Monday, December 14, 2009

Stockings!



I've not been the type to decorate for the holidays in the past, but this year, something happened to me and I found myself wanting to make decorations up the wazoo. Fortunately, my local craft store was either out of or doesn't normally have foam wreath forms, so my vision of a sparkly wreath didn't come to fruition.

Instead I just made stockings.

I used Joel Dewberry's Manzanita fabric, which I got on sale for $2.49 or so a yard. Each stocking used a total of 1/2 yard, for the outside and the lining. I put fusible fleece in the middle, though you could use batting if you felt like quilting them. I didn't trust my drawing ability, so I downloaded a free stocking pattern I found on the Internet. The top parts are acrylic felt and they are attached to the staircase using ribbon loops and quick ties. All told, they cost less than $6 for the pair.

If you're looking for more holiday decorating ideas, check out my article on DIY Holiday decorations, over at Life123.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

English Muffin Challenge Part 2

A few months ago, I said I was going to try out three different English Muffin recipes and determine which one was the best (in my opinion). I started with the recipe from Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For. While those muffins were definitely edible, they fell a bit flat in the taste department and were physically a bit flat.

This week, I attempted the English Muffins from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything . He uses his standard sandwich bread dough to make English Muffins. I have to say two things. First, that I am a bit skeptical of Bittman's bread recipes, though I think he is awesome at most everything else in the kitchen. Second, I altered his recipe a bit. I used powdered milk in place of regular milk and active dry yeast instead of the instant. All this means is that I added the milk powder with the flour and salt and mixed the yeast with the water before adding to the flour mixture. Also, his method of cooking was a little different and I didn't follow it. He tells you to heat a griddle over the stove, sprinkle it with cornmeal and then place the hot griddle in a 350 degree oven. Instead, I sprinkled cornmeal directly on the muffins, put them in a cast iron skillet on the stove for a minute or so, flipped them over, cooked them a bit more, then placed them on a baking stone in the oven.

The results were pretty good. They're much more puffy than the Vegan Brunch ones and have a better flavor. However, I'm not certain that the extra puffiness works in their favor. Actually, I'd say that no, it does not. As you can see in the final photo, they are not as "nooky" as your typical English Muffin, and so, like the Vegan Brunch ones, lose points for that.

The next and final recipe in the English Muffin Challenge is the one in The Bread Bible. Let's see if that one proves to be the English Muffin recipe to end all English Muffin recipes.

Photos below of the cooking and serving process of the muffins:






Friday, December 4, 2009

Some New Articles

It seems a bit strange to follow yesterday's post about content writing with articles I've written but here goes:

1. I love pilates. I'd been taking a class in it for over a year when my instructor, citing lack of students and funds, closed up shop. I'm still looking for a replacement class and perhaps, missing the practice a lot, wrote an introductory article on the subject.

2. Make your own cleaners. Super easy and inexpensive.

3. And, finally, in follow up to my vegan cake post a few months ago, I wrote an article that actually contains the recipe.

That should be a decent amount of reading material. Click away.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Thoughts on Content Writing

Ok. I've been reading and thinking a lot lately and I'm on the fence about writing content. First off, the word "content" is so vapid and implies that there isn't much of value going on. Second, the rates paid are incredibly low. I mean, DS is the highest, and they max out at $15 per article.

Third, and most importantly, SEO crap kinda scares me. I read this article in Slate about Aol.'s (let's pause a minute to laugh at their rebranding effort) new business plan, in which they plan to produce "news" stories based on search keywords. Which, as this Wired article points out, is pretty similar to what DS does. Although, I think an important difference is that DS stuff (or at least the stuff I write for DS) isn't news. I'm not a journalist. Hell, I have the distinctive curse of being a "creative writer," meaning that, yes, I can craft a decent academic paper, but much of my education was about breaking the rules. Commas? Hell with them. If a sentence gets particularly lengthy, I just say I was being Faulkner or German, and shrug it off. I didn't know until recently that the verb to be should be avoided if possible. Huh. But anyway, back to the topic at hand, the Slate article brings up Associate Content, calling it the worst news site ever. And probably they're right. Is furiously googling reporting? No. Is furiously googling proper research? No. And that's really all one can expect from a writer being paid (at most) $15 per article or at least "residuals." I've learned to fear and avoid residuals. Really, do you click on ads in websites? No? Me either.

Quality suffers. Quality suffers when we writers are compelled, to validate being paid so little, to churn out articles at a rate of 2 an hour. Quality suffers when we rely on other blogs and reports to get our information and don't have the time or inclination to go out and dig for the facts. Quality suffers when we keep churning out the same stuff, keyword stuffed or SEO-ed so that it jumps to first on the Google queue and our publisher gets a bunch of ad revenue from all the clicks.

That said, will I stop writing content? No. For one, I need the income. For two, people will always go after and like crap. I may not be proud of my articles, but they may be valuable for someone. I'm not dispensing inaccurate or useless information. In fact, I think content writing needs more writers like me, writers who want to produce content that, while not earth shattering, will correct people's thoughts on certain things (for example, no you cannot season stainless steel cookware and Pyrex is not extremely dangerous). I also appreciate when I have the chance to write articles on theater for people. I'll avoid news articles, because, well that's not my area of expertise. I'm pretty sure, as is Slate, that Google will wise up to the SEO keyword crap and prevent worthless articles from jetting to the top of the search results page.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Nabokov

So, 32 years after his death, Vladimir Nabokov has a new novel coming out, The Original of Laura. When I first heard about the book, I was a bit conflicted. Here's the deal: Nabokov was working on The Original of Laura from 1975 until 1977, when he died. Before dying, he told his wife to destroy the manuscript, which consisted of 137 note cards. She didn't do this (and note: she is also the one who saved Lolita from the fire), and now, years later, his son has made the decision to the publish the work.

I'm feeling a bit conflicted and ambivalent about the new work. I do want to read it but then again, I really don't. And the don't is not because I'm the sort of snob who sniffs at any work published posthumously. Last year's publishing of the Kerouac/Burroughs effort And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks was pretty exciting and I thought a good read as well as a nice glimpse into the early styles of two writers who are pretty important to me.

And that is just it: Hippos was an early work, an early work that they tried to get published but initially failed. Original of Laura never got to be finished. I'm not one to argue for authorial intent, given my preference for the Death of the Author, but here we clearly, judging from the two reviews I've read, do not have a masterpiece, and so perhaps the book should have been trashed when VN passed away. It's not like there's anyone around to finish it, it's not like there's another Vladimir Nabokov waiting in the wings to take over. And it is certainly not as though this text is so powerful on its own that it had to get out into the world.

It's unfortunate that it was never finished, sure, just as it's unfortunate that many many Greek plays were lost or only exist in fragmentary form. The fact that it's being published now reeks to me of poor taste and dare I say, a money grab. The book retails for $35, is apparently only 9,000 words long, and features a gimmick: pop outable notecards in the back, that the reader can rearrange and read as she feels fit! Oh boy, so now not only am I getting an incomplete work, I'm getting an incomplete work that I can mess around with. Ooh.

I like the way Aleksandar Hemon, reviewing The Original of Laura at Slate, concludes his review:

It is safe to say that what is published as the novel titled The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun) is not a result Nabokov desired or would welcome. Not only does it go against his expressed wishes, it goes against his very aesthetic sensibility, against his entire life as an artist. Too sick to destroy the notecards that contain The Original of Laura, the master is now eternally exposed to a gloating, greedy world of academics, publishers, and all the other card-shuffling mediocrities titillated by the sight of a helpless genius. It is unlikely that dying was that much fun, but it is certain that reading The Original of Laura is crushingly sad.


What do we get out of publishing an unfinished work by a master writer? To go back to my reference to Greek fragments, examining those does help one to piece things together sometimes, for instance, I read the fragments of Sophcles' lost play about Troilus when writing a paper tracing the character's history. Does the publication Original of Laura give us (readers, scholars, etc) a special edge, a knowledge of the man and his work that we didn't have before? I suppose this is something time and history will reveal.

Another Attempt at Writing on the Internet

I signed up to write for (yet another) site called Life123.com. I believe it is run by the man who started About.com, so that makes me feel all right about it.

Like About, you are paid based on page views, though it seems considerably less, up $20 per article once your article reaches 1,050 page views. So you don't have to worry about people clicking on your ads, but then again, you do have to worry about people not finding and viewing your article (and no, folks, you can't just sit at your computer and refresh the page all day. That doesn't count. But thanks for your support).

My first article, a simple summary of Comedy of Errors, is up right here, so feel free to take a look.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Farmers Market Find: Pawpaw



Last year, one of the stands at the Farmers Market I frequent had a box of these green/blue/brown oval shaped fruits labeled Pawpaws. I was curious, but didn't act fast enough, the fruit was only at the stand for about two weeks before it vanished into the out of season mist.
This year, this week and last, there they were again, this time with a sign boasting that they are the only fruit native to North America.

The only fruit indigenous to this continent and yet, we never eat them. Well, that is for one very good reason: they have an impossibly short shelf life and quickly ferment after ripening.

The farmer I got the pawpaws from actually doesn't grow them himself. They grow wild, and the farmer foraged for them in a local state park.

The fruits have a thin skin that you can peel off with your fingers and are full of large, black seeds. The seeds have good insecticidal properties and apparently are used to prevent head lice among some Native Americans. The flesh of the fruit is soft and yellowish, like an banana but mushier.

I would encourage you to try a pawpaw if you can (you may have to wait another year, or depending on where you live, move), except for one thing: I found them to be moderately disgusting. I bought two, one for me and one for my partner, but I ended up nibbling on both by myself. After sampling the first one, I made such a horrid noise that my boyfriend simply said, "after that, I don't want to try it." Maybe mine were overripe and almost to the fermented stage.

Pawpaws are called "prairie bananas," because their texture and taste is similar to bananas. I was told that they tasted like a cross of banana and mango. Yes, I definitely got a cross of banana and mango, but it was more like chalky, artificial banana flavor mixed with very acidic mango. Blegh. Then again, my fruits may have been on the edge, though I did try two that looked as though they were in different stages of the ripening process.

(edit: I wrote this two weeks ago. So, pawpaws are definitely not available. If this didn't discourage you too much, look for them around October next year!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bike Lanes

Here in Philadelphia, they've painted new E/W bike lanes on Pine and Spruce Streets. I was pretty excited about it and took Spruce Street to over to Penn tonight. Now, Spruce and Pine aren't terribly great in terms of potholes and the like. It's a pretty bumpy ride with or without the lanes.

But still, pretty great to have a lane designated just for cycles. Until I got to 16th street, where for the next four blocks, there was a line of parked cars in the lane. Now, I would assume that the point of the lanes would be for cyclists's safety, to keep us out of the way of cars and so cars couldn't crowd us off the street. But, if for four blocks the lane is obstructed, then there's really no point.

Now, I know the cars are parked there because there is some special dispensation for people attending services at the church located on Spruce. I'm not really sure why that is. I mean, you don't get a special parking allowance when you attend a play or concert on Broad St, why give people special treatment because they are going to church? Plus, this is a city, there are many ways to get to church without driving, even if you live out of town. I think that if you want to attend that church or synagogue, you should have to take into account that you may have to park in a garage or find regular on-street parking.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

English Muffin Challenge (Part 1)


I have three different recipes for English Muffins, so I've issued myself this "challenge" (I use scare quotes because it probably isn't a real challenge): I'm going to make each one and determine which is the best of the three and then that one will be my "go to" recipe for English Muffins.

Hm, I didn't know you were such a fan of English Muffins, you might say. Well, I'm not really. The ones you get in the store are pretty nasty. I bought some a while back because they were on sale and really wish I hadn't once I read the ingredients. They were extra fiber ones, so that meant they had crap added to them, not whole grains, but stuff such as polydextrose and other kinda fakey things. And also, it had sucralose in it but wasn't boldly labeled as containing it. I know they have to boldly label stuff with nutrasweet because people might have conditions, but I think they should do the same for sucralose, because really, I'd rather not eat any artificial sweetener at all.

Enough of that. In sum: store bought English muffins kinda suck hard.

The first recipe I tried is from the new(ish) Vegan Brunch cookbook (which I will be reviewing shortly, just maybe not here). I have to say, that muffins were pretty tasty. I didn't have any margarine on hand, so I subbed canola oil, and they turned out all right. They seem a bit less nook-y than I would have hoped, so minus points for that. Also, minus points for being a bit flat in the taste department.

Next recipe up: Mark Bittman's from How to Cook Everything. But probably not for a while because I have to work through the vegan ones first.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Content Writing

I've started doing some "freelance" content writing for several websites. I'd recommend it to anyone who 1. isn't obsessed with making a gazillion dollars but would still like some extra money to, I dunno, buy a salad spinner or books, and 2. is a halfway decent writer who has some areas of expertise and general knowledge about a myriad other topics.

As you may have seen, I've written several articles for the site Suite101.com. I'll say off the bat that this site has not been a cash cow. It's a revenue sharing site, meaning that I get money based on google adsense clicks. So, I've only made. . .well, less than $3 so far, and it's been almost two months. But I'm supposed to think of it as well, in ten years, I'll still be earning money for these articles, instead of just a one time fee. I'm not sure about that yet, though, but I do enjoy the freedom of being able to write what I want and have an audience for it.

The other two sites pay either per word or per article. I started with textbroker, which will probably not make me rich because its pay per word is pretty low. But then again, there is a bit of joy found in being able to craft together 300-500 words on a topic you're not terribly familiar with and still make it sound credible and it's nice to make a few dollars when you'd otherwise just be sitting around watching tv or something. I've since found demandstudios, which pays much better but still not enough to make a capitalist's heart sing. It pays $15 for about 500 words, though they don't seem to care too much about word counts. I figure, my temp job pays $15 an hour and it typically takes me less than that to write an article for demand studios.

So, I'm not quite ready to leap full time in the wonderful world of freelance work. But I'm kinda happy with all this for now. I'd recommend textbroker and demand studios to anyone wanting to stick their toe into freelancing. Suite101, I'd maybe recommend more for folks who are knowledgeable about stuff that people go online to read. And to people who are more patient.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tofu Parmesan

Sorry to be all about food and my other writing attempts lately. I have some craft projects that I will eventually write about. . .
But for now, I have a new recipe up at Suite 101: Tofu Parmesan.

It was partly inspired by some frugal cooking show on PBS I was watching the other day, where they made eggplant parm, and partly inspired by the fact that I had a block of tofu sitting in the freezer.

It's really delicious, so please do check it out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vegan Quinoa Peanut Butter Cookies

One of the things I really like about writing for Suite 101, besides the fact that it allows me to write what I want to and earn some money (though not a lot as of right now), is that it is encouraging me to experiment with cooking and baking. A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for simple vegan waffles, which turned out to be pretty popular, the most popular of my articles so far. So, this past week, I posted a recipe for Vegan Quinoa PB cookies. I've been moderately obsessed with eating more quinoa (I have a recipe for quinoa chocolate chip cookies up on vegweb), but apparently only in cookie form.

Anyway, I'm usually the type of person to just follow recipes, and now I'm creating/inventing/toying with them, which I really like. Nothing has completely flopped yet, thank goodness. If you want to see the cookie recipe, you'll have to click over to Suite 101, since I can't legally repost it here just yet.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Annoyances

I don't know if I'm seeking out news articles that annoy or anger me or if there is simply just a lot more of them out there lately, but I have been in state of angered annoyance for the past week or so. I'm working my way through an article in NY Times right now called False 'Death Panel' Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots and I can almost feel my blood boiling at the stupidity of some people. Well, the stupidity and the arrogance.

It is one thing to disagree with a proposed policy. It is quite another to reinterpret the policy and convolute and twist that policy into something that is entirely different, into something that you know will scare the shit out of your followers and fans, into something that will ultimately be brushed away and while not forgotten, nothing will be done about for the next 15 or so years, while millions of people continue to do without, simply because some idiot was too scared to admit the truth. Really, comparisons to the Nazis? This is the stuff adults make up to scare the shit out of children, and I would know, back in the Clinton era, I was one of those children and adults told me things that terrified me. Seriously, I thought the world was going to end. I thought my teachers were going to force me to learn about condoms and carry them around and that I'd have to flee the country in order to be safe. I have, thankfully, since grown up and can now think and formulate opinions based on facts.

Okay, answer me this, if anyone actually reads this blog, and if anyone actually reads this blog who is against the proposed health plan, why the hell would a health insurance plan, designed to grant ALL people access to (affordable) health care include some crap about "death panels"? Why would a plan designed to help people get access to care actually want to kill those who need the care?

I have my qualms about the proposed plan, I will admit that. But as the president stated in a meeting in New Hampshire the other day, “Where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that has actually been proposed."

The issue won't be resolved until proponents and opponents actually stop and think about what is real and what is at hand and then proceed to discuss it civilly, without crazy falsifications and rumors and without hysterics. Please people, especially people in a position of power (or formerly in a position of power), stop making shit up.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Article Up on Suite 101

A synopsis of my favorite Shakespeare play, Troilus and Cressida, with a tiny bit of history/analysis. But not much.

Making Things


Whenever I make something, I always have a few minutes where I just stare at the thing made and feel this complete sense of joy and elation wash over me. It's probably a pretty common feeling, or else why would people still make things by hand in an age of mechanical production?

Case in point, I've been taking a Book Arts Class this summer at the Fleisher Art Memorial. It's been a lot of fun. We've made books every week of the class, in ever increasing degrees of complexity. This past week we made a case bound book, which is what you'd think of when you think of book binding (even though, as the instructor pointed out, the book is not actually bound to its cover. It's glued). Even though I've made books all summer, I carried this book home with a sense of amazement and disbelief that I'd actually been able to build it. After letting it be crushed with a two foot pile of books overnight, I clutched it in my hands and waved it up and down, grinning like I was five.

There's always a sense of shock on my part when things I make actually turn out. It makes me want to run up and down the street, waving the thing in air and screaming "I made this!" Luckily, I'm not actually five, and I don't actually do this (I may be happy about it, but it would make me look insane).

Does anyone else get this feeling when they make something? Where they just want to hold it, show it to everyone, be really excited about it for a few days?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gardening Update!


Look at those peppers! They're a little on the small side and most of them do have that weird tissue problem, but look! They're cute and orange!

And now look at my Brussels sprouts:

They aren't doing so well. Something is eating them and it may just be a squirrel. I had an unpleasant confrontation with one of those bushy tailed rats the other day and he was not happy that I appeared in the backyard. He also seemed a little miffed about the chicken wire I wrapped around the pepper plant. He did, however, get into the now completely dead pea plants and toss their corpses all about the yard. I scolded him, we had a stare down and then I went back inside and he left.

So, I hope there are more peppers on the way, but I'm not sure, since this pot is rather small and the plant may have maxed out in terms of allotted space. But still, four or five edible peppers for a beginner is quite exciting

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Forgotten Theater

Last night, I was flipping through my catch-all notebook. That is, the notebook I always (or almost always) carry with me and in which notes to stuff, short stories, directions, shopping lists, etc get scribbled in no particular order, sometimes starting from the front, sometimes the back, and now, from the middle.

It's hard to find stuff in this notebook, of course. There are notes for my thesis in both the front and back and notes for other papers written in school intermingled throughout the book. I am kind of amazed I was able to write orderly papers last year (ok, I will grant that some of those papers weren't so orderly. Some really really sucked. But my thesis was great!).

Then I found some notes from a play I must have written a review about. Except, I don't remember the show at all and the notes I wrote don't help: domestic drama; engaging dialogue; but too common, almost boring. Death of father releases characters to truly live." Hm, well okay then. No wonder I don't remember it (and after scanning every review I've written, I still don't know what show it was for).

Which makes me wonder why we even bother to see stuff if we'll just forget most of it a few months later. I occasionally beat myself up about missing shows, shows I'll not remember months or years later, shows that most likely will not make a dent in my life.

That's a bleak outlook, I realize. But does there have to be a lot of dreck in order for there to be gold? I.e. do we need to have forgettable theater in order to have memorable theater? Is memorable theater really that memorable? Surely you won't quite remember every detail of the show years from now, perhaps you'll remember the feeling you got watching it, perhaps you'll spend your life trying to replicate that feeling at other shows, making those dull, forgettable pieces all that much worse.

I remember many plays and performances I've seen. But in the end, even the ones I've walked away from the theater feeling breathless about and in awe of become faded memories that I'll never relive or recapture. What's the point, what's my point? I suppose the point is the experience, even if the experience is transitory. Life is transitory, I suppose life is a bit pointless, I suppose worrying about what the point is is a bit pointless.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Egg Replacers

Just wrote another article for Suite 101 on egg replacers in vegan baking:

Click to read it!

Also may be of interest for those with egg allergies!

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Writing Gig

I've started writing for Suite101.com. My first article is on Georg Buechner and his play Woyzeck.

Please check it out:
Buechner Article

More to come, I hope!

UPDATE! I just published another article. This one is an introduction to Tempeh and is great for the uninitiated.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Garbage


I have a basket on the handlebars of my bike. It's delightful; now instead of lugging groceries on my back, I toss them in the basket and can barely notice the extra weight.

There is however, one downside to having a basket on the front of your bike and that is that random people on the street seem to think it's their own personal garbage can. I've actually written about this before, back in my first year of grad school, when I first found some trash (a salad cup) in my basket.

What is it with people and trash? Why do many feel they have the right to dump their shit in my basket? I can't grasp it. I don't see what the big deal is. Why can't we deal with this like grown ups? The trash doesn't just vanish once it leaves your hands. The trash you stick in my basket, I have to deal with, the trash you drop of the ground everyone has to deal with.

At Brooklyn College, there weren't trash cans too nearby where I parked my bike but there were trash cans around somewhere. It was after all, a college campus in a major city. Here in Philadelphia, the city just spent a pretty penny installing solar powered trash cans and even recycling bins all throughout center city. There were two garbage cans and a recycling bin not twenty feet from where my bike was parked at the time the person dropped what appeared to be an empty glass bottle of juice in my basket.

I feel I expressed my ire and confusion well a few years ago when I first wrote about the bike dumping, so that's reposted below:

The Bicycle As Trash Can


Some one decided yesterday to use my bicycle basket as their own personal trash can. I vaguely remember thinking, during class, at some point, how it is odd that no one has done so yet, and then, be it by my ESP or Murphy's Law, someone did. On my way home, I saw that someone had tossed a small plastic cup into my basket. The cup looked like it held some small salad consisting mainly of iceberg lettuce before this person consumed it and, not seeing an actual trash can nearby, but apparently too conscientious to chuck it on the ground, placed it in my basket.
This plastic cup in my basket probably does not seem like such a big deal but I think it points to a larger issue. Someone had a problem: an empty, unwanted plastic cup, and no trash can. Instead of holding onto this cup until they found a garbage can, they eliminated the problem from their end by placing the cup in my basket. Thus, they passed their problem off to me, an unwilling participant. I am now stuck with either tossing the cup on the ground (and risking a fine and also being labeled a litterbug) or finding a trash can home for it. I chose the latter.
The Cup in Basket is an illustration of how we're taught to live, or how we've taught ourselves to live, or how we've bent the "system" to fit our sniveling, selfish lives. From an early age, we see that we can pass problems—with our teachers, with our friends—off to our parents, who sweep in for a parent/teacher conference or make a call to the offending friend's parents. Even as we age, and such parental involvement should cease, it does not (in some cases), and we have people like Tyra Banks devoting TV shows to "twixters," people old enough to care for themselves but still living off of their parents, still removing issues of life from themselves while not actually removing or solving the issues.
And I suppose similar things occur in the "real" world: lazy co-workers mess up tasks and leave them for their colleagues to fix, presidents start one war to distract the masses from another. And I suppose the question is how do we fix this pattern, how do we get people, ourselves, to stop leaving trash in other people's baskets?

Raspberries!

At the risk of becoming one of those people who blogs about their groceries, I just had to post a picture of the raspberries I got at the farmer's market today:



Look at how colorful! I was initially bummed that sweet cherries were gone (for the season? I don't know) but perked back up when I saw these.

Golly, I love farmer's markets.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Death of the King of Pop

As I write this, I'm playing Thriller. As I placed the needle down on the record, I paused and couldn't figure out why I was doing it now. As some sort of memorial to Michael Jackson, though it's not as though his music is going to go away. And yet the time is right. As I searched in the crates for it, I laughed a bit thinking what if that were true and on the instant of his death, all those 28 million copies of Thriller (and everything else as well) vanished.

The only way most of us knew MJ was through his music and then, unfortunately, through his increasingly eccentric behavior, culminating in the child molestation trials, which were all hazy and we still have no idea what was true and what wasn't. Jackson was admired and then met with the scorn that so often follows popularity. Do we remember the disgust with which his name was spoken during the trial? The way we laughed when he showed up to court in PJ's? The confusion and anger people felt towards him when he dangled a baby out a hotel window?

Unlike his music, with his death, most of that falls away. Of course the media mentions it, but only to paint a picture of a man who suffered. A man whose life was lived almost entirely in the spotlight. He was working like an adult at the age of ten, is it any surprise his body gave out at 50 like that of an 80 year old? It's tragic but we all took part in this tragedy by being media hungry fans, first by expecting anything at all from a ten year child who could sing and dance then later by snickering at his antics, by talking about him as if he was anything other than a human like us. Of course, he was responsible for his actions as well and perhaps his expectations for himself were too high, were too much for anyone to bear (outselling Thriller would be impossible). But it was our pop-loving fickle society that fed those expectations.

And now Michael Jackson the person is gone. Strange to think that such a distant figure should seemingly impact us all by ceasing to exist. And yet, here it is, he has not ceased to exist. The body is no longer breathing, the mind no longer thinking, but the Michael we know is the Michael imprinted onto vinyl or digitized into MP3's. It is here where we can say and really mean it, the king is dead. Long live the king.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pita Bread


I love figuring out how to make things at home from scratch. A lot of people think it's insane; why make something when you can buy it premade by someone else? Well, cost for one thing, and the sheer joy of attempting something and succeeding at it for another. Also, I really enjoy working with my hands and watching step by step as the thing is assembled. I could wax on about the joy of being self sufficient, but I'll save that for another post.

Tonight I made pitas. This was not my first attempt at making them, but it was the first time they turned out just right. I have in the past prepped the dough and let it sit in the fridge for anywhere from 3 days to a week. And the pitas wouldn't puff very well. This time, however, I only let the dough rest overnight. This resulted in the dough not drying out as much and so the pitas puffed much better. That's my theory at least.

I also attempted making one on the skillet instead of in the oven. It didn't puff nearly as well but got that kind of crunchy crust that you get when you fry bread. I think however, that I'll stick to using my baking stone in an incredibly hot oven. (As an aside, though I'm a bit perplexed by the fact that the weather isn't too summery yet, I am rather glad because I've been able to keep baking without making the house unbearable. Yeah, no AC).

I used the recipe from the Bread Bible, which is truly an awesome book for anyone interested in baking bread. It's basically the same recipe as for pizza dough except that you knead the bread longer and let it rest a bit more. When I say rest, I really mean rise. With pizza dough, I let it rise for an hour or so in the room and with pita dough, I stick it in the fridge and keep a bit of an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get too crazy and rise too much (you just push it down if it does so. It's just air.).

To actually make the pitas, you divide the dough up into about 8 or 9 pieces (this makes really big pitas). I just tear them, though probably you're supposed to use scissors, something about tearing the gluten strands versus cutting them. You flatten it into discs, cover it, let it rest (and by rest here I just mean rest), come back after 20 minutes or so and roll it out. The breads are supposed to be 1/4 inch thick, but I'm pretty sure mine never are. I think this affects their puffing later on, but I just can't seem to get the edges super thin. After you roll them out, let them rest (just rest) for ten more minutes, then one by one toss them (er, place them gently) on the baking stone, which should have been preheating in the oven for an hour. Close the door and wait three minutes, then open it, take out the puffed pita, toss then next one in. Wait three minutes and repeat until you're out of dough.

See, that was so easy. And they taste much much better than any pitas I've ever purchased, even when they don't puff so much. When they get stale (and they will, unless you go on some sort of crazy pita binge. . .which is incredibly easy to do), brush them with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt (I've been using this expensive Italian sea salt and herb mix that I got from my boss), put them on a baking sheet in a moderately less hot oven and bake for, I dunno, 15 minutes or so. You may want to flip them, sometimes I do, sometimes I completely forget that they are in there and then smell something and run to the oven yelling, oh shit! But they always turn out fine.

Cost breakdown, since we're in a recession and all and people are interested in that sort of thing:
Flour: 3 cups (or about a pound): 76 cents
Olive oil(trader joes brand): 1 oz: 18 cents
Salt: golly, I dunno, let's say 1 cent
Yeast (bought on sale for $1): 14 cents

Yeah, so that's 95 frickin' cents. A bit more if you make them into crisps later on. Which will still be incredibly cheaper than buying a bag of pita chips from the grocery store. And less packaging and all that too.

Here's the first one out of the oven:



Look at that delightful little puff!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gardening (or, Where's the Neem? I need It NOW)


Sometime in April, I started a container vegetable garden in my boyfriend's backyard. I've been wanting a garden for a while and we were at Lowe's and suddenly there were seeds and plants and container soil in our hands. We planted an orange bell pepper plant, Brussels sprouts, and peas (these were from seed). We watched eagerly as the pea plants sprouted and grew and then watched in dismay as they fell over and died. The pepper plant has so far been reluctant to actually produce peppers. It has one rather big one that hasn't started to turn orange but rather instead seems to have fallen victim to blossom end rot. Ergh! There are finally some little peppers starting to grow near the top and I am hoping that they will be all right. As for the Brussels. . . well, they were doing fine until something came and decided to start eating them! This morning, I plucked a little green inch worm off one of its leaves. And there appear to be little green specks all about the Brussels, which makes me nervous. Is there about to be an insane (or rather, even more insane) infestation of buggies in my garden?

This is my first garden since I was little and my dad did all the work. I grew an oregano plant in the window last year, which came back this year bigger and badder than before, and perhaps that went to my head. But I suppose my gardening skills are no match for the South Philly fauna. Squirrels regularly come by and pick the mulch out of the pepper pot. The garlic/chili pepper spray I concocted does not keep the bugs or the fungus (did I mention that there are mushrooms growing everywhere? I think their spores were in the potting soil we got. I don't recommend Sta-Green for that reason.)

My attitude has completely changed since I started this project. Before, I thought, hey, people have been doing this for thousands of years! I can too! And you know what, I can. There are set backs, just like in any thing you try, and I will overcome them. Gardening is hard work, I've learned that. It's a battle and once you let your defenses down, out come the little green worms and tiny flying bugs and those fricking squirrels.

I have some neem oil in the basement. Last year, my oregano was attacked by leafminers (even indoors) and, after a quick spray or seven of neem oil (diluted down), recovered. So, not that bugs can read, but considered yourselves warned, pests!

The photo at the top is the garden before pests and death got to it. The photos below are, well, pretty self explanatory.

I'm not actually pointing to the rot in this picture, just holding back the leaf so you can see it. Oh, and you can also see the leaves that something decided to eat.

Ah, peas (the dead plants in the back). I'd say you had a good run but you didn't.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stuff on Other Blogs That I've found Inspiring

I've been meaning to make a skirt for a while. They're so easy, as this tutorial from Grosgrain Fabulous proves: Grosgrain: 20 Minute Simple Skirt Tutorial AND GIVEAWAY!!!!

And I've been really excited to see the film Food, Inc, which opens in Philly Friday (perhaps excited is the wrong word ...). Our City Paper's food blog did an interview with the director.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Save PA Arts and Culture!

Click on the pretty box below to send a letter to Gov. Rendell!

Save PA Cultural Funding!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mifflin Square Park Clean Up Recap

The clean up at Mifflin Square this past Saturday was far more of a success than I thought it would be. I had a lot of trouble finding people to come out and help out, for one because I don't know anyone who lives in that area (I myself live about a five minute bike ride away, which in terms of community and parks, is pretty far). Also, I kind of dropped the ball with fliering and only managed to post announcements here, in Parking, on facebook, and on craigslist (I guess no one looks at the volunteer section of CL. . .).

As I pedaled down to the park Saturday morning, I was surprised to see a group of people in blue t-shirts out, sweeping and raking and carrying garbage bags. Maybe they saw the Craigslist post, or read Phillyist!, I thought, and also: they have this organization that just swoops in to volunteer at things like this.
Not quite. Turns out they were from Sysco, which is a giant food distribution company (if you've ever worked at a restaurant in Philly, you've gotten deliveries from them). And it was purely happenstance that they were cleaning up that day. By the time I got there at 10AM, they had picked up most of the litter. I was very glad about that, because Mifflin Square is a fairly large sized park and I was kind of dreading cleaning it (but then, I dread most new and unfamiliar things at first, then end up enjoying them). Our small group, made up of me, my partner, and people from the Dept of Recreation and PA Horticultural Society, set to work on the trees. The Horticultural Society had planted some magnolia trees near the center of the Square. Unfortunately, people have their dogs pee on them, and their kids pull on the small branches, which hurts the trees, so they needed to be pruned. Also, we needed to rake glass clippings away from the base of the tree, because that is the most delicate part of the tree and the wet grass traps in moisture and creates an unhealthy situation.

After the trees were taken care of, we were next going to till an area of dirt that was compacted down because the locals had built bleachers and a bar (ie an alcohol selling bar) over top. The bar was the straw that broke the camel's back for the Dept. of Recreation, since you know, it's illegal to sell booze without a license and to drink it openly outdoors. However, the tiller would not start. And all the people from the community were watching, a bit confused as to what these people were doing, and why their bar was taken down. An explanation was given to them, but it didn't seem to really sink in. There is a large Cambodian population in that neighborhood, so the Dept. of Recreation is making signs in Cambodian explaining that booze is not allowed in the park (empties were a huge litter issue).

Despite the lack of tiller, the clean up was great. I don't have photos right now, but hope to get a chance to take some soon (the swings aren't chained together anymore!). We got a great response from some people who were just hanging out in the park and are hoping to do another one soon, so as always, contact me if you want to help.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sewing Machine


One of the blogs I read, Sew, Mama, Sew!, is hosting Sewing Machine Month this month and has introduced this sewing machine meme, inviting readers and bloggers to review their machines.

What brand and model do you have?
A Kenmore 385.11608

How long have you had it?
Since I was 15 or 16, so about 10 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
My nana bought it for me, so I don't know exactly, but I'm pretty sure it was under $200.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Clothing, bags, pillows, I'm trying to start a line of practical organizer things (lunchboxes, purse inserts, etc) but that hasn't happened yet.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I probably do about 3 projects a month, at least recently. Before that the machine wouldn't see much action for long periods of time, then I would get a show and have to make several costumes over a couple of days.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I really like my machine. I like that I've had it for so long and (knock wood) have had no problems with it. I put it through some abuse and it serves me well.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
It's a very simple machine, it doesn't really have too many features. I like that its shortest stitches are really tight (except when I make a mistake, then I hate it!) I also like the positioning of the stitch and stitch length adjuster dials.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
I never know when the bobbin is out until I look at what I'm sewing and see a piece of thread instead of stitches. boo.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
My machine used to have two poles to put the spools of thread on. The first one was kind of loose, and would come completely off the machine. One day, I was changing the spool of thread when the pole came all the way off and disappeared. I heard a clanking noise somewhere, but haven't found it to this date. I think it somehow fell into the machine, but I'm not sure how that could happen.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
I would, just because I've had it so long and it still works like a charm. I'm not sure if they still make this model, though.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I have no idea. I don't know too much about the technical side of sewing machines. I would think ease of use would be a determining factor, though. Are the labels easy to read, the knobs/dials easy to adjust? Also, will the machine last and be able to put up with a lot of use/abuse?

Do you have a dream machine?
I'm pretty loyal to this one, and I'd feel like I was cheating on it if I wanted a new machine!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mifflin Square Park Clean Up!

I'm organizing a clean up of Mifflin Square Park, down in the Whitman section of South Philly, this coming Saturday, June 13 at 10AM. Leave a comment if you want to come out and help!
If you want more info on the park, here is the original post I wrote for Parking on Phillyist.

Hope to see you all there!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Weekend Projects

I promised crappy photos in the sidebar, and here they are.

I occasionally have big project weekends, where I attempt to complete several sewing projects over the course of two days. I was a bit lazy this weekend, and am still at work on one of them (a shirt, which I don't know if I'm going to like). But here are the ones I've completed:

That is a log pillow. I was inspired by this log pillow kit, available over a Home Ec. But I didn't really have $25 to spend on a pillow, much less one I had to make myself. What I did have, however, is half a yard of Joel Dewberry's Ginseng fabric in a celery colored faux bois pattern. . . and so there's my pillow. It may not look as "loggy" as the Home Ec one, but I like it. And it was all of $5.


This is a purse (hanging out with some mugs in this photo) that I've had on the back burner for a while. I was originally hoping to have it done in time to wear with my Easter dress, but then after making my dress, decided I needed a break from sewing for a bit. I got the pattern (for free) from Made By Rae (thanks!). It's really cute, but on the small side, so more for those nights when I don't want to carry around a lot than for every day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Haven't Seen This Show. . .

But I feel this is a lazy review of it. Perhaps lazy is the wrong word. I don't know what the right word is. Theatrically limited, perhaps, judging from this sentence: "Most of the dozens of works Stein classified as plays do not resemble standard theatrical texts at all, even when they are divided — willy-nilly it seems — into acts and scenes." So what is his point here? That Stein's plays don't look like plays? That they are dense? And rarely staged? Has he not been paying attention? Many of the best creators of plays write stuff that do not look like "standard theatrical texts." I would think that by this point in time, the idea of there being a "standard" play text would have been shot to bits. Has he never looked at a Wellman play? Or even a Churchill one with its slashes and asterisks all over the place?

His conclusion to the review is facile: People who like Stein will enjoy the chance to see her work onstage. However, the rest of us, the regular folk who prefer things linear and tidy, will feel "smothered" and "starved for meaning." Oi. I wonder if he chose to review this show, just to intentionally turn his nose up at it (ala those critics Barthes discusses in Mythologies in his essay "Blind and Dumb Criticism"--those critics who reject a philosophy/system of thinking because they don't understand it.) Or I wonder if he was assigned the show by the editor--in which case, clearly there are critics at the Times more suited (based on the other shows they've covered) to review such a show. In any case, it's evidence of laziness (yes, I've determined that is the word) on the reviewer's and the paper's side and is detrimental to encouraging further experimentation in theater.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Vertigo

The other day, I was up on my roof, tending to the compost bin. The roof is completely flat, so that I could simply misplace my foot and fall if I got to close to the edge.

Occasionally, the feeling of being too close to the edge, even when I've barely even stepped out onto the roof, washes over me. The other day, while realizing that the roof was flat, and that I was so close to the edge, I crept even closer until my legs turned to stone and I had to look away, back towards my house. The knowledge, the idea, that I could fall to my death and could do so willingly, if only . . .is so crippling, so disturbing.

It is at these moments that death becomes tangible, a heavy mass, there in the air, a heavy mass that quickly washes over me, twisting my stomach up, and telling me to go over to the edge, just a bit further. . .but I manage to hold myself back.

This is a common feeling--the strange urge to leap in front of an oncoming subway, to hurl oneself in front of a bus as it barrels by. Aside from those rare cases, we don't do it.

I have nothing particularly philosophical or analytical to say about this, at least nothing more interesting than has been said by others (there was a great article in Harper's a few months back written by a man in his mid-70's who has accepted that death is coming. Also, Sartre talks about vertigo in Being and Nothingness, which I, embarrassingly enough, haven't read). It's just unsettling. I guess all of existence is unsettling.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Criticism Vs. Reviewism

I reviewed two shows last weekend. Critics or reviewers (the second term fits better for the type of writing I do for this particular project--it's writing with the audience in mind more than a critique of the form) are typically given two tickets for the shows they review, as a courtesy, so that we don't have to be alone at the shows. Sometimes (most times) I can't find a friend to see the show with me, so I end up going alone. Which I realize is totally okay, but it does sometimes make me feel like Ms. Mousy without any friends.

While I appreciate the two comps, it is a bit strange, just a bit. Most jobs don't expect a team to arrive and do the work involved, especially when only one person's name will end up on the byline. And despite the fact that I'm the one ultimately composing the review, whenever I do bring someone with me, I find that their opinions seep into my review as well. Sometimes, certain of the people I see shows with expect me to put their opinions in my review (no, don't worry, it's not you), as if because they've seen the show with the reviewer, then they also get a say as well.

Which, really, I'm okay with. Except when their ideas and opinions aren't what I want to say at all, in which case, they should just write their own review and put it somewhere. I occasionally like to see shows alone, so that I can get my own unadulterated opinion of the piece, but then I also like to see shows with someone, even if so I can just bounce ideas off of them at intermission or at the end of the show. Sometimes I doubt my instincts and thoughts, and it's nice to have someone else to agree with me or argue with me. But then again, sometimes bouncing ideas just reinforces my self doubt.

So what does this mean for theater criticism or reviewism in general? I've had several acquaintances tell me that they enjoy hearing multiple voices reviewing the same show, preferably in the same outlet. I enjoy that as well, but not necessarily in the same paper. As an example, reviews for the recent Hamlet at the Lantern Theater here in Philadelphia spanned the spectrum from negative (such that I thought, eh, guess I can skip that) to glowingly positive (such that I'm still upset about missing it). Multiple reviews can be confusing in that regard too. Was the show good or horrible? Did I just miss something awesome or not lose three hours of my life?

I've come to the conclusion that there are two separate streams of theater discussion: criticism and reviewism. That's probably not that profound of a statement, but bear with me while I work this out. Criticism has a place--that is, it serves to place a show in the larger context of theater. Criticism is what is suffering the most, as people care less and less about "theater" than about entertainment. Reviewism, though, seems to be more about providing an opinion on the show's quality (the acting was spotty, the sets were terrible, really, that dialogue was unbelievable), in order to sell tickets for the company or warn others that their time and money is better spent elsewhere. Reviewism is stuff you find in the NY Times or weekly paper, criticism you'd be more likely to find on a journal shelved in the basement of your school's library (or on Jstor).

Reviewism lends itself better to the mass of voices, the couple seeing a show together and bouncing their thoughts and reactions off each other, perhaps to then put out there for others to read, and respond to (perhaps by seeing the show, perhaps by having seen the show and disagreeing with them). Yet, reviewism also muddies the waters a bit by being strictly opinion. You could have a totally different taste in shows than a reviewer, not know this, and go to a show based on a positive review, and end up hating it. Which is a very obvious statement: there's a bit of risk taking anyone's opinion to heart, even if it is someone you ordinarily agree with.

Reviewism is what is taking over, with the blogs and also with the complete lack of training critics (er, reviewers) receive. In my MFA program, I took one class in theater criticism, in which we spent a semester debating what "criticism" is and never really drew any firm conclusions. I'll say this: Criticism is for the record books, for history and theory. I'll also say this: most theater has not really done much theoretical exploration in recent years (there are exceptions), making the critic's task a bit dull. Reviewism is what is left: opinions on whether or not to put down your money and dedicate a few hours to something that you may or may not enjoy.

The enjoyment of the spectator doesn't figure much in criticism, which is possibly a topic for another post (The Pleasure of the Theater). Theatrical criticism is a bit esoteric both in its content and reach. Plays reviewed in scholarly journals have closed months before. Why read about them then except to place them in the canon (as it were) of theater, to contextualize the plays in terms of history and theory, which something that even theater practitioners care less and less about.

This is where I fall down. I'd like to be a critic. But there doesn't seem to be much to criticize. Perhaps I'm wrong, and am holding out for some mythical awesome piece of theater that may never exist. Perhaps I have my head stuck in the theoretical too much and am missing what is going on, for real. Theater may never regain its standing in society and if it doesn't, we'll just keep churning out generation after generation of reviewers, folks ready with an opinion but with little else.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cycling in the City

I ride a bike. Almost every day, even in the cold of winter (it's faster than walking, which is my second most common mode of transportation). I ride my bike in the street, going the proper direction. I stop at red lights and stop signs. I yield to pedestrians. In sum, I am conscious of others and aware of my surroundings. I don't harass drivers or pedestrians.

However, certain drivers seem to think that they can ignore the rules of the road, ignore the rules of common sense and safety and do asinine things. Such as: yelling out their windows as I drive by them. Veering into the right side of the road, where the cyclists are, instead giving them a wide berth. Attempting to grab my handlebars as I drive by them.

I'm not sure what prompts this behavior and it upsets and amazes me every time it happens. I will note that it happens more the later the hour gets, possibly because the same people who are prone to assholery as also prone to having a few and then driving home (just a guess, just a guess). I prefer the "live and let live" way of being, and to be minding my own business and then have some stranger (usually a guy, just saying. But sometimes a woman.) come at me, in what could be considered a weapon (big, hulking thing of steel with a motor versus two wheels, two legs, and a chain), is really just too much. Why are you threatening my safety? What have I done to you? I'm writing this after reading this story. To the driver of that car, you've injured a man and nearly killed a child. And for what? I mean, seriously, why? A car stopped in front of you, instead of waiting, you swerved around it. It's hard to have sympathy for you, no matter how "shaken up" by the incident you appeared to be.

I'm not sure what the first step is to changing this sort of behavior. Some strange sort of shift seems to happen to certain people when they get behind the wheel of a car. Driving a vehicle requires a level of responsibility and care for the safety of yourself and others that is lacking in so many drivers. I don't quite understand that. Does one flip the machismo switch the moment one turns the keys in the ignition? Does getting where you're going become the be all, end all of your existence?

That said, what upsets me a bit more is the bikers who exhibit asinine road behavior. The ones who pull out onto the street without looking. The ones who ride the wrong direction down the street or in the bike lane and expect that you'll move for them. The ones who blow through stop signs and red lights, even when traffic is oncoming. Since it's tipping on summer, these clueless bikers are coming out in droves. And they make us all look bad, as if we're all just road horrors, which unfortunately, makes those drivers already prone to jerkiness more jerky, and to all cyclists, not just the misbehaving ones.

Traffic laws exist for a reason, for everyone. If everyone ignores them, chaos ensures and people get hurt. I'm not sure why this isn't just common sense for many. I'm not sure where this rivalry cars vs. bike vs. peds came from. We've all got a common goal: getting to our destination safely and with the least amount of error, so why can't we just follow the rules and let that happen?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chocolate Cake!

And now for something completely different.

I made two little chocolate cakes the other night. They're vegan (but not for any moralistic/ethical reasons, more because eggs are kinda expensive if you want the happy chicken kind, and kinda gross, so I don't use them all too often. Plus, sometimes they make me ill.). Anyway, what interests me about these vegan cakes is that they use vinegar (white or apple cider, doesn't matter taste wise). They came about around the time of the Great Depression and World War II, times when eggs and all that were expensive or rationed (also from this time is the mayo cake, but I just can't . . .I can't get into that. . .ugh. It probably tastes fine because mayo is just eggs and oil but just. . ick). They are called "Depression Cake" or "Wacky Cakes," the latter I guess because it is kinda weird. I haven't been able to find out who first thought to rely on the trusty old vinegar baking soda explosion thing as a leavener. What also interests me about these cakes is that they were "vegan" before there was really a vegan movement. Which is interesting, because this means that, most likely, your grandmother was eating vegan cake and there wasn't the "oh, ew" that you get now when you make something and tell people it's vegan (that said, sometimes vegan baked goods ARE really, really disgusting. You can't just leave the offending ingredients out and expect the same results, folks.)

In the spirit of the depression (or Great Recession, whatever) and being cheap and out of soy milk at my house, I used water as the primary liquid in the cake. The first recipe I ever came across for this type of cake, in some PETA or Farm Sanctuary Go Veg! type pamphlet specifically stated that you needed to add the vinegar at the last minute. And so for years, I did that, excited by the swirling cake batter not-quite volcano effect. Then I got Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and those two ladies tell you to mix the vinegar (and they specify that you should use ac vinegar) into the soy milk, to create a buttermilk-ish effect. So, no waiting until the very end. I did it that way for a while but now I'm back to vinegar at the end and also, back to water. It's cheaper and let's face it, cheap dessert that tastes good and isn't full of crap is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reviews

I've two new reviews up on the site I write for, offoffonline.com.

You should read them:

Le Serpent Rouge
Ore, or Or

Do it. And then come back and comment.

Sorry if it seems that I am getting pushy about my work lately. I am.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

SB-850 Update

Just to share, yesterday I got an e-mail from the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance inviting me to their next Activist Council meeting on 5/27 from 6-8pm at the Art Alliance. So, great. Maybe I'll go, I dunno yet, since I'm not involved in any arts organization in any official way. Anyone who is planning on going?

Friday, May 15, 2009

SB-850

Pennsylvania voted on its state budget week or so ago. Why am I mentioning this now? Because today when I got home, I was greeted by a letter from Sen. Larry Farnese. I had sent him an e-mail the evening before the vote, asking him to vote not to completely cut out arts funding from the state budget. I sent the e-mail with the help of the Phila. Cultural Alliance, who did their best to rally everyone to protest the line cuts. Farnese voted against the proposal, but regardless, it passed.

$0 for arts/culture, including museums. We're not just talking about funding people to stick Jesus in a jar of pee again, here, we're talking about funding cultural institutions that people use regularly, that schools take kids to on field trips, that people value and that make this a decent (if not great) state.

Is utterly ridiculous. And it's not all that is wrong with the new budget, which I didn't know until reading the Senator's response. The new budget cuts funding for education, for public welfare, for libraries, for job training (at a time when many people are unemployed). What's more, according to the letter, the cuts "jeopardize PA's eligibility for federal stimulus dollars."

What the hell. Actually, more like what the fuck. And also, why am I not hearing anything else about this? I read the paper, I read the blogs, I write for a Philly blog (Phillyist). I remember a few years ago (2004), Street threatened to cut arts/culture funding for just the city, and we were out there, rallying in the park, wearing buttons, protesting. Even just recently, when Nutter proposed axing 11 libraries (from a 54 library system), the teeth and the protesters came out, leading him to nix that idea and consider other options (which may actually be worse, in my opinion).

PA's a big state, and Philly is on the far edge of it, geographically and politically. But surely, we can do something more about this. And I realize that there is no money. But if there's no money, and the Federal Gov't is offering stimulus money, and the budget threatens that. . . someone show me where the sense is. And someone show me where the grassroots stuff is. Anywhere?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time for a Reformat

This blog needs a do-over. Initially, I thought it would be all about theater, since you know, I'm a dramaturg and all that. But really, when I look at my life (especially my life now), theater is a small part of it (which may be why I've felt so lost and sad of late but let's not think of that). So I'm going to make this thing more all about me and the stuff I do rather than that one subset.

So, from now on expect posts on the following:
*sewing
*cooking, I'm currently mildl obsessed with bread baking
*frustrations in life in general (sorry, that's just my way)
*experiments in creativity or lack there of
*&c

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wow. . .

I am terrible at writing this blog. I have to admit that lately, I haven't thought much about theater, except for when I'm reviewing something or going to see a show for fun.
Which is odd, because it's something that once kept me up at night--and now, now, I feel content to let it be.

Maybe I was never a "theatre" person in the way that we typically think of theatre people as being--i.e. the high school drama geek or the person dedicated to Broadway. And when I look around lately, that's all I see. The big commercial theaters, the high school theater geek award shows (wha?). I want to know where all the stuff I found before is--small, low budget experimental, and joyous performance, where are you hiding?

Is it me? Am I just not looking hard enough? Or has everyone just shrugged their shoulders and decided to work on more conventional stuff instead?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ideas in Action (or, rather, a new play)(or rather, a regretful reflection on how nothing actually gets done)

It is not often that I actually act on an idea. I have playwrighting journals from time past full of interesting news stories and factoids, things that I at one time that would "make a great play" only to never actually use them for anything. But the other night, I was watching 20/20 while baking some bread. The episode was on "extreme motherhood" and was comprised of portraits of women who did or are doing what would be considered unusual things wrt being a mom. One example is the woman who still breast feeds her eight year old daughter (ew!). The story that really jumped out at me, that I couldn't tear myself away from, was the woman who purchased several of these realistic-looking baby dolls called "Reborns" and carries them around, hoping to get attention from passersby about her "baby." When no one notices her baby, she goes back home feeling a little sad.

Yikes. That is very weird.

The woman does not have her own children, and when asked why she didn't adopt, mumbled off something about the costs and traveling to pick up the child in the foreign country. But she's perfectly willing to pay several hundred or thousands of dollars for a plastic doll that is baked in an oven, a plastic doll that will never grow or be able to interact with her or in any way fulfill what I would consider to be a healthy parent/child relationship.

I pretty much took this and ran with it. Fast and furiously and briefly (the play is only 4 pages long). The play, which is still untitled, also incorporates a bit of the idea of the desire for "truth" and all that, that I mentioned wanting to use somehow in my last post.

It's a strange little piece, which I always say about anything I do, which I think is a defensive thing and maybe I should cut it out. There is this sense of being somehow off, though, whenever I think that I cannot possibly ever write the "great American" anything, since my perspective on life and on what makes for interesting theater and etc is pretty far removed from what seems to be the common perspective. So I gird myself against any possible negative reaction by saying "It's kinda weird, but. . ."

Anyway, the play. The fake baby makes an appearance as does a gibberish speaking person who apparently speaks the "truth" as does a girl who shifts into a monster back into a little girl. I'd post the script up here but that gives me pause. Not that I am a big copyright person, not that I believe that this play is my baby (ha) or anything, but it does sting when you have an idea and suddenly, it's coming from someone else and not you.

I feel very much back on track in the writing sense, in the sense of putting stuff down on the page. But the next step after actually acting on an idea is completing the idea, and that's where I fall behind. I have so many projects that I've completed in a writing sense but haven't actually done anything with--TC/Ariadne, Suppliants, that novel, and now this newest series of micro plays (er, all my plays are micro). And I guess that what happens in my regular life as well, it's a minefield of briefly explored interests--Swedish, German, I don't want to dwell on this anymore. The problem is having too many interests, too many ideas, I'm never able to settle down for too terribly long on just one.

And this all brings me back to my quasi-New Year's resolution--to make a list of ideas and actually finish them. Not to just scribble down a play in a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon, pat myself on the back, and then skip off to something else. But actually to make something theatrical and concrete out of these projects--take them to where they were meant to go.