Monthly Archives: March 2011

Obama visits the Big Apple


Well if only for about 10 minutes. Air Force One is flying in today (although Gary Oldman probably won’t try to shoo Harrison Ford out of the open hatch), so Obama can chat to the U.N. and no doubt there is a lot to talk about this week!

a long flight Harrison?

Anyway it seems the only disruption the President of the world will cause me is a delayed Jitney service (Definition: a small bus that carries passengers over a regular route on a flexible schedule) between campus sites from 4pm-6pm this evening. I probably won’t get to see the first Black President strut his stuff trying to fix the world and I am very disappointed about that!

Chillin’ on Air Force One on route to not see Beth in the City

Pugilism: A new adventure


Minoan youths boxing

Pugilism, more commonly known as boxing, is a brutal sport where two people must fight with their fists. In everyday life this is understandably frowned upon, but when layers are stripped and squidgy gloves are donned, a spotlight appears and an area is cleared and ringed for the amusement of the crowds.

Boxing is not only a modern game. There is much evidence pointing to ancient rituals/games involving bare-fist fighting and indeed gloved fighting; according to Wikipedia. Some of the earliest records date back to the Bronze Age Minoan civilisation of Crete (1500-900 BC), a civilisation sharing with me, possibly among other things, a love of Nike and halloumi (but Wikipedia could not shed any evidential light on that one). Mine is an unyielding love for a turquoise blue training top and the cheese excellent when grilled, theirs for the winged goddess of strength, speed, and victory and they had cows so who knows?

So after I have wrapped my hands and wrists with Lonsdale attire and pulled on one and then a second glove with my teeth (since once one glove is on it is virtually impossible I would say to get the other on without the aid of my choppers) I am baying for blood. I envisage how similar and yet different this Upper East Side luxury gym setting is from the cruel ancient world of early boxing. Legend has it, for example, that the heroic ruler Theseus, said to have lived around the 9th century BC, invented a form of boxing in which two men sat face to face and beat each other with their fists until one of them died. It is possibly less straightforward to pick out the similarities here as I jab, upper cut, hook the standing bag in front of me while Beyonce blares out of the speakers in between a few squats and a star jump or two, but they do exist. At least punching is involved. Death, less so.

Here, in the confines of the mirror bounded gymnasium, our aim is not a fight to the death, it is a fight for chizzled abs. We do not wish to destroy our fellow woman, we want to battle with our inanimate opponents alongside them, sweating profusely, and best case scenario, acquiring more toned upper arms.

Lest this needed further explanation, my new cross training regime involves Akin Williams’ Combat class. This martial arts expert is an intense trainer and even after only three sessions I am all too aware that it is probably best not to disappoint him. If I were to spend some time contemplating on what makes boxing a good and effective work out (in this setting where a bruise is rare) I would probably say it is the concentration to perform, accurately, the routines Akin demands of us. Thus essentially distracting us from the effort we put in.

Jab. Upper cut. Hook. Cross. Weave. Cross, upper cut, cross. Left kick… Right kick… Left kick. Off you go again!

One does not have time to consider how much their arms are aching. One does not have one second of free space in one’s mind to consider this to be an unhealthy volume of sweat. One does not have a moment to think about anything other than obeying the master. So one ends the hour long class devastated, physically crushed. Now one is ready for a cupcake, a long bath and a lie down while watching Steve Buscemi in “Who do you think you are?”, a step back in his ancestoral past, that does not require any input from me.

Spring has Sprung…


… well nearly.

I want daffodils, sunshine, daffodils, light, tulips, dry pavements, daffodils and I want to hang my winter coat up once and for all!

What I got instead, when I woke up on the first day of Spring 2011, was a very soggy day. Cold rain sneaking under my umbrella. My hands attempting a retreat into my coat sleeves because my winter gloves were recently retired for the year and so no longer travel along with me in my handbag. The tram/cable car swaying (in a fun way!?!?!) as we tootle alongside the Queensborough Bridge to Manhattan. Powering up the East Side, brolly as my only line of defense against the torrent, I contemplated what Spring might be like when it finally arrives. Beautiful flowers (for example daffodils), lambs hopping by in between the yellow cabs, daffodils in bloom, sunlight and blue skies and a lighter wardrobe of dresses and thin cardigans. A legitimate reason for a trip to Bloomingdales sans sale!

I guess I will just have to hold on a few days more. Maybe Spring doesn’t realise it has been sprung quite yet!

Where am I from?


So far the list is endless. My accent spans continents it seems. “Australian?” ‘from New Zealand perhaps?”, “I would say you’re South African”, “or perchance Scottish?”, “no wait Welsh?”

I think I am even beginning to doubt my own origins. Take yesterday at the gym as a prime example. Having attended dance class for the last few weeks, another regular (as I can claim to be now) always comments on how “great” my voice is when I open my mouth to suggest we go over a move or maybe cut out rolling around on the floor so much since my knees are black and blue! Every week, twice a week, J (as she will be known), beams at me when I utter a sound. “Great accent. I just love your accent.” One would assume therefore, as I did, that she MUST know where I hail from (or at the very least the ball park of the wonderful United Kingdom!)

So, back to yesterday, as I wander up to the the waiting area, pre-dance party, I spot J and a newbie who shall be named B (for the purposes of privacy) chatting away on the bench. As soon as I am spotted I see a huge grin from J as she is so obviously excited to hear her favourite voice.

“B this is Beth another regular. small talk small talk something about how fun the Britney song was to dance to last week etc.”

I agree wholeheartedly with all of the above but mention that I tend to think less floor work is better as despite only being 27 years of age my knees seemed to have prematurely wisened and I am struggling to heal after what can only be described as “rolling about on a hard wood floor to a pop anthem”. More small talk and my accent eventually comes up as it inevitably does here.

J – “I know right. Her accent is so great. I just love it y’all” (sorry I added that last bit for effect)

me – “Since arriving in the States I have been accused of being from all over the world. It appears that my accent stumps an American or two. I completely understand. Amuses me actually. Most people so far think I am Australian,” chuckling to myself at the absurdity of it. Girls join in amused at how ridiculous it must be for me to bear such an error.

J – “Oh no that is too funny. Of course you are not from Australia. New Zealand right?” now uncertain of herself she scans my face for recognition (potentially because she in fact believed me to be antipodean and had first plumped for the Aussie variety in her head). Seeing my expression fall she desperately scrambles to try to save the situation. “South African? no wait.” (with my obvious rejection of all the above she seems to be running out of English speaking countries fast) she gives up.

me – “British. English actually.”

B – “haha yes of course. I knew that.”

J – ” oh yes. of course.” her smile all but gone. Defeated she apologises profusely until I beg her to stop and explain that since I don’t at all sound like a certain nearly Royal bride-to-be, her confusion is understandable and I am never insulted, only ever amused.

Dance Party begins. But when I speak now no peep of joy from J. Shame.

A Knitting Circle


I am now a member of a knitting circle composed of graduate students, postdocs, and staff from the Sloan-Kettering Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College, and The Rockefeller University. We create hats and scarves for every resident of a homeless shelter in the Bronx.

Armed with purple wool and 5 mL plastic pipettes I am currently knitting a very short scarf for one lucky (they would have to be thin necked) individual. Not a fast knitter.

Sendai Earthquake 2011


An earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale hit the Oshika Peninsula in the North East of Japan at about 3pm Japan Standard Time (JST) on March 11 2011. It created tsunami waves of up to 10 metres (33 ft).

Estimates of magnitude make it the largest earthquake to hit Japan and among the top five largest earthquakes in the world since seismological record-keeping began. Several severe aftershocks have followed and continue to do so.

A survivor of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday pushes his bicycle through the remains of the devastated town of Otsuchi.

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I know I have created a section JUST for food. And why wouldn’t I? It needs the respect. But I just had a sugar rush and thought I should log it.

compost cookie: pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch and chocolate chips (random mix but surprisingly delicious)

corn cookie: basically cornbread in cookie form. My love of cornbread knows no bounds. In fact it is so great it is deserving of it’s very own post!

birthday cake truffles: rainbow cake crumble, sprinkles, vanilla frosting (yum)

chocolate malt cake truffles: malt fudge, malted milk crumbs and charred marshmallow

franken pie: inspired by the mismatch monster of fiction this pie is made up of two slices of each of their “standard” pies; crack pie (evocative name for toasted oat crunch with a gooey butter filling), candy bar pie (chocolate, caramel and peanut butter goodness), cinnamon bun pie and grasshopper pie (graham crust, mint cheesecake and brownie filling)

is your mouth watering yet? thought so!

Well don’t delay. You can find these treats in the East Village and Midtown.

Sir Geoffrey?


Is he a Sir? I should check. I feel like he must be. All the best voices are: Sir Sean Connery, Sir David Jason, Sir Winston Churchill. Al Pacino must surely be next on the Queen’s list?

Sir Geoffrey Rush or simply Geoffrey (I just checked and it was completely in my imagination) is playing a madman at the Brooklyn Harvey Theater BAM. I went a couple of weeks ago as a trial run to find the venue but also to see the actor himself in discussion with his director Neil Armfield, a fellow Aussie. The pair interpreted this Gogol comedy about 20 years ago in Australia and they felt it an opportune time to revive it as Armfield ends his reign as Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre Artistic Director where the two first played this piece.

Longtime colleagues, the two old friends sat on the BAM stage discussing how they love to portray the clown in their collaborations. They have a long history of choosing plays where Mr Rush must conjure up a nut so why tamper with a winning formula? Geoffrey is perhaps best known for his insane creations on stage and screen and in this performance he did not disappoint. Stage solo for most of the show, Geoffrey manages to defy loneliness as he parades around against the impressive backdrop of this ornate theatre. He is able to draw the audience into his increasingly fictional world as he logs his diary openly and vividly to us in his dingy apartment in the Russian capital.

His character Poprischin is a clerk of the ninth grade working in czarist St Petersburg, struggling to get by. Eventually he is pushed to the edge of reason by the growing tedium of his life in the civil service and we witness every progression towards his eventual demise. Based on a short story by Gogol, the English playwright David Holman adapted the tale, with the support of Neil Armfield and Geoffrey Rush, after suggesting in the early 90s that the main character would suit Rush’s particular talent for the dramatic.

He was not wrong. We hear of conversations he has overheard between Medji and Fifi, the former a pet dog of his beloved boss’ daughter Sophia, his plots to capture the letters of correspendence between these two animals and then of his final delusion that he is in fact the true King of Spain. This ridiculous story is both hilarious and moving and I could have watched the insanity unfolding in Rush indefinitely. Mesmerising and exhausting Rush has no limits and his invigorating energy on stage and his clear improvisations with the script and individual interactions with each new audience is quite a spectacle.

Long live the King!