Friday, May 28, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Original Radical Homemaker!

The past few days have been exceptionally delightful. I've been working my way slowly throughRadical Homemakers-- something I wrote about over at my Austinist blog this week-- and it's been a great reminder about the gift of "temporal abundance." Time is money, this is true. And when I have a wealth of time, or at least squeeze some hangout time out of my day, the payoff is always massive. I even pulled off a nap on Saturday, under the careful supervision of Warren the Nap King. We swam Saturday AND Sunday. And Sunday I managed to work in the garden and make some whole wheat bread entirely by hand. Then this morning, even though technically I had deadlines, I decided to extend the weekend a little, reminding myself that a huge part of the reason I seek contract work is so I can keep flex hours.

And so, this morning looked like this: Coffee in bed with the dogs and yesterday's NYT (print edition). I can't think of anything better than this start-your-day-right combination-- ah to be scrutinized by bug-eyed Boston Terriers while taking in the news. Then I meditated, and Bubbles joined me (and I'm serious, she understands the point of meditation, and sits on her own mat breathing). Then we took a long walk and I reminded myself that yesterday WOULD have been my 4th wedding anniversary but it wasn't because I AM NOT MARRIED!!! And I was so happy at this thought-- both specific to my last horrible marriage but also at not being married in general-- I swear I nearly skipped the whole three miles.

Then, I concluded that at long last, Charlaine Harris has done it. She has produced a Sookie Stackhouse book so awful even I can't bear it. I listened to the first nine audiobooks in the series and recently downloaded the newly released tenth. Look, I knew they were bad. And maybe this tenth one only seems worse since immediately prior to it I listened to Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Ian McEwan's Atonement, both astonishing literary works (the latter might just be my new all time favorite). Whatever the case, I gave up on old Sookie and switched to music. I thought I hit "Shuffle" but I guess I hit "S" which brought me three versions of Solitary Man, including one by Johnny Cash, Marshall Crenshaw's Someday Someway, two versions of Sinead O'Connor's Something Beautiful (which reminds me so much of Warren and our early days), and Southpaw Jones's Sometimes I Forget to Be Afraid. Oh boy oh boy oh boy-- each song seemed so pertinent to the thoughts I was already thinking that I was flying.

(I was also probably flying because I am getting the real hang of not smoking, and I'm even patch-free today, and the absence of nicotine offers this stunning elation, but let's not dwell on that unless/until I really, truly quit for good.)

As I walked, I also thought about my Mom, who happens to be 75 as of today, even though I have her locked in at about 39 in my head. And as I thought of her, I again thought about this whole Radical Homemaking thing. It's too much for me to boil down here, but some major RH points include the importance of having a nurturer at home, the importance of being thrifty, of growing your own food, making your own clothes, salvaging stuff, and spending time together as a family. My mother wasn't following any sort of political manifesto. She sewed, cooked, kept on a budget, taught us arts and crafts, and salvaged furniture because there were eleven of us (nine kids and my parents), my father's paycheck was small, and the only way we could make it was if she figured out how to stretch the funds in these and other ways.

No, I did not like hand-me-downs. And I didn't always love every article of clothing she sewed me, but mostly I did, in particular my First Day of Kindergarten Dress and my Prom Dress, both of which I can still see perfectly in my memory. I've always been impressed with my mom's amazing skills. Now that I'm reading a book that essentially describes what she did to survive as a way to make the entire world a better place, well, it sort of cracks me up. It also motivates me.

I decided, in the interest of keeping my good mood going, I'd look around my house and yard at all the things I'm doing right (or at least not doing wrong) to work toward this better-living-through-Radical-Homemaking idea. I'm tempted to beat myself up over the carbon footprint of so many plane tickets, all those ciggies smoked, etc. But just for today, I set that aside and look at the good ideas. And I am totally up for any easy-to-implement suggestions y'all have. (With special advance thanks to Emily and Bug who are always planting such genius seeds in my head.)

So, in no particular order:

This is the kitchen drawer that is sorely lacking boxes and boxes of Saran wrap and similar bad-for-the-environment shit. Yes, sometimes I buy this sort of thing, but mostly I get one roll of wax paper that lasts me about six years, and I wrap up leftovers in re-used containers and newspaper bags. (Warren's dad did give me those "Forever Bags" in the picture.)
Electric teapot. Got it because everyone had one in France so I wanted one. Emily tells me it's actually way more efficient for boiling water than using the stovetop.

Homemade bread. I've baked bread off and on since I was little. These days, the trick is finding the necessary stretch of hours to tend to rising dough. I figured it out this week. Eventual goal: never buy another loaf of sandwich bread.

Yogurt. I love yogurt. I am insane for yogurt. Yogurt yogurt yogurt. I make my own now. It's pure, full fat, and I use Way Back When Dairy milk, which comes from nearby. Oh my yogurt is SO GOOD. And cheap.
French Press: I know, I know, me and my Francophile tendencies. I think this is "better" since I seem to run through those plastic plug-in coffeemakers about two to three per year. The used yogurt container next to the coffee pot is to lug grounds out to the compost bin.
The Meyers Lemon Tree. I love it. That's all.

The chicken coop. Sadly, the last flock got, uh, "surprised" by the dogs one night, leading Warren to have to put one mortally wounded hen out of her misery using the business end of a shovel. Lately I've been rewiring the chicken yard in hopes that the next flock will survive.
The box garden and compost bin. I bartered for that compost bin. It super rocks. And it ROLLS so you can, you know, mix up all the crap you put in.
The new clothes dryer. I meant to install this for years. Finally did. The sheets smell GREAT. And it's fun to hang clothes. Now if I can just get Warren to haul off the dryer so there will never again be one of those cheating days...

The unmowed lawn. This is the easiest way for me to be radical.
The gently used rain barrel-- a gift from friends.

And at the top of this post-- Warren's latest stunning gift to me-- a fancy cut jelly jar to add to my drinking jar collection. I forgot to put up a picture showing that I knit a lot of my clothes, too, but don't worry, with all my newfound temporal abundance, I'll start posting lots and lots of knit pics soon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To Go or Not to Go-- There is No Question: GO GO GO!

Dear Devoted Six,
Last night, Big Red and I went to see The Taming of the Shrew-- Original Practices. As there are but two more performances, and as I am looking at a packed weekend (including an ungodly early wedding rehearsal this morning) I haven't got time for a proper review. But let me begin with my one and only regret about this performance and that is that I didn't see it much sooner, so that I could tell you about it, so that you could BE SURE TO SEE IT. All I can say now is, I hope you don't already have other plans, or that if you do, they are easily cancelled. Because seriously? This is some kick ass Shakespeare my friends, and there are only two shows left, today and tomorrow.

"Original Practices" refers to productions done as close as possible to how they would've been seen back in the day. No we didn't go to The Globe Theatre. Instead, the play is staged "in a hidden room somewhere in 311 W. 7th Street." It really is in a hidden room, and you really need a password to enter. The building is an old Mason Lodge-- same place the Texas Observer is located-- and it's a little creepy-in-a-good-way as you try to imagine just who the Masons were (are?) and what they did (do?). But that's simply a curiosity to entertain you while you wait for the house to open. The real show is the show. Or, to quote the t-shirt I'm wearing right now, which quotes Shakespeare (I got it at a Shakespeare Festival in Canada-- I HEART THE BARD!): The Play's The Thing.

Master of Play, Beth Burns, puts on some of the best Shakespeare in this town, and that's saying something. We have so many great opportunities to take in Old Bill's works. I dig the amateur but delightful Shakespeare at Winedale fest. I dig Ann Ciccolella's interpretations (MacBeth with cell phones, anyone?) And right now, through May 30th, you can catch a 1960's flavored Midsummer Night's Dream as this year's Zilker Hillside Shakespeare in the Park. But I have a special place in my heart for the old school style Burns embraces, ending her shows (she did a great Twelfth Night sometime back) with traditional dancing, and punctuating entire performances with live music (which might answer the questions: Where do RenFest folks go when RenFest is not in session?)

Every actor in Shrew delivers a fantastic performance. Whatever excitement I feel when seeing a contemporary stage production-- and I am forever awed at the memorization of so many words, even at bad plays-- well that enthusiasm grows exponentially when I witness Shakespeare, and then it swells even more when I see Shakespeare done so well. The players aren't just delivering regular old dialogue, they are working with words written long ago, in a certain, very specific form and style. (Sorry to state the obvious but what I mean is-- HOW DO THEY DO THIS?!)

I wish I had time here to specifically point out the good things about each and every performer's performance. But I am going to focus on just two. Because this is Original Practices. all of the roles are played by men. I didn't know, going in, if this meant we were going to be witnessing some Kids in the Hall drag, ala Cathy & Kathy-- which would've been fine, I LOVE KITH. But no... Ryan Crowder, who plays Katherina, aka The Shrew, is so fucking over the top fantastic, so utterly believable, so tremendously stunning, that suspending disbelief is a simple task. No falsies here, or other props (beyond the lady costumes Ryan wears). He simply becomes Katherina and we simply believe he is she. To the point that, I think I got a crush of the sort that I am considering becoming a lesbian and asking Ryan out. OMG-- not enough good words out there to heap on this man-as-woman. I was so sad that, at the end, the actors disappeared. I had this plot in my head-- one informed by a passion I hadn't felt since I saw an ACL taping with Dolly Parton-- that I would spot Ryan in the lobby and rush him and swoop him into my arms and carry him off. Wow Wow Wow!

Judd Farris, in the role of Petrucio, also delivers 200% and then some. The thing is, his character is quite despicable-- and in case you don't know, Shrew is about as misogynistic as you can get (well, wait, there's always Neil LaBute....). Surely the play was the inspiration for that icky classic movie, Gaslight. I typically avoid misogynistic work, but it's like buying bananas. Let me explain-- I prefer to buy organic bananas. But I more prefer to buy green bananas. In an ideal situation, I'll find organic bananas that are green. But if I'm looking at a display of only-yellow organic and green conventional, I'm going for the latter. I just can't eat yellow bananas fast enough. So while I certainly have more favorite Shakespeare plays, I was able to set aside any apprehension about the message in Shrew, understanding this would be overridden by the wonderful language and, as prepared by Burns, utterly delicious. So, to get back to Farris's turn as a man determined to break the spirit of an independent woman-- he wore the character like Vibram FiveFingers. I mean, super snug fit. Utterly believable.

So much to love about this show. So much! If you want to go, you gotta hustle. Know that it runs 2 hours 45 minutes, and that includes a 15 minute intermission. They've got snacks, beer and soft drinks, and some cool masks for sale in the lobby. Here's the info on how to get tickets:

Please contact the Matriarch for your reservations, as well as the secret location and password for admittance.

the matriarch
(310) 243-6426

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Read All About It: Local "Reviewer" Loves Self, Hates The Rest of You Fools!

You know how I love so very much to celebrate all of zee good things about Austin in my writing? Well this isn’t one of those times. Fair warning—as I am wont to do from time to time, I am going to once again exercise my Irish Buddhim and attempt (futilely I know) to provide a little enlightenment courtesy of cleaving le sphincter noveau. (For you little people who need help, that is my new term for “ripping a new asshole.)

Today’s lucky recipient of said nuevo porthole de butthole is a local “theatre critic.” This young fella – I believe he might be all of six years old —is quite fond (nay, enamored!) of using twelve words where one might do, and of selecting these twelve words from the Annoyingly Convoluted section of the thesaurus. (For all my distaste for his “criticism,” I must admit he’s a rather precocious six year-old, what with his propensity to tackle such a tome.)

Before I go any further, a few notes. First of all, I apologize if you find yourself yawning at what follows. Frankly, beyond alluding to him once before, I had purposefully avoided directly calling this terrible infant out in the past because in my experience, that is just what the terrible infants love most of all—they clatter their spoons about in their infantile attempts to manipulate those around them into paying attention. Okay, so this time, I’m picking up the spoon.

Let me say that this “critic” is a terrible infant to such an extent that I cannot even allow myself to affix to his sorry ass the more official-sounding title: enfant terrible. Because, even though, like TI, I, too, have the capacity to wield both a thesaurus and the occasional foreign phrase, I am far too fond of the Frogs to sully their beautiful language by even thinking about using it to describe TI.

Did I mention this is going to be a long one? (I feel it in my coeur!)

So, okay, awhile back, I wrote a post explaining why I was no longer going to be writing theatre reviews for the Austinist. My main reason was practical—I am way too fucking busy with my day job, my weekend job, and my novel-in-progress, not to mention my boyfriend, my three dogs, and my sorely neglected cat. I actually LOVE the Austinist and for some time I really enjoyed writing reviews.

Something else stopped me though. See, I have this belief that almost every production mounted in this town, is done so by people with their coeurs in the right place. While that is a very good thing, it does not always make for good theatre. But I am not from the school of Gleeful Bashing. Oh, maybe I was in my tortured, punk rock youth. But these days, I just do not want to make sport of trashing one production when I’d much rather spend my time pointing folks to the really good stuff out there. And there is PLENTY of good stuff. This town crawls with so much music/literary/stage talent that embarrassment of riches does not begin to describe it.

So while, in the moment of, say, enduring an excruciating Frontera Fest piece that appears to have been written by a male playwright solely for the purpose of getting the lead actress to prance around in a sheer body suit, nipples erect, for twenty-five interminable minutes, I think it might be fun to publicly condemn the playwright, something stops me. And that is this: I also see lots of lovely performances at Frontera Fest and on stages all over this city. Life’s short. I prefer to recommend the good rather than demonstrate some ability to hurl insults at the bad. (I mean, come on, people, I’m from fucking NEW JERSEY for Christ’s sake. We learn how to hurl insults before we learn how to breathe. It’s child’s play.)

In my post about why I wanted to stop reviewing for Austinist, I also noted that I sometimes feel in a bind. If I promise to review a show, and then I find wouldn’t recommend it to a friend, but then again I don’t want to give it a thumbs down, where does that leave me? Sure, I can list the strengths of a piece, but is that honest enough? Sometimes not. Which is why I have decided that my reviews will only be occasional from here on out, and only at my personal site, and (this post a sole excepton) only when I have something genuinely good to say to recommend a show. (See my Body Awareness Review, for example.)

BUT WAIT… there’s more. Also in that other piece, I noted that one thing gave me pause, prompted me to consider continuing my reviews. I went on to cite, in a very vague, non-identifying matter, one particular “reviewer” who, in an interview, praised his own work heartily (he also “directs” plays) and stated, for the record, that he hates every production put on by a particular theatre which I also did not identify. Sensing he lives to BASH anything he doesn’t have a hand in, I thought maybe I should stick around and offer some balance. But I overruled that thought, and got back to my novel.

Then, I read the Austinist “review” of Sleeping Beauty at the Vortex, written by the Terrible Infant. Before I get to my real point, first allow me to give you a sample of his writing “style.” He says in that review:

However blithe and aphasic it might be when finishing a thought, it is not actually confounding, which makes it an improvement over much of the Vortex’s fare.

Never mind that Blithe and Aphasic sounds like the name of some TV show that should star Shannon Doherty. And, to be fair, I suppose if one had the energy to wade through this tangle of proof that Terrible Infant studied his SAT vocab lists, one might argue that the sentence is almost complimentary. But forget about that, and listen to what happens later in the article. He goes full-on Ballistic Character Assassination Mode and proceeds, for no reason I can ascertain (beyond utterly transparent professional jealousy), to throw a massive tantrum over how the Vortex has such a big budget, and blah blah blah, and it’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair.

On the one hand TI is entitled to his opinion. Remember, opinions are like assholes—everybody’s got one. Fortunately, not everyone is one. Unfortunately, TI is not one of the ones who is not one (if I may phrase my sentence as he might, so that you can puzzle over it, and attempt to decipher it, and think I must be so smart, since I have stopped to make you think with my puzzling sentences that often run on and on and on.)

That Sleeping Beauty review garnered a lot of comments, which is what brought it to my attention. As I read the “review” I grew increasingly appalled. Because I remembered that the reviewer I’d anonymously referred to in my earlier post was this same little venom spewing man. And the venue that he declared to only and ever produce crap was the Vortex.

This, mes amis, caused me to instantly suffer from derriere rouge (chapped ass, people, look it up!). Because I think that if you are going to go on the record stating that you believe EVERY SHOW PUT ON BY A VENUE SUCKS then you have a duty to recuse yourself from reviewing shows at that venue if, in fact, you are trying to present yourself as a true “critic.” Not everyone agrees with me (surprise!) and some have gone so far as to suggest that by provoking so many comments, TI is doing his job to “foster conversation about theatre.” Uh, hello? Is it okay if I trot out the old bit about how I, too, could foster theatre conversation merely by hollering FIRE! (Oh, and speaking of rude noises in dark theatres—a little bird told me that at one performance TI showed up to review, he ATE A CRUNCHY APPLE DURING THE SHOW.)

One of my favorite expressions is this: to live outside the law, you must be honest (Dylan—Bob, not Thomas). Toward that end, you better believe I peed my pants with delight when I received an unsolicited invite to see a play directed by TI. To my further delight, I was at a wedding the other night, and ran into a playwright who shall remain unnamed, but who, too, has been the victim of TI. When I mentioned my “opportunity” to the playwright, the playwright noted that TI’s play was, in fact, written by Neil Labute. That didn’t ring a bell for me until the playwright told me Labute had written that misogynistic piece of shit movie In the Company of Men.

Now I was double-delighted because, oh meta-world!— I was feeling, I think, how TI must feel every day of his life. I was going to be heading into a production with preconceived negative ideas, and a set goal of hating it, even if I liked it. (Aside: I don’t have time to go into it now, but this calls to mind Sorry Fugu, a great TC Boyle short story about a food critic.) I knew, even if the play was somehow good, I would strive to despise it. Because, you know, don’t criticize a man til you’ve walked in his shoes. And donning TI’s shoes as I readied to critique his show required me to imagine myself a poseur, and walk around dismissing Hamlet, as TI did, because, as he says, the young prince is not dealing with issues that strike every human being.” (Oh, how bold—to decry the Bard!)

So anyway, I dragged my poseur ass over to this fifty-cent production. It was held in a very tiny room. In fact, oh joy, it was three Labute plays in one—the first was directed by someone else. The second two were directed by TI. I walked out after taking in the first two pieces and I walked out for a few reasons. First, my life is too fucking short to have to endure writing like that. Labute reminds me of my high school students’ fascination with Chuck Ohh I Am So Fucking Shocking Palahniuk. How I wish this next line was mine, but it isn’t. It belongs to the playwright I met at the wedding who said, of Labute’s work, you can sum up all of his plots as follows, “I’m a man! No, wait! I’m a monster!”

I had to keep my laughter in check as I watched the first play and then the second bear this out. I’m sitting there listening to poorly drawn characters (not the actors’ fault—they did the best they could) detail despicable acts that outsiders might never think they had the capacity to execute. But big fat fucking surprise—THEY DID! Both of the two plays I saw involved murder— the first of an infant, the second of a gay man. And, for reasons I’ll have to ask someone with a Ph.D in English to explain, both also featured a heavy comforter. The characters are cliché and the males, in particular, are so despicable why would anyone want to sit through a show like this? Am I missing something? No, I am not. Labute got stuck in adolescence, and his sole goal seems to be creating vehicles that allow him to offer detailed descriptions of physical violence. Uh, hello? Isn’t that what we have Law & Order reruns for?

I looked for meta-clues, knowing that TI is soooo much smarter than all of us, wondering if I might be missing something, me, the critic who confesses to loving Broadway musicals. I found none. This was not a parody of cathartic moments in the lives of sociopaths. Far as I could tell, the players were directed to play it straight.

Which brings us to TI’s “directing” skills. Uh, okay, so it was a small room, maybe not so easy to work with. But for his portion of the show, the entire set was two wooden chairs. The actors stood up and sat down a few times. I’ve seen more dramatic action at Sunday night Mass back when Catholicism was forced on me. At least in church they also kneel, which action would’ve improved TI’s “direction” by at least 30%.

TI did offer his mighty view, spat down upon us from his perch on high, in the form of a note in the program. It reads, in part:

Shock value… when used in response to this concept we have of deceptive simplicity, this tendency we have to “humanize” by assuming that there are complicated, rational processes to undesirable actions, it’s a puissant reminder that we in fact do not always know what we “know.”

Boy I’ll say. I don’t know what TI knows, unless, it’s possible that—gasp—beyond cribbing from the thesaurus he knows utterly nothing at all. Speaking of thesauruses, I had to look up puissant and, to my surprise, it is not a reference to a James Bond movie. It means powerful, but if you ask me, it sounds an awful lot like pissant. Now that word, I know, as it has its origins in South Jersey. It’s just the precise term I’ve been looking for, lo these 2000+ words later, to capture my real feelings for the Terrible Infant.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spike's Summer Camps for Kids: Por Favor, Help Me Spread the Word

I said it before, I'm saying it again. I'm hosting Fashion Camp (ironic, I know) AND Writing Camp this summer for kids ages 8 - 11. I'm posting the information for both camps below. If you have a kid that wants to attend, you can email me at I'm also asking you to please re-post this to your neighborhood listservs, your elementary school lists, and to forward it to friends who might be interested. Would very much appreciate y'all helping me get the word out.
Muchas gracias,


With Spike Gillespie & Friends

We’re back with four one-week sessions of fabulous fashion design!

Campers learn how to design and create their own fashion & accessories from sketchpad to runway.

We’ll make all sorts of groovy clothes, jewelry, and other good stuff.

On Friday, we’ll present a fashion show for our friends and family!

Ages 8 –15 (inclusive). $200 per session.
· Session 1: June 14 - 18
· Session 2: June 21– 25
· Session 3: July 12 - 16
· Session 4: July 19 – 25

For questions and registration forms emal:

Camp meets at the Hyde Park Theatre

43rd & Avenue A










Local author Spike Gillespie guides 8 to 11 year olds through all sorts of fun writing activities. Campers strengthen their writing skills while laughing their heads off and enjoying tasty snacks. We’ll work on poetry, short stories, dialogue, character development, essay writing, and magazine creating.

One week sessions run M – F, 9 til noon @ Unitarian Church, 4700 Grover. $150 per session. Sign up for both sessions and get $50 off the total.

Session 1: June 28 – July 2, 2010

Session 2: July 5 – July 9, 2010

For registration or questions email: