WWSP's Shadow of th Marigold

Friday, December 31, 2004

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed

As Grace Slick once so exuberantly said, 'feed your head.' I have been doing so. The only 'work,' I'm doing is editing the video, (editing is a slog, but I am making progress) otherwise, it's leisure and fun I am seeking.

Yesterday, I devoured big sections of the book on the Buddha (The End of Suffering). It's an amazing read, and it's eye opening, since the author is a young Indian writing about his initial fascination with the West and his disillusionment with his own country. The author (Pankaj Mishra) is captivated by the acheivements of the revolutionary West - logic, science, technology, progress, modernity, capitalism. He looks at his own country as poor, backward, superstitious, trapped in the ways of the old world.

The other side of the coin would be someone from the West who is disillusioned by the madness of the capitalist beast, someone who looks to the East as some kind of refuge; instead of the march of progress, the cool tranquility of the old world. (One man's ceiling is another man's floor).

Ironically, it was the Europeon explorers who rediscovered the origins of the Buddha and his teachings (Hinduism had absorbed the Buddha as a Hindu God) who discovered remnants of an ancient India. I believe that the book is taking us on a journey into the 'middle way,' the best of East and West (supposedly Albert Einstein thought that Buddhism was the religion of the future because it was most compatible with a scientific view of the world).

Much of this is life-affirming, it confirms that history is alive and ever-changing too. As Buddha puts it: all thoughts, feelings, actions, phenomena are impermanent. All that exists is mind. When we still the mind, we change the world.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Is that a Fork in the Road?

Since I'm on vacation, I'm trying to do things differently; sleep in a little longer, put on music (Ray Charles, John Lennon, Drive By Truckers) a little earlier, let my beard grow, sort of loll about in the kitchen, sipping coffee, reading the newspaper (by the way, most of the news is bad).

Last night, I went to Peter Jones Gallery and played music with one of the actors from the 'Goodbar,' show. I enjoyed it, but I'm beginning to suspect that playing music, 'starting the band,' is a diversion from my mission, which is really writing and performing 'theater' pieces. Two nights ago, Carla and I watched, 'Backbeat,' a great little movie about the early Beatles in Hamburg Germany. There's always been the 'rock and roll dream,' getting a group together, working up a tight set, taking it on the road, etc. but I think I need to be focused. Playing guitar has always been a positive kick, but at this point, I need to channel my creative energies into Black Forest.

'You can have it all...' but, unfortunately, you can't do it all. By focusing on one thing, I, by neccesity, exclude something else. The choice, defines the journey, as in Robert Frost's 'the road not taken.'

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

If I had a Million

A Yo Lo Tengo song is going round in my head this morning...'you can have it all.' I think it's true. Another vacation day. There is a real pleasure living by my own clock. If I had a million, my days wouldn't be all that different. I started editing 'Goodbar,' yesterday, I rough cut two scenes (eleven more to go). Editing requires, patience, organization, discipline -- not my strengths, so it's probably really good for me to 'work' on my weaknesses. I read in the paper this morning: 'we need to overcome ourselves, so that we can defeat our opponents.'

I'm jumping back and forth reading about Charles Laughton and the Buddha. I find that by focusing on one individual, all aspects of the world revolve and converge. This too is a lesson.

Ideas about a new play are swirling around in my head. I've got to get them down on paper (actually in the computer) but there's a pleasure in letting the ideas and words swirl around without committing to them just yet. Think I'll go get another cup of coffee, then lace up my 'trail runners' and go for a long, lonely run on the lakefront. Wonder what the water and sky will tell me today?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Middle Way?!

Yesterday, we went to retrieve some of Carla's paintings from Peter Jones Gallery. While she wrapped the paintings in plastic, I sat looking at the 'Goodbar,' set; my head swimming with ideas. It's amazing what a little time off from the daily grind can do for 'creative exploration.'

I'm now reading two books simultaneously, the Charles Laughton biography (Laughton has met Bertolt Brecht and they are collaborating on a theater production of 'Gallileo') and a book on the Buddha called 'The End of Suffering.' The latter is one that Carla picked up, I immediately latched onto it, and it seems to be the right information at the right time.

I've been wrestling with 'the self,' 'selfishness,' 'enlightened self-interest.' The Buddha of course, tells us that our conception of 'the self,' is illusory. Our work with InVision has made me comfortable with thinking in terms of 'energy,' 'auras,' 'chakras,' this seems to 'depersonalize,' the meaning of self, helping to leave the 'needing, wanting, grasping,' behind. The East seems to want to obliterate the self (The Buddha - end suffering), the West seems to want to exhalt it (Jesus - wallow in suffering - sorry, remember, I'm an ex-Catholic). Maybe there is a middle way? Expand the circle, redefine the meaning of self to include the universal flow of energy in and out!

'Peel away the layers of the onion, and you are left with nothing but tears.'

Monday, December 27, 2004

MovieLand!

The last few days we've plunged into MovieLand!

Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' -- Jimmy Stewart registers both bleak existential despair, and deep, existential joy. You can't conceive of any one else playing the role of George Bailey, except as an imitation of Stewart. This has become a modern myth that tells us things we can't verbalize to each other without embarrassment.

Almodovar's 'Bad Education' -- a dizzying movie within a movie. A radical, hedonistic blast of color and passion. Soapy, trashy, intelligent, dare I say it, transcendent. Almodovar's script is multi-layered, every character has multiple motivations, each has made compromises in order to live. This world is ruled by beauty and passion and the strange manifestations of love. If we don't believe in God, don't fear hell, if we are fearless --- we are capable of anything.

Wes Anderson's 'Life Aquatic' -- Bill Murray in a red cap and a speedo, do I really need to say more? Murray has lived a hard life, the barnacles show, you can see the years in his eyes, in the lines of his face. I marvelled at the sheer, silent physicality of Bill Murray. The movie is funny, subtle, odd. Excellent soundtrack as per usual for a Wes Anderson movie. Old David Bowie songs sung in Portugese - excellent.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Fellow Travellers

The last two days have been a whirl of social interaction with friends and family. It's good to say 'hello,' to our fellow travelers, but there is a sadness in the enterprise. As a philopsher (Wittgenstein) once said, the thoughts, intentions, feelings and pain of 'others,' are unknowable. All we have to go on are words and actions. Words and actions are easily misunderstood. So we are at sea, alone, trying to puzzle out meanings. Everything seems opaque, partial, unsatisfying.

Two lines of dialogue stand out for me, the first, 'we are all the same,' was hurled at my feet (I refused to pick up the cudgel) by someone I've known many years. It's a generalization, so in that sense, it is both meaningless and 'a truthful lie.' Better to say, 'we are all human.' But since we all have different physical equipment, experiences, histories, etc. our differences seem just as important as our similarities.

The second line: 'you are too cynical,' was directed at me in the middle of a political discussion, by someone I admire greatly, so it kind of resonated inside and led me back to my American Heritage Dictionary. First, it must be said, labels are meaningless. I don't think you can sum up a human being with one nice, neat, label. Instead, we all wrestle with dichotomies (Cynic - one who believes all people are motivated by selfishness. Idealist = one who sees the world as it 'ought to be.') and we can glide up and down the spectrum as needed.

Upon reflection, since I am an adherent of 'the School of Clarity,' (to see the world as it is), I am actively trying not to be an idealist. I want to see the world as it is, and sometimes hope for a world that 'ought to be.' In that sense, I guess I am closer to the Cynic. Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene,' tells us, on the biological level, we are all selfish organisims fighting to survive and reproduce. Of course, we can choose to 'override,' this tendency (for example willful barreness), just as we can see selfishness in ourselves and others and celebrate when we 'transcend,' through Art and Love.

It may actually be 'healthier,' to start with the premise that all people are motivated by selfishness, and to be suprised when you seem to be proven wrong. Better than the disappointed Idealist, who expects the best and is disappointed. I think that both Democracy and Capitalism have thrived because they assume that people are motivated by selfishness. Communism fails because it assumes people will act 'as they ought.' Of course, all this speculation is tentative and partial too. Today I choose to play the Optimistic Cynic, tomorrow I will be glad to be proven completely wrong.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Soundtrack

Yesterday, Christmas Eve: family, food, and music. For me, ultimately it's all about 'the soundtrack.' On the trip out: The Best of the Ronettes, featuring the young Wizard Producer: Phil Spector (now a pathetic, drug-addled old man charged with murder). Ronnie Spector and the girls light up the night with echo-laden, 'wall of sound,' operas about 'breaking up, making up' and 'going steady.'

On the ride back, John Lennon's 'Rock and Roll.' This is an album he made to resolve a copyright dispute. He reaches back to the music that inspired him as a young lad: Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Phil Spector (Spector and Lennon worked together on a couple of albums). Supposedly, Spector once pulled a gun on Lennon in the studio. Who says rock and roll doesn't matter? It's great to hear Lennon sing songs like 'Stand by Me;' he is in fine voice throughout, but of course, Lennon singing Lennon is so much more 'transcendent.'

Anyway, home late, up early, snow is slowly floating down past my window, looking forward to Dim Sum and a movie. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Gay Desperado

In the business world, I have been 'sharp as a razor,' one step ahead of the game. I chalk this up to my daily meditation, my pursuit of clarity at all times. Sometimes it works beautifully, sometimes (through my own weakness) less so, but lately, I've been riding the wave like a skilled Surfer Boy!

Last night, we watched two classic movies: 'The Old Dark House' (1932) and (this was the real gem) 'The Gay Desperado' (1936). The first featured a young Charles Laughton (I'm in the midst of a biography on Laughton and I'm doing my homework). 'Dark House,' is a quirky, horror movie directed by James Whale (Director of 'Frankenstein,' and 'The Bride of Frankenstein'). Laughton plays a loud, sad, Scotsman, he's in his late twenties, a fat, captivating baby.

'The Gay Desperado,' features a young, beautiful Ida Lupino (a tough little spitfire) who encounters, the 'Gay One,' a Mexican opera singer who has been captured by a group of Mexican Bandidos and is employed as their opera-singing mascot. Ida calls him an 'imitation bandido,' he falls in love with her, tells her that he 'must follow his heart,' that he can't express what he feels in words, no, 'he must sing.'

At key moments, the Gay Desperado sings opera, and the Bandidos, the Federales, and everyone within earshot are captivated. The Mexican Bandidos have been watching American Gangster movies which have adversely affected them. It takes the example of the Gay Desperado to show them the error of their ways. They must 'follow their hearts,' and return to the happy, carefree life of being a Mexican Bandido. What a great, quirky, silly, hilarious, beautifully shot film. It's directed by Rouben Mamoullian. I must 'follow my heart,' and seek out more of his work. I too am an 'Imitation Bandido!'

Thursday, December 23, 2004

There's Still Time to Mend

Old movies... I'm reading about Charles Laughton and I realize that there are decades of movies that I haven't seen that I'd like to see. I may have to do some hunting at the video store in the 'classics' section and have a 'Laughton Festival.' I recently saw 'White Christmas,' and I enjoyed it immensely. What a strange artifact from another world.

Last night, I watched 'The Blues Brothers,' on AMC. I even endured the commercials. Not only is it a great musical-comedy featuring Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and the famous Stax rythmn section (Duck Dunn on bass, Steve Cropper on guitar) but of course you have a bluesy version of Laurel and Hardy - Ackroyd and Belushi. They are funny, they have a great chemistry, their physicality is superb. Plus it's about two Catholic boys ('on a mission from god') growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. This movie is built into my DNA. Watching it is kind of like reviewing x-rays from my medical file. 'There's my funny bone, that's where the white man's blues comes from.'

The Blues Brothers smash up a lot of cars, there's a lot of pointless sound and fury, but when Belushi (he died so young) stands on stage belting out 'Jailhouse Rock,' in front of a sign that reads, 'There's still time to mend,' you can't help but want to whoop with joy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Money and/or Love

Today I'm heading into an uncomfortable corporate setting where I am to play a specific role. I look at this as an opportunity to put on a new valence. I will wear a suit and tie. I will conjure a picture, tell a story. I will bring a 'secret prop,' something I can use to find the essence of the character I'm playing. It's all basically child's play. I get paid well for taking on this work, for putting on a valence, speaking to a group of people, conjuring a particular vision.

It's nowhere near as rewarding as playing in the Black Forest Theater realm. There, the characters are much more extreme, the people I work with are more dedicated, and the cause seems more noble: entertain, enlighten. There's also this difference: one is a well-paid job, the other is a no pay labor of love. I've wrestled with this dichotomy for years, it would be great to be able to spend more time on the 'labor of love,' but would it really be 'better,' to turn that realm of pure expression into a JOB? I'm not so sure.

What is a 'successful artist?' Someone who makes a lot of money? Then how is an artist any different than a 'hip' banker? If I turn my labor of love into a money making enterprise does it ennoble it, or diminish it, or is it irrelevant either way? Money and love: two energies -- let them both flow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Amateurs

Last night we videotaped the last scenes for the 'Goodbar,' shoot. I looked up and saw that Carla had tears in her eyes as the videotape played out. It was a good, satisfying shoot. It's still an open question how much of the excitement of the live show comes across, but I think we've captured the outline of the beast.

It's the 'group dynamic,' that really makes it all worthwhile. Our actors are committed, creative, uncomplaining. We've had four different shooters on this project, which is a real blending of styles and eyes. I'm looking forward to getting to the editing suite.

I'm into a biography of Charles Laughton (it's an excellent book). Laughton approached his work as an 'amateur,' (the original meaning in French: Lover). Laughton loves the work of an actor, the artist, he is one of the first 'method,' actors --- 'I first feel it in my guts and then I let it pour from my eyes.' I think all great work comes from this pure impulse of love. It's the same for our work on 'Goodbar,' a group of individuals calling on that simple, pure impulse to create something greater than ourselves.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Storm Gathering

It's Monday morning, I've got things to do, promises to keep, I'm not going to talk about how cold it is, I live in the Midwest, it's December, so is it news that the windchill is in the minus territory? There was a time when I used to dismiss the windchill, thinking this was just piling on, more pessimism, but running on the lakefront, with a strong North wind trying to blow you down, kind of re-enforces the whole windchill concept (speed of wind x temp = damn cold).

Now I have been wrestling with some deep issues this weekend, all relating to my workplace. It's amazing how a little microcosm of people - the things they do and say, can bring up all the fundamental questions: What is a man? What is the good life? What is unacceptable? How do you deal with the intolerant/intolerable?

One positive: I have been using my tools, I have been working from a place of clarity, I can see the storm gathering, I have been able to let it all come down without being clouded by emotion. Also, we had a good weekend, we went to two Christmas parties (first time I saw 'White Christmas' all the way through - they don't make them like that anymore, Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby are freaks of nature), and we just kind of let the energy of all these interesting people wash over us.

So, I'm ready for anything, back into the cauldron of 'needing, wanting, grasping.' Steeled, refreshed. Is it to be: tragical, comical, historical? Or: comical, tragical, historical? Or: historical, comical, tragical? Most likely, all of the above.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Basics

'Do not judge, lest you be judged.' This is a hard one, especially, when trying to navigate the waters of social interaction. One of the great leaps in acting/performing (we are always acting/performing) is to find a 'neutrality' with judgement. There is a freedom, a power, in steering clear of the judgement of others, also, when you can 'see,' without blinders (judgement is just another blinder). It's best to go to back to the basics. This energy is mine, this energy is not. Judgement (both judging and being judged) is only another manifestation of fear.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Brittle Edges and All

Channel surfing last night, I settled on 'Larry King Live,' he had a show on San Quentin Prison (don't ask). It was perfectly dreadful, except for one guest: the Country and Western singer, Merle Haggard. I'm not the biggest C&W fan (although I do like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash) but every time Merle ('I'm an Okee from Muskogee') piped in, he had something refreshing and honest to say. Most people on TV (and maybe most people who want to be on TV - which I guess is most people) have assumed a slick dishonesty, which passes for 'normal' conversation. Not Merle, he was just Merle, hard, brittle edges and all. He talked about his life - a prisoner at San Quentin at 19 years old, to a pardon (by Ronald Reagan) 22 years later. Now that's a crooked road. No bullshit from Merle (he was in prison for stealing cars and escaping jail): 'I was an incorrigible young man.' Sitting in a cell, in solitary: 'I realized I didn't want to live this life.' So he changed his life. No bolt of lightening, no conversion experience, just - 'I decided to change my life.' He picked up a guitar and became Merle Haggard.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Rhinoceros

William Burroughs, famous junkie and beat novelist once remarked: 'maybe a paranoid schizophrenic is just a guy who has wised up.' This morning reading some of the political blogs and the news of the day, it's easy deduce that it's all (politics and big business) one big con game. I don't want to fall into cynicism but sleaze, greed and corruption seem to pervade the 'system.' We actually reward the con men, we've grown to respect the individual who can lie through their teeth and get away with it.

Dylan: 'you must be honest to live outside the law.' Washington D.C. is all about 'the con,' who you know, who has influence. The 'Idealist,' (are there really any left -- okay how about Eliot Spitzer? Maybe.) has come to be seen as 'the Sap,' the guy who just doesn't get it. It's all become so cushy from Wall Street to Main Street. Respectable ponzi schemes: the Stock Market, the Insurance Industry, Mutual Funds, etc.

So, you play the game, knowing it's a game, you play to win, 'where did that pea go,' but you know somehow its probably fixed. Woody Gutherie: 'Some rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.' You live in the world of the con, you swim in the con, you hope you can discern what's a con and what's not.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Two Masks

I read two recent articles in the 'New Yorker,' that have been rattling around in my head; one about Max Weber and the Protestant Work Ethic, the other about Arthur Conan Doyle and his love/hate relationship with his creation: Sherlock Holmes. Weber studied the mad, alienating, mechanism we've unleashed on the world called capitalism. He tells us science and technology are 'instruments of disenchantment.' He makes the case that mindless accumulation of money, is the soul of the capitalist machine, and that Protestantism or Puritanism with it's belief in rewards in the here-after, made it all possible. 'Idle hands are the Devil's playground.' It became 'virtuous,' to accumulate money beyond what we need as human beings. We gave up our humanity to this mad, mindless mechanism that ultimately has no master, that will gobble up all the resources of the world in a mad quest for MORE. This 'rational' system of trading goods and services leads to supreme irrationality.

Conan Doyle created a character, Holmes, who was the supreme rationalist, the odd quirky human being (a drug addict, a musician), who could see details others couldn't, who could make the deductive leap, who could deduce 'what happened.' A man who could explain the the events of the world. Conan Doyle came to loath this character, (he tried to kill him off, but his fans demanded he bring him back) and ultimately Doyle himself recoiled from the reality of the world of the rational. Doyle thought that World War I was a 'rational,' war, but when the horror of the war became apparent, (his son was one of it's victims) he recoiled into a more mystical frame of mind. Ultimately, Doyle takes the road of rationality as far as he can go, and comes to the verdant land of the irrational.

It seems 'rationality,' is just another mask we wear, we can just as easily don the mask of 'irrationality.' Most likely we wear both. The 'world,' carries on within us and without us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

White Noise and Static

My head was hi-jacked yesterday. I had a throbbing ache in my head all day (a very rare occurance), it was like a rebel radio station had taken over my brain waves, broadcasting white noise and static right into the center of my being. I was pretty useless. I went through all the motions, a member of the walking dead. No one noticed, I realized, (no great insight) I could probably do my job with an ice pick lodged squarely in my forehead, and no one would be the wiser.

I couldn't read, couldn't think, I just reacted to the events of the day. It seemed good enough. I couldn't wait to close my eyes and let it all go. I had a deep, long sleep, (The Long Goodbye), no dreams, 9 hours of silent black. My head is clear this morning. There's an emptiness where there was an ache. Sleep can be so rejuvenating. A new man, a new day; what frequency will I tune into today?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Animation

I made an appointment yesterday to get a haircut with Deandre (I'm thinking a hot, European woman) turns out my 'clipper,' was a bald, studly, African American man. I couldn't very well say, 'give me the same as you,' so I told him to give me 'an over-all trim.' He did a great job; my hair is a little less 'old, used, mop,' and a little more, 'shiny, new, mop.'

I browsed 'Bookman's Alley,' and picked up an odd little book about Jean Cocteau, a discussion of his films, his poetry, and (this was the clincher), his philosopy. I'm looking for an animating philosopy. Some candidates: The Grateful Dead - 'take what you need, and you leave the rest.' Bob Dylan - 'don't follow leaders, watch for parking meters.' Buddha - 'life is suffering.' The Band - 'life is a carnival.'

Later in the day, we shot some more video of 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath.' The session went smoothly, the actors were in the flow, I was Christopher Isherwood: 'I am a camera.' It's more satisfying on the other side of the camera capturing images. The tape assures that this event happened, these people existed, these words were spoken, etc.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Mystery of UMA

I awoke with a jolt this morning, only shards of images, nothing to hold onto. Yesterday, was like that too. I was kind of drifting through the day, not grabbing anything. Went to Borders looking for a book,(my Charles Laughton biography has still not arrived), and browsed the shelves, seeking inspiration; material for the next theater piece. In the music section I eyed 'Zappa,' and 'Django,' (Adam Gopnik recently had a nice write up about the gypsy guitarist in the New Yorker), in the film section I lingered over 'Godard,' and 'Truffant,' 'Fassbinder,' and 'Stroheim,' 'John Ford,' and 'Alfred Hitchcock.' There was also 'Cary Grant,' and 'Uma Thurman.' Uma Thurman?! Wow. Not sure if I'm ready to plunge into the mystery of UMA!

So, I ended up not buying a book, instead, Carla and I went to Potbelly Stove for a sub (I ate two), and then we went to 'Poor Bob's' and bought a Christmas Tree. We both consider ourselves 'pagans,' so this dabbling in the Christmas tradition is kind of paradoxical. We tied the tree to our rental car, lugged it home, and set it up in the living room. It's a nice tree, which Carla will decorate with lights and ornaments from around the world. Kind of marks another year come and gone, a tree cut off from it's roots, slowly dying before our eyes, oh isn't it so pretty?!

This morning, a genial haze, grasping nothing, just breathe in, breathe out. 'What's up, buttercup?'

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Two Flicks

Late Friday afternoon, I decided to totally 'unplug,' I went to the video store and picked up two videos (my DVD player is still at Peter Jones). The local video store, Video Adventures, has a good selection of obscure, cult and foreign films. I settled on one I've never seen, 'Carnal Knowledge,' written by Jules Fieffer, and directed by Mike Nichols and one I have, 'Mystery Train,' written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Both would probably qualify as comedies.

In the opening credits, 'Carnal Knowledge' lists a 'Hair Supervisor,' and with a young, smarmy Jack Nicholson and a young, dorky Art Garfunkel, hair in its many configurations becomes a ubiquitous, ever-changing character. It's a bleak, clear-eyed movie. Art to Jack: 'you can't make a career out of fucking.' Jack to Art: 'don't tell me what I can't do.'

The spirit of Elvis hovers over 'Mystery Train,' (made up of three vingettes) in fact Elvis is the main character; everyone revolves around the memory and legend of the King. Jarmusch loves depicting the 'stranger in a strange land,' and the low-down, deserted streets of Memphis serve him well. Joe Strummer and Screamin' Jay Hawkins (now both dead) have significant roles. Favorite line: 'That's just how life is...' There's so little, and so much, expressed in that line.

I kind of sank into the couch and let the video images wash over me. The video player counted out the minutes, but for me, time seemed suspended. 'That's just how life is...'

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Enemy Within

They say, variety is the spice of life. So, it's important to change up once in awhile, and I've done so, not major changes, just little stuff that hopefully, accumulates, for instance: I slept in today (got up at 7:00 a.m. instead of 5:30 a.m.), switched my pillows around (the big yellow one goes beneath my head), flipped the mattress (what's good is bad, what's bad is good), brewed up some organic Guatamalan coffee (it's quite invigorating). The result: feeling quite chipper this morning.

I just finished 'The Actor and the Target,' the last 1/3 of the book was kind of a slog (one of my unwritten rules: if I start a book, I finish a book). Much of the book is advice for a blocked actor (this is not my problem). I guess if you are playing 'Juliet,' in the balcony scene for the GAZILLIONTH time, it might be hard to bring fresh vitality to: 'Romeo, oh Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?' YIKES!

The big lesson learned from the book: we must keep our attention on 'the target' (this would be the world). This is where we find life, vitality. Our best weapon is our curiosity, our ability 'to see,' our ability to be suprised. I think we have to work at not becoming 'calcified,' at not becoming numb to the events of the world. Life should not be a process of shutting down (even if much of the world seems to be a 'horrorshow') but a process of opening up (leaving us vunerable and at risk). Fear is our greatest enemy.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Golden Chair

Yesterday everything changed after my little meditation. My internet connection mysteriously went down; I tried everything, rebooted the computer, rebooted the modem, turned the modem off, took the cables out, put them back in, all the necessary troubleshooting tasks. Nothing helped. So, completely frustrated out of my gourd, I decided to take a break, I sat in one of our 'golden chairs,' and meditated for awhile. I did the usual 'visualizations,' cleared my space, grounded out the 'dark energy,' -- guilt, pain, frustration --- let go all the usual human dreck. About a half hour later, I came back and 'presto chango,' my connection was back. Now, I'm not saying one thing necessarily led to the other, does life go like this - A happens, B happens, C happens - or like this - A happens, which makes B happen, which makes C happen - or everything just happens simultaneously - ABC happens? Whatever, I don't know. BUT, meditating sure seemed like the right thing to do, and afterwards everything seemed to have a certain flow. So, I'll take it as a little positive lesson. When in doubt, meditate -- better than medicate!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

S. Beckett: "More Pricks, than Kicks"

You never know where the (psychic) whack will come from. I was in conversation with my company's CEO and it quickly became clear that we had two very different visions of reality. There was a little back and forth, and then finally, the teeth and claws came out (arguing with a lawyer is a fast track to a headache). It was all very 'deflating,' not so much that we have a difference, but that I showed flashes of anger in response to what I thought were totally stupid, and ridiculous suggestions (yes, Virginia, I do have issues with 'authority'). Lately, I have played the 'secret spy,' trying to move things forward, playing a double game, keeping my 'team,' happy. Usually, I work by indirection, and humour, trying to derail any disagreements, but yesterday I happened to be 'low energy,' (see previous post) and the 'sunny mask' fell from my face. Did anyone say, 'mutual contempt?' So, afterward, I went into a sullen funk. My remedy? A good sleep, killer coffee, a long run, a deep meditation. I am intent on reclaiming the 'Sunny Jimmy,' mask even if my collegues send me waves of mud.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Something

The deluge this morning, rain is pouring down, the sky is grey, the world is grey. I'm a little 'fuzzy,' out late with friends last night, dinner at La Bella in Oak Park (one of my old haunts). I was time-tripping (I used to walk these streets, I used to know these people). The three of us connected by a time and place that no longer exists. We have all made choices, events (this and this and this) have carried us forward, we are no longer 'the same,' but yes, there is some continuity, something we still recognize in each other, something that mysteriously brings us together, something that brought us together in the first place. How to explain the world - to ourselves, to each other? "Hello, this is what's been going on in my life. What's up with you?" We connect, we part, something is given, something is lost.

Monday, December 06, 2004

'Blow the Rose'

I'm swimming in Declan Donnellan's 'The Actor and the Target.' As an actor's manual, I'm not sure how useful it really is, but as a general 'eye-opener,' it succeeds. The book 'explodes,' all kinds of preconceptions about identity, character, history, etc. It asks us to pay attention to the targets outside our 'bubble of energy,' and it reminds us that all the targets are moving targets. This is creative destruction, it is liberating, and reminds us of the mystery of everyday life. All blocks, all 'stuckness,' comes from the dead way we frame key questions.

Donnellan on history: 'All history lies, but some lies destroy more than others. History has nothing to do with the past. History is how we perceive previous events now. History is only a series of re-inventions. There is nothing as unpredictable as the past.'

Donnellan's world is filled with infinite possibility, life is a dialogue between the live, ever-changing Actor (that's us folks) and the live, ever-changing target (the phenomena of the world). What a mysterious, creative, exciting, unknowable world to live in.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

In the Can

A late night, videotaping 'Goodbar,' at Peter Jones. This morning, I feel like the burnt end of a cigarette (the ashes). Maybe the Native Americans are right, the camera does steal your essense, your soul. Live performance for an audience is so rewarding, in the moment, alive; performing for the camera is anti-climatic, out of sequence, cold, the gaping eye taking it all in, giving nothing back. We burned a couple of tapes, probably have about 1/3 of the play 'in the can,' at least I hope we 'got it.' You're never sure exactly what you have until you get to the editing process. This is just another aspect of our total commitment to the work. Must power through. As Nixon in 'Goodbar,' tells it, 'persistance is my sword, and when I wield it, heads will fly, and blood will flow...'

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Bastard Child

'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath,' video shoot today. Hoping for a marathon session where we capture most of the sound and fury of the piece. It's a little 'anti-climatic,' no audience, no applause, but it's a way of documenting some of the good work we've done. The trick is to try to not kill the life of the play with static shots. What's great about theater is the live aspect of performance, literally anything can happen (sometimes does) and the fleeting moment gives everything on stage a little more edge, more zing.

I suspect we'll end up with hours of videotape, and then the enormous task of editing (a good winter project). I'm still learning this process, but I think somewhere down the line, we will do a film project from scratch. Obviously, doing a 'movie' of a play is a kind of 'bastard,' child, in that we're trying to meld two essentially different art forms. So, 'damn the torpedoes.'

Friday, December 03, 2004

Embarrassment

Nothing is ever quite what you think it will be; usually, not as bad, or not as good, sometimes, better than you expected, rarely, worse than you could imagine. So maybe it's best to just 'give it a go,' and see what happens. I carried a little 'dread,' about two meetings I had yesterday, turns out the dread was just excess baggage. My fears about deals gone bad, uncomfortable confrontations, did not materialize. I rode the wave, made it to shore, virtually unscathed, all seems well. The Shadow play continues.

Anyway, I was reading about Peter Brook, the great Director (now 80 years old) still going strong, still creating innovative theater productions. He is in Paris doing three short pieces on religion and tolerance.

Peter Brook: 'A theatrical act cannot influence the political world, but theater allows us to open up to something beyond the daily horrors, it allows us to reinforce something positive inside each of us.'

In one of the three short plays 'Tierno Bokar,' a pupil asks the Sage: 'What is God?' The Sage replies: 'God is an embarrassment to human intelligence, because if you affirm His existence, you cannot prove it, but if you deny His existence, you deny your own existence.'

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Visitors

Jumped from Marlowe (like a little grasshopper, I'm always jumping) into 'The Actor and the Target,' a book on directing/acting by Declan Donellan. I saw Donellan's version of Othello at BAM when I was in New York a few months ago. The book mainly confirms a lot of what Carla and I are doing with Black Forest. There are not good and bad actors, but 'blocked,' and 'unblocked,' actors. The key is 'seeing,' and 'doing,' not 'knowing,' and 'feeling.'

Theatre comes from the Greek word, theatron which means a 'place for seeing.' This very much folds into our 'clairvoyant,' work at Invision. Psychic meditation may seem like a very 'internal,' activity, but all the meditation excercises are about 'creating and seeing' images (visions) outside our own little bubble of energy. We are all actors. The words of a blocked actor have resonance for all of us: I don't know who I am, I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know what I want, I don't know what I know...

The key (according to Donellan) is to look outside ourselves (and our characters) and be attentive to the things of the world. This is where life is, this is where the mystery is, this is where we will discover a limitless supply of moving targets that will lead us from ourselves into something new and exciting. We must face down the fear of losing control, and leap into the unknown. This can be simple and small, to try something, without question, and see if it 'works.' The rule is not to say 'no' (content in fear) but 'yes,' (rewarded with possibility).

Donellan: nothing worthwhile in life can be owned. There is life. There is love. There is grace. But we can neither create nor possess a state of any of these. These visitors breathe through us, with us and in us the more we keep ourselves open.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Everything Falls Apart

Blogger fails me this morning. I brew up my coffee, log on, and heavens no, blogger is 'under repair.' Early morning lesson learned: everything fails. Not a major problem, I know it will be back in working order sometime, but a reminder that there's no certainty in anything, the planet wobbles slightly, gee, will it spin out of orbit? So, anyway...I jot my thoughts into a draft e-mail, which I will later cut and post.

Yesterday was one of those days where I was basically asleep, I went through the motions, a sleep-walker, everything unreal, slow motion, dream-like. The less I cared, the less I tried, the less I moved, the more I accomplished. So strange, a productive lethargy.

Sleeping and waking switched around for me. Sleeping on the air mattress the night before (see previous post) was all activity: tossing, turning, rolling, tumbling; waking was a zombified state of insubstantiality (is that really a word?) Late in the afternoon I was a mummy on the couch, not awake, not asleep, just a body taking up space. Amazingly, it was a good work day.

In the evening, I finished 'A Dead Man in Deptford.' At the end of the novel, Anthony Burgess emerges from behind his mask (Burgess pretends to be writing as a contemporary of Marlowe's so he can freely use the strange, archaic, language of Elizabethan England) and he mourns the great poet/playwright/spy. The last few pages, we know Marlowe is 'gonna get it,' we mourn, just as Burgess mourns, a light snuffed out early, overcome by a 'secret theater.' Later, we are told, Sir Walter Raliegh and Lord Essex (Lordly Rivals) will also be executed (murdered) by Elizabeth's terror state. A great book, where a great poet (Marlowe) and a great writer (Burgess) converge.

I see a story in the New York Times: torture at Guantanamo. How far are we from Elizabeth's world of rack, thumb-screw, gallows, axe? What is in a man's soul? (Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, Terrorist). How much torture is necessary to find the 'truth'?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It's About the Yucks!

'Does anyone remember laughter?' Yeah, well, then you find out that the joke is on you.

Work yesterday: all nails in the hands, crown of thorns, sweating blood in the garden (I don't have a Christ Complex, really!) On the El in the evening: a soul-killer, look around see a tin can packed with little dead sardines, salted, and ready to be consumed. These are my fellow human beings (oh little Grasshopper, never join a club that would have you as a member).

Bedtime: I decide to bring out the blow-up mattress (no, not the blow up doll) to watch Monday Night Football (Packers and Rams --- have to root for the Packers --- the manufacturing sector needs all the help it can get). I have this vision of sleeping on air. Of course, all night, I toss and turn, dreams of fire and ice (Apocalypse and Four Horseman stuff).

I'm up early, frazzled already, doing 'expense reports,' documenting where I have expended myself - here, there, everywhere. I've 'reaccessed' the Fool all right...there is a man, there is a banana peel, life is where these two opposing forces meet.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Divine Belly Laugh

'To every season...turn, turn, turn.' Holiday is over, Carla's off to New York, back to 'the wheel.' Still reeling from our 'seminar,' yesterday. We explored the archetype of 'the Fool.' The Fool is the happy, carefree madman, who is in communication with the Divine (Divine Madness), through the belly laugh. We did a whole series of creative visualizations to reconnect with this aspect. I definitely experienced this as a series of little 'breakthroughs.'

Not to get too 'psychological,' I saw that all my own wounds have been self-inflicted, and that all the healing I require is within my grasp. These 'psychic meditations,' have allowed me to 'reaccess' my abilities. I always get recharged when I go to Invision. Creative Visualization has opened a completely new world. I am 'inspired,' to 'let my freak flag fly!'

I am confirmed in the knowledge that we are all more than our bodies. There is a 'knowledge,' that is beyond thought. The tools are simple: a grounding cord, a gold sun, a rose. We can create, we can destroy. There is a joy in the doing! A BELLY LAUGH, INDEED!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Playing the Villian

Up before the sun, heading to a 'seminar:' the 'Archetype of The Fool,' at Invision ('a psychic meditation class'). Should be a brain-twisting experience.

I'm really impressed with 'A Dead Man in Deptford,' Anthony Burgess' take on the life and death of Christopher Marlowe. He 'supposes,' details of Marlowe's life, and he puts flesh on the bone.

We 'witness' the little circle (the Durham Circle) of intellectuals, the 'magicians' that surround Sir Walter Raleigh: Marlowe, the Earl of Northumberland (the Wizard Earl), the mathematician James Herriot. They smoke an exotic weed (tobacco) that Raliegh has brought back from the New World (Virginia). They discuss science, faith, politics.

Durham Circle Speculations: Does God exist? Is the new religion (Protestantism) any less backward than the old (Catholicism)? Giordano Bruno tells us that God is the Sun (the earth circles the sun). Is God a simple force, unattached to the human? If there is a God (the unmoved mover), it's opposite must exist (this is nature's way). God/Devil (like yin/yang) are natural forces, two sides of the same coin. Mathematics: the secret language of the universe.

We immediately identify with the Durham Circle; they are 'modern,' in that they are not 'men of faith,' but men looking to 'discover,' the ways of the world.

Raleigh has his rivals, his enemies, and this 'speculation,' is dangerous territory. Marlowe has a very public face, plays such as 'Tamburlaine,' and 'Dr. Faustus,' are causing a stir in London (Robert Greene: Marlowe is of Merlin's race). Marlowe's characters play the athiest, they conjure the devil. The man who conjures words for these villians, risks becoming a villian himself.

Marlowe plays an exquisitely dangerous game, and we play right along with him.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A Guest, Aghast, A Ghost

First weekend in a while without 'Goodbar,' no expectation, no obligation; not so much a sadness, as an emptiness, an emptiness that will be filled, with...the next thing.

I've been thinking about loyalty (see previous posts), and I hear the beginnings of a monologue in my head: "What am I loyal to? My genetics, my family, my job, my country, my world? Once you get past 'to be alive seems kind of cool,' it all starts to get a little muddled. Put a man on the rack, turn up the electricity, and then see what faith, and what thought, will survive the pain. Pain: no good. Lack of pain: good..."

Lennon once sang, 'god is a concept, by which we measure our pain,' Dylan once sang, 'it's all right Ma, I'm only bleeding,' Buddha: 'life is suffering.' I guess if you start out with low expectations, any joy, any happiness seems like a bonus.

Anthony Burgess: a man's life --- a guest (born), aghast (lives), a ghost (dies). Lennon again: 'A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.' Dylan again: 'I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.'

Friday, November 26, 2004

A Good Day

A rarity: I slept in late; a slow and leisurely morning, sipping coffee, listening to Otis Redding (sublte and exquisite soul), and Gillian Welch (sweet, hard-edged country), reading a New Yorker article (people are more resiliant than we think, most of us can bounce back from life-altering trauma), feeling very philosophical; a 'what is this,' 'what is that,' frame of mind. Day after Thanksgiving, the holiday of food and family. Is it egotism to think, 'no one feels what I feel, no one thinks what I think, no one sees what I see?' Communication is very difficult, once you get past, 'hello,' it all quickly devolves into the great pool of uncertainty. Lonliness is just another coat we wear.

Must stay humble, must not get too high, nor too low, whatever the temperature happens to be now, no matter, be assured, it will change.

Might make another pot of 'French Roast,' find another article to sink into, spin some more discs, get ready for a long run, draw a hot bath, read some more of 'A Dead Man in Deptford,' go to a movie or play, have another good meal, think about the 'great unknown,' not clinging to any one thing. Might, or then again, might not. Either way, it already feels like the makings of a 'good day.'

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Loyal to What?

The highlight of the day yesterday, (besides the excellent omelet I cooked up) was reading Anthony Burgess' 'A Dead Man in Deptford.' Storms were raging late afternoon; wind, snow, slogging against the windows, me and the birds hunkering in. I'm now more than a third into the text. Burgess (the conjurer, the sorcerer, of the 'race of Merlin') brings the streets of Elizabethan England alive: 'as we walked, oft slithering, the cobbles were slimy and the rats peered from the kennel as the sun westered and would break the heart of the man who yearned above our filthy lot with its vision of heaven in trumpet colours.'

Loyalty becomes a life and death concept in this Elizabethan Police State. Loyalty to faith and thought (Catholic, Protestant, Atheist), loyalty to country (France, England) loyalty to Queen (Elizabeth, Mary). If you make the wrong choice, (which side holds power now) you can end up on the rack, hanging from a hempen collar, disembowelled, a player in some macabre street theater.

Marlowe, loyal to family, loyal to poetry, loyal to...well he's a spy for Walsingham, who runs Elizabeth's secret service, so Marlowe is loyal to a secret theater where it's hard to tell what is in a man's heart and head. What is real, what is shadow? Who is friend, who is foe? This all has resonance today: see Washington D.C. (the secret theater of the CIA) see Iraq (a police state devolving into chaos). Friend and foe begin to look like one another, two sides of the same coin. We decide to be loyal to which shadow?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Fungible

Yesterday, time seemed to come to a standstill, I could see the seconds ticking out before me, in super slow motion; I had time to do everything, at least twice, but there was so little to accomplish. Drinking coffee just made me spin at a higher frequency; the world dawdled, lagged behind me. I can't say I was bored, I was facinated at how time could be so fungible.

I made my usual round of calls and e-mails; I received the usual silence, apathy, misunderstanding in return.

I jumped into Anthony Burgess' 'Dead Man in Deptford,' a novel about Christopher Marlowe (yes, this is my new obsesssion). Burgess assumes that you know everything about Marlowe's world, and thankfully, since I just finished 'The Reckoning,' I do. Marlowe lived in a world of spies, conspirators, skullduggery, betrayal. If I hadn't read 'The Reckoning,' I think I'd be totally baffled, dazzled by Burgess' incredible verbal dexterity, but baffled. Burgess (see 'A Clockwork Orange') doesn't make it easy, but from the first words, you know you are in the hands of a master novelist.

Marlowe, Poet/Spy is a perfect subject for Burgess; 'Dead Man in Deptford,' is an audacious labor of love.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Art is Madness

I found this quote at another blog (About Last Night): "In any creative activity, art is madness, craft is sanity. The balance between them makes the work." Simon Callow, Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor.

Of course, I immediately logged onto Amazon and ordered the book; Laughton is one of those mythical, towering figures; he directed one movie, 'The Night of the Hunter,' a haunting masterpiece.

Just finished 'The Reckoning,' about the murder of Christopher Marlowe. Seems Marlowe was not only a talented poet/playwright, but a spy in a world of spies. Elizabethan England was a 'Police State,' where everyone was suspect: Catholics pretending to be Protestants, Protestants pretending to be Catholics, Atheists pretending to be either Catholics or Protestants. The Queen was torturing and imprisoning, hanging and quartering anyone who fell under suspicion.

Sir Walter Raleigh, the Lord of Essex; prominent men executed for 'thought crimes.' Religion = Politics = Power. Marlowe was an extraordinary artist who played a double, a triple game. Finally, there was a 'great reckoning in a small room,' just another man, meeting a violent, unhappy, untimely, death.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Goodbye Goodbar, Hello Goodbar

Too much wine, makes the baby go blind. The closing of 'Free Henry Goodbar,' was an exciting, ecstatic event. The show itself was ok (it's a live beast - different every time), the audience was the largest we've had, (we filled every available chair, plus people on pillows on the floor) and it was all a satisfying capper to a successful run.

The aftershow party was great: La Cassette is a wonderful, soulful band. Great musicians, cool sound, the start of something big.

I rode the crest of the wave, imbibed a little too much wine, by the end of the evening, my head was spinning. Carla and I were the last to leave.

We still need to shoot the video, then the long process of editing. We are thinking of taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Fest next August. This seems to be the right show, the right cast --- it's certainly an 'on the fringe' piece. There's no time for reflection - DON'T BE DENIED!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath: the main point is to overthrow all existing conditions.

'This is a song about Johnny Rotten...'

Saturday, November 20, 2004

'Anytime, I can Give It'

'If you want it, here it is, come and get it...' Badfinger's (Paul McCartney penned it) song plays in my head this morning. I'm in that frame where anything (mostly good) seems possible. We're always in dialogue with the universe, sometimes it's happy talk, sometimes it's all about doom. Both seem credible. Neither can contain us.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Cynical Idealist?

Dylan: people who talk about 'morality,' good and bad, are wired to the wrong frequency.

Soldier in Iraq: The people who can't kill will be subject to the people who can. What happens, with the best intentions, when you find yourself holding the gun?

'What's the frequency Kenneth?'

It's been said that the truth will set us free. What if, in order to live, we must blind ourself to the truth?(See the story of Oedipus). Are culture, society, law and 'morality,' all necessary fictions?

Orwell: power is a boot-heel in the face of the other.

Don't we 'lionize,' the powerful, and despise the weak? The idealist envisions the ideal world, the cynic sees a bleak reality. Bertolt Brecht saw himself as the 'optimistic realist,' maybe 'cynical idealist,' would be the more useful mask.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Dreaming of Richard

"I Want to be Sedated,' three chords of glory. Everything clicked yesterday, I went 'on the road,' with my business collegue and we took care of business at Cook County and the Museum of Science and Industry, we lunched in China Town. I was relaxed and 'in the flow.' Later the tribes gathered at Peter Jones, we did a loose and happy line-through of 'Goodbar,' in preparation for our closing weekend. Then Pat, Noel and I 'jammed in the black forest,' (Noel and I on guitar, Pat armed with microphone). We sounded rough and trashy. I love banging away on my Telecaster (it plays like a dream). I was the last to leave, I cued up Otis Redding's 'Dock of the Bay,' and let the sound wash over me. A smiling Richard Nixon hovered over the set, silent, frozen in black and white.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Secret Wolf

One of my favorite books, (it changed my life) is 'Impro,' by Keith Johnstone, it is about comedy, acting, creativity and STATUS. It makes the point that essentially we are hierarchical animals (like a wolf pack, or dare I say it, a group of baboons) and all human activity can be seen with new eyes, if we understand that 'status transactions,' underlay all we do and say. Pretty all-encompassing.

It's very useful for someone writing plays, all drama (tragedy and comedy) is essentially a series of status games played out for the audience's edification --- laughter or tears. I'm on this track this morning because it's easy to see some of this with appropriate distance, for instance: Elizabethan England -- the whole society is built on a sophisticated system of status, based on 'royal blood,' property, wealth, and family connections.

The same 'system' is alive and well today in the Military/Industrial/Corporate Behemoth we have constructed in USA, INC. There is still 'royal blood,' please refer to the Prescott Bush Dynasty, and all comedy and tragedy emanates out of the various ways individuals deal with displays of POWER (Big Monkey Man wielding Major Toys of Destruction).

The satisfying role (for me) is to make 'play,' of all this 'status energy.' The absolute master of this was of course, William Shakespeare, he wrote in very dangerous, risky times, but he was clever enough to play at all times with subtly and craft. Christopher Marlowe made the mistake of jumping into the game directly -- thus, the knife in the eye lays him low.

Pretending, imagining, acting; playing the game of status, 'shadow play,' takes on Power, slyly, indirectly. The direct route is a loser's game. If we are to play the role of 'wolf,' better to be the 'lone wolf,' dressed in sheep's clothing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Fire in the Mind

I am working on some 'big deals,' but they are moving so slowly, it really is like watching paint dry. So I need to find a million ways not to go completely batty with boredom.

Maybe this explains, Black Forest, the plays, the performing. I fill my life with 'manufactured,' drama, this is necessary, because I work extra hard not to get caught up in the day to day soap opera.

I like to see life through someone else's eyes, so I'm attracted to biographies, histories. This becomes my 'material.' I understand the idea of 'writing from your own experience,' but I also think it's important to journey outside yourself (is it possible?), to imagine another life, to assume another voice.

So I'm submerged in Elizabethan intrigue at the moment. Christopher Marlowe, famous playwright, atheist, homosexual; was he an anti-catholic spy? And what was his relationship with the Earl of Northumberland (also known as the 'Wizard Earl'). Was Marlowe killed in a simple 'bar fight,' or was there some more nefarious, secret, purpose? 'The Reckoning,' has totally fired my imagination.

I'm 'time-tripping,' and it's such a sweet obsession.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Dim Sum, Yum

Sunday: slept in late, went for 'dim sum,' (the floor show: little steel carts pushed around by tiny chinese women) at Furama an authentic Chinese restuarant on Broadway. We treated our friendly neighbors to a dim sum brunch. It's amazing all the things you can wrap in a dumpling.

In the afternoon: crashed on the couch.

In the evening: read 'The Reckoning,' (about the murder of the Elizabethan playwright, Christopher Marlowe); Catholic (Mary Queen of Scots) and Protestant (Elizabeth) spies consipiring against each other (France vs. England) for money and status. The skull-duggery and betrayal makes the head spin.

Monday: welcome to the working week. Well-rested, expectant. No laughter, no applause. Must fill the silence with...sound and fury?!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Pure Light of the Void

Nirvana! Last night's 'Goodbar,' show was an absolute blast. One of the actors (Pat McDonald), 'bought the house,' invited 30 friends, and as our 'friendly audience,' they joined us on our little 'trip,' of a play. What an immensely satisfying experience. The cues were 'tight,' line readings were sublime, everyone in the cast found new meanings, and levels. At the same time, we were loose, there was a freedom, a comfort with the text, a dynamic, easy comarderie. Pure joy.

Afterwards, I heard words like: 'amazing,' 'fabulous,' 'wonderful,' 'strange.' A couple of people wanted me to 'explain,' the piece. I can't say that I'm really up to the task. How about one of those public service announcements: 'this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs.' One guy came up to me, shook my hand, and told me that he understood it all. He saw the threads, the connections...he connected Howard Hughes with Nixon, he knew all about Dr. Hoffman and Sandoz Laboratories...

There's a touch of sadness in all of this...nirvana is not forever, at least not in this realm...the moment of joy appears, expands, and as you bring it to your breast...it slowly, dissipates, finally vanishes...but it exists...I have held it in the palm of my hand...a light unlike any other...

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A Flash

I veer from futility to satisfaction, all in a day. Maybe this is a 'normal,' state, or to put it another way, maybe there is no normal. Running down business deals: all beginnings and no endings. I've been chasing for so long, it seems like I'm the one being chased.

In the theater world: we run our little theater company (it's only a mirage), at our little theater (it's only a gallery), perform our little play (it's a figment of my imagination). We create a spectacle of light and sound that disappears in a flash. There's nothing to hold on to...

The audience: a friendly, bemused, befuddlement. I am intent on being fully in the moment, even as the moment vanishes before me like the great cloud of unknowing.

Friday, November 12, 2004

A Small Room

My job: visions of dark futility. I see myself dancing on the water, dancing in the light, but there's a dark tug at my feet, a voice in my head reminds me: 'it is impossible for a man to dance on the water.'

My job: to absorb other people's pain. I see wads of dark pain, pain like mud, sliding down my body in little riverlets. My body is golden, sunny, untouchable. The mud cannot soil me.

My job: a judgement, a punishment. The mirror tells me, I am on a train, the train moves relentlessly forward, I cannot stop the train.

A boat, docked at Deptford, England, 1593 -- 'The Scourge of Malice.' This boat navigates the oceans still. A simple, plain description of a life: 'a great reckoning, in a small room.'

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Do You Want to Play?

Yesterday, I was primarily the 'invisible man,' making calls, sending e-mails trying to get someone to talk to me. I was mainly unsuccessful. It's not hard work, just unfulfilling. End of day, feeling kind of low, I headed to Peter Jones. We had a 'tuneup' rehearsal in anticipation of weekend performances. Our cast is such a great group, all professional people, (two in advertising, one a lawyer, one a film director, and me -- the 'sunny' one) who are strangely attracted to theater and acting. The 'tuneup' is to keep lines fresh; all of us came together to this place without complaint.

The dark place where money isn't. There's something about totally committing to the creative cause that is liberating. I came out of Peter Jones, re-animated with the fire, inspired by people who want to do good work, want to commit totally, who can see the benefits of a life lived fully.

So strange --- the way we get to this place --- we pretend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Where the Money Isn't

'Goodbar,' finds it's way in the world, and I'm beginning to jot some notes for the next play.Then...the right message comes at exactly the right time. In the latest New York Times Magazine, an article about playwright John Patrick Shanley (he's written 23 plays, none have appeared on Broadway).

Shanley: 'playwriting is the last great bastion of the individual writer. It's exciting precisely because it's where the money isn't. Money goes to safety, to consensus...it's not individualism...theater is just too exciting for dullards.'

Beautiful.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Jumping at Shadows

Show Biz, then No Biz. This is the fractured nature of my existence. I live in this 'nether zone,' a world, where I'm constantly chasing shadows.

Finally saw 'The Motorcycle Diaries,' last night. It's a road movie (life sometimes sure feels like a road movie -- we are going somewhere, for some reason), shots of the motorcycle and the open road immediately hypnotized me (did anyone say, 'Easy Rider?'). Actually, 'The Motorcycle Diaries,' is the 'anti-Easy Rider,' (Fatty and Che vs. Captain America and Billy). The movie is beautiful, sad and inspiring too.

Life, love, passion, politics...energy ebbs and flows...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Ballad of a Thin Man

There must be the crash. Sunday, I came to a standstill, hit the wall and bounced. I went for a long, dizzying run, took a long bath, plugged in my walkman, listened to the Who's 'Quadroprenia' and Lennon's 'Imagine.' Turned the TV on, without sound, and watched the Chicago Bears beat the New York Giants. In the evening, I finished Dylan's 'Chronicles.' Bob leaves us hanging, in 1961, on the verge of a tremendous creative breakthrough.

The young Dylan had an amazing quality: the ability to be 'astonished,' and 'inspired.' This is key to unlocking creativity; to be knocked down by the power of Art. Dylan's descriptions of 'discovering' the music of Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson, are thrilling and essential. Dylan describes how he becomes attached to the 'invisible empire,' of folk and blues archetypes and metaphors. He becomes immersed in a more expansive world, a world of mystery, beyond notions of good and evil. It's Bertolt Brecht's and Kurt Weil's 'Pirate Jenny,' that shows Dylan that it's possible to create new works that 'transcend' his precursors, Guthrie and Johnson.

Dylan will soon create songs of steely vision, songs that 'melt iron.' 'Chronicles,' is breath-taking, thrilling, visionary.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Next Big Thing

Night and Day. If Friday's performance of 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath,' was all about blown lines and blown fuses, Saturday's show was about abundant laughter and applause. We really rocked the house. It was our best show yet.

The audience is the sixth member of the troupe; Friday's audience was silent and brittle, Saturday's was vocal and joyous. The actors really fed off the energy, and all the perfomances seemed to find a new confidence. The emptiness and lonliness of Friday, became a fulfilling camaraderie. How strange. Theater is a 'live animal.' The trick is to find a level of consistency even if the audience is 'unreliable.'

I am convinced the show can evolve and get even better. The same words and actions repeated to the point of unconsciousness, leads to new discoveries, nuances and shadings. The whole thing is an alchemical, magical process, made of simple words and actions. The best feeling in the world: to reach for something invisible, ineffable, to imagine you have it in your hands, it vanishes, dances in front of you, leads you to the next big thing.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Watchman

Last night I went to Peter Jones Gallery to 'watch over,' the 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath,' set. The Gay and Lesbian Film Fest, had an aftershow (a gay version of 'Charlies Angels,' at the Music Box) party, and our set was the 'dance floor.' Two days after the Republicans successfully demonized the Gay community, a festive group came to talk, dance, drink and look cool.

I was dazzled by the energy of the party-goers, there was nothing, dark, nefarious, scary or threatening about any of these folks. I don't think they are pushing some radical 'agenda,' except maybe being accepted as free and equal human beings who deserve all the rights and responsibilities due anyone else.

Heavens no! Fear of the other is a powerful force. The event went smoothly, the set is fine, we laid rugs on the floor to protect David's beautiful paint job. I hopped a cab and got home about midnight. Looking forward to two solid shows this weekend. The human comedy (spiced with tragic overtones) continues...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Wild One

'Little Bush's' win was a huge, collective, psychic 'whack.' One of those 'slap up the side of the head,' wake up moments. There is a huge cultural divide in the country. The Red and Blue states are different worlds, with different markers, different realities.

Everyone in my circle (this says alot) was 'diminished,' by Bush's victory. There was a collective depression that hung over all of us. I refuse to succumb. I can see the 'reality,' I can see that my version takes a back seat to the 'Red Staters,' who now hold all the levers of power definitively.

So, I choose to revel as a 'contrarian.' This can help define a new vision. To live in the 'belly of the beast,' without being consumed. To know who you are, you must also know who you are not. I see the best of America in New York, Chicago, San Francisco; large, shambling experiments in multi-cultural, cross-fertilization. These places are pieces of the picture, but not the whole picture. So we must expand the frame.

The best 'movements,' have always been forces in 'opposition.' 'What are you rebelling against? What have you got?'

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

World Gone Wrong

There's 'the world,' then what we see, think and feel about it. It can be quite a jolt when the two don't match up. I find it hard to believe that the 'little Bush,' has not been totally repudiated. So much for the 'mini-tidal wave.' I will not be retiring my 'bush evil doer' pin anytime soon.

MORAL VALUES was the number one issue this election?! There's nothing worse than Righteousness wrapped in religious certainty. How do you spell HYPOCRISY? Social Conservative Conundrum: wouldn't more gay marriage, mean less abortion? I'm so glad to live in a 'blue state.' All my favorite places (Chicago, Brooklyn, San Francisco) are solidly blue. Long live the INFIDELS!

One of the lessons of life: we must live with contradiction. Things don't always 'go our way.' There are lessons in losses. It's important to have something to be 'for,' but it's also important to have something to be 'against.' Bush's Circle of Crony Capitalists make Dutch Reagan's formulation ring true: 'government isn't the solution, government is the problem.'

Dream ticket for 2008: Hilary Clinton/Barack Obama.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Georgeous George!?

Election day. It's cloudy, rainy here, but I think there is something in the air. I predict a huge turn-out throughout the country. Kerry will win in a mini-tidal wave. 3-5 points up in the popular vote, over 300 electoral votes. Then the real battle begins. If Kerry thought the campaign was brutal, just wait...he must be prepared to fight tooth and nail. The Republican conservative movement is going to go through a 'death rattle,' and they will not go gently into the night.

I am fascinated with the Dylan book. He's writing as a 63 year old man, about the 19 year old kid. He writes, acts, as if he knew a secret all along: he was a man of destiny. He soaked everything up, lived like he knew he was going to need all the tools.

He sings Woody's songs to Woody in the hospital. He lives on other people's couches. Sings in the clubs, picks up a buck here and there. He meets Mike Seeger and realizes that he's gonna have to do more than just sing the old songs, no matter what, Seeger can do it better.

Dylan submerges himself in the history of the American Civil War. He believes that this time in America holds the key to the country and to his 'art.' He is not writing his own songs yet, but he begins to think he needs to let his creativity out of the box. Two of Dylan's heroes: Georgeous George (the wrestler), Harry Belafonte (the calypso singer).

Dylan's story is the story of a kid, with a guitar wandering the streets of New York (Whitman was here, Poe was there), realizing that anything is possible. New York is a place that harbors no 'favoritism.' Inspiring!

Monday, November 01, 2004

World is Turning

Yesterday, the first Sunday in a long time, we did not have a rehearsal. I still found myself at Peter Jones, laying rugs down on our floor, to protect it from the dancing hordes expected later this week. The Gay and Lesbian Film Fest will be having a party at Peter Jones on Thursday. They will be using our set as a 'dance floor.' So, now they truly will be 'cutting the rug.'

In the afternoon, I met Carla at the Lucky Platter, and I had a true 'Platter' treat: spicy turkey meatballs (over linguine) and chocolate cake. A decadent reward for a successful weekend of theater. Then we went to see 'I Heart Huckabees.' What a rambling, shambling, mess of a movie. I enjoyed it immensely, although, it was so close to my own experience (all our psychic meditation work), it seemed kind of redundant.

I topped the evening off by sinking into Dylan's 'Chronicles.' It is filled with suprises: little Bobby Zimmerman, a tough little dude who knew exactly what he was doing. He tells us, he was not driven by love or money, no, he was 'a visionary,' who believed that the old folk songs he was singing in little clubs in New York held a secret. He read Balzac (materialism is madness) Clausewitz (politics is brute force) and Thucidydes (human nature kills anything superior). Old Grandma Zimmerman: happiness isn't on the road to anything. Happiness is the road.

This morning, surfing the political blogs, I must weigh in: Kerry wins big. Tomorrow, the world (the worm) turns again.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Into the Mystic

'Beautifully mad,' and not afraid of the mystery. I feel that I must maintain my course. The motto: 'don't be denied.' We had another sell-out show last night for 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath.' The feedback from the audience afterwards was all over the map. Some people just 'go' with it, some are confused, I guess, I don't make it easy, but I'm suprised that others don't see the connections in the world that I see.

My method is simple: if I connect disparate things, people, ideas; I trust that there is a connection, and that others can connect them too. I'm not trying to be incomprehensible, but I do want to capture the strangeness, the mysteriousness of the world. So I throw all these ideas out there, mix them up, create a new stew. This makes the work interesting to me, suprises me, and I trust that others can make the leap too. Some can, some can't. So goes the world.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

'Goodbar' Lives!

Maybe it's the title? Never write a play with 'Korea,' in the title. Just isn't cool. Last year it was a struggle finding an audience, eventhough, the show was quite good. 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath,' seems to be just the ticket. We had a sellout opening night. And it looks like a sellout tonight too. I believe that the 'house' should be irrelevant, whether there's one person in the audience or one hundred, the actors should give their all, and perform as if every moment is precious. The audience is another 'player,' they bring another energy that varies each night. It's part of the 'kick' of live theater to interact and feed off this unknown, mysterious, energy.

Anyway, it was great to get the first show under our belt. We had a few minor glitches: missed lines, timing issues, but overall not bad for the first time through with a real audience. The adrenaline was flowing. Our group has really bonded, everyone was aware and focused. It takes a lot of work to pull something like this off, but when all the elements come together, there's no better high!

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Dolls

Yesterday, I was running on empty, but I kept running. A long rambling business meeting took up the morning (how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?), then off to Peter Jones Gallery to do some last minute schlepping (we moved stuff, arranged chairs, made our space look like a nice little bohemian theater space), then went to the Liar's Club to shoot some video of the Windy City Rollers. It was the 'derby dolls debut.' Quite the scene, the Rollers took over the bar. I wandered around with my camera, tried to catch the 'ambience,' of the scene. Girls want to drink and arm wrestle, and get their photos taken, and look cool and...be beautiful, rockin' Derby Dolls! Yes.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Better as We Go

Brooklyn in the morning, 'Goodbar,' in the evening.

I had quite the day, yesterday. NYCHA could be the deal that saves my company. Our application would monitor and alarm on boilers. This is a real solution for a real problem. The question is timing. The big rollout wouldn't happen unitl spring 2005. Will our major investor stay in the game that long?

Flew back home in the afternoon. Air travel is one of those incomprehensible facts we just accept: hurtling through the air, 500 miles per hour, 30,000 feet. Kind of like a really fast taxicab ride.

We did a complete 'Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath,' preview, with a small audience (three friendly people). It felt good. No major glitches. We are ready. The show should get better as we go.

I strive to be alive in the 'real world,' pretending and imagining, that I live in a better one.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Days of Strangelove

Back to Brooklyn. The flight was smooth, Paula and I discussed Shakespeare, she had just seen the 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' and I have been stuck in a Shakespeare kick. Time passed quickly, we were in New York before we knew it.

This place is familiar. I picked the restaurant; Philip (the client) , Paula and I (the three of us, a new version of the Mod Squad) had a nice meal and a long comfortable conversation. Business and pleasure all mixed together in a gumbo-like stew. Afterwards, Philip dropped us back at the hotel, Paula went to her room to work on the presentation, I went back to Court street. I browsed a bookstore and bought Bob Dylan's autobiography, 'Chronicles.' 63 years old, finally Bobby is gonna tell us what happened from inside the 'hurricane.'

Back to my room I watched a little bit of a PBS program, 'Rise of the Vulcans,' Cheney, Rumsfield, Powell, Wolfowitz, these guys have been hanging around since Nixon's days. Tough, secretive, authoritative, anti-democratic, a depiction of the concentration of power in the hands of a few, making decisions that have consequences for us all. American Power Unbound.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Light in the Cave

Heading to Brooklyn today (it has become my second home), a short trip, I'll be back early evening tomorrow. Working with Keyspan Energy on a New York City Housing Authority opportunity. I'm definitely feeling a little 'fractured,' I've 'spread myself thin,' I have 'divided loyalties.'

It's the dream world of 'Goodbar,' that has captured my imagination. My body is stuck in the day to day. Taxi, airplane, hotel room. Client, dinner, presentation. Appointments, responsibilities. Time is not my own. I am just a passenger, a guest. I will use all my tools to stay grounded, in the center of my head.

Sometimes it all seems like a shadow play. I am just a shadow too.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Little Big Man

"Free Henry Goodbar, Telepath," emerged in rehearsal this weekend. All of the elements came together yesterday (we ran it three times in full dress). I finally settled on an opening song, John Lennon's 'Gimmee Some Truth,' which captures the spirit of the piece and sets the tone for what follows. Technically, it is probably our most difficult show, lots of lighting changes, music and video cues. Krista (our lighting and sound tech) has been a godsend, she has not been intimidated by the technology, and she jumps in without complaint.

The cast is really committed and they have expressed an affinity for the content of the play. Our cast is 'more mature,' so references to George Harrison, John Lennon, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes and Richard Nixon resonate. 'Dreams of Guantanamo' propel the piece into the present. The 'arrogance of power' extends in a crooked line from Nixon to 'Little Bush.'

We capped the day off with a dinner at 'Rick's,' on Sheridan. A party of six. A great meal, a long, rambling conversation. The looming election hanging over us like a bad dream. The hostility to 'Little Bush,' was palpable. I think like minded people will head to the polls to take America back from the brink of disaster. It is so easy for this Behemoth to slip off the tracks. Power invariably ends up in the hands of the corrupt and craven.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Wonder

Back to the blog. Everything is falling together. Sometimes forces just seem to converge, and all is well. Rehearsal yesterday was clunky but good. We broke the piece down into pieces, all the 'cue to cues:' lights out, lights up, music here, machine guns there. We have created a great group dynamic, and ultimately the group transcends everything. The play is the vehicle, the structure that holds the group together; but its the energy of the players, acting and re-acting off each other that makes it all worthwhile. To do this 'live,' in the moment, without a net, to find actors willing to risk it all, for the hell of it, is the real kick. The audience, yes, Virginia, we hope to have an audience, is the co-conspirator in this little 'game.'

Last night, Carla and I went to an art opening at the gallery. Carla was one of the featured painters. Her work is large, luminous, bold, bright, and beautiful. We kind of floated around the space, taking in the art, the people; not grasping, or holding on to anything. People just want to see and be seen. "Hello, I'm alive, how about you? Do you ever wonder what happens next?"

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Ride the Whirlwind

A good day yesterday. I conducted a teleconference connecting parties from the East Coast to the West. Might be on the fast track to a partner opportunity for my company. Good timing seems like magic. In the afternoon, I hooked up with Michael Patrick Sullivan and we headed over to Peter Jones Gallery to play music. It felt good to strap on my electric guitar. Michael plays some nice 'dark' songs; edgy and brittle, made me think of 'The Violent Femmes.' I tried to add some dark shadings. We played for hours. Playing guitar is one of my favorite things; puts me in a positive, relaxed frame.

This is the final weekend before the 'Henry Goodbar,' opening. Key rehearsals today and tomorrow. David is in from Sante Fe as the 'third eye.' There are a million little details (light adjustments, sound cues), but I'm feeling good about where we're heading. I'm hoping we'll have an audience. I'm jumping into the whirlwind. No looking back. 'Damn the torpedoes!'

Friday, October 22, 2004

The McGuffin

Finished 'Will in the World,' last night. Stephen Greenblatt (thank you Adam Gopnik) conjures up Shakespeare's world, gives us a sense of the man, and the times in which he lived. He puts the plays in a 'context,' which doesn't 'explain' anything, but makes them resonate in new ways. Greenblatt like Shakespeare, uses his imagination to create a world based on documentary evidence, myth, poetry and speculation.

Greenblatt accuses Shakespeare of 'raising the dead.' Othello, Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth; these characters come to us from a distant past (they were already past in Shakespeare's time) fully-formed, conjured by the playwright, re-animated by the actors (Shakespeare was a performer too). Playwright as: conjurer, magician.

Greenblatt tells us that sometimes Shakespeare seems to peek out from behind one of his masks, and as a 'for instance,' he mentions, Iago; and I was pleased because that's exactly how I felt when I recently saw 'Othello.' Iago is the villian who manipulates the other characters, he propels the plot forward, he steps outside events, he comments to the audience. Iago's speech examining reason and passion appeals directly to the audience, draws us into his conspiracy. This is exactly the role of the playwright.

Greenblatt suggests one of the reasons for the enduring appeal of the plays (besides the magnificent burst of poetic beauty) is that so much is 'not explained.' Why does Iago hate Othello? Why does Hamlet pretend to be mad? Why does Lear test his daughters love? Do the witches drive Macbeth to murder? There is a 'strangeness in the ordinary.' So, anyway, might as well end with the Bard himself: 'we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with sleep.'

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Smiley Face of Hell

Between cell phone calls yesterday, I re-cut the DVD for 'Henry Goodbar.' I have become quite good at 'multi-tasking,' one of the great advantages of working from home. I was also able to punch up the soundtrack by adding Jimi Hendrix's '1983 Merman,' and the Beatles 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' to the mix. Early to bed, early to rise, has meant that I get most of my 'paperwork' done before 9:00 a.m. The days are now: dark to dark, with a little light in between.

The business front is just an on-going duel with the forces of negativity. I almost succumbed to the darkness a day ago, but it is amazing how resiliant you can be if you have the right mix of milk and coffee.

Yes, I know it's a lot of money for a coffee ($3.33), but Starbuck's provides a luxury product at luxury prices, and everyone is happy. Starbuck's pays a decent wage for an honest days work, plus they have tuition credit and health benefits for their employees, so those extra dollars are actually making a worker's life a little better. On the other hand, Wal-Mart is EVIL. Their motto: 'always the lowest price,' means that consumers are at war with 'the workers.' Wal-Mart squeezes their own workers to get that 'lowest price.' My vision of hell: working as a greeter at Wal-Mart. 'Good morning, welcome to Wal-Mart.' If Dante were writing today, this would be one of the 'circles of hell.'

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dreamland

As a birthday celebration, it was a bust. I hopped a train, went north, hooked up with a business colleague and drove up to Milwaukee to meet with a competitor. We made a pitch to them about working together. It was an odd meeting; a real, substantial company sat down with a illusory, shadow company (I work for the shadow one). It was strange, unsatisfactory, probably another rabbit hole. I am paid to be a shadow, to chase shadows, to do battle with windmills. Sort of an urban, high-tech, Quixote.

By mid afternoon, I was really flagging; nature's birthday gift to me: a malicious little cold. Early evening, I celebrated with a Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia (Captain Trips Lives) and a bottle of Perrier. No Carla, she's in New York, so it was just me and the birds and Will Shakespeare ('Will in the World,' -- I'm vicariously living in 1601). I read my book for awhile, until my eyes began to blur. Still early evening: I put the birds to bed, shut out the lights and went off to Dreamland.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Pre-mature Being

I was born in a hospital, in Chicago, on this day, 49 years ago. I don't remember, but have been told that I was 'pre-mature,' and that I spent some time in an incubator before I could face the world on my own. I was lucky to be born into tight-knit family. I started as the happy go lucky little, fair-haired, boy, (Sunny Jimmy, indeed) and I've been that same boy ever since.

It's been a long, strange trip...and...a blink of an eye. They say that your cells regenerate, and that every seven years your body is made of these regenerated cells...so this would be the seventh version of myself.

I'm 'in a good place,' no major regrets, no broken bones, a few scars, but I believe, most, if not all, of my wounds have been self-inflicted. I have been in the process of 'becoming.' I have been a little slow on the uptake, unsure, not realizing just how much I could do, not understanding that I had to decide how the world is made; that the world would not tell me it's secrets, I would have to discover them on my own. Not an efficient way to live, but it has been good enough.

I'm still premature...probably always will be, just hoping I'm a little wiser down the line.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Every Man Needs Protection

Monday morning, dark; slept like a dead man.

The weekend was devoted to theater; excellent rehearsals, I upgraded the lighting and sound system. Music is always a big part of our productions. I've inserted a few of my all-time favorite songs into 'Goodbar': The Stone's 'Gimme Shelter,' Neil Young's 'My My, Hey, Hey,' The Sex Pistol's 'God Save the Queen,' Jimi Hendrix's 'Freedom,' and The Who's 'Overture.' The music is so good, I'm disappointed when we fade it out, to let the actors speak.

'Goodbar,' is a real freak production: an amalgam of things I've culled from the life of Howard Hughes, visions of Richard Nixon, Lennon and Harrison dabbling with LSD, modern string theory, odd slapstick, Errol and Sean Flynn, and the madness at Guantanamo Bay. Rashid is the 'radical anchor,' of the production, it is his plight, in prison, powerless, vunerable, a suspected 'terrorist.' The ultimate measure of a society is how we treat the 'least amongst us,' Rashid is one of the 'least.'

We end with Nina Simone's version of Dylan's 'I Shall be Released,'... 'I see my light come shining, from the West down to the East, any day now, any day now, I shall be released...'

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dancing in the Dark

Yesterday, I sacrificed it all for Black Forest. Rehearsal started at 10:00 a..m., I didn't leave until 10:30 p.m. We had a good, solid run-through of the show with the full cast, then I stayed after to address lighting and sound issues. I added another dimmer to the lighting design. Then I struggled with setting up a new sound system. I couldn't quite get it to work. Electronics is not my strong suit.

I took the red line home. Saturday night on the red line is humbling. It is a very interesting demographic. Street people, party-goers, the floatsam and jetsam of life. The cold wind was whipping, nothing like standing on an el platform late at night, waiting for a train. Up early, to finish the DVD of the video we shot and cut.

Warren Zevon used to sing a song, 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead.' He paid the price for living the rock and roll lifestyle by taking an early exit. I'm figuring, I'll sleep when I get home tonight.

This morning I hear a Lakota Indian on the radio talking about the 'great spirit,' and how the divinity is in all things of the universe. By smudging themselves with herbs, they take in a little of the universal energy. Dark forces, taken in small doses makes one stronger: life is a process of 'acceptance,' not 'resistance.' Instead of a battle of dark and light, it is a dance.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Submerged

Yesterday, I was in the 'blue chair,' cell phone in hand, a laptop computer for my business tasks, and my desktop computer for my editing tasks; I loaded up the cd player with two disks from the Drive by Truckers and one from Gillian Welch, and plunged into the work.

Sometimes it feels good to 'submerge.' The hours float by. By the end of the day, I had accomplished much: I finished the 'Rahsid,' scenes for 'Goodbar.' I am very happy with the four short films we've created. Rahsid is the character who really holds the piece together, he makes a journey, which ends with a shot of water and light.

On the business side of things, I talked through some issues, tried to move things forward. The accomplishments: much more nebulous, but I kept the game moving forward.

We topped off the evening with a dinner at 'Oceanique,' a French restuarant down the block. We had a great, three course meal, rich and rewarding. Slept well. Today we rehearse and attend to a million details on the production. Sometimes there's no time to think, instead it's all about the 'doing.'

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Soft Machine

I felt like I was hanging by a thread yesterday. My maladies, seem to be accumulating. I'm still dealing with a bad back (it is getting better) and my body just seemed to be one step behind.

I was accused of being 'soft' yesterday, by my business collegues. I've heard this charge before: that I am too lenient with Customers, I am not a 'tough' negotiator etc. This really riles me up (maybe there's an element of truth in it?). I see my 'job' as being able to listen to people, trying to find a solution, moving forward. I am not about 'the hard sell.' I don't believe in it, I'm not suited to it.

I believe in the 'humble' approach. This is in contrast to what I see as arrogance; a blindness, that characterizes my management team. Most of my battles have been with my own team. I don't think they really understand how to develop relationships. What they see as my 'weakness' is actually my strength. They mistake my smiles; my positive, happy attitude for an easy innocence. I'm tougher than they know. Sometimes I try to 'be the nail,' to hold things together, or to 'be like water,' passive and flowing. To maintain a genial humbleness takes a tremendous act of will. To 'run energy,' to let the negative go, is the essential work.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Maladies

It there anything drearier than hearing of someone else's physical maladies? Yesterday, my back, got the 'works' from Mari, my acupuncturist: electrical stimulation, needles -- in my back, my hands, my feet. She also applied heat to the area, and threw in some 'new age' music to boot. It was all very relaxing. Somehow, the needles, placed strategically, stimulate the body to heal itself; at least that's the theory.

Eastern medicine: needles and herbs, seems much less invasive than the Western kind. In the East, there is much less reliance on technology, in the West, it seems, we believe our technology will save us. Since there's so much we don't know, maybe less is more.

I have a long day ahead of me. I'm traveling with a business collegue to the far South Side for a meeting. I'm a little 'low energy,' this morning. I must be careful not to 'give it all away.'

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Juggler

Today, trying to juggle at least three things at once. I'm heading to the acupuncturist this morning; a few needles in my lower back will hopefully get my 'chi' flowing again. I've been feeling a little 'creaky,' the last few days.

Then, a business meeting in the loop. I am trying to move some 'deals' forward, but I am 'riding a tiger,' each deal has it's own momentum, it's own tempo, not sure what I really offer, except: show up and be aware/awake.

Then, later at home, I will continue work on the video project for 'Goodbar.' I've completed two scenes with Rashid: two to go. We captured some good images on the video shoot last weekend, Wahid did a great job, he looks good on tape. I've gotten better at the editing process, things come a little easier, I'm aware of sound, camera movement, lighting and flow. Throw in a little music to cover some of the sound issues, add a little 'cross dissolve' here and there, and bingo, Rashid, my Guantanamo prisoner, comes alive!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Good Morning, Bob!

Bob Dylan's voice on the radio this morning...'the answer my friend...is blowing in the wind...' still gives me a chill. Cutting, hard-edged, midwestern...the young prophet standing on the corner.

Bob says he was just doing his 'job.' The label: 'voice of a generation,' was a burden, a stone he carried around with him that had nothing to do with the man. It's just that the songs said so much, to so many. "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me...I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to...'

He soaked it all up and gave it back in such a unique and powerful way. 'God said to Abraham, kill me a son, Abe said man, you must be putting me on...' OR 'The man standing next to me, his head was exploding, I was praying the pieces wouldn't fall on me...'

The words, the voice, unlike any other. A prophet, a poet, a walking contradiction... yes sir, Bob Dylan, that skinny little dude from Hibbing, Minnesota a conjurer, an inspirer. 'I can't help it, if I'm lucky...'

Monday, October 11, 2004

A Perfect Hell

A long 'Goodbar' rehearsal yesterday. The raw structure of the piece is in place. We have a good, mature group of performers growing comfortable in their roles. Adding lights, music and black-outs for scene changes will help finish the production. There is much work to do. David will be coming in on the 22nd to review and give us additional notes. To be continued...

We stayed after rehearsal to see a 'puppet show' version of Kurt Vonnegut's 'Player Piano.' It was a very innovative presentation using little cardboard cutouts and light to project shadows on a screen. Live music was provided by 'Francois,' an excellent cello player and whistler. It was all an elaborate dance of light and music. It depicted a war between man and machine. After being immersed in the verbal pyrotechnics of our own play, it was kind of refreshing not to have to follow a text, but ultimately there was very little to hold on to, except a kind of quiet, low-tech, beauty.

What is entertaining? To ask an audience to laugh, to shed tears, to amaze, divert, challenge? In Will Shakespeare's time 'Hamlet' co-existed with 'bear-baiting,' a staged spectacle where a bear, chained to a stake, would be attacked by dogs. This was considered an entertaining diversion.

Was, 'King Lear,' perceived as an elaborate, poetic, version of 'bear-baiting?' Why are 'the villians,' (for instance: Edward in 'Lear,' and Iago in 'Othello') so entertaining? The villians drive the plot forward; they conspire against the honest and simple characters, and by confiding in the audience, they include us in their conspiracy. When the villian is punished, there is a feeling of justice earned. We get the vicarious thrill of transgression, and then when the punishment comes, we can stand back and be happy that we are just 'bystanders.'

Krishnamurti was once asked, why evil existed in the world. Krishamurti replied, 'to thicken the plot.' Without evil, without the villian would we all die of complete, absolute, boredom? A perfect utopia - a perfect hell?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Leave a Trace

Yesterday, the wakeup call came at 5:45 a.m. (4:45 Chicago time) and I kicked into gear: getting my stuff together, packing my bag, visiting my blog, checking out the news, taking a hot shower (I pointed the nozzle at my lower back and let the hydro-therapy do it's magic). Living in a hotel is an 'anonymous' experience, you have access to a room, but it is not yours, you fill it up with your things, but they don't really belong there. How was it that Warren Beatty and Howard Hughes spent all those years living in hotel rooms?

N.Y. -- Brooklyn and Manhattan -- amazing. The cityscape is so large, so all-encompassing, you can't help but feel small, insubstantial: how to make a mark, leave a trace? The flight out of La Guardia was all blue sky, smooth ride. Easy landing at O'Hare. Happy to be home.

We shot video yesterday afternoon, I think we captured some nice images of Wahid playing 'Rashid.' Tonight we will review the tape. I will have to do some creative editing around sounds at Peter Jones: slamming doors, heavy footsteps, the el, the train, music, laughing, talking. Where is the sound of silence when you need it?

Last night, I took a hot bath, really sunk into the tub, sipped a glass of Australian Shiraz (a light smooth taste) and read 'Will in the World.' Jack Kerouac used to spend hours in the tub, reading books. It's a great way to 'absorb' literature. Went to bed early. This morning feel happy, 'sunny,' refreshed. Today is a long 'Goodbar,' rehearsal. 'There's no place like home.' 'Home is where you hang your hat.'

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Why is a Snake a Snake?

Yesterday was much better. My bad back was a little less bad, the business conference ended early, and so I wandered the streets of Brooklyn on a sunny, autumn Friday. I found a nice Thai restuarant on Court street, then made my way to BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) to see a new staging of 'Othello.' BAM's theater space used to be called 'The Majestic,' it was built in 1903, it was a pre-Broadway tryout space in the 30's and 40's and then fell into a long disrepair, until Peter Brook decided it would be a good location for one of his productions. It is a 900 seat theater that has been restored, but it looks shaggy and raw, with peeling paint on the ceiling, exposed brick walls. It's a place with a 'history,' and character.

'Othello,' was staged beautifully, the actors were excellent; the actors mature and accomplished in voice and movement. Good theater acting is a unique art form; the players are like a guild, or a priesthood, it is a special calling, that requires extraordinary skills. The rewards are primarily in the 'doing:' in the business on stage. This 'Othello' was stripped down, tight, the text soared, the staging was taut and to the point. Iago is a 'villian,' from the first word to the last. He leads the honest man, Othello, like an 'ass,' to the slaughter. Othello's simple honesty almost seems a flaw, as he is easy to fool, and easy to incite to violence. The hero is easily prone to jealousy, and Iago plays him like a fiddle.

So, it is the conspiring, dishonest, calculating, false, Iago who is most intriguing. 'The divinity of hell.' Iago makes an argument about reason over passion. He convinces, but at the same time, he is wicked, he unleashes the forces of murder, and revenge which lie waiting in the heart of the honest, simple, man. We watch Iago set his trap, playing a double game, almost admiring his diabolical intelligence, the audacity of his plan. Why is he so evil? Why is a snake a snake?

Anyway, (oh heresy) I actually left at intermission: the first act ends at the point where Iago's plan has taken root in the Moor. The 'setup' seemed rewarding enough. The rest is already foretold. Passion, murder and revenge. I exited the theater, walked down Fulton Street (Hip Hop Land) and I was back in my room by 10:00 p.m.

I fly home this morning. We have a video shoot scheduled in the afternoon. This will be a long day.
Oh yes, and why is a snake a snake?

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