Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Make. Self. Perfect.

"I don't make New Year's Resolutions." This is a lie.

I do, in fact, make New Year's Resolutions. The list is often long, ridiculous, and written on the back of a bill or receipt or whatever I have next to me when the mood strikes. And I usually never tell anyone what is on this list.

Here is what I had for last year:

Finish two screenplays
Write Ten Short plays
See 20 plays
Watch entire RSC collection of Shakespeare's Complete Works
Educate myself on the Scope of Modern poetry from T.S. Eliot onward
The Bible
The Koran
The Upanishads
Learn to play the Guitar
Take a dance class of some kind
Paint at least once a week
All Alfred Hitchcock
The Janus Film Collection
Read 1 Screenplay a week
Learn French

This list is absurd. Not only that, it's an indictment...a secret finger I point at myself to shove me forward. I can't be satisfied with one or two goals - I have to force myself into a frenzy of self education to make up for whatever my perceived failings are. Sure, I read a lot of poetry last year, and I can now ask where a bank is in France (but don't ask me to say anything else).

But read the Bible...y'know just sit down and read it? Learn how to play the guitar? Jesus. It's like I'm an over scheduled eight-year-old.

So this year I've decided keep the list short.

1. See more of the world (near and far) and do the best I can to enjoy myself while I'm here.

Hopefully, I can fit this in between soccer practice, Tai-Kwan Do, and my Clarinet lessons.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Aw, Man. Two in a row, Tuesday.

First, "Tuesday before Christmas" made a fool of itself at the office holiday party and then took Christmas Eve off. And now, "Tuesday Between Christmas and New Year's" shows up to work in its brand new, slightly small sweater (just cut the tags off, fold creases remain on the arms, still smells like whatever store it's from - probably the Gap), and sits down at its desk with a loud grunt.

You may want to ask how its Holiday was. Don't. Let TBCaN get its work done. Otherwise, you will become embroiled in an involved story, during which only the most tedious details are highlighted and afterwards, you will know far too much about TBCaN's Mother, her gall stones, and a strange numbness that keeps overtaking TBCaN's pinky and middle fingers.

Best to leave well enough alone.

I like the song "Clocks" by Coldplay, okay? There I said it. I'm tired of hiding.

It's a great pop song, got a good hook. And a piano...I love pianos. (Except in piano based rock with trite on-the-nose lyrics. Don't even TALK to me about The Fray.)

But I kind of hate myself for liking it. I hate myself for liking it because it's used whenever a character in a movie or TV show has some sort of earth shattering revelation, and then starts running towards his or her until-now-unrealized love interest for a soulful confession during a meeting or at the airport.

Now every time hear it, I want to start running. To whom, I don't know. To where, I have no idea. But I will start running. And the heavens will open up, and it will start to rain, but I won't care. I'll be happy, you see? For the first time, knowing what it is that I want and heading for it, full steam and weather be damned, circumstance shall be overthrown. As I run I can do nothing but laugh. And Cry. And Laugh. And Cry...unafraid, so full of joy...I just start running to whatever...that...uh...thing was...I knew what I wanted...just a second ago...what was it that I was running to?

Just, please, if I show up at your office, soaking wet with some lingering expression of absent minded nirvana, don't call security. I can see my own way out.

Influence roundup:

Henri: Peter Sellers, Scientific American, David Lynch
Mr. Rekk: Antonin Artaud, Joy Division, Wonder Showzen
Jerry: Flannery O'Conner, Jim Jarmusch, The Clash, The New Yorker
Ron: Werner Herzog, John Cleese, The Damned
Fremo: John Woo, Alan Moore, Rev. Horton Heat

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another Christmas Myth Busted

Starting at around Black Friday and running all the way up through Boxing Day, the gangs of disenfranchised, semi-atheist smart asses trot out all the holiday myths and inconsistencies of the season to expose Christmas, and it's surrounding activities, for what it really is. And won't we be damned if they aren't the same old myths and inconsistencies year in and year out:

"Did you know that Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25th? They moved the celebration to coincide with the winter solstice!"

"Did you know that Santa Claus is partially based on a pagan fertility god?"

"Did you know the suicide rate increases from the end of Thanksgiving to New Year's?"

That last one is actually not true. In fact, most of these subversive one-liners are totally un-researched, but that doesn't matter. (Almost none of the traditions in support of the holidays are researched by casual participants, either. What do they care when cashing in theiriTunes gift cards?) The goal is to upend the holiday season and raise a fist in the face of its dominance. This impulse isn't surprising. It seems even more odd NOT to look around and notice the incongruous notions of the season. We are told, through constant din of songs and commercials, that it's supposed to be a time of peace and joy - yet most of us manage to feel overwrought and miserable.

But making these bold pronouncements to highlight these contradictions doesn't seem to make anyone feel any better. And quite frankly, I'm getting bored with the broken record of the same old revisionist chestnuts. I already KNOW that Jesus wasn't born on December 25th. I already KNOW the deal with Santa and Solstice and all that stuff. I already KNOW that Christmas is rife with conflicts of belief and behavior.

Instead of casting our blaming gaze on the traditions of the season, which, despite the best efforts of the semi-atheist smart asses (I feel I should mention I have no problem Atheism - in much the same way I have no problem with Christianity or Hinduism- as a way of making sense of a senseless universe. The behaviors surrounding these belief systems can be troublesome. Just remember, if you announce your atheism smartly at cocktail parties, it doesn't automatically make you an intellectual.), seem to be barreling forward with no signs of stopping (And I've brought some corn for popping...), why not have a look at some behavioral myths that seem to trip us up even further than little baby Jesus getting borned in a manger.

For instance, the myth of the Great Christmas Break Down.

Movies love this one. Whole scripts are built around them:

The protagonist returns home, with some reluctance, (usually fresh off a divorce, death, or years of repressed emotional response) and after trying to conform to the Holiday's traditions and confronting blood relations that have plagued him/her for years, the tension reaches a breaking point and the protagonist explodes into a gullywasher of tears, yelling, and a poetic monologue that finally, poignantly, illuminates his/her personality to those around him/her. The movie ends when the protagonist continues on the journey with a renewed sense of self and his/her family accepts them for who they are.

We LOVE it.

And it never happens.

I'm not saying people don't have break downs and poignant monologues. They most certainly do. But the idea that movies present some sort of factual account of what happens during the holidays is hogwash. What they present is a larger truth - the Holidays are a time of reflection, returning to the beginning, preparing for a rebirth into a new year (After all, isn't that what the Solstice is all about?). I'm a big believer in this.

Every year the pressure heightens, and we wonder who's gonna go for it and blow a gasket.

I waited for mine. Like waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve - I left cookies for it and everything.

It never came.

This has been a strange and, in some ways agonizing, year. I cast off a lot of old perceptions of myself. I made some incredible mistakes, some terrible misjudgments. I'm still in the mire.

In spite of this, I did not have my explosive holiday catharsis. My mother tried to bring it on, I think, by attempting multiple soul scraping conversations. I could sense the nervous anticipation of my family as they bit their nails, wondering when I was going to lose it. I cried a few times and had some bouts of disproportionate emotional response. The closest I came was standing for ten minutes in an earnest and crafty paper store downtown, waiting for the new girl to figure out how to void an item. I gazed off into the grey slush of the Chicago street, while bland piano-based rock with trite on-the-nose lyrics lilted in the background.

I could almost feel Cameron Crowe's lens bearing down on me for my big moment.

The Great Christmas Breakdown never happened.

Does it ever? I've heard the stories. Seen the movies. They may strike in us the chord of truth on some level, as we wish to be better understood by those around us. It seems the only way to jolt us out of a stupor is through some emotional catastrophe. Unfortunately, like quitting smoking cold turkey, one still has to deal with old habits. Change of this size does not manifest overnight, or in the form of some weary tirade on Christmas Eve. The origin could be a violent tectonic shift (a choice made, a chance taken), but the actual change arrives in tiny scrapes and evolutions.

And those scrapes and evolutions still ate all the cookies and milk I left out. Dag.

(For those of you who requested influences, I'll be working on those tomorrow. And Freddie, now that I know it's you, my mistake is especially hilarious.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Speaking of Influences

"So let’s say I, whom they laughingly assume to be your husband, had taken the letter, having declared myself to be your husband but in truth being a total stranger, and opened it, and read it, out of nothing more than idle curiosity, and then thrown it in a canal, you would never have received it and would have been deprived of your legal right to open your own mail, and all of this because of Venetian je m’en foutisme. I’ve good mind to write the Doge of Venice about it.


That’s what stopped me taking it, by the way, and bringing it to you, the thought that I could very easily be a total stranger.


What they of course did not know, and had no way of knowing, was that I am your husband."

-Robert, Scene 5, Betrayal
Harold Pinter, 1978

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The influence swap meet

Since I didn't get a chance yesterday to offer my speculations on your influences, I offer them here:

Mr. Janes (I peeked, but would have said Ernie Kovacs as well): Mike Nichols, James L. Brooks, The Police
Notnits: Bloom County, William Goldman, George & Ira Gershwin
Rebar: Dorothy Parker, Buzzcocks, Jean Shepherd, Samuel L. Jackson
Powers (Happy to see you here!): Phish, Calvin and Hobbes, Bob Odenkirk

This is fun for me, so if anyone else has the inclination just ask. I hope I'm at least in the ballpark on some...if not, we can fight in the parking lot later.

I hope you are all safe and not forced to do to much hectic running around. My next post won't be for a few days so...

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

(Huh...I was hoping for a fancier font than that...oh well...It's fine, it's FINE. Can't we just have a nice Christmas?)

[EDIT: And today is my 100th post. I never thought I had it in me. Thanks for reading, guys. ]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Tuesday can’t win.

Especially, the Tuesday before Christmas. It can’t even disguise itself as a Hump day. Tuesday absconds with Wednesday’s Novelty Ball Cap/Santa Hat (that reads “Santa’s Workshop” in Comic Sans on the front) and then skips to the office Holiday Party. After two wine coolers, Tuesday starts doing impressions of Wednesday…everyone looks to the side to down at their plates full of sausage bites and Cheese balls.

Tuesday can’t even win if it’s ON Christmas. “Dang, if Christmas were on a Thursday or Friday, we could have the whole weekend off. Now we HAVE to go back in tomorrow.” And Wednesday just stands idly by with a smirk, having swiped back his hat during a scuffle in the supply closet.

I was walking home from my job a few years ago, listening to the radio (Yes, back in the day, personal listening devices had RADIOS on them. Tough to imagine, right? That even though we were able to control what we heard on our headphones, we would still elect to listen to the radio….and that manufacturers still believed it necessary to include AM/FM radio as a feature.) It was just before the Christmas frenzy reached its peak and had been a particularly bad week for snow. I trudged through the dunes to the EL and the white flakes floated down, swirling in front of the orange streetlights.

It was then that I heard, for the first time, “Christmas Eve In Sarajevo” By the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

It’s difficult to describe my love for this sort of music. I know that anymore The Trans Siberian Orchestra is just a hop skip and a jump away from Mannheim Steamroller in the “Edgy, new age CD section”, but there is something about post-Glasnost Ruskie Rock that makes me dance a little. The Trans Siberian Orchestra puts Western Pop Culture through it’s aged blender, and the result is sort of powerful and sad, jubilant and weary.

I don’t own any other Trans Siberian Orchestra music. This is the best one in my opinion.

And for those of you who have heard the many and sickening versions of “Carol of the Bells” these last weeks, I apologize…but not really. This is my evil gift to you.

Merry Christmas everyone. And if you aren’t into that kind of thing…may the next few days be peaceful, warm, and surrounded by things you like.

Influences (Some of you have a couple more than 3)

MJ: Bette Davis, Carol Burnette, David Sedaris
Jan: Depeche Mode, Noel Coward, Ambrose Bierce
Freddie: Jim Henson, BNL, The Electric Company
Mr. B: Ernie Kovacs, Del Close, Elvis Costello
Sharko: (Oh, man…you make it so easy…) Frank Zappa, The Residents, Tom Leher, Stephen Sondheim,
Erica: Judy Blume, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Dre, Sir-Mix-a-lot, Anne Sexton, Lucille Ball

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Left Field of Influence

After my post on Friday, I was driving to a show and mulling over 3-D's awesome robot lip sync. It was then that I realized what a tremendously deep impact that performance had on me.

Anyone who knows me would probably be completely unsurprised that some of my major influences include Freddie Mercury or Annie Lennox. The line drawn from point A (The video to Sweet Dreams) to point B (My penchant for wearing men's clothing whenever possible - on stage or off) is a pretty clear one.

The artistic impact that 3-D has is totally unexpected, but (and this may shock Notnits a little) it is probably the reason for my co-creating a show about post-traumatic stress disorder in World War II vets. It may also be the reason I have a thing for lip sync.

[At one point in the show's process, I had conceived of a production number in which all the soldiers danced and sang along to "Accentuate the Positives". The germ of that notion still exists in the script...but I think we're all relieved that better angels prevailed here.]

Our developing years are full of those kinds of weird influences. Of course, we find respectable artists to emulate...but in the outer reaches, there exist people, TV shows, pieces of music that push us further down our path, and we have no idea how significant they really are.

That is, until they pop up on YouTube.

Examples of totally out of the blue influences include:

1. Ozzie and Harriet (That 50's Show)
2. "Automatic", by the Pointer Sisters
3. Red Skelton

I think it's time for a meme:

1. List three of your major artistic influences and three unexpected ones. Tagged: Notnits, E., Rebar, Goose, and Joe.


2. If you post something in the comments here, I will guess three of your artistic influences. Even if I don't know you very well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The unexpected side effect of recorded sound

Recorded sound has only been around for a short while. Technically, the first recorded human voice was that of Eduard Leon Scott on his phonautograph in 1860, but there was really no method to play it back until 2008, through the magic of computers.

It was Thomas Edison's phonograph cylinder, invented in 1877, that brought down from the gods the ability to record and play back the human voice. One hundred and Thirty-one years might seem like a long time, but in the centuries of human evolution, it's just a blip. Prior to this, the only way to hear the human voice was to be in the same room with it...or at least within earshot. After 1877, with wax cylinders readily available, the human voice could be heard over and over again.

Before this, we could only hear a song a particular way once.

Before this, we could not listen to a singer's intonation and intensity over and over until finally every breath, catch, or hiccup was carved into our muscle memory.

Before this, we could not lip sync.

I'm sure that in a drawing room in 1704, a parlor game existed in which one mouth would try to simulate the motions of another. However, without the technology for repeated listening, it could never come off as complete. The illusion could not be satisfying. What if Wendell Nutbush abruptly belched behind the curtain as Emiline Teasebussle mimicked the final strains of "La costanza d'Ulisse"?

Once a voice is recorded, the interpretation cannot be changed. We can anticipate the intake of air, a soaring note, a warbling melisma.

The subversion of one's own voice for another used to be a sign of certain demon possession, or evidence, during the seance, that a medium had advanced to the other side. Now, it is a common form of entertainment.

Does anyone remember the show in the 80's game show, "Puttin' on the Hits" hosted by Allen Fawcett? It was glorious.

For those of you who don't know, or perhaps have blocked it from your memory, contestants would dress up, lip sync to their favorite songs, and then be judged by a panel of straight-to-syndication sitcom extras on originality, appearance, and lip sync.

Below is perhaps one of the most beautiful examples of a contestant's performance. It is rehearsed, polished and shows sparks of actual ability. 3-D (his stage name) doesn't just glom onto Paul Hardcastle's beat...he owns it and makes it a part of something new.

I only saw 3-D's performance once, but it lingered in my memory banks for years. Thanks to YouTube, I was able to see it again. It is every bit as emmer effin cool as I remember.

Behold, The unintended outgrowth of recorded sound...

(UPDATE: You know what? I just watched this again and this fella is really good. Thank you for not serving up a shattered childhood notion of cool, 3-D!)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

EL-lo, Is it me you're looking for?

Everyone plays the game of "Who would I most likely procreate with if I were trapped on a desert island with the people on this train car."

And why not? Stepping onto an EL car is like entering a new colony, whole new group of people with whom to interact. At rush hour we are herded like bovine. Riders board the train and scan the interior:

Is there a window seat? No - except that one guy over there who is sitting in an aisle seat with his bag next to the window. Dammit. I don't want to ask him to sit there. And that's what he's doing...he's making us ALL ask if we can sit down. Why do people DO that? Can't he just scoot over?

Is there a seat at all? No.

Can I lean against the door partitions? No. Too crowded.

How am I going to entertain myself now?

It is in those first seconds of getting on the car that the brain unconsciously browses every face, makes an assessment, and then lands on the one with whom it would most likely mate should the EL car magically be dashed on a distant, deserted shore. Usually the face is quite similar to that of the viewer. That is when your eyes meet.

I know one person who met their significant other on the EL. Beyond that, the idea of locking eyes with anyone on the train and having it blossom into the glory of love sounds like an urban myth. It also sounds terrifying. However, in those moments between boarding the train and the Bing Bong of "Doors Closing" when you exit, if you've made eye contact with another body on the train, you are linked to them for duration of the ride. The two of you will act out the microcosm of your relationship :

Eyes meet, nonchalant grins, eyes instantly dart away to windows or ridiculous "Hey Fanna Fanna" White Sox ads.

Eyes creep over to give a second look, partly to see the other better, partly to see if they are still looking. If they are looking away, you may continue check them out, at it were. Do not crane your neck.

If they are still looking your way, but turn away when your eyes meet a second time, you are not allowed to look back in their direction for at least two stops, otherwise you are considered a stalker and the game is over.

If they do not turn away from you and keep eye contact, you should turn away from them to let them know that you think they might be a stalker and your aren't into that. Wait for two stops before you glance across the car again.

Should you decide to look back in their direction, they may have given up on the whole thing. If this is the case, you may be relieved that you dodged meaningful contact with someone.

Or, if meaningful contact is your "thing", you can give it a shot again and try staring (as if lost in thought) at the knee of their jeans. They may catch a glimpse of your pink winter-morning face turned in their direction and think you are ogling them again. They will either 1) find a way to casually look back over to you or B) continue to stare off intently, counting the seconds until their stop arrives, praying that you aren't a total nut job who will follow them to work.

(If this situation is reversed, you may also be sensing "Stranger Danger".)

If B is the lay of the land, you may want to show just how not crazy you are by getting up and standing by the are in important person, with places to go.

Once the train has pulled into your stop, exit quickly and don't look back. This is the end, the two of you are over and there's nothing you can do but move on.

In the unsettling event that their stop also happens to be your stop, still exit without a second thought. Things could take a strange turn if you continue to make furtive eye contact with this stranger or walk at their same pace. It will only get worse if you both get on the same bus. Best to ignore them entirely.

Repeat whole cycle again on bus with different passenger. (Some variations apply)

Any resemblance this cycle of -Hi there. You're Cute. Uh-oh. Are you crazy? What do you mean you think I'm crazy? I must bolt from the scene.- has to your own actual relationship life is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. It's not Thursday, it's Wednesday. During the month of December, I have always had a problem with my brain skipping days - probably because the Holidays make everything seem shaken up. So I woke up with sort of a song in my heart. "It's Thursday! My favorite day of the week!"

I wonder wonder if there is a word for the tiny heartbreak that occurs when one thinks it's later in the week than it is.

2. If you listen to the cello on your headphones while riding the train, suddenly every passenger is in the midst of a beautiful, slow motion peril.

3. The sound of someone tentatively opening celophaned candy is agonizing.

4. Google Searches that have brought visitors to this blog:

"Clothing that Looks Like a Letter of the Alphabet"
"Nausea from the Smell of Suntan Lotion"
"Slaughter Me Eat Me"
"What is Disaronno?"

5. I am increasingly alarmed at the number of noises my body makes that sound like Ducks and/or Geese.

6. There is nothing more pitiful than the remnants of food from an office holiday party: crumbs, 8 partially rotted grapes, 3 sweaty cheese cubes.

7. The other day R. made up a song, "Trying is not that Easy." Boy howdy, kid.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

It is Monday at 11:25pm.

Tonight I am going to try to make it into the Land of Nod without my Lunesta "Get Out Of Consciousness Free" card. I haven't had any coffee since 3pm, and I 'm trying to lull myself off with some tea.

The other day, after my live blogging experiment, E. asked me what my motivation might be for getting off the junk. Was it related to what others thought, or how I felt after I took it?

It's not so much that others are troubled by my escapades, though I can see why they would be: Half remembered conversations, an endless stream of typing errors, toast and jelly at all hours of the night. This innocuous list could veer into darkness at any second: Half remembered conversations while driving, an endless stream of typing errors at Harrah's, toast and jelly at all hours of the night in the next door neighbor's basement.

It's more the unnatural feelings that accompany me throughout the day. At first, I didn't notice, but after taking the Loony Blue Pill for several nights in a row, the after effects became plain. Upon waking from a series of extremely literal and matter of fact dreams (Why am I standing in this open grave with my name on tomb stone? I think I'll head to my high school gym and let all my dad throw softballs at me.), I'd find I wasn't all that rested...just awake. And as the hours wore on, I'd get the sensation of being far away from myself, looking in on my daily goings on. Everything feels grey and distant, my soul (or whatever that 21 grams is) hovers off to the side with very little interest in helping my body do anything - it just sits on the counter, sticking paper clips on its fingers tips for "long nails". The whole thing is very disconcerting.

But I kept taking it, I think, partly in an effort to "Just not be awake".

That's no good. Especially since I'm working hard on really trying to be awake. Alive. Pay attention.

So, I'm going to have a go at it...I've drunk my tea now and it's time for sleeping.

Perhaps this song will send me off properly...

Sailor - Hem

Monday, December 15, 2008

A spoonful of chaos helps the theater go down.

I am probably one of the worst people to have in the audience when something goes wrong on stage. Especially if I have directed the show. A line gets flubbed, a prop gets dropped, a costume rips.

And I laugh.

I laugh my head off, and loudly.

The aim is never to throw anyone off or point a shaming finger in the direction of the actors. In my own sadistic way, I mean to show support. When the line is flubbed or the prop drops, that actor's wheels begin turning in a way that they hadn't before. Autopilot is no longer an option.

A few years ago, during a debate over why the general public does or does not see theater, one of the fellows in the conversation said:

"People go see theater to watch you fuck up."

He offered no other explanation for anyone to attend theater and I immediately dismissed him as a dumb galoot who had no idea what he was talking about. I, for my part - being the ripe old age of 24 - expounded on the virtues of Thee-A-Tuh, how an audience goes to have communion with one another, to learn, to see a tale well told...all the clap trap we tell ourselves to keep moving forward into one production after the next.

I believe these things are still true to an extent, but I'm not so sure the dumb galoot wasn't on to something.

I don't know why anyone sees theater. Hell, I don't know why I see theater. Why this show and not that one? Why this night and not another? Was there a friend in the show? Was the poster neat? Cheap tickets? It could be any one of these reasons...or none of them.

When I do go, however, when I get there, I want to see some dancing on razor wire. This doesn't mean that every second there should be some kind of stage calamity. Repeated incompetence on stage is just as tiresome as stale, rote recitation. It's the possibility that all this craft - all these costumes, the lines learned- could fall apart at any second.

And still, we see a good story. Still, we get to have that ephemeral conversation between audience and actor. Virtuosity in the face of complete and utter failure.

As theater people we fool ourselves that there is some sort of perfected end product. That, when all is said and done, and we've rehearsed enough, and we've had our eighteen fight calls, and we've seen to it that every light or sound cue is meticulously programmed - then we can have a stage show that is polished and without flaw. We have control. If we do it the same way every night then it is good.

Who is to say that it is not good? It may very well be good. But to pretend that nothing will deviate from the Plan is a deceit. It's the worst kind of deceit, too. For when the moment of deviation comes, when failure and humilation are ineluctable, and the actors and crew pretend that nothing is wrong, the audience sniffs it out the hoodwink. That is the moment in which we have lost.

It is natural to want polished perfection. It is natural for actors to want normality, they are only human after all. Humans want a reasonable assumption that what they are performing from one night - or day - to the next will be somewhat similar. Routine.

No one wants to admit to this. I've had many late night conversations with fellow actors or directors in which we poo-poo the Namby Pambies who HAVE to have everything the same night after night and how deadly that theater is. Secretly, we're all terrified that there might be a heckler or a cell phone ring.

It is precisely those incidents, that cause a performer to come alive and respond to his or her environment. When two actors look at each other in the midst of the chaos and say "Okay, wherever you want to take this, I'm in." the scene comes alive in ways that it might not have before. In that instance, the artists become one of the audience, not above it.

I don't think people go to the theater to see you fuck up. Of course they go for all that blah-blah-blah we talk about.

Well...maybe they want to see you fuck up just a little.

Just know when you make some sort of clumsy entrance or an audience member won't stop yacking, you will hear my donkey bray from the back of the house.

I mean no harm. It's my way of cheering you on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Where the H is Matt?

Many of you have probably already seen this.

It's one of the most affirming things I've seen in a long time. Genuinely sweet. Makes me want to see the world and be a part of it.

(I highly recommend going to the Where the Hell is Matt website and watching it in higher quality. If you scroll down on the initial video there's a link to it there.)

Have a lovely weekend.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shampoo for my real friends...

So...In the first few seconds, can anyone tell me what this is a commercial for?

Depression? Drug Addiction? Anorexia?




I happened upon this while I was looking for something else to be angry about.

Why spend thousands of dollars on therapy or expensive drugs, Depressed Girl? We know you are alone in your grey cluttered bathroom, staring into the mirror bemoaning how anxious you are over your bad debt, how fat you think you are, how scarred by years of abuse...TO YOUR HAIR!

Girl, one wash with Pantene and and all your troubles are rinsed away. The grey clutter of your bathroom, will give way to the slow- motion Asian influence loft where your hair will flow like the shellacked pinions of a raven.

You are happy.

You are free.

Thank you Pantene.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. This week I learned that the word Prehensile not only describes a Possum's tail (adapted for grasping) but it also means greedy, grasping or avaricious.

My initial learning in regards to Prehensile stopped at the possum's tail. Now all I can think of is a pinkish man covered in fine white hair looking to steal my wallet.

2. (An office, late afternoon. TIM, a hard late 30's is seated at the receptionists desk, clicking the mouse on his computer. He stops briefly and cranes his neck back into the office's interior, looking for someone. After a beat, the phone rings. TIM answers, a smile in his voice.)

Kerr Plastics. (He listens) Yes...I believe he's gone for the day but I'll put you through to his voicemail if that's okay...m-hm, have a good night.

(He presses a button on the phone's black keypad and hangs up. TIM goes back to clicking around on his computer. The corners of his mouth slightly upturned. DAN enters from behind.)

See ya...

TIM (cheerful, like it's the first time)
Wouldn't wanna be ya!


(DAN presses the button and waits for the elevator. LYDIA, early 30's approaches from behind. She is dressed for winter, her shoulders hunch as she carries her backpack. The elevator opens and DAN steps in. Not seeing LYDIA, he allows the doors to close.)

Wait! Man...

(As she comes around to the elevators, TIM brightens. She grins in his direction.)

See ya...

Wouldn't wanna be ya...

(LYDIA forces a smile.)

Heh, heh...that's right...

(Silence as LYDIA presses the "down" button 5 times. She sighs.)

Long day?

Huh? Oh...heh, yeah.

Everybody's trying to get their stuff in before the end of the year.


(A beat)

Any plans for the holidays?

Oh, not really...much. (Not wanting to ask but sensing the obligation) You?

Staying in town. My girlfriend's coming in to town. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be spending the whole time with my girlfriend.

Oh, Yeah? Girlfriend?

(TIM Nods)

Huh. She's very lucky.

Well, my girlfriend's a pretty great lady.
(A beat. She presses the button again. The elevator approaches.)

Welp. Tell your girlfriend Merry Christmas for me...or whatever you-


See ya...

Wouldn't wanna be ya...

(The elevator door opens. As LYDIA exits, she grumbles under her breath)

Smell ya, shouldn't have to tell ya.

(The elevator doors close behind her. TIM is left, smile drops from his face as he begins to cry.)


3. For RonK:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It is 10:43pm...

I am taking a Lunesta right now.

[Editor's note: Everything below has been left as is. Typos and phrasing is all as it was when I typed it last night. The only exception is the italics. As you will read, in my state it would have been impossible for me to italicize anything last night. -j-j-]

(Opens pill bottle, pops tiny blue pill into mouth, finishes up water in bottle, places bottle next to the 9 others on desk. Considers 10 empty water bottles on desk with a sigh.)

I need to get rid of these guys...later.


In the last 48 hours, I have become a little concerned over my Lunesta use. On Saturday, as I regaled my friends with tales of Lunesta hazed conversations, I noticed looks of consternation on the faces of those around me.

Taking a sleep drug is an interesting thing, something of an experiment. Perhaps, had I been more scientifcally in clined, I could have been of those rogue doctors who tries drugs out on herself, and damn the scientiic community. Someday they'll know! (Though, I have a feeling, were I to be that rogue physician, I'd probably just blind myself spraying Aquanet into my eyes to see if it could hold the lids open.)

Their disturbance was contagious. Was there something wrong with half remembered conversations, and emails sent with under the Voudon fog of Lunesta's green bitterfly? Maybe yes.


Since I was a kid, I've had insomnia so the idea of heading off into sleep, ungiddied and ready for rest is appealing to me. Old habits must dies hard, however becasue I can't ssem to get myself to go to ed. No, no...just one more phone call, or another websire. I can check around on target for christmas present ideas. Oh, hey...why not start a blog entry or revise others.

(Pauses, hovers over keysnboard)

So, yeah...I fight thourhg it and tomorrow I may not even recall typing these words. I'm sort of asleep right now.


I can carry on conversatins. Call me and you'll see. Between 11 and 12 are peak Lunesta hours.

I think I'm building up a resistance to teh drug. I can fight through it more easily than before. It;s used to be that the black sleep of death would over take me and I'd better be pj-ed out and lying in bed before I (inexplicably nibbles at back of hand, realizes this, stops) took on eliit tablet.

Now look at me. Awake and 84% functioing . How long before I start gambling. Eating chillidogs at 2am, sexing around.

Christ the other day I nearly took a Lunesta rather than another drug I was on...boy that woulda sucked. It was the day I was supposed to take care of R. and J. O wonder if they would have liked Harrah's.


The physical feeling o fht e drug is unsettling. Like every muscle in your face is succumbing to the gravity an unnatural black hole inside...and really, let;s be honest. That's why your taking Lunesta to begin wth right...casue of that back hole?

(Noticing poximity to the keyboard and posture. )

My back has curled jsut a little forward...more fetal. Is that what you want, back? To lie down? Okay...soon enough. My face droops down like hot salt water taffy.

Back in a second, I'm going ot grab a handfull of nuts.

(Gets up to test walking)


As you can see a considerablt amout of time has passed. I had a fragment conversation whic I cannot recall at the moment and I have retuned with toast and jelly. Not nuts. I lost my taste for tehnuts int eh kitchen.

Toast and Jelly is a treat. You should give it a whirl when you feell like pretending it's pie. Use real black berry or strawberry preserves...not that smuckers's shit. A little butter. Particulalry with cofeee or it's cold outside. It is one of life small pleasures.


This is the muster through part. The part where my whole rest of the body is frustrated that I'm ...(Gets up to remove clothes from bed to appear like there are'nt clothes and open suitcases on teh bed all the time. I am a civilized human being for chrissake. comes backand see the lines on the screen and-)

Seriously, did you see the Serphent and the Rainbow? This is kinda what i think those guys feel like. Lost dexterity, eyes at half mast. I can answer yur questionsbut the answer might be less coherent thant you'd expect.


As far as I know no phone calls have been made. Ans n emails...I think I've kept myself on task fairly well here.

I'm off to bed...we'll review in teh morning.


I woke up this morning and, while I recall writing some of this - most of it from the beginning, there are definitely portions that ring no bells. Like, wow, I had toast and jelly last night? It kind of remember that...but it's like a dream.

Goodness. I think I might reevaluate Lunesta's presence in my life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Today I have chosen not to believe in love. The concept, the act, the word and the letters that comprise it.

None of it.

I refuse to acknowledge that such a thing exists. It's a trick. To get us to procreate. People who study dreams think that we construct the narrative end of them in the seconds before we wake. There is no naturally coherent story to the dream. We make it up. Humans have to have meaning, you see.

Love is like that. A story we construct in the last seconds of sleep, to make sense of the dementia.

But the reality is that my sack of DNA wants to reproduce with your sack of DNA, and in order to feel like all that effort is worth the trip, Love is manufactured. Isn't that funny? Love actually makes the whole thing harder. If it weren't for love we'd be much happier folk, instead of tending to our mass delusion that somewhere there is a person or people built just for us.

It is a chemical reaction, just like Twinkies.

Is that so? It is so...I have said it.

So, as of today, I am going to stop smiling when I hear my friend CP, or E.'s name. Today I am going stop looking at art with any amount of wonder. Today I am going to only eat unsatisfying food. Today I am going to frown at every passenger on the EL, and scoff and make terrible angry sounds when we are delayed on the train. Today I will not listen to music that makes my heart lubdub like a fool, and change every song on my ipod to a series of record skips and car crash sound effects. Today I will no longer read poetry and think it's anything special. Today I will push my way to the head of the line. Today I will avoid eye contact with everyone. Today I will yell at the sky when it starts raining and I forgot my umbrella. Today I will ask for all gifts I have given back. Today I will not laugh at a joke, but instead I will snort and roll my eyes. Today I will stop believing in possibility. Today I will pick my nails and toss them to the floor right in front of you, leaving them on the pile next to all the dried mucus and coffee grounds from last night .

Who am I kidding?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Items on my Desk

1 Spindle of Memorex "Cool Colors" CD-Rs, top two are scribbled in magic marker
1 Crayon, Grey, nearly unused
1 Button, clothing parent unknown
1 Bic pen, Blue
1 Marker, Green
2 Tinkertoy "wings", green, toothmarked
1 Box Crest Glide Floss, unused
1 #2 Pencil, 2" long, nubbed
9 Empty water bottles of varying brands and sizes
1 Foam curler, pink
1 Brochure from the Neue Gallery in New York featuring Alfred Kubin
1 Coffee Mug with "I Heart My Cat's Head" printed on the outside, swirls of coffee resin at the bottom of the cup
1 Pair of glasses, broken
1 Pair of glasses, whole
1 Thermometer, nondigital
1 "Happy Fucking Birthday" Card
7 DVDs:
Shut up and Sing
Strictly Ballroom
Grace of My Heart
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Silence of the Lambs
The Graduate
1 Velvet Covered Alfred Hitchcock DVD set
1 Inhalor, Empty
2 "Wheat Cent" pennies - one from 1927, the other from 1957
1 glass that used to contain apple juice
1 Orange on orange drawing of Spiderman, Batman, Superman, The Hulk and Wolverine done drawn by R.
1 stack containing the following:

A piece of string, 4 napkins (written on), 1 credit card, 5 bottle tops (not corresponding to the 9 empty water bottles), Business card for a magician, 4 empty pill bottles - lables have been stripped, 2 pill bottles -full, 1 package Frangelico flavored coffee, 11 CDs, 3 pairs of headphones, 1 voting receipt, 1 overstuffed manilla folder, 1 Dr. Fart noise making key chain.

This is what I look like today.

Friday, December 5, 2008

KFC is giving you the answer.

The other day I compared existential angst to the act of dining. The basic gist was thinking that we should just get this life over with because we're all headed to the grave anyway, is tantamount to eating food slung on a plate with no care for it's taste or presentation because "Welp, it's all gonna look the same in my stomach."

This sort of Zero Sum dining experience is available for purchase by the public. Chicken, corn, gravy, cheese, and mashed potatoes, all piled in styrofoam container and shoveled into the face pocket. It's the KFC Famous Bowl.

Patton Oswalt does a good bit about eating KFC's "Failure Pile in a Sadness Bowl". I, myself have never tasted one. Even before I heard his rant, the KFC Famous Bowl filled me with consternation, so I have avoided it.

I really don't have much of a problem with the product itself. It's the idea that consuming it, fills that open cavity deep inside where no other can touch.

(The quality on this is a little poor...)

Really? Known you forever? Is this what we are KFC? In the marketing meetings and R & D, THIS is what we've come to.

Apparently yes.

On top of it all, I'm troubled that this guy, assuming that he doesn't know about the Famous Bowl already, would venture into a KFC and expose his mild American depression by ordering off the menu.

Imagine if this were a documentary and our protagonist headed for the counter at a KFC. It is unlikely that he would order in such a charming and animated way. He's more likely to half mumble/half groan his way through it as he tugs on the tail of the stained sweatshirt he's been wearing since his girlfriend broke up with him.

And the improbably pert and interested girl behind the counter would not be there. She does not exist in nature.

What ARE these guys talking about? STDs? The tone is so tender and earnest I feel like they are going to launch into a PSA about smoking or puppy adoption.

But as the guys says, "a bowl full of the things she loves." Do you see how happy the bowl makes her? You'll only come in second fiddle, tender PSA guy. She is fulfilled all through her heart and uterus by the chunky food-ish glop in front of her.

Why look for answers in relationships with other people? You'll never find them. At least not that satisfy like a KFC Famous Bowl.

And when the bowl is over and you feel that growing sense of dread and regret, there's always another bowl.Thank you KFC, for sending me off into the weekend with a song in my heart and a skip in my step.

And the faint taste of bile in my throat.

Thursday, December 4, 2008 was the question?

I'm not great at office jobs. It's not so much that I dislike them (which is often the case, but not all the time), I just have no aptitude for them.

For the month of December, I have found myself back at my old job from a couple of years ago. The woman who took over my position has developed some serious medical problems. I received a phone call requesting my return on a limited basis - at least until classes resume in January. This surprised me. I was terrible at that job.

Everyone working in the business (including my immediate boss, with whom I had, to put it mildly, a tense relationship) seems genuinely pleased to have me around. And without the pressure of having to be there past the end of this month, my quality of work is pretty good, despite the internal obstacle course I have to go through to fulfill my duties. As sort of an assistant project manager (which is what I choose to call myself), I organize jobs and do some basic filing.

The basic filing is one of my challenges with typical office work. You see, I have a problem with alphabetization.


I said, "I have a problem with alphabetization."

I know what the alphabet is. I know the order, for chrissake...I can "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" from A all the way down to Z with some of the top first graders in the country. The catch is that I have to sing the song EVERY TIME.

And even then, it's a struggle.

It's not that uncommon. While at a party a coupla-three years ago, some friends and I were laughing over personal eccentricities: I only use the second stall in a public bathroom. I've never seen Star Wars. Red Foxx gives me nightmares. That sort of thing.

I felt compelled to share the my issues with the ABCs.

Most nodded in recognition and continued to do so when I expanded further to say that I had to sing the song nearly every time I organized a file alphabetically. It was when I mentioned that I thought N came before M so M could be announced to the room because N was M's toadie, that I was met with furrowed brows.

"But N doesn't come before M."

"Yes. I know. But...I..." More bewildered gazes. "Right, heh, right...I know..."

The subject quickly changed to the film Time Cop.

Each letter of the Alphabet has a very distinct gender, personality, status, and relationship to the other letters (Featured here in their colors as well!):

A: Female, a gentle but effective leader, long hair
B: Female, bossy, annoyed by A and how pretty she is
C: Male, a terrible manager of people, wears a pager
D: Female, corrects grammar at cocktail parties
E: Male, elegant, confidant, smiles at you across the room and you blush
F: Male, kind of a douche, sponges off of E, has lots of stories about drunk sex
G: Male, kinda sexy, somewhat violent
H: Male, snooty, smells like Aqua Velva
I: Male or Female, wishy washy
J: Male or Female, a rich artist with a penchant for the darker stuff
K: Female, ostentatious
L: Female, sneaks up behind people in the laundry room
M: Male, very powerful and regal
N: Male, cowtowing servant to M
O: Female, is always surprised
P: Female, hunchbacked, spits at passersby
Q: Male or Female, persnickety
R: Male, almost always in charge
S: Female, very into PDA
T: Male, jealous of R and S and wonders why he isn't first in the "RST" triumvirate
U: Male, a middle child
V: Female, not afraid to hit on men or women
W: Male, Big fat guy with a handlebar mustache and a pinstriped suit
X: Male or female, a spy, wears a mask
Y: Male, eats lots of sugar, jumps on the bed
Z: Female, tattooed, exotic girlfriend of your roommate

(All lowercase letters have the similar personalities but are children)

Because of this, I tend to arrange the alphabet according to the personality/gender/social status of the individual letter. Usually, it looks something like this:


B has moved away from A while C is trying to get to the top.
F has muscled its way in front of E and E is fine talking to G.

N is in front of M to place his coat over puddles.
RST are in the right order but T is seething. (as a result sometimes I put T first.)

Shouldn't V be in front of U? She's so alluring.

None of this was a problem until I started working office jobs where most files (digital and physical) had to be arranged alphabetically. My managers would open up a file cabinet and find the letters in some sort of alien arrangement. I would laugh it off and say office-y things like, "Oops,'s Monday, y'know?"

"But it's Thursday."


It's been a while since I've had to alphabetize anything in earnest. But now, working for a couple of weeks at this job, I am face to face with it again.

My immediate boss has NO understanding of what goes on in my head (and has to squelch his sneers when I talk about "fartsy" plays and so on.). If I were to tell him why he keeps discovering me downstairs, a good ten minutes after sending me to retrieve a file, standing in front of the file cabinets and singing the ABCs, he's the type that might call in the white coats.

It's not that uncommon is it? Lots of us attach colors and feelings to letters, numbers, days of the week - even if we don't realize it.

Close your eyes and imagine the Alphabet. What do you see?

That's right: H and Q are having brunch at a chi-chi coffee house. Little do they know that X has them trained in his viewfinder while F does the walk of shame back to E's condo.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

In a recent post, my friend R. mentioned her position as satellite to the planet Geek. I feel the same way for most worlds, never entirely absorbing myself in that social circle or this type of music. But an observer. Watching how groups behave, what they like, wondering why they like it.

I was always on the outskirts of goth culture in high school. Goths I hung out with (and I mean, black haired, pierced, card carrying goths kids) were, I think, confused by my presence. I never died my hair with Manic Panic, I never pierced anything beyond my earlobes. I didn't get a tattoo until I was 34 (And I'm not sorry about that last one. An acquaintance pointed out, "At 34, why bother." My reply was "I was ready."). I never really fit in. Like most tribes, those who don't wear the uniform/colors/tats/ceremonial headdress are regarded with suspicion.

But, eventually, after putting in the hours smoking and drinking massive amounts of coffee at the Waffle House, I was accepted on a limited basis, sort of like Jane Goodall. They'd groom me (My friend L. once tried to perform a Goth "Makeunder"). I'd observe, wonder what it was like to BE one of them.

With this sort of observation comes an appreciation. I like Goth music quite a bit. I was a huge Bauhaus fan (When they reunited and came to town I was devastated that I couldn't get tickets), and I loved This Mortal Coil and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Part of what appeals to me is the intense size of it. Everything, from the style of dress to the orchestration of the music, is huge. I like big ideas, big thoughts, big feelings. (I should probably see more opera.) Not all the time, mind you. Over the top emoting exhausts the resources and is part of why I'm thrilled that I am no longer 16 years old.

"This Corrosion" by the Sisters of Mercy has size to spare. The choir alone sounds like it's singing Damien home to his rightful place in hell. And with Andrew Eldritch's deep throated snarling "In days like this, In times like these, I feel like an animal" one wonders how we made it out of the 80's at all. We just don't get lyrical gems like that anymore.

The video is very much a product of its time: the era when Mad Max had convinced us that, in Post-Apocalyptica, we'd all be wearing leather and torn up lingerie on a scorched landscape of flaming trashcans. With all the rain and wind Lear might pop out any second.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting a new gyrus every day

The saying goes "You get a new wrinkle in your brain every time you learn something new." This is not actually the truth (My apologies to those who, like me, cling to these commonly held fibs in the hopes of keeping small talk alive with factoids. Every time a one of these myths is eliminated by the cold light of actual knowledge a tiny part of my casual conversational ability evaporates.). While the wrinkle count is higher in creatures with a greater capacity to learn (like apes and humans) the count does not increase with new knowledge.

Ah, well. The metaphor is still decent. And if the metaphor can extend to "my brain got wrinkled like a wadded up shirt", more's the better.

So, someone wadded up the shirt of my cerebral cortex, threw it in the dryer and now it looks like hell. I shouldn't wear it out of the house, but it's the only one I have. Here are some of the wrinkles:

1. If you haven't been doing a lot of elective thinking in a while the mind tends to go haywire when you finally get the chance. Living out close to the 'burbs, I drive more frequently and the thinking one gets done in a car is different than the thinking one does on the EL. In a car, you there are motor function issues at work, possible life and death encounters. On the EL, you can stare off into the distance (or as far as the crumb covered lapel of another passenger). There is no larger responsibility.

When this happens, the brain can go off on its own - contemplate the day ahead, imagine conversations, speculate on where other people are going. I get most of my ideas on the EL.

But if you haven't been getting your normal allowance of elective thinking, the mind goes off on tirades. At least mine does. I was on the train the other day and every thought I began to toy around with ended with "What is our purpose n this planet? Is it just to eat and wander around through a haze of longings and frustrations, no one ever understanding us and hating them if they do? IS THIS IT? What are humans for? What the FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE ANYWAY? WE'RE ALL GOING TO WIND UP IN THE SAME PLACE, RIGHT?"

My big brain - the metabrain, my conscience - does not like this line of thinking. It's emmer effing depressing, is what it is. It's like saying that it's doesn't matter what food looks like, it's all going to wind up in the same place (meaning the stomach). This may be the truth, but I don't want to eat food that looks like Already Been Chewed chicken nuggets. I much prefer to have food that looks good to me. Enjoy eating it.

But my pea brain - the moron brain that can't shut itself up for two seconds - keeps heaping on the existential ABC McRibs it can. Like a child that wants attention.

And this is what happens when you don't do the amount of elective thinking you're used to.

I gotta ride the EL more.

2. Unsalted butter is generally higher in quality. It has to be. Without the salt it could taste crappy.

3. You may not believe this, but there is a quality difference in brands of jellied cranberry sauce. Every year when I bring out the ribbed maroon cylinder, quivering in the bowl, eyes roll and I'm made made fun of for my white trash offering. But I'll be durned if those same people don't at least have a helping.

I'm here to tell you now, next Thanksgiving - or this Christmas- when you are making your cranberry sauce purchase, get Ocean Spray. Don't get one of those no name brands, or the well meaning organic 365 stuff from Whole Foods. Get Ocean Spray.

That's the mistake I made this year. Rather than cranberry saucey, it just tasted ribbed, maroon and quivering.

4. Whole foods let you taste their wine for $10. We were shopping for Thanksgiving, and in the wine section there is a vending machine that holds a variety of wines for tasting. We purchased a Vino card and for $.75 to $1.25 a pop you can sample several whites and reds. Insert the card and press a button.

The machine pours like it's trying to get lucky and within a couple of tastes, I was accidentally wasted.

Try this if you want to liven up your trip to the market. For you, and for everyone else.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

i can haz Corolla commercial?

a) This commercial is hilarious.

b) Can someone please tell me what the EF IS GOING ON?

c) OMG i haz kikked all u ninjaz ass!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey n' Dressing Up

Thanksgiving has never been a big decorating holiday. Turkey day icons haven't evolved much past pilgrim hats and traced turkey hands (Not like, for instance, Christmas lights. Candles on the tree come Christmas morning evolved into - thank goodness - electric lights on the tree all December which evolved into electric lights around the windows, which evolved into electric lights all over the effing house starting in September). There may be some harvest gourds and cranberries on the centerpiece, but overall, the commercial focus is on the food.

Part of this might be because of the troubling mascots Thanksgiving has to play with. Holidays like Christmas and Easter (or even Halloween) are pretty ancient and can draw upon a variety of fun-loving characters. Not really into the birth of Christ? You can still celebrate the Solstice with a tree and big fat dude in a Red Suit to commemorate rebirth into the new year and social altruism. Not much for Passover or The Resurrection? Here are some adorable fertility symbols of eggs and bunnies.

Thanksgiving is fairly secular to begin with, not to mention recent. And what is the story of the first Thanksgiving? Pilgrims and Red Injuns sharing a meal to give thanks to the natives for showing them how to grow corn. And there's a Turkey. I have never been so moved by this story. It's hard to feel "aw shucks" and teary eyed when we all know what came next.

This is partially why decorations for Thanksgiving have focused on the food. There's the occasional Pilgrim Buckle Hat (In recent years, coloring books and costumes have shied away from feathered headbands to keep any accusations of racial insensitivity at bay. Though I bet you can still find all that Peace Pipe stuff at Walmart.) but for the most part, it's all about the dinner. And the Turkey.

This, to the decoration creators around the world is totally unacceptable. There's got to be SOMETHING we can sell people to get them through from Halloween to the start of Christmas. That's when the seasonal depression really takes hold, because there's nothing to dump in the front lawn to show the neighbors how truly happy and festive we are. (Scratching goateed chin) I wonder what it could be...

Of Course...I giant inflatable Turkey. So simple. So perfect. What can we dress it in? Just a plain old turkey is no fun. Why the finery of its tormentors, the Pilgrim Hat and vest. Now THAT's Fun.

Notice the look of complete ambivalence on this turkey's face. Looks so resigned. "Do what you will. I know my role. I 'll be slaughtered and roasting at 325 for 4 hours soon enough."

This guy is just stunned. How did this happen? Who are you people and what am I doing in these clothes?

I wonder that too, turkey, what ARE you doing in these clothes? Why...WHY is is necessary to dress up our food like PEOPLE. We covered this the anthropomorphic food section, but I feel it bears repeating. I DON'T WANT TO SEE TURKEYS DRESSED AS HUMANS. and on top of that, I don't want the doomed turkey to look like it could have FEELINGS about the situation. None of the Turkeys I've seen look remotely happy about what's going on. They all have expressions of terror, surprise, or resignation.

Why do we do this? To satisfy our own simmering bloodlust and latent desire to eat a being cognizant of its surroundings? If that's the case, why not just eat people? Save ourselves the trouble of having to dress up and humiliate this poor bird.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to very quickly overcome my disgust have some left overs. That Turkey can take his attributed consciousness and shove it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Random Thanksgiving Thoughts

The holidays have officially arrived as of today, bearing their brightly colored pinata...inside is a ton of bricks. They tie a bandanna over my eyes, hand me a bat and tell me to get swinging. Someone switches on a mariachi version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

The Holidays are such a strange time of year. I like them in the same way I like extreme weather. Everyone deals with it in their own way, but, in some regard, we are all in it together.

Before the Holiday hurricane makes landfall...I want to share the list of big and small things that continue to make my life more interesting. And yes, I am thankful today (and everyday) for them.

1. I like my nephews. Of course I love them, but I also like them a lot, the two savage gentlemen. Even when they draw on my computer. Even when they screech right outside my door at 7am on a Sunday.

2. My friends. The women in LA, CP Jan and Tina, who have called me to check in on a regular basis. You know me better than almost anyone, and have put up with loads of my bullshit. Thanks for not jilting me into the Pacific. Thanks for WANTING to talk about politics, art, pop-philosophy, and getting drunk and telling the Truth. You are hard women. I love you.

For Chicago friends who have continued to care and offer support. For being among the most intelligent, most creative badasses I know. For being funny. For being excellent writers. For enduring weirdness after weirdness.

For my new friends, who I have gotten to know in the last few months, and who I am excited to know more about, and who are great inspirations to me.

For the unknowing lighthouses out there. You may not realize it, but you keep my ship from going belly up. Thank you.

3. My sister has a great shower. Nice water pressure. Extended hot water supply.

4. I have a job that teaches me. I am adjunct faculty at a University and the more I teach these kids, the more I learn.

5. I have all my fingers and toes. I have not one, but two eyes that work. My nervous system seems to be fully operational. I'm also really glad that it's not 1905, that most things are clean, and most maladies I have are treatable. If it were 1905, I think I'd be dead or in a house of bedlam.

6. The CTA. As much as you torture me, I'm still thankful that you're around.

7. My Parents. Familial relationships continue to be a convoluted mess. There is never one way to describe one's relationship with their mother or father. I'm always a little suspicious when someone says, "Oh, yeah...I have a good relationship with my parents." I suppose I shouldn't be so can one say "Oh yeah, I have a total push/pull, love/hate, blame/forgiveness thing going on and I'm terrified that one day they will die and leave me here and how will I ever survive when that part of my childhood is gone?" I guess you can't say that, "Yeah, I have a good relationship with my parents."

And I do. My dad has a quirky sense of humor, and quiet sense of honor. My mother is explosively creative and can express delight without shame. I can never fully convey my gratitude to them and for them.

8. My Brother-in-Law, B. A generous and funny man, who has offered sage advice. During the storms, he fixed the rudder with some good common sense. I'm glad you married my sister.

9. My sister. My role model. My inspiration. My support system. My best friend. She is always the smartest person I have ever met. She has listen to me cry and moan, gotten me out of jams. She is thoughtful in ways that I have never been. She walks the walk...even when she doesn't feel 100%.

To all of this she will shrug, and roll her eyes and say "I'm not that great, JJ."

To which I will say, "Shut up."

10. My time with D. As difficult as these months have been, I am still thankful for your presence in my life. Then and now.

The people are cheering as I swat at the pinata. I know how this will end, but I swing anyway. It's fun. There's music and everyone is laughing.

Maybe there's some candy mixed in the ton of bricks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This Magic Moment

Like most girls between the ages of 12 and 15, my notions of a first kiss were on the ethereal side.

Try as we might, ladies, to scratch and claw our way from the suction of the Pink Princess Hole (which, as I type this, comes across as somewhat perverse on a variety of levels), woven into the fabric of a young female's life are unicorn droppings and fairy dust. We didn't ask for these expectations, but there they are and, like Christmas glitter shimmering on your bathing suit in July, they show up in the most surprising places.

For myself, I never fully embraced the Princess role as a part of my life - if anything I tended to identify more with the Prince Charmings and Elven Sidekicks - but the fantasies I grew up on still whispered in my ears. They whisper in everyone's ears: A girl is born in a flutter of doves and at that moment she is charged to get married and have babies. All done without the slightest hint of oily discharge, hair, or BO. The End.

A more delicate nature is not an inherent handicap. When I talk about my personal definitions of femininity, my tone tends to marginalize those who choose the more classical approach to womanhood. (I think this tone exists elsewhere as well) Being "girly" is not bad in and of itself. It's the wholesale acceptance the Madonna, Whore, Princess and/or Chief Domestician roles and not considering more complicated options, that stirs the little bra-burning fires in my heart.

None of this is news. In a post-feminist world, us girls struggle with competing ideals. And even if we reject these labels outright they won't vaporize in an instant. We still define ourselves against them.

With all this whizzing around in the cultural cosmos, my half formed 15-year-old brain couldn't even give voice to this tension. Forces at work on my identity simply existed then and I didn't quite know what they were or even what questions to ask. All I knew was that my first kiss would probably be with my big crush, or longtime - but as yet unrealized - love. The entire event would culminate in a gently pristine caress of the lips and probably taste like Charm's Blow Pops.

That's not what happened.

My friend Z.,a full year older than I (and quite possibly the coolest human being I had ever seen up close. Think Madonna - the singer, not the "role"- circa 1985 in Desperately Seeking Susan.), invited me to spend the night. The pretense of this invitation was so the two of us could attend a cast party thrown for a spring musical at a neighboring high school. I was assured the Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill would be flowing free and that the chaperons were "totally cool" with the kids drinking in the basement.

Most of the night was unremarkable. There was a fire in the fireplace, exposed stone walls, shag carpeting, and a gaggle of mushy, brace-faced, spiral-permed teenagers (among whom, I was one...yeah...I had a perm.). The party itself was a pretty stupid affair. I took my place on the couch and heaved a sigh, simmering in boredom. My friends Z., C., and N. had abandoned me for some exciting make out sessions in the garage.

Then Brant sat next to me.

What drew him to me, I will never know. It could have been my big buckle clod hopper type shoes (which he remarked upon) or my chartreuse knit turtle neck. Whatever the reason, Brant, in his mustache and short sleeved button down (with a tie) had a serious "Some Enchanted Evening" moment and flew to my side.

A brief conversation transpired, the topic escapes me. He edged closer. I wondered where Z. was. Brant said something like "Oh...around." I stared into the fire. Brant told me about how he was attending the Fruitland Bible Institute. Huh? Then what was he doing here? And how long have we been sitting here?

I craned my neck to see where the hell Z. had disappeared to. Brant made his move, taking the bold opportunity to shove his tongue right into my mouth. Nothing could have been further from a Charm's Blow Pop.

The human mouth is an interesting place and when two people are attracted to each other, it can be fun to lallygag in and around there. When ambushed (and I must say, comPLETEly unprepared for the French Kiss experience) by a feather haired would-be minister, it's like eating warm bologna.

What. On. Earth.

I know the teenage years are brimming with strange oral encounters (i.e. meeting at the back top to make out with an arbitrarily chosen member of the opposite sex – or, sure same sex, couples passing gum from one mouth to another as sort of a little trick, I suppose), but this appeared utterly random. Who was this guy?

When the whole slobbery affair was over, I turned, stunned and stared into the fire. He put his arm around me. He bopped my nose with his index finger. Jesus. Were we a couple now?

If I were an alien, experiencing for the first time the mating rituals of the Homo sapien, I could not have been more baffled by what was happening.

The next few minutes are a blur. I escaped his gravity and headed for the kitchen. It turns out Z. and C. had witnessed the entire incident, and were laughing hysterically. I can’t say I blame them - I probably would have laughed, too.

“We have to go.” This was not a request. Z. (which is why, despite her laughter at my expense, I believe we were friends) put on her serious face. Exit we did, and rapidly.

That night, spending the night on the floor of Z.’s bedroom, I dreamt over and again of Brant’s slacked legs descending on me from above.

The next day, at a Saturday drama class, C. passed me Brant’s number.

“He really liked you.”

Needless to say, I never followed up. That was the last I heard of Bible Brant.

In a way, I’m thankful for Brant’s indiscretion. It shook the gumdrops and bubbles right out of my pie hole and, as a result, was able to enjoy future, more pleasurable kisses without dampening the experience with unrealistic expectations.

And as for those expectations, while I'm glad they were dispelled, I suppose I never would have even had a first kiss to begin with if anyone had warned me that it might be like eating warm bologna.
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