Saturday, February 23, 2008

Presidental thoughts

So, last weekend for President's day, i went to D.C. to visit my friend Dana, go to museums, and spend some time where the president lives. Dana is a rock star lawyer, and when I say rock star, I mean the kind that I think is a rock star-- in the civil rights division of the DOJ. You have a problem with being sent to the back of the bus? She's your woman. It was great seeing her, except I felt terrible because she was sick and there I was wanting to go to museums. She is a trooper, that one. We went to the Senate office building and to a really interesting modern dance version of Romeo and Juliet and brunch (which really is my favorite meal these days, because it means that I am not in a rush to do anything and can linger with a friend, and also because omeletes are delicious) and the Air and Space museum and the movies... Luckily my friend Ben also lives in D.C., so once i had used up all of Dana's healthy energy (I'm sorry!), i could call him up to entertain me, which he did incredibly well by fire dancing. No joke, he knows poi, which means that he knows how to dance around twirling balls of fire ridiculously close to his body. It was completely fascinating. And not only does he fire dance, but he also knows EVERYTHING there is to know about dinosaurs, which is incredibly convenitent when you are at the museum of Natural History in the dinosaur exhibit. Especially because his eyes lit up and he had the excitement of a 7 year old telling me about all the different dinosaurs. I couldn't help but be super excited as well. I love it when people keep that child-like enthusiasm about things. It makes me smile a lot.

I also really like Lincoln.

The trip was a great little break, and I really like D.C., but I have to say, it was really nice to come home to New York. I think every day I fall a little bit more in love with life here. I hope no one was expecting me to move for a while.

On the bus ride back, I was doing some light reading but mostly spent the trip gazing out the window, absorbed in staring at the scenery, half-listening to podcasts, and mostly having thoughts fly through my mind. Riding in a vehicle for an extended period of time at dusk is the perfect time to give in to those deep life questions and daydreams about the future. Mine involved refugees, radio, and a lot of time living in poverty (hey, i dream big). How could I put all of these together? The thoughts that I had were of the mind-racing, heart pounding type that keep you awake for hours. These ones have taken up extended stay residency in my head, and everything I read and hear seem to somehow work their way into this. I went to a few lectures this week (fun ones, not school ones) that especially made me think even more about this. One was at the law school, a panel discussion on genocide and the media. the other was Samantha Powers and Azar Nafisi talking together about the perils of idealism and the need for it to change the world. Wow, this was what I am nerdy about-- i sat through these with a big silly smile on my face (well, not really, that would've looked strange since the topic of conversation was gross human rights violations and that would look weird to smile about that. you know what I mean).

Samantha Powers (by the way, she is not only an incredibly intelligent woman and amazing writer, she is also Obama's foreign policy adviser, which is awesome) left a few thought with me on preserving people's dignity. "To keep dignity is not to liberate people, but to allow them to liberate themselves, to give them a voice... There is a movement to get out of Iraq, but no movement to help the Iraqi people. Why is this?... People in the U.S. give up their own dignity when they do not fight for others. Our liberty is related to the liberty of the world... We need to be the models for the world, and stop being self-righteous about Iraq, stop blaming each other and instead do something." It was an incredibly thought provoking talk, and those little thought explosions have been going off ever since with ideas. I have one in particular related to giving voice to people, but I'll fill you more in on that once I figure it out a bit better. I am in love with the feeling that comes with having an idea that takes on its own life in my head that runs away with my entire brain.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

babies in bellies (but not in mine)

congrats to Liina, Charla, Dani, Paula and Jamie. I'm sure there are other babies out there that I just don't know about at the moment. You babies, listen up, you are going to have amazing mommies. No Britney Spears for you!

I've been considering stealing a cute one for myself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

PostSecret - A Valentine Video

My secret is that I like making secret valentine's so people who find them will never know it is me, but rather a coincidence.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

weird how this american life is in my head.

The latest episode of This American Life consists of Ira Glass going to the Onion, which happens to be the location where the Ira Glass boy does some work. The episode also consisted of an interview with two Mormon missionaries in New York City, and I just happened to be a Mormon missionary at one point, and now live in New York. It also consisted of a story of a teenager who read tarot cards for booze (which I didn't do, but could've maybe if I had been born in the 1960s. maybe) and a story by Malcolm Gladwell, whose book "Blink" I have been thinking about reading. Coincidence? I think not. Uncanny how the radio knows my life.

Speaking of which, i'm going to put in a few plugs for my favorite podcasts. For the politically inclined moments on the subway, i tune into the Slate political Gabfest. I really like their half-hour commentary on the current political landscape, and the hosts don't take themselves too seriously.

Another top fav is RadioWest. This is a radio show on the NPR station in Salt Lake City, and i love this program not just for the really engaging interviews and soothing voice of host Doug Fabrizio, but also because it keeps me in touch with the going-ons in Utah-- what went down with the school voucher program, reaction to Sister Beck's General Conference talk about women in the church, and local artists speaking out, along with pertinent national happenings.

A few years ago I got addicted to PRI's Studio 360 and would count a Sunday afternoon that I ended up in the car listening to the radio truly lucky if I managed to catch it. After getting my ipod, that was one of the first shows that I downloaded. I have not regretted it. Just this week I listened to a truly magical program about Nicholas Tesla and mad scientists. This is what radio is about-- transporting you from your shopping at Banana Republic to a secret mountaintop laboratory in Colorado. Every time I listen I learn something about art, music, books, and everything creative. It is inspiring.

Last, but most certainly not least, is my latest collection and current obsession-- WNYC's Radiolab. Part science, part storytelling, all amazing. And that is an AMAZING to the level three. Listening to this show makes me forget about being cold and late to things. They had a show about sound that made me take my heart out and hand it over to them on a platter.

i. heart. podcasts. so. there.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Bright Lights of Broadway (or, Rat-tacular!)

There is nothing quite like sitting in the audience of a theater, in the plush seats at a dangerous angle with your knees brushing the seat back in front of you. Sitting there leafing through the Playbill, reading actor bios and restaurant reviews, excited about the show and wondering what exactly it is about. Waiting for the lights to go down. Watching the old couples who can afford to go to the theater frequently, escorting each other to the front rows where they will be able to see the teeth of the actors. Listening to the conversations of a fanatic teenage theater group that has already run through the entire score of the show you are about to see along with the who-will-sit-by-whom dramatics. You realize that you should've gone to the bathroom, but then it is too late and you forget about that need as the voice behind the curtain demands cell phones to be silenced; the theater lights go down, the orchestra starts up, and the curtain rises. Welcome to the theater.

As you know, New York has a little street called "Broadway". No, it isn't famous for it's humble beginnings as a Native American trail made into a main road by the Dutch. Rather, there is on particularly well lit, spectacular part of the road (about a mile) known as the theater district, which is the home of 39 theaters with 500 or more seats (thanks wikipedia). A slight tourist attraction, you may have heard of it. Maybe. In any case, I've spent some time there recently, finally catching a few performances. It's been pretty great and quite an education. I saw "The Homecoming" (it was weird), "Hairspray" (awesome teenage musical), "Applause" (typical 'nah' musical), and most recently (as in tonight-- thanks for the tickets, America Reads!) "The Farnsworth Invention" (which was about the invention of television and a really amazing performance-- I would recommend it to all of you). But I'm not going to write about any of them. Oh no. because there is something better than watching a play. And that is being on stage yourself.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had my New York theater debut last Saturday night. Thank you, thank you for the kind applause and throwing of flowers (i said flowers, not tomatoes!). Really, it was just a bit part, but who knows, it could develope into something more, I'm keeping my options open. My darling friend Elly was the one who found this opportunity for us-- the Brooklyn Philharmonic needed some volunteers to play rats during their performance of the Pied Piper. Of course I agreed tho this whole heartedly, as did our friend Rachel. Who knew that Wagner had such theatrical talent? In any case, last week we crept about on stage, wearing lovely rat hats with ears and glowing red eyes, and threatened to eat the Pied Piper, but she hypnotized us with her music. So my scene was all of 3 minutes, and true, I didn't have any lines, and yes, I was one of 30 rats on stage. BUT, that does not mean that this isn't the start of an illustrious career in the theater that will end with me drunk and alone in a dressing room in thirty years. I channeled the character of rat. And it was rat-tacular. Elly and Rachel were simply marvalous, and it was a lovely, lovely experience. Thanks to all those who came and watched us in our theater debut!

And now, some pictures of the RATS.

Elly and Rachel in the dressing room, pre-show. Luckily, no one threw up because of nerves.

Three incredibly scary rats. We will eat you alive, starting with your toes.

Female Rats

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sorting from the perfect distance

I have been thinking.

Yes, I know, that is something that is generally recommended. I do try to do it on occasion, and on this occasion, the theme of the thoughts for the past few days has been choices I have made. And how those choices aren’t what I always necessarily want at the moment. And how incredibly confusing that can be.

A friend asked me what was it that I wanted in ten years time, because now was too close to look at. I thought about it for a moment and then I told him that I want a family and I want to do good. Those are simple desires, and looking at things from a distance, it is easier to see and to categorize each action into two boxes—the ones that will lead to these desires (because here I also see the outcomes) and the ones to be discarded because they lead away. I’ve made a decision about what I want, and I’ve made a decision the way that I want to get there.

And you end up where you wanted to go.

It is so simple.

And then I pull in closer, closer, until the scene is incredibly close, looking into eyes with long dark lashes and feeling the warmth of skin. All I can see are the details and all I can feel are the individual moments. Isn’t this life? Isn’t it really just full of these moments put together that build something unexpected? It is a touch and a sense and a silly grin that crosses your lips. And again, it is simple. There are the good feelings and the bad ones, the pleasing things and the unpleasant ones. I can look at the details and again bring out cardboard boxes and place things into them accordingly.

And you end up living the beautiful, pleasing moments.

It is so simple.

It seems so simple.

BUT. I pull back from the details, but not far enough to see the whole scene. I can see out the door and down the stairs, I can see that the sky is cloudy and threatening to rain, so I ought to remember an umbrella. I see that when I step outside the cardboard boxes get wet and mushy, and the bottom falls out, mixing the pleasant and unpleasant and I can’t tell which is which anymore. I look for the boxes down the road and realize that I left the binoculars at home and with the weather I can’t see them.

You are in the middle and it is not so simple.

I stand there in the rain with a soggy mess of pleasant and unpleasant moments and carry them with me until I reach some boxes. There I try to sort them accordingly, matching them to action that lead to the destination I wanted to reach. But in this dream sequence, some of the unpleasant things end up in the good box and the pleasant ones end up in… but I can’t discard them, because now, in the rain, on the corner, I can’t even see the destination of ten years down the road. And my sorting abilities are crap. It’s like when you sort socks after laundry and you roll them into neat little pairs, but when you unroll a pair to put them on you realize that they actually weren’t quite a match, but rather have a different pattern or thickness. How are you to tell that the things you would’ve chosen to discard with the long perspective are really the things worth discarding? How are you to tell that the unpleasant things from the extreme close-up aren’t really the ones that you want?

It is a combination of faith and fear that keeps me at this distance. Fear that if I move further away, I’ll lose sight of simple things that will make me happy. Faith that I won’t lose out on beautiful things because of distance. Fear that if I move closer I won’t want my destination anymore. Faith that with a wider view I’ll know where I am going. It is a constant exercise of moving in closer and pulling further away, living in the moment and looking ten years down the road.

All of this thinking makes me tired. Does it really matter? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I think I am a terrible sorter.

Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video

i heart this.