"our" gals in turin
snarky self-reflexive racism?

Just goes to show you all, in case of doubt, that I'm as usual and characteristically out of touch with the interests of the/my people. While I busy myself with David Shipler's excellent (if a tad bit outdated) Arab and Jew, the vigilant Jew-trackers of the internet says that all the top women on the ice are indeed Members of the Tribe. Middle East politics: out. Jewish figure skaters: in! And you thought we were 'ice princesses' in only a metaphorical sense.

In other consumption news: here is my recommendation for a very cold evening when the wild winds have raged at you all the way up walnut from 4th to 49th, especially on the bridge, where speeding Town Cars nearly clip you and the new Peugeot racing bike whips around wobbly whenever you try to slow down or turn: get Leslie to bake brownies, and then eat three giant fudgy slabs and drink a foaming mug of soy milk.

This is a preliminary investigation of my current theory that it is better to take moderation in moderation. Arising from a conversation with Angela and her nine-year-old friend Lark Ann, I realized that I don't eat ice cream for breakfast (ick) or waffles for dinner (mm) nearly often enough. There is thus an experiment in the works: a greater segregation of the functional and the indulgent. I'm going to practice asceticism and practicality, until it's time to break out. Then I'll eat panfuls of brownies.

From the Department of Why, Lord, Why: nuts for trucks. Please: why??


bears mentioning

I'm in DC with my Da (and Dada: major retrospective at National Gallery) and wonder of wonders, he found two more bikes in the alley behind the house. No, he did not "find" them with boltcutters. Lucky Rebecca gets the beat-up white lightweight 4-speed Peugeot with the supercurved handlebars. It's a good little ride, and a very welcome addition to my current wheelless life, and a good turn done me by a recently unkind universe (see: stolen BB, no job, unhappy heart). Thanks, universe, and thanks Da for being attuned to the free-stuff wavelength, and thanks everyone who's tolerating and funding my penury. Really, mates, I don't know who's reading at this point but I offer you brimful gratitude. It's good to be cared for.

Saw an amazing concert on Saturday and I ought to write about that. Maybe Ross did. Then I got a beautiful phone call on Monday, though unfortunately was on the Chinatown bus and couldn't properly enjoy it due to the very space-invasive seatmate listening in on my every word. Brunched with Davey J yesterday, lunched with Sarah C today, coffee-ing with Sarah H tomorrow, dinnered with extended-fam-gaggle tonight and realized through all of this that really, life's down. There's not a lot of jolly left in me. What is there is a kind of tacky veneer of chipper fortitude: I'll be fine! All this is wearing thin.

I keep wondering whether I'm hitting bottom on this one, but I think there's probably a lot more down to go (in theory; in practice I seriously hope not) as evinced by such (fake) tales as A Million Tiny Pieces and all the J.T. Leroy rot. Hey, I've got a new bike! A proper job can only be so far behind.


neither profanity nor tears enough

My beloved bike was stolen from 9th and Tasker tonight, while I enjoyed the company of Pig Iron and friends postpreviewshow. Stolen. Gone. I am in shock. I loved that bike, from the little things like its color to the big things like its 21 speeds and tender brakes and elegant frame. I named it. BB was ragtag style and wind in my hair while flying downhill on Chestnut from 49th to 46th past the crummy car dealerships and the barred-windowed schools. It was tall and swooshy and fun to ride and a g.d. nice vehicle. Blessed casual freedom

I guess someone else thought so too.

The real smash-my-head-against-the-wall aspect of this is that I had left my proper Kryptonite lock at home, on my effing desk, because the bracket that holds it to the bike was loose and I hadn't got round to reaffixing. Thus BB was locked with a measly little cable, the cylinder/lock section of which the thieves were kind enough to leave on the ground, as if to say, nyah nyah. They even left James' bike, which was locked together with mine as he'd forgotten his lock entirely. (Ironically, his old-looking vintage bike is nearly as valuable as my shiny newish one.)

At the strong urging of James and Geoff, who tried hard to cheer me up and distract, I took a cab home. It wasn't particularly expensive as cab-rides go, but that stings, you know? This couldn't have come at a worse time, when I'm very close to broke and needing transport to zip around interviews and current jobs. I'm going to have to borrow one from somewhere and bloody well scrimp until I can get the $100 or so for a used beater. I cry for you, BB.



I hate you, amazon.com, for making me believe--for one shining moment!--that there was a new Neal Stephenson book coming out on February 28!! You're making me use exclamation points in a thoroughly untoward and brazenly bad-rhetoric fashion! At last, I thought, there's something due any day, I will know right away, soon as it shows...

Instead, argh!, it's the paperback release of (half of) the book I've already read. Nothing to gleefully anticipate except more weeks of tragic penury and fruitless job-searching. A future of eternal winter gloom, E.L. Doctorow and Ursula le Guin, oatmeal, the stupid Cheney shooting accident "news" (though it is funny how rabidly the press corps now hates the Bushies--they are going to effing town on this one), belated valentines, cold hearts, stretch marks, and Newsweek. Makes a gal want some bourbon.

Neal, can we be a little more insanely prolific please? Give us something to read, something to hope for!

On another note: I saw Brokeback Mountain tonight. Like everyone, loved it. It actually fits squarely into the Lecoqian melodrama genre/structure--unspooling out over time, spare, binding the noose around its own neck plotwise, unavoidably and reflexively tragic. Decent plotting demands enormous respect.

Spent the last couple days wrapping flowers for VD (ha ha) delivery. Ended up with some good dough and some chocolate. Angela and I melted the latter and dipped the entire contents of her fridge in it--apples, pickles, french fries. The former I need, desperately. However, the weather was stunning today, which makes up for a lot in the penury department.

Hot damn, folks, today I'm 23 1/2. I am not at this point able to comprehend 24. The number after that is the age that Dave was when I was with him. It means something. 24 means mid-twenties, and getting-together of life, doesn't it? O dear.


looks like Fall River! isn't going to hit the touring circuits any time soon
censorship, or something like it, on our side of the pond

Check this out: NYT reports that a small town superintendent in Missouri banned the high school from producing The Crucible this spring because he got several complaints about the booze-and-sex-glorifyin' fall production: Grease. Which the drama teacher had already sanitized (cigarettes not weed, slang not cussin') and presented with a PG-13 rating. The concerned citizens--one of whom, it must be said, hadn't seen the show--were upset over all kinds of things, from Rydell kids smoking to Rizzo's outre costumes.

Yeah, it's nowhere near on par with the Prophet (pbuh) firestorm, but the student actors interviewed analyze their communities at least twice as articulately as anything I've heard about the Danish-Muslim fiasco. Maybe they could rewrite Miller's allegorical masterpiece into a Christian-friendly rock opera, in which Tituba belts the gospels, John Proctor is called "Smith" because his name sounds too much like something having to do with your anus, and plucky Promise be-Ringed Abigail exposes real witches, who are dramatically (and tidily) melted with buckets of water. Hangings are so ...inappropriate.

Fulton's students are glumly critical of the ideology and absurdism behind the superintendent's move. They rightly ask: what play can be produced under this kind of regime? The answer:
Seussical, America's most popular high school show. Gag, retch. I say stop the productions of Grease, too--it's a trite, meritless, nauseating show.

The best part? In place of Arthur Miller's dour cautionary lesson against irrational communal fear, Fulton's students will perform a charming pageant of good, clean, Christian living:
A Midsummer Night's Dream.


the Danish cartoon affair

I'm not quite ready for a proper essay on the subject, but an American mod-orth lawyer, Donnie, whom I met in Jerusalem (and debated for over an hour about premarital sex*) emailed an opinion-seeking query. Let's see what we thinks:

The whole thing is atrociously foolish on both sides. Adam writes (see Ester's comments, Feb 5th, for some excellent analysis and some more by me) that it's just plain inflammatory to frivolously print such things. It's not as if the cartoons are particularly funny or trenchant or meaningful--they're not worth destroying property over. Add to that a population without hundreds of years' worth of exposure to/inoculation against the grating slights of a free press, and make that population predisposed against The West, and take away their economic stability, and throw a bunch of extremist demagogues into the mess, and this is what you get.

Now there's very little that I would, say, burn books or trash buildings or kill for; I'm not strongly attached to symbols as sacrosanct and therefore demanding defense. I'm more interested in fixing real problems of actual life. This goes for the Anne Frank/Hitler cartoons that have been proposed. If anything the concept is so trite that it shows the whole situation to be a mere exercise in poking sticks in each others' metaphorical (and emotional) eyes.

So really the issue is the rage and violence. Were they needlessly provoked? Yes, and the stupid newspapers should say sorry and stop printing the stuff. Freedom of the press is one thing, but once you know you're really hurting peoples' feelings (not to mention their flags and embassies) you have to make good. That doesn't however in any way justify the response, and I can't fully understand it except to condescendingly say that the young men of the Arab world are itching for fights. Whether that's cultural or political or personal or religious (I think not the last) isn't clear to me.

The actions taken by some governments (reducing diplomatic contact etc.) are appropriate, and the heads of Muslim states are justified in expressing their people's anger, but the destruction and mayhem routine is a tired and pathetic exercise in alienating the educated, both among their own societies and abroad.

...Donnie wrote in his email, also,
I'm in touch with some Danish teens that came to one of my classes in Jerusalem a few weeks ago and they say that they can't leave the house with any overt Jewish symbols about them.
I don't quite understand the relationship of the [Danish] Jews to this problem. Do they fear anti-Semitic violence against them, and from whom? Has anyone heard about specifically anti-Israel or anti-Jewish actions taken by the rioters?

Over on Ester's comments I mentioned that I think the cartoons aren't very interesting or thought-provoking. Does it matter that they were commissioned to prove a point about free press? They don't seem to be saying much else than 'nyah, nyah.'

*whether or not we were going to have some, that is


peep this

Uploaded a few holy land snaps, thus far all trip-kids. More scenic and artsy fumblings to come as I get time to sort and edit the 350 photos I have.


back in california, or is it florida?

George has some trouble remembering where it is that I am from. "All those places have an 'f' in them." Yes of course, but FL and CA probably aren't as bloody cold as Hazel Avenue. A series of lovely reunions flowed forth from the flight's finish: Mumsy, Tova, Dad-by-phone, Jane, Jack, Lee&Leona, Ben&Ester (Balynker-Gloom, not the mod-orth Packer couple), Rossy, housemates, Dave. And my bike: O darlin, how I missed you.

Nasty cold is vying for attention, and I dose it with liquids and giant vitamin C tablets. Apparently others from the trip are still illin' so I am lucky to have at least held it off until now.

Another pleasant reunion this morning was with the beloved NPR. New for me is a clear understanding of where the Beeb(eeCee) Israel correspondents are speaking from, and why Israelis think that the international media is skewed against them. I don't agree: my experience of the government's "heavy hand against terror" is pretty damn harsh. Still, the Israeli realpolitikspeak and the Hamas hardline sound vastly more real, more like comprehensibly arguable positions, than they ever have for me.

At the end of the Birthright trip, two weeks ago today, I thanked people for getting me (a little) out of the thinky headspace I usually live in. Blast and tarnation! Back there again!

Check out
another trip-participant's funny and smart travelogue (permanently under "David" at right).