Friday, March 26, 2010

"stay away from actors. they're whores and pimps"

that's what the people of a small pennsylvania town told their children. a british actress who'd come for a summer of stock shocked. in england performers have a different status, appreciated wherever they are. however, in this puritan land...

remember those two actors in 'huck finn'? shady characters, shysters, thieves, and lousy thespians. how is it our stars put on pedestals and the road-show artist not? good god, in 2006 half the news stories in the u.s.a. about brittany speers! and on the evening reports the problems of sandra bullock's marriage equal the war in afghanistan. both receive the same emphasis and time.

oscar wilde wrote, 'Our servants will do our living for us.' is that what it's come to? the twilight zone kids do everything (like sucking blood) which we'd love to do, but don't dare? i'm just bowled over by how the young and old devour the lurid tabloids in the barnes & noble cafe.

oddly, despite it's reputation, theater a high art. think about how many people it takes over weeks to learn lines, create costumes, build a set, arrange the lights, record the sounds. and all this for a few nights of performance, which i'm amazed ever happens. the actors and crew have to show up sober. a run can be grueling. broken ankles. strained backs. voices need to work through the veil of bronchitis. (an actor in ashland, oregon performs despite turret's syndrome.) the show must go on more than a battle cry. it's a reality.

an example of this, the show opening last nite at the blue room theater in chico, california, my home town. i took a lot of photos for the first dress, the preparations and run-through. you can see the pictures here:

notice how many people needed to get the work done. the attention to detail. the sweat on the actors faces. this is no idle past-time. every one believes they too can act. they've a body and a voice, why not? cause it's damn difficult, that's why. it takes a tremendous focus and team-work. most of us are lazier than actors. and i, personally, find them remarkable people.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

will the real alice please stand up?

at 18 i realized i had no idea why people do what the do. a huge part of the rest of my life spent trying to discover this. hours of therapy, visits to psychics, a summer reading forty-four books by and about c.g. jung. decades disappeared in the quest. and all i ultimately came up with said by la rochefoucauld: everyone acts out of self-interest.

actually, this remains a pretty good rule of thumb, though it explains nothing! for example, most people get pregnant by accident, and continue out of vanity, the child an extension of them. as my friend marilyn says, 'parents want to be able to brag about their children.' must be tough when they're drug-addicts and in jail. yet self-interest doesn't reveal the driving forces of parenthood and the ability to transform oneself into caring for another. somehow it generally works. not always. a therapist friend has had parents shoot each other in front of the kids, throw babies against the wall, exasperated by their crying. that's why to praise the family as the end-all and be-all of values a rather cruel joke.

mobs do act in predictable ways. once individuality subsumed in a movement, caught up in an archetype (as jung would say) they're swept along until the wave crashes on the shore. so individuality defined and asserted creates everything useful to a civilized life. and when it comes down to the individual, the mystery begins.

take alice from wonderland, for example. wonderfully in the original book, we're privy to her often rebellious thoughts. adults tell her what to do all the time. sometimes she submits out of discretion and kindness. other times she fights back or simply walks away. it's this see-saw which strikes us as both funny and universal in the face of uncertain and strange encounters.

the latest movie with johnny depp confused me. by turning the story into a normal hollywood battle-ground tale it foisted on alice the role of the modern heroine fighting dragons. she resists assuming it and yields in the end. and certainly she feels an accomplishment in cutting off the flying creature's head. (as always, we ultimately feel sorry for the villainous animal with whom we identify in the midst of these crazy humans.) the film contains witty turns of events based on our memories of the original book. yet alice as an individual more complicated than ever.

another example, the four gospels. matthew, mark, luke, and john create very different christs, the warrior vs the healer vs the poet, for example. one success of this approach: you can mix and match characteristics, creating the christ you need. nothing wrong with this, though no one artificially created saviour more true than another. thus christians all through history have been able to kill each other with impunity.

no, the closest i can get is understanding a few things about myself. i may question the concept of family-hood for self-protective reasons. ours in debt the whole time i was growing up. i knew to have a family meant doing a lot of things you didn't want to do. then, the uncertainly of the children's fate would have driven me crazy. true, i'm less domesticated for all this. and maybe my helpless feeling of the individual being inscrutable derives from the lack of experience.

whatever it is, i'm as ignorant as ever. how do drivers generally manage to keep within the lines on the highway? perhaps the answer is trust. we have to live on the hope civilization is possible, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Friday, March 12, 2010

why people take drugs

hah, you think this is a question he can't answer. everybody different. you can't make up a theory covering the whole spectrum. well, folks, i will.

every society has its chosen hallucinogens. in the rainforest the pigmy's smoke a root. in china opium. in america the legal drugs coffee and alcohol. don't kid yourself. the country runs on caffeine during the day and recovers at night with booze.

however i'm thinking more of magic mushrooms, heroin and marijuana. the forbidden stuff. and why is it proscribed? it isn't conducive to the assembly line, the lawyer's office. they make us want to do less rather than more. and productivity is everything. keep the computers and factories busy. and if the permitted chemicals don't suffice, join a religion and do good works. work, work, work makes jack a dull boy. and i'm guilty of it myself. i'm a secret workaholic. very tiring and not much fun, i can tell you. very seldom is my brain not in overdrive.

ah, but you say, being occupied keeps your mind off things. exactly. and it deadens you to the immediate surroundings. when you have insomnia in the middle of the night, you're trying to protect yourself against death (sleep). and yet how many of these solutions suffice in morning? usually none. you've coughed up the phlegm of speculation for nothing. and we all know how our jobs can destroy marriages.

so, why the illegals? they bring back the sense of wonder. on shrooms everything in your surroundings blossoms with brilliance, color, you look at things the way you haven't since you were two. or heroin. i lived with a druggie lover. one night i returned home after leaving in the middle of an argument. she'd shot up. said, 'even if you kicked me it would feel good.' this substance basically prozac on steroids.

marijuana interrupts your thoughts. you can't continue with obsessive thinking. suddenly you forget your train of habitual logic and you have to laugh at yourself. obviously this doesn't fit with the focused labor which keeps us wealthy and out of the poor-house.

any habitual use of stimulants may lead to addiction. you don't create anything and smoke your day away. but you'd rather have that than be a zombie on the commuter train. yes, childish for sure. compelling in an industrial world? certainly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

if you live in the moment

you are part of everything around you. and if you don't, alienation.

most of us separate ourselves for protection. remember how everything seemed to hurt so much in childhood - criticism, failure - resulting in shame? i swore i'd never forget the vulnerability and pain of not having boundaries.

gradually we build walls to protect ourselves. nobody wants to hurt like that when older (that's a kind of madness, all the symptoms of insanity acting literally like a child as an adult without control.)

how does anyone survive high-school? if you haven't read it, i recommend this book:

what i mainly remember from it: that time in our life creates unforgettable memories due to the anxiety. in a sense, it may be a return to complete presence, vulnerable to all the emotions of a two-year old. sex does it, certainly. the new surge of hormones driving us to make babies - in old societies people married a lot earlier. infanthood and high-school intimately related.

getting back to now takes discipline and risk. actors and athletes find it in fear, effort, and concentration. zen masters do it by not letting thoughts dominate their existence. personally, i find the best thing is to walk on the beach. as i get back in my car, i'm amazed at how relaxed i feel.

the return to youth isn't easy without going crazy. of course, that's the attractiveness of drugs. every high simply being completely where you already are. unfortunately, it generally takes it's toll on the body. for all our envy of tribal life, those people died a lot earlier, and ingesting powerful hallucinatory roots didn't help. short and intense, long and boring, take your pick

Saturday, March 6, 2010

the history of envy

when does it begin? in the cradle, no doubt.

for example, my younger sister born just a little over a year after myself. my father doted on her. kicked off center stage i became a terror. i can't imagine how much i must have tormented her. my first memory at three (just down the street) of cutting off her golden locks. everybody made such a fuss over them. certainly, that may be jealousy. sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

envy, to me, means wanting the success and material goods other people have (the comfort and attention). why did she get a bigger slice of the pie? how come he's got that gorgeous girlfriend when he's ugly as sin? i suspect all of us go through life with this monkey on our back.

my friend dennis palumbo has just written a blog on the subject, envy in hollywood. good reading.

he consoles screenwriters having a tough time.

author envy, that's definitely a subject i know something about. 'he's nothing but a pimp selling bestsellers. throw him to the dogs.' like many other scribes i used to practice my nobel prize acceptance speech. that's how high the ambition goes. no wonder we've little tolerance for our own measly efforts. i do love a piece while i'm writing it, getting a short high when it's finished. next day, i can't stand it, have to write something else.

too many masterpieces, that's what one teacher said. when you've got tolstoy and shakespeare to go up against, you've got a problem. and the worst thing is: you'll never really know how good you are (and does it matter?) so much effort, so little love. if you weren't heard as a child, you'll keep interrupting your father's sermons, which i did religiously. i'd have the urge at a play or talk to stand up and shout, 'look at me. i can do it better.' this seems to have worn off a bit, thank god.

and in the good old days, say 18th century france, you could write one significant novel and relax. you'd done it. you had your words on everyone's lips. you relax and bathe in the glory for the rest of your life. alas, we live in the land of opportunity. you can always surpass yourself. you must. otherwise, people say, 'he's finished. lost his grasp, poor fellow.' there's more to get, more to be.

and that's the real trouble with envy. it may fuel your desires. at the same time it deflates you. that's right, in your envious state you wish to be other than you are, someone else. gurus and therapists make a fortune out of this, as do all religions. they teach (or try to) self-acceptance. 'but, then, how will i win?' everytime i get unhappy i realize ambition the root cause. as my mother more or less beat into me, 'you were born for glory. save the world!' it's one thing to be loved, it's another to be deified.

if you haven't seen 'tick, tick, boom' at the blue room, i recommend it. an early work of the writer who wrote the big hit 'rent' and died close to opening night. that fact certainly lessens my envy.

you can see pictures of the show here.

and buy tickets here

Thursday, March 4, 2010

a doctor's visit can be debilitating

not because he/she finds anything wrong. simply the whole process - weight, blood-pressure, temperature. my god we're so dependant on this body we know so little about. whenever i ponder it deeply, i can hardly walk down the street.

maybe it's the memories. in junior high i contracted rheumatic fever. my left knee turned into a baseball and my big toe into a malformed root. i stayed in the hospital a week, blood drawn twice a day. at home i lay around a lot. suddenly, i'd been thrown into a singular orbit, class a fourteen mile bus-ride away in the sagebrush desert of utah. school felt distant and strange.

i think it was king lear who said, 'my hand smells of mortality.' that's the bigger issue, of course. the other day i wished i were made of plastic. that might have it's drawbacks, but the robots are becoming more human.

maybe waiting did it. i asked several other students if they were in line for this particular doctor. yes, as i expected. he takes time with us. one girl seeing him for a chronic illness, cheerful and talkative. another to ask him about a problem with her dog. after being a drug-addict and trying to kill herself on anti-depressants, she'd been advised to get a pet, which she did. now she has something to live for, something that pulls her out of the room. unfortunately, a new apartment complex needs a medical reason for harboring a canine.

we discussed caring, the need for. otherwise we withdraw and contemplate dark clouds. my sister at fifty-four adopted two children to fight back the shadows. it worked, but at a price, children an extension of your nervous system you can't control. she'd morphed into three complicated bodies.

and for most of the rest of the day, i couldn't get interested in anything. the women in the african art history class lacked mana. nothing aroused me. i realized i'd just have to tough it out. at barnes and noble i found photo books nauseating. i looked through a book on f. scott fitzgerald. may be literature would help. i wandered the fiction section.

eventually, i stumbled across the stories of italo calvino - and finally something lit sparks. his

got my imagination functioning. everything around me in store became vibrant. and it's true, that's the key. at the doctor's office i couldn't use my normal fantasy. that's the trouble with too much reality. we're way too complex to live as simply physical beings.