Tuesday, February 21, 2017

McDonald's as a treat for avoiding McDonald's

Walking home from the subway I decided I would have McDonald's for dinner, rather than trying to make myself something out of the dubious ingredients I had in my house. Then I remembered I had leftover Chinese sesame noodles and decided in favor of that meal I'd already paid for, instead of my original idea.

I left myself extra time for a late lunch on my way to a QUO concert, and my brain was trained on a McDonald's I would inevitably have to walk past. But walk past it I did as I envisioned the forthcoming hour of my life spent inside a fast food restaurant. I chose to spend the hour in Citizens of Chelsea where I had avocado toast and coffee, costing more than twice a McD's value meal but in the charming company of hipsters.

Having carried over my McDonald's craving for two meal opportunities now, I settled on McDonald's as my Penn Station treat before a trip into New Jersey. But when I got there, I realized I had an hour to kill and all the meal options in the world. I decided to give it a walk around the block before resorting to McDonald's, and I ended up at the Bread Factory Cafe where I had enough pesto pasta to feed an army.

On day four of my McDonald's craving (I took Friday off, apparently) I decided I'd have either Burger King or McDonald's on my way to Bush Terminal Park, but then I remembered I wanted to check out Industry City where there is food to be had. I had a crepe-wrapped sandwich called a "jianbing" and a Vietnamese iced coffee.

Today was the breaking point. I decided I would get a deli sandwich, but if the line at the deli was long, I'd sally forth to McDonald's. The deli was closed for renovations.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Shows 2016

Last year I managed to hold on to 16 Playbills from shows I saw (and also a BAMbill and a booklet from a concert at the Miller Theater), but my Gmail inbox (and to a small extent my memory) helped me put together the below list of 25 live performances I saw this year. Also using my memory, but mainly the back of the LGBAC marching band shirt and the QUO season packet, I've added up 21 of my own performances in 2016, which means I gave back to the world almost as much as I took in.

A photo posted by Andrew Berman (@andrew.berman) on


  • January: Spring Awakening (Broadway, Deaf West), with mom
  • January: Fiddler on the Roof (Broadway), with Marissa
  • February: Noises Off (Broadway, Roundabout), with Stella. The beginning of the end of my Hiptix eligibility
  • March: She Loves Me (Broadway, Roundabout), with Kate
  • March: The Robber Bridegroom (Broadway, Roundabout), with Mike
  • March: 1776 (City Center Encores!), with Anne
  • March: Puffs (PIT), with wizards and witches
  • August: Waitress (Broadway), with NYMAAC
  • September: Holiday Inn (Broadway), with Lindsay, Marita, and Ana (I took Leslie's place)
  • October: The Unconventional Convention (Squeaky Bicycle Productions), NYMAAC and friends
  • November: The Color Purple (Broadway), with Louise and mom
  • November: Something Rotten (Broadway), with Louise
  • November: In Transit (Broadway), with Anne via lottery
  • December: Dear Evan Hansen (Broadway), with NYMAAC
  • December: The Femmys (PIT) with Max
11 musicals, 4 plays (including an evening of one-acts)
11 Broadway, 2 PIT, 1 City Center, 1 SBP
Spring Awakening and Fiddler I'd seen before (in one medium or another), She Loves Me I'd seen in its incarnation as the film You've Got Mail, and Waitress I'd seen in its previous film version. The rest were new to me, but I did get my hands on the film version of Noises Off as soon as I could after seeing the play. Everything was great, but honestly I haven't stopped talking about Puffs since I saw it.

  • February: NY Phil: Mozart, Respighi (Lincoln Center), with percussionistas
  • February: NY Phil: Kodály, Liszt, Dvorák, Ravel (Lincoln Center), with Courtney
  • March: Selected Shorts at Radio Love Fest (BAM), with Holly
  • March: Whoopi Goldberg (King's), with Mike (I took Randy's place)
  • April: Brian Nash & Nate Buccieri: Snuggling Pianos (54 Below), with Mike
  • July: Reich/Reverberations: Drumming (Lincoln Center), with percussionistas
  • July: Molly Pope in A Star Is Born (54 Below), with Brian and two Mikes
  • September: Steve Reich: Variations (Miller Theater), with percussionistas
  • November: NY Phil: Beethoven, Dvorák (Lincoln Center), with percussionistas
  • November: Dar Williams (Ridgefield Playhouse), with Sara
Slightly harder to compare these, but I think I'll give the year to July. Steve Reich's Drumming was transcendent, and Molly Pope is otherworldly.

  • 6 QUO concerts
  • 2 LGBAC symphonic band concerts
  • 5 parades with the LGBAC marching band
  • 5 stand (or sit)-and-plays with the LGBAC marching band
  • 2 services (Easter and Christmas Eve) at the Church of the Holy Apostles
  • 1 concert and 1 parade with the LGBA massed band in Palm Springs
Highlights of the year: playing Fanfare For Tambourines at QUOtets with Alvaro, Clint, Sean, George, and Brent, with Ian conducting; watching the young audience's enthralled reaction to "The Wild Woods" at QUO's children's concert; Kelly Watkins' last concert with the LGBAC and getting to rock out on the vibraphone in Danzón; a Pride Day full of fun with the LGBAC marching band, followed by a cocktail party at Brandon & Luke's, and then meeting up with our QUO friends at the Eagle; everything about the LGBA conference in Palm Springs.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TV consumed in 2016

I don't normally make a Big TV Post, mainly because it's embarrassing how much TV I watch, but embarrassing details about myself are some of my best blog fodder. This was actually prompted by a first date I went on recently in which the guy asked me what I'm currently watching. I answered honestly, which was "Madam Secretary," and he grimaced. I know Madam Secretary isn't the height of television art, but I like it, so whatever. I felt insecure in that moment, so I tried to balance that guilty pleasure with other more hip (?) shows, like "The Crown" and OITNB, but after that my memory failed me. I told him that as my homework (playing off the fact that he's a professor) I'd bring a list of my 2016 viewing to our next date. We did have a second date, but the subject didn't come up and I decided to let the topic die. Since I did go to the trouble of making the list, I present it to you now.

Series I started watching in 2016:
Making a Murderer (s1)
Chelsea Does (s1)
W1A (s1-2)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (s1)
The Shannara Chronicles (s1)
Star Trek: Enterprise (s1-4)
The Killing (e1-10)
The Crown (s1)
Madam Secretary (s1-2)
Orphan Black (s1-3)
The Man in the High Castle (s1)
The Magicians (e1-9)
Wolf Hall (s1)
The OA (s1)

In the above list we have 3 sci-fi, 3 period dramas, 2 documentaries, 2 comedies, 2 fantasy, 1 police drama, and 1 political drama. Michelle Forbes appears in two (Killing, Orphan), Claire Foy appears in two (Wolf, Crown), Rick Worthy appears in two (Castle, Magicians), and Jason Ralph appears in two (Magicians, Secretary). I enjoyed Crazy and the Crown the most. The OA is second to them only because the finale left me feeling a little nope. Everything on this list I either finished or intend to finish, so I didn't dislike any of them, but Shannara and Enterprise made me roll my eyes the most, with the Magicians not far behind.

Series I continued watching in 2016:
Call the Midwife (s5)
Mad Men (s7)
Nurse Jackie (s6-7)
The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt (s2)
Grace & Frankie (s2 e1-2)
Orange is the New Black (s4)
The Fall (s3)
Gilmore Girls (reboot e1-4)
Downton Abbey (s6)
Transparent (s2)

3 period dramas, 3 other kinds of dramas, and 4 shows that cover a spectrum from comedy to dramedy. Kimmie Schmidt is far and away my favorite of these, although there were a bunch of impressive finales. I want to want Grace & Frankie more.

Series I tried watching in 2016:
X-Files Reboot (e1-3)
Twin Peaks (e1-2)
Characters (e1)
Love (e1)
Lady Dynamite (e1)
Chelsea (e1)
Bloodline (e1)
Marcella (e1-2)
Stranger Things (e1)

Nothing really to report on here. I do plan to watch Stranger Things, though. The only reason I stopped is Netflix was being testy.

Movies I watched via Netflix in 2016:
Do I Sound Gay?
The Big Short

Mostly non-fiction here, although some of it dramatized.

Movies I watched in theaters in 2016 (that I remember):
The Secret Life of Pets
Rogue One
Fantastic Newts and the Beasts Who Love Them

I'm glad I saw Carol to class up this list.

Movies I watched on planes in 2016:
How to Be Single

I watched these one right after the other, and I wish I'd done it the other way around. Zootopia was fantastic. How to Be Single was garbage. I wasn't expecting much from it (although I was charmed by the cast's appearance on "Watch What Happens: Live") and it still disappointed.

I'm way better at keeping track of the books I've read and want to read than I am at TV and movies. Maybe I'll be better at that in the new year, but probably not as we all know people don't change.

I'll probably do one more of these for live shows, and then go back to forgetting I have a blog for a few months.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Ways in which first dates are like job interviews

  • You try six or nine different outfits before choosing something you don't realize has a stain on it
  • You don't want to go, at all
  • You spend the the preceding minutes pondering your greatest weakness
  • You are overdressed
  • You have to explain any gaps in your résumé
  • If you happen to be both single and unemployed, you treat any date or job interview as if it could be either
  • A bird lands on a tree branch just outside the window and you consider a simpler existence
  • You spill coffee on yourself
  • You have sex at the end
  • You send a thank you message the day after, expressing a hope that you'll see each other again
  • You never hear from them again, and you console yourself with stories of how they weren't right for you anyway
  • Your mom says the right one will come along, and maybe you should have worn the shirt she got you. Your dad offers to call them for you.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Big Book Post

Let's do this.

Books read this year, in order:

Jan: Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
Jan: Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall
Feb: Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin
Feb: MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
Mar-Apr: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
May: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, by Sarah Vowell
Jun-Jul: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks
Aug: The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Sep: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Sep: Between You & Me, by Mary Norris
Oct: Don't Get Too Comfortable, by David Rakoff
Oct: Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
Nov: What If? by Randall Munroe
Nov: The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Dec: A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman (haven't finished, will count for 2017)

I finished 14 books toward my reading goal of 17. Goodreads also reports these interesting bits:

  • My 14 books amounted to 4,567 pages (which is a lovely number, but probably inaccurate)
  • My shortest book was Comfortable and my longest was Kavalier
  • Peculiar is the most read book on my list this year; Refugees is the least (because it's not out yet). Prisoners is the highest rated.
It was a good year for actually enjoying the books I read. I gave five of them five stars: PrisonersMaddAddam, Kavalier, Between, and What. The lowest rating I gave a book this year was two stars, and I gave that rating to Mistook and Buried. It was a weak summer.

About the authors:
I read a startlingly low four books by women this year (Senses would have made it five).
I read three books by authors who are deceased (Vonnegut, Sacks, and Rakoff). Vonnegut and Sacks would have been the oldest and second oldest authors this year if they were alive, but of the living authors, Atwood is the oldest (b. 1939) as she was last year. The youngest author is younger than I am (Munroe, b. 1984).
Eight were born in the USA (Lawson, Maupin, Chabon, Vowell, Riggs, Norris, Vonnegut, Munroe), two are/were Canadian-born (Atwood, Rakoff), two are/were from the UK (Marshall, Sacks), Ishiguro is from Japan but lives in the UK, and Nguyen is from Vietnam but lives in the US.
This year I read my second Lawson, my fifth Atwood, my sixth Vowell, my third Ishiguro, and my second Vonnegut. The other nine authors were new to me. I will certainly read Chabon and Rakoff again.

About the books:
It was an even split between fiction and non-fiction.

Fiction: 7
2 Sci-fi (MaddAddam, Cradle)
2 Fantasy (BuriedPeculiar)
1 Historical (Kavalier)
1 Short Stories (Refugees)
1 Plain Ol' Fiction (Tales)

Non-Fiction: 7
2 Memoir (Furiously, Between)
2 Science (Mistook, What)
1 History (Lafayette)
1 Geopolitics (Prisoners)
1 Essays (Comfortable)

The oldest book I read was Cradle (1963), followed by Tales (1978) and then Mistook (1985). All the rest were published in or after 2000, including five in 2015 (Furiously, Prisoners, Lafayette, Buried, Between). The newest book I read was a galley of Refugees, to be released in 2017.

Time periods range from that of Arthurian legend (Buried) to the American Revolution (Lafayette) to WWII (Kavalier, Peculiar) and slightly after (Cradle) to the seventies (Tales, Refugees) to the distressingly near future (MaddAddam). Locales include NYC, Valley Forge (and other Revolutionary War sites), Vermont, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Texas, Florida, the Canadian Rockies, San Lorenzo (fictional island in the Caribbean), Cairnholm (fictional island in the Irish Sea), Prague, Vietnam, Antarctica, all of Earth (as explored in Prisoners), and the various places on Earth and in space imagined in What.

Tales is the first in a series I hope to continue.
MaddAddam is the last in a series.
Peculiar is the first in a series I probably will not continue.

Kavalier won the Pulitzer in 2001.

I watched the TV miniseries of Tales with Laura Linney.
I read Peculiar with the intention of seeing the movie, but did not.
I anxiously await the TV adaptation of MaddAddam, and I pine for a movie of Kavalier.

Book Clubs:
I read Peculiar as part of a book club, but no one else read it (which is fair, because I hardly ever read the books we choose). I encouraged my fellow editors at work to read Between, but no takers yet. I'm currently reading Senses as part of an impromptu book club with two friends.

Why these books?
Prisoners: saw it at Community Bookshop
Tales: swiped it from a friend who was purging for a move
Kavalier: saw it at Housing Works for $3
Mistook: swiped it from a friend's coffee table
Peculiar: book club
Between: received it as a gift
Comfortable: public radio demanded I read Rakoff
What: received it s a gift
Refugees: a former Borders coworker gave me a galley
The others: I'd read the authors before

For 2017:
  • Finish Senses
  • Something from the ambitious pile: Guns, Germs, and Steel; Game of Thrones; A People's History of the United States
  • More Rakoff, Murakami, Vonnegut, Chabon
  • Belgravia (Fellowes), Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out (Yan), the new Mary Roach
  • How I Paid for College (Acito), which two people independently of each other told me I should read, one day apart (granted, they saw it on my shelf)
  • The Elements of Style (Strunk/White/Kalman) and Remembrance of Things I Forgot (Smith), which I received as holiday gifts
Thanks for reading, nobody!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I spent the weekend before the election with my fellow Lesbian and Gay Band Association members at our annual conference in Palm Springs. It had been three years since I'd attended the conference, and it was great to see old friends and be one of the 300+ LGBTQIA musicians from all over the country (world?) making music and marching our message of equality through the streets.

The election, and ensuing inauguration, was of course a topic of conversation at the conference. LGBA marched in both of President Obama's inaugural parades, and before that played on the sidelines of President Bill Clinton's inaugurations. The board of LGBA, and in particular their Inauguration Team, is experienced in the management of a huge massed band performance in the presidential inaugural parade, and as such had already started planning our involvement in what many of us hoped would be the 2017 inauguration of President Hillary Clinton. The LGBA board planned to apply for the inaugural parade regardless of the outcome of the election, following a decision made in 2008 to apply for every presidential inauguration thereafter, irrespective of the president being inaugurated. The rationale (I assume, as I have never served on the LGBA board) was that LGBTQIA Americans deserve representation in this national event, and as their marching band, we should be that representation. I venture that most of us, at least those of us supporting Hillary, were concentrating on getting Secretary Clinton elected and not really considering the possibility that Trump might win, and what that would mean for our inauguration plans.

So the LGBA Inauguration Team took registrations from members so they could begin preparing our parade contingent and our application to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. They were promoting registration hard at the conference, as these members who'd traveled to Palm Springs were many of the people who would likely travel to DC for the inauguration. There was a lot of excitement around it (over 500 registrants by the end of the weekend), and many of us even bid our fellow members farewell at the end of the conference saying "see you in January," considering it a fait accompli.

Two days later, the election results hit us, as they hit many other people, like a ton of bricks. The high we felt after such a successful, fulfilling, and celebratory conference gave way to worry, anger, and fear. What would happen to our marriages and adoptions? To our immigrant partners? To the reproductive rights of our female members and friends? To the rights and safety of or members and friends in likewise marginalized communities? Political action was and still is being taken: petitions signed, representatives called, calls to action posted and shared.

Thoughts returned to LGBA's potential involvement in what would now be an inauguration of Donald Trump. Our Facebook group flooded with members' opinions on what to do now. Some felt it was important to still apply and represent our community, especially now in the face of opposition. Others felt it was tantamount to support of President Trump and unacceptable. Some said performing in the inauguration would be an act of political protest, and we shouldn't shy away from a challenge. Others countered that any protest held from within the parade would have ramifications: jeopardizing our future in inaugural parades, possible immediate removal from the parade, possible risks to our safety.

I simply deflated. The inaugural parade is a hard gig. It's the dead of winter. It's preceded by days of intense rehearsal. With inauguration day on a Friday, it would require at least three days off of work. All of that was worth it for Obama and it would have been worth it for Secretary Clinton. In no uncertain terms, it was decidedly NOT worth it for Trump. In the survey that LGBA put out after the election to reassess its members intentions and seek feedback for the way forward, I indicated that I would not go.

This past Sunday, the LGBA Inauguration Team announced that it would not be applying for the 2017 presidential inauguration. Reactions were of course mixed, as was to be expected based on people's opinions before the announcement, but everyone appreciated the hard work that went into their deliberations, and the difficult situation they and the board were in. Although I feel for my fellow members who were determined to march in the parade no matter what, I am glad we will not be confusing the general public and especially the LGBTQIA community by participating in an inaugural parade for President Trump. Marching in an inauguration is an honor I've had twice, and I will have it again, but not in January.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mid-year book post

At the start of the year, I put all of the books I wanted to read in 2016 in a pile (see photo at right), and that pile has remained there since. I also set a Goodreads Reading Challenge of 17 books, one up from last year. The 16 books in the pile plus the one I was reading at the time (Jenny Lawson's Furiously Happy) equaled the 17 books I would aim to read that year, deviations permitted of course. So far I've read four books from the pile: MaddAddam, Tales of the City, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, and Prisoners of Geography. I'm also allowing myself to count The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay as a pile book since the Chabon (and the Murakami, Rakoff, and Vonnegut for that matter) were really just placeholders for any book by those authors. Add to that The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (long on my to-read list when I saw it on a friend's coffee table a few months ago) and The Buried Giant (impulse purchase at BookCourt) and those are the eight books I've read this year, which is quite a bit shy of the goal. If I can read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (book club read) very quickly (it's going well so far), I'll have four months to read eight books, which I suppose is possible if I choose wisely (thinly).

Stats so far:

  • Slightly more male than female (5/3), and only getting maler with Ransom Riggs.
  • Authors' ages cover a 40-year range from the 42-year-old Lawson to the recently departed Oliver Sacks, who would be 83 years old. The oldest living author is, as usual, Margaret Atwood (76). The spread is pretty even with the largest break being between Ishiguro (61) and Maupin (72).
  • Even split between American (4) and foreign authors (3 Brits and 1 Canadian).
  • There is also an even split between books published last year (Prisoners, Happy, LaFayette, Giant) and books published before that (MaddAddam in 2013, Kavalier & Clay in 2000, Wife for a Hat in 1985, and Tales in 1978). I haven't read any books published this year, and if I continue drawing from the pile, I won't. 
  • Another even split between fiction and non-fiction. The novels go from the time of legend (King Arthur) to the distressingly near future (according to Atwood), with stops in WWII and the seventies, and focus on San Francisco, New York, and Great Britain (Atwood goes all over North America). The non-fiction cover medicine, geopolitics, the American Revolution, and mental illness, with a generous dusting of humor in the last two.
  • As to their provenance, three were gifts: Happy, Prisoners, and LaFayette. MaddAddam and Giant were relatively recent bookstore finds (Community and BookCourt) and I picked Kavaier & Clay up at a Housing Works. Tales was given to me by a friend thinning out her collection as she prepared for a move, and as I already mentioned, the Oliver Sacks was swiped from another friend's living room.
Likely candidates for the rest of 2016: Invisible Cities (look how thin it is!), something by David Rakoff, Between You & Me, and Cat's Cradle, unless another skinny Vonnegut crosses my path. I already picked up and put down The Skeleton Crew and Trigger Warning, but they may deserve another shot. I may also read The Cursed Child if a copy of it lands in my hands.