So You Think You Can Dance

It’s coming back on May 14th! I noticed that I become so attached to the So You Think You Can Dance dancers that whenever I see a performance that includes dancers, I look to see if any So You Think You Can Dance alums are among them. Turns out, very often they are. Not only do I love seeing them again, I’m glad they’re getting work.

Please let this be the summer that the rest of the world tunes in. I can never have enough people to talk about the dancers. And Mia Michaels, you’ll be back this season, right?

A sign seen while walking home from the Municipal Archives. I always thought it would be the coolest thing in the world, to grow up in New York City.

An Ethic by Christina Davis

An Ethic by Christina Davis
I don’t read a lot of poetry, and maybe you don’t either, but here’s why you should give poetry a shot and buy An Ethic by my friend Christina Davis.

I met Christina when she sang with the Choral Society of Grace Church and when I was working on my book she is one of the people I went to for quotes about singing. I asked her to tell me what it was like singing religious music when you’re not particularly religious yourself. Here’s what she came back with.

“I am an agnostic verging on an atheist, but find that sacred music is not antithetical to my beliefs (in the way that sitting through a church service is). I’ve come to the conclusion that music alone (and not the liturgy) represents the essence of what I would find palatable and comforting in religion. When I sing or listen to sacred music I feel a primal, essential proximity of my fellow man; I feel that the word “god” is just a great Vowel surrounded by two consonants, something essentially open and going-forth. I can fathom others’ faith only through music: If, as Buckminster Fuller once said, ‘God is a verb,’ that verb is singing.”

Great, right? It’s not just that she can write well, but it’s what she’s saying. I could have skipped my whole chapter and just left her words. Poet and writer Forrest Gander had this to say about An Ethic. “Here is a book that has flapped up out of the startled dark of a parent’s death. Into the moment of recognition of a life apart. A part of life. The syntax, precise and probing, repeatedly extends beyond only apparent completions, beyond easy finalities, into an always unforeseen.”

For more about Christina Davis and this book and others, go here.

I Do Not Like When People Chant U.S.A.

I have this wonderful opportunity to write a piece about singing and I’ve been working like a dog for the past few days. That’s where I’ve been, mostly. I have to say, writing about how singing relieves stress: VERY stressful.

Before I post this link, which I found incredibly moving, I want to say that in general, I hate chants of “USA, USA, USA.” It always feels somehow inappropriate to me. Something about the spirit in which it is done is not noble and uplifting. Instead it always feels like some unseemly sort of chest beating, like everyone else in the world sucks and we’re so great, when we clearly have some serious faults, just like everyone else. For proof of that, look no further than the recent bi-partisan report about how America tortured many people, horribly, and it was worthless on top of it. We torture people. I will say again, we torture people. So we’re all imperfect. I’d rather celebrate the separate, distinct aspects of America and Americans that are great, while at the same time recognizing that other countries are doing and accomplishing great things as well.

That said, I teared up listening to Boston Bruins fans singing the national anthem two days after the bombing in Boston. This is how shows of patriotism are done, and I swear I’m not saying that because this one involved singing. This didn’t feel like chest beating. This felt like a show of love and support. Plus, the fact that you can hear a Boston accent emerge from the voices of thousands was particularly endearing.

Along the lines of recognizing great things in other countries, Iraq produced these two children. This is a expression of sympathy from two Iraqi children which I believe appeared the day after the bombing. I’ll never forget how an hour or so after the bombing someone tweeted that they were about to report that 42 people have been killed, and 257 wounded in Iraq, from 19 car and 17 roadside bombs across the country. In an instant, I got a visceral sense of what people in Iraq and Afghanistan were living with. We had two bombs go off. They had close to 40. In one day. So here are these two children, in the midst of all that bombing, taking a moment to express sympathy for the impact of our two bombs. Look at their faces. Could they be any more … good?

Every once in a while I take pictures of 11th Street, to prove that it looks like how I describe in the book. I say how beautiful and lush it is and I’m afraid people will think I’m exaggerating.

11th Street, New York City

“…if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now …”

I had made up my mind that today I would post something positive, and I’m still going to, but I cannot let yesterday’s vote against moderate and reasonable gun control to pass. I will, however, let Gabby Gifford’s tough, impassioned words speak for me. Mostly.

She said one thing that stood out for me, well two things. First, when she spoke about the Sandy Hook teachers whispering to the students that they loved them, while at the same time doing their best to hide them. And, “Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.”

As some of you know I’ve been spending some time at the Municipal Archives, looking into the artifacts and records of New York City’s history. I’ve seen how people repeatedly fight reasonable and humane solutions to problems. If something is fair and common sense, people will resist it. I personally think people fight change regardless of what it is, good or bad, fair or unfair, myself included. But that’s another post. Like Kirby Higbe refusing to play baseball alongside Jackie Robinson, the majority of people will initially fight what to us looks like a clear cut, total no-brainer. This is one of them. History is going to look back at us and wonder what the hell we were thinking. Except maybe they will also shake their heads wearily, understanding that once again, sometimes doing the right thing requires a battle.

Read Gabby Gifford’s words. I would be proud to have her lead that battle.

Oh dear, this post is already too long for the things I’d planned to post about. Well, tomorrow. For now, spring! The magnolia tree in the garden in front of Grace Church.

Update: I just realized, here is a beautiful, moving example of people bravely voting to do the right thing on another matter. As it says in the article, I defy you to watch this and not cry. This is my positive thing for today.

Grace Church, New York City

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Union Square

When I walked out onto Broadway after choir practice my friend Barbara and I could see there was a big movie shoot a few blocks uptown. We walked up and Union Square was transformed in a positively magical way. The trees were strung with white Christmas lights, smoke machines were churning away everywhere. It was all for a shoot for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This is Emma Stone and I’m guessing Andrew Garfield. They were shooting the two of them just walking through Union Square, except Union Square doesn’t usually look this enchanting. Smoke doesn’t billow up around your feet as you stroll. I’m not complaining. Union Square should always look like this movie set. I want smoke billowing up around my feet when I get my broccoli, corn and pumpkin pie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2