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Five Things That Make Life Better on January 18, 2019

 
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So far, no real snow to speak of. What will this winter be all about, I wonder? Will the federal government’s shutdown define this moment in time? Will this be the winter of the strange Oscar Awards? Will 2019 be the Winter of Mrs. Maisel? Can we expect a Snownado or a Polar Vortex? It’s too soon to predict and change is way too constant at this point. Which leads me to this week’s 5 Items, for which I’ve taken a slightly different approach. This week I’m sharing the five things I own which elicit the most compliments from strangers. (Compliments= pleasure, for those who didn’t know.)

 
Photo by Rex Bonomelli

Photo by Rex Bonomelli

Our guest this week is the funny (in a dry way) and insightful writer Alexandra Styron, photographed below. She has written a new book called Steal This Country. http://www.alexandrastyron.com/book/steal-this-country

 
photo credit: Elena Seibert

photo credit: Elena Seibert

1.) My leather jacket. This is probably my very favorite garment of my adulthood. It was designed by my friend Charles Nolan as part of his first named collection, and I bought it at the opening of his boutique at Saks Fifth Avenue in 2004. (I met Charles through my dear friend Andy Tobias, and their relationship was a true loving partnership.) But let me tell you about this jacket. It has Charles’ signature cuffs — long and stylized, and the leather is pebbled. The jacket is perfect. People have stopped me to talk about it, to see where they can buy it. Someone even wanted to borrow it to bring it to a tailer to copy. Once I almost lost it in the trunk of a rental car in California. And once someone nicked it at at a reception after a memorial service. (It was a group effort to get it back.) I get it; it’s a great shape. It dresses down what’s too precious and dresses up a sloppy pair of jeans. This jacket has been everywhere with me. The leather is starting to crack, but I love it so much, I will not give it up. Charles died in 2011 after a brutal return engagement of cancer. I miss him and am grateful that I have so many souvenirs of his talent and memories of our time together.

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2) Debbie Lewin gave me these socks after we went to see “Call Me By Your Name” together. They are brightly colored with images of peaches. (Get it?) I think because my usual sock wardrobe veers from solid navy and black all the way to solid grey, these socks get a lot of praise at the gym, the backstory notwithstanding.

 
With Meg Wolitzer (L) at last week’s Brown Club gathering.

With Meg Wolitzer (L) at last week’s Brown Club gathering.

3.) My eyeglasses. I have spent almost my entire life trying not to wear eyeglasses. My mother noticed that I squinted at the tv when I was very little, and took me to the ophthalmologist. Next thing I knew, I understood what “leaves” were — not blobby areas of green, but individual, unique fronds or blades, with their own networks of arteries. I didn’t know I couldn’t see until I could. I spent my young years fearing blindness — not for any logical reason, but because I thought my vision would get worse and worse. (Spoiler: it has.) . In any case, as soon as I was able to wear contact lenses, I did, and I felt my life changed for the better. No more 8th graders asking me if I were blind on a daily basis. I did suddenly have a ridiculous appetite for sunglasses, but at least I could buy cheap ones. Now that I’m — I think I have something caught in my throat — years old, I find I need reading glasses too. So having lost a dozen of those, I had this pair made with light blue lenses and guard them with my life. People seem to like them. Or else they are being super solicitous.

 
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4.) My Dad’s watch. When my father died in 2007 he left each of his three children one of his wristwatches. I don’t wear mine every day. It’s too precious to me to wear to the gym or just to do errands. But when I have it on, I’m thinking of my dad; I still think of this as his watch. It’s a great size for my wrist (too big, but very good visibility.) I miss my father every day, whether I’m wearing his watch or not.

 
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5.) You can tell a lot about a man from his watch. Here is Robert Mueller in a basic Casio watch during a 2013 hearing. That watch tells me he’s a sportsman and not a fop. Here’s to allowing Robert Mueller to finish the job he started.

 

And now here are five things from my guest this week, Alexandra Styron. Al, as she likes to be called by her friends, is the mother of two teenagers, and still somehow manages to write, and teach, and edit, and be a great wife, daughter, and member of a powerful tribe of siblings. The daughter of the great American novelist William Styron, Al’s memoir, Reading My Father, enjoyed particular acclaim.

Photo by Deborah Copaken

Photo by Deborah Copaken

 

1.) Seltzer Water - selt·zer . /ˈseltsər/

definition: soda water.

  • medicinal mineral water from Niederselters in Germany.

I think I owned the very first Soda Stream seltzer maker. I am obsessed with seltzer and drink it all day and night. I really (really) like wine and look forward in a possibly unhealthy way to a glass or two in the evening. But I don’t think wine is keeping me alive. Seltzer definitely is.

 
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2.) Tui Na: If you live in New York, you’ve probably passed a Tui Na joint in your neighborhood about a hundred times. They’re the little Chinese massage places that look super sketchy and dot every other side street. Do yourself a favor and go inside and ask for a massage. But only if you like to be tortured, in a good way. Tui Na practitioners are insanely good massage therapists. They find the spot that is bothering you, and then they beat the crap out of it. Sometimes I think the masseuse down the street from me in Park Slope is going to break my neck. But she hasn’t yet, and I usually get up from her table feeling like a new person. (P.S. like nail salons, they’re very cheap, so tip well!)

 
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3.) The New York Times : Paper Edition: We still get the paper and I still read it cover to cover every morning (well, to be honest, since 2016, I spend a disturbing amount of time on the front section and usually toss the rest). Frankly I don’t know how anyone reads the paper online. What are you supposed to read first? What’s above the fold and what’s below? And where are all the weird human interest stories that leaven the bad news? The paper hitting the stoop often rousts me out of bed. Marital rule: whoever gets downstairs first gets the front section.

 

4.) Edith Wharton: She was such a modern, funny, wickedly observant writer, you can’t believe she was publishing around the turn of the (20th) century. Her novel, The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1920. She was the first woman ever to win that award. Try her; you might like her!

 
Shortcake, aka “Shorty”

Shortcake, aka “Shorty”

5.) Shorty: Three years ago we rescued a Pit Bull-Bassett Hound mix named Shortcake, aka “Shorty”. I know it sounds hyperbolic but she is actually the cutest dog who ever lived. (See above.) . Everyone in our family is unreasonably fixated on her (actually I can . hear my husband downstairs talking to her right now). I don’t love her more than I love my children — I really love my children! but still……

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Five Things That Make Life Better on January 11. 2019

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It’s January 11th already? How did that happen? Stop going so fast! What’s the hurry?

I am kidding, I think. I make this joke every week, and it gets less funny with each passing week. Why do I stubbornly keep at it? Never mind, because today’s podcast will certainly make you laugh. My guest is the always funny and warm Caroline Rhea!

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You may know Caroline from her role as Aunt Hilda in the original “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” Or from the Match Game, or from the Caroline Rhea Show (formerly Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show). I’ve known her (not well) for a while. And we live in the same New York neighborhood.

Enough about her. Now it’s about me. My Five Things;

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1) I recently learned that I’ve developed late onset allergies. They are mysterious and disturbing. How could I suddenly develop an allergic reaction to the watch I wear every day? None of the doctors I’ve seen (four or five so far) have been able to be definite about what is happening or why. But the third dermatologist I consulted just told me that I am not allergic to wool or cashmere. It was a close call. Phew. I would have hated to have parted with all those cozy sweaters I live in. So now I’m looking at my sweaters with new delight. Everything old gets to stay even longer. There will be no Kondoing of my sweaters for now.

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2) A bracing walk outside every afternoon. I cannot tell you how long it is, or how many steps I take, but an afternoon walk with all its head-clearing potential is on my hit list. (Dogs are excellent for this purpose.) My intention is to clear my head, so texting and using the phone don’t improve this experience. Just walk. Think. Don’t think. Look around. Do an errand if you must, but be out there.

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3) . I read and enjoyed The Wife when it was published fifteen years ago. I am a fan of Meg Wolitzer’s writing and found her novel about the wife of a heavy duty literary award-winning novelist to be compelling, funny, and smart. In December, the film based on her book was released, starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater. Glenn Close is winning awards and nominations for her work in it. Because I had the opportunity to interview Meg this week on behalf of the Brown Club (we are both alumnae), I reread The Wife. It is better than I remembered. In fact, it is exquisite. Read it.

4) I just discovered that there are stores or cafes all over Manhattan that double as secure storage places for luggage. What a brilliant idea! I can imagine it was after someone had to take their bags with them after leaving their Airbnb, and they weren’t leaving the city for hours, and the shlepping and stopping and starting just made everything not fun.

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Since I live here, I don’t need to store my own suitcases at a shoemaker’s shop, but I seriously appreciate it when tourists aren’t walking down the sidewalk with huge rolling bags by their sides. Thank you for this innovation.

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5. Thank you, Robert Mueller. We’re relying on you to help return our democracy back to the people.

And now, here are Caroline Rhea’s Five Things

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1) Anything to do with her daughter Ava (pronounced, “Ava.”)

2) Caroline’s 53 year old Soul Cycle teacher and friend, Sue Molnar

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3. Being with her sisters

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4. Being in New York City. (Caroline is currently in exile in Los Angeles.)

5. Having coffee at Starbucks with her best friend. (It’s not about the coffee.)

And finally, you can catch Caroline in these upcoming shows! I RECOMMEND IT!

Caroline & Friends – Game Show Network - CAROLINE AND FRIENDS

Disney’s Sydney to the Max – January 25th - SYDNEY-TO-THE-MAX

Stay cool and act natural!


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Five Things That Make Life Better on January 4, 2019

December 29, 2018 with the brood at Joe Allen’s

December 29, 2018 with the brood at Joe Allen’s

2019! A year that sounds like science fiction to me, a relic of the Twentieth Century. I’m not scared. I’m not hiding. But I want to snuggle at home with my Exhibits ™, who are still here. (It’s bliss, and sometimes a little crazy around here.) . New Year’s Eve saw a giant sleepover for one child, plus assorted “passing through New York” classmates. I hope your evening was good/great/pleasant/not horrible. We recognize it’s one of those nights that have swollen out of proportion to be MEANINGFUL and IMPORTANT. But it’s just a day. A night. A countdown. We went to a lovely dinner party where the conversation and the company were so diverting, I didn’t even realize we left the table just before midnight.

Anyway, this kind of half-week isn’t solidified in my head. How can I begin to think of summing it up? Luckily, I will be chatting with one of my favorite people on the planet — someone I think you’ll enjoy. It’s Exhibit B.

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Before I get any further, allow me to share the five (5) things that helped me get through this week. As always, this list is pretty personal, often involves culture, family, and natural fibers.


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1) Mike Birbiglia — I’ve been aware of this comic storyteller for some time. (I believe it was his story about seriously scary sleepwalking syndrome on “This American Life” — Sleepwalk with Me). I’ve seen him in the movie “Don’t Think Twice” which he also wrote and directed, and I had filed him under the category of “Like” as we now heart things easily. (Thank you emojis for stripping the nuance away from our emotions.)

With everyone home for the holidays, I wanted to plan a night at the theater. It was all my exhibits and their significant others. I bought tickets to Birbiglia’s new one man show, his first on Broadway, called “The New One.”


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We couldn’t have loved it more. Here is a gifted, self-deprecating, smart storyteller, who takes you on a twisty adventure along a straight road. It’s about a couch, his marriage, his life on the road, and other things. Birbiglia’s writing, his charm, his hilarious timing — it was one of those times when my face hurt from smiling so much. And then on to dinner, with 9 of us! Nothing could make me happier. See picture above.




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2) A Week of Nice Cab Drivers, Uber Drivers, Lyft Drivers, Delivery people: It was noticeable how patient and sane NY’s drivers were the last week of 2018. It must be said. Credit must be paid. The men and women who sat behind the wheel the last crowded tense fraught week of the year were uniformly good natured. I appreciated that. (I also notice that I took way many more cars than subways. Note to self: economize whenever possible.)

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3) Speaking of which, the Curb and Arro apps which allow you to pay for your NYC taxi rides digitally, are fantastic. What that means for me is I can travel without taking my wallet, and I can literally leap out of the vehicle instead of fumfering around with credit cards and so on.

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4) “The Jungle” at St. Ann’s Warehouse. If you live in or near New York or travel to this city, I urge you to try to get a ticket for whatever is being produced at St. Ann’s Warehouse. It is likely to be provocative, avant-garde, possibly uncomfortable, and certainly memorable. “The Jungle” is a play about immigration and identity. The play is held in a polyphonic tent in Calais, France where emigres from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, and elsewhere are huddling for cover and safety while they await an almost Godot-ian entree to the UK where they plan to seek asylum. We, the audience are placed within the tent — immersively — and without realizing it, we start to identify with our local tribe, as well as the courageous Europeans who have volunteered their sympathetic and well-meaning help. I guarantee you it is much more fascinating than my explanation.

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5) Robert Mueller, still steady as he goes.

 



B is on the left.

B is on the left.



And now, here are Exhibit B’s Five Things:

1) Realistic Resolutions

2) Exercising with My Mother

3) “Killing Eve”

4) . Reunions With Old Friends

5) . Poo Pourri .

Stay cool and act natural,

Lisa



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Five Things That Make Life Better on December 28, 2018

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It’s hard to believe that this cuckoo year is almost over! Let’s put it this way: this is my last blog’n’pod for 2018. And not a moment too soon! I’m not going to say that 2018 was a banner year. I also can’t see it was all bad. I just want to say it has overstayed its welcome. Still with the bad, the annoying, the sad, and the just dreadful things that happened in the last twelve months, we had some high points too.

They are my Five Things That Made this whole weird year better.

1) Yes, my family. They know who they are. It will be growing soon when my son, Exhibit A marries his sweetheart in early 2019.

One’s family can be the best, but they can sometimes also be the worst, can’t they? You can try to reboot your relationships. That works well with some people (along the lines of, “I want us to reintroduce ourselves as adults and break some patterns that have stopped serving us well….” Alternatively you can always assemble your own family if you need to. I am lucky that I like my relatives.

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2) The word puzzles of the New York Times. I have enlarged my ambitions from attempting only a Monday and Tuesday crossword puzzle (the two easiest days) to trying to solve the Monday -Friday, and Sunday and every once in a while a Saturday edition as well. (Last Saturday I finished at 33 minutes, according to the website’s timer.) Then, as you know I love the Spelling Bee game. At least when I’m wasting time my brain isn’t utterly idle. I often do them online, for what it’s worth.

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3) Without realizing it until recently, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been in my head all of 2018. Her fortitude, her seemingly modest yet purposeful ambition, and her elfin size all came together for me in the documentary “RBG which debuted last May. What a kick to see Mrs. Ginsburg working out with her trainer!

When we saw “On the Basis of Sex,” the biopic starring Felicity Jones (surprising choice, but up to the task) as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we were THRILLED to learn that Justice Ginsburg was at the screening and would have a Q&A afterwards. I reacted to her presence as if Paul McCartney were playing his hits just 20 yards from where we were sitting. I wanted to sing her greatest hits with her.

There she is, on the right. NPR’s Nina Totenberg is on the left.

There she is, on the right. NPR’s Nina Totenberg is on the left.

In my opinion Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a treasure. I taped this before we heard about her cancer surgery that has since happened. She must have spoken with us a day or two prior to that ordeal, and yet was cheerful and chipper. What a brave woman. It was at this evening that she reiterated that she would stay on the Supreme Court until she felt she was no longer able to perform her duties to the best of her abilities.

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4) I adore Joe’s Pub. It is the club/nightclub/supper club/ bar at The Public Theater (the petrie dish where “A Chorus Line,” “Hair”, and “Hamilton” got started) where the entertainment is as varied as you can imagine. I’ve seen concerts, a reading from a book-in-progress, a one-person play, flamenco dancers, comedians, and a range of other kinds of performances. Last week we went to see Justin Vivian Bond’s holiday show, and it was fabulous. Joe’s Pub usually has three shows a night (often three completely different programs) and it is a fun-sized sexy little room.

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5) All I want for the New Year is a safe conclusion to Robert Mueller’s investigation.

 

By the way, should you want to write in your five things that made your year better (or this week better), or your hair better — please do! I will share them here.

Happy New Year and Act Natural,

Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on December 21, 2018

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This is Henry, also known as “Exhibit D”.

Henry died this week of advanced kidney disease. He was a great companion, a dream of a dog, really. He allowed me to sleep till a civilized hour in the morning, was devoted to me without being a sycophant, and was fun almost all the time. His last few months were pretty dreary — if you think getting subcutaneous fluid twice a day is awful —, but with his robust appetite and improved energy and blood count, he was rallying. Until Tuesday, when his poor little body gave out. I want to say a few things about Henry and dogs in this week’s Five Things.

He looked like a Schnauzer when we adopted him.

He looked like a Schnauzer when we adopted him.

1) In my opinion pets allow us to be our best selves. We love them with no expectation they will give us bragging rights by going to law school or one day pay for our elder care. We love them without self-consciousness. We can sing to them, talk to them, dance with them, and photograph them to our hearts’ content. True, they have been compared to children who never grow up, but I am convinced that when an animal and a human pair up, there is a powerful (if primitive) connection between the two. Henry seemed to intuit when a member of our family needed him. He was a giver.

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2) Call me crazy, but hearing Henry eat his crunchy kibble was a giant pleasure for me. It sounded almost like popcorn, when the kernels are at peak poppage. It made me happy as a mommy.

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3) I remember a divorced friend with two kids who married a woman with children of her own said his blended family was mostly settling in with one another, but not exactly. Then they adopted an orphan from Eastern Europe, and felt they had not only “completed” their family, they felt the baby brought everyone together. Henry did that for this blended family as well. We all agreed that Henry was a good boy. We all recognized there was something special about him.

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4) On the other hand, I am uncomfortable when people seem to prefer animals over human beings. (I know; the former seem innocent and angelic and the latter seem twisted and corrupt, but still…. people…. Can talk to you and share ideas and warm squeezes and take you to dinner when you are needy.) I also know as a formerly non-pet person, that talking about one’s animal falls somewhere on the spectrum between boring and offensive , especially to a person who doesn’t ‘get’ animals. Once my friend Christopher took me to the Westminster Dog Show, and we got to wander backstage. Some of those dog owners were crazeeeee. The way they talked and pampered their animals was like a lover or ministering to a stubborn yet vulnerable child. Logic? I don’t think so. In that universe of pedigrees, it’s like having a kid who’s training for the Olympics. If you are motivated to win, you will spend all your time and all your money to see it through.

from “Best in Show”

from “Best in Show”

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mueller

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mueller

5) I think the Muellers are dog people. They just have that outdoorsy- American-hiking-with-the dogs-feel.

I hope they and you have a Merry Christmas.

Until next week, enjoy yourselves and act natural,

Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on December 14, 2018

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Hello! I am writing to you from on top of my bed, where Henry is lying peacefully. What could be nicer than having your dog nearby for some good vibes? Didn’t I read a report of a study that says that women sleep better accompanied by their pets than they do with their partners?

(Why yes I did! Here’s the link: https://jezebel.com/study-suggests-women-sleep-more-soundly-next-to-dogs-th-1830699805)

It’s the cozy season! Or is it the Hygge season? In any case, cuddling, and lighting fires and candles and drinking tea and cocoa are all called for. And that’s what is happening chez moi.

Before I go on, I am so happy to tell you this week we have another magnetic guest. She is Welsh-born actress, director, and writer Erin Richards, who you might know from her work on TV’s “Gotham.” Let’s welcome her to our little universe! : And don’t forget to subscribe to the Podcast! http://bit.ly/LisaBirnbachPodcast22-I

Erin Richards

Erin Richards

Now let’s go straight to the Five Things that made my week so good:

1)

At lunch with my friends Lisa and Barbara, we discovered that we all loved BUBBLE GUM. Seriously. Lisa, who is thin as an asparagus spear, confessed that Double Bubble was her guilty pleasure. Barbara and I are both Bazooka girls. Who knew? I think what I love about bubble gum is not the bubbles, but the flavor. And the noise of it. (But I’m a horribly loud chewer, so I don’t inflict it on anyone any more.)

** Very important! It only counts if the flavor is original bubble gum. Tropical fruit or mint flavored bubble gum is a mere pretender.

 

2)

I was delighted to be asked to moderate a post- screening discussion this week about the new film “Beautiful Boy”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s based on the true story of writer David Sheff and his son Nic — when Nic became addicted to hard and harder drugs as a teenager and a young man. In the movie, Steve Carrell plays David and Timothée Chalamet plays Nic. It’s hard to watch a young person with tons of promise throw his life away and teeter on the brink of death only to survive detox and sobriety and fall off the wagon again. The acting is superb.

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(L-R) Lisa B, Nic Sheff, Ali Blanco (a senior at LaGuardia High School, Tim Chalamet)

(L-R) Lisa B, Nic Sheff, Ali Blanco (a senior at LaGuardia High School, Tim Chalamet)

On Monday the screening was expressly for NYC public school kids, because Tim (that’s what he said I should call him. #SorryNotSorry) wanted them to see it. It’s a hugely scary and cautionary tale. Afterwards, we shared the stage. The audience provided great questions.

The students I chatted with were engaged, emotionally available, vulnerable, and kind. They gave me hope. They’ve all been touched by stressors we didn’t have in my day, to put it mildly. I plan on seeing them again.

The students I chatted with were engaged, emotionally available, vulnerable, and kind. They gave me hope. They’ve all been touched by stressors we didn’t have in my day, to put it mildly. I plan on seeing them again.

3)

I am not just a podcast provider. I am also a podcast consumer. I know there are bajillion podcasts competing for your time and attention. I am grateful to whomever makes a point of listening to this podcast; it means the world to me.

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I am a beginner; a pro like Rachel Maddow has learned to tell stories in the most compelling and fluent fashion. Even if you’re no fan of politics, the drama behind her easy 7-episode podcast, “Bagman”, is riveting. (Excellent for a four hour drive.) She and principals in the story piece together (with superb use of audio collage) the tale of Spiro T. Agnew’s rise and fall. Agnew was President Richard Nixon’s 2 term vice-president. Her research includes details that even the lawyers involved (and yes, there were a goodly number of them) did not know. It’s a great listen and lesson. Here’s the link: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/bag-man

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I also was mesmerized by “Dirty John,” a podcast produced by the Los Angeles Times. Now an actual miniseries on Bravo (starring the fabulous and beautifully-tressed Connie Britton), the podcast is a marvel of hitting the pavement kind of investigative reporting. Hosted by the fellow who did the work, Christopher Goffard, it is a narrative about love gone very wrong. After a buddy recommended it, I listened to episode 1, and cancelled the rest of my day. It was too, too captivating and shocking. I just couldn’t wait. Link is here: https://wondery.com/shows/dirty-john/

 
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4)

Pilates of the Mind.

For three years I have been a student of Mme. Anne Protopappas, the lively teacher you see in the photo above. She is one of the finest (if not the very finest) teachers employed by my daughters’ school. My youngest exhibit ™ would come home from class gushing with ideas she had learned in “Proto’s” class, a senior level French seminar that was more about philosophy than it was language skills. She read Immanuel Kant in French. She learned about the difference between a nation and a market. She was stimulated by the new ideas she absorbed and took them with her to college. Now I get to experience this for myself, in a class we have nicknamed, “The Pilates of the Mind.” For two hours a week (not including the readings) I participate in conversation that is equivalent to my favorite college class — but without self-consciousness or pretension. Now Anne Protopappas’ classes are open to the public beginning in January.


Winter 2019 Sessions

Identity and Justice

American-Arab and French Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Sex, Religion and Immigration

Each class is an opportunity to learn through thought-provoking presentations, readings and group discussions focusing on identity and justice:

  • Are universal rights and justice being advanced or threatened by the current explosion of identities—sexual, religious and nationalistic?

  • Is the proliferation of multicultural identities liberating or leading to tribalism and a “clash of civilization?”

  • How do we arbitrate between competing rights and identities, such as religious freedom, free speech and civic equality?

Teacher: Anne Protopappas

January 24-March 14 (8 weeks)

Thursdays, 9 to 11 AM or 6:30 to 8:30 PM
Register Here


The Future of Freedom of Expression

How Far Is Too Far and Who Decides?
This multimedia course on freedom of expression will focus on French-Arab-American cross-cultural perspectives. Class discussions will consider the multifaceted challenges to freedom of expression in the context of social media, “hate speech,” terrorist attacks and multiform censorship in the aftermath of the 2016 American and French elections and competition to redefine what constitutes “free speech,” protest and “civility.” The class will explore questions including:

  • Can humor still serve as a safe space for social critique?

  • What is the cost of being critical or even inquisitive of issues deemed taboo?

  • What does “too far” mean for free speech?

Teacher: Anne Protopappas

January 22-March 12 (8 weeks)

Tuesdays, 9 to 11 AM or 6:30 to 8:30 PM
Register Here


Fees and Class Size

$530 for Spence community members (parents/guardians, alumnae, faculty, staff, parents of Spence alumnae)

$580 for non-Spence participants

Class size is limited to 20 students, and a minimum of four students is required for the class to be offered. 

Winter Registration Deadline - January 11, 2019

 

5)

Robert Mueller, steady as you go. Bit by bit it’s going in the right direction.

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AND FINALLY,

Our guest this week, actress-director-writer Erin Richards — Barbara Kean on TV’s “Gotham”, shared her Five Things: (Don’t forget to click on the play button on the top of this blog to listen to the podcast)

Erin Richards

Erin Richards

  1. Meditation

  2. Meaningful friendships

  3. Having creative outlets (purely for one’s self; not for commerce). In Erin’s case that includes writing, directing, and pottery.

  4. Not drinking alcohol

  5. Chocolate (“homemade if possible”)

 

That’s it for this week.

Stay dry and act natural!

Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on December 7, 2018

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December 7, 1941 was a “date that will live in infamy,” as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the United States entered the war — World War II — 77 years ago. I wasn’t there, but it doesn’t really seem like it was very long ago. Does it? (As I indicated last week, I have clothes that are older than I am — probably in their 60s or 70s.). Then again, I can’t believe it’s December already, so feel free to disregard my statements about time. (And confidentially, I play stupid, but I usually know I’m going to be about 5-10 minutes late, and so do my friends.)

A greeting card awaiting the perfect occasion

A greeting card awaiting the perfect occasion

My list for the week starts now! (I’m emulating cable news shows.) (For no reason.)

1) Greeting cards, as they used to be called, are my jam. When I find something that resonates as a future birthday, get well, thank you, or congratulations message, I buy it. If it’s smart and funny enough, I might buy two. I know it’s old fashioned to send cards, and I know a lot of people just throw them out, but I like the opportunity of writing to people. I know I’m always delighted to receive a hand written note or card from a friend. It’s a perk-me-up in my mailbox.

Magpie on Amsterdam Ave. in NYC

Magpie on Amsterdam Ave. in NYC

Because I am a #Giver, I will tell you some of the best sources for my card collection: the New Orleans Museum of Art giftshop, the gift shop at the Seattle Central Library, Madewell Stores (who knew?), a great shop called Magpie on the Upper West Side, and Book Culture bookstore on Columbus Avenue.

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2) I also love to buy presents for friends at the holidays. Not all friends and not all holidays. But I enjoy matching person and gift. It’s like creating a successful blind date. I love watching the recipient’s facial expression when he or she opens my gift. I aim to please. That’s all.

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3) I’m reading a book I am enjoying so much — and unusually for me, it’s a memoir. It’s Claire Tomalin’s A Life of My Own. Best known as a biographer — (of Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Mary Wollstonecraft) — I read an excerpt online and then had to secure a copy of it. She writes so clearly and with such feeling of daily occurrences, and yet it’s unputtdownable.

[An] intelligent and humane book…There is genuine appeal in watching this indomitable woman continue to chase the next draft of herself. After a while, the pages turn themselves. Tomalin has a biographer’s gift for carefully husbanding her resources, of consistently playing out just enough string. When she needs to, she pulls that string tight.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times


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4) Do it Yourself Kiosks at the Post Office. You walk into the post office with energy, gusto, and some optimism. The line is long, but you assume since it’s Christmas season, there will be a lot of windows open to service the customers. There are only two windows being manned ,and one of the clerks is arguing with her patron. It’s going to be a long wait, and your phone only has 10% charge. As you start to unwrap yourself from the many layers causing you to perspire, you notice no queue at the self-service area. EUREKA! A victory. A victory for me and for you and the recipient of my packages. Frankly, I go to the post office all the time. And yes, sometimes the self-service machines are broken. Sometimes they too have a line. But if your package is already wrapped and sealed, it’s a much more efficient way to go.

5) As usual, you know who.

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Any day… any day….

Happy Chanukah and Act Natural!

Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on November 30, 2018

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Today’s edition has the added attraction of a thoughtful and wonderful guest. It’s Elliott Forrest, a multi-hyphenate friend who is a voice artist, producer, director, tv presenter, and the host of WQXR-fm classical radio, and WQXR.org’s afternoon programming, 3-7 pm.

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A friend wondered recently why “cashmere” wasn’t one of my five things. WHAT A GOOD QUESTION! And then my mind went to a funny place it visits semi-freqeuntly — the past, to childhood memories. In my youth, cashmere was an old-fashioned concept, associated to the Hollywood lore of (actress) Lana Turner being “discovered” at Schwab’s Drugstore wearing a tight cashmere sweater. That was before my time, thank you, but the sound of it lingered. Sweaters in our day were mostly Shetland or Merino wool, thicker, coarser, and scratchier than any cashmere. I’m not complaining; just saying. Our wool sweaters were sturdy (I still have my dad’s old tennis sweater) and perfectly wonderful We also had Mohair, and some Lambswool, but somehow cashmere had taken a time out. In the 1980s cashmere made its way back, but tentatively. In Manhattan several boutiques opened which only sold cashmere clothing at first; a novelty. By 1990 when my first exhibit ™ was born, cashmere had saturated the market. I know this because someone had bought him a Lilliputian baby blue cashmere pullover from TSE Cashmere. It could not have been cuter. And now, every sweater is cashmere it seems. A friend’s husband prefers the ones they sell at Costco. Have you ever? Thus ends the history lesson. And regarding the science lesson about how cashmere strands are pulled from lambs’ whiskers or throats or wherever, our science teacher’s car was towed this morning, so we must unfortunately postpone that class. Watch this space!

  1. I love cashmere. It’s finer, softer, and drapes better than those old thick yarns of old. The kings and queens of Cashmere have also figured out how to keep the price points lower: by blending them with silk, or cotton, or Merino wool, by buying in tremendous bulk (that’s you, Costco.!), and of course, you can always find cashmere pieces at second-hand and vintage stores. I cannot prove it, but I believe cashmere is warmer than other wools, because the stitches are smaller.

  2. Who doesn’t love a roaring fire when the temperature drops? I am crazy about them. Sitting in front of a fire is to me a full activity. It’s enough by itself — the smells, the sounds, the hypnotic effect of watching your logs turn into embers and ash. To read in front of the fire, or pet one’s dog, or listen to music — by God, that’s delightful! Alas I became fireplace-less two moves ago, but I enjoyed sitting near a fireplace last week.

The author’s former fireplace

The author’s former fireplace

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3. I’ve been ambivalent about Facebook almost since I first joined it in 2008 or 2009. (Seems both so long ago and so recent.) I am constantly thinking of dropping off of it altogether — and would if there were another way, frankly, to stay in touch with the old friends and schoolmates I only communicate with there, and if there were a more efficient way to direct attention to this blog and pod. However, I have become intrigued and attached to a group chat called “What Would Virginia Woolf Do?”, started by Nina Lorenz Collins. I don’t know what stroke of luck admitted me to this group, but I’ve only started reading it, realizing it’s a conversation about things high and low for women in their 40s and older. What moisturizer works best on dark circles on the eyes? What should I do about the old boyfriend who’s suddenly so eager to see me again? Advice comes from other women who’ve been in the same situations; so much of what I’ve gobbled up there is good natured. Since I’m late to this party, there is also a book version of What Would Virginia Woolf Do? I’m going to recommend it.

Henry, last summer

Henry, last summer

4. Our amazing Henry is doing better! Thank you for all your great wishes, prayers, consolations, and anything else you might have done. Tending to him seems to be my new part-time (at least) job — what with the IVs, the long feedings, and so on, but he seems happier, and his markers are improving.

5. Don’twanttosayanythingmoreabouthim. Don’twanttojinxanything. Just putting this picture here and quietly leaving.

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Elliott Forrest’s Five Things:

  1. His instapot.

Pictured

Pictured

2. His annual “Men’s Week”, now in its fourth decade.

Men’s Week, circa 1990. Elliott is on the far right.

Men’s Week, circa 1990. Elliott is on the far right.

And a more recent one. “What happens at Men’s Week stays at Men’s Week.”

And a more recent one. “What happens at Men’s Week stays at Men’s Week.”

3. GPS on his phone

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4. Gratitude

5. Projects with Meaning — in particular, “Considering Matthew Shephard,” an oratorio, which Elliott directed. And here’s the link to the PBS special: https://video.klru.tv/video/considering-matthew-shepard-iprdd7/?fbclid=IwAR3wt8YTbwUoOSpoiq6oevFB_Sml2_bUrQd_4_-T3xN0kugRhfXEz8BUloo

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Thank you Elliott!

To all of you, stay strong and act natural.

Lisa

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