Tuesday, June 30, 2009


'Cause I know you've all been waiting: The Bike.

Next: covered panniers with a rear rack.

And here's the new sofa:

Forgive the mess.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

New Frugality, pt. 3

It's been some time since I wrote about my frugal plans. But as you can see, the coupon clipping paid off. Witness: new bike plus accessories.

I am still clipping, but the big reward I am giving myself next month is to pay off a credit card completely, using the monies I earned teaching summer school. This is not as huge as it sounds, perhaps, given that the balance is in the low four-figures (but the APR was 20-some%), but it is a great reward for me. The class has been great fun--and since it is the second time I have taught it, this gives me the chance to perfect a few rough places from the first run.

But the good news is being able to pay off the credit card and buy the sofa. Of course, buying the sofa also gave me a $150 gift card I can (and will!) use on IKEA items over time. Plus donating my former sofa to charity.

Sigh of relief.

The next frugal move is to talk my wireless/phone service, second credit card, and electricity down to better deals.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Proposal

Wow, it feels like FOREVER since I reviewed a play or movie (see, I get my drah-ma in other places...).

But this afternoon I made a point of going to see The Proposal once my laundry was done (no, I did not do it until this morning). I had dinner with two friends last night (that I did check off my to-do list, of course), and she recommended it--HIGHLY.

So despite the fact that Sandra Bullock has been batting .333 in romantic comedy since Practical Magic (I.M.H.O.) I went.

Well. I enjoyed it--a lot. I'll give the cons right up front: I am really tired of senior citizens gettin' jiggy with sextalk and especially with Betty White doing so. I do not find it funny any more than I find babies saying "poop" and "shit" and "penis." Ugh. Also, Sandra Bullock's indictment of the Modern Working Woman's inability to do anything without her Louboutins is a tad embarrassing and stereotypically two-dimensional.

I worked in publishing for years and I will say this: without family money (New or Old) and/or marriage to a Park Avenue plastic surgeon NO WOMAN IN PUBLISHING, be she Editor-in-Chief or not, can afford to accessorize herself with the large-size Kelly Bag and multiple pairs of Louboutins and Louis Vuitton luggage sets, unless they were gifts from adoring fans.


OK, on to pros, which are substantial. First, I LIKE the chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock -- finally, a co-star who isn't just a male stereotype. In fact, far from it: Reynolds' character is more honest than Bullock's, and the actor really shows his chops in terms of comic timing, physical humor, line delivery, and character development. Both Bullock and Reynolds are better than the script, which has its moments of intelligent humor (like the scenes where Bullock arrivs at work and everyone in the office reacts to her with fear, awe, and fear) but also pulls out some sorry moments that miss (like the only "exotic" dancer in Sitka, Alaska--it would have been better contextualized somehow, rather than allowing us to think, hey, maybe the writer is serious and this is the pinnacle of culture in that little town). Mary Steenburgen is under-used but wonderful as always; instead of bonding with Gammi Betty White, I'd like to have seen Reynolds' mother Steenburgen getting to know her new daughter-in-law-to-be Bullock: would have given more depth and nuance to the characters in total.

But... seriously, see it for Reynolds (who has already impressed me this summer in Wolverine--okay, mostly for his abs, but still....--and in Adventureland) and Bullock. They also handle the older woman/younger man thing with adroitness (finally!) and make it work. Yahoo! There's a reason older Bullock has a realtionship with younger Reynolds: he is her assistant. AND he is neither wimpy or too testosterone-laden to be believed. The writers and directors and characters are not embarassed nor apologetic for the age difference: they use it beautifully. See, it can be done. And for character performances by the editor-to-be-fired (and Bullock's lambasting of him), the INS man, and the super cute puppy.

I have to give praise to Bullock, who has refused to give up on romantic comedy at the same time she has refused to pretend to be an ingenue. Refreshing. This is not exactly His Girl Friday or The Lady Eve, but closer than Bullock has ever gotten to the witty, intelligent, physical comedy she would actually sparkle in. In fact, I would recommend Bullock look at Stanwyck's Ball of Fire and consider some kind of remake.

Go see The Proposal.


P.S.: I worked for this woman when I was in publishing. I once overheard her tell the in-house head of advertising, regarding an ad that had run in the NYTimes Book Review with wrong information, that she planned to blame the advertising agency for the mistakes, because she didn't want anyone thinking she would employ someone in-house who was that stupid. And this was with her door open and the Voice that carried all the way down the hall to my little corner office... She could have taught Torquemada a few new tricks.

The Bike

Here it is.

Well, it would be, but I am being restrained by my computer for "administrative issues" so it won't let me download photos. It doesn't recognize me an administrator... which basically means that my computer is telling me that I am not the boss of it.

Which is true... but I digress.

The blue bike in the foreground: my exact bike.

I rode The Bike home and felt the wind flying through my hair. Whee!

OK, I have short hair cut extra short for summer heat and wore a ball cap... but still: Wheeeeeee!
Remember this post on frugality back this spring? Well, I got the front basket (detachable, too!), the bell, and even light blue color-coordinated grips.

All on monies saved from coupons, deals, EBates, and selling books on Amazon. Now I'm going to start saving for the next "big" project: a new mattress and box spring. Good times.



Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Plans

Yes, it is Friday, which is a No Class Day. My big plans include:

1. Picking up THE BIKE: walking to the shop, getting my photo taken (the shop's Friday ritual!), then riding home. Ah, exercise... in the blazing/relentless/nasty DFW midday heat... good plan, eh?
2. Dinner out with girlfriends at chic local eatery featuring pizza and salads: Fireside Pies.
3. Laundry (gotta love the No Class Day, which translates to Home Rituals and Cleaning Day).
4. Reading the latest issue of Dwell magazine, my new favorite magazine. I dream of buying/building a small pre-fab house... also Entertainment Weekly and Fast Company.
5. Reading about Parisian visual culture of the 19th century. More interesting than it sounds, perhaps.
6. Replying to emails I have neglected all week.
7. Tuning my radio to Michael Jackson tribute stations, hopefully for the pre-scary years. Rest in peace, MJ.
8. Feeling envy about my friends' trip to Scotland: weeks in that lovely country, visiting Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the B&B I stayed in the Mactalla.
9. Did I mention picking up THE BIKE? Oh, I did.


Thursday, June 25, 2009


Tomorrow--Friday--I will pick up my NEW BIKE!
Yes. I ordered it on Tuesday, and will pick it up TOMORROW!
Can you tell I am EXCITED!
I hope I will have pictures, but my camera is refusing to intersect interrogate interact interface with the laptop, so it may not be immediately possible.


it is a light blue Cruiser bike, with light blue rubber grips, a white front basket, a side mirror, a zingy bell, and, yes, the LOCK OF LOCKS so that it doesn't go walkabout.
I will be very cool, in a short-middle-aged-lady-in-a-skirt cool manner.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Charlotte Cushman & Fanny Kemble

I am teaching a night class on Women in American Theatre, starting from early American theatre (around the 1750s) to the present. It is a grad-level course and I have about 11 students.

The early years focus on actresses, mostly. Two of the earliest are Charlotte Cushman and Fanny Kemble: in separate ways they are both fascinating examples of how women in particular negotiated the contradictions and confusions of American theatre.

Cushman is considered the first great native-born American actress. She was also an anomaly in that she didn't physically fit the leading lady type: she was tall, broad shouldered, and had a deep voice... for a girl. She was, however, surprisingly popular with audiences from the beginning; she also found roles that foregrounded her abilities. Rather than play Juliet or Ophelia--typical ingenue-heroine roles in mid-nineteenth century America--in favor of Romeo and Lady Macbeth.

Between 1835 and 1874, she worked the entire east coast of the US: Boston, New York, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Albany... and everyone in between. She managed the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia--making her one of the first female managers in American theatre, although few people write or discuss this aspect of her work.

Cushman played at least 16 cross-dressed roles, the most popular of which were Romeo and Hamlet. She was in fact more of a character actress than a leading lady... which never stopped her from playing leading roles, be they male or female.

She succeeded here in America, and then toured to Europe, staying there four years. When she returned, she negotiated a salary equal to any leading male actor: a sign of her popularity and talent.

William Winter, the drama critic for the New York Times, said of her “She was incarnate power: she dominated by intrinsic authority; she was a woman born to command and to such minds as comprehended authentic leadership she achieved immediate, complete and permanent conquest. Cushman herself said of her art “Art is an absolute mistress, she will not be coquetted with or slighted; she requires the most entire self devotion, and she repays with grand triumphs.”

She lived in lesbian relationships, what were known as "Boston marriages," with several different women: the sculptor Emma Stebbins and the actress and writer Matilda Hays among others. She also helped other women pursue their artistic careers, acting as an early feminist mentor within the female arts community.

Cushman died in 1876 of breast cancer.

Fanny Kemble was another early success story: born in Britain, into the leading theatre family, Kemble had little or no training, but was popular on the London stage in the typical ingenue roles--especially Juliet--that Cushman avoided.

Kemble came to the USA in 1832, accompanying her father, Charles, on his acting tour of the new country. In 1834, she married a young man who had swept her off her feet: Pierce Butler, the grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and heir to a tobacco/cotton/rice plantation off the coast of Georgia. On marrying Butler, Kemble gave up the stage to take on the role of wife. She accompanied Butler to Georgia, to his inherited plantation, in 1838... and saw slavery first-hand.

That was the end of her marriage, essentially. She and Butler disagreed about his ownership of slaves: she found herself firmly on the abolition side, while Butler refused to consider such a policy. In 1847 she returned to the stage, travelling to Europe; Butler filed for divorce, accusing her of abandonment, both of him and their two daughters.

After the divorce, Kemble picked up her theatrical career, making a period "lateral" move into reading: instead of performing roles in full productions, Kemble created a career giving public readings. She focused on Shakespeare, "performing" readings of Juliet, Ophelia, Rosalind, Viola, and other women from the playwright's work. Kemble also published her diary from that time in Georgia, documenting her impressions of and reactions to the practices of slavery she witnessed on her ex-husband's plantations.

Kemble struggled in a different manner than Cushman against the stereotypes for women in performance. Kemble gave up theatre for the traditional road: roles of wife, mother, helpmeet, soul mate. Kemble certainly fit the physical types of ingenues and leading ladies, she also had the talent and work ethic (not to mention connections!) to make a career in theatre work, and audiences loved her.

But... Kemble couldn't sink her independent thought for marriage. She couldn't give up her "troublesome" opinions or agree to agree with her husband's p.o.v. Instead, she persevered, fought, nagged, whatever about what she thought was right... right out of her marriage. In the end, her husband went bankrupt (losing over $700,000 and selling all his slaves in the largest single auction of human beings on record). Their daughters split over the politics: one agreed with Kemble, one with Butler.

Both women are strong examples of how actresses negotiated outside traditional social roles--and across border into traditional roles, as well--in order to succeed as public performers and as professional women in the 1830s to 1870s in America.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Favorite House

Yesterday I went for a long walk after the rain finally passed. Surprisingly, it left the air cool and crisp--rather than heavy and sultry--which made for excellent walking weather.

In June? In Texas? Cannot pass that up!

On my walk I snapped this photo. This is one of my favorite houses, only about a 15-minute walk from where I live.

I admire it for two reasons. First, that it is private. The inhabitants have actually decided not to live their lives in everyone else's face. And second, the tumbled glass rock wall. Here's a closeup.

Even closer...

I think this is really killer. The wall is full of fist-sized glass rocks, and the end effect is also as if they had a wall of water. The texture and color are fantastic.

I should share with you some of the atrocities from the same neighborhood, just to give a reference point. The faux Tuscan villas, faux Loire chateaux, faux White Houses. Yeeech. Maybe I will. Just to point out that spending gobs of cash doesn't guarantee good taste, a lesson that cannot be pointed out too often.

In terms of the house above, I also love that they have retained the trees and built a smaller house--probably a greener house, in that case, given Texas heat in summer. Too many people are cutting down the old and beautiful Texas trees in order to build houses with bigger footprints. Yardprints? Whatever. Houses like this suggest to me delightful hidden lives, intimate and personal, carefully crafted. I know I am making all this up, but the mystery of the hidden lives behind such an attractive wall... hmm. Intriguing. And not defined by "making a statement" as the Tuscan/Loire/White House mansions do.

I wonder: in the faux Tuscan villas, do the owners dress up as Medici princes and order up ornate Renaissance banquets and pore over huge maps of Eastern lands while planning to conquer them with merchant vessels? When one visits friends there is one required to bring crystal rock reliqueries and chests of exotic fruits and paintings by Michelangelo? Or do they do like I do and bring over an unpretentious bottle of sauvignon blanc? Seems a lot of house for one unpretentious bottle. Or just to sit back and watch Dexter.


The Day

Today is the day The New Couch arrives. Some time between 9 am and 9 pm... Yay!

Very excited.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

Or, actually, don't. Just calm down.

We have now entered the summer weather months--better known as Summer Weather Months. Since moving to Texas I have been startled repeatedly at how HUGE a topic weather is during its season (much like high school football during the late summer and autumn months). Weather is NEWS: but given the possibility of sudden hail, thunderstorms, flooding, and tornedos, I sort of understand now.

Last night my evening class was interrupted by the tornedo siren, so my class of 8 and I trooped downstairs to the basement from the third floor (good exercise) to wait in large open area with all other faculty and students for the mysterious signal that we could return aboveground. Before and after that, my students were distracted by the rapidly darkening sky, the thrashing treetops, and the thunder. Oh, and lashing rain.

By the time we left class about 9 pm, the rain had trickled down to almost nothing. Which was good, because I had to park a good walk from the building. I don't fear muggers, but rain? Yikes. I've lived in Texas long enough.

I had to drive to the grocery store for catfood after, oh well, so saw the streets puddled up. And I mean "puddled": the kind of standing water that makes huge slices of water when you drive through, no matter how slowly you proceed. And most people just bullet through, which is how you ruin your brakes, get stranded in flooding, and soak walkers (who are, after all, on their own simply because they walk, which makes them fair game here in the Lone Star State where walking is practically a crime and certainly a sign of slight mental derangement... unless you are power walking--ok, now I am wound up on that topic! Stay focused, here).

Everyone has a weather story: a flooding story, a tornedo story, a hail story. Stranded, stuck, struck.

The upside is that the a.c. can be turned off, the ozone smells strongly in the air, the thunder rumbles distantly, and I sleep really, really well. Which is how I am pretty certain I will wake up in Oz without realizing it.


Note: image from Saskatchewan, another photographer; couldn't find any good images of DFW rain

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

#1 Summer Goal

...was get a new couch.... DONE. Well, sort of, as life teaches most things are, nowadays.

Yesterday I took the Big Trip to Frisco... to IKEA Dallas. Armed with catalog and list of names/numbers/sizes, I travelled north on the Tollway to the Big Blue Box I love so much. In time, of course, for their breakfast deal (free bottomless coffee).

For a Tuesday, it was jam-packed with women, children, grandparents, and the occasional beleaguered father. Yikes. The cafe was CRAZY with noisy families, more than any Friday or Saturday in my memory.

But I got it done. My new sleeper-sofa, the Ektorp version in basic black cotton duck:

Yeah, that tiny thing.

It will be delivered on Friday, "some time" between 9 and 9. Old couch will be removed by Salvation Army on Saturday, "some time" between 8 and 6... so there will be an overlap of 24-33 hours where I have two couches in what is decidely a one-couch apartment. Oh, well. The real trick will be getting the Ikea men to a/ move the old couch and b/ put the legs on the new couch. And should I tip them? Such many questions!

Regardless, I have a new sleeper sofa, which is great after 13 years. Admittedly, the current sofa has a great mattress, hidden by an increasingly faded outside. Incredibly comfortable, without good looks. I hope it finds a new home. It may be joined by a wicker chair and ottoman I inherited from a friend, but have never quite settled on.

Ikea is always an interesting trip for me, here in Dallas. Since my first trip to Ikea was in Paris, round about 1999, the contrasts are really strong in my mind whenever I go. In Paris, one must take public transpo (Metro, then bus), while in Dallas I drive $2.80 worth of Tollway to Frisco. In Paris, the Box is located near the airport, in the 'way out 'burbs; in Dallas, Frisco--and the Ikea stop--used to be out in the middle of deserted Texas farmland, but now the store is surrounded by strip malls featuring other chains (Container Store, low- to high-end furniture and home deco stores, and lots of eateries, if you don't like the limited choices at the Ikea cafe). The open, brown prairie that surrounded it: GONE. More roads, more chain/box stores, more stuff growing like a rabbit colony... or Starbucks franchises in the aughts.
In Paris, Ikea is one of those places where French people shop to find space-saving items and inexpensive kitchen goods that are still (and necessarily) practical and stylish. In Dallas, few people shop for "space saving" items: our houses have too much space, usually.

I am always pleased to find things that are cost-efficient, useful, and attractive--like yesterday I bought a small white ceramic flowerpot that I'll use as a pencil cup, prettier than the black mug I have now. But also inexpensive white magazine folders, glass plates to match my white ones that are in a discontinued style (oh, well), an espresso cup and saucer, a rubberized placement for using my laptop on the dining room table, wooden hangers, a cheap towel to keep in the car to cover the steering wheel and my seat during summer months, new shower curtain, black iron hooks for everything around the house, and a second Arstid lamp, this one for my bedroom. Besides the couch and cover.

A delightfully successful day.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009


In my courtyard, we have two gardenia bushes that blossomed these past two weeks. It makes the whole courtyard fragrant.

I never used to like gardenias, but these real ones have grown on me. The individual flowers, too, are very pretty.

We also have a huge magnolia tree that sits right outside my study window... if my study weren't a complete mess right now.