Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merrily We Roll Along



I saw this version of Merrily We Roll Along a couple of months ago. It was taped live on the West End, and was broadcast to theaters. I was blown away. The score is one of my favorites, but I'd heard it never really worked, as the story is told backwards.

The original production featured a bunch of younger actors including Jason Alexander, Lonny Price, and Jim Walton. The story centers on a group of three friends, and one in particular who has become a great success at the price of many people in his life. The students in the opening ask him how he got to where he was, and the story is his memory and reconstruction.

The director removed the frame of a graduation, and cast actors in their late 30s and early 40s who aged backwards, which is a wise choice.  The opening number includes an affair, alcoholism, and the dissolution of a marriage and lifelong friendship - no wonder it didn't work with twenty year-olds. The direction is flat out brilliant, as are the performances. This show has been fabled not to work, and this production does the exact opposite.

The music is amazing, including a perennial Sondheim favorite, "Not A Day Goes By", and my favorite "Our Time," which is included in this trailer.

Maybe I'm at the time of life where looking back and seeing an entire life and choices made effects us further on, but I'm a sucker for this.  It's a beautiful piece of work. I've heard it's going to be available for streaming.  I'll be first in line.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Writing Group

Welcome to my procrastination. Pull up a chair!  Would you like a cracker?

I have my writing group next week, and I'm up. I'm sadly lost for what to workshop, as I don't have anything I feel is ready. I'm working on a story, but it's not ready.  I've got some other things brewing, but nothing is feeling formed enough.

So, I went through my hard drive.  Who knew I had written so much? A couple of specs I started, a couple of shorts, different forms of the same thing seeing which form fits best. It's interesting to be confronted with an old image I'd left behind. Now the words put it back in my head, but I'm still not sure what to do with it.

And themes - who knew I had themes? And possibly even a style.  Not that I love it, but I think it's coming out. A voice.

Well, just wanted to check in. I guess I need to go work on that thing I didn't want to work on.  Now in a much better place knowing I have a whole bunch of starts I could take up if I needed.   That's a good feeling, right?  That's a start.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Loren Eisley


I was listening to RadioLab live from Seattle this morning. They were performing a program about the extinction of the dinosaurs, and a new theory that they were all killed by a meteor, and rather quickly. It was fascinating, but at the end of the segment, Robert Krulwich quoted the science writer Loren Eisley, with whom I am unfamiliar. I may want to familiarize myself. 

I have been very busy lately, as happens near the holidays, and all with good things.  Some things have been making me emotional, some are tiresome.  I've shot a short that I've wanted to shoot for a long time, and I've spent time with friends, seen movies, gone to Disneyland.  Even when things are good, though, I can get stressed out. I can forget the larger picture, which is more and more becoming an unknown I can relax into. For years, I had such anxiety about mortality, and larger questions.  More and more, I am finding that there is so much we can't know that I can revel somewhat in the overwhelm. It somehow becomes magical that we're here at all. It releases me to explore things that terrified me before, as they have been stripped of importance. I'm not arguing for some anti-social carelessness here, some nihilistic abandon, but rather the freedom that comes in accepting that everything has a place and a time, much beyond my knowledge, but appreciation of what is in front of me makes moments sweet, time expand, and breath easier and fuller. 

Below is this beautiful quote from a book by Loren Eisley, that hints at the wonder of it all. I loved hearing it:

We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests or hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians.  We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been men.  Our identity is a dream.  We are process, not reality, for reality is an illusion of the daylight — the light of our particular day.  In a fortnight, as aeons are measured, we may lie silent in a bed of stone, or, as has happened in the past, be figured in another guise.  Two forces struggle perpetually in our bodies:  Yam, the old sea dragon of the original Biblical darkness, and, arrayed against him, some wisp of dancing light that would have us linger, witful, in our human form.  “Tarry thou, till I come again” — an old legend survives among us of the admonition given by Jesus to the Wandering Jew.  The words are applicable to all of us.  Deep-hidden in the human psyche there is a similar injunction, no longer having to do with the longevity of the body but, rather, a plea to wait upon some transcendent lesson preparing in the mind itself.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

George Saunders



Here's a great video of George Saunders talking about writing. It's great.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Hanukkah

I've been lighting candles for the last few nights for Hannukah - the second night with a dear friend and her family on Thanksgiving, the last couple with my boyfriend, and tonight alone (though you're not supposed to do that, really, since it's about light and being together).  It's not something I grew up with, but I like the ritual.

I am also loving that R'Sharon Brous of IKAR here in LA and Amichai Lau-Lavie from Lab Shul in NY are writing prompts about Hanukkah to think of when lighting the candles.  Tonight's was about meditation, it was called Meditat8.  They all have clever names with 8 at the end for the 8 nights of Hannukah.  So far we've had Activ8, Appreci8/Agit8, Compassion8, Reanim8/Invigor8, and tonight's Meditat8, about World AIDS Day, the beginning of Advent, and taking a moment to reflect.

I don't know what my beliefs are, and I find buying into any dogma challenging, but I like knowing the reasons and thoughts behind the rituals. There is something comforting knowing that this celebration of a miracle has been done for thousands of years. I like that connection.  And I also like that even though it refers to a war, what is being celebrated is not the victory, as its not kosher to glorify war, but the miracle of having the light burn. Whether you believe it or not, it's beautiful symbolism.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanks-giving

I went to visit a woman I know in the hospital this morning. She had surgery for cancer, which she has been battling for six years.  This sounds like it was a difficult operation, as they had to separate her windpipe from her lung.  She's been cancer-free in those six years, but about a month ago a tumor showed up on her brain, which they got rid of with gamma rays, and now this one.  She was still a little out of it from the pain medication, and at one point said "we're worthy, we'll all be worthy" as she was drifting in and out. I have faith she'll make it, but this fight has been difficult it seems.

Another man I knew, a friend though not in my close circle, was murdered last week.  A lot of people I know are trying to make sense of it, but I don't know what sense there is to make. Senseless crimes by their nature don't make sense.  It's a horrible crime, and it's knocked all of us off-balance, some more than others.

I'm not inured to either of these incidents. There has been a lot of death lately, from the woman I know who died of cancer last month, to the husband of a work colleague who was shot at LAX last week. I cannot make any sense of it.  I've never been able to.

For better or worse, I've certainly been acquainted with loss, and premature loss.  Sometimes a surfeit of those losses makes you look around the corner in fear of what comes next. I've certainly spent nights just worrying that people I love would be killed, or I would be, or unexpectedly die.  I've learned that a constant cognizance of my mortality serves to freeze me rather than free me.

On the other hand, if I'm present, and let the emotions that happen come and go as they need, I come away with a kind of hard-won gratitude.  Instead of mourning eventual, inevitable loss, I begin to look around at what I'm thankful for. I have much to be thankful for.  I'm not sure what I'm thankful to, but I know I am thankful for.  When I'm in that place, I actually have a chance to forget that terrifying, unexplainable things happen all the time. I can start to see that wondrous, unexplainable things happen as well.

I was talking with a friend about hospital germs as we walked into the hospital. I was telling him about the microbiome about which we're discovering more and more. We have billions of organisms in us and around us that possibly effect everything from our thoughts, our weight, to our susceptibility to illness and moods.  We are each a universe, an undiscovered, uncharted universe, quite literally. We are just beginning to see what we're made of, and how much we don't know.

When I look around at grief, sadness, and senselessness everywhere, I know I can't expect to have it explained or hope to avoid it, anymore than I can hope to avoid my own mortality.  I can, though, walk around in my universe with a sense of wonder that we're here at all, and be thankful that I get to meet others along the way, with all our struggles, for a long or short time.  For that, I'm thankful.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jackrabbit



I saw a giant jackrabbit last night.  In my dreams.

This is odd, as I've never dreamed of rabbits.  I may have written about this before, but I have vivid dreams that I often remember.  There are the recurring dreams I used to have, either trying to place a giant contact in my eye that would not fit, or speeding down a curving road unable to open my eyes.  Scary. I don't have those anymore, thankfully. The only thing close to recurring was a terrifying dream in which friends had left me their apartment but it was haunted by two evil sisters.  They came back in another house a few months later, but had calmed down quite a bit. They were dressed well this time, and though unwilling to leave, they seemed a little easier to live with.

There are the surreal dreams: people floating down green rivers in China to stand up in Best Buy clothing and say "welcome to home depot"; the flying dream where a deceased friend came with me and we bounced up in the air and tried to teach other people how to do it.

Then the mundane dreams, the ones I sometimes remember years later when I'm in them. They usually make no sense, and then years later I'm in the situation - this has happened to me only two or three times. It's always neat to remember having told someone of a non-sensical dream and have it happen years later. Hopefully I won't work at Home Depot.  For a while I used to think this would mean I was going to die, but since that hasn't happened yet, I figure it doesn't mean that anymore, at least. I had one dream where I was laughing with a young girl and very in love with her father.  That was a sweet one.  Who knows if these are dreams, fantasies, or possible futures - in any case they're interesting because they're mundane. I was even directing Melanie Griffith in one. That would be fun. 

Last night, though, I saw a jackrabbit.  He was the size of a deer, and was on my hood while I was driving.  He stared at me for a good long time, and I stared at him, but I was ultimately concerned mostly with shaking him off my hood.  After he got his fill of looking, he hopped away, enormous and unconcerned.  Good omen, or just a dream with a giant rabbit? Like any meaning maker, I can decide to ascribe meaning or not, I suppose.  He seemed an indifferent rabbit, but I wouldn't mind seeing him again.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tom Cat



I just heard a version of this song. I've liked Laura Nyro for a long time - she's such a New York poet.  There's something about these chords that just evoke New York.  Perhaps I lean toward it from having lived there, but some songs feel like they belong there. This is one of those.  The chords feel like a cloudy, restless day in New York. I miss those days, the days when it rains and the water stays on the street and the clouds don't clear.

I love the rain in LA, how it storms and clears, revealing a crystal sky where even the clouds seem content and smiling - fresh with the breeze. Rain in New York doesn't always clear, and the night in the city reflects the water everywhere. Galoshes are needed. It evaporates at some point, but the sky can stay gray, blocking the sun from doing it's job. Rain in New York is moody. You can't help but feel it, too. I miss that sometimes.

Not enough to move back, but still...there are those songs....

Presbycusis

Fancy word, huh?

It means "age-related hearing loss."  I have it.  I listened to country music and musical theater so loudly in my walkman (remember those) in New York so loud that I gave myself tinnitus.  That fancy word means I have a constant ringing in my ears. This is really only a problem when I'm looking for silence, which is a good amount of time.

 I'm currently listening to a programmed Pandora channel based on Audra MacDonald, so it's heavy on musical theater and specifically musical theater women.  It's a little dramatic, but I can only hear the ringing during the pianissimo parts.  I've gotten pretty good at ignoring.

What I'm not as good at ignoring is difficulty breathing, which I am having at this moment. I like to ignore that I have bad allergies and mild asthma. I've had them both since I was a kid.  The asthma used to be worse, but it's reared it's head again here in LA.  I like to pretend I'm not asthmatic, but that's at my own risk.  This seems to be a coldish kind of thing that settled in my chest.  I'd prefer not to take another antibiotic, so I'm hoping to muscle my way through it.

I have some belief that I will find the right combination of sugar and wheat-free living with appropriate exercise that will magically cure me of being an allergic asthmatic with tinnitus.  An ear-ringing, wheezing man in his 40s.  I guess the possibility of that happening are slim.

I've never been great at acceptance. Tonight's a night I have to accept it.  But knowing me, I'll wake up tomorrow to dream again.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Success?

Sometimes, if I'm driving on Sunday morning, I catch a bit of the TED radio hour on NPR.  The program this Sunday, and the one the link is for, is about success.

It was an interesting hour - Tony Robbins talking about drive; a woman who won a MacArthur Genius grant for studying grit; Alain de Botton on how overrated the idea of success is - or what a trap it is.  Many voices.  During de Botton's talk, he mentioned how success in anything and family/relationships are opposed to each other - that people with healthy relationships cannot be fabulously successful, and vice versa. One of the two suffers.

Laying aside where this information comes from, or even if it is correct, my big question is why we ask these questions or come up with these theories.  Every day there is a new article about the habits of successful people, what they do and don't do, what they can have an can't have.  I read an article recently about how writers cannot be good parents.  Of course, the subjects were all straight men, and more than a few alcoholics, but the takeaway was that writers could not be good parents.  Once again, whether or not, from the random sampling of alcoholic mid-century men they drew from, is true - what's the point of asking the question?  At the end of it is the idea that there are limits to what can be done, that some things are not possible, that you cannot strive to have a balanced life, have healthy relationships, and be successful in an endeavor you choose.

To be fair, they were speaking of ridiculously "successful" people - titans of industry and scions of the arts. Still, though, what does an answer, even if it's flawed, lead us to?  Another metric to judge your own progress, and another way to evaluate you own choices?  Most of it does not lead to good valuation, and a good deal of it leads to a book purchase.  A book purchase like "Don't just do something, sit there", a manifesto for slow living.  We now need books to tell us how to slow down, to not take it so seriously, and wish we had the the idea to write a book about just chilling out so we could have become a rich, successful author. I'm sort of joking.

Maybe it's study fatigue, but truly being successful might be listening to yourself and where you're pointed, rather than someone saying what is and isn't possible.  There have been many artists with tortured family lives, and there have been many with brilliantly happy ones. There are awful people who are great successes, and wonderful people who are.  And there are wonderful unsuccessful people and awful ones, too.  No random survey can tell you what's possible, or what works for you.

In the end the program does make you look at what the idea of "success" is, and I'm glad they discussed it. Some restless spirits seem to never have enough, and what would look like "success" to a passerby looks to them like dismal failure. Others feel great just where they are.

There was a 75 year study on happiness and what makes people thrive released by Harvard this year. Sadly, all the subject were men, but it started in 1938, so a different time.  In the end, it seemed that "success" in life boiled down to "warm personal relationships."  It also mentioned how destructive alcoholism was, and the role parents play.  And even though I like this study, I still don't know what we'll know from the question.  We keep finding out what in our hearts we know already.  We even have aphorisms - 'money can't buy happiness', 'all you need is love', 'be here now'.

I guess, if nothing else, it keeps us busy, right?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Funeral

I went to a funeral today. The woman who passed died of a virulent form of cancer that she contracted in June.  I went with a work colleague who had also been introduced to my boss by her.  Because of her both of us have jobs. I wanted to pay my respects, she had always been kind to me.

Her best friend spoke during the short ceremony, and spoke of all the memorial services they had been to together for friends in the 1980s.  They had become a regular occurrence. I can only imagine his grief at saying goodbye to a friend he'd known for over three decades.  He played a song they played at those memorials, sung by a famous singer I've met. Her nephew coincidentally works in my group.

To make the world even smaller, a friend who sells plots at that cemetery remembered the woman who was being buried, remembered working with her on her mother's memorial stone as it had been unique. She was sad to hear of her passing, and enjoyed working with her.  I don't know why I take comfort in all these connections, but I do.

We drove to the top of the hill to inter the body into a wall.  The small pine coffin was set to go into a large marble wall, adjacent to her parents. In lieu of dirt, the man who had been her closest friend gave out white roses for people to place on the casket. He struggled with the thorns. A much older woman who had been her neighbor stood up to read a poem about ship, which meant a lot to her.  The man who was her best friend passed out sheets of paper with a poem he wanted to hand out and read as well. When they handed it out I read it. I can't have a piece of text in my hand and not read it. I couldn't follow, couldn't comprehend. It felt as inconsequential as the paper it was printed on.

Any grief brings to the forefront the losses one has already suffered. The pain is universal, the moment specific. The moment is universal, the pain specific. It bleeds into other memories until it encompasses what's around it.  Tears sharpen colors; you are aware of the ground you are standing on. What is mundane falls away in the face of a universal truth.

The man read the poem, which had also been a favorite in the 80s.  The poet had died young, full of unfulfilled promise. He was overcome for a moment. I could feel his pain reading this particular poem at the service for someone with whom he had survived, with whom he had a long shared history. Someone who was taken unexpectedly, and too young.  He was a survivor of cancer himself.   I've known people who have survived, and those who haven't. It is impossible.

A girl standing next to me dropped her water bottle and giggled from embarrassment with her mother, with whom she had been crying moments before.  Grief knocks up against laughter somehow; any relief is welcome.  The group placed roses on the pine box and it was elevated and lifted into the sepulcher.  We watched as two workmen pushed the body to where it would rest on the wall.

A man I know was asked to recite the mourner's kaddish, which he recited it in English. The prayer, said at most services for those remembering lost loved ones, is about the magnificence of God, the praise to him. A blessing and piece for all, for Israel. The words felt inconsequential.  I mouthed what I knew of the Aramaic original under my breath, wanting to hear that rhythm. Thankfully, someone asked for the man from the cemetery to speak it in the original language. Perhaps because I know it well, I get some sense of comfort from it, the intonations, the parts led and those spoken together.

Grief is too big.  Words are drops of rain on a roof. We can't not speak, but we can't wholly define the ineffable enormity of what we are feeling.  We keep trying.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Books and worms

When I was in Palm Springs this weekend, I impulsively bought Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel, which is being described as a ripping yarn about an independent woman of the 19th century. It's supposedly exhaustively researched, and breathlessly exciting. I'm hoping so.

Right now, I'm adding it to the pile, which just a cursory look at my bookshelf includes

IQ84
A Beautiful Mind
Patti Lupone's Memoir
God, A Biogra[y
Let the Great World Spin
A Great Unrecorded History: A new life of E.M. Forster
A Walk in the Woods
Why Does the World Exist

And that's just in front on the stacks. I can't help it. I'm a bookworm from way back. I have 3 books in my car at the moment. I've been reading Far From the Tree for about  months because it kind of breaks my heart every time I open it.  I read "Rapture Practice" in one day. I still haven't found my reading rhythm in LA after ten years, but I'm finding I'm much more likely to come home and crack open a book than I am to turn on the TV.   Luckily, I got rid of my DVR; it was a higher pressured bookshelf, as the programs would expire.  Now it's all streaming.  Without the pressure, I think I watch more.

I guess to take its place,  I re-upped my subscription to the New Yorker, since I missed it in print.  Luckily, those don't expire, but they do stack up like titles on a TiVo.

All this is to say, I don't have any business buying more books at the moment.  And yet, there are so many of interest. What can you do?

The other worms I've been thinking about are ear worms, those phrases of songs that get stuck in your ear for days, refusing to leave.  Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" bops into my head fairly frequently.  The last couple of weeks it has been Miley Cyrus, god help me.

It must be how our brains work, recycling bits of catchiness that runs in the background like Muzak in a grocery store that we leave humming without even knowing we've heard.  I imagine all the books on my bookshelf started that way, with the thought equivalent that kept someone up, haunted them, hummed in the background until they finally wrote it down. It can happen with words, stories, memories, images.  Somethings lodge in our heads and just won't let go.

I like reading of others. It gives me some relief from my own.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The World, The Ocean, and smaller

I just got back from a trip to do a play in Palm Springs.  I didn't bring my computer, so for the most part I didn't look at facebook, or check the news. Occasionally I did so with my phone, but I tried to vacate. I'm not very good at it. It takes a few days to get in the groove of relaxing, and we really only had a couple days without rehearsal, and those had shows. It was nice spending time with people, and getting to know the cast more. My boyfriend was able to tag along, as I had my own room, so that was nice as well. I notice, though, once again, that I'm not a champion relaxer.

It was nice, though, to take a bit of a break from the world. I'm not quite ready to go back to work tomorrow.  I logged onto facebook and saw some great things, but also this upsetting article about the horrible state of our oceans. Do not read unless you like feeling sad and powerless.

I can only control my own little world. And really, I can't even control that. I can only be in it. I jumped on here today just to give my fingers some exercise and to run my brain a little. I'm not sure I even have a point, except that I can only be where I am.

I don't think I really missed facebook. It was nice to sit and actually chat with people. We had a couple of mornings around the pool, and some time around tables and meals. I feel fortunate that I have the chance to do things like this with great people.

The state of the ocean can make me despondent, but there is no point in despair. If anything, I'm learning that despair, depression, despondency, fatalism, complaint, anger have little solution embedded in them unless they spur you on to action.

I'm very sad about the ocean, but I can't wring my hands. I can possibly do some research and see what I can do, if anything.

Like I said, I don't really have a point. The world can be overwhelming. I know it's important to take the chance to step out of the usual every once in a while or my engine will be completely flooded, but it's also important to do things so that when I do step out, its worthwhile.

Or maybe it's time to notice that I'm looking at a four day trip with two days of rehearsal and three performances as a vacation.

Um. I think I'm tired.  Good night.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Anger

I feel myself getting angry at the slightest little thing lately. I'm not really sure why, though I have my theories. They include: sugar, sleep, over-information and the inability to find an exit off the information super highway, powerlessness in the face of all that's happening around us on a day to day basis.

I'm sure any could be a culprit. I've had enough experience to know that anger unexpressed turns inward. I've had much experience in that.  Anger turned outward feels ineffectual, though. I've always been frustrated by calm politicians, but I see that there is no solution in anger. It feels good, we need to get it out, but there is no common ground. There is nothing but scorched earth.  Even when I express anger, I feel ridiculous about halfway through, and always feel the need to apologize.  Lately I think it's just a surplus of information and nowhere to store it.  Overwhelm and powerlessness.  They're looking for a way out. Anger is the easiest way.  There's no target; I'm not the kind of person who attacks anyone or anything.  During a bout of this a few years ago I went to a batting cage and batted balls for an hour.  That felt great. Exercise works, too.  With the current yahoos in Congress stopping all discussion and blaming things on everyone but themselves, it's hard to even turn on the radio.

Meanwhile, I hear meditation helps.

I was amazed today at this young woman, Malala Yousafzai. I saw this clip of her on the Daily Show, explaining what she would think about being attacked, which she was, and the understanding she would show - that her first thought was anger, and then she reminded herself that anger would not help, only make her the same as her attacker.  No wonder she may end up being the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. I know my problems do not compare to this, though they feel real nonetheless.  I can only hope for some of her compassion and understanding, while also being grateful that I am not in  a country where this threat is a daily reality.


Monday, October 07, 2013

The Santa Ana's

I remember reading Janet Fitch's book "White Oleander" years ago. One of the motifs is the evocation of the Santa Ana winds, the hot, dusty winds that come through Southern California this time of year. I lived in New York then, which has no equivalent I can think of, except sudden inclement weather every month of the year, barring possibly a two week window at the end of April and beginning of May.

The Santa Ana's I know about now. They don't possess me to do crazy things like the characters in the book, rather they bring dust and pollen. It's more mundane, but it certainly has an effect. Once again, I am sneezing all day, even with allergy medication, and unsure if I will wake up tomorrow with a full-blown cold or feeling better. My check engine light went on yesterday, too, resulting in another bill for several hundred dollars on my car, the second time in as many months. I'm blaming it on the Santa Ana's.

On the bright side, I got to eat the slightly junky food I like when I have a cold - macaroni and cheese with peas and grocery store rotisserie chicken - while watching junk food TV.   I also get to drive a rental car for two days, courtesy of my mechanic, which is pristine white and much cleaner than my car.  I'm trying to find maybe something else with the wind -  the hope and remembrance that things will blow over as quickly as they blew in. SoCal problems.

Ah- choo.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

West Hollywood Book Fair

I went to the fair on Sunday. The West Hollywood Book Fair. I always enjoy it, as it's smaller than the UCLA/USC book fair, and I also know a lot more people involved.

I swung by my friend Charles' booth for Bloom, his award-winning literary journal. I ran into the effervescent Paul McCullough, who was facilitating Q & A's for the food stage and also signing his new book on Roma tomatoes called Roma Therapy.  Eduardo Santiago was signing his new book Midnight Rumba as well. I also saw someone I know who was playing keyboard for a friend of his doing a piece on the poetry stage and I helped him move the keyboard from his car.  So I like this one, as I end up knowing people from around.  Even though I don't live in Weho, it feels neighborhood-y.

The people I didn't know (though turns out a couple are connected to other people I know, since the world is very small) were the ones whose panel I went to on memoir and secrets.  The panelists were Daniel Stern, the author of Swingland, his account of the Swinging subculture; Kimberly Rae Miller, the author of Coming Clean, her memoir of growing up with a hoarder as a father; and Aaron Hertzler, whose memoir Rapture Practice is about growing up gay in a fundamentalist Christian household.  The talk was informative, and I'm interested in reading all three.  Miller's seems a little more serious in tone, though Hertzler's book definitely deals with some weighty issues, though targeted to a young adult audience. Stern's is an interesting comic escapade/how-to manual, which is a fascinating hybrid.  All three deal with writing something that is usually hidden or kept secret to varying degrees.  There was talk of shame, or difficulty, in writing these things, and also how the others involved have reacted.  It's an interesting topic with confessional or personal writing.  I think of that Joan Didion quote that a writer  is always selling someone out.  I don't know that I'd agree with that, but it takes bravery to put one's own experience on a page, knowing that others involved will see themselves portrayed, possibly unflatteringly. Each of the authors had a story about that, as well as their own trepidation of putting something personal out there. Interesting factoid - they are all actors.  Miller has a BFA in acting, and Hertlzer and Stern both have MFAs.  The moderator, Dinah Lenney, is an actress, memoirist, and writing teacher as well.  I bring it up as she did. Interesting coincidence.

I have an MFA, too - is a memoir in my future?

It was a nice afternoon. I'll go again.  I would have loved to buy more books, but that's always the case. I need to get better at reading them all, too. One at a time, I guess. That's the way.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Patty Griffin

This is great news about Patty Griffin's Silver Bell.

I found these couple of paragraphs really interesting -


"I love revisiting that time about myself now," Griffin says on vacation in Northern California. "I think it's good to have the songs rescued from that time. I think if you were involved and around those big, corporate takeovers where a beverage company decided it would be a good time to buy a record label, and you weren't doing what everybody knew to be popular at that very moment, you weren't given any respect whatsoever.
Case in point: Griffin recalls a meeting circa "Silver Bell"'s intended release with then-label group boss Jimmy Iovine where, "he basically told me, 'You have never made a good record,'" she says. "He handed me a copy of 'Beautiful Day,' which is a U2 record, and said, 'Take a listen to this. This is how you write a hit record.'"
She did end up writing a great song called "Heavenly Day" years later, though probably not based on that song. She has said it's probably the only truly happy song she's written, and that she wrote it for her dog.  Love that. 
I'm interested in that idea that because she hadn't had a big radio hit that she'd never made a great album. Her songs have been covered by many people, and she's incredibly well-respected.  But what makes success?  There are so many songs and artists that no one will ever remember who made lots of money off of a song, or even an album.  But making songs that are emotionally resonant, touching, lasting, even hint at something truthful, is much more difficult, probably not as commercial. Certainly, for me, more important. 
It's great when art and commerce merge.  It doesn't always happen. I'm happy we get a chance to hear the whole thing redone, though now I'll cherish my bootleg copy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Paint Job



I did this short for the two women who call themselves Two Funny Brains, who I believe are also bloggers of BernThis.com, and SanDiegoMomma.com, for their female moments series.  It was fun to do. A little improv at the end, and people think it's entertaining.

I'm a little crazed time-wise right now, but thought I'd share while I'm thinking of something thoughtful to write.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Aaron Smith and his studio

This afternoon I went for a studio preview visit to see some of Aaron Smith's new paintings for his upcoming New York show "Past the Pillars of Hercules."




The last is a detail of the middle portrait, "Fallalish."  The top is "Pother."  A lot of his work is from 19th century photographs. I love the thick paint and the use of color. They're quite striking in person as well.  He's running prints of the middle piece, which I'm assuming are part of his bearded blokes work. I've loved them for quite a while, and he is producing a small run (50) of signed prints of "Fallalish."  I'm not a collector, but it would be great to have a print.

One other great thing about the studio visit was the studio itself. Aaron himself is a affable fellow, and the space is great.


This is a picture I took, but you can see more of the artist and his studio here. I spoke with a few people who had the same sentiment I did - wouldn't it be great to have a studio?  Preferably one like this, with exposed brick, clean, well maintained with lots of light. I probably wouldn't paint, but who knows?  The supplies are incredibly enticing.  Wouldn't it be nice, though, to have a little separate space given only to creation?

The paintings are on display at Sloan Fine Art in New York from October 26th - November 17th.  Visit them, and buy one for me.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Scheduling

I have a little problem being busy. I've had it for a while. I love the idea of not being busy, but sadly I'm  not so good at the practice of it.

I am getting better, though.  This weekend I'm taking my boyfriend to the Sing-a-long Sound of Music at the Bowl, as he's never been to the bowl.  Sunday, I am going to an art show preview, and then to the birthday dinner for the dear daughter of my dearest friend.

I'm saying this because I have tonight, all day tomorrow, and most of Sunday free.  Next week, I have something every night, including two day-long events I'm stage managing. I do another October 5th.  Then I'm performing at a reading for a friend's fundraiser on the 15th (hopefully minimal rehearsal), followed by leaving town on the 16th for four days to put up a play in Palm Springs that weekend.

In the meantime, I've given myself a writing deadline.  I know I can meet it. I also have a writing group meeting in there somewhere. If you want something done, they say, give it to a busy person. Is that why I keep saying yes?

Things will slow down. That will probably make me antsy.  In the meantime, I need to remember that there is more than enough time - people do what I'm doing and have families.  People direct movies, put up TV shows, run political campaigns.  This is really nothing.

I'm writing this to remind myself of a truism - If I stay in the moment, time expands.  There is always enough. If I'm already worried about October and it feels like I'm close to Thanksgiving already, then it's going to be a crazed couple of months.

I took a yoga class at lunch, and remembered I need to breathe.  There is space. There is time.  What's the rush?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

10,000 Hours

Today was one of those days. I got a little down-in-the-dumps.  It happens.  I had acupuncture and went into such a deep sleep that I forgot where I was.  This after a night where I had a dream with Shelley Long and Bette Davis, whom I don't believe actually appeared together in real life.  The dream, as you might imagine, was incredibly disturbing, even without telling you that Bette Davis at one point replaced her face with a gray and green metal plate made of a speaker like an old speaker phone console while admonishing, "No one ever said it was going to be easy."

Anyhow, after the grogginess of another appointment with my acupuncturist, who told me once again how sensitive and stressed I am (thanks for that information - I live in it, I am aware), I was reading yet another article that referred to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule of expertise.  It's the theory a la mode apparently, the ice cream that accompanies every slice of humble pie. Since I am trying something new in hopes of turning into into something possibly lucrative at some point (am I being vague enough?), I am a little sensitive to theories of how long it takes to learn something.  10,000 hours is approximately 4.807 years of 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. At my current rate, I would be close to expert by the time I am eligible for AARP.  The date is encroaching - I am currently thinking they have sent mail to me in error. The information did not lighten my mood.

Then I remembered: no one knows anything for certain. There is always a little crack of hope. I'm not even looking for expert; I'm looking for capable. How many hours to perfectly solid and acceptable?

I've been guilty of looking around the web at these "10 things you should _____ to be ____" articles and the like.  Some of them end up discouraging while trying to be encouraging, giving me an excuse to compare myself to someone else's experience.  Reading about Tina Fey's 10 Emmy's by the time she was 40 did not help the mood.  If I'm going for anything, though, I have to go for myself. I'll end up, like everyone before me, charting my own path with the encouragement of others. With their discouragement, too. I can even choose which to listen to.  There's no article telling me the 10 things I should do to be my best self, I can only find that out by exploring. Practicing, and failing.

Does this count toward my 10,000 hours?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Can I get a cynical amen?

I took a yoga class with a friend today.  We thought we were going to make it to a class we used to go to, but it wasn't being held, so we looked up another place on line.  She mentioned a place in Larchmont that now was 9 locations, including one they have taken over from the owners in West Hollywood that was quite a popular studio.  Now it's one of these.

The class was $22, which felt steep to me, and the cheerless Lena Dunham doppleganger took my money she was all business. I may have grumbled about the price a little. Or expressed my shock. I don't know why - it's an hour and a half, and I think most hour classes I've taken are around $15, so that's the going market rate.  I think it was the chain aspect that had me prejudiced before I walked in.

I'm not saying it's a good characteristic, I'm just saying I noticed it.

On the door on the way out they have their rating at the number one yoga studio in town from a local review source, with the opening line, "If yoga was taught in a factory..."

My mother recommended Deepak Chopra's novelization of the life of Buddha called "Buddha" the other day. My brother read it as well. I just can't. It's the story of the Buddha. Why do I need Deepak Chopra's vision of it? It's probably wonderful. I'm sure Oprah's read it. I bet they've had deep talks about about it. In fact, his name sounds like "Deep talk."

I haven't written much on this blog about what I would call spiritual materialism, or the idea that if you are wealthy, or in line with the Universe, wealth will come your way.  It's a uniquely American idea. I think it's deeply ingrained here.  I don't know what that has to do with Deepak Chopra writing another book or spending $22 for a yoga class, but they all feel intertwined. I could just be tired.

This serenity is big business, no?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tonight

This is tonight.

I am so excited, thrilled, proud. I just bought a lot of flowers.We made lists, we worked out places for everyone to be and duties for the night.

I know it will be wonderful.  And I'm equally happy I didn't try to bake a cake for it.  The thought occurred.  I let it pass. Or perhaps in the flurry of activity, I forgot to.  Either way, smart choice.

The book is beautiful, the people are beautiful, the space that we got by luck and kindness when our other one fizzled is more than could be hoped for.  I think everyone will have a wonderful time.

I hope they all go home happy, to read the book.  And tell a few friends.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We are what we eat


About 18 months ago, or January or February of 2012, I went to the doctor and found out I had borderline to high cholesterol and very high triglycerides.  He wanted to put me on medication, but I asked for one last chance to try diet, as my mother had had good results with a Mediterranean diet.  I stopped eating sugar, processed foods, and most bread. I watched my portion sizes. I couldn't exercise as I was healing from sinus surgery for about 6 weeks.  By April, I had lost 20 pounds, my cholesterol was down 100 points, and my triglycerides 300.  I felt great. Kept exercising. Lost 35 pounds by June and kept it off.

Until...

I did the AIDS ride this June, and I've gained 15 pounds in 2 months.  While you're training, you eat whatever you want.  I sadly kept going, and quit exercising as much. I also threw away my "fat pants" so the only jeans I have are so tight around the middle that my car key left an indent in my leg today.

I really don't want to buy new pants.

This afternoon I decided to have a candy bar. I can't remember the last time I had a whole candy bar.  This was around 4.

By 6 o'clock I was wondering why my life was so awful and why I was alive.

Now, I know sugar has this effect on me. It has my whole life.  Stopping it threw that into relief. I had had no idea before, but I can feel a direct connection between sugar and my mood. I can also see it in any child on the street. So why is it so hard to stop it again? I don't know, but I think I'm near the end of it.

Tonight I came home, scrounged for some legumes and corn chips (bachelor meal), while I made a pork, green chile, sweet potato stew.  I had a little bowl. I feel much better.

It's so simple. Why is it necessary to find it out again?  Whatever the reason, I have a wonderful stew for the rest of the week.  I can steer clear of the candy bars.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Abromovic




In 2010 I saw "The Artist is Present", the Marina Abromovic retrospective at MoMA in New York. I took notes, as I usually do at museums, and promptly ignored them, as I usually do as well.  Since that time, there has been an HBO documentary, "The Artist is Present'"  as well as this video, which went viral. This video made me want to revisit my thoughts.

I wasn't familiar with Ambrovic's work. I studied performance art in college pretty extensively, seeing and studying work by Karen Finley, Leonora Champagne, Rachel Rosenthal among others.  In my mind performance artists are disproportionately female.  I'm sure there's something in there for a thesis one day, but I know most of the artists I think of are female.  My exposure, though, was mostly on the "performance" side than the "art" side, and since I was studying in a theater department, the performance artists I studied and read were theater artists as well, bringing a slight sense of a gallery to the theatre. Abromovic brings the performance to the gallery, and falls more to the "art" side that than the performance/monologuist side.

I just found my notes from 2010, some inscrutable, as standing while writing in a small book does not make for legible cursive; even on a good day I sometimes can't read what I've written, but here are a sample of the notes, and I'll move them into something cohesive, I'm hoping....

People running up the stairs and MoMa when it opens ( I didn't realize at the time they were all getting in line for the chance to sit across from Abromovic in her red dress)

Performance art - Idea and self direction. I have some burr in my saddle about art being illustrative of an idea, especially when it feels like there needs to be an intermediary. I felt a little lost at the start, but the overall feel of the exhibit made me feel how self-directed performance art is. Yes, Virginia, it took me twenty years to figure out that people on a stage or in a museum either talking about themselves or using themselves as an object was essentially self-directed.

Seeing Abromovic's collected work re-staged with other people as her stand-ins brings the self-direction to a different level.  Her art is not so much about performing or exploring herself, but about endurance.

*****
...and that's as far as I had gotten on a draft that I was working on before I watched the documentary tonight. I've attempted over the past few months to rewrite it - I have pages of odd notes. Of course, the film made me very sad that I missed possibly the best thing about the show - the artist herself.  I don't even know that I agree now with what I said above, but it's how I was organizing my thoughts until I saw the documentary.

What has been stuck in my mind, since I saw the video that made me want to revisit my notes, was a last line. I'll write it now, so it won't be last:

In the end, she has illuminated a most basic truth - All we have is another person, opposite us, looking back.

So now besides kicking myself for not having stood and watched what was happening, I'm kicking myself again for my response, which was more intellectual than emotional. It's usually that way with me at first; the emotion is the boom that follows once the plane has passed. The great thing is happening on the street and I turn away to order my lunch. Of course, in a retrospective space, with many gallery rooms and accompanying text, I went into museum mode.  Not a surprise.

A friend told me when her son was eight that she read a book about that phase of development. All the 8 year old really needs, it said, was for the parent to spend time directly with them, to see them, to give them attention. Watching Ambromovic's "The Artist is Present" piece and documentary made me think how many people in the audience wanted to be seen. The emotion was overwhelming. People felt seen, it seems, and also felt seen while doing it.  She spoke of the immense pain she felt from people.  A great deal of the documentary was watching those powerful transactions. There was an 8 or 10 year old boy, who crouched down after in response, his mother coming up to him and bursting into tears, saying how proud she was of him. One woman tried to take her clothes off and sobbed when taken away.  One man had a tattoo after seeing her 21 times.

For my part, I'm sure I thought at the time that it felt like so many acting exercises I'd done in countless classes, sitting in a chair opposite a partner, staring into his or her eyes, trying not to laugh, trying to be present.  Her piece, though, in how present she was and for how long, seemed to achieve a kind of transcendence. It's the actual presence that is real, seductive, beautiful, naked, terrifying.

My first response to seeing this draft was to erase my earlier thoughts, replace them with the more current reaction after watching the video. But in the spirit of the show, I don't think I can do that.  I've had a shift. I don't even know what I mean above about self-directed, except that it's exploration of a self and boundaries that challenges every viewer who sees it. Is it about the self then, or is it a bold challenge?  I don't have an easy answer; I like that I don't have an easy answer. I even feel like saying what I think her art about is glib, and it makes me uncomfortable I even wrote it. No wonder I didn't post it. I do think, though, that watching her do something was probably different than watching the actors doing her pieces - I imagine it's like seeing a star in a play, the vibration is palpably different.

I am very regretful, though, that I didn't stay and see her for a while.  I remember I went to MoMA to see the Tim Burton show, which in the end was exhaustive but not moving. I remember her show three years later, which must say something.  I especially remember the piece she did for the biennale reenacted, in which she sat in a long red dress scouring the flesh off of a mountain of thousands of cow skulls to protest the Yugoslavian civil wars.  I'm still amazed at that piece.

I have many reactions to the documentary - I could probably write another post about the film. The people, the faces, the emotions of everyone and what they were experiencing with her, from the ages of 8 to 80 it seems. Watching her piece was riveting.  It's hard not to be open. It's incredible watching someone so fearless. I can have no response but to open my eyes, and look back.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Topics

I've got a list of possible blog topics that I keep on my phone.

My phone is charging in the other room.

Some days are just like that.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Tashlich

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is coming up on Wednesday.  The New Year kicks off the Days of Awe, leading up to Yom Kippur ten days later. I'm not sure what, if anything, I'll be able to do for the holiday this year.

The first day of Rosh Hashanah, or I guess it can be done for a while as long as its within a window, there is a day called Tashlich. The name comes from the Hebrew for "casting off," and the day is marked by a pilgrimage to a river (or as close to one as you can get), and symbolically throwing pieces of bread into the river to stand for casting sins to be carried away.  Some turn out their pockets to symbolically empty them. The first, and possibly only, time I observed Tashlich was at Beth Simchat Torah in New York, the gay and lesbian synagogue.  We stayed up all night studying, conversing, arguing, laughing, and made a pilgrimage at dawn. We walked from the synagogue, at that time in the artist community of Westbeth, across the West Side Highway, to the Hudson river, where we stood with our tallis (tallit? talisiem?) in the grey filmy New York morning, cars racing past. We threw bread into the river, standing in contemplation.

I loved the Jewish holidays with CBST, as the Yom Kippur services were free and held in the Javits center, so it was typical to have 3,000 people at the Friday night Yom Kippur service. I normally don't love crowds like this, but as these holidays felt in direct opposition, a slowing, to the hustle and bustle of the city around them, I looked forward to them. There is something priceless about feeling a calm in the midst of chaos, and those were the times I felt it. I do not have any definition of god, but I can say that feeling was holy.

When I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, we walked with St. Anne's crew on Mardi Gras day.  The main ritual was a long walk to the Mississippi, where people would throw mementos of lost loved ones into the river, as well as things they wanted to let go of for the year.


The jazz band would play a slow jazz tune that gradually morphed into a celebration.


Though costumed spectacularly, everyone would arrive solemnly, but leave jubilantly, having cast off their pain into the waters. Once again, in the midst of a giant party, standing in quiet contemplation.  Even respectfully listening to the sobs of pain from someone whose loss was overwhelming. There was acknowledgement. Quiet comfort. Release.



I'm thinking about that this year.  Today alone I was worried about bees dying, global warming, Syria, and whether I would have to take in my car with a coolant leak. I didn't sleep last night because of a strange itchy nerve in my arm.  I'm piling on troubles that are and aren't mine as this part of the year ends, as we leave summer, here in LA with the most heat we've had all year. What do I want to throw in the water? What would I like carried away? How will I create the peace to do it?


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Baking


Please excuse my absence. I've been baking. Peach blackberry deep dish pie yesterday.  Banana bundt cake today. Mixed berry pie tomorrow.

Happy Labor Day. May it be sweet.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Far From the Tree

I'm reading Andrew Solomon's extraordinary book Far From the Tree, and my mind has been whirling in response to it.

I've not written a lot about it, but I did not have the best of childhoods. I won't go into it here, but I my father had MS, and most of my childhood was shadowed by having a disabled and ill parent.  I've dealt with a lot of it.  It was not a movie of the week lovefest. There weren't a lot of resources in the early - mid seventies.  I remember, in the year after my parents divorce, my Dad fighting to get handicapped placards and parking spaces implemented in Nebraska. We even went to Washington and met with our state senator.  I think about it now, and it's quite amazing, in the midst of all that personal pain, that that was happening.  But overall, it was not an easy row to hoe.

His book isn't about illness, but it is about difference; children who are deaf, dwarfs, transgender, schizophrenic, down's syndrome, autistic, and how the families and the children themselves cope.
It's a beautiful, difficult, exhausting, exhaustively researched book.  I have many reactions, and I'm only about half way through.  Here's one, and one that I've been thinking about for a while -

Difference is hard, and I'm always struck by the disconnect between lived experience and the stories we tell ourselves.  Overwhelmingly, the love that these families have discovered by dealing with the challenges is awesome. As always, though, the truth of living with these differences is very different than the stories we tell ourselves about difference.  We watch films and write stories about underdogs, appreciating difference and how in the end, we all are and the difference that was so hard will turn out to be the gift.  In reading this book, I can see how that is true and not true.  Most of these families have discovered a great love and would not trade their experiences, but not all. Lives have been deepened and transformed.  And, at the same time, it's hard and a continual process. There is no ending. We all want it all to be okay at the end of the story, but we know life goes on and the process continues.  I had a parent in a wheelchair, and I remember, to my shame somewhat, what that was like as an adolescent to feel so self-conscious. Being a gay kid already I was hyper self-conscious, and this was another level. Add to that a complicated, the polite way of putting it, relationship with my father, and things were not easy. And I wasn't even the one in the wheelchair. I guess I'm reacting to the fictitious we're-all-a-rainbow-of-happiness-by-the-end things that I read and see in popular culture (which, yes, I know, are fiction).  At the end of it I always think, okay, it's great here, but now you have to go to another high school and this will happen all over again. Or you just have to go into a restaurant and a whole new crew of people are going to stare.

As a gay person I have to continually come out. I have to think before I travel to foreign countries, or even certain places in my own country, with another man. Or hell, even with myself.  Solomon sometimes brings up discussion of his sexuality and depression as an analog to the identities he writes about in his book. They are somewhat facile, and I'm not sure 100% analogous, but the feeling underneath that he is identifying is right on - I am different and no one knows what I feel like. Or even, I will never truly fit in. I am different even than my family, which is key. Unlike race or ethnicity, you feel a stranger within your own tribe. There is something, and Solomon describes it here, about knowing that you are in a larger world where there is something different about you. Though there may be acceptance, you always know that there is a chance of rejection. Or at the very least, you will have to explain something about yourself, and be a teacher to someone. The onus is on you, being the one who is different, not on them. There are times when you will be only with people of your kind, and you have to create community that way, but there will always be the larger world in which you exist.

I'm not saying at all that my sexuality is the same as being deaf or having down's syndrome, or any of the other identities he writes about, but there is something about how the world is not constructed for one particularly that I identify with.  I suppose that's why that disconnect has been on my mind lately.  Of course, most fictions are wish fulfillment, so it shouldn't surprise me that they can feel untrue.  We tell ourselves stories of the best parts of us, and who we wish we were. In some cases in real life, we fall short, and in some cases, as in many in this book, we far exceed any expectation. The stories in this book have made me even more in love with the human spirit, and more fascinated by how extra-ordinary people can be.

So I guess in the end, I'm saying the fictions of difference that I read not only over-simplify acceptance and understanding, but underestimate the complexity of response, compassion, heart, and reality.  I suppose that's should not surprise me.  In this realm, everything that is not reality feels like a fairy tale.

Boy, do I hope that made sense. In any event, read the book. It's well-worth your time.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Action

I talk a lot.  It's not a bad trait, but it does mean I have a lot of ideas, and then get mired in the actual application.  Polite way of saying it's easier for me to dream and chat than do. I have an active mind, so the downside of dreaming is the imagined disaster.  That leaves you stuck in an eddy most of the time; much is swirling around, but you're standing in one place.

Tonight I had a meeting with a guy about filming a short that I have a goal to finish. We set a (tentative) date. We had a good talk about how it should be done, and I have some work to do.

A couple weeks ago a friend pitched me a short film, and I've written two drafts of it. I've asked for feedback and incorporated it.

Even more impressively, I have see-through color folders that I have different writing projects in. I'm revising a story to submit thoughtfully to a journal that might actually be interested. What is happening?!

It's not like I have done nothing in my life; I'm a very active person. Some would say a little too busy.  And who wouldn't be when there is so much to see and experience and do? I went to college for nine years - I'm a pro at taking classes. I'm even really good at taking polls and asking for advice. Action in one concentrated area in a focussed and thoughtful way towards a specific, rather than nebulous, goal is a new one. Some other things are falling by the wayside.  That even feels right to me at the moment.

I'm loving also, since I started criticizing myself for it as I'm doing it, that I can write something personal here, and tomorrow, maybe not so much.  It's all up for grabs.

Who knew when they said that you were free to do all this that it meant you really are?

Lights, camera...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fear

I don't want it to sound like I have an answer to this; I don't.

I drove by an add for Insidious 2 today. I'm not a fan of scary movies, probably because I'm easily scared.  Also, they seem to get bloodier and bloodier. I started wondering about fear, about collective versus individual fear.

While I was driving, I was listening to a Radiolab piece about a child being born prematurely, and fighting for life. When I was born, scary movies were Rosemary's Baby or The Exorcist.  Now they are Insidious, or Saw.  Now, I'm not saying horrible or scary things didn't happen before, and our fear is commensurate with things that are happening in our world. I don't know if that's true - awful, disturbing things happen in any age, and we know from history that we haven't invented anything.  I'm just wondering how more and more disturbing our images are getting is a reflection of who we are, if we need that kind of catharsis.

I was also thinking what it must be like to be born into that world. I'm sure my parents thought the same things of the time I was growing up in, but I wonder if there is some kind of collective unconscious that pushes us further and further, and that is what a child born today is born into.  Even though that child is a blank state, their experience will be one where seeing something like Insidious is par for the course by the time they are a young adult. They will perhaps even push it further.

It makes me wonder, even with all the self-help books and seminars about getting rid of and past your fear, that we will keep finding things that will scare us.  That's the basis of catharsis - to relieve us of those feelings. So perhaps we will never be free of them, we will just push further to find things that scare us more.

I'm not talking about the fear inherent in vulnerability, or trying something new.  I'm talking about old-fashioned wolf at the door fear. Since our movies get crazier and crazier, I have to wonder. I wonder if these kinds of movies will seem old fashioned, or if (grabbed from today's headlines!) Miley Cyrus simulating sex while basically wearing underwear will seem sadly old fashioned to any random 3 year old 20 years from now.  Perhaps then we'll be going to watch surgeries.

I digress.  While we're talking about fear, though, here's one of my favorite poems about it: Desert Places, by Robert Frost.

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast In a field I looked into going past, And the ground almost covered smooth in snow, But a few weeds and stubble showing last. The woods around it have it--it is theirs. All animals are smothered in their lairs. I am too absent-spirited to count; The loneliness includes me unawares. And lonely as it is that loneliness Will be more lonely ere it will be less-- A blanker whiteness of benighted snow With no expression, nothing to express. They cannot scare me with their empty spaces Between stars--on stars where no human race is. I have it in me so much nearer home To scare myself with my own desert places.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Progress

Yesterday was the first day I haven't written on the blog in over a month, since I started to write daily.

The great news is that I still wrote, just not on the blog. Part of the intention, or most, of the daily practice on here was to write daily, so it felt great that I've not broken that chain.

I'm challenged by finding something to write here daily, but it is spurring me on to daily practice. That means I'm working on other pieces, too, which is what I've wanted to do.

So check back. Hopefully I'll have something a little more interesting than a progress report tomorrow.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Surprised

I'm feeling emotional. I don't necessarily love it.  I'm actually surprised I'm feeling what I'm feeling.

I would say it's a surprise, but actually emotion always is.  Aside from the usual ones that you can expect to have when you would - you can kind of predict if you get bad news you get sad, bad traffic makes you angry and frustrated, etc - all the others are always a surprise.

They are indicators I'm feeling something deeper than I realized.  So I'm breathing.

I don't know what else to write about right now, except that I'm feeling sad. It's probably completely out of proportion to what is happening.  That, unfortunately, is not surprising.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nobody, not even the rain

I showed Hannah and Her Sisters to my boyfriend about a week ago, as he had never seen it, or a Woody Allen movie.  It's a favorite, and has been for a group of friends and myself since it came out when we were in high school.  There are many things I love about it. It still holds up, especially the great performances, including Dianne Wiest in her Oscar winning supporting actress role. 

What sticks with me most, though, is the beautiful poem by e e cummings called somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond that Michael Caine's character Eliot gives to Barbara Hershey's character Lee.  For a teenager, as I still was then, this poem was the epitome of romantic love.  I even cut out letters from magazines to assemble it on my wall in college. It's still one of my favorites.  My understanding of it is different, though it is still romantic.  I think it's one of the most beautiful poems I've ever read, if not the most.  Just strikes at the heart. Then again, I am prone to wistful things - I just watched a google doodle because it animated Clair de lune for Debussy's birthday, one of my favorite pieces of music ever.  Sigh.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Many hands make light work

I stage managed an event today. It was quite a deal - an employee appreciation day/career fair for several hundred people. I worked to make sure the show portion ran smooth, which had its challenges.  I'm the person in charge backstage, and things move quickly and change quickly.  You have to be nimble and juggle a lot of information while projecting into the near future, problem solving sometimes along the way. There are even people to help, though sometimes I forget or find it challenging to ask. Most of the time I have to when I'm forced into a corner, but I see I'll just do it myself a lot of the time.

I dated a radical faerie when I lived in New York. We would go to gatherings where we would camp in the woods, and two of the most favorite sayings were, "eat lightly so others may lightly eat," and "many hands make light work."  Both stuck with me, but the second feels profound.  It's true. The event today was gargantuan, and it took multitudes to make it happen. Similarly, almost nothing I own or come across in my day, is made by a single person. This computer wasn't. My apartment, my car, my phone, my clothes, what I eat, were all made or touched by many hands. I do not know that the repetitive work is light, but I know without many hands, much of what I experience in a day would not be possible.

I should remember that more often. Give aid when asked, and ask when needed.

My favorite proverb is "a stitch in time saves nine."  That's another one to work on and remember.

Two other quick thoughts - I posted something on Instagram with a proverbial sense like the above, and labeled it #proverb.  Immediately, I had several Christian users like my photo. The internet, when things like that happen, freaks me out a little. Or maybe it was spam.

When I was at lunch during the event, at a Carl's Jr., a woman walked up to me and asked for money, saying she was in a local women's shelter. I almost stopped her from speaking, but listened. I also told her that everyone there, which was almost the whole place, wearing shirts of the same color as each other, all worked for a non-profit org and might have resources.  She said, "yeah, but you're the only one wearing a suit."  It's true, I was.  I gave her a dollar, and she introduced herself.  She tried to give me a piece of candy for the dollar, but I didn't take it. She smiled and said she'd include me in her prayers. Her name is LeeAnn. I'm putting it out there so you might do the same.  Many hands make light work.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Notes

So many post ideas have gone through my head recently, but they all feel like topics that require some thoughtfulness.  I'm therefore not writing this evening about the royal baby and our need for celebrity; my theory about corporate structures mimicking the monarchy; the God idea and what need it might fulfill. These all feel a little deep tonight.

I did look at some notes for ideas I wrote down, so here they are in lieu of solid ideas.

"Many ways to say the same thing" - I'm sure that was in reference to something.  Now it's just a line in comic sans in my notes app.  If anyone, by the way, knows how to change the font to something besides comic sans, I'd be grateful.

Presbycousis - I heard this the word the other day and this was by stab at spelling it.  It's actually presbycusis.  The audiologist used it to describe my tinnitus. It's gradual hearing loss as you age.  That's a fun one.  Yay.

"When do the decisions start being made for you" - I've had that one in there for a while. January 11th. 6:55pm.  I was wondering how long you can be indecisive before the decisions start being made for you, and the options begin to decrease.  Still don't have an answer.

"It's too late to be a wunderkind. When did that happen?"  About 15 years ago.

City of 10,000 Buddhas on the site of former mental hospital. Ukiah, CA.  Sounds fascinating. They have a restaurant.

"Disappointed farms. Art and kindness mutually exclusive?" I wonder what bleakness I was pondering on September 12, 2012.  What was disappointed farms describing.  I think art can be kind, too. I must have had a bout of cynicism.  Hm.  And what's a disappointed farm?

So many questions. I'll keep asking them, and probably write about some of my notes sometime.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Know your audience

We hung out a bit after the show, which was enjoyable. Usually, I'm beat, or have to get up in the morning, or something that means I leave pretty close to when the show is done.  I also don't always love socializing after a show. It's true.  But tonight was a fun exception, and I really like this group of people - we've done two shows together now.

We talked about a lot of things, shared stories, etc., but the first thing we talked about was tonight's show. I forget that talk, and love it - characterizing the audience.  It's an interesting feature when you're performing -  each audience has a different character. It's easy to forget, and the show can go of the rails if a cast feels the audience isn't with them.  People will change performances, strain, push, psych themselves out, if they feel the audience is not responding. The reality, of course, is that you never know what the audience is thinking, and you have to do what you rehearsed even if you feel the ship is sinking.

The ship was by no means sinking tonight; it was a fun show and the audience had a great time. They laughed at different places than usual, though, and yelled at others. They were also pretty verbal.  So it was a different experience. A fun one, just different than usual. It struck me while we were talking about it that this may be an aspect of performing that you wouldn't know about if you've not been on stage.  Performers notice what you're doing. They characterize like the audience is one giant person.

And in some way it is - that's the miracle of it. A whole group of strangers sit in a room and laugh together at something. They will not meet or ever see each other again. To the people on stage, though, they form a collective, and we're watching and listening to see how that collective moves. We want to make it happy.

Such a bizarre thing to do. I think about it now and so much is second nature, but how it odd it would be to someone who's never been involved. Each night you don't know who you'll get. It's always a surprise.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Huntington

Second night of our show. I always forget how tiring it is to do a show. Of course, we did walk around the Huntington Gardens in the hot sun today, too, which is tiring.

I love the Huntington, and haven't been there in years. The gardens are beautiful and extensive. The book collection and exhibits are great. The art collection is eclectic, heavy on the 18th and 19th century, including the famous Gainsborough Blue Boy. I was looking at the suit on the Blue Boy portrait, at the broad color strokes that are called out on the placard beside the painting.


It reminded me of the fabric painting of El Greco, who was painting a few years before. Like 200.  I can't help but think there is an influence, though it's not stated.

Neither here nor there; I'm an armchair art critic. It's always surprising how many things reference either other, or remind. Aside from that, I love El Greco. I've seen his influence in so many artists. Ahead of his time. Even though, like I said, he's not called out as a reference.  That fabric makes me wonder.

Speaking of El Greco, look at this:


I mean, that almost looks expressionist. In the 17th century! Amazing. And his people look so gaunt and haunted. It's no wonder he's lasted. A master.

On the topic at hand, though - go visit the Huntington if you can. It's a wonderful place.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Opening

The show opened tonight.  Very fun, crowd loved it.  It's great that they're having a great time.  We are, too, though performing in the basement of a Mexican restaurant in LA is very hot.  So gratified, but tired and sweaty. I'm sure I will have something profound-er or interesting-er to say tomorrow.  Right now, sleep.

5 more shows - tomorrow, Sunday, and next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Everything old...

I was thinking about Russia, and the anti-gay sentiment that is revealing itself, the hatred. It's in our country as well, this vile judgment and self-righteousness (surely one of my least favorite words).

After reading Susan Bakewell's wonderful How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer last year, I picked up some Montaigne.  Like with Buber, I sometimes pick it up and just see where it is.  I didn't know what to blog about, and I read this:

See the horrible impudence with which we bandy divine reasons about....
     I see this evident, that we willingly accord to piety only the services that flatter our passions.  There is no hostility that excels Christian hostility. Our zeal does wonders when it is seconding out leaning toward hatred, cruetly, ambition, avaraice, detraction, rebellion.  Against the grain, toward goodness, benignity, moderation, unless as by a miracle some rare nature bears it, it will neither walk nor fly.
     Our religion is made to extirpate vices; it covers them, fosters them, incites them.

Written about inter-faith warfare in France in the 16th century. Plus ca change.., as the French say.  We are still living in it.  I hope this bald use of ignorance and fear to scapegoat fails.  I hope it fails spectacularly.  I hope no more have to die.

In the meantime, in some ways, how little has changed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Overheating

I did something I rarely do tonight. I was re-formatting a short that I wrote, so I had the TV on the in the background. I usually don't do this.  Now I am reminded why.  Something about TV makes me feel really warm after I'm watching it for a while.  Between the TV and the laptop, I started sweating.  TMI, probably, but just a reminder. I am a uni-tasker.  Music, yes.  TV, no.

I was first watching a very uninteresting, slow gay movie on Netflix, but then changed to one of my favorite movies, 8 1/2.  Perhaps it was all the fast Italian in the background that did it.  Sadly, Netflix does not have my favorite Felllini movie, Nights of Cabiria, on streaming. In fact, I'm not even sure they have it to mail. Too bad, too, because it's brilliant.

8 1/2, though, has one of the most lyrical scenes in cinema, when the children are being washed and put to bed. It also has one of the most joyous/ridiculous/sweet scenes, too, that is parodied often - Saraghina on the beach.  They're both on youtube, so I've posted them below...watch and enjoy. At about 3 minutes the fortune tellers guess the words, and that's when he has a reverie.




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Prairie-oke


Today I finished the screenplay for a short film that a friend pitched to me, which made me really happy. I love the feeling of having a draft of something done.

Then I went to rehearsal for this. We had a sold out run in April, and now we're doing the next few weeks. One forgets how tiring it is to rehearse after a full day.

One is tired, and going to bed.  Lots of ideas, but more later.  Come and see our show. You can purchase tickets here.