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Archive for March, 2014|Monthly archive page

Drafts: proceed from here as best you can

In Artists, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Sanford Meisner on March 31, 2014 at 7:42 am

Things could be much worse. Not the most thrilling way to start a post or a week. Nonetheless, the town does not wake up to an Ultra-Right wing majority in City Hall this morning. If you don’t consider that good news, I guess you’re reading the wrong blog.

Moods and wind currents around me: choppy, contradictory. Add snappish, exalted, crestfallen, stunned, relieved. I’m pretending to maintain an even keel through it all. Calling it: pretending as truthfully as possible in trying circumstances. Not mentioned anywhere in Sanford Meisner as a desirable trait for an actor. But then, I’ve never claimed to be one.

For all I know, I may not be much of a fiction writer either. Which is neither here nor there on the scale of existential matters I need to consider right now.

Allez. I wish I could remember the name of the two clowns battling everything from stepladders to blankets. Straight on to the next hair-pulling moment (I’ve stopped pulling at mine because it doesn’t make it grow any thicker or any faster. Live and learn.)

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The times

In Drafts, Hautvoir on March 30, 2014 at 8:17 am

The other face. You choose to stay – in your hometown, in an adopted one, in a temporary place that turns permanent. Your decision, no matter what reasons and explanations go with it. Your decision to stay or leave.

Coping. Doing as best you can. Sometimes, the best doesn’t amount to much – at least, not in other people’s estimation. You can add the negatives to your load or you can wander off into other territories – inner ones, that is. Denial? Yes. No one says you must walk to the road and take the threats and insults in the mug. No one says you must wring your hands and bewail the times. The times speak for themselves. What do you want to say about them? What would you rather leave to others?

I walk at a much slower gait, these days. When books and teaching materials make my satchel too heavy, I pull them along in my shopping cart. My personal writing: difficult to sustain. Whether in French or in English, a struggle.

But there was a clearing yesterday – an inner one. Open spaces of inner freedom. Whether they lead to anything worth sharing with others, I don’t know. But a sense of freedom is a precious commodity.

 

Once, there was a way

In Circus, Drafts, En français dans le texte, photography, Theater on March 29, 2014 at 8:42 am

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“Ces femmes de la chanson, du comptoir, de l’accordéon et du café, de la correspondance où il faut marcher, entre le métro qui s’arrête et l’autobus qui mène un peu plus loin, ces femmes qui parlent de leur mari, de leurs enfants, avant d’échanger les photos serrées dans leurs sacs vernis, et qui se tiennent par le bras parce qu’il n’y a rien de tel que l’amitié des femmes quand tout devient pareil. Ces femmes des banlieues, des barrières et des baraques qu’il suffit de voir aller, le pas pressé, danser, sourire, glisser entre les regards des hommes, pour sentir que si la solitude est partout la même, c’est là-bas, loin des beaux quartiers et du bel âge, qu’on sait le mieux la dire.”

(Frédéric Mitterrand, Tous désirs confondus, ©RAPHO pour les photographies, © Actes Sud 1988 pour le texte, le choix et la présentation des photographie)

***

Drafts.

As in: several.

Finding the photos that call for words, and those that speak for themselves, in one case. In French.

In the other case, in English: making my way through a huge divide filled with debris.

Presence

In Artists, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Sanford Meisner on March 28, 2014 at 7:18 am

Because it’s among the most recent of our acquisitions, as a species? Maybe. At any rate, it’s one of the first traits to get lost in the shuffle, when physical exhaustion and/or emotional upheavals take center stage.

Sense of humor. Irony. Ability to laugh at one’s own foibles instead of scapegoating other people.

Walking the fine lines. Between caution and cowardice. Between self-assurance and bluster.

Rants. Inside and out. Emotional excess of the unpleasant varieties.

I couldn’t find the right music last night. Couldn’t find the right book nor the right words for my own writing. I slept. Woke. Angsted. Slept some more. In dreamtime, a friend sang on stage, all the while performing a complex series of hand claps. A kind of coded language. A kind of reassurance.

Facebook, Twitter, youTube, blogs, screens, phones. Useful, precious.Most useful, most precious of all: what the title implies. The knowledge you’re not alone even when you’re just a tad overwhelmed  by how tough the climb can get, at times,  even on level ground.

“Living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.” At least as demanding: living truthfully in real ones.

In five minutes or less?

In Drafts, Local projects, Music, Uncategorized on March 27, 2014 at 6:45 am

Not this morning.

Something that holds together, in this spot. This evening, maybe, if I’m not crawling on my knees by then. (If I’m crawling, I can’t reach the keyboard.)

***

Back from a day that didn’t have much to recommend it in terms of jolly ho-ho-ho, I find a piece of blue in my mailbox that has nothing to do with the fine old perfume called L’Heure Bleue. 

This latest piece of electoral propaganda, produced by those fine people who call others corrupt among other niceties, has, among several other problems, huge issues with spelling and grammar. (I’ve spent most of my morning and afternoon dealing with spelling and grammar.)

These fine people who claim to represent the finest flower of Frenchitude fighting against the obscure forces threatening same can’t spell, and can’t be bothered to check their verb tenses nor to get a noun to agree with its qualifier. I guess they’re too busy rooting out “obscure and depressive stalinism” among other ills. (From what I gather,  proof of the lurking stalinism consists of someone having tagged one of their posters. I guess they missed another candidate’s poster getting a touch of rouge on the cheeks and on the lips – an obvious and direct insult to all women, no? No? Oh.)

Etc.

They add they will not allow themselves to be ridiculed and insulted. They intend to press charges against anyone guilty of defacing posters or otherwise questioning or disagreeing with their views.  I wouldn’t dream of insulting anyone. As for ridicule, they handle it just fine on their own. Need no help from me.

Still. I wouldn’t have minded finding a bit of the fine old perfume version of L’Heure Bleue in my mailbox rather than a depressing rant. Guess I’ll have to find some music to soothe mind, body and soul. Man, some days are tougher than others.

The not-so-distant sound of boots

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Drafts, Local projects, TV on March 26, 2014 at 7:31 am

Where to begin. With the trip to the supermarket? An unusual event for me. Someone drove me there for the purpose of replacing a printer that’s never worked. Still no replacement. Instead, among other eye-openers,  a twenty-minute wait in front of a wall filled with large screens. The same show appeared on all of them.

The superior power of television resides in the fact moving images capture your attention, no matter how inane, ugly, vulgar or plain stupid.In this case, the images were all four: two gentlemen of the pseudo-journalist variety sat at a table, voicing rehashed opinions not worth recording. They were surrounded by young women doing the current equivalent of pole dancing in a strip joint. I don’t own a TV, so I was struck by the fascination and the numbing effect of the moving images.

***

Among other occupations, I’m sorting through hundreds of photos of the local Street Festival. The difference between the passive TV viewing experience vs the public’s involvement in a live performance. Involvement. Hands on. You don’t like the show, you move over to the other venue. You follow a performance through winding streets. You step around a pile of horseshit. You laugh with folks you’ve never met before. And so on.

The sound of live people laughing? In a public place? Some folks don’t like that.

***

I’m not a French citizen. I can’t vote. People with the right to vote who don’t, astound me. Of course, voting requires getting off your ass, clicking off the TV and missing one more gyration in deep squat by several young women treated as if they were disposable paper hankies (the fact the young women see nothing wrong with that, not being the issue. They’ll learn, maybe).

At issue for now:  while the TV’s on, the sound of boots is just another sound effect, same as canned laughter or applause.

***

Story in the midst of all this? Struggling for air time.

Ah, the good old days

In Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Theater, TV on March 25, 2014 at 7:55 am

This isn’t gearing up to be the most pleasant week on record around here. Not the worst week on record either, although by their general attitude, you’d think some folks long for worst-case scenarios. Something to do with frustration and unresolved inner conflicts. Something to do with the scapegoating syndrome. Something to do with the temptation to let others decide, leaving the passive one with full rights to complain. All governments are lousy. What the hell, let others decide, they’re all crooks anyway, etc.

Worst case scenarios. The unthinkable come to pass. Something like peering over the edge of a lake of boiling lava –  from the comfort and safety of your living room. The boiling lava’s on TV. Somebody else breathed the sulfurous fumes. You get nothing but the fascinating play of light and dark flickering across the screen.

All right. Where does this take me, writing-wise? Extremes feed on one another, one extreme serving as an excuse for excessive reactions from the counterpart. The middle road is a spongy breeding ground of obfuscation. In medio does not stat virtus.

Here. Now. Focus. Harder when people are shouting contradictory messages around you? Much harder. In The Tightrope, the film Simon Brook made of his father Peter conducting an acting class. The moment when three actors work off one another’s energy: one, encouraging the “tightrope walker” to proceed, the other shouting dire warnings of disaster ahead. The interplay, moment by moment by moment.

What happens in unpleasant times? How do the characters cope or disconnect?

Discomfort. How much. Of what kind. Handled in what way.

Spinning in Low-key

In Artists, Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Theater on March 24, 2014 at 7:22 am

Does low-key mean boring? Anything but, as my dreams reminded me. They combined low-key drama and low-key comedy. Inspired,  both, by a refusal to join into the histrionics. This is municipal election time in France. The level of histrionics expected in this week, between the first and the final ballot? High. Not to mention learned analyses and self-serving explanations passed off for same.

Attended a play in Gaillac, yesterday. Two actors, a huge cardboard box filled with discarded clothing – the stuff kids lose or “forget”  in the school yard. The actors pull out one item or another, and re-enact the small scenes preceding or following the loss. Parents and children sat entranced throughout. No histrionics, but delighted laughter or acute listening to each and every vignette. A welcome respite.

***

Among other titles brought home from my friend’s home the other day: a French translation of Dr Jill Bolte Taylor’s book recording the onset of and recovery from the massive   disruptions she encountered when ruptured blood vessels drowned out most of the systems handled by the left side of her brain. Again, total attention to and respect for the texture and the detail of each moment she reports from this experience (putting together a twelve-piece puzzle? But first, having to figure out what’s the right side and the wrong side of each piece, let alone which of them connect and which do not). Plus, of course, the evocations of scenes from the right-hand side of the brain. The place from which a Camus could draw inspiration for what he put in words as: “Au milieu de l’hiver, j’apprenais enfin qu’il y avait en moi un invincible été.” (In the midst of winter, I was finally learning there exists in me an  invincible summer.)

***

Plus, of course, the superior force of irony as both sides of the brain meet out on the bridge called corpus callosum and work out the deal of who goes first – the mystic, the efficiency expert or the clown.

Why structures stay put (most of the time)

In Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects on March 23, 2014 at 8:02 am

“Living it over and over again, I see that what stands out are moments, not facts. Moments and places, and often looks – certain unforgettable expressions which the human countenance registers only once or twice in a lifetime. As for chronology, cause and event, the record remains, like history itself, confused and baffling. Every one writes his own history of world events. If it were possible to compare accounts, we would be dismayed to discover that the historical has neither reality nor authenticity, that the past, private or universal, is an impenetrable jungle.”

(Henry Miller, The World of Sex, Calder & Boyars, London 1970 –  at least, for the paperback edition now in my possession.)

***

Disconcerting 1 : someone taking notes while I speak. Later, the woman laughs so hard while she writes, all I want to do is set my own writing aside and hear her read all about it out loud.

***

Disconcerting 2: in Part III, characters show up who were not included in the initial storyline. Their appearance messes up most of the writer’s preconceptions (but… isn’t that what the woman was jotting down? Something about following the characters where they don’t make sense any more?) In this case: the wife – at least the wife, not to mention everybody else who knows him – has to call him by one name and not another. Assuming she calls him Bill, for instance, he must appear as Bill on the payroll too. No? Ah-ha. Take that ball of string, Lucie, and make what you can of it.

***

The wallpaper’s gone, even at the top of the wall, thanks to a friend with longer arms and legs than mine. The wall itself now stands revealed, cracks, pits,  gouges and all. The real work begins.

J.E. Gordon : Structures or Why Things Don’t Fall Down. Part III (Chapter 9) Wall, Arches and Dams – or cloud-capp’d towers and the stability of masonry.

Of equal import in Part III of the draft: the woman falls in love with a structural engineer? This makes sense to me, the writer?

***

All this, as good a way as I can find to keep my mind off today’s first round in the municipal elections.

Plus, a piece of wallpaper

In Current reading, Drafts, Food, Hautvoir on March 22, 2014 at 7:40 am

I can keep all the other books I brought home from my friend’s home, except one. One of the relatives in Australia wants to read it, and the copy’s been in the family since his mother bought it, her son tells me. The paperback edition was published in nineteen seventy-eight at which time it cost three dollars and fifty cents in Australia, ninety-five pence in the UK, eighty cents in Malta and two ninety-five in New Zealand.

The book is important though. Whether reading through it once will be enough, I don’t know. Important for several reasons, at this point in my own writing. The characters met in the time period when the paperback edition was published. Their lives are quite different from those Henry Miller writes about in Book of Friends.  No matter. The energy, the attitude, the speech patterns.

The seventies. The present. Most of Part III plays on a sliding scale between those  two time periods. The same people, in their mid-thirties and early forties when they first meet in seventy-nine, meeting again in two thousand and thirteen.

As for the wallpaper, installed here some forty years ago, it inspires the name of a character. Why? Who knows. A piece of the wallpaper I’m pulling down gets added to the other artefacts gathering round for this part of the ride. Ah yes. The Crown Wallpaper showroom in Montreal. Where I officiated as a salesperson, laying out book after book of samples for interior designers and their customers – until my belly full of baby got in the way. How I snagged the job in the first place, I can’t recall. Because I spoke English, no doubt. Most of the customers lived in Upper Westmount. Six-year old children came in with their designer to choose the appropriate wallpaper for their bedroom and playroom – after a late breakfast of eggs bénédicte at the Ritz Carlton.

Where are they now, I wonder, the little six-year olds who would send an order back to the kitchen because the hollandaise sauce was prepared over ten minutes ago, they could tell by the texture?