Monday, December 5, 2011

Disturbing words

From The Immortalization Commission (p. 235) by John Gray:

The end-result of scientific inquiry is to return humankind to its own intractable existence. Instead of enabling humans to improve their lot, science degrades the natural environment in which humans must live. Instead of enabling death to be overcome, it produces ever more powerful technologies of mass destruction. None of this is the fault of science; what it shows is that science is not sorcery. The growth of knowledge enlarges what humans can do. It cannot reprieve them from being what they are.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jerusalem, Fare Well

My rush seat for the last performance of Jez Butterworth's amazing play was at the stage left end of the very first row, close enough to get sprinkled (or baptized) from the big tub up front--and almost too close for comfort as bodies hurled through the air in the opening scene.

In the beginning, gales of laughter seemed to greet practically every line of dialogue, but eventually the audience calmed down. I'm guessing I wasn't the only one in tears at the end.

At the curtain call, after an eloquent appreciation of all the folks who brought us Jerusalem, from the producers to the Americans in the cast to the backstage workers and the unions who represent them, Mark Rylance left us with this benediction: "For the days when you want to stay and you have to go, or you have to stay and you want to go, I hope the play will make you feel less alone."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mystery green

What is it?
I still don't know.
The folks I bought it from at the greenmarket last month didn't know--though if I remember right, they compared the flavor to spinach--and it isn't to be found in any of my cookbooks.

It resembles puntarelle, but the stalks are thinner and the flavor much more delicate.

I sauteed the greens with olive oil and garlic, added a little cheese, and filled an omelet with them. They were a little chewy but delicious.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Eating Sunshine (or something else to do with basil)

After weathering the winter on my windowsill in fine fashion, growing from little more than a sprig in a miniature plastic pot to a leafy bush, which has twice produced enough pesto for a pound of pasta, my basil plant is on its last, spindly legs.

I don't get it--shouldn't it be thriving, now that it's summer and the west-facing picture window in which it sits is filled with light much of the afternoon?

Jim suggests that the plant may have gotten more out of the lower winter sun than the higher summer rays, but I'm not persuaded.

Still, there are leaves left, and some little ones coming on.

And many days, I pick a few, tear them, and add them to yogurt and a cut-up banana--something I first tried in February, when it felt like eating sunshine.

It still does.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Animal Sightings

Birds (and some people) do it--and it's not falling in love

On an Upper East Side street, headed for the Met,
Jim spots a Blue Jay, baby bird in its mouth,
snatched from a nest.

The Jay drops the baby, then swoops around,
coming back for the kill.

Oh, look at that bird! says mom to daughter,
seeing the Jay,
but not what it's up to.

Jim tells them.

Weeks later, I'm thinking we have more than a few Blue Jays in Congress, prepared to sacrifice the young of their fellow citizens to feed the appetites of bigger, richer birds.

Head Dress

Sunday, post-dim sum,
we pass a guy carrying a cat on his head,
leash dangling from collar.

Man and cat cross Canal,
keep going.

I wonder who trained whom.

Seen on a 10-minute truck ride

through John and Kristine's place
in the U.P. of Michigan,
last morning of my visit:

three sandhill cranes flapping,
ten deer a-leaping.

They know it's not hunting season.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Black Watch

There's a reason Black Watch, from the National Theatre of Scotland, is back at St. Ann's Warehouse for the third time in five years. As many have written, it's a play that powerfully captures what it's like to be a soldier at war--a play not just for our time but for any time in which young men are sent to fight for their country.

These particular soldiers are from Scotland's famed Black Watch regiment (in which ancestors of several of the actors in the current cast served)--but their mission, as part of the coalition forces in Iraq, is not exactly what they signed on for--and what they experience there is something the rest of us need to hear.

Black Watch is at St. Ann's Warehouse, through May 8. It may be sold out by now, but odd's are, it will be back.

St. Ann's Warehouse
38 Water St.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Subbing in New York--a fringe benefit . . .

. . . is finding yourself on a new block in a new neighborhood.

For all the years I've lived in New York, all the streets and blocks, especially downtown, that I've walked along countless times, there are many more, in other neighborhoods, that I haven't.

Yesterday, maybe for the first time ever, I exited the A train at Dyckman, and certainly for the first time ever walked east on Dyckman from Broadway to 10th Avenue.

A thrilling reminder of how much of this city is still new to me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Gerrymandering? Sure, I knew what it was--carving up election districts for the benefit of one party or another, one group or another. But like most of my fellow Americans, I hadn't spent a whole lot of time worrying about it, let alone trying to do something about it.

Till I got an email from ACT NOW NY inviting me to a screening of a doc on the subject, followed by a Q & A with its writer-director, Jeff Reichert.

I went to the screening. Gerrymandering proved to be far more entertaining than I'd expected, with illustrations of bizarrely gerrymandered districts and absurdist episodes of redistricting skullduggery, including the tale of the Texas Democrats who in 2003 fled to a motel in Oklahoma in a desperate attempt to stop the Republicans from redistricting at the behest of Tom DeLay.

Amidst the moments of humor, the film made clear just how much voters lose when it's our representatives who draw the lines that determine what, if any, opposition they will face.

The film does offer some good news--California has passed initiatives that take the power to redistrict out of the hands of the legislature.

For information about Gerrymandering, the movie, and links to organizations trying to put an end to the practice, visit

To find out how you can help support efforts to at reforming redistricting in New York, check out

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Life-changing Panel

Over the years, I've felt that certain books, plays, movies, poems, works of art had changed my life. And it goes without saying that many people and places have.

But never would I have expected that a panel entitled EBooks: New Trend for a New Decade would have that power.

I'd learned about the panel some weeks earlier. In a list of its spring programs, the Center for Communication emailed this description:

As more readers turn to digital books, a variety platforms are emerging and with them, a new wave of opportunities. Find out how writers and publishers are embracing multimedia and repurposing content to create "enhanced reading" experiences - and learn about the skills you'll need to enter this brave new world of publishing.

I was ambivalent. As a writer needing to market her work, I'd been to a lot of panels on the brave new digital publishing world, addressing issues like whether self-published works are taken seriously, online marketing resources, and how much html writers need to know. Did I really need another one?

But this turned out to be not just another "how to" panel--but "why to"--not just about how publishing is changing but how our world changing--a truly visionary panel, which I wish my sci fi loving boyfriend could have witnessed.

I'm still thinking about what I heard there, and have finally resolved to join the Twittering throngs. And when I do, these are folks I will follow.

Here are a few quotes and paraphrases transcribed from my illegible notes that may at least convey the sense of what got said.

Richard Eoin Nash:

"The individual is a construct."

"The industrial revolution style model of production is over."

"If you get to choose to be an intermediary, you can choose what kind of intermediary you will be."

Reading more intimate than sex: Someone whispering in your ear for 15 hours.

Re: libraries: "Power is in the hands of those who can orchestrate demand."

Embracing community as a way of understanding the future of content.

"In a sense, books brought about the kind of society we have now."

How writers will make a living in the future: "The creation of unhackable experiences."

“minimal viable product” For many people the cell phone is the effective credit card.

"The genius of Twitter is that it allows you to see what people are talking about."

Bob Stein:

"The core competency of future publishing is the core competency of gaming now."

"World of Warcraft is fiction."

Individuals are going to be in groups based on collaborating. If we don't get there, it'll just be because we've done ourselves in.

“Everything we know about our daily life is about to change”

"We're too far ahead too make any money, but it's an interesting place."

"You can't move from a society based on the individual to a society based on groups without ditching capitalism."

"Writers are going to learn what musicians have learned: they're going to get paid to show up."

Matt Shatz:

"Download a 4-square app."

For further information about the useful free programs offered by the Center for Communication, see

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller . . .

. . . might be a title that turns off more potential audience members than it entices. At least given the rave reviews the play garnered, that's one explanation for the significant number of empty seats in the modest-sized theater when I saw it on Saturday night.

If you're among those rendered queasy by the very idea the title proposed, don't worry (spoiler alert): the cannibal feast is not actually staged. But what is staged, and beautifully, is among the most gripping, moving, and memorable 65 minutes of theater I've seen.

The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller, adapted by Jeff Cohen from the story of the same name by Christopher Stokes, is about far more than the possible fate of Michael Rockefeller, who in 1961 at the age of 23 disappeared in the Asmat of New Guinea. It's a vivid portrait of one of the last of the world's ancient peoples, on the verge of having their values and culture extinguished by Western contact. Though leavened by many moments of hilarity, it's an elegy for what's been lost.

For what survives, visit the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To immerse yourself in a vanished world and free yourself, at least momentarily, from the desire to accumulate millions of the papers that are our medium of exchange, catch The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller.

It's at the ArcLight Theater, 152 W. 71 St. For tickets: or 212-868-4444.

You've got one more week.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Next book by a friend I don't want to read

I don't expect Ron Rosenbaum's latest, How the End Begins, to be a fun read, though the author's brilliant wit will no doubt be in evidence now and again.

I do expect it to be profoundly, stomach churningly scary--given that it's an account by one of our finest journalists of the likely road to a nuclear war.

Not a book I want to read, but one I need to. Just hoping it leaves the reader not in total despair but with some insight into what we might do to get off the nuclear road before the end.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can't wait to watch The Clock. . . .

But for now it's gone, and I didn't have the patience to wait in the cold for an hour or so outside the Paul Cooper Gallery, where it was recently on view. And anyway, even if I'd got in, would have only been willing to devote an hour or two to this marathon of a movie.

The Clock is a 24-hour compilation showing the passage of time in movies, so edited that any time one spies on a dial can reflect the actual time you're watching.

I'm guessing one of these days The Clock will turn up at the Museum of Modern Art, possibly with enough screening segments that one could see the entire movie. I wonder how many folks aside from its creator, Christian Marclay, have seen it all--and whether even he has watched the whole thing straight through.

Which sounds like the way it should be seen, and perhaps will be by some hardy folks once the DVD is out, allowing pauses for bathroom breaks during Clock-watching marathon slumber parties.