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, and, 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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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.