Archive for September, 2014|Monthly archive page

I’m late, I’m late for very important dates

In Artists, Circus, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision, The Art of Peace on September 30, 2014 at 8:20 am

Oy I have no time for this. Watching and enjoying a Bobby McFerrin vid at the moment (MozART GROUP and Bobby McFerrin), while time flies, a friend sends an urgent message from the place where she and others are getting tear-gassed, and I have coaching sessions, meetings, and and and…)


At some point this evening, I’ll start reading through from the top again after which I think I’ll call this one: Done. (No, that won’t be the title but the general status of the thing.)

(The Art of Peace? Ain’t easy but on one of the videos done on the deforestation site, one guy has it down pretty well. He films, comments, and talks to the gendarmes as individuals ‘oh yeah, there you are, hi, saw you last night, oh hey, you, thanks for playing soft with the truncheon, well done’ and so on. Well done, guy, well done.)


Back home before taking off again. You don’t need to understand French to watch vids. Best I can say: they check the inside of the tents before burning them. Hurray for civilization.

That said: the extreme right wing represented by the Front National now has elected officials in several French towns, at the National Assembly and, now, in the Senate also.

Someone looked up this blog from Austria this morning. Among the still-living, I suppose there are fewer and fewer people to know about the days of the First Austrian Republic, the one then-Chancellor Dollfuss ended with a “self-switch-off of Parliament.” Look it up on wikipedia : Austria – the section titled Interwar period and World War II. Not as a way to freak yourself into panic and paralysis. As a reminder.

And then?

Keep singing. Keep dancing. Keep laughing? You bet. More than ever.

The Day/La Journée

In Current reading, En français dans le texte, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, TV on September 29, 2014 at 7:10 am

Going on twenty to eight now. Either the police have arrived already at le Testet, or they are about to show up and “clear out” the protesters. Next on the program: the scraping away of the topsoil so as to bring the area down to inert clay.

Yesterday’s senatorial election saw the election of two of the Front National’s candidates. On a French “infotainment” show, one of Monsieur Sarkozy’s loyal sidemen refused to debate with the journalist from Mediapart. Accordingly (I insist on this word), accordingly, the show’s host asked Pleyel to leave because Monsieur Hortefeux did not wish to share the stage with him. Pleyel leaves, Hortefeux comes on and does his song and dance to minimal throat clearing from the other journalists still around.

A friend, yesterday, an elected member of the local city council : “Unless we take the time away from our full-time jobs and from everything else that gives meaning to our lives, we’re nothing but voting machines,” she says. Who’s side are you on? With me – yayyy team. Against me – oh boy, watch out, you’ll be sorry.

And so on.

Yesterday, I posted this significant question on my Facebook page. Ah me, sentimentality. The sweet baby, the adorable munchkin, the hooker with the heart of gold, mommy serving up the best turkey on record. All sent off to the back of the props and replaced by dangling eyeballs, multiple eviscerations, the extreme closeups on warts, horrors and sexual couplings devoid of any trace of anything resembling humor or caring. Guns, guns, guns and every other blunt or cutting instrument on hand.

Something, lost in the fray. Several things, in fact. Most of them having to do with a refusal to let others set the whole agenda as if your job was to press the right button or applaud when the studio sign lights up. Exit Pleyel, enter Hortefeux, for example.

Humor. Getting the mix right.


P.S. I’m still struggling with the final pages of Pelecanos’s Soul Circus. Again, a translation issue maybe. The world in which the story plays out is one in which things matter a lot more than people do. Wearing the right shirt or angling your hat the right way can make all the difference. Still. Do I need to know the color of someone’s pants when said color doesn’t add a thing to the scene? (just an example).

Allez. The day/la journée.

That’s all right

In Artists, Circus, Current reading, Irish Mist, Revision, Uncategorized on September 28, 2014 at 8:47 am

– What’s all right?

– The massive wash of disappointment. The struggle against the pull of gravity. The let-down. The notion of: here we go, once again. The winners tell the story. The losers cry wolf.

It’s all right. One thing to read about horror and carnage abroad, another to witness a policeman shoving a friend off her bicycle and into a ditch. A casual out-of-my-way kind of shove. The way you’d kick aside a piece of garbage littering the sidewalk.

I won’t go into the sight of another friend scrambling some thirty-five feet up in the air to avoid getting knocked down by the ones attempting to capture him. Nor will I go into the sight of someone’s hand after it took a direct hit from a non-lethal bullet. (Why did he take the hit? Because he was watching a piece of his life get cut down. That’s all? Watching? That’s all. No lights, no cameras, no thumping soundtrack.)

Will I go into the fact  the one who had  his hand ground into the earth received a fourth-month suspended sentence  (the judge refused to view the scene as it was recorded by witnesses)? No, I won’t. I won’t talk about them because they were told to clear out, and didn’t. Therefore, they were wrong and deserved whatever they got, right? But of course, my friends, but of course.

It’s all right. Just another little bit of wetland destroyed. Just another bunch of kooks and activists disturbing the peace. Ah. The peace. Fuzzy, fluffy animals in a petting zoo. Froglets in a Natural Sciences class for five-year olds. So cute. So sweet.


I’m sure the translators have done their best. I took a section of Soul Circus by George P. Pelecanos in the original and attempted to write the switch-over to French. It didn’t play any better than what the translators for the French edition managed to do by using local slang. I’d have to read the whole thing in English to know if the moralizing comes across as heavy-handed in the original. Maybe I would have been as disappointed by Richard Price’s Lush Life, had I read it in translation.

Perhaps moralizing isn’t the right word either. Indignation, despair, holding up the evidence for all to see – broken lives, broken bodies, crack, meth, cocaine, bullies, lost kids etc etc etc. Some of us know a chapter or two about those kinds of lives and expect something else when we watch the parade through somebody else’s eyes.


– What do you expect?

– I don’t know. I’ll have to deal with my own crashes and find my own way to bring at least one of the characters in my world to a place worth some of the struggle, and deserving something better than a back-handed swat into the nearest ditch.

Or, if nothing else, one of my characters will have to get the final and best word, quip or parting line he or she can deliver. At which point, I’ll move on to something else.

Winging, adjusting

In Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Theater on September 27, 2014 at 5:49 am

No idea how this will go. I have some idea of what “works”  in coaching children or teen-agers – one or two at a time. The knowledge has grown through experience. I find working with adults much harder. As for the mindset – head first i.e. give us theory, lots and lots of theory: I tend to agree with a person who posted a photo of herself as she practiced walking a slack line. Try it, get the feel of it in your body. Theory will follow practice.

However. Grown-ups need that reassurance. They need to feel those long years spent doing homework and learning the dates of historical happenings were not wasted. So, I’ve pulled together a few examples from the French theater tradition, in case they’re needed at the workshop this morning. My inclination is more to finding out who the participants are, what they like, what they resist like the latest plague, what makes them laugh and lose their worry lines for a few seconds, and take the matter from there. We’ll see.

The theme of the workshop: writing for the theater. Aimed at non-professionals and non-writers who will read their work on December 20th. Part of a series of free workshops offered by the regional library system. Getting there by bus (the only one that runs to Gaillac from Graulhet on Saturdays). A friend offered to pick me up in the early afternoon so I don’t have to wait for the only bus back to Graulhet at six thirty.

The bus leaves in 57 minutes. Therefore, here ends today’s blogpost. I hope to meet up with my characters again this afternoon.


In Film, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on September 26, 2014 at 6:37 am

In things to do (at some point today, when I’m not sputtering with frustration): stage another attempt at resolving the phone and internet provider screw-up – the switchover of the account to my name, still not effective and the land phone still not working. Notwithstanding these minor annoyances, the money flows out nicely from my account with no hitches whatsoever. So far, phone calls from my friends’ land lines haven’t met with much success, and my two letters to the service provider have received form-letter type responses. Minor is as minor does. I’m about to suffocate under a landslide of paper. Suffocating just ain’t my thing.

It doesn’t take all that much to keep me going: an eleven-year old boy, about to leave for a month because of a family emergency who writes “I’ll miss you” in his notebook? I’m good to go for another stretch.

But pacing is a big problem. Every centime is a struggle, not just for me but for most of the people I know.  Someone working a twelve-hour day? Another with four kids, finding nothing but twelve-hour part-time work in broken shifts spread over five days? The only advantage to being surrounded by others in similar circumstances: most of them understand when the emotional pressure cooker blows. Your turn today, my turn tomorrow. Onward, forward, under, through and/or the long way around.

Getting enough of a grip for writing to happen. Writing other than rants, vents, screeds and hollers of frustration. Or writing that makes something worthwhile of these messy states, despite their less-than appealing origins.

In movieland (the low-budget kind, at any rate), a grip is someone who holds the mike just out of camera range while the principals whisper, confide, share what the audience will see as a private moment. I suppose film productions with big budgets use a mechanical arm to do the job, these days.

“I’ll miss you”, the boy wrote. Then, he left and I re-entered the surrealistic world of a girl who must think long and hard before risking the right answer to 9 + 1 = … Who knows what may have happened since the last time when the correct answer was 10?

Enough already

In Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on September 25, 2014 at 7:47 am

Months? No, years of ” selective spamming” on this blog. What nobody else can see doesn’t exist? Same as a falling tree makes no sound if there’s no one around to hear it?

Bullshit. Back-handed, under-handed stuff happens all the time. Someone speaks out; the info doesn’t get relayed. Another protests or records a protest on camera? The bit of film disappears. A matter deserving an answer? The question gets treated as if it threatened the Security of Nations. Why? Because somebody’s nose is out of joint at the notion photo ops don’t always lead to smiles and applause.

Of course, over here on this stupid little platform by a silly old woman, selective spamming only means extra aggravation for a silly old woman. Except I happen to be the silly old woman, so spammers rejoice. Added to the other aggravations? Your careful bits of needling work. Yes, they annoy. Yes, they add extra challenges to fairly-challenging times. I do not thank you for the additional annoyances. Don’t worry: I don’t expect any sympathy from spammers. (The pinch and the ouch, right? ha-ha-ha.)

Onward, as best I can.

Here, There and Many Other Places

In Artists, Games, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Theater on September 24, 2014 at 8:37 am

Improv. On stage  last night with someone his friends had brought along, telling him he was coming to watch a show. He’s a good thirty years younger than I am, and we had to improvise a scene from a troubled marriage.

Two (paradoxical) things I noticed during and after this second evening of improvisational work: 1) I forget myself best on stage in solos or in ensemble work. Improvising a scene with only one other person is the toughest. 2) When the improv doesn’t take off or sustain itself, I feel a huge longing to drop  my adopted local accent and revert to the one I acquired in childhood. As if the mimetic accents I use to “blend in” create an additional barrier to spontaneity. Not as noticeable in “real life” as on stage.

Stage work. At any level of proficiency (or lack thereof), the toughest is reverting to a child-like level of involvement in the game. A child doesn’t pretend he’s Zorro or a Masked Avenger. He is – until an adult snaps him out of the game with instructions to wash up for supper, or quit dawdling and get the homework done now.

A writer can dawdle. Search for the right word. Move a sentence around until it fits.Every word on the page counts – but  it doesn’t matter how much time you put on getting down the breathless account from the messenger. Not so when acting. You can’t just stand there – unless the standing carries an emotional charge you wish to convey to the audience. How long a pause, and to what end. What comes next, how you react to what the other person on stage provides – or doesn’t.

Meanwhile, in story: two characters at a critical juncture. Burned bridges behind them. Whereto now, and how? To do what? Together? Separate? They now carry the weight not only of their own stories. Whether aware of this or not, for the reader, they bear the accumulated effects of whatever occurred earlier, in Parts 1 and 2 of the story. Up to the writer to play the role of the audience, in a way. Attentive, interested, not too sure what to make of it all. Waiting for…something that may show up only once the tale is done.


Are you my friend?

In Artists, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Opinion, Revision, Tea on September 23, 2014 at 7:41 am

A recent comment by an official brought me back to the mid-nineties. Back then, part of my job consisted in meetings with administrators from various Canadian ministries to argue in favor of changes to the Copyright Act. I argued in favor of singers and musicians who weren’t receiving any payment whatsoever for the public performance of their recordings. Broadcasters, of course, met with the same officials to argue the famous line: We make their Careers by Giving Them a Forum. We’d argue back: You’re Making your Money Thanks to Their Performances. And so on.

The comment that made my ears stand out in astonishment back then: a young man, making his way up the echelons in one Minister’s office said : “Of course, we’ll pay special attention to the broadcasters (subtext: after all, they give us free air time during elections). That’s what democracy is all about.”

Some twenty years later, I still bat my eyes in amazement at the notion democracy is all about the most powerful lobby getting favors from elected officials. Call me naive, but the buddy system has been around since the dawn of the ages – both a good and a bad thing. But democracy = My lobby’s stronger than your lobby? Ah. Gee, I thought democracy was about government by the people and for the people. I know, I’m old and addle-brained.

This isn’t an idle addle-brained thought, though. Both here and elsewhere, the present context is one in which stating a personal opinion can lead to sanctions, bullying, personal threats or the cutting-off of funds to an organization deemed “unfriendly” to the authorities. Anonymity as the refuge of the true philanthropist and of the exact opposite, too. License to help and license to wound.

Stating a personal opinion. How, where, to whom and to what end. Living with the consequences – which ones, how and to do what?

Life. Story. Story. Life.

I add the category Tea on this post because of a quote I just encountered by one Arthur Wing Pinero (whom I knew nothing about until a half hour ago). The quote reads: “While there is tea, there is hope.”

With any luck, this also applies to coffee.

Road Songs

In Artists, Food, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner on September 22, 2014 at 6:42 am

Of course, after joking with my friend about a metabolic transfer of lipids from my body to his (beneficial to both of our frames), I asked a lot of questions: how he keeps the body going after twenty-five days of a hunger strike, for one. Water with lemon juice and a spoonful of honey, a clove of garlic every day and one fruit per week, came the answer.

OK but why and for how long, I asked next. The French senatorial elections are on September 28th. Our local candidate won’t change his public stance in the upcoming week. He’s chosen a strong line against the protesters, as did the Prime Minister (while letting the Minister of the Environment do her ineffectual little side show.) Therefore, how long can you hold out and why, bub?

I’ll stop when my body tells me to, comes the answer. I’m striking for two things: a public debate over the deforestation and the planned reservoir. Most of all, I’m striking for the kids holding out in the trees and on the ground.

In front of a small crowd of supporters yesterday, one of those kids told of his grandmother joking with him when he was small, and saying: “You’ll see, some day they’ll have us pay for water.” So much for the joke, he said. Some day, they’ll have us pay for the air. The rich will get the cleaned and scrubbed one. The poor will breathe the rest of the toxic brew.

The question being whether this will happen some day, as he says, or whether it’s happening right now.

The world in which we live. Beauty – lots. Ugliness – tons.  My friend, the hunger striker, who lived in Australia as a boy, says life is about the Road Song you sing. He’s read through all of his mother’s unpublished notebooks, and set them up in the attic. His younger brother who doesn’t care for this kind of stuff, said he should burn them. I said: I’m convinced that even if Barbara’s notebooks disappeared in smoke and ashes, story particles from them would spread everywhere.

Living/Writing/Living/Writing/Living etc etc

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Film, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner, TV on September 21, 2014 at 7:16 am

As I suspected, nobody showed up for the workshop yesterday. I watched The Eye of the Day, the first film in Retel Helmrich’s Trilogy.* The films, done over a twelve-year period, follow the lives and times of an Indonesian family from the slums of Jakarta. I happened to grab on camera one of the funniest moments in the film. Without the preceding scene, though, I’m the only one to see the humor.

In the preceding scene, one of the family members measures out a hand-painted electoral poster of President Suharto. This done, he saws off the bottom part of the flimsy plywood. He’s left with the torso, the head and the hands of the figure, beckoning the Indonesian people forward. In the scene I captured on screen, the man gives a drink of water to his pigeons in their new and nifty high-rise. They spring forward – like characters in the TV show Laugh-In – from cut-out portions of Suharto’s campaign poster: DSCN4255 In the background to the screen: a yellow work helmet worn by a member of the artists’ collective during a demonstration against the now-completed deforestation of a piece of local wetland. This member of the collective is a clown by profession. He had glued bird feathers on his helmet à la Tweetie. He’s a smart clown. He glued the feathers to the helmet, not to his head. Therefore, the helmet got cracked by the policeman’s truncheon. This is why people wear helmets in hazardous jobs.

No, I didn’t get much writing done yesterday. Improv is one thing. Jumping in while the skipping ropes twirl, another.

*Position among the stars from Dogwoof Films