Friday, December 23, 2011

DC versus NYC

One of my favorite writers discusses life in DC versus life in NYC. Often a dilemma for me too.

Would Andrew Ever Leave DC?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"She Went to Vassar" and So Did I

This short film was done in 1931 by a 1927 graduate of Vassar by the name of Marvin Breckinridge '27, a self-taught filmmaker.

According to the notes  -
Her first post-Vassar claim to fame was a documentary called "The Forgotten Frontier" about the Frontier Nursing Service (founded by her cousin, Mary Breckinridge). Breckinridge went on to a distinguished career in photojournalism and broadcast reporting. When World War II broke out, she became the first woman foreign correspondent to join the staff of a radio network (CBS). The original "She Goes to Vassar" was a silent film, following a freshman through the course of her first year at the college. This version was remastered with a music soundtrack in honor of Vassar's Centennial in 1961.
And it was posted up to YouTube in honor of our 150th anniversary in 2011.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sullivan on Hitchen's Work and Play Compulsion

Andrew Sullivan writes of Hitchens that he didn't worry about Hitchen's drinking and smoking but rather...
But I sometimes wondered about this compulsion always to be on the move, always to say yes, always to file on time, always to take that trip, when a little restful weekend might have been healthier. 
I have a few friends, one in particular, about whom I wonder and, yes, worry that he is always on the move, always traveling, always working.   When some rest might be healthier.   Remind those you love to rest some this holiday season.

Read the loving post, which also takes on the cliche of drinking and writing here.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top 15 Hitchens Quotes

Not sure I agree with all of these The 15 Most Memorable Christopher Hitchens Quotes from BuzzFeed.  

But I do like #7 (on George Bush) and #15.    #15 is
"The four most over-rated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics."

Love Letter to DC

Wow, great night time video of Washington DC.  Check it out.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sad News - Cesaria Evora Died

Gosh - first Christopher Hitchens died on Friday.  I plan to write and post about him, what he meant to me and why - but I've not been able to yet.  I will.  I will.  And on Vaclav Havel too.

And now the very, very sad news that Cesaria Evora has died.  She had a stroke in September.   The LA Times obituary wrote this:  
Her singing style brought comparisons to American jazz singerBillie Holiday and the great French singer Edith Piaf.   
"She belongs to the aristocracy of bar singers," French newspaper Le Monde said in 1991, adding that Evora had "a voice to melt the soul."
She melted mine.  I got to see her once here in DC, at the Lisner Auditorium.  I will never forget it.  Such joy and astonishing beauty moved me to tears.  She is one of my goddesses.   
The only music concert DVD I own is hers.   I own all of her albums and play them all the time, but among my favorite of her songs are Angola, Sodade, Embarcacao and, of course, the magnificent "Carnaval De Sao Vincente."  I love listening to that one on a summer day with the roof down.  Whenever, where ever, it never fails to make me smile.  Except for today.  
If I die a slow death I hope to do so while listening to her singing as I don't know a better soul to usher me into the divine.   

Here is her official web site
Hitchens rattled my brain but she moved my heart.  Thank you, barefoot diva.    

Saturday, December 17, 2011

David Corn Shares What It Was Like to Share an Office with Hitchens

I admire David Corn too and had no idea he shared an office with Christopher Hitchens when they were young.  Read the whole piece Hitchens and I Shared an Office; Hitchens habits and social life and work life still fascinates.  The stamina.  

Corn writes:
I did learn much from Hitchens, but never how to function in quite this manner. What allowed him to live such a packed life was a trait that any of us would relish: He never forgot what he had ever read or learned. His mind was always expanding. That was a natural gift that few of us possess. He could not teach it. But observing Hitchens practice his craft and thrust and parry with intellectuals almost as sharp as him was as valuable an experience as I could have imagined. It sure beat attending J-school. 

I can just imagine!

Christopher Buckley's Tribute to Hitchens

Christopher Buckley writes Postscript: Christopher Hitchens at the New Yorker:

Love this:

Lunch—dinner, drinks, any occasion—with Christopher always was. One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick’s Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, “Should we order more food?” I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christopher Hitchens' Smile

I love this man's brain.  Even if I didn't always agree with him he was always witty, smart and brutally honest.

And very handsome.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Which Preferred? Outright Rejection or Silence?

I listen the Slate's Political Gabfest podcast nearly every week.  And at the end they all provide what they call "cocktail chatter," wherein they discuss something offbeat, intriguing or appealing to discuss at your weekend cocktail parties.  They are often interesting.  This week, one particularly interested me.

You can listen here.   The cocktail chatter begins at 45:51.   Emily discusses a poor man's letter that was on Reddit, then Jezebel from a man indignant that a woman he had dated once had not even deigned to provide him with a response of rejection.   Sadly for this man ended up on the internet.  I went and read it and frankly I just felt sorry and compassion for the guy.  Every one has been the recipient of similar missives, though maybe not as long and not quite as weird and for different reasons.  I can't quite recall but I certainly hope I was kinder, provided some response.

Emily brought it up because she felt that feeling is universal - the feeling of being mystified when you thought you had clicked with someone in someway and it clearly turned out you were wrong, thats a really upsetting feeling.  The other two men felt she was abusing and subjecting this poor man to ridicule.

Emily admitted she was both rubbernecking, yet felt it seems really sad that she was so heartless.  "I do think that not responding the is cruelest thing of all.  I would much rather get bad than no news.  Do you guys feel that way?"

Both her male companions each agreed that they would prefer bad news to no news.

Then they did a quick auditory poll of the audience.  After a first date, you are not going to go out with person x after the first date, would you respond in the negative?  And if you are a person who doesn't respond at all?  - seemed pretty even (though second one seemed more male!)

And if you were to get the email, "sorry this just isn't going to work."  Is there anyone who would rather get no email, no call back?  Any one in the room?   Would you prefer silence? Make noise if you would prefer silence.  Dead silence ensues.  

Emily noted that this is the cause of a lot of suffering - the acute universal sense that a response is always better.

At the end they always  - they discussed the trend of facial hair among young people, which fascinated me because.   That segued into why beards were so popular around the time of the Civil War, revealing   1861 Adam Goodheart - tells the stories of that year.  Theory was that because during the war it was heard to "tend to yourself" but soldiers in earlier wars weren't bearded.  Reason was a form a political nationalism - expressing masculinity and indomitable will.  Started 5-6 years before the war, after pictures from the revolutionaries of 1848 were all bearded and photographs of them made it to the US so men in the 1850s started to grow beards.

Pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"Once" Again and Again and Again

Last night, as I typically do, I went to the NPR website to survey the day's stories and add them to my playlist.  I switch them around in order of importance, hit play, and try to fall asleep.  The monotone tenor and the interest of the stories usually serve well enough to distract me from the pain and enable me to slip into some slumber.

But last night, I was incredulous to see this story "Once" and Again: A Love Story Gets A Second Life that aired yesterday morning on Morning Edition.  It's actually a third life, but more on that in a second.

When the film was out on DVD, in 2007, a friend I have loved and admired for over twenty years told me I had to see the film, Once.   I did of course and I did like it.  But I didn't quite understand his deep affection for the film.

Edna Walsh, the Dublin playwright adapting the film for the stage said this in the NPR interview:
Her character sort of barely existed on-screen, but for me [she] was all about the light — was all about someone who could change your world and change your life, immediately," Walsh says. "There's this sort of maelstrom of sort of emotion that goes on with her."When he was called for this project, he confesses, Walsh had never seen the movie."I watched it and I thought, 'Oh right, this is It's A Wonderful Life, effectively.' You know, the story of a guy who's sort of given up on stuff, and this sort of angel arrives and casts a light over his life somehow, and the people around him."
Well, now I do understand.  And agree.

It's strange because I've been thinking of my friend a lot lately and things connected to him have been popping up all over.  In a theater, to watch a film last week, while the previews were being shown much to my surprise there was a preview for a film I'd not even heard of (rare for me) - The Swell Season.   It's a documentary about Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and that's the second life.   I had read they had broken up; the cynic in me wasn't surprised.  But here, years later, was a non-fiction film about their lives, on tour, in the aftermath of Once's popularity.   I was surprised, heartened and pleased to tears.   I have not yet seen The Swell Season but I plan too.  Maybe later today I will go do that.

Here is the preview:

And then last night the NPR story, which illuminated for me other aspects of the appeal of the story.  I am keen to see the play in NYC.  And so then I google for the New York Times review of the Off Broadway production and to read and find out more, and here is the fourth life for the story - Even Before Off Broadway Opening Once Announces A Move To Broadway.   Was posted on the Arts Blog last night around 7 pm.
Just as the musical “Once” was about to open at New York Theater Workshop Tuesday night, the show’s commercial producers announced that it would go directly to Broadway after the Off Broadway run.Based on the 2007 movie of the same name, “Once” will begin previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on Feb. 28, with opening night set for March 18.
Well, I can't wait to see it - off Broadway or on.  I very much hope I can - sometime, somehow, do so with my long and lost friend.

I remember seeing this 35 minute Tiny Desk Concert a few years back, in 2009.  Here's the description:
Fans of the musical Once will recognize its stars, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, in this enormously charming Tiny Desk Concert straight from NPR Music, in which they showed off six new songs before finishing up with "When Your Mind's Made Up." It's impossible to convey how lovely — how warm and genuine — this performance was in person, but seeing the video, which really does show them sitting behind Bob Boilen's real desk surrounded by Bob Boilen's real stuff, is really stunning. 
I agree.

And here is the video:

Great Expectations for Great Expectations

Which is to say, I expect this drama to eventually appear in the US - either on PBS Masterpiece or on BBC America.   Meanwhile, here is the yummy British preview:

 Great Expectations is my second favorite Dickens novel (the first being A Tale of Two Cities) but I must say Great Expectations is more often dramatized on television or film, and often very well.   Maybe because so many scenes are so vivid. I still love the one with Anne Bancroft and Ethan Hawke. I seem to even remember the haunting music.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Intelligence, Agency, Attractiveness and Perception

This news is unbelievable and certainly resonates for me.

A friend first posted the piece on Facebook and then Andrew Sullivan highlighted The Psychology of Nakedness by Jonah Lehrer over at

It's worth clicking over to see the pictures.  Will make me consider wearing an off the shoulder dress, for sure!  

And I really appreciate the discarding of Descartes' division,
This work also raises important philosophical questions. Ever since Descartes, it’s been suggested that people are natural dualists, dividing the world into an immaterial realm full of souls and a physical world full of objects. This simple framework, however, appears to be a bit too simple.
Indeed.  I found that framework too simple and unhelpful in yoga and disease as well.

Then there is this:
 Instead of seeing the individual as having agency, he or she became a means to an end, nothing but a vessel for our satisfaction. Kant was describing a phenomenon known as objectification, in which seeing a body turns the entire person into a physical object. This idea is frequently invoked when describing studies like this, which found that women are far more likely to appear in magazine advertisements as an attractive body, while men are typically represented by their faces.
Followed up by this:
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the redistribution of mind can’t do damage. If you’re a female applying for a job, the sometimes sexist tendency of men to focus on the body will unfairly diminish perceptions of agency and intelligence; you will be punished for having breasts. Although the woman won’t be literally objectified, the redistribution of mind will still make her much less likely to be hired.
It's surreal to have experience and instinct backed up by now by new science.  The minds of men, when they perceive attractiveness, have trouble believing an attractive woman also enjoys intelligence and agency.  Hence the disturbing tendency of some intelligent women to downplay their sexual attractiveness and keep that light under a bushel.   What a quagmire.  What a shame.  

Medieval Knights, Violence and PTSD

The SAXO Unit at the University of Copenhagen is studying the subject of knights and violence which I find fascinating.  As reported at in a piece entitled Violent Knights Feared Post-traumatic Stress, violence was not as glorified as we have been lead to believe.  

They discuss a book written by a knight who fought in the 100 Years War, which is really cool.  Check out the whole thing over at the original link, but here's a taste:
In his book, de Charny advises knights on how to relate to the fact that they must kill people when they are at war. He also mentions some of the hardships knights face: poor sleep, hunger, and a feeling that even nature is going against them.
It also notes that sometimes the justice system failed to provide justice so men took retribution into their own hands and that was considered acceptable, acknowledging the limits of society issuing justice.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Downton Abbey Season 2 Preview

Coming soon!  Five weeks!   January 8, 2012 to be exact....(I confess to cheating and watching some clips on YouTube uploaded from Great Britain.  Unlike a year ago, they've gotten hip to straight uploads, but folks get around that by assembling clips following one storyline - like Matthew and Mary.)

Watch Downton Abbey Season 2 Preview on PBS. See more from MASTERPIECE.

Nationless Global Elite Vs. US Elite

I sent this Chrystia Feeland Atlantic cover article, Rise of the New Global Elite, to a dear friend of mine who works with these global rich families.  I wasn't even aware of such folks, but they really think of themselves as global citizens.

So the contrast to American billionaires is interesting and continues to be examined.

This time by Felix Salmon at Reuters in a piece called American Plutocracy.  He starts by quoting the indomitable Michael Lewis (whose pieces and reporting in Vanity Fair on the financial global evolution and devolution have been riveting) on Greek billionaires - how ordinary Greeks don't harass them because they don't know where to find them; they are invisible.

Salmon notes that there could be an "Occupy Moscow" because all the Russian billionaires live in London.  Same with Middle Eastern billionaires who own homes in Chelsea in London they visit.  And from there he notes that America does a good job at retaining their billionaires.   He says Americans are more likely to buy second, third and fourth homes in the USA

Money quote:
In a way it’s reassuring that America’s billionaires are still so civic-minded that they buy laws and political parties: it’s a sign that they’re invested in the country and are here for the foreseeable. And the one law they’re not going to repeal any time soon is the most important one — the one which says that US citizens have to pay US federal taxes on their global income, no matter where they live. (Or at least demonstrate that they’ve paid at least that much in taxes elsewhere.) American plutocrats, almost uniquely, are tied to their home country in a way that other members of the global elite can barely imagine.
He says Americans are more likely to buy fourth or tenth homes in the USA before buying one abroad.  

I think that's pretty cool.  

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hitchens on Jackie O

My mom never liked her, and I never really understood why.   In Vanity Fair Christopher Hitchens comments on the release of her interview tapes with Arthur Schlesinger Jr.:  Widow of Opportunity

I suspect it had something to do with this:
when examined carefully and in context, the pouting refusal to have any ideas except those supplied by her lord and master turns out not to be evidence of winsome innocence but a soft cover for a specific sort of knowingness and calculation.
And this: 
hey certainly make it difficult if not impossible to accept her at her own paradoxical valuation, as merely a self-effacing hostess and decorator.
Regarding Camelot:
Now consider: The nation has just buried a president whose books were replete with the language of valor and grandeur—fit rhetoric forProfiles in Courage. Arlington cemetery has been garlanded as never in the century. The bugle calls can still be heard wafting on the air. And then: Oh, mercy me, why do I worry my pretty little head?—why, all I can call to mind is some plonking ditty from Lerner and Loewe that even the Broadway critics found a tad paltry.
My mother could not abide fakery of any sort, but especially female self-effacing.  I feel proud of her insight.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

"I Will Find You"

I'm seeing signs all around. And having dreams. First last weekend, I saw the preview for The Swell Season, which I did not even know existed. Then this week I did an indie music mix and a song from The Swell Season album was the first up. And then this morning I go to check out Sharon Salzberg's new site and what is there but this... I will take them. They provide me comfort as I worry about a dear friend missing from my life right now....