Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Family

Purty LightsWhenever I go home to visit my family these days, I try to bake for them. I like to bake; my mother doesn't bake much anymore and my parents enjoy eating my creations. And who else will so willingly and happily eat my culinary experiments? So, I bake.

As I sit writing this, I listen to my father poke fun of my mother because she accidentally gifted him women's perfume instead of men's cologne for Christmas. And I'm reminded that THIS is why I enjoy coming home for the holidays. To sit around and watch too many movies and bits of all the various TV series that everyone received for Christmas - Battlestar Gallactica Season 3, The Original Twilight Zone Season 1, 30 Rock Season 1 have all been on tap this week. To catch up on all the random goings on that I've missed over the phone. To eat too much and hang out until my father stops flipping channels and settles on an hour-long look at the mating of whichever animal or the history of something. To comment on how much bigger the cat seems to have gotten and the latest animal sightings in the backyard. It's all very ordinary, but it means a lot to me that I get to be here for this.

Having had a dysfunctional childhood - like so many other people - these very typical scenes were always what I wanted as a kid. I guess I drank the kool-aid that the Hallmark commercial offered up. The thing not at all evident though in those sentimental 30-second attempts to sell something is how long it takes to get to that happy homecoming scene on the doorstep with the snow falling. It takes time to have shared history, because of course history takes time to make.

We all have family. In a perfect world, families would be the easiest birthright to claim and be a part of. In the real world, family relationships are among the most difficult courses to take in the ongoing classroom that we live in as humans.

As the year rolls to a close, I want to say that I'm grateful for everyone I get to call family.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Lying in Bed ReadingThe absurdism watch is on: I'm reading Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Everytime I pick it up, I spend the first 10 pages wondering what the point is, and then I shift into the appropriate state of mind and get into it again. It reminds me of M*A*S*H for obvious reasons.

Also reading Larry Lessig's Remix as the latest selection of the FMC intern book club. I'm early enough in the book that Lessig is still painting a portrait of how the business models of the music industry came to be and how they're not adequate anymore. This is hardly news since even the RIAA has finally realized that suing its consumers isn't a good idea. They're now planning to shift the policing for piracy onto your friendly and inept internet providers which will no doubt anger ever more people if it works at all. So, the people who can't show up to turn on your cable will now be charged with letting you know that you've broken copyright law? Right-o.

Speaking of absurdity, I was talking to a former co-worker who mentioned that she's created a folder in her email software called "really?!?" expressly for those ridiculous exchanges that one has in a 21st century office environment. Brilliant.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On the Mend

Jazz in New OrleansI'm happy to say that my fourth trip to New Orleans in two years revealed a city rebuilding. There's still way too much to do to be conscionable, but what our government neglected, the residents of the city have stepped in to do with grace and class (with a little bit of help from Brad Pitt).

If you ever make it to New Orleans, I highly recommend you visit the Mother-in-Law Lounge, the former home of and now tribute to Ernie K-Doe. Ernie's widow Antoinette K-Doe tells the story of how she waited out Katrina for days in the second floor of the lounge before she got airlifted out of the building still flooded in six feet of water, but you wouldn't know it from seeing the new tiki bar in the back and the Christmas decorations alight.

That first night at the Mother-in-Law cascaded into a day of meetings about musicians engaging in activism, which segued beautifully into a thoroughly entertaining benefit concert for Sweet Home New Orleans, an organization that helps bring New Orleans musicians back to New Orleans post-Katrina and helps keep the city's musical traditions alive. See the nice Rolling Stone write-up and lots of photos here.

[Update: I've been cross-posted on the FMC blog, too...multi-tasking!]

Monday, December 1, 2008


Ode to the MoviesAh, the week of large meals was a tasty one.

As a kid, Divali was one of my favorite holidays. The food was so good and always featured Indian sweets - kinda of like not-oversweet pieces of fudge - and gifts and a funny song that the kid in the family had to sing throughout the house with a handmade candle to bless the home.

My own celebration last Sunday was sans song or gifts, but with a good dinner with friends and candles to ward away the evil spirits. The dinner featured Mushrooms & Potatoes in a Tomato Sauce, Lentil Soup, Rice and Peas, Lemony Cilantro Chicken, a kick-ass Raita, and one of those orange-shaped chocolates that you smack to break into sections. A good time was had by all and my very first dinner party was a success and has encouraged me to do it again.

Random thought: If I married a Chinese guy who was Jewish, then we'd have four, FOUR different New Year's celebrations to observe and three of them would move from year to year!

The next day I traveled up to Boston for Thanksgiving. It was fairly low-key trip since I was feeling crappy, but I was glad to be there. In addition to the big meal, I caught the most recent Bond film with Justin (of Loudcity). Quantum of Solace needed more moments of quiet to highlight its moments of craziness. One of the things I liked so much about Casino Royale a few years ago was that Daniel Craig's Bond finally seemed like a fully realized character rather than a caricature of one. Quantum of Solace took a step back: there were too many chase sequences, too many explosions, too much violence and none of it particularly memorable. Maybe he'll have gotten over himself in time for the next Bond?

Not by choice, but I also saw The Notebook. It was cheesiness itself but Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are mostly winsome characters and it was enjoyable enough despite the Velveeta gloss. Then again, watching Star Wars IV: A New Hope later was an object lesson in stilted acting despite its status as a classic. Context is everything I guess.

Anyway, I'm off to New Orleans tomorrow for a short trip to talk about artist activism, to see how things have changed since I was there at the beginning of the year and catch up with some friends.