Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Goodwill Hunting.

My idealism and optimism have taken a hit today.

First, in response to my enthusiasm to some of the ideas in William Easterly's book "White Man's Burden..." a friend of mine put things in perspective.

Instead of one economic solution versus another, he reminded me that what is beyond the rhetoric is "the poorest on other side of the ocean that threaten to become a cauldron, seething with hatred and not even the hallowed halls of academia will be immune from the bile that will flow freely from the other side..." And he would know.

This combined with Angelina Jolie's op-ed article in the Washington Post today have me reeling. Read her column here:

Did I really think things were getting better? Well, you'll remember from earlier in January that all I said was "cautious optimism." But now, I am barely holding onto that.

Angelina Jolie and my dear sweet friend are screaming "Things aren't getting better!" at the top of their lungs. Their words are powerful and haunting. They are disturbing and paralyzing, and they come at a moment when the last thing we need to be is paralyzed.

I'm a smart woman, but no amount of intellect can solve these problems. These are the kind that call for action, not words. Action of the courageous, action of the persuasive, action of heroes. So few people are willing to fight these kinds of fights. They're unattractive, full of controversy, full of naysayers, full of danger, but there is NO alternative. Or at least the alternative is the seething pit of bile that comes after us all.

So what can we do? If we must start with our words, then that is where we must start. But, then it must move to our wallets. We can prepare for big things, while starting with little things. We can pledge to help in any way we can. We can attend a concert, write a check, reach out to those in need - those that are displaced, those that are in immediate need.

And we can support those people that work for organizations that are on the front lines. The Red Cross, Save, etc. And we can support those people that are trying to make things change, the ones trying to make people accountable.

For today, I challenge you to go through your day and count your comforts. Start with that. Wow, all the water I want, all the food I can eat, all the electricity I can use. I have my health, my safety, and some security. I have a bed, a toilet, food and water. I don't have to steal from anyone today. I don't have to walk 22 kilometers to get firewood so I can eat. And, God willing, I won't be raped today.

Now, all I need to do is figure out what the next step is. There must be one. We all must create one.

I can live with less so others have more.

For those of you that have seen Schindler's list, I just don't want to have that moment at the end of it all when I realize that I could have done more. That there is something little that I could have lived without - something little that could have saved a person's life.

I could go on and on about this. But for now, I'll leave it here. I'll leave it right here, knowing what a luxury it is to be able to put this aside for someone else to think about - until I decide to revisit it. I am lucky, I am lucky, I am truly lucky.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I love movies... my thoughts on Babel

In preparation for the Academy Awards, I saw Babel this weekend. I liked it quite a bit.

Like Crash I felt that some of the dark comedic parts were missed by the audience, but the plot was interesting and I loved a number of the performances. I thought that Adriana Barraza was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And I've long been in love with Gael Garcia Bernal, so while I wasn't totally enamoured with his role, it was great to see them interact.

Gael Garcia Bernal had one of the best lines in the movies. The two blond children are in the backseat on their way to Mexico with their caretaker, when the little boy pipes up, "... my Dad says Mexico is dangerous." Gael Garcia Bernal's character turn around and menacingly says, "Yes, it's full of Mexicans!" And the little boy shrinks into his seat in terror.

It was a brilliant play by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and maybe some will think it too-heavy-handed a commentary on the xenophobia and racism that exists between Americans and Mexicans, but I thought it was amazing.

In general, it was refreshing to have a mainstream movie remind us Americans how much turmoil we cause internationally. But it was also wonderful to have each of the characters so fully developed. There was little polarization. Characters were acting of their own free will, making mistakes, being human, and suffering the consequences.

Instead, the polarization comes from within us. Inarritu allows us to use our preexisting judgements to decide who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. He brilliantly places each character in their environment and allows that environment to dictate their actions - and their consequences.

I left disoriented, wondering if we have any control in our lives. Do we have any mobility? Or are we all trapped by our circumstances in exactly the place we will always be?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Love is a Mix Tape, Part 2

I finished the book yesterday, and I definitely enjoyed it. Rob Sheffield writes in a very journalistic, somewhat simplistic style, but it kept the book light and easy to read, even during the difficult parts.

Like most people that overcome big stuff at a young age, he gets it. He really gets life. The result is every couple of pages there is a quote, a story, or an image that I wanted to write down.

I think I need to read it again before I write about it. I'm going to need to flag those special quotes and cite them to do the story justice at all.

Now, back to the soundtrack of my life... Where did we leave off? 1994?

For Craige: I should have put a Morrissey song on the list to commemorate our many trips to Tracks with Julie. Forgive my omission.

But we're already past that, so let's continue:

Bus music in Baltimore, circa 1995: Digable Planets "9th Wonder," The Fugees, every song on "The Score," and the "Dead Presidents" soundtrack.

Dance Anthem for Senior Year: Gloria Gaynor "I Will Survive"

The Dark Years, circa 1997: Sarah McLaughlin "Adia" and I've blocked everything else out... but I know there was a lot of Ethiopian and Reggae music involved.

The beginning of the obsession, 1999: Mos Def "Umi Says" and I don't care if he has a million kids by a million women, he's still fine and someday he'll be mine.

1999 was also the year of Qtip, Maxwell, and dancing to "Mambo No. 5" like it was cool.

There was also a lot of dancing to Prince "1999" while I worried if I was going to spontaneously combust on New Years Eve.

The closer I get to now, the less interesting this is... so I'll leave it here for now, and I'll write more about the book later.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Quote of the day:

Make a difference about something other than yourselves.

Toni Morrison

Love is a Mix Tape

I'm almost done with "Love is a Mix Tape" by Rob Sheffield. I'll write a more formal book review tomorrow after I've finished it, but I wanted to play a little game in honor of the songs that change our lives.

Here's a few of the songs that would be on the soundtrack of my life and the associations that I have with them.

Playing in the basement: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass "Whipped Cream and other Delights"

Dancing in the basement, 1981: Tchaikovsky, "The Nutcracker"

Rollerskating songs, circa 1982: Rick Springfield, "Jessie's Girl" and Queen, "We Will Rock You"

How I knew I was destined to be a feminist: Pat Benatar, "Love is a Battlefield"

Most controversial sleep-over ever: Madonna "Like A Virgin" and Michael Jackson "Thriller"

I'm in love with Gordon Cox, circa 1987: Salt-n-Pepa "Push It"

French people are crazy, first trip abroad: Tone Loc "Wild Thing"

Italian people are crazier, second trip abroad: Eagles "Hotel California"

I'm an urban-hip hop girl stuck in a shy, nerdy body: L.L. Cool J "Mama Said Knock You Out"

I'm moving 700 miles away in my Senior year of High School: Kansas "Dust in the Wind"

I'm in love with Preston Young, Freshman in College: Tribe Called Quest "Bonita Applebaum"

I should be in love with Charles Sydnor: Wreckx in Effect "Rump Shaker"

First Relationship: Sade "No Ordinary Love"

Okay... I've gotten you to 1994... more later

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lent: the test of will.

I'm not terribly religious, but almost every year I use Lent as an excuse to impose discipline into my life. An excuse to do the things that I think I should be doing all the time, but don't because I'm too distracted by the world.

So this Lent I have a 3-part program:

1- Virtuous Diet. I'm giving up sugar, salt and dairy. Why? Because when I did this before my surgery, I felt great. And it's truly a test of wills. I caused quite the stir at Starbucks this morning when I didn't order my usual Chai tea.

2- Virtuous Work Ethic. The extra money I save from not drinking my Chai in the morning is going to be used to start my Sudanese Portrait Project. That way I can pay the people that sit for me. I also pledge to do some kind of creative work every week. That's five weeks of producing something... I'm hoping for big, but I would be satisfied with anything.

3- Altruism. I will volunteer at least once, but as often as I can. I really want to start giving more back to the community. I receive help from so many people, and I want to be sure that my energy goes back to people that need even more than I do.

So that's the plan. I won't kill myself if I have to take a few passes, but it's only 40 days. I can do it and I really think that it will benefit me. I'd love to be feeling good about myself, inside and out, by Easter Sunday.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Why I know better than to shave my head...

I do occasionally engage in what I call "Celebrity Porn," which is not the Paris Hilton/Pamela Anderson sex tape kind of thing, but instead the gossip mill, paparazzi thing. This could explain a few of my recent, extraordinarily disturbing dreams.

I have been known to pick up a People magazine, or maybe once-in-awhile go to their website. I look forward to the awards shows to see the beautiful people in beautiful gowns. This is perhaps my biggest guilty pleasure.

I really would rather read a good book, go dancing, or make something than watch bad TV or read gossip magazines, but sometimes, usually induced by boredom, I cannot help myself. I recently took an " The Oscar Dress Quiz" at , Yes, even the Washington Post has started adding more entertainment news to their website. I am both terribly ashamed and oddly proud to say that I got 9 out of 10 right on the quiz.

Now, even with all that being said, I do know better than to shave my head.

I cannot imagine the pressure of the world watching your every move. I am such an incredibly guarded person that I cringe even when I run into people in the grocery store (especially on my way home from the gym - I HATE that!).

But I still know better than to shave my head.

Moles, paleness, curly regrowth... it would be a disaster. And it would signal a real disaster if it ever happened: a breakdown, a health crisis, or an I'm-gonna-show-you impulse so strong that it would be nearly dangerous.

I really hope I never get to that moment in my life. And my heart seriously goes out to all the people in the world that are in that moment right now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Winter Wonderland - I think not!

It's amazing to me how quickly one adjusts to certain climates.

I spent most of my early years in Canada and Michigan, and my teen years in Missouri and Virginia. I was used to cold and snow. I was also used to my parents - who kept the house at a temperature that required the use of a sleeping bag while sitting on the sofa watching TV. Not some little throw, a serious sleeping bag.

I am thinking about these changes, because my roommate was out of town this past weekend. My rule when she's out of town is that I refuse to touch the thermostat, keeping it at her low range, 67 degrees.

This low range for her, was the high range for my parents, so I thought I would be just fine.

I wasn't, I was freezing.

Most of the weekend when I was home, I had my normal clothes on, with my thermal socks and my bathrobe over the top of it all... and sometimes I was STILL cold.

I allowed myself to turn the heat up to her normal level a few hours before she came home. I had a little argument with myself, but convinced myself that it would be nice for her to come home to a warm house.

And I slept very well last night.

I guess I would have a hard time if I had to return to Canada or some other extremely cold climate. I hate to think that I couldn't hack it, but I think I've become someone that requires layers, extra socks, and is starting to lose the idea that that cool feeling your skins takes on in the cold as a good thing. And I haven't been out to play in the snow since I left DC.

Age? Too long in the South? I'm not sure, but it makes me a little sad.

I think that one of the things I'm missing in my life is someone to be silly and playful with. Everyone is so serious and so busy. No one has time to play. I guess that's why some people have kids, so they can remember how to really have fun and let loose.

Once again, I start writing about one thing and I end up thinking about something very different. I guess that I don't really care that I can't handle the cold, what bothers me is that winter used to mean endless playtime outside: sledding, snow forts, snow angels, and ice skating. Now days it's more about trying not to fall, trying to stay warm, and getting to the next things as quickly as possible.

I guess I'm ready to tap into that childhood joy again. Maybe even just for a second.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Winging it...

I'm making a baby quilt. I can say this because so many of my friends are pregnant or have young babies, that they won't know which one it's for.

I've never made a quilt before, but I've always wanted to. I have always wanted to push the boundaries of normal quilts and do interesting art-quilts with landscapes and narratives. But for this first one, it's just geometric... and it's very small.

I've realized that I am a completely task-oriented person. I've been working on the quilt for over 8 hours non-stop. I'm almost done with the piecing, but won't go to bed until at least the front is done!

It's got me kind of excited, much like my first greeting card did. It's fun to play with the fabric and I'm looking forward to the next one!

Alright, my nose is going back to the grindstone - foot to the pedal, I'm going to finish the piecing tonight... this is my new mantra. I'm not sure I make sense and I feel vaguely nauseous, but off I go!

Friday, February 16, 2007

What's missing?

Alright, if you read these posts with any frequency, you know that I have much to be thankful for. I have been to many interesting events in the last few months: parties, the ballet, exhibition openings, plays, and clubs.

But one of my favorite groups is going to be playing in town and I can't think of anyone to go with. One of the best parts of living in Philly is that "hometown" groups play with great frequency. I've seen the Roots twice already, but I want to see them again!

With all probabilty, this show won't top the one on New Year's Eve that had guest appearances by Black Sheep and Jill Scott, and I probably won't get to be in the front row and MEET THEM AGAIN like the last time at Villanova, but I want to see them again!

So where is my Roots crew? You gotta be out there. Don't make me fly someone in to go with me... that just seems sad.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kids these days...

I'm coming up to one of my least favorite parts of my job: Video Interviewing.

Every year we torture the Junior Design students by making them do their first real interview on camera. Then we critique them, make them watch themselves, and sometimes force them to do it again.

If I were a more sadistic person, I would probably love doing this. Our students are often smug, disrespectful, completely self-absorbed, and sometimes downright mean. This process is a universally humbling experience, partially because low quality digital video is potentially the LEAST flattering medium on the planet.

But I REALLY don't enjoy it - not one bit. The young women come in nervous, wearing whatever clothes they can muster that somewhat closely approximates appropriate interview attire, and try their best not to vomit while we ask them a couple questions. I'm not sure it helps. In fact, I'm pretty sure it doesn't.

What I see are women that need an honest assessment of their communication skills in a low-stress environment. Many of them need a good job, a decent home, some good friends, and a couple years under their belt in the workforce before they will truly be comfortable in an interview. And all of them need major help with their writing. Ugh - the state of their writing is enough to keep me up at night, feeling I've failed each and every one of them!

So while we all struggle to figure out what to wear to work in the snow, how to appear confident when we're really dog-tired, or how to handle the difficult people in our daily lives, at least we aren't being video-taped!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ode to the Flower Delivery Man

Well he may not visit my house very often, but today is a tough day for the flower delivery man. 4 inches of snow, ice, and sleet on the busiest day of the year.

Poor guy.

It makes me wonder who else needs my appreciation at times when I take them for granted. Let's see...

The 7-11 worker on Christmas. I always seem to need a cool drink after a family gathering.

The overnight nurse at the hospital. Who else can you trust to bring you pain medication when everyone else is at home asleep.

The postal worker... pretty much all year. Hot days, hurricanes, snow, ice, it doesn't matter... still after all these years they bring us all our cherished mail.

The transit worker on the last train home, especially when it's filled with drunk Villanova students. Dude, I don't know how you do it.

You all have my love, my admiration and my respect. Thanks to all those people that make our lives wonderful, even in the snow, the cold, on holidays, and when we can't fend for ourselves. Thanks for caring.

Happy Valentine's Day to one and all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Musings about my grandma...

I only have one surviving grandparent - my indefatigable grandmother, Mabel Margaret Moldenhauer Evans. She has always been the true embodiment of the puritan, Midwestern work ethic.

She was born on a farm in Michigan to a German-born father and mother. She had 7 brothers and sisters, and married my grandfather when she was straight out of high school. My grandfather, a savvy orphan workhorse, taught her how to drive. Not only that, but he truly adored her. After he died in 1994, we found a love note in his office, written just a few months prior to his death.

She's the kind of woman who works all the time. Can make a pie crust without a recipe. And always had a beautiful garden. She worries about her weight - to this day.

Back a few years ago, I went to visit her in Florida and she took me aside to ask my opinion on her new hairstyle. She told me that she thought it was too short and she couldn't believe that she had stopped coloring it - something my grandfather liked her to do. He had already been dead almost 10 years, she was well over 80, and she was still worrying and hoping for his approval.

She doesn't hear well, so we can't talk on the phone. My voice is too soft and too high for her to hear well. So we write each other. She sends me lovely, stream-of-consciousness notes that talk about her life, her worries, and her concern for me. I cherish each one.

My aunt sent me a note today saying that even now... even with congestive heart failure, a dying friend, a bad hip, and serious dementia, that she went to her swim class an hour and a half early because she didn't have anything to do. That's my Grandma Evans.

I want to see her before she goes. I hope I get the chance. I hope I get to have a moment of clarity with a woman I've loved dearly my whole life. I was her kitchen-shadow. She always believed in me, always accepted me, always helped me, always included me, and always loved me.

I am enormously grateful to her for all of it. I hope her transition is peaceful. She deserves nothing less after working so hard for so long.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Early Morning in the City

I had the luxury of staying in the city last night. It was beautiful to have no commute into town. I've grown so accustomed to the suburbs that I had a hard time sleeping.

There was a time when I would never have noticed the sirens, the car noises, or the lights, but last night I took it all in. Usually insomnia drives me nearly mad, but I didn't mind it at all. I felt like a visitor in my own city.

I woke up at my usual time, which left me almost two hours to do whatever I wanted. I decided to go ahead and enjoy the city.

Early morning in the city is so peaceful. A few delivery people, a few homeless people, and me. I walked up to my favorite coffee shop, the one with the most handsome server, and got my usual cup of tea "for here." I decided I could take a few minutes and just enjoy my book.

When the hustle and bustle of the regular crowd began, I decided that I shouldn't so blatently enjoy a Monday morning, but I took my time in moving. I watched people as they rushed to work. Smiled to those that met my gaze. Waved to my favorite doorman.

I know that the next mornings will be back to normal: snoozing until I'm running late; gunning it to the train station; following the stream of commuters.

But today was different, and I loved it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Countdown to love, Part I

I've picked Love in the time of Cholera back up this weekend. Cholera seems so much more like Solitude than the Whore book of a few weeks ago...

It starts off with the story of an old man and his wife. The man is a respected doctor in the town. Marquez describes in aching detail their life together, a bitter argument that lasted months, and how she cared for him, even dressed him in their old age.

I don't feel like I'm ruining anything to relate the next part, since it's so early in the book. The man has this parrot - that he adores. He's taught it languages and how to mimic music. The parrot is so proficient, that people come from all over to see the amazing performances that it's able to mimic. To me, the parrot seems not unlike a mistress of some sort - feisty, consuming, and problematic.

One day, after it has escaped to the upper branches of a tree, not only does the fire department get involved, but the old man climbs after it - ultimately falling off the ladder.

Clinging to life by mere moments, he waits for his wife to arrive, and in his final breath, he says "Only God knows how much I loved you."

The power and sweetness of this final declaration has me so shaken I don't really want to read anymore. I'm done. It's a brilliant phrase.

And the truth is, in any relationship we have to trust so much. We have to have faith that it will work out and that the other person is as committed as we are. But we never really know.

Only God knows.

Why did I not have fun?

I had all the right ingredients tonight: a club I love, several co-mingled groups that I am fairly well acquainted with, good music, interesting crowd.

So why didn't I have fun?

I'd like to blame my ongoing sinus infection, but I don't think that's it. I had been looking forward to it for weeks, but nervous all at the same time. I didn't have any of "my people" there. Meaning that everyone that was there was good friends with someone else, but no one was super close to me. That can be great, or it can be disastrous.

Well, it wasn't disastrous, it just wasn't what I was hoping for. I need to connect with more people that love to dance. That was part of the issue, people were more interested in hooking up than dancing, and I'm not into the hooking up part.

Don't get me wrong, I like talking and dancing with people, but my head is with someone else and I have a hard time focusing on "the moment" without thinking... hmm, I'd really rather be with him... wonder what he's doing?

But another big part of me thinks I should just wipe the slate clean... that nothing substantial will ever happen, so why keep my hopes up?

And then there's the dreaded VD... just a few short days away. Ugh. I don't even want to think about it. Wish I could fast forward.

Actually, I wish I could fast forward everything right now. There's got to be a moment in my future that is filled with love, in a different place, with freedom and security and commitment. I want to go to that place.

But then again, I have to actively create that place for it to be sustainable. So if I want to receive love, then I first have to give it. If I want security, then I must change my mindset. If I want freedom, then I have to create it for myself.

It would be so much easier if someone could just come rescue me. Swoop me up and take me dancing. Pay my bills while I save the world. And let me go when I need space to find my center again.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


I have two standard responses to stress: Avoid or Control, this actually manifests inself in two practical ways: Eating or Dieting.

I feel like I've been doing too much of the first, so I think I'll try the second for a nice change of pace. In honor of that decision, I created a "Diet and Exercise" spreadsheet on my Gmail account and I have started to track everything to try and notice trends.

Here's what I've noticed so far:
1) I've been carb-loading like a maniac. Why? I've heard that some people that suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder) crave carbs. I don't feel like I'm depressed, but maybe that's it. Or maybe my cold-comfort foods are all carb-heavy: mmm, rice, pasta, etc...
2) I'm doing well with my workouts, but I haven't been doing the "extra" stuff I normally do: taking walks, dance classes, extra yoga classes - partially because I'm trying to be more frugal and partially because it's so cold out. Time to start these activities again!
3) I don't eat nearly the same in the winter as I do in the summer. I've been having more junk-food than usual and not nearly the same amount of fruits and vegetables as I usually do.

I'm trying really hard not to over-react, but just notice and adjust. Because usually the step after Control is Super Control... and that's not a good place.

If anyone wants to join me for an "extra" activity: a walk, a dance class, a yoga class, or something else that doesn't involve food - just let me know!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Real Interpreter of Maladies

After using the title of the book in an earlier post, I decided I should actually sit down and read Interpreter of Maladies.

For the most part, it's a lovely book. I like the way that Jhumpa Lahiri mixes the stories of recent Indian immigrants with descriptions of life in India.

She's obsessed with food and crumbs getting stuck in the corner of people's mouths. Seriously, it's an image that is used multiple times and in multiple stories. Just like Gabriel Garcia Marquez is obsessed with men's urine streams. I swear... I've never once in my life thought "Wow, that man's urine stream is strong as a colt," and yet Mr. Marquez has used the image in multiple books. (I'm reading Love in the Time of Cholera right now. Expect more on that later.)

I liked Ms. Lahiri's novel The Namesake better, although it stalls towards the end too.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Missionary or Mercenary?

I'm at a crossroads. Truly I am.

For most of my career, I have had a certain missionary approach to my life, with service-to-others being in the forefront of my mind. But recently, I've begun to feel like I'm a burden. A true burden to my friends and family because of my lack of means. I never get to pick up a check or buy a super-special gift, I'm always the one that needs the help and don't often feel like I'm much good to the people I care most about.

Now at work, that's quite a different story. I pour myself into the college, do as much as I possibly can for my clients, come early and stay late. And my salary is lower than your average barista. I've got no guilt about my work ethic as it compares to my compensation.

But my surgery this fall has had a profound effect on me. It has caused several things to happen:
1) Because the nerves in my lower abdomen have not regenerated yet, I cannot feel when my shirt hikes up and my stomach is exposed. So unless I catch a glimpse of myself in some reflective surface, I'm all "look at my rock hard abs" except their not quite rock hard. Short of always checking myself out in store windows or always wearing super-high waisted outfits, I'm not sure what to do about that.
2) Okay, more seriously I really feel like I need to create more security for myself: own something that approximates a dwelling, have a "nest-egg," have some sense of security.
3) I feel that I have asked so very much from everyone around me, that on nearly a daily basis I feel crippled by guilt... because on some level I feel like I've used them all up. That no one will be there if there is ever a next time.

So am I ready to take the plunge? Move my thinking from Missionary to Mercenary? I don't know. I feel vaguely ill thinking about money: making it, perpetuating the capitalist machine... for gosh sakes... what American worries about these things?

Well I do. I want to be an environmentalist-vegetarian-do-gooder-artist. Regardless of what most people think, I'm somewhat realistic. So I'm going to think about this. Is there a life that will keep me on the missionary-side but will allow for some security? Am I committed enough to helping the planet to take a mercenary job as a means to an end WITHOUT being corrupted by the extra money?

I'm open to all things. I'm ready for the discussion. I know that something needs to be different, but I just want to make sure that I don't do something dumb.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth


What a movie. See it, then call me. I wouldn't want to ruin even a second of it by describing it to you.

As one of the reviewers said, "If you take your children, they will never recover, this will haunt them."

Um, I will probably never recover and it is haunting me.

Ballet Review: Giselle

Faced with a cold and only the energy to go to one event: the ballet Giselle or a Superbowl party, which would you choose?

Well, I am my mother's daughter, a true Francophile, and a ballet fanatic, so I chose Giselle. I still feel butterflies when the lights dim and a hush falls as the curtain opens and the first dancer takes the stage.

For those of you that don't know the plot - Giselle is about a beautiful young woman, closely guarded by her mother, who happens to have two suitors. One is a young man of means, and one, to use the vernacular, is a boy from the 'hood. The two men have several flamboyant fights over her, and eventually the man of means becomes engaged to someone else - a noble woman.

Poor Giselle is so grief stricken that she collapses - dead from a broken-heart. The second act is full of lovely ghosts, and a number of lovely solos by Giselle with a final challenge between the two suitors.

I loved it. Quite nearly every minute of it. I was struck by how fluid and free the Pennsylvania Ballet is. The lines were not nearly as crisp as the Balanchine-trained New York City Ballet, but there was a certain freedom of movement that seemed to retain more joy than structure. I was startled by this fluidity at first, mistaking it for a lack of training, but after adjusting to it, I found it refreshing.

The Sunday matinee crew was out in full-effect as well! Besides my wonderful hostess, we were surrounded by a tortured young boy of about 6 or 7 years, whose mother was so pleased with the Nutcracker's effects on her two young children that she bought season tickets. This poor young man was NOT one of Giselle's suitors and tired of her nearly immediately. (Oh, he sounds more like a suitor of mine!)

Directly to our right was "Joe" and his elderly wife. The woman was clearly suffering from Alzheimer's or some level of dementia, and every time one of the male dancer's took the stage, she said "Who's that!" - very loudly. Joe was very patient, except during intermission when he nearly caused a half-dozen of us to have heart-attacks by screaming at her "I WILL HOLD THE COATS - GIVE THEM TO ME!"

The young boy, Joe, and his wife were all solemn reminders that we mortals are not so lucky to die from broken hearts. Life continues. It tests our fortitude, it tests our patience, and very rarely do we feel so much joy that we are compelled to dance.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Sudanese Portrait Project

I thought I'd use this format as a way to begin to get some of my thoughts down.

For several years I've wanted to do a large-scale portrait project about genocide. I always thought it would be about my great-grandparents, whose lives and deaths haunt me to a great extent. But after reading a great deal about the horrors in Africa, and particularly after reading "What is the What," I decided that it was more important to talk about current genocide - and a real Diaspora in progress.

My entire existence is owed to my grandfather's participation in the Jewish Diaspora of the mid-twentieth century, so I am keenly aware and have written here before of the impact that has on individuals and the course of their family history.

The other reason for using portraiture, is the connotations it has in the art world. Portraiture came about in the Renaissance, and even earlier in Egypt, as a way for the noble, the royal, and the wealthy to document their lives and their wealth. Using portraiture for a group of people that are currently struggling against a malignant obliteration of everything they know and everything they are does two things: first, it humanizes and personalizes the struggle and secondly, it raises the subject to a level that honors their achievements - even if their only recognized achievement to date is surviving.

I've run my idea past the priests at the church that sponsors the show that I participate in every year that benefits the Southern Sudanese population, and they think its a great idea. I've left a message for the Rev. Andrew Akuak, although his wife sounded extremely suspicious of me. I'm hoping that this is of interest to them. Certainly, if the Sudanese community thinks its a dumb idea, then I won't proceed.

But I do think this would be a good project to apply for a Leeway Foundation grant. I'm going to work on my proposal and hope that the community comes through.

If anyone wants to volunteer to help me practice my portraiture skills, please let me know. It's been some time since I've tackled anything more than a self-portrait!

Any feedback on how this sounds would be great too.