Monday, April 28, 2008

best real thing ever...

People amaze me.

I don't know if this is a joke.
I don't know if it is the result of intoxication.
All I know is that Sacha found it on Craigslist, and it's hilarious...and intelligent...and hilarious.

Friday, April 25, 2008

so many choices...

Donald's recent post got me thinking about this issue.

Here's what I don't quite understand, generally speaking why do we do things that we know are bad for us?

We smoke, we eat poorly, we don't exercise, we drive drunk, we cross without looking both ways...some of those bad decisions, when made in moderation, are entirely manageable, some become unmanageable the moment we start making them.

I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to be good all the time, and then we're stressed out when we make an inevitable mistake, and then we let it all go to shit.

The issue then becomes not so much about eating a 540 calorie Big Mac, but about the disconnect between our American belief that we can achieve perfection and the multitude of choices made available to us that make achieving that belief, which we think is part and parcel of being American, available to us...and also totally impossible.

Glad I solved that problem. Off to deal with the Middle East now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

DTWOF episode #526!

No time to really comment, but you can read it here.

The panel with Raffi and Stella and the moms in the car is my FAVORITE.
Simultaneously making fun of and legitimizing rhetoric.

EDIT - link fixed. sorry about that folks.

Dear Rich,

On the occasion of having just watched Tracy Letts' August Osage County, I submit the following ideas:

1.) Art is NOT universal. It is, actually, entirely specific being the product of one person's subjective interpretation of one part of a supposed collective reality, which I would also like to assert is really their subjective reality.

2.) What do I mean by art is not universal it is specific? Art deals with a specific story, that is, an interpretation, based on one person's specific life experience sometimes in regard to one moment of this specific life experience...sometimes in regards to several or the entire life lived to the moment that the work was made public. We like to think that art has some universal meaning -- that great art has one meaning that EVERYONE can understand...even though it might also have a multitude of other meanings that only one or a few people can understand...we yearn for art to have one universal message, thus making it, great art. This is bullshit. Sometimes everyone thinks that they think what everyone else thinks and therefore art is universal. But really, that's impossible. You can get there to a certain extent, PERHAPS, but not 100% and therefore it's impossible. Sometimes the audience agrees, or thinks they agree, with the artist. We think Shakespeare was saying a thing and we think everyone knows what he is saying, so his work has some universal significance. No. I'm not saying it's bad (which is kind of useless, considering if you think it's good then it's good just as if I think it's bad, then it's bad), I'm not saying it is not important, I'm just saying that not even Shakespeare is universal. Because we don't know what Shakespeare was trying to do - we don't even know if he is one person - and furthermore, what does it matter what he was trying to do? The structuralists and the post-structuralists and pretty much most theorists, have taught us that we create as we interpret - just like the artist did when he painted that girl he loved or wrote that play about the time in Vietnam. We interpret that play or that book and it gains meaning for us, and therefore, begins again anew. Because it begins for us. Because we didn't know it before, and now we do, and it has added to our life, and therefore changed our life. And we want not to be alone, so we say to our friend - did this book/move/symphony/etc. make you feel this way and do you think it means yes? And our friend says yes it did and yes it does yes, and then it's universal. But it's not. Because we are not our friend. Our friend, even if they agree with us, agrees with us for different reasons, or might choose to use different words. We are not the same as our friend. We are experiencing the same thing called the Mona Lisa, but the Mona Lisa is a different thing for each of us...and it was different for Da Vinci and also Dan Brown.

2.1) Art is also not universal because art ALWAYS gives us the OPPORTUNITY to reflect. Our lives - subjective or collective - do not ALWAYS give us this OPPORTUNITY. Nor do we always take it. Moreover, not all art makes it easy for us to reflect. This might mean the art is bad, or it might mean we do not like the art, or it might mean we see very little of ourselves in it. But I do think that --- wait. Here's what I think: if you like the art, you see yourself in it. If you do not like the art, you do not. I also think pretty much everyone likes everything a little. This is sympathy - liking things a little, even though you don't want to. Or wait is that empathy? What the fuck is sympathy? I have no idea.
Continuing on: if art gives us the opportunity to reflect on our lives it is not universal because we do not all have the same life. Ah! You (I don't mean you-Rich, I mean you-stranger...but it could be you-Rich too...but it doesn't have to be and I wanted to leave the option open for you, for both of you, for all of you) say we do, I say we don't, we disagree. This is a fundamental disagreement. The nice thing is, it doesn't need to come to blows. Because I might change my mind. Or you might. Or we both might. That is okay. Because we are meant to change. We are meant to add to our lives. Subtracting is much harder. I do not actually think it is possible. Obviously to forget is not to subtract because we remember. So perhaps people with neurological disorders that actually prevent them from remembering subtract. I think that might be true. The possibility of that happening to me frightens me.

OK. That's all that I can write on that for now. I'm not going to edit it, by the way. I want it to remain in its flawed state. I want to correct it later. Mess leaves room for change. I was writing about that in the Scheib post.

So what does this have to do with August Osage County?
I don't care to write too specifically about this play. Yes, it was extremely well constructed by the playwright and acted by the actors...and I imagine directed by the director (because if the director had messed it up, I'm not sure I would have understood it as I think the job of the director is to convey the words on the page to us in the audience). And it was well-designed. And I do not mean to sound like I am writing any of those people off - I am not! I'm just not interested in writing a review that points to those things. That is for someone else to do. But all those people helped me have this very moving experience, and for that I am entirely grateful. More so than I can say.

What I want to say about August Osage County is this: I loved it without question until the part where Karen's fiance molests Jean...and Jean leaves with her father and argues that it's not a big deal and it is implied that maybe she wanted Karen's fiance to try and have sex with her...and that's pretty much where I started to question the morality of the text. And then I realized that the play was not trying to make a universal moral statement. It was trying to tell me a specific story, and that story was allowing me to question the idea of consent. You might see the play and disagree - you might say Tracy Letts is sexist and reactionary. I would disagree because even if I do believe that Karen's fiance was manipulating Jean (and I do) and doesn't get punished for it, it doesn't matter - what matters is that sometimes young women are molested by older men and then in court someone says they were asking for it. And to put an analogous situation to this on stage and force me to think about it, to decide where I stand - this is what matters. And also because this play was not about balance. It was not about good things happening to good people or bad things happening to bad people - it was about things happening to people and also people happening to things. And life is a lot more like that.

Right and wrong are such dangerous lies. If enough people believe that right is right it is often beneficial to create a system that allows for the circumstance of being right to be repeated, but we should also allow for this system and that rightness to change. And we do not. And that is a major problem. Because people do change. And so too does the environment in which those outdated systems remain active and therefore detrimental to the benefit of society.

A work of art brings us to action, to change, it does not allow us to stay complacent, no matter how right we are, no matter how comfortable. That is what I have come to believe about art right now. That is what I need to believe.

With love,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Hey, we haven't talked about the Pope at all. All sorts of amazing things about this Pope. I'm a bit frustrated by his enthusiasm for the President, because I do have such strongly favorable feelings about this Pope. Ratzinger, after all, is empathetic and absolutely void of irony. He knows better.

Can we talk more about things that lack irony?

Dear Risa and readers, what else is not ironic?
The Pope Mobile IS ironic, of course.
Every edible thing is ironic.

More to come...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Risa speaks! May 3rd.

Hey readers,

I'm speaking at Brooklyn College's first ever graduate English conference on May 3. For a full schedule and stuff, click here.

There are some really interesting presentations, and a great keynote address.
I hope some of you will come support us. I'm really invested in raising the profile of Brooklyn's program, and making it a more intellectual, more focused environment for learning.


Monday, April 14, 2008

james carville and mary matlin turn me on.

they do.

i'm a big "meet the press" fan. i just really enjoy watching it; i don't always think it's good, i don't always agree with the rhetoric, and i don't always see my viewpoint being represented, but i do always enjoy watching it...and arguing with it and agreeing with it. ESPECIALLY if james carville and mary matlin are on.

this sunday's episode had some particularly smart talking about why and how hillary's campaign was managed as atrociously as it was. give it a whirl:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

blog-flavored-blog blog post

I had one of those New York days today, the good kind.
Oh, I can already hear you - "how is it a 'New York' day, you can have that day anywhere!? Shut up."

Well, I suppose if I had performed the same actions in another city it would be a great Atlanata/Seattle/London/Dubai day. But it happened here, and actually I think there was an intrinsically New York characteristic to it all...even if that is only because of some myth about what New York is...which is another topic, for another time.

The days started with a spot of sleeping in, followed by lunch with Shoni at Good Enough to Eat.
See there's Shoni to the left after I stole her soul with by BlackBerryCamera. This is not a fair photo of her, but I'm trying to make the blog more visually stimulating.
Good Enough to Eat is delicious. I had the turkey hash and coffee. I really enjoyed it. Any New Yorkers reading this? You prolly been to GETE, but if you haven't, you should check it out.
I got there at 12, and the deal when there aren't any available tables is that you wait outside. There's a little sign on a podium that says "please wait on-line to be served" [sic]. Shoni was late, and I had to give up a table, which pissed me off, but THEN, disregarding any grammarian discourse, here's what the crunchy folks with no fashion sense in back of me said:
GirlHippie: Only in NYC would you see a sign like that.
GuyHippie: Oh I know, because everyone is online all the time on their BlackBerries.
GirlHippie: No, it's because in NYC you always have to be on top of everything.
They then proceeded to step on my heels as they read the menu over my shoulder...honestly folks, if you don't like it here, leave. And don't immediately contradict yourselves after you make lame generalizations about an entire city based on a restaurants rules about how to get seated. To be sure, I'm aware I'm making a generalization about what New York as a great city because I had some nice eggs and walked around with my friend and talked about theater and made sarcastic jokes, but c'est la blog.

Here's a photo I took with MY BlackBerry, loudly proclaiming "It's for my blog!":

Then Shoni and I had the delicious lunch. Shoni runs The Shalimar and works in programming at PS122. The Shalimar is linked on the blog roll as "this theater company Risa really likes." Mark your calendars for their benefit on May 17th! Please come support them, please. They work their asses off to make very entertaining, topical, devised theater. As I told Shoni today, one of my greatest pleasures working at chashama has been getting to know The Shalimar.

After lunch, Shoni and I strolled downtown through the park and over to Rock Center. Lunch followed by walk on sunny day is enough to make it a great NYC day IMHO, but no, Shoni and I are pretty badass, so we went to a tasting at Morrel's for Camitz. Camitz might make you go: why fuck with perfectly good vodka? Trust me, s'worth it. This stuff is DELICIOUS. And a perfect addition to any bougey-licious day in NYC. Morrel's has a pretty nice selection of wines too...if you're taking the cousins from out of town to see the tree next December, go there to get yourself a little something-something.

Then I went to the gym, and took these photos up and down Lex @ the corner of 34th, you can sort of see the flowery trees and the Empire State Building:

The end. Now I do homework.

forms forms forms

Does anybody listen to the radio aside from NPR? Often I get the sense that I'm the only one in my world.

Today I'm going to the CHIRP record fair to cover it for journalistic purposes. In my first interview with the somebody on the CHIRP staff, I was pretty open about being a fan of the station, and I noted the technical unprofessionalism of my open opinions. But really, I'm not sure about my ethical boundaries as an aspiring journalist. I'm certainly not sure if I want to be a journalist.

I am sure that I want to connect with my interviews, and I'm not going to try to be their therapist. So I opine.

In case you were wondering, that is a radio.

I hate NPR these days too, have I told you that? Who knew that could happen?

Oh and this month's New Voices is a radio issue, and the interview with Amy Goodman is nice.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Jay Scheib's "Untitled Mars (this title may change)"

It behooves you to see this.
You can read on to read why I think it behooves you.

I've been interested in Jay Scheib since Amanda mentioned him to me regarding the '05 Prelude Festival. I don't remember what she said mind you, but I remember that was when I heard his name for the first time, from someone whose opinion I tend to care about.

Last night I saw "Untitled Mars (this title may change)" at PS122.
I really loved it, and here are some reasons why (I'm not too crazy about my language here, but it will have to do for now. Leave a comment and the dialogue can continue, and my prose will get better.):

1.) The worlds he creates on stage are those of thoughtful choas. Let me state for the record that I think the ultimate goal of theater is to create a dialogue between creator and created, between artist and audience, between artist and audience, etc. I think the reality of the "stories" that Scheib and his performers* are telling us is entirely subjective. It is not our collective reality, and it is not my individual subjective reality. It belongs to them. I can never understand it as they do - however it forces me to create my own meaning, my own understanding, and in this way, it becomes mine. Or a version of it becomes mine - MY version. And this is allowed to happen because of the way the work is created: with confidence, and with no attempt to hide the fact its imperfections, but rather with every attempt to embrace them and say to you, audience member, "this is not perfect. this is not real. this is a fiction. it is happening before your eyes. do you believe it? do you believe it now?"

2.) I feel that Scheib is having a conversation about the resources, and lack thereof, available to contemporary, progressive theater artists**. A friend of mine did not like the show because it was too messy. How can a show not be messy? I like a good clean mess. I like papers everywhere, but food in the garbage and dishes in the dishwasher. I like that I can find you that copy of The Invisibles even though it seems an impossible task amidst those piles of records and pens and that shirt over there and my sunglasses and the cat. Environments like this make us work, make us think, encourage constant adaptation and change. They are no necessarily comfortable, but they are, more often than not, the environments we find ourselves inhabiting. I think that "Mars" is about our human desire to behave selfishly, out of fear, in uncomfortable situations that leads to our stagnation and ultimate demise. But it is not a parable, it is actually also a story about a fictional colony on Mars. You can enjoy it totally on this surface narrative level, or you can allow it to remind you of your own subjective reality.

3.) I like the way he makes his actors do it. I like the stylized "bad" acting of Scheib's performers because I think it's an exploration of the question: what is acting in the 21st the age of information technology, where we are all always avatars, where we are all always acting....what then is acting on stage? On film? I also like the way he makes his actors "do it" on stage. It's sloppy, it's sexy, it's good on stage fucking. I like it because it turned me on; I like it because it makes the issue of gratuity irrelevant and forces you to ask - do you want this or not?

Here's a photo from a scene I particularly enjoyed:

* apropos to Scheib, and becoming more popular with a lot of the theater I enjoy, the "techies" are becoming more and more performative in their activities. I like this trend.

** I am not wild about the term "experimental theater" (all theater is an experiment, and if its not, it might not be theater, what is theater again? i'm not sure) and hesitate to use it, but sometimes I do out of laziness. Morgan likes to use "indie theater" a la indie film, which I appreciate, but haven't started using myself (yet?) for a variety of reasons.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tekserve is super

My hard drive crashed on Tuesday morning.
It's just about 2 AM Thursday.
I too my machine to Tekserve on Wednesday AM and it was fixed by that afternoon.

I called Apple on Tuesday AM and they treated me like I was subhuman. Mac tech support employees probably operate in inhumane conditions, this is true.

Anyway, I wrote Tekserve a thank you later when I got to work after taking my machine in on Wednesday, and received a letter back thanking me for thanking them.
And then my machine was fixed FOUR HOURS LATER.
And then I got a FULL REFUND for the machine I rented while mine was being fixed.

The Tekserve employees, especially Sandor from Wednesday morning, are totally friendly, honest, attentive and knowledgeable. They will make you feel better; they will make your Mac feel better. It's pretty effing great.

First moral of the story: always to go Tekserve
Second moral of the story: write your fucking thank you notes.

FYI - I was told my hard drive crashed due to substandard factory conditions where my hard drive was made.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The internet beat me.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mommie dearest...

This is a great blog that Marissa introduced me to.
Rich, you probably hated it last week, but whatever.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Brooklyn owes the charmer under me

A small Risa.
Riding in the back seat of my father's Mercedes. Silver. E-Class. Black leather seats. He and mom and in front.
Or maybe I'm older and it's Bill's BMW or his Grand Cherokee or he's driving mom's Volvo or even I'm in high school and it's her Lexus.

But let's say I'm 5 and they're still married and it's the silver Merc'.
And it's 1988.

And we're driving home from my grandparents' house on E.5th Street and Ave. F in Flatbush (Midwood, eh? Another debate for another time, dear reader.)

My grandmother made dinner and we ate in the basement of their 3-story home. In the basement. It's an Italian thing. Sure, there's a dining room, sure! But that's for...I don't know, I can barely remember doing more than going in there with my mother and my grandmother to look at some Norman Rockwell something-or-other (no, really, Rockwell, not just a well-played allusion to times gone by, my grandmother collected Rockwellia). And there were cocktails (Manhattans) and wine and I sat on my grandfather's knee and we read the funnies...and if the weather was at all palatable I played outside. They watched 60 Minutes. I got bored. Read a book, fell asleep on the couch. It was time go....

We drove home through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and up the West Side Highway and over the GWB. These days, I'd scoff. Tell you to take the BQE to the FDR. Who wants to deal with the lights on the West Side Highway? But my mother hated/hates the BQE. I don't mind it.

And we're gliding across the bridge, and I turn around, waking up, and look behind me at Manhattan. So many lights! At 10PM on a Sunday night and still so many lights on! People are awake, doing things, not fettering away the last hours of the weekend in the back of the car. Fettering them away maybe, but in an exciting way. Dinner parties, a movie, walking the dog, sex, drugs, long talks, reading, whatever, I didn't know. Still don't know. I'm blogging. Weird noises emanating from a neighbor's apartment remind me that in a city so populated, I still don't know how we all spend our Sunday nights.

But what I did know: that's where I wanted to live. In New York City. Where it didn't get dark, which meant there were no monsters in the closet, which meant I didn't have to be afraid, which meant I could be whoever I wanted to be.
An important realization on the way home from my grandparents.

A fact that never changed; they got divorced, cars became other cars, became my car. My grandparents moved to New Jersey, my dad moved to Vermont, my grandfather passed away. I moved to New York City. The house in Brooklyn has been torn down. My mother affirms that she's not ready to go back, that maybe she never will be. I keep thinking I'll ride the Q out there one day, or walk from Brooklyn College. But I haven't yet. Some things belong in memory. Some things are meant to be actualized because of the things in our memories.

Today, I passed the better part of the evenings with Sarah and Donald in Bay Ridge. It nice. We watched Simon Schama's The Power of Art, and ate Middle Eastern food. We had cocktails. We turned the volume up and talked loudly over Schama. It was lovely. It was the same. It was not the same at all.

I took some photos on the subway ride home:

The whole of time we gain or lose
And power enough to choose Brooklyn owes the charmer under me

that shooting pain in my left arm --

carpal tunnel or a heart attack?

to attempt at serious commentary for a moment: if you work at home, you need to make an extra effort to leave your home and exercise and not eat takeout chinese for every meal.

hmmm...crappy attempt at serious commentary.

but you get the idea.

perhaps not even worth posting. and yet i believe we must join the dialogue in order to make sure it doesn't dissolve into ridiculousness.
sort of.

"It's Important Because You Say It Is"

Some 40 minutes ago I was having a disagreement with a young(er) friend of mine who is writing a paper about the biological determinants in gender...or sex...he wasn't clear...and neither am I any more.
But this paper of his is premised on the idea that "the norm" is a heterosexual male and a heterosexual woman.
And after quite the debate, I realized that my main argument with his position is that if you call a heterosexual relationship the norm, then you reinforce the traditional power structure that seeks to take power from homosexuals...and other living (female, non-white, etc) living things.
I attempted to explain this to my youthful compatriot, but he responded, much as I might have some years ago, "But I am deviant. I'm a homosexual. I'm not normal."
And he was proud of this.
And that's very good.
To be proud. This is the thing: to be proud is to be important.
This is good.
But my counter is this: why do you need to be proud of deviance? Why not absolve deviance and normality? Why buy into it at all?
I mean, it makes for a sexy pair of jeans, that's true.
But I guess what I'm saying is, that my paper would be about WHY we view heterosexual relationships as the norm...not presupposing that they are.
"That's not academic, that's activism," my friend told me.
"I see no real difference between the two. I'm wasting my time if I can't politicize my arguments."
But what if my politics are positioning me far within the academy...with no ability to communicate outside?
Recently I've considered identifying as a Republican to help alleviate this anxiety.
But really, that's a whole different thing.
Things and other things and sometimes nothing at all and also occasionally everything.
Gertrude Stein and Gloria Steinem.
It's the process not the product.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Good Joke

Rich -
Thought you might find this amusing.
For at least 2 seconds.
"The Class - Without the Classes"

Your apartment.

It's really too bad that I haven't seen it yet.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Between this week's NYMag article about Horace Mann and this terrifying story, I'm beginning to wonder about a paradigm shift in (a) the idea of respect and who gets it and who gives it and (b) a breakdown in the myth of a cohesive American value system which has very far reaching implications not just for social policies but education, the economy, foreign policy and diplomacy (or lack thereof), etc.

Maybe our myths have caught up with us.

Maybe it's the games...Columbine...bad parenting...bad education policy...bad internet...bad government...a culture of fear and selfishness...

I have no idea.

But we need to fucking figure this out. Because despite the differences between the issues at Center Elementary in Waycross, GA and Horace Mann in NYC, these are not freak occurrences, and I think they are somewhat related.
And it scares me - as a citizen, a student and a future professor.

Hillary? Barack? John? Are you listening? Or are you on the 3AM?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cool video of a chashama project:

The artist who created this video is named Jake Scharbach.
Click through the rest of his website,, as well.

DYTWOF & Me...a happy tale

Dykes to Watch out For - Episode 525!

Couple-a things:
1.) Courier is too hard to read. I'm switching to Georgia.

2.) I have always loved comics. I can remember (sappy thing!) sitting on my grandfather's lap (no fucking kidding...prolly one of the most traditional domestic memories I have) while he read me "the funnies." And it just sort of evolves from there. In the last year I've gotten really into Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch out For. I'm going to post a link here every time there's a new epsiode...or a new post on the blog that I am interested by...but I totally recommend exploring on your own. I have a lot of problems with most domestically themed, "realistic", atlernacomix, but I like DTWOF a lot because (a) I find it very witty and (b) it deals with a group of lesbians and their lives in a way that I can really relate to. I find that Bechdel's characters don't fall into the butch-femme binary that I am so ardently opposed to. I think she does a good job of expanding the defination of what and who a lesbian is. I also think she leaves room for queerness in lesbian culture, most notably with the character of Sparrow, but in a lot of less obvious ways as well.
: Re: my usage of "queerness" in the preceding sentence: Being queer, to me, means that I identify with a lot of the elements of a homosexual and lesbians lifestyle, but that I am still open to having sex with members of a different gender from my own (I identify as female), but that I don't feel comfortable calling myself bisexual. More on this later, but I felt a need to clarify.

Thanks, Alison. Your work really means a lot to me.
I like how our narrative styles defer.

I realize that I don't always talk directly to you.

I am right now though.

We're reading Light in August in American Modernism.

Here's a quotation I read earlier in the day...actually, it seems that it technically I read this yesterday now...but anyway, here you go:
Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Knows remembers believes a corridor in a big long garbled cold echoing building of dark red brick sootbleakened by more chimneys than its own, set in a grassless cinderstrewnpacked compound surrounded by smoking factory purlieus and enclosed by a ten foot steel-and-wore fence like a penitentiary or a zoo, wher ein random erratic surges, with sparrowlike childtrebling, orphans in identical uniform blue denim in and out of remember but in knowing constant as the bleak walls, the bleak windows where in rain soot from the yearly adjacenting chimneys streaked liked black tears.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Google decided that eliminating gender, race, and waking life was not enough. It has now moved beyond time.

Risa - Google believes in less things than us. We have to stop believing in something big right now to maintain our ontological advantage.


What a dumbass. I'm embarrassed but you said I can't delete. But now I'm more interested in this even better idea from Google!