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January 1st, 2014

I used to love fandom. I think my old job dimmed my enthusiasm for public displays of obsession, but the BBC Sherlock has brought me back, at least a little, because nothing will ever change my feelings for Sherlock Holmes. So, in the last excruciating hours before the series returns, here is a post containing some original fannish conjectures onJohn Watson and sleeping pillsCollapse )

Enjoy the new season, friends.

And as a side note, I started this entry on 15 January 2012. Dude.

February 14th, 2013

Lentil Soup a la Me

Which Apparently Tastes a Bit Like Stews They Make in Uganda, According to Jenny, Who is From Uganda
A Recipe I Made And Wrote Up Last Year Around This Time And Just Found Again

1) Have your Irish family's dad bring home ham hocks from Dunnes. With the skin on. With bristles on the skin.

2) Despite -- or because of -- recently having read The Omnivore's Dilemma, stare at ham hocks in alarm, thinking, "Pig. Pig. Pig. Pig."

3) Get over yourself, kinda, and taste. Mmmmm. Pig. Salty.

4) Stare at massive, Flintstone-like bones, and think "Stock."

5) Poke around on AllRecipes. Poke around in cupboards.

6) In the world's largest slow cooker, add
- 1 half-eaten ham hock, after throwing the skin to the three feral Pomeranians who live out back
- 2 mostly-eaten ham hocks, ditto above
- 2 cups of dry green lentils
- 2 cups of diced carrots
- 1 diced leek because you couldn't find any onions
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 2 tomato cans of water
- 1 tupperware of stock from the freezer, probably 2 cups
- 1 more pint of water, after consulting the recipe you're supposedly following
- 1 handful of soup mix containing barley, red lentils, and marrowfat peas, because the giant slow cooker now looks like Lake freaking Michigan and there's no way the lentils can absorb all that water
- 2 tsp of Meat Supreme Spice Blend, because your family is remodeling the kitchen and the spice rack has disappeared somewhere under the extra floorboards and caulking gun, etc, but the spice mixes are on a different shelf, so they're okay. This one contains red and green peppercorns, red berries (whatever those are), rosemary, mustard seed, onion, and thyme.

7) Between the spice blend and the salty meat, decide that you've covered Rachael Ray's irritating but well-founded "S&P" requirement. Realize you've been watching a lot of Food Network.

8) Turn slow cooker on "low" and go do your thing for the next eleven hours.

9) Taste. Find spices slightly overwhelming. Have brief fit of melancholy. Add some amazing tomato paste from a tube; soup will quickly becomes perfect.

10) Remove bones, and any suspicious bits that have fallen off the bones, and throw them to the ravening beasts. Poke large strips of meat with a fork and they will come apart into tasty pork floss.

11) Share soup with everyone you know! There will be enough.

May 29th, 2011

Three weeks ago, I went up to the woods in Connecticut to attend the Indian Neck Folk Festival. It. Was. Awesome. We sang, like, all the time. We sang in the synagogue, we sang on porches, we sang four to an umbrella when the skies opened up Saturday afternoon. We even sang in a gazebo. Click/scroll for pictures and sound clips!

brb folk festivalCollapse )

November 9th, 2010

Nina's birthday party was Saturday, and there were balloon animals! Also, I had fun making her a shmancy cake, which got some compliments, so I thought I'd post the various recipes for my own easy access and in case anyone else wants to make it.

Below, the best chocolate cake recipe my mother has encountered in [redacted] years of searching.Collapse )

October 25th, 2010

Noster Humpodumpitus

Heather says she learned this about fifty years ago, so she's not sure if the Latin is entirely right, but it's amazing anyway. To the tune of "Good King Wenceslas":

Noster Humpodumpitus
Qui in muro fuit
Assidens improvidus
Violenter ruit
Regis equitatium
Et agmen militari
Noster Humpodumpitum
Non nobis restoraure!

September 30th, 2010

Do not read if you're feeling prone to tears! You know who you are.

The email I just sent Dan Savage.Collapse )

September 13th, 2010

Exceedingly Good Times

Last night was September's Exceedingly Good Song Night -- it's a gathering at Banjo Jim's in the East Village, and it's therapy, it's meditation, it's chicken soup for the trad singer's soul. Thanks to the surprisingly good microphone on the iPhone, I can let you hear for yourself how awesome it is. This is the song we close with every month, but it's not actually planned or rehearsed or anything:

If anyone's interested in coming, let me know! The next one is Sunday, October 10th, from 7:00-10:00, and the theme is "Clothing, Apparel, and Disguises."

July 7th, 2010

My Readercon Schedule

Friday 7/9
1:00pm -- Hitch a ride to Readercon with Irene and Greg. Read in the backseat.

6:00pm -- Dinner of Fate with supertailz, blakecharlton, britmandelo, Irene, Greg, Joey, and maybe more!


Saturday 7/10


Sunday 7/10
2:00pm -- Catch a bus back to NYC. Clear personal inbox.

May 11th, 2010


Because I know Nina is a huge Sandi Toksvig fan, when I saw her YA book HITLER'S CANARY on the free shelf at work, I grabbed it. It looked interesting, NUMBER THE STARSish, so I started reading it on the subway home and finished it, crying, on the train the next morning. The part that got me was the narrator’s wrap-up of the war in the last chapter, when he talks about the Danish resistance blowing up a factory that made parts for the “bombs that caused such trouble for London,” aka the V1 and V2 “buzz bombs.”

Here’s the thing: sitting on my bookshelf at home are over three hundred letters that my grandfather, Herman “Hy” Messinger wrote home to my grandmother Toby and his little daughter, my aunt Robin, during the war. They’re an incredible inheritance, made almost more urgent by the fact that I never shared this earth with my Grandpa Hy, and Toby has been gone for nearly ten years now -- but I can hold the paper that Hy held in London, in the fields of France, in Paris after the Liberation and read the words that Toby read in the little yellow kitchen in the Bronx. They’re the same words I remember my mother reading late at night, carefully matching each letter to its envelope, ordering them by the postmark date. There are two that sprang to mind as I read HITLER'S CANARY: one in which Hy says he’s in London and everything is lovely, and one in which he says he’s left London and can now tell her how bad it was there. He was coat-shopping one day when they heard a buzz bomb coming, heard the engine cut out, and hit the floor as the glass in the shop windows imploded; when everyone stood up, they found the coats in shreds on the racks.

The Danes were not kidding around -- there were more Danish resistance fighters killed in the war years than Danish Jews -- and I like to think that even one fewer bombs fell on my grandfather because they took out that factory. It’s fanciful, I know, but it doesn’t matter if it’s technically true. Sandi Toksvig has her connection to the Danish Resistance; I have Grandpa Hy; somehow they intersected at an incredible moment in history. I mean, I say “history,” but it wasn’t all that long ago when 24-year-olds have held the letters and cry over the whole mess on their morning commutes, is it?

March 2nd, 2010

bad Hamlet good Hamlet

Sometimes I get words stuck in my head the same way I get songs. Lately, the following keeps going around and around:

I am preparing to play Ophelia.

It's scary. I feel Hamlet closing in, whole scenes suddenly cut off from my purview, other characters' relationships slipping away from me. Eventually I'll find myself in a play called Ophelia. We're performing just shy of a decade since I first read Hamlet , and all that time the play has been more or less a constant, infinitely accommodating canvas for thought. But the whole point of this production, of using the strange first quarto text, is to shake it up for everyone, so I can't really complain about the unexpected twist.

Had an amazing late, late, late-night talk with Nina last night about the mad scenes, which I would rather call the "terminal communication difficulties scenes," but then people would look at me like I was...well...you see my point.

February 12th, 2010

aka, "The Drink Would Be in My Love's Hand," aka, "The Song I've Listened to Five or Six Times a Day Since I Found It Last Week"

I think many of you would like it, too. It's in Scottish Gaelic, with slide guitar, regular guitar, fiddle, bouzouki, and whistle -- six degrees of awesome.

Lyrics and translation below the cutCollapse )

I'm working on learning it, but the subtle differences between reading Irish and Scottish are tripping me up. Oh, well -- I'll just listen to it again!

January 1st, 2010

books of 2009

Since I didn't finish The Children's Book yesterday, I can definitively say -- thanks to Goodreads -- that I read 108 books in 2009, of which 99 were new to me, 21 nonfiction, and 46 young adult; I told myself it would be okay if this was not a year of writing, as long as it was a year of reading.

Best nonfiction of the year is a six-way split:
- 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, by James Shapiro
- Women's Work: The first 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
- Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English, by John McWhorter
- Letters from an Actor, by William Redfield
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
- The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

Favorite fiction...yikes...I'll go with
- Bones of Faerie, by Janni Lee Simner
- Thomas the Rhymer, by Ellen Kushner
- The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages
- I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
- The Beacon at Alexandria, by Gillian Bradshaw
- Bloodhound, by Tamora Pierce, which joins Lioness Rampant and Squire as a favorite
- Catching Fire and Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
- The Mistborn Trilogy, by Brandon Sanderson, except for the last five pages!

Disappointments of the year were Christopher Moore's Fool, Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters, Malinda Lo's Ash, Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence and, upon re-reading, Cynthia Voight's Jackaroo. None of them was bad, per se, but they sounded so interesting! And then...weren't!

There were several books I should have read when I was younger; if only The Blue Sword and the Dark is Rising sequence had caught me at just the right age! They were still lovely.

Behind the cut, in rough reverse order, is a list of the books I've read this yearCollapse )
"Like New Year's Eve, tonight's underway
But tomorrow you'll wake up afraid of the day
'Cause underneath the scars of your broken dreams
An undone war still wages and stings
You fear the year will blow
Like a breeze through a rainbow
You swear it's there, but you can't grab a hold
So you sit and cry and wonder why, why...

When all of your tears dry, let your troubles roll by
When all of your tears dry, let your troubles roll by"

December 28th, 2009

my quarterstaff test

As I promised, a few more details about my quarterstaff test for the interested: flirting ahoy.Collapse )

December 26th, 2009

I know it's not kind, but it's also not my fault that Shakespeare provided the perfect line with which to skewer a production of Hamlet. I enjoyed the Donmar Warehouse production more than either Theater for a New Audience's or that one I saw in Brooklyn over the summer, but I was also expecting more. Like, when you get Jude Law as your Hamlet -- and he was good -- you maybe get some other people who can act.

My favorite thing about the show was that Jude Law told a lot of stories with his lines; I not only knew what Law was saying, but how he felt about the line and what reaction he wanted to get with it. When he says "My father's died within two hours," and Ophelia corrects him, "Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord," I could swear his response of "So long!" was delivered to cover up an honest Freudian slip. I loved that.

More in this vein below the cut.Collapse )

December 20th, 2009



The Society of American Fight Directors recognizes that


has received a Recommended Pass in


This is to acknowledge that, in the opinion of the Society of American Fight Directors, this person not only has demonstrated a technical proficiency, created a sense of tension and the illusion of danger, but has also performed with a strong sense of character and demonstrated a high level of acting or performance technique in the above discipline/s.

This should not be represented as a qualification for teaching or fight direction.

(signed) Michael G. Chin   Robert Tuftee

Date: 12/15/09     Expires: 12/15/12

(That’s like, a million times nicer than the Basic Pass! Also, there is a typo in the certificate, not reproduced here to protect the guilty. I’ve already emailed my area rep.)

December 14th, 2009

There comes a time before every test where you say, "I can only remember a few more things now. I can't learn the whole 20th century, but if I know the New Deal, I'll get at least one question right."

The final for my quarterstaff class is tomorrow. I can't remember every note I've gotten about every second of the fight, but there are some moments that are more critical than others, moments that will sell the whole thing. I have to hit those ditsy-actress beats at the beginning, and play my desire to make Sarah shut up once she enters. I have to really go to parry her first feint, and then be surprised when she takes it away. I have to vary the rhythm when I chase her with a series of short-form attacks; otherwise, it sounds like choreography: tic-tic-tic-tic. I have to LEAP out of the way when she swipes at me. I have to get close enough to her at the start of the second phrase to make my feint actually cross the target; otherwise, it will be a feint made of stupid. Overextend before the pesce le morte* and again in the one-armed thrust; otherwise, there's no reason she should be able to come back at me. Separate out the downstage-clear and the swipe, so it looks more desperate.

And scream "That's my monologue" at the top of my freaking lungs, because that gives me the impetus to chase her with the low feint. Get that feint close. Closer. CLOSER. Slide my right hand to the end of the stick when I croisé her down; otherwise, I will have to fumble for it later, and fumbling is bad form. Do not slam my own hand into her stick; that hurts. A lot.

And I can take. My. Time. With the last two hits. I control the stick. I control the speed. Sarah just has to act mad while I set up for the stomach and face hits, and if I hurry it, I won't remember to think, "Get the stick up past your left shoulder. Don't let the adjudicator see air between the stick and your face. And knap this one, for the love of all that is holy."

And I'm home free.

Over the next thirty hours, these notes will disintegrate until there are only two or three left in my head, probably the "chase with the low feint," the "slide my hand on the stick" and the "take my time at the end." At least, I hope those are the ones that stick around.

* The "pesce le morte" is actually a funny story. It's a move that Tink and Brimmer named, when you parry your opponent's stick with your butt end, then flip that butt end over their stick and smack it down. The fish of death (although I think that would be "di morte," really). Tink and Brimmer explained this newly-christened move on a day when the TA happened to arrive late. When he did get there, they ribbed him endlessly about the pesce le morte until he agreed that he'd heard of and merely forgotten it, and then they howled with laughter that they'd gotten him. I love this class.

November 22nd, 2009

"Use It or Lose It"

Nina and I saw Roger Daltrey Friday night at the Nokia Theater, and "awesome" doesn't begin to cover it. I looked up some set lists beforehand, to see what they were doing on this tour, and I was a little disappointed that they were doing the same thing, with one or two variations -- I thought it meant that they would be, to some extent, going through the motions.

How wrong was I. What it really meant was that they sat down, figured out the best possible set list that mixed well-known Who hits, lesser-known Who songs that Roger likes, and Roger's solo material, and then they played the hell out of that thoughtfully-constructed set. Roger put together a great band withPete Townshend's brother Simon, who played rhythm guitar and mandolin and sang amazingly pure high harmonies. I didn't recognize any of the other players, but they were having so much fun up there, and the lead guitarist didn't leave me missing Pete at all; this wasn't a Who show, and that was cool.

-Who Are You
-Pictures of Lily
-Behind Blue Eyes (Instead of bursting into loud rock avec guitar lick at the beginning of the bridge ["When my first clenches, crack it open..."], they did the bridge in a cappella three-part harmony and then went into an extended electric solo. Woah.)
-Days of Light
-Freedom Ride
-Gimme a Stone (Three unfamiliar songs in a row, but all so engaging and wonderful.)
-Going Mobile (sung by Simon)
-Naked Eye
-I'm a Man / My Generation (Very bluesy - I approve.)
-I Can See For Miles
-Born on the Bayou
-Young Man Blues
-The Real Me
-Walk on Water
-Baba O'Riley
-Johnny Cash Medley
-Blue, Red and Grey ("I used to say to Pete, let's do 'Blue, Red and Grey.' It's delicate, it's gentle, it's fragile, it'll be nice to have something so different in the middle of the set. And he'd say, 'I feel fuckin' stupid standin' up there with a ukelele.' [strums uke] I don't know what happened, I told them not to wash it...")
-Without Your Love

November 18th, 2009

The scene: Othello is facing downstage, reading a letter. Desdemona comes up behind him, touches his shoulder, and says, "My lord?" He turns around and slaps her.

The rehearsal: We decide that when Othello turns around, he should brush Desdemona's arm away; this contact will make it easier for them to set the right distance. We talk about the way Othello's hand has to travel straight between them, not arcing towards her face. We talk about Desdemona making the knap on her upstage thigh, and how she should do this when his hand breaks their eye contact. We practice it slowly, we do it in steps, we do it smoothly, and then we put it in the scene.

Othello is facing downstage, reading a letter. Desdemona comes up behind him, touches his shoulder, and says, "My lord?" He turns around, brushing her away, and passes his hand through the air, just as he should; Desdemona turns sharply upstage and slaps herself in the face, hard.

Slaps. Herself. And looks a little confused as to how it happened.

I don't remember the last time I laughed until I cried, and I wasn't the only one.

November 13th, 2009

In the form of "To [addressee's name], [addresser's name]: greetings":

From her -

Amori suo precordiali omnibus aromatibus dulcius redolenti, corde et corpore sua: arescentibus floribus tue juventutis viriditatem eterne felicitas.

"To her heart's love, more sweetly scented than any spice, she who is his in heart and body: the freshness of eternal happiness as the flowers fade of your youth."

From him -

Singulari gaudio, et lassate mentis unico solamini, ille cuius vita sine te mors est: quid amplius quam seipsum quantum corpore et anima valet.

"To the singular joy and only consolation of a weary mind, that person whose life without you is death: what more than himself, in as much as he is strong in body and soul."

Most gushingly romantic rejoinder ever. "Fade?! Who's fading? I am a strong man, and I offer you my awesome self!"

This book makes me wish I could read medieval Latin for myself, but "corde et corpore sua" is one of my new favorite phrases regardless.
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