Sunday, April 27, 2008

Overheard: On Tattoos

I wanted to post this quote earlier, but I misplaced the note I had written myself, and just found it.

April 22, 2008

On the F Train at Rockefeller Center

A blonde caucasian woman about 20 years old.

"People who don't have tats don't understand. Whenever you get tatted up, you live it in that live it forever."

Celebrity hype, er...height

I stumbled across a list of tall actresses. Some are quite surprising. Tilda Swinton is 5'11"!!! I never would have guessed.

I started wondering about height as I watched Battlestar Galactica this evening and noticed that Tricia Helfer (Number Six) towers over James Callis as Dr. Gaius Baltar. She's 5'10".

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Circumcision. I think not.

I was talking to a guy and a gal yesterday and the topic of circumcision came up. After doing some research and seeing video footage of babies in hospitals tied to boards with Velcro straps and watching them go into shock after being circumcised, I am not in favor of the procedure.

My compatriots argued that babies don’t remember being circumcised, so it doesn’t matter. This troubled me as a reason to go ahead with it. I believe that the pain is still a part of a baby's experience and remains with them forever, as a part of them, even if now subconscious. I came up with an analogy this morning—what if I drugged someone, and altered their body, either by giving them a tattoo or maybe removing a finger or raping them, and then woke them up again once they've healed. They wouldn't remember it, but would it still matter? I believe it would be hard to argue that it doesn't matter. I'm disturbed that we treat our babies' bodies as something we can modify only because we have the power to do so, not because of their consent. (Thanks, Mom, for letting me decide when I could get my ears pierced.)

I'm not likely to change someone's mind if they've been too strongly enculturated to accept circumcision without question, but I'd ask that everyone do research and actually take a peek at what happens during circumcision before agreeing to it from an emotional response of fear that one's child will be made fun of in the locker room.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lacing your shoes

I bought a new pair of silver Kenneth Cole Full Moon sneakers today.

When I got them home, I noticed that each shoe was laced differently. I'm no expert at lacing shoes, but I figured someone online had to be, so I did a quick search and found Ian's Shoelace Site with 34 different ways to lace shoes.

I noticed something astounding that I wouldn't have recognized without Ian's of my shoes was laced in the "Shoe Shop Lacing style" that is, "commonly used by shoe shop assistants because it's so fast to lace new shoes, this method is another "lazy" variation of traditional Straight Lacing."

It wasn't a good lace job! It was a LAZY lace job! Ack! I wonder how many pairs of shoes I've had where I never bothered to fix this now obvious problem.

A whole new world of minutiae has been opened to me. I will be able to look at people's laces and KNOW the style in which it is laced! WOW!

This left me the task of choosing a lace style for my silver shoes. I didn't want something too complex since I'm new at this business, but I wanted something stylish. Because this is my year for learning science, and because it looked good, I settled on Double Helix Lacing. I also liked the double helix style because, "there is less friction between the laces and the edges of the shoe flaps, plus negligible contact between overlapping laces, reducing friction even further." Style with function. Perfect. (I made a mistake on one shoe, but liked it, so I kept it. My lacing is slightly different than directed.)

I can't wait to attack my other shoes and give them a lacing makeover!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Phantom is Christine's Baby-Daddy?

Oh my! Since I'm on a musicals kick, I thought I'd dive into All That Chat. I found out more about the rumored follow-up to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

    (From a Playbill article on a proposed Phantom of the Opera sequel)

    In the sequel, the title character travels to Coney Island around 1900 and is reunited with soprano Christine. The show is not based on source material. One of the reported titles of the new project was Phantom in Manhattan.....

    The Daily Mail previously described the sequel plot this way: "The Phantom has slipped away to New York and has set up a fairground world on Coney Island, along with Madame Giry and her daughter, Meg. He organizes a concert in Manhattan for Christine, the object of his desire. Christine travels to the U.S. with her husband Raoul and their teenage son, who happens to be a musical genius...just like the Phantom."

Oh dear, oh dear. I just threw up and I'm shivering in a corner over here.

It just gets weirder! Andrew Lloyd Webber apparently has a very sagacious cat--it deleted ALW's entire score, presumably in hopes of saving his owner from extreme embarrassment.

    Lloyd Webber, 59, was working on the score at his computerised grand piano when his six-month-old kitten Otto clambered into its frame and managed to delete everything he had written so far."
    From: Why Andrew is in need of a copycat.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Our long development cycle

My good friend, Mr. E. Victim, sent me this email:

"I was just pondering as I fell asleep the other night: why do we have such a long developmental phase as a species (20 years – an eternity compared to animals!)? Then I stumbled across this article, which suggests we need the time to develop a brain that cannot be larger when born for a species that walks on their two hind legs."

Check out The Benefits of a Long Childhood:
“A big and complex brain takes a lot of time to develop, and in humans much of that development must occur after birth, because bipedalism limits birth-canal width, which has in turn constrained the head size of newborns.”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cry-Baby on Broadway

I'm feeling very uninspired to write something about this musical, but I'll eke out a few words in hopes of deterring others from seeing the Broadway adaptation of John Waters' Cry-Baby. The good: the dancing. The bad: everything else.

That's not entirely fair. The music was catchy enough, particularly at the Polio fair in the beginning, but none of it stayed in my head after the show. The set design with the skewed perspective was clever. But something overall didn't hang together in this story of a rock-and-roll boy from the wrong side of the tracks who tries to woo an uptight school-girl who's ready to let her hair down.

However, I did like the tuxedo-striped men's jeans. Those were cool. But that didn't stop my mind from drifting in and out. Funny how our brains leap directly to sex when bored for two hours and trapped in a seat with precious little leg room. (To my credit, I also contemplated other shows I've seen in comparison, and decided that I *must* see Patti LuPone in Gypsy to make up for this experience. My theatre-going companions agreed and we now have Gypsy tix for May 30. Hooray!)

All of the artistic choices were disjointed. There's a hackneyed rule of the theatre that says if there's a gun on stage, it must be fired. Props are meant to be used. However, there were costumes and props that didn't add much to the show. Sure, someone dressed as a box of Lucky Strike cigarettes and someone else as an apple pie represent "Americana," but having them dance around in the background was pointless.

Late in the show, the dancing apple pie with legs pulls out a champagne bottle like a gun and aims it at the Little Richard-esque character, and he says, "This is strange." My thoughts exactly! I like a good non-sequitur as much as the next girl, but this was one too many in show already muddled in direction. And there were precious few references to the Elvis movies this show is supposed to spoof. The first act is not terribly solid, and Cry-Baby unravels in the second. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Instead, spend that amount on powerhouse Patti and have yourself a theatrical experience of a lifetime.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sexism and Hillary Clinton

This video is well worth eight minutes of your time. See for yourself how sexism has played out against Hillary in the media.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bored? Take this survey

Someone I know is doing online research for her Master's thesis regarding boredom and how you cope with it. Take the survey!

Nicole LePera
The New School for Social Research
Department. of Psychology
65 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 215-901-2184


Someone I was talking to yesterday was discussing family in general and how stressful relatives can be. It reminded me of a quote from The Importance of Being Earnest. As always, Oscar Wilde bears repeating:

"Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die."

More Oscar Wilde Quotes

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Eulogy for a Professor: Richard C. Tobias

A couple of years ago, I fell out of touch with a professor of English Literature I had as an undergraduate, Richard C. Tobias. I've been reticent to look him up because I feared for the worst, and I'm angry at myself for exhibiting such cowardice. But I think about him frequently, so I finally did some google searching, only to discover that he passed away on September 12, 2006 at the age of 81. This comes a year-and-a-half too late, but I wanted to honor him with a few words.

My first interaction with Tobias (or "Tob" as he liked to be called) was over the phone in 1993, while I croaked away at him with laryngitis trying to ask him questions about our upcoming semester abroad in London, for which he was teaching "Shakespeare and His Plays." The only thing I seem to remember was that after he heard my voice he kept saying, "Poor baby."

The semester in London was one of the most important times in my life and for the first time, I was able to connect with a larger sense of humanity due to the age of what I was seeing all around me. As I was embracing our great chain of being in the abstract, I suspect that this time was critical for Tobias as well, but for much more difficult and personal reasons: shortly before our trip, his wife Barbara passed away from a brain aneurysm. I remember him telling us the story of how he was holding her on the couch. She had a headache, got up to get an aspirin, and never returned.

At the time, due to my lack of life experience, I was not able to strongly empathize with the grief he must have endured (much to my shame), but I admire that he kept moving forward with his life and held on to London and teaching and found a connection to his love and his past at every turn, pointing out flowers that Barbara knew and liked. He loved his family very much and was quite proud of them. I remember him discussing one of his daughter's weddings. He said of his daughter and her husband, "He didn't choose her. She didn't choose him. They chose each other." That always stayed with me as an ideal of an egalitarian romance.

I also can't help but remember him on a tour bus ride through the Cotswolds jumping up down, pointing and shouting, "Gypsy camp! Gypsy camp!" as we passed by a series of tents. That always makes me smile.

He was a tall and slim man who often wore a Captain's hat. He wasn't ostentatious, but I remember the fancy sequined vest he bought himself in London, as well as the convertible Saab he bought with his inheritance from his aunt.

Of course I took more classes with him once we returned. Every time he'd see me around campus, he'd nearly sing, "There she is...Miss America!" I never understood why, although I suppose I did sort of exude a kind of squeaky-clean Americanism. I also suspect it was because he liked tall women.

In his Modernist Poetry class, I was mistaken for his mistress. I arrived late the first day, and the only seat left open was one directly next to him (he liked to arrange his class in a circle). People tended to select the same seats every week, thus I found myself next to him most every class. Whenever we'd read something by Pound or Eliot that referenced something in London, he would excitedly grab my arm or my hand and say, "Remember when WE SAW THAT!?!" This went on for weeks, and I was eventually confronted by two other students who point-blank asked me if I was having an affair with him. I wasn't. He was just a truly enthusiastic and high-energy person.

I was the leader of a particular student group in the English department as well as the acting president of another group for whom Tob was the faculty advisor, so we collaborated closely. When my parents came to an honors ceremony, Tobias said of me, "Your daughter is like a brick...filling in where needed." I'd never before or since been compared to a brick, and it became something of a joke within my family.

Once, we invited him over to our home for dinner. My mother served him a meal of stuffed pork chops and mashed potatoes. He gave it the highest compliment: "It tastes like Ohio [his home state]." (This always stuck with me, but really hit home when I recently watched Ratatouille and saw that the antagonist was won over with cuisine from his working-class youth. My mother was savvy enough to suspect her food would have that effect.)

As for my academic work, he helped me craft some of my "objective" reporting habits acquired from a brief stint in journalism school into a style that better fit literary criticism.

We hand-wrote our essays on our London trip, and he responded with type-written notes, all of which I've kept. And, I'll always keep a copy of his letter of recommendation for me for graduate school, which was full of wonderful things, although no one really wants to see their love of musicals emphasized or the words, "Andrew Lloyd Webber" in such a document.

He was partly an absent-minded professor, partly an on-campus political activist, and overall a kind and caring man. With his diverse interests, Dr. Richard Tobias was most certainly a Major Generalist. I can see, especially now, how much he influenced me in that regard. Much love to you, Tob. I'm so glad I knew you.

UPDATE! 5/1/2011
The English Department at Pitt has further eulogized Professor Tobias. Be sure to read more:

Dean of the Universe
The English Department Remembers Richard Tobias

Our Mutual Friend by Jeff Aziz