Holiday Gift Recommendations, created by my peoples

So, here at thinaar's blog, I'm real proud of my friends and family who have come out with published works of literature and music and stuff in 2008. With that in mind I want to link all you holiday purchasers to these special products, written by mine and yours:

Growing Up White: A Veteran Teacher Reflects on Racism
My mother, Julie Landsman's newest book makes white privilege fun and edifying. 40 years of teaching and learning have gone into this book. Proud doesn't start to describe it.

Sea Won't Take Long
My friend and sometime collaborator T. Griffin and Catherine McRae's newest album full of luscious wordplay, low hummed loneliness and sonic textures that make your hair stand quietly on end.

Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York’s Urban Underground (Alternative Criminology)
Dr. Greg Snyder (Professor Greggy to his friends) has been working on this book about Graffiti writers for a long time and I've gotten to see him evolve into such a fine writer and thinker I know he will rock the academic world for real this time.

The 99 Cent Only Stores Cookbook: Gourmet Recipes at Discount Prices
Christiane Jory came up with the perfect cookbook for our leaner, meaner times. Please welcome her into your kitchen.


Provocative Posts du Jour

These two posts gave me pause in a good way, for entirely different reasons.


Steven Horwitz

An explanation by an economist as to why certain kinds of regulation were part of what caused the housing market meltdown. Might be helpful to bypass some of the rhetoric, because it's actually an interesting critique. I've had a bit of an obsessive interest in economics lately. (for really great coverage of the subject, please try Planet Money


A Mouse Bouche

A blog entry from the incredible Hart Sisters about making a whole pig. At home. In New York City. Includes photos.


How To Kill Yourself And Why, Reading at University Settlement

That's (l to r) Paul Willis, Emily McDonnell, Jim Himelsbach and Tricia Rodley.

We did a reading of a theater piece of mine at University Settlement on Eldridge Street last night. It's called How To Kill Yourself And Why: An Act in Three Plays. I started it five years ago by interviewing a monk named Bernard Audigier, who's part of a little tiny order of monks called The Little Brothers of Jesus.

The play has been kicking my ass. It started as a talk show, then it was a seance, now it's a collection of collages, which so far works best. What can you say about suicide and religious faith that has not been said? Why would you want to watch a performance about those things? (Feel free to write with answers). I've written bits and pieces over the years and nothing has coalesced. Last night I felt like we were onto something - the deadline pressure of the reading, the incredible actors, and the deft helmsmanship of Paul Willis led me to at least be able to tie together the elements into something you could hear.

Mostly it was the panic: people will see this, in a day, I better do something, now.

I'm in residence at the newly revitalized arts program at University Settlement all year, and we will be doing more readings and stuff with this piece.

My subway stop


Floyd Bennett Field Dance Hottie

This is Johanna S. Meyer, aka my better half, after losing a brief battle with an airplane. She was fighting the plane while rehearsing for Dancing in the Streets' Dance Charette program at Floyd Bennett Field.


Studio 360 Story about me and Free Theater of Belarus

A few months ago I went to Minsk to work with Free Theater of Belarus. This is the radio story that aired this week on the NPR show Studio 360 about the trip and the group.


Princess Kay of the Milky Way, 2008

I grew up in Minnesota, which hosts the nation's second largest state fair, behind Texas. Each year there is a beauty and talent contest featuring young women from each county in the state. The finalists have their likenesses carved in 90 pound blocks of butter. In front of the whole Dairy building. In previous years the women have been in shoulderless dresses for the entire time they are carved, and often they have been visibly trying not to shiver so the carver can get a clear enough bead on their beauty. This year the Princess got a nice coat.


Tell Everyone

Please go see the movie Tell No One, at your local theater.


Artists and gentrification

I just came back from the Creative Capital annual retreat, where I taught a workshop in professional development for their new grantees. Someone asked me to write down what I said there about the Creative Economy - a great discussion came up about it at our workshop - and so I'll give it a whirl here.

There's been tons of research done to prove that the arts - specifically the non-profit arts that - have a profoundly positive economic impact on cities. Arts activity in a neighborhood makes that neighborhood more appealing to non-arts people for a variety of reasons (safety and hip cache being two), those non-arts people move to the neighborhood, property values go up, and then all of a sudden your roads are being paved more regularly, there's better produce at the grocery store, and you've got some kid with a nose ring pulling Fair Trade capuccinos at your beck and call at the spot on the corner that used to be one of the many chicken places. The Salsa/Merengue jukebox has been replaced by obscure Elliot Smith and De La Soul recordings, the tattoos are different, and there's wifi.

The downside of course is that some or many of the people who were living there before the artists moved in are no longer able to live there because prices have risen too much. Very often those original residence were poorer, often they were of color. Eventually the artists who are renting apartments are also not able to afford to stay. Forward to next neighborhood and repeat.

This is not a new story but I think it might be time for a deeper awareness of the cycle. Gentrification is A) not entirely bad, B) partly brought on by artists, and C) part of what seems to me to be an inevitable cycle in many cities. The question is how to interact with that cycle in the most constructive ways.

A) It's generally good to have safer neighborhoods with more services and better food available. Does it have to come at the cost of the original residents' ability to stay?

B) Artists sometimes see ourselves strictly as victims of gentrification - that we make a neighborhood appealing to yuppies and their dough forces us to find the next not-yet-cool neighborhood. But a lot of artists forget that there were people here before us, that our relationship to the neighborhood impacts the security of their housing, and that we often have choices we don't recognize, both about the work we do and about where we live.

C) It's also important to just say that cities change. Their economies grow or shrink, new populations move in, people in government, business and every other strata make decisions; more importantly, individuals are constantly making choices about what to buy, where to live and how to get ahead, which causes an ongoing ebb and flow to the city that no one of us controls. Saying this change is "good" or "bad" leaps past the fact that the change is inevitable and relatively uncontrollaboe by any one of us.

So: The more we as artists take responsibility for our role - not to beat ourselves up about it, nor champion ourselves - the better neighbors we can be, the better citizens.

I am working with the brilliant Esther Robinson on a project she has begun called ArtHome, which is a first time homebuying program for artists, modeled after similar programs around the country for low-income residents. ArtHome is predicated on the idea that the funding structure for the arts is broken, that artists need to investigate new ways to create stability for themselves long-term, and that artists who buy their homes are often able to create that stability more easily. In addition, those artists often become more integrated into their neighborhoods, and can help shape the path the neighborhood takes, rather than simply feeling at the whim of forces completely beyond our control.

For further reading:


Also Google for yourself: Jane Jacobs
and buy her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Any discussion of city economies needs to start here.

And Richard Florida - The Rise of the Creative Class - a problematic but influential tome on just this subject.

I should also say that I don't own my house, yet, that I have been part of the gentrification process in the East Village, Carroll Gardens, Williamsburg, and now Prospect Lefferts.


New Temp Service For Writers

I'd like to propose a new kind of temp service for spoiled, lazy writers like myself. The way it would work is that, once the fun part of the creative process was over - the part where you get to feel the thrill of filling a blank page, say, or the joy of writing the last word of a first draft - you'd have this temp service that would finish the job for you. So you'd give the temp service whatever you'd done, and then some notes like, "need character development for Tom in act 1, please fix," or "not enough dramatic tension in second half," or, "need more jokes that are funny." And the temp service would come back to you in a few days with what you meant to write the first time.


I am always amazed at how tricky it is to write a play, or a performance text, or even to know what it is before it's in front of people.

The other day I got actors and a director in a room to work on a script I've had kicking around called How To Kill Yourself and Why. I workshopped part of it at the UCSB theater lab a couple summers ago, but that time was mostly spent working on how to approach acting in one of my shows. So this time we worked, I took the last three days to write more and edit, and then we're back tomorrow to try out the changes. I am thinking of building this developmental process into everything I do. We'll do some kind of invited reading later this summer.


A couple of weekends ago, ERS went up to the Orchard Project in Hunter, NY to brainstorm a bit about what kind of new show we might make. There was swimming and also poker, but we did do some work, as evinced above.

Hello and Welcome

This is where I'm going to post a few things periodically about the work I'm doing, the people I'm knowing, the places I'm going, and so on. Please come back real soon.