Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Birthday Girl Does Carnegie Hall


Yep, that's me. I'm 37 today -
but the cashier at Whole Foods guessed 25 so I'm a happy girl! Gosh, I guess I should post some pictures of myself, huh? NOT!

I have no idea what I'm doing today, but I'll figure out something. I did have a little pre-birthday fun yesterday at Carnegie Hall. My friend Donna (aka Zuri's mom) invited me to a concert at Carnegie Hall by the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra. This is not just any orchestra folks. They are a part of the Spinx Organization, which was founded in order to build diversity in classical music - primarily by increasing the participation of Blacks and Latinos.

The Sphinx Chamber Orchestra performed, along with some of their accomplished alumni, the Harlem Quartet. Ilmar Gavilan (violin) Melissa White (violin) Juan-Miguel Hernandez (viola) and Desmond Neysmith (cello), performed the Wynton Marsalis composition At the Octoroon Balls quite beautifully. Tai Murray, a 24-year-old Juilliard-trained violinist was another standout to me. My girl came out in a gorgeous peach gown and wowed the audience with a composition that could be new or hundreds of years old - I don't know - but it was beautiful: Ysaye's Sonata No. 6 for Violin Solo. Talk about a diva in training! In the words of my Grandma Annie Mae, she was sharp! I also enjoyed Juan-Miguel Hernandez (bottom picture), primarily because he was playing the viola. I played the viola as a kid, so I always listen for it in classical music. Keep your ears open for the Harlem Quartet - they'll be recording a CD in 2007. And definitely check out the Sphinx Organization's website and be sure to sign up for their mailing list for updates and catch them when they come to your town.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Oops! I Did It Again...

So, it's been a while. Again.

I just knew I would blog about this, that or the other but I guess not. I was really busy with that job - a temp job that was allegedly going to be permanent, but it wasn't meant to be. To make a long story short, I'm much better off.

I have two writing classes and usually writing classes help my professional writing, but not this time. It all feels like a chore. Sometimes writing gets to be like that - always at the most inopportune moments - but I just push through it. After all, I can't give in to the luxury of writer's block. As Joyce Carol Oates once said:
One must be pitiless about this matter of mood. If art is, as I believe it to be, a genuinely transcendental function - a means by which we rise out of limited, parochial states of mind - then it should not matter very much what states of mind we are in.

Whenever I want to chuck it all in, that quote comes to my mind. Or, I'll wince when I remember this Walter Mosley quote:

If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day. The consistency, the monotony, the certainty, all vagaries and passions are covered by this daily reoccurrence. You don't go to a well once but daily. You don't skip a child's breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning. Sleep comes to you each day, and so does the muse.
When I'm finished with all of my wincing and guilt-tripping, I'll go and take a look in my refrigerator.
Well, okay... my house is not that nice and I don't have any furniture - but you get the idea.

The book on my aunt is coming along fine - even with a few dings from a few agents that I submitted the proposal to - but that's the nature of the beast. Many have expressed interest in the novel that I mentioned in passing, so maybe that's the way to go first. Who knows?

And, let's see - what else is going on? Oh! Have I mentioned that I'm thinking about going vegetarian? Well, okay maybe semi, but most likely straight-up vegetarian if they go through with this cloned meat/milk thing. That's right, meat and milk from friggin' cloned animals. Heck, I may even go vegan.


Since my writing has sucked lately, I've been doing a lot of reading. I just started Lost Hearts in Italy, a novel about the aftermath of an adulterous affair between a married Black American woman and an older Italian man by Andrea Lee. I hadn't planned on it, but I was at the Barnes & Noble store at Union Square about two weeks ago and I stumbled upon The New Yorker Festival. As always, I had a ton of bags on me - groceries, books, you name it - and I was on my way out the door when I spotted Andrea Lee going up the escalator. Now, why did I have to see her? I guessed immediately that she was either signing or talking for the festival and I was right. She was going to sign copies of her book alongside Julian Barnes (writers sign two at a time at these events.) So, I spent $25.96 that I really didn't have because I didn't want to miss the opportunity to meet her briefly and have her sign a book for me. Andrea Lee is a very interesting woman. If you haven't had a chance to read anything by her, start here and then get thee to your nearest bookstore at once. Oh, and brush up on your Italian.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

The School of Grit and Iron

As I'm sure you've heard, Tamara Dobson died last week - too young - at age 59. Prior to becoming the iconic Cleopatra Jones onscreen she had a solid career as a model, appearing in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Essence and in ad campaigns for Chanel, Revlon and Fabrege Tigress. In my novel (that's on the backburner until I finish the book on my aunt) the title character is an actress from the seventies, more or less modeled on bits and pieces of various black actresses of the time like Rosalind Cash, Diana Sands and action stars like Ms. Dobson and Pam Grier. During the course of my research, I found several great quotes from the actresses including the Diana Sands quote in my header. However, the original quote on my blog was from an article on Tamara Dobson in the Washington Post in 1978:

I am not good at eyelash fluttering, although I wish I were. But unfortunately, I'm afraid I come from that plain old grit and iron school. Grit your teeth and keep on ironin' honey.

According to her brother Peter Dobson, Tamara had a "crushing experience" on one of her final films and decided to leave Hollywood for good. He said that she was very headstrong in her decisions and that she knew, yet she didn't know, what an iconic film figure she was. I must say that after reading several of her old interviews and profiles from the seventies, my guess is that the "crushing experience" was the straw that broke the camel's back for her because she had definite ideas about what she would and would not do on film. In one 1973 article in Ebony, she was very critical of some of the ways that black women were being portrayed in the dawning blaxploitation era - and she named names (or strongly implied.) She was absolutely from that "plain old grit and iron school" she spoke of in the Washington Post interview and, considering the press she was getting at the time (glowing profiles in the New York Times, etc.) she probably figured that she was on her way to becoming a big, big star - dignity intact. Instead, she left Hollywood and didn't look back. She ignored calls from old friends and offers to get back in the limelight (including her brother Peter's suggestion that she get in on WWE wrestling - I'm glad she nixed that one.) According to Peter, she lived in New York, owned and managed real estate and was a devoted aunt. I think that she was stunningly beautiful, extremely intelligent and an absolute groundbreaker - and I pray that she rests in peace.

Speaking of "grit and iron," I spotted Angela Bassett in a new commercial for Olay Definity. It was on at 1:30 in the morning of course - but she was flanked by two older black women (think Essence's Age Issue.) Now that's a first in a commercial if I've ever seen one! They need to run it during prime time. Or, at least during the new colored people's block on CW. A few print ads wouldn't hurt either! I checked You Tube for the commercial but no dice. Did anyone else see it? She looked great of course - so great that it made me wonder what took a beauty company so long to sign her. The woman is nearly fifty and doesn't have a wrinkle in sight (hello!)

And let's see, what else is going on?

Well
, I flaked out on the black/brown blogger's luncheon yesterday at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem. I really wanted to go but I slept in and was running so, so late. I was trying to fit in a mountain of laundry and a mountain of homework since I don't have weekdays to myself anymore. After much hemming and hawing, I never left the house! After all, although I go to NYU, I'm also a full-time student in the "plain old grit and iron school." I can't drop the ball because there is no one there to catch it except me!

And,
I am TiVo-less. The grit and iron budget doesn't include TiVo so I have been missing Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy because I have a class on Thursday night (ugh!) I have been able to catch Oprah and Gayle's Road Trip since Oprah repeats at one in the morning (I know, I know.. I can't help it!) I swear, I would love to do a road trip! I'd probably go with my sisters because, unlike Oprah, I know they like to have the radio on in the car! I don't know how she expected to drive across the country with no (or very little) music, but I think I would have to ride with Gayle. I also took advantage of a free three day trial and heard some of the Oprah & Friends shows on XM Radio. Thumbs up to Gayle's show, Dr. Robin and Dr. Maya Angelou's show (I think it's a gift that she's even doing it.) Bob Greene and Nate Berkus didn't fall within my three day trial. However, I have to say that although I love Dr. Mehmet Oz, I'd rather watch him on television. If I've got to hear about gross bodily functions and or procedures, at least the visual demonstrations can distract me. I think his show is great for medical students, people in the health care industry - or hypochondriacs!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Please Excuse My Absence...


...but I got a job y'all!

And I'm also back in school (BA Creative Writing, New York University 2007 so help me God!) so my schedule has changed dramatically in the last few weeks and I'm still adjusting. But hey, I love eating and paid bills - and mama's gotta keep the brows, nails and hair tight (did I just refer to myself as "mama?") Okay, you can see I'm exhausted right? I've got to go to work in the morning (aka later today) but I feel so bad that I haven't done anything here and I feel like I've been missing out on a lot. There is so much that I want to say, but I haven't been able to get my thoughts together past my three classes and my job. Heck, I've been slacking over at 55 Secret Street too, but I'll be back by the weekend I promise! On Sunday, I'm having lunch in Harlem with a bunch of black and brown bloggers, so you know I'm gonna give a full report.

So, that's about all for now. I need to get my behind in the bed because I don't do the CP time thing. I am going to be so tired tomorrow morning - but I'll be there!