More than a week ago, I drove to school a bit late. It was nearly 7:30 and dawn was in full gear. Something about the post-rainstorm atmosphere made the sky a vibrant coral pink in every direction. I have never seen a sky like this before. The whole of the world glowed with this strange liquid light. It was like being inside a shell, the nacre alight with the filtered fire of the sun. When I got to school, swim practice was in full gear, the pool enclosure a glass cube of freakish aqua green within the orangey-pink air.
The next day, I drove 30 minutes earlier, and the sky was totally black. The air felt black, too, but there was the slightest mist in the air that amplified the intensity of artificial lights. The brake lights on cars, traffic lights, the store signs at the small shopping district were all brighter than bright. The early morning bus-stop-waiters, with their bags and headphones and cups of coffee, were thrown into sharp relief against the contrast of blackness and too-bright lights. It could have been midnight in Tokyo for all that.
Every day since, the morning sky has been a bit different. Dawn is a bit later every morning. Every morning there is a different bizarrely brilliant set of Maxfield Parrish clouds and heavens spread out over the gables and rosy bricks of the school. The combination of oranges and purples and greens and pinks is unique each morning and gone before I call my first class to order.
I've always loved clouds, but I've never thought of them the same since reading Annie Dillard's For the Time Being, in which she creates an extended meditative metaphor about the individuality of clouds and the fleeting nature of human life.
Reading: Would you believe I still have not finished the Donna Leon novel started a couple weeks ago? (Yes, inquiring readers, it is the first of hers I have read, and I do enjoy it quite a lot.)
Of course, student writing, some of it so good it makes me cry - tears of hilarity as much as tears of sadness, sometimes just tears of wonder.
And just yesterday, I finished a NYT Magazine article by Virginia Heffernan about the current crop of cookbooks extolling the virtues of family dinner and her complicated feminist mom take on them. I could, and probably already have, written an entire blog post ... magazine article ... book? ... about my own take on this and my own approach to family dinners. I disagree with Heffernan, and many others, that the new return to cooking real food (at least among certain bourgie sets, of which I am, I admit, a member) is some sort of retrograde, erosion of feminist advances, women-back-to-the-kitchen thing. (I am probably overstating her stance.) I will admit,
Writing: No comment.
Dinner: David (the adept partner in the family meal business) has been doing most of the cooking. I did make a really nice provencal veggie ragout this week (but I totally and completely screwed up the rice. I mean, it was pathetic.) And we collaborated on a beef and pumpkin picadillo.
Soundtrack: I've been listening to the soundtrack to the Neil Patrick Harris rendition of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in the car this week--my soundtrack to the clouds, I guess.
I'm most familiar with the soundtrack from the film version, with Hedwig creator John Cameron Mitchell singing. I also have the glorious local production with Dan Folino in embedded in my mind. The NPH Hedwig is different. His voice is different. His phrasing is different. Different is not a very descriptive word, I know. David pointed out that Mitchell is a trained B'way performer who then learned to sing rock for this show. NPH is an actor who has worked in his later career to become a singer. Mitchell pushes his voice to limits that NPH holds back from. There is something wry about NPH as a result, his Hedwig is vulnerable and raunchy but less raw. Maybe?
Is it contradictory to say sometimes this version is harder? The NPH version of "Sugar Daddy" for example, is more T. Rex than the whimsical countrified David Bowie of the original cut. Is that a distinction that even makes a difference? Here's NPH at the Tony's:
Do you not know Hedwig? If not, you must remedy that. (Here's the movie trailer.) I love this musical so hard. John Cameron Mitchell (book) and Steven Trask (music and lyrics, though I suspect Mitchell had a hand in the lyrics) are brilliantly caustic, wildly ridiculous romantic idealists, with a flair for good glam rock. When I first heard about this show in the run up to the off-broadway opening at the Jane Street Theatre (I've always wanted to live on Jane Stree, but that is a different blog post). I couldn't believe that there was any way a rock musical about someone with a botched sex-change operation could ever be anything but ridiculous camp. But I think this play is one of my 10 favorite works of art in any medium. I don't think I am exaggerating, but Hedwig is given to exaggeration, so maybe she is wearing off on me.
Random thing: One day this week, I saw Marjane Satrapi talk about art and self and curiosity in the morning and Lynda Barry and Dan Chaon read a truly bizarre tale that freaked my students out in the evening. I may not be human right now, but at least there is all this crazy wonderfulness to be had.