Monday, December 20, 2010

the shortest day

tomorrow is winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. basically, it's the unofficial beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. because of the earth's tilt on its axis away from the sun, we're basically getting less sunlight than our brethren in australia, for example. winter will happen for them in june.

here's the thing. a full moon and a full and total lunar eclipse are expected -- very unusual news. a full moon has happened before on winter solstice, in 1999 and 1980, respectively. the last lunar eclipse during the first day of winter, on the other hand, was in 1378 -- 632 years ago. there won't be another one on the night of winter solstice for 84 years.

and as if all of that weren't enough, there's also an ursids meteor shower in the offing. normally, it would be difficult to see but the eclipse should allow most viewers who are able to enjoy quite a show. and mercury is in retrograde!

i hate to sound like a complete hippie but i'm going to ask a rhetorical question, anyway. winter solstice, a full moon, a total eclipse: what does the occurrence of this rare trifecta mean?

when i think of winter solstice, i imagine filthy malnourished peasants looking somewhat glazed over and comatose, living in a darkened, iced over, snow covered europe and scandanavia, sitting around a blazing fire with a huge black cauldron resting upon it, boiling meat or offal of some sort, as some weary looking woman sits in a corner, shivering involuntarily and perhaps breast feeding a screaming infant. while that's not necessarily the whole truth, it's not far from it. winter solstice was dreaded by many because the nights were so long and dark and there wasn't much food. the smart move was to do as little activity as possible, sleep in and stay warm. it would probably have meant more births in the spring and summer months -- and that would mean the babies would be more likely to survive.

depression, i imagine, was everywhere. today we call it seasonal affective disorder or sad, a very real affliction that affects millions. back then, sven's only real option would have been to eat more mutton and get over it. nowadays, he should simply turn all the lights on.

because of the waning sunlight and its inevitable return, the concept of birth and death/rebirth became associated with the winter solstice, so there's a lot of feasting and celebrating in pagan cultures and many religions -- and needless to say, it's also a time of deep inner reflection and hibernation.

when i see an image of the full moon, i hear a coyote howling in the distance -- and of course, that means a werewolf is nearby. or a lunatic. there are lots of lunar myths out there, steeped in european folklore and traditions, and astrology augments some of this. because the media plays on these notions so freely, its a part of our pop lexicon -- so when crazy stuff happens on a full moon, everybody seems to know why. while it's interesting to note that none of that stuff has ever been scientifically proven, folks have been using the gravitational pull of the moon and working within its phases to do everything from grow plants and cut hair to sell stocks.

my great-grandmother, who worked the soil on a daily basis and read her farmer's almanac religiously, taught me about the moon. i understood the difference between waxing and waning, the importance of a full moon and what to do in each case at a very early age. one of my earliest memories of her is when we would clip plants, put the cuttings in water, sit them in on the kitchen windowsill and watch them grow roots literally overnight. the moon pulled them out, she explained. i knew the moon was pulling everything else, too.

she was the one who taught me that the moon was strongest when it was full. if it's true that the moon represents female energy, it's interesting that there will be a total lunar eclipse -- with a partial solar eclipse expected on january 4. (apparently, these things come in pairs.) anyone on the right side of the earth can see it. the lunar eclipse turns the full moon into a new moon, for a little while.

everyone knows what an eclipse is and watching it happen is nothing short of breathtaking but what's revealing is what it symbolizes.

i suppose there's a grand argument that can be made as to whether the planets spinning around us have any real effect on our lives. i don't know if there's any magic in the air or not. but i'm certainly standing on the verge of something. events like this one give me reason to pause and wonder what it is.

Monday, December 06, 2010

all i want for christmas is...

  1. a right cross that's as strong as my left jab
  2. a professional reliable -- and ultracool -- internationally based booking agent
  3. a residency somewhere in the city that will force me to play out every week
  4. a lost weekend with my permanent boyfriend
  5. a great recipe for chai tea
  6. waaaaay more upper body strength, so i can stop struggling to do push-ups
  7. to be a practice body again, for another pilates instructor-in-training
  8. to refine the rough mixes for the black country rock album
  9. to get these brand new batch of songs out of my head and onto garageband
  10. to be able to run a mile in less than 9 minutes -- comfortably

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Saturday, December 04, 2010


i was going to have a beauty day today but i got my hair done super early and i was so overwhelmed by how amazing it looked that i went back to bed, scribbled out some fresh lyrics and had tea. and that was cool. because sometimes beauty day is mental health day. but usually, i need way more. and lately i'm feeling like i need a massive overhaul, a few days to get myself together. now that my daytime hours are gone, i don't know where i'm going to find it.

my definition of an overhaul doesn't look anything like demi moore's situation. i'm not mad at her, not in the least. if i had millions, i'd spare no expense. but then again, i don't think i'd have to.

i know where i can grocery shop, do laundry, pick up emergency items, even. (what does duane reade NOT have?) i can go to koreatown and shower/steam/soak to my heart's content -- but where can i get a mani/pedi in this town in the middle of the night?

Friday, December 03, 2010

it's about time

time to recalibrate: organize receipts, make donations, declutter everything and get organized. time to clean it all up and clear it all out. time to buy a lush green wreath for the front door and a charlie brown tree for the living room. time to get lost in a russian banya. time for a serious visit to la casa day spa. time for a cleansing fast.

there's all this other stuff going on -- guitar practice, auditions, rewrites, recording sessions, piano lessons and work, work, work -- so cleaning house happens in spurts. but it happens. and for that, i am truly grateful. i know it sounds like i'm turning into howard hughes, but it feels good from the inside out, waking up in a clean house.

lately, it feels like i'm running uphill in slow motion. that feeling is probably not going to leave me anytime soon. not until this album is done, anyway. today i'm so exhausted, i don't have any energy for boxing class, which saddens me profoundly. there's too much to work on physically -- my right cross isn't as strong as it should be -- and if i miss a day of it, i can feel it.


onward and upward.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

for your viewing pleasure

sure, you've probably heard their big hit pepper, but here's another song from the butthole surfers called the shame of life that you'll probably enjoy way more than you think you will.

i've included the lyrics because i think they're important and also because when they pop like they're supposed to against the music, with the intensity of sound augmenting their true intent, they are the way we ingest poetry. and because so much of this process is subconscious -- people quite often find themselves singing lyrics they don't necessarily agree with -- it's often fascinating to read what so many are walking around and singing to themselves.



i love the girls and the money and the shame of life
my shallow mind is just a sign of your game of life

there were girls in the front and there were girls in the back
and there were girls pettin' squirrels and there were squirrels smokin' crack
with an old navy seal and the DEA
and the loaded automatic just to blow me all away

with a dog drinkin' liquor from a hole in the sky
and the picture of a pitcher throwin' pitches at a guy
he had a problem with your sister and her 3D cups
and a brother with a shovel just to shake it all up

i love the girls and the money and the shame of life

hop down to the people on the street where the fuzz in the navel make the people wanna eat

my shallow mind is just a sign of your game of life

get down to the level of the rest where the people on the street put the metal to the test

locomotive in the bridge will land a knuckle in a fight
and i was hidin' in the bushes but i couldn't stand the light
and he was highly indisputable the leader of the gang
like a bullet in the freezer bang, bang

i love the girls and the money and the shame of life

hop down to the people on the street where the fuzz in the navel make the people wanna eat

my shallow mind is just a sign of your game of life

get down to the level of the rest where the people on the street put the metal to the test

get down, get down

get-- get--dow-- dow-- dow-- down

invisibility is a relative thing

I was all shaken up after i got shaken down
i was shakin' in the air and i was shakin' on the ground
i was taken by the shaker who was preachin' to the crew
he was shakin' lotsa bacon cook an egg in his shoe

and believing all the stereos begin to sing a tune
yo cuz we were just a vision in a dream about a shoe
that was walkin' to the store to find a needle for a soul
that had lost a little reason through a little tiny hole

i love the girls and the money and the shame of life

hop down to the people on the street where the fuzz in the navel make the people wanna eat

my shallow mind is just a sign of your game of life

get down to the level of the rest where the people on the street put the metal to the test

i love the girls and the money and the shame of life

hop down to the people on the street where the fuzz in the navel make the people wanna eat

my shallow mind is just a sign of your game of life

get down to the level of the rest where the people on the street put the metal to the test

[A couple of lines in French?]

Stay, Stay by the [???]

Someday this will all be yours


More than anything or anyone you will ever know.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

what is the what

zeitgeist: the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time

i remember a band called zeitgeist that was fairly popular in austin while i lived there. i didn't dig them, necessarily. i was way more in like with their name. and as is often the case with college bands on a college campus in a college town, that name seemed to be everywhere. somebody was always putting up some poster for some gig they were doing, someplace. or it was an old poster somebody refused to take down, or forgot about, because they thought it looked so cool. like that old poster, they somehow became a part of the everyday inner workings of whatever was happening in the fabric of our collective liberal arts existence. when they eventually changed their name to the reivers, everyone and everything seemed to flow right along with that. and that was that.

i remember sitting in some coffee shop on the drag (probably captain quackenbush's, now that i think about it) and asking some friend of mine (probably a texas-german who spoke german -- more common than you will ever know), what does zeitgeist mean? their expansive yet succinct explanation (college! coffee shops! intellectual discussions! fun!) and the way that germans can say everything with so few words illuminated so much about german culture that i still find interesting.

so when i say that word, i think of that band, the one everyone seemed to like except me. and that sends me careening back to my college years in austin and all the other bands that were the soundtrack to my world. i liked oboyo but i loved reverend horton heat -- and i still do. i saw him at hole in the wall, once. they had ten cent beer happy hour and a bunch of tex-mexicans dragged me in there. i didn't drink at all, i was just there to buy up as much beer as i could for my dollar so everyone else could drink with abandon. oh -- and play pool. bull and i played a lot. i actually got good at it, from hanging out in that bar. oh, yeah -- i liked agony column. i distinctly remember going to the french house to hear them and having way too much fun all night long. i didn't drink beer -- still don't -- but there was an impressive 25 kegs at that punk rock soiree and your $5 at the door meant that you could drink as much as you could hold -- and believe me, they did.

and of course, there was the butthole surfers. i still love them. a lot.

this is the part where i tell you that rock and roll is supposed to be dangerous, that it's supposed to scare you, freak you out, and that fear is a part of the fun of it all. i challenge you to think of the last time you saw any rock and roll that put the fear of God in you, or that even made you raise your eyebrow just so. were you even moved? probably not.

for the record: i've never seen any rock and roll in new york city that was even remotely dangerous. i've heard tell they had quite a bit of it in the 70s but that's another conversation.

the first time i saw the butthole surfers, i was at the ritz on 6th street. at one point, they were playing onstage and this hanna-barbera cartoon of augie doggie and doggie daddy was showing over them (literally) and superimposed over that there was this black and white documentary type film showing this guy getting castrated. tata the shit woman was throwing her filthy, half-naked body around with a fury. it looked like some invisible monster had her by any available limb that it could grab and was flinging her all over the place. somewhere in there, the lead singer gibby haynes -- who looks like he just committed a murder -- pulls out a double barrel shotgun and fires over the packed crowd. everyone was mesmerized.

maybe what i was identifying with was the wierd element they wallowed in, not necessarily the dangerous vibe.

*sigh* how green was my valley...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

i love boxing -- a LOT!

i'm not sure. maybe i'm really a sadist that's found a socially acceptable way to hit people as much as i want and for as long and as hard as i can without going to jail for it. maybe i like the way everything hurts when i wake up in the morning. i like it that the only thing that gets rid of that ache is pushing my body to the limit all over again. maybe this is turning my crank because i think i'm getting better at it. i don't know. all i really know is, i love boxing.

watching it is one thing but doing it, wow. doing it is like flying.

for the next month or so, my day will be too full to have boxing for lunch. that means i have to hit it hard for breakfast and once again in the evening, to give me that boost that makes me sail home so effortlessly.

look out soon for less than 30 seconds of video of me, sparring with george and getting a royal beat down.

Friday, November 12, 2010

the second uptown/downtown performance: harlem

after a disco nap and a bowl of mexican hot chocolate, i put on a very elegant black vintage fur coat -- kangaroo! my favorite! -- and walked in the late afternoon sun through what was essentially my first new york city environs to the dance theater of harlem. those were heady times, i suppose. i was full of ideas and swimming in fearlessness. i didn't know anyone. i had no idea where anything was, or how to get anywhere. and as far as anyone was concerned, i was some new kind of idiot. every day when i left my humble abode, i would stride forth triumphantly past crackheads and drug dealers and the flotsam and jetsam that populated my uptown street life on a daily basis, and they would routinely laugh at how green i was.

good times.

it felt good to not have to take the train to where i was going. i was on time for a tech rehearsal that wasn't really a tech rehearsal at all. it was more like a "this is what the deal is" rehearsal. chen dance center was a small black box theater with a lighting grid and everything. this was a large room with brick walls and garish flosphorescent lighting, replete with a floor to ceiling mirror on one side of it all and a wooden dance barre that framed the whole thing, just in case you might forget exactly where you physically are in the course of the evening. not that there was anything wrong with this space or anything in it -- it was just so not like the space we'd just worked in. that mirror was especially daunting. so was being able to see the audience. and the sound in that room, how cavernous it seemed and the way the sound continued to echo in this endless way when anyone would so much as cough. in a way, it felt like, wow -- now this is a workshop performance (whatever that is)!

and i guess that's a good thing. it was beyond naked. it was even more bare than bare bones, if that's possible. there were no theatrical touches to get in the way of the work, or to get in between us and the audience. it made for a much more immediate, more present experience. there was something unexpectedly visceral about a lot of it, something especially intimate. like it was all happening much closer than right in front of you. it wasn't quite in your face but it was definitely in your lap.

so tech was basically figuring out when someone would flick the light switch on and off and who would press play on the cd player, and where i could put my stuff.

we all met up pre-show, asked questions and drifted around in the room like we were lost in space. everyone at dth were nice. there was seating for about 100 people. nice, wide open space, folding chairs, very basic. there was no backstage area, per se. a hallway next to an exit door from the room had been sectioned off with a curtain, and most of us piled our things there. there was a locker room but that was two floors down -- too far from the action to know what was up. if we weren't careful, we would unwittingly find ourselves amongst the audience. there was no real way of knowing what was happening onstage, unless you drifted towards an open door, the entryway.

daniel carlton (my partner in crime) and i spoke sotto voce as we drifted around the open area after the audience went inside, ran lines and cracked many an inside joke until our time was up, and then just like that our time was up.

afterwards, he stuck around for the q & a, took pictures and had mint tea with a few of us at a moroccan spot called my marrakesh on amsterdam (that i happen to love a lot) and that was decompression enough, to sit and laugh and talk about what had just happened, to begin to piece things together and such. and yet there was more.

in those first final moments, i had no objectivity whatsoever. getting through the 10 week program was overwhelming enough and finally finishing it successfully with a rough draft of the script in my hands -- way more than i was figuring on, to tell you the truth -- left something in me dazed, yet focused. i was grateful to have something to show for my time, grateful that this program dislodged something important in me creatively that would have me writing theater again, the way i used to when i first came to new york city and lived in that neighborhood and thought, i want to do solo performance art, i want to do a cheesy cabaret act, and then i would actually go downtown and do it. maybe i had to go and live and breathe and lose myself in another direction before i could come up with anything interesting. i don't know. all i really know is, i've got my mojo back. i have ideas -- i've always had ideas -- but now i want to do solo performance again, and i want to take this alberta hunter idea as far as i possibly can.

what's especially cool is that i don't have to be a lone wolf about this anymore. the downtown alternative theater scene isn't necessarily dead creatively. there are still agencies hard at work that are in place and ready and willing to help develop an idea. i just never tapped into them before. that's the sad part. i never had to be alone -- development and production-wise, at least -- in the first place.

the problem isn't that there isn't any money in this town to develop an idea. the problem is that most artists can't afford to live in new york city.

more on that later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the first uptown/downtown performance: chinatown

last night was some kind of wunderbar.

zipped to chen dance center, for the first night of uptown/downtown in no time at all: fully made up, fully dressed up and ready to rip it up. i looked like a drum magazine pin-up girl -- actually, i look like an african pin-up girl no matter what i wear. i stopped fighting that one a long time ago. i made a pitstop in a chinese bakery for tea and a sticky bun of some sort. while i was in there, i watched a bunch of ultra black folk who were shopping for a ton of fortune cookies explode with glee as they recognized some pastry from a jackie chan/chris tucker flick. is it true that most people seem to learn about other people and other cultures from movies and television? from behind the counter, the chinese baker's puzzled but somewhat bemused expression seemed to mirror my thoughts.

chen is a hoot. lean and strong and really up and interesting and kind of a prankster. he's one of those dancer/artists that's seen and done everything. some rock n' roller's name will come up and he'll go on about how he stood in the mud and saw them at woodstock and someone will go, you were at woodstock and then we're off to the races. it was nice, watching him walk through the place, greeting people, making suggestions, hanging out.

we had a brief meeting at 6:30pm and somewhere in there, my permanent boyfriend shows up along with daniel carlton, who gives him a digital camera to shoot our segment. (yes, they're shooting everything -- but i'm paranoid.) i'm bobbing in and out of the holding room that's filled with everyone's personal effects, actors chatting sotto voce, someone putting on makeup here, setting props up over there -- and of course, dancers in varying stages of dress, warming up.

it's a small black box situation and i had a short tech rehearsal earlier in the day so everything is well-lit and mood inducing. amazing, the way lights can create a set. daniel and i were in the second half of the evening, so we could take it easy sort of, run lines, whisper. once the audience is seated, the 40 inch plasma screen in the vestibule comes to life, and everyone gathers around it quietly and watches and observes, occasionally nodding at each other and smiling with these knowing looks. it's all very relaxed and serious and fun, with a high degree of that flying by the seat of your pants sensation buzzing in the air.

and then all of a sudden, it was over. (and coming soon to my youtube channel!) daniel and i are a real gang of two -- and he is the king of props.

there was a talkback afterwards that felt awkward because we couldn't say anything while the audience shouted all this stuff off the cuff. we seemed to glide out of the place, lost in thought. one of the coolest things about being married to an artist that's also an intellectual (why he won't cop to that last part, i'll never know) is that i can talk to him in depth about what i do. as we walk along, we unhinge all of it from the inside out and share ideas. he has a lot of insight.

of course, all of that is predicated on the fact that he is a safe place. but that's a whole other conversation.

and so, as my permanent boyfriend and i noshed on vietnamese food afterwards and traipsed westward through the narrow streets in the dead of night, we held hands like lost toddlers and somehow managed to simultaneously float down a sun drenched memory lane that was flooded with sweet loving moments from our earliest days as a twosome.

happy days.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Uptown/Downtown Works-In-Progress Performances -- 11/10 & 11/11

for the past 10 weeks or so, i've been concentrating on an idea i call the alberta hunter project through the uptown/downtown series, sponsored by the lower manhattan cultural council, harlem arts alliance and the field. the piece has become a pretty cool melange, really -- part cabaret act, part performance art piece, part musical -- and i'm happy to say that i'm just about done with that pesky first draft and have moved on to wringing out specifics as i eagerly apply for more workshops and development opportunities. it's growing and changing with every rewrite. i can't wait to see what this becomes.

a ten minute section will be performed on the days outlined below. (yeah, i know -- ten artists, ten weeks, ten minutes.) space is limited so reserve your seats now. hope to see you there.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

"if you let me play" - nike ad

apparently, wonderful things happen when you let girls play sports. lots of organizations and women's groups go on and on about this, and it's true -- playing sports does wonders for self-esteem, leadership and teamwork skills, overall health and issues like obesity and diabetes and osteoporosis and, well, pregnancy. what they don't mention is that girls are less likely to play sports because of that pesky gay factor. they don't want to be perceived of as butch.

let's face it. most people who see a woman playing sports assume that she's a lesbian. especially if it's softball. it's quite the stereotype -- the strong, physically capable woman taking the field and playing with other women who are just as able-bodied as she is -- and like most stereotypes, there's enough of a grain of truth in there to tilt any bent perspective. why they don't assume these things about men who play sports? there's certainly plenty of closeted professional male athletes out there. but for some, being gay isn't necessarily considered masculine. and what's more masculine than a basketball player?
look what they did to elena kagan with that photo of her at bat in the wall street journal. softball=lesbian? really?

it's hard enough to be a high school girl that's waking up to your sexuality in this media-saturated age without having everyone assume that you're into girls just because you can play ball as well as any boy. all anyone needs is the whiff of an assumption and whatever they think is true. and who wants that zipping around the world on facebook? what with all the hell gay/lesbian teens have always caught, it's a wonder girls play sports at all.

so hats off to the girls that do play sports. and yeah. i ran track.

Friday, October 08, 2010


i'm on pandora - finally, at long last. if boxing conditioning class hadn't worn me out so thoroughly this evening, i could almost get off my sofa, stand up straight in my polka-dot underwear and do a snoopy happy dance in the privacy in my own living room. for the moment, all i can do is thank God and stretch out my legs. wheeeee!

it's my black americana cd talkin' fishbowl blues that made the cut, by the way. i'll be submitting the jazz cd what is love? later this week.

i'm elated (and somewhat relieved) because i now have a presence on the music genome project's massive global configuration machine that everyone seems plugged into so passionately. i can't hardly get past the commercials but i did get lost in some gram parsons the other day that made my afternoon ethereal and glowy and somehow more complete. and when i think about it slowly, it would be worth it to pay a little cash money and get rid of those ads, especially since i do so love to spend my mornings listening to music while i write and write and write.

what am i writing? well,there's blogging. there's also emails and stuff. i have beautiful pen pals. there's plenty of rewrites for the alberta hunter project that i'm developing in the workshop i mentioned earlier. there's also another song cycle that will get recorded this month at the maid's room if everything works out musicianwise, to be released in the spring. the lyrics are turning out to be much heavier than i thought, probably because i'm letting them come out of me all by themselves.

all of it is such a great escape. i'm kind of giddy to see where all of this leads.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

boxing: a few gorey details

my boxing session only lasts for an hour but its grueling, punishing stuff. i do it every day. sometimes if i really want to wear myself out, i do it twice a day. it's relentless, it's non-stop, it's on-going. i am forever moving and moving and moving for that hour. in the moment that i stop to catch my breath, there's someone leaning over me, yelling at me, telling me to get going, lift my feet, swing my arms, don't stop.

in that hour, my body is pushed to its absolute limit. my heart is pounding in my chest like thunder. it's slamming up against my ribcage so hard, my teeth are rattling. the sweat is pouring down my face, trickling down my back, soaking my clothes. i have to take my gloves off and wipe my face with my wrapped hands, i'm so overwhelmed. i look horrible, like a crackhead that just got slimed. all i see when i look in the mirror is that i can't seem to keep my hands up, that my torso is lumpy and weak, that my shoulders are way too stiff when i move and that i don't flow with any combinations.

loosen up and dance with me, gennaro my boxing instructor will say to me. you like to dance, don't you, love? i nod numbly and try to smile but i can only grimace. my boxing stance has me crunching down on my stomach muscles, and i'm feeling them more and more. he wants me to bounce, so my legs are slightly bent and moving all the time. always ready to duck, to shift, to block, to pounce, to move. keep it loose, he mumbles, and he shakes his shoulders to show me what he means. he thinks i'm making a tough mean face with this grimace. he imitates me for a moment, looking for all the world like a bad little boy that smirks as he goes. i thought it was cute that he thought he could see through me. in that moment, when he's making that face that supposedly looks like me, i love him like a fat kid loves cake. when he's done with me and i can't lift my arms, i tell him so. he is elated that my arms hang useless by my sides and says something pithy about how that means he's done his job. at the other end of the room, peter the negro awaits me. peter, whom i sometimes refer to as monty, is blood-curdlingly merciless and exacting in the way he wears me out, with this monotone that he mumbles through -- and an accent that's so thick, if i had a steak knife, i couldn't cut it in half. by the time negro is through with me, i have to take my puny arms into the steam room and convalesce before i can make it home.

apparently i have no stamina, no endurance, no strength. no nothing -- just this urge to keep going. and i have absolutely no idea where that's coming from. maybe it's stupidity. like a cow that doesn't come into the barn when it rains, i don't have sense enough to stop.

just when i think i'm headed toward something concrete physically in that room, just when i think i've learned something new and maybe i'm grasping this somehow, i come out swinging and my every shortcoming rises up against me like some hydra-headed beast from beyond. and there i am, swinging and it's not fast enough, pushing and i'm not strong enough, gasping for air like a fish out of water and i can't stand it, i can't stand the way my own body seems to be caving in on me and constantly letting me down. except it isn't letting me down. i'm simply surrounded by people who are way better at it than i am and who've been at it longer than i have and i'm just impatient to get there.

of course, i'd feel better about all of this if i had enough upper body strength to do a real, honest-to-goodness all the way down to the floor all the way up push up. but i can't. i have to bend my legs and do girl push ups. and when i do, all i can think is, what happened to me? i used to be strong...

and yeah, my clothes are getting downright baggy on me. but if i could lose some weight during this entire process, that would be frackin' super.

still and all, there are moments when my body hums and something clicks and i get it right and i think, wow. maybe i'm getting something out of this. maybe i'm growing. maybe i'm getting better at it. maybe that's what keeps me coming back.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

richard pryor, playing on sesame street

whose idea was this? i mean, seriously. who sat behind a desk and thought this one up? did it take a lot to get him to do it, or did he just breeze on through and rip it up? the late, great richard pryor, playing with the pre-k set while teaching them the alphabet - even if it's all the way through the tv set - is just flat-out brilliant. sesame street was light years ahead of its time.

hm. i wonder if he's high?

Monday, October 04, 2010

play, and then some

bizarrely, the first thing i think of when the word play comes to mind is this album play by moby. i don't like moby, per se. he's floating around out there in the pop music stratosphere like everyone else, i suppose. all of them are a collective something that drones on and on in the background, serving as sonic wallpaper for the most mundane moments of my life, like when i'm eating in some restaurant or when i'm watching some movie.

i don't necessarily even like this album, either. i recall that when it came out, it was absolutely everywhere, and that was kind of annoying. i remember thinking, why should i buy this? i can't go anywhere and not hear it. then again, when i realized that the album basically consisted of him taking some blues records from the 20s and setting them to a hip-hop beat, i was really annoyed. the songs he pilfered were much more alluring to my southern black blues-heavy ears than the beats he staged around them -- and the idea of what he did, the cleverness inside of it, well, that was enough for any hipster that crossed my path.

i think of moby as a well-intentioned dj that made good. he's a vegan, he loves jesus and he does charity work, and occasionally has bouts of panic attacks, so i'm not going to throw a rock at him. personally, i prefer fatboy slim -- even though he slices and dices as much as anyone else -- because he's funkier and he's way more fun, and his sampling thievery isn't as obvious. hearing the backstory to this album redeemed it for me on many levels and pulled me in.

still and all, someone that i love very much was really into this album while she was alive. and now that she's gone, i think of her whenever i hear it. which is still quite a lot.

one can only hope that all those blues artists he ripped off/sampled received some kind of royalty check/compensation/acknowledgement.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Your Sunday Sermon: Beware of Being Offended

Today's Sunday sermon, entitled Beware of Being Offended comes to us from Pastor Carter Conlon of Times Square Church. Enjoy and be blessed.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

october already?

yes, it's really october. the sunniest days have a chill in the air that feels like a subtle warning. bad weather isn't mood inducing for me. all i can really do to maintain my equilibrium is pray and stay grateful, keep a clean, well organized kitchen and keep going to boxing class, steady pounding that bag.

i've learned how to hibernate, the hard way. in a book, a biography, in someone else's life, another place and time, someone else's lesson learned. in museums, getting lost inside my favorite paintings and other works of art, with my permanent boyfriend by my side, giving me some sort of insight i hadn't considered. in a teacup, in a tea pot, in a dish stacked with ginger nuts and figs and cheese. in my kitchen, figuring out some brand new thing to do with a few pounds of chicken and a fistful of fresh herbs. in a speakeasy, in the bottom of a cocktail glass.

there are all kinds of apples in every farmer's market but i feel like i haven't had a decent peach all summer. for some strange reason, that makes me sadder than heavy weather ever could.

wouldn't it be nice to have some stuffed peaches for dessert tonight?

Friday, October 01, 2010


nablopomo's theme for the month of october is play - whatever that means. let's see how far i get with this one before i completely fall off.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to clean out my junk room

"soul cleansing"

How I did it: when i jumped over that broom, clutching my permanent boyfriend's hand, i knew that things would have to change drastically in my apartment because i had to turn it into our starter home. (we didn't live together before we got married. i don't believe in it, for obvious reasons.)

our new life as married folk would begin here, in my two bedroom harlem digs - quite roomy for city life (the apts are like that up here) but with a little organization and decluttering, it could be near-perfect for two.

the thing is, i kept putting it off - until my friend elaine came over for tea and bisquits a few weeks ago, saw my 2nd bedroom and vowed to roll up her sleeves and help me. what i had put off for years, we pretty much cleared out in a day. (and it was bad. really bad. so bad, in fact, that i honestly couldn't enter the room once i opened the door.) the rest i could handle myself - and i did, right away. the thrill of a clean, cleared out room was too intoxicating to put off any longer.) what little is left is a matter of daily maintenance and upkeep.

i'm a packrat. there's always something around for me to dig into and organize. but it doesn't have to clog things. not anymore.

now my permanent boyfriend calls it his comic book room, and some nights, he works in there. i had a rehearsal for a gig the other day with a pianist and the upright wooden piano, though slightly out of tune, was in fine form. so are the guitars that hang over it, patiently waiting for the next project.

the room is awake now. and in a way, some part of me is, too. here's the kicker - we have a bigger apartment.

do i owe elaine or what.

Lessons & tips:

  1. give yourself a time limit to get it done - and be realistic.

  2. please don't beat yourself up if it isn't done in time. just make progress, and keep making progress. the progress - that's your reward.

  3. get someone amazing to help you. they can keep you on track when you start to fade.

  4. don't get stuck in the minutiae. reading old letters, books and sifting through business cards and photos can easily derail you. keep it moving.

  5. don't make that big trip to ikea/hold everything/the container store until you de-clutter and see exactly what you've got.

  6. if you live in nyc, your storage unit should be your attic - not your 2nd bedroom. readjust your belongings accordingly.

Resources: Honestly - I got by with a little help from my friend.

It took me 2 days.

It made me grateful

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The next gig - WeDaPeople Cabaret, 9/25

presented in partnership with the center for jazz studies at columbia university and the columbia/harlem jazz project, wedapeoples cabaret promises to be an exciting evening of poetry, music, film and dynamic performances.

wedapeoples cabaret was created four years ago by sekou sundiata as a celebration of art and activism, a time to “dance to the revolution.” carrying forward that legacy with his own unique persepective, carl hancock rux fuses political consciousness with artistic mastery in the spirit of max roach and abbey lincoln’s we insist: freedom now suite. rux curates a raucous night of music, spoken word, poetry, film and dialogue paying homage to sundiata’s ever conscious need for insurgent testimony and discourse to extend beyond the academy to reach the community at large.

just so you know -- this is happening on saturday, september 25th at harlem stage, 9:30pm. for more information and tickets ($20): 212 281 9240 ext 19 or 20

Friday, September 03, 2010

the last weekend of summer

hard to believe, but summer is days away from being officially over. i am closing that door reluctantly, with a lot of spring cleaning, preproduction notes and lists, and unplanned fun -- which for me is business as usual.

today i'm having lunch with jody and his partner charlie somewhere in hell's kitchen. they zip back to san francisco on sunday. i haven't seen jody in forever and we fell right back in step, like no time at all had passed. he's got his own successful business, he's got a lot of love in his life and he's genuinely happy. in a perfect world, i'd pop in on them every month.

after that, i'm bouncing up to harlem to take a meeting with my co-writer/co-conspirator danny about my idea, the alberta hunter project. i'm so glad i'm doing this project with him, if for no other reason than it gives us a chance to hang out a lot and have this high creative exchange that's so satisfying and full of joy.

what i'm not doing is going to boxing class, which makes me very sad.

wow. where did the time go? the next thing i know, i'm going to be freaking out about what to wear for new year's eve.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

great news!

i received notice earlier today from harlem arts alliance, lower manhattan cultural council and the field that i'm one of ten artists that's been chosen to participate in the 2010 uptown/downtown performance development program. i'm using this opportunity to grow the alberta hunter project, an idea written by storyteller daniel carlton and myself that was instigated by a commission from jazzmobile earlier this year for their vocalfest as a tribute to miss hunter.

the performance in the spring at harlem stages for vocalfest was wonderful. daniel and i were onstage with the hot five, strutting our way through the better part of the 20th century via miss hunter's action-packed life. i've got a lot of ideas. and needless to say, i'm very excited.

i'd like to take a moment to thank aj for letting me know about this opportunity and encouraging me to apply for it. ever since he saw my one person show queen esther: unemployed superstar, he's been quite the cheerleader. thanks so much, aj. i hope you'll like the art i'm growing now.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What is Art?

Most people in America think Art is a man's name. - Andy Warhol

it's national blog posting month (NaBloPoMo) every month but i'm jumping into the fray this time around because the theme is ART -- whatever that is.

i inadvertently celebrated this magic moment by meeting elaine at moma in midtown for an exhibit that had unfortunately closed the day before. to lift our disappointed spirits, we sat in their sun-drenched cafe and had tea and biscotti, and then we left wishes on yoko ono's wish tree in the rock garden. i left elaine at the jewelry counter of the folk museum's gift shop next door and skipped off to the west side for a boxing class.

i live an art-drenched life, so this month should be pretty heavy-duty if my camera phone holds up. let's see what develops.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


so there i was on saturday morning, flying through the underbelly of the city on the 1 train with my gigantic vintage purse next to me, listening to public enemy, looking for all the world like it was 1922 - bob wig, lashes, heels, the works. i am surrounded by what can only be described as the unwashed masses. why shouldn't they gawk at me, i remember thinking. i would. i looked like i lived in a time warp. or a time machine.

here's a colorful tidbit: the navy blue dress i wore was a special number that i fought for on ebay like a frackin' tigress. it had this bizarrely conservative off-white/ecru doily of a lace collar that was so starchy and conservative, it seemed anything but tame to my way of thinking. i looked for all the world like a sexy librarian -- my favorite way to dress up.

to be completely honest with you, my dress is technically straight out of the 1930s. when it comes to dressing in 1920s attire, i'm a little insecure about my overall look because i'm not flat-chested and i don't have an androgynous boy body that the clothes seem to require. my decade is the 1940s or the 1950s because my hips and my chest are the same inchwise, i've got a total hat head and -- as many a construction worker in this town tells me constantly -- i've got good legs.

the kicker is that i had carefully wrapped, straight-out-of-the-oven hot property perched in my lap. i entered the roaring 20s jazz age lawn party's pie contest with not just any pie, mind you. i made a sweet apple wood smoked bacon apple pie. and i was really excited about it. so excited, in fact, that i wasn't really wound up at all about the audition i was heading towards at telsey casting in midtown -- the lead role in the broadway musical sister act.

yeah, you heard me the first time -- but i don't mind repeating this one. they turned the movie sister act into a musical, developed it in san diego (i think), ran it for awhile in london's west end with whoopi goldberg in the starring role, briefly. and now, it's time for the broadway run. they had auditions for most of the cast two weeks ago. rehearsals start in january of 2011. interesingly enough, whoopi goldberg produced this. i met her when she was one of several producers for george c. wolfe's harlem song.

renee emailed me about this open call on a saturday -- a blue sky, sun drenched, picture-perfect saturday, by the way -- which also happened to be the first day of the lawn party and the only day for the pie contest. everything happened all at once. i should have been crawling the walls about the audition but instead, i was obsessing over pie. pie! would the crust be flaky enough? did i put in too much sugar? what about the bacon and the tartness of the granny smith apples -- would that combination work?

i didn't even bring my book to the audition. i brought one song -- unthinkable! because if they didn't like what i was singing, they could ask me to sing something else and (heh!) i had nothing else, so that would be that. but for some reason, i wasn't sweating it. pie!

this character is an aspiring disco diva, so i picked my favorite abba song, updated my resume and sailed in as close to the noon start time as i could. not that it mattered. the room was packed. everyone was well dressed and well-heeled and chatty, with just enough makeup on to look fresh in the blazing heat. when i saw someone holding a card that said 205 in big type, i thought, 205 people? i almost left. but for some reason, they started with 200, like a weird checkbook. so i stayed. i sat there, panic-stricken, as #239. that pie had to be on the judge's table on governor's island by 3pm. would i make that deadline?

fortunately, God always sends help when i really need it. even if what i'm agonizing over is something that's as insignificant and meaningless as a pie contest. for lo and behold, my friend mindy sailed into the audition room like a superhero, changed into her vintage attire in the bathroom and took the pie to governor's island. before i got seen, she texted me that the pie hit the table as #9. i was free to panic something else but there was no time. all of a sudden, i was next and then all of a sudden, i was in the room and then all of a sudden, i was done.

i must say, it was a good feeling, stepping into a room full of beautiful talented black women in that 25 - 45 year old age range, all of us our own individual lovely selves. we aren't an anomaly. we aren't anyone's stereotype. and we are legion. i met quite a few who were from the south. two from atlanta, in fact. and one of them had only been here for a few weeks.

who knows if i got the part. who knows if i'm what they want. who knows. it's such a massive crap shoot. and ironically enough, as i've said time and time again on this blog and as is often the case with acting and "getting the part", talent has absolutely nothing to do with it. what's important is that i threw my hat in the ring. i didn't leave that stone unturned. i got seen for it and i did a solid audition. who doesn't love the song dancing queen, anyway? who's that idiot? in a way, the pie contest probably allowed me to relax and not take any of it too seriously, and that usually means a better performance.

oh, and about that pie contest? i won!

Friday, August 27, 2010


i was clearing out my junk room (believe it or not, it's almost done!) when i uncovered a box that had a lot of letters and cards in it from old friends and loved ones. as i began to sort through them, i unintentionally read a few. amazing, the power of the written word. actually, what's really amazing is the power of letters. not emails - letters. it was all so personal and heartfelt and...intimate, somehow. even the most casually tossed off note from my neighbors, thanking me for spontaneously gifting them with pound cake. i loved the handwriting, the little drawings in the margins instead of photos to show me things, the random postcards from all over the place. it made me want to get some stationery and write, write, write.

so many of them were from people that i hadn't seen or heard from in years. one of them, from a friend who passed away several years ago, was so full of love and feeling for me that reading it made me cry - in part because it made her so real, and it made me realize how much i miss her.

where on earth were these long lost friends? what were they doing now? were they happy? did they remember me?

of course, these letters were written before the age of facebook (or even friendster - remember them?) so of course i jumped on facebook to find one friend that wrote an especially compelling letter that i never answered. his name was mo and the letter was a fast paced catching up on his happy creative life in northern california, a place that my arty/guitar driven/punk rock undergrad set in austin texas seemed to gravitate towards like moths to a burning man bonfire. he gave me all his contact information and was looking forward to a return letter. i can't even begin to tell you how badly i felt when i realized i probably never wrote him back.

mo, beautiful mo. pasty as a glass of fresh buttermilk, with hair that looked as though it was cut at random by a blind, drunken barber. refreshingly, he had no tattoos - at least, none that i could see. his clothes were mostly safety pinned onto his lean, lanky frame, and he wore heavy steel-toed boots, even in the summertime. he would dumpster dive for fun when NO ONE was into it and emerge from what i considered to be unimaginable filth, victorious - with delicious things to eat, cute things to wear, fun things for anyone's home.

once i remember him hitting a particularly odd motherlode - more donuts than even he could carry home. (heh.)

the thing about mo is that he was basically a very sweet guy. he didn't seem to have not one hateful mean-spirited evil bone in his sturdy, sickly looking body. he looked like he was an alcoholic, drug addled mess - but he wasn't. he was polite, smart, and kind of a goofball when we were alone. he would occasionally make me laugh so hard, i'd snort. mo was a good time, especially at a punk rock show. i vaguely remember seeing some pretty cool shows with him around. and i distinctly recall that he was respectful of the fact that at the time, i wore a beehive for a living.

why didn't i jump all over him like a spider monkey when i met him? i have no idea. probably because he didn't jump all over me. and anyway, i was so not into schtupping my male friends. i knew girls who befriended guys with sex in mind - they considered that to be an option, somewhere in there. i grew up with a lot of brothers and no sisters, so i naturally assumed that God would give me more when i made my way into the world. sisters, too. and lots of play cousins.

so i found mo on facebook. crazy, right? in our last exchange, i thought, wow. i should write him that letter. so i'm working on what's becoming a not-too-overwhelming package.

now i'm remembering bull, whose real name is raoul, who would protectively walk me home from the p.a.c. at night. and then sometimes we'd make a pit-stop at the hole in the wall and play pool. he was mexican, with a peruvian grandpa i think, and he was from eagle pass, texas. the kind of guy who could build or fix anything. i loved him just as soon as i met him. his hair was falling out in clumps all over his head. he said it was drugs. i had no idea what he meant by that. i thought he had the mange.

he was bespectacled and straight-faced and frank and always thinking of someone else's feelings. or mine. even mine. really strangely super-animated and goofy, in our finer moments. to this day, we are siblings, to the soul.

good grief. i'd better write him, too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

it's official!

as of today, mercury is in retrograde until september 12th. this means that means the planet mercury slows down and looks as though it's going backwards, even though it isn't -- kind of the way the local subway train is neck and neck with the express line and seems to go backwards when it nears its next station as the faster train zips by.

i should say that although i sound like a massive hippie that reeks of pachouli and b.o. and good vibes, i'm actually a penny-pinching, health-conscious, meat-eating vegetarian that makes every attempt to become more and more aware of *sigh* the circle of life *pause* and how so much in the world affects all of us. so, no -- i don't follow astrology, per se. but i'm aware of how the planets and stars can enrich our lives, if we're paying attention. i still clip my plants and cut my hair according to the pull of the moon, the way my great-grandmother taught me. (the farmer's almanac is a friend of mine!) more on that little tidbit some other time.

mercury is in retrograde four times this year -- quite unusual. what kind of a ride you get depends on what sign mercury is in retrograde within. this time around, it's virgo. critical, critical virgo. intellectual, yes. but critical. and whaddya know? virgo is also ruled by mercury, so this should make things especially sticky. and interesting.

everyone i know is dreading the next few weeks, for all the funk that's coming down the pike. there's always havoc in the air, stuff always goes screwy. but i've decided to look for the silver lining this time around. because this time around, i'm not going to freak out when things break down, when the subway never comes, when my phone won't work, when i miss opportunities because of missed calls or when my computer slows to a crawl. i'm not going to lose it if something out of my past rears its ugly head, no matter who or what it is. i'm going to rise above all this stuff and -- you guessed it! -- go with the flow.

i'm also going to clean and reorganize this apartment, clear out that junk room, throw out a lot of stuff and edit my closets. get my piano tuned. find a good seamstress and get some vintage clothes altered for the fall -- especially those wiggle dresses. work on my left hook and my right cross. do a little bit everyday to get stronger, get healthier and get my body back.

that's it for now, my fellow hippies. now, get back on your grind.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

so beautiful

watching Motion Theater Lab outdoors in Harlem w/Renee & ... on Twitpic

this is a snapshot of last night's summerstage performance in west harlem of motion theater lab, dancing under the stars at jackie robinson park's ampitheater.

the event was nothing short of wonderful -- with some truly breathtaking moments. an evening of dance with earl mosley's institute of the arts and motion theater lab that began with a hipfunkinghop dance class, taught for all ages by choreographer calvin wiley. by the time we showed up, everyone that felt so inclined was onstage behind this man who looked as though he were directing traffic in a really elegant way. even people in the audience were dancing!

i love harlem, i really do. it's not just harlem, actually. it's brooklyn, too. but for me, it's harlem. whether it's the architecture, the food, the history that's alive in the streets, the languages spoken all around me by black folk from the diaspora speak everywhere i go, or the vibe that is who we are -- i am saturated in blackness. i can't imagine living in a place that doesn't take my black perspective into consideration, on all fronts. if i did, i'd probably never leave the house. that's probably a part of the reason why it's so hard for me to imagine living anywhere else. this place has really spoiled me as a negress. but then again, so did the atl. and charleston.

this thursday -- gil-scott heron is at marcus garvey park. next week -- doug e. fresh is at jackie robinson park. first the black cowboys, now this. what a cool summer i'm having! more photos later.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

my movie watching progress so far...

This is the IMDB Top 250 movie list. I thought it would make me a less ignorant film actor if I watched more movies, so I figured this list would be a good start. I’ve seen everything that’s in bold letters. Wow. I really don’t have too far to go with this one. Time to crank Netflix a little harder. If I do, I’ll be done with this list before the end of the summer.

1. The Shawshank Redemption
2. The Godfather
3. Inception
4. The Godfather: Part II
5. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
6. Pulp Fiction
7. Schindler’s List
8. Toy Story 3
9. 12 Angry Men
10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
11. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
12. The Dark Knight
13. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
14. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
15. Seven Samurai
16. Casablanca
17. Goodfellas
18. Fight Club
19. City of God
20. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
21. Raiders of the Lost Ark
22. Rear Window
23. Psycho
24. The Usual Suspects
25. Once Upon a Time in the West
26. The Silence of the Lambs
27. The Matrix
28. Se7en
29. Memento
30. It’s a Wonderful Life
31. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
32. Sunset Blvd.
33. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
34. North by Northwest
35. The Professional
36. Citizen Kane
37. Apocalypse Now
38. Forrest Gump
39. American Beauty
40. American History X
41. Taxi Driver
42. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
43. Vertigo
44. Lawrence of Arabia
45. Alien
46. Amélie
47. Saving Private Ryan
48. WALL·E
49. The Shining
50. A Clockwork Orange
51. Paths of Glory
52. The Departed
53. The Pianist
54. To Kill a Mockingbird
55. Aliens
56. Spirited Away
57. The Lives of Others
58. M*
59. *Double Indemnity

60. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
61. Chinatown
62. Requiem for a Dream
63. L.A. Confidential
64. Reservoir Dogs
65. The Third Man
66. Das Boot
67. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
68. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
69. City Lights
70. Pan’s Labyrinth
71. The Bridge on the River Kwai
72. Raging Bull
73. The Prestige
74. Back to the Future
75. Inglourious Basterds
76. 2001: A Space Odyssey
77. Life Is Beautiful
78. Modern Times
79. Singin’ in the Rain
80. Some Like It Hot
81. Amadeus
82. Downfall
83. Full Metal Jacket
84. Up
85. Cinema Paradiso
86. Braveheart
87. The Maltese Falcon
88. Once Upon a Time in America
89. All About Eve
90. Rashômon
91. The Green Mile
92. Metropolis
93. Gran Torino
94. The Elephant Man
95. The Great Dictator
96. Sin City
97. The Apartment
98. Rebecca
99. Gladiator
100. The Sting
101. The Great Escape
102. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
103. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
104. Slumdog Millionaire
105. Unforgiven
106. Bicycle Thieves
107. Jaws
108. Avatar
109. Batman Begins
110. Die Hard
111. Blade Runner
112. On the Waterfront
113. Oldboy
114. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
115. Hotel Rwanda
116. No Country for Old Men
117. Touch of Evil
118. The Seventh Seal
119. Fargo
120. Princess Mononoke
121. For a Few Dollars More
122. The Wizard of Oz
123. Heat
124. District 9
125. Strangers on a Train
126. Cool Hand Luke
127. Donnie Darko
128. High Noon
129. The Sixth Sense
130. The Deer Hunter
131. Notorious
132. There Will Be Blood
133. Snatch
134. Annie Hall
135. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
136. The General
137. The Big Lebowski
138. The Manchurian Candidate
139. Platoon
140. Yojimbo
141. Ran
142. Into the Wild
143. Ben-Hur
144. The Wrestler
145. The Big Sleep
146. The Lion King
147. Million Dollar Baby
148. Toy Story
149. Witness for the Prosecution
150. It Happened One Night
151. Life of Brian
152. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
153. The Bourne Ultimatum
154. Finding Nemo
155. Wild Strawberries
156. Trainspotting
157. Gone with the Wind
158. The Terminator
159. Stand by Me
160. Groundhog Day
161. Scarface
162. The Graduate
163. The Thing
164. Kick-Ass
165. Amores Perros
166. Dog Day Afternoon
167. Star Trek
168. Ratatouille
169. Gandhi
170. V for Vendetta
171. The Wages of Fear
172. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
173. Twelve Monkeys
174. The Secret in Their Eyes
175. The Grapes of Wrath
176. How to Train Your Dragon
177. Casino
178. The Gold Rush
180. Grave of the Fireflies
181. Diabolique
182. The Night of the Hunter
183. Judgment at Nuremberg
184. The Incredibles
185. The Princess Bride
186. The Killing
187. The Wild Bunch
188. Kind Hearts and Coronets
189. Children of Men
190. The Exorcist
191. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
192. In Bruges
193. The Best Years of Our Lives
194. The Kid
195. Dial M for Murder
196. Nights of Cabiria
197. The Hustler
198. Good Will Hunting
199. Rosemary’s Baby
200. Ed Wood
201. Harvey
202. Big Fish
203. King Kong
204. Let the Right One In
205. A Streetcar Named Desire
206. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
207. Sleuth
208. Rocky
209. Magnolia
210. Letters from Iwo Jima
211. Kill Bill: Vol. 2
212. Shadow of a Doubt
213. Mystic River
214. Stalag 17
215. Network
216. Brief Encounter
217. The African Queen
218. Rope
219. Crash
220. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
221. Bonnie and Clyde
222. The Battle of Algiers
223. Planet of the Apes
224. Duck Soup
225. The 400 Blows
226. Manhattan
227. Patton
228. La strada
229. Toy Story
230. The Conversation
231. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
232. Barry Lyndon
233. Changeling
234. The Truman Show
235. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
236. Little Miss Sunshine
237. Anatomy of a Murder
238. The Nightmare Before Christmas
239. All Quiet on the Western Front
240. The Adventures of Robin Hood
241. Mulholland Dr.
242. Spartacus
243. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
244. Monsters, Inc.
245. My Neighbor Totoro
246. Ikiru
247. Shaun of the Dead
248. Rain Man
249. The Philadelphia Story
250. Arsenic and Old Lace

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I love boxing and I don't know why

I love boxing and I don’t know why.

I love to hit my trainer and I love to hit other people in the class and I love to hit that bag. I completely and utterly LOVE it. So on the surface, I suppose it looks as though I’m physically attacking someone else. And I am, which is kind of a kick because that’s a felony in most states. And yes, it's fun. Big fun. But to me, it’s as though we are two opposing sides of a chess game and I am using my body to think my way through every move that the other side makes. If I’m crafty, I could anticipate their move before they do, based on the moves they’ve made before – just like chess. After a certain point, you can see how they think. And if you study their thought processes closely enough, you can see why they think the way they do. You can go as far and as deep as you want, one swing at a time.

Boxing, as it turns out, is a thinking man’s game.

There’s a lot of strategy involved. I suppose this is me blatantly stating the obvious but I’ll say it anyway: once you’ve mastered technique, it’s all mental. Or sometimes, it’s emotional. You can apply this rule to anything. Take singing, for example. The technique I’ve mastered allows me the freedom to let go and pretty much let God – or what some call inspiration – take over. The thing is, there are definitely a lot of mind games that happen before anyone gets in the ring and takes a swing at anyone else. And the movement, the swinging, the aggression – it’s constant.

Boxing, as it turns out, is dancing.

I can’t use my body for much of anything with this sport if it’s not strong enough to give a punch or take one and if I don’t have any endurance. Or coordination. As it turns out, I have all three of those things. I just didn’t know it. I am much stronger than I think I am – physically and mentally. Whenever I box, all of this becomes a little more apparent and a little more of that strength is revealed to me. And of course, all of that strength and self-discipline spills out onto every other part of my life. It's a way better workout than aerobics. At least I'm learning a skill I can actually use.

Okay. Maybe I do know why I love boxing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a NYC free-for-all

so last night i’m hanging out with the artist/activist richard bell, who loves to casually announce in the most arbitrary moments imaginable that he’s the luckiest man in all of north america. he’s an aborigine from australia, by the way. we’re in an aussie bar called 8 mile creek in soho, surrounded by his ex-pat buddies and a few negroes who’ve shown up to say good-bye to him. sadly, his artist’s residency has come to an end. he leaves on friday.

suddenly, beautiful beaming lovely elaine – a printmaker from melbourne who’s been in the city for a month or so – breezes in, looking sunkissed and relaxed. she’s spent the day at the beach, and she looks it. she’s got a stack of books that she says she “found” in a bag on the sidewalk on the way there, just a few doors down. they are beautiful blank books, some of them moleskin, a few filled with sketches. and then she reaches into her bag and pulls out a handful of rubberbanded pencils and pens that she can barely get her hand around. she holds it up like it’s a torch, a beacon in the night. you should go see, she nearly squeals. it’s amazing stuff. and then, as if to prove it to me, she gives me a blank book. it’s red. and it’s lovely. i decide to call the book elaine and tell her that i’ll use it to write lyrics for my songs. i’ll do a gig later and i’ll say, this came from the elaine book and only she would know what i meant. she laughed and gave me that rubberbanded clutch of pens to pick through. something to write lyrics with. kismet, beautiful kismet. and that was that.

still and all, i sat there, chewing on my sausage roll in disbelief. (had to try some aussie food—and frankly, it’s a little too english for me. but more on that later.) but my curiousity got the better of me, so out i went and sure enough, there were not one but 4 bags full of art supplies, cushions, you name it. i was bent over one of the bags so completely, it looked like i was about to tip over and take a nosedive. much of the stuff had not been used. yikes, i thought. someone will see me out here and think that i’m trying to steal something and call the cops on me. after all i am black. i pulled two pristine beige soft cover blank books out with a quickness, shoved them under my arm and and headed back with my find.

we marvelled over all the books as we sat at the table, decided that the person who wrote and sketched these things was a woman and wondered why such nice things were on the sidewalk. when we saw some guy at the bar walk in with one of the bags, that did it. overwhelmed by curiousity (and yes, disbelief), elaine (my new bff) and ralph (the coolest guy ever) went back out there to see what was left and if anything else had been added to the pile.

sure enough, there was more stuff.

as we stood there, looking over the clothes (italian merino wool?) the heavier stuff (a scanner?!) and books (ginsburg’s howl?!), a blonde woman appeared in the doorway with a box, harried and completely out of breath. as it turns out, she had to leave the country the next day because of visa constrictions. she was canadian and had lived in the building for 7 years. now she was being forced to leave – or eventually face deportation. she had an apartment full of stuff that she couldn’t sell on craigslist because she simply didn’t have time. she tipped the door open with one weary arm and sighed. did we want to see any of it?

did we ever.

we marched up five flights of stairs to this cute little place. she had bagged what she could – friends were coming the next day to help her move that stuff – but the rest was up for grabs. and it was a LOT.

we picked through some amazing stuff. what did i get in my free-for-all? a pinhole camera. a beautiful elegant large umbrella. a wooden bath mat. a white 70s looking lomo colorsplash camera. a handful of beautiful ink pens. more blank books. a stunningly beautiful and well-tailored man’s italian overcoat. a woolen scarf. a woolen wrap. probably more stuff than that, actually. i’m still too groggy and out of it to inventory all of it.

we were like a bunch of little kids, all of us. she seemed genuinely relieved that her things were going to good use and that weren’t going to end up in the garbage. exhausted but relieved.

as we drifted through the rooms of her cute little place, chatty and upbeat and full of wonder, looking at all the cool stuff, taking in her fun downtown new york city life, feeling her melancholy, giddy with excitement over everything we found, and even more excited when she said we could have it, i felt such a rush.

i’m still not exactly sure what that rush was made of. the presence of the divine, perhaps.

we kept reassuring her. she kept begging us to take more stuff. there were some things that were so nice, we insisted that she keep them. what about our friends at the bar, she asked. was there anyone else who would want any of this stuff? just tell them to ring her buzzer, or come back in the morning, even.

you should have seen the reaction we got when we went back to the bar. priceless.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

why do i love dolly parton?

when i was a kid, dolly parton was everywhere.

she had her own variety show, she was on magazine covers, she wrote books, she was constantly popping up on tv shows here and there, she was all over the radio and she was a bona fide movie star. bizarrely enough, she was a real doll, as far as i could tell. a little too big, a little too blonde, a little too pasty, a little too much make-up -- just like barbie!

as a kid, i had play clothes and i had school clothes and i had church clothes. but it was dolly who taught me what stage clothes were. they weren't necessarily costumes, by the way, and they were always beautiful. it seemed as though they were meant to augment some inner part of who she was. she made me wonder what my stage clothes would look like. i honestly think i started assembling those gowns and such, in my head, as i was watching her.

i didn't know much about her personally, except that she came from a big southern family. i liked that, because i did, too.

i'd like to say that i kept up with dolly over the years, wondering what she was up to or hearing about some oldies tour she was doing or something like that. but she was always there like always, and like always, she was everywhere. she never faded into the where are they now? bin. she was never a has been. she just kept going. she was always there. even when she wasn't there, she was there -- as a songwriter, as a producer, as a philanthropist. it wasn't until much later that i realized the true nature of her creative impact.

her trajectory is an interesting one. once she achieved success, she simply maintained it. no simple feat at all, to be sure. i think she's been able to pull it off because she's so grounded. she got married at 18 -- and stayed married. no alcohol/drug problems whatsoever. she didn't have any children to take up the lionshare of her time and energy and her husband had his own life. so she kept working, and as opportunities came her way -- producing movies, for example -- she took them. she used all that glitz, a closet full of blonde wigs and those gigantic ta-tas to distract everyone from the fact that she's actually a supersmart businesswoman and a gifted songwriter. no one is exactly as they appear to be.

think about it: would she really have gotten that far if she'd been a flat-chested brunette?

nevermind the 45 grammy award nominations or the 7 grammys, the 42 country music association nominations or the 10 cmas, the academy of country music's 39 nominations and 7 awards, the two oscar nominations, the tony nomination. ignore the grand ol' opry induction in 1969, the star on the hollywood walk of fame in 1984, the star on the nashville walk of fame, the honorary doctorate. recieving the kennedy center honor in 2006. that theme park, the one that employs thousands. yeah, nevermind that stuff.

get this: she's a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, autoharp, piano, fiddle, harmonica, drums, appalachian dulcimer and pennywhistle). she's sold more than 155 million albums worldwide. she's written more than 3,000 songs. she's got 41 top 10 country albums and 25 number one singles. she's had a top 5 country hit in each of the last five decades. as of a few years ago, she has her own record label. she's had her own publishing company ever since her days of performing and writing songs with porter waggoner, and needless to say, she owns all of her publishing. actually, she's always owned her publishing -- something that most recording artists/songwriters toss to the wind just as soon as they get signed.

at this juncture, i'd like for you to think about your favorite performer and ask yourself if they play any instruments, if they write any songs, or if they own any of what they're creating (if they actually create anything at all). most of the recording artists in this industry wake up one day and realize that all of a sudden, they're out of fashion and everyone has moved onto the next. they usually have no assets, no homeownership and no money. if their relatives didn't clean them out, a nasty divorce ravaged them financially. or it's drugs and alcohol that caved them in. that old chestnut.

what do you think kris kross is doing or the rest of those little kiddie hip-hop send ups like abc - another bad creation? (hey, they were from the atl!) where in the world is sinbad? he had is own talk show! and he hosted that vibe late night talk show! and he was emcee for the ms. universe pageant! remember how big kid n' play were? what do you think they're up to now? look at the jackson 5. (ew.)

why didn't that happen to dolly? probably because she doesn't do r&b. (heh.) let's face it. r&b is producer-driven, trendy and mostly disposable. on the other hand, country music fans are infamous for their rabid loyalty. not being in a band and having to deal with those group dynamics couldn't have hurt, either. oh yeah. and she's not a corporate tool.

for me, it really boils down to her songs -- she wrote them, she owned them and she used that financial base to do whatever she wanted creatively.

i don't think i could ask for a better role model.