26 October 2006
When the long hours of that mysterious night
Were over, and the morning was in sight --
I cried, but in strange places, steppe and firth
I have not seen, through alien grief and mirth;
And never shall one room contain me quite
Who in so many rooms first saw the light,
Child of all mothers, native of the earth.
So is no warmth for me at any fire
To-day, when the world's fire has burned so low;
I kneel, spending my breath in vain desire,
At that cold hearth which one time roared so strong,
And straighten back in weariness, and long
To gather up my little gods and go.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay
Tags: poetry, edna st vincent millay, sonnets
05 September 2006
And we need great writers right now. In the U.S. at least the English language expression of ideas is devolving into sad, stupid thing. It's embarrassing. The lyrics of rap, which is (at least in it's mass marketed form) crude, unintelligent, and usually unintelligible has entered into the vernacular with all of its idiocy and none of the its eloquence. Now more than ever we need good, brave English teachers who make sure that our kids can use the language properly if the wish. But more and more teachers are too timid, placing too much emphasis on 'relating' to students rather than teaching them, too undereducated themselves to instruct young adults in using the language with confidence. And at home. Ha! Parents have all but abdicated responsibility for giving their kids the tools they need. And silly me, I'm craving eloquence? I'll settle for being able to understand them when having to face them over this counter or that desk out in the world.
Actually, no. I'm lying. I'll settle for eloquence.
The fact is that we used to read much more as a culture. We learned poetry and plays. Great writers like, Shakespeare and Whitman, Cummings and Hellman informed the American --
Truth to tell, I'm not sure whether any of this matters. Is it the education system? Is it the fact that we don't read enough? I'm not sure. I think that great writers make for great language. They hear or see something in words most others don't. They put it into a book, play or (Thanks to NBC and CBS in the cases of Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet) television show. Many people or a few, read or watch the finished product, another writer uses a version of some line in their work. A few become enamored of the book or play or TV show (ever heard of a 'Wing' Nut? As in 'The West Wing'?) And the language from that work or in it's style begins to pepper their language. What happens? They're throwing out brilliant sounding language, at the office or while standing in line for a movie. Someone hears or overhears, chuckles to themselves and thinks, 'Very clever, that's exactly what I mean to say. Hmm . . . I'm gonna use that. How did he say it again? He said . . .' and an eloquent line enters into our daily language.
Hmmm . . . well . . . So I guess we'll be fine. We'll probably be okay. The sky is not actually falling, good language isn't dead, maybe just hibernating a bit. And so long as there are still good writers out there writing and a few siren intoxicated sailors to become wrapped up in words and infect others with their beauty, the English language may not devolve completely.
So we'll be fine. So long as publishing companies, television networks and the like don't start trying to sue people for using it. You think I'm being paranoid? Possibly.
Tags: language, english, education, writing, david mamet, aaron sorkin, the west wing, eloquence
29 August 2006
It was recently made into a film starring Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Rupert Everett (if you read the book, you'll know that no one but Everett could play the character of Bule)called Seperate Lies. I haven't seen the movie and probably won't. The book has left me plenty satisfied. It might be difficult to find, but I definitely recommend making the effort.
Other faves include:
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Shiensh FicshunEnder's Game by Orson Scott Card
Star Wars (Thrawn Trilogy) by Timothy Zahn
Literar-ilySnow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
A Way Through the Wood by Nigel Balchin
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Fatal Interview by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Best. Sonnets. Ever!)
Ngaio Marsh's Alleyn Mysteries
Agatha Christie's Miss Marple
Stone Angel by Carol O'Connell
Anything Martha Grimes
Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale
26 August 2006
There are two issues. The first is (though of course, Sorkin rarely notifies me of his thinking on such issues), I have difficulty imagining that the punitive hoopla has over this situation is about anything more than corporate claim-staking. And that it has nothing to do with Sorkin or his feelings on the matter. Corporations think in terms of ownership, rights and exclusive property. Artists think in terms of communication, contribution, freedom and expression.The second, is that firing people for speaking the words of great writers is bad for everyone, which I'll get into next time we meet (or the time after).
Here's an excerpt of the story reported by the New York Times a few months ago:
NBC Admits Plagiarism in Feature Before DerbyPlease note, that the firing of this writer was precipitated not by a complaint from Sorkin, but an email from a West Wing fan who recognized the quote. What is ironic, is that just a few minutes after the Bartlet gave the speech now the cause of so much misery, the character of the speech writer Sam Seaborn in response to being complimented on it paraphrased T.S. Eliot, saying, "Good writers borrow, great writers steal out right" Aptly spoken, as Sorkin is not the originator, but the adaptor of many words in the hotly-contested Bartlet quote.
NY Times ^ | May 11, 2006 | RICHARD SANDOMIR
A freelance writer will no longer receive assignments from NBC Universal Sports after copying two passages from a 2002 episode of "The West Wing" in his script for a feature that preceded the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
Ken Schanzer, the president of NBC Universal Sports, confirmed that the plagiarism had occurred. He would not identify the writer but said, "He won't work here anymore."
The short feature, which was preceded by a commercial for the final two episodes of "The West Wing," looked at the difficulties faced by Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz, who survived a plane crash in Sioux City, Iowa, then led three children to safety; Alex Solis, who broke his back in a track spill two years ago but rode Brother Derek on Saturday; and Brother Derek's trainer, Dan Hendricks, who was paralyzed in a motocross accident.
In the script, read by NBC's Tom Hammond, Matz was extolled because he "ran into the fire to save the lives of three children." Hammond paused dramatically and added, "Ran into the fire."
The two-hour opening episode of the fourth season of "The West Wing" included a plot line in which two pipe bombs exploded and killed 44 people in the swim team's facility at the fictitious Kennison State University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet, delivered a speech praising the rescuers who "ran into the fire to help get people out." He paused and added dramatically, "Ran into the fire."
The Derby script summed up the changed lives of Matz, Solis and Hendricks by saying that the "funny thing about life is that every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet its challenges, we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless."
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com
As a writer, here's what I know. There is no greater compliment than to find your words taking life in the language of others. No I don't mean plagiarism. I'm talking about language, the spoken word, the vernacular. People today say, 'Here's looking at you', 'I'll be your Huckleberry', 'Go to the mattresses', Good fences make good neighbors', 'The road not taken', or 'Once more into the breach'. What we forget to remember is that someone, at sometime, wrote those words. All of them.
Many times when we quote Shakespeare or Mario Puzo, or Robert Frost, we are merely speaking words spoken by others which sound well to us. Long after the cultural memory of a phrase's origin is lost, a well-made line will live on, carrying the life of its author along with it. Writers tend to lead a somewhat isolated existence chained to a desk in front of a blank computer screen or white piece of paper. We rarely realize the impact of our expressions on our audience. When a writer's words take life in the language of the guy four booths down in the diner, or the girl at the check out counter, this is no small thing. And the notion that in language words you have written may outlive you, or that you have given new life to some arcane expression found in an obscure novel, that is a glimpse into immortality of the sort which gives us permission to think in terms of big words; words like legacy and posterity.
So I can imagine Sorkin, who did a great thing in a small way, who put a beautifully worded and moving speech into the mouth of a fictional president to lament a fictional tragedy, must gain some satisfaction to see those words ennobled and given true significance when put into the mouth of a news anchor in aid of expressing the exaltation of Michael Matz, who risked his own life to save three children one day in Sioux City, Iowa. And perhaps a thought touched his mind? Perhaps, ten, twenty a hundred years from now, he could hear people saying "the streets are too full of angels" to speak of those who die heroically and had his own glimpse of immortality.
take my poll: Plagarism? Language?:
Tags: aaron sorkin, plagiarism, writing, writers, the west wing, west wing, nbc Tags: language
09 August 2006
Benefit Concert for the Animals
Featuring Flautist/Composor Carol Alban, Cellist Suellen Primost, Pianist Dylan Snodgrass, Flautist Nancy Tyler, Pipa Player Ma Jie and others.
Sunday August 27th at 3 pm
Chapel of the Chimes
4499 Piedmont Ave. Oakland Ca 94611
$10 Suggested Donation
All proceeds benefit In Defense of Animals (IDA)
****The New News****Check us out on MySpace !
Volunteers old and new: The Divine Daphne is still the editor who makes us look like -- I don't know, think of the most fabulous writer and you'll know just how good Daphne is. She has the gift for stripping away the dreck, without sacrificing the writer's individual voice.
Then there's Sir Alan Scher, he is a great writer and our favorite reviewer. He's always game and a good soul to boot.
Sean Starr. The Sean Starr? No, my Sean Starr. Okay, fine . . . the Sean Starr. Sean is an artist who has graciously offered to tackle the redesign of out web site. Yay! His work is stunning and so is his website, check it out. While you're there stop by his blog to say hello and sign the Idealist Manifesto. I have.
Last, but certainly not least Little Marissa our student-volunteer and MySpace Mistress. It's down to her that our circle of friends keeps growing and growing. Others are waiting in the wings to be introduced and shall be during the next few weeks.
Until next time . . .
****The New News****
26 July 2006
You can imagine my dad's relief when we grew up a little and moved onto other film choices. And then they came out with Short Circuit 2.
Can anyone say . . . marathon.?
20 July 2006
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu, -- farewell! -- the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The colour and the features, every one,
The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
12 July 2006
Check us out our new presence on MySpace, While you're there stop and say howdy.
****The New News****
So, we are officially one year old. A lot of progress has been made, though you probably haven't seen most of it. The experience of getting this project going has really taken me to school, I've been learning an awful lot. But, in spite of my extended learning curve and health issues, there have been tangible results. Our number of hits continue to double and triple each month. Botp now has fiscal sponsorship which enables it to raise money for our cause. We have developed a network of wonderfully supportive people. In fact, this is what amazes me; I mean, artists don't tend to have it easy. We have, in fact chosen a way of living that pretty much guarantees long stretches of poverty and hard hard work. And yet, I never cease to be amazed by the spirit of generosity that seems to infect the artistic community like a virus. I know for certain that without you guys I would have given up on this madcap idea of mine long ago. Thank you for a remarkable year, and the will to fight on. I lift my glass to you.
26 June 2006
Just like this. Today would be the last time. They were close. The tables in these places are always so small. She had to angle her knees to keep them from brushing his, draw her hands close to keep their fingers from touching on the table. But still they were close, even settled back in her chair she could still feel the heat of his body, leaning toward her. Very close. But a million wintry miles apart, separated as if a sheet of thick cold glass formed the barrier between them and not the ice in her own heart.
A month ago, she had been warmed by his regard, charmed by his school boy smile and gentle manner. He was everything he should be; exactly right. And she was more than prepared to love him until the end of her days. Or so she'd thought. He wanted to see her, to talk to her, to be with her and this was good, right? So why could she not move beyond this? This . . . sitting in this chair, overlooking this street, watching the sky? At first meeting, he'd found it interesting, stimulating, that she wouldn't give him her address, or phone number. That she refused to `date? him, challenged him, brought all of his masculine mating instincts online and she could see he was prepared to enjoy wooing her. During that first meeting, she'd even thought she was prepared to enjoy his wooing.
That was when she'd still had hope. By their third meeting, she began preparing herself to end it. As afternoon faded into evening they talked for hours, as coffee drinks and scones gave way to the dubious pleasures of pear ale and a shared dinner of pizza with artichokes. It was lovely, but she could see the occasional flashes of uncertainty that grew in frequency as their time together drew to a close. He felt her withdrawal from him and anger made his movements jerky as he waved off her money and paid their tab. She saw his confusion and frustration when he realized she would allow him to come no closer, gently refusing him a `date?, her address, her phone number. She saw the pain he tried to hide. And that somehow he still believed her reticence would fade or could be overcome. She knew differently.
And now the future she had always feared stared at her in her ephemeral reflection on the window. As much as she loved him. And she did -- love him. As certainly as she'd kept him secretly in her heart all her life; she knew that she could not bear to let him love her. The idea of being so, close of his needing so much of her felt like suffocation, like death. She could not bear the claustrophobia of the two of them, together forever, building a life. Would there be any room for her, herself as she was now in this new life of theirs? Would that essence which made her herself be eroded over the years or would she abandon it willingly right from the start? She feared intimacy with someone so wholly apart from herself, feared his unknown, alien agendas, reactions and needs. And though she could feel her love for him as relentlessly as an oncoming tide, she was much too cold, her heart too frozen to be loved . . . and to love in return. She would be alone, loving him for the rest of her life. A whisper of pain in her heart, she allowed her fingers to brush his; no closer than this.
24 June 2006
****The New News****
Just sent off the first round of individual fundraising letters. Dear -- celestial toads! It took forever. I kept writing and scrapping and then rewriting and scrapping at least half a dozen drafts. Sometimes I get so much in my head that I lose all perspective. Finally I just had to sit down on Wednesday and say to myself, "Self. This is it. Today is the day. It's a fundraising letter, not a sonnet. It is essentially what 9 out of 10 people will consider junk mail not a first edition draft of Shakespeare's sonnets. It doesn't have to be perfect; there's no such thing. So. Chill. Write the dang thing and send it out. TODAY!!!
And so I did. At least I sent out eight of them. The rest will have to wait till I can buy more stamps and a new printer cartridge.
But the point is: The letter, she be done.****The New News****
"Human nature naturally reaches for a higher consciousness and in this search we return back to the foundation of nature - the endless cycle of life." Stephen Tulloch
As with most artists, My artwork is a reflection of both the inner world and my philosophical take on the outer world which we all share. Technique is everything - it realizes on the physical plane the complex imaginings of an inspired mind.Yay it's here! Stephen Tulloch, the marvelous artist (and nice human being) who has graciously allowed us to use an image of his pen and ink Cyrano de Bergerac as our logo (check out the front page) has arrived on the web with a brand new website. You'll find some beautiful work there, more ink drawings and oils as well as some mixed media work. My favorites so far are the Water Jesters diptych and Deception.
At any rate you'll want to check him out. P.S. he also designs web sites.
16 June 2006
- THE railroad track is miles away,
- And the day is loud with voices speaking,
- Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
- But I hear its whistle shrieking.
- All night there isn't a train goes by,
- Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
- But I see its cinders red on the sky,
- And hear its engine steaming.
- My heart is warm with the friends I make,
- And better friends I'll not be knowing;
- Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
- No matter where it's going.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
08 June 2006
So here's the deal. The 'zine is officially on hiatus while I focus my efforts on fundraising and getting some help. You will still find me here, blathering on about whatever I have to blather on about. Articles will be added to BotP Proper on occasion and I'll let you know when and where to find them. I will be doing some clean up work over the weekend, updating the archives, so that you are able to find previous issues and articles that appeared on the site, and posting a couple of pieces by a couple really wonderful new writers.
Yes there are interviews outstanding, three to be precise. They still need to be transcribed, a rather labor intensive, tedious and tricky job I haven't strength for at the moment. I'll let you know what is up with those as soon as I know something. If you have enjoyed this site, if you like the blog, if you love artists and would like to help us help them -- please, click on DONATE and select Bakery of the Poets from the pull-down menu. You will help BotP stay afloat. If you are not comfortable donating online, email me and I will send you information on how you can help us out via snail mail. I want to thank everyone who has been so kind, supportive and excited about our work, and to them I say, 'Don't count us out yet.'
In spite of setbacks and obstacles, I still believe that the future of Bakery of the Poets is 'so bright . . . I gotta wear shades.'
26 May 2006
Bluestocking, how cool is it that I finally have the opportunity to use that word in a sentence? Fabulous. Anyway.
As the word itself. Most of you probably know what it mean. But I love an excuse to do a little etymology spelunking. So here goes.
The word 'bluestocking' has it's origin in fifteenth century Venice. Della Calza, 'of the stocking', was an elite society of Venetian intellectuals (men and women) known by their elaborate leg coverings. The movement reappeared in France during the sixteenth century when Parisian women took the name Bas Bleu ( literally 'blue stocking') to describe the denizens of their literary and philosophical salons. The final and most well-known incarnation came in eighteenth century England. Lady Elizabeth Montagu took the French name for her salons. Later English men used the English translation of the name and transformed the word bluestocking pejorative to describe scholarly women, or very likely any woman that was smarter and better educated than the speaker. And that, unfortunately is the definition that stuck in public consciousness.
So. Anyway. There are these artists. I'm going to continue to use actors an to illustrate . . . it's easier. So. There are these artists. They are often very intelligent and it is by means of their intellect that they enter the world. Whether they are discussing politics, food or the latest fashions; everything is run through that supercomputer upstairs. I find it a delectable combination. Art is a subject that is so germane to our make up, to many the idea of intellectualizing it or viewing it through an analytical lens seems like sacrilege. There are many creative people who feel about art the way 85 percent of the world feels about God.
The Bluestocking has no choice. Everything is processed intellectually. Even emotion. Even creativity. Even Art. They are intensely curious and concerned with every detail of a character's story and environment. They will often take reams of notes getting obsessive about the what's and wherefore's of their characters actions and interior life. Their interest is often not limited to their character, but the screenplay, the directing; the overall production of the film. You will find a lot of these actors have taken on multitudinous roles within the film and performing arts communities, and often end up directing, composing and producing in addition to acting.
When watching a Bluestocking on screen, I'm always struck this sense, an awareness of . . . I don't know, like you can feel the brainpower. There's a movie I like and own. The Sum of All Fears is great fun and as get-it-done kind of thriller, it works like charm. But you don't really need to see it more than a couple of times. The story is pretty by-the-numbers, the films major selling point is the cast; actors like Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, and Ciarian Hinds are in it. Great actors who are criminally underutilized, especially when you consider what a time-waster is most of the third act. Or do I mean fourth? Anyway, the reason I bought the movie and continue to watch it from time to time can be summed up in two words: Liev Schreiber.
You may or may not know who Schreiber is, he's kind of on the periphery of fame, he's a decorated theater actor, a noted character actor and director of the film Everything Is Illuminated. If you don't know who he is, don't worry, you will. What he does in forty seconds of screen time most actors couldn't do with a full hour. Watch his character's introductory scene with Morgan Freeman on the tarmac and you'll see what I mean. There is an immediate sense that his is a fully inhabited character with depth and history. It's amazing. That type of habitation can only really be accomplished once the kind of exhaustive research and soul-searching and question-asking that a Bluestocking is only too thrilled to do, has been done. They are intensely prepared and enjoy the process of getting there. Bluestockings' innate curiosity make them inveterate puzzle lovers, so that each new acting assignment is 'candy store' to their 'kid'; presenting a cornucopia of new questions that need answers.
20 April 2006
Mom is good...even if she is hairless.
The sky could fall at any minute. When in doubt sit under something. Beds are good. Chairs are good. Bed trays are the best, they sit up high so you can see everything. Plus they give you that nice secure feeling of something over your head.
Warm french fries are very good.
Looking outside is good.
Being outside...not so much.
Naps are medicine
Hands are scary.
Wind is scary.
Vacuum cleaners are scary.
People are scary . . . and not that attractive.
Other cats are scary. Watch them till they go away or growl if they don't and run. This is also a good time to sit under something
Little people are evil. They have loud high voices and grabby hands. Avoid at all costs. If Mom is there ignore them or growl. If Mom is away attack attack attack and then go sit under something. Remember to punish mom when she gets back for leaving you alone.
Naps = gorgeous me.
Towels are a good place to sit.
Bathtubs are fun. Baths are evil. Avoid at all costs. If you can't, resist resist resist. When resistance is futile, go to your happy place until it's over. Then go sit under something while you dry. Remember to punish mom for getting you wet.
Toilets are fun. Falling in isn't.
Bugs are fun. Small bugs.
String is fun . . . but don't eat it. Remember what happened that one time. Eww.
Staring is fun.
Naps are fun.
A food dish less than a quarter full is unacceptable.
Too much icky in the litter box is unacceptable.
To much hair on favorite sitting towel is unacceptable. It should also smell freshly laundered.
Being told to sit on favorite sitting towel is unacceptable, resist resist resist.
Get mom to rub your head while you eat. This is good.
Get mom to sing and rub your head. This is good.
Get mom to brush your head as much as possible, back also good. Brushing tummy is unacceptable, resist, resist resist.
Nap on favorite sitting towel, under the bed tray after strenuous resistance.
I hate it when people (and by people I mean moneyed people referring to un-moneyed, white people referring to non-white, naturalized people referring to non-naturalized people), go on and on about `entitlement' as if the very act of feeling you have a right to something, means that you don't deserve it. The ludicrous, the ridiculous hypocritical, pseudo-self-righteousness with which they denigrate the angry unwashed for their errant sense of entitlement, never fails to get me hot under the collar. Of course `they' whoever the `they' is under discussion feels entitled. Everybody does. Why should the poor, and non-white be any different from Middle America, Middle-Class America or Corporate America?
It doesn't matter who we are or where live, or the color our skin or the bracket in which we file our taxes. We all feel entitled, as if we have a right to expect things to turn out well for us; whether or not we put in the requisite effort to ensure success. We're Americans for goodness sake! Our entire societal psychology is built on achieving a Dream. They don't call it the 'American You Really Worked For It Didn't You?' or the 'American You Get Exactly What You've Earned And No More' The phrase is the American Dream, a term which in and of itself betrays a cultural inability to deal with reality.
I say American, but the truth is having a sense of entitlement, a feeling that we have a right to the things we need or passionately wish for, is just part of the human condition. However, if you are if you are poor or black (or really any minority, but sticking to the subject of the show), you likely have a much better sense of reality and thus, a lesser sense of entitlement, than your middle-class or white brethren. You have seen the myriad ways in which it is possible for things not to go well. Experience has taught you that just because things are bad, it doesn't mean they can't always get worse. You don't expect breaks, or rescues, or for people to just help you out. Nothing `turns up' (as in the saying `something will turn up'?), things don't `work out'. You have enough of a sense of entitlement to be pissed, but not necessarily enough to hope for better.
On the other hand, entitlement among the moneyed and white is alive and well. I grew up in a very white town. And I came up old school. While other black suburbanites were attempting to insulate their kids from the realities of racism and just the general unfairnesses of life by pretending they didn't exist. Telling them things like, `You're just as good as anyone, in fact better, you can do anything you want.' Which incidentally is what most of my white classmate were being told by their parents. My parents drummed a different message into my head. `Being black in America means you have to work twice as hard as the white person next to you in order to get just as far. Yet another of those axioms I don't really believe, but have found to be true. Another is that taking Vitamin C helps keep you healthy.
I can't count the number of times I've been on a job or whatever and have watched my fellow workmates get away with murder. It's not so much that they didn't get caught taking the extra breaks, taking long personal calls, taking home the office supplies, barely getting their work done or not getting it done at all; it's the attitude with which they perform, or don't. The sense that they have a right to cheat the boss or behave incompetently and not get their butts fired. And if, by some (amazing) stretch they do get fired, guess who's fault it isn't, as far as they are concerned? As if somehow they had done their employer a favor by condescending to show up; whether or not they actually did their jobs was irrelevant.
Now I admit to having a kind of old school Southern girl work ethic. So I get that my take on workplace deportment is in the minority. But what I'm getting at is that no one really feels that they should be condemned to living with the consequences of their actual actions.
We do, on the other hand, feel that other people should face the music. You know if 'they can't take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen'; 'if they can't do the time, they shouldn't do the crime. For ourselves we expect -- feel . . . a-heh . . . entitled to a little mercy. 'Yes, my son knows he shouldn't have groped that woman on the subway, but calling the police? Isn't that just a little extreme? After all, boys will be boys.' 'Well, sure, I padded my expense account just a little, everyone does it. Should that cost me my job?' Or 'Why are you pulling me over? At least two other cars were going faster than I was.'
We all have our thing, a little thing, a big thing; some behavior for which we would really, really prefer the chickens not come home to roost. After all, we feel we are good people and if nothing else, entitled to having our lives go on undisturbed by excessive consequences. So why don't we all just ease up on deciding what godless excesses to which other people should feel entitled?
16 April 2006
Which composers will I prefer? What period? Style? Instruments? Which musicians? Which recordings? Good heavens there are so many options, it’s positively paralytic. I always thought that the only way I could really and truly get into classical music was to have my own personal tutor. Actually I feel that way about music in general. CALLING ALL MUSIC SNOBS! HELP! However, I have found a way to begin feeling my way around. Amazon.com reviews and the Yahoo! Music Engine. I love it! For like six bucks a month I can get almost any artist, recording, whatever and download it to my computer for my listening enjoyment. Which is great, cause I’m not a person for whom purchasing CD’s is a good option. I have enough trouble committing to a style of music, much less a particular artist or CD, I like having the option of buying without having the pressure that comes from, ‘okay now I bought it so I really gotta listen to it...for the rest of my life’ this of course leads immediately to my listening nonstop for a month or two and then never picking it up again.
Anyway, about classical music. Here’s what I did. First, I broke it down to the very basics. What are my favorite instruments? Piano and cello. Okay great, start with piano. Next which composer? I already had a composer in mind; Chopin. If you’ve never seen Impromptu featuring Hugh Grant and Judy Davis, you are missing out! It’s a beautiful, fun, funny and literate movie for which the headline stars are just the tip of the iceberg. Also appearing are Mandy Patinkin, Julian Sands, Emma Thompson and Bernadette Peters. Anyway, Impromptu began my fascination with both George Sand and Chopin.
“I am not full of virtues and noble qualities, I love that is all. But I love strongly, exclusively, steadfastly.” – a line in the movie adapted from Mauprat by George Sand.
And the music! I couldn’t believe how beautiful the music was.
So . . . Chopin it was. Then to find a recording. Dear god this was where things got extremely . . . extreme. So I went to Amazon.com and started browsing the classical music section looking for customer selections that mentioned Chopin; trying to find consensus on which were considered the definitive, essential, can’t-miss-this-one recordings. Amazingly, Yahoo Music had many–well, some of them. As a result I’ve been listening to Rachmaninov Plays Chopin.
Color me amazed. I mean shocked. The complexity, the sheer artistry is astonishing. And there’s something else. As complex and intellectual the structures seem in comparison to modern music, almost left brain; the effect, the affect is so primary, so basic I can actually feel certain notes -- certain combinations strike up corresponding emotion inside of me.
Like any good INTP I generally listen to the music I’m in the mood for. Yet something about Chopin’s Scherzo in C Sharp Minor, Op.39 No.3 as played by Sergei Rachmaninov, puts a mood in me.
So. Music experts and snobs, where should I go from here?
14 April 2006
My how she suffers. And in SUCH a boring way. Granted, I have been reading the literary equivalent of sitcoms...or perhaps even reality TV. But the truth is whether you are reading early Oprah’s Book Club or late Hilary de Vries, the thing that women do most and least interestingly in pop fiction, is suffer...and at the hands of women authors. I’m not saying there aren’t great books clearly written with the intent of being significant literary works. But what most people are sucking down, like McDonald’s or Baskin and Robbins are these ridiculously reactive intensely bland female (and I do credit them with that dishonor) protagonists, who think, believe, stand for...nothing at all. All they do is emote...and suffer. The Order of Poor Claire’s (White Oleander, the movie. Check it out it’s a lot of fun and a startling exception to my current rant. Michelle Pfeiffer is fabulous). Boring.
So right now, I’m engaged on a course of light reading. I just read. Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and I’m still depressed. I ought to have known better. I saw Howard’s End, like 80 times ten years ago and still haven’t gotten over it. So anyway, I thought to perk myself up with a foray into light, non-genre popular women’s fiction. And is this how we see ourselves. Or rather because fictional characters are about how we would like to perceive our existence, is this how we want to see ourselves? Twenty something, amoral, dull and victimized. And truth to tell, as far as I’m concerned, ‘dull’, is the worst of the four. Be Kate Winslet in like, every movie she’s ever done. Be Linda Fiorentino, in like...well, every movie she’s ever done. You can even be...okay, I’m looking for the Hollywood actress who does suffering, to complete the analogy. But I can’t think of anyone. Help me out here?
But do not, do not invite me inside the head of a character and then put me to sleep. When did bland become so cool? I know I know. My head has been in the sand while MTV and Madison Avenue took over the planet. Somehow I did not notice that everything about women today has become drop dead...boring. As if straight [hair, faces, clothes], skinny conformity has become the ideal of every woman under 40. I expect girls on TV to have a certain sameness about them. But when did this happen? When did every girl on every TV show or in popular film, begin to look, act and dress exactly alike? And for so long? I mean, sleeveless cotton/spandex T’s and hip-hugger jeans have been hot for, what, ten years now? Is there anything more uninteresting?
We complain about men. We complain about men a lot. We blame them for objectification and the unreal media expectations. We say that they either want to infantilise or brutalize us. We blame them for our unhappiness in whichever relationship we happen to be in at the moment. But the truth. We do this to ourselves. The unrealistic expectations and objectification . . . women’s magazines, reinforced by women’s fiction and chick flicks; often written and promoted by . . . you got it . . . other women. As for infantilisation and brutalization . . . have you seen Lifetime TV, the WB or any ‘women’s’ television show? And again, reinforced by popular women’s fiction . . . written by whom? Women.
And I admit . . . I get into my Markie Post-Judith Light-Lifetime Movie marathon moods just like everyone else. It’s just. . .am I wrong or is insipid victimization our most prevalent form of escapist entertainment? I mean really. Am I wrong?
08 April 2006
Having a brain which requires everything to be quantified (especially the weird and wonderful worlds of art and emotion) means that while watching a film with tears streaming from my eyes some part of me is still going, "that is an amazing shot, how on earth did he do that?", or "why am I so moved? Is it the performance or the music? Or is it just the idea being presented? Eh...yeah, it's the music". Yes, it sounds obsessive and slightly robotic; but I, I assure you, am really quite cute and cuddly.
And if you will take a moment from pondering my weirdnesses you will find I'm trying to make a point (yes, fond of the italics today).
So there are artists, all kinds of artists. Artists that I love. But what I've noticed about them is that no matter what their discipline, just as with personality there area finite number of types. Artistic types, like temperament, falls into certain categories. Really, I think I'm on to something here; so I've been working it out in my head.
La Belle Artiste
It started a little bit, when I was watching something or other and realized that the actor was completely naked onscreen. Yeah, he was fully clothed, but he was completely bare, vulnerable. His technique...is not the greatest, there are awkward moments where a more technically proficient actor might finesse, but with him there is a break. Actually more like a hairline fracture than a break. At first I'm irritated, because I think, you know, 'This guy is terrible! Why doesn't he learn how to act?' This went on for a while.
But then I begin to realize that I am aware of his despair, his character's despair, like I can feel it in my own body. And I keep watching him, because for the life of me, I can't see what he's doing. Usually I can tell. All actors have their tricks, their habits, their 'tells', if you will. If you watch them long enough you can learn how they do that thing they do. But there are some artists for whom their intense vulnerability is their entire bag of tricks. It's this stripped down naked, honesty of soul they are able to convey on camera, on stage, that is barren of intellect. It's just them. And it's just beautiful.
I've written about actors here this morning, but I believe that in every discipline there are these belle artistes these people who can't help but put all that they are on the stage, on the page, on the canvas. They require special handling when in creative mode, because at such times they lack natural defenses of any kind. And I love them. I admit, most freely that of all the arti-types clanking around in my head the belle artiste is the type for which I feel the most. It's a mother hen thing, their vulnerability which makes me want to clear their path, to make sure they take care of themselves, or that they are taken care of; making sure they are better able to do that thing they do; it's also an admiration borne of envy. I myself, have never figured out how to get of my own way while creating. I over-think, I get scared and put up walls. Artifice and pretense and intellect become my allies and obstacles.
So anyway, that's my first classification.
La Belle Artiste: (actors, 'cause it's easiest)
Tags: acting, julianne moore, derek luke, dakota fanning, movies, actors, art, entertainment
Of course, he died at 35. Just a few hours after his first interview with the New York Times, just hours after ‘Rent’s final dress rehearsal and days before its debut on Broadway; he died of an aortic aneurysm. He’d been in and out of emergency rooms (composer/waiters can’t afford health insurance or private medical care) during the weeks before he died complaining of fever and chest pain. The diagnoses received seems to have ranged between depression and food poisoning. What is awful and enraging is that the aortic aneurysm which took his life was likely a complication of a treatable (though tricky) illness called Marfan Syndrome. If Larson taken on a steady 9 to 5, he might still be alive. Health insurance might have saved him, of course, we wouldn’t have ‘Seasons of Love’, ‘La Vie Boheme’, 'One Song Glory', or any of the other songs that tell the story of Rent.
As I write this tonight, I realize that it was on an afternoon five or six years ago, with Jonathan Larson firmly in mind, the seeds of BotP were sown in my heart. I kept saying to myself ‘It shouldn’t be this hard. It shouldn’t be this hard. This person is creating something transcendent out of pure thin air. Is that so easy? Why should everything else in his life be so hard?’ Over and over again. Life for artists, is unreasonably difficult; the poverty, the lack of respect, lack of support. However exquisitely talented, however hard they work, if they keep at it, they are far more likely to die poor and early than most of the rest of us. It’s ridiculous, particularly when one considers that they give all that they are and all that they have in every moment of every day.
They are our record-keepers. They are our story-tellers.
When the world has had its fill of burnt flesh and twisted metal and must turn its minds away.
When the world has had its fill of rotting limbs in mass graves and must turn its mind away. When the world has had its fill of injustice that cannot be redressed and agony for which there is no succor and must turn its mind away.
Artists do not–cannot turn away. Their eyes and their hearts remain open to all the ugliness long after it has overwhelmed the rest of us into turning away. And then they reach inside themselves and tell us how it feels to be human in an inhumane world. In song, in verse, on canvas, on film, on stage . . . with the written word, they give us a place to put the pain and words with which to express it. They lead the way past the wreckage to a place of beauty, of truth that makes all endurable. And all that is needed is that genetic quirk that compels them to stand naked in a hailstorm, so to speak, in order to give rest of us a more nuanced weather report.
Okay . . . I’m not kidding myself. I do love artists, I love the very idea of them. But let’s not fool ourselves with the notion they are called to their work out of some sense of altruism and idea of public benefaction. When it comes to why they work, they could care less about the rest of us. They do it for one simple reason. They must. They can’t not create. They are driven by this insane compulsion to cut open their guts and then tell us what they look like. The good, the bad and the downright disgusting. And so they are extraordinarily sensitive and intensely vulnerable.
Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you talked to someone about the fact that a certain item on the news made you feel so bad, your stomach hurt for two days and that you kept crying and couldn’t figure out why. Yes...I’m taking (ahem) artistic license here, but you get my gist? With whom did you speak about these feelings? Your spouse? Your mother? Your boss? That chick you can’t stand whose desk is by the copy machine? You talked to someone you trusted. Someone who made you feel safe, a person you knew would not think less of you or deride you or think you weak for being so vulnerable to far away suffering.
Now imagine feeling those feelings and feeling the need . . . to put them into a song, or a painting, or in an article or book or . . . you get my drift. Imagine going over it and over it until you get it just right...have found just the right . . . thing. The expression, color, brush stroke, movement, whatever, that most perfectly expresses that feeling. And then imagine, expanding on the theme until you have created something where nothing once stood. Not because you wanted to open up your soul and put it on canvas for the world to see, but because you had no choice. How naked, how without a wall.
All of the rest . . . shouldn’t be so hard.
But anyway, One Song Glory, the tale of an HIV positive rocker racing against mortality to write that immortal note is ridiculously poignant and feels like something shared by all artists. And . . . it makes me cry like a baby.
Thank you Jonathan.
02 April 2006
Excerpted from How Naked, How Without a Wall:
The man who ventures forth alone
When other men are snug within,
Walks on his marrow, not his bone,
And lacks his outer skin.
The draughty caverns of his breath
Grow visible, heart shines through:
Surely a thin which only death
Can have a right to do.
--by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wine From These Grapes
26 March 2006
I spent an evening in a pretty amazing place speaking with some pretty amazing people. Before I get into specifics--I'm gonna brag a little.
When I was four years old my family moved to a smallish city in Northern California called Fairfield. The two main industries were Travis Air Force Base and some variation of farming...or something (you can guess into which of the two demographics my familly fell). The main drag was, and is the very wide Texas Street, built wide to make room--not for rush hour traffic--but for tractors and cattle. School was an interesting brew, an atmmosphere that developed from throwing kids who have grown up all over the world and kids who had never left the county together in one room. Left to it's own devices (minus Travis AFB) Fairfield's demographic was primarily agricultural, Mormon and white. Air Force culture could not have been more different in every way, infusing the area with an amalgam of cultures, colors, languages and fresh ideas. As a kid I remembered being fascinated by the contrast, and the manner in which the two worlds melded...or collided.
Okay, technically, you don't need to know all of this in order to get the rest of the story. Maybe. I do think the social makeup of the town is one of many factors that contribute to the little tidbit I'm about to convey.
In an area of something more and something less than 150,000 people, there are something like a dozen theater groups and nearly a dozen performing arts theaters or performance venues. And the number continues to increase. Can I talk about how much I love my town?
Last Thursday I was to meet with a woman whom I'd long admired and about whom I'd been curios for years. An actor, when Barbara Norris moved to Fairfield, she could find very little in the way of local theater work. And so, being the intrepid soul she is, she began the Solano Repertory Theater company and hasn't looked back since. She acts and directs and manages her company and contributes her time to local community arts efforts. So now, I have this magazine and I thought, 'Cool, I can go be nosy.'
When I arrived at our meeting place, it was to discover that yet another theater and theater company had sprung up. The Missouri Street Theater and Theater Academy, made available for the purpose by Pam Spering, and presided over by Serena, Sylvia and a few other wise women who have turned a suite of offices into small theater and arts academy. Have I mentioned how much I love my town?
24 March 2006
Hi everyone, we've been gone a long time. We had a terrible...and then a really wonderful time with technology, what with computer crashes and trying to keep the bills paid. Our computer crisis is history and hopefully our new Five Dollar Fundraiser (which is exactly what it sounds like) will help alleviate the financial one.
In other news, one of out favorite artists and BotP friends, Chris Fabbri has new paintings for sale at PaintingsDirect.com. Be sure to check him out. And buy something, he's a wonderful artist!
****The New News****
Heeyyy! I'm back!!
Did you miss me? DidyouevenknowIwasgone?
Well I was. The computer I was using had a tragic accident; a crash to be precise. Its owner took it away for Rx and it has yet to return. However.
And this is a BIG however that rates its own line and repetition.
A dear wonderful, excellent human being donated a brand new Dell notebook and printer to Bakery of the Poets. And so I'm back.
I'm very excited. Now I just need money for paper.
But paper or not, I can be here with you fabulous people once again...tooting my little horn and enjoying your music as well.
12 February 2006
And then...I don't know something started to happen. I really noticed it in late '04 when it started taking longer for movies returned to be reflected on my account. And then, even more strangely, instead of immediately shipping my next selection, it would show in my account as "shipping", not just for a few hours as it had in the past, but for a day. I called Netflix a couple of times and got some sort of tap dance about distribution centers or some such. But I suspected Netflix found my high rental activity a liability and was 'slowing my roll'. I was pretty annoyed, but even so I figured (and still do) the big N is the best game in town, I would like to see my account function with the speed with which it once did, but I could live with it.
Then the news broke and my suspicions were confirmed by the company itself. The practice Well...at last. No I'm not crazy and that really would have been the end of that for me, had I not read a quote from a Netflix spokesperson attempting to calm customers fears by letting them know that this phenomena is being experienced by a 'vocal minority', I would have been fine. But instead I'm ticked. And I told them so...read on:
To: Reed Hastings, CEO
From: One of the 'Vocal Minority'
An Open Letter
Here's the thing...I'm one of those customers who has been a target of throttling. I have health problems and work from home, so I'm home a lot and I'm a complete movie addict. Like most of my addicted brethren, I'm pissed at you guys for delivering poorer quality service nowadays than when I first signed up. My righteous indignation condition flared out of control when I discovered said service lapse was entirely intentional. Really...you guys, for shame!
The other thing is this. My friends and I...the Netflix Movie Addicts...The Brethren. We are remarkably benign; not interested in filing lawsuits, (gasp!) canceling our accounts, or even telling others that Netflix sucks.
Given the givens the quote from Steve Swasey dismissing the problem as something that affects only a "vocal minority"; comes off a bit whiny and more than a bit back-stabby. I did not notice Netflix complaining when this vocal minority was busily talking everyone they knew into getting a Netflix account.
Don't get me wrong, you guys are successful because at the perfect time, you had great idea and executed it elegantly. But it was an idea that appealed to a particularly 'vocal' segment of the population, my brethren…the rabid movie fan. And I daresay we helped a little.
We have been your most loyal customers and your most effective marketing campaign. For every one of us 'heavy' users you can count at least 3 to 10 new subscribers for whom we are directly responsible and the ripple effect is likely in the hundreds, because we have been preaching the Netflix word to all who would listen. We are Patients Zero for the Netflix virus that has infected America. We don't ask for special recognition or special deals. We don't need glory, Netflix merchandise or superhero capes; but we durned well want the service for which we first signed up.
We're mad...we're tired of artificial waiting times...and as you have so eloquently pointed out--vocal.
So shut us up! And make a little more money at the same time. Offer a heavy hitters club. Tack on an extra, I don't know, whatever your marketing guys figure out each month to join. Club members get special perks that movie nerds love, arcane movie facts, podcast interviews with lesser known filmmakers who have cult followings. Allow club members to interact with each other, perhaps by creating a blog.
But first, do the right thing; offer that service for free for a year to those accounts which have been throttled. In particular for those accounts whose existence pre-dated the practice (like mine) Call it beta testing or whatever the heck you want. Market it right and you'll get a lot of new subscribers to sign on for the extra service simply because it's there. I and my brethren will sign up because we want truly unlimited service and a club with a cool name.
Live long and prosper,
Tags: reed hastings, netflix, throttling, movies, dvds
04 February 2006
Scooooore! Last Friday I completed an interview with the lovely and talented Kriss Turner, head writer for Everybody Hate's Chris and screenwriter of the new film 'Something New'. But, yes...that's right. I'm transcribing look for the article next Friday. She was very cool and it was a great conversation.
****The New News****
When I was ten or eleven my cousin Cynthia nicknamed me Mr. Spock.
We were at the waterslides in Manteca, dripping wet and barefoot, padding from one ride to another on a hot summer day. You know, the kind of hot you can only get in that particular part of California...all pine needles and red dirt. She'd said something--I have no idea what. I do remember my ten or eleven year old brain considered my older cousin to be one of the most irrational creatures alive.
My knee jerk response to whatever it was she'd said was likely along the lines of what 'made sense' or what 'logic demanded' (oh yes...I was one of those kids). It was, of course an incredibly irritating thing to say. I had not yet learned the value of sugar coating the truth for the sake of not being annoying. Operating as I did on the principle that Truth was Truth; its wardrobe was beside the point. Speaking the Truth (and no, in my head there was no "as I saw it" caveat to handicap me) was my responsibility, receiving it, the listener's problem.
So anyway, on this hot summer day while I was being annoying and my cousin was being irrational (she was! that much, I'm sure of) at the waterslides she called me Mr. Spock. I still remember the little thrill I felt as she spoke. Mr. Spock! Very cool.
"Thank you." I said. This of course annoyed Cynthia further...and really...I was a pill. There are few things more exasperating than making person feel complimented while attempting to offend them. One of which, is having to explain to the complimented person that you are insulting them and then having them (patiently) explain why you're wrong and then describing the manner in which your epithet was really a rather nice thing to say. Which is what I did next. Then the conversation hit a lull.
You will find it hard to believe, but Cynthia and I have never been what you (or anyone) would call close. The years, our disprate upbringings and interests thoroughly divided us. But her comment stuck with me. Mr. Spock...I prided myself on the moniker. It helped give flesh and in strange way, a role model to the nebulous sense of ease thinking my way through a situation always brought. There was comfort in having the ability to analyze a situation and know the logical response, to know what 'made sense'. It was like math for living. When I was young (very young) I took this ability to mean that (apart from a bloody temper)I was bereft of emotion...an emotion-free zone. And when I was a child that seemed...safe.
25 January 2006
Now all I have to do is transcribe it, and I hate transcribing. So you guys be patient with me.
But yay team!
21 January 2006
She was past master of sonnetry. Discovering that which is great and petty in the human heart...the chaos of the human condition and defining it--confining it to fourteen lines, beautifully spare, weighted with meaning, infused with passion. Perfection. Bluebeard is Millay's take on the old legend and also describes my mood tonight.
VI -- Bluebeard
THIS door you might not open, and you did;
So enter now, and see for what slight thing
You are betrayed. . . . Here is no treasure hid,
No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroring
The sought-for truth, no heads of women slain
For greed like yours, no writhings of distress,
But only what you see. . . . Look yet again --
An empty room, cobwebbed and comfortless.
Yet this alone out of my life I kept
Unto myself, lest any know me quite;
And you did so profane me when you crept
Unto the threshold of this room to-night
That I must never more behold your face.
This now is yours. I seek another place.
14 January 2006
She was a lost young girl but lost in the world-- orphaned, rootless, subsisting on crumbs of affection-- not lost within herself. She governed herself by certain laws and principles independent of popular opinion. She was able to submit without subjugation, to assert her will without dominating.
Jane Eyre was something new for the time, and she is unique still. As we look around at women in fiction, the complexity of her character and strength of her will put her up there where the air is very rare indeed.
These are my thoughts on reading her story again, for the first time in eight years.
Tags: artistic activism, nonprofit, philanthropy, zine, artists, bakery of the poets, jane eyre, reading, literature
09 January 2006
Frankly, I get annoyed by both sexes. Men who act as if a woman "around that time" is something like a cross between a Hela Monster and Cyclops and are still ridiculously and childishly squeamish about discussing the monthly facts of life. Monsters only live in the closet, so be a man and educate yourself. Women who swear they don't get PMS (when they clearly do). I had a friend who after half threatening to impale her husband with a 10 inch kitchen knife (really, really unusual for her), swore her emotional state was completely unaffected by the fact she was nearing her period.
So maybe I'll write a book. Just for men, giving them a few tips. It could be fun. It could be educational. It could save a marriage. Or a life.