Wine, Jelly Beans and concerts

Monday, March 31, 2008

Ugh. I've been terrible at keeping this thing updated. Sadly, I think that my infrequent posting will continue through April. Is it really nearly April? When did that happen?
Anyway, the month looks pretty insane. I have, in quick succession: an audition recording to make, a concert of a really awful song cycle that I can't make myself practice and a concert of wonderful yummy music that I really like. The last one overlaps with Orthodox Easter, so my parents are all mad at me that I can't be at every single Holy Week service and stuff. I didn't plan on that, regardless of the concert schedule, but whatever....

This last week has been fairly eventful. By which I mean that I only went to work once last week, and otherwise goofed off and had fun. I know. Shocking.

Boyfriend was on spring break, and despite still spending a lot of time in his lab, we took a couple days to do stuff. First, we went to the Jelly Belly factory. If you're in the area, you absolutely must take the tour. It's free, and so, so, so fun! You learn about the actual manufacturing process, which is interesting (especially for industrial/electrical engineers like Boyfriend) and the history and stuff. Then you learn all about Ronald Reagan and his obsession with Jelly Bellies, which I really didn't care about, but hey, you get to see huge mosaics made of candy! Anyway, it was great fun. At the end, of course they expect you to hit the gift shop, which is hardly a bad thing. You can get 2 pound bags of the reject jelly beans called "Belly Flops" that you otherwise couldn't buy. So fun. Did I mention that?? Here are some photos:

Yes, despite being an engineer, Boyfriend managed to put his hat on upside-down.....hehe......
The new flavor is wild blackberry, which I cannot recommend more highly. If you're somewhere where you can acquire individual flavors, you really must try blackberry.

At the end of the week, my excuse for not working was that a friend from grad school was in town with his wife. I hadn't seen them in a couple of years, and so I was really excited to get to do the tour guide thing and see them. I make an excellent tour guide, by the way, because of my freakish ability to memorize events and dates. My history geek-itude means that I remember when important buildings were built and why, and what happened where, etc. We met up with another friend from grad school, a German guy who has moved here and married an American woman, and did a walking tour of Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, then went downtown to the opera house, Davies hall and the new Conservatory building. We then ate at Mel's Drive-in. I had to go after that, but they did the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausolito, Pier 39 and Fisherman's wharf.....does that sound like an insane amount for one day?? Cuz it is. A ton.

Friday, we added Boyfriend to the group and went up to Napa to go wine tasting. I'd never done that before, since it's a very yuppie thing to do, and I'm anything but a yuppie. We went to two big, well known wineries, and two little tiny ones. The big ones were a more tourist-catered experience. The tastings are in the gift shop area, where they're trying to sell you wine club memberships, fancy glasswear, fancy cooking stuff......blah. I didn't care for that, but for the Brits to get to see the origin of wines they actually have in England was interesting, I suppose. The other two offered a much better time. The people talking to us actually had a role in the making of the wines and could explain things in a human way (instead of a wine-snob way) and weren't trying to sell everything (including their souls). Of course, with all that wine, we needed a big lunch, and it turns out that the only half-way affordable place to eat in St. Helena, California is a totally excellent little tacqueria.

So, I'm still just as stupid about wine, but now I know a couple of winery names that I like, and a slightly better idea of what types of wine I can go for.

With such a luxurious week behind me, it was quite a shock to have to wake up early and go to work today, but such is life. I must now make up for all those days that I wasn't working!


I read a really fun book a couple of weeks ago. It was called Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin. It's totally anachronistic, and basically the cross between Law & Order and The Canterbury tales, but it was a really fun read.

Also unrelated to anything that I've said here, you know St. Mary's Cathedral in SF? The one affectionately (or not) referred to as Our Lady of Maytag for its resemblance to the agitator in a washing machine? Well, did you know about its wonderful shadows? Check it out:


Monday, March 24, 2008

On Saturday night, there was a really terrible movie on PBS called "Moulin Rouge." Not the 1990's/2000's Baz Lurmann surrealist extravaganza, but a 1950's account of the life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It was pretty unwatchable, but it inspired me to look up information on the artist.

He is mainly known for the paintings of cabaret girls and the general mayhem of the Moulin Rouge. I was familiar with his most iconic images, which have been used in a lot of advertising. Even the opera I was just in used a Lautrec image on the poster. with just a little investigation, I found a trove of paintings that aren't usually seen. What I discovered was that these lesser known, less "commercial" works are really stunning. Toulouse-Lautrec spent a great deal of time in brothels, sometimes living in them for weeks at a time. This allowed him to paint much more intimate scenes of women that we usually see in 19th C art.

Here we have "Au Moulin Rouge: Les deux valseuses" (At the Moulin Rouge: Two women waltzing)

This one is aptly titled "In bed."

I'm kinda color blind, which probably influences my taste in art. I've always intense color saturation. The post-impressionists seem to do that really well, Van Gogh in particular. I'm really excited not only to find that in Lautrec's works, but also impressed with the capturing of tender moments in lives that probably had too few of them.

Down with Theocracy, Part 2

Saturday, March 22, 2008

So, I'm back from rehearsal, the piano lesson that I taught and the voice lesson that I had. I'm not feeling super good about singing right now, since the technical problem that I've been having for months just won't go away (in a certain part of my range, all the vowels sound like "uh" which is bad....). And I got home to find that the lunch I was going to have (leftover tomato beef chow mein) had been eaten by a certain boyfriend. Grr......Basically, I'm in a slightly pissy mood.

Back to the theocracy business:
It's important to remember that the "founding fathers" did not, for the most part, describe themselves as "christian." Their symbolic ideals came out of 18th Century, Enlightenment period secular humanism. Humanism prizes reason, ethics and logic. Hardly the stuff of fundamentalist thugs....It's also important to remember that the first colonists had left a country that could be considered a partial theocracy. To move in that direction now would be to turn our backs on the goals of our country's existence.

So, now that we've established a historical reason and context for our stance against the church-as-national-thug, let's move on to current events. Like I said in part 1, we're the laughingstock of the western world. Stupid interpretations of religion have fucked with education, health care, and even foreign policy. Seriously, as if the crusades weren't bad enough, we have to drop kick weaker countries in some weird ass Christians v. Pagans football match....

Stupid interpretations of Christianity have made it incredibly difficult for poor women to get health care. Barely 3% of Planned Parenthood's procedures are abortion. Most is routine women's health care. With all the offices that the pro-life bullies have forced out, it's harder and harder for uninsured women to get care. It may sound too liberal an interpretation, but theocracy equals dead women. That's okay by some, though, because we're sub-human anyway.

So, to summarize: Theocracy bad. Any questions?

Down With Theocracy and other bits and pieces

The last couple of days have been "Blog Against Theocracy" days. I didn't have my shit together to write a whole, fleshed out post for it. There should be some really interesting reading out there in thar internets.
I'm still sorting out how I feel about religion, but regardless, that's a private matter that has no place in civic life. I think that the French are way ahead of us on this one (well, they're way ahead of the US on a lot of stuff, but my francophilia can be another post). Where our constitution assures us that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," France's revolution purposely set out to create a secular society. They made the decision that government and public life rely on certain morals or values, and that all are afforded rights, but these come from the people and the state and not from any god or church.

Now, in practice, France's execution of these principles gets a little muddy.....wearing a crucifix to school is ok, but a headscarf isn't, for example....still, though, they're further along on kicking out theocracy.

I'm so troubled by the US's increasingly conservative, Christian leanings. Are they really increasing, though? I suppose the religious right has gotten much more publicity in recent years, but we are a country founded by whack-job puritans.......I dunno.....It's upsetting nonetheless.

I really wonder whether some people here realize that our country is the laughing stock of the first world, with schools trying to teach creationism, abysmal stances on women's health and abortion, general stupidity of a good portion of the population.....Yes, people laugh at and deride Americans. A lot.

Oh boy, I've strayed off the topic. Why do some Americans hold Iran up as being the epitome of all that is wrong with a government while trying to make ours look exactly the same. Seriously, the people in the Iranian government who charge around the streets making sure women's headscarves aren't slipping off? How's that so different from all these church youth groups that are urging teen girls to dress really modestly so as not to excite any boys. The boys, of course, can dress however they want. (Note that I'm differentiating between the one sided "women must cover up because men have no control" and traditions where modesty is encouraged for everyone.)

Um....Let's consider this Part 1. More later....

I must got pretend to be a catholic for a couple of hours......I'm getting paid to sing for easter and holy week services at a parish in Berkeley. It'll be fantastic money, but I'm getting really bored with it.

It's a wonderful sunny saturday! Get out of the house and stop hiding at the computer reading!!

Things To Be Aware Of

Monday, March 17, 2008

Several people have sent me links to interesting articles lately.

This first one is also a call to action. Celeste blogged about this article from the UK. An Iranian teenager fled to England on a student visa after being discovered with his boyfriend. While he was there, the boyfriend was put to death after being charged with sodomy. The UK won't give this boy asylum. I'm beyond appalled, obviously.

Here's the article. I don't know that there's much of anything we can do, but surely getting the story out there will make people think. I welcome any ideas.

The constant BS about "homeland security" is always cause for eye-rolls, but here's a twist that I bet you haven't thought of: Airports don't generally recognize native travellers' Tribal ID's. Since Native American tribes are sovereign entities, the id's should be just as valid as a state id, right? Apparently the new push for "real id's" doesn't think so. The Great Falls, Montana paper has the story. seems that the powers that be don't think it's so hard to just get a passport, already. Despite, you know, cost, availability of birth records, cost, and oh, cost!

On a much lighter note, Robin Hobb (Fantasy writer) talks about the dangers of blogging when you're a writer with a deadline. She seems to think that one shouldn't blog, one should write, and that the two are mutually exclusive. Writer, poet, ground-breaking feminist and blogger extrordinaire Maggie Jochild totally disproves this. Her blog posts are real and substantive, too. Not "dear diary, here's what I did today" crap like I write.
It's an amusing read, though, so here ya go.

That's about it for now. Must go rescue laundry from the laundromat and rescue my grandma from the clutches of her incredibly boring step-son.

love to all!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Has it really been 10 days? Ugh.....sorry....It's been nuts around here, and my mental capacity is such that I've actually been speaking in Lolcat. That's never a good sign.

The last Orpheus show is today, and I am so ready for this thing to be over. The performances were so spread out (the first being on the 24th of Feb) that it's been really hard for me to maintain any kind of momentum. Also, I'm really just tired of it. Last weekend's show was reviewed, by the same online mag that I write for, and you can read it here. In general, it's a fair review, although Janos does tend to judge the singers as though they're seasoned professionals. Which we're not. The youngest cast members are still in undergrad, and the rest of us aren't that far removed from it. This company uses young singers at the beginnings of their careers. Anyway, he fairly points out some of the problems with the production, and I get a one word mention.

So far, I've been reviewed twice in my (short) career, and they've both been one word. Maybe next time, I'll get 2! At that rate, by the time I'm 50, I'll have hopefully worked my way up to a full sentence....


Last week, I read a really interesting article from Democracy Now! about how New York's governor was pushing for legislation that would guarantee New Yorkers the right to abortion and contraception, even if Roe v. Wade ever gets overturned. Here you go. It's really interesting. I especially like the phrase "this law guarantees every woman a right to choose or refuse contraception or birth control and choose or refuse abortion." That's it in a nutshell, right? If abortion gets banned, there are winguts who want contraception to be the next to go. But there's also the scary worst case scenario that if you can force someone NOT to abort, it's possible to force someone TO abort.....

Of course, this article went up a day or two before the whole Spitzer fiasco erupted. I will poke around thar internets to see if there's any update about this bill now that he's resigned.
His replacement has said that he will go along with the policies Spitzer set forth on the major issues and pieces of legislation. I hope that with this bill, that's the case.

Finally on the New York topic, I will roll my eyes at the surprise that folks expressed when a super-rich-owning-class brat thinks he can own everything, even, duh? Why is that such a shock??


Finally finally, a little morsel about how Mr. Rogers (or, in my house, Mr. Ogers) was pretty effing cool:

Have a good weekend!

boyfriend antics

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Heehee.....Last night boyfriend was changing after coming home. He tried to sing the "bow-chick-a-bow-bow" thing from porn as he unbuttoned his shirt, but got all mixed up and ended up singing the theme from the Pink Panther, instead.....hee!

What do nerds do when they're all grown up and don't have mommies there to tell them to go to bed? They cuddle on the couch and read until 1am on a work night.....So far, in the last 4 days, I've read 750 pages. If I finish The Other Boleyn Girl today, it will be over 1,000. As you can tell, being sick and in an introverted mood has been great for my reading addiction! I've been reading lots of historical fiction lately, which I love, but it's becoming a little depressing. So many women getting fucked over by patriarchal societies and all that....At least The Last Witchfinder had a very strong, independent heroine, but it lost all credibility when she gets stranded on a Caribbean island with Ben Franklin and has his child.....oy was a very strange book. (Franklin did have an illegitimate child, and this book takes the position that his unknown mother was the book's heroine, but since we know that he was never shipwrecked, it bugged me).


I have been meaning to blog about so many things lately, but have been sick (still). I'll try to remember them:

-On the View last week, Whoopi and Joy read a list of names that MSNBC has called Hillary Clinton. It was appalling. I've tried to find the full list online, but to no success. These supposed "news channels" have gotten away with calling her everything from a "she-devil" to "uppity" and no one has batted an eye. I'm so sick of the rampant misogyny.

-I had to pass out the monthly "book orders" to some 5th graders last week. Scholastic has been doing these things for years, and I remember ordering from the book orders in elementary school. I don't know what the original premise was, but maybe offering children's literature at a lower price than retail? I'm not sure. Anyway, that would be great if it were actually the case, but many of us have noticed that the books on offer are only occasionally literature. There is so much movie-derived, product placement bullshit that a lot of the teachers aren't handing them out as often (maybe once per term or something). Besides the commercialism, and the fact that in 8 pages of "books" only a handful had any redeeming features (a couple of Newberry Award winners and 1 or 2 about black history month), the worst was the section labeled "Girl Stuff." Of course the background was pink, the books were hetero-normative gender-role enforcing bullshit, and one of the options was a subscription to Seventeen magazine. I was so grossed out, I couldn't even rant correctly.
Of course one or two girls gave me "but I like those books. That one's my favorite." Why the hell would parents allow that kind of shit? Why does the school? Besides, most of the kids at the school are at the very least middle class, if not wealthy. Why do they need the book order to begin with? Why don't teachers compile lists of worthwhile books to check out of the library or suggestions for parents to take to the bookstore? Oh yeah, that would require the rich-ass parents to spend time with their kids....we couldn't have that now, could we??


Now I'm all mad again....

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