Thursday, July 16, 2015

happy birthday, Lydia Davis (a day late)

spending hours
out a window, observing
a neighbor’s cows

tossing french verbs
at the ceiling
seeing what sticks

even the smallest thing will be observed
how a word sounds
how a word sounds when
there are different words around it

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Mothra Effect, or: sensitive dependence on unexpected conditions

What happened was this: I was on the phone to cancel my credit card, having left my wallet on the plane, having called the airline and been told to fill out the form online, having insisted that I’d just gotten off the plane, that my wallet was definitely on the plane, that please could they connect me to the San Francisco desk as they’d probably found it by now, being on hold only to learn that no, my wallet had not yet been discovered, having gotten mad at myself for doing such a dumb thing, having only left my wallet on the plane in the first place because I’d gotten it out to pay for drinks, two whiskey gingers, having not been charged for the drinks, having said quietly to my boyfriend, woohoo, free drinks, and having not put my wallet back in my purse, having forgotten about it, having exited the plane.

So I was on the phone with Chase to cancel my credit card. The customer service rep expresses sympathy with me for having lost my card, offers to put a 48-hour hold on my card, I agree, and he asks me,

So, what’s it like, living in California…
[I laugh]
...with that movie San Andreas coming out?
What movie? I ask, I don’t know anything about it.
You know, it’s about the earthquake, the big disaster.
Ok, I say, I definitely know about the San Andreas fault, but I don’t know anything about the movie.
But what’s it like living so close to that?
I don’t really worry about it, I laugh again. I’ve lived in California almost my whole life, and I don’t really think about it.
I like your attitude about it, he responded approvingly.
You can’t really predict earthquakes, anyway, I add, so I don’t see the point in worrying.
But aren’t you concerned that there could be disaster at any moment?
I mean, everywhere is a little bit like that, right? Some places have hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis.
Yeah, but doesn’t it concern you that disaster could strike at any moment?
Well, really, the way they exaggerate these things for movies, too. I mean, Hollywood. You know, the last big earthquake we had here, that broke the bridge, only one person died, and that was because they were doing something weird with their car. The way they depict it in movies, it just doesn’t match the historical reality.
And wasn’t that with Mothman, too?
Ok, what? I laugh hugely. Mothman? What is Mothman?
You know, half-moth, half-man.
Wait, what does this have to do with earthquakes?
They saw it on the bridge, right? Before the earthquake.
I don’t know what you’re talking about man, I feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate reality here.
Yeah, well, it is 1:30am here in Florida, so…
All right. I don’t know. No one in San Francisco talks about Mothman.
You can watch it on Animal Planet, look for Lost Tapes.
I definitely will.

And I did.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

comedy of the craft of improvisation

"There is only one interesting difference between the cinema and the theatre. The cinema flashes on to a screen images from the past. As this is what the mind does to itself all through life, the cinema seems intimately real. Of course, it is nothing of the sort – it is a satisfying and enjoyable extension of the unreality of everyday perception. The theatre, on the other hand, always asserts itself in the present. This is what can make it more real than the normal stream of consciousness. This is also what can make it so disturbing."
– Peter Brook, The Empty Space

In Commedia Dell'Arte, all of the masks are grotesque. Commedia delights in sin, in vice, in appetite. It is, in the words of my teacher, "a celebration of humanity in all of its indecency." There is no shame, no repentance, and no salvation. There is no narrative arc for the characters, no transformation. "The one thing that's true of every single Commedia plot is that nothing happens." Yet it deals with love and despair and social inequality and avarice and hunger and sex. A lot happens. Nothing matters.

I found the whole thing almost indescribably liberating. I performed characters who were grosser, more vulgar, more visceral that anything I've done maybe ever and I had a helluva good time.

In theatre, people look deep into each other's eyes and speak without blushing about the work being sacred. People then might roll around on the floor, and then discuss the rolling around. People open a door and enter a room differently. This is all before even putting on a mask.

Tell me how I can do this all day.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

as consciousness is harnessed to scat singing

Last night I watched Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, a casually unkind movie. I did not enjoy almost any of it; notable exceptions being Steve Coogan's dreams, and the scene, midway through, where he and Rob Brydon are scat singing as their massive SUV blazes through the English countryside. That was transcendent. 

Incomparably better spent is time with the second volume of Susan Sontag's journals, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, Journals & Notebooks 1964-1980:

"Mailer says he wants his writings to change the consciousness of his time. So did DH L[awrence], obviously.

I don't want mine to–at least not in terms of any particular point of view or vision or message which I'm trying to put across.

I'm not.

The texts are objects. I want them to affect readers–but in any number of possible ways. There is no one right way to experience what I've written.

I'm not 'saying something.' I'm allowing 'something' to have a voice, an independent existence (an existence independent of me).

I think, truly think, in only two situations:
at the typewriter or when writing in these notebooks (monologues)
talking to someone else (dialogue)
I don't really think–just have sensations, or broken fragments of ideas, when I am alone without a means to write, or not writing–or not talking.

I write–and talk–in order to find out what I think.

But that doesn't mean 'I' 'really' 'think' that. It only means that is my-thought-when-writing (or when-talking). If I'd written another day, or in another conversation, 'I' might have 'thought' differently."

- 1965 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

grander and more dramatic

Still watching Girls? Spoilers, spoilers everywhere and not a drop to drink. K, you've been warned.

I finished watching season two of Girls. Well, that show certainly reminds me of bad decisions I have made in the past. So much so that it is uncomfortable to watch at times but, onward we move.

The only line of Hannah's writing that we've gotten to see on screen is, "A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance," but the season ends with the girls isolated from one another and generally in the arms of men. I strongly suspect, however, that it is the character Hannah who is betraying her ideals rather than the writer Lena Dunham. 

Hannah's (male) editor has just criticized her as being Jane Austen-esque, has made disparaging remarks about the "boring" stuff she's writing about female friendship, has in fact told her, "If you're not getting fucked right now, make it up." We know that Hannah doesn't handle criticism of her writing well, since *cough cough* last time someone tried, she accused him of homophobia (unrelated) and dumped him. So it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to imagine that part of what's going on in her anxiety-riddled head is a fear that her editor (who is also one of her literary heroes) is right, that she needs to have a man and/or be writing about a man to be truly interesting. And so she reaches out to Adam desperately, without first deciding "if he's the greatest person in the world or the worst," something she'd previously acknowledged she needed to spend some time sorting out (easily the wisest thing the character has ever said). Just a few episodes ago, Hannah was afraid Adam would break down her door. Now she thinks it sounds like salvation. We know something's wrong.

What I'm saying is: I don't believe this ending. I mean, I don't believe it as a "happy" ending. I think what Dunham is doing is pretty complicated: Presenting us with all the trappings of a happy ending, but with enough history and enough subtext that we all feel uncomfortable, mistrustful, and unsatisfied.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

thank goodness

Someone besides me is taking The Atlantic to task for their reliably sh*tty and alarmist coverage of, well, anything related to women. (Also here)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

the saddest poem in San Francisco

Biking to work this morning, I passed a Muni bus going the opposite direction. The screen on the front of the bus said: "MUNI TURNS 100"* and then as I passed it, the screen changed to say, "OUT OF SERVICE."

If only it could have been like this.
*I am paraphrasing. It may have said, "100 Years of Muni," but I think you see my poem.
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