Getting Ready For Adventures: Tezuka Osamu's Jumping

I don't know too much about Tezuka Osamu, other than some theoretical academic stuff on his interest in ambivalent or hyper illustrations of gender. Tezuka, a Japanese animator, is known for using hermaphroditism and gender reversal in manga. 

I really like this short animation, though it doesn't deal with gender at all. It feels especially appropriate as we prepare to take off on a complex adventure, which will surely be filled with mundane events that, with surreal qualities and memorable imagery, should equal the conventional, glittering spectacles. 


John Cage’s 4’33” (1952)

John Cage, On Silence
Cage's thoughts on silence, sounds, noise, and what can be considered music. 

Filmed at the Barbican Centre, 2004

John Cage is incredible. Together with Robert Rauschenberg and Merce Cunningham, Cage was inspired by chance, improvisation, randomness, and the use of bodies or unconventional objects to articulate mundane events through happenings, installations, music, and dance. Each artist drew the viewer into the "frame," often discarding a clear narrative, therefore heightening awareness as interpretations remain flexible. One of Rauschenberg's first shows was the collective of abstract, monochromatic canvases "White Paintings" (1951). Hung in the Stable Gallery in New York, these canvases were meant to express the essentials of painting, but they also functioned as receptors or screens for the unique shadows, the presence, of those attending the show. This created constant dynamism in what would normally be a static display. This is very similar to Cage's silent composition 4'33 in which the sounds of the audience become the performance. With each new audience the piece mutates.

Rauschenberg and his "White Paintings"

Merce Cunningham was one of the first choreographers to take daily routines, such as waiting for the bus, and integrate them into balletic movements. Rauschenberg designed the sets and costumes, while Gage did the music and visuals. When the artists worked together, they deviated from the standards of production teams in that they did not communicate their plans until a performance or a piece was about to begin. 

 Cage, Cunningham, and Rauschenberg

 Choreography by Cunningham, sets and costumes by Rauschenberg (hey, there's the Parthenon!)



Best Things: Chai In The Neighborhood.

It was at some point during grad school that I realized I was becoming a true chai connoisseur. Sure, I'd had it before, in Philadelphia where I learned that chai is tea, tea is chai. Chai tea is redundant. Now I know. It was at this tiny cafe off South Street where I first imagined my hypothetical adventures through Middle Eastern history, culture, food, art. I've certainly come a long way since then.

I had also tasted the exquisite home made chai made by my best friend's mother. We used to visit her in New Jersey and she would always make this strong, perfectly balanced tea, with hand grated spices. This was the first time I understood tea as a ritual. I started going to Patel's in Princeton to get my own ingredients for at-home experimentation. With the help of another best friend's English Nan, who gifted me a full Royal Albert tea set, I fell under the sway of proper tea meditation. This is an experience meant to be savored and appreciated, from preparation to finish. 

In school, I needed something to keep me seriously alert for those dense articles on Marxism or Medieval something or other. This elixir would also have to function as a mood enhancer to keep spirits high during the lengthy bouts of misery and self-doubt. I tried lots of things like coffee, Earl grey tea, green tea, coke, coke with lemon, Red Bull, dark chocolate, any chocolate! Nothing ever worked the miracles that chai could work. Since I spent all of my time in the library or cafes I needed to assess my surroundings: the hunt for the perfect chai in Somerville/Cambridge. Over three years I have refined my tastes and finally, narrowed down the top picks. 

Now, there are two categories. Chai latte (warm, wintertime drink) and iced chai latte. These are serious distinctions because an iced chai is abysmal if made with a pre-fabricated mix. A hot chai is less terrible if a mix is used. The problem is that you have no control over the level of sweetness and I loathe sweet drinks. Even hot chocolate should be balanced (go to Burdick's for an exemplary example). I find that I can only drink chai now and only occasionally do I take something else, although I have been experimenting with coffee in anticipation of our upcoming trip to serious coffee lands. Chai is becoming more mainstream although not every cafe has it on offer (nor should every cafe offer what they call "chai"). I do have a hard time finding it sometimes, even in New York City, where one day I could not find it anywhere and was close to a meltdown. 

But, the local winners!


Without a doubt 1369 Coffee House.
The barrista warned me that it was going to be strong since they let the tea steep overnight. It is very strong! I usually get the biggest size and dilute it with more ice. I separate the drink into two cups, one for the next day. This gives me two full days of productivity and euphoria. This is the perfect blend; just a touch sweet (a little honey I think), smooth, spicy, and incredibly easy to drink. Luckily I discovered this the summer that I was studying for the Comprehensive Exams. It truly changed my life (ok, at least my study habits). I owe my good grades and sanity to this iced chai latte! Oh, and try out their blondies and chocolate chip cookies. So good.

1369, Inman Square

This one is tough because I prefer to make it at home, but I'm rarely ever at home during the day. I tried nearly every cafe's version "within a five mile radius." Some were terrible (way too sweet), some were okay, a few were great. Since Alex and I spent most of our time working in cafes, we kept going back to the ones that were comfortable for marathon work sessions and had good food. Sometimes I had to compromise on the drinks. Despite the fact that we're in New England, Boston even, this is not the place for tea drinkers. I remain frustrated that nearly every cafe uses the same brand of tea therefore homogenizing the selection for those of us that are actually interested in the quality of it. There are exceptions of course. But, the best...

Darwin's in Cambridge. 
Not only do they have incredible sandwiches, Swedish Choklad Biskvier, and Florentines, they also make the best chai latte by steeping the tea first and then adding steamed milk, no sweetener. I'm pretty sure it's also the least expensive. This becomes a consideration when you need one every day!

Darwin's, Cambridge St.

The runner up in this category is Flour Bakery. They also steep the tea first and leave out the sweetener. I love their grilled tofu sandwich with tapenade and all of their sweet treats. Definitely recommended.

But the cafe where we spent most of our time was the Biscuit. I thought it was a bakery for dogs (these exist!), so we didn't really discover it until we'd been here a year. Their warm chai is acceptable, maybe a little too sweet, but overall this place was the best for us. Some of my favorites on the menu: strawberry rhubarb pie, iced ginger green tea, and the Helsinki sandwich (smoked salmon on dill bread, good brain food). 

Other go-to cafes in Cambridge and Somerville:
Diesel Cafe (get the shortbread chocolate chip cookie)
Burdick's (get the hot chocolate, also the Melange Du Chamonix tea is quite good and not MEM!)
Crema Cafe (get the London Fog)
Hi-Rise (for sandwiches)
Sofra (the chai here is very sweet, but everything else is always amazing)
Sherman's Cafe (reliably good, healthy, local food)

All of this reminiscing is making me sad to leave these great places behind. But I hear they have cajeta lattes where I'm headed next!


Turkey Gets Back In.

Long ago as Alex and I discussed our dream adventure this is what the itinerary looked like:
Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt too I think.

We were going to visit all of the holy sites important to the Abrahamic religions. We started big, but eventually trimmed it down to Italy and Greece. No complaints! I've been thrilled, almost stunned, by the prospect of seeing the millions of exciting things there.

But wait.

A recent wedding invitation created a stir in our solid plan. All of a sudden we found our adventure nearly doubled. In order to attend a late August wedding in Stockholm we had to put Turkey back in the game. It's on the way! From Crete. Kind of.

Oh Hagia Sophia! Consecrated in the 6th century. Istanbul, the Bosphorus and Asia on the other side.

Originally a Byzantine church, then an Ottoman mosque, now secularized as a museum.

On this trip we will get to see both capitals of the Roman Empire. The Western capital city in Ravenna and the Eastern in Constantinople, not Istanbul. Justinian! While we're there we will meet up with one of Alex's colleagues and a woman that I used to work for in Philadelphia. And we're staying with an incredible Turkish artist who got her Master's (and her cat) in Boston!

There are going to be lots of adventures in Turkey. I know it! The Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque and the Chora Church and a cruise on the Bosphorus over to Asia, Nicea (Iznik), Bursa. The little guide book we have describes every other thing as magical. 

Blue Mosque.
The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, Byzantine Church in Istanbul.
Anastasis (Resurrection): Christ releases Adam and Eve after breaking through the gates of hell (see the locks and Satan's prone body), fresco.

Even though we feel that the trip might be going over the top now, we couldn't resist booking a short flight to Cappadocia, in central Turkey. We're still in our selfish phase.

Goreme in Cappadocia.
Fairy chimneys! Goreme in Cappadocia.
We're staying in a rock cave house! I want to bike around all day and discover these temples carved out of living rock where Christians, while hiding from persecution, painted incredible cave church interiors.

I like that we are closing the trip with Sweden where it'll be much more relaxed in many ways. We'll get a break from the intense Mediterranean sun with cool Swedish breezes. Even though we have some friends to see in Istanbul, I think we'll appreciate the loving, down to earth rituals and celebration in favor of busy tourist activities. Plus a foreign language wedding!

There are a lot of things I missed last time I was in Stockholm, though. Mostly marzipan related.

I can't remember who these characters are, but they're beloved by Swedes.
Here they are made from marzipan.  


Storied Past.

I wonder what the cultural context of this ubiquitous shirt could be. What was happening when this was a hot item for a diverse clientele? What does it mean, this lo-fi Paintbrush Heaven with its emphatic underline? When I see it on Divine I think it refers to the connection between placement (bust) and description (amazing). However, I don't get the same idea from Sharon Stone's sweatshirt turtleneck version. 

I got mine in Philadelphia at a thrift shop on South Street about six years ago. I liked it mostly because of the 80's style and the Floridian hues (which is where I'm sporting it in the above snap). But I want to know: who wore it before me? Where? Why were they drawn to it? So many questions.

My interest in thrifting (really, treasure hunting), vintage, and recycled clothing is renewed thanks to my super fun job as costume dame extraordinaire. I love imagining the adventures these cast-offs might have had. If they had none, now is the time. Somerville has a treasure filled Goodwill, in Cambridge, the awesome resource the Garment District and of course, of course: Savers in Roxbury. Maybe the end all in pleasant, organized thrifting. These three are especially rich in well made, preppy New England looks, currently my very favorite look. If you want to absolute best though, in New England prep and Americana, then you MUST get to Bobby From Boston. This place is incredible. Without a doubt the best store, of any kind, in Boston or Cambridge. Check out this documentary on Bobby and his shop. There are some fantastic shots of the space while Bobby discusses the feeling that I share on treasure hunting. It really is the best feeling ever. 

I'm building my Northeast/Mediterranean wardrobe before departing New England and America. Right now I'm after some good boat shoes and smart, summery, slightly sheer button up shirts. For days on the yacht, you know! oooo Greece! I'm taking my new old clothes with me on a terrific voyage.

Our Yacht, Galileo, sailing through the Cyclades.
Get excited perfect and beautiful striped shirt made in Italy found languishing at the Goodwill.
Soon you'll be sunbathing on this deck. 
Stopping in Delos: The Terrace of the Lions, 600 BCE, where I'll be wearing you, fetching white linen dress with bronze details and pockets! from the Garment District.

I'm pretty aggressive when thrifting which is probably one of the reasons I like doing it so much. The hunt! Once in high school I stalked someone through the Salvation Army for hours after I spotted a gold leather skirt in her arms. Anyway there was no way that girl could work the skirt as well as I could and so it was mine! No, I didn't knock her over the head and run off. I simply waited for her to try it on and realize what I already knew. It was meant for someone else. Me. I loved it and took it on many adventures (ok, at least all over Watertown). I've since put it back into the donation bin. Where is it now? Maybe it'll resurface one day, a relic in some thrift shop. I'd buy it again.