Category Archives: culture


I originally posted this on social media, but several people kept asking to share my status. Because of my privacy settings, that required a lot of copy and pasting and was difficult for people not directly connected to me. So I’m just going to go ahead and toss this up here for sharing purposes. And for what it’s worth, here’s some receipts on me already saying #metoo over and over and over and over and over (major CW on some of those). People everywhere have stories like these! You just have to listen to them.

I am late to the #metoo party because I don’t know that I have the energy to say Me Too anymore. I’ve been saying Me Too for years now, and it’s emotionally exhausting. The main thing I get back from saying Me Too is more Me Toos from other women.

You know what I almost never get? Men saying anything at all. At some point, it stops feeling empowering to hear from so many other women about their shared experience. Instead of feeling less alone, I just feel like a repository of other women’s secrets, having nightmares about their experiences and feeling powerless to change anything.

Continue reading #MeToo

The Importance of Being Alix’s Friends: Film Class

Hello friends! So remember that time I went to a Hanson concert a month ago and then you never heard from me again? Well basically, a bridge went out on my way home and I was forced to live in the wilds of Connecticut, skinning squirrels with my teeth to survive. I only just made it back to DC alive! Or something like that happened. I’ll tell you the whole story later this weekend. But for now it’s time for another installment of The Importance of Being Alix’s Friends Family!

Last week, I received an email from a friend who was interested in seeing more films around Transgender topics. Knowing that I have never met a gender-switching plotline I haven’t loved, she contacted me. But sensing that she was perhaps looking for a little more high-brow content than I habitually watch, I forwarded her request to my father. Dad is a philosophy professor who, among other things, has a particular interest in both LGBTQ issues and film. Despite all his protests, he is probably as close to a subject matter expert in transgender film as lay people like me and you will ever find. In my request, I accused him of having a Netflix recommended viewing category calle“Obscure Transgender Art House Films from 1963-1978.” The following is his most excellent response, which I enjoyed so much that I decided to post it here. Get ready to queue up Netflix/place holds at your local academic library!

I’m afraid I won’t quite live up to Alix’s billing. For starters, I can’t name a single instance in the category of “Obscure Transgender Art House Films from 1963-1978.” That was the era of Myra Breckenridge (1970), starring Raquel Welch as Myron/Myra B., and Freebie and the Bean (1974), a James Caan/Alan Arkin police action movie which features a cross-dressing seductress in a secondary villain role (who James Caan blows away in a public restroom–doubtless to the cheers of mid-seventies audiences). These were both commercial Hollywood exploitation efforts, not art-house, and quite execrable films. I wouldn’t recommend either for actual viewing.

If it’s obscurity you want, I would recommend Glen or Glenda (1953), Ed Wood’s very first film, and absolutely, tragically, terrible–so much so that it’s good camp entertainment. (As in, if you thought Plan 9 from Outer Space [1959] was bad…) Glen or Glenda was conceived as an exploitation film motivated by the press frenzy over Christine Jorgensen’s sexual reassignment surgery. But the execution was something else again. It’s actually pretty interesting as a period piece about what passes for (Ed Wood’s own) socially “progressive” attitudes about gender back in the early Fifties. But as an art form, be forewarned: it is really, really bad. (It’s also featured in Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic, Ed Wood, which features Johnny Depp as the title character, and includes Martin Landau in the role of Bela Lugosi (of Dracula fame), who Wood persuades to play an absolutely ridiculous gratuitous part in this film at the end of his life. But I digress.)


Another obscure example, even more interesting as a period piece, is Sidney Drew’s silent era kind-of-sort-of transgender film, A Florida Enchantment (1914). It’s a cross-dressing romantic comedy of sorts, but unlike Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959), there is a “real” gender switch involved. (Again, of sorts.) It might be a little hard to find, but it is available now in DVD, in a collection with other silent films, and also on its own. Your public library might not have it, but a DC-area university might. Sidney Drew is a member of the Barrymore acting clan on the distaff side, incidentally. He would be Drew Barrymore’s great-great uncle, I believe.


I assume that what you’re really interested in though, would be more contemporary films (last two decades?) that are reasonably sympathetic to the transgender characters that they portray. Many of them you may have already seen, or you already know about, but here’s a reasonable list of readily accessible films that are generally pretty good, and some of them absolutely wonderful, in my opinion. I’m putting asterisks next to the ones that I think are most compelling…

The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)*
This film, one of the earliest commercial films featuring a trans character, as distinct from a cross-dressing character, gets some criticism in the gender studies academic world for being manipulative of audiences (which it is), and for portraying it’s transgender character negatively (which it doesn’t–readings to this effect are just ideologically obtuse, in my view). It’s interesting to think about the impact of this film on 1992 audiences who didn’t know what was coming (because, at Neil Jordan’s request, film critics played along; there is a lot going on in this marvelous film, so they had plenty of other stuff to write about anyway).

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliot, 1994)
Terence Stamp plays transgender character Bernadette,
 travelling with a couple of cross-dressing (but not transgendered) pals in a quixotically quirky road film.

Ma Vie En Rose (Alain Berliner, 1997)*
Belgian tragicomedy (upbeat ending) about a little boy who is determinedly transgendered in the face of a hostile world. It’s an absolutely priceless gem.

The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (Tod Williams, 1998)
Clark Gregg plays the title character’s transgendered father, Henrietta
, in this coming of age comedy.

The Brandon Teena Story (Susan Muska, Gréta Olafsdóttir, 1998)
Compelling documentary about Brandon Teena / Teena Brandon’s life history. Should be watched in conjunction with Boys Don’t Cry (below), but definitely after seeing the latter, so as to get the full dramatic impact. It’s interesting then to think about what gets included in the dramatization, and what gets left out–how the tale gets modified.

Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Pierce1999)*
A dramatization of Brandon Teena’s last few weeks of life. This is the film that made Hilary Swank famous. Didn’t hurt Chloe Sevigny’s career, either. It’s absolutely gripping, and will 
tear you apart. So if you haven’t seen it, you might want to think twice about watching. 

Better Than Chocolate (Anne Wheeler, 1999) 
A charming Canadian romantic comedy featuring Peter Outerbridge’s square-jawed big-boned Judy as a secondary transgender character who does a great musical number. (It’s not a musical, but there are some musical performances in it.) The central characters are a young lesbian couple, and the film takes place in a Vancouver BC counterculture gay neighborhood: what happens when oblivious straight mom and uninformed but open-minded younger brother come to town to stay.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)*
Very quirky (& wonderful) musical featuring Mitchell in the title role. There’s at least one academic article criticizing it, quite fairly, as using transgender identity as a metaphorical vehicle for a discourse on gay identity. (Mitchell is gay, not trans.) I personally 
don’t think that’s all that’s going on here, but the view is well argued.

Southern Comfort (Kate Davis, 2001)*
Very moving documentary about the last year in the life of Robert Eads, a trans man living in rural north Georgia with his trans woman partner, Lola Cola. He is dying, ironically and tragically, of ovarian cancer, after being turned down for treatment by various unsympathetic doctors because of his trans status. The title refers to the Southern Comfort trans conference held each fall in Atlanta, a pretty big deal in the trans world in our society (and quite fascinating; I’ve been once). Eads attends So-Con with his partner and friends for the last time during the film. The film will make you sad, but it is also very beautiful.

Normal (Jane Anderson, 2003 [made for TV: HBO])
Tom Wilkinson’s non-comic role as the awkwardly masculine Roy/Ruth Applewood going through transition in the rural heartland with his wife’s help (Jessica Lange). This film is a sympathetic effort, but a bit too earnestly didactic. 

Soldier’s Girl (Frank Pierson, 2003, [made for TV: Showtime])
Story of the tragic real-life romance between Calpernia Addams (played by male actor Lee Pace), a trans woman working as a professional showgirl when she first met Barry Winchell (played by Troy Garrity), an enlisted soldier residing at a not-to-distant military base. Calpernia Addams, who worked as an advisor for Soldier’s Girl, is a model of feminine beauty by western cultural standards. Lee Pace, a male actor, does an interesting and credible performance as Addams. (The real Addams appears as the fiddle player at Mary Ellen’s house party in Transamerica [below], if you’ve already seen that film. All the actors at the houseparty, with the exception of the “GG”, are actually transgender individuals, incidentally.)
 Be forewarned, though: like Boys Don’t Cry,Soldier’s Girl has a very grim ending that you might simply prefer to avoid.

Transamerica (Duncan Tucker, 2005)
Starring Felicity Huffman; quasi-comic road film. Huffman does a good job in her role as the very repressed MtF Bree Osborne on her way to California for reassignment surgery, although like Normal, it tends to be a little too didactic in its aim to reach mainstream audiences. 
But not quite as heavy-handed in the education department.

Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan, 2005)*
Patrick “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy) is the ambiguously-gendered central character in a wonderfully weird odyssey through life in 
this film. Kitten Braden is a liminal case, illustrating just how porous the boundary is between transgender and transvestite. Is Kitten a gay man engaged in expressing his feminine side, but ultimately self-identifying as male? Or does she think of herself as fundamentally female? The character’s performance is ambiguous on this point. For much of the film, Kitten goes back and forth between woman and nellie gay man. Her female presentation is sometimes performative drag—e.g., Braden’s Little White Dove act, early in the film, when she joins Billy Hatchett’s Mohawks for their cover of the J.P. Richardson/Johnny Preston 1960 hit, Running Bear. By the end of the film, however, she appears to be presenting exclusively as female. Dil, the trans character in Jordan’s earlier Crying Game(above) is, by way of contrast, much more unambiguously female. 

[Editors Note: This is my contribution to the list! It’s awesome and everyone should go watch. If you live in DC, I have a copy you can borrow.]

Boy I Am (Documentary; Sam Feder & Julie Hollar, 2006)*Absolutely wonderful documentary which explores the challenges experienced by twenty-something individuals Nicco Baretta, Norie Manigult, and Keegan O’Brien, as they struggle with the real-life economic, psychological, and socio-political issues associated with undertaking top-surgery to become, in their own eyes, more fully integrated trans men. There is also some discussion of the significance of hormone treatments (two on, one not, until an epilogue at the end). This one again may be available only at university libraries. Definitely worth watching.

Happy viewing, everybody!

Меня зовут Эмма

Unnecessarily fancy hallway
at the LoC

Hello friends! Have you missed my witty jokes and poignant writing over the past two months, when I seemingly fell off the face of the virtual earth? Of course you have! I promise I’ll be better now. As I mentioned before, I started a new job, and my commute got cut in half so now I am living under the (false) impression that I can go out socializing every night after work it’s difficult to adjust to a new schedule and workload! But I am too poor to continue this pattern finally beginning to become acclimated, so I should be back to my writing in no time!

Coincidentally, my dear friend Bright Contradiction also just started working at my new place of employment. Now we spend 8 hours a day together being thoroughly confused about our jobs, attempting to translate things in to French (mauvaise idée), and delighting over the triumph of opening two separate excel files in adjacent monitors (harder than than you think). We see each other allllll the time. So as I was preparing for Friday night via email yesterday, I was surprised to hear K say she already had plans with BC and BC’s boyfriend.

Me: What are you doing tonight with K?
BC: We’re going to this Russian thing. Want to come?
Me: Oh, I wasn’t angling for an invitation. I just kind of expect to know every detail of your life now, and was really surprised that you were hanging out with my roommate and I didn’t know about it.
BC: I know the feeling.

So I went on about my day, until lunch when BC mentioned the magical words “open bar.” And then I quickly decided that yes, I would like to angle for an invitation after all.

Following work, we hopped on the metro and met up with BCBF at the Library of Congress, which should have been my first indicator that I was not fancy enough for this affair. Actually, my first indicator should have been that the event was invitation only and I was to be spending the evening as Emma Templeton, a friend of BCBF’s who couldn’t make it. Then my next indicator should have been that it was held at the Library of Congress, and finally the collection of uniformed valet attendants waiting at the entrance should have been my last warning that I should turn around and go home. But I blazed ahead and picked my name badge at registration.

Totally my fake name from now on. It’s a great name.

Let me paint a picture for you. Yesterday was Friday. Casual Friday. I was wearing ballet flats and slightly-too-big jeans that spent the evening in a perpetual state of falling down, since I recently lost my only functional belt in the squalid pile of unwashed laundry covering my bedroom floor. On top, I had a lightly stained short-sleeved cardigan paired with a pink silk shirt featuring an assortment of holes. My hair was pulled into a messy french braid after not having washed it since Wednesday, when I got caught in a torrential downpour.

Everyone else… was wearing cocktail dresses and suits. Or in a couple instances, full on evening gowns and tuxedos. Even BC looked slightly underdressed, and she was sporting actual business wear as the invitation requested. I was literally the least appropriately attired person there. For someone that normally overdresses* for everything, this was extra embarrassing. K took the opportunity to make jokes at my expense, sneaking up behind me and saying things like, “Ma’am? The Library of Congress closed several hours ago for a private event. I can show you to the exit now.”

*No really. Earlier this month I ruined my favorite cocktail dress running to the train after a US Open match, where I’d worn it on the off chance that we might go out somewhere afterwards requiring a cocktail dress.

No matter. After clamping my new identity to my wrinkled shirt (Emma is so lazy with her clothes!), we went upstairs to some sort of gorgeous, columned atrium filled with fancy food and beverages. We loading up our plates and headed to the bar, which only served top-shelf booze. As I started in on my first glass of (really good) champagne, BC snagged a table for us.

Sometimes, you go to a really cool event, and you think “wow, this is awesome and classy!” and you have a fabulous night that you remember fondly for ages to come. And then sometimes, there is a turning point, from which everything happening subsequently is increasingly preposterous. And that night becomes not just a fond memory, but an epic story that you feel the need to share with everyone you know. Yesterday, that turning point came in the form of a septuagenerian Republican National Committee employee who decided to join us at our table.

RNC was… a character. Every conversation he started was carefully crafted to be as controversy-provoking as possible. “So how do you feel about Putin replacing Medvedev?” “You are all very clean cut. I like that. What do you think about TATTOOS?”  All the while, he kept staring at me with a level of intensity that did not make me strictly comfortable. BCBF said it best. “Every cocktail party needs a creepy old dude. And he found us!”

Finally, K arrived (someone had gotten the memo to go home and change first) and BC and I made our escape to refill our champagne glasses. The rest of dinner progressed in the same fashion, with BC, BCBF, K and I constantly rotating out for more food and champagne at any opportunity of freedom.


RNC: I HATE tattoos! I think they are awful! The only exception is that I read about some military men who got the names of their fallen company members tattooed on their arm. I think that sounds real sweet.

RNC (to K): Your eyes are so nice! I want to steal them.

RNC: Are you Jewish, Emma?
Me: Uh… no?
RNC: Isn’t Templeton a Jewish name?
Me: No.

RNC: I’ve never met so many liberals in my life!

RNC: Where are you from, Emma?
Me: South Carolina.
RNC: Oh really? That’s nice. You know, it’s amazing that the confederates did as well as they did during the Civil War. They were really at a disadvantage, but they did well anyway. A lot more confederate women came out to be nurses for their soldiers than in the North, which is real nice.

RNC: You seem really good, Emma. But I guess I’m inclined to think that anyone who looks good is good.

By the end of the hour, we’d made our way through 3-5 glasses of champagne each and BCBF had engaged in a confusing conversation with RNC about contraltos and Amy Winehouse.

Luckily, it was time for a film screening. We processed downstairs to a fancy hallway lined with snack tables and men who looked like bellhops from 1925 (even the bellhops were better dressed than me!). The tables were filled with popcorn, movie snacks like Raisnettes and Junior Mints, and little bags of chocolates. We filed into a fancy theater and listened to Important People talk, such as the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington (want that job title!) and the Russian Ambassador to the US. We made our way through the movie snacks, including some truly bad Russian chocolate bars (“blueberry cream souffée”). The movie started and it was pretty great, excepting a couple of egregious and disturbing instances of blackface.

Afterwards, the Important People invited us back upstairs where would find dessert, two jazz concerts, access to the reading room, and a “surprise.”

My money was on the surprise being a vodka fountain. It wasn’t.

Lost opportunity: combination Vodka Fountain Ice Luge Kremlin.

Yeah, that’s a FUCKING ICE KREMLIN. Sorry for the language, but a GIANT ICE SCULPTURE OF THE KREMLIN IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS deserves some expletives. When you walk into a room and the first thing everyone notices is not the fully-staffed ice cream bar or the tables full of pastries, you know it’s got to be something amazing you’re witnessing instead.

After getting over the shock of the Ice Kremlin, we tried to eat everything in sight. Unfortunately, after gorging on terrible Russian chocolates and popcorn, none of us had much stomach real estate left. We had to move on to the reading room. Prior to this point, we hadn’t taken any pictures because it was the kind of event where you only take pictures if you are a member of the press toting a very expensive camera. But the Ice Kremlin was kind of a game changer, and suddenly everyone at the reception had their phones out.

Posing like the statues up high. Appropriate use of the LoC Reading Room.

Finally, we made our way to another fancy hallway, entered another fancy room, and listened to some very nice jazz music. I was pleased to spot another party-goer wearing jeans and chucks, but even he had on a blazer.

Oh well. If I had been appropriately dressed, I think my head might have exploded from awesome overload.

“Soooo, we’re doing this every Friday night now, right?”



My Secret Shame

I have an addiction. It crept up on me… I saw some friends doing it, and it seemed harmless enough. I thought I’d try it just once to see what the fuss was about, and then before I could realize what was happening, it had taken over me. I tried to stop, but I only went through withdrawal. Obsessed, I kept asking friends where I could get my next hit from.  I even tried to convince other people to try it, when hours of my own life were missing. What’s my drug of choice?

I am a Korean Drama addict.

Continue reading My Secret Shame

Lessons from Tibet

Adorable Tibetan girl waits to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speak on the Capitol Lawn

A week and a half ago, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was giving a public peace talk on the Capitol lawn as part of his DC tour. New roommate CS and I went to see him, and I learned many important lessons as a result. But most of these are probably not the ones you are expecting:

Rebecca Black knows her shit. Ok, it was a Saturday, Saturday as opposed to a Friday, Friday, but do you know how much you accomplish when you get up at 7a.m.? A whole friggin’ lot. Look at my schedule for the day:

7:00 a.m Waking up in the morning, gotta be fresh gotta go downstairs
7:30 a.m. Tibetan dresses sure are more complicated than I remember…
8:00 a.m. Head to the capitol to see the Dalai Lama
8:30 a.m. Make new friend
11:20 a.m. Die of heat stroke
11:30 a.m. Visit Botanical Gardens!
12:15 p.m. Lunch at the Museum of the American Indian*
12:45 p.m. Peruse the National Galleries
1:30 p.m. Chillin’ in the Kogod Courtyard (National Portrait Gallery)
2:15 p.m. Library!
2:30 p.m. Call family
3:30 p.m. Reading!
4:00 p.m. Nap!
5:00 p.m. Clean kitchen/plan wedding/acquire tickets to Hanson concert
6:00 p.m. Make pasta from scratch!
8:00 p.m. Watch Michael Bay blow shit up for two hours
10:30 p.m Very scholarly conversation about what an asshat Michael Bay is and also how Transformers 3 is set in a completely fictional DC with tall buildings, narrow alleys and randomly old palatial apartments that do not exist anywhere within District boundaries.
11:45 p.m. More reading!
11:47 p.m. Fall asleep reading.

SO MUCH ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR ONE DAY. We hit up five Smithsonians in a two hour time period. I should get up at 7 every day! Normal Saturdays, I’m lucky to get clothes on. Heck, it’s a Monday right now and I’m still in my dressing gown.

*Most delicious museum food you’ll ever find. Seriously. I have never actually been to the museum part of that museum, but I have eaten there at least half a dozen times.

Randomly wearing another culture’s traditional dress is a totally appropriate idea. You may or may not know that I spent a summer interning at a Tibetan high school in India. This means that I happen to own several Chubas (traditional Tibetan dresses, sometimes spelled Chupa) that I once put one on for work every day, but now have little to no opportunity wear them. And here was an almost-plausible excuse to pull one out of the closet! So what if it’s a 10,000 degree July day, it takes me like 20 minutes to figure out where all the ties go and I feel totally self conscious being the random white girl dressed in cultural garb! It’s festive! At least, that’s what CS tried to convince me.

Rockin’ a chuba with my teaching mentor in India. Not sure why I look so sweaty. I blame the monsoon.

Turns out that it was a good idea, because if there’s any message that being a random white person in a Tibetan dress going to see the Dalai Lama sends to the world, it’s “Hey, that random white person is almost certainly headed to see the Dalai Lama! I bet I could ask her for directions.” Which is how I made a new Tibetan friend! Let’s call him Tenzin.**

Tenzin was visiting from New York, where he’s lived for the past 5 years. We chatted about the pros and cons of New York and DC, his job and of course, why the hell I was wearing a Tibetan dress. I explained my background with the Tibetan school and we talked a little bit about the Tibetan community in India. As we parted, he said I that I should try to go see some of the Buddhist teachings that were going on at the Verizon Center all week. He offered to ask around if anyone had extra tickets and let me know.

And then later that evening, I got a call! He’d gotten a handful of (really good) tickets for myself and some friends to go see the Dalai Lama’s teaching the next day! All because I’d run into him in the metro in a chuba. Well, and also because Tibetans are collectively the nicest people the world, who will go out of their way to help complete strangers, but you know, the dress too!

**Hilarious Tibetan joke!!!

When you update your phone software, all of your alarms will reset. I had been wondering for several days why my alarms had suddenly switched from Seabear “Arms” to the factory default noise, but it didn’t dawn on me until Sunday morning at 8:47, when I woke up exactly an hour and forty-seven minutes later than planned, that all of my alarm settings had reverted with my gingerbread update. Why 8:47? Well that was the time I received a text message from my new friend Tenzin, whom I was supposed to meet at 8:30 to pick up tickets. I then spent the next hour frantically running around the city, wearing yesterday’s clothes and breathing my morning breath on everyone I met. So in summary, always triple check your alarms, because your phone thinks it’s smarter than you and that you only want to wake up on time Mon-Fri. The saddest part is, I really should have learned this lesson a year ago when I almost missed a plane for the exact same reason.
Visors are cool. Somebody alert the Doctor. Fezzes are out, visors are in. Reason #782 Why I Love the Dalai Lama:

He even cracked some hat-related jokes.
Buddhism is hard, but not as hard as being the Dalai Lama’s interpreter. This guy is my new hero:

Superpowers are pretty cool in comic books, but some of us possess less cool but extremely useful superpowers in real life, too. For instance, I have a superhuman capacity to open stuck jars. Glamorous? Not in the least. I would have the worst superhero name on the planet (Jar Lady?). But my powers do come in quite handy. Just ask my roommates.
Anyway, Geshe Thupten Jinpa has been the Dalai Lama’s english interpreter since 1985, according to Wikipedia. But his interpretation skills extend far beyond the normal human level of ability. Sunday’s teaching focused on some pretty complex (at least to me) Buddhist concepts, which I had a difficult time following. As the lesson went on, His Holiness abandonned trying to express the more nunanced ideas in English and would carry on in Tibetan for upwards of 15 minutes at a time. A normal interpreter’s nightmare, but problem for Thupten Jinpa? Of course not! Easy Peasy! He would just spew it all back out in flawless English, some of which was so fancy that I couldn’t really understand it as a native speaker. Dude has serious skills.
The Dalai Lama is like Santa Claus. If you’ve ever seen him on TV/heard him talk, you’ll know that The Dalai Lama comes across as the world’s jolliest man. He tells all sorts of self-deprecating jokes and has an infectious chuckle. Plus, he likes to dress in red and wear funny hats! But he resembles everyone’s favorite portly gift-giver deeper ways, too. Not the flying around on Christmas and sliding down chimneys ways. The ways where he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good so for the love of God stop playing with your damn cell phone while I’m talking to you.
I tried really hard to pay attention the whole time, but the teaching was three hours long and a lot of it was over my head/in Tibetan. So especially after my three friends had to sneak out early for a previously-scheduled event around hour two, I found myself losing focus. And then, as I was checking my email on my phone, I heard HH the Dalai Lama switch back into English and say,
“The modern world celebrates distractions.”
He might as well have finished that sentence, “so stop reading Prince of Petworth on your phone, Alix.” It was like he knew that I wasn’t paying attention. He went on for the next ten minutes to talk about how easily we are distracted by material goods, and how for some reason this is considered a good thing, etc etc. I felt shamed. Also, now I can’t help noticing every time someone checks their phone during a conversation/lecture/movie/concert/meeting/religious activity. Just stop. The Dalai Lama can see you.

Things I Learned at the Ethiopian Festival

On Saturday, I helped out T & S by volunteering at the First Annual Ethiopian Festival in Downtown Silver Spring. Things were kind of nutso on the organization front–there were some difficulties in getting all the performers on in a timely fashion thanks to the Caribbean Festival in DC, some traffic accidents and the fact that we filled up all the parking garages pretty quickly. But overall I’d say the day was successful considering that a few people showed up. I’m sorry, did I say a few people? I meant a few thousand. Like 10,000 is the latest number I heard. In one city block. It was INSANITY. And once we did get the performers on stage, things were awesome. We had several musical groups and fashion shows, as well as the ever popular traditional dancers. But the most popular of the night was definitely this guy:

I guess he is super famous, because when he appeared in the middle of the biggest fashion show, the crowd collectively lost their shit. I thought maybe he was the Ethiopian Christian Siriano (seemed improbable that there would be one–one Christian Siriano is probably one too many Christian Sirianos), but it turns out he’s the most famous Ethiopian comedian. Apparently he was HIGH-larious, but I had no idea what was going on since I don’t speak Amharic. Which brings me to my next point: I’ve been looking for a new job lately, but I’ve been unsure about what kinds of jobs I’d actually want to do. Well, after my experience this weekend, I can definitely cross some off the list.

Some Jobs I Am Definitely Not Cut Out For:

Amharic Interpreter: No matter how much I might will myself to understand Amharic, I just cannot magically start speaking the language. I didn’t understand 90% of what was happening around me on Saturday. The only word I can consistently pick out is “ishi,” which means “yes” or “exactly,” kind of like the Ethiopian equivalent of the German “genau.” It’s a very useful phrase, unless you have no idea what you’re agreeing with.

Model Wrangler: You would think that getting a handful of models to show up and walk up and down would be no big deal. I mean, how hard could it be? Very friggin hard, as it turns out. Models suck. All the musicians and dancers just did their own thing, running up on stage, doing costume changes in a timely fashion, etc. But every time a fashion show was slated to start, it had to be a freaking production. Remind me never to work in the fashion industry, because it’s nightmarish. Similarly…

Fashion Photographer: Despite the models being gorgeous, most of my pictures came out looking liking this:

I possess the special ability to only capture runway models in their most awkward moments. This is partly due to the fact that it was getting dark and I needed a flash but mostly due to my lack of talent.

Bouncer/Security Guard: People cannot follow instructions to stay behind ropes, out of the model runway, off the stairs, etc. By process of diffusion, every time you clear a space, an equivalent number of bodies instantly fills it again. Since the actual security guards were pretty busy all day, this meant that myself and other volunteers had to spend a lot of time shooing people away from the stage. Except the whole thing was pretty futile. Children apparently don’t have to subscribe to any kind of spacial norms, and every time I was lecturing one person on why they couldn’t walk somewhere, three people went that way while my back was turned. I make a terrible security guard.

I’m sure I could think of more jobs from Saturday that I’m incapable of doing, but my unemployability is starting to depress me. So I’ll leave you with just one more: Traditional Ethiopian Dancer:

(Note–this video was from an event I worked on last year, but it’s the same group. MoCo residents will be entertained to see Councilmember Nancy Floreen dancing off the stage in the beginning of this video. Never gets old.)
Everyone loves some Eskista. Although, I have serious concerns for the safety of some of the dancers. Human heads are not designed to to move like that. Surely that is not sustainable.