Thursday, January 31, 2013

SNAKE

From the 1/21/13 New Yorker article about David Walsh's art museum, MONA, in Tasmania. Author David Denby closes by talking of his sister, who had just been diagnosed with cancer:

She told me that she had gone to MONA after her diagnosis and sat in front of [Sidney] Nolan's "Snake." She had been there three times before, but she had never understood what it was about.

"And I was just sitting there," she said. "And I felt it moving. That huge snake was moving through that room and rolling through me. And I got it. I got the snake."

And now the filament was glowing. She leaned toward me.

"It's creation. That's what the snake is. Creation."


--------------------------------

The Bus Long Snake

They found a fossil of a snake as long as a bus.
Don’t you wonder if Eve put her children on him,
to ride around on.
Or maybe she charmed him into her,
telling him it was just for fun,
just for the ride.
Just for the wisdom she gained of the knowledge
of how it could be used,
for the ride of good and evil,
like going to school,
having a teacher,
for the knowledge of good and evil,
for the knowledge that men are not Gods.
Since then she knew the power of love
to heal broken things
since then she knew the power of cutting off the devil’s head
since then she knew the strength of pain
when the bus long snake
came around to make love.

--SSssssssssssssssss

It's finally official. I'm now THE...

...BIGGEST LOSER IN THE WORLD! arrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhh

The other office-lady got the job and starts Monday. Tomorrow's my last day.

So much for my dreams of health-care and vacation pay and saving $1000 a month and buying a car and getting a nicer place to live when my lease is up 12 months from now! So much for really enjoying being downtown during the day and being able to walk to the library or drugstore or bank during my lunch hour.

Back to the worrying about money? Well, not immediately. Got a stash to live on for the next 4 months even sans any employment whatsoever. And, luck of luck, a couple of weeks ago I signed a 4-month contract for freelance work with a publishing company I've had a long relationship with, for double what I've been making an hour at this office. So THAT money is going to be helpful, and now I can work for many more hours per week than the 15 I originally said I could do when I was also working 8-5 each day...

But STILL. Dammit. I didn't LOVE doing secretarial stuff, but I'd thought FOR SURE I'd get the job and use the next year to two years as a "recharging" period: Getting every health checkup that I've not had since 2006. Getting a car. Taking a paid vacation or two. Having the safety net there, and a schedule, and pleasant people to chat with every day... all good for my overall mental health, even if I wasn't at all mentally/creatively stimulated by the work... The possibility of having all of that felt like a step FORWARD from the uncertainty I've lived with since I moved to NYC back in early '07. SIX YEARS of nervousness! I was hoping for a year/two-year BREAK, where I could just rest easy for a bit and enjoy my life instead of having to keep up the mentally draining job-search struggle... UGH.

Oh-fuckin'-well.

I cried like my heart was broken yesterday, but today when I got the official (not just 2nd-hand e-mail) news, there was also a sense of calmness: At least SOMETHING was decided with this particular job. No more mental limbo, no more false dreams about what I was going to do with all that money. And, honestly--not just trying to pick myself up--I really, REALLY did not like the drab, mind-numbing minutiae of arranging meetings/hotels/rental cars/reimbursements for people. Yes, a part of me is very anal and good at that kind of thing (which is why I still think I should have gotten this job--I was doing well at it!)... but it really was mentally draining for me in its tediousness. As was constantly having to make bright-n-cheery comments to every person who got on/off the elevator. (That's one thing I always liked about working for both libraries and publishing companies: You're primarily left alone to do your own work-thing, without having to shuffle-and-jive the whole day long!)

I could say: "My not getting this job was meant to be! It's fate! I was obviously meant to now go write my great screenplay about Theodora or [insert whatever else here]." Right now I don't feel much of anything even hinting at "greater things to come"; I just feel rejected by people I've been around every day for 4 months, and I feel worn out with the whole "temp life" that I've been living for 6 years. Like I said earlier, I was just hoping for a brief respite from all of the uncertainty...

Again, "oh well."

And, as always, per Tennessee Williams: EN AVANT!

Ya play the goddamn cards you're dealt. (A side-note: Interesting to me how religions have always had desperate, frantic strictures against gambling. The key to the psychological power of religions is promising that "Everything has an order to it; all will be well if you just behave like [the powers-that-be tell you to act]." Gambling is the very antithesis of that utterly false, simplistic view. And is the very nature of life itself: a little bit of smarts, a little bit of being sensitively in tune with underlying "vibrations" that unite everything, and a whole lot of dumb luck, or lack of it. There's very little "order" to it whatsoever, unless you intentionally drain it of its natural vitality for safety's sake.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Job WHOAs!

I've been at my current temp job for 4 months now. The job was finally posted officially a couple of weeks ago, and I applied, with interviews going on for the past 2 weeks. (Over 150 applied, 8 were interviewed, including me.)

I get along great with my boss and the other folks in my area.

But our department falls under another department, with a bigger boss (whom I'll call the "uber-boss" from now on). Of the work I've done for the past 4 months, maybe 5% has been for uber, the other 95% for my immediate boss and team.

During the current interviewing process, I knew that another secretary within our department was applying for my temp position, as well. "That's fair enough," I thought at the time I found out: "Go for it!" She had just started her other secretarial position several months ago; "no competition," I thought, since she was a newbie and I'd already been doing everything the job involved for the past 4 months.

Well, as it turns out today, she's probably going to get the job.

The main interview process involved an immediate under-associate of my boss (someone I'd been working with for the past 4 months) interviewing the 8 candidates. When I did my interview, he told me that "one or two" finalists would be chosen to then move on to interview with my boss.

Normal so far.

But there was also some subterranean stuff going on: Weeks ago, the main "Administrative Coordinator" sent an e-mail to both my boss and the uber-boss recommending the 60-something newbie that had been working with her. At the time, I thought, "Oh, OK, everyone recommends people. I've been doing the job for 4 months..."

Today, though, on the Outlook schedule, I saw that the newbie had a personal 1/2-hour interview with the uber-boss. I thought that extremely odd. For all 8 of us finalists, the next step was supposed to be for the top "one or two" to move on to an interview with my boss, not the uber-boss. Still, I wasn't EXACTLY sure what she was scheduled to see the uber-boss for...

Question answered minutes after the above interview ended. The uber-boss sent an e-mail to my boss (I'm responsible for reading/filing his e-mails) and to the man who'd been conducting the series of interviews: "... I strongly recommend [the woman he'd just interviewed] for the position. Let me know what you decide."

Now, I know my boss and the man doing the interviews both like me and think I've been doing a good job. But what are they supposed to do in the face of being handed a "strong recommendation" from THEIR boss? Put up a fight over a secretarial position?? Come on.

I'm basically toast, I suppose. Even I realize that there's no point in them putting up a fight with their superior over a damn secretary. They've got to live with the more-powerful guy.

I cried when I read that "strongly recommend" e-mail.(Not dramatically in public, but to a couple of people I knew at work.) And left work early and came home and cried some more.

But then wait just a second...

RE the Administrative Coordinator recommending that new person:

WHY was she so intent on recommending her? The employee was new, even newer than my 4 months on the job. "Well," I thought, "maybe the woman's had tons of University secretarial experience..." No, not at all.

Thanks to LinkedIn for the competition's recent employment duties: "Provide Durable Medical Equipment and orthotics for Medicare B patients in nursing facilities" and "Marketing and Promotions Manager" at a food services company.

And thanks to Facebook for something even more revealing: The Administrative Coordinator's daughter is a Friend of the applicant's who works at the Office of Job Corps.

Everything logically flowed from there: The Job Corps/Facebook Friend daughter strongly recommended the applicant to her Admin Coordinator mother. The Admin Coordinator mother strongly recommended the applicant to the uber-boss of my department. The uber-boss strongly recommended her to my boss (despite the fact that the uber-boss and I had rarely had any interactions).

There is no reason on earth why this woman should get this job other than the fact that the Admin Coordinator's Facebook Friend daughter recommended her.

Ya know, I've not gotten my share of jobs in the past. But this is pretty much crossing the border into ridiculousness. I've got other current monetary options if I don't get this job, but right now I feel like calling some people on their shit. This is not right.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Plath Anniversary Gravy Train

Every now and then, after going on about my business for a while, I dip into various online worlds of past idols. Today, did a random search for "Sylvia Plath," only to discover that I've really been missing out! The 50th anniversary of her suicide is coming up (February 11), and, with it, a couple of apparently (according to reviews/articles/covers) cheesy new biographies:

American Isis by Carl Rollyson (released today)
Mad Girl's Love Song: SP and Life Before Ted Hughes by Andrew Wilson (to be released 2/3)

I also discovered a memoir, "Ted and I," released last September by Ted Hughes's older brother Gerald. Now, Gerald was the older brother who left home early for Australia. Up until he met Plath, Ted was still talking about joining him there. Post-Plath, Ted was still coming up with business schemes that he and his brother could collaborate on. Gerald ignored them all. He almost completely disappeared from brother Ted's life when they were both very young men. Until now, that is!

Oh, and then there's Hughes widow Carol on 1/15/13 announcing her own upcoming memoir:

Quote from above article:
Speaking from the home they had shared in North Tawton, Devon, [Carol Hughes] said: "I had a wonderful 28 years with Ted and I hope to record them for posterity."

Can't wait for THAT page-turner! :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Year o' the Snake: 2013


I've been feeling relatively peaceful for the past month or so, wondering why! Maybe 'cause my Chinese Year of the Snake is beginning in February! I'd forgotten about that, so usually in tune with my Leo self...

SNAKE-CYCLE STUFF:
1965: born
1977: moved to Azle, increase in father's violence, parents' divorce shortly after
1989: first lover (a sick one)
2001: first Internet use, first connection with other Joan fans, meeting "Julie" (another sick one) online
2013: ???

The 12-year cycles, in my case at least, really HAVE each been the start of a new phase. Not necessarily good phases, but... nonetheless clear-cut, distinct breaks between one way of life and another. Interesting to see what 2013 is the start of... What a shocker if it includes someone sending ME flowers or actually reading my work! :)

---------------------------


I think the strange, the crazed, the queer
will have their holiday this year,
I think for just a little while
there will be pity for the wild.

I think in places known as gay,
in secret clubs and private bars,
the damned will serenade the damned
with frantic drums and wild guitars.

I think for some uncertain reason,
mercy will be shown this season
to the lovely and misfit,
to the brilliant and deformed--

I think they will be housed and warmed
And fed and comforted awhile
before, with such a tender smile,
the earth destroys her crooked child.

--Tennessee Williams


----------------------------

YOU AND I

Who are you?
A surface warm to my fingers,
a solid form, an occupant of space,
a makeshift kind of enjoyment,
a pitiless being who runs away like water,
something left unfinished, out of inferior matter,

Something God thought of.
Nothing, sometimes everything,
something I cannot believe in,
a foolish argument, you, yourself, not I,
an enemy of mine. My lover.

Who am I?
A wounded man, badly bandaged,
a monster among angels or angel among monsters,
a box of questions shaken up and scattered on the floor,

A foot on the stairs, a voice on a wire,
a busy collection of thumbs that imitate fingers,
an enemy of yours. Your lover.

--Tennessee Williams



Saturday, January 26, 2013

Me, Austin, Cat Power, 2013


Just back from Cat Power's show at the Austin City Limits theater--with new T to show for it!

When I got up this morning, I kind of wondered how I would feel about going. I'd gotten goosebumps when I first saw her show advertised back in December, but part of the goosebumps, aside from excitement that Chan Marshall was making a rare appearance in Austin, was: "I'll get tickets for me AND SANDRA! She'll LOVE this!" Well, when Sandra expressed no interest at all in going (despite her being a Cat Power fan), it was, of course, a huge slight to myself. So I was kind of worried that that rejection would color how I felt about the show, despite my own looking forward for the past month to seeing Marshall for the first time.

Shades of the Wevill poetry reading in 2010; I'd excitedly told Sandra about it, thinking FOR SURE she'd want to come in to Austin so we could see our old professor together... Nah. She hemmed and hawed and bullshitted around, 'til I told her to fuck off. She ended up driving in anyway and going to see him...just not with me. I, on the other hand, was so upset about her rejection that I didn't go. To my regret, since my classes with him were an important part of my college youth, and important to my fledgling poetry, AND simply important because his forums provided the Me at the time -- an extremely lonely, depressed, scared kid -- a sense of magic and wonderment about the world; despite the desolate emotional circumstances I was in, I would always look forward to his classes and come out of each session energized and excited about the world, about poetry, about the possibilities that art offered. I'll always regret not going to see him 25 years later. And I'll always remember Sandra for turning a memory that should have been nothing but positive into something unbelievably shitty.

So yeah, I was worried ahead of time about missing the Cat Power show if the blues hit me hard. But they didn't! For one thing, I've been dealing with Sandra's mentally ill game-playing for a lot longer -- this little incident just kind of solidified my disgust with it, and with her. Since I didn't react to her not wanting to go with yelling or cursing, I felt no guilt whatsoever this time. It simply was what it was: A singer she liked; her daughters both going; a free ticket offered from me in a happy spirit... She just didn't want to go with me. Nothing to rave and rant about, just End of Story.

Sandra aside, I was also kind of worried about going to a concert by myself! Would I feel weird sitting alone? Would I, at 47, feel "too old" to be there? Would I be wearing the right thing? And I hadn't been to a concert, aside from a few small club shows, since a couple of George Jones shows at Stubb's in the late '90s/early '00s...

And, yes, would going downtown by myself trigger old, bad feelings about all the times I used to go to gay bars alone 3 or 4 times a week back from '96 to '00 (truly "lost" years)??

So, yeah, a lot of emotional baggage involved here! :) But... It all ended up feeling very OK! :)

For one thing, working downtown now, I feel like the whole area's my "hood" since I'm there all the time. And the Austin City Limits Theater is right on my bus stop: I hopped on the bus right across the street from my apartment and got off 15 minutes later on Congress & 2nd, only a couple of blocks away from the theater. 2nd Street was filled with "regular" 30/40-something people in cafes, chatting and mingling on sidewalks. No "trendy goths" or "packs of snooty gay guys" making fun of people! I felt safe! :)

I got to the theater about a half-hour before the opening act and had plenty of time to wander around, checking the place, and the crowd, out. As with the people I observed on my walk TO the theater, a completely relaxed atmosphere inside it, too. Plenty of lounge areas and bars, where mainly late-20s-to-40s people were casually hanging out and chatting pre-show. Got a couple of cigs in outside both before and after the opening act, bought my T-shirt (pictured here), and then settled in with my plastic cup o' "Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey" for the Cat Power show! :)

I NEVER drink whiskey, but the whole atmosphere just felt relaxed like that: Like having a tiny cup o' whiskey to sip from for an hour-and-a-half! My mezzanine seats were perfect for it. (Yeah, "seats" plural! I never sold the extra ticket. Waste of $45, but giving me lots of relaxing breathing space!)

OH YEAH: The show ITSELF! Marshall's been known for having onstage breakdowns, so I was kind of nervous about THAT, too! (Especially since she'd cancelled her whole fall US tour for physical/mental health reasons, only in December announcing 6 US dates, including this Austin one.) No fear: She seemed as relaxed as I was. The majority of the 90-minute show consisted of songs from her latest "Sun" album (Cherokee, Sun, Ruin, 3-6-9, Manhattan, Nothin' But Time, Peace & Love) -- lucky for me, since I just "discovered" her in the past 8 or so months; of the 3 albums I have -- Moon Pix, The Greatest, and Sun -- I, by far, know "Sun" the best, though I love "Moon Pix" the best.

Despite liking being able to sit back and relax with my whiskey up in the mezzanine, I still envied the people down in standing-room-only on the floor. How I USED TO attend concerts! :) From experience, I know that the energy is much more intense down there: the rapt attention of the close bodies, the occasional eye contact with the idol on stage... I had a great view of the stage, but I also felt a bit removed from the vibe of the performance. I was clapping and tapping and bobbing my head, as I saw most of the people on the floor doing, but the people around me "upstairs" seemed to be mainly cool characters who didn't have any qualms about going to the bar/taking restroom breaks DURING the show. (Sacrilege!) There was also a cluster of slower, quieter songs in the middle of the show where I was embarrassed to be able to hear the crowd CHATTING AMONGST THEMSELVES rather than listening... (A Cat Power show isn't for the mere purpose of socializing, folks. Shut up and turn your mobile devices off!)

Chan spoke only a couple of times, both to say something along the lines of, "Thanks for fucking coming!" in a cute way, which got the crowd below pumped up, as did her throwing out a couple of T-shirts...

Going to see Cat Power didn't change my life or anything. But then...I'm 47. I'm pretty sure that that kind of soul-inspiration is more endemic to teens and 20-somethings, those still infused with the sapling's feeling "capable of everything because one had not yet tried anything," magnified by the proximity of their peers' similar positive energy and their mutual blind faith in their onstage idol...

While the show turned out to be a good one, a professional one, I think Chan Marshall's music means more to me while listening to her alone at home, where I have the time and space to listen and think at my leisure, where I don't have to worry about "Why is that person talking? Why is that person checking his messages? Why isn't that section of the balcony clapping? Is she [Marshall] going to notice and get upset?" I just don't know that Marshall's music is best suited to public shows. A glad-hander like Judy Garland, she ain't.

I never used to even mildly WORRY when I went to concerts! I automatically ASSUMED that the performer, and me, were going to be OK! :) This time, I knew too much. About me, about her...

And we both got through it just fine. I'll remember this Cat Power concert always for THAT.




Monday, January 21, 2013

At the Dark End of the Street


Moment of Clarity (Snake)

Back in '93, when I was "dating" a married man (the first and only time), we were talking intimately and I asked why he and his first wife of 20 years had divorced (he was then on his 2nd). He told me about having to fly across country for business to a place that he and his first wife had once visited, and loved, together in their early years. When she learned where he was going, she begged to go with him. He refused. He didn't know why he refused, and continued to refuse, even after he saw his wife crying over his going without her. He ended up sleeping with a stewardess during that weekend. When he got home, his wife ended it. Not because he'd slept with a stewardess--he'd been sleeping with other people for a long, long time--but because he did not want to be in their special city together. He couldn't even make THAT minor effort at the relationship any more. (He got off on telling me about the stewardess he met on the plane--I suppose he equated me with her and thought I'd relate--while I was paying much more attention to the story of his wife's ultimate breaking point.)

I think the Moment of Clarity comes when you step back and stop fighting: When you simply let the Snake be a Snake and let go of it.

When you try to engage with Snake emotionally or morally or intellectually, you drag yourself down to Snake's level and then feel guilty for the mean things you've said in response to its very core of Wrongness...when in fact, you haven't done anything at all other than logically call Snake on its own psychosis (which it loves to talk about at least 3 times a week to someone PAID for listening, as are the hookers who get paid for putting up with people's PHYSICAL shit; interesting how psychiatrists get paid so much more...).

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

The '61 version, the '39 version:




Have a Good One

I had no reason to be tense when I first got on the bus this morning. I hadn't had a thing to drink the night before (hangovers often make me on edge the next day); I'd had a full 8 hours of sleep; had had my breakfast; had on clothes I liked; the bus was on time...

Once I sat down just behind the handicapped area in front, I became aware of a very loud conversation going on at the very back of the bus. I didn't turn around to look, but it sounded like (and turned out to be) a couple of young gang-bangers trying to impress both each other and the fellow passengers with their toughness (and disregard for propriety by bragging so loudly about their exploits).

I first got to hear about one "stupid bitch" that one guy was stringing along; hell, he even be calling his other bitches while the Stupid Bitch was in the next room! Then things segued into how your "gang family" came before your real family. ("No'm sayin'?") Then on to how, hey, if you accidentally dropped $20 on the floor in front of one guy, he would keep it, even if he knew it was yours. If you wanted it back? Tough luck, bitch! Just TRY and take it back! Want to get shot in the face? ("No'm sayin'?")

After the first 10 minutes or so of listening to this shit, I wasn't quite ready to blow yet, just mightily irritated and sighing internally at how TEDIOUS the whole stupid conversation was and wishing I didn't have to listen to the idiots. Also looking surreptitiously around at the driver and other passengers to see how/if they were reacting, envying the passengers who had in ear-pods and were oblivious.

Around Minute 11, another sparkling turn in the conversation: One guy and a Stupid Bitch (not sure if it was the same Stupid Bitch from earlier) had had a 3-way with a gang brother. The other guy pissed off the bus-guy when he jacked off in the Stupid Bitch's face and, oh-so-sloppily in the process, got "3 drops" of cum on the bus-guy. The bus-guy wasn't having that shit, so he stuck his hand up the Stupid Bitch's cunt and shoved her away from the Sloppy Guy...

MIDDLE-AGED WHITE WOMAN (turning around in her seat, screaming): THAT'S ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!

BUS GANGSTAS IN BACK: [surprised looks on faces]

MAWW: NO ONE WANTS TO LISTEN TO YOUR SHIT! STOP DISRESPECTING WOMEN!!!!! I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO THIS SHIT FOR 15 MINUTES! I'M SICK OF IT!!!!!!

BUS GANGSTAS 1 & 2 (snapping out of their surprise, their intermingled yelling right back): WHY YOU LISTENING? MIND YOUR BUSINESS, BITCH!

MAWW: I CAN'T HELP BUT LISTENING, YOU'VE BEEN TALKING SO LOUD! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOUR SHIT ABOUT WOMEN ANY MORE!

BGs (extremely agitated): WHO'S THIS BITCH? YOU BETTER SHUT THE FUCK UP BITCH! YOU HEARD OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH? YOU WANNA HEAR SOME REALLY FREAKY SHIT?!

MAWW: NO, I DON'T WANT TO HEAR SOME "REALLY FREAKY SHIT"!!!!!! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANYTHING. THERE ARE PEOPLE AROUND YOU. NOBODY WANTS TO LISTEN TO YOU.

BG 1: YOU NEED TO SHUT UP, BITCH! (and then, one thing that I found funny:) WHY YOU EVEN ON THIS BUS? TAKE A DAMN CAR!

BUS DRIVER (who has arrived at a downtown stop, finally getting up and facing the guys): You need to simmer down right now, or I'm going to call a supervisor. (gets back in seat, takes off again)

BG 1: [jumps out of seat, stomps to front of bus, right past me, gets in driver's face up front] FUCK YOU, MAN! WHO YOU THINK YOU TALKING TO? CALL YOUR SUPERVISOR, MAN, GO ON! CALL YOUR SUPERVISOR!

BUS DRIVER (staring straight ahead as he pulls up to the next stop and opens the bus doors)

BG 1: [stomping back past me to the back of the bus; he and his friend exit out the back door, then stand outside the bus, yelling at the bus while it's stopped at the red light and as we take off] WE GON' FUCK YOU UP! NEXT TIME, WE GON' SLAP EVERY MOTHERFUCKIN' PERSON ON THAT BUS! [etc etc; at least they didn't say "shoot" every MF person...]

Dead silence as we drive away. Then one woman on the bus calls out to me: "I agree with you!" I don't look at her. Just sit there, flushed/shaken, 'til I get off at my stop on the next block. The bus driver calls out after me, "Have a good one."

--------------------------------------------------------

1) It felt SO GOOD to scream at those shit-heads.

2) I could have gotten punched in my face (or worse).

3) I'm so glad that, at 47, I still have that (define "that" as you will) in me.

4) Old bus memories called up from when I lived in San Francisco in '94-'95, the first time I'd ever seen people behave like that in public. The first SF incident was a black gang-banger who didn't want to pay his $1 fare. The whole bus-load of us sat there for 5 minutes while the guy screamed abuse at the driver. A kindly old lady even offered him a dollar bill for his fare, but no---the guy just wanted to be a shit-head. The driver finally just let him on without paying.

The second SF incident, a white guy boarding the bus did not want to pay his fare, and so was screaming at the driver; a little old lady sitting right next to me hollered out, "You stop bothering the driver!" The white guy then shut up and paid his fare.

I was shocked at both of these SF incidents. I'd lived in Austin, a city about the size of SF, from '83 to '94, right before I moved to SF (where I lived in '94-'95)...yet I'd never witnessed anyone acting like that in Austin. In SF, I felt ashamed for being one of the mute--and powerless--passengers both times.

I'm sure that my yelling at the obnoxious Gangsta Bus Guys today was my revenge on my own passivity back in '94. (But I was also somewhat safe because I was a middle-aged white women; no glory in punching such?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Untouchable" Review


I'm neither a huge fan nor a naysayer of Michael Jackson's. Like many, I simply came of age at a time when HE was coming of age musically and pop-culturally, plus I remembered seeing him on TV when I and he were both little. His genius album trio of "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" and "Bad"--songs/videos from played endlessly wherever you went during the entire decade of the '80s--justifiably turned him into an icon/symbol rather than "merely" a great singer/songwriter/dancer...with catastrophic results for both his psyche and his professional reputation. After 1987's "Bad," I stopped paying attention to his creative work; his personal eccentricities had simply become too publicized (quite often by himself) and too phony--just Too Much to take him seriously any more. From the '90s up until his death in 2009, I just paid attention to Jackson as a media side-show: What's he done to his face now? What fake "best friend" is he hanging out with now? What extravagant purchase did he just make now? (In his last years, descending even more sadly into: What legal accusation was made against him now?) A shame, because his MUSIC really did matter in the '80s and could have mattered for much, much longer, had he not fallen prey to his own excesses and warped (both for better and worse) self-image.

When I picked up "Untouchable," as a casual one-time fan I basically, and pruriently, wanted to know: "Michael, what happened?" Author Sullivan shallowly covers most of the usual bases, but unfortunately for me, the book's focus--at least two-thirds of it--is on the nefarious financial/legal dealings that surrounded Jackson once he chose to separate himself from his brothers. In his foreword to the book, Sullivan explains that he was initially hired by a magazine to write an article that covered Jackson's financial muddle in the last few years of his life. The information he dug up ballooned into book-length. And I'm sure lawyers and accountants everywhere would find all of this in-depth research into the behind-the-scenes high-stakes monetary wrangling very interesting. I, though, certainly did not. What $375,000 or $1.5 million or $100,000 was illicitly transferred to what-account-when quickly becomes tedious, as does the constant litany of "this deal/that deal, this crooked lawyer/that crooked lawyer," ad infinitum. Yawn!

The organization of the book is also annoying. Instead of the text moving along chronologically in Jackson's life, there are great chunks of financial explanations, then brief flashbacks to something more biographically or psychologically interesting, then back to the long-winded legal stuff. It's a given that celebrities have a gang-o-leeches trying to suck them dry. (In Jackson's case, said gang included his family--the creepy maneuverings/guilt trips that his family subjected him to in order to get money out of him were among the more interesting of the "leech stories.") I just didn't need every decimal point documented, to the detriment of paying better, fuller attention to more important aspects of Jackson's life--such as the sources of his creativity, just to name one.

Some previous reviewers have mentioned that they didn't find Sullivan to be "fair" to Jackson. I disagree. For instance, Sullivan's account of Jackson's 2005 molestation trial is almost 100% pro-defense. (I, on the fence about the matter, would have actually preferred to hear more of the prosecution side of the story, just so I could make up my mind based on facts.) Reviewers have also decried Sullivan's detailing of Jackson's pharmaceutical drug use and ongoing facial surgery. The not-at-all-surprising information Sullivan details doesn't bother me at all: Sullivan doesn't "allege" anything; he's pretty specific about the list of drugs and plastic surgery, all in a nonjudgmental, simply matter-of-fact way. As someone interested in facts, I do appreciate that black-and-white research.

Overall, though, I think the book's subtitle "The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson" is more than a bit misleading. Sullivan's book offers very little insight into Jackson's genius or creativity or psychology or cultural importance (i.e., "WHAT made him so strange and interesting?" and "Explain, please, WHY his death was so tragic to many of us"). You don't really learn anything new or surprising about Michael Jackson the Man here. The focus is primarily on the maneuverings of the bean-counters. And so, Who Cares?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cat Power: No Sense

Do you remember
Do you remember
That night a contest
Making up shit
Like we were animals

We made no sense
No sense
We had no sex

Can you see, can you see, can you see
Can you see, can you see, can you see
The moon is so hollow
What's the use
When I can see right through you
What's the use

All the hearts that touch your cheek
How they jump they move they embarrass
All the hearts that touch your cheek
How they jump they move they embarrass
They make no sense, no sense, no sense
No sense, we had no sex

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Burton Baldridge: The Very Worst of Austin



Smug, dull, boring, intellectually/artistically stagnant.

I especially hated the smarmy line: "Modern doesn't have to be something that's confrontational." (The antithesis of mottoes for actually original architects, who have always chosen to CHALLENGE the status quo.)

Burton Baldridge: Making architecture safe for life-long state workers and California emigrants.

Burton Baldridge Background.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Closeup


Alcohol vs. Salad Story Starters


At first, as a drinker, I laughed smugly at the picture's truism. But then thought for a second (based on true-life "trauma"):

"After he'd tossed his bowl of salad at my head, he then ran to the living room and snatched from the top of the TV the antique letter opener, which he then ran back to brandish at my still-astonished dinner-table face."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The problem with my lower lip...

(1) Before The Divorce, when I was 12, my dad used to constantly accuse me of "pouting"--"just like your mother." ("I'm not POUTING, it's just my FACE, Dad!")

(2) On at least two occasions in gay clubs (when I was in my 30s), a random girl came up to me and actually BIT my lower lip! Out of the fucking blue!

What the hell, people?

(Note this, Self, for the one-act play you're going to write for next year's Tennessee Williams play-writing contest!) :)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Inspiration

Well, I've done most of the FUN Tennessee Williams reading:

Memoirs
Conversations with
Lyle Leverich bio
brother Dakin's bio (mainly rehashed material from co-writer)
massive "Notebooks" (ton o' interesting material, but better for just browsing around in)

Am currently working my way around the first volume of plays. "Cheated" by starting in the middle with the "good stuff" -- "Glass Menagerie" (his first hit) and "Streetcar" -- then forcing myself to go back and start at the very beginning... Just for knowledge's sake, but also, as it turns out: Reading BAD stuff by Tennessee Williams is actually pretty heartening, as in: "Oh my god, he didn't just spring upon the world with the subtle and brilliant 'Glass Menagerie'! He wrote a bunch of trite crap to get up to that point!"

His first full-length play "Spring Storm," (written in 1937 while in college) for instance, was kind of silly: Beautiful, sexy society girl has rich intellectual boy and poor, dumb sexy boy in love with her. (Rich, intellectual boy also has a poor intellectual girl in love with him, but he's not into her. She ends up killing herself after he rebuffs her.) The beautiful, sexy young-uns have secret sex, but then it turns out the boy wants to be free and run off to join a riverboat crew or something, and the girl doesn't want to go with him because the idea sounds kind of silly to her. The young Williams is trying way too hard to be risque (oooh!premarital sex!) and socially relevant (ode to the working man, and the Lawrencian "natural man") here, and the dumb, sexy guy is especially poorly characterized--Williams later enacts the type much more interestingly and powerfully with Stanley Kowalski.

His next full play, "Not About Nightingales," is similar in triteness: Good girl forced to work in a prison because of the Great Depression meets pure-at-heart criminal with evil, sleazy boss who physically abuses his prisoners and tricks girl into sleeping with him (she kinda likes it, but remains mentally true to her prison sweetheart). Again, very unsubtle characters. (The only subtle thing in the play is the girl's kinda liking the sex with the sleazy boss!)

1940's "Battle of Angels": Kinda like Lawrence's "The Fox": Sexy drifter in snakeskin jacket claiming to be a Christian saunters into town and seduces all the sex-starved ladies there before being burned to death by a mob. (Williams actually won a Rockefeller Fellowship for this and it was produced in Boston for 2 nights, before being shut down because of public outrage at the sexuality. It was re-worked and became 1957's "Orpheus Descending.")

Speaking of D.H. Lawrence: Williams wrote a one-act play in '41 called "I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix" about a dying Lawrence and his wife Frieda. Lots of "Though you are big and strong, you cannot dominate me, woman!" and "You are the night, woman, trying to put out the burning flame of my masculinity!" stuff. (I left the book at work, so can't quote directly, but that's the general idea.) Williams actually admired Lawrence in real life (I can't stand him), but what's interesting is that, despite Williams' attempts at having Lawrence spout his philosophy on his deathbed, Williams is also kind of making fun of him. For instance, a female friend of the couple comes over and is wailing over Lawrence's impending demise; she says to Frieda, "You must think he's a god!" Frieda dryly replies: "Having slept with him, no." So the overt admiring of Williams for Lawrence was annoying and poorly done, but then little things like the Frieda remark sneak in and give hints of Williams' later much more astute psychological observations.

The 1941 one-act "Lady of Larkspur Lotion" features a "faded lady" with delusions of grandeur staying in a decrepit New Orleans hotel, pestered by the landlady for rent and mocked for her pretensions, with only a sympathetic young writer for company. Blanche du Bois precursor!

The '46 one-act "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" was the 10-page inkling of the later movie "Baby Doll," with an extremely obese, extremely childlike, extremely sexualized wife aroused by both her crude husband and a sadistic stranger...

What was the most interesting to me about Williams' one-acts that I've read so far: They were NOT that well done, overall--and extremely short, 10-15 pages--yet they were clearly seedlings of longer, later, more important works. Reading them helped me out a bit psychologically:

(1) I once wrote poetry constantly as a younger woman, but if the muse doesn't come it doesn't come.
(2) I currently have a "grand idea" for a full-length historical screenplay, but I don't think my creative/intellectual well is full enough at the moment to delve into that whole-heartedly. (Unlike poetry, a screenplay can be cranked out with 85% craftsmanship, but there's still the bit of inspiration that's needed--and in this particular case, the actual hard-core research--and I am not there mentally at all right now.)
(3) But a 10-page one-act play? Ha! I basically come up with more than enough material for a one-act play every couple of weeks right here! :) My next question to myself was: "Who the heck even wants to read a one-act play once it's done?!" (Other than high-schoolers acting in school competitions?) Just for the hell of it, I did a search online for "one-act play contest" and look at the very FIRST thing I found!:

http://www.tennesseewilliams.net/contests/one-act-play-contest

Thanks, Tennessee! :) I have seriously had a stupid mental block for most of my life: "If I can't do something GREAT, then I shall do NOTHING!" Which is an idiotic, unrealistic way to think. For instance, when first an undergrad in college, I kept dropping out every other year because I "wasn't feeling it." I kept expecting some profound intellectual revelations from just about every class I took and, yes, got peeved when they weren't constantly forthcoming! I finally did have an epiphany of sorts: "Fuck! Just GET the damn degree, just to prove to yourself and others that you were able to jump through that particular set of hoops." Ohhhhhh.....

Reading loads and loads of Tennessee Williams has opened up a similar realistic view of a writer's work: The man was not constantly besieged with profound revelations, yet he trudged on always, from his earliest years to his latest, as a craftsman, grinding out the damn work in bits and pieces, in whatever form, always gratefully accepting the rare gift of being a conduit when lightning DID deign strike and provide more lasting illumination through his words, and, when it didn't, being humble and simply ABLE enough to cobble together SOMETHING.

And what brings me cheer also is that his life-philosophy mirrored his theory of writing: En avant! (Forward!)

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Ban the Bomb! (Trafalgar Square, 1960)

At my mom's briefly today, found her in a nostalgic/semi-grim mood, i.e., she'd dug up her old journals and scrapbooks, kept when she was 19 and 20, living in Paris and London, respectively, in 1959 and 1960.

At 71 today, she said that since she could die at any time now, her journals, written in her native German, would be useless to her children (me and my brother, sitting right there), so she should just throw them out. But just LOOK at her first real love! (Beautiful German boy with Elvis hair and Elvis-style suit.) And then the Moroccan boy that she was in love with in Paris! (Another beautiful boy with Elvis hair and Elvis-style suit!)

ME: Ma! Please! Why in the world would you ever even think of throwing this all away?!

MOM: I had to clean out my sister's things [2008 is the year she died in Germany; my mom had to fly over there and take care of everything], and she had box after box of photographs and diaries. I had to throw most of them away. I could die today, and you [me and my brother] couldn't read them. Might as well throw them out now.

ME: Ma! Your whole family lives to be 80-something. You're 71! You've got another 10 or 15 years! Wait until you're on your deathbed or something! God. What if you throw this stuff out now and then a few months from now wonder: "Hmmm...What did that boy I was in love with when I was 19 look like, exactly? Ooops! I DID have his picture in my scrapbook, but, oh, I threw it away. Ho-hum."

One thing among the scrapbooks that caught my eye: In the back of one London scrapbook was a 1960 flyer with the headline "Ban the Bomb!" A famous anti-nuke rally in London's Trafalgar Square on April 18, 1960, that drew between 60,000 and 100,000 marchers. Why this struck a chord with me: Having read EVERY Sylvia Plath biography/letters/journals, etc., I remembered that Plath had gone to something called a "Ban the Bomb" march in London in 1960! And there was--"surprise"!--a marital problem involved: Husband Ted Hughes had, for whatever weird reason, chosen to go to said march without his wife, instead taking Dido Merwin, poet Bill Merwin's wife, whom Plath did not like. Pissed off, Plath called up a random friend of Ted's, and, with him, dragged her 3-week-old baby along to the march.

Plath's horribly hackneyed journal description:

I saw the first of the 7-mile-long column appear -- red and orange and green banners, "Ban the Bomb!" etc., shining and swaying slowly. Absolute silence. I found myself weeping to see the tan, dusty marchers, knapsacks on their backs --Quakers and Catholics, Africans and whites, Algerians and French -- 40 percent were London housewives. I felt proud that the baby's first real adventure should be as a protest against the insanity of world-annihilation. Already a certain percentage of unborn children are doomed by fallout and no one knows the cumulative effects of what is already poisoning the air and sea.

Plath's idiotically trite "description" aside... My 19-year-old mother was at this very march! The two could have bumped up against each other, for all I know! How strange and interesting!

BBC: On This Day

Friday, January 04, 2013

What else? How else?


From the 12/24 - 31 New Yorker:

Nabokov once claimed that the inspiration for Lolita was an art work produced by an ape in the Jardin des Plantes: a drawing of the bars of its cage. It's a good metaphor for artistic production. What else do we ever draw, besides the bars of our cage, or the wheelbarrow we rode in as crippled children? How else do cages get smashed? How else will we stand on our own feet?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Mean?

olive- pineapple pizza
I can't decide if I just scarred a 7-year-old kid for life or not.

Cowboys/Redskins game last Sunday. Me, my brother, his two boys: ages 7 and 10. Pizza ordering time, 2 large pizzas: Me and the 10-year-old were OK with any kind of meat. The 7-year-old wanted, specifically, "olives and pineapple." I looked askance at my brother at that: "Seriously? If you get one of the pizzas with nothing but olives-and-pineapple, then ONLY YOU and [the little T] are going to be eating that one, and you guys can't have any of ours! Because me and [the bigger T] are NOT going to want to eat ANY of that pizza! Are you SURE??"

They were sure. Fine. We get home with the pizzas (one olives/pineapple, the other pepperoni/Canadian bacon--a NORMAL pizza!). All is well at the very beginning. And then the Pineapple Twins start straying... First, my brother wants one of the meat slices, so, OK, he takes a small one. I tell him, "That's IT! Don't eat our pizza! We can't eat your weird olive/pineapple one, so let us have this!" All is still relatively well for the next 20 minutes. Until our pepperoni/bacon starts to dwindle, while the olive/pineapple remains relatively intact... I'm still busy scarfing the tail end of the NORMAL pizza when the 7-year-old approaches with only 2 slices of the good stuff (and plenty of his own crappy stuff) left. He reaches for one of the meat slices, and I burst out with: "NOOOOOO! Eat your own! We don't have very much left, and we CAN'T eat YOURS because we don't LIKE IT!" Little nephew--usually quite verbal and aggressive--looks shocked and retreats.

Me immediately to brother: "Was that mean?"
Him to me: "Yeah!"

Me to self (while not relinquishing a single slice of the "good" pizza): God, did I just scar the kid for life? Or, teach him a needed lesson about the dangers of choosing really crappy toppings on the WHOLE pizza (not just a half) that no one else will want to trade you a little later just because you're sick of your own weird choice?