airing commercials featuring a nervous husband, who upon seeing the rare steak as his evening meal, assumes he must have forgotten a birthday or anniversary. Omaha Steaks starts offering deals to my father, who sends me steak and pork tenderloin. Packed amidst the dry ice are sets 10 and 11 of Omaha Steaks "Conversation Cards."

1. If you could clone yourself would you?

2. If someone had food stuck in their teeth would you tell them?

3. Can you name the 7 dwarfs from the movie Snow White?

4. Who was the bigger icon--Johnny Carson or Lawrence Welk?

5. Plastic surgery. . .would you or wouldn't you?

6. What three things would you want to take to a deserted island?

7. What grade did you enjoy the most in school?

8. What would you put in a time capsule?

9. Are you related to any famous people? If so, how?

10. What is the first thing you read in the newspaper?

11. Where were you when JFK was shot? When Apollo 13 landed on the moon?

12. Who is the most famous person you have ever talked to?

13. Tell about the time in your life that you laughed the hardest?

14. What is your favorite decade?

15. What is the best concert you have ever been to?

16. Name your favorite movie of all time. Why?

This proved invaluable to me and the 67 year old lady I met on the street and invited back to my place for steaks. While we seriously disagreed concerning Lawrence Welk, we were both of the same mind as to the Yo la Tengo concert a couple of years back.

Omaha Steaks. Bringing strangers together with every bite. Bridging the generation gap with every T-bone. Fighting recession blues with every question. Thanks, Omaha Steaks.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

The word that is written is a thing capable of permanent life, and lives frequently to the confusion of its parent. A man should make his confessions always by word of mouth if it be possible.

Fancy Day

My summer of BBC dramatic adaptations continues--if only I could find their production of Dial M for Murder. Lacking that, I've recently watched Under the Greenwood Tree from the Thomas Hardy novel, featuring the most delightfully named heroine, Fancy Day. Enough said. Another very pleasing discovery is The Young Visitors, based on a 1890 novella written by nine year old Margaret Mary Julia Ashford. Pen name, Daisy Ashford. The Young Visitors might just be one of the most charming, bittersweet, magical little worlds ever. It called to mind stories like Ionesco's unconventional tales for children, the eerie Story Number 1 and Story Number 2 which, like Visitors, has a visual language with an irreverent reverence for the world around them that seems such a perfect match for the (sometimes haunting) wonders of childhood. Biscuit was an excellent child author--her Tripe Collonia will no doubt be included in future collections of her work. I'm only sad that my only childhood contribution to the literary world (besides an award winning Haiku in honor of Moonlight the cat) is a half finished manuscript entitled 15 and Scared about a (15 year old) ballerina who goes off on her own to study at SAB. Its singular lack of imagination, wit, and subtlety I have yet to produce again.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

There is nothing perhaps so generally consoling to a man as a well-established grievance; a feeling of having been injured, on which his mind can brood from hour to hour, allowing him to plead his own cause in his own court, within his own heart, and always to plead it successfully.

The Long-Suffering Only Child

My father persistently and frequently litters my mailbox and inbox with an assortment of letters and forwarded information, often interesting and entertaining or offensive and irritating. When they are of the latter variety they usually pertain to some idea he has of my (supposed) faults, shortcomings, or deficiencies. Most recently, I received a photocopied chapter from what appears to be a book about parenting. Chapter 13: Improving Emotional Control.

"In elementary school, children whose ability to manage their emotions is weak frequently encounter social problems; they may have trouble sharing toys, losing at games or sports, or not getting their way during make-believe games with friends. Kids who have good emotional control are the ones you'll notice can make compromises, accept winning and losing at games with equanimity, and may act as peacemakers in altercations with peers."

Biscuit, Aunt Stella, and I recently made the trip up to the 32nd floor to visit my Grandfather. The last time I saw Herbert I happened to have had my hair straightened for some P.A. and it seemed the shock of my hair having returned to its natural and wild state was a little more than Grandpa could take:

Herbert: Did you ride the subway like that?

Margaret: What do you mean Grandpa?

Herbert: It was straightened out last time--did you get on the subway like that?

Margaret: This is how it's always grown out of my head Gpa. What's wrong with it?

Herbert: It's very (long pause and then with obvious disdain) noticeable.

And then I practiced emotional control.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

The word that is written is a thing capable of permanent life, and lives frequently to the confusion of its parent. A man should make his confessions always by word of mouth if it be possible.


Humilified. Chillsome. These are my two favorites.

Neologism: A neologism (pronounced /niˈɒlədʒɪzəm/); from Greek νές (neo 'new' + logos 'word') is a newly coined word that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event. According to Oxford English Dictionary the term neologism was first used in print in 1772. In psychiatry, the term neologism is used to describe the use of words that only have meaning to the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning. This is considered normal in children, but a symptom of thought disorder (indicative of a psychotic mental illness, such as schizophrenia) in adults.

Ah, well. Yes.

In other words:

Had a discussion this week with CD about the use of the word "down" to describe the event of his child sleeping. "Madeline went down," "I put Madeline down," etc.

Saw a man who looked like the lead singer from Coldplay while standing in line at a theatre in Times Square with JG and said "hey, is that Chris Play from Coldmartin ?"

Threw a fit when people appearing on HGTV shows about home-buying described a certain type of room as a "bump out" one too many times.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

'Chignon' was a word which she had never been heard to pronounce. She would talk of 'those bandboxes which the sluts wear behind their noddles;' for Miss Stanbury allowed herself the use of much strong language.


Much was made about the last minute addition of Joe Biden to the "Beer Summit;" two black men, two white men, and an even better photo op is born. But what would have made it even better and far more indicative of inclusiveness and understanding? Who's missing from this "national conversation?" That's right, it's the person who got this ball rolling, and who in fact is the one much more egregiously wronged than any other: and it's a she. As far as I know, Frank Rich is the only member of the press to comment on this, and fittingly calls the decision (more likely lack of thought) "stupid behavior." I think of Obama as being such an especially thoughtful person and empowering father of daughters--how could he miss this? How could it not have occured to me immediately, and seemingly to so few people in the media? It's an interesting example of a woman maligned by the hushed weapon of gender induced obscurity. Especially at a time when I find myself working on the role of a woman from 1952; her position as a wife (thus, woman) whose fidelity just ain't good enough makes her the victim of attempted homicide; and a woman from the turn of the century who has to dress up as man to find out whether her lover is betraying her; and yet another from the 1600s whose vanity and pride in her ability to attract men are inevitably her downfall. 1952. . .1898. . .1600. . .2009?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

Remember this, there is no tyranny to a woman like telling her of her duty.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

When Brooklyn Was The World

I would have had to take some train to renew my driver's license. The 2, the 1, or the Amtrak. For some reason, I deemed it easier to just go to Albany rather than one of the three locations available to me here. So I can legally drive again. And I got a pretty new picture. I'm hoping that my new license inspires the car gods to stop messing with my vehicle: two attempted thefts, three "relocations" (can I get some compensation from the city film commission for my parking spaces?), two illegal tows, one smashed window, a dead battery, and an inoperable radio. The tow pound is (vaguely) amusing. A small scene of misery today, with a man from Georgia who only had 90$ to his name who plead "please, miss, I want to pay you but this is all I've got," and the attractive lesbian who yelled "Fuck off, Dickhead" when asked for an itemized list of the belongings she wanted removed from her car--apparently "all of them" wasn't good enough. After finding my way deep into Brooklyn to leave my beloved Pre at the Honda dealership on Nostrand Avenue, I called a car to come and take me home. The trip was an inexplicable 50 minutes but provided such a beautiful little tour of Brooklyn that I hardly minded: through Ditmas Park, where my great grandparents lived, past Erasmus Hall where my grandmother and great aunt went to high school, the Botanic Gardens, and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, across a little street lined just with apartment buildings named Tennis Ct.

Trains, Cars, and. . .Ships. RS and I went to the Titanic exhibit in Times Square yesterday. We were given identities as we entered--I, a Miss Henriette Yrois, 23 year old Parisian model and mistress to William Harbeck, a filmmaker hired to film the maiden voyage and he, a Mr. Daniel Gronnestad, third class passenger from Norway--and were to learn our fates at the end of the tour. It did not end well for either of us. Perhaps I can take my transportation misfortunes more in stride. . .

When not getting towed or ticketed, I am immersing myself in home improvement,1950's films, and being a chair for Cesar. I plan to have a date with Biscuit this week to hear Arlo Guthrie, and am soon to finish The Woman in White, which continues to amuse with highly judgemental descriptions of people's corpulence.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

She could write after a glib, commonplace, sprightly fashion, and had already acquired the knack of spreading what she knew very thin, so that it might cover a vast surface. She had no ambition to write a good book, but was painfully anxious to write a book that the critics should say was good.


I scorned the weeks of rain last month and welcomed the rain that fell today, along with the temperature. A cancelled lunch date, a cat by my side, coffee and Hit cookies, and four blissful hours of Wives and Daughters made my cocoon for the day. Wives and Daughters is one of several BBC miniseries I've been watching this summer, having already gone through He Knew He Was Right based on the Trollope novel and North and South, which like Wives is based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, an author I've been interested in for a while and whose writings I have never been able to finish once started. I got through less than half of MaryItalic Barton though I can't remember why. I can't get enough of the dramatized adaptations--the Hamley brothers who send little bouquets of flowers to the young ladies before the ball (if I were a man I'd do just the same thing); the angry and surly Mr. Thornton, the proud Margaret Hale. Yes, sharing her name made me that much more attached. I can't help it. I've thought a lot about my name recently, as I deliberated on the domain name for the website that I've been working on. To include the middle name or just the initial--or no initial at all. My father wanted to name me Stillpoint. My mother's choices were Nora, Laura, and Anna, all of whom I'm fairly sure are also characters in a Gaskell novel. A search on Google for "Margaret Robinson Actress" found a curious posting on that includes one show that I was in as a teenager in 1994 along with several other Broadway credits of mine beginning in 1900 and ending in 1913. Further inqueries into my illustrious Broadway career provided this review from Feb. 6 1901: "Many of the other parts are well acted. . .the dainty prettiness of Margaret Robinson in her new blonde wig. . ." And yes, there's the Margaret Robinson who--like the MR who got to the MR at AEA before me--got to the .com before me. A bisexual Canadian writer. Never have been able to find out who the other me at Equity is. I imagine her a Floridian octogenarian, regularly sending in her dues biannually with a relish for self celebration reserved only for actors. . .

Monday, 13 July 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

Oh the City, the weary City, where men go daily to look for money, but find none.

Between the Mug and the Wump

I was delighted to learn a new word this past week, found in the character description of part I was working on: Chippy.
chippy:or: chippie, a disparaging term, possibly derived from cheap / cheaply / cheapy, for:1. A wild or delinquent young girl , usually sexually active or promiscuous . See playgirl for synonyms.2. A prostitute . See prostitute for synonyms.3. A cheap woman .
My mom identified the name right away--said it was in my grandfather's vocabulary. As it is now in mine.

A few weeks ago, I was re-watching Vertigo in preparation for an appointment and was intrigued by Barbara Bel Geddes. Since seeing the film for the first time--in college I think--and now, I had heard stories of the actress but never quite got who she was. Wynn Handman used to speak about her, and it's a name that stayed in my mind. Geddes was the original Maggie in Cat and had a fairly prolific Broadway career. She also starred on Dallas, and was an artist who illustrated books for children. A charming detail in light of her role in Vertigo--and in light of who I discovered her father to be; as I was browsing the Stage Design exhibit at The Morgan last week, I stumbled upon several sketches by a Norman Bel Geddes.
Besides that discovery, I was very taken with some set designs on display that featured the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. One, for a 1935 verse play called Winterset by Maxwell Anderson, and another for a musical, Kelly. Kelly, produced in 1965, closed on opening night but did feature a song called "Ode to the Brooklyn Bridge."http://http//
I was struggling with what to title this post--nothing really seemed a good fit. Theatre 101, Ode to something -or-other (didn't get very far on that one), A Patron of the Arts. The latter struck me as having some possibilities and so I checked out what Wikipedia had to say on the subject. I found myself laughing out loud at its message--I wonder if my daddy read this when he dubbed Mugwumper my nickname:
"In the United States during the Gilded Age, patronage became a controversial issue. Republican Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York became a powerful political figure by determining who in the party would be given certain lucrative positions. Conkling and his supporters were known as Stalwarts. The Republican reformers who opposed patronage and advocated a civil service system were known as Mugwumps—their lack of party loyalty seen as having their "mug" on one side of the fence, their "wump" on the other. Between the two were the Halfbreeds, who were less patronage-oriented than the Stalwarts, but not as reform-minded as the Mugwumps."
And I guess that brings my total of words learned to two. . .

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

A man will dine, even though his heart be breaking.

Are You There, Blog? It's Me. . .

I spent a delightful, long overdue evening with JG, seeing Waiting for Godot. I was never a Beckett fan until I read his seminal work in college. I wrote a kick ass paper on it. I thought, and felt silly thinking (as I have yet to enter the third decade of my little life), that this is a play that will always resonate differently as one ages. It's the same rule that made true my mother's statement when I was a teenager that listening to Paul Simon is rougher as you grow older; the things he sings about, romantic when heard from adolescence, painful in adulthood. In Godot, life is "exactly as it is," but that "is" to Beckett means the essence of life, a life in which relationships are infertile, directions are arbitrary, and speech doesn't necessarily identify a particular speaker. Stripped down to an essence, life becomes inconceivably complex. Time waits for no man, but man is continually lingering around, about, and for time. There is no potential for change in Godot; the only change is from morning to night, and even then, there is no sunset, only a rapid shift into darkness--only the essence of night, not its gradations. The sunset is what we live for, but what Vlad and Etstragon must live without. Essence does away with the symbolic day's end, therefore making day to day existence strangled by a sort of binary on/off system that won't work. As JG would say, "blech." At least Gristedes came through with some superfluity that makes life worth living.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

We Should Have Remained a Colony

July 4, 2009
Strands of American History
It’s a kind of calligraphy, these ringlets and waves, hair combed, twisted and pinned. A first lady’s coiffure is a pattern, chosen as deliberately as the White House china, but prey to wind and rain, especially on cold Inauguration Days. It’s also prey to public opinion, should she dare to make quixotic changes in her ’do — a sign of flippancy and flip-flopping. Notice there are no flips. In the beginning, we see a newborn empire in those Josephine curls. The mid-20th century is marcelled. And in recent decades, increasingly liberated first ladies sport more leonine locks. Interestingly, there are no bangs. Perhaps this has less to do with hair and more to do with campaign promises of marital harmony and world peace. --Laura Jacobs, NYT

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

She knew how to allure by denying, and to make the gift rich by delaying it.

Hit Me With Some Lightning

Oliver Sacks' new book, Musicophilia, examines the neurological happenings the brain experiences when listening, making, composing music. One case study, a man named Tony, from upstate NY (where else) became a musical savant of sorts after being hit in the face with lightning in a freak accident involving a big storm and his phone. My mother always made me get off the phone during a lightning storm; she also made me take piano lessons, which maybe, if I hadn't heeded her first request, would not have been necessary.

On obeying your parents: apparently, children who are taught to control and regulate their behavior at an early age (playing Simon Says, or being held accountable for not following rules) are more likely to have higher math scores. Self-control does not seem to play a part in the scores children recieve in reading or vocabulary. My mother could have had a brilliant pianist or a math whiz for a daughter. Instead, I obeyed her over-protective warnings and was never accountable for anything. As to how I fared at Simon Says, I do not know, but my SAT scores suggest not well.

Verbally, however, I seem to fare much better than some, say. . .Berlusconi:

"Italy is now a great country to invest in... today we have fewer communists and those who are still there deny having been one. Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries... superb girls."

''I've never paid a woman. I never understood where the satisfaction is when you're missing the pleasure of conquest.''

"The left has no taste, even when it comes to women."


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

How many a miserable father reviles with bitterness of spirit the low tastes of his son, who has done nothing to provide his child with higher pleasures!

Cats vs. Iran

Maybe next time I'm teased for taking copious pictures of cats--my own and others--I can refer to Noam Cohen's article in today's paper on the "Cute Cat Theory of Internet Censorship" as my defense. The proponent of this theory, a researcher named Ethan Zuckerman, explains: "Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites. . .people who could not care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they're willing to censor the millions of banal videos and thereby block a few political ones." (Whoever thought videos of cute cats banal?) "Let's encourage anyone that has a human rights site to mirror it everywhere, including sites like with lots of noncontroversial sites." (I thought the rumpus in response to my Jewish American Girl Doll post was positively contentious) "It is kind of hard for Iran to block . .They would have to close down a lot of blogs, including blogs with cute cats." Hey, just doing my part.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

"Clergymen are like women. As long as they're pure, they're a long sight purer than other men; but when they fall, they sink deeper."

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Random Acts of Sadness

A few weeks ago a bottle of Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar salad dressing fell out of my cart at Gristedes and broke, spilling its contents all over the floor. Last week, I dropped a container of yogurt, which also opened and spouted forth its contents. Yesterday my victim was a package of cut fruit in syrup, something I was toying with purchasing as it reminded me of the "mouse salads" my mom used to make me for my birthday (green jello topped with half of a canned pear, licorice tail, and gummi fruit nose). Besides the fact that I'd never dropped and broken anything in a grocery story (at least in my adult life) before the first incident, my initial reaction to this event--the first and subsequent times--was that of immeasurable sadness. Not so much from my own shame, which was quite small, but more from something about the salad dressing, the yogurt, and the diced fruit themselves, their original purpose to please, now dashed.

A friend loaned me a copy of David Foster Wallace's collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again, correctly intuiting my sense of humor, and as I was delightedly reading the title essay with the comfort of a shared sensibility, I was suddenly forced to back away from this communion when his talk turned to suicide. The humor was no longer a comfort but a thing of sorrow; a sad and eerie legacy. Morbid humor attached to the actual, and fatal morbidity of the author made me sad for him and for me, who thought he was funny.

I found that The Woman in White is not a book that I can read on the subway and so I read it at night, and Prep on the train. It was a NYT bestseller a couple of years ago, and seemed to have enough backbone to meet my (low) standards. The narrator, a teenage girl, is consistently sad or saddened, and the chapters are littered with admissions of mournfulness. This passage, as she watches her father having coffee and a cookie struck me as being among some of the more sad things in the book, and maybe in the world: "It seemed heartbreaking that he liked the taste of a sugar cookie dipped in coffee, that it was a treat to him. The small rewards we give ourselves--I think maybe there is nothing sadder." Which brings me back, of course, to diced fruit and salad dressing, and the other sad things in the supermarket and in the world.

Monday, 8 June 2009

When you copy this, and you will. . .

One wonders if David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman, or Dan Brown, authors of Angels and Demons, thought that anyone would hear their mildly paraphrased version of Laura Reynolds' famous line from Tea and Sympathy and know the source. I did, and oddly, had just been speaking about the play in the movie theatre with my friend M.O. Some others recognized it too, and wrote about it as I found from a Google search. I suppose the line could have been a gesture to the late Robert Anderson, who died this year. I'm not sure how nice a gesture it was considering the marked difference in quality between Anderson's play and this film. I persisted in watching more programs of low character when I tuned in to The Bachelorette ( yes, it was the most shocking rose ceremony EVER). But I was pleased at the symmetry of events when the preview of next week's episode referenced Whistler, B.C., a place I first heard of as Anna's hometown on Slings and Arrows; when she begins a relationship with a visiting playwright, she is horrified to discover that he is using the stories of her Whistler youth almost verbatim in his new play. "That's my life!" she says when she confronts him. The playwright's response is to say that once she spoke those words, they became his. T.S. Eliot's famous saying "Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal" seems very apt. Also, today revealed what probably should have just been assumed, that Sarah Palin plagiarised (shall we say borrowed?) from Newt Gingrich. Well, now I'm watching Ovation's West Side Memories, about the making of the film of West Side Story, and we've all read Romeo and Juliet, right?

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

"Britons who take a delight in politics ... should not be desirous of peeping behind the scenes. No beholder at any theatre should do so."

Strictly Borough?

No, not me. Last night brought me through three boroughs--an exhausting, and mildly disorienting venture. I started, of course, in Brooklyn, left for Manhattan to have the people at Devachan yell at me for having my hair blown out too much, returned to Brooklyn to go to Queens for a birthday party, then back to Manhattan for yet another birthday party. My friend B.L. scoffed the other day when I suggested he meet me in Brooklyn even though he himself used to live here, and I'm afraid I was much the same before I moved here. But I proved myself truly reformed last night. H.H. brought us to Studio Square in LIC, deemed "the new Beer Garden." It certainly was new, almost like the Disney Land version of the original Bohemian Beer Garden. Sushi bar, Hamburgers, and Sangria too. Maybe that makes it more like Epcot. And H.H. is relatively new, too, turning an ignominious 22 years old. I begrudged her less when it became clear that I was not the oldest one there, though I was on my way to a 30th birthday celebration, that of my childhood friend, M.C. He and I grew up together, living about seven houses down from one another. There weren't many kids on our block in those days, and he and I were avid He-Man and She-Ra playmates. A brief search on E-Bay showed many He-Man action figure options--a missed opportunity. I will have to think faster (unlikely) when he turns 40. M.C.'s father was there last night, a man I hadn't seen in years and years, and all of a sudden, my mind was flooded with strange little snippets of memories, like him serving M and me flounder in their kitchen, and me picking the little bones out of the fish. Or when he dared me a penny to jump into the deep end of a neighbor's pool. He remembered my father's passion for Pagnol, and that my Grandpa lived in the same neighborhood we now found ourselves together in. I suppose, as an only child, it surprises me to find people in my life--who are not my parents--who know my family and me from the time of my childhood. People who have a reference base for my life unlike the overwhelming majority of my friends. I returned to Brooklyn for the night with a certain amount of borough travelin' pride--but secretly pleased that the next day would not lead me out King's County.

Monday, 1 June 2009

"Love in the Time of Swine Flu"

Such was the title of C.P.'s address to the wedding party in Mexico this weekend. I spent one full day in the country, said "No, gracias" more times than I care to remember, saw the Mayan ruins, didn't drink the water, liked the iguanas (seen here above my head at chichen itza), and tried to imagine what it would be like to have gone to Mexico with these college friends when we were actually in college, like so many people do. I returned to NY to see on the obit page the death of Millvina Dean, last survivor of the Titanic, next to Philip C. Bolger, "Prolific Boat Designer." Coincidence? Also, the Jewish American Girl doll caught some more media attention when it was discovered that her name, Rebecca Rubin, is also the name of a woman wanted by the F.B.I. The real-life Ms. Rubin also goes by Little Missy, a name I know I've been called more than a few times. The F.B.I. hopes that the new doll will help attract attention to their wanted woman.

Before I left for Mexico, I made a stop at Book Court on Court Street in Cobble Hill and picked out my first Wilkie Collins novel, choosing The Woman in White over The Moonstone--at least to start with. When I saw my coach today, he was carrying around a copy of the latter, and we agreed to a switch when we're through. I've intended to try Collins for several years now but just never got around to it. Already, he's amused me with various lines such as: "The lady is ugly!" and "This is a matter of curiosity; and you have got a woman for your ally." His current narrator also spends a fair amount of time discussing how humans fail to be innately influenced by nature in real life--only in books--then talks rhapsodically about his natural environment. What would Thoreau do?

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Well it's about time.

Words from plays I've just done stay in my mind for several weeks post show. And sometimes they come out of my mouth in response to various occurrences in my real life, such as today, when I read my first Sunday Styles section in six weeks (Lancaster only seemed to sell the NYT at the liquor store, proving how enjoying both marks you as a marginal personality in Lanc Lanc). Styles today shared a story long awaited in my life; the launch of a Jewish American Girl doll. I grew up with the dolls--I own Molly, Kirsten, and Felicity--and my mom noticed early on that of all the historical girl dolls from varying backgrounds parents could buy for their children, none were Jewish. This was particularly incensing in my household since there happened to be living there, a (kind-of) Jewish American girl. My mom even wrote a letter to the company about it, and years later, when the flagship store opened in Manhattan, I scribbled something about it on a suggestion card, always happy to carry grudge. Anyway, I know what I want for Christmas.
On grudges: Styles also reports today about the current culture of nice. No snarkiness allowed in today's tempestuous times. I immediately thought of the book lying on my coffee table, The Pleasure of Hating. That I own the book but haven't yet read it I read as a testament to my snarky mind but kind heart. I also happened to receive my copy of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (the film) from Netflix today. Coincidence?

Friday, 22 May 2009


Today the class of 2009 graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and I watched. I watched with three fellow alums, live video streaming from computer to TV in a Brooklyn apartment. I remembered very clearly my own commencement--remember getting ready that morning in my Yonkers apartment, remember what I wore, how I felt so disheartned walking up the hill from Bates to the tent at Westlands, feeling that something was coming to a big, early conclusion. Beginning? It didn't feel that way. It pleased me to watch Rahm Emmanuel tear up at being back at his alma mater; I'm not sure there are too many schools that, in and of themselves, apart from memories of friends and freedom, are capable of inducing tears in their former students. I liked how emotionally connected to the place R.E. was this morning. I learned an interesting little story about R.E. when Karen Lawrence talked about his wedding, which took place in a public building--his wedding occuring simultaneously with various other community activities. She pointed out how similar that experience was to the one sought at Sarah Lawrence: buildings are for classrooms, dorms, and offices. Moments of intense purpose are carried out alongside moments of daily, convential life.

Mike Goodman's roomate walked into the room mid-way through the ceremony and asked how we could stand to watch speeches like these. I responded that I was a sucker for speeches like these. Karen Lawrence quoted Emily Dickinson and advised the students to "dwell in possibility," an idea that has been turning in my mind ever since. And maybe that's why I started this blog today--why not. I had fun writing the backstage blog for The Fulton, and possibly, this could be fun too.