Archive for November, 2014|Monthly archive page

Simple? Oh, que non

In Food, Local projects, Music, Revision on November 30, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Woke up to the sound of the One-Note Samba playing in my head. The brain was tilted toward music. Every external sound I heard triggered another bit of song or music – an owl, hooting in the garden, the swish of tires on wet pavement.

Three scenes left. Not happy with them. Some other order needed, some other missing element. Something to break the balance. Something that breaks the mold.


On my way to Sunday morning market. Two men in their Sunday best – pensioners with appropriate coverage. Based on appearances, I’d say they are retired civil servants. I don’t hear what comes before, or what comes after. As I walk by, one of the men says to the other : “Cher ami, je vais vous dire: c’est la fin d’une civilisation.” (Dear friend, I will tell you: this is the end of a civilization.) From the tone of voice, there could be no doubt as to where the two dear friends stood on the matter. They didn’t feel jaunty about it. My, my, my.


After the proffered glass of mint tea at one merchant’s stall, and the gift of two donuts at another. After the cheese “just ready, the way you like it”. After shopping intermingled with  greetings, salutations, and exchanges of latest news, two children in foster care share my table at L’Atlas while the foster parents sit at the other. The boy explains his gift-acquisition strategy to me (both parents now remarried elsewhere, the gift stream stretches out to unimaginable magnitudes.) The girl listens and takes good note.

Behind me, one of the locals who once threatened to blow up my apartment (but he couldn’t decide if he wouldn’t prefer smashing my head into a wall, instead. His indecisiveness has had obvious advantages on my general health and life span). I turn around. We nod greetings. He picks up his Lament with another local: they‘re taking over the whole terrace, he says. Soon, we won’t have a chair to sit on. (They, in this case, meaning persons of European lineage with no identifiable genetic traits from Northern Africa, sharing/occupying table space with men who have Tunisian, Algerian or Moroccan relatives.)


Back to the market across the street. Bantering going on in front of the chicken man’s roasting spit. Political bantering – is there any other kind? One of the gentlemen keeps eyeing me, trying to determine which end of the discussion gets my vote. “Madame est neutre,” he says. “Tout, sauf neutre, Monsieur,” I answer. The man sighs. “Things were so much simpler before my son married. An Algerian girl. She’s a sweetheart. Now, I can’t vote FN anymore. And as for Sarkozy… the Socialists…” He takes the cloudy sky for his witness.

The sky stays mum.


Be not afeard? (Or whistle when you are)

In Circus, En français dans le texte, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on November 29, 2014 at 8:39 am

We agreed on a few essential things, my circus friend and I: our job (and our personal inclinations) aren’t conducive to Do-gooding.

Do-gooding i.e. yes, of course, we must help these poor, unfortunate people. For instance, we must collect funds for them, and have them flow through the appropriate channels. Appropriate in what way? Well, we must insure these poor, unfortunate people  make proper use of the  money. Such as? No carbonated drinks for their children? A proper show of gratitude?

We also agreed there was a lot of good advice flowing from the national organizations, but not all of it made much sense at the local level. Public support for the family from those elected members of Council who showed up last week to protest the family’s eviction? Will not happen. They made it clear they were there as private citizens and could not/would not take a public stance on the issue.

(The family’s appeal for refugee status has been denied. The start of a battle for the right to stay here on other grounds. Refugee status denial is practically automatic, now that the government has officially declared their country of origin as “safe”.)


I’m writing this with one eye on the window. Overhead, the clouds have a yellowish tinge; further off, they are the color of lead. So far, we’ve escaped the cataracts of rain reported further South. May do so again.



Plantations going on this week on the site at Sivens where a young man died and thousands of trees were razed down. The whole barrage project now under investigation by the European Union.

Personal note to me: Energies. Where to put my own to best use.


I note one of the local news sources is down this morning. One whose coverage of the whole Sivens issue is particularly critical of the official pov. Coincidence? Part of the ongoing hacker wars – you put down my website, I put down yours? Maybe.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of the town of Montauban, officially declared ineligible for office because of her fraudulent coverup of campaign expenses, still reigns and presides over municipal assemblies in that town.  At a recent Council meeting, one media rep (and local taxpayer) got tackled by two bouncers and two local policemen for the crime of filming the proceedings, as was his constitutional right. The youngest and most enthusiastic member of the local constabulary applied a stranglehold to the man (he was resisting eviction, you see).

Two other media types who tried to record the scene on their phones had their arms of massive information grabbed and thrown to the ground. Ah, open and democratic assemblies of City Councils – one of the pride and joys of open and  democratic societies.

(Yes, I cannot lie:  the lady inspires for a fictional Mayor in a fictional town. Upcoming in a scene I’m about to revise.)



In Animals, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Scene Prep on November 28, 2014 at 6:59 am

All right. This is one of those places where life cooperates with the inner donkey. I mean, cooperates in making the inner donkey adopt the full stop.

No way. Can’t make me do it. Uh-uh. I said: no. Correction: I didn’t say no. Not My Fault. My body refuses to do it.

Little kids do a variation. They go limp. Passive resistance started way before sit-ins. Don’t wanna. You can’t make me.

– “This is pushing scene prep a bit far,  you know.”

Mental shrug.



Ah yes. The unreported part in one of yesterday’s coaching sessions. The child sliding down in the seat. I won’t do it. You can’t make me do it because I won’t – I won’t open my mouth, I won’t read, I won’t write, I won’t answer questions, I won’t look at you, I won’t. But I’ll listen to you beg, plead, and threaten. I’ll listen until the threat sounds ominous enough. At which point I will argue. (At which point some little kids get slugged. Others sort-of win by leaving the non-slugging adult frustrated. Nothing’s resolved. Better luck next time.)

Allez. Surely, all this heavy slogging can be put to use in the next scene. Everything about that scene calls for this kind of negative energy. Come on, little donkey mine, please don’t budge an inch. Dig those little heels in a bit more. Braced. Physical and mental attitude: Wouldn’t budge if my life depended on it. A bit more. Come on. Pretend you suffer from locked-in syndrome. All my trials, Lord. Three-two-one.

Don’t Move.


Call this one a Kilroy Was Here

In Current reading, notes, Revision on November 27, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Some days feel more like weeks. This was one of them.

Uh… that’s it?

No, I’m feeding the dog, and having a bite to eat while getting my bearings. No earth-shattering events – other than the European Union raising questions about the barrage in Sivens. For this, a young man had to die? (When the French President did his TV number, I recall his saying  that, within eight days, we would have all the truth and nothing but on what happened the night Rémi Fraisse died.  I guess François Hollande’s days are more like weeks, too.)

Story. The odd business of reading Steinbeck and feeling right at home when it comes to attitudes of the settled, their lawmakers and peace keepers to outsiders. The Okies, by any other name…

Story. On to the next scene.


Is this the sorriest post I’ve ever put up on this blog? No, but it’s right down there with other page-holders of the same ilk.

Allez? For sure.


In Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Music, Revision on November 26, 2014 at 8:25 am

Not a nasty person by any stretch of the imagination. Kind-hearted, in fact. But when I evoked the plight of a local family whose appeal for refugee status has been turned down, her immediate reaction was: “I have relatives in the Pas-de-Calais. The illegals are robbing them blind. Life is becoming untenable for them.” (“Them” referring to her relatives.)

I can’t blame her. First responder instinct: protect yourself, your relatives and your friends. Beyond the concept, lies the nitty-gritty fact illegal immigrants with no resources and no recourses need to eat drink and find shelter. This is harder to grasp in a graceful manner when the eating, drinking etc is done at your own expense.


A young boy. Severe distress. Family investigation by social services: ongoing. Severe distress: also ongoing.

During his melt-down yesterday, I was struck yet again by the way a person in the throes of “losing it” always has some part of his psyche acting as onlooker.  A kind of inner audience, something like the omniscient narrator? Or the observer in a dream. While the boy thrashed and hollered, his onlooker was aware of the other boy’s presence, and of his voice saying “you’re being ridiculous”. When I moved out of his line of sight, his eyes flickered out of the tantrum to spot where I was and what I was doing. And so on.

But the emotional flood was too violent for his onlooker to step in and wrest the show away. Even knowing the cost of his tantrum, he couldn’t stop until another authority figure stepped in. A man. One who doesn’t slug children, but he could. When they’ve had enough, isn’t that what grown men do to small boys?


Of course, there were better moments too. And once the phone calls and the meetings and the small islands of writing time were used up, I gloried in what? In Tom Joad’s masterful handling of the oil pan to replace the broken con-rod bearing on the Wilsons’ Dodge in The Grapes of Wrath. Damn good work – as in: damn good writing. But then, there’s not much I sneeze at in Steinbeck. (How’s that for modesty?)


The next bit in my revision still bothers me. I’ll take it one word at a time.

Single-point Multitasking

In Film, Food, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on November 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

The big issue in the next scene: walking the right path on the edge of broad farce. A tricky exercise. Too much: the whole thing sounds like an excerpt from a Louis de Funès movie.

The late de Funès being a great favorite with French people of all ages and all walks of life too. I can’t stand him – the grimacing and the hamming, more suited to a Punch and Judy show. Maybe people laugh at his antics as a reaction to the strict observance of manners that used to be the norm in this country? Doesn’t make de Funès any funnier in my eyes. Humor is as humor does. You can’t fake a real smile any more than you can fake a real belly laugh.

Too little


Interruption: a knock on the door. Someone on her way out of town, dropping off food so it won’t go to waste.

Phone calls.

Second knock on the door. Someone who’s made the wise choice of dropping in on a friend instead of contemplating ways to end it all.

Phone call. Someone asking me to double the number of hours of monthly coaching for a young man (and to send my bill along for payment.) Billing, yes. Important.

Work projects to consider for the upcoming year.

1 pm. A meal? Good idea.



As I was saying…


In Current reading, Drafts, Irish Mist, Local projects, notes, Revision, Theater on November 24, 2014 at 8:31 am

Choices. Not only what I choose to do (or not) but why I choose to act and how. Signing an on-line petition: the easy stuff. Choosing to contribute (or not) to a crowd funding appeal from a wired homeless person in need of new teeth: painless – the appeal appeals, the contribution happens, it’s a feel-good moment. On to a choice of movies. Doesn’t appeal? Move on to the woman in need of diaper money for her baby or answer a phone call, and forget all about it. Or live with the niggling fuzzball of guilt. Ah, guilt.

A moral choice that hits closer to home,  this morning. A girl I followed for a while when her knowledge of French was crucial to her father, her mother and her little brother. The then eleven-year old translator-interpreter for them all. The family’s appeal for refugee status has now been turned down. This means they must leave the social housing unit where they’ve been staying, with no clear idea where they can go next. I don’t know if they’ve exhausted all appeal procedures or not. The expulsion is scheduled for the early afternoon. Will showing up with others be beneficial to this family or not? Or, at most, will it delay their expulsion by a few hours,  with no further solutions available?

For the time being, I’m more inclined to make phone calls than to show up at their door. The mother is emotionally fragile. Whatever happens at one-thirty today will be brutal for her, and whatever comes next won’t be any easier. Tough call.


Balancing acts. Editing a thirteen-year old boy’s first attempt at a full-length novel (or novella). Grammar and spelling clean-up is the easy part. Giving the boy free rein for his own romp while pointing out some technical stuff – transitions, scene order, that kind of thing. Letting him make his own choices. (Am I pleased to meet a thirteen-year old who loves to write and does so every day? Am I pleased? It’s a treat, no matter how many boy vs bear episodes need editing.)


Revision. The next scene. Started reading a borrowed book, last night. Peter Brook’s The Empty Space, in French translation. Could just as well have been titled The Living Space. Theater is written in sand, Brook says. Nothing permanent, save for the trace it leaves – or doesn’t.

So. What truly happens in this next scene. How does it move the story on to the next one in other ways than pure mechanical displacement.


In Current reading, Local projects, notes, Revision on November 23, 2014 at 8:09 am

The funniest part of yesterday’s re-encounter: watching the real-life person interact with others in much the same way his fictional counterpart did in something I wrote after our first meeting. To say he is clumsy in his social skills: the most polite way to put it.


Story -current revision: slow reading allows for discovery of the droops and sags. Not as thrilling as racing through a breathless first draft? True. A different kind of energy at play.


Eating, working and reading off the same table in the one room, for heat conservation reasons: available space at a premium.  Time to push back/sort through/shift the piles of advancing papers, notebooks, agendas, books. Pick out the pens, glasses, cardboard wrappers (Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men; next up, I’m still in The Grapes of Wrath for a good while).

Sweep the floor clean of dog hair. In other words: Make the place look like a space in which I can greet other people. Oh yes; Sunday market. Food comes in handy.


The New Yorker online: a story titled Eykelboom by Brad Watson.


Yesterday’s workshop: the way we all grew quiet, focused and attentive when one of the participants read. While she wrote, the quiet attentive way she listened to what played in her head.

Alone again? Naturally

In Rejection, Revision, Sanford Meisner on November 22, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Five people showed up for the workshop. Finding the words that work best for each one. Work best i.e. push them out of their comfort zone without scaring them off too badly – at least, not in the first hour.

Then, coming home and dealing with one’s own comforts and discomforts.

Rejection. Regret. They need stating. Have as many rights to exist as do other emotions. Of interest: what happens once they’re out in the open. What opens out, once a logjam breaks up.

You thought someone cared. The person tells you to shove off. (A funny if cruel take on that theme in a short film where the girl wakes up, finds a sweet note from her boyfriend. Then another, asking her to wear her prettiest dress. Then, next to her coffee: a train ticket. At the door: a cab. She gets to the station; boards the train. As it pulls away, she sees her boyfriend standing there, and waving her good-bye.)


– I had the group write down a list of words describing emotions, he said.

– Yes? So?

– I’ll ask them to write something using those words.

– … excuse me, but if you’re bringing it up, it must mean you want my opinion. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them use their imagination and write something that suggests that emotion, without using the word at all?

He hadn’t thought of that, so I guess he didn’t waste his afternoon. I know I didn’t waste mine.




In Animals, Current reading, Irish Mist, Local projects, Revision on November 21, 2014 at 9:03 am

The title of yesterday’s post could work for this one. If progress gets any slower on my latest read-through, I’ll wind down to the inscrutable mystery of letter-by-letter deciphering. The mystery: a seven-year old who stumbles and blocks on letter and phoneme recognition but recognizes full words straight off after seeing them once. (Yes, I move the words around, so it’s not a simple question of placement recognition, although his first movement will be to scan the page where he first saw the word.)

The other mystery, in the boy’s case: when reading (and only then), he sticks the front of his T-shirt in his mouth and holds it there with both hands. (Try reading out loud in that stance, and you’ll see how tricky it gets.) So, I alternate the reading with joking and word games away from the written page. At which point, he relaxes, laughs, and wisecracks with his mouth off to one side. The archetypal, seven-year old wise guy. Bring back the written word on a page? Up comes the T-shirt, as a different kind of gag.

None of this relates to the slow-motion revision going on at home? Oh que oui.

If you’re interested, you’ll find the turtle referenced in the title in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The turtle makes its  appearance in Chapter Three. Manages to cross the road after one motorist swerves to avoid it, and another swerves to hit it; spends some time wrapped up in someone’s jacket; escapes; gets recaptured; and is last seen, on course to wherever and whatever the turtle finds irresistible over there, over there, straight on to over there.