Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

Happy Boxing Day!

December 26, 2009

I like to think that the open ended phrase “Happy Holidays” has a little room in it for Boxing Day. Woefully under-appreciated outside of the Commonwealth, the 26th will always be a perfect day for playing with toys, eating cookies, and languishing in post-xmas warmth. I’ll save you the (Sarah Vowell-esque?) exploration of the holiday’s history and remark instead that the great thing about Boxing Day is that you get all the warm/fuzzy without any of the religious connotations! Delightful.

On an unrelated note, isn’t it odd how some words aren’t ever used outside of a set phrase? Some examples:

vested…(interests)
corroborating…(story/testimony)
diametrically…(opposite/opposed)
ballooning…(debt/deficit)

Really, try to think of anything else that is “vested” other than “interests”…etc.
Happy Boxing Day!

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Happy New Year!

January 1, 2009

Like last year, I have found that a New York New Years pretty much hits the spot.
I must issue an apology to readers of this blog (few as they are) that I haven’t been keeping up with the posts.
I do not in fact have an orangutan capable of expressing hope, and love…but if I did, I would post one on this occasion and send it out to all of you. New year shall always symbolize a new beginning and new hope (not confined to star wars).

Happy New Years all, and to all a good night.

City Year, capitalist ideology, and MLK

January 23, 2008

city year

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Martin Luther King Day, while civilized New Yorkers were sleeping in and avoiding the unbelievable cold, I had to get up early and trek out to Long Island City, Queens to volunteer my services as a, uh, volunteer. Of course the fact that I was forced to do this in no way reduces the “volunteer” aspect of my volunteer work.

In honor of Dr. King, a gaggle of City Year volunteers threw a big service day bash around the nation, our local (!) iteration of which took place at a high school in Long Island City. The ceremony began with an invigorating round of boot-camp-style calisthenics on command. Along with ROTC kids, the uniformed City Year volunteers talked the audience through their synchronized call-and-response PT regimen. Then there was the formal inauguration of City Year Young Heroes, sponsored by Bank of America among others, in which a group of middle schoolers pledged to emulate, “the values of courage, compassion, cooperation, and commitment” by pledging their Saturdays to various community service projects over the next 5 months.

city year

Fabulously rich NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg put in an appearance, and encouraged the youths in the spirit of Dr. King, reminding them that “everyone can be a hero!”

Several ideas started to kick around in my head:

  • The rigid discipline and Boy Scout-like enthusiasm of the City Year types is kind of freaky.
  • The lack of talk about the history of struggle or social justice movements is kind of conspicuous, especially if you’re supposed to be honoring Martin Luther King
  • The similarity of City Year’s enthusiastic idealism to nationalist rhetoric is striking

Althusser, a 20th century French philosopher who liked to read Marx, describes the way that every Subject is recognized and needs recognition. The Subject then recognizes and calls out to another, interpellating him as a Subject. Thus, every Subject is always already embroiled with others. He borrowed this idea from his friend Jacques Lacan and used it to complete his notion of ideology. Ideology is the discourse through which individuals become subject to the state. It is the basis for how the State gets people to conform, thus reproducing the conditions of production which are crucial to the State’s existence. (Since Althusser was writing, “State” power became largely de-centralized and currrently seems to reside not in the halls of government, but in the hands of elite transnational corporations) In the case of City Year, the notion of individual capacity for change co-opts people into a group while at the same time subverting the fact that only community-based concerted social (read: economic) action will produce change.

This was a fact of which Dr. King himself was very aware: “You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry… Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”*

I’m of the opinion that City Year types parading around in their red jackets with their T-Mobile phones and Bank of America middle schoolers won’t promote awareness, education, or change in the long run. No matter how many jumping jacks they do. Still, I’m willing to put up with their philanthropy…I mean, it’s for a good cause!

But using King as your poster boy is crossing the line.

Open your eyes!

40679205_d6805f1eeb.jpg

RIP Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Always we begin again

January 1, 2008

like St. Benedict says.

That having been said, it’s hard not to feel a little sad on New Years.
During the dreary walk home from an excessively dramatic evening, I was reminded of the famous Thomas Hardy poem “The Darkling Thrush”:

“I lent upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The wakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings from broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chose thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom

So little cause for carollings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware”

Happy New Years! May 2008 bring you peace and love.

Holidaze, or Ludichristmas (part III)

December 28, 2007

Christmas was beautiful.

The champagne at breakfast, the best way to enhance holiday cheer. Then the mutual exchange of gifts that nobody can really afford. Then the communal dog-walking through Rock Creek. Then the telephone banter with cheery British relatives which, because they’re five hours further advanced in the feasting process, is always reasurringly prophetic of things to come. Then the cooking and devouring of the Christmas dinner and, the ultimate British tradition to end all others, the Christmas pudding. This is basically fruit cake soaked in brandy, lit aflame, and served with brandy butter. It is better than the birth of Jesus.

This year my mom decided to throw a Boxing Day party at our house as well, in an attempt to foist Britishness upon her friends and co-workers. It’s a great time to party, actually, because who really has plans on the day after Christmas? What does anyone really want to do on December 26? You want to clean your house and purchase cartloads of alcohol, of course! And hob nob!

But now I’m back in Brooklyn. I’m in the rather comfortable position of returning to work on a Friday, then having another two days off before facing a real work week. Also, nobody is here. There’s nothing like the absence of both staff and clients to slow things down at a community center.

I am looking forward to lunch at Johnnie’s on 5th and 58th, where you can get a gargantuan lasagna pizza slice for 2.75

lasagna on pizza!
holy shit!

Holidaze, or Ludichristmas (part II)

December 24, 2007

Bus rides to DC can be super fun, as it turns out.

Then yesterday we had a few cheap Bloody Marys and engaged in Bethesda-style last minute Christmas shopping. This is my parents’ method; Alcohol numbs pain and, let’s not forget, the insane Bourgeois consumerism shit show that is Christmas time can be painful.

Morris Louis

Later on some friends and I ventured to the Hirschorn gallery on the Mall. It’s among my favorite DC museums because of the comfy chairs and because the art tends towards the abstract without being really pretentious about it. Like, two years ago they had a very memorable Anselm Keifer exhibit and many years before that they had a big Chuck Close show. This time the painter in question was an American guy Morris Louis, who in his working life had been obsessed with vibrant colors and what happens when they overlap. Unfortunately, as any seasoned Crayola kid knows, overlapping vibrant colors generally produce brown or puce. Still, it was cool and up to the Hirschorn standard.

Then we started looking at sculptures and came up with THE SILLIEST GAME EVER. Wander around the sculpture portion of the Hirschorn gallery (or similar) and try to see what noise you’d expect each sculpture to make if it could talk. What would it’s voice sound like? What kind of sound would it make? We found that we all had similar sounds for each piece. How is this possible? I have no idea. How are the visual and auditory senses linked with one another? Is art universal? Can it communicate in a way that we hadn’t previously conceptualized? It was insane. People thought we were on drugs and, indeed, it kind of felt like we were.

Funnily enough, when we got to a sculpture that was mixed media (metal, wood, and concrete all together) we were all stumped. Weird, huh?

Try the sculpture game! What kind of sound is he making?

Thinker

What about this one?

abstract__sculpture.jpg

Or this one?

hiveley_spotteapot_lg.jpg

It probably works better in 3d…but you get the idea.

Holidaze, or Ludichristmas (part I)

December 21, 2007

I’m not usually one to blog about food choices.
That having been said, reader, I haven’t gone grocery shopping in weeks. I can’t remember the last time I packed my lunch.
I just show up at work, assume there’ll be something free for me to munch on, and lo and behold.

In fact, all or nearly all of my caloric intake in the past two weeks has been from office parties, office party leftovers, adult ed class parties, or adult ed class party leftovers.

In the past week, for example, I have subsisted off of:

  • coffee and soda (uncountable cups of)
  • fried chicken
  • pizza
  • yucca fritta (a common Cuban restaurant leftover)
  • A lobster salad sandwich (a godsend)
  • noodle concoctions, tofu, dumplings, chicken and broccoli (all donated by Adult Ed students of the Chinese lady persuasion)
  • 7-up cake (the best thing ever to come out of K-Mart)
  • other kinds of cake with vanilla Jello actually *in* the cake (all the rage these days)
  • untold numbers of Dunkin’ Donuts
  • brownies, SO much more cake, including 7-layer candy cake (which has the same simplicity::deliciousness ratio as Katey Rich’s saltine toffee)

The list goes on. I don’t feel proud of any of it, but the most pitiful item which I haven’t yet mentioned consists of chocolates scarfed down in a late night binge as I watched as many episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” as their somewhat scanty availability on the internet would permit.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll climb aboard the good ole Washington Deluxe and bus it back to DC, my first trip home since September.
I’m hoping that I can thereby break this spiral of culinary madness.

But I know in the back of my mind that home will furnish forth Christmas cookies, alcohol, the obligatory British-style brandy-soaked Christmas pudding and mince pies, chocolate coins, other holiday-themed tidbits…there is no hope.

Thanksgiving + Battlestar Galactica!!

November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving this year was spent at chez Eppich, in/on Long Island. David and I braved the fiendishly complicated LIRR and made it out there on Thursday afternoon. Except for the conspicuous lack of booze with dinner, it was a romp. We all ate way too much. And I had a surprise victory in a round of “TV Scene It?” by identifying an old photograph as the budding starlet Lynda Carter (alias Wonder Woman).

TV Scene It!

Anyway, I was convinced that sticking around NY for the holiday would turn out to be depressing, but it worked out marvelously! Not only did I see Lisa, which made me very happy, but also my friends Dan and Claire, Kathy, Allison, and Dustin, none of whom I get to see very often because they don’t live in the city.

Thanksgiving also afforded me enough free time, for better or worse, to have finally become severely and hopelessly addicted to Battlestar Galactica.

I remember being among a gaggle of foreigners for last year’s Thanksgiving feast at ye olde 5:19 bar in nu ren jie in Beijing. Alex talked loudly about his sexual proclivities, I feigned Britishness and talked to some British girls, and I met my good friend Melissa, who appreciates the Val Kilmer film “Real Genius” almost as much as I do. At the end of the evening I got stuck with compiling everybody’s cash and paying the tab, which added up to several thousand kuai. The owner of the 5:19, a nice and amazingly nerdy guy whose name escapes me, counted all the money out, poured me a free gin and tonic, and gave me a long wholly unprovoked lecture about the new Sci-Fi channel Battlestar Galactica show. It was weird.

Well it’s been a year, the weather has turned cold again, and I’ve finally allowed Battlestar to become my favorite excuse for staying indoors. I love that Edward James Olmos, and not just because he was in “Blade Runner”. His role in the show as Commander Adama is almost as memorable as his appearance as an idealistic AP Calculus teacher in “Stand and Deliver”. Almost.

Halloween, etc.

November 2, 2007

I find that there is an amazing amount of complaining done among the general Americorps populus.
Volunteer work, as their oft repeated protest would have it, will not pay the bills. But I mean…when was that ever not the case? It’s almost as if we’re all claiming to have been hoodwinked. But no, we knew exactly what we were getting into. Most Americorps people I work with just want to get this over with while they finish their med school apps, so we’ll do anything to log hours.

Somehow skits count as community service, hence our participation in the Bay Ridge Halloween walk:

me and mummies

Meanwhile, Halloween over in the West Village is a street carnival, brimming over with booze, sex, and bizarre sugar-high energy. I affirm the possibility that people from all regions and walks of life will sometimes dress up in witty or hilariously elaborate costumes on Halloween. But only the New Yorker can stand in the cold for hours dressed as Chewbacca or, much worse, as Princess Leia during her stint at Jabba’s barge, waiting with aplomb in lines so long that I doubt people at the wrong end know what they’re even waiting for. And I was more than an hour late to meet my costume partner David due to the totally unexpected subway shit show.

Still, we were pretty successful:

air guitar

ridiculous

October 30, 2007

Well, firstly, this past weekend I went to the Berkshires with my buddy Harrison and on the way back we saw…a DeLorean! I have photographic proof this time!

the stainless steel construction made the flux dispersal...

Second, in an effort to log some hours of volunteer work to make up for my upcoming British excursion, I’ve agreed to be in a Halloween skit on Wednesday night. It’s going to be for a stunningly elaborate haunted walk in Owl’s Head park, Bay Ridge. The only problem is that we’ll have to perform the skit a hundred plus times for passers by. I play a reluctant archeologist who turns out to be the great(xN) grandson of a mummified pharoah, who then comes alive and runs off with my belle.

After being romantically thwarted by a mummy and stumbling into a sarcophagus every 3 minutes for 4 hours, I’ll then don my yet-to-be assembled second costume (Bill S. Preston, Esq.) and hop over to the village. On a weeknight…I don’t foresee being on time for work on Thursday…