Hometown Girl Done Good

Les Ballets des Monte Carlo is currently performing in Pittsburgh, so my little sister April (who’s with the company) is getting some mentions in the Pittsburgh papers.

My favorite April soundbite of all time was maybe 10 years ago when a Boston Globe reporter asked her if it was weird to play opposite my brother as romantic lead, I think the context was a Boston Ballet production of Swan Lake. She said something like “there’s not too much confusion with real life here. I mean, I’m also playing a bird.”

Sadly, nothing here lives up to that fine standard. Still, I’m happy to see her in some domestic papers, even if that means the McKeesport Daily News.

Word picks for the savvy verbal investor, February 2008

(being the latest installment in the series begun here.)

  • It is what it is — BUY — disclaimer: I am heavily invested in this one, and have been for at least a year. This one has been gaining steam. It was spotted by William Safire (sort of the fastidious Warren Buffet of verbal investing) as early as spring 2006, and this Slate article from a few days back calls it a sports cliché for our time. So this is not going to appeal to the value investors out there. The Slate pice criticizes it as an essentially meaningless cop-out. Like all tautologies, sure, if you are parsing it for its logical content, yes, it means little. But it is a short, zen-like way of accepting things the way they are, instantly pulling you out of the imaginary worlds of what might have been and into the present tense, real world. It’s something that everybody needs now and again, and right now, there’s no other phrase that can provide this universal value with such an economy of words. Buy while you still can, kids.
  • What have you — SELL — It’s not going to tank tomorrow, but you’re not going to surprise anybody by pulling this one out, you’re just going to sound sort of lazy.

Portsmouth, 16 Feb 08

Terri and I have traditionally taken a one- or two-day getaway sometime around Valentine’s Day or President’s Day, for a little romance and to help stave off the winter blahs. This year, just having come back from a pretty heavy-duty vacation in Germany and France in January for April’s wedding, we decided to keep it simple (and cheaper) and just make a day trip to Portsmouth, NH. Which as many know, is sort of a favorite T&E spot, having been the site of an early non-date and also where I popped the question.

arboretum.jpgSaw a couple of interesting things (but bought none) at RiverRun Books. Not so sure why I’m so into David Byrne lately, but happened upon Arboretum, a nifty short book of tree diagrams of… well, basically abstractions. Says Byrne:

I see recent news photos that (unintentionally?) mimic Caravaggios, others that look exactly like images from Star Wars, the body attitudes of the Loas of Vodou or of classical Greek sculpture. Postures, poses and perspectives keep recurring over and over. As if Jung’s archetypes—characters, relationships and stories imbedded in our thoughts—unconsciously urge us not only to psychologically label situations and relationships, but also to gravitate towards certain images and specific angles in our image choices. The picture editor in our heads. I don’t think every photojournalist, for example, has a childhood memory of classical art that they once saw on a school trip that they use as an unconscious reference, though some might. I think rather the journalists and the classical artists are more likely drawing on the same deep internal sources.

I ended up not buying anything. We walked around a little and ended up at the Portsmouth Brewery for lunch. I had a sampler paddle of beer because there were so many things on tap that I wanted to try. We stayed for a couple of rounds while Terri knit and I doodled for a potential Rainy Planet printing project.

odd showroomI sort of love the Odd Showroom on Market St, even though it’s mostly vintagey women’s clothes and original paintings that aren’t really my taste. The proprietress is usually sitting behind the counter with her sewing machine working up new originals. It’s not quite my aesthetic (lots of creepy doll heads with big eyes), but I get a charge out of going there; it’s always sort of fun to go somewhere where someone had a vision to do something and just did it.

elmer gnomeThere was a great little art show going on in a shop called Nahcotta which seems to be a gallery and designery home goods store. There was a show on called The Enormous Tiny Art Show. Some of my favorites were the Amy Ruppel paintings/beeswax etchings(?), Matte Stephens‘ very 60′s cartoony paintings (pictured is his “Elmer Gnome”), Rachel Austin’s paintings, and Scott Campbell’s “prison” paintings. prison2.jpgA lot of it was very cartoony and design-y (which is totally up my alley). So much good stuff that we decided to buy some original art. We did not realize, though, that most of what was still up was sold, including the small painting that we settled on after a great deal of time and handwringing. It was deflating enough that our first and second choices were gone that we ended up not quite being able to settle on anything. I feel a little bad that I enjoyed the show so much and didn’t end up bringing anything home, so that is why the excessive linkery here.

Somewhere in there we also ended up at Bull Moose music and I bought the extended edition of X-Ray Spex’ “Germfree Adolescents”. I’ve been making so many exceptions to my “I hate punk rock” pose lately that I probably have to finally suck it up and admit that I’ve been… less than truthful with myself.

Had a lovely dinner at the Blue Mermaid, and then coffee, knitting/doodling, and sitting-out-the-effects-of-the-wine at Popover’s, and then home.

QOTD: 10 Feb 2008: craft vs. passion point/counterpoint

Algernon Moncrieff (from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest): “I don’t play accurately— anyone can play accurately. But I play with wonderful expression.”

John Darnielle (of The Mountain Goats): “If I say a band is “dedicated to their craft,” that sounds boring and staid, right? Well, fuck you, then, Jack, with your antiquated half-recycled notions of how craft and intensity are somehow at odds. Craft is the path to the damn palace, and the palace’s windows are all ablaze with the fire that’s constantly raging in all the rooms, and it’s not even uncomfortable for the people who live there, because they have become accustomed to the heat.”

Keyboard Friday

After some Dave’s Fresh ravioli and vino tonight, Terri and I watched the somewhat awful Bette Davis movie The Great Lie, in which Mary Astor played a classical pianist. It inspired me to get out my electric piano (a Yamaha P-80 which I bought maybe 7 years ago and haven’t touched since maybe 2004) and a book of Chopin Noctournes and Polonaises.

Ouch. It was sort of like trying to run sprints after a decade of eating cheetos and never breaking a sweat. I downgraded to a book of standards which was at least fun, and it reminded me of the time my high school/college g.f.’s mom, who ran a SIDS charity in Pittsburgh, asked me to play the piano at one of her fundraisers at some schmoncy restaurant. I think I might have bought this book for that occasion. I remember being super nervous, I remember being relieved that once it was over I hadn’t embarrsed myself, and I remember being excited that I made some cash out of the deal. I wonder how all those peeps are doing these days.

Still undecided

the candidateI gots to vote on the primary next Tuesday, but I’m still undecided.

Here’s the situation.

I don’t vote on issues, I don’t vote on character. My vote usually goes to whomever can build the most competent cabinet, and whose politics are not totally abhorrent to me. Cause face it, nobody can do it all their damn selves. So I try to think not about the candidate, but about the candidate’s network.

I tend to hate the “authenticity” candidates like last election’s loathsome Howard Dean, possibly the least intelligent silver-spoon candidate to run for the presidency since George W. Bush. (Or so I thought, until Bush’s Skull-and-Bones pal John Kerry’s dismal Yale GPA was made public). As much as I think it was unfair the way that Dean’s candidacy was derailed by getting made into a joke, I still just don’t see what my fellow supposedly Internet-savvy east coast liberals saw in his schtick. I couldn’t figure out what Dean was up to, other than taking donations over the internet and then turning them over to Old Media outlets.

So by my usual logic, I should be voting for Clinton, who arguably has the best capacity to build a strong cabinet. But she’s the same kind of spineless say-anything-to-get-elected weasel as Bill, sans the I’m-getting-away-with-this charm.

I’m leaning Obamawards, but just am a little concerned that he’s more speechifying than substance, and in 4 years, we’re going to still be in Iraq, he’s not going to roll back any of the encroachment of civil liberties of the last few years. But in spite of myself, in spite of my whole basic outlook on life, which says that nothing is more bogus than authenticity and that nothing is more real than artifice, I can’t help but think that there are things in life that can’t be done but without some modicum of faith in one’s own sincerity, in faith in the future, some amount of “I know, we’ll put the show on right here! In the barn!”. And the ability to ignore the fact that this is basically an untenable point of view. And I think Obama’s got that more than any candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime.

The good news is that I’m not a Republican. I’d be in a worse position then, because they’re pretty much all joke candidates, except for McCain, who would be funny if his insanity weren’t so genuine. He used to appeal to the authenticity-minded middle-grounders. But in recent hears he has been able to distinguish himself by being simultaneously a party-line weasel AND a totally wacko loose cannon, so I don’t think he’s going to be able to grab too many independents or undecideds (who will tolerate wackos but not party-line weasels).