Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Art, Life and Magic 8 Pod

My niece drew me a picture when i was in phoenix: an extended family of flamingos, with a monkey swinging nearby; also a few spiders hanging from... the ceiling? an unseen branch just beyond the edge of the page? some other possibility open to the interpretation of the viewer? It now hangs proudly on my wall, right above the button that buzzes people in the front door of my building.

Sleep deprivation makes for a waking dream state, focus alternately intensified and blurred. Kind of like riding orson welles' tricycle through molasses then suddenly looking down and realizing you're waterskiing and you're not sure you know how to waterski but at this point you don't have much of a choice.

So, magic 8 pod - what's the next step in my career?

Jump Monk by Charles Mingus.

Ok, lots of ambiguity and room for interpretation. Very swingin', really good tune & fantastic band, natch. So i've got that going for me. Which is nice. No words to help us out but the title - a reference to thelonious, of course, one of the best jazz composers/performers of all. Unless it's trying to tell me to go monastic. Or just jump. In an ecstatic, stylin' sort of way, of course

Gutenberg: The Musical

In amongst a busy day of unpleasant auditioning, helping beth take some stuff to the salvation army, having lunch, running errands, and coming home to brutal and unexpected audition rejection, i had the pleasure of seeing gutenberg: the musical with some friends. Astounding. Hilarious. Shockingly good, if you like musicals or (especially?) if you don't.

Now off to a caffeine-fueled rehearsal...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Home again home again

Back from my weekend in phoenix for mom's surprise party - a swell time was had by all. It was odd, however, that my trip to the great saguaro desert was marred by... rain? It's true: phoenix had a much-needed three-day, on-and-off thunderstorm that coincided with my trip by a simple twist of fate. We were able to make very good use of the breaks in the weather though: it cleared up enough for: a great walk through the desert with mom (who was surprised, btw, and had i think a great time) & dad and mom's sisters (there were not one but two rusted and bullet-ridden VW chassis out there!); another walk out among the cacti to shoot bb guns at stray beer bottles with my nephew (9 years old and he's a good shot!); a football game with dad, my niece and nephew; and then more playing (and swordfighting!) with the kids and one of my grad school colleagues and his wife and their kids.

Big shoutout to my sister lori! She did a great job putting together mom's party and handling the whole weekend. Really really REALLY proud of her and happy for her.

In case you're wondering, maybe don't watch borat with your folks.

Do, though, read CASH - the autobiography of johnny cash. Good book, people. Hey, i'm not a big country music fan by any stretch of the imagination, but the man in black made some great music, and had great stories to tell.

And for the love of god see the movie citizen ruth! This flick got a bunch of attention when it came out something like 10 years ago, but for some reason hasn't stayed on the radar much. I just got around to watching it on the flights to AZ and back, and it's so worth watching. Great take on media manipulation in activism, with a focus on the abortion rights debate (sometimes pronounced 'focus on the family.')

And btw - librarians are hiding something...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


We've been rehearsing 'trailers' at somebody's apartment in astoria. Which is annoying enough, because it takes me a long time to get home afterward (not that i have any other complaints about that area where a bunch of my friends live). But something i didn't realize would annoy me so much is that almost everybody there smokes.

Now, i'm not really an anti-smoker. I used to smoke and enjoy it, and up till very recently i'd succumb to temptation from time to time. And at first i thought it was kind of retro/cool; you know, like the days when people could smoke at rehearsals (and almost everywhere). But when i came home with my clothes smelling like they used to smell when people could smoke in bars (it's still odd to me that people can't smoke in any bars at all), i grew less amused. Then when my jacket, hat and scarf still smelled like an ashtray the next morning on my way to work, i got a little pissed off. And now i've got a cold - not caused by the smoke, of course, but it may have helped it along - and i'm heading to arizona tomorrow for my mom's surprise 60th birthday party [she better not have tracked down this blog, or there goes the surprise] and whatever charm there was in that smoky place has been pretty well wiped away.

Just kvetching.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Erin Go Bragh

Saturday was of course st. patrick's day (the real one, not the hoboken version) and so people rever for ireland's patron saint and the author of confessions by going to mass and showing quiet devotion.

What? That's not what people do? It involves drinking? And mardi gras beads (in the middle of lent)? And hooters?

Anyway, my st. pat's was very VERY full, but not terribly drunken (although that winds up being relative, doesn't it?)

I met sherin at a coffee shop so we could travel to the bronx together to catch her friend katie in lover to lover a staging of a james joyce song cycle with original music and some additional text by alfred heller. In the spirit of the day, we did irish up our coffees a bit for the train ride up. The show was good - some of the actor/singers were good, some less so, but i am happy to say that miss katie zaffrann was first rate. Beautiful voice, full and honest acting (under less than ideal circumstances), really excellent use of dynamics - true to the text, pure and ALIVE. You have no idea how good it feels to be able to say this honestly about a friend, especially one you just met.

Afterwards, we went out to dinosaur in harlem for barbeque and beer. SOoooo good - i love that place! Then we went to katie and heidi's place for one last beer and a fantastic dessert she made called guinness chocolate pudding - DARK chocolate mixed with guinness stout (one of ireland's gifts to the world, as stated by the creator of the recipe) to make pudding, and topped with a layer of whipped cream (also with just a touch of guinness) and served in a glass, it looks just like a pint pulled from the tap. And, oh yeah, DE-FUCKING-LICIOUS!

Stayed later than the bus would get me home, so i subwayed downtown with sherin (including just one more wee nip of the jameson) then pathed it back; then as i was waiting on line for a cab, who should i see but the delightful maria and some of her friends. She was, how did she put it...? 'drunkididrunk INTOXICATED,' but handled it quite well, i must say. Quite a treat to see her at the end of that loooong evening out.

So there that is.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Missing Mambo

Well, i ended up not heading to williamsburg last night for jackee's party, which i'm pretty sad about, especially after emailing a couple friends about how i wasn't going to let the weather hold me back, and how lame i thought my partypartner was for bowing out due to something as petty as driving wind and hail biting into your face. I was all ready: dressed up in my new shirt, flat front slacks, houndstooth jacket, gene kelly tie and freshly shaved head (the oxblood shoes weren't going to make the trip in any case), and looking, well, i suppose about as good as i ever get to look. Then i got a call from a friend who wanted me to join her and her roomie for dinner right out here in the 'boken. I declined at first, figuring i'd just nosh at home then get out to billyburg, but then i thought - hey, why not trade in the cancelled dinner out for a different one, and ended up joining them. And as i was leaving my apartment, i got a call from jackee saying it was really bad out and maybe i shouldn't come after all. I was like, 'no, you're having a party, i want to go.' And she was like, 'really? You want to cross two rivers and trudge through the tundra?' So we left it that i'd check in after dinner and see how things were going.

Dinner, by the way was fantastic - met at zafra with caroline and nicole, whom i'd met at their housewarming party last weekend. Hadn't been to zafra before, and it was great: a cuban place with excellent food, pretty good service and a fab atmosphere. We had a potato appetizer with an incredible sauce; a main dish of roast pork -perfect: some of the best i've ever had - and one of spicy chicken skewers and sweet potato that was also very nice; and side dishes of kale and fried plantain. It's a BYO place (which i love) so we had some pinot grigio that we brought along, and skipped dessert (as even with only two main dishes, it was enough food for there to be takehome leftovers). I'll SOOOOO be going back there; let me know if you want to make the trip.

Anyway, as we finished up and stepped back out, the hail was as bad as ever and there was a surprising amount of accumulation. The gals had talked me into watching a movie with them, so i called jqln to let her know when we got back to their place. Of course, the party was rockin'. D'oh! But at this point, it just wasn't going to happen - it was already 10:30, i was a half mile from the train station, the train ride(s) would take a minimum of a half hour, and then another half mile walk through the snow to get to her crib. Still, i felt lame as hell about missing it.

On the other hand, it was great hanging with nicole and caroline. They're very cool, have a great place (ah, the 'boken), and we finished off the magnum of pinot and watched 'half nelson.' Which was great; one of those movies that fuck your shit up.

In one scene, a character puts on the 'free to be you and me' lp and plays it's alright to cry, sung by rosey grier. I giggled a bit, and caroline said "what is that song?" She'd never heard it, or heard of 'free to be...' And why should she have, i suppose, that film being a total product of the height of women's lib circa 1973? It was a part of the childhood of a lot of people i know, though, of a bunch of age groups: i've met people in their early 20s who appear to know every word, and people older than that who've never heard of it.

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, check out rosey.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Attic

Last night i saw the attic, by yoji sakate, produced by the play company. It's about a hikikomori, which is a phenomenon of people, mainly teenage boys, almost exclusively in japan, locking themselves into a room for long periods of time (we're talking about years in some cases) and shutting out the outside world. It's become, not exactly popular, but somewhat widespread in the last several years.

This play's take on it explores the idea of artisans creating small attic-like structures which are sold for the purpose of self-sequestering, and what happens as a result of that, socially and individually. In that vein, the set mostly consisted of said 'attic,' a skewed room with several doors (and of course the invisible 'fourth wall') tucked into the middle of the stage, giving a great sense of the cramped and claustrophobic. The production was great - really great technically. The sets, lighting and (imho) especially sound were expertly designed and executed, and the acting was really good too. (I didn't even realize i knew one of the guys in the cast - he looked familiar, but it wasn't until i got a message from a friend that i remembered where i'd met him.)

The real star though is the script - it's being billed as the english language premier (although i'm almost sure i read about it being done in australia, and i'm thinking that was probably in english). It sort of felt like it was trailing off in the end (and i can't quite figure out why) but mostly it was fascinating - surprising and poignant and funny and engaging. Quite consciously japanese, in a way that plays with the ideas of otherness and belonging (and especially isolation.) (Hilarious scene where characters are re-imagined as movie samurai!)

First rate piece of work. Go see it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Ok, i've been putting this off - partly because my scanner isn't working and i would prefer to be able to include photos of him, but mostly because it's just hard writing any kind of reflections on someone so emotionally close.

My grandfather, Robert John Hilgers, was born on october 10, 1917. We always had mucho fun in our house in early october, as my dad's birthday is the 5th, mine's the 7th and grandpa's is the 10th - cake and ice cream everywhere! (and no small amount of beer - this was a german household, after all.) He finally succumbed to cancer, after a 15-year struggle, on march 3 (which, as chance would have it, is my nephew's - his great-grandson's - birthday).

When he was young he played violin. He adored his wife. He loved his family, and he was universally beloved. I can't think of, can't really even conceive of, anyone who knew him and didn't like him. This subject came up with the family last week, and the only thing anyone could come up with was "well, maybe one of the electricians who worked for him." Even then, it wouldn't have been dislike as much as resentment at not being allowed to be lazy. Grandpa was seldom in management - union man all the way - but he would be a foreman, supervisor, master electrician on the job, that kind of thing. And he was seriously old school, the way only a german can be - he was known to send apprentices back to the hall for sitting down on the job. But even taking them into account, imaginary though they may be, i don't know of anyone with a higher approval rating.

Everyone who knew him would talk about baseball. He was a very serious, and seriously good, player; and then a lifelong fan. He played semipro ball and had the singular distinction (for those of you who know your baseball history) of having gotten hits off dizzy dean (!) and satchel paige (!!) And it's kind of funny to hear the people who saw him play talk about him - reverence, really, on a bunch of levels: his ability first and foremost, but then things like how much he hustled, how he liked his beer but hated drunken behavior, and how he would walk away when the conversation turned coarse.

And the thing about him i'll keep with me forever - the twinkle in his eye. Unmistakable, folks. So openly emotional (at least in joy - not always so much in sorrow), so loving of his family. See, here's where pictures would come in handy. Not that they could ever really do him justice, but the do give an idea of the radiance of his smile. Those of you who have noticed the, um, unrestrained nature of my smile when it really turns on, well, guess where that came from...

One last thing - and i'm skipping so much, but hey, i don't want to bore you - that my uncle said in his very moving eulogy at the funeral mass (grandpa was a devout catholic his whole life). When one of his caretakers saw him looking thoughtful in february (he lived with my aunt and uncle up till the end, but they needed some help taking care of him the last couple years) she asked, as she often did, what was on his mind. And this old electrician gave a reply from the heart of his solid, simple wisdom: "When they flip the switch upstairs, then it will be dark."

Friday, March 09, 2007

the west wing wears prada

I have a moment of calm before the storm that will happen when my current tempjob bos finishes the meeting he's in. At that point, while he does six other things, my job will be to make sure he:

-calls an important client about action to be taken (this has been a high priority for a week and a half, and "must" happen before the end of this week)

-calls the CEO's assistant to address a corporate issue

-calls his daughter; no kidding, this happens most days

-gives me information so i can book a flight for one of his associates (i don't know who it is or where s/he's going - all i know is that he told me to remind him about this, and i really hope it doesn't need to happen by the end of business today)

-tries to fit in some of the mere employees of this firm, who nonetheless have questions that only he can answer

-clears up whether the meeting he asked me to schedule for monday really needs to happen, or whether the meeting set up for tuesday on the same topic with the same participants will do the trick

-responds to a number of emails (by which i mean address the questions in my presence; i'll do the actual responding, of course)

And of course, i'll be answering three phone lines while all this is happening.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Picasso in Montclair

Ok, i'm exhausted and invigorated at the same time. Partly that's because i just got back from the gym and am having a smoothie, and partly because after a long and exhausting week, The Picasso Project finally opened last night at luna stage. I'll admit i was kind of scared about it (in fact, one of the reasons i participated was because i was scared), but at this point i'm kind of proud of it. If you're in the mood for an experimental, movement-heavy, highly visual, free-associative theatrical experience, you should come check it out. Does it qualify as 'fine art'? I don't know, and i don't think it's my place to say (that's what critics and connoisseurs are for). But i do think it's a case of attempted fine art, and there's something to be said for that.

I've had my problems with it, natch. Yana's use of time is inscrutable to me (i.e., when she chooses to work on what, and the amount of time she chooses to spend on it), but she clearly knows what she's doing. And she's far from the first director whose process i didn't really understand, and i'm sure she won't be the last. Great to be working with her after all this time. In fact, everyone's involvement has been great, and there's some first-rate work going on, from people with backgrounds in dance, music, circus, acrobatics, music and visual art.

So there you have it.


Um, right then while i was typing i just got a call that my grandfather has died.


I've gotta go.