a little something extra

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Woody Guthrie and the radio

A few years ago, I dramaturged a production of a musical based on the life and music of Woody Guthrie. Before that I had a vague notion of who he was, but that show gave me a reason to read all his published work. His first published book, Bound for Glory, is one of the best reads I've had the privilege of enjoying in recent years. I heartily recommend it. His later books, sadly, show the progress of the Huntington's Disease which ultimately killed him. Huntington's can express itself as graphomania, compulsion to write or obsession with writing. This was one of the symptoms Guthrie experienced, and it shows up in his later books.

I also researched the times in which he lived, and that taught me how powerful an influence radio was during the Dust Bowl era that shaped Woody Guthrie. Reading about the isolated farm folks, mostly women, alone in the house all day -- I was amazed to realize what a difference the radio made in their lives. A lifeline, an emotional sticking point to which they could screw their courage.

All this to say, I want to introduce you to the radio stations that are part of my daily life in SoCal.

I wake up to Morning Edition on KPCC, the NPR station that broadcasts from Pasadena City College about 70 miles northeast of where I live. When I first moved in, I couldn't get a clear signal of any NPR station despite having several broadcasting around this area, several of which are geographically closer than Pasadena. Alas! I was briefly distraught. Moving my radio to the other side of the room made it possible to pick up KPCC with barely noticeable static, and lo, all was well. Often the timer turns the radio on when the commentator is in mid-sentence, but this morning, it was a perfectly clear sentence telling me that Harriet Miers' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court had been withdrawn.

In the car, I listen to Pacifica Radio station KPFK. On the way to work I usually catch most of Uprising!, Sonali Kohatkar's public news and information program, including the delicious ending "Sonali's subversive thought for the day," in which she reads a quote from some book, article or interview she finds inspiringly subversive. Today's Subversive Thought:

"When asked by the magazine "El Navegante", what "autonomy" means for the indigenous population, the Zapatistas of the Ocosingo region replied, "In its very basic form, autonomy consists in recapturing and restoring the culture and self-determination taken away over the last 504 years. That is, in terms of territory, that the people that live in a region administer their own economy, their own politics, their own culture and their own resources"

This morning's broadcast also included the Black Commentator, who broadcasts on Uprising! every friday. Today he discussed what makes for reliable or unreliable polling with the most recent poll of Iraqi opinion about the U.S. military occupation as his example. Often, Democracy Now! is just beginning as I pull into the parking garage.

On the way home I'll usually catch some of KPFK Evening News and Free Speech Radio News. They often include broadcasts from Mumia Abu-Jamal in prison. I often disagree with him, but it's always challenging and stimulating to listen to what he has to say. If I'm late leaving work, I'll catch a smorgasbord of programs that change with the day of the week. Monday it's LGBT issues, Tuesdays it's the Beautiful Struggle Collective, Wednesdays it's feminist points of view, Thursdays it focuses on the law and Fridays are a grab bag.

These radio broadcasts, from the familiar voices on NPR whom I've listened to for ten years or more, to the new points of view I'm acquainting myself with just now, provide a lifeline for me. Not as dramatic as the Dust Bowl farm wives who had only the crackling voices coming from their radios to help keep them sane in those trying days. But in an extended moment of upheaval, my daily radio broadcasts give me continuity and islands of hope.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

a couple of fun links

I've been blogneglecting, if not outright blogslacking. Motivate me to post by commenting, ye readers! Meanwhile, a few disparate links for your delectation.

My long-distance friend Gavin (who enjoys the distinction of being one of the ten most literate people I know, and that's fierce competition in my world) sent me this link to the Double-Tongued Word Wrester online dictionary. It collects and showcases new word and phrase coinages -- more nouveau combinations than actual true new made-up words. Heavy on the jargon from various interest groups and industries that somehow bleeds out into the vocabulary of the world at large.

My sister Shannon is about to run the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend. Evidently the Corps is way up with the digital age, because they have an online marathon runner tracker system. If you want to see how Shannon's doing on Sunday morning, you can track her at runner number 14570. Go Shannon go!

Lastly, this link to the local paper's review of Pacific Chorale's performance of Carmina Burana and Voices of Light this past weekend. Y'all who sing, especially with the Festival Singers of Atlanta, should feel free to envy me because Stephen Paulus spent the weekend with us. The chorus treated him like a rock star, which is funny because he's a mild-mannered composer of classical music who lives in St. Paul. I probably saw him at some point when I was living in the Twin Cities but didn't yet know about him or his music.

Happy link jumping!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

First sally at the DMV

Transferring car title, registering a vehicle and getting a new driver's license is one of the least fun parts of making any interstate move. Or, actually, three of the least fun parts. I thought I was going to knock them off today, but I wound up with only one done.

The California DMV has embraced the idea of making appointments. More than one co-worker recommended I take advantage of this system, so off I went to the DMV website, where it is indeed possible to make an appointment -- if you only needed to do one thing. I needed to do at least two, and possibly three (if you separate the title application from the vehicle registration). For that, you need to make a phone call.

So, I picked up the phone. That is not to say I talked to a person. But I was able to make an appointment through their automated system. A couple of weeks later, my appointment date rolled around, and off I went.

When I arrived I found that despite my dutiful telephoning, I still only had an appointment for one thing -- getting my CA driver's license. So I went ahead and did that, and quit while I was ahead. I'll make another appointment (or two) to deal with the title and registration another time. For now, I'm carrying my GA driver's license with a hole punched in it, and my paper temporary CA license. The new card should arrive in the mail in a few weeks.

This is the fourth state I'll register this car in. I bought it in Texas, then moved to Minnesota, then Georgia, and now here. Getting excessive? I think so.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

California moment

There are few things I like better than having a Saturday to myself. Today was mostly occupied with domesticity -- laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, finally hanging the pictures that have been leaning against various walls since I moved into this apartment. I've had TCM on TV for company since the early evening: Swing Time followed by the La Jersild Honorary Showing of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Dr. Zhivago, which I've never seen, will start shortly.

But in the middle of all that, I happened to look out through the sliding glass doors that connect my living room with my balcony. The balcony stands empty except for a still-sealed packing box of flowerpots, and a single basil plant. I bought it at the farmer's market a few weeks ago, figuring that would be more economical than buying bunches of basil that I never use all the way up before they go bad.

This afternoon, though, at the moment I glanced out, my single basil plant was not alone. It was entertaining a hummingbird about the size of my palm. The bird hovered around the plant, sipping delicately from the tiny sprig of white flowers that has bloomed at the top. It took several seconds to get all the nectar, so I got a very good look at the curve of its body and the blur of its wings. As you can imagine, I didn't mind at all sharing my plant with such a beautiful visitor.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

social butterfly

Though no one in his/her right mind would actually call me that, this is proving to be a week full of extracurricular activities.

Over the past weekend, I traveled up to L.A. to see a play whose playwright I like and respect. Before the show I met with another playwright for coffee and discussion. The next day I traveled down to San Diego to see the first production of the first season of a new theatre company, founded in part by two artists I went to UT with. I also knew the playwright of their show, and she was there, so there was yet more hanging out to be done. It's always a good idea to feed a playwright when you get the chance.

Later in the week I got to do it again, when a playwright arrived for an introductory reading at my theatre. This writer has never been here before, so the reading (tomorrow) serves as the theatre's first best chance to meet him and "meet" his play, which we've all read. So I took him to dinner last night.

Today and tomorrow, it's post-work drinks etc. with other folks who work at my theatre company and show all the earmarks of becoming friends. It's all good times, and I appreciate that it's all open to me. But it's also easy to see how careful I still have to be with my budget. My house is not yet rented, so the financial pressure is on until further notice!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

All the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise!

There are roofers. Banging over my head. They have been banging steadily since mid-morning.

It is now mid-afternoon. I cannot read or concentrate. The roofers started working two weeks ago, I have no information about when they will be done, and the banging is a new technique in their process. (A new instrument in their orchestra?)

And here's the kicker. This is Southern California. Why do you have to fix a roof in Southern California where it never rains???

I'm going to finish what I'm writing. Not this blog post, but what I'm supposed to be writing. And then I'm going to scoop up a couple of scripts and RUN AWAY FROM HOME.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

warming influences

That could be the title for my menu tonight. I had planned to make chili on the weekend, but the timing didn't work out so I punted it to tonight. The chili recipe I use is a loose riff on a dish published in the first cookbook from the Greens restaurant.

I've actually eaten Greens' own food, since the restaurant is located in the same former military complex of buildings where Magic Theatre resides. Magic has hosted the annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival both times I've had the chance to work there. And in terms of food one can get during a ten-minute Actors Equity-mandated break, Greens is the only game in town -- despite being relatively pricey and entirely vegetarian, they're the only place close enough and they have a takeout counter, so everybody winds up there.

So in Fields of Greens, the restaurant's second cookbook but the first I owned, there's a recipe for Warm Black Beans with Chilies and Cilantro. Which is a fancy way of saying, vegetarian black bean chili. Where the recipe calls for cooking black beans from their dried state, I use canned. Where the recipe calls for using the broth resulting from that cooking, I use my own homemade vegetable stock from the freezer or storebought veggie broth. Where the recipe calls for making two different kinds of chili purees, one involving roasting the peppers first, I use dried ground peppers (of the varieties the recipe calls for, at least). It still turns out warming and yummy.

Which it did tonight. Since I got to come straight home after work and traffic was relatively merciful, I was inside my apartment by 6:45 or so. I put the rice on to cook, put the chili together, and by 7:45 I was enjoying a steaming bowl of the two with a glass of medium-bad red wine. (I'm still figuring out the point of diminishing returns on Trader Joe's' continuum of wine pricing. But believe me, the white from this particular label was much worse.) Dessert was ginger snaps, more warming influence if you're prone to follow the categorization of foods proposed by traditional Chinese medicine:


Pork, duck, eggs, clams, crab, millet, barley, wheat, lettuce, celery, broccoli, spinach, tomato, banana, watermelon, asparagus, ice cream, soy sauce


Beef, beef liver, rabbit, sardines, yam, rice, corn, rye, potato, beet, turnip, carrot, lemon, apple


Tuna, turkey, salmon, lamb, venison, chicken, chicken liver, shrimp, trout, oats, cabbage, squash, kale, scallion, celery, ginger, sugar, garlic, pepper

Alas, black beans appear nowhere on the list... but since I'm unlikely to get that influence from venison or chicken liver any time soon, I'll take what I can find.

There's an emotional element to the warming too, though. Eating well helps me feel well cared for, and that's important when I'm as much on my own as I am now. It's connected to happy memories of earlier periods in my life, and it's a powerful influence on my bioemotionalchemistry. (Yes, I made that up.)

So. If you live in a place where autumn actually, you know, happens, think about those warming foods, and think about how to take good care of yourself as the year begins to wane. I recommend it.

(The recipes in Fields of Greens tend to be labor-intensive and cheffish. I also like Greens' second book, Everyday Greens, which purports to be for home cooking. The recipes are certainly simpler.)

Monday, October 10, 2005

We glow in the dark!

A distant friend posted a link to this article elsewhere today. I'm tickled by the idea of human chemiluminescence, even if our eyes are not sensitive enough to pick up the light we emit.

Hey, wait a minute. There's a metaphor hiding in there...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Five FabulousThings About Todd

Todd is my brother-in-law, of more than ten years' standing. It's his birthday today (mark your calendar, Mom), so here is his post.

As always, y'all who know Todd should feel free to add your own fabulous things in the comments. Y'all who don't know him, make something up. As long as it's complimentary, it will probably apply.

1. Todd is a high achiever (bachelor's degree from handsome private university, J.D. from even handsomer top-ten law school, competition-winning drummer, rather elite athlete)...

2. ... but he doesn't brag about it. A lesser man would toot his own horn; Todd tooteth not. A lesser man would wrap himself in false modesty; Todd has perfected an easy low-key warmth that reads as absolutely genuine.

3. Todd is possessed of a dry, sly sense of humor that delights all who know him.

4. Todd loves my sister Shannon and their dog Porsche tremendously, takes great care of them when they're sick or injured, celebrates with them when they're well, and periodically sacrifices so they can have something that will make them happy. What more could one ask?

5. He competes vigorously and with great good humor to be my mom's favorite son-in-law, all the while understanding that the Monaghan definition of "favorite" is inclusive, not exclusive.

Happy birthday, Todd, and many happy more!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

in the world of dangerous things

Oxford University Press is having a fall sale. It is taking all my resolve not to look.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cranky vs. Annoying

When am I responding to something negatively because it's actually annoying, and when do I have the same response to an innocent something only because I'm cranky? That is the question. Having reached this advanced stage of wisdom, age and grace, I recognize that there are some situations that can be relied upon to produce crankiness in yours truly. And when that happens, nothing can please me. Today involved one of those situations, and was therefore one of those days.

The situation -- I had no time to call my own in the previous 24 hours. From the time I left for work at 8:00 or so yesterday morning, through the working day, the meeting immediately after work, and the rehearsal that followed the meeting, I had not a minute to myself. At 11:00 p.m., I was home and went directly to bed, knowing that I had to be up to make a 7:00 a.m. car maintenance appointment (already rescheduled once after the shop failed to call me last week and let me know that delayed equipment repair meant they wouldn't be able to do the work we'd scheduled), then a full working day followed by a post-show discussion at around 9:45 p.m.

So by 10 this morning, I was aware that I was feeling irrationally angry about the small daily events that sane people don't even notice. The least interruption or delay would send my blood pressure soaring and set my teeth grinding. I reeeeally needed to get a grip.

But I couldn't pull a Garbo, and changing my work schedule for today was not in the cards. I am still building very early, tenuous working relationships here, and an event that came about yesterday in one of those working relationships was part of what was pissing me off in the first place. (The theatre decided to retain a producing option on a play without ever talking with me about the play. Grrrrrr. This is one of those things that would make me mad, at least briefly, even if I wasn't already having a cranky day.) All I could do was make sure I ate decently and try to wait the angry mood out.

I've made it to 6:30 p.m. without saying anything evil to anyone, and without blowing anything up. Now I'm in the office alone, about to go find some dinner. Tomorrow I get to have the morning to myself, offsetting the extra hours I'm putting in at work tonight. So when I get into the office tomorrow, I'll review the reports I wrote on the plays I read today, to make sure that my responses weren't unduly colored by my being grumpy. No playwright should have to pay for my bad mood.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

comfort and joy

Today, after six weeks of waiting, my new sofa and armchair were delivered. On time, even! I will confess that after the truly awful experience I had with my movers, I experienced some cynical doubt about whether the furniture company would do any better. Happily, they did, and my cynicism was unnecessary.

However. (There's always a "however.") However, once the sofa and armchair were stashed in my abode, it took me only a few minutes to realize that everything else in my living room was in the wrong place. Whatever genius designed this building placed the cable outlet on a small section of wall smack dab between the fireplace and the sliding glass doors that lead out to the balcony. So, one can't run the cable safely in either direction, which means if you're going to use cable the electronics have to be in that corner and everything else has to orbit around them.

So, I spent the next hour or two taking everything off my large bookshelf, moving it to another wall and putting everything back. Moving my desk into the dining room, where there's plenty of space. Shifting the filing cabinet into place to be an end table at one side of the sofa; pushing the sofa into place; then putting the small table my parents gave me as a housewarming gift on the other side. That table is my single favorite piece of furniture; once it was in place, I had some hope that the rest would work. Moved the armchair across the room. Moved its companion floor lamp so it wouldn't be lonely. Hooked the stereo back up -- nope, the CD mechanism still won't generate sound. Curses, foiled again.

Anyway. The living room is getting cozier by the minute. If I didn't have work to do, I'd be curled up on that sofa right now, watching one of the movies that Netflix sent me.

Instead I'm sitting at my desk listening to Carmina Burana and trying to generate staging ideas to share at a meeting after work tomorrow. Listening to Carmina Burana at night is bound to give one interesting dreams...