Friday, November 30, 2007

I wanna be karaoke

Work is hectic and will continue to be hectic for a while, so I'll be posting lighter. Anyway, last night was fun even though I didn't see the woman I was hoping to see.

A few things I noticed about gay-bar karaoke as distinguished from straight-bar karaoke(although admittedly my sample size is really small):

Generally better singing at the gay bar.

More gospel songs at the gay bar (People who think gay=depraved take note).

More general friendliness and less strict cliquishness at the gay bar.

Singing about how I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist doesn't go over any better at a gay bar than a straight one (people who think gay=depraved take note).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

SPECIAL TO MY READERS

Yesterday was awful, so today I'm planning to compensate. There's a cute lady I met recently who allegedly hangs out at the Lakeview Yacht Club on Thursdays, so that's where I aim to be. Come by and I'll buy you a drink. If all my readers show up, we might be able to get our own table.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Third Post of the Day: did I mention that Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford Sucks?

From this Alabama News article Re: Langford's regressive sales tax increase:

Olivia Thompson, a former city bus driver forced to leave her job because of a disability, said she lives on just $607 a month.

"They're saying one penny's just one penny," the West End resident said. "It's not just one penny if they double and triple taxes for business owners. That's going to spill over to us, and we won't even be able to afford food stamps."

Langford, who dropped in for about 10 minutes of the evening meeting and took the microphone, dismissed such fears.

"If a penny's going to break you, you're already broke anyway, so don't worry about it," he told the cheering crowd.


What a callous little man. A domed stadium might be a good idea, but don't put the burden on those least able to bear it.

It's the cheering crowd that gets me, though. Birmingham is dumb. Dumb like a frog.

Second Post of the Day

Realtor-wise I now have two offices to contend with; one has come onto the scene but the other hasn't left. As I've labored these past few days to correct my realtor issue (which seems to hinge on confusions between the two offices, confusions which are outside my sphere of influence) I've been uncertain which of the two offices is the boss and which is the subordinate. People at each office seem to think they're the top, and that the other office is topping from the bottom. I now think the relationship isn't a linear hierarchy; more like a bad marriage. Mommy-office and Daddy-office are fighting, and they were taking it out on me. Now I've reestablished the equilibrium by getting them to fight with each other. I feel semi-safe but precariously perched. I'm glad my real Mommy and Daddy are happily married. I feel like I've gotten a demo of what it's like to be the child of squabbling parents, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

P. S. to whom it may concern: Mr. Goldstein did a one-man show at Virginia Samford theatre a few months back, and it was dope. I will not be doing a one-man show at Virginia Samford, but I might do a one-man scene at an open-mike if I can find one that seems hospitable.

I won't bore you with the details

Various things involving my money seem to have gone awry. I've tried to be reasonable about it whenever the person on the other end was hoping for me to be gracious. Perhaps I'll get a positive karmic payback when I'm depending on the other person to be gracious. As it is, I'm playing phone tag with the woman who's in charge of attacking deadbeat tenants; despite paying my rent on time I've been mistaken for a deadbeat. I hope getting a refund on a lost money order is a painless transaction.

Meanwhile I'm working on a solo-performance text. Where does one do solo performance texts in B'ham? If you're Goldstein the answer is Virginia-Samford, but I'm thinking a bit smaller than that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Move along, "Navel S--b" fans. There's no navel s--bbing to be enjoyed here.

I'm making a s--b at writing a monologue (do you suppose my use of the phrase "making a s--b" in conjunction with the tag "navel gazing" is why so many people come tripping across my blog in their search for "navel s--b?" Every day these people come to my blog. It's kind of disturbing) for some kind of performance, but it's nowhere near being ready to reveal. That's all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I lost weight over Thanksgiving weekend

Heaven knows I needed to. My family eats light and lean compared to me, so I kept the eating thing under control. Also the actual Thanksgiving dinner was an extended family potluck, and my extended family is a mixed bag on the cooking front. Half the desserts were from Sam's Club. C'mon, people.

The time with my nuclear family was time well spent, indeed.

Anything else? I'm reading the anthology Extreme Exposure, Ed. Jo Bonney, full of text excerpts of various performance artists. There's some tasty stuff in here. Future audition monologues, for sure, but also a source of inspiration. I may try my hand at writing and open-miking, just to see if B'ham wants performance monologues, and if I can help meet that need.

Look, I had all these lovely little observations over the weekend, but I came home to a Landlord Letter which banished all such thoughts from my head. Home Office thinks I haven't paid my rent. I have. They've promised to clear it all up, but even the suggestion that a Kafkaesque eviction nightmare might open up through no fault of my own changed all my pastel sunlit ruminations into dark inky stormclouds. All's well (probably) but never underestimate McFate's power to make a sow's ear of a silk purse.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Unnatural Marriage

My Mom used to work at an office. One of the salesmen there was an outspoken racist who said (bear in mind you're getting this thirdhand: my version of Mom's version of what this guy said) that "We keep the black people in their place in Nashville" and that we should handle the war on terrorism thing by bombing Mecca, as if that'd settle things down.

Mom was miserable there and didn't hang around long (for a variety of reasons, not just a loathsome coworker), but she befriended a nice woman at an office-related party. This woman was (per Mom)sophisticated, well-spoken, a professional writer who had numerous published books to her credit. I bet you can figure out the punchline: she was married to the racist guy.

I'm unlikely to ever meet this couple, but as my Mom told me more and more stories about them (each of which pretty much reenforced my initial impression: the Klansman and the college grad) I found that they inhabited my imagination to an unsettling degree. I think the key reason (aside from my guilty white liberal daydreams of retorting to bigots) is that they provide a sort of miscegenation nightmare for me; the sophisticate who marries an unrepentant bigot. This repels me the way race-mixing upsets Klansman. How could she mix her genes with a person of such inferior, degraded stock?

If someone could map the dynamics of their marriage it might provide a sort of Rosetta stone to the mysteries of human attraction.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Second Post of the Day: Can You Tell Me How To Get

This article about early Sesame Street starts off snarky, but touches on some interesting elements of the original Sesame Street production. Despite being a white suburban kid, I always felt at home in the pasteurized inner city environment of Sesame Street.

My favorite part:

People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading.

This is exactly the point of all non-vocational learning, isn't it?

So cute

Today I saw a mom and dad leading a pair of identical twin girls, and don't you know those cute little girls were dressed exactly alike? They made me smile, but my smile melted into a frown, because everything I've ever heard from grown twins on the subject is that you should dress twins differently and encourage them to be their own persons. I have twin cousins who grew up with complementary but different wardrobes; their dresses might have the same pattern, but one girl's color scheme would be different from the other. That seems like a good way to balance it out. Today my cousins are as connected as any pair of sisters, but are very aware of themselves as distinct individuals.

Still, I totally understand the urge to turn twins into a perfect pair. It reminds me of the urge to have white carpet. When I was a carpet cleaner I discovered that every conventionally-minded newlywed bride wants white carpet in her first house. She soon discovers, though, that there is no such thing as white carpet. There is only mottled gray carpet with brown and black streaks. Any "white" carpet you see is simply a preliminary to the inevitable.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pseudo-Good Deed

I was strolling along a walking path when I found a cel phone lying in the grass. The only other person around was a jogger. I called out to him and asked if it was his. He addressed me as "Ma'am, uh, sir," once, which made me wonder. I don't believe he actually thought I was a woman. Did he think I was trying to pick him up? Whatever.

It wasn't his phone, and so I called Sprint and made arrangements to drop the thing off at the local Sprint shop this morning. Everyone at Sprint, whether on the phone or at the shop, acted like I must be a wonderful standup guy to turn the thing in instead of keeping it.

The reality is that I don't use cel phones, don't know how they work, and have no idea what to do with the things (My brother makes a living helping people understand the gadgets, but I haven't asked him for help). I'm always panic-stricken when someone hands me a cel phone for any reason. All I know about them is that they're pestilential noisemakers that make the whole world sound like a Chuck E Cheese. I can't operate them, and they do too give you brain cancer no matter what those studies say. If I were less neurotic about the things I might have called all my long-distance friends on someone else's tab.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Birmingham, Alabama has the Mayor it deserves.

The winner of the new Platinum Douchebag for Excellence in Sucking is Birmingham's new mayor, Larry Langford, for proposing a sales tax increase to pay for the products of his synapse misfirings. Please help me hate him for pushing this regressive tax. Why does he like regressive, poor-people-punishing taxes so much? What is he, a Republican or something?

Pictures! We got pictures! Or, That Hair Reflection'll Get You Every Time

A couple years back a friend sent me some photos of myself in which it was very clear that I had a patchy bald spot. This was before I could see the patchy bald spot in the mirror. I responded to my friend with some cockamamie tale about how it wasn't actually a bald spot, just the way the light was reflecting off my hair. Was I desperate or what?

The other day I saw some photos of me in which I appeared to have an absurdly protruding pot belly. I'm not in denial about my need to lose weight and get in better condition (yeah, like I'm gonna whip it into shape around the holidays) but this picture really strained credulity. I'm not one of THOSE guys with low-slung pot bellies that don't match their frames and look like some kind of comical false pregnancy, am I? I looked closer and was relieved to see that it was just the open flap of my jacket, not an actual part of me, that was extending so far from my center.

Or was it? I remember how certain I was, or tried to be, that my baldness was just that old bugaboo hair reflection.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No Place at the Table

I'm thinking about the family I'll see at Thanksgiving, which gets me thinking about someone we won't be seeing at Thanksgiving: Uncle Lenny.

Uncle Lenny was a charming, brainy pilot and an early dabbler in home computers. He was married to Aunt Carol, who was my blood relative in this situation. They were a fact of family life when I was a child, Aunt Carol and Uncle Lenny.

Then one day it was announced that they were separated.

Much later they were back together, attending church and family social events hand in hand, smiling, talking about the counseling they were getting.

Then they were divorced.

A sad but typical story. But it's not like they just went their seperate ways. The message that came down after the divorce-and I wanna emphasise that this was from my Mom and other Aunts, not from Aunt Carol herself-was "Uncle Lenny is gone. He is Dead. His name has been blotted out of the Book of Life. You will never see him again." I was sad because I liked Uncle Lenny; he was charming and knew how to make a little boy feel important. But indeed I never saw him or heard from him again.

I'd kinda like to drop him a line, but I don't know his name. He's Uncle Lenny. And while my parents are generally open with me, I don't think they'd want to help me track the guy down.

Anyway, some years after all this I asked Mom why Aunt Carol and Uncle Lenny went through all that, and Mom's answer was "He had a girl in every port." Which explains everything and nothing. You can imagine how that would lead to divorce, but it doesn't in and of itself tell the whole story. Did he keep cheating after all his happy Scripture-verse-laced talk about staying together and counseling and the sacredness of the marriage vows?

And even if he were a repeat cheater, I could understand how my family would hold him in low regard, but there's more than low regard in this family for the man. There's a deep, dark, plentiful well of hard hate. Maybe there's more to the story than infidelity; or maybe when it gets personal such stock elements as "adultery" and "divorce" take on a fiery, frightening and epic force.

Anyway, my family is pretty pokey in most regards, and I prefer it that way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Second post of the day: melancholy laced with cheer

Please put some Son House on for this post.

Me am melancholy because there's a woman I wanna see again but the time is not yet ripe. I'll spare you the details, but I've got to get myself properly situated before I'm ready to make a play. It's a pretty banal situation, but at least I'm planning for the future; I sense that I've been taking what came to hand too often lately, instead of going forth and finding opportunities on which to jump. Despite the onset of Autumn I'm in a Springish mood, a regenerative mood. I'm ready to get out of the all-too-comfy rut I've plowed for myself. I'm too comfortable; it's the comfort of lazy resignation. Time to shake things up.

Cleanup

I was telling one of my Shakespeare at Sloss co-performers about my filthy-apartment woes and said "I've got four big trouble spots. If I can clear those up I'll be out of the woods." She said "you can probably clear up each spot in about a week, right?" I dunno, but her saying it motivated me to tackle some of those trouble spots that I've done nothing more than furrow my brow at for a while.

I've got a pile of clothing that I haven't worn in years; for various reasons I decided these clothes didn't fit the bill, and I threw them in one of the semi-closets that pepper my apartment. Today I finally started sorting through them... they'll need serious cleaning, but most of them will be wearable with a bit of care, and some of them are startlingly nice clothes that my parents bought me, years ago. I'm dumbfounded that I didn't appreciate these things, and just left them in a lump.

* * *

Three comics from Picturebox (see link to left!) arrived yesterday: 1-800-MICE ishs 1 and 2, and Free Radicals. 1-800-MICE is by Matthew Thurber, whose contribution to acclaimed artcomix anthology Kramers Ergot 6 spellbound me. I'm savoring this new comic; it's like a mashup of the perfect long-form improv show, the perfect dream, and the perfect Saturday morning cartoon that never was (including the cereal ads).

Free Radicals is an anthology which blends new-school artcomix with prisoner art. New-school artcomix kids thought it would be interesting to solicit art from convicts, and they aren't wrong. So you get short narratives, some elegant and enigmatic images, and then, y'know, nekkid ladies with devil horns. The book is wildly uneven, but at ten bucks the best of it redeems the worst.

* * *

I recently saw the movie Elephant by Gus Van Sant; it's based on the Columbine shootings. It takes Steadicam about as far as it can go, and builds up compassion for the victims without yanking at our heartstrings. One thing that struck me about it was that Van Sant presents the fictionalized shooters as affectless, bland, without overt passion. I had imagined the Columbine shooters acting out of an overflow of poorly-channelled passion.

I wonder what the Columbine shooters would think if they could see their fictionalized selves kissing in the shower.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Getting my look together

On the Saturday final rehearsal for Shakespeare at Sloss I wore contacts. The director told me she preferred my big clunky glasses, as they made me look more Horatio-ish or something. I got contacts so I could do theatre without either wearing glasses or being blind, but ever since I did my directors have all wanted me to wear the glasses. Directors love my glasses because these coke-bottle specs are so ridiculous that they make me look like a "character."

One of the ushers for our show (who has a Betty Boop voice, and with whom I instantly fell in love) met me in my contacts; after the actual show she told me "You look really nerdy."

"Well thank you" I replied.

I guess she thought they were costume specs, but no, they're part of my normal look. Finally someone was impolitic enough to blow the whistle on my dorky appearance; I hadn't quite fathomed the effect my glasses have on how I come across. It turns out she has a thing about nerdy glasses, though, and she likes to wear clear-lensed frames as part of her nerd-girl look. Hmmm.

Post-Sloss

The show went nicely! Doing the same scene three times in a row is a new experience for me; I guess I can go work at a theme park now. Hamlet and I really felt a connection this time; I have trouble connecting with people; I'm always abashed about looking people in the eyes. Connecting with Hamlet in the scene got me on a roll, and I managed to connect with several folks later that evening.


More later... I'm a bit behind at work.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Spare change?

This account of a statement by authors Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore dovetails with some of my recent thoughts:

Moorcock was fascinating on this subject, and I'd like to hear him talk more about it - he was essentially riffing on Shelley's line about poets being the unacknowledged legislators of humanity, talking about how "we can't get real change, and the only way to get actual change is to change the rhetoric", as well as talking about how other people had often come up to him and described remembering events from his fiction.

Moore's thoughts were broadly similar, but subtly different. While Moorcock spoke about the need to change rhetoric as a stepping-stone to real change, Moore says "we are living in text - we live by manipulating language".


I think reframing the nature of things is one of our only effective means of dealing with life. So much of life hinges on how we conceptualize it. And on some level we all understand this. So much of the way we talk about events reflects our knowledge that we have to understand events in useful ways. "Everything happens for a reason." But sometimes we have to supply the reason, or try.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Like Us

Today the Workplace lunch bunch (which is to say, my coworkers who eat hot stinky nasty food at their desks) are really in top form. The smell of what appears to be dog fried in mayonnaise has been assaulting my nostrils for two hours. I am a peaceloving person, so I shall seek the inner strength to live through this. Which is not to say that the fantasy of microwaving a bowel movement and just letting it sit on my desktop hasn't crossed my mind.

* * *

Last night I watched a good portion of the DVD The 70s Dimension courtesy of Netflix. You gotta see this. 70s era commercials, public service announcements, and remixes of the same by such artists asPeople Like Us. The ads are more basic versions of the same cheap emotional pornography that is the stock in trade of advertising today. These back pages of media history are kind of like seeing your relatives in their underwear. I wonder what happened to the endearing muscleman who pitches cheap exercise gear? I'm serously considering learning the "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer" announcer's spiel as an audition piece.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Little Shakespeare Video

Click here for a clip of the TV coverage. Click the teensy other video link in the corner to see the clip with me in it. Please note that they cut me out of the frame during the "I knew him, Horatio" bit which was the whole reason for my standing there. At least at Thanksgiving I get to tell my relatives that I was on TV. Being on TV is wonderfully impressive to my extended family. Although we don't subscribe to Noel Coward's rule that television is something one appears on, not something one watches.

BTW in actual performance I'm hoping not to be wearing enormous glasses (my contacts contact seems to be dragging her feet on stocking my contacts).

Also note that we cut the word "whoreson" out of the scene. Shakespeare is 2 HOTT 4 TV.

Birmingham:City Without Risers

This morning I shivered my way to Sloss Furnace so I could be Horatio in an excerpt from our excerpt from Hamlet. I was there so that when Hamlet said "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio" he would have a Horatio next to him. It was cold, but good company kept it light.

Anyway, it turns out we can't do the scene in the awesome cooling tower ruin after all! The plan was to have risers so the audience could see over the big wall of our playing field, but apparently there are no sturdy yet portable outdoor risers available in B'ham. So in the tradition of old Doctor Who episodes we'll do the whole thing in a gravel pit. Actually we'll be on the lip of the pit, elevated over the audience with Sloss's magnificent towers as our backdrop, so our second-best plans are pretty good. Still, one can't help lamenting what might have been. Alas, poor industrial ruin.

* * *

The long-awaited happy ending to the gripping saga of the electric blanket: I tried it out last night, and it was like being swaddled in amniotic fluid. Yay electric blanket! I think feeling like a happy baby all night made it easier to be a grown-up about getting up so early today. I have to let the baby and the man work in alternating shifts.

* * *

My new bloglink is to Noah Berlatsky, an iconoclastic art-comics critic. I often disagree with him, but he often gives me food for thought. Since I know my readers are such hardcore art-comics nerds I figured you'd be pleased.

Between electric blankets and art-comics weblinks, you can't say I don't give the good stuff. But most of my non-regulars are still looking for "navel s--b." They totally snub my plea for someone to give us the scoop on the navel s--b phenom that's apparently sweeping the globe. They show up, realize Google lead them down another blind alley, and scurry out, holding newspapers over their faces. Or so I imagine it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Washing My Electric Blanket: The Adventure Continues

Last night I stayed up late washing and drying my electric blanket. I had to handwash it, then ring it out by hand; machines would screw it up. It wasn't hard, but it took a sustained effort (over an hour, easy) to get the blanket from waterlogged to merely wet, and the expenditure of what I laughably call my upper-body strength left me with a good kind of exhaustion. I slept great. Hard work and clean living pay off. Someday I may try them for more than one night.

Anyway, tomorrow I gotta get up at HelpmeJesus O'Clock to do a Shakespeare shoot for Fox TV. I haven't really talked about how much I love engaging Shakespeare and Sloss Furnace at the same time. The magnificent industrial ruin and the complex, challenging material (although my part is simple) really displace me from my day-to-day reality. I feel like I'm living a different life when I do this. Doing it at dawn in front of cameras will add an extra level of distortion to the affair.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fire up that furnace; it's cold this morning.

We're doing some TV promotion for our Shakespeare At Sloss thing: we have to show up at 6:15 in the freakin' morning this Wednesday to tape our segment. I begged off, claiming work conflict, but the only real conflict is that I want to be snug in my bed at 6:15 in the freakin' AM.

Then I thought about what a professional actor has to do in order to get and keep jobs, and I told the bosses that I will show up after all. Although they said they could work around me (and indeed, Horatio isn't exactly the linchpin of the scene) it would work better with me there, and I expect once I get past the heartache of getting up early on a cold morning I'll quite enjoy Sloss at sunrise, doing a little Shakespeare for the B'ham public, and working with some of B'ham's top thespian talent. John, our Hamlet, is a joy to hear every time he intones his lines. Another chapter in my struggle between ambition on the one hand and laziness+infantilism on the other has been penned.

The other day I got to watch some of my favorite folks rehearse a bit of Lear in another part of the park, and it was a thrill. I'm glad they're taping the performances for an eventual documentary on the Shakespeare at Sloss adventure.

Sickening

Over the weekend I stood in a concrete ruin, roasting in the hot afternoon sun, and occasionally said "E'en so, my lord." Doing Hamlet in an industrial ruin is the coolest thing ever, but cold as it is, the sun is pitiless. I burn easily, and sunburn isn't just a skin thing for me. It extends down to the brain. Ow.

The other night I decided it was about time to take the electric blanket out of storage. When last winter ended I zipped the blanket up in the plastic cover in which it (the blanket, not winter) came. Perhaps I should have washed the blanket first. I've never experienced a mustard gas attack, but I think I get the idea thanks to the frightening funk that billowed from this blankey. This wasn't a wafting odor; this was an olfactory attack. I hung the blanket over the shower curtain rod, soaked it with Lysol, turned an electric fan on it and went to bed. Around 2 in the AM I woke to the odor of Lysol mixed with mustard gas permeating the apartment, so I ran water in the tub and rinsed the blanket, then squeezed it out and hung it up again. I've only begun the decontamination process. Yeah, I want to put it on my bed, but I don't want it to make me sick.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Polish posters

Heck, just check out the Polish Poster Archive. Wowsers. Movies, theatre... Thanks to Shoot The Projectionist for setting me hip to this feast for the eyes.

Hamlet, My Fair Lady, Cheap Ginger Ale

My new bloglink, Shoot the Projectionist, which features, among other things, unusual Polish film posters. Just for Frank, here's a My Fair Lady poster you don't see every day... it took me a minute to make sense of it, but it's worth a look.

Last night's Hamlet graveyard scene rehearsal was fun, but everybody got the giggles and we had to drink a lot of ginger ale (in lieu of alcohol). The ginger ale helped me out because it killed my sweet tooth; I find a little cheap nasty sweet stuff from time to time saves me from spending money on the expensive and fattening sweets to which I seem to be addicted. OTOH the Solar Monarch (in the role of the gravedigger) is going to have to drink about twelve cans of cheap soda on performance day if we stick with the very precise beer choreography our director has mandated. Better him than me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Theatre Surplus

Wow, there's a lot of theatre going on. How are po' folks supposed to keep up? In addition to which I'd like to see a lot of musical acts and dance recitals in town, but it's no use: I got to save if I'm gonna buy a Christmas. I've decided that 2008 needs to be the year I get serious about uprooting. I love Birmingham, but if I wanna make some kind of living as an actor I'd better get out of my cozy B'ham burrow and move along.

I'm told that cities with strong pro theatres have much less in the way of community theatre. I guess that means fewer shows to keep up with. I love having a vibrant and viral theatre scene, although it's no Chicago on the improv front.... Having one big pro theatre owning it all would be an interesting switch from startup theatre groups putting on a show in every other walk-in closet.