Archive for March, 2016|Monthly archive page


In Absurdlandia, Drafts, Food, Hautvoir, news coverage, or juice, TV on March 31, 2016 at 8:17 am

The world is confusing for an adult. How does the confusion play in a young person’s head?

Be honest. Be polite. Do your homework (and don’t forget to include a stick of glue in your bag or you’ll get another black mark on your record.) Lie low. Don’t ask too many questions. Don’t attract attention in any way. Who? they’ll ask. Never heard of him/her. Thus will you be safe.

Because the adults don’t want any back talk. They do not want any discussion. If you attempt an organized protest, adults will greet you with big sticks and guns. They’ll have the last word because they told you to stay home and stay out of trouble.

Some of the violence makes media footage. The media love violence. Onscreen, the impact doesn’t last; the feed needs fresh outrage. Followed by fresh nonsense to refresh the palate. On to the next horror – a self-perpetuating cycle. Meanwhile, the adults repeat: be quiet, do your homework, stay out of trouble, don’t use that word etc.

Brief News Bulletin: According to what appears to be a credible source, the government has ordered a record number of plastic bullets to deal with protests of every variety imaginable. Stay home. If you can’t stand violence, don’t look at the vids (they went out and demonstrated, they asked for it, didn’t they?) etc.

What about the ones who didn’t ask for it? What about the ones who paid with their lives for the crimes committed by others? The adult sighs. Please, the adult says, I’ve had a hard day. Could we have some peace and quiet for a change?

A twelve year-old yesterday, describing her favorite place: bed. Where she loves to retreat with her pizza or chicken or fries or juice or pastries. She climbs under the comforter and watches TV. Then, she daydreams about the fabulous life she’ll have when she grows up. Meanwhile, her mother cooks the foods her husband likes from his native land. The parents eat. Move over to the living room and watch their own TV.

Be quiet. Stuff your face. Dream of winning the super-lottery. (Don’t forget your glue stick when you go to school.)

Two Caps

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Rejection on March 30, 2016 at 8:43 am

Something like having the words knocked out of your mouth, over and over again. Something like being told only sissies give up.

Sissies – you know, wimmin. Wimmin break down before the finish line. If they don’t, somebody comes along and moves the finish line further. Play by the rules. The rules say the odds are against you. Your job to prove you’re the one in a million who can beat the odds.

Note how it’s all about being Number One.

Walking out with the dog early this morning, the moon all crisp and clean up in the sky. Four or five stars still visible in the rising light. Crying is a waste of energy, you told yourself because the urge was there. Crying being for sissies, of course.

Two caps during dreamtime. The first, a fool’s cap from a local production. The second from the stage show of an international celebrity – say, one of the Beatles. A cap worn in concert or on an album cover such as Sergeant’s Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The caps were meant for some kind of museum but the dreamer decided to keep them. The dreamer doesn’t have as many issues with truthfulness, honesty and being a good little soldier who doesn’t complain. Shades of long-ago visits to the gyno, here. The obstretician who always greeted me with the words: “Ah! my favorite patient. Always smiling, and never a complaint.” I was young and more than a bit stupid and trusting. The man had found the perfect way to shut me up and make me store away my list of troubling questions. I smiled. I joked. I made my doctor grin. He got my money too.  Hurray, hurray.

Allez. There’s sunshine out there. Words to pull out of a cap for one or another character. Anger to recycle into something else more conducive to… to something a lot better than proving you can stand up again after every put-down. Until the day comes when you can’t stand up no more? Thanks, let’s try something else.

Trivialize, Marginalize, Ignore

In Absurdlandia, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects on March 29, 2016 at 11:04 am

The woman didn’t show last week. She didn’t show this week either. For extra bonus points, the staff person was also absent, and her phone is on voice message. Do I feel like the extra luggage you lose on the way, and never miss? Absolutely.

But what’s the use of anger if nothing ever comes of it? I’ll get apologies at some point, perhaps. The staff person’s problems will turn out to be so huge, so massive I’ll feel like a lowly life form for expressing – nay, for experiencing – discontent.

I got to sit in an empty office and spew on paper, but so what. There’s nothing like silence to turn angry ones into guilty fools. Disturbing the peace. Disturbing the Official Story. The Official Story is a seamless garment. Anger is a sign of weakness.

Anger is a sign of weakness… but pounding countries, men, women, children, dogs, fleas and flowers flat is a sign of strength. Go figure.

Yes, this is a foolish post. Easier on an aging body than throwing a tantrum on a terrazzo floor – getting down is a bitch. Getting up again:  an enterprise.

(Does the snarled and frazzled feeling extend to the draft? Yes. How could it not?)


In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, Current reading, Drafts, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music on March 28, 2016 at 8:24 am

Spent most of yesterday with friends at my neighbor’s. We listened to my neighbor’s musical composition in which I provide a narrative voice, and in which the two friends provide vocals. We joked, we broke out in song a lot, between bouts of discussing F’s latest episode with MS. He’s thirty-eight, the diagnosis happened when he was twenty-five. He teaches guitar which adds an extra… annoyance, shall we say,  when he loses all sensation in his fingers.

Reading Svetlana Alexievitch’s La Supplication in the evening keeps things in the minor key? Yes, no doubt. Except the voices of those people living in the irradiated zones around Tchernobyl say things we all need to hear. Not for a cheap dose of pathos. For the reality of what they describe and of how they describe themselves as experimental subjects in human adaptation to surroundings modified by substances with life spans in the billions of years. Given that the human body rarely survives to one hundred years, we’re all stuck with a huge deficit in imagination – same as when we try to imagine the reality of billions of stars or dollars or even humans, for that matter.

One of the women Svetlana Alexievitch meets talks of her mother’s  helpless confusion when denied the right to evacuate the town with her favorite books by Tolstoï and Chekov. For one, the books have turned intensely radioactive. For another, her mother was used to reading these authors as her lodestars in dealing with life’s endless surprises. War we know, most of the men and women say. But this new reality, we don’t understand. Most of the youngsters don’t read anymore; when they do, they read science fiction only. It’s the only writing that comes close to describing their own experiences of reality. A world in which marauders carry off radioactive lumber, clothes and TV sets for sale on the market in Minsk and beyond. Meanwhile, the remaining locals can their gorgeous tomatoes and pickle their magnificent cucumbers because what else are they going to feed the body?

Voilà. Meanwhile, here and now, this body hasn’t adjusted yet to the artificial change in clock time. Wakes from a dream with the White Rabbit’s feeling of late-late-for-a-very-important-date. The dreamer feared missing the 9:05 out of town because she’d forgotten her briefcase at Sir George Williams’ University in Montreal, and her laptop in a different venue entirely. The dreamer had been talking with a man whose grizzled features owed something to Jim Harrison’s physical appearance and whose company tended to make her forget about schedules and physical objects in need of transportation.

Easter Monday is a non-work day over here, I learned yesterday. Which made the time spent singing with friends more acceptable somehow. Less slothful, you know.

Absurdlandia. (Oh yes. And A Midsummer Night’s Dream too, re-read from a different perspective. Meanwhile, the writing proceeds by small increments.)


In Drafts, Hautvoir, Sundays, Visual artists on March 27, 2016 at 9:13 am

A moment of fascination, thanks to a posting of illustrations from a document printed in the year fourteen hundred and ninety three. Wood blocks, I think, illustrating the seven days of creation according to Judeo-Christian cosmology.

At first, out of nothingness, a circle that looks like a ship’s porthole. Inside the circle, the elements appear, circle upon circle like electro magnetic waves. There’s no explaining what fascinates and what doesn’t. I feel the itch to draw in my arm.

A day away from the computer means a day in which writing happens in long hand. Personal writing, for the most part – letters not meant for sending but for clarifying issues that will never find resolution otherwise. Hold on – am I saying a letter never posted or even torn up after writing – can resolve something? Yes, if only for the writer. It can clarify motivations, for one. It can point the way to likely reasons for rushing forward or refusing to budge. It can lay bare sources of incompatibility.

One such bit of writing yesterday turned on my staunch refusal to maintain contact with an ex-spouse. What others make of this, not being my concern. I know the tyranny of good manners dictates smiles, while the opposite tyranny commands fight-to-the-last in proving your principles are way more principled, etc. Neither attitude feels appropriate.

How will the fictional ones make use of any of this? I don’t know. At any rate, I was surrounded by people much, much younger than I, yesterday. I recognized a lot of the posturing, the way you recognize a hairstyle or a piece of clothing as representative of an era or a decade.

The clock reads nine am (it would have said eight, yesterday). The table on which I eat and work: overrun by files, books, dictionaries, scribbled notes, empty bottles of mineral water. Perhaps the character will speak up while I sort through the chaos on my desk. He might be involved in the same kind of clean-up, although for other reasons.


In and other spirits, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, news coverage, Theater on March 26, 2016 at 8:49 am

I’ll spare myself the nonsense over at TNYT for now. On one news source here in France, I learn that the Pope “flays” Europe’s anesthetized social conscience. The same verb (fustiger, in French) appears in another headline. Please, spare Europa the whip, folks. In my experience, beatings never improved anyone’s disposition.

I also watched a brief video in which a sociologist talked of the perils of falling into the sloughs of coupledom – the places where the home fan, best buddy and loyal supporter turns into the provider of subtle and/or brutal attacks on the other’s weak spots and self-confidence. This last because of a moment in the draft where one (or both) of the characters in a relationship must wonder if they can help each other over the next pile of insurmountable odds or if they’d best go at them solo. Always a loaded question, in fiction as in real life.

No rehearsal this morning and the possibility to break away from the town for the day. No one needs to flay my social conscience. Plus, when no solutions show up for lingering problems, a break is better than an endless re-hashing of the issues. Shuffling papers into a different configuration on the desk may provide unexpected results, at times. If not, a change is as good as a holiday.

Yesterday, getting away from it all involved reading breaks. They’ve carried me to page seventy-nine of a hundred and seventeen pages of learned introduction to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this instance, I use the word learned with delight because of the weaving of old and new insights  the introduction provides (I’m reading the Oxford University Press  Oxford World’s Classics edition, edited by Peter Holland). Of special note for me: dreams and their range from the mundane to the visionary or prophetic.

So. Away on a sunny day. Whether I’ll take in the whole selection of free films offered at Albi’s Scène nationale today, I don’t know. Today is partly about getting away from any set agenda other than catching the bus out of town, and back.

Boot straps

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Drafts, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Sanford Meisner, Visual artists, Wine on March 25, 2016 at 8:31 am

I know for a fact that thinking too much isn’t a good idea (thought/idea: no getting away from it, is there).

At any rate, the person wants a script for a seven-minute long puppet show. I’ve never written such a thing. That’s A. B: even less have I ever written a script for a puppet show to be presented to a non-hearing public and mimed in sign language for their benefit.

C: the theme (and subsequent action) must demonstrate the power of stick-with-it-ness in surmounting life’s many and unpredictable obstacles.

My own life playing in a thoroughly absurdist mode these days, I’m finding both the concept and its realization challenging.


The sculptor raised the hem on his pants so I could see the piece of leather he was describing. This was done so I could find its cut-out representation in the bull he’s soldered out of die-cut remains of  metal used to manufacture patterns for shoe-making. He’s also made another bull out of chicken wire – barbed wire being tougher to work with. The man’s parents entered France from Salazar’s Portugal with faked passports, so you see what kind of low-life I hang out with.

The day was cold but sunny. We ate out in the yard of a disaffected tannery now occupied by street and sundry other artists – whether famous or obscure, all of them are struggling. Everything is hard to come by, including agreement on a plan – any plan. On some days, nothing else but stubborn will keeps you going. On some days, you curse the stubbornness. Seeing as it’s stubbornness, you can curse it all you like. If it’s pulling uphill, it’ll keep on. If it’s lying low, it won’t budge.

Boot straps. You know, the ones in the saying. The frayed or new ones with which you’re supposed to pull yourself up. Forget them. They’re incidental. You’re an outsider? The misunderstandings will never go away? Your finest dreams will never rise up in a triple, shimmering rainbow? Relax, you’ve got plenty of company.

And just so you don’t forget what a crazy species you belong to: seems there’s someone working on a brand new device that should be out this fall. According to this person, what the world really needs right now is a two-shot pistol that folds up to look like a smartphone. (Read in the sidebar feature of the online TNYT).

Given which I say: I’ll take pasta and wine next to a chicken wire bull, and accept the fact opinionated, argumentative types drive me nuts – possibly because I’m as opinionated and argumentative as they are.

Does this make the writing of seven-minute script for a puppet show more appealing? Not one bit.

Hail to thee, blithe spirit, and all that

In Absurdlandia, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Poetry, proto drafts on March 24, 2016 at 8:23 am

As things stand now, every single word of fiction I’ve ever written will die with me.

No, this isn’t about self-pity. This is about painful truths. I write in English. I live in France, as far as imaginable from the literary powers that be. Most people around me couldn’t care less about writing, whether in French or in English.

I’ve stopped contacting agents since I assume – perhaps wrongly, but I doubt it – they will not be interested in the slightest by what I write and how I write it. When I started blogging, I held the naive belief I would find kindred spirits that way. Kindred spirits turn out to be few and far between. As for the pretty bit about shooting for the moon because you may miss it but you’ll reach the stars? Excuse me but most of space is empty – or whatever other name you want to give to dark matter.


On the list of minor annoyances this morning: the discovery the computer I acquired some two years ago is considered “obsolete” for the latest gizmo updates. I’d hate to hear what the latest gizmo folks would say about the computers at the Social Centre over here. No, this isn’t Africa. It’s not the cutting edge either.


I didn’t even know about Anne Bronte until I read about her on The Guardian yesterday. After reading the hatchet job one of her famous sisters did on her kid sister and her writing, I immediately ordered The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Apparently, in an earlier book, Anne Bronte wrote about the less-than-romantic life of a governess in homes where no passionately desirable and wealthy owner dwelled. If The Tenant proves to be good reading, I’ll order the other book too. No wealthy and desirable heirs in my life; the parents of the kids I coach don’t fit into that category and I’m a few months short of my seventieth birthday.

Thursday, March twenty-fourth, two thousand and sixteen

A Wednesday among many others

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Sanford Meisner on March 23, 2016 at 9:57 am

A commentary and a parody – the two items I found most meaningful in yesterday’s media landslide. The commentary by a professional journalist with one eye on the paper he had to do and the other on the stream from the wire services – the jumble of breaking news, gruesome shots of mangled bodies, wild rumors, confirmed bits later denied etc. The mix of revulsion and fascination at the core of the coverage – for the writer and the readers, both. “Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère,” as Baudelaire put it.

The parody on the satiric website Le Gorafi told the sad tale of an illustrator who’d gone to a party the night before, and slept in with a hangover. By the time he woke up and took in the latest news, it was too late! Too late to draw the iconic logo/slogan that would capture everyone’s imagination and lead to big-big deals with big-big bucks. A bummer. He’d missed the train with the Paris massacres too. And so on.

Not funny? Offensive? Personally, I find the real gore much more offensive than attempts to keep your wits about you in nasty times. Call it dark humor. Methinks it comes in handy, often.

As for the rush by political figures to use the latest terrorist attack as justification for unjustifiable decisions, the less said the better. Sputtering indignation never solved anything. We’re stuck with the leaders we have, and the leaders we have seem stuck in self-justification. Still. The Minister of the Interior choosing  the heat of the moment to “reveal” ISIS (known as Daesh over here) has a cache of thousands of stolen passports? Surely, good people, this justifies sending into detention thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women and children fleeing war and misery. And feeding the siege mentality. Fear – what a wonderful way to… never mind.

So much for the news.


As a rule, I like to leave off writing with the start of another scene, be it only a word or two. Not always possible, unfortunately, if words don’t show up on schedule. With nothing to build on, the writing session starts off something like cold calling to offer great deals for reversible home heating/cooling devices.

Plus, I’ve promised someone a scenario for a seven-minute puppet show.

And so, to work.

Left? Right? Straight down the middle?

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Scene Prep on March 22, 2016 at 8:57 am

Call them the split personality dreams. Dreams in which different aspects of what you call me take different stands and the dreamer is in the privileged seat of the observer.

As far as those kinds of dreams go, this was a simple split down the middle. Two female characters. One, on the left of the “screen” – so to speak – close to a murky lichen-encrusted stone wall. Though not mentioned in words, the subtext said: Ireland. On the right: a local circus artist berated the other one for her “darkness”. A kind of snap-out-of-it pep talk. Talk of pleasant things why don’t you, if you’re depressed, see a shrink, etc.

I woke up before the “dark one” could answer. I know she wanted to say: you’re wrong. I see a hell of a lot of depressing stuff around me, but I’m not depressed. Should I see a doctor about the fact I’m not depressed? Should I take pills? Meditate? Should I pretend I don’t see the depressing stuff? Do I tell you to shut up about the fun stuff? No. So what’s your problem?

I’m awake now, so whatever the circus artist has to say, I’ll find out later.


Did I mention the long-but-fabulous article in The New York Times about the wave readers (my term, not theirs). Called The Secrets of the Wave Pilots, it was published on March 20th (the link refuses to embed here – look it up if you’re interested). It’s all about subtle signals – the kind a body registers but rarely takes into account because louder signals dominate the field. Meanwhile the quiet ones go on recording and signaling subtle changes in wind direction, atmospheric pressure, taste of the air on the tongue, behavior of other life forms in the surroundings.


Unusual at this time of year: when I walked with the dog in the early morning, the town was enshrouded in mist. Even the birds were dismayed.