Friday, May 1, 2015

Pray For Us.

I'm a little concerned about grocery shopping in our new neighborhood.

I've come to rely on Fresh Direct for most of our groceries the last 3 years. (For those of you outside of New York, Fresh Direct is an online grocery store. You place your order on a web site, choose a delivery time, and they bring your groceries to you at home.) I got in the habit when I was working 9-5 in Brooklyn and the 2 or 3 hours it would have taken to go grocery shopping felt like 2 or 3 hours I didn't have. And, though we have one big supermarket and another smaller one nearby, they aren't great. They're fine for staples, canned and dried stuff, flour, milk, snacks, etc, but I hate buying meat out of a big open case and you don't know how long it's been sitting there, and the produce usually looks ratty and old and well picked over.

Fresh Direct is more expensive than your average C-Town, but I rationalize it because the produce is very fresh and high quality and it's less expensive than Whole Foods or a specialty organic place where I would probably be going for good meat and produce if Fresh Direct didn't exist. I cook at home almost every day, and we have a small kitchen with very little pantry space, so I have groceries delivered at least once a week, often twice. It's always hard to know which shopping choices are more horrible for the world and the people in it, but Fresh Direct at least has lots of locally grown and made food, and I can get reasonably priced meat and dairy raised without hormones. I do try to be conscious of where our food comes from, buy local and organic unless it costs twice as much, but I'm not a fundamentalist about it.

I plan to wean myself off Fresh Direct after we move, because our new place is near enough Chinatown, where produce and meat are insanely cheap and fresh and good. And I love shopping in Chinatown. And now that I'm not working a day job any more, it doesn't make me panicky to contemplate an afternoon of grocery shopping.

All of that to say that I realized another benefit to online grocery shopping is impulse control. I keep a list of what we need, I enter each item in the search bar, check out, done! Grocery stores, however, are a mine field. This morning, I ran out of milk for my coffee, so I ran out to the little deli on the corner. I came back with, not milk but half and half, and a bag of pita chips, a pint of ice cream, and shortbread cookies. What the holy hell?

If I've learned anything in my 54 years it's that i have no power over a bag of potato chips or a pint of ice cream. Or chocolate cake. So I just make sure that they aren't in the house. Except on special occasions, like a birthday. Or a Saturday.

I'd forgotten that about grocery shopping, the way everything talks to you. Somehow the little picture on the computer screen is not nearly as persuasive as the actual item on the shelf. I want to walk down every aisle, and for some reason I think I need those little Dutch Boy cookies with the chocolate, and a big thing of wasabi peas, and ricotta because I don't know maybe lasagna?, and frozen pierogis, and look! Triscuits! and they have those honey sesame brittle things and Green & Black's chocolate at the checkout line, and Table Talk lemon pies, and now I weigh 300 pounds.

Lord help us.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

History. It's a Thing.

I think it's just weird to lump The King and I in with An American in Paris and Gigi to make a point about how icky old musicals are politically and how hard it is to stage them now that we're all so enlightened.

Why do people always seem surprised that Rogers and Hammerstein's "golden age" musicals address these issues? Racism, colonialism, sexism were the subjects R&H were explicitly interested in, and they chose stories and dealt with them in ways specifically to comment on them.

The Times article says:
Anna and the king are not a couple, and their final scene is not a kiss in the moonlight. There is, however, a soaring musical number that feels like a happy ending: “Shall We Dance?,” choreographed this time by Christopher Gattelli. It has always been the show’s most thrilling moment. Anna and the king begin a polka by holding hands, but he knows better, having seen her dance with an Englishman. He puts his hand firmly around Anna’s waist, and hearts leap.

One interpretation: Natural order is restored; the man takes charge. Mr. Sher argued that something else was going on: “The king allows himself to be taught and to be equal to a woman. To reach across cultures. Stepping across that boundary is just gorgeous.”

And very 21st century.
Actually, no, it's more like mid-20th century. When it was written. The revival didn't make that up. It's in the piece. It's what that moment and that song are about.

The King and I and South Pacific, Oklahoma, etc., don't just demonstrate regressive attitudes, they confront them. There are lines and passages that feel old-fashioned, condescending, uncomfortable to our sensibilities because we think about these issues differently now, but can we stop talking about these musicals as if they're from the dark ages, before we all become so sensitive and smart about racism and misogyny in our popular culture?

For their time, R&H were practically activists. Think about the huge mass audience they had during a period when not much pop culture questioned the status quo.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


It's a stupid argument anyway, that the definition of marriage has been the same for "millenia." Even if were true, the fact that we've been doing something for a long time doesn't make it right. But it's not even true. I guess I'm a little surprised that the tradition of same-sex marriage in Native American communities seems never to have come up. Do these people (the lawyers and judges in favor of same-sex marriage ... and for that matter, this New York Times reporter who doesn't bring it up) really not know this stuff? I find that hard to believe. Maybe it's not flattering to compare ourselves to "primitive" cultures?

I know there was assorted institutionalized queerness all over this continent before Europeans arrived and obliterated it along with everything else, but Texas is what I'm familiar with because I wrote a paper on it at UT.

Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to encounter the Natives in Texas. This is from his journal. He's writing about various coastal groups:
"During the time I was among them, I saw something very repulsive, namely, a man married to another. These are impotent and womanish beings who dress like and do the work of women. They carry heavy loads but do not use a bow. Among these Indians we saw many of them. They are more robust than other men, taller, and can bear heavy loads."
This kind of stuff is all over the contemporary written descriptions of Native American societies by the Spanish invaders in the 16th century. The Spanish at the time were obsessed with homosexuality (the Catholics are always obsessed with homosexuality but it was particularly harsh in the 16th century -- the "sin against nature" was regarded worse than murder) so they wrote about it negatively of course, but the fact that they were so fixated on it at least had the effect of them noting it at all.