Monday, March 31, 2008

Pop

Went to Kannapolis to be with Laurie the past weekend. On the way there my tire burst outside of Leeds, Alabama. Thanks to AAA (And Laurie, who signed me up for AAA) I got back on the road pretty soon, but for much of the trip I was hyperaware of burst tires on the side of the road. There's a lot of them on Alabama highways. Leeds and Talladega seem to have tire scraps on the side of the road every fifty feet or so.

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Laurie and I saw a play: Dark Play at the Charlotte Actors' Studio Theatre, CAST. It's a show about a guy who goes online and deceives people in chatrooms; things get pretty complex and intense. We liked it quite a bit: the cyberdecor throughout the theatre (chandelier-like arrangements of computer mice, etc.) was a compelling touch, the leads performed with energy and intelligence, and all in all it was the kind of vibrant theatre that gets me excited about the medium.

One big frustration: the play had big widescreen TV monitors over the stage adding (mostly unnecessary) illustrations of ideas in the play. There's a big final soliloquy near the end of the show in which the main character describes a near-death experience as a mystical breakthrough, and I got the feeling that it was the sort of thing I want to hear at the end of a challenging play. Sadly I'm not sure, because I was distracted by a barrage of bootleg Chris Cunningham rock video footage on the monitors. No doubt the intention was for the vivid and startling imagery to dovetail with the vivid and startling imagery of the monologue, but the effect was more like showing a bunch of explosions and striptease numbers during Hamlet's 2b or not 2b soliloquy: distraction rather than enhancement. You don't have to be Grotowski to think this kind of lazily conceived distraction from the heart of the show isn't exactly value added. I agree with Grotowski that the long-trendy notion that theatre needs big TV screens to stay relevant is kind of like how Democrats thought they had to be Republican-lite to stay relevant post 9-11. Down with multimedia bombast overwhelming simple human performances of rich and nuanced texts! It's like slathering ketchup on a spring roll.

Postscript: despite my cranky complaints I'm particularly exccited about CAST and hope that I'll be able to participate in their future work once I move to Charlotte. Laurie and I both think it's a going concern, and we want to help nurture it, despite the near-inevitability of a CAST person finding this blogpost and getting annoyed with me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alright, I'm sorry! For a brief moment of poverty-induced madness I put ugly stoopid ads on my blog. I don't know what I was thinking, seeing as how I never click on those ugly ads, and only five or six people ever seriously look at my blog in a day. I feel like I had the golden arches tattooed on my face. It's a little easier to clean my blog than to clean my face, though. Forgive me for offending your eyeballs with crap ads.

Anyway, my girlfriend pounded on my ads and adsense's shenanigans filter knew better. Instead of engaging in further get-rich-quick schemes we should probably make a movey about a couple that gets into doltish schemes.

Edited to note that I spelled "movie" as "Movey". I like "Movey" better and think I'll stick with it.

The Mystery of Pat Sotia

In my senior year of high school we were all assembled in the gym to hear a well-coiffed woman explain to us that we shouldn't have sex until marriage because promiscuity=pregnancy/genital warts, and that you can't trust condoms ("I know you love those orgasms, young people, but please..." quoted from memory). Unspoken subtext: get married quick. And if you do fornicate, then for crying out loud have the decency to not use a condom, because we can't have you skirting God's will, said will consisting of pregnancy and disease for nasty wicked disobedient fornicators.

The other day I found a picture of her in my yearbook, with the caption "Pat Sotia shares her views." A quick google on Pat Sotia and related phrases ("sotia abstinence", etc.) turns up nuffin. Did the yearbook screw up her name? Par for the course; it screwed up plenty of students' names too. But I wanna know what became of this woman. Is she part of the well-funded abstinence-only crew today? Has she gone into another line of work? I was the only kid in the school who

A. fell for it hook line and sinker, and

B. didn't run right out and get married.

So I have a few things I'd like to say to "Pat Sotia." Politely, but firmly.

Monday, March 24, 2008

French Fashion Illustration

Garance Dore. Spare and elegant. A bit like Josei manga, but no screentone.

Chattenigma

For some reason this book jacket stuck in my memory and has haunted me since I was a kid in the Eighties and saw it in a cardboard display stand at Waldenbooks. I'm asking my design-oriented friends about the typeface... I'm fixated on it. It screams "Eighties" to me. Maybe it's associational. The Eighties were a time of following my Mommy from one store to another under a snowy Chattanooga sky. Bare trees lining the grey city streets, Christmas lights twinkling in the branches. Everything seemed charged with totemic mystery. Every drab department store seemed dusty and enigmatic.

There was a restaurant called the Brass Register which had, as part of its arch decor, a bathtub with a life sized soft knitted female rag doll taking a smiling bath. It weirded me out, embarrassed me, but amused my Mom into commenting on it. I was afraid to pass it on the way to the bathroom... it held the promise of danger, the same danger I sensed when grown women kissed my little-boy face.

I'd love to see it again, but I suspect it's long gone.
I'm wildly excited about a forthcoming con. Specifically, this. Art-comics champs are going to be in attendance, and if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, Laurie and I will get to meet folks we've admired for years! I'm so provincial that the idea of meeting Jaime Hernandez makes me swoon. Of course when it comes to meeting celebs I reckon it's important to act like someone they'd actually want to speak with, rather than like a gibbering fool. As a local actor I've actually met folks who were starstruck to speak with me, as strange as it seems (I'm only a local actor, for heaven's sake!) and I found it a distinctly worrying experience. I love to talk with folks who enjoy theatre, but watching grown people quaking with excitement over someone who was in a local play is disorienting. C'mon, folks! As John Waters said, you're not famous until you're in the Enquirer.

Added: Frank Santoro, artist on the oddball adventure comic Cold Heat, will be there too! I can't wait to ask him how he acheived some odd color effects. And Sammy Harkham, the editor of Kramer's Ergot will be there! Plus
Kevin Huizenga, one of the most thoughtful, nuanced, innovative cartoonists of the new breed! Apologies to my regular readers, none of whom care.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama-Cola

Obama gave a great speech, that Race speech. Here's how good it was: all the Yahoonews opinion pundits, on both sides of the aisle, whose bread and butter depends on oversimplification, phony outrage, demonization and cheap rhetorical games, are tirading about how lousy the speech was. If Obama actually manages to acclimatize us to political rhetoric that is heartfelt, subtle, meaningful, and which honestly addresses deeply buried anxieties in a productive fashion, then all the Coulters and the Ralls and the Malkins will be faking Nazi muggings for attention like Morton Downey Junior.

Some folks are asking why Obama would go to a church in which the preacher says things like "God damn America." I suspect a lot of those asking are folks who don't have much experience going to church. Here's the deal: You don't always agree with your Preacher. And that's okay, at least in the better churches. It's not when you disagree with the Preacher that you gotta leave; it's when the Preacher demands that everybody agree that you gotta leave. (Of course you may substitute Rabbi, Priest, etc. for Preacher on an as-needed basis)


* * *

Heard about this shop on NPR. Apparently they have a bazillion brands of soft drink (or coke as we say here... it's all coke. Pepsi is coke) in their brick and mortar store. The online shop is more limited, but the NPR story suggests that the shop is an Aladdin's Cavern of fizzy drinks.

I'd love to visit. I hate soft drinks, but I'd love to hear the owner, who obviously has a cultivated palate for soft drinks (which is odd; the whole point of soft drinks is that they don't require a cultivated palate) explain the subtle distinctions between a dozen different kinds of orange pop. Maybe I'd find something I'd like. Chocolate egg creams sound tempting. Too bad it's all made with corn syrup instead of sugar nowadays.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Play For Me...If You Ever Play

Laurie is sick, but she's gotta work anyway for reasons she's too weary to explain right now. To paraphrase Charlotte Haze, pray for her... if you ever pray.

Speaking of whom, I'm rereading Edward Albee's theatrical adaptation of Lolita, and I still think it's a mess. Sometimes two great tastes do not taste great together, and this blend of Nabokov with Albee (two of my most cherished creators) doesn't work at all. It might work if you forgot Nabokov and thought John Waters.

Here's an idea: Troublesome Theatre. Some theatre should do a season where all the plays are works that frustrate the directors, not necessarily by being outright bad, but in subtler ways. I think Albee's Lolita would make Nabokov ill, which would be okay if it were only a good Albee play. It's an interesting attempt at best. Still, I've read it over and over, trying to imagine a production that makes a solid night's theatre of it...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

dollop

Okay, maybe my last post went a bit too personal in icky ways. Sorry.

Removed a link, Yesterday's Papers, because it appears to have shut down. Added some new items. Peruse at your leisure.

Thassall I got. Behind at work!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Item!

Item! I had a marvelous time in Kannapolis NC, Land of Splendour, this weekend. Laurie and I are really in a groove now. I've never enjoyed squeezing her more than I did this weekend; we're becoming a couple in earnest.

We got to hang out with her friend Jennifer, who is awesome and gave us wine that far surpasses the plunk I usually drink. Yay Jennifer!

Item! Stalker is a luminous movie. Like Alphaville and Tetsuo, this SF movie knows that the stuff you can find within a few miles of your home is more enigmatic and alien than any Hollywood wizardry (although in this case it may be more likely to give you cancer). Alexander Kaidanovsky as The Stalker gives one of the most extraordinary performances I've ever seen in a film. His awareness of the dangers around him, his frantic rant about what The Room means to him, and his final tirade about secular eggheads, make him my new thespian idol. And The Writer's revelation of why The Stalker's mentor hanged himself gave me pause for thought.

It's essential viewing for anyone who needs more slow-paced three-hour philosophical Russian SF movies in their lives. You probably know if this means you.

Here Comes The Calvary

It's a cliche of Westerns, maybe most famously used in the John Ford/John Wayne classic Stagecoach: The protagonists are in mortal danger, they can't save themselves, and... here comes the Calvary to bail them out!

Or in Greek drama the protagonists wrestle with a moral dilemma, only to be saved at the end by a deity, the Deus Ex Machina, flying down and supplying a solution.

It's fashionable to disdain this kind of resolution. Shouldn't the characters earn their own redemption? Isn't it a cheat to bail them out with the narrative equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free card?

Maybe. But I find I'm more receptive to this kind of thing lately. It reiterates our dependence on forces outside ourselves, whether that something is as cosmic as God or something as mortal as law enforcement. Even John Wayne can't overcome every challenge... sometimes his grizzled individualism needs social structure and collectivism like the Calvary to keep him going.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cheep Sex

The painful thing about the post below is that I got it from a blog that was racking up five figures by posting about odd and obscure comics. Go fig.

Anyway, everybody's talking about prostitution in connection to Spitzer. One meme in the discussion confuses me. Several pundits (like Susan Estrich)put forward the idea that the awful thing about prostitution (which I think is wretched but should be legal) is that it involves using a person's body. Something about this assertion annoys me, and I can't quite figure out why. I think it's because I've spent some time as a manual laborin' service provider, and that certainly involved people paying for the use of my body. I suppose one could argue that sex is different because it's more intimate, but I dunno... I suspect some prostitutes are more comfortable having paid sex than I was getting filth out of peoples' carpet. Ask the average blue-collar laborer whether they'd rather spend twelve hours a day on the job for a bit more than minimum wage or an hour a day schtupping smug alpha-males for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and I suspect a lot of them would have to think it over.

When Estrich wonders why handsome powerful men pay for sex when they could get it for free, I want to answer with the old saying: hookers aren't paid to come, they're paid to go. The kind of alpha male who would join The Emperors' Club understands business and financial transactions better than emotional ones; with a hooker there's no "When will I see you again" or "When are you getting a divorce so I can be with you completely." They get out of the way so you can get on with your busy day. It's not nice, but handsome alpha-males don't have to be nice. Estrich gets it right when she says that prostitution is the cheapest sex. There's no emotional cost... so cheap.

Okay, so I'm a beta male with a chip on his shoulder. But I'm in love with a wonderful woman who's better than I ever expected, and I'm glad I'm not a hard driver; she wouldn't be with me if I were.

Gimmee my $$$


My blog is worth $564.54.
How much is your blog worth?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Iron Macbeth

This weekend we began work in earnest on Macbeth for Shakespeare at Sloss. I'm playing one of the third banana roles (A guy named Caithness) and it turns out the director took all the third bananas' lines, cut a bunch and redistributed the rest. After I researched the historical basis for my character, too! I now have pretty much none of my original lines, but the big dramatic wounded-messenger opening speech about how Macbeth's winning the war? I get that part. It's going to be interactive with the audience, which is to say I'm gonna vomit blood on the VIP tables' wine and cheese.

Interpreting Shakespeare is a bit of a challenge. We're not used to following this kind of complicated and compressed verbal rhetoric the way folks were in The Bard's day; I for one can hardly make sense out of the verbiage when I watch or listen to Shakespeare, so I'm thinking hard about how to punch the lines so my meaning's crystal-clear to the audience. My character is saucy and salty, so that'll be fun and keep it from being an applied academic exercise.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Open Letter

Dear H*****y's Chocolate Company:

Recently I visited my company's in-office convenience store in an effort to purchase some dark chocolate. None of my usual brands were on offer, so I purchased a bar of H*****ys Special Dark. I believe this name is misleading. Perhaps it should be renamed Pixy Sticks, because that's what it freakin' tastes like. Until convenience stores have the decency to stock actual dark chocolate, please put some chocolate into your sugar bars. If, upon eating an allegedly chocolate product, I don't feel like I just got violated with a cacao plant, it ain't chocolate.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Synape Firings

A guy named Kevin Kelly has some interesting thoughts about making a living as a guerrilla creative artist. As I contemplate making a go as an actor/improvist in another city, I might want to keep this in mind...

Anyway, Laurie got me a Bluetooth so I can yack at her while I clean my apartment. Result: lots more cleaning. Some longstanding and seemingly intractable messes are vanishing. I've gotten more done by cleaning while chatting with Laurie in NC than I ever have on my own. Her unsentimental nature is scraping up against my sentimental packrattiness (She ordered me to throw out some sentimental mementos, particularly postcards from past loves... go figure! I didn't respond by ordering her to pitch her dozen photo binders of ex-boyfriend photos, because that's just the kind of sweet boyfriend I am.)

The downside is that by spending each night cleaning, I'm getting no movie watching done. I watched the first five minutes of Stalker (By Tarkovsky, an astonishing filmmaker) the other day... it was awesome, but it was only five minutes of a loooong movie. Maybe this weekend I'll dig into it.

Also this weekend I start work on Macbeth. I have a shall-we-say supporting role, but the director wants me to stop cutting my hair or shaving until the show's over, just to get that wild-man look. Yep, that's me, primal as all get-out.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Making the Connections

Back from North Carolina. Laurie and I had a great time (small towns can have large pleasures), but it fascinates me that being with her is changing the dynamics of my life in subtle ways that I don't fully understand. To a large extent the time, money and attention that I've long devoted to entertainment and diversion stands revealed as a substitute for having someone to love. But it's perplexing, this business of trying to reconfigure life from a solitary to a shared pursuit. In a way I feel like someone who's been a glutton for life but has recently discovered the pleasures of eating fine food in reasonable portions.

"Wow, this salmon is great! Where's the ketchup?"