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!