2

Flip the Script Friday: Stella Kon, Part II: Zeep! and Birds of a Feather

Finally, my chaotic week is over. Next week looks to be just as chaotic, but hopefully, it’ll be a better kind of chaotic. I spent this evening giving my apartment a much-needed cleanup. All I’ve done is the dishes and picking up all the stuff off of the floor, but it looks better and I feel better. Hopefully the counter tops will get attention soon, then the bathroom, and finally the holy grail: the closet.

Then maybe I can actually get some reading done.

Anyway, now, since it’s overdue at the library (actually it’s an Interlibrary Loan) I might as well write about Stella Kon‘s other book of children’s plays, The Immigrant and Other Plays.

The Naga in the Swamp (1977 – side note: this book was published in 1977, and there is no information on original productions, so I am assuming that all five plays were written circa 1977)

Characters

  • Sri Makhota
  • The Princess (his sister)
  • The Penghulu
  • First/Second Courtiers
  • First/Second/Third/Fourth Rakyat
  • The Naga
  • Other Courtiers and Rakyat

Setting/Plot

Kingdom of Palembang, time unsure. Probably long, long ago. The Naga, which is a dragon-like creature, threatens the kingdom but is ultimately brought down by two separate strategies, a confrontation led by Sri Makhota, and an effort to drain the swamp, led by the Princess.

My Thoughts

A very short and straightforward play. It is surprising, though, how many things of note are packed in. For one thing, in a reversal of the norm, the Rakyat, or workers, speak in a lilting verse as they toil, whereas the Princess and the other characters do not. I also see the differences between male and female work ethic; Sri Makhota, the man, talks a big game, then falls asleep, but eventually helps to get the job done, whereas the Princess is proactive in mobilizing her forces to do what needs to be done.

How I’d Flip It

This would be great fun to produce for a group of

14

Ooh, What Happened To Your Finger?

Yesterday, I went for my first day of teaching a theater lab at a local elementary school. Earlier in the day, I had noticed that the skin around my thumbnail was flaking off and bleeding, so I put a band-aid on it. I had forgotten all about it until about 30 seconds into my first session with the children.

“Ooh, what happened to your finger?”

Normally, when you see someone with a band-aid on, it’s not something you ask about. Most of the time, if someone has a bandaged finger or something, you don’t even notice it.

But children always do.

I’ve had several instances in the past few weeks where the skin around my fingernails has been cracking, peeling, and bleeding, so I have been going through a fair amount of band-aids. And every time I show up at Chabad on a Friday night with a bandaged finger or two, it’s always one of the three kids who greets me by pointing out a bandaged finger, and immediately they start asking me what happened.

My usual response: “You ask a lot of questions.”

I’m so mean.

5

What Adults Are Thinking At Birthday Parties for 2-Year-Olds

What time is it starting? 4:00 PM? Okay, I can leave the house at 3:45.

Wait…do I bring a present? What if I do, and no one else does…won’t that be weird? What if I don’t, and everyone else does…am I heartless and cruel?

Screw it, it’s 3:57 and I’ve gotta head out. I guess I’ll be fashionably late.

Wait, two-year-olds don’t really know what fashion is. Do they even know what birthdays are yet?

4:10 PM. Okay, officially heading out the door.

Okay, I’m here, not the first and not the last.

Wow, there are no other children here except for the one who’s having a birthday, and ironically, the only one refusing to wear a party hat.

Thank goodness I’m not the only one without a gift.

Let’s see…who’s here?

Oh, he’s here. Ugh. He tries way too hard to be funny.

And there’s the chick in her thirties who’s sitting on the floor, pretending to get the birthday girl’s attention with toys, but secretly enjoying playing with dolls without being judged. To her knowledge, at least.

Some guy I don’t know, some girl I don’t know…are these friends of the parents or is their kid part of MENSA?

Oh look, Fat Libby’s here. Of course, she’d be here, she can sense an event with free food two miles away.

Speaking of food, what a spread.

Of course, no one’s eating, because we are adults and therefore always dieting, even though there are little signs saying “diet fruit punch,” “gluten-free pizza,” and “cupcakes made with free-range eggs.”

Except the salad, fruit, and veggie platter, which are gone in a flash, and the water pitcher that the hostess is constantly refilling.

Oh, look! The one couple with an actual child is here! This means it’s officially a birthday party for a child and not a bunch of adults sitting around in party hats without alcohol.

Cake time! Let’s sing! And again! And again!

Adorable cake, let’s cut it!

The birthday girl gets the first slice. Also getting cake: her face, her hair, her dress, the floor, the chair she’s sitting on, her mom’s blouse.

Five minutes later…no one else is having cake. Of course.

Oh, wait a minute…here comes Fat Libby. Go figure.

Two slices of the giant cake gone.

Time for presents!

Here, have this card, even though you can’t read it yet. Total waste of $3.95. He could’ve scribbled on a piece of construction paper and it wouldn’t make a difference.

Sucker.

Wow, toys! What a surprise! Yes, you can play with them now, in the middle of the room, with all of us watching. That’s not at all creepy.

Oh look, the adults are playing with the toys. The child is elsewhere, exploring the boxes and bags they came in.

Okay, it’s been like thirty-five minutes, party’s over, can I go now?

“Happy second birthday” ::hug and kiss the adorable birthday girl:: ::chorus of awwws::

Well, that’s over. Now back to my regular schedule of doing nothing.

10

Traveling and Things I Thought Were True When I Was Little

Well hello there, and greetings from the Eastern Time Zone for the first time since January. After a day and a half of travel, I am finally lying in my own bed and should probably be asleep but it’s been too long since I wrote something or updated on my life.

Yesterday, I packed (light) and flew from Madison to Washington-Reagan. The plane was tiny, of course, but I had a row all to myself. Not bad, even with a baby right behind me. Only about two hours of flying time though. My ears popped like crazy; we had a relatively quick and steep descent over the Potomac. I’ve never flown into Reagan before and I did not see the ground until we were literally on it; seriously, I was about to get my flotation device out.

It was a gorgeous day in Washington, so upon my sister’s advice, I took the Blue Line to Foggy Bottom and walked to her place in Dupont Circle along 22nd Street. After meeting her at her apartment, we had a quick dinner at CharBar (kosher meat, and Jack Lew was sitting at the next table!) and came back to clean a little and pack up some stuff.

This morning: time for kindergarten! Yay! Up and at ’em at 6:30 AM, leave at 7:30 to get to her school in Rockville, with a Dunkin’ Donuts stop on the way, and arrival right on time at 8:30. Surprisingly, one of her boys remembered me, and was all “hi, Jacob!” as if I was there every day (for the record, I have visited exactly once before, and that was back in the fall). The kids were mostly good today, and when my mom showed up (she drives down and volunteers there every Thursday) it was even better. I did a lot of reading, spelling, and adding; all helpful things in life. There’s something that’s just so exciting about that age, and the whole kindergarten atmosphere is just so colorful and fun you want to stay and play forever. The kids were done at 3:30, but my sister does tutoring after school, so I transferred my stuff to Mom’s car and we headed back to Baltimore, a trip that took us TWO. WHOLE. HOURS. Just from Washington to Baltimore. Of course, my sister left later and made it in record time, missing all the lovely traffic we suffered through. We had our traditional pre-Passover country club dinner with half the people we’re going to see tomorrow night anyway: my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. Tomorrow night’s seder will be a whopping 23 people, 21 family and 2 friends, which is probably the most people that I am related to being in my house at the same time (if that sentence makes any sense outside of my tired little brain), but Saturday night’s seder is going to be 11; the four of us plus 7 people we’re not related to (2 sets of family friend couples who are related to each other, 1 of my mom’s friends, 1 of my sister’s friends, and 1 of my friends). So that should be fun.

That should get you up to speed on my travels.

Now, for some fun…last week, Jenna Marbles did a video about things she thought were true as a little kid. Here are some of mine:

I thought that:

1. Harriet Tubman was the inventor of the bathtub.

2. Madonna owned McDonald’s and McDonough (a local private boys’ school that my cousin attended). Don’t blame me, they all sounded the same!

3. A cuticle was a short newspaper article.

4. Chartreuse was a word you used when you couldn’t remember what color you were trying to describe.

5. If you named a character after yourself or someone you knew in The Oregon Trail computer game, and they died, that person would die soon in real life. I had several macabre nightmares about dying of malaria, dysentery, and snakebites.

6. If you took medicine and were not sick, it would make you sick.

7. It took me awhile to understand what someone meant by “having something up their sleeve.” Apparently, I was so confused that my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Rubenstein, actually asked me to look inside her sleeve (don’t worry, all I saw was the amount of arm you normally see when you roll up your sleeve) and tell her what was in there. When I saw nothing, that’s when I learned what a figure of speech was.

8. Lemonade was actually…something else yellow in a bottle, and that only boys drink Coke and only girls drink Pepsi.

9. You graduated elementary school at age 10, and high school at age 20 (thank God I was wrong about that).

10. My stuffed animals came to life after I went to sleep. A lot of kids probably thought this, but I was totally invested in it. I remember taking their temperatures to make sure they were not sick when they came out to play, slept with my door open so they could find their way back and get back in easily, and that if they were lying face down, I should leave them alone for awhile because “if they fall forward that’s okay, they need their sleep during the day.” They also all had last names and home addresses and phone numbers; originally they were random collections of letters (one was Sallesam, pronounced “sawl-sam,” something my dad still teases me about today). But, after I took a summer class in mythology, their first or last names changed to Greek and Roman gods/goddesses; for example, I had a stuffed snake that was named Anthony, who gained the Greek name Hephaestus and the Roman name Vulcan, and I had a feminine looking bear who got Juno as her Roman name and Hera as her Greek name, and I called them those names depending on what I felt like calling them that day. I had so many stuffed animals that at one point I made them all name tags. FACT.

10

What’s For Lunch?

So, I probably should have been doing work/reading/exercising/doing something moderately productive, so of course I was on the Internet, but look at what I found. Written in 1916 by a teacher named Nellie Wing Farnsworth in Valley City, North Dakota, it is an instruction book on everyone’s favorite subject in school…lunch.

It’s a quick fifty-two page read, but it’s terribly fascinating. Miss Farnsworth (being a teacher in those days, you can bet she wasn’t married) is delightfully candid in explaining the value of nutrition, as well as a suggested supply list for turning the rural school into a veritable early-twentieth-century Wolfgang Puck, all for the low price of $11.50. She includes information on etiquette and setting the table, but even more unusually, instructions on how to pass food, and tips on encouraging appropriate lunchtime table conversation. The appendix is an incredibly detailed list of foods and their individual nutritional values, as well as providing twenty easy recipes for surefire child-friendly lunch options that are easy to make either at home or in school. Farnsworth’s views are remarkably progressive; she proposes that boys help cook and clean because city boys do that (sure…) and because it will turn them into upstanding gentlemen who know how to sit straight at a table and have the motivation to wash dishes. I am so glad my mother didn’t make me read this as a child. Overall, Farnsworth seems like a wily one; her writing style is remarkably crisp and fresh, and her idea to backhandedly get mothers to supply the school with eating utensils by putting them on hold at the store and inviting them to a meal at school and then donating the supplies that they bought at the store? Genius.

Nellie Wing Farnsworth, you are a winner and a visionary.

Let’s do lunch.

0

Children Are Always Cute When Saying the Four Questions

And that’s just about the only time.

Yeah, I’m being serious.

Small children at meals usually mean that I need earplugs and two Advil. There’s just something about their voices screeching in unison at unholy pitches that just goes straight through the brain. With babies it’s somewhat more tolerable, since they don’t know what they’re doing, bless ’em. It’s the walkers-and-talkers who are germ-spreading, attention-seeking little future-people.

But at the Passover seder, it’s different.

The first night, I dined with YJP (which was supposed to be at the Concourse, but ended up moving to Chabad, oddly enough) and there were no children, so that was cool.

The second night, I returned to Chabad for an undergrad seder. Basically, it was four long tables of loud, obnoxious undergrads over whom the rabbi had to shout the seder.

At the normal point, the rabbi asked everyone to quiet down for the Four Questions, which the youngest children traditionally sing. The baby is still a baby, but fortunately most of the wild undergraduate elephants quieted their roar for the shy, overshadowed middle child to say the four questions with the help of his father. The talking got a little louder when the older, outspoken one started to do it double-time, English interspersed with Yiddish, but strangely, I found myself siding with the kid rather than the crowd. Maybe I like the underdog, or maybe I just intensely dislike the JAPs who go to Chabad because a) their parents told them to and b) they’re getting free food. And they’re probably going to hit up Wendy’s or Chipotle at the soonest opportunity. Or maybe because it’s actually a legit part of the seder.

The cool part of the seder was, after dinner, the rabbi directed anyone wishing to sing more songs over to our table. Because that’s how we Chabad regulars roll.

Not a lot of new visitors over the past few days, but welcome to The Bahamas. Bring friends. And now that I have people who actually read/comment…I’m taking suggestions.

4

Take Your Toddler Off the Table

One time, I was having a perfectly lovely dinner in Houston with my friend, and her friends, who are a young couple with an adorable baby girl who sat and cooed in her stroller the whole time. What happened after dinner absolutely grossed me out. It wasn’t at a particularly fancy place, but it was gross nonetheless.

They put their baby daughter on the table.

On. The. Table.

I don’t know what possessed them to do that, but they did it anyway. And not only did they put her on the table, they picked her up and put her on her feet on the table as if she was dancing. Dancing. In her shoes. Only slightly less gross than if she were in her socks, or barefoot.

I just don’t get it.

If I put my own feet on the table at any point during the meal, you’d be disgusted. Same goes for anyone putting their foot on any dining table while it is being used thusly. You don’t know what’s on the bottom of that person’s shoes, or if their shoes look nice but their feet are dust mops.

Speaking of complete slobs, I knew a girl in Amherst who was one. Well, at least on the outside. She looked like she never showered or brushed her hair, always wore grungy looking outfits which were usually baggy, monotone, and polyester, and had gigantic, oddly-shaped glasses. But appearances aren’t everything, personality is important too…and personality she had. Of a dirty dish towel. She wasn’t an awful human being, just a dull one. I tried to find something redeeming about her, so I tried to grasp at straws. She was usually barefoot, and her feet weren’t grotesque-looking at first glance, but then, I saw her sit down and put her feet up, and on the bottoms? Let’s just say that she possessed a pretty dark and disgusting sole, times two. That is the image I have in mind whenever anyone’s feet, including an adorable little girl’s, go anywhere near where I’m eating or have eaten. Then there’s the whole issue of parents thinking that everything their children do is cute, but that merits a whole different blog entry.

So don’t put your children on the table and especially his/her feet. Or your own feet for that matter. Ever.

Except if the meal is completely finished, and the table has an inset lazy Susan.

Then, it’s adorable, as seen by Figure A (just imagine the record player inset within the table):