Thursday, December 28

Today's forecast: Partly punny with a chance of rain.

To begin:

A group of geese is called a gaggle; a group of lions is called a pride. A group of nuns is called an order.

I was walking past a church this afternoon, and taped to the front door of the church was a sign that read "Out of Order," with an arrow pointing to the left. The door was propped open, so the arrow was pointing out toward the street, and a line of nuns in full habit was parading, single-file, out the open door and onto the sidewalk.

Buh-dum, chick! (That's my imitation of a drumset, get it?)

Tuesday, December 26

Mr. and Mrs. Gwon's Home for Wayward Singles

My two favorite cousins spent the holidays at my parents' house this year. Both had, within recent weeks, split up with their significant others, with whom they had originally planned to spend the holidays, and so, wound up at The Gwon Home for Wayward Singles. Bad news for the brokenhearted, surely, but good news for me, because having your favorite cousins in Baltimore makes the place less dull.

Now, typically, I am content to spend my time in Baltimore doing absolutely nothing. And by that, I mean eating 'round-the-clock and watching HBO, since it truly is so great and I can't afford to have it in New York. (My sister just gave me the first two seasons of "Entourage" on DVD -- rock on, sis!) The thing about Baltimore is, there is stuff to do if you want to be all touristy about it. There's just no middle ground between going to a museum and seeing a movie. It's either a big production or totally mundane. (The social place-to-be of my high school days, for instance, was the local bookstore, a fact which manages to be both cool and really lame.)

Anyway, my cousins and I wanted to aim high without touring a schooner with a fanny pack and camera in hand, so we opened the local paper, and found our only options: looking at model trains or building our own sock monkeys at Sock Monkey Saturday.


I grabbed the car keys and eight pairs of old socks, and we were off to Sock Monkey Saturday.

Sock Monkey Saturday was a free event being held at the American Visionary Art Museum (which, I will say, is one of the coolest museums ever; go there if you're in Baltimore and feeling museum-ish). Basically, the blurb in the paper said: Grab two pairs of socks and c'mon down! Learn how to make your own so-ugly-it's-cute sock monkey. Sure, you'll probably throw it away when you're done, but won't it be fun?

We thought so.

FYI, an example of a sock monkey, below:

Hideous, right? But don't you want one?

We read about this whole affair around 1pm on Saturday afternoon, and it was going until 3pm. So faster than you could say "Sock Monkey Saturday?!" we were driving downtown with a bagful of old socks and a hankering to sew:

We got down to the museum, and rushed into this warehouse which is an annex of the main building, where we were told the monkey business was taking place. As soon as we stepped foot in the door, a security guard hopped in front of us and said, "Are you here for monkeys?"

"Why, yes," we replied, "We are here for monkeys."

"I'm sorry," he said. "The workshop's full. They're not taking any more people."

"What??" we shrieked.

"Lots of people here for the monkeys," he explained. "They filled the first room, then the library, then the classroom. Then there's people sitting in the hallway. Making monkeys," he said.

"Making monkeys..." we sighed.

We took our bag of socks and wandered around the exhibits, which, of course, were really cool. But we were bummed about our lack of sock monkeys. To remind us of this fact, the museum was littered with pieces of unfinished sock monkeys from the workshop. A headless, purple torso here, some argyle limbs there. (Yes, it was a little bit disturbing.)

Lesson: when the only remotely interesting options for a day's activity are watching model trains and making sock monkeys, the sock monkeys win. Go early!

Wednesday, December 20

Work it, ladybird.

I had a fairly stressful, running-around-trying-to-get-more-accomplished-than-is-actually-possible kind of day, part of a fairly stressful, running-around-trying-to-get-more-accomplished-than-is-actually-possible kind of week. I had a phone conference scheduled this evening with the director of a play that I'm writing music for out-of-town this spring, but got home to my apartment and found that the phone call was to be postponed; having been gifted an unexpected moment to veg, I plopped myself on the couch and turned on the TV.

I'm not really one for reality TV (what lack of interest I have in most reality TV shows I make up for in my singular obsession with Project Runway), but I will admit on a lazy weekend I will sit on the couch for hours watching a marathon of America's Next Top Model, whose delights are inexplicable. So, tonight, when I turned on the TV in lazy weekend mode and Top Model was on, I contently made myself a sandwich and sat down to enjoy.

But something was off in Top Model land. It took me a few moments to realize what was going on. Was this a new season? I felt like I had, not too long ago, just seen the finalists of the most recent Top Model face off in some sort of zombie prom fashion show, and that one girl had been declared the winner. But there were only four girls here, and I didn't recognize any of them. And there was something slightly askew with the whole affair. Was there something wrong with my TV?

Then it dawned on me that this was, in fact, a Very Special Airing of...Britain's Next Top Model.

Actually, I should say, Britain's Next Top Muddle, because that's exactly what it sounded like with a British accent.

A few comments:

1) There is nothing more fascinating than British regional dialects. I'm so accumstomed to thinking of that Hugh Grant Standard British accent when I hear English people in the movies that I forget that the Brits can speak as differently from one another as us Americans. I can't describe the exact timbre of the dialects on BNTM, suffice it to say that while I don't think any of these girls would have screamed, "Bitch poured beer on my weave!" (perhaps my favorite America's Next Top Model moment), their accents certainly conveyed something fascinatingly specific about their background and life experience.

2) Those Brits are so earnest! (They did expound upon its Importance, after all.) Part of the enormous element of schadenfreude that makes America's Next Top Model such a guilty pleasure is that the girls that get booted off are so defiant about it. You watch them walk out of the room with their nose in their air, proclaiming that they're gonna rise to the top in spite of being a loser. You know they won't, and you love that the arrogant are doomed to fail. In Britain, everyone cries. All the time. At the house. At photoshoots. At judging. They just cry. And then when the hostess has to kick someone off, she cries. And the loser talks into the camera and cries, and says, "Oh well. This was fun. Now it's back to Cornfield-Upon-Bristol where I'll go work on my Mum's hen farm." It's actually kind of sad. Even I like to see the arrogant, deluded non-models of America's Next Top Model dream a little dream!

3) Having aspiring models shout "Lisa Mail!!" when they get a letter is not as bootylicious as when they shout "Tyra Mail!!"

I finished my sandwich and wondered why I was spending 40 minutes watching this show where everyone cried about modeling. Then, they announced the winner, and in a fit of British spontaneity (which couldn't help but seemed forced, but was, indeed earnest), the hostess looked at the newly crowned winner (who was crying) and exclaimed, "YOU'RE BRITAIN'S NEXT TOP MUDDLE!!"

This made me smile. Then I turned off the TV.

Monday, December 11

The messiah is coming...

...and her name is Pina Bausch.

I am going to see the work of my favorite favorite artist this Friday, a German dance-theater choreographer named Pina Bausch. This makes me so happy. One of her pieces typically comes to BAM every two years, and believe you me, it is cause for celebration.

Who would have guessed that a half-Asian Jew from Baltimore would find salvation in a little old German lady? Apparently, my directing professor at NYU, a brilliant man named Jim Peck, did.

Picture it: New York City, 1997. A wide-eyed 17-year-old arrives in the city and, thanks to a forward-thinking theatre training program, starts to soak up the creme de la creme of the downtown avant garde. The first performance he sees (wait, no--the second; the first was, appropriately, the NYSF production of On The Town) is Karen Finley, artfully spreading her buttocks on a milking stool at P.S. 122. His semester is filled with Robert Wilson and Ivo van Hove, and his eyes are opened to the joys of the non-literal.

One day in class, his directing teacher, the aforementioned Jim Peck, mentions in passing a piece that's playing at BAM, a dance-theater work by the choreographer Pina Bausch. He says it's bound to be pretty swell, so Adam and his industrious friend Lauren Frey decide to go check it out.

Lauren lived on the same floor as Adam in an NYU dorm down in Soho. Lauren was a worldy, saxophone-playing transfer student from Connecticut. (Lauren's a voiceover artist now, and sings in an indie rock band, which is pretty cool.)

Anyway, Lauren and Adam hopped on the F train into Brooklyn to see Pina Bausch. Little did they know that the F train was the wrong train, and they were halfway to Coney Island before they jumped to a Manhattan-bound line and made their way to BAM. Just in the nick of time, they arrived, and they bought student rush tickets ($7.50!) and got two seats dead center in the front row of the mezzanine.

For the next three-and-a-half hours, Der Fensterputzer unfolded, and changed both of their lives forever. It's one of those performances that is seared into Adam's memory, that he knew, from the moment he left the theater, that he'd had some sort of seminal, world-view shifting experience. (The only other one which comes close would be a year later: Ricky Ian Gordon and Tina Landau's musical Dream True at the Vineyard Theatre.)

And so, every two years, Pina Bausch brings a new, mind-blowing, life-affirming piece to BAM. And Adam, like it's the high holy days, is there, with a grin on his face and God -- or at least something close -- in his heart.

Friday, December 1

Lunchtime: Make it work.

I had a tintillating celebrity sighting today.

Sometimes for a cheap lunch-on-the-go, I will visit one of those halal meat carts you see on Manhattan street corners. I get a lot of flack for visiting these meat carts, but, you see, there are certain ones which I call "Grade A" meat carts, and are actually quite tasty. Finding out which carts are "Grade A" is, unfortunately, a process of trial and error, but once you know which ones are safe, they provide an inexpensive and surprisingly delicious meal.

But I digress.

I was standing on line for one such Grade A meat cart (they're really popular, you know!) stationed just outside of Parsons Design School, and who should saunter up behind me in line in an impeccable, navy blue pin-striped suit, but Project Runway's Tim Gunn!

(This is actually my second Tim Gunn sighting, having passed him on the street during the first season of PR and literally exclaiming out loud: Tim Gunn!)

Now, as I see it, there are some basic options one has when encountering a celebrity in his or her daily life on the streets of Manhattan. You can state the obvious ("You're Tim Gunn!"), go the deferential route ("Mr. Gunn, I'm a huuuuuuge fan..."), play at acting casual ("Tim, hey! I'm Adam."), or say nothing at all.

Given the surprising circumstances of suddenly having Tim Gunn appear before you on line at a meat cart, my brain ignored the usual options, and I just stood there with a huge grin on my face, half excitement at seeing Tim Gunn and half amusement at learning that Tim Gunn, too, likes the Grade A meat cart.

Tim responded to my huge, dopey grin with a grin of his own. Next time, I'll see if he wants to go to Red Lobster.