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TEDx FoggyBottom 2015

It was on April 3 and it was a great day, well worth taking the time off. There were several fascinating talks, but the two pieces which gripped me by the throat and held me were The DC Youth Poetry Slam Team and singer-songwriter Be Steadwell. Steadwell's song had me in tears, and I do not cry easily at theater.

I wish these had been up sooner. More will be added, probably in separate posts.


Crikey. People are saying, quoting a remark by David Simon, that "there are now two Americas."

All I can think is, "Oh, honey, no." There have always been multiple Americas; it's just that white folks have always thought theirs was the only one that counted.

I watch demonstrations of white privilege every fucking day. I probably demonstrate my own privilege in ways that I don't fully comprehend because that's the problem of privilege: you don't always recognize it when you have it.

But. I'm more aware because I'm in the reverse situation from most people of color. I'm the only white person in my office. I'm one of fifteen or so in my 300+ person organization. When I tell my friends who work for the Federal government that I work for DC government, one of the first questions is about how do I feel about working with people that don't look like me. The questions are less direct than that, of course. None of us is a bigot. But aren't you worried that you live in a mix-raced neighborhood, go to that area of town, work with people who went to different types of schools... all of the subtle, and not so subtle codes.

I'm tired. I'm tired of the twenty-something white people going to Nats or Caps games who won't give up their seats on the Metro to an elderly black person or a pregnant black woman or a disabled black man. I know it's not general obliviousness, because they snap up and offer to white people with the same issues.

I'm tired of the rare white customer being so relieved to see me or requesting me when they get one of my colleagues in the rotation.

Baltimore's issues exist because we don't look at racism. We don't realize that Samuel L. Jackson, to give a famous example, was over 20 before segregation ended in the city where he was born. People remember segregation. AIDS policies were and still are geared more toward the gay community than toward the Black community, but AIDS for whatever reason spreads more quickly and more ways in Black communities. It's estimated that one in twenty people (5%) of the District's population is HIV positive. Some of this is due to poor education. Some of this is due to Congress not allowing needle exchange programs. We have a generation in this city reared by their grandparents because their parents died of AIDS.

Those of you in Boston remember busing. Imagine living with that fight every single fucking day and you'll have some idea of what being poor and black in Baltimore is like.


PBS Tonight: The Last Days in Vietnam

I saw this movie as part of the DC Docs festival last summer. (My thanks again to neotoma for attending it with me.) My original, brief, review is behind this sentence.

It was not a great movie, but it is important. It covers a part of the war that we, as Americans, tend to paper over.

If you do watch it, let me know what you thought in comments.

Review: NTLive "A View from the Bridge"

Last night, I dragged neotoma to Shakespeare Theatre to see Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. I admit, I'm not a huge fan of Miller. Who I am a huge (rabid?) fan of is Mark Strong who was playing Eddie.

The production was directed by Ivo van Hove who, with his production designer, stripped the play to its bare bones. It also stripped it to its bare feet. Shoes are only worn twice: once by Catherine, the 17 year old who is trying to impress a boy, and the lawyer who narrates wears them until he becomes a character in the play. Among other things, this facilitates characters entering quietly without the other characters seeing them; it also emphasizes the domesticity of this particular tragedy.

Filmed plays can be a problem. I'm enjoying the NTLive productions, but I always feel a slight distance. The greatest actors I've seen live (Alan Cumming in his one-man MacBeth, Kenneth Branagh in just about anything, Derek Jacobi as Cyrano de Bergerac, Vanessa Redgrave in just about anything, Tom Wilkinson in An Enemy of the People) are able to make a nearly physical connection with the audience. The audience dynamic becomes part of the experience and on some nights creates a wave of emotion (remember, I'm an NF. I'm big on the feels.) which sweep through and leave the inner person bare -- even if just for a moment. I can recognize how bloody good Cumberbatch was in Frankenstein, but I can't grab the connection the same way.

This particular filmed play made an interesting choice, not one I've seen with the other NTLive productions. In several instances, rather than having the camera focus on the character or characters speaking, the camera focused on the character affected by either the actions or the dialogue. In many cases, that character was Eddie, but it wasn't exclusively him (it was a star turn, but not because of the camera work). This made it far more like the way I tend to watch plays. The speaker is important, but the person spoken to -- or overhearing the dialogue -- can be the person whose reaction matters to the overall scheme of the play. By making this focus choice, I felt at several points like I could almost touch the connection I craved.

Nicola Walker -- an actress I've found bland when I've seen her in TV series -- was excellent. Her character can come across as either shrewish or beaten down, but Walker gave her presence and warmth. Michael Gould played the lawyer, Alfieri, and, other than an occasionally wandering accent (Brooklyn by way of Golders Green), provided quiet insight and commentary on the action, even when he wasn't speaking. The two brothers from Sicily, Emun Elliot (Marco) and Luke Norris (Rudolpho), could have underplayed a little more; each at different times came across a little over the top. The weakest actor for me was Phoebe Fox who played Catherine, partially due to wandering accent, partially because she lacked the sense of presence the other actors had.

Mark Strong won this year's Olivier Award for Best Actor. He used stillness beautifully. (Legend has it that Noel Coward once told a young Method actor "Don't just do something: stand there.") It pulled the audience toward him and made Eddie more sympathetic in spite of the flaws which make him the tragic protagonist. Eddie is definitely a character who doesn't know himself, doesn't comprehend his own emotions or motivations, and through that ignorance brings down hell.

This was wonderful.

Hi! Writing and Music

I haven't been around LJ much lately because I was having trouble getting to it on my home computer. It's doing fine right now, so I don't know what was up or where the fault lay.

I also haven't been around because I saw Kingsman: The Secret Service. Multiple times. I loved the movie on so very many levels, but especially all the shout outs from Michael Caine once again wearing Harry Palmer's glasses to entering through a tailor shop a la Man from UNCLE to referencing individual Bond films and Get Smart.

And I sort of got sucked into the fandom. How sucked in? I've written a fanfic series in under two months (begun on 2/23) which has more words than The Great Gatsby. *shakes head* The last time I wrote something that length -- actually, 20,000 words shorter than I've hit to date -- it took me six months of sweat.

And because I'm writing mental backstories for characters, I've been trying to determine what kinds of music they listen to. One of them is a jazz aficionado, and I've been trying to include some of the jazz he would have heard on British radio in the 1970s which led me to Dudley Moore.

In the early 1980s, I started listening to his music from the 1960s and 70s including pieces he'd written (Sooz Blooz is one of my favorites). My folks told me about seeing him in Play it Again, Sam in the West End when we were living in London and going to hear his trio at a club.

He went to Oxford on an organ scholarship and earned his spending money by playing with Johnny Dankworth's group backing Cleo Laine. I can't imagine being proficient enough at 18 to play with one of the premier jazz men Britain's produced and one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. I do remember hitting a shop in Dupont Circle which carried foreign magazines and vinyl records (before there was anything besides vinyl). As I was buying my Manchester Guardian Weekly and a copy of Marie Claire (which was exclusively a French publication at that juncture), I saw a new album being promoted called Smilin' Through and bought it on the spot. Dudley Moore and Cleo Laine recording together for the first time. It's a lovely album with some real high spots.

At the same time, Jonathan Miller had a series on PBS called The Body in Question. I'd developed a completely separate crush on Dr. Miller when I caught a Canadian series on Cities. People who'd been born and reared in a great city, talked about the changes they'd seen, the social context of their background and how it was reflected in the city, and showed off the gems that most people, especially tourists, don't hear about. The four episodes I managed to see were Dr. Miller on London, Germaine Greer on Sydney, Hildegard Knef on Berlin (still a divided city when it was filmed, and she'd been a teen there during WWII), and R.D. Laing on Glasgow. It got me reading Greer and Laing. Miller's episode introduced me to Sir John Soane's Museum, one of my favorite places in London.

Anyway, in the episode of The Body in Question dealing with the nervous system, Miller used Dudley Moore playing classical music to explain how we are able to memorize things physically. I found it today on YouTube, so I wanted to share.

Also, Dudley Moore playing with his trio on Australian Television in the early 1970s.

PS if anyone ever finds a link to the Cities series (or a way to buy it), please share. I've long wanted to see the other episodes.

Bits and Bobs and Free Range Kids

First bit: Please go read ladyofastolat's post titled Of the Rings of PowerPoint and the Third Age. Everyone has been to the type of meeting she describes at the beginning.

Second bit and/or bob: As always, I like to commemorate an anniversary on this day. This is the date my father got back from his last tour in Vietnam. He swears he'll get over the jet lag soon. I'm lucky that he's still with us, but after 40 years, I still remember greeting him at the airport with "We just heard that Da Nang fell." His answer was, "Then that's the end." By the end of April, he was right.

Article which prompted everything below is here.

I'll start by saying that I don't have children. However, like most of us, I was a child at one point, and I remember growing up.

When I was 5 I went to kindergarten. The school, Ashlawn, was three or eight blocks away depending upon the route. My mother walked the three block version, which included a short trip through some public greenery on the edge of the playground, for about a week before school was due to begin. The night before the first day of school, she asked me if I wanted her to come with me. I replied that I was a big girl, and I walked to school by myself.

Part of me regrets not having her walk me to school the first day, mostly because she never offered again. But I also remember how proud of myself I was for being "a big girl."

Mom made certain I knew all the smart things: never get in a car with an adult you don't know, never tell anyone where you live (other than a policeman if you're lost), come straight home. I took these to heart. In late October or early November, it began to rain while I was at school. I had my rain coat, boots, and umbrella, so I was prepared, but no one realized how windy it was going to be or how much the temperature would drop. I began to walk home. My umbrella blew inside out as soon as I got out of the trees and the wind felt like it was going right through me. At the first of two street crossings, a woman stopped and asked if I wanted a lift home. She knew my name, but I didn't recognize her -- not for sure -- so I told her that I didn't take rides from strangers. I completed my route home.

The woman, whose name I don't think I ever knew, had called Mom as soon as she got home. Praised her for training me so well, and warned her that I was still over a block away and very cold and wet. Mom says she debated whether to come get me. She didn't. Instead, when I got home, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup were waiting to warm me from the inside out. Mom was never big on praise, but that day I got a lot of it -- especially for turning down the ride.

We moved to London just before first grade. Because the bus stop was on a busy street near a three lane roundabout, Dad walked me to the bus stop every morning and Mom picked me up from it every afternoon. But there were still things I did on my own, ranging from walking two blocks to the pillar box to post letters to deciding what books I wanted to read. (I attribute being able to read at a 10th grade level at age 7 to the fact that neither parent tried to censor my reading.) Third grade, I was in small town America and walked my little sister to kindergarten every morning. We walked to the bus stop in 4th and 1st grades. We walked to and from school -- a mile each way -- from my 5th - 8th grades. We also had a paper route, went to summer camp for 10 weeks every year, and were allowed to go to the movies by ourselves. With my paper route money, I bought theater tickets. I saw the Mormon Tabernacle Choir standing room only when I was 12. I went to see plays, too.

At 15 I went to boarding school. I found out much later that my parents had signed the permission slip for me to smoke. They figured I might try it some time and didn't want me to get in trouble for it. Beyond that, I was shocked when I wasn't allowed to attend an evening movie or go to a restaurant on my own in downtown Richmond. I found a friend who was willing to see the Olivier Wuthering Heights with me, fortunately, and I had to fight to be allowed to attend the Nutcracker on my own at the Richmond Mosque (theater name, not religious establishment).

In Belgium, at 17, I discovered the Musee du Cinema. I saw Il Trovatore standing room only. Hell, I went to Paris for the day by myself (six hours each way by train which left me about seven hours to explore the city). Not one thing I did there was something I'd done before. But I was trusted to figure out public transportation on my own, trusted to call if I had a problem (pre-cellphone: I think we used tin cans and string back in the Dark ages), and trusted to stick to the schedule I'd discussed.

One of my fellow alumni came up to me at the reunion I attended and said, "I didn't appreciate you enough. You were the only one of us to go out and have adventures." He also thanked me for introducing him to Gilbert & Sullivan which became a lifelong love of his.

The thing that I want to emphasize most out of all this: the crime rate was much, much higher back then. Washington DC was the murder capital of the country when I was going to the theater on my own at age 12. If it was an evening performance, my parents would pick me up afterward, but if it was a matinee, I was trusted to find my way home. I was trusted to buy ingredients for the dinner I was cooking from the time I was 10, even though it involved crossing a major street with no cross walk. That's what I remember most, being trusted. And that's what I worry the kids today aren't getting.

RIP: Sir PTerry

Guardian Obituary

I can't write anything right now.


Music and politics

A week or so ago, tediousandbrief mentioned the Falklands War in his lj, and it brought back memories for me. A blank front page on The Guardian (well, not entirely blank. Mostly though.), lots of references to "Argies," The International Herald Tribune being read by British people because the British press wasn't allowed to report accurately. (Found an interesting paper on jingoism in British journalism during the Falklands here.)

And The Flying Pickets.

They had a Christmas hit -- which is the one everyone always remembers in Britain; Americans tend to remember summer songs -- in 1983. They'd recorded an album (and I recently discovered a TV special) called "Live at the Albany Empire." The album had several politically pointed segments that were omitted from the TV special, but they both have a cover of "Walk Like a Man." (It's at about minute 31 on the special.) On the album, it's directly linked to the Malv... Falklands War.

What I hadn't known about them, though, was that they began as part of a theater group called 7 84. The name referred to the 7% of the population which held 84% of the world's wealth. And it hit me: As recently as thirty years ago, the 1% was 7%.

ETA: The album opens with Red Stripe (described as one YouTube Commenter as "Uncle Fester in eyeliner") saying, "People keep asking us, have we got a record, have we got a record they keep asking. I tell them, 'of course, we got a record. What'd you think we are? Choir boys?'"

ETA2: In a weird synchronicity, I got an email from someone I hadn't heard from since 2008. Our correspondence had been related to The Flying Pickets song (written by Rick Lloyd -- gold hat in the video) called "Remember This." Neither of us could figure out one phrase in the chorus. A month ago, he met Rick Lloyd and asked him. It turned out to be:
"Venceremos" is a Spanish slogan meaning "We shall overcome".

The lyrics are:
Remember this, nothing is sacred. We live right beside the abyss.
Remember this, there is no doubt that your name is on somebody's list.

Remember this, the cloud you live under is hiding the thunder to come
Remember this, truth's out of season, they'll try you for treason, my son
Remember this

Venceremos, they can't tame us, please remember this
Venceremos, we'll be famous, our names on every list

Remember this, requiems don't quite make up for the loss of a life
Remember this, southern bananas fall prey to piranhas by night.

Venceremos, they can't tame us, please remember this
Venceremos, we'll be famous, our names on every list

Lost out here in the market place with nowhere left to run
Too many people have disappeared to doubt what has begun

Remember this, locked in the stadium are people who've fought without fear.
Remember this, battered and broken for what they have spoken for years

Remember this...


Help, please?

There is a job I want to apply for. The good news is that it's for a museum I really respect. The bad news is that it's in Los Angeles. *shudder* At the moment, I think the good outweighs the bad. My only problem is that I need a wide range of writing samples, and, at the moment I only have two.

Is someone willing to work with me this weekend to put together some others?

RIP: Leonard Nimoy

I have to admit, I've always been a Kirk girl. But that's because I wanted to BE Spock. He was, in many ways, my first introduction to logic -- my first introduction to understanding how to take a step back and analyze consciously rather than unconsciously.

His death hurts.

Guardian Obituary

RIP: Alan Howard

Those of you who know me may have heard me mention being a Royal Shakespeare Company groupie in my not-misspent-enough youth. Alan Howard was the star of the troupe at that time. I actually got a lump in my throat when I found The Guardian obituary today. The first photo was from Coriolanus which was the first RSC production I ever saw. It was on tour in Brussels and my Humanities class read the play and took an evening field trip to see the production.

A year later, I'd flunked out of college and was taking an intensive Shakespeare class through University of Maryland to prove to my family (and myself) that I could handle university level work. The class took place in Stratford on Avon and introduced me to one of my favorite professors, Claire Baker. Alan Howard was her favorite of the actors, and she was disappointed that he wasn't in any of the current productions.

Fast forward another year, and I'm taking two semesters of British Theater with Claire Baker in London. It's the last season for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych and we have tickets to see every production including three with Alan Howard:
Richard II
Richard III
The Forest by Alexander Ostrovsky

I ended up seeing both Richards multiple times, including the final RSC performance at the Aldwych Theater which was Richard II. Alan Howard came forward at the end and gave a lovely speech about the theater and the ghosts of past productions there.

During that same season, he also performed in C.P. Taylor's Good at the Donmar Warehouse. It's a fascinating play with music interspersed throughout. As it shows a good man slowly becoming a Nazi, it used Alan Howard's resemblance to his uncle Leslie Howard as a way of keeping the audience off balance. It was the only performance of his that I genuinely loved. I was lucky enough to see it several times at the Warehouse, which is a tiny venue, making the transformation very intimate.

I wish I liked him more as an actor. Other than in Good, he was, for me, a somewhat cold, remote presence.

For most of you, I know that your exposure to him was probably either as the Lover in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover or as "The Ring" in The Lord of the Ring trilogy.


Answer for question 4248.

What are your thoughts on vaccinations? Do you personally believe they play any role in the development of autism or other chronic diseases? What diseases would you like to see a vaccine manufactured against over your lifetime?
Beginning with the last question: A viable TB vaccine would be wonderful, with AIDS as my second choice (purely because TB still affects more people).

As to the second question: HELL NO! Some people are allergic, and, especially early in the vaccination schedule, people should be observed to make certain they don't have an adverse reaction.

And to answer question 1: I've already written a post where I've listed everything I've been vaccinated against. I'll throw in that because I was a military brat (and because I'm over 50), bubonic plague, smallpox, and the old "killed-whole-cell" typhoid fever vaccine were among my innoculations. The last of those has some interesting side effects including a high fever localized to the injection site (seriously, I could put my hand two inches away from my arm and feel the heat) and soreness.

Book recommendation

I've mentioned this before, but I strongly recommend everyone read Hieroglyphs. The book is a science fiction short story anthology which came from a challenge to Neal Stephenson. He'd asked about new technology and Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, said, "You're the ones who've been slacking off." The writers were asked to focus on near-future tech and to concentrate on the benefits rather than the problems. The latter part of the challenge wasn't entirely successful; some people just don't want to give up their dystopias.

The reason this came up, is there's an article at BBC America about why a space elevator probably wouldn't work. The first story in the anthology, Stephenson's Atmospaera Incognita deals with the practicalities, and issues, of building one.

I know some of my friends are engineers. Can we build one? And, please go buy and read the book. Even the stories I didn't like made me think, and who can ask for more than that from their sci-fi?


Has anyone heard from Gileswench?

I've been trying to get ahold of her for a couple of weeks by phone and email. I'm worried.

Answer for question 4244.

What's the most unusual conversation you've ever had?
My brain works funny. I also have a tremendous need to communicate.

The most unusual conversation I've ever had was translating from English to Italian and vice-versa for two people on the train from Brindisi to Rome. The topics ranged from simple "how do you... (ask for a light, ask for a menu...)" to why the gentleman's wedding ring was really a sign he was engaged rather than married.

The reason this was unusual is that I don't speak Italian. I did it using French cognates, but the Italian gentleman complimented me on how well I did.


pleasance, another friend, and I saw this today before the snow hit.

It's bloody. It has moments of vulgarity (no, I'm not referring to the language, although there's some of that, too.). In short, there are a few issues with it.

I loved it.

For one thing, the villain had an actual plan. Through the villain's plan there was actually some good information about climate change.

There were a huge number of references to classic spy stories, mostly from the 60s. I saw references to the Bond franchise, of course, several of them through Mark Cross. There were also references to:

* The Avengers (Steed and Peel, not Cap and Hulk)

* The Man from UNCLE (and we also saw a preview for the new movie. Their Illya Kuryakin isn't pretty enough.)

* The Harry Palmer movies (Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, Billion Dollar Brain)

* Secret Agent (John Drake as played by Patrick McGoohan)

There's a lot to see, but I think one of the big takeaways for me is that most of them don't enjoy killing -- even with a blood ballet that Sam Peckinpah would envy.


awake and scared

Anyone up for some dream interpretation? I was traveling with my family. I saw a white snake through a window (I was outside; it was inside) of my bed and breakfast. Later I'm asleep in bed, and the snake is on the wall over my head. It falls into my bed and bites my left pinky. I scream for my sister who's asleep in the room. She eventually wakes up. I woke feeling panicked. The snake had died and they were taking it to the hospital with me. I still, as I'm writing this, feeling like there's something wrong with the finger where I was bitten. **shudder**

Answer for question 4230.

What’s your all-time favorite town or city? Why? Would you ever move there if you could?
There is no all time favorite.

There are a few cities I had a hard time living in, but most had something that I loved.

In Mannheim, it was the Saturday farmer's market (seriously, the cauliflower looked like it had been painted by Vermeer) and the fascinating grid system. The Duke (I think it was Duke, could have been Prince) who founded the city was fascinated by chess and the main street between his old palace, now the university, and the bridge was the dividing line. From the palace, the letters A-K formed rows on the right, and the letters L-T formed rows to the left. The numbers 1-7 formed the columns, so that my address was J7 with a unit number attached. I loved that system.

I currently live in DC which, along with Brussels, Belgium, is the city I think of as home. Both cities are beautiful. Both get slammed as the home of bureaucrats, but both have dynamic free or inexpensive cultural lives.


At brunch yesterday, someone suggested I read up on "The Ray Wars" in Due South fandom at the Fanlore wiki. While I was there, I began to rummage through articles on other fandoms or fanfiction sites, especially ones that I've been involved in. There was less about the UCSL in the Buffy fandom than I'd expected, but I got about what I thought I would regarding Smallville.

It was Stargate SG-1 which surprised me. Several of my stories -- all but one of them gen -- have been linked directly in the articles about the 'zines in which they originally appeared. My Chaplain series is one of the stories listed under "Christianity and Fandom." By no means are mine the only stories linked, but it never occurred to me that "Time Was" (one of my weirder stories), "Teal'c's Thanksgiving," and "Campfire Stories" would be, for lack of a better term, important enough to be linked. It's not like every story mentioned in the 'zine lists has a link, either.

Not all of my stories in the fandom have been linked (even the gen ones) by any means, but this is the only one of my fandoms where I have a direct association -- and I know I didn't do it.

Vaccinations, A personal account

I am a daughter of the military. I'm also the daughter of the most well organized woman in the history of the world. I got my shots. I got them on time. I got them for the region in which we were living or going to live.

What does this mean? It means that I was vaccinated for typhus (live vaccine) and bubonic plague (dead vaccine) when I was three before we moved to Vietnam -- and so was my 6 month old sister. I was vaccinated for polio, smallpox, and Diphtheria Pertussis Tetanus (DPT) before I was six. There was no chickenpox vaccine, so I got chickenpox when I was seven as did my little sister. I had the flu shot most years.

I got the rubella vaccination in third grade because that's when it became widely available, and my school was scheduled for mumps vaccination (again, a relatively new vaccine) when one of my classmates contracted it. Fortunately for the rest of us, hers ended up the only case. She ended up repeating 3rd grade because she'd been out for over 6 weeks and wasn't able to catch up by the end of the school year. I mention this because some of the anti-vaccination crowd say there aren't long term consequences of childhood diseases. Even ignoring the sometimes severe physical consequences of childhood diseases, there can be social and psychological consequences from the quarantines.

Thanks to Mom, I had every vaccination required at the appropriate time, including updates before we moved to Belgium in my late teens.

One of my funnier stories is when I cut myself badly while I was living in London in the early 1980s. I didn't have my shot records with me and didn't know whether I needed a tetanus booster. They were able to find me in the WHO database because US military shot records had been entered. Yes, I needed the booster.

As an adult, I've had required shots before visiting Egypt, including one of the Hepatitis (C?) vaccines. Because I had pneumonia as a child and then three times as an adult, I've had the pneumonia vaccine. I have a yearly flu shot. I updated my DPT 18 months ago so that I didn't risk being a pertussis carrier as many of our customers bring their young children to meetings; plus, it was time for a tetanus booster.

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to my doctor's office before breakfast to have a blood draw. They're checking to see if I have the immunity to measles because I'm in a high risk group.

This is as much anecdata as anything Jenny McCarthy has written. I know that. But I also want people to know that most of us made it to adulthood with a full schedule of vaccinations.



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