Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I have to admit, I'm not exactly a bottomless pit of thankfulness these days. It's been a rough year and an even rougher fall. And I'm certainly not alone there because I know things are tough all over and there are a lot of people a hell of a lot worse off than me right now. So I thought I would try to make a list of things (and people) that I'm thankful for this season.
  • My wonderful family, without whom I would be even more of a wreck than I am right now. I've been spending a good amount of time wishing my parents lived a few hundred miles closer, but they're still there for me and my grandparents are close by. I'm a very lucky girl.
  • My job, complete with a totally understanding boss and coworkers I like. Also, the fact that I hadn't used up my days off before this shit began.
  • Having the money saved to hire an exterminator (or two, if my next/fifth visit doesn't solve the problem).
  • My roommate's mother, who is yet another person on the list of people who have done all they can to help me deal with this bed bug nightmare.
  • The fact that the people I love are, if not all in great health, all still around and kicking.
  • The fact that Thanksgiving means I'm getting out of my not-presently-much-loved apartment for nearly three days and will instead be spending time with people I adore somewhere where I can actually sit on the couch.
I hope you all have a fantastic, refreshing holiday filled with all kinds of good things.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Little Bits

I'm still infested but with my apartment all caulked up, my laundry all done and bagged, and everything as decluttered as I can get it without getting rid of my roommate's stuff I have more time to blog. A bit anyway. So here are a few things that have caught my attention over the recent busy time.

Every time I think Paul Gaustad couldn't be any more likable, he goes and does something like name checking Louis Grachos in an interview:
I mean, most of the hockey players who live in Buffalo can find nice things to say about the city--it's not hard--but most hockey players don't talk about how the director of the fabulous local art museum shows them around. Also, I don't like touching fish or worms either, so I find that totally endearing.

Also on a hockey note, I've been so busy and distracted that I didn't really notice just how lame the Mutinous Peons were. So I've done some full-scale revamping. I'd already traded Brad Boyes to Schnookie in exchange for Tomas Holmstrom (who promptly got injured). Today I got rid of Phillipe Boucher (clearly having a rough year), Dustin Byfuglien, Peter Mueller (who?), Dan Ellis (just bad), and Josh Harding (never, ever plays). They've been replaced with Teemu Selanne (can't believe he was available), Mikko Koivu, Jason Chimera, Mike Commodore, and Nikolai Khabibulin. Let's just hope this works better than real life NHL revamps do.

The fact that Pushing Daisies got canceled? So very not cool. (Also not cool, the fact that logger doesn't seem to let me make photos little anymore. It's totally annoying.)

I'm catching up on my True Blood watching. I don't think the show is particularly good but I like watching it anyway. I had to take a little break because I couldn't bear to watch things with all kind of bloodsucking for awhile there.

I have such late library books right now. I got them out before I understood the infestation and I haven't been able to renew a couple of them but I didn't want to return them if they possibly had bed bugs on them. I've got a way to decontaminate them now though, so they'll be going back shortly. So that's something to be grateful for anyway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Magic Mountain Lite

I love Andrea Barrett's short stories--I once, somewhat embarrassingly, spent part of a flight to Savannah weeping silently over a story about Linnaeus--but am less wild about her novels. I still like the way she writes about science and history but somehow over the course of an entire book things can start to feel a bit slack. And somehow her novels seem to have less weight than her short stories. I read The Voyage of the Narwhal a few years back and decided I would stick to her short stories. But I was going visiting and needed a book that hadn't been spending time in infestation central, so I picked up The Air We Breathe at the bookstore in Port Authority.

Of course, any book set among the patients of a sanatorium is going to have The Magic Mountain looming over it. Even more so if it's set right around the first world war. As interesting as the time period and location--the Adirondacks around the turn of the century--is to me, it seems like an author is setting herself up for failure with that, well, setting. And indeed, the novel does feel slight. 

In the novel Barrett acknowledges that The Magic Mountain was the initial inspiration:
At first I imagined a kind of low-rent, democratic version of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. As the setting was transposed to America, so the rich patients would be transposed to impoverished immigrants in a public sanatorium. As The Magic Mountain takes place just before the outbreak of World War I in Europe, so I thought this might be set in analogous time, 1916 and 1917, just before the American entry into the war. But the initial conception changed a great deal, even before I started writing. 
That's an interesting concept. And what Barrett ends up exploring--the ways in which feeling threatened creates a kind of xenophobic group think whether that threat is disease or war--is also something that interests me. But the problem is that she can't really get away from The Magic Mountain and that serves to highlight the fact that she doesn't delve deeply enough into the characters or the social setting. No one is any more fleshed out than they would be in one of her short stories and most of the characters actually feel less fully realized. 

I had no trouble getting through the book and even enjoyed it while I was reading it, but in the end, The Air We Breathe is about as shallow as a swimming pool and that's too bad because it should have been a better novel.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apartment Living

For like the 5th time this fall I have no running water, and this is at least the second time that it's happened with no warning and no estimate of when it's coming back on because of broken pipes. This puts a real crimp in my plans and projects for the day. Not amused. This month, for the first time since moving here about 6 years ago, I've really been wishing I lived somewhere else. Somewhere I could have a house, for instance.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I went to see this tonight with my father and grandparents because my grandparents apparently wanted to see it. I would have gone for Role Models if I were the one choosing movies, but that's just me.

I've never read the books and don't have many thoughts on the movie. I like Edward's jackets but he seems more creepy than gorgeous to me. Maybe it's because I saw the publicity tour photos first and Pattinson looks kind of creepy as himself even without the white makeup? Or maybe it's because I'm not 15 anymore? And the sparkling skin thing is . . . odd on film. Also, I wish my hair looked as nice as Kristen Stewart's does in that movie when I was in high school. Or now.

Oh, and I totally caught that shout out to Little, Brown. Heh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Bed bugs are the minions of the Devil. Just saying.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hey there . . .

For reasons neither pleasant nor terribly interesting, your intrepid blogger has no time to post these days. Too bad, too, because I actually have some things I'd like to post about if only I could find the time. Or, more accurately/importantly, the energy. Hopefully soon.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

American Ballet Theatre, Sun Oct. 31st (Part II)

(This is much later than I intended. Sorry about that. Crazy week.)

The pas de deux from "Romeo and Juliet" was a tease. It's lovely and understated, and while Gennadi Savaliev didn't do anything for me, I loved the choreography and it made me sad that it seems so decidedly unlikely that we'll be seeing the full thing any time soon. Chazin-Bennahum's description of the ballet made it even more disappointing not to be able to see the whole thing. About the scene we saw, Chazin-Bennahum writes:
Romeo's farewell to Juliet in her bedroom does not occasion a grand pas de deux. Rather, Tudor emphasizes their quite determination to remain together despite what would seem their imminent destruction. In the play, Juliet's haunting thoughts predict Romeo's fate: "Methinks I see thee now, thou art so low, As one dead in the bottom of a tomb." Here we see a Juliet dancing as if drawn with every movement to Romeo's being. And then her closeness centers her. Romeo falls to the floor; Juliet goes to him.
You can see a clip of Hugh Laing and Nora Kaye on ABT's Tudor site in what I thought was the most poignant part of the pas de deux.

I found her description of what I suppose you could describe the movement motif of the ballet even more intriguing. Here Chazin-Bennahum describes one of the opening scenes:
The stage promptly fills with Montagues and Capulets jousting and battling. Tudor gives the large male corps numerous jumps and beats in curious contrapuntal rhythms, and keeps the stage alive and in motion with beating jumps to second position, often in canon. The women's dresses flow this way and that as they kick their legs from one side to the other in pointed jetes and ballottes. They wear headpieces [. . .] and swing their skirts, one arm slung weightily across the stomach; they push into the hips with gliding steps. The whole stage seems to billow like a ship. Occasionally Tudor designed pictures in which several individuals executed different movements at the same time; this activity creates a slightly syncopated atmosphere and at the same time lends definition to different groups of people. The arms and hands were never afterthoughts in Tudor's work, especially not here. He not only used them as part of every movement, but also worked them into the spatial design of the patterns. It was important to Tudor, who had studied character and period dancing, to carry across the mood of an era, in this case the Reniassance style, with its push into the hips and tilt back for the gliding women and its oppositional and erect stance for the men.
What a shame that it apparently would be prohibitively expensive to resurrect.

The most entertaining information Chazin-Bennahum provides about "Judgment of Paris" is the critical reaction:
A critic in the Daily Telegraph complained that "Renewed acquaintance with 'Judgment of Paris' increases my astonishment that a theme so degraded and so sinister should be sponsored by a philanthropic and educational institution with the Archbishop of Canterbury as Chairman--but maybe this is an old-fashioned view.
So it was perhaps more shocking then, although the other critics she quotes appreciated the nasty humor and it's "acrid undercurrent of tragedy" (Lionel Bradley, again quoted by Chazin-Bennahum) more.

Also interesting was her quote from Agnes de Mille, in 1989:
Nobody's really done that hoop dance but me. Theres the least amount of movement in that dance! Every gesture is a satire of some other kind of bad dancing and I knew what Antony was satirizing. I became Duncan, of I became some other dance artist. With each one, there was a bad odor.

I don't know enough about dance to recognize those things though.

"Pillar of Fire" seemed to me to be the most similar to "Jardin aux Lilas," except in this ballet the emotions are not repressed but acted upon. That's too simple, of course. It was my favorite ballet of the evening, not least because I thought Gillian Murphy was so fabulous in the main role. The title is biblical and Chazin-Bennahum quotes Tudor explaining the title as such:
She was wandering around in a no-man's land, wasn't she an outcast? And something brought her into civilization. And guess what it was. A man? "You've got it."
Particularly interesting to me though, was her discussion of the music, "Verklärte Nacht" ("Transfigured Night"). Schoenberg, Chazin-Bennahum explains, got his narrative from a poem by German poet Richard Dehmel (She states that the poem was called "Weib und die Welt" ("Woman in the World") but in fact it is "Verklärte Nacht" and Weib und Welt is the title of the collection it is from). She writes:
The poem, which was printed at the head of the score, tells of a man and a woman walking through a wood at night. She confesses she is pregnant, but her child will not be his, and she is tormented by guilt, as it is he whom she really loves. He comforts her, telling her to cast away her fears and that beccause of his love for her the child will become his. She feels redeemed by his love and forgiveness; as they walk on, the night becomes transfigured.
Tudor's story is different, but for me learning the story of the music--and I know nothing about music--added another dimension to that. You can read the poem here. I don't think it's a good translation because I think it reads pretty horribly in English but so it goes. You can also listen to the music here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Morning

I got in line around 7:15 this morning. Not too long but as long a line as I've ever had to wait on to vote (I always go in the morning, before work.)
The line was moving quickly. Even better, none of the people there were in my district so while they waited on second lines for their voting booths I just waited for one of the poll workers to fill out a card for me, signed the book, and got right to voting. I'm glad we have these old, easy to use, completely non-electronic machines. My sister and I were talking yesterday about how there's something satisfying about using these machines where you have to move the lever and flip all the little tabs, much more so than there would be if we were just filling in bubbles for an optical scan or tapping a screen for one of those horrible, insecure electronic voting machines.

A straight democratic ticket:

All told, I was out of there by 7:30. The line had doubled by then, but was still much, much shorter than the lines people all over the country will be waiting on today. Fortunate for us.

No matter where you live or who you vote for, just be sure to vote if you haven't already. (Unless, of course, like a certain father of mine, you've never been registered in which case you should be ashamed.)

And now I'm just going to go back to stressing out until this thing is over.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

American Ballet Theatre, Sun Oct. 31st (Part I)

I was decidedly unhappy about ABT scheduling their all-Tudor evening on Halloween. Even after I'd bought my ticket I was wishy-washy about going, but I'm glad I did because it was my favorite evening of the three I attended. I liked everything but particularly loved "Jardin aux Lilas" and "Pillar of Fire," with the latter being my favorite in large part because of Gillian Murphy's fantastic performance. 

I've been reading Judith Chazin-Bennahum's The Ballets of Antony Tudor: Studies in Psyche and Satire and have particularly enjoyed seeing the ballets at the same time as learning more about them. Anyway, rather than witter on endlessly about the ballets, I thought I'd share some of the most interesting excerpts from the book in reference to the ballets ABT danced a couple days ago. 

The evening began with "Continuo," which Tudor choreographed in the early '70s. Chazin-Bennahum doesn't have much to say about it but she does quote Tudor's notes for the labanotation score. He writes, "It is one long lyrical out-pouring. The movement flow never stops. The 'steps' should be linked with freedom and abandon." Bennahum notes that, "this quality of linkage characterized Tudor's movement style and is often the most prominent feature noted by critics." I was glad to see this slight ballet and enjoyed watching the all-corps cast. It was a light start to an evening that otherwise featured more substantial work.

"Jardin aux Lilas" was the second ballet performed and while I'm not sure I was quite convinced, dramatically, I wonder if it's partially that sitting so far back one doesn't necessarily see the tiny details. Well, for viewers with eyes and minds that are well-trained when it comes to watching dance I imagine it's possible to see the tiny subtleties, but for me it's not. One of the things Chazin-Bennahum emphasizes in writing about "Jardin" is the contrast between outward propriety and interior turmoil. She explains:
Tudor instinctively understood the disguises people wear in order to separate their feelings from a certain persona. The Tudor who grew up as William Cook in the East End watching the activity of the West Enders realized that behind the froth and wealth lay real feelings and conflicts.
Later, she quotes the original Caroline, Maude Lloyd, talking about this conflict and how it propels the ballet:
You can't make a big gesture. It has to be small but it has to be effective, and that means you have to have tension. And that ballet is full of tensions and fluid movements all mixed up one after the other. It's quite an extraordinary ballet in which sometimes you have to show your emotions with your back to the person you're emoting about, or standing side by side without looking at them. You still have to let the audience know what you are feeling.  
Bennahum also discusses the ballet in the context of its time, noting that London was," "becoming an important artistic crossroads," with immigrants playing a vital part in the development of the arts community. She glancingly, mentions that the appeal of the Edwardian period in which the ballet is set can be seen in part as a reaction to the times, writing:
Tudor felt a particular affinity for the Edwardian period. Although Edwardians questioned established institutions, they knew enough not to disturb their affluent status quo. Edwardian prosperity and glitter, social stability, and spacious ease represented halcyon times before the cataclysm of World War I. Thus Caroline's forced marriage for money and social position represented a perpetuation of ritualized and convenient class choices.
Disappointingly, Chazin-Bennahum doesn't go further in looking at the ballet as a product of its time or in the context of what other British artists are creating. I think that would have been worthwhile. She describes the Edwardian period as halcyon, which I suppose is true if one looks back in nostalgia on what was, in some ways, the last gasp of the Victorian era. Less true if you consider the number of people living in extreme poverty. We also see in the Edwardian era the beginning of social trends that were accelerated, not created, by the first World War. So the period between the World Wars, during which Tudor created "Jardin aux Lilas," was one of massive change in Britain less because of immigrants coming into the community than because there was a change to the structure of society itself, with the deeply ingrained class system shifting and the encroachment of the middle and lower classes upon the traditional domains of the upper class. Class was moving from something defined by birth to something defined by money. That's something that many writers and other artists were addressing around the time Tudor choreographed "Jardin aux Lilas" and it seems to me rather relevant to the ballet, which for all it's inventiveness presents what was essentially a conservative world view. I wish Chazin-Bennahum had looked at that in her book. Still, it's interesting to think about.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Things I think about . . .

In a New York Times op-ed, Charles Blow writes:
Of course, anything could happen. There are three days left. McCain could still win. And, a drunk man wearing a blindfold could get a puck past Marc-André Fleury.

Yeah, unlikely. It’s a wrap. Fade to black.

How the hell did he come to choose Fleury? Why not Brodeur or Lundqvist who are a) better and b) local? Or at least why not one of the top goalies in the league (hint: Fleury's not one of them)? Should we take from this that the likelihood of McCain winning is greater than the likelihood of a drunk man wearing a blindfold getting a puck past Brodeur, equal to a drunk man in a blindfold getting a puck past Fleury, and less than a drunk man in a blindfold getting a puck past Niittymaki?

Yeah, I'm ready for this election to be over.