In awe of Oscar Hammerstien II

Sometimes it’s surprising what makes you emotional.

This past rainy Saturday a visiting friend I took a trip to the New York MOMA. The big attraction this weekend was the Matisse découpages, but we also stumbled into special exhibition of the work of Robert Gober, who did a lot of conceptual (sometimes jolting) statuary and installation pieces. He also had a simple piece where he framed what appeared to be a torn out page from some Sound of Music libretto which contained simply the lyrics to the song Climb Ev’ry Mountain.

For anyone who has watched the Sound of Music on stage or the (amazing) Julie Andrews movie, the Climb Ev’ry Mountain song feels like a BIG moment. It’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, and it’s a turning point in the story for Maria von Trapp.  I also feel like it’s the high point in the show that was a high point in the careers of two of America’s greatest artists.

Here’s what was startling when I saw the art piece. It’s so short and so dense. The entire lyrics of the song are about 8 lines. And some of those repeat. It’s literally shorter than this blog post, yet has had a huge impact on our culture.

This framed page made me read the lines so carefully and appreciate the craft of lyric writing so much more.  Just in case that experience can be repeated or shared to you, the reader, here’s the 8 stanzas that made me teary eyed. No copyright infringement intended.

Climb every mountain, search high and low,
Follow every highway, every path you know.

Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream.

A dream that will need all the love you can give,
Every day of your life for as long as you live.

Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream.

Guacamole Tour

I have a friend that sort of materialized out of nowhere in my life. I think that he maybe messaged me on facebook or twitter asking about… a trip I was on? I’m not sure, it’s fuzzy.

But anyway, after talking for a bit we ended up making plans to meet for coffee, and the coffee shop he chose was a kind of cool, indy place called Kahve in Hell’s Kitchen.  I remarked about how cool the shop was and he said that it was on a list of 10 best coffee shops that had been in a magazine article (New York Magazine I think).  And just like that, we agreed to go to all 10 coffee places. One per month! Along the way we added two more so we could celebrate a complete year of coffee which I have slowly become addicted to in my mid-late 20s.

And these coffee trips got more and more elaborate until we were pairing the coffees with museums and shopping trips in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. I think the furthest I went was cafe grumpy of the HBO “Girls” fame.

Well, it’s over a year since that first trip. and we’ve completed 12 coffee dates in 12 months. But now, since we don’t want to stop hanging out, we’ve made a simple shift! and so begins 1 full year of Guacamole.  So far we’ve only been to Dos Caminos and had their Spicy Mango Guacamole (delicious, but gimmicky). Today will be Mesa Coyoacan, in Williamsburg. I can’t wait to try it. We’ve been trying to come up with names for this adventure. So far I have Guacapalooza, or Woodsguac (woodstock). More names to follow. :)

Turducken Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had  a lovely thanksgiving. Just recently in a conversation with a friend I was saying how much I like thanksgiving because it’s one of the more calm holidays.  It’s not that I don’t have thrill seeker genes (I do), but just that for every New Years Eve or Halloween I think it’s nice that there’s a holiday that’s basically dedicated to good company, good food, and taking naps. I dare you to tell me any other party where nearly every person can fall asleep and the party is still a “success.”

This year I had two Thanksgivings. One with my partner’s family here in New York, and a second with some new-ish but very dear friends.  For T2-east, as i’m going to call it (not to be confused with a standing Thanksgiving 2 tradition in California), we actually carried out one of my food bucketlist projects. We made a Turducken.

In case any body doesn’t know what that is, a turducken is a Chicken, stuffed inside a Duck, stuffed inside a Turkey. and technically we made a turducken-hen because at the center of the chicken we stuffed a Cornish game hen.

Cornish Game Hen, Deboning

Alex goes after the Cornish Game Hen.

The entire process was long. It took 2-3 hours to prepare and 4-5 hours to cook. The reason the prep takes such a long time is that each bird has to be de-boned. Starting at the spine on each fowl, you can make an incision and then slowly, painstakingly peal away the meat from the carcass. When you’ve done this for all 3 (or 4) birds you basically have each bird flayed out, as if you unzipped them down the middle, took the “meat-coat” off the skeleton, and laid it down flat.

A perfectly de-boned duck, by Megan.

Me, having trouble with the turkey.

Then, once you have all 3 sheets of meat, you spice and salt the inside of the turkey “coat” before laying the flat duck on top. Then you season the inside of the duck, and lay the flat chicken on top.  Once you have all your layers you scoop the sides of the turkey back together and twine the meat, what is now essentially a roast,  shut. to use the coat metaphor once more, you zip the turkey closed with the other birds inside like russian dolls.  I have no pictures of this part of the process because it took all 6 hands in the kitchen to hold the slippery meat in place and tie the strings. From this point, you cook it as you would any turkey.  It goes into the oven for about 4 hours. You baste, you wait, you nibble other things.

As it was cooking Alex explained to me why the Turducken is great: it’s the duck.  Ducks are little fatties- and Turkey and Chicken breast can be dry. When you cook a turducken the duck meat is pressed between the turkey breast and the chicken breast. As the three birds cook the duck fat keeps everybody moist, so all the white meat on the turkey and chicken comes out succulent and moist (basically it makes it more like dark meat, which is generally more awesome).

The last thing that makes a turducken fun is that when it finally does come out of the oven you can litterally slice right down the center of it as if it was bread.  There no bones left (save the Turkey’s wings and drumsticks which you leave on) so if you slice right down the center you get an awesome cross-section that shows each of the birds and their different colored meats. You will Instagram with pride.

I had a great time putting it all together, but if I ever do it again I will look into buying previously de-boned birds, or I will pay a butcher to de-bone them in 5 minutes and save me and my guests the 1.5 hours of knife work. Nevertheless, I’m happy that we did it ourselves this time because it was bad-ass, and because it seriously works up your appetite.  :)

Yes We Can: A Hurricane Relief Story

I consider myself to be pretty adventurous, but sometimes even we adventurous folk fall into the awful trap of thinking you like your routine a lot more than you do.   Don’t get me wrong, routines are great. I like them for reasons of health, productivity, and comfort.  To me, workouts and healthy eating are a matter of waking up at the right time each morning and buying groceries with enough regularity that you don’t reach those scurvy-inducing busy weeks where floating pepper jack cheese into a bowl of ramen passes for dinner. I also believe that working toward your goals a little bit each day moves mountains, but man:  I’ve been caught in a rut where my Saturdays and Sundays are dedicated to half-assed work on a few yet-outstanding  projects… and I’ve forgotten to make time to, you know, live.

I think this is why I was so excited when a friend  invited me to volunteer for the hurricane relief effort with her.  By this point I had already spent a lot of breath explaining to out-of-towners that I was fine, Yes New York got crushed, Yeah I was in a lucky place, Yes I had internet, etc…. but that’s really just a lot of talk for a non-experience.  And I always feel like the biggest hurdles to any sort volunteering are knowing how to start and going alone. So thank you, Teresa, for tackling the hard part.

We met up in Williamsburg and took the G train out to Red Hook, the lower part of Brooklyn that got storm-pounded and very badly flooded. From the rally point we were asked to join a clean-up crew. We said yes, but stood stiffly while we waited for the sentence details to be given to us. Eventually we were scooped up by a group leader and were off to our task.

Teresa and I with Masks!

Masks multiplied the fun by two and only slightly stifled our discussion of New York Magazine vs. The New Yorker.

Along with a team of 3 others we were cleaning out a warehouse down near the water.  The warehouse had been flooded with up to 6 feet of water during the hurricane.  If we had been there for it we would have been drowning, Teresa observed. Inside we encountered an strange landscape of toppled boxes that had melted down into soppy gook.  The contents of the boxes, thousands of soda cans, were swimming in the sea-water and dirt muck. Let’s assume there were a lot of bacteria.

Our task was to break off into mini teams, separate cans from garbage, bathe the cans in a wheelbarrow of bleach and then send them through a series of tub water baths until the the can was clean and could be open without fear of infecting the drinker.  At the end of the line a team dried and stacked cans on a new pallet to be donated or sold on the cheap.

It ended up being a really fun adventure.  We made small chat with the volunteers around us, and at one point thought Mayor Bloomberg was outside. Mis-translating the Spanish of some Puerto Rican women sent Teresa scampering after the photo op that wasn’t there.

The ONLY thing that I wish had been different about this entire day is that we had been salvaging something other than soda. Wouldn’t it be a much better story if it was cans of FOOD that were being used to feed other hurricane victims in the city? I like that story. I like it so much better that I have half lied twice to certain acquaintances and suggested that there was food mixed in with the rubble and pop.

Noisy Internet

It’s the internet age. And the clacking on keyboards have replaced the masculine huff and puff of factory machinery as the sound of progress. Just like in the industrial revolution we are streamlining our digital processes, and pushing out more content faster, faster, faster.

But Haste Makes Waste, and already we are up against an ocean of unimportant filler. A few posts ago I talked about Robin Sloan’s tap Essay Fish about finding content you LOVE on the internet (a purposeful trumping of the work LIKE), and while it’s true that there are good articles, and great photos, and fascinating things to learn, there’s also a deluge of tweets and statuses and videos and nothingness to shift through.

And whats worse?  I’m creating some of it.  I suffer from a new disease called I-Don’t-Post-Enough-on-Facebook-phobia.  This disease is one part careerism, and one part not wanting to be forgotten.  Living in New York it’s easy to observe the super-networkers rising to the top. Very often these are the types that are pumping out social media statuses 10+ times a day.  My mind doesn’t seem to go there as naturally. In the middle of a fun conversation or an adventure with friends I never think to stop and say: “this would be better if I shared it on facebook!”

There’s a lot of philosophy that comes into this debate (and I don’t intend for this to be that kind of blog), but for now I just want to say that when I read headlines like Do You Hire For IQ, or for Klout Score? I wanna throw up my hands and shout Klout Score?? is this another thing we have to obsessively monitor?

Speed, More, Most, Largest, Fastest, First: These seem to be the internet’s core values. But I beseech any readers of this post, let’s make sure BEST stays in the mix. I personally am built for Quality, not Quantity, and I don’t want my kind to go extinct. So, I’ll try to add value (hard as that is when the reader determines the value of your posts!) and I’ll try to refrain from any fear induced posts that I don’t really want to make, and you don’t really want to read.  Am I wrong to think this?  Am I wrong to think “Let’s cut back on the noise!”

Am I wrong to blog it?

Hurricane Sandy: Curbing my Enthusiasm

It’s very strange to turn on the TV to images of havoc when ultimately I ended up having such a calm night in my neighborhood.  If I hadn’t known it was a Hurricane I would have thought last night was just kind of stormy, not devastating.  The mood was light where I lived. A small handful of people wandered out to bars to socialize in the stranger-than-normal calm of NYC.

What’s funny is that the sensationalism in the news reporting is very easy to catch when it already feels in-genuine  Looking at the TV screen, then looking outside my window to my calm street I wanted to shout: Liars! but knew that the storm really was brutal in some places.

At one point I even joined in the twitter fun by passing this image around:

Hurricane and Monsters

Hurricane Sandy unleashes her worst.

But in all seriousness, I feel very happy to have escaped last night without any danger. And it’s provided some nice cuddle time with the boyfriend.  Although he did make us watch the shining… on a night when things are already creaking and the power might go out at any minute.  Can you imagine?!

Fish, a Tap Essay

I let slip to my boss recently that something has changed in me and I may be now more interested in journalism than I actually am in theatre. I’m not quite sure why this is happening to me (it might be a phase!), but I know I’ve become enamored with the “ideas circuit” as I once heard it called. What’s the idea’s circuit?  I’m not quite sure who coined the phrase and what exactly they meant, but I imagine it to be entities like Slate, NPR, Ted Talks, RadioLab; and people like Neil Degrass Tyson,  Malcolm Gladwell, and (until recently?) Jonah Lehrer. Look at your Fish

Well recently  I came across a new one for me: Robin Sloan.  Robin has led what sounds like an interesting life being a Media Inventor.  In his own words, these are people that are “primarily interested in content—words, pictures, ideas—who also experiment with new formats, new tools, and new technology.”  Robin held a position in this vein at twitter in the early years of social media. And Why am i talking about him? well he’s created this mobile app called FISH which he describes as a TAP ESSAY. Basically it’s an essay broken up into slides, and you tap the screen of your iphone to advance while you read it one slide at a time. Each slide contains about one sentence (or sometimes one word, for dramatic effect) and is styled slightly differently in terms of font and colors to make the journey dynamic.  And I really love it. Sloan’s thesis of the essay you can read for yourself, but I want to say that I think the delivery of the message is one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen.  Here’s a list of reasons why:

  1. Something about the interactivity of tapping to advance makes it feel like play
  2. Because you’re not confronted with the FULL ESSAY at one time there’s no urge to scroll to the bottom and think: this is too long. And stop reading
  3. Because each line is carefully delivered and styled appropriately it feels like your hearing someone talk.

It’s a really well done product.  I have actually loved “slideshows” for a long time (mostly for that reason that you can control how  much writing is released and pull major focus to a point if that’s what you want).  A while before discovering Fish: A Tap Essay I created a “click-through” essay in service of my Undergraduate Alumni Association titled The Third Thing College Gets You, hosted on slideshare. The idea came to me out of nowhere and I’m actually quite proud of it. Every now and then I tweet it, or post it on facebook hoping that someone important sees it, stands up at their desk and shouts: That Kid’s a Great Communicator!

That will be Mission Accomplished. Enjoy The Third Thing…  below. :)