September 26, 2014
There are so, so many issues and projects and new art and fundraising campaigns out there right now that deserve time and attention and money, and I could almost write a post per day every day to get to all of them. If I could I would just give the money to every project I like that needs it, but for the present moment I’ll have to settle for calling your attention to a few of my favorites:
1. The deadline is coming up for submissions to Typed Words, Loud Voices! This will be an anthology of writing by people who are non-speaking either some of the time or all of the time, who type to communicate. The editors are Amy Sequenzia and Ibby Grace, two of my favorite advocates and bloggers. Project description and submission guidelines are here!
2. The Autism Women’s Network is planning an anthology on autism and race, and we have less than two days left in our fundraising campaign, with almost 50% of our goal to go! This book is so important because the vast majority of discussion and visibility of autism centers on white autistic men, while autistic people of color suffer from an immense lack of recognition and understanding.
3. The WordPlay Shakespeare series, which I’ve been working on for about two years now with the New Book Press, has just released its third edition, Romeo & Juliet! These are Shakespeare’s plays in dual text and video e-book format, and include both the full text and video of its performance by really stellar Broadway and Off-Broadway actors on every page, along with note-taking and study tools.
Almost every person, and teachers especially, who we show samples to, says that they wish they’d had these when they learned Shakespeare in high school. I’m immensely proud of them, Romeo & Juliet is probably the play I’ve had the most fun working on so far as we’ve refined our understanding and process for this hybridized film/theater/new media format of production, and is available on iTunes and iBooks now.
4. On Monday night, we had the CD release party and concert for the cast recording of Tamar of the River, a fantastically distinctive new musical that I stage managed last fall, the second original cast recording to be released for a show of mine. If you have an interest in unique vocal music or storytelling technique, this is a piece you’ll probably love, and proceeds benefit Seeds of Peace, an organization that brings together young people from regions of seemingly intractable conflicts to work towards peaceful solutions.
5. Out of Order is still fundraising! This is a documentary about the journeys of LGBTQ candidates for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA), amidst evolving attitudes in the church about what it means to be both queer and a Christian. I was excited for this to be out, like, yesterday, and the team (all of whom are working pro-bono out of belief in the importance of this film) is in a fundraising push to finish editing and post-production.
Please take a look at any or all of these that may be relevant to your interests. : )
September 16, 2014
The past few years have brought a series of movie and TV series anniversaries that…while I still can’t say I feel old, really put the relentlessness of time into perspective. The X-Files turning 21. The Princess Bride turning 25.
Empire Records turns 20 next year, making it older than I was when I first saw it. A generation of kids who weren’t even born when it came out are old enough to see it now.
This article (which is long, but worth reading all the way through) came up in my news feed recently about the story of its making and total commercial flop in 1995.
I first saw Empire Records when I was 15. I was at summer camp, one of the multiple summer academic programs where I spent my summers as a teenager. And literally all of my friends from the previous year had gotten too cool for me and stopped talking to me. It was the final night of camp, and the movie that had been voted on for everyone to stay up late and watch, was Empire Records.
I asked for it for, I think, my Valentine’s Day present the following year, and my mother bought it on VHS for me. I would name it without hesitation as one of my favorite movies for years, without ever being able to articulate why.
The article is an incredible nostalgia trip, and suffice it to say, the story of the making of the movie sounds almost as much fun as the movie. It’s comforting somehow to know that the cast of the movie were all truly friends, who loved making it as much as we’ve all loved it as we’ve grown up. Things surprised me (Coyote Shivers was Liv Tyler’s stepfather?! And A.J.’s checkered shirt was an “old-man” shirt? I thought it was the sexiest thing I had ever seen, though maybe that was just A.J. in it), and things didn’t (mischief and mayhem on the part of Ethan Embry), but a passage that really gave me pause finally gave me the scaffolding to explain how this became such an important movie to me:
Part of the feel of the film was also lost via Regency’s insistence that it remain PG-13, rather than have the R-rating of the original script; that’s why none of the characters could be shown actually smoking cigarettes or marijuana, why they couldn’t swear like actual teenagers, why Eddie couldn’t run his weed operation on the roof—why they couldn’t, in other words, fully behave like the teens they were meant to portray.
See, I actually have to epically disagree with Petersen and the filmmakers about this. I think it’s an immense strength of the movie that those sorts of depictions were dispensed with.
Because much as I love the movie, it’s not actually because I can particularly identify with any one character in it, as opposed to characteristics and combinations of traits and struggles of multiple characters (Corey’s academic prowess, with a hint of Warren’s resentment and insecurity and A.J.’s artistic ambitions)…and that even if I wasn’t there, the world they inhabited was a world I could inhabit. (In some ways, unlike the world I actually did inhabit.)
And a huge part of that was the lack of completely rampant drug use and callous language. It’s not even that drug use or abuse wasn’t depicted in the world; it was—in Marc’s spending the day stoned on Eddie’s “special” brownies, and Corey’s admission of amphetamine abuse to keep up with schoolwork. It’s not, by a long stretch of the imagination, an anti-drug movie, but the world in which Empire Records exists isn’t one that revolves around getting fucked up. In some kind of wake of cynicism left behind by Generation X, there was this oppressive sense that real kids with real issues were all doing this stuff—and the movie as it turned out, apparently inadvertently, tacitly rejects that premise.
Because believe it or not, kids of my generation not doing drugs or acting out in those ways actually existed. Teenage culture without pervasive drug use actually existed, and the outlook that “oh this is what teenagers really do, though,” was a hugely alienating aspect of other movies about misfit teenagers for me (like Dazed and Confused, of which I remember not one single important thing).
I would hazard a guess that this aspect has actually contributed hugely to the movie’s long-term success, especially among, as the article notes, an audience slightly younger and more sheltered than that originally intended by the producers. The writing of Empire Records treats the problems and internal life of all of its characters with equal sincerity and seriousness, and that’s something that I really felt the lack of in a lot of media aimed more successfully at Generation X (even in things I did like and identify with in some regards, like Daria). It’s an unabashedly sincere and hopeful movie.
A movie like that, with a PG-13 rating, could be shown for movie night at summer camp, where a desperately lonely 15-year-old could fall in love with a story of hope that belonging somewhere exists. An R-rated movie with all the characters drinking/smoking/cursing for two solid hours, couldn’t.
It’s not an everyday occurrence that I aim heartfelt thanks to the MPAA for its contributions to a brilliant narrative decision, but today I do.
Because the themes of love and ambition, and enforced conformity vs. what it means to find a place where you really fit in the world, are pretty universal to teenagers, but contrary to a lot of mythmaking, pervasive drinking, smoking, and drug abuse actually weren’t. That wasn’t what teenagers all just did.
If Empire Records failed to coherently indict “The Man,” it did effectively undermine something snide and dismissive that had arisen in factions of teen culture, that very much conveyed that you had to be edgy or cynical or damaged enough for your problems or issues or dreams to matter.
Empire Records is exactly the movie it should have been.
September 5, 2014
I’m sorry, you appear to be trying to have an argument with a conservative evangelical and/or scriptural literalist or inerrantist variety of Christian.
As I am not one, I am unable to usefully participate further in this discussion with you on the essential nature of faith or religion, and/or the supposed conflict between faith and science, or between faith and critical thinking.
To continue this conversation in acknowledgement that progressive/non-literalist interpretations of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam exist and are equally authentic expressions of faith, press .
To continue this conversation in recognition that non-Western, non-Abrahamic, non-theistic, non-hierarchical belief systems exist, and are as fully valid religions as conservative fundamentalist Christianity, press .
To continue this conversation in recognition that heterogeneity of belief and practice exist and are accepted within most faith communities, press .
To attempt to locate a conservative/evangelical/literal fundamentalist with whom to continue this conversation as before, please hang up and try again.
Best of luck in your search.
(I wrote this after feeling like I could have used something like it to copy/paste into most of the discussions I’ve seen lately about the nature of religious belief, and it would’ve been a better use of my time and energy than the arguments I participated in.)
August 12, 2014
Full moon over Harlem from St. Nicholas Park a couple nights ago.
Fun fact: The full moon of August is traditionally named the Sturgeon Moon.
August 10, 2014
I have had a lot of reaction in the past few days to that New York Times Magazine article concerning “The Kids Who Beat Autism.” Here’s about all I have left.
The parents, the teachers, the therapists and researchers without a clue who are celebrating “recovery” because they have, in their heads, defined autism as a fixed set of permanent inabilities—
-Are not the people doing the work of passing, and are not going to be the ones to find out first-hand just how long it isn’t actually sustainable.
-Are not the people who get told we’re too articulate to be autistic but have to ration our hours of speech per day.
-Are not the developmentally disabled women who suffer a sexual abuse rate of over 90%, no thanks to the compliance training that teaches that allowing others to control our bodies is desirable behavior.
-Are not the kids pulling themselves through school without disability accommodations.
-Are not the kids getting their supports pulled out from under them when they lose a diagnosis.
-Are not the kids getting chided and belittled because their challenges and oddity are now seen as choices of defiance or misbehavior.
-Are not the people being lied to about who they are.
-Are not the people who are going to wake up one day 20 years from now with no idea who they are or how they got there.
-Are not the people who will spend a year and a half having a meltdown with no idea of what’s happening or why.
-Are not the kids being taught that accepting yourself as you really are and as you really work, would be the worst possible thing.
-Or that the “optimal outcome” for you is to spend the rest of your life pretending to be something you’re not in order to uphold the illusions of the people around you.
-Are not the people who are going to have to re-learn where they belong in space and time and how to live there.
-They will not be the people giving their kids a community and a support system years from now. They will not be the ones who know what to do when they start having breakdowns and burnouts.
They will not be the ones supporting their kids in learning self-acceptance when all their passing skills fail because they are actually incompatible with functioning in the long term.
They will not be the people there to pick up the pieces.
There is, indeed, hope for the kids featured in this article, for joy and authenticity. This article could’ve come with a spoiler alert; we know the end of this story. We know it many times over.
It’s just not that these kids live out their lives as non-autistic people.
July 23, 2014
When I was in college in Athens, GA, there was absolutely nothing as good, when you were sick or sad or cold, as a cup of the chicken and dumplings for $3.00 at Five Star Day Cafe. One of the drawbacks of having lived there is that when you’re hit with a craving for Athens food, there’s precious little you can do about it if you are anywhere else in the world. (Buttermilk feta dressing for French fries? Forget it.)
I spent several years pining for chicken and dumplings before it hit me that I could probably make them, and that as my roommate Emily #2 is a southerner, there were probably multiple recipes already in our apartment. I tried a few.
But no dumpling recipe approximated the Five Star Day dumplings, which, being the first and only dumplings I had ever had, represented the quintessential ideal of dumplings in my head. And they were doughy and filling…every dumpling from a recipe I tried turned out like some kind of fluffy bread on top of the soup, which to my mind was not the point at all.
I don’t make it back to Athens often, but at least, I thought, I could get a bowl on my next visit.
And then last spring, Five Star Day closed, not even a week before a planned visit to a friend, and on top of all kinds of layers of indignation and grief over the loss of that place, I despaired of ever not eating inferior dumplings.
Then this week I had a frozen chicken carcass I’d been meaning to turn into a summery chicken soup with mushrooms and green beans (I’d actually wanted asparagus, but asparagus is expensive this late in the summer). I was looking for a dumpling recipe I’d used before involving an egg, but couldn’t find it. (The recipe, not the egg.) The Better Homes and Gardens recipe I vaguely remembered as being inferior, but I had everything in it except for like six herbs that I never actually have on hand (my herb of choice is thyme, and I use it gratuitously, in everything).
I was in a fuck measuring mood so I wasn’t leveling off measuring cups or spoons. I was trying to get soup finished and eaten before my call time that night, so I wasn’t being careful at all.
So I was flabbergasted when I took a bite, and…that was the flavor of the Five Star Day dumplings.
To the best of my recollection, this is what I did:
-2/3 cup of flour, plus a little more, because fuck measuring.
-1 teaspoon baking powder, plus a little more, because fuck measuring.
-1/4 cup milk
-2 tablespoons cooking oil
-Large pinch of dried thyme (LARGE. I’m not kidding.)
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-Lots of pepper
I think part of the secret is in sinus-clearing, heart-warming quantities of pepper. The texture is still not the same, but now I have ideas about that, too. Anyone who’s had any further success at recreating Five Star Day-style chicken dumplings, hit me up.
Addendum: Hopefully obviously, but I can promise no equivalent results. It was an accident. I more or less did it again yesterday, but tried again this afternoon and the dumplings practically fell apart in the soup. Could be the heat? (Yes, I’m the kind of person who eats soup when it’s 90 degrees outside.) I made the mistake once of refrigerating dumpling dough and that was the biggest soup disaster I’ve ever caused… Anyway. I wish you luck.
July 6, 2014
Late frost killed my strawberry plants this spring, so I replaced them with cherry tomatoes, which I’d always wondered whether they’d do well in the space I have available. (I grew tomatoes when I was a kid, but never in a window box before.) They’ve been taking their sweet time ripening, but they may yet not become tiny fried green tomato bites, which I’d been starting to consider.
June 25, 2014
A coworker of mine leads nature walks to remote corners of the city once a month just to make sure that we all see something other than the inside of a dark theater once in a while. A couple of weekends ago, we went to Plum Beach in Brooklyn to see the horseshoe crabs come up on the high tide to mate and lay eggs.
It was chilly for mid-June. Rainclouds meant we didn’t get to see the full moon rising, sadly, but there are still some beautiful views of the Rockaways and Breezy Point.
Deceased horseshoe crab. One of the things we learned is that they tend to get flipped upside down on their backs in the tide. Because they have a segmented shell, unlike turtles, they have some ability to right themselves…but if they don’t succeed and morning comes, they get eaten by seagulls. So if you come across one upside down, you can help it out by using your foot to nudge it back right side up. I got to rescue 3 or 4 crabs on this night. They’re heavier than they look.
And cuter, once you get to know them.
Found one tagged by the Fish and Wildlife Service!