Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015: the year I

Starting my year's retrospective a little early - Dec 20th - just in case.
Also honestly it's been a killer year, and I don't want to forget anything.

January - actually January was quiet except that I was really, really ill for the first few days of the year! 

February - tap duet at Peridance

March - moved to Brooklyn, one of the best decisions I made all year because I have flourished there
Performed at famed cabaret stage 54 Below, stage underneath what was Studio 54. Whatever. Performed my own choreography no less.

April - Had a visit from Dad, we saw Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway
Performed in Shakesday with Classics in the Rocks theater co
Turned 25 and celebrated in fine style with friends old and new
Became co-artistic director of Fundamental Theatre Project

May - rehearsed for Merchant of Venice
Got a bike
Tap danced for NBC with Nick Cannon for Red Nose Day
Hung out, in NYC, with my old schoolfriend Lotty Davies

June - Hung out, in NYC, with my even older schoolfriend Katharine Williams
Saw Active Child at Williamsburg Hall of Music
Went to Portland OR

July - performed in Merchant of Venice
Rode my bike a lot

August - had a trip home! Which included a trip to Edinburgh
Em Golborn's wedding
Started running

September - Saw Baeb Rxxth at Cameo Gallery - my friend Devon's band
Went to the Caribbean Day Parade, my friend Chuck's play, watched Lauren sing at Don't Tell Mama cabaret, Bernie Sanders came to New York Town Hall, went to a rollerdisco, met Bobby the black lab pup and saw the lunar eclipse (crikey)

October - by now I'm able to run an easy 5 miles Fundamental Theater Project's first Think Tank in many moons, unofficially run by me
Saw Lissie play at Rough Trade, Mew at Rough Trade and The Growlers at Irving Plaza all in the same weekend
Baeb Rxxth the week after at Rockwood Music Hall
Bought a ticket to see The Cure at Madison Square Garden in March 2016!
Saw Autre Ne Veut live at Bowery Ballroom (October was a really good live music month for me!)

November - Began rehearsals for I Could Never Love Anyone
Sang in Broadway Comes To Bell fundraiser
Saw my friend from Portland, singer songwriter Moorea Masa, perform at Bowery Poetry Club 
Held a free seminar for international actors about immigration and casting
Performed a 15 minute stand-up set (written by me) at The People's Improv Theatre aka The PIT
Celebrated a Friendsgiving in place of Thanksgiving

December - went to my first live team sporting event, became a New York Islanders hockey fan
Went back to ballet classes

Which brings us up to date with right now.  Of course a lot more things happened - I went to auditions that I'm proud of, took part in play readings and workshops, did a lot of writing of songs and bits of stories/plays, choreographed a lot of tap, spent time with friends, saw Dan and The Fine Machines perform multiple times, gained some new very important friendships and deepened some old ones, discovered new and wonderful things to eat and drink, read some fantastic books (This Is How You Lose Her, The Only Words Worth Remembering and Love In The Time Of Cholera are my standouts), read a lot of plays, saw Natalia in two different plays, gone to fun parties, been proud of my friends, made some great salads, made new doggy pals, grown as an artist, grown as a human bean.

And it's not even the end of the year yet! But I'm glad I've done this review now, overall it's been sort of a banner year for me and it's worth remembering this stuff.  



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Home is where the art is

Both my roomies are creative wunderkinds. I brought both of them in to help out with some stuff for our event - Dan was going to provide mad guitar skills, David made us some amazing videos that were to be projected during the staged reading portion of the event.
I got to help a little in the making of some of these and I took pics, it was super fun and I'm in awe of the coolness of the stuff that David and his filmmaking partner Joe made.
The next evening Dan had a gig at Postcrypt Coffeehouse, a venue that has been part of Columbia University since 1894 and was huge in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 60s so I went to see him and his bandmate Nate play some amazing original songs.

Whirlwind

A lot happened in the last week - some good some bad. In summary, had an event and suspended a lot of other things to work on event then event was cancelled (not my decision) and the lack of interest in using that time to create something made me lose my faith in some people and art in general for a minute there then I remembered the thing I recently wrote a whole blog about which is not everyone must create all the time and I wish they would but they just don't so that's that and I went to another hockey game Islanders beat the New Jersey Devils 4-0 props to goalie Thomas Greiss it was great I definitely had a hangover the next day it wasn't great I was frustrated multiple times with one of my day jobs but it could always be worse and I had some great rehearsals for I Could Never Love Anyone the contemporary dance piece I'm in which provides me with fulfillment and a lot of fun with my two co-dancers Nicky and Matias also we had a board meeting which made me have a lot of feelings and think I need to do some tough evaluation of some stuff...but not right now because it's right before Christmas and I need to finish my cards!
Ahhh.

Oh also I spent Saturday night taking care of Bobby, Lauren came over and we watched the Vicar of Dibley Christmas episodes in bed and I made about 50 cookies. The next day it was nearly 70 degrees farenheit aka tshirt weather. What???

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Let's Go Islanders (Friday Dec 4th)

Last night Jacob and I went to our FIRST EVER HOCKEY GAME!
And my first ever major professional team sports event.

New York Islanders beat St Louis Blues 2-1 in a shoot out after the game was tied 1-1 by the time the final buzzer went. Goali Thomas Greiss brought his A game and saved both Blues penalty shots. Because Blues are a bunch of whiny entitled man children who deserve to be taken dooown!

It was so much fun, we had beer and hot dogs and at first we were mostly giggling at our complete naiveté about the whole thing and not knowing what was going on but by the end of the first quarter my inner loud hockey fan had risen from within and I got really invested. It's a pretty spectacular thing to be in a space that large watching players go so fast. I can confirm what I've been told by many that ice hockey is a really fun sport to watch live - think about it, even if it was kind of a shit game with no shots taken or no great saves it's still amazing to watch them skate with so much skill and speed while handling a stick and a puck also at high speed.

No fights broke out...I'm generally not for violence but just once so I'd have the experience I wouldn't mind seeing a hockey fight. After all this sport is kind of famous for fisticuffs.

The feeling of walking out of a stadium at which the home team just pulled off a great victory with a tide of joyous home team fans is pretty great too. Hockey, I am officially on board.

Unrelated - earlier this week I took my first full ballet class in... a while. I'm gonna say maybe 2 years? It was wonderful and I'm happy to say it's all still there - you don't get drilled by Vanessa and Victoria for most of your life and just forget about it. Any situation like this makes me really proud to be a Vanessa girl because as I've said before we are not flashy, we are not commercial, we are not dealing in spectacle it's just good, consistent, solid classical training and it stands the test of time and is responsible for my versatility in styles. I was never born to be a ballerina, don't have the legs feet or build for it, but I understand the technique and requirements inside out and can push to get as close to them as I can anyway.

But also it is now 3 days later and my calves are still burning ow.

Let's Go Islanders (Friday Dec 4th)

Last night Jacob and I went to our FIRST EVER HOCKEY GAME!
And my first ever major professional team sports event.

New York Islanders beat St Louis Blues 2-1 in a shoot out after the game was tied 1-1 by the time the final buzzer went. Goali Thomas Greiss brought his A game and saved both Blues penalty shots. Because Blues are a bunch of whiny entitled man children who deserve to be taken dooown!

It was so much fun, we had beer and hot dogs and at first we were mostly giggling at our complete naiveté about the whole thing and not knowing what was going on but by the end of the first quarter my inner loud hockey fan had risen from within and I got really invested. It's a pretty spectacular thing to be in a space that large watching players go so fast. I can confirm what I've been told by many that ice hockey is a really fun sport to watch live - think about it, even if it was kind of a shit game with no shots taken or no great saves it's still amazing to watch them skate with so much skill and speed while handling a stick and a puck also at high speed.

No fights broke out...I'm generally not for violence but just once so I'd have the experience I wouldn't mind seeing a hockey fight. After all this sport is kind of famous for fisticuffs.

The feeling of walking out of a stadium at which the home team just pulled off a great victory with a tide of joyous home team fans is pretty great too. Hockey, I am officially on board.

Unrelated - earlier this week I took my first full ballet class in... a while. I'm gonna say maybe 2 years? It was wonderful and I'm happy to say it's all still there - you don't get drilled by Vanessa and Victoria for most of your life and just forget about it. Any situation like this makes me really proud to be a Vanessa girl because as I've said before we are not flashy, we are not commercial, we are not dealing in spectacle it's just good, consistent, solid classical training and it stands the test of time and is responsible for my versatility in styles. I was never born to be a ballerina, don't have the legs feet or build for it, but I understand the technique and requirements inside out and can push to get as close to them as I can anyway.

But also it is now 3 days later and my calves are still burning ow.

Ode to a stalwart friend/musings

I'm gonna spoil things now, it's not a human friend its a coffee place/deli.

Oh Guy and Gallard on 28th and 7th how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Your staff are all polite and friendly with genuine warmth and character not corporate roboticism.

You have the best possible coffee set up - a row of large urns from which one can serve oneself and choose from a variety of roasts and flavours ensuring me the perfect amount of room for milk and combination of vanilla and hazelnut coffee.

You have multiple jugs of whole, skimmed, semi skimmed and soy milk so I never have to hover awkwardly near the counter waiting for someone to have a free second to pass me a carton of soy milk or whatever they've run out of out front.

You have BOTH kinds of coffee lids so that people like me who are driven mad by the flimsier ones that are completely flat and have a little flap that can be snapped closed over the drinking spout have the option of the sturdier, duplex-style lid without a fiddly flap.

You have all the bagel types - you have GARLIC bagels. Noone else has garlic bagels and they are amazing. Also they always toast the bagel the perfect amount and put the ideal slathering of cream cheese - not so much it makes it soggy if you have it to go, but enough that you get a good gobful of delicious creamy goodness every bite.

They can keep their Starbucks, their Think their Birch and their Grumpy. Have Konditori, have Caffe Bene even...and it pains me to say this even Momofuku Milk Bar home of the pastrami and sauerkraut- stuffed roll...ow.

G&G you're the one for me, brightening my Wednesday and Thursday mornings cos that's when I work in Chelsea one block south of you.
Small things like this are what make life really wonderful.

Also making life wonderful:
Woman in Chains by Tears for Fears ft. Oleta Adams. I meeeaaan come ON is there a greater yearning ballad than this? I've listened to it on repeat since yesterday evening.

I just came from dance rehearsal for I Could Never Love Anyone, the dance piece in which I play a facet of the protagonists' many addictions. It's a based-on-real-story piece that explores how addiction affects and individual and those around the individual and represents it as more than a simple 'person with problem' struggle by addressing that there are different types, different stages, different motivations. It gets pretty dark but has some moments of redemption. It's choreographed by my friend Katie Pettit who I've danced for and with several times now and I've mentioned before on this blog how I enjoy dancing her choreo because she really utilises pedestrian movements and non-genre specific steps which allow her dancers to infuse them with our own unique styles. Everything isn't 'look I'm daaaahncing' which can so easily be one-note. It can be spectacular but still one note. Like how a singer belting to the rafters and riffing every single note can be breathtaking but after a while can leave you a bit cold and longing for a slightly more real, human moment. I like to think that we are trying to be the real human moments in are world where spectacle often comes first.
Plus this piece has existed for a while but it's being expanded and it feels really good to be participating in the creation of art from the ground up.

I've been thinking a lot about that recently - about the notion of myself as an artist.
It's something I've been reluctant to adopt as a label pretty much forever. I don't know if that's my rough and tumble salt of the earth upbringing or some insecurity I've developed since being here but I can't remember ever being like 'oh yes I am an artist' and not feeling like it was pretentious in some way. I think maybe it's because I didn't feel I'd earned it.

My dear friend Jess is an artist - there is concrete (well, steel) proof of that in the welded sculptures her house is filled with and before those came along there were her paintings and drawings of her various animals among other things and her musical gifts. Theodora has been studying digital anthropology for some time now but I'd still call her an artist before I'd call myself one. You can also see her beautiful sculptures, drawings, cartoons and songwriting if you care to look. Both my roommates are clearly artists first - the art forms they engage with are their second language and as much a part of their identity as their names, more so than any job.

For some reason this is a recent revelation but...I make art ALL THE TIME. I have so many creative outlets that I really need. This is not to say I am proficient in every form of art there is, far from it. But without my guitar to play around on and make music, my craft box to make collages and cards and posters and designs, this blog, my rotation of about 6 different notebooks in which I jot down songs, poems, essays and stories...hell without my wardrobe, which I use as one more forum to be creative and artistic...I don't really know who I'd be. And that's all the stuff that comes in my spare time outside of dance rehearsals and theater company meetings and singing in concerts. So I should stop being a dickhead and admit to being quite clearly an artist without shame. If anyone were to call me out on it - and there's no reason why they should but this is the weird insecurity that stops me from saying it proudly - it's not like I'm lying!
I know also that I have always done all of these things. Having art supplies and tinkering with music and writing for fun are second nature to me. Thanks, entire family of multi-talented creative people who don't necessarily identify as artists but clearly are! From that I realised that just because my experience of life has only been filled from the start with art doesn't mean everyone's has, even people who are currently engaged in creative pursuits i.e. acting.  That might be the only for of art in which they are involved.

It sounds really silly but this really has come as a surprise to me - of course I know there are people who don't identify as creative or artistic, I know they exist buy I don't know any of them...turns out I do. Plenty of people did not grow up drawing and singing and writing poems and dressing up in costumes and pretty much I have to be better at embracing that and having patience that everyone doesn't care about handmade cards and decorations or other things that are really important to me. Huh. I have genuinely been frustrated over a lack of creativity in others before which is just so stupid and I'm sure those same people are frustrated at my lack of logic or something. To say someone is not creative is not derogatory and vice versa it's just different, and it has taken me 25 years to understand that not everyone is an artist but I am one and that's just great.
Weird musings!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankssleeping

Iiiit's Thanksgiving! The American holiday that originates with the destruction of indigenous peoples but more and more is being reclaimed by everyone who is not ok with celebrating *that* as a day for showing your love and gratitude to those around you.

For me at this point it's just a chance to show off and get accolades for my kitchen skillz.

I am not cooking a full meal this year thank goodness, nor am I hosting in any capacity. I will be going to a 'Friendsgiving' hosted by two of my favourite people the charming and beautiful Alison Blair and Ben Holbrook. Ali is on turkey detail. I'm bringing homemade cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and I'm thinking warm butternut squash and kale salad. Also may attempt something gluten free with pears and chocolate for a coeliac in our midst. I anticipate a warmth- and fun-filled day of relative ease.

Thank goodness cos I am exteeemely tired from a frantic 3 days multi-jobbing, soliciting businesses for donations to FTP event, dance rehearsing and having really fun talks with my talented roommates who have both been roped into playing music/creating video content for the staged reading at our event on the 15th. Fun stuff. I'm writing this as I carry shopping bags full of whipping cream, flour, squash and eggs around the city because the only time I had to shop was in my break between jobs today. Better that than the alternative which is going at 9pm when it will be carnage.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I forgot to include this...

This is the webpage for the Solocom show I was part of - 6 ladies doing 15 minute sets. Read all the way down to my show summary, it's my favourite part.

https://thepit-nyc.com/event/2015-11-20-solocom-character-kick-off-hosted-by-marshall-york

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mavericks

He's Maverick, I try to think like a maverick. Mav is helping me recover from a tiring but extremely creatively fulfilling weekend - I love this dog!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Get up Stand Up

Well I've never done THAT before.

In a nutshell, last night I did a 15(ish) minute stand up comedy set at the People's Improv Theatre in Manhattan.

Here's roughly how that came about.
I became Facebook friends with Peter Michael Marino, a comedy performer who had a show in Edinburgh this year. Yes he knows Ben - I found out after the show last night. Peter posted on Facebook about Solocom and he wrote 'just submit, write the show afterwards' so I did just that, thinking 'I won't be accepted because I don't have any past material or an improv background or anything else they're asking for'.
I submitted about 3 months ago, they accepted me about 2 months ago and about 2 days ago I ran my routine for the first time. I spent the 2 months since being accepted thinking 'I really need to write some material', occasionally writing some but not using it and answering the question 'what are you going to do?' with 'no idea, seriously none'.

You'd think that by 6pm yesterday an hour before the show I would've been FREAKING OUT. Lack of preparation, never done anything remotely like this before plus I was, through some clerical error, in a show of 15 minute solo shows which were all character comedy pieces. I didn't do a lot of planning but I do know that I never planned to do a character show. So I was the odd one out on top of everything else.

It's the damndest thing - not once in the past several weeks have I had a moment of 'oh God I can't do this'. I also never thought oh yeah I'm all over this, I know exactly what I'm doing. I can't explain - I kept waiting to be nervous yesterday before the show and the nerves didn't come. I did, once, say to myself 'what have I done?' But more in a funny way than a panicked way.

The girl before me, Sharon, was doing some crazy stuff with costumes and wigs and sound cues and music and really got the audience going (I was after her so I couldn't see her show but I watched her set up). And the evening's host Marshall York did his interstitial bit and he introduced me, I heard my name and walked onto the stage...it was like an out of body experience.

I'm so delighted that the audience was on board, they laughed a lot and in places I really wasn't expecting a laugh. I was really only expecting a couple and that was me being optimistic. So an amazing reaction but more than that I'm so happy that I've never felt more comfortable on a stage in my life.
I know, right? I've been on stage a lot, doing all different things and I don't get stage fright or anything but there are always pre-show butterflies and the clutch of fight or flight adrenaline. This - nothing. Not once. I can't understand it or believe it really because it doesn't make any sense to be that relaxed about something I've never done and barely prepared for.
And I was comfortable enough to riff some things on the spot - again, can't explain it don't know how it happened but they popped into my head and I said them and the audience LAUGHED...man.
Out of body experience.

Peter came into the dressing room afterwards and congratulated me and then said 'is Ben your brother?'
Yup, you got me - I'm trying to start a transatlantic Fairey solo show comedy monopoly.

The whole thing actually comes down to Ben cos if he hadn't done his show in Edinburgh he wouldn't have met Peter and become Facebook friends and he wouldn't have shared an article that Peter posted so I wouldn't have seen it and also shared it which is what led to Peter adding me on Facebook and me seeing the call for Solocom submissions PLUS if I hadn't just seen my brother perform a solo show in Edinburgh then no way would it have crossed my mind to submit. So thanks Ben!

Really glad I took a leap and put myself in a position to sink or swim, relying 100% on just me no props no costume no director no choreography. I hope I swam. I at least floated.

All the places *from Sunday 15th

Goings on about town...hmm what's been going on

Well.

I am in rehearsals for 'I Could Never Love Anyone', a piece of dance created by my choreographer friend Katie Pettit (remember her? She's been in this blog before) which explores the facets of addiction. I am one third of the 'hydra head' of the protagonist's addiction, that is to say we are no zoning in on one say specific addiction but addressing it as a whole but representing different elements with different dancers. It's pretty melancholy subject matter but not at all a melancholy group of dancers, I LOVE my two co-hydra head guys I've danced with them both before and hope to again, they're awesome. And I've met two new dancers which is always nice.

Last Monday I sang for the incomparable Kevin Winebold who I've known for the most random reason for nearly 3 years now (random reason being that we were both briefly members of a Jewish feminist tap group) he is the music director for a Methodist Church in Bayside Queens though his most recent pro gig was playing piano for Ringling Bros circus so you know he's the real deal. He puts together this annual fundraiser for the church, it's very laid back but really nice and they are a super appreciative community. Plus they raised $2000 for a malaria charity.
He really is one of the best accompanists I've ever worked with, so rock solid you could hand him any piece of music and perform it straight away no rehearsal without worrying at all, because he would follow the music meticulously while also following you for tempo, and if you mess up he goes right with you so noone knows. It's amazing, it's like the most relaxing scenario you could have as a singer. I sang Maybe This Time (for the second time with him) and For Good from Wicked - never sung it before in my life nor have I ever sung with Morgan before. As I said Kevin is rock solid and I know both parts the song extremely well so only having one run through 5 minutes before was not panic inducing. This whole thing is a great no pressure environment to just sing whatever you want with a mic and nice church acoustics.

Fundamental Theater Project are gearing up for a fundraiser evening on Dec 15th - getting donations, securing catering, staging a reading, trying to hook in some 'names', sending invitations to potential patrons. It's exciting but also very nerve racking - we have a wonderful and high end theater, we have a poster and a press release, we have a name secured to star in the reading sooo no backing down now.

And speaking of no backing down on Friday 20th come hell or high water I will be alone on a stage with 15 minutes to do...SOMETHING. What that will be is anyone's best guess. I don't have zero material anymore but I'm not entirely sure I won't just black out as soon as I step out. Here's to being a complete rookie!

I went to see The Martian with Lauren yesterday. Very good, very sciencey, very intense, almost made me want to be an astronaut until I remembered my mortal fear of hurtling untethered through space.

Right this minute I'm on my way to the Bowery Poetry Club to see the wonderful Moorea Masa play and sing. I met her in Portland because my Swisster* Wave found out I was there and told me to go and see her friend Moorea play a show...Wave's boyfriend attended the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts he's a rad saxophonist, Moorea also went there so Wave and Moorea met and somewhere in there Wave and I met, a few years after that I went to Portland and Wave found out and told me to go see her friend Moorea perform, I did, she opened her mouth to sing and I fell in love with everything she does because she's unbelievable, she defies superlatives and the rest is history...well not history because it's only 5 months since we met BUT Moorea was in NYC doing some gigs and she told me about the one tonight to which I said YES...and I started this post before going in and I'm finishing it after coming out. Needless to say I am many things now...blown away...overflowing...possibly overblown? Anyway
Let me try to explain what just happened because it's important.
There is a man called Sean who runs a monthly night at Bowery Poetry Club called Symphonics Live. It's a variety of performers - I enjoyed a rock band, beatboxers, freestyle rappers, spoken word poetry, avant garde neo soul piano, a bunch of Broadway actors utilising hidden talents, a couple of multi-musician live jams, and at the center of it all Moorea who is captivating, she's iridescent...she's a lot of words that could also be applied to a unicorn now I think about it except that she is not a mythical creature she's flesh and blood but she sounds like a mythical creature...

It was such a warm, loving and respectful room of people, performers and audience alike. People used the evening as a forum to express their sadness over the events of the weekend and their gratitude that they have this medium, music, to help people understand how they feel. It made me think of how the arts always takes a big hit in terms of funding for schools and programmes whenever cuts need to be made...I understand the difference between needing money for hospitals and needing money for arts, we all do. But for millenia, art has been the thing that draws people together out of emotional need not intellectual interest and the world needs good, pure artists with no agenda beyond sharing their gift in the hope of shining a light on something more than it needs a new iPhone.

This evening was just the tonic and I feel fully restored after a week of feeling fine  but spiritually underfed. 

Title of this blog is a song by a group called Made In Heights that I want to choreograph to. Right now also listening on repeat to a song called LA Lately by Israel Nash, swoony acousticy psychedelicy stuff.

Friday, November 13, 2015

#prayforParis

I'm reading updates as they come on the nightmarish events in Paris.  My heart hurts for the people there and for all my dear French friends. It's not fair that such a thing could happen. There are no words really but I feel very sad and want to put my condolences out into the universe.

#prayforParis

I'm reading updates as they come on the nightmarish events in Paris.  My heart hurts for the people there and for all my dear French friends. It's not fair that such a thing could happen. There are no words really but I feel very sad and want to put my condolences out into the universe.

The Beauty Myth and Ugly Truth

Something happened over the Halloween weekend that shook me up. This is going to be a long and unapologetic one, buckle up.

I was on my way home on the 3 train.
There are a series of heinous ads on the subway that showed up sometime just before the summer, as I remember anyway, for a plastic surgery place on the upper east side. These ads are not subtle, they are not clever. My least favourite one features a young woman holding two clementines in front of her chest and making a sad face. Next to that image is another image of her, this time holding two grapefruit in front of her chest and beaming with joy. Subliminal, right?
No. Absolutely disgusting. It's hard for me to explain what is wrong with that because I become frustrated at how glaringly obvious it is and yet there are those who just don't get it.
Summary: implying that women - and it is exclusively women, there are no men in any of these ads and they all refer to female not male anatomy - will be happier when they have permanently altered their bodies through surgery is fundamentally wrong.  It preys on women's insecurities, insecurities that were created in the first place by the 'beauty' industry, and attacks women on a basic psychological level, telling them 'you are not good enough as you are' and 'you don't deserve to be happy with the way you were born'.
I believe in maintaining a healthy BMI, I believe that if you are unhappy with something about your body and it's within the power of diet and exercise to change it then by all means you should make it happen. I also believe that there are things about human bodies that cannot be altered through diet and exercise. Aesthetic perfection is a man-made ideal and the culture surrounding it exists for precisely one reason: so a few people can make big money.  They promote dissatisfaction with self, then tell you they have the magic fix for that dissatisfaction, so they must be good guys right? We are being held hostage.

There is a feminist collective who have been putting stickers over these ads and other obvious violations of women's equal right to healthy self-esteem that read simply 'This insults women'.
I firmly advocate for this - it's a very not aggressive way of keeping the conversation open and also reminding people not to BELIEVE what the advertisers want you to, because you do not have to. Anything that provokes discussion in a harmless way is good.

And discussion it provoked. Some stupid teenager stood up, took a pen from his pocket and doctored the sticker to read 'this helps women's confidence'.

He sat down again and I looked at him. He smirked at me and asked what, so I nodded to the sticker.
He proceeded to tell me that 'yo guys want women to look good if it makes a woman feel good to get a bigger booty she should be allowed to'
Let's break down some of what's wrong with that quickly:
- So? Womens choices are not to be dictated by what men want
- The only reason many women feel the need to change their appearance drastically through surgery is because they have been unfairly duped into thinking it will improve everything in their life
- The stickers do NOT deny a woman's right to choose surgery or not they merely state the accurate fact that to suggest women should have 'mommy makovers' et al is insulting

He also told me that it was whoevers right to put the sticker there just as it was his right to deface it.  Which...well they're both technically not allowed but let's assume they are for a minute - yeah its your right, I suppose. You're not actually hurting anyone directly...but by so openly admitting to being part of the problem you're hurting a lot of people indirectly whereas the stickers are there to defend not hurt. So yes technically speaking you can do it but it is not your ethical right to deface a piece of media that is part of a wider campaign to protect.

Mommy makeovers is the one that really killed me. This is an industry that wants women to inject toxins into their bodies and also apparently negate the pride they should feel in their bodies' ability to create life by reversing the physical effects of pregnancy as fast as possible after giving birth or something.  It's hard to believe that there are human beings behind these campaigns, who must have their own mothers daughters and sisters. Or their own female bodies.

So I had a brief and pointless exchange with this kid where I was mostly too gobsmacked to say anything useful but I just wanted to know if he really thought those ads helped women's confidence. He really did. Then he got off just as I was about to start seeing red so it was good timing. The other passengers were looking at me - a couple with some trepidation and a couple with support. A middle aged couple got up and came down the train car to look at the sticker and ask me what he'd been saying so I told them. The woman was great and also likes the stickers, and another girl from down the train called out her agreements.

I was still feeling pretty enraged so I said most of what I've written here during our discourse...and then the little fucker GOT BACK ON THE TRAIN and walked right into the conversation. So this time the woman spoke to him asking him why he did that. A favourite answer of his was 'that's how the world is' and 'welcome to America'...so it's not like we were dealing with a seasoned debator or something and yet the part of my brain that says 'there is no point having this argument this guy is a moron' was having a snooze (it's usually having a snooze to be honest) so I saw red and went back in feet first. I asked him if he has a mother or sisters and he said yes he has 3 sisters. And I suggested that he imagine someone telling his sisters that they are valued purely on their appearance which must adhere to a strict formula at any cost. And he charmingly said that he was honest with his sisters and he'd 'tell them that they are pieces of meat' because, all together now, that's how the world is.
By this point I'm almost spitting fury and raising my voice and really getting ready to throw down (the other woman was still valiantly defending reason too) and around about that point he
a) devolved into shouting about being a troll and how fun it was for him to witness our anger
b)mocking feminism in general using a whiny voice
c) began the sentence 'it's like with race...' at which point I shouted him down
d) got off the train but not before threatening to fuck up the woman's husband.

So a real class act and beacon of logic.
I KNOW you can't argue with people who are willfully ignorant, I KNOW you shouldn't 'feed the trolls'. I know. I know getting in a loud fight on the train with a complete lunatic isn't the answer. But dear god...you also can't just let them go about their day doing and saying whatever they like with the pure intention to upset. You just can't. If EVERYONE in that train car had stood up, come over and said to him 'you are wrong, you are ignorant and you will be despised your whole life for your nasty hurtful attitude' - I don't think he would have changed at all but at least he would not have been able to continue with his pathetic agenda in the face of a united front. But there is never a united front. He represents a much bigger problem. What if every time that kind of behaviour was witnessed, everyone stood up to it? It might be a hundred train car graffiti idiots not listening and not caring BUT what if the 101st one was contested by a train full of people and actually learned something from it? That's one less agent of the bigger problem.

I will also point out that the images in these ads are nothing to do with any notion of beauty beyond a very narrow western ideal. The images promote being thin, cellulite and stretch mark free, having big boobs and a golden brown tan. So really not reflective of what a variety of people actually consider beautiful. I have a favourite book set in a Jamaican village which describes women who are considered beautiful as being 'nice an' fat with a bumpa botty' - use your imagination. I'm not going down that rabbit hole now but that's another big problem staring us right in the face - 'ladies if you want to feel better about your lives and your looks you should get this popular look that some guys made up a while ago and advertised it until it came true! Don't worry if you're not a thin white girl with a tan because SURGERY' god.

After he and the couple had got off I looked around and apologised to the train in general. The girl sitting further down was very kind and agreed with me while reminding me that he was an idiot and not worth it.
The two guys sitting opposite me looked kind of terrified which is funnyish now...but they both had a comment along the lines of 'I don't get why its a big deal if women want surgery why shouldn't they have it'

Even just writing that makes me want to flop to the ground in sheer despair.
Let's reiterate:

The ads for plastic surgery on the subway are NOT championing a woman's right to choose the fate of her own body. They are not denying it either. They are subliminally undermining her satisfaction with her body by presenting a tummy tuck, mommy makeover or facelift as something that will improve her life, something that she really ought to invest in - the very existence of these ads does that BECAUSE Like the vast majority of advertising, they are trying to convince you that you NEED something - because if you don't think you need it why would you buy it? They falsify a need to sell a product it's as simple as that, there is no deeper message here and imagining that there is an agenda beyond financial gain is naïve.

So these two poor scared blokes, who probably should've just kept quiet honestly, chimed in. They did try to mitigate slightly - they were genuinely confused it seems. I gave them some suggested reading and encouraged them simply to put themselves in the place of those who are targeted by these subway ads. Empathy could go a long way and I find it strange that so many people don't think of doing that first then speaking.

After I'd given a milder rapid fire diatribe attempting to debunk the myth that ads for plastic surgery on women are anything more than propaganda meant to perpetuate a cycle of unhappiness and therefore big money spent on a 'fix', everything was quiet. I cooled down from borderline combustion to smouldering embers. I got to my stop, left the train, walked home, sat on my bed and burst into tears. The whole hideous incident made me feel utterly helpless and like there is just no hope for humanity or the planet.
Luckily my ace roommate and his ace girlfriend arrived home shortly after and I recounted the tale. They immediately understood everything wrong with what had happened, David offered up a number of both brilliant and hilarious suggestions for dealing with those kind of people and Christina shared some of her own experiences of disgusting ignorance and sexism - I am not alone and there must be some hope after all because the people understanding my frustration are so much cooler and cleverer than most people who don't.
I also posted on social media about the incident which I don't do a lot but enough people responded with support that I didn't feel like a lone crusader against complete imbecility.

The one final thing that upset me a little was that the response from a couple of people was 'he sounds like a stupid guy don't worry about him' which is well meaning but completely misses the point. It's not the individual, it's the pervasive attitude held by too many individuals. I'm not ranting and crying because a boy was mean to me on the train. I'm shouting because an entire sector of the population is willing to accept that psychologically manipulating women to aspire to unrealistic beauty standards is an ok thing to do and I will not stop shouting about it any time soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ode to Roommates

In the US they're called roommates so that's what I'm using.

Roommates old and current. I have been so unbelievably lucky to have lived with four specific people who have not just been the people I live with, they've been fully fledged friends.
I still refer to Jacob and Lola as my roommates and obviously Dan and David who are my roommates now.
It's a rare and special thing to make new friends in any case once you're outside the world of school or uni or if you don't have the kind of steady job where you can have work friends. It's also a rare and special thing to move in with close friends and remain close friends, and also to move in with someone you are only acquainted with and end up counting them as one of your best friends and kindred spirits.
I can never express enough my appreciation for these people and how they enrich my life and make the place I live a home.  Happy thought of the day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Play by Play

This is Autre Ne Veut who I went to see last Monday. His real name is Arthur. He sings with a gravelly falsetto and makes yearning r'nb with dark currents of synth running through the bass, drums and gospelly backing vox.  I'm fully addicted to the song Play by Play. He puts on an awesome live show. As electronic as the music sounds recorded, it's played on stage with live instruments and singers. Props to his excellent band. He also brings it, and has the kind of vocal rasp live where you feel like he might not make a note, but he unfailingly does - it's just one of those freak voices that operates in a unique way.
For now I've run out of bands to go and see so I need to check the latest wave of concert announcement emails that have me on their mailing list.

Maverick

My newest doggy best pal is Maverick the beautiful retriever, he's the dopiest, squishiest best full-grown dog I've met in the city so far. We obviously became instant best friends. Lauren was dogsitting him at the time filling in for Alison. Lauren got tired of him very quickly so I came over to give him some fuss. He's the greatest.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A retrospective of my past year, ish, in the music that defined it

I'd encourage anyone reading this list to listen to as many tracks as they can cos I have a pretty broad spectrum of things I love although maybe lean heavier towards electro-y artists on the key tracks list because hey those are the ones I'm discovering at the most rapid rate. Just how it is right now. But really at least try the tracks by the key artists I've named below...I guarantee you'll find something you like. Also Harvard by Diet Cig always makes me grin.

Key tracks:

Time Will Tell - Blood Orange
Claret - Sophie
They All Want You/Hold On We're Going Home/The Habit/Pursuit of Happiness - Lissie
Say My Name - Odesza
Harvard - Diet Cig
These Arms/Lazarus - Active Child
Don't Wanna Fight - Alabama Shakes
Pedestrian At Best - Courtney Barnett
Red - Mt. Wolf
Drive - Marissa Nadler
Water Slides - Mew
Makes a King - The Very Best
Life Coach - Fang Island
Chandelier - Sia
Meet Me In The Park - evan^patrick
Cold Nites - How To Dress Well
Ego Free Sex Free - Autre Ne Veut
It's Not Right but It's Okay - Chrvches
Broken Blue - Hundred Waters
The Right Type - Chromeo
Distance - Emily King
Think I Need It Too - Echo and the Bunnymen
Oblivion - M83 ft Susan Sondstrøm
Gutter - Baeb Rxxth
Geneva - Kindness
Don't You Worry/Night Bus - Lucy Rose
Float On - Modest Mouse
Nothing Even Matters - Lauryn Hill
EarthEE - THEESatisfaction
Soul on Fire - Spiritualized
Beside You - Van Morrison
Cigarettes and Coffee - Otis Redding

Key artists - new favourites
Blood Orange
Sophie
THEESatisfaction
The Very Best
Courtney Barnett

Key artists - returning favourites
Lissie
Active Child
Modest Mouse

Old made new -
Otis Redding
Lauryn Hill
Van Morrison
Echo and the Bunnymen

Important questions for New Yorkers

Written on Monday when it was cold:
It is officially chilly. Not yet freezing but chilly. I'm into long sleeved jammies, boots, parka and scarves that are both decorative AND warm.

So please SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME
Why any woman or man in NYC would walk around with a long, expensive, high quality wool coat - and HIGH HEELED COURT SHOES WITH NO SOCKS
And trousers that are cropped to a chic just-above-the-ankle. Why? What the fuck is the point of the huge ass coat if you're going to have frozen blue feet and ankles? Idiocy to the degree of unbearable. Today I did also see people in tshirts and denim jackets as their entire upper body coverage so apparently the weather makes people not just cold but stupid.

Question two is for people with tiny bags. Small handbags or satchels. Small. To the carriers of small bags I want to say 'how?'
How is that you can get through your day with the minimal amount of stuff you can carry in that bag? Do you live everywhere? You can always go home and get stuff that you need because you live everywhere? Is the person next to you with the backpack actually someone you have hired to carry your real stuff? Or is your life just incredibly empty?
I don't buy the 'Tessa they are just better than you at taking only the bare essentials' argument I can feel hanging in the air. Assuming you are going out in the morning for a fairly typical day, here are the bare essentials: phone, keys, wallet, water bottle, lip balm, book, headphones, snacks/packed meal, change of clothes either for going out/rehearsal/audition/working out/going to your signiciant other's place/whatever it is you might do after work, canvas bag/alternative bag to put purchases in so you don't need a plastic bag, emergency layer for when the temperamental New York weather unexpectedly drops a few degrees without warning, hand sanitiser, moisturising lotion, makeup/personal grooming stuff, tampons when necessary, work projects, umbrella...
These are all 100% necessary for me to sanely manage any kind of day. What do these people do that they have such tiny bags? What if they need a plaster or deodorant or just anything that humans need on a regular basis?
I was just behind a girl coming out of the subway at noon on a Thursday and she had a very small purse bag...and that was it. A bag big enough to fit a phone, maybe a pack of tissues and a metrocard. What are you doing with your day, madam? What intense amount of nothing are you doing that you can breeze around town with only those things? Especially suspicious since we were in Columbia University territory. If we'd been in a hot shopping district I could believe that she was just going to go swipe crazy with the credit card that could feasibly fit into her miniature bag but in that area there are cheap student eating establishments, stationery shops and child-friendly book and ice cream places. I want to know what her life entails and I want to know now.

One day I'll just ask someone outright 'hey, why have you smothered your upper body in incredibly expensive wool and left your ankles exposed to the elements?' And 'hey do you have a car following you with all the stuff you actually need for life in this city or are you a very vapid person who really does only need a phone and some cash?'

Grr unreasonable rant over. I'm right though.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Edit:

It's a four-gig week! Live music on Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and - surprise! - also Saturday. I love this week! I'm at Rough Trade once again to see a Danish band called Mew who make dream pop indie rock and with the purchase of their latest album +- I have the wristband to see them do an afternoon acoustic show.
More live music, more more more!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The week in gigs

This is a two-gig week! Last night I went to see Lissie play an acoustic set at Rough Trade. Tonight I'm seeing The Growlers at Irving Plaza.

Lissie, a singer songwriter from Illinois who I have loved for about 6 years, was predictably stellar. She is amazing I can't say enough good things about her. Especially in contrast to her two support acts - singer songwriter girl and singer songwriter boy. They were both good, decent songs lovely voices, stage presence. Or so you think until Lissie comes out and blows the roof off with her warmth, genuine appreciation for her fans, lack of preaching/overshare between songs (singer songwriter boy was too smug for my liking) her pure rock n roll energy and her VOICE. Her voice is nuts. Her records don't do it justice. The sound of just her and an acoustic guitar is so moving, she has a great rasp but is still resonant and clear as a bell - positively sonorous, in fact. Plus there's a pretty, sweet tone. All of that in one go. Come on.
She's also great because she's not doing a 'thing'. She's not going 'I'm a retro revival soul singer' a la Adele. She's not going 'I'm kooky and acerbic' a la Lorde. She's certainly not going 'I wear my heart on my sleeve and I don't care who knows it! FEEELIIIIINGS/aren't I adorable' a la Taylor Swift. She just writes songs and then sings them. You can draw sound comparisons to perhaps Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac. You can say there's a good amount of country sensibility in some songs, deliberately so. She has uptempo poppy numbers, and throwback rock n roll numbers, yearning ballads, folk and country inspired narratives. But she just wrote songs and they came out that way, there's no agenda.

She's kind of the ultimate flipside to the Taylor Swift coin in fact. Some years ato two pretty long-legged blonde girls learned to play the guitar.

One wrote candy pop songs about teenage heartbreak, tween girls began to worship her as a prophet, she made a fuck ton of money and played huge stadium tours with big name guest stars, she bought a crazy expensive apartment in New York, made friends with lots of other pretty tall famous girls, wrote catchy pop hits about her media feuds and public persona, and achieved huge fame and fortune.

One wrote folky rock n roll, wore jeans and tshirts 24/7, released a record and played music festivals and small venues, was loved deeply by her fans, continued to write solid songs that she just felt like writing about her home/love/family/ environmentalism - whatever was important to her, lived on a farm in Iowa, carried on wearing jeans and tshirts for all her gigs, carried on playing non-stadium venues, released more great music and some excellent covers.

She played such a good set with 200% energy and commitment throughout. You felt like she was having a good time and was happy to be in a room with all these people who enjoy her songs.  She is a real person who communicates naturally and generously. She treats her fans like actual  friends without all the screaming and hugging and selfie-taking.

Err yes I quite like Lissie did I mention?

On to The Growlers...meh.
Disappointingly meh. I will say I'm in no way a die hard Growlers fan as I am Lissie so that probably didn't help my perception. They write what they have deemed 'beach goth' - fuzzy guitars, vocal effects, 1960s doo wop rhythms and studied nonchalance. The songs are good, if I was having a barbecue or party they'd make great ambience music, I have them on when I read or cook sometimes. I like The Growlers.
Except now I'm kind of cross with them. They gave zero energy to a one hour set. There are six solid band members, they put a pretty big emphasis on lights and backdrop FX so half the work is done for them in terms of looking interesting while standing and playing songs. They had a good crowd who were ready to party. And they just walked their way through the whole set. I didn't get any energy from them until the last song and encore as if they were glad to be done. The songs sound good live although it really highlighted how similar a lot of them are - nooooot great in my book. It makes them seem like lazy songwriters who are more dedicated to maintaining their 'thing' - in this case beach goth - than in writing songs that are just plain good.
Also the balance wasn't fantastic - vox were fuzzy beyond the point of cool effects and to the point of rendering the lead singer ineffective. Some things that work well on a record did not translate that well. Maybe it was just whoever was on sound that evening but either way not a great factor.

And so. I stayed, I bopped, I listened. Overall I was not that impressed and was struck by the vast gap between The Growlers with bells and whistles sleepwalking through a set and Lissie, alone, acoustic guitar, no effects, no wacky lighting and a driven, outstanding live show. Also she was one hour later at night than they were. No excuse, Growlers. Having said all that I'm very glad I saw them I've been meaning to for about two years.

In other music news: where will I be next June 18th?
Madison Square Garden seeing The Cure that's where!!!

Where will I be this Sunday night?
Rocking out to my awesome roommate's awesome band The Fine Machines at Rockwood Music Hall that's where!

This is a really really good music week for me.