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Staying In and Getting Real Night, Part 6

Another Sunday night, another Golden Girls marathon. It’s the episode where Stan becomes attached to a toy monkey, so mute goes the television. Time for staying in and getting real.

So what’s new with you? I’m stressed, as usual, and there’s noise coming from the hallway which will become a real problem if I feel like going to sleep anytime soon. I had a bad week last week in terms of healthy eating, so I skipped the dance team dinner at Great Dane, yet managed to come home from Whole Foods with not only almond butter, protein, and veggies but also a container of gummy stars to reward myself for…well, nothing.

Which brings me to my next topic, or lack thereof. Dissertation. I have a meeting coming up in 2 days to talk about it, and I still have no idea what “it” is, or will be. I’m pretty much at the same place I was four years ago. I thought I’d have it all figured out by now. I feel like I’m probably going to end up googling “how to pick a dissertation topic” because yeah, I should probably start working on that idea sheet. I mean, I have a few ideas, but nothing really concrete enough to gel into a game plan. Granted, it’s still (closer to) the beginning of the semester, and I guess if all else fails I can change my topic. I do know what I don’t want to do; even though I really enjoyed researching the Romani of Central Europe and their performance practices, I feel like I’ve probably exhausted 95% of the sources available to me. Probably very few new books on the topic have come out in the last few years, if any at all. I was even surprised to find one article of interest, in a Canadian journal. Even though language barriers are tough to overcome, ethnic barriers are nearly impossible, and I honestly think that there’s a certain point that I, as a white American, cannot penetrate, either for ideological reasons or because there’s simply nothing on record.

I really want more gummy stars but at 11 PM I said to myself, no more for the night.

Dinner was a lazy salad – threw together some lettuce, onions, cucumbers, Craisins, and tomatoes in a tupperware, tossed it with oil/vinegar/lemon juice, and called it dinner. Not too satisfying, but I’ve got some sparkling water to hopefully sate myself.

I know these posts are super boring and totally against the original purpose of this blog, but what are you going to do. At least it’s real talk and not just pointless word vomit, a la LiveJournal.

Oh, and in other news, I got some reading done today, outdoors even, and I’m close to finishing two books, and I haven’t even finished a single one since February started, so that’s something.

Okay, time to zen out and meditate in order to dissertate. Ommmm….

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Flip the Script Friday: Lucy Prebble, Enron

*Originally posted 7/22/16 – Revised, updated, re-posted 2/17/17*

Hey y’all, so I’ve decided that today will be another Flip the Script Friday. It’s everyone’s least feature blog feature except for this blogger but it’s my blog so I choose what I get to post.

Seeing that I originally pressed the publish button on this one in July 2016, it’s probably time to reread and post an entry about this play so I can finally return it to the library after traveling with me and getting lost under one of the seats of my car for a while. Ladies and gentleman, Enron by Lucy Prebble. And…go.

Basics

This play premiered at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester, England on 11 July 2009.

Characters

  • Ken Lay, CEO of Enron
  • Jeffrey Skilling, President of Enron
  • Andy Fastow, CFO of Enron
  • Claudia Roe, Enron executive
  • Skilling’s Daughter
  • Arthur Andersen, accountant
  • Ramsay & Hewitt, law firm (one male/one female)
  • Sheryl Sloman, Citigroup analyst
  • Lawyer
  • Irene Gant
  • Analysts from JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers
  • Reporter
  • Congresswoman
  • Security Officer
  • Senator
  • Court Officer
  • Public Officer
  • Employees/Market
  • Traders
  • The Board
  • Press
  • Raptors
  • Passersby

(whew, quite the list!)

Setting/Plot

1992, Offices of Enron.

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Fantasy Concert Song Sequence

If I were a better singer, I would definitely want to give concerts. Not to be famous, maybe at a small pub or something. I’d like to mix genres, from easy listening to disco, from Israeli to remixed pop, from R&B to classics.

Every so often, I come across a sequence of songs on my iPod that blend into one another so seamless despite crossing genres that it almost feels like the same people could be singing. I usually forget those combos, but tonight I decided to change that, so behold, my first ever Fantasy Concert Song Sequence post. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but these songs sure do.

The first song, is “House on the Lake,” from the Black Cadillac album by Rosanne Cash. It has a nice little gentle flow to it, not quite soporific, but soothing – a light, easy listening/country/folk number. After it faded out, the next song to come on was from the 90s R&B girl power song “Don’t Let Go” by En Vogue. It’s a similar tempo, but a with a little more punch to it, and would most likely wake the audience back up, especially with the rapid genre change. As I was getting into the shower, that song ended and the next one began. It was from the same era and genre, but it fit nicely just the same, “Words” by Anthony David & India.Arie. These are not my three favorite songs in the world, but they loop together quite nicely, so take a listen.

Hopefully this will be the start of an interesting new series of posts.

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Tales from School: To Market, To Market

My voice is almost gone and I’m falling asleep left, right, and center, but I think I managed to put together and execute a pretty good (if not interesting/unique) lesson plan for today.

To preface: this month in Social Studies, we traveled from Greece to Nigeria, our first country in Africa. It’s proving to be a difficult country to teach, since I know way less about it than the others we’ve done so far (Russia in September, Argentina in November, China in December, and Greece in January), but I’m turning into my own expert, I guess. Good thing we are having a guest from Nigeria come in on Thursday, thanks to one of my co-teachers.

Last week, I introduced Nigeria with a folktale, then taught some facts, and after that, broke the class up into three tribes, reflecting the three main tribes of Nigeria: the Hausa, which consists of (names changed) – Sara, Ben, Kanisha, Henry, and Suzanne; the Igbo, which is Kenny, Pilar, Jimmy, Shannon, and Hannah; and the Yoruba, which is Alexis, Abbie, Parker, Frannie, and Elizabeth. Their task was to create a costume from their given ethnic group, and at the end of class, the Hausa were in the lead, followed by Igbo and Yoruba.

So, today, after reviewing some facts, and talking about the differences between the farmer’s market here and the one in a YouTube video about Nigeria, I introduced the next challenge: the Nigerian Marketplace. In this activity, two people from each tribe would set up a market stall while two of their other tribe members would set out and barter items with the other tribes at their market stalls, while the 5th person would write down and keep track of the ingredients and the recipes. The recipes each team needed to complete were Igbo okra soupHausa jollof rice, and Yoruba efo riro (a vegetable stew). Each recipe required different quantities of ten items, represented by differently shaped/colored pieces of foam, representing onions, tomatoes, curry, ginger, spinach, yam, okra, fish, rice, and ato rodo (red pepper). Each tribe’s market stall received a different amount of goods, and the buyers went around asking for different items that they needed, offering deals. The first tribe to return to the Social Studies classroom from the marketplace with all of the items needed to make all 3 dishes would win the challenge.

It turned to chaos pretty quickly. Since the activity was supposed to emulate a Nigerian marketplace – it wasn’t too out of place. After the items were distributed to each tribe’s sellers, the buyers would get items from their team that they had too many of (for example, if they had too many onions), and barter for what they needed. Each group took a different approach. The Hausa tribe, which is mostly older kids, were very into the “character” aspect of the game and set their stall up neatly. Their sellers, Sara and Suzanne, stationed themselves behind the table and the buyers mostly stuck by them, only going out when absolutely necessary, adopting more of a “trading post” strategy. The Yoruba tribe, who completely imploded the previous week, were helped out by my boss, and they did a little better as a team but still struggled. This group had trouble understanding the challenge, and pretty much just did everything together, especially when Parker (a seller along with Elizabeth) lost interest and wandered away. As usual for that team, Abbie (the recipe writer) took control while Frannie (who was supposed to be a buyer along with Alexis) just sort of did whatever she wanted, annoying her team by picking up random items from their table and putting them on other tables, and taking random items and putting them on her tribe’s table, which made everyone angry. The Igbo tribe, which is most of the younger kids, started out with no real strategy; they did not have a lot of supervision, so their market stall was usually unmanned and just full of disorganized “stock” that the team kept trading. Pilar and Shannon were the two designated buyers and for the most part did what they were supposed to do, but Jimmy and Kenny, who were supposed to sell, got bored because the other two teams were pretty much just staying around their own tables while Pilar, Shannon, and Hannah bartered, so they started bartering their items too.

Eventually, the Igbo team compiled all the things they had and put the dishes together, so they had two dishes completed rather quickly and just needed a few items from the other groups (the Hausa were arguing about strategy and Yoruba were still trying to figure out what to do) and managed to sneak through and get all their items through their “divide and conquer” strategy and within 30 minutes, they accompanied me back to “base” (the other room) to check on their dishes. There was some minor drama when Suzanne’s chair tipped over and she fell out and hit her head (she was fine, it was probably either clumsiness or for attention), when most of the boys just wandered away from the classroom because it was too noisy, and when the Igbo team realized that they had too many tomatoes, and traded some away, but then needed them back when they realized that a tomato had been put in the wrong dish, but initially, they had all their ingredients and came back first, winning the challenge.

We were running very close to over-time, so I had the Igbo tribe clean up their items while I went to the other room. Basically, Abbie from Yoruba kind of gave up and started just giving all the items to Hausa because she was frustrated with her team, and even though neither group got all their dishes, I had them clean up anyway. That was when I learned that it can be risky to play this type of game with a mixed-age group; Alexis from Yoruba (age 6) came in crying because her team lost the challenge, and it took Abbie (age 10), Parker, and Elizabeth from Yoruba team, to cheer her up, telling her it was just a game. Abbie and Kanisha said that they understood that the point of the game wasn’t really to get all the items (actually, it was, kind of…to get the correct items) but it was about teamwork and working together (also true). In the final moments of class, I awarded 30 points to Igbo for winning and split 15 each between Hausa and Yoruba; gave Yoruba 10 points for “best leadership” (Abbie); gave Hausa and Igbo 10 points for “best teamwork”; gave Igbo 10 points for “best shoppers” (Pilar and Shannon); and a 5-point “sportsmanship award” to Yoruba for Abbie, Parker, and Elizabeth’s comforting of Alexis after losing the game. Who knows if the younger kids on Igbo would have cried had they lost, but they were quite happy to be the winners, and overlook the lead from Hausa while Yoruba still trailed behind. At the day’s end, Igbo was in first with 119 points, followed by Hausa (97) and Yoruba (84). Overall, I think this activity might have been too intense for the younger ones, despite them gaining the knowledge of haggling/bartering and Nigerian market products.

Man was that exhausting. My voice is now almost totally gone, but hopefully this will serve as a good memory for the kids and they will have learned from the experience.

What do you think about this lesson? Write it below!

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Flip the Script Friday: Jordan Harrison, Maple and Vine

This is one seriously fantastic new (ish) play. Even if you don’t like plays, or scripts, or Flip the Script Friday, you’re going to want to read this review and probably, subsequently, the play. Just think of this post as a book review. It’s something unlike I’ve ever read before, and I’d be thrilled if I ever got the chance to see it. It’s called Maple and Vine, by Jordan Harrison.

The Basics

Maple and Vine was written by Jordan Harrison. It premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2011. 

Characters

  • Katha – An assistant at a publishing house. Mid to late 30s. Married to Ryu.
  • Ryu – A plastic surgeon. Mid to late 30s. Married to Katha.
  • Dean – Late 30s, member of SDO. Married to Ellen.
  • Ellen – Late 30s, member of SDO. Married to Dean.*
  • Jenna – Co-worker of Kathy’s at the publishing house.*
  • Omar – Co-worker of Kathy’s at the publishing house.*
  • Roger – Member of SDO.*

*NOTE: Ellen/Jenna are played by the same actor, as are Omar/Roger.

Setting/Plot

Present day, American metropolis (most likely New York City, but never directly stated – Katha does talk about moving to Nyack, though). Corporate drone Katha and plastic surgeon Ryu have hit the wall, in both their personal and professional lives. Both feel unfulfilled in their careers, Katha due to office gossip and Ryu tired of his entitled trophy-wife clients. One day, after Katha has quit her job, she meets Dean in a park, looking right out of the 1950s, and finds out that he is part of a group called the Society of Planned Obsolescence, which consists of couples and families who live in a private community where it’s perpetually 1955 – living history, but not for tourists. Katha is intrigued, and convinces Ryu to give up his job and do a “trial run” at SDO with Dean and his doting wife, Ellen. As Katha (now referred to as Kathy) and Ryu settle into their new lives as a housewife and a box factory worker, they face challenges in trying to keep up with the times, while Dean and Ellen encounter struggles as well due to some unfinished business.

My Thoughts

Even though it takes place in the slow pace of the “1950s,” it reads like a thriller; you want to find out what happens next, what Roger comes up with, how Kathy and Ryu change, what kind of style the playwright is going to utilize next. Speaking of style, Jordan Harrison really ramps up the 50s nostalgia by sprinkling direct-address scenes in between the action. It’s much more powerful in the first act, as it feels like Dean and Ellen are narrating newsreels straight to you. As the action goes from big city to 1950s community, Kathy starts to appear more and more frequently in those scenes while becoming less of a main focus in the main plot, just as she is relegated to the home. The dream sequences in the second act are a little out of the ordinary and seem like a way to keep the audience aware of the Jenna and Omar characters (who, by Act II, have absolutely no reason to reappear in the play).

But back to the content of the piece, it speaks to the way I’ve been thinking/feeling lately – how life seemed so much simpler back then, or at least in the 1980s/1990s. True, we still used our land lines and we didn’t have Google to help us function, but expectations were lower. It was a simpler time. It was a better time. Nobody hid behind their social media accounts or sat (like me and many others) in front of their computer screens every waking moment of their lives. People had meaningful relationships after meeting at social events designed for that purpose, unlike the anonymity and nebulousness of the world of dating apps. People had fewer possessions to keep track of. Granted, it wasn’t perfect – the draft, the Cuban Missile Crisis – but there are some elements of that era which would not be unwelcome to see return. And I know where your mind is right now, but I am of course against anything related to the MAGA movement because the overall quality of life in America has exponentially improved to the point that if I had the chance to move back to the 1950s, I would say no without a second thought. Life was not perfect then, and it isn’t perfect now, but the conveniences and developments that have taken place since the 1950s make me incredibly grateful to be living in this time.

Major Themes

Give Me the Simple Life

SCENE 10.

(ELLEN speaks directly to us. She smokes, wonderfully. This time DEAN is standing farther off, just out of the light.)

ELLEN:

Here are some things you’ve never heard of.

Hummus.

Baba Ganoush.

Falafel.

Focaccia.

Ciabatta.

Whole grain bread…

(She raises her eyebrows significantly: “Yes, not even whole grain bread.”)

Let’s start with Dean and Ellen. Dean seems like the perfect 1950s guy, and he is, aside from his love affair with Roger. Of course, back then, it was unheard of for gay couples to have a household, but the way Ellen deals with it (and remember, all these characters are products of the 21st century) is just so 1950s. The sneaking around, the denial, the secrecy, the doubletalk – though they didn’t appear in I Love Lucy, the way everyone reacts to it shows how scarily accurate this society is aiming for.

KATHA: You’re the one who’s always talking about the hours. The emptiness. The injecting goo into trophy wives who think you’re their best friend. Give it six months. Think of it like a vacation. A vacation from your life. And if you miss all that, I’m sure they’ll be dying to have you back. (Beat.) Do you love your job?

RYU: No.

KATHA: Do you love your life?

RYU: No.

KATHA: Do you love me?

RYU: Yes.

Then, there’s Katha and Ryu. In the beginning, they seem rather whiny and I actually pictured them to be millennials, or at least decades younger than Dean/Ellen, when it turns out they’re all roughly the same age. Katha and Ryu have a code word whenever they need to talk about something non-1950s related, but it becomes used less and less frequently. Katha, in particular, undergoes the most dramatic change. In the present day, she’s a jaded, miserable, pill-popping drone whose sex drive has completely gone away. As the couple regress to the 1950s, they discover what makes their lives meaningful and whole, letting go of their past lives in both a literal and spiritual sense.

Hi Honey, I’m Home

My favorite part of the play is seeing how Kathy and Ryu flourish in their new environment. And it doesn’t feel forced; you get to see all the little victories that validate their new lives, such as watching Ryu learn how to assemble a box or Kathy as she follows a recipe for the first time in the kitchen. There’s no magic, just a logical learning curve which makes the questionable “fakeness” associated with the concept of SDO seem like a warm bath rather than a bucket of icy water tossed into your face. Rather than become 50s caricatures like Dean and Ellen seemed in Act I, Ryu and Kathy emerge as…well-informed for their time period, while at the same time firmly ensconced in their new lives. It’s not a complete trading of places, because Kathy and Ryu’s personalities don’t change, just their outfits and speech patterns.

The Elephant in the Living Room

In case you couldn’t tell by his name, Ryu is Japanese. His and Kathy’s surname is Nakata, and as an interracial couple, it’s pretty obvious that they’re an anomaly in their new society. Although it’s never a good thing to be on the receiving end of discrimination, and I think that Ryu totally goes overboard in his new “backstory,” I’m glad that a) it exists, and b) it is very much discussed in Act II as much as it is unremarkable in Act I. Even though Kathy and Ryu embrace their new lives, and yes, some racial comments/incidents occur, by the end, the two of them have brought the normalization of interracial couples into the 1950s – as weird as it sounds – and by subtly bringing in this 21st century concept, it makes them way more likeable; even though their world has gone backwards in time, they’ve inexplicably spun an inaccuracy into an advantage.

The Title, Though

At first glance, I thought that the title was kind of weird. I think the phrase “Maple and Vine” is stated only once in the play, used when referring to the location of Kathy/Ryu’s house in the SDO community. I was thinking along the lines of “Hollywood and Vine.” Repeating it over and over in my head, it came to me – of course, it’s the same Bible verse that appears in The Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare) and gives the play Cling To Me Like Ivy its name. In case you’re lost, it’s that saying about how a woman should be attached to her husband just like a vine to a tree. After that, I appreciated the title a lot more.

How I’d Flip It

Scenery-wise, I’d have to go with proscenium. The content literally begs to be enclosed in a picture frame, as unexciting as that may be. The costumes would be fun, attempting to contrast the 21st century crew with the SDO folks. Sound-wise, I think it would be fun to have some sprightly 1950s-commercial sounds, the ones that accompany cleaning products or instructional videos on how to properly pack a suitcase. For some reason, I’m not hearing a lot of 21st century sound for the first act, and it would be interesting to have it quiet, at least during the Katha/Ryu scenes. I’d really need to find songs from 1955 or earlier; I don’t want to get kicked out of the SDO. Another fun idea: pipe in some snippets from old radio broadcasts – either commercials, banter, or headlines from that year.

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What Fresh Hell Can This Be: Stars

I haven’t been this inspired to write a blog post in a while, but here I am, and surprise, a rant. Well, more like a curiosity. Or a facepalm. You be the judge.

Last night, I was searching for some activities to use with my class today to teach the lesson of the day, humility. So, I do some Googling. Usually when I search for Thursday activities with ethical themes (truth, integrity, patience) I get homeschooling websites and blogs, almost always Christian. Sometimes, the activities are adaptable for a Jewish school, but if they include something from the New Testament, I click away. I came across this interesting website.

At first glance, it didn’t seem so bad. Then I scrolled down to read some of the details of the activity, and here’s an…interesting one.

Wear Humility: Cut a large star out of yellow or gold posterboard and tie yarn on it so it can be placed around a child’s neck. Explain that wearing the yellow star represents being prideful and place it around the child’s neck. Then, take off the yellow star and give the child a small star sticker to wear and explain that the smaller star represents being humble.

Image result for fran drescher

Ummmmmmmmmmm…yeah. About that.

Obviously, Stacy Zeiger, the author of this article, has either never taken a history course or has not spent enough time around Jews. For those of you who are unaware as to why this is a problem (and Ms. Zeiger, if you’re reading this), allow me to explain.

So, one time, there was this thing called World War II. During this time, the Holocaust occurred, and six million European Jews were killed. But before they were sent off to concentration camps, while they were still allowed to live in cities and towns, they were forced to wear identification in the form of a yellow star, usually saying Jude or Juif inside it, depending on the country and its language. They looked like this:

So, fast forward to now, where Stacy Zeiger is living in New Jersey and putting large yellow stars on children, as a negative symbol. If there ever was a time to clap back, it’s now.

Image result for oh no you didn't jewish

This ::clap:: does ::clap:: not ::clap:: fly ::clap::

Especially not in a Jewish school. I can only imagine this lesson being done in the classroom, and then Grandma coming to pick up little Sarah for a dentist appointment, only to see a room full of children wearing yellow stars symbolizing “excessive pride.” I think you’d need a paramedic before a dentist for that reaction.

I’m not saying that gold stars are bad. I have star stickers, some are yellow, and I use them sometimes. On papers, though. Not on humans. A yellow star on an essay says one thing; a yellow star on a person says quite another. I mean, seriously? Really? You thought this was a good idea to publish? On a website? For anyone to read?

I decided to look up a little more on this Stacy character, and I have to say, everything I’ve found is just. so. awful. Not in an evil way, but…she just sounds terrible. She lives in Bridgeton, New Jersey, even though she is originally from Ohio with degrees from Miami University and Ohio State. She’s a Christian, which goes without saying. According to her Twitter, she’s “Mother of the Year.” Her Amazon.com page is full of self-published books with crappily-designed covers.

Humility is an important lesson, but yeah, this is probably one of the dumbest ways anyone’s thought to go about it.

A gold star for you, Stacy.

Image result for fran drescher shade

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Meet the Newest Toy in the Cabinet

Just announced, from the makers of Caribou Barbie…it’s Betsy Regretsy!

She comes with pantsuits in three exciting colors: royal blue, midnight blue, and cerulean.

Pull her string to hear her say, “I support accountability!” “Look at all this money I have!” and “School is hard. Let’s go shopping!”

Batteries not included because she lacks any current knowledge.

Only 36 more weeks to shop for Christmas.