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Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

As for this Tuesday’s predictions :

In as you see fit, Drafts, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on June 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Volatile’s the word.

-a sizzler, weather-wise (ignore what the official postings say, it’s hot out there, period).

-news-wise? help. Here in Europe, lips are flapping in all directions, including mine. Folks are posting month-old pronouncements about Greece + minutes-old scares + + +

Meanwhile, the pyromaniacs stand ready, both under the able guidance of Fire Chief  Jean-Claude Juncker and able assistants inside the station and under the equally practiced guidance(s) outside.

Basic Health Recommendation of the Day: breathe; drink lots of water or, if you prefer, other non-alcoholic beverages. Listen to favorite music or, again if you prefer, sing your own.

***

Meanwhile, Story Proceeds? Yes.

***

What else.  Let’s see. Rob Brezny at Free Will Astrology says Maybe Imaginary Friends aren’t Actually Imaginary. I like that. I hadn’t dropped in on Rob’s website in several years. Since this blog is a free will imaginary-friends-friendly type of place, I’ll choose those bits of horoscope that most appeal, whether they involve Aries doing trigonometry with Pisces, or keeping my feelings moist and receptive with… with a Scorpio? Yoiks.

 

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Another Wednesday

In Current reading, Dante Alighieri, Drafts, Film, I Ching, Now playing in a theater near you, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Theater on June 29, 2015 at 6:39 am

A scene from Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence :

Five people wait for the bus on a street in Göteborg, Sweden. Behind them, the owner of a bicycle shop opens for business, and brings out the air pump. “Another Wednesday,” he says to no one in particular. The five remain in their off-to-work state of glummery. A cyclist comes by, and uses the pump to get the pressure just right in the front tire. “Another Wednesday,” he says in general salutation and rides off.

One of the five glum ones turns to another and asks if this is indeed Wednesday. Day of week confirmed. Hm. I could have sworn this was Thursday, he says. It feels like a Thursday. This comment annoys another in the accidental group. How can a day feel like anything, you don’t feel a day, you know its name in the ordering. Yesterday was Tuesday, and tomorrow is Thursday, so today is Wednesday. You don’t keep to the order, the world falls into chaos. Opinion confirmed by the others.

Therefore, this is Monday. My Monday-morning appointment phoned at seven am to inform me this was moving day for him. Therefore, no Monday-morning appointment. I’ll lower the shutters against the glaring sun, and find out what happens next in the fourth strand of interconnected stories I once attempted to write under another guise. Plus, in real time, wait for the next installment in my own moving-related saga. The basic, ever-changing dialectic between a head given to soaring above the clouds, and feet that need to feel solid ground.

Here goes, for another spin.

Striking the right note

In Animals, Drafts, Local projects, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Sundays on June 28, 2015 at 7:29 am

Dealing with unpleasant realities. A straight-minded boss, for instance, for whom empathy isn’t part of the procedural manual, except as an abstract concept. In a satirical treatment, the person would head The Office of Compassion and would attend many meetings where words would be the currency of power. No need to follow through on them outside the codified language of administrative reports. But this would be in a satire. In real life, you’re supposed to pretend satire is nothing but a literary device.

I’m a lousy administrator myself. Always have been. Jean de La Fontaine’s fable  about the cicada and the ant never failed to raise my ire as a child. Still does. The ant had been ever-so prudent, you see. A procedural wizard, as efficient as they come. Whereas the cicada had whiled away the summer, singing. Went off to her neighbor the ant, in search of a handout when the cold winds came. No surprise in the ant’s response: You spent the summer singing? Well, you can dance now! (And let me slam my door in your face, while I’m at it. The nerve, the gall, the…)

When I was eight years old, I was supposed to recite this fable at a year-end school pageant but I fell sick instead and never got to wear the cicada’s cardboard wings. (Do real cicadas have wings? I’ll have to check. *The nun in charge of props for the pageant thought they did. She’d even found a toy guitar with no strings I was to pretend strumming. Never happened. C’est la vie.)

Despite the nun in charge of props and her frivolous inclinations, the fable was supposed to teach us the values of thrift and careful planning – God-inspired values. In the current stand-off between the World Bank and the Greek government elected by the Greek people, I assume the non-elected leaders of the so-called Free World consider themselves ant-like, god-like providers of Order. The Word according to Christine Lagarde and True Companions: let the poor suffer some more, they’re used to it and they never learn anyway.

Not that writing stories will do one thing to solve my problems or anyone else’s. Once a cicada, always a cicada I guess. A lot of people find the cicada’s strident strumming annoying. I don’t. How can the sound of summer annoy, especially when you know how cold and miserable autumn and winter can be?

* They do.

Someone else’s world

In Current reading, Drafts, I Ching, Local projects, Revision on June 27, 2015 at 6:18 am

Seems I’ll have to take on my employer after all. Signing the new lease, scheduled for next Thursday. “Please bring along a statement from your employer concerning renewal of your contract”, the message read. Request for said statement already turned down once. Although budget allocations are in, and planning for September well under way, the head of the department refused since,”you never know what can happen.”

A truth valid and applicable to all things. I’m pleased to see, for instance, the sun has chosen to rise again this morning although nothing made that rising mandatory.

Yes, mankind knows much worse travails than mine, but I’m sure taking on a manager figures on many, many people’s less-than-favored options. A riled manager may decide “you never know what can happen” is a multiple-use statement, going from mild rebuke to non-renewal of said contract.

This being the worst of my worries for the time being. Yesterday, I also received monies owed me for close to a year, and spent the evening discussing the I Ching and watching pigeons turn a pinkish gold as they flew around in the setting sun.

This morning, this blogpost: a moment of abeyance before entering the thickets of one of the four story lines in the present draft.

***

In a companion book to one the friend lent me already – this one, a word-for-word translation of the hexagrams – a powerful reminder of the diktats imposed by the native language on the understanding of a different one. In French, the strictures involve a gender assignation, singular or plural form with appropriate modifications to the written version of the word. Verbs must express time of occurrence – past, present, future, conditional – person or persons acting or experiencing what the verb expresses, etc. Punctuation marks add to the formatting.

Apparently, Chinese ideograms don’t fit into any of these patterns. They are invariable and may represent a verb, an adverb, a noun or a qualifier. Context is all, or almost all. Except in the I Ching where the person doing the casting provides the context and the interpretation.

***

Saturday, June 27th 2015, another day in the forest of signs. Alive, alert, and happy to be here.

Exploring outside Hautvoir

In Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision on June 26, 2015 at 6:02 am

In local terms, there’s one constant, at least: if assembled together, the gifts I receive from the children at year’s end would make for a stunning collection of kitsch.

Latest in the series: a keychain and a wall clock. What else can I say but merci beaucoup to a flimsy little-girl cartoon with a key ring that won’t hold up to anything? As for the wall clock, its symbolic value to the boy, I understand and appreciate. What to do with the object: a different issue.

Voilà. End of the school year part of the exercise. A few more coaching sessions outside the main contract, and into a summer involving packing, moving out and much uncertainty as to what comes next. This country’s services aren’t designed for people who modify their living arrangements.

***

Story: at this point, after splitting up the material four ways, I have the makings of four inter-connected stories, each one centered on one character’s viewpoint. One of the things that fascinate me: how different the same person can be, depending on context and ongoing interactions with others. We like to think we’re always the same – perhaps we need to feel that way – but in fact, we’re not. Different people and different life situations bring out and emphasize different features in our makeup. I’ll see how far I can go in exploring this in the four stories, and discover if they re-combine or stay as four pieces in a larger puzzle.

 

Characters, on the road to somewhere else

In Animals, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Now playing in a theater near you, Revision, Theater, TV on June 25, 2015 at 5:17 am

Visitors streamed through the house. Sounding walls, taking measurements. Distracting, while having dinner with friends at the kitchen table. This, the morning haul brought back from dream-time.

A lot of useless words in a draft. A lot of them left at this point, and many more to cull. But they only display their full uselessness once there’s a better fix on the character mouthing, blathering, posturing or otherwise trying to impress others – or the inner audience he or she carries around. A story written with no thought of continuity, now struggling its way to a new incarnation. Who are these people now? How did they get to their present impasse? Which of their habitual responses still work, which don’t?

Sounding walls, taking measurements. Who are these people? Why do they behave the way they do?

***

As often happens once you’ve made a choice, people show up with other options. Case in point yesterday: another apartment someone had me visit – and a fine one it will be, at a fine price too. Except for the fact I’ve already settled my choice, this one is up a flight of stairs and a trek down with the dog at three am leads straight to the sidewalk on the street where I live now. Maybe some of the details will live on in a story – the light, the view into gardens filled with banana trees and other exotic plants.

***

Allez, final day of coaching school aged children until September.

A bunch of details

In Animals, coffee, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on June 24, 2015 at 7:03 am

DSCN8927

In the night, the dog asks for the door. I walk down the carpeted steps in the common hallway, and let her step down to the garden. A few weeks from now, the routine will change. I’ll walk up from the bedroom area to the ground floor but there’ll be no garden at the front door. Just a tiny patch of grass, then, the street.

I’m taking in as many of the pleasant features as I can of this living space because, of course, I’ll miss every one of them. The view out the window while the sun rises. The spaciousness. The proximity to the cinema and the library.

I’m reminded of the time when I travelled alone across Europe for three months. The time of leaving a place where things had happened, good and bad. Something else was about to happen, no saying what the day would bring in terms of encounters. What stays the most with me of that period: the sharpness of senses attuned to the unknown. Not much you can take for granted when traveling alone. Of course, this time, the move is a matter of a few streets in the same town. No matter. All the details of daily living will shift, like the bits of colored glass in a kaleidoscope.

***

At one of the local schools, the teachers and their assistants were cutting loose last night. A particularly tough year filled with dramatic, life-altering events for both staff and students. Stories, stories, stories, all the things teachers can’t say in front of the children or of their parents. Lots to sort through. In all of it, the haunting image of an alcoholic mother’s lament to the teacher: funds were so low, she complained, she couldn’t even buy the two-liter size cola bottles. The teacher failed to appreciate the tragedy until she understood why this was a problem: the mother uses the empties as her tool for beating-on-the-kid. She even provided the reason for her choice of implement: the beating stings, but leaves no tell-tale marks – in her view, this meant she was doing the humane thing with her child.

All things be relative, yes indeed. (And yes, the teacher passed on the information to the Social worker, and yes, and so on. But last night was about letting out the stories, and working in some comic relief.)

***

Story lines at cross-roads. Which signals to follow now, which signals to store for future reference. A sound, a scent, a sight.

The air, still cool. Windows, still open. Another coffee, and into the day.

Meanwhile

In Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, I Ching, Local projects, Now playing in a theater near you, Revision, Sanford Meisner on June 23, 2015 at 6:58 am

If the times allowed for such a thing, I’d translate sections of Les mutations du Yi Jing. Why? Because clear thinking and common sense are so refreshing.

If time allowed, I would also read the latest by Michel Serres – his sixtieth – titled Le gaucher boiteux. I’d also translate an interview done with him. Some day, maybe.

For now, story-wise, questions surrounding a character. One that’s been around for a long, long time. I stopped revision last night because of this character. Parts of her now belong to two other characters but still, some aspects refuse to melt down in the crucible. Will other characters treat her as a memory y nada mas? A pity, because there’ll be no seeing the world through her eyes if she’s nothing but sentimental musings by someone else.

For now also, revision consists mostly in regrouping elements in two story-lines. Will they re-connect at some point? Will the character in abeyance provide the missing connection? I don’t know yet.

Meanwhile, practical matters abound. Keeping them in some kind of order: more difficult than training fleas to march in neat columns. I make lists, of course, and check off items with a sense of relief at exerting some control over the process. That’s for one half of the time. The other half? I shrug. Watch the birds peck and the clouds drift. Wonder some more about a fictional being whose presence always evokes summer.

“A passion of desire held captive in the clasp of vast utility”*

In Current reading, Drafts, Fête de la Musique, Hautvoir, I Ching, Local projects, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner on June 22, 2015 at 6:36 am

some headlines are so intriguing, you hate to spoil their potential by reading the article. Case in point seen in this morning’s New York Times advising Harvard University Admissions it should be “filtering for self-importance”.  I can’t figure out if this means Harvard administrators should learn the art of self-derision, or if they should up the ante in terms of how wonderful they are when compared to other institutions of higher learning.  I’ll leave the issue unresolved in my own mind, and hold on to the expression “filtering for self-importance”. Fine-mesh filters? Large?

an email message from the choir leader yesterday: informing us our fame had spread from Vaour to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val where our performance was the talk of the village – and, who knows, the next village over, too. “You are part of the singing group that triumphed in Vaour last night,” someone told her.

Triumphed: the sort of word that does wonders for a body’s Self-Importance Filters because it boosts both the capabilities for self-derision and legitimate pride on a fun job well done.

Other news: a fascinating collection of essays in an out-of-print book lent to me by a friend. Les mutations du Yi King, published by Albin Michel in 1994 in the Question de series. An opportunity to re-explore from a variety of perspectives – historical, analytical, intuitive, etc. Am taken by one essay in particular, at the moment: Echo 14 Les garde-fous de l’intuition – Eléments pour une méthode raisonnable d’interprétation du Yi Jing. Of course, “reasonable interpretation” and guard rails for intuition” need only apply in real life. Fiction operates under different rules.

As for real life, I Ching seems to suggest “more effort is better than less at this time”. I tend to agree which is pretty smart of me, considering I’m the one interpreting the reading. The Sunday down-time is over. This is a Monday with lots to do and two huge questions still unanswered: do I get approval from the rental agency and, if so, where do I find the money for immediate payment of the agency fees, given the Canadian government hasn’t yet dished out the year of back-payments it owes me?

I mustn’t so much think on these things as keep moving in the direction of acceptable solutions.

(Yes, and work on the revision, too.)

* How Helen Keller describes one of the New York bridges in the Library of America’s Story of the Week,  I Go Adventuring.

On the theme of reversals

In Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Sundays on June 21, 2015 at 6:55 am

calling it a cosmic joke  is a wild overstatement that suggests the cosmos takes enough interest in me to play practical jokes for my sole benefit. So let’s call my present circumstances a familiar pattern, one in which I find myself in a daze. Call it hitting a wall, if you like. A series of actions done in anticipation of a given result – poof. Another hurdle shoots up like in one of those video games where nothing but the fastest reflexes will save the player.

So. Energy. Whatever keeps the body committed to the next, and the next, and the next after that. Singing, for instance. Instead of one performance last night, we did three short sets in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd + one person soused to the gills who staggered in front of us and came close to colliding with our toes, the piano, and the stray dog always available at outdoor performances.

Prior to the morning rehearsal and as I left a rental agency, I ran into one of several women in this town who consider themselves faith healers. By keeping your mind focused on the word faith, I’m sure some, if not all, their interventions do some good to people whose self-confidence has shattered against some unexpected problem.

My focus was elsewhere so I couldn’t help noticing that the fantastic tale of ‘space cleansing’ she told me about her home involved a discrepancy: in the first flush of telling, she informed me someone had died by hanging in the bedroom. She had sensed this the moment she set foot in the room. On further elaboration, the dead one no longer hung from … from somewhere in the room she showed me. The deceased had been blown away by a rifle shot. Space cleansing handled that clean-up just as well.

I enjoy a good yarn myself, and I’m not averse to a stretcher here and there. As much as humanly possible, I try to reserve the more fantastical to the realm of fiction. In fact, a lot of the lying I do is for the sake of plausibility. On the drive home from the concert last night, I simplified my personal story line a lot for the benefit of the driver. “You’ve led an interesting life,” she said anyway, and I’m not sure she meant it as anything other than an expression of perplexity.

Today, there’s a high probability I’ll work in a nap to my desirable options. If I don’t, I’ll probably fall asleep on the chair because, sometimes, bodies are smart enough to cut off the juice and give the system some down time.