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 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


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?


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.