Saturday, December 30, 2006


As is par for the course, my life seems to be running itself in circles. It always seems that many endings synch up with each other (beginnings also) but I can't ever quite discern an actual pattern. Anyway... Here's a end-of-year quiz that Erica and I both filled out last year (The title is "Ah, Nostalgia"). Goodbye 2006! (Yes, WTF indeed.)

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Rode my bike at 6:45 in the morning (I've probably done that before, actually, but never just for the hell of it), got a graduate degree, saw my parents in Chicago, had actual conversations with my sister... Probably lots of other things.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I generally don't do resolutions... Or I do them in the spring, when I actually feel full of life again. This year, my resolution would probably be not to stress out and act like a maniac all the time.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I don't think so...

4. Did anyone close to you die?
not that I know of

5. What countries did you visit?
Wow, none. That hasn't happened in a while.

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
A sense of self-worth and self-understanding, a "real" job at some point

7. What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Ummmmmm... October 30. And it's personal.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
My ability to recover from blows. And actually talking to my little sister.

9. What was your biggest failure?
My inability to break through my apathy

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
i had a terrible cough for most of the winter, but other than that not so much

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Fuck if I know. Cheese?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
All of my friends who came out of the woodwork when i needed somebody.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
politicians, certain people in my life, myself at times

14. Where did most of your money go?
food, rent... Not toooooo much else really

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
finishing my graduate recital, spring, warmth

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, the Dresden Dolls (both albums)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier or sadder? Happier, I have to say
thinner or fatter? maybe a little thinner unfortunately, but probably about the same.
richer or poorer: not sure. momentarily richer perhaps but we'll see how long that lasts

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
practicing. talking to people. yoga. cooking.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
going out and drinking too much.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
in flag with the family.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
a potluck and then either a fondue party or something else as of yet undecided

22. Did you fall in love in 2006?
it's a constant flux

23. How many one-night stands?
not ready to tackle that one

24. What was your favourite TV program?
i have to admit i did occasionally watch Project Runway, and the L Word of course, but that's about it. So they're favorites by default, i guess.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
there aren't many people I hate, so no.

26. What was the best book you read?
Wow, ummmm... Li-Young Lee's "Rose", Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin", a lot of others that I can't remember. Lots.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Dresden Dolls, Tegan and Sara

28. What did you want and get?

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I liked Shortbus a lot

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
played a gig in Waukegan and had dinner and drinks with friends. 25.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
i would have liked to enjoy my freedom from school a lot more than i did

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2005?
about the same as always, with perhaps occasionally more tie-wearing and a recent influx of thrift clothes

34. What kept you sane?
the internet. music. people. text messages. alcohol. ice cream.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
did i fancy? what a weirdly-worded question. i don't know.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
what a question...

37. Who did you miss?
all my friends from other places.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Wow... Tabitha, Beck, Louise, Sarah, Carolyn, I'm probably forgetting some people

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006
I can get through anything if I need to. Sometimes people don't tell the truth.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"hate to break it to you but its out of my control
forces go to work while we are sleeping
if i could attack with a more sensible approach
obviously thats what i'd be doing"
-Dresden Dolls "Gravity"

"Well baby I've been here before
I’ve seen this room and I've walked this floor
(You Know)I used to live alone before I knew you
And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"
-Jeff Buckley, "Hallelujah"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

mountains and phallic substitutes

I had a lovely lovely hike today, most of the way (I think) up to the Elden summit lookout. It made me so almost unbearably happy to be outside (sans coat!) and headed up... Very good. Tiring though, what with the lack of oxygen and my lack of in-shapeness... But I didn't fall once. I've decided I'm a much better hiker when I'm alone.
The other major point of note today was something I heard on NPR on the way to the trail about a video game called "Guitar Hero". Not thaaaaat interesting, just a game where you basically play a guitar and are judged on your performance. What was interesting was that the reporter took special note of the fact that women absolutely love this game. She seemed perpelxed as to why this would be so, and used it to defend an opinion that women aren't less coordinated, just less interested and that's why they are so less likely to be gamers.
What this made me think about was that women are not really pushed to play certain instruments: drums and guitar are maybe the two most noteworthy, at least for my purposes here. (The term "cock rock" was coined for a reason.) I've read so many interviews with women rock stars like Kathleen Hanna where they talk about being discouraged or teased for having an interest in learning to play "boy" inbstruments in their youth, and how much that influenced their ability to create their music for years. (I also once read an article about how it's much easier and more comfortable for women to play with their guitars held high because of their breasts, but few women do because that's not the way men hold theirs and that's the only example they have to work from. Grrr.) So why the hell wouldn't women be thrilled to have this low-pressure opportunity to try out something that maybe they wanted but never managed to actually pursue? Just a few afternoon thoughts.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

a flagstaff day

I forget sometimes how much I like it here. It snowed today, while it was raining in Chicago, which is kind of funny, and I loved it. I saw Erica, had tea at Macy's, wandered around downtown, bought moderately embarrassing cds, and ate more Christmas cookies than I should have. Nothing insanely exciting, but a nice sense of familiarity that I appreciated without finding it cloying. We'll see how I feel in a week, but for now I am happy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

mi casa

I'm headed home to Flagstaff on Thursday, for about a week. No Tucson for me, sadly, but it will be nice to be among mountains, friends, and family for a little while. Before that though, I am playing with my string quartet at a coffeeshop open mic here tomorrow night. We're playing Shostakovitch's string quartet 8, dedicated to the victims of fascism and war (and, oddly, paired with the Black Angels on the Kronos recording I mentioned earlier this week). It seems like an interesting choice for coffeeshop fare, but it's a leadup to our actual concert in January, and plus the piece fucking rocks and I think that might come through in any venue. Hooray for good music and good concerts!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

tension and release

I saw another concert today, by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a group started by Daniel Barenboim (Israeli pianist and conductor extraordinaire) and Edward Said (Palestinian literature scholar) in 1999. The idea is interesting; a bunch of students from different areas of the middle east and Andalusia get together every summer, play and talk and learn about each other, and then give concerts. As Barenboim said, "People call this an orchestra of peace. (applause from audience) It isn't. (laughter) But it's a way for young people to get to know the Other, to talk and share this beautiful music."
The concert itself was very enjoyable, if not always electrifying. The program was Beethoven's "Lenore" overture, Mozart's Sinfonia concertante for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and orchestra in E-flat, and Brahms' first symphony in c minor. The Beethoven was not my favorite of his works, by any means. It seemed long and kind of needlessly repetitive. But I guess not everything can be a late string quartet or a symphony... The Mozart was nice, and the soloists were excellent. I know Mozart makes you smarter and all that, but I prefer playing it to listening to it usually. The Brahms... Brahms is always always fun to listen to; he was so into making beautiful noise, and so freaking good at it. We played this symphony last year in Civic, so I know it pretty well, and I had a great time just revelling in the harmonies and tension and release that he is so masterful with. My main problem with the concert was just that... I felt like there was some hesitation in the orchestra. Like people weren't always hitting cadences at the same time, like there was some confusion. Only a few times throughout the concert, but enough to throw me.
After the set program, Barenboim gave a short speech (which I paraphrased part of earlier) and then they played Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod (lovedeath) from Tristan and Isolde. It's a very moving piece; the opera has a theme that never ever resolves until the very end, to symbolize the death of the main character (think all you want about sexual metaphores about prolonged leadup to a release). It's beautiful. It's also totally taboo in Israel, presumably because Wagner was a racist anti-semitic asswipe. So it was, generally, an interesting and rather ballsy way to end this particular concert.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

war is bad

Rules of Engagement

Today I was told that the words
"War is bad"
Make for
Bad poetry.
Then consider
This poem
As uranium,
A poor poem,
A colored poem,
But not finished,
Out on a missing
But a little ink
Shed in the killing
Fields of university
Writing workshops.

-Demetria Martinez

Halleluia, I went to an amazing amazing concert tonight. The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) performed George Crumb's "Black Angels" and Luigi Nono's "a floresta e jovem cheja de vida/the forest is young and full of life", both about the Vietnam War. The concert took place at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, amidst an exhibit of (what else) photographs of soldiers and training bases taken by a vietnamese photographer. I believe the idea was that she had taken photos of real soldiers and bases and some sort of fake posed "soldiers" and the pictures were placed randomly with no commentary to distinguish them.
The concert itself blew me away. Rarely have I felt so emotionally engaged; I was practically vibrating with tension during parts of each piece. The first, "Black Angels", is for string quartet and various other instruments played by the quartet members. I've listened to it many times over the years (there's a very famous recording by the Kronos Quartet) but I mostly didn't know what it was about or understand what I was hearing. The piece is divided into three major sections (Departure, Absence, and Return) with thirteen smaller movements, and is based around religious and spiritual imagery. The performers play maracas, gongs, wine glasses (filled at different levels to produce chords and played using bows drawn over the glass rims), and speak in different languages during the performance, among other things. Sometimes effects like that can be distracting to me, or at least begin to seem like conceit, but this piece is so beautiful and intense and powerful that it still held together as an experience. I felt like I was vibrating, I was so focused on the sounds, and when it finished I felt the tension dissipate. I love it when composers just create new sounds that are so interesting to hear... It makes music into a whole new thing.
The second piece was very different. It was for multi-channel tape, soprano, clarinet, three people speaking, and five percussionists beating on huge metal sheets. The musicians were spread between two galleries, and people could walk back and forth between them and you could hear everything everywhere. The speakers and the singer read lines from various protesters, freedom fighters, and the like, while the tape had music and sounds (of speaking, screaming, crying and other things). It was interesting, but long and kind of unstructured, which tends to make me space out. But near the end, as the tape and the percussion became more fervent, the speakers began saying "is this all we can do?" (a quote from an anonymous Berkeley protester) and crescendoed until they were all SCREAMING it. I felt the hairs rise on my neck. And then it was over.


Apparently, if you live in Australia and google "girls in ties" I am the very first link to come up. I am perhaps overly excited to be the first link from any google search (internet validation anybody?), but more so for ones involving drag.

Monday, December 11, 2006

childhood's end

I know it's boring to talk about the weather... But it's back up into the 40's here and even supposed to get into the 50's later this week. Wow.
I've been reading one of my brithday presents, "Lost" by Gregory Maguire (the guy who wrote "Wicked"). It's quite good, and I've always been kind of a sucker for fairy and folk tales (I adore the brothers Grimm to this day, and I miss my mom's Italian folktales book very much), and this book is kind of a story combined with nods to many of these tales. It's about an author writing a book (of course), and she talks a great deal about how what we read as children is a) very important, and b) sticks with us.
"The person who would become a lifelong reader should stumble upon very rich stuff first, early, and often. It lived within, a most agreeable kind of haunting."
I've been thinking back on my early reading. I characterized my reading life to my friend Carolyn last night as follows: Pioneer stuff and things my parents read to me (Oz, Narnia, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, who I loved beyond measure for several years), Sci-fi and Fantasy and Horror (oh my. Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, the folk/fairy tales again, anthologies, and Stephen King), "serious" fiction in early college, and then theory and politically relevant stuff now. These also seem fairly clean-cut in retrospect, like there wasn't a lot of crossover (except I always had a thing for "serious" fiction, I think partly because it was my only form of bragging, like "oooh, look what I'm reading!" Plus it's great.). I wonder if that order means anything, and if what I learned first influences me to this day. Did Narnia and Oz fuel my (sometimes) obsession with folklore? When I was in Alaska, for example, how much of the inside of my head was thinking of "The Call of the Wild" and "Julie of the Wolves"?
If anybody else would care to let me know thoughts on this, or what they read as a child, I'd be very interested to hear it. I'd kind of like to go back and mix and match my periods, see if there is still allure to the things I've abandoned. And when I'm home for Christmas, I think I'll read me some Italian mythology.

Friday, December 08, 2006

do not love the priest instead of god

From my original poet buddy Aaron.

Sex Without Love
by Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

sexy food

I stayed up late to finish "Julie and Julia" last night and I couldn't resist dogearing this passage:
"Somewhere along the way, I discovered that in the physical act of cooking, especially something complex or plain old hard to handle, dwelled unsuspected reservoirs of arousal both gastronomic and sexual. If you're not one of us, the culinarily depraved, there is no way to explain what's so darkly enticing about eviscerating beef marrowbones, chopping up lobster, baking a three-layer pecan cake, and doing it for someone else, offering someone hard-won gustatory delights in order to win pleasures of another sort. Everyone knows that there are foods that are sexy to eat. What they don't talk about so much is foods that are sexy to make. But I'll take a wrestling bout with recalcitrant brioche dough over being fed a perfect strawberry any day, foreplay-wise."
It reminds me of this Dorothy Allison story (called, I think, "The Lesbian Appetite") (which is maybe why somebody who googled "lesbian cooking" got my blog?) in which all of her sexual encounters and flirtations involve food, including one incredibly hot scene with some eggplant... Anyway, I don't know how incredibly new or original it is to be looking at the confluence of food and sex, but I certainly enjoy it. For me, I don't know if it is always sexual (maybe just sexual in a less-recognized way?), but I love cooking for other people so much more than I enjoy cooking for myself. Granted, when it's only me it's not such a big deal if everything ends up tasting like ass. But I love working so hard to bring somebody something that will make them happy and full, that tastes good and that they will appreciate and hence validate my however-many hours spent preparing it. Perhaps for me sensual is a better word than sexual. Although never underestimate the erotic power of a good cheesecake...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I got searched today for both "lezzie" and "sadomasochism" (from Beijing!). Interesting

Friday, December 01, 2006

(see title below)

So the book I'm reading that I described below is pretty good so far (which is to say that I've only read about three chapters, and I'm enjoying it). It's called "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously", by Julie Powell. My favorite part so far is the second chapter, where the author writes about first finding her parents' copy of "The Joy of Sex" and then soon after reading "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and realizing (at age 11) how similar the two books are. Excellent.
I made my potato leek soup tonight, and as promised it was fantastic and had barely any ingredients. Here 'tis:
about 3 cups diced potatoes
2-3 cups sliced leeks
2 quarts water
2-3 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
(In reality, I used two largish potatoes and, um, enough water to cover them entirely with some to spare. Also I probably only used like half a cup of leeks, maybe a little more, because I wasn't sure I wanted that many. But whatever.)
After peeling and dicing the potatoes and leeks, put them in a large pot with the water and salt and boil for about 45 minutes to an hour. Mash them up with a fork or spoon (I used a potato masher), leaving the soup a little chunky but not too much. Add the pepper and butter. If it's going to be a while before you eat it, let it cool uncovered and then bring it back to a simmer before serving.
Here's what Julia had to say about it: "smells good, tastes good, and is simplicity itself to make." True.

the road to hell is paved with leeks and potatoes

It snowed last night. There were all these dire warnings on the weather channel: "foot of snow... everything's gonna be shut down... 50 mph winds..." but it's not really that bad. Not that I've been outside...
My birthday is tomorrow, no big plans but hopefully I'll see a few friends and all that good stuff. Anna bought me a book about a woman who decides to revitalize her life by cooking every recipe in a Julia Childs french cookbook, and now I'm really craving potato leek soup, which is odd because I'm not that fond of leeks. The power of suggestion is huge.
I guess that's it. I don't have anything too interesting today.