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Archive for September, 2015|Monthly archive page

Pride, they called it. As in: the Worst Sin of All

In Artists, Current reading, Dante Alighieri, Film, Hautvoir, humeurs, Local projects, photography, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on September 30, 2015 at 6:28 am

I wrote the words in French, somewhere, yesterday. Or the image showed up in dreamtime – the one about towering waves. About not looking at the mass of water about to descend but concentrating on moving the skiff up one side of the liquid mountain and down its opposite slope.

Exaggeration? Of course. Dreams exaggerate. Writers exaggerate. Actors exaggerate. Life exaggerates too but in a messy way dreams, writers and actors attempt to evoke. Dreams come the closest.

But there were no crashing waves in the only dream I remember from last night. In fact, I was attempting to reproduce the distorted shadows laid down by – a cabbage? Not even: by a straggly cabbage leaf. Part of which was bound to find itself beyond my piece of paper. I spoke out loud while doing it. Someone’s quiet voice in the background would comment, from time to time, over one word or another I spoke. The voice would say things such as: “oh, that’s good”, or “well put”. Which was nice except the dreamer could never figure out which of the words had made that impression.

I’m trying not to think too far ahead because thinking about this day and the rest of the week tires me out before I even get going. I’ve been asked to provide photographic coverage for an event beginning Thursday and ending late Sunday night (paid, that’s nice, how much or how little, I don’t know). I start a series of writing workshops with twenty-five eleven year-olds and their teacher (must prepare somewhat). Coaching sessions all day today, plus meetings in the hope of finding some money and some living space for my Albanian friends about to get evicted. And, as always when I’m tired, fighting down the dread voice of you’ll never make it. “It” applying to whatever most matters to me at that point. Writing a good story, for instance, but not only.

Jane Austen. Mansfield Park. The parallel: pure idiosyncrasy, of course. The parallel being between the Fanny Price character (with whom, I’m sure, Austen identified the most) and a personal incident the memory file brings up under the title of Jimmy Reston, the Deans, and the Hired Help. A long-ago little scene in which I was cast in the role of the over-enthusiastic aide speaking up  – I mean, literally joining in the conversation – while the celebrated journalist and his hosts held a pre-conference get-together. The crashing silence that ensued. The look of astonishment on Reston’s face and embarrassment on that of the Deans.

Wounded pride on the part of the hired help? You bet. Ah, pride. Would be my downfall, parents and teachers opined. Speaking out of turn? Pride made me do it. What else?

A glum lot, they were. Levity just wasn’t their thing.

Allez? Allez. Can’t live more than one moment at a time, can I?

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Real

In Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on September 29, 2015 at 7:49 am

The day starts with some reminders of the realities facing would-be settlers in this country: court orders ignored and deportations carried out while the Officials pronounce their official words of welcome to those who know better than to listen to Officials.

At one point yesterday, I was tempted to post a marvelous song by Jacques Brel with a special dedication to a female politician bent on stoking the embers to a fresh flare-up of intolerance. I didn’t because I see no point in singling her out (which is all she wants anyway). Her brand of nastiness works because it resonates in whatever nastiness lurks in the less savory parts of the human psyche. The song is titled L’Air de la Bêtise. Bêtise: how best to translate that one word. Stupidity? No. Beastliness? No. Dumbness? Yes,  dumbness as an affirmation, as a claim to Frank Forthright Simple Speech from the Simple People. Proud to Speak My Dumb, Stupid Mind, sort of thing. Race is an accepted word in the dictionary, the lady said. So is hatred. So is intolerance. So is dumb. So is stupid.

Yes. And now: the day. A lot of it will be spent with people attempting to do dumb things like study or earn the right to work so they can pay a rent instead of getting evicted. Dumb stuff, you know. Plain. Simple. Ordinary.

Allez. Nothing virtual about this reality. Nothing virtual about fiction either? I guess that depends on what you mean by real.

The Stream

In Animals, Circus, coffee, Current reading, En français dans le texte, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Radio, TV on September 28, 2015 at 7:12 am

Watched a good part of a documentary on Cirque Romanès, last night. At one point someone speaks these words: “L’art du cirque, ça n’est pas de mettre un masque, c’est de savoir l’enlever” (The art of the circus isn’t about putting on a mask, it’s about knowing how to remove it.)

If I owned a TV, maybe I’d drown in the scattering of attention ( programmed, and deliberately so). Brief visits to Facebook and news sites suffice. The grandiose, the stultifying, the gruesome, the grotesque, the sublime, the stupid, the funny, the heart-breaking – all there, and more. A little bit goes a long way.

Started reading Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park last night. The first fifty pages. Already, I sense a basic difference with Pride and Prejudice, for example. There’s a lot of barely suppressed anger in Mansfield Park that cuts quite deep. (I skipped the forty-something pages of introductory remarks. I’ll read them after I’ve formed my own opinion. Society. Who says what to whom and how.)

The local church bell strikes eight. Monday morning. Morning news/weather/traffic/stale jokes, canned arguments and pre-packaged opinions streaming on radios and TV screens. I wake to the sound of the garbage truck down the hill, and the dog sending discrete reminders six-thirty is late enough  already for a wake-up call.

Monday morning. Shoals, rapids, tidal pools, backwaters, still ones, the drip-drip-drip of a broken water pipe, the hissing of the moka pot on the stove.

 

 

Overture to a Sunday

In Artists, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Scene Prep, Sundays on September 27, 2015 at 7:38 am

Among other highlights in living, here are a few you missed in the past twenty-four hours:

– a young man expressing extreme displeasure over the obvious, manifest and irrefutable fact that holding a block party-type event in the park facing the mosque was a blatant display of irrespect for his religion and the elders in his community.

– sitting for a solitary hour under off-again on-again shade from dwarf palm trees, and  discovering the clickety-clack sound they make when they rustle. (duly noted in French in a notebook where I use mostly French words).

– the uplift provided by a seriously slow little boy who rushes toward you with arms outstretched and calling out your name as if he’d reunited with his reason for living, at last. And carries in his wake three other boys who consider scribbling in a huge book something of a special event.

– which brings me to the object itself. Fifty-seven centimeters high, thirty-eight across and about the weight of a well-developed three year old. A nothing concept consists of putting down a few words on a page, or glueing a few pics, then letting kids and adults free to scribble along on a general theme. I guess it works because you can write, scribble or draw any old thing you want and no teacher comes along to mark your mistakes in red ink.

– a three am wake-up is all right if it’s to finish reading the final pages of L’amour au temps du choléra again. But to the sound of Pink Floyd beating down The Wall between your bedroom and the neighbor’s house?

– the astonishing discovery at four am that Pink Floyd is quiet music when the relentless pounding from a war-inducing rhythm gets you dressed for a four am visit to the neighbor’s. The door: unlocked. The air: pungent with natural high-inducing substances. The sound: deafening. The scene: six or seven of the twenty-something crowd that set up and struck down the outdoor stage, enjoying a quiet moment of relaxation inside their sound cocoon. I joined my hands in a gesture of prayer, then used them to signal toning the cocoon wayyyyy down. And repaired to my bed, waiting for my characters to decide who picks up where in the present or next scene.

DSCN3167 (the drawing represents the dreamer’s bed, as drawn by the artist. The text reads: I dreamt that I woke up and flew through the air and through a wall and having magic and making myself intelligent and transforming the clouds into stones and staying in the sky and the world was a universe that everyone loved. Signed: Jouhry.)

Ascendant

In Artists, Circus, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Visual artists on September 26, 2015 at 7:06 am

The dream scene wasn’t as fraught as the one in which I left two characters I like before calling yesterday over and done with. However, the distance I had to cover by bicycle on a bumpy, rutted access to a highway inspires for some aspects of it. There was a tricky business with on-ramps and off-ramps too that reminded me of mechanical problems on solitary drives to and from Ottawa, Ontario, a few lifetimes ago. However, save for the death of a clutch in a wilderness zone, there’s nothing in those trips that much serves for story purposes.

So much depends on order of presentation. Plus, my state of mind is more inclined toward the light-hearted than toward blunt violence at the moment, so I’ll take the scene one word at a time, amid the rest of the day’s events.

Coda to yesterday’s postal matters: one of the two letters handed to me was from none other than the service provider called Orange. In which the Customer Service person wrote that she heard me. Yes, after three years of unanswered correspondence, my last note had landed in fertile soil (I kept it polite, but  profanities hovered). Orange, she said, would no longer threaten legal action for an unpaid amount of twenty euro by the previous contract owner. And she thanked me for my  – hold on – yes, my “confiance” (trust) in Orange. So, it seems, I’m not even a minor delinquent.

“She’s on an ascendant”, someone said about me yesterday at a vernissage. Said half as a joke and meaning this is the year in which I may well break into the lower stratum of – how to call it – honorable poverty. In fact, a great first occurs no later than this afternoon when all professional participants to the festivities along the river will be paid for their contribution. The mind boggles. What next? Complacency?

So. Two women, circus artists, chugging along a country road, toward their next gig. Two bikers pull out and attach themselves to their vehicle. I foresee major ruts less than a hundred meters away.

A fall cornucopia

In Circus, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Radio on September 25, 2015 at 10:44 am

I hope this post won’t cause problems for my mail carrier who is a pleasant and astute young man. He rang my doorbell this morning as I finished painting the woodwork in my small entrance. Held up a letter and said: “This looks like another bill addressed to a man with your surname.”

“There is no man with my surname at this address,” I said.

“I know. That’s why I’m asking you what I should do with these.”

“There is no man with my surname at this address,” I repeated.

We looked at each other. He handed me the two letters addressed to me, wished me a good day,  and left with the other.

I repeat for a third and final time: there is no man with my surname at this address. (The bill? If it’s the same one as usual, I suppose it now comes with dire warnings of bailiffs at my door. Orange must have spent some one hundred or two hundred euro already, insisting that I pay a twenty euro charge I consider I don’t owe. If I do owe and don’t pay, you may consider me in default of payment and tar me accordingly).

***

Colorful swirls of blooming nonsense in the news this morning. Such a cornucopia, the mind boggles. The right-wing commentators in the States, for instance, rabid with fear over a Marxist Man in White by the name of Pope Francis, presently walking their land and spewing garbage like “love one another”. What these commentators seem to have inherited from their immigrant forefathers is the notion that poverty is an ill to eradicate. From which opinion they jump to the conclusion the best way to eradicate poverty is with money to buy guns. Go figure. (Of particular poignancy, the comment about: “if we give, give, give, we’ll all be poor!” Yikes. The notion is enough to rattle grand daddy’s bones in his grave.)

There’s also the delicious family feud in France, combining father-daughter squabbles, politics and gold bullion. No, I don’t mean the Le Pen family (giving them a rest today). I refer to the present incumbent  Mayor in a rich little town by the name of Puteaux. The incumbent kept the seat warm for Papa Mayor while he dealt with a few sticky issues around influence peddling and – oh, you know – the usual hassles. Daughter took a liking to the job and didn’t hand the job back to Papa. Who got angry and denounced his daughter for – yes, influence peddling and the stocking of nifty sums of money outside the realm. The saga continues with the trans-bordering of cash and gold bullion. What’s a poor girl to do if she wants to save her ill-earned money after working so hard for it?

By a strange twist of fate, the daughter was once a close associate of one French President by the name of Nicolas Sarkozy who seems to have the worst of luck when it comes to members of his entourage. Crooks and swindlers to the last one. So hard to find good help these days.

Oops. The Friday drinking binge seems to be well under way next door.

***

Plus : a fascinating listen from NPR.

Teaching Conformity

In Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on September 24, 2015 at 6:55 am

I understand s-l-o-w with children who require the s-l-o-w approach. In their case, I can’t even say I mind most of the time. They’re learning, at their pace. Plus, they appreciate the attention and the fact you understand a need to re-check the position of each letter relative to another while writing down a word. Maybe personal experiences with temporal epilepsy help in that regard – they keep me from getting too judgmental, as long as some result emerges over time.

Days like yesterday exhaust in other instances. When dealing with average to bright children forced into slowdown mode by the school programs and how they are taught. Forced to learn dumbing-down and not thinking even one hair’s width outside the prescribed model.

I don’t know how many people live in London these days. I could check and would, if I were teaching a class in which I expected the children to give the right answer. Clearly, one English teacher in this town couldn’t care less. She wanted her students to prepare Q and A cards about England (how old is the Queen, what’s the name of the big clock and the color of the busses – this, for a class of thirteen-year olds). How many inhabitants in London? One of the boys in class shouted out: “Six hundred thousand”. The teacher wrote this down on the white board et voilà. Now, kids, spend an hour cutting out pasteboard and preparing your Q and A material. (I spent the hour clearing away bits of paper and clarifying whatever managed to surface from the blanket of passivity laid down on two heads bent over glue sticks and felt markers.)

Of course, we’re appalled when a so-called religious teacher tells young children their God will transform them into swine or monkeys if they listen to music. But oh, the soft, silent tyranny at work in demanding blue ink in the copy book and the memorizing of a phony number of inhabitants for London.

Never mind, as the teacher told the girls.  Who cares. Just do it.

Allez? Yes, if I can pull myself out of the sticky torpor. Allez, hop-hop-hop.

Give us this day our daily… our daily…

In Animals, Circus, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on September 23, 2015 at 7:13 am

Coca-Cola, “pouring millions” into funding for health research. Must be true, I didn’t read it on The Onion but on the top-of-the-news website of The New York Times. Maybe we can expect an organic Green Label Product brand from Monsanto next. Why not? The United Nation chose the Saudi Arabian candidate as chair of its panel of distinguished experts advising the UN Human Rights Council. (These experts advise the Council on suitable candidates to head Human Rights missions around the world.)

As a special treat with breakfast this morning, I read the Islamic version of the Declaration on Human Rights. Discovered everything about human life is sacred. Full stop? Yes. There’s another full stop in the text after the affirmation that Islam is man’s “natural religion”. Ergo (you see this coming, don’t you?) any human behaviors that contradict  or question the basic tenets of Islam and/or their interpretation by the Knowledgeable Ones – yes,  you guessed it – are forbidden, and deserve the sanctions prescribed by the aforesaid KOs.

Brave new world, Miranda? Not even. Sigh.

Glum, grey, rainy morning over here that emphasizes the glum and grey values on the building that stands on a diagonal from my home. Perhaps because of other glum aspects of reality, I spent part of the evening adding color to the entrance area in my apartment. Used up the left-over apricot-toned paint on the closet doors. Doing the trim in the definite blue used in the lav. Circus posters. A colorful painting by a friend.

As for dealing blows to glummery in general: yesterday with my new pupil – an eighteen-year old from Mali who towers above me and speaks with a soft lisp – we laughed our way through his assignment on Traceability. With a background of nil prior schooling, he’s making his way through the program devised for apprentices in butchery. His assignment: to summarize in one sentence the lesson delivered by the drawing of a cow, explaining the various means by which the consumer is guaranteed a healthy steak with his frites. We made our way from the cow’s earrings (hi! my name is 4832! I belong to…) to her biometric passport, to her travel authorization, to her examination by the vet at the slaughterhouse, followed by a mandatory twelve-hour rest period prior to slaughter, butchering, etc.

Explaining why we laughed ourselves silly (but got the assignment done) would require some background information on my pupil. He’s a good kid – gigantic, but what can he do about it? If I had glad money at my disposal, I’d get him to an orthodontist so he’d feel freer to laugh out loud without covering his mouth. Hopefully, he’ll pass the final exam, make a living, and get his teeth fixed somewhere between his twentieth and twenty-fifth birthday. Hopefully too, a person in his age group will see beyond the goofy teeth.

 

Fiction as Fact, Fact as Fiction

In Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on September 22, 2015 at 7:52 am

The woman’s posts are some of the stranger mixes I find when I visit my Facebook page. A few years ago, I’d have deleted her messages (Out of My Sight! Banished! Cease to Exist!) I don’t do many impersonations of the Wonderland Queen of Hearts anymore. For one, I find some of those strange mixes fascinating. For fictional purposes they serve the same purpose as the burr under the saddle.

The woman’s posts then: a mix of rants against the barbarians massing at our gates. The kind of astounding stuff that leads you to believe we (i.e. the ones who believe humane treatment applies as a ground rule, whether you want a person as a close buddy or not) we, then, by our attitude, incite people to flee their bombed out homes and mass at our gates.

In itself, a cause for wonderment. But wait! There’s more. Mixed in with these rants, public avowals of undying affection for her children (to each his own, some people feel the need to hire planes with I Love You banners, who am I to judge). And inspirational ditties culled from the Wisdom of the Ages.

These ditties usually come on a background of a golden sunset or a clear mountain stream and remind me of the holy images we children collected in our Catholic schools. On them, winged angels guided the stumbling steps of little bitty orphans crossing a chasm on a rotten plank of wood. These were supposed to inspire since the Winged One protected the bitty ones but you had to wonder what would happen at the fateful moment of The Crumpling.

At any rate, in these demented times when soldiers are ordered to shoot (without intention to kill) on masses of people searching for a spot to rest their weary selves, I find the woman’s Facebook offerings inspirational in unintended ways.

For those not following international news: Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban has authorized troops to shoot at “migrants” with real bullets, conditional on the shots being “non-lethal”. From which I assume smashed kneecaps, destroyed shoulders or a trampling death from a panicked crowd of civilians are part of normal business-as-usual military operations.

We now pause to deal with the day and whatever more fiction it inspires.

Light/Dark – visual and tonal values

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Contes d'Exil, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Revision, Synopsis, Theater, Visual artists on September 21, 2015 at 7:33 am

So, when do we discuss the material again, I asked her at the housewarming. Oops, she answered. Forgot to tell you: I’m meeting a Russian booking agent on Thursday. She’s interested in the show for a festival in St-Petersburg.

… you mean this Thursday?

That’s what she meant. OK. Ergo, boil down an overly-detailed document in French into an appealing synoptic sales pitch in English (Russian, I read and write but cannot speak beyond the basics, let alone understand for vast stretches). Before Thursday. Yup.

Also at the top of the brain pan this morning: after hearing my reading voice in someone else’s work in progress, I’m struck by the fact a reading voice needs as much careful grooming as any other instrument. The mikes stayed on between the readings. I heard three different tonal pitches in my voice, plus a huge wobble when I took the material too slowly. I also need to explore greater variations in the reading material to balance out the more somber with the lighter.

Plus write my own new stuff. Plus, earn my keep. Walk and groom the dog. Fold the laundry. Clean the floors. Find some rocks to tamp down the earth in my flower boxes (there’s a neighborhood cat that loves to shovel out the earth – in search of an elusive scent, somewhere. This is not good form for the flowers).

Anything else? The dream? The verbal joust with the ultra-right wingers at the market yesterday? No, this is fodder for story land.

The brinquedos, then. Yes, old tin boxes and toys bought at the flea market yesterday. Plus a needlework rendering of a saintly one, now gracing the living room wall next to my growing collection of fools of every stripe and configuration.

Allez hop?

Yes. Oui. Da. Si. and so on.