Friday, February 02, 2007

New blog for Australia

I've moved to Australia...

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Well but so let's say it's a beautiful spring morning, juicy tips of green on trees like a baby's eyelashes, and you peek your head out the door to greet your husband with his orange juice and the newspaper on the porch. And he's talking to a man on the bottom of the stairs, a miserable leprous apparition of a man, with a sad secret mouth and eyes of howling need with red spots in the very center of each. The man on the stairs is asking for money and although he's standing on the very bottom step you can feel the tendrils of his desperate need reaching and curling up the stairs and through the porch and around the whole house. Your husband looks at you and you say "Hi" and he says "Hi" then you look at the man on the stairs and you say "Hi" and he says nothing. You are wearing a loose blue cotton skirt and your arms are bare. He looks at you with a shadow of desire hidden behind a wall of sorrow and then he turns to your husband and he says, a statement not a question, "So that's your..." Your husband says, "Yes. That's my wife." There's a pause, three people on the porch and the sunshine and the wind in the leaves. Your husband says, "I'm sorry my friend, you have to go." The man on the stairs says, "Well do you know any place - any place to go?" Your husband says, "No, I can't help you." The man on the stairs turns and walks away without looking back, and you watch him and then you look at your husband and he looks at you and you say, "But - I think I know some places he could go - there's the church on Harvard St - or the Quaker Church in Dupont Circle - " and your husband says "Forget it." You glare at him and slam the door as you go back into the house, and a few minutes later he follows you in. "Did you just slam the door on me?" "I wanted to help him. He was so sad." "Why do you care so much?" "Because he was miserable and we are happy." "That's what you need to live with in a city. You need to shield yourself, or you'll never survive." "But there's so much pain in the world." "Look, if you care so much why don't you make him a sandwich?" "How can I find him?" "He told me where he was going. He's with his mother, sitting in front of the bakery, a block away." "He's with his MOTHER?" "That's right." So you very noisily and angrily open the fridge and begin packing last night's leftovers into a carton. "You're giving him my lunch?" You glare. "That's right." "That's ten dollars for me to buy one." You glare. "Fine, I'll make him a new sandwich." "I was only joking." You continue making the new sandwich and he does not stop you. You pour some peanuts into the lunch carton and pack it into a bag and start and then you go back and put the whole jar of peanuts into the bag. You glare at your husband in case he noticed this. Then you head for the door. "You're going without me?" "I didn't think you wanted to come." "Well, you thought wrong." You slip on your flip-flops and walk outside. Your husband follows, still in loose pajama pants. As you both walk down the lane with the sun on your hair you must look a handsome couple and your neighbor the English professor waves a greeting. "Beautiful morning!" You smile at him, the white-lie expression of a polite neighbor, and continue walking. There's a teenager listening to his Ipod in front of the bakery and a few friends chatting in front of the nearby cafe. Other than that nothing but a yellow dog wandering down the dusty street. Your husband shrugs. "Gone, just like that." You say nothing as you both walk back to the house. "I wish I'd talked to him more, gotten his story," your husband says. Still your icy silence. "I don't think you understand, I was talking to him until you came out, but then I wanted him to go away. I wanted to protect you."

Well but so how are you supposed to feel about that?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Kids attacking bikers on 11th St between U and Florida

It looks like my Ode to the Hill is outdated. There's a gang of kids that for some reason have decided to wage war on bikers on 11th St. There was a CityPaper article last week about how they throw rocks - but Martin was actually assaulted a few days ago. I quote from a letter he wrote to some journalists about it:

Dear Mr. Grim,

I have a brand new appreciation for the article that you wrote in CityPaper recently:

My name is Martin Nikoloski, and I have been a proud resident of DC and the Columbia Heights neighbourhood for the past six years. I have been riding my bike as a major form of transportation, and I would always boast to my friends that I've never been mugged because I'm hard to catch on my bike. I'd like to share with you what happened to me yesterday, April 6th, around 3:10pm, as I was riding my bike heading north on 11th Street, b/n U St. and V St. NW. There was a group of a dozen African-American kids, that appeared to be coming back from school, as some of them still had their back packs on. My guess is that they ranged b/n 9 and 13 years of age. One of them was crossing the street ahead of me and I wasn't paying too much attention to him when suddenly he turned around and struck me with his elbow. I tried to maintain a balance on my bike with grocery bags hanging, when next thing I know I was jumped by around five kids from all directions who started throwing punches and mercilessly kicking me in my head and ribs. For a minute or two in broad daylight, there was this surreal sight of cruelty and terror.

I started yelling 'stop it, Stop it, STOP IT,' raising my voice as I was taking one blow after another in my head... I never had a chance to get back on my feet. As they ran away I could hear sheer excitement and laughter in their voices. There was a bus (#66) heading north, and my bike, grocery bags and body was blocking its way... I had a bloody nose, bloody knees and vicious headache stemming from a blow just above my right ear, which is limiting motion in my jaw...
Had it not been for my helmet I would have easily ended up in the emergency room.

I am grateful that none of my injuries are permanent or debilitating, and sad that these kids grow up with so much violence in their lives and actually get joy and pleasure from these acts. Around 3:40pm I called 311 and asked to file a police report, describing what had just happened to me. The operator took my name and address and said that she would send the next free officer to take my report. Of course the officer never showed up... I've lived inDC for long enough to know that they might not show up and that they have bigger fish to fry, but I nonetheless wanted to mention this for the record.

I guess I'd like to inform as many bikers as possible to stay away from 11th St. b/n U and Florida, the backyard of Cardozo High, and hope that the community or the DCPD can bring some attention to this problem.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Touch the Works of Art

"Do not touch the works of art.
Do you hear me? No touching!
I'm talking to you. Do not touch.
It's against the rules!" And on the wall
a rather more gently-worded plaque,
full of helpful info about the corrosive effects
of the oil on human skin (it's like acid!),
how many other art patrons
want to enjoy these sculptures, please
help us keep them safe, preserve their lifetimes,
which will hopefully at least be longer than your
own, fourscore fleshbag turns of the hourglass.

Although if the sculptures could speak, I'm sure
they'd have their own opinions of the rule;
some haughty and happy on their pedestals,
others longing to touch and be touched, Moore's
Girl on a Chair wishing for a kind stranger's
shawl around her shoulders, to hide her
prepubescent breasts from grown men's calculating eyes;
Rodin's Crouching Woman writhing, twisting in her
hungry serpent desire for a hug, some human warmth
to break the monotony of rain, sun, camera flash, and
occasional dropping from a pigeon who
definitely did not pay attention to the rules.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

on art


No, art is not instrumental. Art is the bloody point. Art is not so that we can work harder, shit better, poke the other ape in the eye harder, art is for its own sake, art is what lifts us above animate tubes separating a mouth-hole from an anus with a drive to reproduce; that is what separates us from animals: the ability to SUBLIMATE.

What do you remember in the end, when you hear that fly buzz before you die, that "blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz"? You remember the moments of art, the moments of transcendence beyond the daily grind... whether abstract, or whether attached to instinctually appealing actions like eating or fucking - it's not the wet in-out-in-out that we remember, in the end, but that connection to creation.

And art is the father of spirituality, isn't it? Our ideas conceive of form, and yet that form inevitably disappoints, never quite embodies that original spark of imagination, so that we wonder: where does that spark live? What would happen if it did arrive perfectly made into the world? Art doesn't happen in a museum, not even in a painter's studio, not even in the space between pencil and paper; those are incidentals, faint traceries around the swirling whirlwind
of art that lives in every human moment.

How does art serve life? How dare you even pose the question? Rather ask how your life serves your art.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


The words Guru, Swami, Super Swami, Master, Teacher, Murshid,
Yogi, Priest,

most of those sporting such a title are
just peacocks.

The litmus test is:
hold them upside down over a cliff for a few hours.
If they don't wet their pants

maybe you found a real


(translated by Daniel Ladinsky, from "Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West")

Saturday, November 26, 2005

"The Politics of Meaning" and mail

From Michael Lerner's book "The Politics of Meaning":

"The recipients of instrumental government caring do not get the idea that their economic entitlements represent an act of caring by society as a whole. Consequently, they do not feel particularly grateful. Rather, they hear themselves being discussed as a social problem that must be managed and controlled, and the benefits they are receiving appear to be part of a scheme whereby others (who have more wealth than they do) will exercise social control. To the recipients, these acts of instrumental caring actually feel more like patronizing and paternalistic gestures, not like genuine attempts to treat them as equally-cared for members of a concerned community. Some recipients feel guilty and ashamed; others feel angry and full of rages; few feel gratitude. The rage intensifies when their inability to find jobs at a living wage is blamed on them, and they are characterized as having created a pathological culture of poverty that keeps them from enjoying the opportunities that would otherwise be theirs.
Nor does the way in which services and benefits are delivered express an ethos of caring. Governmental officials who originally entered public service precisely because they desired to care for others soon discover that they are not rewarded for the degree of caring that they show to the public. on the contrary, such concerned behaviour is seen as soft and foolishly idealistic. The task of government workers is to administer people and things, to provide benefits and services that are often underfunded - and hence, incapable of creating the goals for which they were created. Overextended in demand and greeted with suspicion or outright hostility by some recipients of the services they provide, government officials soon develop a protective emotional shell that makes it difficult for them to act in a way that conveys genuine caring to the public. At best, what the public receives is objective caring (namely some service or economic benefit is really being given to them) in a way that does not feel subjectively, genuinely caring.
As a result, even though we continually benefit from government services that may objectively represent our mutual generosity and willingness to care for others, it is very rare for us to feel that we directly experience that generosity and caring. Even services that are provided efficiently and at relatively low cost, such as the US Mail, rarely feel like a manifestation of collective caring. Our actual benevolence is rendered invisible, and hence fails to create in us the sense that we belong to a world that benefits from mutual goodness and generosity of spirit, as manifested through the mechanisms of government."


Yesterday as Martin and I were riding our bikes home from the Natural History Museum, he said to me, "Keep your eyes peeled for a mailbox; I've got to post something."
A few minutes later, as we were stopped at a traffic light, he peered around and dashed behind me. I turned to see him handing his letter to the driver of a US Mail truck idling behind us. As we started riding again, she honked and waved.
"She took my letter!" Martin said and we both grinned with glee. And I was filled with wonder at the miracle of us humans - not too many thousand years ago, with only sticks and stones as our tools - having organized a system that has the power to deliver a small object to a precise location, anywhere in a gigantic continent, within a few days, for the cost of a piece of currency so negligible to us that we allow piles of it to collect beneath our couch cushions.
The ability to take that miracle for granted being perhaps even more amazing than the miracle in the first place.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Weekend assortment

Free kirtan at Inspire Yoga tonight with Dave Stringer...

Musical performance at Dumbarton Oaks, my favorite garden in DC, on Saturday night...

I'm teaching a workshop on building a yoga home practice on Sunday afternoon at Studio Serenity....

Indian virtuoso Ravi Shankar performs at the Strathmore Theatre with his daughter Anoushka Sunday night...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Passion Play" at the Arena Stage

So I'm theatre buddies with this amazing 90-year old man I met at my office - he's a real inspiration: still plays tennis, writing his memoirs, just went on a tour of Croatia, smart as a whip, and glowing with happiness. I wrote about him before, here.

We went to see "Passion Play" at the Arena Stage last night. It's a long play, with three acts that cover the staging of the medieval "passion play" of the crucifixion of Christ during different time periods, with recurring archetypal characters. Sarah Ruhl is the playwright - she won a Pulitzer a few years ago for her play "The Clean House" - and she wrote in the play notes that she was particularly interested in how peoples' lives were affected by playing these characters year after year. (How would you feel if you channeled Jesus Christ in front of a crowd of thousands, twenty years in a row?)

The first act is set in England during the Protestant Reformation (so the Catholic play gets shut down mid-act by Queen Elizabeth) and features a Virgin Mary actress who has a sleazy affair with the village fishmonger (who plays Pontius Pilate), gets pregnant, and claims that she had a dream where God told her he was going to give her a baby so she could play the part of the Virgin Mary more convincingly. There's naturally a bit of controversy about her fellow villagers.

The second act is in a small town in Germany, Oberammergau, in 1934 - many of the actors in the play are members of the Nazi party, and they focus their Passion Play on incriminating Jews for the murder of Jesus. It includes a real historical speech by Hitler, which he gave when he visited a passion play (six weeks after the Night of the Long Knives.)

After the second act, my theater buddy, Lincoln, told me, amazingly enough, that he'd actually seen the Passion Play in Oberammergau that same year! He'd been in London on a Rhodes Scholarship, and had planned a Rhineland tour. "It wasn't quite the same atmosphere as the play portrayed," he said. "It was in July, so it was much sunnier and brighter. And the Nazi party hadn't really solidified their political control yet. I met a lot of intellectuals who complained bitterly about 'that Austrian house-painter.' "

And the third act is set in South Dakota and features a Pontius Pilate actor who returns as a Vietnam vet, and some rather funny cameos by Ronald Reagan.

Here's one review that gives a
pretty good flavor:

Some critics thought it was too sprawling and messy, and indeed the play is stuffed to bursting with symbols and themes and connections, poetic outbursts, complicated jokes, historical references, cameos, and other metaphysical paraphernalia. But I think a lot of the complaints I've read in critical reviews seemed to stem from the critics not being willing to pay attention and give themselves over to the play. It all does really make sense, and even the surrealist parts are beautifully connected to other themes, and the whole shambling, coruscating, gargantuan, slobbering whole of the play is so much greater than the sum of the parts.

Really, it was brilliant. It's still on for four more days - until the 16th - and if you're at all interested in theater, and if you like a challenge, I highly recommend it.

I'm going back to see it again tonight, to give you some idea of my enthusiasm...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Cai Guo Qiang was much louder than Dar Williams

Who's cooler than a guy whose full time job is organizing massive fireworks displays with subversive political messages in symbolic public places?

I've written about Cai-Guo Qiang before:

So I was excited when I heard that he'd be organizing a fireworks display over the river last Saturday, in a prime spot for viewing from the Kennedy Center.

Some friends and I rushed out early from an extremely mediocre Dar Williams concert at the 9:30 club*, and the Parking Gods were smiling on us, because we found a spot on 24th St. Even someone who didn't know where the Kennedy Center was would have been able to go there easily, because the streets and sidewalks were full of this strange, lemming-like crowd of people walking in that direction, chatting and laughing with that particular excited vibe of people who are about to watch loud, colourful explosions.

We made it to the Kennedy Center balcony just in time - it was completely full and I noticed the preponderance of families.** I guess those guys all read the Washington Post Sunday Source very diligently.

The display started with a series of rainbow coloured streamers over the river, and continued on with some interesting and beautiful coloured fireworks in very artistic patterns, cool jiggly streamers, gradually crescendo-ing until the whole river was topped in smoke and the air reeked of gunpowder. The fireworks display was exactly what you would get if someone who was trained in colour theory and composition, not just engineering cool pyrotechnics, was running the show.

And then it stopped, with that orgasmic finale that seems common to fireworks shows, and a few final, post-coital bangs from the late-starters.

The crowd seemed satisfied, and there was the rustling noise of people who are getting ready to leave.

I was bitterly disappointed.

I said to Jaiva, "I was expecting some kind of conceptual statement! I mean, that was cool and fun, but I always thought that Cai Guo Qiang's works would always have a larger message than pure aesthetics. Particularly with this location and at this time, it seems like there are so many more things he could do..."


All at once my griping was interrupted by a series of massive, staccato explosions. They all went off in a swarm, pure white light - no colours in these - and clustered together like a swarm of bees - or like a cloud of machine gun fire. Everyone in the audience was shrieking and Jaiva had grabbed my back in fright, almost falling over.

Then it was over. My ears were ringing. Through the ringing I could hear the murmurous sounds of thousands of parents consoling their freaked-out children. "Mummy what's happening was it a terrorist attack?"

"Gosh, that's so interesting," I began to pontificate. "I think it must be a message about - "


And again the explosions came. It was an absolutely primal experience; even the second time around, our first reaction was unmitigated terror that struck directly to the gut without the intermediation of the head. Gigantic noises tend to do that to a human being. The audience noise again was shocked and startled, but after the initial shock there was an undercurrent of paranoia. Was the show over? What was going to happen?

I started pontificating again and I'd just started on about the war on terror, the recent spate of natural disasters, the potential commentary on us fat bourgeoisie types who want to have nice aesthetic experiences and shield ourselves from the more visceral experiences of the brutalities of nature or fellow man - which has the side effect of dulling our empathy and our social consciences - when, for a third time:


After a nice juicy pause for the now thoroughly shell-shocked crowd to debate amongst themselves when this ordeal was going to end (Little girl to her mother: "Mummy, he's TRICKING US!"), the Kennedy Center balcoony fountains, which had been turned off, resumed flowing again - and this time we could all really leave.

Cai Guo-Qiang, you are a magnificent performance artist, a masterful manipulator of crowd dynamics, and you must have some kind of magical hypnotic ability to get your plans past government bureaucrats and convince them that an obviously political anti-war piece - which ended up alarming DC residents all over the city who deluged 9-11 with anxious calls about terrorist attacks - is only about hurricanes. I salute you, Sir. I salute you.


*I went with two friends who'd never heard her before and who agreed to come on my assurances that she was a fun performer. I thought loved Dar Williams on the basis of her live album, which includes snippets of witty crowd banter, but her performance last Saturday was like a nightmarish amalgam of all of the more annoying aspects of her personality: the anti-cool/cool hipsterness, the aw-shucks kumbaya moral sincerity, the obsession with teenage angst. I might still have enjoyed myself, since I go for cheesy stuff sometimes, but spent way too much energy worrying about how my friends weren't enjoying themselves and had just wasted $25 on their concert tickets.

**Including a large number of white parents with adopted Asian babies. I've become sensitive to spotting adopted families ever since I used to fly back and forth to Moscow on Delta (the airline of choice for couples who'd just picked up their adopted Russian baby). Moscow -> New York flights would seriously have like 15 couples staring incredulously and lovingly at their freaked-out toddlers, and I used to enjoy hearing their war conversations about paperwork battles with pissed-off provincial official babushkas who didn't like admitting the fact that Mother Russia couldn't handle taking care of its children and had to give them away to the West.

When the cat's away the mice will play....

I haven't been posting very much recently... my muse has been concentrating on a few other things in my life. I just looked at my comments section after a few weeks and there were all these spam comments with links...geez. I'd like to not agree with my geeky friends who lament that the internet is doomed and will choke on spam, but...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Upcoming workshops at Studio Serenity

September 30th - Yoga Nidra with Katja
October 2nd - Ashtanga workshop with Para
October 16th - Home practice workshop with me

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Human music

When you tune a guitar, the most important thing is not the absolute pitch of the strings but their relation to each other. So you hold the fifth fret of the lowest string, and then pluck the next-highest string. The two notes should be the same. Then you do the same for the next-highest string and the next-next highest, and so forth. Eventually, the whole guitar is in tune with itself, each string vibrating in harmonic proportion to the next. At that point lives in the guitar the potential for all the music that exists in the universe.

Sometimes, though, when you're tuning, it doesn't quite work out. The top string doesn't match the bottom string, so you twiddle the knob. Then it's higher, so you twiddle the knob back again. Then it's lower. Twiddle, twiddle. At a certain point you've scrutinized the sounds so many times you're not even sure which string is higher or lower, you just know that they're different. It's as though some combination of heat, humidity, and sheer molecular dissatisfaction is making that tuning knob slither back and forth defiantly past its sweet spot.

Eventually, perhaps, you give up, do your best, and move on to the next string. But now the guitar is out of tune and all your little mistakes snowball, the strings' vibrations careening around like balls on a pool table, and a hesitant strum across the belly of the instrument yields a jangly caterwaul, as if you were scraping your fingernails across a dying cat.

Human moods are a bit like that. After being played for a while - or, simply sitting still through the changing weather - all our little tuning knobs slip to one side or the other, and we begin to jangle. At that point, if we want to make any music at all, it's necessary to take a little time and get back into tune. If our tuning knobs are a bit sticky, perhaps it's necessary to remove them, clean them, and put the instrument back together. This may be quite time consuming, but what's the alternative, if we want music and not a jangle?

Hatha yoga is one of the most effective ways I've found so far to tune a human guitar. Of course, sometimes physical yoga isn't what's called for. The best tuning method may instead be sitting meditation, mantra chanting, a hot bath, a nourishing meal, a clarifying conversation with a loved one, the fulfillment of a procrastinated-on duty, or perhaps a stroll through a cemetary. Whatever shape it takes, though, this tuning process is one of the most important things we can learn as human beings, to live our lives melodiously.

I went to an Indian sitar concert where the instruments were so delicate, subtle, and finely pitched that the musicians re-tuned them in between each half-hour raga. But these sitars were just made of wood, glue and string. Our human instruments are made of body, mind, and spirit. Is our tuning any less important, for the kind of music we'd like to play?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina benefit at Studio Serenity, 9/9

Hurricane 'Katrina' Benefit: Heart-Opening Yoga

After the storm that has wreaked havoc on so many homeless refugees in the New Orleans area, we are all reminded of our lucky lives and the power that each of us has to directly reach out and help others. This disaster has created a very real need and the donations from this charity event will go directly towards providing food, shelter, and medical services to the people stricken by Hurricane Katrina.
Join Zoe Konovalov for a 90-minute yoga practice where we will also provide handouts and contacts for supporting and volunteering with the Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies.
We will begin with a flowing warm-up practice, and move towards more restorative poses with a focus on stretching the chest and shoulders to open the heart and release our wellsprings of compassion. The class will finish with some meditations on gratitude.

Hurricane 'Katrina' Benefit: Heart-Opening Yoga

Teacher: Zoe Konovalov

When: Friday Sept 09, 2005
Where: Studio Serenity, 2469 18th St NW
(202) 491-4151
Time: 7:30-9:00
Cost: $20 donation will go to Red Cross efforts to aid disaster victims

Kindly pre-register by sending an email to or by signing up at the studio. Namaste.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Not Enlightened Any More

Dear Lord, perhaps one day
you'll remove the veils from my sight;
I'll dive into the river of light -
a thirsty fish, and all the ocean.

And then, perhaps,
jump back out
to the bank
amidst your hard rocks, muddy trees
like a silly child
at a border crossing:
"I'm in France! I'm in Germany!

Or like me, now,
on this corporeal rock
in this solid wet river,
dipping my foot
in and out
of the water.

It will be, perhaps, the biggest
joke of all:
"Enlightened! Not enlightened!
Not enlightened!"

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My brother's recipe for baked cauliflower-cheese

Lots of butter
Blue cheese
Cheddar cheese
One pint heavy cream
One tbsp English mustard
Oh yes, and a cauliflower

1. Heat some butter in a deep frying pan, and, when it's melted, add some flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the flour has all been absorbed by the butter (you'll have a sort of thick paste in the frying pan). If you run out of flour and it still looks a bit wet, add more flour. If it looks a bit dry, add more butter. Continue until you get bored and/or you run out of butter.

2. Pour in a bit of milk and stir until it's absorbed. Quickly decide that milk is inadequate for your purposes, and switch to heavy cream. Stir into the butter/flour paste until you have a large quantity of thick, gloopy white paste.

3. Gloat for a while about how smooth and creamy the sauce is.

4. Still stirring maniacally, start adding pieces of blue cheese and cheddar cheese into the mix. The blue:cheddar proportion depends on how strong you want the sauce to be, so it's important to keep on dipping the spoon in to taste and check. Every time you taste, you must sigh, "Oh, this is so good! It's so rich!"

5. Keep on going until you've run out of cheese, and/or your deep frying pan is completely full of sauce. It should be even thicker and gloopier, with a deep yellow sheen of grease whenever you stir it.

6. Chop your cauliflower into florets and boil them for a minute or two until they're slightly cooked; drain.

7. Add a tablespoon of mustard to the sauce and stir it in. Taste again and practically faint with rapture. Take a picture of yourself posing as you stir the glorious sauce.

8. Put the cooked cauliflower florets into an oven safe baking dish and pour the creamy sauce on top of them. If you've done this right the dish should be like an ocean of sauce with a few lonely cauliflowers poking out here and there. Top with a few breadcrumbs (which will immediately soak with grease for that golden crispy effect).

9. Scrape the last little bits of sauce from the pan with a spoon and eat them.

10. Bake in a hot oven for half an hour or until golden brown and bubbling and your whole kitchen is full of a tantalizing caramelized cheese aroma.

11. Serve. If your guests are at all calorie-conscious, tell them that you used skim milk.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cow skull anyone?

From a letter to my friends:


Hi all,

So my mum's farm is full of these Galloway cows roaming around, and it seems that Australian cattlemen have invented their own version of aHindu sacred cow, because there is a Galloway Cattle Society and a Galloway Cattle Review Magazine and lots of glossy coffee table booksof the History of the Galloway Cattle Breed through the ages with endless archived black & white photos of cows at cattle shows (which all look the same to me but I suppose that's what white Americans used to say about Chinese people). These guys are obsessed!

But the point of this story is that the hills of her farm are beflowered with cow skulls and bones, all bleached white by the 100% Australian sun. If I was a priest perhaps I could commune with these skulls, and if I was Hamlet perhaps I would lament that alas I knew them well, but I am just Zoe and I reckon that they could be the next big thing in interior design.

Just imagine the possibilities! You could hang a skull on a string and make a punk rock mobile with danging safety pins and razor blades. You could paint it like an egg and save it for Easter. You could arrange it on a stylish wood table with a bowl of fruit and a musical instrument for a still life worthy of the old Dutch painters. You could arrange it next to a statue of Shiva for a little altar dedicated to the remembrance of mortality, the observance of which is certain to make breakfast taste extra good every day. Oh, the mind boggles...

In short, let me know if you'd like me to bring you a cow skull. They're plentifully strewn across the hills, and I've got a lot of room in my luggage, so come one, come all!

As an added bonus I promise to hose off all the little dried pieces of bullshit. Since we live in DC, we certainly don't need any more of that.



So far I've had five orders and I'm starting to get a bit worried about the possible scene in Customs. Ah well, last year I convinced them to wrap up my walking stick and check it specially, since it wouldn't fit in my bags.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The emu ate my baby

I went to the Tidbinbilla nature reserve in Canberra with my brother yesterday, where we had a chance to witness the phoenix-fast resurrection of the eucalypt forest there.

Australia's a natural tinderbox of a country: hot, and dry, and full of trees juicy with highly-flammable eucalyptus oil. Before white people came, Aboriginals used to practice natural forest management by setting small, controllable fires at appropriate times depending on the weather. But now that we've taken over the wilderness, our forests are primed to explode at any moment.

It happened in Canberra three years ago: massive bushfires scorched forested hillsides bald.
Entire neighborhoods in outlying suburbs were burned down. It was so fast and hot that wildlife were roasted alive; cooked koala carcasses fell from the trees and to lie with their limbs sticking up in the air.

There was only one known animal survivor of the bushfires: a koala now known as "Lucky", found huddled in the hollow of a tree, nearly comatose, dehydrated, with singed-off fur. It was a perfect Aussie rallying symbol and the Tidbinbilla park rangers whisked Lucky away to their animal hospital where they put her on an IV drip and treated her wounds. Lucky can now be seen rehabilitating in the Tidbinbilla reserve where she keeps to a koala's ideal schedule: lolling in a state of supreme relaxation in the fork of a tree munching eucalyptus leaves, with perhaps a midafternoon excursion to a neighboring tree branch, followed by another long rest to recover from the exertion. Her damaged tufted ears and swaths of pink healed scars where fur had been burned away makes her resemble an aging punk rocker, resting in the sun, beer-belly up.

Lucky noshes on gum leaves

Unlike animals and houses, however, eucalyptus trees thrive on fire - to restore the vitality of their soil and, in some cases, even to open their seed-pods - and their regrowth is marvellous to see. Trees that are entirely blackened, with dead scorched branches twisted in the air like witches' fingers, grow new branches directly from their trunks. You can see it here in this picture: the branches are dead, and the tree-trunk is covered with leaves.

It's hard to kill a eucalyptus tree

After we'd wandered around in the regrowing forest, we decided to take a walk in a field with a flock of emus. Here's a picture of the huge birds, peacefully at a distance:

Tranquil emus

When we got a bit closer, our dog, Fenris (an alarmingly militaristic-minded golden retriever), decided it would be a good idea to run, barking, at the emus - perhaps he got the idea from his fondness for chasing cows or kangaroos at my mum's farm. Unlike cows or kangaroos, however, the emus didn't flee. The leader of the emus - a huge, scruffy bird with demonic red eyes - puffed up his neck feathers and rushed at Fenris with the eerie speed of a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. Fenris turned and ran, tail between his legs, whereupon the emu made a few terrifying dashes at me and my brother, croaking and jabbing with its beak. My life flashed between my eyes when the emu circled around us and blocked our escape route at the top of the hill, and I started to wonder, "All this lead-up? All this travelling, wondering, and dreaming, just to go down in history as another emu fatality?"

Amazingly, my brother had the presence of mind to snap a picture, as he was running away backwards from the emu:

Evil attacking emu

I think the snap could be from a movie, you know, where they develop the film from the mysteriously dead man's camera, and the last shot is an out-of-focus monster, rushing up.

Eventually, however, the emu must have decided that we were sufficiently terrified and retreated to a safe distance, casting us a glowing red glare as we dashed back to the parking lot as fast as we could.

When we'd made it to safety, Fenris plopped down in a little pond where he floated on his belly for a while, taking some contemplative gulps of water. He had a tremendously satisfied expression on his doggy face and although I'd like to think the moral he gleaned from the episode was Never Piss Off an Attack-Emu, I suspect his real lesson was something like, Barking Loudly at Emus Yields Extremely Exciting Results.

Friday, August 05, 2005

One of my rare blog entries about work

I just danced an jig with Mary Robinson and Senator McCain in a huge ranch in the hills of Aspen. Mary Robinson has very nimble feet. I can see why she was so popular in Ireland. Diane Feinstein hired a country western band to play at the dinner and they had all the famous people singing drunkenly in a circle about the hills of Colorado. I took my shoes off and I was doing high kicks, at one point narrowly missing George Soros' head as he chatted with his gorgeous young Chinese girlfriend.

Madeleine Albright was wearing a gigantic suede shirt with huge shoulderpads and several layers of long, floppy fringed tassels, and a bright turquoise leather cowboy hat. She had a whole plate full of ribs.

Queen Noor was wearing an exquisite silk shirt with intricately hand embroidered tiny mirrors all over it. I thought she was flirting with Al Gore, but that's just my opinion. She gave us her email address so that we could keep in touch with her about global poverty. It was an AOL account; I don't know why I thought that was so strange.

The sunset from the ranch looked like an Ansel Adams photograph, if you stared at it while you were on acid and then fell asleep and dreamed about it. There was a double rainbow peeking through the violet clouds.

Gosh, I'm drunk. There was an open bar every ten meters and Diane Feinstein has good taste in Scotch.

Global Poverty Menu

We had a dinner at the Aspen Institute and Al Gore gave his slide show about global warming to the group. It was an extremely well done presentation, and Gore was clearly passionate - but I can see why he turned a lot of American voters off. His passion can seem a bit like self-righteous anger, like, "I'm right about this guys! You've got to listen to me or you'll get into trouble!" Which is totally true...but politically, it's off-putting. Anyway, I loved the presentation and I'm glad that he's putting so much effort into these issues - the man really does have remarkable vision about the important issues facing the world, from his work with the internet, to this. He's starting a new open source TV network and I'll be interested to follow what he does with it.

I stole the menu from dinner, and I think I'm going to take it home and frame it. I reproduce it here for you, although the irony is much better when you actually see the menu, with the heavy cardstock paper and the fancy printing.

Yep, global poverty. It's, like, so sad. All those poor people, I bet they've never even tasted a really good chevre! We've totally got to help them.


Thursday, Augsut 4th, 2005

European baby greens, chevre goat cheese and prickly pear vinaigrette

Buffalo ribeye, blueberry demi herb mashers and baby vegetables
Lemon baked Alaskan halibut with pineapple mango salsa, asparagus and tuxedo orze
Roasted red pepper polenta with grilled vegetables

Chocolate ecstasy cake and raspberry coulis


Al Gore is one of the guests at our star studded Aspen conference on global poverty and two nights ago he called Emily, our administrative assistant, at 11pm on her cell phone. "Hello, Emily? This is Al Gore. I've lost my laptop." So now she has Al Gore's number saved on her cell phone. We joked that she should get drunk one night and call him back. "Hello, Al Gore? This is Emily. I've lost my car keys."

By the way, Al did get his laptop back. He'd left it on his friend's private jet.

Aspen is a very beautiful town. But there are more women with plastic surgery here than I've ever seen in my life.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Back to Oz...

I'm leaving tomorrow morning to go to a conference in Aspen on global poverty. Yes, I know the irony is astounding. The main funder of the project I work for is a billionaire investment banker who's into Buddhism; he has a huge ranch on the hills of Aspen with sweeping views and gigantic tapestries of Buddhist mandalas. Uh huh.

And then I'll be going to Australia straight from Aspen, for two weeks to visit my brother. So I probably won't be posting very much for a while. But I'll let you guys know about any particularly fun things to do in Australia...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Party with 900 international types

A World Bank evite has spun out of control ... so I figured I'd add to the madness. Tonight, in Georgetown on the waterfront.