October 29, 2005

Gefilte Fish Tacos

Our friends George and Victoria have successfully merged their two heritages, Chicano and Jewish, into the ultimate dining experience - Gefilte Fish Tacos. Yes, yet another way to enjoy that fresh-out-of-the-jar loaf of fish mush, on a crispy taco. Make sure to spread with the fish goo jelly stuff, garnish with salsa, add a leaf of lettuce for color and you’re set. But eat quickly or your taco will disintegtrate.

October 28, 2005

Ah Yes, Remembering the Internship Years

Almost everyone has paid their dues by being an intern at some point early in their career. Remember how it felt to be eager, green, and still in school? You had to really stand out and that meant working faster, smarter and proving that you knew how to use the tools. The simplest project became a huge endeavor as you worked and reworked your approach. Most important, you didn’t want to look too green by asking a lot of questions. Result: lots of time invested and not many results.

Cutting your teeth like this is essential and what better place to do it than in a nonprofit organization? I’m now working alongside five interns and each one has their own unique approach to problem solving. The most remarkable are the ones that are either in super-slo-mo and work as though they are indentured servants – and the ones that work super fast and make huge errors.

Example: a lovely intern spent six hours over two days creating 8.5”x11” signs for an upcoming event. There are a total of eight signs and the most complex has 15 words. Somehow this turned into the project that just won’t end. She has now loaded Photoshop and Illustrator on three computers, attempted to install two printers, has saved the documents in a variety of file formats and still she can’t get them to print. Wouldn’t a simple word processing program have done the trick? Well no, how would she shine if she used only Word?

At least the event is tomorrow so her resourcefulness has to end soon! I’ll bring cardboard and Sharpies just in case.

October 27, 2005

Bits and Pieces

Interim Staffing
This week began with the surprise of being asked to take on the Interim Program Director position at Houston Center for Photography (HCP). For the next month I am running the organization’s 24th Anniversary party, installing the next exhibition, implementing educational programming and helping the Board of Directors prepare for their annual action in February.

Getting Healthy
Now that Stephen and I are in a city that offers excellent medical services, and the ability to actually get doctors appointments the same week as you call, we are getting healthed-up. We started with our annual physicals and then dental appointments. Medical professionals are very friendly, professional and accessible here. In fact, they have the time to talk to their patients.

Two Wheeling
The weather has changed and we are enjoying sunny Spring-like days that are not too hot and barely humid. Good hair has arrived! I’m getting around via bicycle. Yesterday proved that I can be car-less, managing to quickly ride from home to HCP, to dentist, grocery store and more. In fact, many people are out biking, the cats are prowling and squirrels are climbing. Houston seems to come alive when the weather breaks.

October 23, 2005

Getting Creative in Houston

This weekend my mom and sister are visiting from the East Coast and I’ve been exploring Houston with them. Yesterday was a day that changed my sister’s mind about Houston. She, like me, has been surprised and delighted by what Houston has to offer, despite our preconceived notions of Texas-ness.

The day began with a trip to the farmers’ market for a Sur La Table cooking class taught by chef Domenica http://www.domenicasway.com/ Inspired by the offerings of the market Domenica purchased various fruits and vegetables and together, with seven other attendees, we returned to Sur La Table to cook up a harvest meal. Figs, stuffed with blue cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, broiled and then finished with a fresh basil leaves, were one of the many courses. We learned to creatively use fresh herbs and be daring enough to incorporate them into desserts.

To close out the day we ventured out to Project Row Houses for a site-specific performance piece produced by my favorite DiverseWorks. Project Row Houses is a neighborhood based art and cultural organization located in Houston's Third Ward. PRH was established in 1993 on a site of 22 abandoned shotgun houses (c. 1930) to connect the work of artists with the revitalization of the community. Now on their 21st cycle of artists, the row houses provide a template for the creation of dynamic environments that comment on the condition of inner city living and the state of the community.

The performance What You've Done was presented in one of these tiny homes. The audience, our group was six people but they could accommodate ten, sat in the living room and were addressed by the actors about their intermingled relationships, personal economics and the condition of being black, white and young in Houston. The most fascinating feature of the performance was that we were allowed an intimate peak into these people’s lives, even being encouraged to head into the kitchen to help ourselves to drinks from the fridge.

My mother and sister left feeling incomplete, like they wanted to talk with the characters about their situation once the performance was abruptly concluded. Stephen and I didn’t seem to have the same connection. I’m wondering if it was because we sat on a mushy couch on the side of the room, reclining like we were watching TV. My sister and mom sat in stiff back chairs and viewed the actors head-on. It was interesting the difference in our responses.

Once again, Houston arts and culture continues to surprise me. Arts organizations, community groups, corporations and artists (culinary, performing and visual in these cases) work collaboratively with a vision of making Houston, and the people who live here, more engaged in a progressive lifestyle. In the San Francisco Bay Area this was always a goal but just never felt successful and natural.

October 18, 2005

Finding Felix in Mapquest

As I’ve been adventuring around Houston, as best I can without a car and limited public transit, I’ve been using Mapquest to find my way. This worked well in San Francisco but here it has some mysterious results. Apparently Mapquest created a street called Felix, which was supposed to be one of my final steps in my finding a Houston arts venue. Even the State Trooper I stopped had never heard of Felix Street.

Perhaps it was one of those secret map creator codes that are put in to see if people steal their copyrighted map designs. I read that each map designer has their own little special red herring like “Turtle Street” which they put in to every city. Perhaps Mapquest uses Felix.

In fact, I searched Felix in San Francisco on Mapquest and discovered a Felix Avenue, which is in a suspiciously similar obscure location as the Houston Felix Street. Both are short little streets, located off of another obscure little street and end abruptly under a highway. Is it the same for your hometown? Try http://maps.yahoo.com/.

October 16, 2005

Get off the Phone

Time is valuable and we have so little of it that we make the best of our “elective” activities. In the past month I have twice encountered people who have lost all sense of decorum and have answered and then talked on their cell phones in the middle of a contemplative group activity.

The first was a woman who answered her phone while I was teaching the Business Arts Council’s Board Leadership Training program. It was an intimate group of focused individuals and there was one square peg who answered her phone and did not get up and walk out but actually sat and began a conversation, at full volume. None of us could believe this was happening so we just kept going. About a minute into the situation two people leaned over to her and asked her to take the conversation outside. I was about to lean in and make the same request but I was trying to teach for the other folks that were actually paying attention. The gross offender got up, while still talking, and slowly meandered out of the room. We were all in shock.

Then it happened again today in yoga class. Twenty people got up early on a Sunday morning, independently decided to come to class and commit their few spare leisure hours, together convening in a one-hour peaceful and meditative yoga class. At least that was our expectation. Except for the woman who had her blackberry in hand while in downward dog pose, chatting away while 19 other apparently irrelevant people tried to find peace of mind. In an effort to be yoga-like I tried to ignore the woman and meditate. Forget it. I was shocked and disgusted. Then my attention turned to the teacher hoping that she would say something. Like me when I was teaching she was focused on delivering to the people who were actually there to do yoga. Finally the unfortunate person posed behind this chatterer got out of downward dog and asked the woman to please take it outside. This was after a second phone call. After class, when numerous people thanked the kind soul for asking the talker to get off the phone, she said that she had been embarrassed to make the request but she “only has one hour a week to dedicate to yoga.”

Yes, time is valuable but if you are committing to a group activity have the consideration to respect the needs of others. As adults we try to rationalize the situation and stay focused on why we were in the activity. And from the instructor’s point of view we try to not oil the squeaky wheel but rather give them a one-minute chance to regain their senses. Being in this situation is akin experiencing an earthquake and thinking, “when is this going to end” but not actually doing anything about the situation.

October 13, 2005

Everything Is Illuminated

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a book that impacted me like no other. The vivid and surreal Jewish characters and the intertwining of tales between two authors, both in their early twenties, one living in NY and the other in Odessa, Ukraine, is inspirational and hilarious. The book is now a movie. Stephen and I checked it out last night. And, although it is very different from the book, it still successfully intermingles past and present in a dreamlike narrative.

Both the book and film allowed me, for the first time, to acknowledge my Jewish Ukrainian heritage, seeing it as something to explore rather than to regret or detest. The contemporary American obsession with continuously rehashing the Holocaust pushes me away from Judaism. Why should I always be filled with a sense of obligation and inevitable guilt – “we shall never forget”. Yes, but can we actually move forward? Foer’s writing touches on this dilemma and helps me transcend the repulsion and instead appreciate my own effort to tie past to present.

Stephen’s curiosity about my Jewish heritage is also quite wonderful. He observes, absorbs and amazingly remembers all kinds of things from films, books and our family traditions. His ability to cull this information, which seems both natural and alien to me, and ask me about connections and meanings, helps me to appreciate what it is to be a modern Jew – especially in Texas. Although I do not practice Judaism I do feel a comfort and acceptance when I meet Jewish people in each new place that I live. It seems that we have a cultural understanding that lies beneath our daily day-to-day living.
Maybe some day I will not have a pit of pain in my heart fueled by so much guilt loaded into me as a child and perpetuated by the American Jewish community which I feel so disconnected from – by choice.

October 11, 2005

You Don't Know San Francisco

Check out this new site, Invisible Venue that my friend, Curator Christian L. Frock, launched today. The first exhibition is titled You Don't Know San Francisco. Cool people will be calling it IV so if you are in a hospital and someone asks for an IV make your laptop available.

INVISIBLE VENUE is an online exhibition venue and forum for exchange between artists, curators and a far-reaching public. IV develops collaborative relationships to exhibit new media art work online for live presentation and discussion in remote locations. Online exhibitions are accompanied by public screenings in various cities.

October 10, 2005

Bowling Lost in Translation

Last week Stephen’s office went out for a semi-annual bowling party and spouses/significant-others were invited. I won the dubious honor of the lowest score, which actually came with a prize. The real prize is the 18” trophy that goes to the highest scorer. The talented winner displays the trophy on their desk until the next competition.

Obviously I’m not a bowling expert, having won the lowest score prize now twice in my life – the first time when I was eight. But I do think I know which fingers to use in the ball. Stephen and I conferred after the match and he was using an interesting and challenging combo of the three center fingers. Hum, no wonder his attempts at scoring kept ending up as gutter balls. After much discussion I attempted to find the real deal on the Internet to no avail. My brother Matthew found this great President Bush making the “Hook ‘em horn” solute.

Note the Associated Press quote under the Bush photo. Does it get any better than this?

“US President Bush gestures the ''Hook 'em, 'horns' salute of the University of Texas Longhorns as he and his family watch the Inaugural Parade Thursday Jan. 20, 2005, in Washington. President Bush's 'Hook 'em, 'horns' salute got lost in translation in Norway, where shocked people interpreted his hand gesture during his inauguration as a salute to Satan. [AP]”

October 7, 2005

Inspired by the Naked Chef

I am writing a book on best practices of arts management that will be in a cookbook format and am finding that keeping a pace on my own projects is hard going. Getting work done for other people is easy – I love working in a team environment. But when it comes to working for myself everything is a distraction, including photographing lizards.

My coach Simone has suggested that I create inspirations around the house to remind me of my goal. Who better than Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, to be an inspiration for writing a book? His enthusiasm, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and quality of work are models to which I aspire. Plus, he's young, happy, successful, fun and British. (Stephen and Simone can only hope I aspire to being Brtish to follow in their footsteps.)

I’ve created a bookstand, the kind you would see for an upcoming book signing in a bookstore, and on it have placed his book, Happy Days with the Naked Chef. One day it will be my book on that stand!

October 6, 2005

Lizard for Naomi

Naomi Sheridan, Executive Director of Business Arts Council in SF has been eager to get some pix of the many lizards that live in our front garden. This one hangs out by the front door. He's about 3 inches. I notice that when I do yoga downstairs, in the only yoga-friendly area in the house, near the front door, he watches me. Even when I took this shot he didn't run away. I'll keep searching for my little critters and will take photos when I see them.

Heatless in Houston

Finally we're having Spring weather in Fall today! I've turned off the air conditioning, opened the windows and am rejoicing in the breeze.

October 4, 2005

Teaching Arts Administration

For the past couple of years I’ve wanted to teach arts management at the college level. But how do you get those seemingly rare jobs? Word of Mouth! Sara Kellner, Executive Director at http://www.diverseworks.org/ (see 9/30/05 post) has been teaching the Arts Administration class for University of Houston Downtown http://www.uhd.edu/ for the past two years. She asked if I would be interested in taking it on now that her schedule is too busy. YES!

The coursework, which is an undergraduate Arts Administration Minor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Arts & Humanities in Drama, has so much potential and key support for the higher-ups. I met with the University yesterday and we discussed our target market (want-to-be and emerging arts managers of small and midsize organizations and junior staff at larger arts institutions) and ways to market to them. We all agree that our long term goal is to make it a major.

The student body is an amazing mix of cultures. I spent some time sitting in the campus food court checking out the students and was very impressed. This doesn’t feel like a continuation of high school. Many students had laptops, were studying, talking about academics, clearly serious about their studies. The ages were mostly 20s but there were some older students as well.
Since the class is scheduled for Fall 2006 we have some time to get the word out. Our strategy is to offer a preview workshop at the end of March during their Arts & Humanities Fair.

October 2, 2005

It's Hottern a Stolen Tamale

Yesterday I tried so hard to live without air conditioning in the house and car. Around 5pm, after waking up from a nap in front of the TV (did the Astros win? We still don't know) Stephen, Tika and I looked at each other and realized we were three piles of melted moosh. Tika was sprawled out on slate in front of the fireplace, I was spread out on the couch and Stephen sat in his easy chair. We two humans slogged our way to the windows, shut them and then turned on the air. Tika cracked open her eyes in anticipation. Five minutes later we were like reconstituted orange juice.

October 1, 2005

Ye Olde Homestead

Here are some shots of our bedroom, staircase, living room, dining room and kitchen since folks were asking for pics. Note the messy Saturday morning environment.

Not Quite Hottern Hell

This is a wonderful day in my Houston history - air conditioning is not necessary because it is only 75 degrees in the house. There is still humidity but at least we can walk around without sticking to everything. Tika the cat seems a bit more animated too.

To learn more Texas hot expressions visit http://www.geocities.com/theladyrebel60/sayings.html

Here are a few gems:

Texas has four seasons, drought, flood, blizzard and twister.
Hell, its been windier than a 50 pound sack of whistling lips
It's hottern a stolen tamale
It's hottern a honeymoon hotel
Its so dusty the rabbits are diggin holes six feet in the air
Its so foggy the birds is a walkin