Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Strengths

Okay. I'm kind of hooked on this exercise. So completely unprompted I'm going to add to yesterday's list (and because I like lists). Today's comprises more of a core for me as an artist whether I'm directing or writing. Not discounting yesterday's list, this is an attempt to go for more depth and specificity.
  1. I'm not afraid to have those awkward conversations. Well, not entirely true. It's scary. But I will have them no matter how terrified because I want the work to be the best it can be without any unnecessary drag. So, yes, when I'm directing I'll have the discussion with the producer and explain why I won't cut a fellow playwright's play and I'll explain the scene and try not to sound patronizing and self-righteous. I'll explain simply and passionately and I'll bring the scene to life for him/her. Because I'm also good at pitching which is really about telling a story anyway. I'll fire the actor for whatever deal-breaking infringement they've made on the rehearsal process. I'll tell the freaky, sad actor that he/she can't break things against the wall and then smear his/her blood around (safety issues, you know) and that there might be more productive ways of dealing with one's pain. When I'm writing, I'll have the fight and the hours of silence when I tell one of my best friends in the world that the script she's commissioned me to write won't be including the serial killer scenario that she's counting on because that's not what the group is creating in the room through their improvisation. The group has decided what the play will be and she hired me to write that and in spite of whatever fear she's experiencing - these actors are creating amazing things. I'll take whatever help I can get from the director and the actor/writer in the last hour when I've written myself into a corner, I'm terrified, and we open in a week. I guess the corollary of having the awkward conversation is that I can swallow my pride.
  2. This kind of goes along with number 1. I'm not that attached to being liked.
  3. I have great instincts. (My weakness is that I occasionally ignore them and always end up regretting it).
  4. I have an overwhelming sense of musicality. Some call it ADD, I call it reality. I experience the world as music. Which is why I'll put up with a lot of noise from my kids that would make most parents cringe. I'm not sure ultimately how this will work out for them.
  5. I'm good at creating arresting visual images.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Meme: Five Strengths

I've been Meme-tagged by Malachy. Over a week ago? Yes, by now this meme is old news. But it's a good exercise and a welcome retreat from Life As I Know It at the 'mo. For the past month we've been having our floors refinished. Why? We had a flood over a year ago and just got around to getting things fixed. Well, actually putting the floor back, we've been walking on the plywood subfloor for the past year. And about two feet of wall had to be cut out where the baseboards used to be for fear of heinous mold growth. At night the hallway glowed from the light coming out from underneath the cut. It looked kind of like a Steven Spielberg movie without the fog.

Don't worry I'm getting to the meme.

That's how we lived for the past year. And you know what? It's amazing how quickly you get used to such things. I mean it wasn't until we had the wall sheetrocked again that we realized how we'd been living. See time is not of the essence to us here. Unless we're late for school or work. Or getting that princess dress sewn for the preschool carnival.

So yes. We're having our floors refinished for the second time this month. The second time people. Here's a little window into our world. We're living in our kitchen. And why not? Isn't that where every party ends up? Our clothes, towels, bed linen, and blankets are in four laundry baskets in the kitchen in front of the baby crib which is next to the Exersaucer and baby swing. These devices are commonly referred to by parents in the know as the Neglectababy - a word that can be used interchangeably for any such device that gives a parent the convenience of putting the baby down and walking away with the relative certainty that your charming tot will not eat the clumps of dog hair congregating on the floor and in turn that baby will not be mistaken for a dog treat.

Why do the floors need to be done twice? Shouldn't once be enough? Sure, sporto. Unless, of course, the floor finish cracks and blisters and turns green. That's when they come back and re-sand the floors and start all over again. Curses. That's when they fly the product rep in to see your floors and said rep tries to wiggle out of taking responsibility for his product by trying to get you to admit that you contaminated it somehow. In every conversation he has with you. Yeah, Skipper, we saved some floor shavings for you. Can't seem to reproduce the problem? All the product in that lot is suddenly gone? You're not trying to squirm out of this, eh? Good to know. You're a reputable business? It's used in the White House? In bowling alleys? Well, now you're just desperate, aren't you?

Okay. The meme.

The rules according to Patrick:
"Make a list of five strengths that you possess as a writer/artist. It's not really bragging, it's an honest assessment (forced upon you by this darn meme). Please resist the urge to enumerate your weaknesses, or even mention them in contrast to each strong point you list. Tag four other writers or artists whom you'd like to see share their strengths."
  1. I have a sublime sense of the ridiculous.
  2. Emotion. Not afraid of it. Violence, love, revenge, whatever, I'm there and I can get it on the page.
  3. I'm a good editor. I love to get that first draft out of the way. It's okay to write the worst first draft ever because the real work starts after you fill up the pages.
  4. I'm a good collaborator. I like to work with actors and directors to improv/compose scenes.
  5. I thrive on risk.
  6. And for good measure - I will throw things out and let things go to make the work better.
Now, I tag who? That's the problem with waiting so long. Or maybe that's the beauty of waiting so long - you can beg off because everyone has already done it. Okay, here we go: Ming-Zhu (sorry, I know you've been tagged twice on the same day no less), and Dorothy, Nick, and that's all I got. If you read this and you want to participate, give me your blog link in the comments or just write it in the comments of this post.

Monday, September 24, 2007

2 x Lester Bangs

I'll probably never produce a masterpiece, but so what? I feel I have a Sound aborning, which is my own, and that Sound if erratic is still my greatest pride, because I would rather write like a dancer shaking my ass to boogaloo inside my head, and perhaps reach only readers who like to use books to shake their asses, than to be or write for the man cloistered in a closet somewhere reading Aeschylus while this stupefying world careens crazily past his waxy windows toward its last raving sooty feedback pirouette.
I'll admit in front that I have a special affinity for things that don't quite fit into any given demarcated category, partly because I'm one of those perennial misfits myself by choice as well as fate or whatever. By profession, I am categorized as a rock critic. I'll accept that, especially since the whole notion that someone has a 'career' instead of just doing whatever you feel like doing at any given time has always amused me when it didn't make me wanna vomit. O.K., I'm a rock critic. I also write and record music. I write poetry, fiction, straight journalism, unstraight journalism, beatnik drivel, mortifying love letters, death threats to white jazz critics signed 'The Mau Maus of East Harlem,' and once a year my own obituary (latest entry: 'He was promising...'). The point is that I have no idea what kind of a writer I am, except that I do know that I'm good and lots of people read whatever it is I do, and I like it that way.

An interview here and an article about Brian Eno here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Compleat Critic's Qualifications

by Harold Clurman

Besides having cultivated taste, feeling, and a talent for clear observation of people:
  1. The critic should know the greater part of the classic and contemporary drama as written and played. Added to this, he must be conversant with general literature: novels, poetry, essays of wide scope.
  2. He should know the history of the theater from its origin to the present.
  3. He should have a long and broad play-going experience - of native and foreign productions.
  4. He should possess an interest in and a familiarity with the arts: painting, music, architecture, and the dance.
  5. He should have worked in the theater in some capacity (apart from criticism).
  6. He should know the history of his country and world history: the social thinking of the past and present.
  7. He should have something like a philosophy, an attitude toward life.
  8. He should write lucidly and, if possible, gracefully.
  9. He should respect his readers by upholding high standards and encourage his readers to cultivate the same.
  10. He should be aware of his prejudices and blind spots.
  11. He should err of the side of generosity rather than display an opposite zeal.
  12. He should seek to enlighten rather than to carp or puff.

Dylan: Je est un autre.

From a Film Comment article on Todd Hayne's new Dylan film.
I’m Not There says, among other things, that the presence of politics in works of art, like the presence of the artist’s personality, is at once unavoidable and virtually inexpressible. The audacity, beauty, and complexity of Haynes’s ironic celebration-and-critique are, quite literally, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Incidentally, the music’s cool, too.

It’s a strange business,” says French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, “speaking for yourself, in your own name, because it doesn’t at all come with seeing yourself as an ego or a person or a subject. Individuals find a real name for themselves, rather, only through the harshest exercise in depersonalization, by opening themselves up to the multiplicities everywhere within them, to the intensities running through them . . . It’s depersonalization through love rather than subjection . . . We have to counter people who think ‘I’m this, I’m that’ . . . by thinking in strange, fluid unusual terms . . . Arguments from one’s own privileged experience are bad and reactionary arguments.” (More here.)

It may be true that one has to choose between ethics and aesthetics, but it is no less true that whichever one chooses, one will always find the other at the end of the road. —Jean-Luc Godard

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The point is, the pleasure of deep feeling never needs defending in the United States; the pleasure of good thinking always does. - Jonathan Kalb

Friday, September 14, 2007

Off to the PICA Festival

I leave tomorrow morning for Portland, OR and the PICA Festival. My traveling companion is not quite seven months old and has taken to grunting when he doesn't want to be restrained. Hope people on the plane are forgiving and charmed by his ecstatic smile.

I'm looking forward to seeing Gatz, Elevator Repair Service's 7 hour line by line reading of The Great Gatsby. As a big Andy Kaufman fan (who used to confound his audience by reading Gatsby), this conceit thrills me no end. FYI: The tot will not be attending.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Strange and fantastic things really happen. During a rainstorm in Australia, fish fall from the sky; several Southern states consider legislation that would make licking toads illegal; Lisa Presley marries Michael Jackson. You read these things and you think to yourself that realism may not be the best medium through which to express the real world. – Karen Joy Fowler

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Art is Long

A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. And art itself may be defined as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect. It is an attempt to find in its forms, in its colors, in its light, in its shadows, in the aspects of matter and in the facts of life what of each is fundamental, what is enduring and essential-their one illuminating and convincing- quality -the very truth of their existence. The artist, then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal. Impressed by the aspect of the world the thinker plunges into ideas, the scientist into facts-whence, presently, emerging they make their appeal to those qualities of our being that fit us best for the hazardous enterprise of living. They speak authoritatively to our common-sense, to our intelligence, to our desire of peace or to our desire of unrest; not seldom to our prejudices, sometimes to our fears, often to our egoism-but always to our credulity. And their words are heard with reverence, for their concern is with weighty matters: with the cultivation of our minds and the proper care of our bodies, with the attainment of our ambitions, with the perfection of the means and the glorification of our precious aims.

It is otherwise with the artist.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Failure takes many forms.

It could look something like this.


Or maybe this.

It might rock.

It might chug.

It has the power to shock.


Maybe it's a matter of thinking too precisely on an event-

Adrian: Hello and welcome to the launch of the Institute of Failure.

My name is Adrian Heathfield, and this is Cathy Naden (Forced Entertainment) and Ben Slater; we are the official spokespeople of the Institute.

From this day forward, the Institute of Failure will function as a think tank dedicated to the documentation, study, and theorisation of failure in all aspects of human endeavor. It will exist primarily as a website, with invited contributions and links, and will also present public talks, seminars, and lectures, of which this is the first.

The collaborative overseers of this project, Tim Etchells and Matthew Goulish, unfortunately could not be with us today. Matthew has contributed a paper, which we will present to you shortly. Tim, because of health problems, has been unable to contribute new writing to today’s presentation.

If he were here I imagine that he might tell a story which a friend of ours told him about growing up in the 1980s in Croatia. She said that each year on a particular day in April there was a day of national disaster rehearsal called “Nista Nas Ne Smije Izne-naditi”: Nothing Can Ever Surprise Us. On Nothing Can Ever Surprise Us Day the whole country would be mobilised to pretend that a war or some other catastrophe was happening, each town would have its own rituals, “its nuclear accident, its chemical spillage, its germ or ground warfare” event. Kids would particularly look forward to this day, as they could skip school and participate in an elaborate form of realist dressing up. And then she said, despite all those years of practice, the war came and made the rehearsal look like a cheap pantomime.
(from introduction to the Institute Of Failure)

Perhaps it's a crisis of integrity?

Or pure hubris.

Everything in the known universe about failure (not as extensive as you might think)

David Byrne: Interactivity vs. Storytelling

I wonder if there is a part of the brain that connects the perception of narrative to the amygdala — the center of ancient animal emotions like lust, pleasure and fear. Strands of connectivity that gives these forms their power…and their reason for existence.

Emergent narrative? Can there be such a thing as a narrative that emerges, by itself, from a seemingly random or chaotic structure or series of events? (read the rest here.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Son of a-

Citation Machine

Okay. This may not excite you, but it sure made my day.

Still thesising. Making progress. Not finished. But progress has been made.

Thank you.

Carry on.