So, this post is a bit of a "test run". When I was in 8th grade, The Day After aired on television. It was the junior high equivalent of a water-cooler topic - we were ALL talking about it beforehand, and we were definitely all talking about it the day after. As a movie, it wasn't the most perfect example of speculative fiction, but it served as great fodder for classroom discussion (especially in the middle of the cold war!). I remember a friend and I, during summer vacation, creating our own fictional bunker in case of nuclear war - we'd spend hours just figuring out how long we'd have to stay underground, who we'd like to bring with us and what kind of sewage/water/food systems we'd have to subsist on. The Day After was probably my formal introduction to the subgenre, likely the first I'd thought of it, and was the kickoff to a lifetime's fascination.
Sub genre of what, you ask? Is apocalypse/aftermath fiction horror? Is it science fiction? I've long had a fear it will become science FACT. I like the umbrella term "Speculative Fiction". Under its wings you might find Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, etc. And I suppose, depending on the type of apocalypse, you would then go on to put things under those subcategories...zombie apocalypse might fall under horror, whilst robots destroying the world might fit better with Science Fiction.
In high school, I read my first Stephen King novel, The Stand, which tells the story of a world decimated through a superflu plague. Another of my friends had also read it, and we spent hours on the phone each night imagining what we might do in such a scenario, where we might travel, what and who we might bring, and how we might rebuild society. Obviously, I was hooked.
Several decades later, I am no less fascinated and intrigued by the different iterations of fictional apocalypse, and have happily devoured many television, film and book tales with varied and imaginative end times. I’ve even written a couple of post-apocalyptic plays. And there is no shortage of end days’ paranoia, given the current political situation and global climate, to think about. Climate change anyone? Nuclear war? How ‘bout some ebola?
Right now, my intention is to start an entire apocalyptic blog on the subject and of course, all its potential subcategories, because, though I have very little control over things unfolding on the world stage, at least I can have some control over this. I'll discuss zombies, aliens, asteroids, WWIII, acts of god, no armageddon is off limits, and maybe I'll throw in speculation about how one might survive such a thing, and even discuss putting together different sorts of survival kits for your more run-of-the-mill cataclysm. I'll make book, film and tv recommendations on each subcategory, because lord knows I've consumed a lion's share!
If this is your thing and you're intrigued, feel free to take a look! And if you have any suggestions, thoughts, or ideas on topics you might enjoy reading about within the subject, please feel free to share your feedback.
So, being a woman and having to deal with the whole beauty thing. I was the ugly, fat, weird girl for the first 30 years of my life, bullied and made fun of a LOT, particularly in the last few years of elementary school and Jr. high. Things were always a struggle, I was always on some stupid diet or other that didn't work, it governed most of my waking thoughts through adolescence and young adulthood. And in undergrad, there was no shortage of male acting teachers telling me I needed to lose weight, and that (at 18-22) I was only castable as mothers and grandmothers, and Juliet's nurse. My bottom half, my legs, were especially deplorable.
My body changed drastically the year I turned 30...partially due to finding my purpose in life, and partially due to my esophagus no longer working properly. Suddenly, I had to navigate in this new, thinner body that was more "acceptable" to others. I was still fairly self-conscious about my legs, though an intense exercise in an acting class the year I was 31 made me realize that *holy shit* at least they WORKED and could DO things and I wasn't PARALYZED or anything like that. I got a taste of what it was like to be attractive for the first time, for about 15 years. Then I started aging.
Recently, I was in a show where I was apparently not young/ attractive enough to feature on the poster or postcard (each of the other actors was - it was a 3-actor show). They said that wasn't the reason, but really, what am I supposed to think? I was told I would be the internet presence and that there was an animated GIF. All three of us were on the internet photos, and if there was an animated GIF, it never made an appearance. Again: what a I supposed to think? And thank god I got to wear a long skirt and cover up my legs.
Last week, I started a burlesque class. The first week, we mostly went through the history of Burlesque (which is quite interesting!), and learned a few dance moves and a combo towards the end. As we were going out the door, the instructor said, "We'll be working with stockings next week - boy shorts are better to get stockings on and off than leggings or pants, so just keep that in mind."
OH SHIT. Stockings. Thigh highs. The BANE OF MY EFFING EXISTENCE. I tried them once a looooong time ago, and never did again. Because you pull 'em up, and if you have legs of any girth at all, there is a roll of fat that oozes out over the tops of the stockings. So, the whole week, I am realizing the impact of having signed up for a burlesque class, and I am quietly freaking out that I am going to have to have bare legs, in BOY SHORTS for next class. Part of me considered just never going back. But dammit, I paid $$ for the class, and say what you will about me but I'm NOT a quitter.
So, I put on the biker shorts I use for swimming in the summer. And I looked in the mirror. At all angles. I even turned around and bent over and looked at my back end through my legs. And okay...it was not as horrifying as i had feared. I put on leggings over them. And a skirt. And cute shoes and a top. And went to class.
We did everything else first, and the stockings were the last thing. So there I was. I had pulled the stockings all the way up, and there was that roll of fat at the top. And the instructor was telling us how to take them off so we could keep hold of the band and it wouldn't roll off, and I asked the question "So what if your LEGS MAKE THEM ROLL AUTOMATICALLY???" And was told to do my best, these were cheap stockings, and I could probably find ones that went all the way up, and that garters would help. Hm. Good to know. I worked with it.
And there I was, taking the stockings on and off in different ways, looking at my roll of fat at the top of them. And again...it wasn't that horrifying. And I didn't die. And I didn't even really look that bad. And I really didn't care if I did to other people. And I realized that, despite being 47 and perimenopausal, with big ole veiny, translucent, stretch-mark-covered legs and not conventionally attractive, I am really, really damn comfortable in my skin. EFFING FINALLY.
My earliest memory is meeting my great grandmother Bekins. It was at some point before we went to Spain, so before I was 2 years old. She was blind, and it was a dark, dank room – I just remember flashes of being there, but the fact that she was blind left an impression on my toddler mind. My continuous memories really begin in Singapore, where I can piece together a continuity. I have a few memories from Spain, but the earliest really is meeting Great Grandma.
Memory is an interesting, and tricky thing – I could pontificate for awhile on the unreliability of memory, or of writing memories down, and then the memory becomes the written memory, but it may not be exact memory. And I am prone to embellishing things to make them more interesting, and/or omitting things that are not that exciting, or that dilute or distract from the essence of the event….and then my mind continues to embellish and omit until the memory becomes something different in my mind, and then when I read the original account, maybe talk to someone who was there, read my journal from that time, etc – I realize that the “story” of the memory has become pretty far flung from what the original event was. Memory is a strange, strange thing.
I got to play Death (And the Maid) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In a bilingual production of Blood Wedding, my first role with substantial Spanish, and my parents came to town to see it in August. Getting to do Lorca in Spanish...wow. Lorca in Spanish is like experiencing Shakespeare in English, and makes me wonder how much more awesome Ibsen, Chekhov, Euripides, etc must be in their own native languages.
Even the auditions/callbacks were fun, plus getting offered the role(s) during the callback was a special kind of awesome!
Thanks to Ana Maria Campoy for telling me about the audition, Tina Polzin for casting/directing me & the rest of the ensemble for restoring my faith that things I don’t have a hand in producing can still be fun and transformative.
I brought an international artist to The Pocket Theater & we performed her Don Quixotes together for one night during her layover here in June, after rehearsing <<<<<<< mostly via Skype!
Thanks, Glyka Stoiou & Rebecca Goldberg!
Three of my plays got produced:
Fate Demands It in Orlando for Playwright’s RoundTable Launch 2016! In January
How To Build A Ritual (co-written by Jen Smith Anderson, text arrangement by Richard Buckley, with contributions from the cast) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Smashing Reality as part of The Pocket Theatre’s FringeMonth in Oct, with plays by Rebecca Goldberg & Beth Peterson for Splintered, Fractured, BROKE
I also posted 30 new short plays (one per day!) in November for Red Theatre Chicago’s November Writing Challenge, and attended the Write-O-Rama at Hugo House in early Dec where I wrote even MORE and got some inspiration. Thanks to Mandy for joining me as a fellow writer for BOTH...it was comforting to have someone to commiserate/share the experiences with.
I finally made my pilgrimage to Greece. It was amazing and transformative. Highlights:
Trip to Vegas and Long Beach in Oct – sad circumstances for the latter (RIP Josh Fischel), but it was extremely wonderful to see so many of my fabulous SPVA tribe again…more intense and heartfelt, due to the occasion, than the reunion in San Diego circa 2010.
And then went back to Vegas to hang out with my nieces (and eat Roberto’s!).
...and then the last two months of the year happened, the world got dragged into the Upside Down, and we have a demigorgon president-elect.
Choppy waters ahead, but I'll get through the with all my people near and far, and my two loves, Ian & Vixen.
Happy New Year to everyone - I know we'll get through this together and hopefully in one piece! Interesting times we have the priviledge of living in...
Fairly recently, I’d say in the last six months or so, I started making pizza at home, when I discovered a small bag of pre-made dough at Trader Joe’s. Since that day, I’ve made it several times, by taking the dough and pressing it into a baking sheet, sticking the sauce and toppings on, then putting it in the oven. I even once made my own, grain-free crust while we were doing a paleo-type diet for a month. That one also had no dairy, but it scratched an itch. All told, I have made some pretty decent pizzas. They are a little moister than I’d like, however.
I’ve been kind of wanting a pizza stone since I started making pizza. I’ve just heard so much about how they cook the crust more evenly, make it into an experience closer to ordering. I wondered if they would also make the pizza a little less wet.
I’d seen the stones in kitchen stores, they’re not that expensive, but I hadn’t picked one up – for some reason, I was talking about pizza stones a LOT the week before December 25 (I hadn’t even intended this to be a hint!) thus, much to my surprise and delight, I found one under the tree with my name on it on Christmas morning!
After reading up on how to use pizza stones online, I felt a little intimidated – apparently, you can’t just put the dough on the stone, make the pizza on the stone, then put the stone in the oven – you actually have to preheat the stone, make the pizza while the stone is preheating, then transfer the pizza onto the stone already in the oven, somehow. This seemed rife with pratfalls. However, I ordered a wooden pizza pallet which arrived early last week, and even though I was still feeling kind of intimidated, I decided to rip of the bandaid and finally made my first pizza stone pizza last Friday!
Using one of those cheapie Pillsbury crusts in the biscuit tin (I know, I know – I have already conquered grain-free crust – why am I intimidated by making normal crust? It’s the whole yeast, rising, resting thing that skeeves me out a little, but I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually…), I dutifully put the stone in the oven and began heating it. Meanwhile, I set out to make the pizza (a Hawaiian!) on the pizza pallet, first by covering it with a generous dusting of cornstarch, so the dough wouldn’t stick…this of course, made it difficult to roll out – it wanted to keep snapping back, but eventually, I was able to get it rolled out almost the entire surface area of the pallet, and the cornstarch worked like a charm in terms of it not sticking.
Transferring it to the hot stone in the scorching oven was another story – I managed to do it, but botched it a little, sending some of my toppings & cheese falling to their deaths at the bottom of the oven. I should’ve trusted the cornstarch to do its job, but used a spatuala, and that was actually what ended up with the little botch. I should’ve just jiggled the pallet a little and used my hands. NEXT TIME.
I pulled it out 12 minutes later, and: YES! The crust was definitely evenly cooked, the pizza itself cooked and the cheese melted, but without the extra moisture I lamented in the baking pan. Even with the cheapie Pillsbury dough, it was pretty delicious, and of course, an opportunity to get rid of more of that lingering Xmas ham! Also, it held up well as breakfast leftovers into the following week - it was not as floppy (due to moisture) as its baking pan-created ancestors.
Next step: do it again, but make my own crust. I also want to try making other things on the pizza stone, will be seeking out inspiration for such masterpieces soon!
So, Ian and I made a 10-pound ham for Xmas dinner.
10 pounds of ham for two people (and a cat).
We did it on purpose, because we were gluttonous for the delicious leftovers. There were trimmings, too - don't get me wrong. Accompanying the ham, there was green bean casserole, bacon stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry-pomegranate sauce. And roasted root vegetables inside the ham pan, oh yeah. All of it delicious.
And it did not disappoint - in fact, today, January 5th, 11 days after Xmas, we are still eating ham leftovers. And remarkably, not sick of them yet.
Ham is SO much more versatile than turkey! And it was cured, so there is a little longer period of time before it starts to go bad, thank goodness.
Not only were there the obvious ham sandwiches, but these leftovers allowed me to get creative and make several things I'd never attempted before:
I made two batches of ham/cheddar/potato chowder, two ham/cheddar/broccoli quiches, a ginormous vat of hambone/white bean soup and my even my own devilled ham!
And it has all been delicious - the chowder in particular...and there may be just enough ham left to make a 3rd batch of that!
This is all really apropos of nothing other than: I love to cook. I love to eat. And I feel like a superhero when I cook things and they are insanely delicious. I feel like this week, I should be wearing a cape with a large ham emblazoned on my chest!
Photos of all leftovers are below, and should you wish the recipes, they are all pinned to my "Leftovers!" board on Pinterest. I recommend them all, but honorable mention has to go to the chowder - I think I will have to buy ham now JUST to make this again, once the ham is gone.
So, new year, new tactic with this blog I seem to have a bitch of a time maintaining. I know this is not particularly new or innovative, but I think I am going to turn this into a FOOOOOOD blog. Yes. Because we need another one. But you know what? I don’t care. Yes, there are thousands, maybe millions, and guess what? Here is one more!
Why food? What could I possibly have to contribute to the conversation? What could I possibly have to add? Maybe nothing. But it will sure be fun trying. Why NOT food?
Whether or not it’s new, I definitely have things to say about it. What it means to me. The conversations I’ve had about it. The issues I’ve traversed with it. And it seems to be something I come back to, again and again.
I love food. I love eating it. I love preparing it. I love watching movies and shows about it. It is probably the one thing in my life, besides my cat, that is all about pure joy. I enjoy cooking for others, but I equally enjoy just cooking for myself – it gives me the same joy and isn’t contingent on whether or not someone else thinks it’s good.
What will I write about food? OH! There is SOOO MUCH! I might write about what I have cooked. I might wright about how I’ve used my Xmas ham leftovers! I might talk about the latest episode of Top Chef (which I’ve watched religiously since it’s inception back when I was in grad school). I might talk about my personal struggles with food/body issues. I might talk about garden bounty. And there WILL be pictures! But it will all be related to food and the joy and comfort it brings me.
I don’t want to be a chef – I don’t want to taint something else I love with business aspects, with audience reactions, with the need to exist in a capitalist society. But it is an interest of mine that I can’t ignore, and perhaps writing about it in a more focused way will help me determine if it has some other purpose in my life beside joy, comfort and nourishment.
Things I’ve discovered while being on a media diet the past week:
All in all, though it was challenging, it was a positive and somewhat enlightening week for me…what it comes down to is, do I want to be a constant consumer of other people’s images/words/ideas, or do I want to be primarily a producer of my own?
So, I am cutting back on “media” this week as part of the assignments for this week’s Artist’s Way chapter. In the book, (which I think was originally published in 1992, before the advent of widely-used internet)it is called “reading deprivation week”, where you are not supposed to read anything extracurricular for a week (which means stuff you need to do for work is okay).
It has been updated to “media deprivation week” and while I can’t go on a complete hiatus from “media”, I’m doing my best to go on a diet. For me, this means
I think those are all the perimeters. I have been at it since Tuesday, am nearly midway through Day 3 now, and I have to say, it is HARD for me. I am a media WHORE, an ADDICT in capital letters. I have eagerly sucked down my hour of tv the past two nights, and no catching half an hour of the news in the mornings before work – luckily, only 2 work days to deal with during this – it’s hard to implement this while sitting in front of a computer all day, so I will be glad when I can be free to do other things. Am looking forward to going for a walk after work, if the weather holds – apparently, it is not looking so good, so I will have to throw my heart and attention into making dinner. But conveniently, I also have some edits to the Arts Gumbo poster I am making for SEED Arts, so that should carve out some time.
Anyway – this is where things stand as of now – we shall see how it unfolds with 4 days away from work.
So, I have been doing an Artist's Way course facilitated by my friend and sometime colleague, Kate Gavigan. More info about these courses HERE.
Now let me explain. I have a little bit of history with The Artist's Way and my feelings about it.
Take One: I first heard about it sometime around fall 1998 when a classmate of mine was going through her reading deprivation week...then shortly thereafter, I was on a day trip to Bainbridge Island and found the actual book while browsing a local bookstore. Since I felt I was in the midst of some kind of creative awakening anyway, I purchased it, then read a little of it while I was on a trip to visit my parents in Brazil. I read some of it, did some of the exercises. I didn't really attempt morning pages, but I did revamp my journal, and since I was going through an awakening anyway, continued to allow that to unfold organically, from Spring 1998 through Summer 1999, realized I wanted to get back into theatre again after a 6-year hiatus, went about implementing that to see what it was about, and ultimately decided, after an *amazing* and life-altering Shakespeare Intensive at Freehold Theatre, that I needed to jump in with both feet.
Take Two: Summer 2001, after spending two years taking classes, and finishing my first production outside Freehold, I had a little time on my hands and decided to try doing Artist's Way again. This time, I got a little more serious, not only started to read the first few chapters, but also started doing morning pages every day...which pretty immediately became a dream journal. Artist's Dates are and have been something I've done since before I ever heard of the book, though I didn't necessarily call them that, so that was nothing new. A month after starting this process, I began taking a non-fiction writing course, and a few days after that, some terrorists flew some planes into some buildings in New York, which was kind of a big deal. About a month after that, I looked back over some of these morning-pages-turned-dream-journal, and discovered I had had a dream on September 8th where I was in New York and looked out the window just in time to see one of the WTC towers collapse. By this time, I had abandoned the book again, and just spent time analyzing and recording my dreams.
Take Three: Fast Forward to late Spring 2014. I have proudly called myself an artist without wavering for at least 13 years now, though sometimes it is hard to carve an authentic path for myself in the face of everyone and their opinions: peers, colleagues, instructors, extended family members, often popular culture and the magnetic pull of society at large. But yes. I am a Theatre, Literary and Visual Artist, have actually made a few bucks at all three at this point, even managed to support myself at times as an artist. I am also a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre now. I have written plays, poetry, pr materials, press releases, short stories and essays. I have acted in comedies, tragedies, classical and modern plays. I have devised and collaborated. Yet still, I feel like I am less than. I feel like I am not accepted in "the scene", feel like people think I SUCK, but I continue to make art anyway, because I am compelled to. So, though I don't feel like I'm necessarily fully blocked, like I have been at times, I feel like there is some blockage there, and knowing Kate to be an open and inclusive person, decided to take her class and finally complete the book once and for all.
That said, I must say I take some issue with a few things Julia talks about in her book...perhaps she has another one I am not aware of, where she discusses being in different parts of the process...but the whole "recovery" angle feels a little ooky to me. Though I suppose it is an addiction and an obsession if you choose to look at it that way, I've never received anything but positive feelings while immersing myself in making art, and the idea of being "in recovery" feels victim-y to me. I have a tendency to go into victim archetype anyway, so I certainly don't need any help with this. Ultimately, I am responsible for all my own choices...so yeah, even though I had a dick uncle who made fun of my writing when I was 14, I'm the one who ultimately decides if I'm going to allow that to stop me or keep writing anyway. Easier said than done, of course, and perhaps this comes out more in later chapters of the book, but these are some of the reasons why I had trouble continuing it in the past.
I'm not crazy about the "God" stuff either...but that I can at least replace with "Universe" and find it works for me. The other thing she does which, as someone who is not at the beginning of the spiral is a little troublesome is that she says, more than once, about people who call themselves artists that they may not be very talented and are just audacious. I realize this is probably meant to make the person "in recovery" feel better, but someone like me is going to see that as "Oh. I don't have any problems admitting I'm an artist. I've been making art for decades, despite what other people say about my work. Maybe this means I don't have any talent and am just audacious?" Because my inner critic is sneaky and crafty and will say whatever he needs to to beat me down. And since he doesn't have all that many opportunities to do that anymore, whenever he gets an in, he hits HARD.
At any rate, I am trying it again. We are in week 4. So far, I am noticing multidisciplinary ideas starting to come to me unsolicited again, which I love. Also, my dreams appear to be coming back, and I'm actually sleeping a little better which is amazing. I have made at least TWO fairly large discoveries/epiphanies during my morning pages, and it is kind of marvelous to be doing this while I am juggling several artistic projects of various disciplines and in various stages along of development. I have an instant "canvas" on which to work in some of these new ideas and some of these new habits. And I definitely can't stubbornly poo-poo any of that. So I am hoping I will make it all the way through this time.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.