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Archive for January, 2016|Monthly archive page

Story

In Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sundays on January 31, 2016 at 10:42 am

Given my focus these days, both in real life and in the fictional one, the book lent to me by a friend should prove a natural read. I took in the first fifty pages after downloading photos from the party last night. My annoyance with the writer appeared around the third page, and grew to the point where I put the book aside. I’ll read on, because an annoying book can provide precious lessons.

I see no reason to mention the writer’s name, this isn’t about dissing him. He’s French, eight plays and six novels of his have made their way to publication. I note that what annoyed me here is fairly common in contemporary French writers. This goes some way in explaining the disconnect that made me opt for sleep over a reading binge after a fifty minute musical performance in an uproarious setting I was glad to leave to the crowd of revelers.

First attempt at sourcing my reading annoyance: the sensation I’m reading through the writer writing about the characters. If the writer gave me the sense the female survivor of an immigrant tragedy at sea were real, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I’d be recuperating from an all-night read instead. I’d even accept the unlikely possibility the sea captain who saved her life would have a gun handy at home, and pass it on to her – hey sure, you want to kill the head smuggler who caused the death of your baby? Here lady, by all means, and blessings on your head.

I’ll read on. Hopefully, I’ll spend more time with my characters than with the writer’s though, since this Sunday should be fairly light in outside obligations. Writing in spurts between phone calls, text messages and sudden appearances at the door: not conducive to concentration.

Sunday. Who’s who. What counts most – in story and in all the rest.

 

Stories

In Artists, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on January 30, 2016 at 10:19 am

Of the four, he’s the least “mature” in his reactions. By which I mean the least equipped to anticipate the consequences of his actions, and adjust his behavior accordingly. I don’t know much of his life story – I’m not an official of any kind. People tell me what they wish to share and no more. Sometimes, the story they tell evolves over time. Reversals appear. More often, they reveal details they didn’t wish to share. Sometimes, those details make all the difference in terms of potential outcomes.

The details surface either because their disclosure becomes inevitable, or because the person is running out of bargaining chips. Said bargaining has a desperate quality to it. The odds favor the house. This is a given.

I wish I could find the lyrics to one of the songs performed last night by a group called Des fourmis dans les mains. In it, a boy questions his father who answers no to every query. As well he must. No, he says, smoke from factory stacks doesn’t create the clouds. Boats don’t create the waves. And so on until the father asks his son: “you’re twelve now, aren’t you?” The boy answers: no, I’ll turn thirteen in a week. In that case, yes, my son, yes the father answers to everything that came before.

Prior to their performance in Rabastens last night, Imbert Imbert sang one of his compositions based on a sentence he read in a novel by Amin Malouf. The exact words, I don’t recall. But they spoke of nurturing the courage to dream on.

One way or another, for sure.

Snakes and Ladders

In Animals, Current reading, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts, The Art of Peace on January 29, 2016 at 9:31 am

at times, life crowds in. Transferred to a bar graph, yesterday would look like the peaks and valleys in a wild session at the Stock Exchange (minus the financial gains and losses, of course). There’s need to let some of the silt settle but this day isn’t moving toward the Sea of Tranquility either.

I was reading Canto XXIII in The Iliad last night. The distance between The Enchanted World of War, Dismemberment and Hero-Worship then and now? Mighty slim. Let’s say contemporary warriors don’t wear silver-studded leg guards, and the gods don’t hammer out scenes in gold on their battle shields. On the matter of prized bits of looting though, things haven’t changed all that much.

From a woman’s point of view, Achilles doesn’t add up to much a hero. Neither does he rise in stature when he offers up a woman and a mule as part of the first prize in a competition (in another event, the woman gets batched into the fourth prize – I guess she wasn’t so hot). This is after Achilles drags around Hector’s body for the crime of slaying his buddy Patroclus (whose remains the Trojans wanted to throw to the dogs, etc.)

Re-reading The Iliad some forty years after the first encounter. Then, reading the current batch of We Are At War speechifying/justifying? Leaves a body searching for something other than hero worship both as a personal goal and the defining motivation for fictional characters.

A brief moment in dreamtime where the dreamer discovered the door leading into a pleasant space was both wider and of better construction than first imagined. The dreamer experienced relief. The rest of the dream involved a lot of slogging. At this point, slogging is such a familiar place, I’d rather explore other spaces – or find some humor there, both in real life and in story land. The day is bound to offer up possibilities for a few moments of zen.

Paroles, paroles, paroles*

In Absurdlandia, Circus, En français dans le texte, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, Poetry, proto drafts on January 28, 2016 at 8:30 am

The song was a huge hit in the seventies. Most people still remember the tune and the words, such as:“encore des mots, toujours des mots, les mêmes mots, rien que des mots…” the woman sings, while the man blathers on about how beautiful, unforgettable, unique she is, how his love, eternal, etc.

A typical male-female standoff, and applicable either way – women blather as much as men do. However, the song came to mind because of words, words, words flowing at us from the politicians. Someone in Britain referred to Cameron’s jibe about the “bunch of migrants” as “trickle-down hatred”. There again, the trickle seems to work both up and down, with the politicians only too happy to mouth whatever seems to raise their rating in opinion polls.

Since politics are mostly a matter of symbols, I won’t waste too much time on analyzing the background to Christiane Taubira’s decision to quit the French government now, nor in her choice to leave office on a bicycle instead of in a limousine. Symbols. Words. Simply put: some words ring truer than others. I’d rather disagree with someone who can quote poetry at the National Assembly in support for a piece of legislation I happen to approve than watch words being devalued as they fall from the lips of people who don’t deserve the noble name of clown.

Voilà for this morning’s news commentary.

Meanwhile, a proto draft struggles on in the chinks of time between phone calls and meetings. Sometimes, words are like keeping a kettle hot over a small fire – a different matter from brilliant displays in public places. But all that’s good stays good, especially warmth during cold times.

Just ordered something called zaï zaï zaï zaï because deadpan humor appeals to me.  I don’t know if this was the cartoonist’s intention or not, but zaï zaï zaï zaï happens to be a melodic trope from another song from the seventies – this one by Joe Dassin.  My upstairs neighbor loves Joe Dassin’s songs and massacres every one of them with a dedication so fierce the screeching sometimes stops me cold in whatever I’m doing. Her respect for melodic lines is such, she never even comes close to them. Think Catherine Frot in the film Marguerite. (Don’t know the actress nor the film? Check out on a search engine for a taste of the art of singing off-key.)

Allez? Allez.

*French for Words, words, words – not conditional release from a jail term. Although …

Long ago, far away

In coffee, Film, Food, Hautvoir, humeurs, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Theater on January 27, 2016 at 9:21 am

Emotions. You find scads of little figures now, designed to signal the state of your current hormonal combo. Being who I am, I still add an old-fashioned smiley to some electronic messages, on occasion – a practice that must seem as dated to the younger ones as typing lol. Most of the time, I try to convey emotions through words or gestures, or silences.

Nostalgia, for instance. How can anyone design an icon for it? You read someone else’s words. They set off an evocation – possibly, far removed from the writer’s intent – but there you are. They conjure up sights, sounds, smells from a faraway place. You watch the swish of roasting coffee beans and inhale their scent in a shop called La Vieille Europe in Montreal, for instance.  Or you feel the pickling cold seeping into your slush-drenched winter boots, while you stand in line outside the Fairmount Bagel Bakery. Ahead of you some New Yorkers are stocking up on twelve dozen bagels – half white seed, half black. (Scenes redrawn straight from life, some forty years ago, or thereabouts.)

La Vieille Europe. That’s where I live now – on the continent, not in the shop. Writing. Each scene, something like a leaded ball the characters ride to some conclusion or further mishap.

Watched a brief video on Buster Keaton yesterday. At the local level, listened to an off-stage actor. On first contact, I’d labelled him a bit hastily as flippant. Last night, he talked  about his companion’s ongoing struggle with pancreatic cancer, and how he dealt with his own emotions and those of his two children. Sometimes, things are as they seem. More often, they’re layered in unpredictable ways.

I liked what Buster Keaton demonstrated in the vid – each fall, off a ledge, a ladder, the curb of a sidewalk, a different experience. Same with nostalgia, unless you settle for a combo of emoticons (or maybe I like my own scribbles too much to adopt a bunch of emojis. I just looked up a few… mehhhh, let’s hear it for word-based communications.)

However. The real question, for whatever new scene awaits in the wings: how is this bit of nostalgia different from every other? What’s the dominant emotional flavor to it? The secondary notes? The overall impression? Where might it lead next?

Whereto, you said?

In Hautvoir, Local projects, notes, Poetry, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on January 26, 2016 at 9:00 am

You may have maps. You may have reports from other travelers. You may have an idea, or a hunch. Most of all, you may have an unanswered question or the need to know what makes that odd noise at night?

The initial scenes don’t show up in any clear, diagrammatic order. One character pipes up. Another interrupts. A third spills out a story that may or may not show up in the final chapters. The whole thing’s a mess, except… except it’s a mess you’re not willing to slide into an unmarked garbage bag and drop off far from your regular disposal unit. (Saw someone do that once: drive up to units at both end of the esplanade for an even distribution of…somethings. At the sight, the mind twirls and chatters with questions.)

The current bunch of characters in the current proto draft come across as pretty travel-weary. No huge surprise – the writer feels somewhat weary for any number of reasons. All the major disasters bombarded toward the masses via the media, of course. But also, moments such as one yesterday when each of the three thousand six hundred seconds in a sixty minute coaching session stretched out toward infinity. True, some children are slower learners than others. Also true: some are so uninterested they can’t be bothered remembering they re-discovered 7 fits twice in 14, only two lines above this one. I detailed every grain of wood in the table top before me. Photographed shadows of an industrial sewing machine against the wall. Prompted  with suggestions. Memorized the child’s pouting patterns. Eventually, infinity resolved into sixty minutes – and not one second more. I was out of there in record time.

One of the characters claims its her turn to grab center stage. Whether her improv will be an out-take or a keeper, I don’t know. I hear some writers plot out their forays into fiction. I had a boss once who wanted an outline to his speeches before I wrote them. Eventually, he accepted the fact he’d see the outline once I’d figured out the assembly of what he wanted to say.

As for yesterday’s slower-than-molasses one, she brought to mind the first lines in a poem by Mandelstam:

The stream of golden honey poured, so viscous,

slow from the bottle, our hostess had time to murmur:

‘Here, in sad Tauris, where fate has brought us,

we shan’t be too bored’ – glancing over her shoulder.

(You keep your wits about you as best you can. The full poem? on this page.)

 

The Chemistry of Stuck*

In Film, Hautvoir, humeurs, Local projects, proto drafts on January 25, 2016 at 8:24 am

My brain waking me at three am to the sound of “fairy tales can come true, it will happen to you, if you’re young at heart“? In no way contributed to the lifting of the funk.

The kind of funk I wish to escape, but can’t, if even in sleep time the jester comes along to poke fun without provoking the slightest bit of merriment in my chemistry.

Low, low tide. This is a fact. Last night’s visit did nothing to raise the spirits. “I’d rather do the one-week training in another town,” the young man told me. This, after I got turned down in my attempts at finding him something here. He’d prefer Albi or Toulouse. As the ancient Greeks liked to say, I sat a bull on my tongue. Had I not, I might have said something of exceeding rudeness. Thanks to the heavy bull, I settled for informing him I had no useful contacts in those two towns, I’d speak to his class leader and good luck to him.

Be it in story or in real life, I feel like I’m dragging a dead weight up an endless hill. I’d gladly drop the dead weight, except I can’t find the way to do so since I am both the dragger and the dragged. Do I want to be stuck in an endless, useless grind? No. Do I have a clue which way to go for relief, respite, a lift up to less oppressive moods? I’ll settle for real, substantive improvements at any level whatsoever. At this point, life and writing stare back at one another while I wash dishes, make useless phone calls and wonder why everything has turned out so heavy, graceless and grumpy – no matter how much of a happy face I stick on my features, like the one Eleanor Rigby kept in a jar by the door. (The other day, someone told me my good humor was an inspiration. I suppose my manner matched the compliment. I seem gifted when it comes to the happy public face.)

So. If you’re going to delve in noir, at least, make it good?

If I could, I’d walk out of here, and board a bus. The camera would pull back in a long shot taking in the sunset. The words The End would appear and the credits would roll.

Except, in real life, I’d be on the bus and wondering: Now what.

*A place nobody likes, least of all the stuck ones. I’d rather be amusing, if only to amuse myself.

My own lungs are veering toward normal again, my speaking voice, ditto

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, humeurs, Local projects, news coverage, notes, Opinion, proto drafts, Radio, Sundays, TV on January 24, 2016 at 9:15 am

Did I laugh out loud as I read the latest learned pronouncement by an editorialist*, a few minutes ago? The rift threatening the Left, he explains, is between the militants and the people. The militants don’t understand that the people like the Prime Minister and the uber-Liberal young twerp who made it straight to a ministerial job without once having to bother with getting elected first.

I almost laughed out loud because of a phone conversation I had yesterday. During which a dear friend told me about her latest surrealistic meeting in Paris, attempting to close a deal with a television  group on a documentary in the making. At this latest meeting, the group had invited a celebrated radio personality for an “outside opinion”. The personality (paid for his contribution, of course) arrived and slathered out vast word combos, all of them paraphrases out of the current Latest in the Parisian jargon. “How was his scarf,” I asked (fashions in the latest proper knotting of a scarf feature prominently in People-type photo reports over here). “I don’t know,” she answered. “He was wearing a navy blue businessman’s suit, white shirt and uneventful tie. The modest Protestant banker look.”

He did his number, she said. Fell silent (with a benevolent smile) when he realized she lived in the southwest and knew a thing or two about tear gas and intrusive Keepers of Public Order. Decided then and there her project had value after all, and left – no doubt, to collect his stipend.

I read the editorialist in that same perspective as my friend’s report on the Radio Personality – i.e. just because a bullfrog bellows through a megaphone doesn’t make the bullfrog’s message more significant.

Apart from which: antibiotics and cortisone take a lot out of a body’s energy levels. But they take a lot out of that of bacteria too. For which I say: hurray, hurray. (I hit the Animals category because bacteria belong to the zoo, don’t they? As for bullfrogs, I have full respect for their right to bellow – but why they need a megaphone…)

*Yes, in the Obs, I’m sorry to say. Thankfully, the paper version of the erstwhile Le Nouvel Observateur still carries a column by Delfeil de Ton. So all is not lost yet.

The Heros went on ahead, I’m just trying to make it up the next hill

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Artists, coffee, Current reading, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, humeurs, Local projects, Music, proto drafts on January 23, 2016 at 8:34 am

The Library of America Story of the Week newsletter usually lands in my inbox on Sunday evenings. This week (someone’s busy weekend schedule ahead?) the Story came out in such a rush the first version of the email contained a photograph of Edith Wharton above the text from last week’s Story. The corrected text followed and congrats to Edith Wharton for both her war work and her writing. What else can I say while I struggle with the frustrations at my infinitesimal attempts at carrying on whatever damned commitments I was stupid enough to take on (and impose on others).

The imposition on others being the worst part of it this morning, in terms of: what next?  For how long? Where’s the exit? A character in a draft annoys you? You get full value out of the annoyance, one way or another (strike him out, stick him into worse trouble, make him a laughing stock, whatever.) But real people with serious problems become a source of endless calls for help – what do you do beyond closing the shutters and putting your phone to sleep for twenty-four hours?

Never mind Wharton and her multiple committees and good deeds for the victims of Word War I. I approached two people yesterday on behalf of others. Their eyes clouded over as soon as they understood this was an appeal for help. Remained amiable – I try to avoid people who’ll pounce on me and reduce me to shreds. Amiable but firm – no, they couldn’t help in any way, good day, good day.

Edith Wharton I am not. That job was taken and well done by Edith Wharton in person. As far as the literary world(s) are concerned, I’m a sixty-nine year old nobody in a nowhere town. Unpublished (no, I don’t consider a blog a publishing, even if that’s what the click says at the top of the page). Keeping one step ahead of whatever new administrative dreck is about to land on me while I extract myself from the previous ones – not all of my doing, far from it. With no idea what further frustrations await when I click the phone back on this morning.

Onward for another full circle in search of solutions? Hurray, hurray. (The bright note: singing at eleven.)

Will have to do for now

In Animals, Dance, Hautvoir, Music, notes, proto drafts on January 22, 2016 at 9:50 am

a friend asked for a few words in English to add onto a bit of disheveled intro to a piano improv. This is what showed up while I walked the dog through the fresh garbage out on Place du Château :

wandering

meandering

even taking the long way around

won’t bring you home again

wandering  meandering

following your feet

a step

another one

you find a bit of rhythm?

you dance.