The Last Day

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it - always."

-Mahatma Gandhi

(Marvelous photography is by Tim Walker)

Not Quite Twelfth Night

"And by and by Christopher Robin came to an end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn't stop."

- from The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

Happy Christmas!

Everywhere you go in the UK, every holiday event, every store sale, you'll find miniature mince pies topped with stars being handed out... people line up for these spicy crust-filled treasures.

Kasey and I brought the British tradition home with us... and with no bakery around to supply us with this hallmark of Christmas... found that it's really not that hard to make them yourself.

It wasn't this white last night... view I encountered from the upstairs landing this morning.

Blankets of snowdrifts.

Bear, the snow dog.

Still snowing...

Merry Christmas... every one!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

No, not referring to Jimmy and Leslie (above) - although that was the theme at Bungalow 8 this past weekend...these two just hadn't seen Tim Burton's claymation story, so came, well... a little more North Pole than eccentrically dark and Victorianesque. Ha! It wasn't till they got there and saw people with white faces and dark circles around their eyes that they fully understood...

Anyway, the nightmare before Christmas that I'm actually referring to is something of what the lead up to this year's holiday has been for me. I don't even mean it a smidge metaphorically; the proverbial 12 days of Christmas have been more of a walk through uncertain gloom and doom than bursting with new surprise trappings of holiday cheer. Each day of advent felt like opening a gift of coal, or maybe more accurately, nothing at all.

You see, I applied for a visa to remain in the UK, which involved shipping my passport and plenty of other documents off to the "UK Home Office" - and even though everyone else that I know who applied for the same thing got theirs within a month, mine, for whatever reason (I theorize that the Brits think I could be a Communist spy since I've traveled to way too many subversive countries, and my passport and neither of my visa photos look anything like each other) there was no sign of mine.

As a result, I moved out, but was unable to the leave country the next day as planned, and found myself, not only stranded in the UK sans family, but homeless.

Yet, as my sister told me when she departed for her flight to the States that I was supposed to be on, we wake up from our nightmares. And so we do. On Tuesday my visa came (a day late), and I was miraculously able to get a flight leaving today.

So while you all hold your breath for me that I do indeed end up home safe and sound, please enjoy these pics from one of our last 2008 nights out in London (and Kasey's last as a resident Londoner - for now) - a much more enjoyable version of "A Nightmare Before Christmas" a la Tim Burton at the uber exclusive Bungalow 8. Enjoy!

Madame Kasey caught in spider webs.

Scary snake that Jimmy found on the floor next to our table... after he terrorized people with it sufficiently, it ended up in Kasey's purse...

Who ya gonna call? Jimmy, Kasey, and Bosaina in a wretched struggle over the phone in the St. Martin's Hotel lobby.

Jimmy with me after he figured out that he should rethink the Santa theme.

The group.

Ahh... sisters... (Kasey, London and I will miss you!)

what remained

I moved out today (long story... alluded to, in part, by the very memorable and well-received "cracks" video featured here a week or so ago).

After too-many consecutive hours of sorting and boxing and schlepping, I thought everything had been cleared out, but upon my last survey of the place, I realized I'd inadvertently left a collage/mural I'd created affixed to the wall - a montage of Rodney Smith photographs captioned by bits of a favourite quote of mine from Catharine MacKinnon, renowned scholar, feminist, and all-around intriguingly smart woman.

With movers breathing down my neck, I rushed to take down my makeshift composition; haphazardly peeling off the images as quickly and as delicately as possible; tossing them into an empty box. But just as I was about to tear the last lingering picture from the wall, the final possession of mine to grace the little abode I'd inhabited for nearly a year, I paused, because I hadn't meant for this particular pairing to be the finale... hadn't intended it as the savored last word. But there it was, my favourite part, the quote's true crux.... since it doesn't really matter what philosophical trappings came before or after it, without this fragment, all the surrounding philosophy is meaningless.

"But invent the capacity to act," it said.

Indeed. This is true for everyone... regardless of what you believe. And I'd sort of like to think that the message staring at me was a serendipitous metaphor; a small wink from the universe, rewarding me and egging me on with this symbolic nudge of encouragement; confirming that this move was progression, that I was going forward in a good way.

Almost as if to say, "Well done! But keep it up! Perfect or imperfect, you must continue to take action!"

So I took a picture of the picture as proof. As a reminder to myself, and to you, that thought is nothing without the physical act - just as Catherine MacKinnon insisted, it is in our actions that our power manifests itself. Want to do something? Take a leap. Don't like where you are? Move.


“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
- Arundhati Roy

(Photo is by Gregory Colbert from his magnificent traveling show Ashes and Snow.)

The Highway Sign of Life

As seen (and taken by) Kasey in the V&A's "Museum of Childhood." She says it's her life's new mantra.

I think she may be onto something... it all looks so straightforward and clear-cut when put this way... no?

This is not a post! It's for my letting agent - a short double feature entitled: The Growing Cracks in My Flat!

I assure you that my *actual* short films center on more thought-provoking material, are better-filmed, and generally possess greater entertainment value... however, if you still wish to proceed... as always - Enjoy!

Crashing Film Premieres

So Kasey and I had called it an exhausted day - having spent the late afternoon viewing archival film footage at the Mediatheque at the Southbank Centre - and were anxiously navigating our way to an under-used exit, looking forward to getting home for some much-needed R&R.

Earlier, as we'd gone inside, I'd seen the red carpet... the crowd of people... the broad-shouldered men in dark suits monitoring the velvet ropes... the cameras and the peppering of women in ballgowns.

"Hmmm...?" I thought, "I wonder what's going on?"

Hours later, Kasey and I were turning this way and that in our attempt to get out of the Southbank complex, fantasizing about the soup we were planning to prepare on this drizzly day - when suddenly, we unmindfully passed some threshold and had the distinct feeling that we had stumbled into *something.* Waiters were carrying trays of canapes and bending to offer us some... arty folks were huddled together... a blonde girl in a strappy gown was talking about "finishing my first film in London."

I looked at Kasey. Kasey looked at me. Without saying a word, we knew the sentiment was mutual: "I have no idea what this is about, but let's stay awhile..."

Feeling sheepish in our winter gear, we quickly located the makeshift coat check manned by slinky girls, and then shed and handed over as many of our layers as we possibly could. We found some hors d´oeuvres (to save us from fainting) and some sparkling water and then stood trying to look as if we belonged. It was definitely a film party of some sort... everyone was talking about film... we tried our utmost best to be social without giving away the fact that, oh, "we so don't belong here, and in fact, we don't even have the faintest clue what is going on..." (Spy skills of the secret agent variety I tell you!)

Before we knew it, the crowd started to dissipate; people were all being herded into another room.

Again, Kasey and I looked at each other, shrugged, and followed. As it became obvious that we were all funneling into a theatre, we held our breathe that nobody was going to ask us for our ticket - our seat assignment. But no, we were in luck... except for a prominently marked VIP section... it was every party attendee for themselves... Whew...

We sat down and Kasey struck up a conversation with the posh British gentleman next to her. He lent her his program and we learned that we were to see a Turkish film called My Marlon and My Brando. Before the film started, as the announcer, and then the director of the film stood to speak, we discovered that we were at the opening night gala for London's 14th annual Turkish Film Festival... and we were about to see the festival's feature selection.

So we settled in and watched a rather unreal tale (although it was actually based on a true story) of a girl from Istanbul who falls in love with a Kurd from Northern Iraq prior to the Gulf War. When the war begins, she goes on a quest to find him... taking her to the border of Iraq and then Iran. The scenery was fantastic... the sense of these rather foreign peoples' humanity was very palpable and real - but the execution of the overarching plot was a little too over-the-top passionate to really be bought. Oh well. No complaints considering that we'd seen it in the context of such an interesting and unexpected night.

We stayed a bit for the party that followed the film before deciding that we should go since we didn't want to miss the last tube home... after all, unlike some of the legitimate and bedecked attendees, no car and driver was waiting for us to walk back down the red carpet in order to chauffeur us home.

Strange Symbiosis

“Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”

- Rainer Maria Rilke (one of my favourite wise writers ever - who also happens to be a fellow Czech)

The picture above was taken by Tierney Gearon as part of a photo essay collection called "The Mother Project." The monstrous being terrifying the helpless babe with that horrifying mask is actually the child's mother... moments before (sans mask) they'd been frolicking in the field all smiles.

That's a Wrap!

I've probably seemed slightly out-of-touch with stories and well-thought-out thoughts lately - I realize... but that's because I've been sooo busy working on my little documentary film project (among other things...). The picture above is me directing "on set." (Yes, the girl with newly-auburn hair smack in the middle of the pic.) But as of today, the filming is over. Whew...! Now there's just the long and involved editing process to tackle...

The "character" central to my character study... the whimsically brilliant, Aditiya.

Less Naive

"Naive comrades, there are evil men on the Earth."

- Herve Kempf

Clear View at Midnight

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”

- Kahlil Gibran

Book of Stunted Beings

"It's no good trying to keep up old friendships. It's painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it.”

- William Somerset Maugham

The picture is Magritte's Les Mots et Les Images aka "The Words and the Images." Ha... let's just say I found it appropriate...

Weekend in Warwickshire

There's probably no better person to accompany you on a castle-excursion than a prince. And it so happens, just as Kasey and I embarked upon an extremely impromptu trip up north to see Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick Castle, we unexpectedly ran into a royal friend of mine. Though his palace happens to be in Rajasthan (and I do mean palace), he knew enough about English fort strategy, battlements, and castle layout, to easily pass for one of William the Conqueror's progeny - King William being the man responsible for building the still-splendid Warwick in the late 11th century.

This foster descendant of Will, with his command of fortress design, took complete charge of our Warwick expedition. Our prince guided us through the castle war rooms and towers, paused patiently for pictures, furnished us with an umbrella, ensured we took great care climbing the dark spiraling staircases, and then, treated us to tea. What was meant to be a day of ordinary sightseeing through Warwickshire's preserved remnants, ended up as a veritable trek through living chivalry; astonishing proof that, while rare, the concept is indeed, NOT dead. How refreshing!

(P.S. - As a TOTAL aside, also at Warwick was Verne Troyer, aka "Mini Me" from Austin Powers. The guy is unbelievably tiny (like, two feet tall - yet another reminder of how movie cameras make people look far more substantial than they actually are) and, from what I could tell, very energetic. At the castle tower, he gleefully taunted his accompanying motley crew by perilously jumping up and down on a grate that offered a hair-raising view of the ground far far below (I bet the large spaces in between those slats have meant the death of several mobile phones.)

Although Troyer and his friends naturally caught my attention, I didn't stare too closely, so I had no idea the little daredevil was anyone of note. I even rather obliviously asked a member of his entourage to snap a picture of our trio... Ha, NOW I understand the rather bemused look he gave me in response.)

Below are a few pictures from our countryside excursion. Enjoy!

Local cathedral as seen through the cross-shaped archery opening in one of the castle's parapets.

Warwick Castle upon approach... complete with drawbridge.

View of the interior castle grounds and green valley from the highest tower.

Closer to Stratford-Upon-Avon... the childhood home of Anne Hathaway, wife of another William: Shakespeare.

The Humble Elegance of Humanity

Right now, I'm gearing up to direct a short film/documentary about a farcical friend of mine whom I find enigmatically enlightened and equivocally hilarious. So in the course of my preparations and reference research for the project, I picked up the interview series First Person by acclaimed director, Errol Morris.

While I respect Morris' work, especially regarding a few select sketches (ahem, Temple Gradin), I don't recommend you go out and rent the volume. The bulk of the vignettes are pretty disturbing; morosely troubled individuals plucked from society's periphery; their stories and psyches poked at and pulled apart for our viewing abhorrence - not really my fare.

But among the freakish rough there is one sublimely poignant piece. It's about an unflinchingly brave, humbling, and awe-inspiring pilot, Dennis Fitch, who helped steer United Airlines Flight 232 to an emergency landing after the plane's hydraulics gave out. This incredible interview I insist you see for the very esteem and constitution of your soul.

Since I also just told you not to go out and rent the DVD's, I found the bits and pieces on Youtube and kindly pasted them below for your convenience (and so you really really have no excuse not to watch it.) It's about an hour in total, so make sure you can devote that much to Mr. Fitch's tale and that your setting's appropriate - it's really not the sort thing you can effectively watch at your desk in stops and starts.

And what should you expect? Expect to marvel at man's capacity to rise to the occasion. Expect to shed tears. Expect to come away with a renewed appreciation for the fragility and potential-nobility of life.

Yes, it's that good. I only aspire to deliver as much some day...


Leaving the Earth by Errol Morris







Offending Grammarians with Welsh Rarebit

Let's set aside the persistent sickness, and the breakup, and the incessant rainstorm of Noah's Ark proportions that has plagued us here in London for the past ten days straight, and focus on more cheery things. For instance, I looked outside today and marvelously saw a soft blue sky. And nearly as considerable, I just tried welsh rarebit for the first time. (I'd love to say that I made welsh rarebit for the first time, but it was all Kasey's doing.)

I know the name makes it sounds like some hearty, carnivorous dish, but welsh rarebit is astonishingly nothing more than a muddle of cheese, egg, onions, and a dash of seasoning, broiled atop a slice of bread. Yet, despite the recipe's overt veggie-friendliness, "rarebit" is indeed a reference to rabbit. Food historians aren't quite sure if the name is simply a reflection of the Welsh's intense fondness for cheese, or if it comes down to the reality that while some of the lower classes used rabbit in place of more expensive butcher meats, the Welsh were so poor, cheese was often their substitute for proper animal protein.

Either way, there are grammarians out there who bristle at the use of "rarebit" rather than "rabbit" when referring to the dish. H. W. Fowler wrote in the 1926 edition of the Dictionary of Modern English Usage: "Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong."

I'll leave the decision to you as to whether or not you'd like to elicit scorn from the likes of Mr. Fowler when referring to it, but do try this British specialty. It's simple to throw together and pleasingly savory; a smidge reminiscent of quiche - just on toast!


Adapted from Jill Dupleix's Welsh Rarebit

1 small onion, finely diced
150 grams mature Cheddar or double Gloucester, grated
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 egg yolk
1-2 teaspoons mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper, or a dash of Tabasco sauce
4 slices of bread, toasted

Saute the onions in a non-stick pan until soft and browned. In a bowl combine the cheese, Worcestershire sauce, egg yolk, mustard, and cayenne, mashing well. Add the onions and mix to a spreadable paste. Spread the cheese mixture over the toast, right to the edges. Place under the broiler for 2 minutes until hot and melted.

"Tis better to have loved and lost..." Yeah......? I think Tennyson was an idiot.

It's sort of a strange thing to announce a breakup over a blog... especially when you always told your now-ex boyfriend that the whole reason you never wrote about him was because you didn't want to have to explain his disappearance from the blog to an anonymous audience if you ever broke up. (Well that, plus he never read it anyway.) Ha. That's irony for you.

But there it is. I'm currently in post breakup. Have been for a week now - and it's sad... and depressing... and unreal. Especially since even though I technically ended it, I didn't particularly want it to end (Do we ever? Really? Truly?). It was more one of those things when you start out mildly unhappy about one thing and say, "Um, this has to change..." And they nod and smile, but don't take it too seriously. So a few weeks later you're back there again saying, "Okay, no, like really, you've got change this." Yet, for whatever reason, some men are just too-stubborn or oblivious or confident of the fact that they've got your love all sewn up to realize that "this" is a deal breaker for you... and they continue on with it, all the while professing their love... until you find yourself yelling at them with tears streaming down your face: "YOU'RE FORCING ME TO LEAVE YOU!"

Then, just like that, it's over. Quicker, and swifter, and much less drawn-out than you probably would have liked. Certainly than I would have liked. Because, as I said, it's not like I didn't adore him. Or consider him my best friend in London. Which he was.

And it hurts for that very reason. It's horrific to be here again, in this place where someone has disappeared from my life and the only person I really want to talk to about their disappearance is them. When quiet hours feel barren and I know there will be a long melancholic stretch without frequent calls or relaxed and comfortable kisses; an unsettling realization that I'll never hear anyone say "bA-by" to me in that same soft and endearing way again.

I know what they say. I've heard it all. That time heals. That there's someone else just around the bend. Blah, blah, blah. In reality, while time does numb, and yes, you meet other people... I sort of think everyone I've ever loved has carried off pieces of my heart that I've never gotten back. After hearing lots of disheartening stories about others' failed relationships through the years, I think it's true for most; to varying degrees we're all a bunch of unrequited lovelorns staggering around... even if some are a little more stalwart about it than others.

Call me jaded. I can take it. But better to have loved and lost? I have yet to be convinced. No, I think it is much better not to have loved than to have lost in the end. Even though I realize it's a perpetual Catch-22 if a person desires love at all. As Jean Anouilh wrote, (a quote I find I'm more in accord with than Tennyson's) "There is love of course. And then there's life, its enemy."

(The Olbinski above is Pelleas et Melisande, the same name as a tragic opera about three [it's a love triangle] unrequited lovers.)

"Remember, remember the fifth of November..."

I'm sick. Like, really really sick. I basically haven't left my bed since retiring to it at 4am on election night. And mind you, I was already sick before that - but being a history enthusiast I couldn't resist spending Tuesday night mingling with fellow Americans at The Light in Shoreditch till the wee wee hours as electoral results came through.

It was a decision that I knew at the time was foolhardy; effectively overriding my body's need for some serious R&R... but honestly, what's the neglect of a little sore throat and some mild hacking compared to witnessing something monumental unfold? Nonetheless, while I take full responsibility for the degree of my current illness, it has been nothing but sniffling, and sneezing, and coughing, and watery eyes, and just all-around yuck, ever since.

Unfortunately, my heedless commitment to election night has also subsequently meant missing another historical evening - pretty much the only widely-celebrated, uniquely British holiday that goes on in the UK: Guy Fawkes Day.

For those of you who've never heard of it (And who has? Really? Besides the British?) Guy Fawkes Day is perhaps one of the most bizarre "patriotic" holidays on record. Basically, in 1605, a group of people, including Guy Fawkes, plotted to kill King James I and blow up Parliament on November 5th. Before they could manage it, Guy was caught in the basement of Westminster Palace among kegs of gunpowder. He was then tried for treason and executed by literally being hung, drawn and quartered. (Yikes!)

Since then, each year a dummy of Mr. Fawkes is sinisterly paraded around on the date of his intended treachery, and then strung up and burned in effigy. In my experience, the burning takes place while fireworks are simultaneously shot off and Pink Floyd is played in the background. It's really all a bit eerie and disturbing. From the American perspective it sort of feels like an amalgamation of Thanksgiving, Halloween, and the Fourth of July, with the added odd element that whether Guy was actually in the wrong or not is up for debate - his group was trying to usurp the Church of England to bring Catholicism back into control - so despite all the fiendish burning, some people think he should have succeeded!

Anyway, I managed to see the plenty of the "Bonfire Night" pyrotechnics from the view of my sickbed window last night (they'll be happening across the city all week long). But just so you get the idea of what it's like up close, below are some pictures from last year's celebration in Victoria Park.


Guy Fawkes being strung up (Doesn't he look like a skeletal Thanksgiving Pilgrim?)

Big Ben: iconic of British Parliament. (Why it has been turned into a spaceship we don't know... maybe to go with the Pink Floyd anthems?)

Uh oh... there he goes again... trying to set the Houses of Parliament alight.

Moments later... Guy's just a traitorous fireball in the sky.

Post Election 2008 - Just a thought...

"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd President of the United States)

How to Know When Your Father's a Real Character...

When somebody dresses up like him for the (very competitive) Halloween costume contest at work...and wins!

The actual "Dan the Engineer" is on your left in the yellow shirt - very kindly shaking hands with his impostor sporting safety glasses and a hat emblazoned with "Concrete Counts" - my dad doesn't actually own such a hat, but very well might have if he'd come across one... further proof that we all answer our existential call one way or another.

Have Yourself a White Diwali!

On the night of Diwali my friends and I went to the Hindu temple in Neasden to pay honor to the day and watch the glorious fireworks display. Diwali is the Hindu New Year and marks the beginning of a five day "Festival of Lights," which celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over dark; it's the start of an entire week of lamp lighting, gift giving, and indulging in pyramids of Indian sweets.

The festival is often likened to Christmas, not just because lights are strung and people exchange presents, but because the celebration is South East Asia's most popular and widely-celebrated holiday, cutting across both regional and religious differences. Usually, the trimmings of Diwali that evoke Christmas end somewhere between the outflow of well-wishing and the traditional overdose on sugar, but this year, London's weather had something else in store to give the holiday echoes of Noel.

Although the morning and afternoon had been crisply blue and clear, rain arrived in the early evening, and by 9 o'clock, when the fireworks were to begin, we found ourselves standing outside atop squishy grass in a freezing downpour. The show was delayed, and as the air got colder and the precipitation more fierce, the crowd's patience waned; treacherous sleet and the raucous wind made it almost unbearable, even for those of us decked out in ski-gear (me) and outright torture for the unfortunate souls without umbrellas.

After a particularly nasty gust of wind, the crowd began to shout "START!!" in Hindi. Although the overseers of the fireworks ignored us, something even more magical began to happen... the sleet turned white and began weighing down the jostle of umbrellas and sticking to hats and coat shoulders - snow! Never mind that it was London, or that it was October, or that such miracles are prayed for by Christmas revelers rather than those who were out that night for Diwali... wonder of wonders, there was proper fluffy snow showering down on all of us there to venerate benevolence and the possibilities of the Hindu New Year.

As we stood looking at the sight of the white stuff in short amazement, another magical miracle happened... the fireworks began - and they were far from timid. For an entire half hour, the sky glowed as six, seven, eight, rockets launched and exploded simultaneously in the pitch black before us, blossoming into rhythmic and ethereal cascades of glitter spiraling through the darkness.

It was a vision of such spectacular luminosity we forgot our feet were frozen and that the air was growing colder and we were getting even more drenched. Instead, there were stood, completely in awe, blanketed by aerial sparks and clumps of frozen water... a seemingly cosmic impossibility.

And as we trudged home in the full-blown blizzard, hearing exclaims of excitement from those who had never before seen snow, it was indeed a meeting of holidays and minds. You could feel the amazement and goodwill in the air. All of us like children smiling at the a truly unimaginable site we had just witnessed - that we were still witnessing.

Ah, witnessing the unimaginable... I love it when that happens.

Happy Diwali!

Halloween - Mo*vida

Monster Mash!

Quite possibly the scariest I have ever managed to look (vampire girl on the left).