Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who's Going to James Taylor at Tanglewood?

There may not be much glory in my job, but there are some two out-of-the-blue lawn tickets (and a parking pass!) to James Taylor's sold-out July 4th concert at Tanglewood. There will be fireworks and 18,000 people there.

Are any of you going? Can I come to your glamorous Tanglewood picnic like the one pictured above? I could bring something fancy, like this. Or not.

Also, I haven't yet given away the extra ticket, so I hereby announce the first Gina's Blog of Curiosities Sweepstakes. If you would like to be entered into a random drawing to be my date to the James Taylor concert, please send me an e-mail at ginahyams @ by Sunday, June 15, 5pm. Winner will be announced at approximately 5:01pm that day. Annalena will certify that I actually close my eyes before I reach into the bag or hat or whatever to pull the winning name.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hello, Neighbors

Well, yesterday's off-the-cuff (off-the-wall?) review is generating more local traffic to this blog than usual...hello, neighbors. It's a little unnerving, as my worlds rarely collide.

Michael Pollan moved with his family from Connecticut to California about the time we made the reverse move. I'm told that he's explained the difference between the cultures by describing how in New England you might see someone everyday at the post office and after ten years they might consider inviting you to tea, whereas in California you meet someone at a school PTA function and they immediately invite you to their home to try out their new hot tub.

My fantasy of small town New England life involved lots of pie. Neighbors would welcome us with pie. There would be lots of occasions for pie. I'd learn to bake. Suffice to say that hasn't happened and if any of you would care to introduce yourselves, I'd be happy to meet you.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Theater as Spa Treatment, Part Two

James Barry, Jonathan Epstein, and Tommy Schrider in the BTF production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, directed by Eric Hill. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

"Aston is a mess. Mick is a mess. Davies is a mess. Put them all together and you have an even bigger mess. You also have Harold Pinter's The Caretaker."
--Michael Eck, Albany Times Union

"Nothing happens [in The Caretaker] except that somehow it does."
--Noël Coward

I woke up this morning feeling like I'd been rolfed by BTF's production of The Caretaker. The odd thing is that I felt dispassionate while experiencing the play last night. Objectively, I thought the acting, directing, and production values were unassailably excellent, but I didn't find the comedy particularly funny and I didn't understand why the play itself mattered (even though I'd written a press release touting it as "a landmark of 20th century drama").

But this morning I woke up with Pinter's language still buzzing inside my veins, feeling like the enigmatic power shifts that happened between the characters somehow realigned my meridians or chakras or something, like the play caused something to blow open in me on a cellular level.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Summer Toes

Blazing lilacs, azaleas, hot "I'm India Mood for Love" pink toenails. Last week I finally took the snow tires off the car. The east coast verb "to summer" is not in my vocabulary, but you wouldn't know it from looking at my feet. They're on vacation even if the rest of me is not.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Of All The Things: Dennis Lambert Documentary

I loved, loved, loved Of All The Things, a documentary about songwriter/producer Dennis Lambert whose ‘70s and ‘80s hits included “Ain’t No Woman Like The One I’ve Got,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Don't Pull Your Love,” “Baby Come Back,” “One Tin Soldier,” “Nightshift,” and perhaps most infamously, “We Built This City,” among dozens more. He had chart-toppers in almost every genre of music -- at one point four of his songs were simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a feat previously accomplished only by The Beatles.

That was then. Today, he’s a 60-year-old family man selling real estate in Florida. But it turns out his obscure 1972 solo album is huge…in the Philippines. A Filipino concert promoter had been begging Lambert to tour for decades, and in 2007 (35 years after the release of his album) he finally agreed.

Of All The Things is a pop/rock/country/R&B documentary that follows Lambert on his whirlwind tour as he rediscovers his passion for music -- a two week adventure that takes him from the comforts of Boca Raton, through the remote outer islands of the Philippines, to a sold-out show at Manila's Araneta Coliseum for thousands of fans he never knew he had.

The film was directed by his son, Jody Lambert. It's hilarious and profoundly moving and inspiring and I predict will have a distribution deal soon. I don't know if it's listed yet on Netflix, but once it is and/or if it comes to your town: See it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Book Launch 2.0

This video by Dennis Cass is funny and all too true.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Berkshire International Film Festival

It's BIFF weekend. We have tickets to see a movie Friday night and then four more on Saturday. Woo hoo. Can't wait.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

Dear Mom,

It's true. Art and travel are the solutions to every problem.

With love and gratitude,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Backyard Dogwood in Bloom

A Note from Kim Sunée

Kim wrote last night that she hasn't forgotten about that promised blog interview. Really, it's fine...I don't want this blog to be stressful for me or anybody else...but I appreciated her note and since I know many of you are stumbling upon this blog by searching on her name (almost as many as who are looking for Jello recipes and chocolate games), I'll share her news.

She's now in Korea appearing on a television show that tries to reunite adoptees with their birth families.

"It has been an emotional journey so far. I had to 'audition' for the adoptee show and, standing in front of the azaleas in a perfectly manicured garden, I felt like an orphan all over again--as if I had to prove I was worthy of being 'chosen.'

On a lighter note, I met a Japanese chef in Itaewon who uses his cellars not for fermenting vegetables, but for curing duck prosciutto.

Today I am visiting the Star of the Sea orphanage and the markets...then on to meet a national treasure--a woman in her 70s who is the last to know the recipes of 'the King's Cuisine.' It seems the king did not want to be known as a savage so all of his food was minced and hidden among the leaves of cabbages and lotus leaves.

I'm not a good 'blogger' but I am trying to post now and then on my site, mainly when I am not able to sleep--like every moment of every day since I've been here...

Monday, I will be doing press conferences for the Korean edition of my book. The Korean title is Recipes in the Age of my 30's (even though it's about my 20's): Provence in the middle of Summer, I was a lonely traveler, though I always had Love."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Interview with David Samuels

David Samuels is the author of The Runner: A True Account of the Amazing Lies and Fantastical Adventures of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue. He is a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, where sections of The Runner first appeared. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and young son.

The Runner tells the story of a drifter and petty thief named James Hogue who woke up one cold winter morning in a storage shed in Utah and decided to start his life anew. Reimagining himself as a self-educated ranch hand named Alexi Indris-Santana who read Plato under the stars and could run a mile in under four minutes, Hogue applied and was accepted to Princeton University, where he got straight A’s, made the Princeton track team, dated a millionaire’s daughter, and was accepted into the elite Ivy Club before his deception was finally exposed.

Gina: The vagaries of higher education are on my mind a lot these days, as my daughter starts high school in the fall. I went to San Francisco State University. Through the course of my publishing career, I’ve known a lot of Ivy graduates and seen up close how that club functions...they do rule the world and favor their own and they’re not all as brilliant as they think they are.

I'm encouraging my daughter to aim high with her college ambitions even though we have little savings to pay for tuition and no legacy ties because I don't want her to be penalized for lack of access to power.

Who mentored you as a writer?

David: I learned how to write comedy as an editor of The Harvard Lampoon and found that the lessons I learned over time were applicable to writing fiction and narrative nonfiction. I am grateful to a number of very generous editors who gave me a chance to write good stuff when I was sleeping on my friends' couches in New York, particularly Lewis Lapham at Harper's Magazine and Anne Fadiman, the former editor of The American Scholar. I think I have learned the most about writing over the years from my friend Ben Metcalf, a fellow Lampoon editor who later became my editor at Harper's.

Gina: You seem to identify with James Hogue because you too were an outsider when you applied to Harvard. Where are you from and what was it about you at 18 that made you a winning candidate for admission?

David: I was born in Brooklyn and went to an orthodox Jewish day school in New York City. My grades in high school were quite uneven. I have no real clue as to why Harvard chose to admit me. I can only guess that my combination of indifferent grades, high test scores, and strong teacher recommendations appealed to someone who got bored of admitting kids from Jewish day schools with perfect grades, high test scores, and strong teacher recommendations.

Gina: You say that you think the Ivy League should be abolished. What do you propose replace it?

David: Nothing. If the Ivy League didn't exist I think that students and employers alike would be more alive to the range and specificity of particular educational and life experiences rather than simply looking for silly designer labels that promote a fraudulent pseudo-meritocracy that celebrates itself in a frequently nauseating, self-congratulatory fashion while bestowing a parcel of unfair and unearned advantages on their handpicked classes of entitled little snots. That said, I had a wonderful time at Harvard, and wouldn't be upset if my son was lucky enough to be admitted there. While the classroom education isn't that great, it is hard to beat the self-confidence that comes from being told at the age of 22 that you have been formally certified as a member of the American elite and can venture forth in the world and tell the suckers how to think and behave.

Gina: You are extremely critical of the practice of preferential admissions treatment of children of alumni, yet your son may well benefit from your status. What are your hopes for his education?

David: I hope he learns to read and write, and that he can connect in a deep and sustaining way with a particular body of knowledge, whether in the humanities or the sciences.

Gina: What are you working on now?

David: A multicultural Jewish-inflected novel about the coin-operated machine business.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

For the Love of Our Funky Cheese Shack

My daughter and husband made me promise not to blog about them, but since their radio shows are public, I think I'm safe. Our Funky Cheese Shack, co-hosted by Annalena and her friend Hannah, can be streamed live on WBCR Friday afternoons from 4:30pm to 5pm EST. It's like Wayne's World, only they're 8th grade girls. Doctor Dave's Saxophone Power Hour features saxophone music from around the world. It happens every other Saturday from 2pm to 4pm, though the doctor may take the summer off.

For the Love of Cheese

Rawson Brook Farm in Monterey, Massachusetts, makes the best cheese in the history of cheese. I'm so relieved to see it back on the shelves of our local grocery stores. It disappeared in early spring with a note of apology saying that there wouldn't be any fresh cheese for a while because the baby goats needed the milk.

For the Love of Dog

Happy Goose at Green River this morning.