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'?

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