November 20, 2008

San Francisco-Stabilizing

The past couple of weeks, I was out in sunny California, enjoying myself, getting away from my life. It was very stabilizing. I had moments of "I can do no wrong, here, I keep enjoying myself!" which I have not felt in years.
During the first 5 days, I took Mira Betz's first weeklong intensive, geared towards deepening performance/voice as an artist. She is such full-of-integrity woman that all the other women who took the intensive (she kept it to just 12 of us) displayed that quality too. We went deeper and broader into our lives, into ethics and history, into critique and trust, into the murky waters of tortured artists' minds than I thought was possible for a 'bellydance' workshop. I made good friends in the workshop, and got to visit with BrieAnn (one of my original students from OmBellyCo up in Boston) outside of class. I stayed with Troy and Tiffanie (and brand new Anjali!) in their cozy, love-filled Berkeley home.

After the workshop, I moved in with Mira for the duration of my stay. We worked on our pieces for Shadowdance, helping one another with proper costuming, listening to musical transitions, throwing ideas at one another for feedback. It was very interesting for me to spend that time with Mira after having just taken a workshop with her--got to practice what I'd just learned, got to see what aspects in her creative process she listens to her own advice on, and which parts of her creative process she didn't even mention in her workshop because they're just part of Who She Is. Mostly, though, I was just enjoying spending time with her in her life--going to Professor Plumb and having lunch with her and Eve, getting to know Joe, making dinners together, going to parties together, going to her weekly dance class with her, poking fun at Tjarda (director of The Uzume, the tribal dance troupe in Amsterdam, who is staying with Mira for 5 months--she's SO FUN), disciplining Maceo, the dog, and petting Akasha, the 19 yr old Snowshoe kitty.

My time spent out there was capped with Shadowdance, the all-night (7pm-2am) show, put on by Ariellah (Darker Still Productions) and Amar (of Electric Vardo). It's supposed to be the "darker side of bellydance," so there was plenty of goth-themed performances--some great, some not so great...but the scene as a whole was stimulating, rich, and very very enjoyable. I didn't get to see a lot of the performances because I was busy flitting around, chatting, visiting, helping with costume changes, stretching, etc. But one of the highlights of the evening was Elysium Dance Theater's victorian, hallowed women peice "Diffidence" (I want to see it again! The caliber was so high, they shouldn't have been there. But I'm glad they were. Amazingly thought through). At the end of the evening, a couple girls drew blood and drank it from eachother (and I want to see this because....??), followed by CoRE's suspension performance (where a person hangs from hooks from the ceiling, and some other guys skewer him with other long needles which they then light on fire). I heard things like, "That is so bad-ass," when CoRE was performing, but I must say that I don't really understand the impetus. I have enough pain/drama in my life without creating it like that... Anyway, the thing that made me most excited and happy about that night was that so many people came just to see me! Kelly Hobbs, a friend from Powell County, who made a music video of me when I was 15 and he was in college, stopped by. He didn't know what sort of gathering it was going to be, so he stepped into the goth, dark, warehouse full of vampy, black-wearing people in a bright red Hawaiian shirt (hee hee! I loved that that's what he wore. I felt like I was the unwitting bringer of joy to the place (o: ). Pam, who was a student of mine at the Westborough YMCA in MA, came--she said she still missed my classes, awwwwww. Shannon, who was a grad student at the vet school, and a friend and other dance student of mine, came with her boyfriend Dean. And then Mary Jane, who was a great friend of Kaelan's (my best friend from high school out in Powell Co.), came with her boyfriend Charles. I so humbled and grateful and happy that these four people came to witness my catharsis (my 'dark' piece was about the tangled messes I've found myself in the past few years, and then how to deal with all that devastation, pain, mourning). The whole time I was out there I felt loved and supported.
The trip was marvelous.

[pics: Tiffanie, Anjali, Julie; Claivia in Berkeley; obligatory Golden Gate Bridge pic; moonrise over Albany; me walking around Fisherman's Wharf; after Mira's class--workshop participants!; dog looking around near Dolores Park; beautiful flowering tree on my walk through the Mission district; Opa Cupa, the amazing band I blogged about already; Rich, BrieAnn and I just after seeing the horrible Natacha Atlas show]

November 17, 2008

I saw some pictures of Deyrolle, a french taxidermy museum in Paris that burned down in February, and this one

reminded me of a picture from my own house burning down:

November 8, 2008

Opa Cupa

Last night I went to see Opa Cupa, a group from Italy, play in conjunction with some local San Franciscan musicians at the Freight and Salvage in North Berkeley. It was so fucking phenomenal. The trumpet player, keyboardist & drummer were the Italians, and the bassist, violin player, singers and doumbek/etc percussionist were from here. The musicians were all such characters--I just sat and stared at them, laughing out loud at their awesomeness and muppet-like qualities. The trumpeter looks like Hugh Grant, with foppish hair and hit beats with his hips as he manically whizzed his fingers over the buttons on his instrument, sometimes taking one hand to slap the side of the trumpet while he played. The drummer looked like SideShowBob with bright orange curly hair bobbing in the air as he played. The keyboardist screwed up his face as he attacked the keys, gesturing wildly with one hand while playing with the other. The bassist is regarded as the best slap-bassist in the world, and I could hardly see his hands, he moved them so quickly on his all-but-falling-apart 7ft tall bass. He had it on his knee at one point, rocking out like it was a guitar, and at the end, he threw the enormous instrument up into the air and played it upside down, defying gravity and bringing the house into even wilder ruckus. One of the singers had an absolutely operatic voice with highs and lows like you wouldn't believe. It was all pretty incredible.

And Then, we went to the after party, where most of the musicians (plus several more) showed up and we got to hear a up-close and personal house-party jam session version of the crazy Balkanesque music. In all, the instruments played at one time:
upright bass
Bulgarian lute
Chinese fiddle
other percussion thing
It was crazy and so so awesome. Yeah!!!!
For your viewing/listening pleasure-- some of my night:

November 4, 2008

I'm still registered to vote out in Powell County, and I love casting my vote out there at the Middlefork Fire Department. (Any fontophiles out there that are as perplexed as me as to why the R is lowercase when the rest of MIDDLEFOrK is capitalized?) First, it's a great excuse to drive out of the city and get some fresh air, and re-set my perspective. The autumn colors were really lovely, lots of yellow, similar in hue to the yellow flowers in this picture that was taken back in May when I last voted.

I love that when I enter the polling place, I am greeted by a neighbor of my dad's and then after a chat, I go to sign in--the woman asks my name, and replies, "Oh, your dad's a doctor," recognizing that I do in fact belong there even though she doesn't recognize my face, and dispelling with the need to check an I.D. It's so homey and friendly. And the wait was non-existent. Gladdens my heart.

Afterward, on my drive home, I stopped in Bowen at a cinderblock building with a marquee outside that read "JUNK N TREASURES INSIDE YARD SALE". True to advertising, it was mostly junk, but amongst the junk I found 2 pieces of junk that I know Mira will be able to turn into treasures, when I bring them out to California to her tomorrow. She makes beautiful pendant necklaces out of old pocket watches / stop watches and vintage brooches. Here's a couple examples, there on the left in the center of the doilies:

November 3, 2008

Liberating the Founders

Ben and I listened to this very interesting episode of Krista Tippet's "Speaking of Faith" last night on WEKU. The description of the episode is:

"Americans remain divided about how much religion they want in their political life. As we elect a new president, we return to an evocative, relevant conversation from earlier this year with journalist Steven Waldman. From his unusual study of the American founders, he understands why 21st-century struggles over religion in the public square spur passionate disagreement and entanglement with politics at its most impure."

The most interesting point made, that I was unaware of, is that the reason for the founding fathers' declaration of 'separation of church and state' was in order to increase religiosity. They felt that being a good person was paramount, and that often religion helped people to be a better person, and that by keeping them separate, religion would flourish. True, as people in politics invoke religion in their candidacies or campaigns, it has had the effect of turning a generation of people off to religion (Christianity in particular, in this country) rather than against government/politics. Many of the founding fathers belonged to religious groups that were persecuted in their day (Baptists, Quakers, Evangelists), and by separating their beliefs from their work, they felt (and their churches felt) that politicians would be able to make their points as people, not as believers of a specific ideology--and this would allow more room for the ideology/religions to grow in a private sphere rather than being condemned in the public sphere.

November 2, 2008

Autumn Parsnips

One of my favorite root vegetables are parsnips--sweet and fibrous, they taste best (I think) when they're sliced thin and toasted in butter. If they're really crisp, a moment in a steamer to soften them can help. If they're older and more 'rubbery' then they're pre-softened for you.

And then there's Parsnip with a capital P.