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Monday, March 31, 2008

Dismantling a Universe

We broke down our set yesterday. The Flaming Eyeball is history. It was kind of sad, but at the same time kind of liberating to take the set apart, stack the walls in storage, make way for the next show. We worked together with our good friends from Elefant Foot theater. I brought pliers and screwdrivers and had the task of dismantling a universe. Our set had kind of an outer space motif.

A long afternoon of manual labor. Not too hard. I brought a stack of cds and we listened to music: Sigur Ros, Morphine, Ronnie Laine. We left a nice little black box theater space, waiting to be filled by the next renter.

Afterwards all of us went to Julius Menil, a cozy, Austrian restaurant on Southport in Chicago. They serve an amazing array of sandwiches, soups and desserts - I had a the vegetable focaccia and a chocolate buttercake. Highly recommended.

We had one of those great, rare dinners, a long and rambling, funny and free-ranging conversation about art, life and what's it all about anyway? What is good? Why do we do what we do? What are we trying to say? Does the universe care? What's really going on? Can we ever figure any of it out?

It was a great way to put our little artistic adventure to bed. It was all laughter and smiles even as we talked about the most important things.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Marching to a Different Drum!

Hey if the "long emergency" (no oil, no power, no internet, no electrified gizmos to entertain us), is coming, we will be ready. Last night our little drum circle during the Earth Hour Blackout turned out to be the highlight of the evening. I've participated in a few drum circles before, and sitting in the dark, with a few lowly little candles adds just the right ambience. We had an incredible turnout for this part of the evening, something like 40 souls came out to shake, rattle and roll.

We had a great "ringer," a guy named Nickolai who really knows how to drum. He was basically our Drum Captain. Then Heather (one of the actresses in the Flaming Eyeball), got up and served as our very own Drum Conductor (shades of Leonard Bernstein), and with hand gestures she brought the unholy cacophony up and down from a whisper to an avalanche.

So we sat for an hour beating away. It's something truly primal, something our ancestors did and have been doing for centuries. It brought up some genetic entity type energy to the fore. As Sonny Bono once said, "the beat goes on."

So there's the beat, the heartbeat. And that's life. It was cool to see everyone in the room perform. No fourth wall. No division. Everyone in a large circle united by the vibration. Kosmic Kool!

Anyway the Flaming Eyeball closed in style. It flamed out and then it expired. We made merry with music and fun. A good time was had by all. This morning..."there's a space, a hollow, where the other eyeball should be..."

I wonder what will be next?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Plate Spinning is Cool!

Last night was all about comedy at our little theater space. We were on the bill with Valid Hysteria, an all woman improv group. Female, funny and fearless. A dynamite combination. These woman should rule the world!

Also on the bill was Matt Griffo. Young, sharp, sort of nerdy-looking kid (anyone under thirty looks like a kid to me), armed with a ukulele and an appealing voice. Matt sang funny little ditties and made things with balloons. Matt is following in some big footsteps, but he is making all the right moves!

Ed Sullivan would have been proud of us. If only I could've booked that guy who used to spin those plates on sticks. Now that is truly a lost art! Here's a link with instructions. Come on people, let's not let this great form of entertainment die!

Tonight is our big closing night show. We start off at 8:00 p.m. in the dark. Literally. We are participating in the World Earth Hour Blackout. The Lovely Carla made this happen! We'll turn off all the lights, light some candles and do a little drum circle. And pray, (does anyone pray anymore?) for better days.

Then it's Famous in the Future, the Flaming Eyeball, and then a musical jamboree with the Banana Street Band, Sandro the Magnificent and WWSP. It should be a real interesting evening.

Friday, March 28, 2008

This is probably unfair to butterflies...

I thought of this last night as we were video-taping our play.

This is probably unfair to butterflies...

When we act, write, direct, we are playing butterflies - lively, fluttering, in the moment, the moments flying away even as we experience them.

We can also play observer, collector and critic of butterflies. Sometimes we play all roles simultaneously.

It's probably most rewarding to play. Or sometimes just to observe. But we have tendency to want to capture the moment of the butterfly. This means killing it, preserving it, putting it under glass. Beautiful but lifeless. We can imagine the life it once had; the colors, the form of it evoke the life, but still it's DEAD!

Finally there are those who will critique the butterfly. It's good or bad, it touched us or not. It says something, or it doesn't.

Still butterflies come and go. And they have a purpose. To pollinate. I think that's what art does. It pollinates. Not every flower, but still...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Once, I had wings...

I trained down to the big city yesterday for a big power meeting. Meeting with the big boys, don't cha know? The city was alive, a sunny, early spring day in Chicago. Still quite brisk, still needed your overcoat and gloves.

I had no expectations, no trepidation, no annihilations...

I love the energy of a big, buzzing metropolis. So alive, with people from all walks of life. One wonders if this way of life is fated to fade away, or disappear in a blaze of glory, or maybe just meander on just fine. There's so much talk of apocalypse, peak oil, global warming, one crisis or another. And has it always been so? The end is near!

So I found myself in one of those big vertical buildings that defy gravity. Sat in a bright and shiny office with an incredible view of the city, the lake blue and frothy. Perched like an eagle, just watching all the people scurry around down below like a bunch of crazy ants.

Above it all for the length of the meeting. Then back down on the street. Just another scurrying little ant too. But for awhile I HAD WINGS!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


We had a WWSP band rehearsal last night. Three of us, minus our fabulous drummer (he will be with us on Saturday). It was great to sit and play music with other folks. I've been playing guitar quite a bit, working up new riffs and chord progressions. I finally learned Hendrix's "Little Wing," one of his most beautiful songs.

I found a new thing, I fire up Garageband, plug in my guitar, and then go to You Tube and find a group of musicians to play with, it could be Cream or the Stones, or Neil Young, Elvis Costello, or yes, even Guns N Roses, and then I jam away with them. It's a great way to hone my chops. But really it's a solitary, stupid, video game kind of existence.

There's nothing like playing music with real people (as opposed to the video image). Last night it was me, the Lovely Carla on vocals and Sara on bass. It all sounded so good. We played in a dark gallery, the music kind of swirled up around us. Intoxicating. It's really the relationship between us, no one part, but all parts working together that makes it something.

And really, that's what it's about all around too, don't ya think? We all have a part to play, it's how we work together, inspire each other, surprise each other, that makes the journey all well worth it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brought Down by a Heavy Wind

I've set myself up for one of those impossible tasks again. It happens all the time. My life is full of impossibilities. It's probably the same with you too. Anyway, last night we starting shooting video of the Flaming Eyeball (it closes this weekend), this is part of our ritual, we put on a play and then try to capture it, preserve it, whatever.

First off, it just can't be done. It's sort of like taking your little digital camera and trying to capture the Grand Canyon. I mean you can get some nice shots, but really so much is left out of the frame. And like one of my photography teachers once said, "the camera always lies!" As I shoot I can see all that is not going to be captured.

And then, we're shooting video at the Peter Jones Gallery, which is one of the airiest, noisiest places on the planet. Last night we learned that if someone upstairs has "the vapors," and they happen to "rip one," the whole building will hear it. I mean we're shooting the second scene, everything is going fine, and suddenly a major fart rings out. We all fall down in a heap of laughter. I wonder what the "farter" thought of that response?

So, anyway, I'm feeling a little like Sisyphus, I keep rolling that rock up the ridge and well, excess gas just sends it tumbling down back down again. But of course, as any Good Pilgrim knows, we all must carry on!

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Broken-Down Idealism

I came across a phrase this morning, that kind of resonates with me: "a broken-down idealism." Kind of sums up where I'm at. Kind of like Kerouac's "beat" from "beatific."

As life goes on, pop culture's eternal nowness, our quest for some kind of suburban, consumer utopia seems like such a poor substitute for nature's perpetual creation/destruction cycle.

The old conception of "tragedy" has been absorbed into a greater absurdity. It's our quest for immortality, for a life with no pain, that renders us mute when "bad things happen to good people." Maybe we should be mute.

But absurdity is really a poor substitute. Life is not just absurd. Although it's that too. If we take the dark things away, (they never go away) we sanitize our lives of a richer meaning. Now that meaning is not really revealed to us. It just hangs over us like a pile of laundry, on the line, sopping wet, dribbling down upon us.

We laugh not at the absurdity of it all, but at the baffling beauty. The clue-less-ness that we bring to the occasion.

So anyway, is this the greatest song ever written? Morphine doing "Cure for Pain."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Love and Incomprehension

The second to last weekend of the Flaming Eyeball show. We weathered a snowstorm on Friday night and still had a great little audience. And last night we were on the bill with Famous in the Future, one of Chicago's comedy treasures. Saturday was one of our best, most vocal audiences.

Our play is a comedy, but it's really weird and hard to track with, and some audiences sit in silence. Which sometimes feels quite strange, but it's something that happens often at our type of shows. So it was good to have a comedy group before us, kind of "fluffing" the public, priming them for the laugh. It also helped that the Famous in the Future cast members stayed for our show since they really have gotten to know us, and well, you could feel they were really with us.

So Famous in the Future was kind of our laugh track. I'm thinking a laugh track, or a "designated laugher" might be a good edition for every show. It gives the audience license to laugh, "hey maybe that really is funny!?" Anyway, a very satisfying night, one of our best shows. Looking forward to the final weekend, and a big closing bash next Saturday. Our band is playing too next Saturday, so I finally get out of the tech booth and back onstage. I kind of miss being under the lights taking in all that love and incomprehension.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

About Pawns and Rooting for Chaos!

Pawns: I came across this line, looking for something else: "We are all pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend." Yes, and sometimes we are happy pawns, and sometimes we are pissed off pawns, and sometimes we are just don't know what we really feel like pawns.

Chaos: I also came across this from David Denby's (my least favorite movie critic on the planet) overview of the Coen brothers' movies. As usual, I hated the essay, but I liked the closing line: "They (the Coens) have become orderly, disciplined masters of chaos, but one still has the feeling that, out there on the road from nowhere to nowhere, they are rooting for it rather than against it."

"Rooting for chaos" sounds like some kind of mantra. Essential in a world where there are no longer philosophers who we trust to explain it all for us, instead we now have LIFE COACHES who help us "actuate our possibilities!"

Friday, March 21, 2008

So True Then, So True Now!

This is from E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

Listen to what (Martin Luther) King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."*

*sunny jimmy - Personally, I'm not partial to all the God talk, although that's what preachers do, they like to tell us what's going on in the great NOGGIN IN THE SKY. Everyone seems to think they know the mind of the great creator, which is probably just some undefinable cosmic energy, not anymore substantial than a hair-ball, but let's go with "God" as a metaphor here, a stand-in for some kind of universal karmic law - EXCESS PRIDE AND ARROGANCE LEADS TO MAJOR BAD SHIT!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Who Said the Rock Could/Couldn't Act?

Think Wallace Shawn (one of America's greatest playwrights) as an evil genius in gaudy eye make-up and a frou-frou toupee. Think Buffie the Vampire Slayer as a dippy porn star. Think the Rock with a look of pure terror in his eye ("How did I let my agent talk me into this one?"). Think of an ice cream truck hovering over Los Angeles spinning into a crack in the space time continuum. Think Donnie Darko's creator offering a vast, over-blown, wild-ass ride. Does that make you want to see the movie?

Not many people saw it. It came and went in the blink of an eye. It was pummeled by the audience at Cannes. Did it kill Richard Kelly's career? I hope not. Donnie Darko is one of my all time favorites and this one might be some kind of mad masterpiece. I'm not sure, but I think it might be great. Plus it's got a superb soundtrack by Moby!

I think I loved Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales." What a kooky movie. Borders on the ridiculous, no, sometimes goes completely over the border. That's what I like to see. Someone takes a chance, does something really unique. Willing to fail. Daring to fail, and maybe somehow, improbably, pulling it off. What a great flick!*

*UPDATE: My mind was racing while I went for a run. Just why do I think Donnie Darko and Southland Tales are great films? Richard Kelly has made movies that for me are multi-layered. There's more than meets the eye. Multiple viewings of Darko has opened up a number of sub-layers for me. It's about alienation, and time and space anomalies, and spirituality, and clairvoyance. Scenes that seem to be about one thing, might actually be about something else. One of the keys to both films are the soundtracks, the use of music, which serves as a counterpoint, and opens up new dimensions to what's shown on screen. Moby, great grandson of Herman Melville, is a sublimely rewarding choice for Southland. These films are mysterious, and for me that's fundamental to my experience of the world. They are dark and funny, they use pop cultural icons and markers to make comments on some of our most profound questions. Plus they are both fun and ridiculous. I can't sum them up and just say they are about one thing. Man, that's what I love, you can't sum them up, or if you do, you miss so much, and hey, well, that's what life is like for me in all it's wacky, multi-colored aspects!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Atrios (Duncan Black) a primarily political blogger based in Philadelpia, is one of my favorite reads. He's always got his finger on the pulse of what's floating out in the the zeitgeist. If you get a chance read this little post it seems to sum up the White/Black and Right/Left dichotomy oh so well.

This is definitely something that swirls around in my head all the time: "Be disgusted with the country as it was and is, while hoping for an evolution to a better country."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

For Those Moments' Sake

Sometimes I read books, and sometimes I just read reviews of books. It's kind of nerdy. I know. Here's some stuff I came across from reviews of "On Deep History of the Brain" (ODHOTB) and "Predictably Irrational" (PI).

ODHOTB - "The brain of a monk does not resemble the brain of a soldier or a taxicab driver." AND "Culture is wired in the brain and cultural practices can have profound neurophysiological consequences."

PI - "We aren't cool calculators of self-interest who sometimes go crazy; we're crazies who are, under special circumstances, sometimes rational."

Plus here's two bonus quotes from famous people:

"The common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." - H. L. Mencken

"Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." - Walter Pater

Monday, March 17, 2008

On the Bus

If you want to get from one side of Chicago to another on a Sunday trek, and you are in tune with the Public Transportation Gods, there's no better ride than the Red Line to the Halsted St. bus, and then the bus for miles and miles of smiles. I kid you not.

The Lovely Carla and I were on the hunt for some creative inspiration, (a dance performance and a movie) and somehow we found the best spinach quesadilla ever. I mean it. We found it at the Kristoffers Cafe in East Pilsen.

We also caught Sara's (WWSP's bass player) dance performance called "Tradeshow." It was provocative, evocative and all about clothes, and yarn and well, it was strange and cool.

Then we got back on the bus and went off to see Gus Van Sant's great new movie, Paranoid Park. It's beautifully done. Powerful, wistful - skater punks in Portland. Sublime.

Sunday we were alive in this little subterranean paradise. On the bus - discovering little islands of sweet life.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How to Deal...

How to deal with the doom and foreboding? Serpentine! Keep moving. Spin. Never stop. Unless you're unconscious. And even then...well, do what you can.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I woke up with George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass," swirling around in my head. Feelings of doom and foreboding. I put the double cd in the machine this morning and listen to George's masterpiece once again. It's still so powerful, beautiful, mournful too. Maybe more mournful because George is gone - really, a long time now. The album is a Phil Spector production, made when Spector was still considered just an eccentric genius, as opposed to his image today - EVIL MUNCHKIN!

Recovering from another Flaming Eyeball show - the actors are getting better and better, Masha did some new stuff that really cracked me up. My brother's band, the Banana Street Band opened for us last night. They were really, really good. A strange, Polish Gypsy blues, with some kind of middle-eastern drone, fueled by a strange, mad passion. Leadbelly meets Polanski. I see the same weird determination and drive in my brother's eyes that I sometimes see in the mirror.

We are both on some mad Don Quixote type trip, conjuring dreams and sounds and images for some unknown purpose. So as one of the actors says in the play, "our flaming eyeball is destined to flame out." 5 shows left. I think it's good work, I'm watching it slowly disappear even as it dances before me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Damn Butterfly!

We've made new friends working on our latest theatrical production. People from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia. Chicago is such an interesting mix of cultures and sub-cultures. Anyway, sometimes you see things anew if you look through someone else's prism.

This is a roundabout way of saying that our friends introduced us to an amazing group of women who call themselves, My Damn Butterfly. Check out some of their music here. They are an a cappella group unlike any I've ever encountered. We caught their show at UnCommon Ground last Wednesday and it was beautiful, inspiring and haunting.

I usually like to hear blazing guitars and thumping drums in my musical cocktail, but 5 powerful, nimble voices, classically-trained, swooping and fluttering over Estonian folk songs, Nina Simone blues stuff, Enrico Morricone film scores and poems and readings brought to life with the most pliable, amazing instrument, the human voice, is quite the feat.

This is a unique group. Ten years running. If you ever get the chance, you must check them out!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Bottle Nose is on the Ball!

John Lilly talked to dolphins, he wrote a book, and they made a movie about it starring the great George C. Scott. I grew up watching "Flipper" ("Lassie" with a blow hole!) and well, I have no problem with the idea that dolphins possess some kind of advanced intelligence. The Lovely Carla is convinced, and repeatedly reminds me, that animals are smarter than people. Every time I pick up a copy of the NY Times and start surfing the pages, I can't really dispute her contention.

So anyway, we have to look out for the good stories that are out there too. I'd say this dolphin, dubbed "Moko" by New Zealand beach folk, is some kind of hero. Saving beached pygmy whales is certainly cool, and I'm sure the dolphin could have spent the time doing other dolphin things, but this kind creature expended time and energy to help out some distressed beings. Sometimes you realize we truly do live in a strange and wonderful world. Maybe we can all learn something from our finned brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

OK, maybe Jack is right, I can't handle the truth!

Every day some information comes through the air that is sort of difficult to process. Yesterday I learned:

1. The EPA has buried the fact that major amounts of ASBESTOS (not good for human consumption) have been detected at Oak Street Beach in Chicago. (The EPA has done everything they can to hide this fact - hat tip to Carol Marin NBC News!)

2. The FAA has buried the fact that Southwest Airlines has been flying planes that were supposed to be retired for maintenance. (The FAA inspector is a good friend of the airline - most assuredly on the take!) One wonders why anyone would want to evade the maintenance schedule - save costs? We're talking airplanes! You know flying in the air! What are these idiots thinking?

3. The Federal Reserve pumped 200 billion dollars (that's a lot of cabbage!) into the banking system (a teetering wounded dinosaur) yesterday. (When does the Dollar start looking like a Ruble? How come the Fed can't just give each and every one of us like $50k? I promise to invest it wisely!) When the Conservatives tell us about the invisible hand of market capitalism how do they explain bailing out stupid bankers? NOTE: If the Fed gave $200 billion dollars directly to poor people that would be WELFARE - bad, very, very bad. If the Fed gave $200 billion dollars to the folks who got stupid loans on over-inflated property that would be SOCIALISM - bad, very, very bad. If the Fed bails out banks to the tune of $200 billion dolllars that's MONETARY POLICY - good, very, very good - our free market capitalists think that's cool - there's no such thing as a free lunch unless you're in the club!

4. When the sun collapses and dies, everything in our solar system will be sucked into a black hole. (This is a well-known phenomena, but it popped up again on TV yesterday, just so we don't all let it slide into obscurity).

5. Eliot Spitzer paid $5,000 for two hours with a call girl at the Mayflower Hotel. (What exactly did the guy get in return - Around the World? He must have some great kink don't ya think?). Also, salacious detail #2: he paid $80,000 in one year of call girl frolics! (Now that's what I call ENTERTAINMENT!)

6. The Olympics in Bejing this coming summer may be hazardous to the athlete's health! I guess the air quality is so bad breathing in big gulps of air will be one of the key hurdles to an olympic medal!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Straight Arrow!

Eliot Spitzer: Governor of New York, shining star of the Democratic party, crusader against corruption, Eliot Ness, straight arrow.

It seems that maybe his arrow was just a little too straight.

I mean, what happens behind closed doors with two consenting adults is nobody's biz. But, if you make your reputation on bringing down Wall Street robbers, and holding up the letter of the law, well, one should make sure you don't drop letters either.

It will be interesting to see if the other shoe drops. Why were the Feds wire-tapping the Governor of New York? This dude had a lot of enemies. In some circles, high priced call girls are just the perks of power, but that's not supposed to be part of the Eliot Ness portfolio.

UPDATE: I'm thinking this could be a step up. I know nothing about the man except he's a Democrat, an African American, and legally blind! That sounds like a winning combo right there!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Pope is on-board! (don't need no ticket either!)

I was born into the Catholic faith, baptized, confirmed (my confirmation name is Paul! - I was thinking McCartney at the the time!). But that was a long time ago, in a land far away.

Somehow I never believed that the Pope was infallible. Just didn't really enter my hardened noggin. And I felt bad for that Jesus guy, but "son of god" always seemed a little too grand, (unless we say every living thing is in the same category), it seemed like he got the short end of the stick, but then, he somehow got launched to greener pastures, and well, that was how the story went.

I always saw it as a story. Never totally bought any of it.

So, anyway this is a roundabout way of getting to the news that the Pope (I always thought the job was just a little bit silly) now tells us that polluting the earth is a sin! Excellent dude! Glad the Pope's on-board, but really, was anyone just sitting around waiting to hear it from his lips? Does the fear of hell now loom over billions of Catholics who thought they were clean as a whistle?

Wonder if it will move anyone to be a little more conscious of their conspicuous consumption? Does that mean that Jesus wouldn't drive a HUMMER? He wouldn't throw his Wendy's wrapper out on the highway? He wouldn't make jokes about Al Gore? And what about plastic bags? And the rain forest and the polar bears? I'm thinking the sinning is just about endless! Pope you got some work to do here!

UPDATE: I've been ruminating over this, does one gain "indulgences" against previous sins, if for instance, one rides public transportation? Riding the red line on a Saturday does sort of seem like purgatory. Or how about taking the Irving Park bus on a bitter winter day? Can one trade in the time spent on public transportation (it's the environmentally friendly thing to do), can the time accumulated be charged against future transgressions? If I buy a Prius, do I lessen my chances of burning in hell for eternity?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Night of the Telepaths!

I have to blog about the Telepaths. Last night we opened for Black Forest's Flaming Eyeball show and it's was probably our best r&r outing yet. We filled the Peter Jones Gallery with about 30 or so devotees "in the know." We were playing on our home turf, at a premium time. All the elements were there - the sound system was set perfectly, we were in tune, Peter V. our drummer was perched on a little platform behind us so that his groupies could see him swinging and sweating, the vocal mics were warm, Pat McD was relaxed, and his voice actually sort of purred.

Our set is now a pretty tight mix of originals and covers. Our best songs are probably our own: "West of California," "Bye Bye Dubai," "Area 51," "What is the What," "Susan Sontag" (yes, we have a quirky little tribute to Susan that is my personal favorite!), and "Crude War" (a bitter, blazing Metallica-ish brute of song penned by Peter V. that conjures the black hole of hell that is the Iraq War).

But we also have made some of our covers uniquely ours. Our version of "Rusty Cage" (a Soundgarden song via Johnny Cash) has become one of our great moments of r&r mayhem. There's nothing like the beauty of a three minute, three chord song played with pure conviction and joy. My vocal moment comes when we get to Neil Young's song "Fucking Up" (the Lovely Carla asks me why of all the songs written on the planet, this song has come to be my anthem?). I don't know, I like the riff! I'm such a Neil Young fan, my guitar style is certainly influenced by his big open ringing major chords and chopping, anti-technique lead lines.

So we put the set over with complete joyous abandon. We added a new song as the closer, which I brought to the table after seeing Elvis Costello burn the Chicago Theater down with it in a one-man, acoustic version, "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?" It's the right question...always.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Flaming Eyeball Flaming Strong!

Pat McD, lead vocalist of the Telepaths gives Black Forest's Flaming Eyeball a nice write up over at HollywoodChicago.com.

Not bad considering he and I were cast in an earlier version of the piece and well, we were both eliminated (by me) in the final stage production. The lovely women who replaced us, bring another level of physicality and creativity that we just didn't seem to have in our more terrestrial-based performances.

Last night was probably the Black Forest cast's best performance yet. Our special guest was the Puppet Bike and it was a great little opening show that sort of helped set the wacky, carnival gone off the rails vibe. It devolved into supreme lunacy and joy when Brian Jones sang songs from the Smith's catalogue while Jason Trusty (master Puppet Man) showed us all how to cook breakfast on a light (you had to be there to get the mad beauty of the thing!).

Tonight our special guest is the Telepaths in all their mad rock and roll glory. I of course will be on guitar. We play once in awhile, we rehearse once in awhile, and when we get up and play, anything is liable to happen. I do love this band. There's something about being able to crank up the volume and just bash away on 3 minute rock songs for about 50 minutes that is supremely liberating (at least for us!).

This Black Forest run has been instructive, and we are doing some new things. For instance, we're doing the Radiohead thing by letting people pay what they want, or nothing at all. We have a hat and people are free to put some cash in it, or not. We have encouraged folks to BYOB. This is great, no worries, no liquor expense for us!

Also we're doing a 45 minute show, which seems to me just about perfect. I mean, even if you hate the show, you can't really be too bummed, it's over before you know it. Plus the special guest idea is genius! Every night a new vibe, a new crowd. The acts we have lined up are quirky and cool.

So far, so good!

UPDATE: Check out the Peter Jones Gallery site for additional Flaming Eyeball info. Special guests in the coming weeks: Sandro the Magnificent, Famous in the Future, Matt Griffo, WWSP, Valid Hysteria and the Banana Street Band!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Go Guy Go!

Amazon Books sends alerts. They tell me that I might be interested in Guy Debord's new book "A Sick Planet." Since Guy died in 1994, I guess it's quite the feat that new work from him is still coming forth.

They are trying to hook me with this quote:

“All my life I have seen only troubled times, extreme divisions in society, and immense destruction; I have taken part in these troubles.” -- Guy Debord

You go Guy!

UPDATE: A day of messages. I go to take a shower. I look in the mirror to assess the damages. The Lovely Carla has pasted this message to the mirror - "do what needs to be done." I tell her, yes, that's just what I needed to hear this morning. The Lovely Carla shakes her head and laughs, "Of course you'd think that was about you!"

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The 11th Commandment

Beware the asshole. They are like George Romero's zombies, they live amongst us. They sort of look like us, but really they are dumber, less "well-rounded" versions of us. They weren't born that way, I mean, they started out as cute little blobs of fat, they started out with all the essential equipment, but then, somewhere down the line, as Joseph Heller would have it, "Something Happened."

We all go through that asshole/zombie phase, but most of us get through it, or just dabble with it, (hey let's be a zombie for the weekend!), we overcome it, we realize that life is more than just sucking blood, or eating brains, or whatever it is asshole/zombies do to survive.

Another horror film master, Wes Craven, lives by what he calls the asshole theory. Life is too short. Don't work with assholes! He works with a very tight, committed crew, he weeds out the assholes on a shoot.

Herman Melville, wrote about this thing in one of his books, the title escapes me, about working on a merchant (not a whaling) ship. Melville, preferred to be up in the crow's nest, far from the madding crowd. He did his best to avoid the confirmed assholes down in the hold. Proximity to an asshole can be contagious. Or maybe it's osmosis - little asshole-like cells or vapors can easily flow into an unsuspecting victim.

So one of the commandments (the 11th Commandment!), Moses must have spaced it: Thou Shall Avoid the Asshole!*

*Sometimes it is impossible to avoid an asshole. In those cases, you might want to start sniffing (helium = laughing gas!) whipped cream canisters!

UPDATED NOTE: The Lovely Carla reminds me that if I ever need to solder a pickup in a guitar, or make a drug reference, I should first check with her. She corrected me on today's substance abuse reference: of course you don't sniff a whipped cream canister, you INHALE, and it's not helium (which makes you talk like Pee Wee Herman), its NITROUS OXIDE!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clear As Mud

Ohio - not so close. Texas - close. Goes to Clinton. Maybe that 3:00 a.m. phone call ad was effective? What do I know?

I watched McCain claim the Republican nomination. Was he pleased? Hard to tell.

Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" blared from speakers after McCain's speech. I guess it's McCain's theme song. A telling choice. A great, seminal song. One of the towering achievements in rock and roll history. You've heard that Berry guitar lick played over and over by millions of guitar players from all across the universe - from garage bands to stadium tours.

It was written in 1958! I think McCain wants to be President of that America. A long time ago, in a land far away. Post Korea, Cold War, pre-sixties, pre-civil rights, pre-feminist revolution, pre-pill, black and white TV, no home computers, no internet, no ipod - no Britney!

A time never to be repeated - okay, maybe in an alternate universe. But really did that time and place ever really exist?

UPDATE: McCain served in Viet Nam, captured, tortured, war hero. I just flashed on the idea, that even back then, in the sixties, McCain was a man out of time, he went to fight World War Two, and he finds himself at the Hanoi Hilton. Could be the premise for a sci-fi flick.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

When is a Metaphor Not a Train?

Yesterday, I was alerted by "the authorities," that a couple of knuckle-heads I used to know, have recently discovered this blog, and they have been doing extensive "opposition research," looking for information to use against me. Oh boy, how exciting - new readers! I checked my stat counter and confirmed that my site traffic has gone through the roof! And all roads lead back to Knuckle-Head Land!

It seems these two bozos are going through my posts over the last 4 years (Blogger tells me there's 1153 posts and counting!) looking for...what? Mixed metaphors? Over-wrought rhetoric? Badly constructed puns? Over-reliance on curse words? Dangling participles? Anyway, these cretins actually filed a complaint against me based on a dramatically placed metaphor. Seems they took it literally. Some people just have no imagination!*

Reviewing my site, one might say maybe it's not the finest writing in the land, but certainly there are no hanging offenses.

So yes, the thought that these two idiots are sitting in a dark room somewhere, pouring over years of my blogs, looking for something to hammer me into the ground with, is kind of funny, kind of creepy too, but hell, when you do a public blog, anyone, and I mean anyone is free to read it.

When you write, you kind of hope you are reaching out to like-minded, cool, creative folks who might stumble across your blog space, but it's probably good to be reminded that there are some really hopeless, pathetic people in the world too. These guys have jobs, they get paid pretty good money (these guys are way over-paid!), and what are they doing all day? Surfing every post I've ever conjured out of my fevered brain! I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Although, on the other hand...

* I actually took the offending post down, not because the complaint had any validity, but simply to extend good feeling and fellowship to those so mentally challenged they can't see a literary device hurtling down the track!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Building up a reality from very little information!

As you probably know, if you read this blog, I write plays, or, I don't know, maybe they're not really plays, I write stuff that my little group of co-conspirators takes in and then puts on stage. I write and then WE PLAY! So anyway, we played this weekend. And afterwards someone came up to me and asked "where do you get your ideas?"

This is a frequent question, and one I always find kind of baffling. I mean, the short answer is: these aren't really my ideas, these are things that are just floating all around us, I just sort of collect stuff, and I think somehow the things I collect are connected, and then I put them together, and then they form some kind of whole, and well, that's what I call a job well done.

I came across this quote from the filmmaker Michael Gondry, and this is how he defines his process: "I look at something and then I scroll through the shapes in my mind until I imagine what it could be. Your brain is very creative. It makes up all sorts of meanings and shapes. We build up our reality from very little information."

Now that seems like some kind of motto I've been living by: Building up a reality from very little information!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Good Stuff

To stay alive, sane, happy, to enjoy this strange trip we are all embarked upon, one must acknowledge and celebrate the good stuff, no matter how small, no matter how insubstantial. To that end, I must remark upon the odd fact that my little theater company is in it's 14th year of existence. Sometimes it's just been a logo, a name, an idea, a wisp of a dream. Just like a real forest, Black Forest is not a money-making phenomenon, it's not essential to the life of the planet, it's more like a mirage, or a heat wave shimmering on the pavement in the blistering dead of summer.

It means a lot to me, and some of the people around me. And that's really enough, and a lot, and I'm glad it still has life. Today is a day of rest after a nice, life affirming opening weekend. We have found a great group of artists that are all committed to doing the work. That's the essence of the game right there. The game where there's no winning, no losing, just the doing, and the doing well, and really it's the doing that is the art, and it creates us, as we create it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Seismic Waves

In my little world last night, an event of seismic wave proportions. Black Forest opened the Flaming Eyeball and launched it into the universe. We had a small, friendly, crowd. It kind of felt like circus people performing for other circus people. Our opening act was Sandro the Magnificent, and he really does live up to the moniker with which I dubbed him. Hard to explain, but Sandro's from Russia. He is a classically trained clown - think Chaplin, think Keaton, think Pushkin and Baryshnikov, think Tiny Tim, Jeff Buckley and Axl Rose. Or something like that. Sandro did a little performance piece - movement and song, and really it was exquisite and kooky.

Then we did our thing. We had some hitches, I'm working lights and sound and we played a little dvd in the beginning and of course, for the first time ever, as it played it started to hiccup, it paused, hesitated, for a brief moment it seemed the whole little world we were about to conjure was going to come crashing down in a heap of good intentions. Anyway, the dvd kind of sucked it up and carried on to the end. Big sigh of relief.

Then the show ensued. It was the first time the cast really did the whole piece in one gulp. Which is kind of scary, and wasn't really planned that way, but it was fine, with some rough edges, missed cues and lines, but hell, in it's own wacky way, it did sort of sing. We've got the first one under our belt. Nine more performances and then it vanishes back into the misty black.

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