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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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