Lila, Destroyer of Earphones

365-345_Pensive Lila

Lila is staying with me until I move to Pittsburgh. I am happy to watch her and adore the dickens out of her, but this morning, as I was getting ready for work and grabbed my Etymotic hf2 earphones to untangle them Lila took one playful swipe and cut right through the plastic sheath and through the wires and destroyed a $140 investment in the blink of an eye. I am, to be honest, still upset about this because I have very few nice things in my life. My computer, iPhone, iPod, headphones, Snowball Mic, and my Etymotics are among the only possessions that I truly care about (other than books and music), and that are central to my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have more than most people on this planet, but in comparison to many Americans, I have very little. But what I have means a lot to me. Materialism is, in many ways, an under-valuation of the products and items in out lives rather than an over-valuation. If you invest money and mindfulness into an object, take the time to appreciate it, you are less likely to throw things away, or replace them simply because a newer, shinier thing was released.

So, yes, I feel a bit shallow for being really upset over the loss of my earphones, and realize that this is an entirely 1st world and privileged problem to have, and yes I know that I can get by in the foreseeable future with crappy earphones and that it wouldn’t hurt me to take more walks without being encapsulated by my music and cut off from the world around me, but I’m still sad at the loss and frustrated that I won’t be able to replace them for a while.1

Have you ever had something break that your objective mind said “it’s just a thing,” but your emotional response was genuine sadness?

  1. The thought of having to take the bus when I move to Pittsburgh without good, sound isolating earphones however, makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it, so I may try to find a replacement pair on sale once I start school. []

The Words of Carl Sagan

Few writers make me want to weep as consistently as Carl Sagan: his hope and joy in our species bounded by the sad knowledge that we are continually at risk of not living to our potential, at short-changing ourselves and the planet through greed and pride. His words and his voice touch in me the same hope and joy and sadness every time. Yet, at the heart of it all is the belief that we will succeed, that we will learn, that we will grow.

And that someday, our children’s children’s children’s children might fly among the stars.

via Daring Fireball

Thoughts on (Nearly) Turning 40

I am rapidly approaching my 40th birthday. I could pretend to be fine and zen with that fact and, to be honest, I don’t dwell on it too much. Still, I am a bit . . . shall we say off-put by the notion that I’m entering middle age. I mean, really. That’s not cool. Mortality blah blah time passing yadda yadda. I have no thoughts on the matter that are particularly new or interesting. However, while I have a tendency to disparage my achievements because, like a lot of people I expected a grander life for myself, I figured it might be worthwhile to actually think about what I’ve done in the past decade.

I worked for a year (or near enough) as the Office Manager for Perishable Theatre, an organization that has remained dear to me and that inspired me to write and perform The Legend of Steve and to host and produce the poscast Perishable Theatre Presents for them. I also worked for nearly a year as the Office Manager at Olney Theatre Center, as well as working for American Friends of Magen David Adom, an engineering firm, a hospital, a Dean’s office and the BioMed Faculty Affairs office at Brown University.

I went to graduate school and got myself a Master’s degree in Theatre History and Criticism from the University of MD, as well as attending two other schools for a year each: Virginia Commonwealth University and CUNY’s Graduate Center. I’ve had a review published in PAJ and an article accepted for publication in a book that will, hopefully, see print by the end of the year. I’ve also presented my work at three academic conferences.

I’ve been lucky enough to vacation in Hawaii. Twice.

I discovered a talent for theatrical sound design and designed eight shows. In addition, I directed Little Murders, a stage adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper, several one-act plays, and several staged readings. In addition, I wrote ten one act plays and 1.5 full length plays. I wrote around seven short stories and started writing a novel (which I will be getting back to working on shortly). I wrote a handful of good songs (and at least twice as many sucky ones).

I’ve developed a taste for good single malt scotch and sushi.

I created and recorded seven episodes of my own podcast Letters to Lost Friends and now find myself audio producing two podcasts: PodCastle and Perishable Theatre Presents.

I started this blog.

I met J and fell in love and moved in with her which was the first time I lived with a girlfriend. I then went through the pain of losing a relationship that lasted four years and that was both four times as long as my longest previous relationship and, in many ways, the most supportive and kindest romantic relationship I’ve yet experienced. I am terrifically happen that we remain close. I learned a tremendous amount about myself because of our time together and cannot thank her enough for putting up with me!

I lived in Maryland, Virginia, New York City (ok, Brooklyn for all those who consider only Manhattan to be NYC), Rhode Island, and flirted briefly with New Mexico.

I quit smoking.

I met and became friends with Vanessa, Josh, Jeff, Wendy, Natalie, Noelle, Sandro, and Erin . . . to name a few of the people who have touched my life. I’ve reestablished contact with Juliet, JeAnne, Chris, Jon, and Brendan. I’ve become closer still to my friend Jen.

I switched to the Mac. And am still loving it!

I’ve taught Intro to Theatre and Intro to Public Speaking and Public Speaking for Business Majors in addition to privately coaching five clients (including a VP for Paramount Studios) on their public speaking abilities.

I guess, upon reflection, I did accomplish some stuff in the past decade. Some of it stuff to be rather proud of.

I expect the next to be even more productive and exciting and challenging. While I may not be thrilled with my body’s age, I am appreciative of my experiences and life so far. It hasn’t been perfect and has had a number of false starts and mis-adventures that didn’t lead anywhere, but it has placed me here and now and at the start of a new path and I have a new determination to make the most of my mind and my capabilities as a writer, scholar, teacher, and thinker.

(And if you happen to want to do something for my upcoming 40th birthday, your company, or a good bottle of scotch, or a nice sushi dinner are all exceedingly welcome ways to help me celebrate.)

My Moves

I’ve moved.

A lot.

Below is the list of every time I’ve moved to a new town or city over the course of my life as far as I can recall without looking up old journals or asking family. I really, really hope to slow down my moving pace and have high hopes that I will be able to stay in my new place for at least the 4-5 years I expect to take on my PhD.

08/01/2010, Wilkinsburg Pittsburgh, PA.
12/15/2008, Providence, RI.
10/01/2008, Wakefield, RI.
08/01/2008, Las Cruces, NM.
08/15/2005, Brooklyn, NY.
08/15/2004, Richmond, VA.
08/01/2003, Beltsville, MD.
01/01/2003, College Park, MD.
08/01/2001, New Carrollton, MD.
1997, Providence, RI.
1996, Wakefield, RI.
1994, Berkeley, CA.
1994, Pomona, CA.
1993, Providence, RI.
1993, West Lafayette, IN.
1992, Salt Lake City, UT.
1990, Wakefield, RI.
1989, Kingston, RI.
1983, Wakefield, RI.
1982, Charlestown, RI.
1978, Beltsville, MD.
1976, Orono, ME.
1971, Wells, ME.
1970, York, ME.

Average = 1.67 years in one place.

Longest = Wakefield RI from the time I was 13 to 19.

Shortest = Las Cruces, NM. Maybe, if the Spaceport had been up and running and providing jobs at the time, I might have stayed longer. But it wasn’t and I didn’t.

Does Humanity Need a Time Out

I believe in technology. I absolutely adore humanity’s curious nature and the fact that we are able to see stars billions of light years away, detect particles on the furthers edges of existence, understand our biology and neurology in ways that even fifty years ago would have seemed impossible. All of this is a product of our insatiable curiosity. And yes, often this curiosity is guided down dark and dangerous paths, or used to line the pockets of the few at the expense of the many, or produces unexpected consequences for the environment or the very well-being of our continued existence as a species. I understand that, I really do.

I have a friend who believes strongly that we need to radically change our way of life in this country, to the extent that we ought to break ourselves up as a nation and return to smaller forms of governance and older ways of doing things.She and I both want the same thing: a saner, more peaceful and more just future for the planet; a retreat from the ravages of cancerous capitalism; a realization that consumerism and the pursuit of more and more “stuff” has produced a deeply unsatisfied populace, but one that is easily malleable in the hands of the oligarchy and the corporations who have chosen to sell out our future in the name of profits. Our continued issue of contention, however, has been how to achieve such a future.

I see technological innovation and social innovation as absolutely crucial to finding a saner path. I tend to reject calls to return to the past because the past was a) never as rosy as it seems and b) is unable to solve the problems that we have created for ourselves. We understand, perhaps too late, just how interrelated our world ecosphere is and so I don’t see how a retreat from global consciousness into local awareness will help us correct for the excesses of the past century, nor how it might lead to a future that is able to balance local needs with global patterns. As much as I don’t like large cities, I also don’t believe that a retreat from those cities to a mythical agrarian existence would be in any way helpful. Cities offer social freedom and experimentation and are easily the basis for some of the most profound social changes in the past century. Could we really have had the feminist movement without cities? Or the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Could gay rights have progressed as far as they have if we didn’t have the urban centers to offer the opportunity for chosen communities or for people to experiment with their sexuality, gender, and identity in ways that are simply impossible for many who live in small towns? I don’t think so. There is a reason that, as long as there have been cities, people have left the country to explore themselves and the greater range of possibilities that they will find in the city. And who are we to say that a young person growing up in a small farming town would be better off there rather than exploring the greater range of opportunity that might be found in a city? Who are we to relegate future generations to the closed minds and closed ranks that often mark out small communities? Additionally, cities are often more ecological in terms of personal impact on the environment, with a greater density of people you are able to concentrate and share resources in ways simple impossible in more spread out communities.

I also truly believe that computers and the internet, for all their pitfalls and problems (some first-world social and others far more devastating in terms of the environment and the workers who build these machines), are truly beneficial technologies for humanity and that they can, in fact, be disruptive in positive ways (even when, at the same time, the internet can offer the appearance of disruption of power while doing nothing truly positive or progressive). I believe that we must move forward, using all our intellectual and scientific resources to understand the social, economic, and environmental problems that we have, to be honest, often created for ourselves. We have to learn to be better than our darker angels and rise above reflexive passivity and self-interest to understand how long-term self-interest in tending the garden of our world with care, diligence, love, and some self-sacrifice is truly our only hope of creating a future for our decedents.

And yet . . .

Lately, I have been wondering if my friend’s instincts might not be correct. Perhaps, as a species, we ought to go into another “dark ages,” and let the great civilizations crash up against the rocks of their own voracious appetites. Perhaps we produce so much apocalyptic literature these days because, deep down, we crave the release of responsibility that such an event would create: if our infrastructures collapse than we are off the hook; no longer plugged into the global, we would be forced to only deal with the local and our ape brains would no longer strain at the complexity of modern life. Might it be possible for enclaves of knowledge to emerge and protect the accumulated knowledge so that, in several hundred or a thousand years, humanity might emerge with a clearer and more mature understanding of how to use that knowledge for good?

Does humanity need a time out? Not in the sports sense, but a go to the corner and stare at the wall and contemplate what you’ve done wrong kind of time out. The kind of time out you give a naughty child.

I don’t know. I do know that as I see the images coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, I feel a deep and powerless anger toward BP and the American people for not having the will to do what we all know is necessary. I feel a desire to smash and burn all the fucking crap that has produced this situation, to tear it all down and let the asteroid hit or the zombies come or the plague arise that will tear us down and humble us to the point where we might, just might realize just how small and fragile our world is. But then I think of the unimaginable suffering that such a lesson would require and I tremble and balk at the blood and pain that would emerge from such an apocalyptic punishment.1

So I hope that such a thing is not necessary, that we can find ways to think smarter about how we live in and interact with the world. I want to believe that the vast amounts of pain and suffering in the world today can actually be reduced through the sweat of our collective brows, through our knowledge, through our ingenuity, through our compassion, through our technology, and through our imagination. I am not talking about miracle cures. Each and every one of use in the relatively wealthy industrialized nations must, absolutely must take responsibility for how we use resources out of all proportion with the rest of the world. We do need to change our personal, local, and national behaviors and we need to do it now.

Before it all falls apart and the center cannot hold.

  1. I am not suggesting that RadicalSAHM is advocating apocalypse in the least, though I think that any retreat to the past will unleash social and political repressions on a great many peoples. []

A Review of The City and The City

China Mieville

I have a brief audio review of China MiĆ©ville’s novel The City and The City over on PodCastle

You can listen to it here.

I briefly met Mr. MiĆ©ville last fall at Blue State Coffee and thanked him for his books. He seemed genuinely appreciative of my comments and was very polite. Of course, the man is both talented and way too attractive for a genre writer, so he’s kind of jealous making. But be that as it may, if you like compelling, world-building, unique, imaginative, and fierce prose, you should check out my review and then go about buying up all his books that you can.

You won’t regret it. Also, be on the lookout for his new book Kraken.

Links to Share with You from Me

I hope to someday get up to Iceland for the Aurora Borealis. Until then, I can visit these webcams
Via BoingBoing

A really great post that captures what The Empire Strikes Back means to those of us of a certain age. I was a huge fan of the Brian Daley Han Solo books as well, and this post made me want to re-read them.

Various brands that are owned by BP. In case you want to, you know, not give them any of your money.
Via Daring Fireball

Gorgeous Photoblog from MSNBC

My New Home

Moving always produces mixed emotions. In this case, I’m excited to be going to Pittsburgh to finally finish an academic journey I began in 2001 when I went for my Master’s at the University of Maryland. I’m looking forward to the challenges I’m setting for myself as a researcher, thinker, scholar, writer, and student. I’m glad to be back in an environment that, despite all its faults (and there are many) is one which makes me feel most at home and most myself.

But I will also be moving away from some people I have strong attachments to, including my current flatmate and my friend Jen (who actually helped move me to Maryland nine years ago). I’ll be further away from Perishable Theatre, an institution that remains near and dear to my heart in many ways. There will be no more Blood from a Turnips for me in the near future.

So, a mixed bag, as most things are in life.

The reality of my move and my journey into a new stage in my life became a bit more tangible this past weekend after I went to Pittsburgh and found a place to live. In about 24 hours, I looked at a number of places and then put my money down on the one I’d decided on even before the drive out there:



The place is small. Very small. But the whole of the building is mine: kitchen & living room on the first floor and bedroom and bathroom on the second. All new appliances in the kitchen, all new fixtures in the bathroom, the floor will be redone, new windows, a porch . . . and it’s mine all mine!!

Yes, a little more than I originally planned, but I think it will be worth it on so many levels and will provide me a nice sense of comfort and home that will serve me well as I undertake the strenuous challenge of the next 4, maybe 5 years. I hope to share my new home with the people I care about, so I look forward to having friends visit and share in my new life at least briefly even if they live far away.

So there you go: my new home.