Wednesday, April 30, 2008

National Poetry Month FTW!

last in a series...


At eleven she had read the most books of anyone at school.
By the time they formed the Queens class she was eclipsed.
Her mother kept her home that year,
Telling her that women didn't need to go to school to earn money later.
Women shouldn't have to work.

What did she do, during those four years of twilight
While all her friends were away?
She baked six hundred pies
Peeled three thousand and twelve potatoes
Stamped Christmas cookies out of a tin ring, twice
Broke a dozen eggs into an angel food cake for a wedding at White Sands
(it turned out well)
Stored boxes of apples in the cellar
And took them out
And put them back in again.

She hung organdy and cotton on and off clotheslines
Pulled feathers in and out of beds
Poured tea for guests, cambric for Minnie May
And stared absently at the books that now stood forgotten;
Ivanhoe and Euclid and one lonely Shakespeare.

She grew two inches taller,
Took out the waists of her dresses, a bit
And slowly became eighteen.

When Fred Wright noticed her carefully-knotted hair
It was a relief.

But It's The Main Event Of The Play

I'm grading papers for my "theatre for non-majors" class.

Many of them chose to compare/contrast two of the primary characters in a particular play.

Paper after paper of "These characters are in conflict because they want different things out of life. X wants action and entertainment, while Y prefers to stay at home and avoid society."

Only one paper in the entire stack mentioned that the reason X and Y are in conflict is because Y killed X's infant child.

"Different things out of life," indeed.

More National Poetry Month!

second in a series...


Having her entire family killed in one moment
Shocked her out of the world
Of nylons and invitations.

For two weeks after the train accident she cried.
Men she didn't know stroked her back.
Her flatmate folded up her red silk dress
From where she let it fall
After she heard the news.

In later years she was seen
With grey in the seams of her raven hair
Assisting a doctor at a child's bedside.
Amputation. Death. Losses.
The children, when she passed their beds,
Would reach their arms to her and smile.

At home, a husband, two sons, and books.
A garden in the windowsill.
Flowers on Lucy and Peter and Edmund's graves.

She was buried in another place, next to the man she married
The man whose legs intertwined hers.
I cannot say for sure,
But I would like to think
She too reached Heaven.

Editor's Note 1: It took me until... now... to realize that the giant railway accident in The Last Battle, the one which managed to kill off every single human character in the series except Susan ('cos she was too busy running around with boyfriends to bother to meet her family at the station), was C. S. Lewis' version of the Rapture.

Editor's Note 2: I found out after I wrote this that Neil Gaiman had already written it (click on each individual jpeg to see the pages). He made the adult Susan a professor, which... I never would have guessed. ^__^

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

OMG! National Poetry Month is Almost Over!

first in a series...

'Lizabeth Ellen

They weren't supposed to ask for things.
Her mother had given them all --
all twelve of them --
the talk about the oranges.

They weren't supposed to ask.

But when she saw the red-and-blue flash
Against the dark wood of the wagon
The words spilled, skipped, tumbled and jumped
Out to the ground before she could help it.

Red-and-blue handles.

For an instant she could see herself holding it
Her feet in the air in the schoolyard
Her braids slapping against her back
As everybody counted.

Painted swirls twirling in her circling hands.

And when her mother suddenly stepped forward --
suddenly called "Wait!" --
suddenly the reds and blues were being exchanged for a coin
after a hurried consultation with her oldest sister --
suddenly she thought... but suddenly it was not,
and the parcel was wrapped and put under Martha's coat
to take to the girl in the manor house,
the girl who had already seen elephants and tigers
the girl with the roomful of toys.

And after their dinner of cabbage soup and bread
'Lizabeth Ellen went to the yard to skip rope
With a knot clutched in each fist.

Bonus points for the first person to identify the source material!

This Is Not How The Internet Works, People

An email was sent to everyone in our theatre department today.

It came from the design faculty, and it expressed their concerns that students were taking pictures of fellow students joking around in costume and posting them on Facebook. Or -- even worse -- taking pictures of students during a rehearsal and posting those pictures on Facebook.

The email claimed that "if you do a Google search on the names of our designers, the Facebook images will turn up before the designers' official websites and portfolios, and future employers will judge our designers based on badly-photographed, unfinished work."

In short, cease and desist.

Except... that's not how Facebook works.

Anyone with half a brain has a "friends-only" Facebook profile, so the only people who see their photos are people to whom they have granted access.

Additionally, the photos are only tagged by the names of the people in the pictures. (People who post cast pictures on Facebook are generally too insensitive to remember to credit the costume designer.) Which means that, already, the pictures are two steps removed; first, they are hidden behind a friendwall, and secondly, they are completely detached from the names of any designers.

Lastly: have Facebook pictures started to appear at the top of Google searches? Ever willing to sacrifice myself for science, I decided to run a test to find out.

I googled a few of our designers' names, doing both a "general" and an "image"-based search. I didn't find a single Facebook image. I didn't find links to people's Facebook profiles.

Then I ran a search for the titles of a few of our recent plays. I ran searches for the title plus the name of our university. I even ran searches including actors' names, to see if it would dig up a Facebook tag.

I could not find a single Facebook picture in any of these searches.

Which makes me wonder what the fuss is all about.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Harold's Closet

I saw H&K2: Gitmo this weekend.

Between the scatalogical humor, the shirtless Penn and Cho, the luscious shot of the two of them in their 1970s finest, the social commentary, the cultural commentary, the racial commentary, the political commentary, and the "marijuana is not teh evil, if used appropriately it's just fine" commentary, one image will remain forever etched into my memory.

Harold's closet.

(Well, Kumar's closet too, since they were structurally identical, but Harold's was the tidy one.)

I never knew there could be such a closet. Walk-in closets I've seen before, but never one with separate little cubbies for each shoe.

I think I may have to devote the rest of my life to amassing enough money to live in an apartment with a closet like that. Drawers and places to hang clothing! Shelves and shoe cubbies!


When Kumar marries his (redheaded, white) girlfriend, Harold will clearly need a new roommate. I am volunteering myself. I will be much tidier, and in H&K3 I can act as a foil for Maria. I can play Lucca to her Marle, which would mean that, by the end of the movie, I would have a hot robot boyfriend. Everybody wins!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not Without My Fiestaware

I've begun the packing process for my upcoming move to DC.

My sister, when she moved, bragged that she did it on only two suitcases. I'll see how close I can get.

It looks like I'll be flying out, which means that I'll be taking clothes and a laptop; my parents will ship a few boxes to me later on.

So I've been sorting through my belongings, getting rid of the junk, etc.

Some of the sorting has been easy, and kind of fun. I took four giant bags of worn-out clothing to the Goodwill. I went through my jewelry box and got rid of all the earrings and necklaces I'd been dragging around since junior high. I sold off seven years' worth of textbooks. My roommate is gladly taking over my Indian spice collection, my pots and pans, and a whole stack of CDs.

Some of the things, however, that I'll have to leave behind strike me as financially unfortunate, simply because I'm going to have to go out and buy them all again once I get settled in an apartment. Things like my iron and my tool kit, which would be idiotic to ship but which are relatively necessary to my day-to-day existence.

The one real concern is how I'm going to get my (small) Fiestaware collection across the country. I'll leave behind all other kitchen paraphernalia -- the flatware, the pots and pans, the drinking glasses and mugs, even the beloved slow cooker -- but I don't want to give away my Fiestaware. Nor do I want it to break during the shipping process.

Suggestions? I've kept all of the original packaging, including the "shock absorbing" filler material, so maybe re-wrapping it all will be enough to keep it safe as it travels.

And if anyone lives within a 30-mile radius, and wants a decent tool kit... email me. ^__^

Cast Party For Life

The play opened last night without a hitch, as they say, and the audience loved it. It was the first comedy in a semester, after a series of all-too-serious plays about abortion, corrupt governments, etc. etc. etc.

All the other plays this semester ended with a death; ours ended with a wedding. We also took every cheap gag we could find, so characters were continually getting hit by doors or tripping over things or taking... um... "the nut shot". We managed to do it all by maintaining the period style of "presenting," e.g. standing and walking around like this:

... and the incongruity of physicality and action prompted some delightful responses from the audience.

Afterwards, we got our official ACTF adjudication. (First of all, I have to mention that one of our cast members asked the adjudicator, very politely, if he thought the toned-down seduction scene was "period," or if we had gone too far -- to which he responded "Too far???? You didn't go far enough!")

The adjudicator prefaced his remarks by saying "I'm going to keep this short, because I know you all want to go out and drink and party."

Our cast looked appalled. Then again, they had all changed from their costumes into matching Relay for Life t-shirts, with one member proudly displaying the slogan "You can survive cancer. I'm living proof."

"Excuse me," one of them said. "We're not going to drink tonight. We're going to cure cancer."

So after our opening night performance, the entire ensemble went to Relay for Life, and it was probably the coolest cast party idea ever. Instead of getting drunk and congratulating one another all night, we rocked the quad and luminarias.

And now... am very sore. But well worth it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moliere Pr0n

We had to cut this moment from the show because my advisers thought it was too risque.

Luckily someone caught a snap of it during rehearsal.

Moliere Director's Notes

Imagine this scenario: a household, headed by an absent-minded father and held together by a crafty, savvy mother. A lovesick daughter and a bratty son. An overbearing, loudmouthed mother-in-law. A character (or two) living with the family but not quite one of its members (like a space alien, a goldfish, a dog, a robot, or a talking towel) to provide an outside perspective.

An interloper breaks into this serene muddle of characters, offering the father a chance to participate in a crazy scheme, which he eagerly accepts. Can the rest of the family save the household from total destruction?

Moliere was writing these stories over three hundred years before Matt Groening drew his first Simpson and before everyone decided that they loved Raymond (or hated Chris). What's remarkable is the way that, point for point, his plot and character structure matched up to the techniques still used by sitcom writers today. Like The Simpsons and South Park, Moliere also used humor to sneak in his thoughts on social issues of the 1660s-- issues, you may notice, which are also still present in our current world.

And, like South Park and Family Guy, certain "episodes" of Moliere's were so controversial as to be banned from public viewing -- including the play you're about to see.

In short: after three hundred years, Moliere still hasn't jumped the shark. That's... incredible. Fantastic. Awesome.

We hope you enjoy the show!

(See previous director's notes here and here.)

Oh, the Costume Drama...

Yeah, they always kinda look like this, don't they?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Medici, and a Little Black Dress

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

While I was in India, my podunk university town went and got itself a Medici. (It's an offshoot of the Medici in Chicago, hauled 250 miles south and placed in the middle of a bunch of cowfields.)

It quickly became the place to see and be seen. It's priced just a little higher than the rest of our midwestern eateries (which includes a smattering of fast food joints, sandwich shops, and the racially insensitive "Uncle Tom's Pancake House"), and it's got the coveted ambiance.

The other grad students would say things like "my boyfriend took me to Medici last night" in the way the women on commercials would say "he went to Jared."

Since I am currently single, and not undergrad enough to gaggle in with a group of housemates in my prettiest metallic crop top and four-inch heels, I have not yet been to this epitome of haute cuisine.

However, I do get to go this Friday, on my play's opening night. In a little black dress, of all things.

With... (sigh) the ACTF adjudicator.

(This is one of the American College Theatre representatives who travel around the country professionally evaluating university theatre; as this play is my graduate thesis, it's getting the full adjudicatory experience.)

The food had better be good. ^__^

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's Not Consumption That We Need, It's Stimuli

I'm actively following Gaurav Mishra's "The Marketer Who Went Off Consumption," in part because I find the idea of a person volunteering to live the super-frugal lifestyle (no cinema, no restaurants, no new clothing, no groceries beyond the basics, etc.) fascinating -- and, admittedly, amusing. ("Look! Gaurav wants to live like I do! Why????")

But today I was inspired to write (another) response to Gaurav's blog.

It all started with... a zippy bag full of carrots.

The last two or three times I was at the grocery store, I grabbed a big pile of carrots. Super-cheap, easy to peel, break them in half and throw them into individual zippy bags. I spent many a rehearsal with a bag of carrots by my side, crunching them inbetween talking to the actors.

A few days ago, I bit into a carrot to discover that it tasted... kinda like barf. Or, maybe, that eating it made me want to barf. Either way, it was repellent. It was one of the last ones in my current batch, so I figured it was probably past its prime and tossed it out; and the next time I went to the grocery store got a new pile of carrots for peeling and bagging.

Except all of these carrots tasted awful, too. My cast would ask me "why are you eating those carrots if they make you make those faces?" (Self-discipline, I suppose. Or a fear of wasting food.)

And then my peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches started tasting like cardboard. I had eaten the same sandwich nearly every day for six weeks, and suddenly I couldn't stomach it anymore. I would force them down, for food's sake, but...

Then, thankfully, the government threw me a little cash to use towards food, and I had all-new, different kinds of tastes.

So, Gaurav, riddle me this one: our desire for consumption comes from our desire for new stimuli, yes? Arguably I am not consuming any more food now than I was last week, but it is different food, and so I am satisfied.

Unfortunately items like clothing and cinemas are different from food, in that they do not eat themselves and there is no "excuse" to perpetually renew them. But I'll tell you this, also -- I used some of my book sale money to buy some new clothing (J. C. Penney's had a BOGO sale) and I am just pleased as anything to wear something that isn't faded and saggy. We can call it my desire to be "fashionable," but it's my desire for new stimuli as much as anything else.

So. Can we expose ourselves to new stimuli w/o consumption? We can certainly do it without buying anything (like your movie parties, or visiting a library, or Freecycle) but can we actually do it without consuming anything? Can we create new stimuli without leaving some kind of environmental footprint?

Or does the depression of perpetual sameness -- the literal gagging on the carrots -- force us to destroy/invent/stimulate/consume?

Clearly not a new argument; but would love to hear Gaurav's (and all of my readers') take on it.

Yay Play!

We're a week away from our opening night, but it looks like we're going to have a very successful run. All of the early audiences (and, more importantly, all of my advisers) seem to indicate that the comedy works and Moliere's ridiculous rhyming couplets make sense.

Not bad, for the final performance of my graduate school career.

Knock on wood, of course.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I can has domain name!!!!!! will take you right here; no need to rack your brain for Cole Porter lyrics.

This was a gift from a friend who is more than awesome.


When I get the for-real job, I promise I will find a way to give back, or to "pay it forward," as it were.

Food Stamps

At the beginning of the year, I applied for food stamps.

I was somewhat late to the process; when I enrolled in graduate school, I asked if there were any additional scholarship or fellowship competitions to which I might apply myself in order to increase my meager stipend. The departmental secretary said "no, but we do encourage our graduates to get food stamps."

So I applied, back when I started the grad program, and was told that I had too much money (over $2,000 in assets) to receive any benefits.

I applied again this year, as my assets are now closer to... negative four thousand.

The application process itself took over a month to complete; then, after learning that I had qualified for benefits, I sat and waited for another four-odd weeks. (Truth be told, the real reason it took me four weeks to take any action on this was because I was overwhelmed with work and forgot I was supposed to be receiving food stamp money. I could have solved the problem right away, but... so it goes.)

When I finally made the call, I was told that in order to collect my food stamp card (it's all on a "debit-style" card now), I needed to come into the office between 1:00 and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, in order to go through Food Stamp Training.

I suppose I'm lucky in that I didn't have, say, a full-time job with mandatory hours. I re-arranged a meeting and made it into the food stamp office right before the 4:30 deadline.

I checked in at the reception desk and was told to wait until my name was called.

There was no one else in the room, but I waited.

Five minutes later, the receptionist called my name.

Then I took the "food stamp training," which consisted of my proving that I could, in fact, swipe a card through a register, and a quick lecture on how food stamps could only be used towards "things that are humanly edible," which does not include cat food, laundry detergent, or booze. (I would argue that two of those three are humanly edible, but that's another essay entirely.)

I got my card. And later that evening, I got my groceries.

They include:

Swiss cheese
Fruit-flavored yogurts
Kashi GoLean! Flax Crunch
Brussels sprouts
Pie crusts (for quiche)
Veggie burgers
Salad dressing

I am so excited about eating a bowl of Kashi w/banana tomorrow morning. I am also thrilled about eating something besides "mixed vegetables" and "mashed peanuts and jelled strawberries between bread."


It's bluelightful, it's bluelicious, it's bluelectable, it's bluelerious...

Welcome to Bluelovely, or what would have been called "Bluelovely" had this person not already snagged the name.

(I think Blogger should make a rule: if you start a blog and post once and then never post again, your blog gets taken away from you.)

If you don't know what the title references, do click here; if you don't know why I picked the title, click here.

This blog is an offshoot of my original blog, PrettyBlueSalwar. I began blogging as an attempt to chronicle/analyze my experiences while teaching and directing theatre in Hyderabad; since I returned to the US, however, the "salwar" moniker seemed less and less appropriate.

So... new travels, new title, new blog. I'll link back to PrettyBlueSalwar as relevant, of course, and you're more than welcome to explore it yourself. (Hint: try searching for posts tagged "travel," "Hyderabad," "Bangalore," "Mysore," "Delhi," or "Amritsar.")

But from now on, I'll be posting here, at bluelightful bluelicious bluelovely bluelectable bluelerious bluebookmark or RSS it already!