Monthly Archives: August 2011

Dewey Memories

Some of my most romanticized childhood memories take place in the library.  Child-height wooden shelves, overflowing with old favorites and new discoveries.  Child-sized tables and chairs and warm, helpful child-friendly librarians.  I don’t think my reading capacity was any more voracious than other children in a pre-cable television, text messaging, googling world.  In fact I would go so far as to say that it wasn’t the reading per se, which drew me to libraries.  I suspect it was the tranquility and order.  But we’ll save that particular chapter of self-analysis for another day.

The school libraries were slightly less charming than our town’s public library, but filled with entertaining delight.  In my elementary school I discovered a tape of War of the Worlds and shrunk in bug-eyed terror in my carrel (knowing full well it was all fake!)  I also discovered Arizona, (or was it Colorado?) magazine, filled with luscious photography of pink and orange canyons.  In my junior high school library I mostly discovered a safe haven from the social warfare of the hallways.

Our public library was a world unto itself.  The children’s room had a real honest to g-d working fireplace.  The shelves were filled with yet undiscovered Helen Keller biographies (don’t ask) and Judy Blumes.  It being a regular after-school hangout, I would run into friends I had not seen for years (we had two junior high schools and it was easy to lose track of friends.)  Throughout the year, the adult periodicals room would be turned into a movie theatre.  I watched every Marx Brothers movie one year.

As an adult I seem to be in fruitless pursuit of those golden library experiences.  I still appreciate a good children’s room, but find the plethora of paperbacks and franchise series just a tad disheartening.  Where are the Betsy-Tacy books, the Nancy Drews?  Sigh.  I still frequent the film festivals and gird myself for the unpredictable onslaughts from the dwelling optional.  In truth, I should just cherish those memories of new discovery and calm predictable beauty which the libraries provided and recognize those very gifts in new adventures.

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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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Freedom of Choice

Yesterday Judge Loretta Preska’s decision in the Bloomberg LP discrimination suit was announced.  I, a tried and true feminist, cheered.  Today, not surprisingly, the National Organization of Women and the American Civil Liberties Union are “disappointed.”  And I ask myself; “when did equality come to mean ‘special’? when did freedom of choice come to mean ‘having it all?'”  When did we stop being grown-ups?

The workplace is not the sandbox.  There is little sharing or fair play at work.  If you can’t contribute to the building of the sandcastle in a meaningful way, you’re outta the box. 

At the heart of the Bloomberg LP discrimination suit, is how the organization treated its female employees who availed themselves of maternity leave.  The workers felt, but were not able to prove, that they suffered because of choosing parenthood.  Before you even start composing the angry email, let me clarify my position.  Parenthood is a choice and children need loving capable care.  The second wave of feminism (in my estimation) championed the right of a woman to manage her own reproduction and to be treated fairly in the workplace.  It is a wonderful state of affairs (again, in my estimation) that women can actually make choices about what works for them throughout the course of their lives.  But let us be perfectly clear; these are CHOICES.  The very nature of choice is that something is preferable over another thing.  “Having it all” is the anthem of a child, not of a grown person.  Having it all does not just speak of ill-mannered greed, but of a complete misunderstanding of how limited we are all as people.  We can not be all things to all people all the time.  It is foolish to even try.

I believe that yesterday’s verdict should be seen as a victory.  We acknowledge that it is a massive undertaking to care for a child, it may even take a village.  However, that village should be self-selecting and not police state forced upon one’s co-workers or boss.  The judge, in siding with Bloomberg LP, is in essence saying; “women are no different than men in the workplace.  what matters is your productivity not your gender.”  I say hurrah.

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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The Joys of Summer (Fashion)

I am a four-season girl.  I cannot imagine living anywhere where time cannot be marked by nature.  I do not, however, love all seasons equally.  I’ve never been much for summer.  This is not entirely due to the heat nor the humidity, but rather how those elements play havoc with the desire to accessorize.  It’s only after I embraced the joy of the enormous floppy hat, earrings, and heeled sandals, that I started to enjoy donning a swimsuit.  For years, it was not embarrassment which kept me from socializing in the equivalent of water resistant underwear, it was how incredibly boring the outfit was!  Where is the creativity or joy in pulling on two pieces of clothing?  A bathing suit cover-up doesn’t really count as the third piece as all it really conveys is that one has something they’d prefer to cover up.

So here it is, mid-August, and I have done my due diligence with a drawer filled with colorful shorts and flirty cotton skirts.  I have collected a bevy of attractive and highly functional sandals, and several straw hats.  I have handbags and even a few pieces of jewelry which scream Summer.  And I have found my peace.  Now this state should be its own reward…

But it is challenging to be putting concerted, and not necessarily intuitive, energy into an endeavor that clearly is solo.  Have you seen what is walking the streets of this city?  (“Street walking” is an apt imagery.)  It is not clumsy attempts of seasonally appropriate ensembles that have sullied my soul.  I accept that appearance is not a priority for all.  It is instead the promotion of private parts to public parts that leaves me horrified/dejected.  For months, I have seen every size and shape of breast, spilling out of “not meant as outerwear” apparel.  The summer top or dress is ostensibly a set of pasties.  I am not referring to décolletage or snug fitting cotton blouses.  I am referencing the custom of 50-75% of the area in question to be al fresco.  Why?  Do they really suffer such heat exhaustion, they can’t be covered?  Is it simply the epitome of lazy, to use ones own parts as an accessory?

In the interest of fair and balanced, I must point out that the population’s nether regions have had their fair days in the sun as well.  Oh, the things I’ve seen.  And on public transport!  No doubt these women are the same who sanitize a public toilet seat within an inch of its life.  The hygiene contradiction is boggling.  For those who do not live alone or whose mothers are still living, they choose instead to wear see-through clothing.  Most of the transparent garments I have seen are not haute couture, but instead very cheap off the rack clothing that is meant to be worn with underpinnings.  Some choose to disregard this intention entirely (oh my eyes!)  Others see this as in invitation to wear the boldest most incongruous mass-market under things.  This might be a good place to mention that if one is old enough to pull up one’s own pants, one needn’t have underpants festooned with imagery.

I will trudge through the next month, donning sundresses, wearing silver jewelry and white pants, and pedicuring like mad.  But I will do so while longingly eyeing my sweaters, boots and scarves, and reminding myself that biology will win out: private parts do shy from the cold.

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Style


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Follies – Review

I knew upon entering the utilitarian Marquis Theatre that my instincts were right about seeing FolliesThe theatre, located in a Las Vegas styled Marriott, is hardly known for its charm.  But there it was, draped in dingy, droopy, graying muslin.  The draping was so authentic, most did not know it was not part of the theatre.  The set, (Derek Mclane) so realistically evoked a decaying vaudeville theatre, that I knew attention had been paid.Now I must interject that the only Follies I have seen was an Encores! (staged concert) version.  I may not be the most reliable reporter of the event.  Follies, while not a hit when it opened in 1971, is a wonderful mix of poignancy, period styling, and Zigfield Follies/Busby Burkeley pageantry.  The songs (Stephen Sondheim,) you would recognize many, are gorgeous, and there is more than one show stopper.  Follies holds an additional, while rare, distinction; it is an incredible showcase for women of a certain age.The premise is a reunion of the Weissman Girls before the closing of a theatre.  The Weissman Follies spanned “the years between the world wars” and the reunion is set in 1971.  A younger cast is employed to evoke the performers past selves.  This would be when I start gushing about the costumes (Gregg Barnes.)  I was reminded of those scenes in The Women and That Touch of Mink.  You know, when the ladies sit in a comfortable seat and watch the fashion show while mentally choosing what they’ll buy?  The 1920s and 1930s costumes were dreamy, as were the 1971 gowns.  Mary Beth Peil (Women on the Verge, The Good Wife) was ravishing in a form fitting black stretch gown and cascading gray hair.   Elaine Paige was equally gorgeous on the other side of glamor in an electric blue satin gown trimmed in mink.  But enough about the clothes.  For now.What a cast!  The two couples at the center of the storyline; Buddy and Sally and Ben and Phyllis, are played respectively by; Danny Burstein, Bernadette Peters, Ron Raines and Jan Maxwell.  Danny Burstein is always fun to watch (if Bert Lahr and Wallace Shawn had a singing and dancing son it would be Danny Burstein) but he is far too young for this role.  The problem with a show about aging, and one that announces the characters age from time to time, is there is not a whole lot of wiggle room in chronologically blind casting.  Bernadette Peters suffers from this fallout as well.  At one point she declares herself “49” and there is sputtering in the audience.  I feel certain they meant no harm, it was just so outrageous.  Ron Raines is not served well by a declaration of his being “53” either.  Both Mr. Raines and Ms. Peters are in their 60s, a fact that is only highlighted by pairing them with Mr. Burstein, who is in his 40s.  Ms. Maxwell is probably the only principal who is the right age.  If one can suspend reality (which needs to include the premise that a 5’2” Ms Peters could ever be a show girl,) this whole thing should not be such a problem.  Although I find it interesting that during a time of such enormous weight given to appearances, that we choose to overlook the obvious for the slightly more subtle which is fame.This would be the time to shout a big hurrah, that Mr. Raines is on the Broadway stage.  He is a veteran concert and regional performer, and known to some for his daytime television work (Guiding Light.)  His voice is so old school rich and reverberating, it took my breath away.  He’s a bit easy on the eyes as well.  He was a delightful match for Ms. Maxwell, who tore the place up with her “Could I Leave You.”  The lack of chemistry between Mr. Raines and Ms. Peters was perfect for the story.  I know I am in a very small minority in never seeing Ms. Peters’ stage appeal.  I adored her in the Steve Martin films, but find her voice to be thin and nasally.  Her role is not huge, but I was left wondering how incredible it would have been to hear “Losing My Mind” sung by Tyne Daly.  I had little time to sulk, as I had the transcendental experience of hearing Miss Elaine Paige sing “I’m Still Here.”  I still have chills and a lump in my throat.  Now in between all these rich, gorgeous songs brimming with pathos, are some of the best performances you will see on stage.  “Who’s That Woman?” is a tap, chorus line, number performed by most of the women.  While most of the principal cast are not dancers, Terri White is.  She plays Stella Deems and tears up the stage in this number.  Holy moly!  (Ms. White may be familiar to readers of the New York Times.  She was profiled a couple of years ago while performing in Finian’s Rainbow.  At 60 years old she found herself homeless.)   Her performance needed an Encore desperately.  I would not be surprised if one is added (the show is currently in previews.)I suspect that this might not be the quintessential Follies.  My guess is that a more appropriate casting of Sally and Buddy would launch this production into the history books.  That said, it is without a doubt a must-see!

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


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I’ll Have What She’s Having

Have you noticed the latest fall-out from the “restaurant as theatre” syndrome?  It seems now an expectation that the selection and consumption of food should be a communal experience.  Forks fly and plates are shuttled back and forth in an attempt to “try” as many menu items as possible.  To me this is somewhat tantamount to talking during a performance.  Please be quiet and please remove your fork from my plate.  I’d like to enjoy what I’ve selected without interruption please.

I am not anti-communal dining.  I enjoy a good potluck or buffet.  However there is something intrinsically self indulgent about dining out.  Perhaps it is just my emotional make-up that makes me relish having someone prepare something for me that I know I’ll enjoy.  I’m not interested in experiencing other people’s personal tastes or selections.  I would like just 30 minutes or so to enjoy exactly what I asked for.  Considering how rarely I dine out, I don’t feel too Veruka Salt saying this.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I’ve never been that great at group endeavors.  I failed at the one-week session of Girl Scout day camp, begging my mother to allow me to quit.  I was asked to leave Brownies after being inconsolable upon learning there would be no actual brownies.  The very idea of a sorority made my chest constrict.  I never did the “summer share.”  In fact my number one goal as a young adult was to rid myself of roommates and live alone.
Before one makes the logical conclusion; “sociopath!!!!” let me assure you, I am very socially functional and a good little sharer.  I toss books, clothes, shoes and advice, hither and yon.  I take great pleasure in the daily opportunities there are for human kindness.
But when it comes to mealtime, I’m not sure I’ve ever graduated past the Bread and Jam for Frances phase of life.  I (and my sister for that matter) could eat the same thing everyday for the remainder of our solid food lifetimes.  My packed lunchbox is as exciting to me as a Faberge Egg.  All morning I look forward to the predictable contents.  And for the record, I have been known to share some of it as well.

I’m just not that interested in what others choose to eat.  Make no mistake, I am thrilled to be invited to a homemade meal or catered affair.  I am not harboring any Howard Hughes idiosyncrasies about what I ingest.  It’s just that when I dine out, if it isn’t too much to ask, I’d rather not have the table turn into a giant lazy susan.  All personal food choices aside, isn’t it simply more civilized to not play Red Rover, Red Rover over a white tablecloth?

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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