Academic Musings

God, I’m so excited about my work right now

Haven’t experienced such an outpouring of productivity, creativity and motivation in my scholarship since I completed my dissertation over a year ago.

There’s this intuition and confluence of ideas, clarity and intellectual energy that’s just pouring forth.  And the best part: it’s not driven by the kind of egoic, recognition-seeking, status-obsessed mania that is so characteristic of the tragic reality of human existence in general, not to speak of the tragic reality of academia.  There’s just this clear, calm, confident flow going on that is unencumbered by the doubts, confusion, anxiety and stress that crushed me during graduate school.

Long days, long nights.

And it feels so good . . .

Art and Culture


Richard Gere Could Get It.

This was the first thought that popped into my mind the second Richard Gere appeared on screen in the new, fantastic film “Arbitrage”.  Yes, 63 year old, salt and pepper, timelessly elegant, sexy,  $5,000-suit-wearing, charismatic, Buddhist Richard Gere could get it.  In a heart beat.  Several times a day.  But, I digress.

Arbitrage, the debut film of 25-year old writer and director Nicholas Jarecki, is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and one of the most compelling dramatic explorations of the moral underbelly of Wall Street I’ve ever seen.  In fact, it was so good that I plan to see it again.  The writing is brilliant, the acting  masterful.   Everyone is saying it: Gere hasn’t been this good in . . . ever?

 The film has so many things in its favor: an excellent cast, gorgeous shots of New York, what appears to be very good sex, a hell of a lot of money and a story that effortlessly weaves itself between contrasting worlds — from the  Upper East Side to the contemporary arts scene to the streets of Harlem.  Gere is fantastic, but Tim Roth and Nate Parker also deliver very strong performances.  I won’t say much more, except that, being both Francophone and Francophile, I was particularly delighted with the way French makes its appearance in the film . . . and the surprising racial subplot that comes to play a central role in the narrative was intruiging and well executed.  I did not expect to hear the word “Nigga” in this movie, let alone four times, but its use was perfectly timed, incredibly honest and made many of us in the normally reserved audience of the indie theater where we viewed it hoot and hollar.  The tension and the suspense were so thoughtfully managed throughout the movie that I was literally on the edge of my seat.

When my friend asked me to see the film, I had never heard of it.  And I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much.  The trailer gives away too much of the plot, so look at your own risk.  The element of surprise makes the arc of the story that much more fulfilling.

And yes, Lord, let the record reflect, with no ambiguity, that Richard Gere could get it.

As Madena would say: Hallelujerr.

Life Musings

What Not to Spend Money On

One of the very nice things about the spiritual “path” is getting over yourself and losing your egoic pride.  I was joking with a friend a few months ago about my new-found love for bargain shopping for fashionable threads.  “I could have my pride,” I said, “but I’d have no clothes . . .”  The point was that back in the day when I was too arrogant (and ignorant) to go to thrift stores, my wardrobe suffered tremendously.  As a struggling student, I couldn’t afford very many beautiful clothes, so I was limited to getting a few nice pieces a year. Now I have the most extensive and gorgeous wardrobe I’ve ever had – not only because I’m now gainfully employed – but also because I can get a few nice pieces every day for less the cost of a Starbucks latte.

Anyway, after I got into thrift shopping for clothes, I started to branch out and figure out how I could save money on other things, too.  I haven’t turned into an extreme coupon shopper or taken it to the lengths that real bargain hunters have, but I have undoubtedly started saving thousands of dollars a year by making some simple changes to what I am willing to spend money on.

In addition to regular jaunts to Kmart, the most important addition to my arsenal of thriftiness has been Dollar General.  Before this spring, I had not been in a Dollar Store in my entire adult life.  At the urging of a friend, I finally checked one out.  Like a child in a candy store, my eyes widened with delight as I perused aisle upon aisle of mostly brand-name products that were all – you guessed it – ONE DOLLAR.  I was amazed.  I was bitter for the money wasted in CVS, RiteAid and the grocery store on items I could get for 1/3 or 1/4 of the price at Dollar General.

So, here are a list of items I was amazed to find myself buying at the Dollar Store, Kmart, Target  or thrift shops, with no downgrade in my happiness or lifestyle:

1. Household cleaning supplies.  From laundry detergent to toilet bowl cleaner, really – who needs to spend $5-$7 on this stuff?

2. Toothpaste.  I use the same Aquafresh I did before, but I refuse to pay more than $1.

3. Hot sauce.  Friends know I’m a hot sauce aficionado.  But the generic hot sauce at the dollar store gets the job done just fine.

4. Curtains.  I find curtains (and rods) for $1-$3 at my thrift shop.  And they’re pretty!  I’ve also found really cheap ($3!) gorgeous curtains at Target.

5. Furniture.  99% of my furniture came from thrift shops – especially St. Vincent de Paul’s.  In the past, I always got new furniture – and lived to regret it when I would have to sell the pieces a few years later for 1/2 or 1/3 of what I paid.  I love my thrifted furniture more than anything I ever got at a retail furntiure shop.  Not only are the pieces beautiful and distinctive, but they also cost very, very little.  If I move any time soon, I’d probably just donate the items to charity.

6. Electronics.  I got my big pretty flat screen HD TV at a rock bottom price from Best Buy.  It’s not a brand name – but who cares?  Paired with Apple TV ($99), it’s a gorgeous entertainment and educational portal.

7. Kitchen and serving items.  These include: trays, cloth napkins, mats, etc.  In the past, I would go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and drop $10 for cloth napkins.  What a racket.  At Selden Thrift out east on Long Island, I found gorgeous napkins and mats sold for about 50 cents each.  I love lining my Pier 1 bamboo trays ($4 each) with pretty mats for eating or serving tea.  And the cloth napkins add another touch of at-home luxury that I greatly enjoy.

8. Glassware.  I get champagne flutes (and any other kind of glass) for $1 from my thrift shops.  Great for adding pizazz to dinner parties without the cost – and hey, if someone breaks a few, who cares?  At these prices, they’re basically disposable.

9. Plastic containers, sandwich bags.  Sold in surprising quantities for a $1 at Dollar General.  I wouldn’t use the containers in the microwave, however..

10. Candy.  If you have children – or a sweet tooth – you can get all of your favorite brand name candies (and off brands that taste just as good) for $1.  Also a good alternative to the $4  fare at the movie theater.

What about you?  What items do you like saving money on?