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Back from the market--it was chaos. I went to the counter to pay for my usual honey, and took a breath to ask what was going on-- the woman taking my money said, "you don't have to say a word. It's the first day of the auto show." We then chatted for a couple minutes about how it is best to get there before 10am, because the tourists start arriving around 11 for lunch and don't ever leave. Both the tea lady and the butcher warned me that it would be going on until next Sunday. Everybody sharing their "oh, noes!" Most of their customers are locals, so the crowd makes it harder for them without adding to their business--not a lot of tourists can take home a souvenir delmonico steak even if they would like to.  Termini's, however, was doing land-office business. I never saw canolis going out of there so fast!
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Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.  Here is a little link to brighten your nights--or amaze you at the crazy.   It is actually even more awesomely cheesetastic than it looks in the vid.

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I have been doing tai chi in a little local park since the Spring and I thought that I'd have to stop when the cold set in.  But it turns out that doing tai chi in the park in the winter cold feels wonderful!  And there are other people doing tai chi as well--coming and going in their own time, with just a little wave of acknowledgment that here we are, enjoying the day.  Excellent!
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We had our holiday party yesterday--everybody chipped in their per/person and we had tapas at Amada.  Yum!  Amada is one of my favorite restaurants in town--it is Jose Garces' first and it is still one of the highest rated in the city.  You need a reservation way in advance and you need lots of people to make tapas fun.  I'm not much of a planner, so I don't usually get in.  So having our party there meant we had both a reservation and lots of people.  But anyway, we had cheeses with a different sauce accompaniment for each to start, then garlic shrimp and tortilla--the sliced potato and egg kind, not the flat-bread kind. Salad, and then  Chorizo and Chicken and calamari and dessert.  We had a set menu rather than pick and choose, but all of my favorites were on it, so I was a happy camper.  So good! 
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Ouch!  It's been a long time.  Busy getting a new kitchen put in (took months, and needed a second contractor to rip out and redo half the work of the first contractor, sigh.  But the kitchen is done now, and what an improvement. 

In the meantime, the season is in full swing.  Saw Eschenbach conducting Britten and Shostakovich on Friday, and then home for Amahl and the night visitor, a very short opera for children written by Gian Carlo Menotti.  I remembered many of the songs from my childhood--"mother, come with me.  I want to be sure that you see what I see!"
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I thought livejournal was up and running again, but cannot get on it now.  Dreamwidth is also running slow--what is going on with the internets!?!
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The 4th of July is my favorite holiday.  It's  a really big deal in Philadelphia.  It was here the country declared its independence, and here that it wrote its constitution, including the Bill of Rights.   It is our holiday and we celebrate it for weeks.   Yesterday after Tai Chi I went to the Asian festival (we are all Americans here!), and then later to fireworks on Penn's Landing, where our part of the great experiment began.  Today went to the farmer's market for local corn and watermelon and tomatoes, then tonight was the Philly Pops concert in front of Independence Hall.  Tomorrow is the parade, the indoor picnic (since it is supposed to be in the 90s and muggy) and then fireworks again, this time on the parkway, after a concert that I will probably be too worn out to listen to. 

I love the food--hot dogs and burgers and fresh from the farm corn and watermelon and ice cream, and Rita's water ice when the afternoon is really, really hot.  I kinda like the heat, too.  I love the noise and the color and I get all misty eyed and sing "God Bless America" at the top of my lungs along with the rest of the crowd, even though I'd argue that exceptionalism is counter productive 51 weeks of the year and they haven't convinced me about God either.

Independence Hall, where it all happened, is kind of small as official buildings go .  When you walk past it day to day, you can't help being aware of how powerful an idea on a piece of paper written behind those doors became, and how fragile it all is--ideas are like that.  

God bless America.  Please.

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Philadelphia International Bicycle Race today--went to a race party at the Swanwicks', and hung out a bit waiting for the bikes to come up the Manayunk wall.  (link is to my pics on facebook.)  Then off to the Bach festival--Missa Brevis in A and in F.  Excellent.  Then dinner and home.  Falling down now but it was an awesome day.

edited for typos!

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Another busy week!  Saw Iolanthe, a Gilbert and Sullivan romp about true love and garden fairies, with a rowdy gang and then off to the ballet, La Fille Mal Garde, about true love crossed by an arranged engagement to unite the two large farms in the village.  needless to say, after many comic mishaps, true love wins out.  The ballet was set in the farmyard and the farmhouse of Lise, the heroine, and her mother Simone (played to hilarious perfection by Jeffrey Gribbler).  The dancing was lovely, and made more difficult by the extensive use of ribbons that went off much more successfully than I'd imagined that they would.  But my favorite part was the dancing chickens.
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Kind of a whirlwind week. Tosca on Wednesday, on a whim. Stopped for a ticket on my way home from the day job. The tenor needed work and it was a pretty traditional production, which was a shame given the relevance of some of the themes, but you can't beat that music. Baritone was wonderful and the Soprano also very good.  Then DC for the National Symphony on Friday--Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev--also great music. Art Museum and Positano Coast on Sunday. Awesome week! 

The Robert Capucci exhibit was great fun--totally over the top clothes that mostly looked like science fiction costumes, which some were.   D and I had fun trying to decide which SF character would wear which outrageous dress--the Red Queen, while not exactly science fictional, was a candidate for several. Now I need to sleep!
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The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts closed with a grand finale by Le Compagnie transe express last night--a human carillon suspended a hundred feet in the air by a giant crane.  It felt like something that you'd find on a strange planet on Farscape.  It was wonderful

Here is a clip from youtube.  The funny building with the purple swish is the Wilma Theater, where Ballet X performs.  I was standing across the street, in front of the Mirriam.

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I heard yesterday that Joanna Russ had died.  Those of you who read this because of my fiction may not know that I used to be a scholar and I wrote about the community of fanwriters.   And that in the realm of scholars and science fiction feminists, Joanna Russ was the banner carrier, the one marching in front so that we could follow.  We corresponded on and off for over twenty years.  She didn't like computers, and I got out of the habit of snail mail, so we didnt' write as often as either of us would have liked (and often mentioned in our letters.)  I find that I miss her terribly.  This is my story about how I "met" Joanna Russ, who I respected more than I can say.  It starts as a disaster, but it had a happy ending! 

I had, of course, read Joanna Russ's fiction, and her feminist writing throughout the eighties--she was a tremendous influence on me.  But back in 1986,  I had an article in the New York Times--Spock Among the Women--and among the responses was one from Joanna Russ, who said that I had got it all wrong, that fandom  was really lesbians writing gay men's porn.  The Times sent me the letter for my response and I kind of exploded and told the Times they couldn't possibly publish the letter--that yes, there were lesbians in fandom, but they just participated like everybody else,  and some people wrote slash, but it was (at the time) a very small part of the literature and not what the Times had asked me to talk about.  Even more upsetting, the people in the article, who had allowed me to use their names, hadn't been writing slash, and some had sensitive jobs working with children.  They could lose their jobs if the school boards thought they were writing porn, which they weren't doing.  (Some school teachers and librarians were writing porn, of course, but they weren't in this article, and I never used their real names.)  The letters editor finally said that if we didn't publish Joanna's letter, we couldn't publish any of them.  I think he believed that the loss of all that proof of interest in my work would pressure me into giving in, but we were talking about lives, and a promise given, and a code of ethics I swore to when I entered my profession.  So no letters were published. I figured I had made myself another feud--the Marxists hated me for not doing Marx, and the folklorists hated me for doing popular culture, so there I was, the trifecta of shunned.

Then Enterprising Women came out, and I got a letter from Joanna Russ apologizing for her earlier letter.  As she got further into fandom, she grew to realize how much more diverse it was than she had at first thought.  And she really liked the book.  She went on to champion Enterprising Women, and became one of its biggest defenders.  And we got into a correspondence that continued sporadically to this day.

I was 30 when I went to college.  It was the eighties and Joanna's How to Suppress Women's Writing was probably the most significant book in those college years.  We used to sit around in the folklore archive reciting bits of it to each other--it was such a revelation, this community of women struggling to make a space for writing.  But the most important thing I ever learned from Joanna Russ was intellectual rigor with grace.  If new information causes you to change your mind you embrace it with your whole heart.  Joanna Russ did that better than anyone else I ever knew.
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Have been wildly busy moving house.  Now must go back and tidy up the old one.  But things are shaping up.  Meantime, have had brunch two days in a row in my new neighborhood, and dinner out the following two days.  Need to buckle down and get the kitchen unpacked.  But it is good to know there is excellent brunch to be had here.  (I may go back for another duck salad this weekend.)


Apr. 15th, 2011 07:47 pm
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The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts is going on in town, and I spent this week dashing from one Paris-themed event to another--

Started with a play, Wanamaker's Pursuits.  John Wanamakers invented the department store (some say Bon Marche in Paris was the first department store, and it probably existed before Wanamakers, but I am not sure it existed as a department store before W.).  Anyway, the apocryphal grandson of John W. goes to Paris to buy designer fashions for the store and falls into Gertrude Stein's circle including Picasso from whom he commissions a painting because Gertrude Stein nags him about it, and a French high fashion designer, Paul Poiret, and the designer's wife and muse.  It is an interesting play, but I didn't think the lead actor did as good a job as I'd have liked at conveying the emotion of the words--still, worth the price of a ticket and an interesting night at the theater.
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Saw Superior Donuts at the Arden this weekend--good play. It was about the various relationships between the neighbors in a multicultural community in Chicago. It was interesting in the way that individuals seemed to find common ground and friendships without letting go of their prejudices against the wider cultural groups. "Gritty," which kind of means they cursed and threw racial and ethnic slurs around a lot, but to drive home the point about the situationally specific responses of the characters.  But the performances were moving and the characters really got under your skin.  Worth the price of a ticket if you are in town.
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Great weekend.  Roller Derby on Saturday and tonight went for pizza at Pietros with E for dinner.  On the way back, stopped to watch a group in plaids and kilts play the warpipes and drums in front of PaddyWhacks, a local Irish pub.  The usual songs for Philly--some Irish tunes (Oh, Danny Boy), a couple of traditional mummers songs, and of course, Amazing Grace.  They were playing in the middle of the intersection at second and South Streets, only they didn't have a permit, so traffic was just stopped in both directions (all the streets but Market are one way in Philly). One person back in the line of cars honked once, but generally people just sat back and enjoyed the show.  There'd clearly been some drinking before we got there-we could tell because of the beer still going around in boot-shaped glasses-- so the high notes on the pipes were a bit random.  A policewoman E recognized as patrolling South Street for many years showed up to shuffle them off as we headed home.   As serendipity goes, it was pretty awesome.

ETA:  reading back a bit, I am noticing a pattern here--I love weekends!
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I don't, as a rule, talk about my writing process because I'm not the sort of person who swans about in the woods in a floaty white dress taking inspiration from the trees.  I don't walk on the shore for hours trying to decide on the single perfect word for an elm tree that is not, y'know, "elm tree."  This is more on the lines of mourning a piece of my process that I haven't exactly lost over time, but have repurposed in a way that brings in a paycheck but doesn't feed my craft. 

When I was  eight years old, I got into trouble a lot for taking my dolls apart.  I didn't want to destroy the dolls; I wanted to know what made the arms and legs move, how they fit together.  I wanted to put them back the way they were once I was done, but I didn't have the skill to do that part, so they stayed broken. I was the bad girl who broke all her toys. 

When I was 15, I was obsessed with Ernest Hemingway's sentences.   They were clear and sharp and vivid, and I wanted to own that skill.  So I took them apart, sentence by sentence, and fiddled them--tried to rewrite them better, to see what happened when I changed this element, or that one, to figure out how those elements fit together to make the sentence that I admired.  I never did improve a Hemingway sentence, though they, at least, did not have to stay broken.  I used that process--took apart what I wanted to emulate and manipulated the pieces to see how they worked--for a long time.  It didn't matter what the admired authors wrote about.  I wanted the structure, the language-- how they did it.

In my current day job, I do that in reverse--take arguments and sentences that are not clearly written, and turn them into a clear statement of our position, which teaches me a lot, actually, about identifying the flaws in my own work.  But between the job and the pages that have to be written right now, I have lost the luxury of breaking my toys to see how they work.

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Great weekend--Swan Lake on Thursday.  They changed the story--it was very psychodrama, and the castle is gone--but the dancing was awesome.  Then Kennedy Center on Friday for the National Symphony Orchestra.  As part of a month-long celebration of India the NSO performed a world premier Zakir Hussain concerto for three voices, tabla, and orchestra--excellent, and now I want to learn more about Indian tabla music!
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Brunch with friends at the Delicatessen on Chestnut--around 7th--this afternoon, then off to the Seaport Museum to hear Tom Purdom give a lecture on the Royal Navy's campaign against the West African slave trade in the 19th century.  (With a short digression into the East African campaign that closed the slave market in Zanzibar.)  Very good, interesting talk.  Then off to the City Tavern on Walnut for hot apple cider and conversation with Tom and about a dozen of the people who had attended the talk.  Nearly got knocked over by a 60 MPH gust of wind--sort of sat back into it and waited it out--but I made it  home.  Now listening to the wind blow and contemplating the laundry sorted and packed to take downstairs.  Maybe a nap first.


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