Archive for August, 2014|Monthly archive page


In Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Sundays on August 31, 2014 at 6:55 am

A tricky spot in the revision begins just about here (and just as the holiday period draws to an end, too – boo, hiss and c’est la vie).

To summarize: in order to get a better sense of where its main strengths and weaknesses lay, I pulled apart something I wrote a few years ago, and divvied up the material in three uneven piles. I’ll disregard the first pile this morning. It’s more or less stand-alone for the time being. This leaves me with a few characters in two and three that are about to meet up. The writer had better get ready for some tension because not too many of those characters seem willing to play second fiddle. How they’ll go about sharing the stage: here, the writer rests both elbows on the table and looks up to the ceiling.

Cross-currents, cross purposes, basic disagreements on what matters and what doesn’t. Plus, brute strength (I’m bigger, stronger, more powerful than you are) vs the devious strategies and tactics of the weaker players who consider their own values (or refusals to commit to a side) as a basic right. Passive resistance, refusal to budge. Meanwhile, here come the bulldozers.

Voilà for the writing part. In real life, there’ll be a quick dash down to the market before spending a good part of the day as a guest at someone’s home – unless the whole program has changed due to unforeseen circumstances – the someone’s life is heavy on unforeseens.

All true

In Artists, Film, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on August 30, 2014 at 7:55 am

The contrasts. The reversals. The contradictions. The pieces that don’t fit, yet, there they are, side by side.

“Oh yes,” she says, trimming my hair. “How the children must love you. You are such a gentle person, they must confide in you.” I look in the mirror – how can I not? A gentle person, in whom children confide. Gosh, I guess there is some of that in the mix. She proceeds to make me look as if I had a lot more hair than I do in real terms, charges me less than the going rate, and gives me a pile of magazines to take home.

Among other finds in the magazines: an interview of Patricia Arquette concerning acting, looks, and the state of film production in the studios she knows best. “The business has changed,” she says. “Bankers took over the studios, people who never saw Raging Bull and couldn’t care less… They want you to make a blockbuster or a movie that will cost one hundred thousand and bring in one hundred million…And for a woman over thirty-five, television offers great roles. My sister Rosanna made Searching for Debra Winger on the difficulty of growing old for an actress.”

Patricia Arquette is forty-six. The interview was timely reading. I watched her in the film Boyhood last night. I don’t know if the movie will rake in one hundred million – but shot on a budget of two point four million, it’s a lightweight in big studio terms. The person sitting next to me almost fell off her chair at the notion that anyone might consider two million dollars an insignificant amount of money.

I read in The New York Times this morning that Barack Obama has turned philosophical. The world has always been a messy place, children, Americans shouldn’t worry too much about the strife and turmoil out there. Eight words for the title. Thirty-one for the summary. I left it at that because I save my clicks for irresistible stuff. The web version of TNYT allows ten free reads per month.

Allez? Onward? Of course. But what about life and career choices? What about the juggling acts they require? Do opponents to abortion clinics object because of the loss of future consumers, or because they don’t want to share their power over life and death decisions?

The world is a messy place, no doubt about it.


La Rentrée minus Four

In Local projects, Revision on August 29, 2014 at 7:33 am

What was the best part? Let’s see. In no particular order. The best part of these summer holidays was:

– sleeping in till seven

– staying up till three

– the two weeks of total retreat minding a friend’s house and spending all my time with the characters I was re-visiting at that point

– revising  as such

– doing what I wanted when I wanted to do it

(oops, thunder rolling in, just in time for the walk outside and the trek for the kiddies’ school supplies)

La Rentrée. Of course, fall is back-to-school in many countries but La Rentrée is a French phenomenon that extends to every aspect of people’s lives. August is Les Vacances. September is La Rentrée. Prior to September twenty-first, you don’t eat soup. Once Fall is official, you do. And so on.

Ergo, La Rentrée is about to descend on me (oops, and now the lightning strikes; so much for the walk with the dog under the plane trees).

Yes, I’d best shut off the power supply to my precious laptop. All I meant to say was: revision is about to get squeezed into the work agenda, same way my feet are about to get squeezed back into closed shoes instead of sandals. C’est la vie.

oops, lightning  closer – bye-bye.

Sprinklers, Sparklers and Speculations relating to biochemistry

In Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Theater on August 28, 2014 at 8:21 am

Ah, Chekhov. Thus far, my favorite tiny moment in La Steppe finds young Iegor stepping into a village shop. One side of it is dedicated to fabrics and groceries; the other,  to barrels of tar and horse harnesses. The boy steps into the tar and leather side because those smells appeal to him. He is walking on beaten ground that’s been watered to keep the dust under control. He notices that the person who did the sprinkling must be a whimsical type or a free thinker because the sprinkling takes the form of drawings and cabalistic symbols.

As my favorite aunt once said as she swept her kitchen floor: it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.

Must read Shakespeare’s Richard III again. Must get my hands on some William Trevor. And so on. Must do the things I’ve promised to do, also. Although the dutiful side of my personality is somewhere back there in the cluttered closet right now. I suppose some locals must be upset with me; but then, none of the locals will write my stories for me, will they? (Of course, since none of the locals read my stories, I can’t expect them to feel the slightest twinge of sympathy for the way I choose to spend the time during my unpaid holidays. C’est la vie. I’ll deal with their frustrations and mine soon enough.)

The title: a reminder to myself of some of the fundamentals involved at this point in the revision.

Prior to revising the next scene

In Artists, Current reading, Film, Irish Mist, Poetry, Revision on August 27, 2014 at 7:59 am

Writing so effective as to produce streams of tears in the reader? Or, as happened last night, writing so extraordinary as to induce auditory hallucinations.

True, I was engrossed in writing of my own for most of the day. By the time I decided to break for what was left of the evening, I was hearing the voices of two of my own characters. However. I knew these to be inner voices, and I knew I needed to break before moving on to the next scene.

I picked up a small paperback from Gallimard’s Folio classique collection. In it: three stories by Chekhov. I started reading La Steppe. Settled in with the four characters for a buggy ride through the endless plains of ripe wheat and the arrival at sunset at a roadside inn – if such a word applies to the place. There, in their full flesh of words, appeared before me the two characters that served as Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s inspiration for the two brothers in the Turkish film  Winter Sleep. There was no mistaking them, nor the incident involving the burning of a substantial life-saving amount of money by one of them. I read on. The characters set out again under what Chekhov describes as a pale green sky, seeded with stars, cloudless, stainless.., I won’t presume to translate the ten lines that follow or, if ever I do, I’ll take the time needed to do it well.

At any rate, this is the moment a voice chose in which to speak up. I didn’t pay close attention at first. The bedroom window was open. I figured someone was in the street, talking out loud. Except the voice seemed to be coming from the living room and spoke Russian. A gruff man’s voice, disputing something of a domestic nature. I looked at the book. I raised my head. Hm, said I, methinks it’s time to put the body to rest.

So I did.

Things that happen

In Film, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Uncategorized on August 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

I’m almost tempted to begin this one by signing myself first – the way we did as children in school, prior to starting morning prayers.

Ah me. Let us proceed. First off, in the mail yesterday, one and only one item: a letter from one of la République Française‘s multitudinous arms informing me that my request for independent worker status (the one the website insisted it had never received) was duly registered on March the third. As of that date, I have begun activities described as Formation continue d’adultes (a job title the  automatic feature on the website ascribed out of a list of unsuitable ones), at an address I did not choose (but no matter). I have two new ID descriptors attached to my humble person. Since this status took effect in March, I must now update my knowledge of the new taxation scheme applicable to my status as Independent Worker (travailleur autonome). Something tells me I’m about to lose a further thirty percent on any earnings I manage to pull in. Ah me.

However. (No, the phone situation isn’t fixed yet. No matter. One thing at a time, so to speak.) A former work colleague  –  a carpenter by trade – showed up in the early evening while I grabbed a bite to eat. He had a brainstorm that should help keep my tiny kitchen out of the below-zero figures in wintertime. Out of scrap bits of lumber and insulating material, he’ll build two shelving units he will retrofit into the existing space. This means my kitchen shelves will not longer be deep enough to accommodate two or three families of illegal immigrants. But they never did in the first place, so no one will be the worse for wear.

The film, Winter Sleep: acting so good, I often ignored the French subtitles. I don’t understand a word of Turkish (except for “excuse me” because the Turks use the French word pardon). With acting that good, there are entire scenes where all you need is a quick glance at a word or two.

Among the nine people in the audience last night: a little girl (six? seven?) who lives with her grandmother. I’m willing to bet neither the little girl nor her pillow were charged admission. Her grandmother dropped me off at home after the showing. This is how I know that the little girl was awake when the young boy in the movie threw a stone into the window of the landlord’s truck, and that she woke up again when he saw his father throw the landlord’s money into the fire. Her comment: wouldn’t the little boy be better off living alone with his mother, down in the village?

Apart from which : Revision. Plus, revision. Plus, ongoing revision.


Learning from what others see

In Irish Mist, Revision on August 25, 2014 at 8:27 am

So here is a character who hasn’t achieved much of anything in her life, save for some twenty years of physical comfort by dint of marriage. Physical comfort has a cost, as does everything else. Discovering what happens when she takes a step away from the comfortable life. What happens. How.

The necessary, in fact, the essential view from the outside. Someone, last night, saying how much he loathes photos of his person. He’s not the only one. Somewhat like hearing a recording of your own voice in casual conversation or in an argument with someone. “Me?” you say. “No way, that’s not me.”

The inner, the outer. Self-definitions. I am the one who…

– caused such and such to happen

– chose to leave school

– went on sabbatical and never came back

– stayed in the boring job so I could enjoy the golden years with a decent pension

– sacrificed everything to father, mother, sister, brother, children, country… wait, I’m not finished

Meanwhile, others say: ah yes, so-and-so, the one who…

(start the list here).

In front of where I live, Saturday morning: a violent argument between a man in his mid-nineties and his daughter  I imagine to be well into her seventies. An argument so loud, with verbal abuse so violent I expected blows to follow. I told the man to stop it – after all, he was the adult, so to speak. I’m sure the argument picked up again at their home, and the man was beside himself with anger when I presumed to tell him enough already, we don’t have to listen to this kind of garbage. Why and how this relates to the character, I don’t know. Brain connections happen, then they lead somewhere or they don’t.

Resting, resting, one-two-three…uh, some other time

In Film, Food, Fun, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, photography, Poetry, Revision, Theater, Uncategorized on August 24, 2014 at 9:01 am

Hand to harried brow. Is there no end to this business of words, words, words?

But, in fact, I wish I could write a piece of dramatic dialog as brilliant as the one in a twelve-minute short I saw last night. Called “Pacotille” and written by Eric Jameux, it features a boy trying to win back the affection of his girl friend by offering her a heart-shaped pendant engraved with the + qu’hier – que demain formula. Trying to explain that loving her today less than he will love her tomorrow does not work out to the advantage of their relationship. A hilarious and sad , sad and hilarious piece of mutual misunderstanding.

I had no intention of going out last night. But then, the manager of the local cinema offered me a free meal plus free admission to several movies, if I took some photos of the evening. The local brewer threw in a free beer. I’ve been bought off for less, so what the hell. Some parts of the evening were excellent; others dragged but even those are useful if you’re analyzing other people’s performances with thoughts on how they could be improved.

Allez. Holidays almost over. Market. The bakery next door, closing down for two weeks. Words, words. Films. Theater. Novels. Poems. Music…Oh, the phone (no, this is Sunday – TAKE CARE OF THE PHONE TOMORROW – no, tomorrow is Monday, will the shop be open




In Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision, Theater on August 23, 2014 at 7:12 am

If, on any particular morning, your best friend is a bowl of café au lait, be strong of heart when you click open your usual news websites. There’s enough horror out there to make you wonder why the hell you still bother turning your camera to a few flowers or an old wooden door that has made it through two or three centuries on this planet.

However. If you are so lucky as to have real contacts from time to time with real people who share some of your interests, drink your coffee, and take in the assortment of things thrown your way – including a stunning photograph that arrives as the number three in a series of virtual encounters with a meteorological phenomenon known as The Glory.

Then, move on.

Received Boleslavsky’s Acting The First Six Lessons yesterday. Part of the elements simmering on the back burner for a scheduled series of workshops on writing for the theater. My intention being to start the series with a few exercises where the would-be writers will begin by experiencing themselves as the actors of whatever they intend to write. Before writing short scenes for a public reading in December.

Personal writing: Whether the first part of what I’m seeing now as a three-part exercise deserves the words The End yet or not, I don’t know. I wrote them in last night anyway since I don’t see how I can push any of that part of the story any further for the time being.

Culling – which activities to pursue, which ones to let go. Where to put my energy in every day living, and in writing. In a few weeks, I’ll be two years short of the great seven-oh. Most of the people I know are in their forties or younger. Fine by me, but you don’t use your time the same way in your late sixties as you do when you’re twenty or thirty years younger.

When all else seems to fail: music. A Schumann binge yesterday, thanks to Richter on youtube. A question of balancing out the load when the horrors want to grab all the attention. Do less, do more, do what needs doing. Don’t forget to look up, out and away, every chance you get.

The writing part isn’t a problem

In Irish Mist, Revision on August 22, 2014 at 7:23 am

The slow reading-through part. Word per word. Corrections. Additions, deletions, niggling questions characters will or will not resolve before the writer adds the words The End to this part of a reiteration. In a vague way, the story is now divided into three parts, each one being of an approximate novel or novella size. All three belonging together, so this foray into story land will turn into a three-part something.

The yearning. Not for world fame. Not even for local fame. Not for fame, period. The yearning for the nod from Out There. As much as I would like to consider that all that matters is doing the stories justice, it’s not so. You write them and you have specific readers in mind when you do so – at least, I do. Sometimes, the silence is harder to take. The absence of a personal acknowledgement. The absence of any notion of appreciation. Hard, what else can I say? Something childish about it, that much I realize – but who says the childish part in us doesn’t need acknowledgement to the very last? Acknowledgement that doesn’t take the form of an anonymous flag or Like or unknown search terms.

Voilà. Some mornings tougher than others. Going from zero to full throttle in less than five seconds: not always feasible.