September 2007

This is not a desert island list; although, there are some overlaps. The desert island mix would get Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Bright Eyes and the Gershwins, to name a handful. Instead, this is an attempt to tell my life story in 10 songs. It was hard cutting Victoria Williams’ “Love,” Public Enemy’s “He Got Game,” any Kings of Leon or Van Morrison’s “Enlightenment” from the list, but the real life turning points and the magic number 10 imposed some limits. Here we go.

1976 / Age 6
When I thought no one was watching, I loved dancing around the living room. I’d take up every inch of the floor—jumping and plunging and skipping. If I caught a glimpse of one of my parents watching from the corner of my eye, I’d immediately clam up. Luckily, they let me think I had the place to myself. It wasn’t just any music that did it for me—I had favorite songs. I couldn’t stay away from the record player.

At some point, Mom and Dad gave my brother and me an album called, “Disco Party.” Oddly enough, it featured, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive.

“She looked at me with them big brown eyes, and said, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Bu-bu-bay-bee you just ain’t seen nu-nu-nuthin’ yet.’” So not a disco song.


But boy was it danceable. And it gave me Brown-Eyed-Girl-Pride when all of my Barbie dolls flashed pearly blues.

Those were happy times, lip-syncing & flailing around. (more…)


i haven’t been around in a while. life’s been throwing me curve balls left and right. i’ve been dodging, ducking, sleeping, staying out of sight. trying to recover. it was the start of my New Year, a Shmita year…this is supposed to be a year of rest and restoration for both the land and its people. i ask today…is it? these are trying times, and the more and more that I think I’m wise with my age, independent, self-aware, I am made forcibly aware of the reality of being a woman. What that means really. the inherent risk that simply ‘is’ due to my sex.

Last month, I was made sexually uncomfortable by a doctor, both with his actions and his words. Because he was in a position of both power and knowledge, he was able to make me a victim in a situation in which my words would be questioned because I’m ‘hormonal and somewhat unstable’ due to disease and medication. This brought to the forefront for me how easy it is to be either a victim or your own best advocate. Often times, almost my entire life, I have chosen the fight…advocacy. I am passionate and loud about both my own right to be both safe and a sexual being in this world, despite the fact that I am ‘the weaker sex’, and our collective right to the same things. Safety. Freedom. Sexuality without consequence. It is just, it is right, it is what we deserve…but it is not the world in which we live. (more…)

The moon is full which means we are now two weeks into the Holy Month of Ramadan.  

During Ramadan while the sun is up, Muslims aren’t allowed to drink, eat, smoke, listen to music, engage in sexual intercourse or think impure thoughts for a whole month.  After the sun goes down, I know that eating and drinking non alcoholic beverages is allowed, and I think people can make love, but I can’t guarantee that.  Also, I have seen people listening to music and smoking in public after dark.  Actually, impure thoughts are probably never condoned.  

Part of the point of denying the flesh in the heat of the sun is to think about those less fortunate than ourselves that are poor or sick.  This, to me, is a really laudable aim.  Along with the requirements I described, people are also supposed to give to the poor.  This is a time when employees may get a bonus and donations of food to Mosques increase.  Also, for Eid Al Fitar, the festival at the end of Ramadan, people buy and slaughter goats and give some of the meat to poor families.  It is also expected that people try to be kind and patient with one another which is difficult when they feel hungry and thirsty.  Muslims are also required to read the entire Qur’an during Ramadan.  I saw a guard walking back and forth across the gate he was in charge of while reading the Qu’ran as a way of not thinking about hunger.  Finally, visiting family members and friends that you don’t always see is encouraged.


my life in 10 songs…

1) Neil Diamond – “Porcupine Pie” When we were kids my brothers and i would take our poor dog, Lady, pretend to cook her in my play oven and act out this song for my parents. It’s one of those happy sibling memories in what seems like an ocean of not so happy sibling memories.

2) Duran Duran – “Hungry Like the Wolf” I was in jr. high when this song came out and it was a big deal. If I was ever gonna skip school the day this song was released would have been the day. My best friend and I ran home from school hoping to hear this song as early as possible.

3) Wham! – “Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)” My last year in jr. high and my first concert at the Bronco Bowl in Dallas, TX.

4) Bruce Springsteen “I’m On Fire” I was a freshman in high school when this song came out and I loved it and felt a little dirty for listening, too.

5 & 6) Depeche Mode “Lie to Me” & “Somebody” I listened to this over and over, also my freshman year of high school. My first boyfriend had broken up with me – and I was certain he was my true love (aren’t we dumb at 15.)


As I thought about what I’d put on my mixed tape, I realized that the songs on my list are attached to phases rather than events. And from there clear as day popped the attitudes and beliefs of each phase, rather than other details, like who, what, where, why.

These songs aren’t necessarily my must-haves should I, say, become stranded on a desert island with my iPod playlists intact. They simply reflect the music I was/am drawn to at the time.

1. The Smiths — There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
2. Replacements — Answering Machine
3. Kate Bush — Hounds of Love

Always dissatisfied with the here and now. Dream and scheme about the future. Too young to be concerned with the past. So serious about everything. Torn between being “good” and being good at rebelling. Hamstrung by shyness. Going where others lead. Mistakes are the end of the world. Drama, drama, drama. Long drawn out sighs. The glass isn’t empty, but I can’t figure out why no one is stepping in to top it up. (more…)

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away” – Hilary Cooper

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana – Grunge to me was the most wonderful music genre ever. I wanted to move to Seattle and hang out drinking coffee listening to Sub Pop bands all day. To this day I still know every word of the movie Singles – I’m not sure that’s something to be proud of. Despite being seriously overplayed Smells Like Teen Spirit has never lost any of its full throttle power – even at 34 it makes me want to jump up and down on my couch and rock out. 16 years (eek!) later I still want to be one of the hot Anarchy cheerleaders in that video. It also reminds me of where I was the day I heard Kurt Cobain had killed himself – in a bar called the Rising Sun, a bar my grandfather used to frequent when he worked at Reading Railway Station, that’s since been turned into a weird bar with a rhino’s head coming out of the wall.


* For those who don’t know it, the Desert Island Disc is a cult programme on BBC radio 4, where celebrities reveal their top 10 songs and life experiences combined with those songs. The story goes that a lot of wannabes carry their top 10 lists around, just in case they’ll be asked to appear on the programme.

1. Joan Baez – The Crimes of Cain

The year was 1980, Polish population was caught in the middle of the marshal law, following the workers’ strike in the Gdansk shipyard. The country was on the edge of the civil war, but life goes on… My mother would come home with a glint of triumph in her eyes because, after two days of queuing, she managed to buy an autumn/winter pair of shoes. (It was one of the two pairs assigned per person per year. The other pair was officially related to as a “spring/summer” pair). Standing in lines required a certain art, and certain code of behaviour. Usually, you turned up in a line once a day, to tick your name off on a social list. You could bring a replacement for a couple of days/hours, or you could even rent a professional queue stander.

A cousin of my neighbours, who lived in a village, gave them half of a pig. Since meat, as everything else, was rationed, they skinned it and turned into pork cutlets in the bathtub of their studio apartment, under the forgiving wings of the night. My dad got some chops in return for a litre of a potato moonshine (that was my uncle’s production). (more…)

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