What Cooking Teaches Me about Management

Over the past five years or so, I've really devoted much of my free time to teaching myself to cook. I'm no chef by any stretch of the imagination and I live in the shadow of my mother, who's like a gourmet in her own right, but I do all right and I'm committed to getting better at it.

Tonight I'm cooking flank stank marinated in red wine vinegar, soy sauce, shallots, garlic, and thyme, for example.

But I realized, having just come from a board meeting at work, that cooking has done a lot to inform the way I look at running a business.

1. You have to have a plan before you start, especially when trying something you've never done before.
Amateur cooks really have to use recipes religiously when learning to cook because they provide structure to the endeavor, but they also train cooks how to think about a dish as a whole. Recipes encourage sequencing, which is akin to strategy—understanding how step a leads to step b and so forth. I've said about 80 times this month that it's easier to chart a course than it is to turn the Titanic.

2. You have to know what you need before you start.
A mistake I sometimes make is not reading the ingredient list thoroughly enough, or not preparing something to be chopped or whathaveyou before it gets into the pot. It's a good reminder to myself to understand what resources will be required to accomplish a task in my organization, to think critically about what we have on hand, what we'll need to go out and get, and what needs to be transformed before it can be used.

3. The ability to improvise is an art in and of itself.
Although having a plan is critical to starting, things don't always go as planned. Anyone who's ever managed an event can assure you of that. And true for cooking, too. If your eggs are expired or your greens wilt unexpectedly, knowing what you can substitute without a loss of flavor, quality, or color is important. A friend of mine who also loves to cook was telling me about a show he watches where the host teaches you the science of cooking, explaining, for example, how mayonnaise exists in an emulsion without separating. It's through lessons like that, by understanding how ingredients work together, that cooks can make smart choices.

4. Patience is more than a virtue, it's required.
Once you've put all your effort into the dish, sometimes you just have to let it simmer before you can dive in. Baking works this way and it's often just a leap of faith from raw dough to finished pastry. To paraphrase an adage, watching the pot won't make it boil. It'll probably just get nervous or uncomfortable.

5. Multiple levels of evaluation are essential to revising formulas.
When tasting a new dish, you think about its color, its aroma, its flavor, its texture, even how well the dish goes with different side dishes or beverages. Thinking critically about each factor discretely and collectively provides the cook with essential insight into what works in the recipe and what needs to be addressed. A program or organization is no different.


He Ain't Mister Right

Last night I got to tag along with Reb to the George Michael concert in DC. In the process, I met and confirmed the existence of both Tender Buttons and Tender Vittles, which was very exciting for me. They are both indeed tender, although Buttons has a bit of an edge to her that I appreciated. She's obviously the dominant sister, although they'd both argue that they're the smarter sister.

After spending some time marooned by poor customer service in the bar at a Greek tapas restaurant, we got to the arena and immediately bought cocktails and merch. I was very unhappy to discover that the only shirt I wanted to buy, a gray one that simply said, "Wham!" across the front, was for kids! Hello! Lame.

Once the show started I realized a few things:

1. George Michael probably isn't Mr. Right, but knowing that is half the battle.
2. George Michael should probably be classified in the "petite" category of gentlemen.
3. George Michael has three dance moves, all of which feature prominently his pelvis, but they work, so I suppose that's all he needs.

The performance was great. The show was upbeat and featured All the Songs You Know By Heart, including a generous helping of his Wham! hits and his early solo stuff, which, we all know, is the best. And, granted, the concert did seem to celebrate his twenty-five years in the music industry, and he seemed both touched and excited to be doing the show.

Tender Buttons and Reb were really adamant in including GM on the Divas List, and I had to agree with them. (TB put him right before Patti LaBelle, so you knew she was serious.) Although the tickets claimed the show would begin at "8 pm prompt" with no opening act, Mr. Michael kept us waiting for at least 30 minutes while he finished putting on his face or whathaveyou. He held the microphone toward the audience nearly as often as he held it to his own lips, seemingly to let us bathe him in our fevered shouts and impassioned wails.

My favorite moment: after concluding his final song, "Freedom" (which he only sang after making us shout the title three times—D-I-V-A), GM pulled his now-signature shades from his face and, in a camera close-up that rivaled William Hurt in Broadcast News, appeared overcome by emotion, about to break into tears of joy, but at the last minute held it in and instead lifted up his head with a bright smile and a jaunty over-the-head wave before dashing off stage, leaving his backup sings to "bring us home," as it were.

Reb and I totally danced our behinds off during the show, and we also had soft serve. George Michael + ice cream. *sigh* That's the life.


I love Trader Joe's!

Because I just called them and said, "Would you sponsor this event with some free food?"

And they said, "Yes."

No hesitation.

That's love.



The Bravery and Linkin Park with Chris Cornell and a bunch of other people I didn't sit through.

It's concert week here at kinemapoetics! Last night I tagged along with a friend to the Linkin Park show at Nissan Pavilion. The show was in Virginia; since I live in Maryland, I dressed for our weather, which, when I left, was cool and rainy.

In Virginia, things were a hot swampy mess. It was sunny, so humid it was turning hazy, and there I was, sitting out by my friend's boss's pool in my jeans and brown t-shirt. Fortunately, having to wear pants to work during the Arizona summers helped me balance it out, but I admit it was still a little uncomfortable. And I honestly thought the humid night air would make me feel cold, and I dressed with an eye to that.

Beyond my fashion foibles, the show was good. We caught most of The Bravery set (but I had to eat first or I would have passed out). Their live show is fairly straight forward, simply playing their songs. They have a good energy, but I wasn't wowed. I do love their music, though; The Sun and the Moon is a fantastic album (both versions, and also impressive because they recorded two versions).

With the sun finally going down (very slowly), my friend and I tried to stay cool and cut down on our sweating by slowly walking back and forth behind the pavilion. When a breeze whipped up (or "the breath of God" as my friend called it), it did feel good, but mostly it was a futile endeavor, trying to stop sweating. We just got swampier and swampier.

In good news, this meant there were many shirtless tattooed men to ogle.

Linkin Park closed the night. I like their music, although I haven't been a super huge fan in the past. I was sort of surprised to see their audience could have passed for a Promise Keepers convention, there were so many white men in their late twenties and early thirties there. And when the music started, they all, in union, began to spaz. There's no better way to say this. They didn't "dance," although their girlfriends did; they shook their fists, or waved the palm of their hand over their head to the beat, or jumped around, or hit each other. It was like watching them be washed down by a hose spraying musical testosterone.

Linkin Park works their butt off during their show. The lead vocalist, I'm sure, is going to be voiceless in about five years. He really puts everything into his performance; you can see his neck straining to shriek those notes. Amazingly, he has near perfect pitch even then. I like the group overall, the way they blend all the different music styles into something a little different.

Next: we see how the other half lives (and attends concerts) when I join 15,000 gays and Reb Livingston at George Michael!


Snippets of New


Beginning with Questions

I've written about 10,000 times on this blog that I always know when it's time to write again because I start asking questions about what a poem is and what it's supposed to do.

(It's happening to me again.)

It makes me a fussy reader, first. I'll try to read some things, but I'll become easily frustrated if it seems like something I've encountered before, if the poem isn't challenging or surprising me or if the voice is uninteresting.

Lately, I've been frustrated work that appears too autobiographical--in the sense that the poet seems to be recounting unmediated experiences from his or her real life.

Which is fine. I'm not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't write, or hot to do it or not. It's not my business. I'm just not interesting in doing that myself anymore. I want to do something else, somehow else.

I started doing a little research on something yesterday and it gave me goosebumps, made the hair on my arms stand up, so I'm going to move toward it, immerse myself in it, and see where it goes.

It's tangential to the voice projects I have been working on, which seemed limited only to Dorothy Gale and Dorothy Eady, but that was fine, that was enough.

I'm like Madonna that way. I want complete reinvention every two years.


Musical Purchases that Sum Up My Complex Nature

Last week I bought two albums:


Adele's album, her debut, is stylistically lumped in with the British Neo-soul movement (Amy Winehouse, Duffy, some Lily Allen, etc) but is distinct from her peers in several ways. While Allen's singing comes with a sneer, Winehouse's with the threat of self-destruction, and Duffy's with vague sense of camp, Adele is pure heartbreak. Her voice, both husky and reed-thin, frequently perches itself on the edge of cracking or rasping itself out as she sings about being given the cold shoulder by a potential lover or finally understanding that the boy she likes is never going to like her no matter what she tells herself. Her singing is as gorgeous when hushed as it is when she soars into her upper register.

You'll remember Blake Lewis as the ADD-ridden spaz who came runner-up to Arizona's own Jordin Sparks last year on American Idol. Or you'll remember him as the beat-box guy, one of the two. Anyway, even though I think Blake is very dreamy (which can sometimes be criteria enough for me to purchase an album, Duncan Sheik), I was holding out on participating in his music career. But then I put this remix of "How Many Words" on my workout mix and really liked it, then decided to bite the bullet and get the whole album. Although his producers are trying really hard to forge him in the Timberlake mold, Blake's album is really fun. He ends up coming off like the guy trying to be like the coolest kid in school and ending up being, at minimum, entertaining to those who watch. The beats are neat, his singing is pretty good, and while the lyrics are often, you know, unsurprising, they do rhyme.

That is your pop music update for the week of July 23.


The Return of Laurie Notaro

Last night I trekked into DC to catch the Laurie Notaro reading event at what turned out to be the most cleverly hidden Borders store in the world. I first encountered Laurie's work when my old roommate Julia plastered magnets of Laurie's book covers all over our fridge and then proceeded to read passage after passage from Autobiography of a Fat Bride, each prefaced with, "Oh my God, you have to hear this!" followed by raucous laughter before her interpretive reading would begin.

Laurie came to the ASU Writers Conference one year and read with Peter Pereira and Tony Hoagland. This may or may not have been the same day she and another writer I won't name nearly came to blows on the "Humor in Literature" panel, when he referred to her as "the pottymouth" during the session.

Laurie's reading are equal part readings and stand-up, which is an accurate approximation of her work. What tends to irritate literary types about Laurie's work is precisely what I find so endearing about it (and her): she's more likely to use a vivid metaphor or turn of phrase in the interest of causing a chuckle than to, you know, sum up what it means to be human.

But for many of us—the people who trip on sidewalks (as I did after the reading) or who laugh awkwardly (but geniunely) in public or who have ever returned home from work to discover the "barn door" is open without being able to theorize exactly how long it had been the case—that is what it means to be human. You either laugh or are laughed at.

And those who are laughed at quickly learn to orchestrate the laughter, to control it, and take away some of the sting.

I picked up Laurie's first book and her most recent last night, and I think I may have gotten her another reader in the guise of my friend visiting from out of town, who, in exchange for my likelihood of getting a cocktail afterward, accompanied me to the reading.

Highlight of the event: an audience member asking Laurie what exactly it meant to "play beard" for someone.


I'm Getting Younger Every Day

I'm pleased to say that my Wii Fit Age is finally below my actual age, and that I am no longer considered "overweight" by this cruel little piece of gaming fun.

The Wii Fit Age is calcuated based on your actual age, a height/weight BMI analysis, and your ability to survive a barrage of balance and agility tests thrown at you by the bopping, Prozacked Wii Fit cartoon character (who both encourages you to work harder and chides you for not visiting him enough, just like your mother would).

Before arriving in DC, my Wii Fit Age was consistently 35-45. I suppose I can now tell people I have the body of a 25-year-old, but without implying that it's buried in my backyard.

Aside from the poor method of BMI calculation, the Wii Fit is a fun tool for exercising at home. I like the balance games a lot and the fact that it keeps a tally of how many minutes you've worked out. And the running game in the aerobics menu kicked my butt--YOU try running in place for five minutes! It's exhausting.


Poetry's Mythology

Every morning I begin the day with a book of poems open at the breakfast table. I read a poem, perhaps two. I think about the poetry. I often make notes in my journal. The reading of the poem informs my day, adds brightness to my step, creates shades of feeling that formerly had been unavailable to me. In many cases, I remember lines, whole passages, that float in my head all day — snatches of song, as it were. I firmly believe my life would be infinitely poorer without poetry, its music, its deep wisdom.

(More when you follow the link.

I didn't know where to start in responding to this. It's been a long time since I've read an essay about poetry so flagrantly couched in privilege while wearing such privilege on its sleeve, as if it belonged there.

Mr. Parini cultivates a portrait of himself as, one might say, someone unfettered by the overall demands of what it means to be a poet who, you know, works. Who has a family, a house, a life, who does the dishes and has to walk the dog and such. Who might not have time to eat a square breakfast before running to the train to get to a job where there are few moments of pause, if any. And who then arrives back home near or after dark, hungry, beleaguered, thinking of poetry only as a last resort and, even then, reluctantly.

And too, I think there's masturbatory aspect of criticism here wherein poetry begets poetry. That one must lead a life steeped in verse in order to produce it. (I half-agree.) I just don't understand why poetry consider poetry outside of other forms of literature, or music, or art. Why can't we replace "poetry" here with "rock music"? Or, that my fervent television viewing habits, involving Lost, reality shows, and Buffy can't be considered foundational materials for a quirky little chapbook like The Strange Case of Maribel Dixon?

I suppose I'm saying my fear is that living along the lines outlined in Parini's essay would lead many poets down familiar paths toward familiar poems and poetics, in a way that risks little and cashes in frequently.

But isn't it more fun to sit quietly in the dark, wondering what else is in the room with you--and more importantly, which of you will strike first?


Cheryl's Gone, but Reb's Still Here.

Last night I trekked on down to the Cheryl's Gone Reading Series at the Big Bear Cafe. Reb was reading with Adam Robinson and Kyle Dargan. Having corresponded a bit with the latter, I was looking forward to meeting him and hanging out with Reb, even though the trip required me to transfer to a different Metro line and put me into a part of the city I didn't know.

The good news is, I survived! I didn't even get lost, although I did panic a little bit. Reb was kind enough to talk me through it.

Cheryl's Gone is a monthly reading series of local and visiting poets. I'm excited about this for two reasons:

1. It implies that there are enough local poets for more than one event!
2. It implies that poets travel through town on a regular basis!

This is one way in which DC is different than Phoenix.

Adam Robinson read a series of "biographical" poems. The one I liked best was about Kierkegaard. Kyle started off with a great Terrence Hayes poem and then launched into work from his new book, which I liked. He's also a good reader.

There was a brief musical interlude by a man who inspired guitar envy in me, and then Reb read from Your Ten Favorite Words, which I thought was very gothic, and her new manuscript, which I thought was a unique collision of mythology and late 19th/early 20th Century melodrama traditions.

I met a couple very nice people at the reading, too, furthering my theory that everyone who lives here is nice and wants to be friends.

There's some visual evidence up over at Reb's blog!


I Don't Know How to Love Him. Or, Why.

I've been enjoying the new season of Shear Genius, even if it is sort of the least enjoyable of the Project Runway-Top Chef-Shear Genius triumvirate of reality shows. At first, I watched because Beau does hair and it was fun to watch it with him (and listen to him groan), but now I'm watching because, I'm a little shy to admit, I have a weird, wacky crush on...Charlie.

Charlie is loud, annoying, arrogant, slightly ridiculous, a little bitchy and confrontational, and he wears tight clothes. He can be funny and probably charming when he tries, and he has red hair. All of these things are weird things for me to be attracted to.

I do like his choice of glasses, though. And that I'm not embarrassed to admit.

Charlie is also pretty talented despite all his drama. And, when he was saddled with the crying client on tonight's episode, he was really kind to her.

And I kind of like that he's a little wicked.

And I kind of like his red hair. Er, beard.


"Don't Watch This"

In the words of Aimée Baker's recurring blog feature, Don't watch this.

The Underneath
dir. Steven Soderberg, 1995

Although I love most Soderberg films, this one just never captured me. It begins with a spliced-up narrative jumping quickly between the end of the film and the beginning of the film, but nothing is really happening in either instance, so you can't feel like Soderberg's giving you any compelling reasons to stay on board.

Peter Gallagher's eyebrows get star billing in this film, with his lips providing some unique supporting performances. Elisabeth Shue, Paul Dooley, and Joe Don Baker seem to do everything they can think of to tame the wild eyebrows, but to no avail. They just aren't as interesting.

The dialogue is quiet, stilted. The performances are, by and large, wooden. You can see Soderberg playing with the ideas that will later come to fruition in the classics Traffic (color-saturated film stock) and Out of Sight (jump cuts, sensual cinematography, and appropriation of the noir tradition), but here, nothing comes together cohesively to make the film consistent or enjoyable.

Let's just say I wasn't encouraged to look too far "underneath" the surface of this film, which is a purported remake of the noir classic "Criss Cross." Soderberg is lightyears better when doing his own stuff.



This is the longest my guitar and I have been separated from each other since we came into each other's lives in 2002. And typing that, I just realized I've had it for six years now, that I've been playing (and teaching myself) for that long.

It was a tough decision to put it in the moving van. I probably questioned that more than any other moving choice I made. Truth was, it could have fit into the Scion...but at the expense of my back window. And, it turned out, that was pretty handy to have on the drive.

Under normal conditions, I play my guitar every day. Typically I pick it up when I get home from work for at least 15 minutes of goofing around. I tend to play the same songs over and over until I feel like I get them down pretty good, and then I start trying to learn new songs. Right before I left, my typical set list was:

"Alone," Heart
"Goodbye to You," Michelle Branch
"Potential Breakup Song," Aly and AJ
"Gimme More," Britney Spears (Yeah, I finally got that F#m fingering down!)
"Umbrella," Marié Digby

And sometimes I'd add my version of "Genie in a Bottle" too.

I found out my movers are finally getting here at the end of the week--thank goodness--so my guitar and I will finally be reunited. I'm glad I have a corner unit in my apartment building, where at least one of my rooms doesn't share a wall with another tenant. Let me rephrase that: THEY will probably be very glad!


Not Sleeping

Anyone who's known me for a time soon learns that above and beyond anything else, I am a creature of my routine.

My body wakes up at the same time every and gets tired at roughly the same time. I eat meals like clockwork. In fact, I rarely look at a clock because I have a killer sense of what time it is at any given moment.

But moving was a big disruption in my routine. Add to that the 3-hour time change and my body doesn't know what we're doing anymore. I wake up at 3 am, 6 am, 7 am, 8 am; I get sleepy at 2:30 pm and 6 pml; I'm hungry always or never, missing meals or eating constantly, and I haven't been to the gym since I left the PHX. (The gym is sort of the anchor of my routine, in all honesty.)

So now I'm awake until midnight. I haven't seen midnight on a school night in a long time.

Is there something about a relationship that pulls people to sleep more regularly? Perhaps the absence of my companion is also partly to blame.


Go Here Now

Although it's not a part of my day-to-day life anymore, Hayden's Ferry Review will always have a place in my heart. The new managing editor, Beth Staples, has put together a lively new blog site, complete with a unique podcast series to enrich everyone's experience with the journal.

You'll remember the latest issue was a themed exploration of "The Grotesque," and the first podcast features two of the "grotesque" artists discussion their relationship to it. Great stuff!

Go here now.


Before the Devil Knows You've Moved

Well, I've arrived, moved in, gone to work at least once now. I guess it's all really happening.

Aside from work, which is great, I'm excited for the following reasons:

1. My apartment is only a few blocks from an AFI movie theatre that plays classic movies all the time. This summer they're doing Spielberg and Polanski retrospectives as well as a big 80s movie celebration. I think I will be there every night.

2. I can take mass transportation to work if I want. I live and work just a few blocks from the Metro station on both ends, and the ride is about 30 minutes—perfect for reading a book! Except right now it's so humid here that all I want to do is sit inside in my air conditioning. Last weekend at IKEA, my boyfriend and I were standing outside, feeling cold, but constantly sweating.

3. If I want to drive (my fuel-efficient car that got almost 38 miles to the gallon on the drive here), it's just one non-freeway street between my home and office.

4. I live a block from a grocery store! I like to eat. Also in close proximity: H&M, Chipotle, LA Fitness.

5. And now I have internet at home. Ta da!


Being East

The clock on my dashboard says 10:45, but my head says it's 7:45.

Current location: somewhere northeast of Dayton, OH.

Current miles driven: 1787.9

Current state of being: Surprisingly refreshed

Most reassurring news received today: It was 114 in Phoenix again today

The Night

One of the downsides of driving at night is that it's incredibly boring. Especially this part of Texas.

Miles down: 801
Miles to go today: 176
Miles to DC: 1324 (roughly)

And yes, I am blogging from the passenger seat of my moving car. Welcome to the future; the future is now!