Friday, December 12, 2003

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
 
A bit of typical work for me and how it transpired in famously-fast-New-York-souped-up-City in the age of high-speed broadband connectivity, circa early 21st century. Eh.

All correspondence by email over the course of TWO weeks! Here's how it went:

On 11/18/03 5:50 PM, B wrote:

I missed your hootenanny... sorry. It has been a needy mommy week... sick kid, and all of that... you never can plan, you know... anyway, HOW WAS IT? Are you going to appear on Nov 25, at our think tank at Steven's place? 7 pm? Let me know. I will try to call you. Just got off the phone with J, who says he is going to M in December... he has never seen the tape, you know. Maybe he should sometime...love

S: Oh dear. I have to go to see Movin' Out with my friends from Tokyo that evening. But I haven't heard a final word so if I don't go I will make it. The square dance was great! I took H who loves to square dance and what with Tommy Bledsoe and Rich Kirby doing the fiddling, banjoing and calling, it was wonderful. Never realized how interesting it is - one on one, then changes, then a group... Very flexible. I must have displayed enthusiasm matched only by a need for lessons as someone came up and handed me a card for their dance group.... Wanna go sometime? H wants to! J. Hmm. Want to ask him if he wants to see the tape? I don't know him really. Also let's talk/meet soon and catch up.

B: Well, Somi, Joe should see the tape, really it would be best if he could see it before he goes to Manipur to see Rathan (spelling?). Send him a CD or whatever. I think it would be good for him to know what exists outside of Rathan. He plans to bring him to BAM again in 2005... even though he cannot do the court theater; he needs to know about it. I heard from him that Rachel and LB are going to Manipur. do you know about it? Seems it will be in December. Are they consulting you at all? And yes, I do want to dance with you. Fun. P.S. sorry if you miss us on Nov. 25.

S: Want to give him a call? I don't want to impose on him if he is not interested.

B: I have known Joe for many years, and we consider each other good friends... I spoke to him today, and I asked him if he saw the tape, he said no. I described it, and I think he would definitely be interested, since he is going to Manipur for the first time in his life.... I will tell him you will send it. And I will tell him to view it. Don’t worry. He is not able to produce it; I can assure you that he cannot do it mostly because of space. Actually, but I think it would be good for him to see it, since so many of his colleagues have seen it, and it will give him more background when he travels. For research purposes... I told him that maybe you were going to do a film at this point, but that the theater was very good, and that Schechner really loved the tape. etc. He would be pleased to see it. He is like that; he will view it. I assure you. When you send it, tell me and I will call him.

S: OK thanks!

B: Yes, good night? Good day? Is there a tape of your China trip that I could see, maybe?

S: How DID you guess? Ah you know me too well. I have two - one in China and one in Kentucky. The second is made by the Chinese filmmaker and is really funny. I got to get NTSCs and then well have a screening... with pea soup (I made my first one tonight!). I can come Tuesday!

B: Great. Bring a small contribution in the way of a snack or drink item... bottle of whatever you like, water, wine, Manipurian vodka, etc.

B: Hi oeJ, it is early, or is it late? Anyway, Somi will send you a copy of the tape I was telling you about from Manipur, of the courtyard theater company. I hope you can see it before you go to Manipur, to know a bit more about what is there, and this form, and this particular work, which we would love to hear your feedback about.

B: At some point, we should meet together with Joe, so that you can speak more easily to him directly. At this time, he has asked me to check with you about what to expect in M in December. Here are the questions he has asked:

What to expect in Imphal, Manipur in December-- Weather? Is there something culturally that he should be aware of prior to arriving? Should he bring his own bottled water, toilet paper, food ??? He has no clue what to expect when he arrives... so any information will be sincerely appreciated.

He is departing on December 25th evening. I might ask him to meet us for lunch at some point, if he has time. And if you do, let me know.

S: Sure - great idea. You can give him my email, or number as what he is asking for is kinda large and diverse area to cover...

S: Hi Erin, would you be so kind as to send the WTC tape to Joe with a note to return to me? He needs to see it soon. Thanks! You coming here for hols? Maybe we can get together and look at stuff.

E: Will put it in the mail today. No problem. I am best reached these days at my S address: XXXX@swarthmore.edu. Cheers,

B: Thanks, Somi. J suggests we all three meet for coffee early in the morning somewhere near his place, which is in the East Village... we usually meet at Dean and Deluca, near Union Square. Does this make sense to you? I think it is on University Place and about 12th street. Let me know which is your best day, and I will arrange it for all of us to meet. I prefer 9 am Mon, Wed or Fri; week after x-giving is best. Or next week on Tuesday is ok for me. Nov. 25 at 9 am?

B: Tuesday at 9 am at Dean and Deluca is ok with Joe, how about you?

J: I just penciled it into my calendar and I only await your confirmation. I hope it works for Somi. Best, J

S: Tues morning is not good for me, alas. Kohei Andoh (remember him Bonnie, the guy who worked with Terayama?) is here and I am working on a shoot for him till that morning. If Tuesday, I am free, as I mentioned, to come to S's that evening at 7 since I am not going to the B'way show with the Japanese crew. One possibility is therefore meet a little earlier in W. Village and then we can head up together? When is your departure, Joe? I am good generally afternoons and evenings. Boy, it’s like herding cats.

J: S and B - I am in my office now, Cloud Gate is giving their final performance tonight. I do not have my calendar here with me so on Monday; I shall have SP, executive assistant, contact you with some options. I do not depart for Manipur until the evening of December 25th. Best, J

B: Hi, I am leaving for Japan from Dec. 3-12, so I hope we can all get together before or after that time. Anyway, before Dec. 24 is best for J. thanks to all.

J: We have to meet before you depart for Japan.

B: OK, S, J - How about Monday morning, Dec 1 9 am coffee? Or Tuesday, Dec. 2? I am fine with both of those days. Keep me posted.

J: B and S - I am flying back from Cannes, France on Monday, December 1st and do not arrive until the evening. I have a standing BAM executive staff meeting every Tuesday at 10a.m so I cannot do the morning of December 2nd. I do have a lunch meeting in Manhattan and could meet you both for coffee at Dean and Deluca/University Place and 11th Street at 3:00pm. Can you both do it then? Best, J

B: Hi guys. I am fine with 3 pm on December 2, at Dean/Deluca.

J: Now we wait to hear from Somi....

S: Me too.

SP: Hi there, can you meet Joe for coffee at Dean & Deluca at 3pm on December 2nd? Thanks

S: Yes that will work for me.

SP: Somi has confirmed with me that it was OK too. It's a date! Tuesday, December 2nd at 3 PM at Dean & Deluca

B: IT'S A DATE! DEC 2, AT 3 PM AT DEAN/DELUCA, UNIVERSITY NEAR 11TH STREET. THANKS ALL.

S: Yes indeed.

J: Thank you all and see you there




SP: Dear Somi and Bonnie - would you mind coming to BAM at 3 PM? Joe cannot make it to the city. Please let me know. Thanks

S: OK with me.

SP: Thanks Somi, I just spoke to Bonnie who was going to call you. I will let her know. See you later and thank you

S: No prob. Talked to Bonnie. See you at 3.




J: thank you for being so kind to venture to my office

S: Hi Erin - You back at Swarthmore? Hope you had a good TG - thought of time spent with you and your mom last year... Just met with Joe and he hadn't received the tape. Did you send it on or is the postal nightmare for Xmas already upon us? His address once again if you couldn't get to it during your final thesis dash... He leaves soon for Manipur so kinda urgent. I am trying to get my dubbing station corrected in the meantime. 3 VCRS and still no-go here! Do let me know one way or another ASAP.

S: Dear Tamo: How are you? I just met with Joe and he's very excited about coming to Manipur to see your plays. Imagine, he hadn't known about getting special permission until today from L and he is getting that done today! I sure hope it can be swung in time for I know you will be able to get it for him.

Tamo, I told J about Tamo Birjit's sumaang lila WTC and he is interested in seeing it if there is time. I would like to see if it can be invited to NYC. I ventured my opinion that while RS thought very highly of it from the footage I had compiled for it, I was not sure if it was quite for BNW. But that since he would be able to get a take of it as a theater and performance expert, I would like his opinion. He thought it might be good for the NPN here - the network that specializes in small production tours but since I am the only one here who has seen the entire play, it would be terrific if he could take a look. His word will count for much.

I recounted what you told me about the time you presented Tamo Birjit's sumaang lila at the national theater festival in Delhi a couple of years ago, your innovations in lighting it and so on, and how the critics there did not know how to respond to it. I also told Joe that since he as only two days there and his main purpose was to see your play I did not want to divert him from that. Since he considers you like a brother as he said to me, I am confident that he will be OK if he misses it owing to his tight schedule.

I have taken the liberty of saying that he can contact you and work it out, rehearsals and everything being what they are there I am sure. He has requested me to send information about it so he may email you regarding setting up a performance. I will send him a tape here so he will get a synoptic gist of it before he leaves.

If my article about the play for Schechner's next issue of TDR comes out before he leaves, I will send a copy with him or Rachel. My mother also has a tape of my footage (NTSC, 30min) that I will ask her to send over to you. It is subtitled so Joe will get a synopsis of the play before he leaves.

But should it not work out and this imposition is coming at a bad time for you, please don't feel the need to do this. As I mentioned, I made this very clear to J and, though intrigued as a New Yorker, he understands completely.

Hope you will have a great time with R, J and company. Wish I were there with them to see your new work too!

S: Hi Joe - Lovely to sit down and talk. I emailed Erin again to get the 30min tape to you. I sent a note to Ratan as well, deferring the decision to him too; so he will expect your email should you decide to see the play. Thanks for your interest. I hope you will enjoy it. If the new issue of TDR with my article comes out before you leave, may I send a few copies with you? The play is called WTC and it is a sumaang lila or M courtyard theater. The director is Birjit Ngangomba. Though, Manipuri style, he is known just as Birjit. It was 2 hours when I saw it but I think they were shortening it somewhat.

Oh, and the woman who sells some rather nice handwoven and embroidered stuff is called Rani and she lives in a neighborhood known for weaving, called Wangkhei. Well known enough to be known as Wangkhei Rani. She sometimes carries one woven style you might want to check out called Engineer Phee - implying that only engineers' wives can afford it, their husbands known for their monumental corruption. The Manipuri shawls are wide, made by women from there and brought over to Rani's, but they make some for Indian tourists that are narrower. You want to look at the silk not the heavily starched cotton; everyone will know what you are talking about. Maybe $15-20, with about 50 rupees to a dollar? There is one ATM in all the eight states at last count, so take rupees from Bombay or Calcutta airport ATMs. No credit cards, natch. Sana Keithel, the traditional women's market, which I am sure someone will tell you about, and worth seeing, carries somewhat cheaper but still good stuff- but usually from another village called U that W women turn up their noses at. Apparently, a W woman eloped with a guy from U, taking her weaving skills with her. Or so the story goes...

There is a very helpful young man called Ranjit (I am pretty sure his name is Ranjit) in charge at Jet Airways in I should you need anything, like jump the line, put you on the next flight and so on. When you get to the airport let him know you need to make your flight and connections and he can do wonders. I think he will remember me. I am sure R knows him too.

Good luck with all your openings. I am looking forward to Klinghoffer tomorrow. Have a wonderful trip.

S: Thanks Bonnie for setting u the meeting - see you Dec 13! And have a great trip.

B: OK, S. The details make my mouth water! Wish we were all going together... J, I hope the show opened well. And best tomorrow, too. I will pass along greetings to Japan for you. Good to see you. Best,

S: Not as mouthwatering as the meat-pie I just made... LOL

B: Cooking and not inviting me? Argh! You need to make dinner for me, sir. Maybe we can invite Joe too? Stay warm. It is about 20 degrees outside! But about 50 in Tokyo... tee hee. Now, I got to get to the packing... or I will never make it to 7 am

S: Yeah... gloat... dinner when you are both back maybe?

B: Yes.

S: My friends at TBS are Kohei Ando and Aki Yamada. Beate adores Kohei. Aki is the daughter of Yoji Yamada who made all the Tora-san pics. She is also a theater director…

B: Thanks, I will send a note and hope to meet him/ them.

It was fun to hear your description of Manipur. Hope it works that Joe sees the WTC piece. Are they a couple? Aki and Kohei?

S: No, they produce for each other when the other is directing. They are both in the arty section of HiDef Division there. Kohei is very senior but a real artist - told you he was Terayama's Assistant Director? Made some lovely short films that I showed at TAS.

B: It is all coming back to me now... yes, I am sure I met him. I think I have his namecard somewhere! OK. Best,

E: I sent it already. Hmm. I did make a copy for myself, and maybe can send that FedEx tomorrow.

S: Thanks Erin! That's cool about the copy. Hold one to it. I will bring him one today - one I didn't want to show because it has some personal funeral stuff for the guy whose death inspired the play. Oh will 9/11 never go away...

Finally, on 12/3/03 4:07 PM, Joe wrote:

Dear S: I so enjoyed meeting and having our discussion. I am very grateful for your perspective on Manipur and the advice you have provided me for my trip. Thank you again. Looking forward to continuing our dialogue when I return from I. It will have to wait until I return from my holiday to Brazil. It's an annual visit to sit on several of the beaches, in particular, Salvador, Bahia. I am back at BAM mid-January. Hope to see you in the lobby this evening for THE DEATH OF KLINGHOFFER. With kind regards, J

- posted by Breukelen @ 7:55 AM

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Thanksgiving Dinner was at Zette‘s.

Harvested some begonias from the backyard for the table. They will die soon - except of course the two Kohei took with him back to Tokyo. Bennet's bf David? did such as great job with them the other day at their DUMBO dinner party I assured Zette; but of course these gay boys are like Martha Stewart on testosterone. D might even be on steroids he did such a beautiful job with the dinner table and the food.

A did a good job with the begonias too and she actually used the lovely fall leaves Tim picked up from the yard and threw in when he came by to drop off pics before going over to ex Chris's for Thanksgiving dinner.

Took my new blueberry tart, the new one that rocks. Herewith the recipe:

MICK JAGGERY BLUEBERRY TART
Update: SIR Mick Jaggery Blueberry Tart...

Cadge homemade pastry dough from Mom B
Roll out pastry dough to fit ramikin dish from IKEA (circa E.)
Rub ramikin bottom and sides with stick of butter
Dust with flour
Lay pastry dough on bottom; mend tears as necessary (very necessary)
Wash blueberries (also cadged from Mom B’s freezer)
Take ball of jaggery from Kolkata (also circa E.)
Grate ball of jaggery
Give up; jaggery too sticky
End up adding little lumps of jaggery to blueberries
Add some regular sugar just in case
Lay out blueberries on pastry dough
Spot top with small lumps of butter
Call T and ask what degree to heat oven
Heat to 350
Bake for 30 min

Nice nice. J and K showed up. Their daughter A wants to get married by a Tibetan lama so I promised to help find one. After she has her baby of course. And old neighbors A and D with their daughter E, my favorite cookie baker.

Discussed my Far East Village TV series idea with M. She will find out from her friend (do I know his NYU Prof bf? The one I could not for the life of me remember? This could be so embarrassing…) how they are seen back home. Envy? Resentment? Admiration? Disgust? Will relay back to K and see if his colleague at NHK might be interested.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

I can’t believe I have to write this a THIRD time. But since I surprised everyone when I mentioned at the think-tank the other night at Steven's that I blog, that I do this is to keep a record of my thinking on various projects I am working on, I am giving this another shot. Tip to bloggers, not that I give this site address out to anyone, hehe: work on Word and then paste. That way you get save and spellcheck functions too!

Anyway what I was writing was about my anxieties about my meeting with Josh this Sunday. If it happens at all. I am convinced he is serious and a good guy. Touched that he wanted to take me to Caroline, Or Change, Tony Kushner's new play at the Public but, alas, I was away at Tomiyo's birthday dinner.

Talked to T and A (nooooo, not Tits and Ass please...) last night about J.

To back up a bit. Kathy ran into Josh at their Middlebury College reunion some time soon after Kathy and I had come back from DC. So September, maybe? He had been a year behind her in college so they didn’t know each other well back then. But apparently J’s ears perked up when he heard I was from Manipur. Naturally I was intrigued too, when Kathy called me. After all it is not everyday I come across someone who had even heard about Manipur, much less interested in it. K thought since he had a family foundation and I was looking for funding for my film with Al, who knows what might happen?

So I called Josh. We had a nice chat though I remember talking over each other quite a bit in our eagerness. I googled him, natch, later that night and found a thoughtful essay he had written on leveraged philanthropy, redefining the bottom line and the possibility of an alliance between ethical biz and social activism. Nice, nice. So not just a rich fratbrat like Dubya....

I invited Josh to my screening of my tape on the 9/11 sumaang lila that I had for Peter at the Tribeca Film Center. Al was there so J was delighted to reacquaint himself as they had apparently met at Bobo’s house back when in SF. Turns out, as Zette informed me later, that we had also met Bobo when Marie de J was staying with her during our Tibet days. Small world as always. New York Fuckin Village.

Josh came over the morning after the square dance at the Brooklyn Brewery so he met Hope on her way out. She was underwhelmed: thought he didn’t meet her eye, didn’t shake hands properly and didn’t evince any interest in who she was. But hey, he had coffee in his hand and what would you do if you dropped in and found a woman leaving after having spent the night, hehe. Of course, he was a little taken aback to hear who she was, she being a celeb of sorts as the former Gyalmo of Sikkim.

I had given our meeting some thought. J wanted to talk about going to Manipur after his World Social Forum in January. Not much time to get that infamous inner line permit. But more importantly, he told me he was interested in human rights and environment issues. I guess his being on the Boards of Human Rights Watch, Witness, and Reebok were good calling cards in anyone’s book – and oh, his work with setting up a telecom network for Grameen too. He also wanted to take his new friend L from Dallas, an Indian American who I gather he wanted to induct into his circle of Dough Nuts?

But where to start? The ignorance and misconceptions about the NE of I plus the fact that that Uplanders (my new term, eh) haven’t had a voice made it a challenge. I showed him my books on Manipuri history, crafts and weaving, my media clip tape (including the Witness film I helped make from Babloo’s footage) that I had put together for R’s debut at Kennedy Center and BAM.

Turns out he and I had both pursued no real or conventional careers but had worked with what had happened to us along the way. I told him that since I started going back to M in 2000, after an absence of 13 years, I had been looking for a way to forge an involvement that made sense to me and incorporated my work history and interests. I told him of my concerns since this was going to be the first time I might be getting to interface my work in the US with my personal history and community. Of course, there was some of that New American Immigrant thing about finding one’s roots and all and for sure, there was a bit of my going to bat for my people since I had been stunned by the degradation in Manipur.

But most importantly, I see it as a cultural project, an experiment. I don’t want to be ruled by altruism and then slide down the slippery slope of do-goodism – though I didn’t quite put it that way to J of course. I mean, greater civilizations have come and gone, and who’s to say we are the better or worse for having lost the Etruscans as they once existed?

On a more immediate level, I could not walk away as he could. Josh can put his money into any misery-spot in the world and it would be well spent. And there is no lack of such causes, and many more urgent and tragic too. So I got Josh to agree to come to Manipur some other time if I swing my contacts there into action and we could not make January deadline for any reason. I guess I wanted to make sure this was not just a side trip but a serious affair. There was some of that need to confirm too when I told him I would need to approach it as a project like any other (he flinched but did not balk at the idea of fee and expenses). Plus I am broke.

I was encouraged that Josh agreed culture was the only viable, strategic alternative in this region and that he and l should only go to look, listen and get a feel of the place. No help, offers, no nuthin. We are talking about real physical danger here too: kidnappings, shootouts, extortion. No kiddiestuff here. He left with some documents on my AppalSeeds project in Gangtok and the Guided Field Trip next fall. And my article on my recent trip to Southwest China with Appalshop that had just been republished in International Documentary. No, no funding requests here. as I hastened to add: just for him to see where I was coming from.

So I was a little concerned when he called to tell me he had been talking and doing some fact-finding through his contacts at Reebok and the Global Fund for Human Rights. For one thing, I want this to be as discreet as possible. And then, is he really interested only in human rights? I have such grave misgivings about this. Not only am I going to get help from Mickey in DC, Poonia and Lalam in New Delhi and I don’t want them to get into trouble, but I am hoping this is going to be the beginning of something that can be big and part of my region-to-region exchange ideas, my effort to build a new philanthropic territory, and to explore culture as conflict resolution. What Alison Bernstein from the Ford Foundation dubbed, at the recent Appalshop fundraiser at Nathan Cummings, a novel approach to cultural diplomacy.

I feel human rights NGOs there are mainly sham and manned by careerists who have learned to play the victim game. Not unlike a beggar who picks at his sores to keep the oozing for pity. My mother, in a quite unrelated vein, and much before my discussions with her about J, had said she saw no point in all this human rights business and the training and workshops people keep attending in the West. Even a good guy like Babloo confines his activity to only the violations of the Indian Army. No doubt truly monstrous and something to be fought but what meaning does the term have if they do not speak up for wives who are beaten by their husbands, older people being abused by their children, children who are raped by relatives?

I named no names but, as full disclosure, I told J I had a brother who was in the field. But Bobby and Anna abused my mother for ten years until I threw them out after that dramatic intervention in the summer of 2001. Anna, the missionary killer of cats, stays in fancy hotels while dorms are good enough for her staff, workers, showcase victims and the live ethnographic specimens she takes with her to feel-good international conferences. To paraphrase what Eleanor Roosevelt said of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, she knows how to talk about democracy but not know how to live it.

I see no point in a human rights approach that is merely a self-serving codependency of the champions of victims and their paper-pushing funding counterparts in the West. I would not stand in their way; some good will come out of it and much needs to be done and it requires a courage that I do not have. But I think unless there is a pre-human rights condition that will shape new attitudes, open eyes and expand minds for a refurbished sense of worth and self-esteem among the populace, there can be no dreams and aspirations to provide the bedrock for change. I am tired of bloody Band-Aids.

Dee tells me I need to be more forceful. Al feels I should be ready to walk if I think J does not see the innovation and opportunities in what I propose. She thinks he should be willing to take a chance. As I am too, of course. Tim told me after my tirade that he does not want to get on my bad side! He warns me against what he calls my severity and to rein in my passion, and especially my lecturing and hectoring tone when I talk to someone who is more powerful than I am. Yes, I agree. I must be careful. They are damn right. So Sunday maybe. This is going to be hard. But what work worth doing isn't? Will ask Josh if he has read what I gave him. What he thinks of them. What he has learned from his research. What does he really want? I have not told my diplomat friends who all standing by to help me everything I am thinking. It is far too complex and will take much time. But my conscience is clear about my intentions and I will sit down with them and have a heart-to-heart the next time I meet them.

Hung up the phone with Tim. I lay in the dark and thought of the last time I saw Yambung. A hunted fugtive smoking in my bedroom – a bad habit he picked up out in the jungles he apologetically explained - and talking into the night till the sun came up. He taught me how to drive on that abandoned WW2 airstrip at Koirengei. I remember him, always broke, running out of gas. I remember playing Francois across him in our production of Men Without Shadows. And I wept uncontrollably.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Done. I am now Transfarm. And took FarmingCulture off my Friendster profile.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Changed the name of my blogsite - let's see if it works. BrooklynHolla, my outgoing name, will come back to haunt and embarrass me like all my other parlor-tricks in what I call the Chat Dialect.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Last night Hope asked me to go square dancing in this Village church basement to get over Count Lampreydusa. Of course I warned her the whole thing had the whiff of a no good closet-case on a power trip, even though he did sound like fun - such a polymath Hope said, talking about being with him made it sound like she was in an orgy. An orgy by Visconti?

Whoo, were we bad dancers! Kohei showed up straight from his flight in from Tokyo and got his first view of an American institution. The regulars were all just this side of Fellini. H whispered to me "They are all so ugly and they hate us!". Good thing the gorgeous McCormack sisters decided to drop me off after sushi dinner and not come in after all. Wonder if Tim stopped by with my CD of pics and to check out the Queer Quotient of the place. The band was good, for NYC lacks no musical talent. But nothing like the Appalachian hoedown at the Brooklyn Brewery last week, complete with Tommy Bledsoe and Rich Kirby doing the calling, fiddling and banjoing. The moonshine L and T brought me and all those southern hottie-transplants in Billyburg had helped of course.

This was way different but had a great time anyway. When we found finally ourselves being firmly expelled everytime we were taken into the group, much like an ameoba would reshape to regurgitate some distasteful, indigestible morsel, we knew it was time to go. Haven't laughed so hard in donkey's years. H said she almost peed her panties.

West 12 Street came alive as Kohei and I walked her to her stop: the Presbyterian HQ of old New York, their NYU pitched against Anglican Columbia; the expansion of the wealthy and the subsequent 8-street spacing of subway stops; a short and sharp critique of the historicity of "Gangs of New York"; a capsule-history of cast-iron buildings... Must remember to take her up on her offer of one of her famous walking tours of the city.

Kohei and I strolled over to Gramery Park and closed down A Farmer's Place discussing HDTV marketing here and our shoot Monday over hot mulled cider.

Another nice nice.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

This blogger has become blogged up. Did I read somewhere that most blogs fall the wayside like seeds upon stony ground?

Biki was here for 10 days and that was tough, as having a houseguest in NYC always is. Not as if I have a 9-to-5 so I can give him set of keys and directions to the Statue of Liberty - which is actually what happened the first day. So perhaps not quite the turn of phrase I was looking for.

But an old friend is a good friend and I am glad we connected now, a few weathered lines on our brows and some life experience under our ever-expanding belts. Of course I did what I usually do with my guests - take them to everything I go to and leave them to their sightseeing. Gerard made some arch comment about some unusual picture of NYC Biki must be getting when the three of us went to see Oren Safdie's overdetermined but cerebrally engrossing new play about architecture at that spanking new architecture center at NYU. Or is it not part of NYU?

I did make some effort however - like the Halloween party overlooking the parade. Something I would not have been caught dead going to but decided to do it for B. We had a great time with a view of the parade that couldn't be beat. Of course, I indulged in another bad habit by inviting all the people I wanted to see to someone else's party but, hey, there was a $10 donation. So Manuel came with his delightful 10-year old and Kathy (without Roberto who begged off, silly man) and some of her artist friends from the Bay Area. Funny thing was H (Where was she? Did she not recognize me in my blond wig?) told me it was going to be a benefit for a Shoshone Indian dream circle group with some minor celeb called Brown Bear but was that a joke? It was all gay and not an Indian in sight - me perhaps but whether am I more dot or feather, I know not.

A bit unnerving since even my lowpowered gaydar picked up (Halloween, Chelsea, bare male body parts...oh, come on) since I had Biki in tow. Saw Robert Riachrds and was asking him if we were indeed in the right place when Kathy came out. So there we were at Biki's first gay New York party. He took it in his stride and we had a ball. And he and Manuel talked about how they both had to rush back to their farms for their harvest in two weeks as it turns out Mamnuel has a small one in Chiengmai.

Biki's new ID I forged for him kicked in. Boy, is introducing him as a farmer, complete with new business cards I made for him using Appleworks, like honey to the fruit and flies of the city! Not that he wasn't already a rice farmer. of course, but I think he now sees what he's been doing with new eyes, not unlike M. Jourdan dscovering he'd been speaking prose all his life, hehe.

Our discussions about marketing organic and heirloom rice and tea came partly out of my being unable to leave him to his own devices and spending a lot of time talking. But I think T's and my long-discussed idea of doing some importing biz to finance our arts projects may have found roost after all these years. I admire Biki as he was the only truly productive person I met when I went back to Manipur after 13 years. So his business savvy is a boon.

So now we have this new project. I am calling it Farming Culture as it will include cultural projects too. The idea is to market small quantity, high-end heirloom and organic tea and rice. I took Biki to Rice in DUMBO and, of course, the pretty waitress sat down with us and made Biki taste all 6 varieties of rice. Biki agreed that if they can market Bhutanese red rice we can do the same for chak-hao, taothabee, phouren. He knows quite a lot. David the owner came hurrying in, after hearing there was an Asian rice farmer in his restaurant! Ah, New York, gotta love the place.

David is a charming entrepreneur on the same length as we and a slow-food person. I turned the conversation to heirloom wild tea, picking up the thread from my conversation some years earlier with Les, who liked the wild tea I sent him after we got back from Indonesia.

So now we have a new tea. A whole new category perhaps. Named the one I have Tamenglong. Let's see how we can shape it. D suggested we meet his tea importer friend and, of course, such is my life, it turns out I knew him. Zette and my former volunteer on the Tibet Film festival a decade ago! So Sebastian now has a great business importing fine teas, as we found out when David drove Tomiyo, Biki and I to the shop in Williamsburg. S has found a great way to make In Pursuit of Tea a way use his essential wanderlust. That was a fine afternoon, sitting around tasting all those teas. Pu-erh. Monkey-Picked. Oolong. Darjeeling. White.

What appeals to me about Farming Culture is that it may give the opportunity to create something new with what there is. A new tea. A new rice. All from the existing and the traditional. I think we will even get to name things anew, decide on their attributes and plant them in people's heads. Much like anything else I am doing right now I suppose if you think about it: trying to connect existing dots in new ways to make a new picture. I like that. Fun fun fun.

I think this can be exciting, Farming Culture, one seed at a time. Tomiyo took Biki to Dean and DeLuca, Gourmet Garage and the markets in Chinatown; I took him to Gristedes, Kalyustan's and got him Zabar's holiday catalogue. What's on the shelves? How are they priced? What will appeal? How to package? How to create a niche? I showed Biki the film on Orchids and he is now eager to find out for us the myths, folklore, customs and art that surrounds traditional rice species. His being a lit. and linguistics major helps. Tomiyo talked to Lata and got some low down on imports and tariffs from her cuz. She's great at that. Now Biki is all wound up and admonished me not to drop things after he leaves as he is serious now and i have some many things in thw works. But I think we have a good picture of how to give new worth, economic value and modern image to the traditional.

Next blog: Appalachia! Old dots. New pictures....

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

OK so I missed Indigenous Day by a day.

Can't sleep so no point trying to, as I have to get up early for the EdCom panel. Documentaries remind me so much of why I like America. The stuff people get interested in enough to devote big chunks of a mostly unremunerative life - Rock School, Melvin van Peebles, Henry Darger, the Corporation, that adorable Down Syndrome baby brother, the really cool schoolteacher from Rye. Compared to all this, so much of fiction is strangers-with-candy and all that is not cool about the US.

Speaking of docs, Errol Morris' 'The Fog of War" was a thinker. Of course the fact that I had this weird crush on McNamara when I was kid helped I'm sure. Go figure. I don't think anything of that level of intellectual discussion as revealed by the transcripts of JFK and McNamara talking, goes on in the White House today. Though some of the same mistakes, uncanny and sad, are being repeated today in Iraq. The most revealing was what the Vietnamese general, hand balled into a fist, says to McNamara on the latter's visit to Vietnam in 1985: "Haven't you read any history books? Didn't you know we would never, ever, have turned over our country to the Chinese?" How humiliating. The difficult part is how not lose sight of the micro and the real when trying to deal with larger abstractions like the Cold War and the Domino Theory. I think the film would probably be better titled "The Fog of Power".

Lester's "Mansion by the Lake" was an interesting and flawed film. Had to laugh of course. Based on "The Cheery Orchard"? Where is Charles Ludlam when we need him? G was clearly discomfited; charmed that he feels some cultural pride despite his do-I-care posturings. Courageous of Richard to program it though, if only to show that the world is seen very differently depending on where one is standing. It's a valid adaptation even though it might have been better not to put the Chekhov ref upfront like that. The sound of footfalls was so unfortunate. Lester gone hard of hearing since he is, what, 84 now? Or did he just turn it over to some overenthusiastic sound effects man? It is the elephant fable here to though I missed Gus van Sant's film of the same name.... made me remember the back-when times when I go to see a film with the crew and the actors only see the acting, the cameraman only sees the lighting and the makeup man comments on the complexion.

OK time to make the donuts...

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Wet Indigenous Day in Brooklyn.

I must write some ideas down and reply to Magnus's email about that quirky Saami-M project. His colleague Christina wants to include performance. Good idea of course - Kanhailal's allegory "With the Children of God"? - but more money to raise. Which doesn't seem to hold back my Swedish friends' enthusiasm for my idea. But they seem to think that with the Museum of Far East Antiquities, Museum of Ethnography and Stockholm U, we might go to the Swedish Institute. They haven't mentioned Jokkmokk Museum up in the Arctic Circle so far, but I think that's probably the best part yet. I just have to remember Magnus' remark that Saami-Swedish relations are just as complex and fraught with cultural suspicion as Manipuri-Indian ones are.

Maybe even a film might come out of this if we follow up Anders' idea. I guess this will put me back in touch with Lars. I liked him but, boy, was that last Swedish initiative of mine a disaster. Scuttled by Phil's tantrums and by new-broom Claus who wanted to go with Sundance - and I heard THAT one was a disaster too. There may be something to this dharma-karma business after all.

I haven't heard back from Professor Gangumei so until then, I am a little wary about how it will be seen politically there. Heaven forbid I do a Scheuer there, you know, like walk in with all sorts of fancy ideas and money as we did in Israel, and expect people to fall in line and put aside generations of animosity and distrust and make nicey-nicey for us.

I must get over to Sweden for a meeting. Maybe during Gotegorg? Elisabeth didn't sound too confident about it from here, so maybe I have to get it leveraged from over there. And what if, inshallah, Al and I have to go to Manipur for the shoot in February? Damn, I need help before I spread myself too thin. And I need to get real money coming in real soon. Om mani mani cum.

But I do think using culture as a basis for conflict resolution is worth trying. My proposal for AppalSeeds in Gangtok shaped up well. I find many ideas and terminologies i have been using coming back to me. Funny how things can be set in motion and how words and ideas take root. Like remapping. That came from Bobbie during our dinner as I was describing my ideas of regional cultural exchange across borders. Now the more I use it the more it seems real.

I think Appalshop really likes the project now. I mean as a group, it has gathered its own resonance and can't be reduced to a cultural junket. It was reassuring to hear Mimi on the subject during that conference call on Friday. And in Tom's notes for is presentation on Nov 10. I think they see me more than just another New Yorker now. I like that.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

A bluebird in the backyard woke me up. Damn the noisy bastard. Haven't seen him all summer so he's back. Hope says she hates Nature and loves towns. How refreshing.

John also has a fun relationship with family pets. No kitty-poo nonsense. Some mild, fond abuse as all friends deserve and mete out every now and then. He needed a there-there as he got handcuffed and locked away by the pigs for selling his DVDs in Union Square Park. Don't they have better things to do? Law or no law, there has to be some judicious appreciation of what makes New York New Yawk.

And then he got jumped on in the nabe. A bias crime that also makes New York New Yawk. I'm sure it confirms the worst for his folks back in lily-white Ottawa. I am a little worried that it will affect his green card application. Must call him and give him Scrappy Dave's number. He was the only attorney who even suggested I apply for A-1 and made me Alien of Fuckin' Amazing Ability, and to national interest to boot. Boot is right since every one thinks I'm overqualified for any mildly interesting job.

Back to John. He came over for lunch Saturday. Dee's idea. She stands by people. Rare. Of course it doesn't excuse her from not picking up beans and collard greens from Harlem, but she did make up for it by buying me a pound of coffee from Sahadi's. She loved it. Esp. the dinky non-deethnicized Arab stores on the other side of Osama Avenue. Great afternoon hanging out and shooting the breeze.

What a rare week. Made three new friends I feel: John, LH and Raju (OK OK an old acquaintance refurbished after 30 years). Raju still carries the torch for Neena. Funny how schoolboy crushes die hard. Karl sent me pics of Mounties reunion. How appropriate it was in Colorado. Anyway, since Raju hopes Neena is old fat and ugly, I haven't had the heart to tell him she still looks gorgeous from what I can see from the pics on the web. K and Ken I would not have recognized on the street. They are looking good, prosperous and - yes, aren't we all - hitting, ahem, youthful middle age! Boo looks the same. Barbie same same. And I don't know who Quack's sister is. Maybe she was very junior. Hmm. Do I contact some of them I wonder? Life is so life-consuming here.

Raju has a phenomenal memory. Watched my tape of old pics. That place was so Hogwarts I can't believe it. Except for the owls. Our share of witches, natch. He was a fount of rude nicknames, some best forgotten. SSRM: Short Strong Man from Rangpo! Called me Puppet and a shim! Told him I was shimmier than ever. That got him going with all sorts of indelicate questions that I was happy to answer in lurid detail. Heehee!

Still plays a mean guitar. He said, had he been able to stay for my Thursday dinner, he would have played "And the Wind Cries Mary" for Hope. Somewhere a queen is weeping... Somewhere a king has no wife.... Nice. He told me it was fun to make friends anew not just meet up school buddies. And it came via Buddhahead connections - Zette's friend Judy in SF. who she says I've met when we were doing the Tibet Film Festival.

I am glad Raju is here. America is good for him. As it is for me. I told him my mother once sighed she had sent the wrong son to the US. Bobby would have made tons of money as an MD. I think she is wrong. I am sho' glad it was me. A doc is a doc anywhere, not that he's doing anything about it. What the fuck would I have done with those liberal arts degrees anywhere else? I don't even claim them in verbal resumes: when people ask me where I went to school I say Little Flower School and wait... Hehe.

Gotta get going. NYFF press screenings starts today. Haven't even read the Sunday Times; I was so busy finishing up the AppalSeeds proposal. Then Tim came over and we dissected his dating life. Same old shit. Kept trying Venn diagrams when I was positing my "marrying-up and marrying-down" hypothesis for same sex couples. I think he was too dense for it last evening though he blamed the Samuel Barber violin concerto distracted him. I think he saw glimmers though. I do harangue my friends. Fond, mild abuse was meted out.

Friday, September 26, 2003

I need lights! Must get more Christmas lights. It was so dark out in the yard no-one could see anything. I mean the candles and the antique lamps on trees were fairy-twinkly and all but they didn't do much when it can to seeing what was being served!

Three kinds of dumplings - Chidu liked my "Do you like dumpling? I dunno. I never dumpled" ref. - served with pomegranate sauce, miso soup, steamed watercress, tofu. Nice, nice, nice. Couldn't have done it without Tomiyo's help. She's the only person I know who is a good cook AND a good baker. Anyway, everyone showed except that Foreign Ministry guy. Don't know him so I can't say I missed him. But Mickey came and finally met up with Hope. After all these years. So glad that worked out - Mickey's been dying to see her after I told him about her in DC. And she looks great after that huge hike in Wales. Much get that Through the Green Door book by Nigel something or other.

Chidu was here too - always a blast with him. Prabal was brought by Steven so who knows how my fashion project will go? Works for Cynthia Rowley he told me, to which I said, wot? who? Tickled him when I told him my dumplings dinner was because he was coming. Told S there'd be four queens at dinner but I think there may have been five. Six? Hehe... Tania came with Peter and Pascal. I wonder if we've priced the Appalshop benefit tix too high? Peter seemed to think so. Coffee on the St George rooftop after shortbread and berries-and-ice cream at T's afterwards. I was relieved not to run into Rich in the elevator!

H left early having to go back to Bronxville; Mickey and Chidu too, being called away on assignment - the downside, of many, of being close to political Pooh-Bahs. And T tells they ran into Peter riding the elevator up and down at the St George subway Hehe.

Time for my nap before Greg calls from Portland. This budget is killing me. How much money should I charge? Hmm. I meet up with Dee, Kathy and Roberto at Heddy's do tonight. She's sposed to be on NPR at 12? What happened? Was it yesterday? Missed it like I missed H's picnic at Bethesda Fountain?

Must get together with Hope privately. I like her ideas. Which prolly just means we have the same outlook. Ha!

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Well here goes. Welcome me!

Wish I had kept my comments and stuff from my previous website. It would have been great to put it here. I guess I just have to start anew one as soon as I have time to relearn GoLIve. Remind me not to date a webdesigner again. Ha!

But I can do only one thing at a time; which is not usual given my multitasking ways. Each project is at that think-and-write stage.

Shot off a couple of emails to Gangtok - Hope L and Arthur (at least I hope that addy was Arthur's) - to get some figures.

My proposal for the film conferences is half done and I need to hunker down again. Dee vetted/gutted/proofread it. Who does she think she is, talking to me like that? But wow! what suggestions, what clarity. Its a better writeup now.

I don't know where Greg is (maybe Seattle? NAMAC?) and whether Sanjoy is back a base. Email makes it hard to remember where people are physically, especially the kinds of people I know.

But the ideas are shaping well. They are new and builds on the Appalachian experience in China.

OK I will make my posts more specific in a few. Never even kept a diary before, much less something lovers and other strangers can see. So I am not sure about the public/private thing. It will affect what I put up. Who reads other people's stuff anyway? But hey, Anne Frank wrote with publication in mind!

Anyhow, I am glad I am on as I propose a blogger site as part of the film/media coference. I should do as I say, no?

Today's Bobby's birthday. Won't wish him a happy as usual. I've got to clear the air with him.

Now how do I get pics on to this thing...