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Misfortune Cookies

Today, I had the good fortune to step into World Market, and the first thing I saw?

A container of black and orange fortune cookies labeled “misfortune cookies.”

Naturally, I had to buy them ($6.99!) and bring them to APO meeting.

They said cute things, but what if they said something like…

“Are you allergic to peanuts? Whoops.”

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Sarah Zuckerman, Amateur Defective

Last week, I finished a book that I’d encountered after reading an article on the Internet. More on that article later, but for now, a brief review of said book, You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt.

You Are One of Them is told from the point of view of Sarah Zuckerman. As a young girl in 1982, at the height of the Cold War, Sarah made friends with a girl called Jennifer Jones who moved onto her block. They decided to write letters to the Premier of the Soviet Union, and though Sarah never heard back, Jenny’s letter received international fanfare and resulted in an invitation to go to the USSR. Some time after, Jenny and her parents perished in a plane crash, resulting in Sarah and her mother creating a foundation in Jenny’s name. One day in 1996, Sarah receives a mysterious email from a woman called Svetlana, who hints that Jenny might still be alive and living in Russia. Sarah follows the trail, tracks down Svetlana, and suffice it to say, has quite an interesting adventure with an unexpected outcome.

That’s all I’m going to say because you should definitely get your hands on this book.

However fictional the book might be, it is based on the short life and tragic death of Samantha Smith, a girl from Maine who exchanged letters with Russian premier Yuri Andropov, and traveled to the Soviet Union as “America’s Youngest Ambassador.”

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Flip the Script Friday: Dolly Dhingra, Unsuitable Girls

Well hey there gang. The Wi-Fi at home decided it does not like me anymore, so until something changes, I’m basically going to be living at Starbucks and the like. I’ve been extremely stressed recently, with several bad headaches. Not sure why – the prospect of turning 30 in a week, my lack of dissertation progress (at least, to my expectations; I am doing a little bit of something each day for it), and general life stress. This new lack of Internet dealio does not help.

Anyhoo, I decided to clear my mind by enjoying a nice meal at Cafe Hollander, and despite the noise, managing to get through an entire play: Unsuitable Girls by Dolly Dhingra.

Image result for unsuitable girls dolly dhingra

Image Credit: Oberon Books.

 

Basics

Unsuitable Girls premiered in 2000, at Contact Theatre in Manchester.

Characters

  • Chumpa Chameli. 28, a “bossy heroine.”
  • Sab and Mandy, her childhood friends, 25 and 28.
  • Mum, Chumpa’s mom, 55.
  • Audrey Sackville, Chumpa’s boss at High Society, 40s.
  • Ashok Sahota, Chumpa’s boyfriend, 28.
  • Mem Sahota, Ashok’s cousin, 28.
  • Vinod Kumar, Bollywood actor, 32.
  • Manoj Sahota, Ashok’s father and local video shop owner.
  • Other minor characters (Mrs. Middleton, Mr. Patel, Agent, Doctor, Matchmaker, Potential Dates…)

 Setting/Plot

Present day, East End of London. We open on Chumpa, wearing a wedding dress in a locker room of a swim club. More on that later. Meanwhile, Mum and Manoj are attempting to navigate the logistics of Chumpa’s wedding to longtime boyfriend and total sleazebag Ashok. After Chumpa declares she is not going to marry Ashok, Mum has a heart attack, leading Chumpa to promise God that if Mum stays alive, she will get married. Mum recovers, so Chumpa’s got a new mission. Chumpa then navigates through a parade of potentials through agencies, through her non-Indian friends Sab and Mandy, and continually running into Ashok’s cousin, Mem. In a side plot, Chumpa is attempting to break into the journalism world, and after being fired by Mr. Patel of Concrete Weekly, lands a job with High Society, where she ends up interviewing a Bollywood star who proposes marriage almost instantly. It looks like a fairy-tale ending, but unsurprisingly, not the fairy tale you’re expecting.

My Thoughts

I picked this play off the shelf randomly, and I think I’d rate it as just fair. There’s quite a lot of drama and a touch of Bollywood fantasy meeting the reality of 21st century relationships, which is an interesting combination. With all the location changes, implied musical numbers, and the whole swimming pool thing, it seems to be more suited for a film script than a theatre script, but if the Contact could pull it off, power to them. Overall, it’s not the most polished piece, with a few elements missing and kind of a sappy ending.

Life Imitating Bollywood

There’s a consistent theme of Bollywood throughout the play, from the myriad references, to implications of dance numbers, even resulting in a more-or-less Bollywood ending. There’s something about it that doesn’t quite work here, at least for me. I feel like in the wrong hands, this play could appear stereotypical and hackneyed (video-store notwithstanding) rather than current and bringing something new to the table. It’s an interesting contrast of worlds, but Dhingra could definitely accentuate it more, or make it seem like less of an abrupt transition. To me, it seems like the characters are almost aware that they’re actors in a Bollywood-esque scenario, which makes it seem less genuine, to a degree.

 

How I’d Flip It

I feel like it would be incredibly hard to stage, but it would definitely provide an “in” for audiences unaware of  the aspects of Indian/British-Indian culture. There are a lot of fun cultural references, dramaturgically speaking, for audiences to get to know. For some reason, though, I think it would be better flipped onto a screen as a short film or a miniseries rather than a stage play. Not saying that is a bad play per se, I just feel like it could get messy and confusing, especially in a small space.

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PSA on the BSA

So, the big news of the day, other than it being the International Day of the Girl and National Coming Out Day, is that the Boy Scouts of America, aka the BSA, has announced that it will now be accepting girls into its programs. 

And of course this has caused controversy.

A few truths here to start out this post. First of all, to all the naysayers out there, this is not happening tomorrow. In fact, the organization itself said that it will be two to three years before the organization is fully co-ed, since they will start having girl cub scout dens, and eventually units as they grow up. Second of all, this doesn’t make anyone who is already a Boy Scout any less of a Boy Scout. It’s not always about you.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Not that I follow news in the world of scouting (other than APO, which has been co-ed since 1976), but it was an unexpected move by an organization that has, in the past, been pretty strict on its membership. The Girl Scouts have allowed boys and non-gender-binary kids to participate in its programming for awhile now, and maybe it’s time for the Boy Scouts to catch up.

Then there’s the question: why would a girl want to be a Boy Scout? 

Easy. I’ll boil it down to this scenario: do you want to be in an organization where you can become known as an Eagle, or do you want to be a part of an organization that is most famous for overpriced cookies which most people in America only realize exists once a year? There’s also the issue of nomenclature. While the Boy Scouts get to be in levels known as lions and tigers, animals known for power and ferocity, groups of Girl Scouts get to be…daisies and brownies. I could imagine a girl wanting to be an awesome animal rather than a flower, or a dessert, despite the fact that brownies actually refers to brown vests. The Boy Scouts traditionally engage in activities like engineering, wilderness survival, and woodworking. While Girl Scouts do those things as well, most people probably think that they cook, identify wildflowers, and talk about their feelings. These activities are ones in which Boy Scouts  most likely do not partake, or at least not to the same degree, as they are traditionally seen as more feminine and less empowering.

On the whole, I think it’s a positive move. Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line the groups will merge completely.

 

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Behind A Car Window No One Can Hear You Scream

Now that I’ve gotten that exciting title out of the way…

I had to walk back from dance class tonight in an insane downpour. When I got into my car, it looked like I had one swimming. I was just so done with the day that all I could do was break out into song.

So I sang.

“Party in the USA.”

AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS

while driving.

It felt great.

I managed to get through “Oops! I Did It Again,” “Single Ladies,” and “All I Want for Christmas is You” before I made it home. I was still wet wet wet but at least I got to screw up lyrics and basically scream all the way home, knowing no one could hear my screeches through the wind, the windows, and the rain.

What’s your go-to car sing-a-long song?

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I Think…No, I Know I Have A Problem

Well, so many.

Including never managing to post here at a reasonable hour of the day and resorting to between 11-12, never updating my iPhone/computer OS, and sticking to a good diet.

This post, however, is about my reading and book-acquiring habits.

I, That’s So Jacob, fully admit to being a reading addict and a book hoarder.

Allow me to explain.

First, reading addict. Some people say “oh, I read anything,” but I’ll literally read anything. No genre or era is safe; if it’s in a language I can read, I’ll read it. Sometimes I won’t even take the book out of the store, I’ll read the whole thing, then buy it. My reading addiction got me almost accidentally left behind on a family trip to Canada.

Furthermore, once I start a book, I can’t abandon it. Even if it’s a thousand pages, or completely boring, if I’ve gotten more than a page or two into the book, I have to finish it. Some rare cases have included books when I’ve accidentally skipped a chapter/section and not realized it (then I know there’s something wrong with the book…or me), and A Commonwealth of Thieves. It took me a week to read 10 pages without falling asleep mid-sentence. According to my calculations, had I continued reading, it would have taken me about a whole year to read it, upon which point I never looked at the book again. And then again, there was the mistake of picking up Ulysses in high school and feeling like a failure because I had no clue what to make of it, and couldn’t get the first chapter or so.

The last few books I’ve read have been, well…not so great. But not enough to abandon. I have no shame in saying their titles, if only to remind me not to do that again; with so many books and so little time, I need to find out what happens at the ends of the good ones. First, Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. The back cover blurb sounded interesting, but the Ghanaian-British slang made it very confusing as well as the lack of a clear plot. Next came Andorra by Peter Cameron, a book which has nothing to do with the actual nation of Andorra, as it takes place in a coastal Mediterranean town. It also features two characters with the same first and last name (a husband and wife), and too many characters referred to by their common last names. The ending took me by surprise, but it was predictable and honestly at that point I didn’t care anymore. Finally, Red Dust by Ma Jian – a book that has been on my list for years – wound up being as dry as…red dust. After that string of mindless page-skimming, it’s clear that I need to read books I actually care about.

My second confession is to being a book hoarder. I’ve gotten a little better at it actually, I must say; while I still hoard plays/theatre texts (they’re for RESEARCH!) I’ve started to part with some of the books I’ve had around for awhile, and I’m down to a five-shelf bookshelf, two shelves in the bathroom, and two drawers full of mysteries and trade-sized paperbacks. It’s definitely not as bad as it was in Houston. But lately, the book-acquiring bug bit me again. I saw that someone on PaperBackSwap was wishing for a copy of a book in a mystery series that was the next one in series order from where I had left the series, so I actually bought a copy on Amazon mostly for the sole purpose of offering it on PBS (but reading it first, of course).

I also don’t seem to understand the concept of “rewarding myself,” since today I did so preemptively – I promised myself I would work on research for a few hours (which I did end up doing!), in exchange for a trip to a used bookstore where I promptly bought 7 books I likely didn’t need and already have one packaged to send out to a PBS user tomorrow.

Not saying that this addiction is a bad problem, or an expensive one, just one that I can’t seem to break. Will I ever not have the need to read?

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Flip the Script Friday: debbie tucker green, dirty butterfly

It’s been a rather unproductive, unpredictable week in so many ways, that a play by debbie tucker green fits my feelings perfectly. I’ve just had 5 hours working at a craft fair and tomorrow is market day plus salsa saturday, but today is friday and I feel like Flip the Script Friday needs to return, so let me introduce you to dirty butterfly. No capital letters needed.

dirty butterfly at the Young Vic 1 - 11 October 2014

Photo Credit: Gillian Fisher/Afridiziak.com

 

Basics

dirty butterfly premiered in 2003 at Soho Theatre Company in London.

Characters

  • Amelia, black
  • Jason, black
  • Jo, white

Setting/Plot

Somewhen, somewhere (presumably London). The playwright notes that the “audience surrounds the actors.” Amelia, Jason, and Jo are all neighbors in an apartment building. Jo, who is white, has some type of unstable, abusive relationship, of which Jason and Amelia are intimately aware. The epilogue takes us out of the apartments and into a public space, a cafe where Amelia works. Jo enters, and the two have a conversation, punctuated by blood, vomit, footprints, and a trail of paper towels.

My Thoughts

This short-ish play is clearly green’s style, much like random, with truncated words and overlapping voices. It’s a mix of Sarah Kane, Caryl Churchill, and Suzan-Lori Parks. I’ve read a few other works by green, but dirty butterfly is probably my favorite so far. I wasn’t quite sure what the title meant, but for some reason, the paper towel trail and the blood seemed to make things take shape; you know, when you stain or cut a folded piece of paper, and then it’s symmetrical when you unfold it?

Can You Feel the Music

debbie tucker green really personalizes the play with 2 interesting song choices: “Secret Place” by Jhelisa and “Don’t Stop Movin'” by S Club 7. You couldn’t pick two more opposing songs if you tried. Jhelisa’s song is ambient and largely instrumental, and S Club 7 is just pop at its most 2000s. One song pulses with the Earth; the other has a dance beat but is escapist in its message and nature.

How I’d Flip It

green’s staging and notes are pretty straightforward, and I would definitely honor her wishes for a 360-degree arena stage. A revolve might be interesting, too. I feel like I’d put the three in folding chairs at random angles to one another on a donut-shaped stage, and then for the final scene, either raise the middle or put something there to indicate a coffee shop. This play and its characters have sharp edges, so a circular stage would catch them even further off guard.