Category Archives: What I’m Doing

Spring Is Here Again…

Spring is a state of mind.  Or so I tell myself, anyway.  That’s why today, when the weather was just forgiving enough, I decided to wear short sleeves and sandals to make it official.  So despite my seasonal allergies that are just beginning to act up and sensitive eyes that make me squint in the morning sun, I walked outside along Amsterdam Avenue  feeling like today was the first carefree day of warm weather, sunny skies, and new life.   Although 55 degrees may not be quite warm, I got my own first taste of spring a little bit early.  It was totally worth the goosebumps.

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August: and What Comes After?

Earlier this week I got an E-mail from my aunt that she would be coming to New York for the weekend.  I love spending time with my aunt.  She’s a few years older than my mother, but is really fun and spunky and we always have a good time together.  Anyway, in said E-mail, my aunt offered to take me to see Tracy Letts‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County on Broadway.  I had never heard of the show, but happily agreed to go anyway for a night on the town with my aunt.  Subsequently, I did a little research online and saw that it looked smart and got good reviews.

Scenes from August: Osage County

Scenes from August: Osage County

The show is a dark dramedy about a dysfunctional family in rural Oklahoma.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, which will make it very hard to write this post, but, as always, I’ll give it my best.  The direction of the show is pretty clear from the opening lines, in which Beverly Weston, the family’s patriarch, quotes T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men,” which continues to weave through the plot throughout the show’s three hours and twenty minutes (including two short intermissions).  The play uses Eliot as one riff in its commentary on present-day America, dealing with pretty heavy issues touching on family, addiction, sexual misconduct, illness, and old age to name a few.  Despite the play’s length, which I was honestly worried about from the beginning, the  sharp and delightfully funny dialogue and superb acting (no, I don’t usually use the word superb) kept me entertained and waiting for the next line from the edge of my seat even three hours in.

What I appreciate most about the play, though, is the allegory of America that it presents using the house to symbolize the country.  The Native American “Indian-girl” who seems to be the only stable force of normalcy.  Her perspective as an objective outsider provides stark contrast to the turbulent Weston family and a gateway for the play’s discussion of America and the weird beast that is the American nation.

August: Osage County is essentially a play about a family (read country) at the crossroads of deterioration and self-destruction.  The family that has built itself up from the poverty, misfortune, and immigrant roots of the past must now deal with the future and cannot find footing on stable ground after Beverly’s tragic death.  While the Weston family comes crashing down as they all unite for the funeral, as the narrative progresses it becomes more and more clear that the groundwork for this downfall has been laid over the course of years, and now the family must experience the tragic results, doomed with no escape.

Is America helplessly tumbling into some bottomless abyss?  Are we doomed by years of misaction which are responsible for our current economic, political, and social crises?  I wouldn’t be so pessimistic.  After all, since Eliot wrote of the world ending with a whimper the world has indeed continued to go on just as it always has.  But nonetheless, part of what is so compelling about August: Osage County is that it is a period piece of today, telling the story of a country overwhelmed in the vortex on its way down the toilet, whimpering the whole while.  The Weston family appears as if they will not make it out.  Whether or not America does, on the other hand, still remains to be seen.

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First Crush

Hey everyone,

I am currently working part-time for a new winery in New York City.  This past week was the winery’s first crush.

Crush is winemaking talk for the day that the grapes come in and are crushed (usually) and put in steel tanks for fermentation.  Crush, however, isn’t just an event.  It means a lot more.  It’s about celebrating the year’s harvest and hoping for the best. It’s about beginning the long road of winemaking that ends many months later at bottling.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s about a team who works their butts off trying to make a few tons of fruit into something beautiful.

Filmmaker B. Napa’s short film “Crush” may seem a little melodramatic to the uninitiated, but anyone who has ever worked in wine production will understand that the film’s weight is indeed justified.  He happens to also be pretty damn good at what he does and strings together a bunch of really beautiful images that show what crush means.  As the film says, crush is “a ritual of transformation and evolution, and we celebrate it.”  I think one of the strengths of “Crush” is its ability to really capture what crush and winemaking are all about.

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Here’s to hoping for a good vintage.

Toke

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What I’m Doing 2

That’s right, kids; it’s time for your quasi-semimonthly dose of stuff I like.

What I’m listening to:

Astral Weeks by Van Morrison

This album is freaking amazing.  I’ve always liked Van Morisson, but never really got the chance to get into so much of his stuff.  This past week I was able to get a bunch of Van’s albums onto my iPod and spent a four-hour drive listening to just him.

Astral Weeks spoke to me in a way that no other album has for a very long while.  The music is so soulful that it’s almost haunting and the expressive lyrics seem more like genuine poetry than just words to a song–something I cannot say about 99 percent of the music out there.  This stuff speaks directly to the English major in me.

I would love to comment on each of the album’s 8 songs, but that would require its own post.  In any case though, with its soulful wailing and vivid imagery, “Sweet Thing” just might be the best love song ever.

What an album.  If you aren’t familiar, get there.  I don’t see myself getting sick of this one anytime soon.

What I’m eating:

Black beans.  Those folks out in the southwest have the right idea; this is a bandwagon worth jumping on. My favorite two uses are in a warm salad with corn, avocado, and grilled chicken with a tangy lime-chile dressing and in a homemade black bean dip for tortilla chips.

What I’m watching:

Weeds, Season 1 DVD.

Now that I’m done with The Office, I needed a new TV show.  I think I’ve found it in Weeds.  I’ve got to hand it to the people behind the show for making a show about a mom who sells pot, well, actually good.  Mary-Louise Parker is incredible, and not only because she reminds me of a better-acting version of Lauren Graham.  Not only does it manage to be so incredibly fresh and funny, but it even maintains a pretty high level of drama that unlike so many other dramedies nowadays is actually credible.

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What I’m doing:

Every so often, I plan on sharing what I’ve been doing or thinking about at that time.  Here goes run one…

What I’m reading:

The Accidental Connoisseur by Lawrence Osborne. I recently began working as the Manhattan sales manager for an importer of French wines.  I met with the lady who runs the operation the other day and she recommended this book.  Osborne is a British guy who journeys through the world’s wine regions on a mission to figure out what the deal is with wine.  She said it was a great book and The New York Times seems to agree.

What I’m eating:

Funny enough, lots of fake meat.  Not that I eat less real meat; more like just in between my eatings of real meat, I eat more fake meat than usual.  I really like them Smart foods made by Lightlife, especially the bacon and sausage ones.  Strongly recommended.

What I’m watching:

The Office, Season 3 DVD.  Like everyone else in America, I’ve always enjoyed watching The Office, but I’ve never really followed the plot and watched entire seasons beginning to end.  Enter Netflix.  They have the first three seasons streaming online for members (like myself) and I’ve spent a good portion of the past week plowing through them like a Gilbert Brown through hot butter.  Okay, maybe I’m mixing my metaphors, but in any event, I’ve been watching a helluvalotta this show.

What I’m listening to:

This one’s a little tricky.  I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff, especially Counting Crows, Maroon 5, and Sara Bareilles in preparation for their concert in Bethel, NY in two weeks (totally psyched).  The other day, however, VH1 aired their countdown of the top 100 songs of the 1990s (the full list can be found here) and I got to watch about half of it.  I’ve got to hand it to VH1 for a job well done.  I don’t think I even said “what the hell” more than twice.  They brought me back to places that I haven’t been since, well, 1990 with old classics like Kris Kross’s “Jump,” M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In the Heart,” and other lost tunes that you can’t hear anywhere on the radio anymore.

I think my favorite blast from the Zach Morris era was The Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance.”  Watch the video above.  It’s so weird and quirky in a really playful and fun way that you just don’t find in hip hop anymore.  It also gave people an excuse to say “do the humpty-hump,” which is always a good thing.

[Other favorite phrases popularized by songs on the countdown include “Wiggedy-wack” from Kris Kross, “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” courtesy of Will Smith, “Zigazig ha” from The Spice Girls, Hanson’s “MmmBOP!” and Marcy Playground’s “Disco Lemonade.”  Ahhh, the 90s!  Good times…  As a tribute to the 90s, try to use some of the phrases above in conversation over the next few days and see what happens.]

Alright, y’all biscuitheads.  That’s all I’ve got for now.

Until next time, keep doing what you like.

Toke

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