Saturday, September 12, 2009


Today, for the first time in more than two years, I had a stroopwafel, a cookie-like creation that I love. Of Dutch origin, each one consists of two thin waffles with a layer of a sweet (but not maple) syrup in the middle, and is usually sold at open-air markets. I wish I was better at describing these, because I'm not doing them justice. The texture, a little grainy, but soft, is perfect, and while they are very sweet, they aren't too sweet. I'd definitely recommend getting some, and if you can get them fresh, all the better.

Although I'm sure you can find them here (a friend says they sell them at the Park Slope co-op, and I bought mine at the New Amsterdam Village they have set up in Bowling Green Park until tomorrow), for me, they are entirely European. I had my first one in Oxford, and my first fresh one (oh my lord, my first fresh one) in Prague. They're tiny, perfect circles, and biting into one today made me feel like I was backpacking all over again. Quite the lovely feeling.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pursuit of Dreams: The Historic Public Schools of Charles B. J. Snyder

Last night, I went to a lecture on Charles B.J. Snyder at the MidManhattan Library. The lecture itself was interesting, and the speaker, Jean Arrington, was well-versed in his architecture and seemed like a genuinely nice person (at one point, she put up a picture of her high school, the design of which was inspired by one of Snyder's buildings). Snyder was the Superintendent of School Buildings in New York City from 1891 to 1923, and he built more than 400 public schools in this time.

His designs were the first to focus on the comfort of children and work around new pedagogies, and they let in more light and air than typical schools of the time, as well as giving outside spaces like courtyards and rooftop playgrounds. His buildings were also the first schools to be completely fireproofed. There were some lovely pictures of the buildings, including one particularly charming 8-room schoolhouse on Statan Island that has been demolished. Of his buildings still extant, a large number are still being used as schools, and the buildings brought in a new era of school design.

One thing I would have liked Arrington to have focused on a little more in depth was the effect of the buildings on pedagogy, and vice versa. I don't often think of space as it relates to theory, but really, what has more of an effect on us than our environment? The lecture did inspire me to check out Jacob Riis's books, which I read an awful lot about in high school, but have never truly inspected. I'll be heading back to the MidManhattan Library after work to do so.

A brief note on that: It's not my favorite library, because the building looks like it's stuck in the 1970s and the lectures there are always filled with crazies who use the Q&A time to discuss their own "political agendas" or do annoying things like smack their lips over and over through the hour-long presentation (seriously, I almost killed that guy last night) and the lines are enormous. I much prefer the main library, because the architecture is gorgeous and reading room is quiet and they have interesting exhibits that somehow don't attract the same crazies that frequent the MidManhattan. However, they do have circulating books that cover the topics I enjoy, and much more frequent evening lectures, so I seem to end up there time and time again.

Mostly about Michael from The Office

The Office is charming for so many reasons. From the first bars of the theme song (doo-weeeeeeee, doo-wee doo-wee doo, wee, do do doo-wee doo-wee…), I am hooked into a loop of feelings ranging from empathy to disgust for Michael, Pam, Dwight, Angela, and all the other Dunder Mifflin employees at the Scranton branch. Though I’ve only seen about a dozen episodes, I’ve gathered that Pam has passive and sweet and ambitious sides of her; Michael is relentlessly hopeful even as he digs his own grave; Jim can be a jerky bro but has rivers of feelings within him; and Dwight is just trying to find a place where he is honored for the particular things he contributes to the world. This is also why I find Dwight’s friendship with Rolf so sweet. They understand and affirm each other in a way that other people can’t for them.

Here aboard Delta flight 70 I just watched the episode about the company picnic, when Michael and his ex Holly put on a skit about the origin of Dunder Mifflin. (This is the most recent episode I’ve seen.) At the end of the day, Michael tells the camera that he and Holly are just one of those couples with a long story: someday they’ll end up together, but the path to that destiny will include times when each person is dating someone else. But Michael is willing to wait, he tells us, and he glows happy, he glows content, probably feeling the deepest connection to another person that he’s ever felt. And in the background, we see Holly walking away holding hands with her new boyfriend. They have plans to build a house together. One can’t help but feel for Michael, especially because the “SlumDunder Mifflinaire” skit he and Holly put on was such a DISASTER.

I pick up on messages about propriety from The Office. Holly’s utmost responsibility to Michael is respect and awareness of his feelings for her. Lying on her side provocatively maybe signifies meanings for Michael that she doesn’t want to imply. Michael’s optimism about a future with Holly is either thoroughly out of touch or the producers have something up their sleeves.

Another lesson from The Office is that each person lives in their own world. One time when I was talking with a friend about peoples’ varying realities, we came to a site of dissonance (which nicely illustrated this larger point of the discussion): I saw it as each person having their own truth or multiple truths while she saw it as each person telling lies. Jim’s almost backstabbyness appeals to the watcher of the documentary because he and the viewer are on the same side; they laugh at the people who work in the office, the people for whom the office is their entire life and meaning. But one man’s office parody is another’s daily hell, just as one man’s dream of a relationship is another’s nightmare.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Behr Paint Color 710C-3: Gobi Desert

When I moved into my apartment in Brooklyn, I was terribly excited to be able to fully decorate a room just as I wanted it. And, in October 2008, I wanted ultra-traditional. To go with my cherry wood bedroom set and my olive-green bookshelf (handmade by my father, hand-repainted by me), I decided I wanted a rich color that wouldn't be too obtrusive. I have a tendency to go for colors like Behr 410D-4 ("Asparagus"), either very deep or very bright colors. But, with my very high ceilings (and a mother who hates color and helped pick out the paint), these seemed like they'd be overwhelming, so I decided on 710C-3, "Gobi Desert." I soon discovered that this is both the best and the worst color in the world.

710C-3 is a rich, deep color, without being too dark. It makes a room warm without looking too much like a country home, and it looks pretty sophisticated with white crown molding. I even like the color shade just below it ("Raffia Cream), although it's a little too close to the white version of colors that my mother likes so much. The name, Gobi Desert, isn't the one I would have chosen (I like my paint names to be a little closer to home, like raffia and asparagus), but the color is lovely and matches everything. It worked so well in my bedroom that I decided to paint my new living room the same color. With much lower ceilings and much less light, it still looks nice, although decidedly warmer. I think I'm more fond of it there, because I'll have cherry floors and green couches (sensing a pattern here?), and I have an extremely bright kitchen and nook (dining nook? book nook? craft nook? I don't know yet...), so it won't be so hyper-traditional. Ah, I love Gobi Desert. Alas, I also hate it.

It is beige, after all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Living Sea of Memory

I went to see a puppet show by Paperhand Puppet Intervention this weekend at the Forest Theater in Chapel Hill. It was incredibly crowded! Definitely a big change from when I performed some selections from Shakespeare plays on that stage one summer at drama camp.

The theme of the show was collective storytelling, specifically looking at how storytelling has been used to oppress, and trying to broaden and explain some of the things we have grown up with. For example, the whole thing begins with a piece that aims to explain how patriarchy got to be such a dominating structure in most of the world's cultures. The show also includes a section compiled from the experiences of members of the company that includes memories of their grandparents, giving pause to how the wisdom and experience older folks is not honored in our society these days.

The thing is, the themes were pulled off through the story and through the spectacular puppets made the thing a joy to watch. There was live music (including 3 drummers) and these huge, colorful puppets that the audience clapped and whooped for every time they entered the stage.

Here is a scene from the very beginning: