Shakespeare and the Internet

I’m a technologist raised in the humanities, so when the worlds of tech and art overlap I sometimes notice life imitating art and so on.

When I recently read Bill Bryson’s non-fiction account of Shakespeare’s life (Shakespeare: The World as Stage) two things stuck out to me: First, that we know very little about shakespeare really (this was the thesis of the book I would say). And secondly, there were NO RULES when it came to spelling back then.

Bryson points out some hilarious coincidences where words and names are spelled differently inside the same text, or even 4 different ways on the same page. And this made me think of a different renaissance happening today, and how spelling doesn’t seem to matter anymore in the tech landscape:
Tumblr, Reddit, Unbxd, Lyft, and even the rebranding of the SyFy network.
I read here that Jack Bovill, Chair of the English Spelling Society, said: “Accurate spelling is of the utmost importance, but from this most recent survey we can conclude that the unprecedented reach and scale of the internet has given rise to new social practices and it is now an agent in spelling change.”
Jack is concerned about spelling, I don’t think I am tho. I try to spell things in a way that communicates best (which usually means spelling them “right”) but I do believe we are getting something great out of internet culture despite the “misspellings.” And while the internet and Shakespeare seem pretty different, they are both the reflections of their current age, flaws and all.

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.🙂

Icy Gays and Super Powers

This Sunday Justin and I actually canceled plans to watch our DVR’d Doctor Who episode and instead accepted an invitation to watch the VMAs with a group of gays down the block. I have loved music award shows for many years after I realized that I almost always have a stake (that is to say favorites) for this type of award show, compared to the Academy Awards or the Emmys (where I usually have seen nothing).

The other reason we were excited about this invitation is that the party was in the super-fancy building on the corner of our block- luxury living for sure, and we wanted to get a peek at that!🙂

It was a very beautiful apartment, and a very beautiful group. Everyone was young, toned, fashionable. Probably all of them were younger than me. They were not, however, outgoing. When we walked in one of the pretty guys who we knew best came over and hugged us, but the other 8 people in the room stayed firmly planted in their seats and merely glanced at us before directing their attention back to an announcer who I didn’t recognize on the screen.

We floated toward the TV and after a few moments when two got up to get more drinks I made the first step and introduced myself. Conversation didn’t really flow from there.

After settling into the circle I tried starting some conversation up again. “Hi, I’m Joe” I offered a handshake to one of the guys. “Hi” is all I got back. I decided that I was definitely going to make each of them shake my hand. “What’s ~your~ name?” I pressed with what I hoped sounded like super-friendly interest, but it kind of sounded like I was 1st grade teacher.

After each of them accepted my introduction- including one wearing a black caftan, which he described as “just something simple” when I asked about his outfit- we returned to watching the show.  There were general exclamations of “yas, gurl!” and “get it!”, everyone was making A Lot of noise, but I still felt like nobody was getting to know each other. This went on for about 15 minutes.

Now I’m am fresh off a trip to Provincetown where the week’s theme was Comic Books, so I’ve had 7 recent days of super heroes wandering around drunk and making jokes. Perhaps the most perfect, true joke I heard the entire week was someone saying that their super-power was breaking the ice. And even now when I think about that (pickup) line, I laugh because actually Ice-breaking is a great super power!

So I pressed on, asking each boy about themselves, remarking about the performances. It took a lot of work but I think I was slowly melting down these icy guys into conversation.  But it wasn’t until I pulled out the mother of all music conversation bombs (Ariana Grande as the next Mariah Carey?) that I truly got big full responses from the group. There was discussion, and argument, and sharing, and reminiscing, and everyone just ended up talking about how Mariah Carey is one of a kind. It was everything that I needed. So thank you Mariah, a hero does lie in you, and your power in any gay group is breaking the ice.




It’s kind of a big deal.

I came across this NPR article while waiting for a mango chicken wrap from my local juice bar. “In Changing America, Gay Masculinity Has ‘Many Different Shades.” I chose to read instead of a competing article about the ebola virus because I didn’t want to spoil my appetite with descriptions of death, but also because, hey, I’m gay.

It’s a nice article about how men in Colorado (who are gay!) are playing rugby and acting tough. I scanned the screen of my phone with narrowing eyes waiting to see if the article was going to take it somewhere new or fresh; to me this rugby team was not big news. I play on a gay sports league in New York and I’ll be the first to tell you: it’s competitive. 

The line that stood out the most (the pull quote on the top photo) takes, I think, a very defensive position about homosexuality, quoting one of the players: “I’ve always thought of myself as … the rugby player that happens to be gay… I never want to be the gay man who happens to play rugby.”

I remember thinking that way.  I remember telling people that it’s a small part of who I am. I remember building consensus with my family that it wasn’t important. But that philosophy is a phase, right?

I have just come back from a week-long vacation (or was it work?) hosting Absolut Vodka promos in Provincetown, MA. As I described to my mother on the phone, Ptown is a seaside artists’ colony, with plenty of places to buy lobster or souvenir sweaters, that also happens to be this incredible gay mecca.  Theaters, cute boutiques, gay bars, costume parties, drag acts, art galleries, and a parade. It’s a very special place and I feel blessed to have visited it. I also feel blessed to have claim to it. Being gay is awesome. We create great neighborhoods, great art and culture, and I’m pretty sure a gay high school student just beat an asian high school student at teen Jeopardy (at JEOPARDY, people!).

That above comment isn’t meant to be racists, only funny.  

So, I didn’t mean to write a diatribe this morning, nor did I intend for THIS SUBJECT to be my first post in about two years (eek), but I am really gay… like through and through. And it’s maybe one of the most permanent things about me.  I’m glad that this guy can self-identify as a rugby player who happens to be gay, but my life is in way to much flux to let me feel permanently identified by my career, city, hobbies, sports, etc. 

In 30 years I don’t know what I’ll be doing, who I’ll be with, or where I’ll be, but I’m pretty sure I will still be gay.

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.