Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Not. Work. Friendly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Cleaning

My blog informed me last night that it needs a vacation.

I know, right? Uch. Stupid Blog is off to Myrtle Beach and I get stuck taking HER phone calls. God.

So, I am taking a week off, to take care of a few things - reorder, rearrange, reorganize. Christ, I have a lot of laundry to do. And work that I have been putting off. And all the various and sundry "stuffs" that I have avoided (The "Stuffs" said "Ready or not, here I come!" months ago. Like an idiot I just stood in the middle of the living room and let them find me. Dag, I suck at this game.).

My brain also needs to get fed a little.

Meanwhile, I may post snippets here and there, but I won't be back in earnest until next Monday. Enjoy some of my fellow bloggers in my links area. They have a variety of cool and provocative things to say!

Have a lovely week!

(Sighs, starts dressing in body armor.)

Let the Gauntlet begin.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009


I don't believe in Astrology, but I feel compelled to read my horoscope every day. Like a tick. I can't help it.

(Isn't it funny that even with all the newspapers going to hell, they STILL maintain the Horoscopes? When the final days of print arrive, there will be riots in the streets as readers are deprived of prophesy.)

For someone who claims not to believe in all that hocus pocus, I sure do know an awful lot about it. (I also know how to read Tarot cards - I can even read playing cards in a pinch.) It must be one of those things you pick up in college that never leaves. At orientation, we are thrust into the deep end, parent-free, and all of a sudden there are questions to be asked about who we are, why we are, and what our place is in the expanse of the universe. Smokey, late night conversations give way to the discussions of birthdays, signs, the occult, religion, philosophy. Experiments happen. What winds up working as a means to make sense of the world usually sticks.

Not eschew the belief in Astrology as a whole but, like anything (a personality test, a horoscope, a remembered conversation), we will perceive a reflection of whatever it is we want. Of course, I see elements of myself mirrored in my Astrological position.

Is it a total coincidence that every other Sagittarius I've met is similarly addle brained?

Years ago, I used to read Free Will Astrology in the Reader. What I liked about it was that it had less to do with prediction and divination and more to do with offering a varied perspective on the world.

This morning, I came across this scrap of paper - yellowed and almost clothlike - cut from the Reader's Free Will Astrology. I have a hazy recollection of snipping it from the paper. Whether or not you believe in this sort of's still kind of cool to come upon. I must have cut it out for a reason:

"I'm going to suggest an 'as-if' exercise, [Insert Sign Here]. It's meant to take place entirely in your mind's eye and most definitely NOT to be acted out, at least not yet. Here's my proposal: spend four days imagining what your life might be like if you decided you were no longer saving yourself for a mythical 'later'. See yourself doing exactly what you long to do most, passionately carrying out the mission you came to Earth to accomplish. During your brief sabbatical, you will banish all excuses about why you can't possibly follow your bliss. "

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. Last week I went for a walk with the younger of my nephews, J. He is just at the age when the naming of colors is a source of great pride, and as we passed a patch of yard he shot is little arm out and pointed to a smattering of flowers across the grass.

"Oh, look. This flowers is bloo!"

"I see, J. They're beautiful, aren't they?"

He smiled and squatted close to one of them. Hovering. Panting. He extended his hand to touch the tiny petals. J. is a small boy, but goliath to these flowers.

I squatted next to him.

"Careful, J. Don't touch too hard."

He nodded, his stubby fingers touched the petals with as much delicacy as his whole being could muster.

I watched with bait fresh on my breath. This tenderness could take a deadly turn. J. was working hard to preserve the flower's life, but at any second, overwhelmed by its beauty, he could rip the bud apart.

I want to love it. I want to kill it.

It's never a dull moment with this kid.

2. Favorite word this week:


[soz-uhld] Show IPA
–adjective Slang.
drunk; inebriated.

1875–80; dial. sozzle confused state, sloppy person (earlier sossle; akin to souse ) + -ed 3

3. Least favorite word this week:


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Romantic Schmomantic

Plenty of my students come to me wanting to write a Romantic Comedy. Being so young, love, sex and how to get either (probably more the latter) are consistent concerns. I tell them to write what they know, or what they feel emotional about, so it makes sense that Romance and Comedy have such strong appeals.

I do warn them of this: Romantic Comedies are among the most difficult and most reviled stories to write. Not only must the writer construct characters that ring true and possess the chemistry to fall love, but once made, most of these films are often relegated to the dungeons of "The Chick Flick" - a catacomb of fluff that dudes get dragged to when they have to make up for saying that thing or not saying this thing, or it's a special occasion - He probably bought her a stuffed bear. ('Cause, you know, right, that's how ALL guys act and that's how ALL girls act. Gosh, we are so DIFFERENT and we will never surmount our total bafflement over one another. So, why don't we just hunker down and dissolve into marketed stereotypes and tired jokes about PMS and leaving the toilet seat up.) The name "Chick Flick" is intended as derisive, but not all Romantic Comedies deserve to be sentenced there.

For years, I've sort of apologized for my love of the genre. In lists of favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally is always in there somewhere. But the likes of The Princess Bride or Tootsie or When Harry Met Sally are written to the end of telling a good story. Beyond the Romance angle, there is a story to be told and a transformation completed. This is the simple quality of good film making, and it transcends genre or style. (I might add, it also transcends gender.)

This is not to say that I don't have my guilty pleasures. I own a copy of Never Been Kissed. There. I said it.

And then there's The Holiday.

On Sunday's rainy afternoon, while nudging tasks around my plate of work (trying to hide the reading peas under the grading casserole.), TBS yammered on in the background. (They are "Very Funny", didn't you know? You know how I know? They tell me in their ads. They are the place to go for comedy. Why? Because they show back to back reruns of Seinfeld, Friends, and Everybody Loves Raymond. They talk about how funny they are constantly, like that girl who crushes a conversation with butchered Cartman imitations and jokes about O.J. Then she tells you that "in my group of friends I'm the funny one". She's always been the funny one. Ever since her mom told her so when she was nine.)

As part of their requisite Sunday afternoon line-up of totally average films, they announced The Holiday was up next. It's no secret that I have something of a Kate Winslet fetish and will endure much to see her up on the big screen...or small screen. There are few actors for which I will make the effort to see in a film. She is one of them.

So, why not give it a shot?

The Holiday is precisely the kind of awful dreck that "Chick Flick" suggests: Iris (Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are jilted women who decide to spend their Winter holidays (I never heard it referred to as Christmas or Hanukkah or anything.) in each other's homes to escape the train wrecks that are their love lives. During this switcheroo, Miles (Jack Black) and Graham (Jude Law) show up and make everything all better. Thuh end.

You can say "Well, what did you expect?"

You know what I expect? I expect that, in an infinite universe, an infinite number of monkeys typing onto infinity will eventually type Hamlet, and that even one monkey typing for one hour in a universe that only expands and contracts an hour could type something WAY better than The Holiday.

The Holiday is just one more example of committee written, lowest common denominator bullshit that sells us the following ideas:

1. A woman is not complete without a man.
2. A man will instantly fall in love with a woman who does not want or need foreplay and just announces that she wants to have sex.
3. Listing all the facts and statistics about yourself on the first date will cause your intended to feel your pain and become inextricably linked to you.
4. Men are dogs.
6. Old people are wise, free of conflict and loneliness, and will see the specialness that is you.
7. Driven women are unhappy.
8. Marriage is the only end for you, missy. Best get crackin' if you're over 35!
9. Huffing, falling down, breaking things, and an inability to cope with your most basic needs means you are lovable.

To be fair, I only watched the first third. And there was almost NO Kate Winslet. She was lost in a sea of improbable dialogue and madcap quirkery and Cameron Diaz' teeth.

Perhaps I missed out. Perhaps the ending was one of those exultant "Holy whoa, dude." moments that would have enriched and illuminated my life beyond all expectation.

I seriously doubt it.

Part of what gets me so steamed about this sort of film is not that it made a lot of money, or that the situation wasn't particularly realistic, or that I'm dead inside. What sends me over the edge, is that they didn't even TRY. They (who ever THEY are: the cogs and gears of the mediocre clock) let the premise do the work, and sat back on hack dialogue and soft focus filters.

And, sure, I'm a little depressed that the general public just accepts it.

I will forgive a lot of things. I am willing to be manipulated and hoodwinked.

But for crying out loud, can't you put a little effort into it so I don't feel dumber afterwards?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

It's 6:15am. My alarm goes off as usual, and it withstands my knocking, slapping and beating it into snooze.

6:23am. It wakes me up again. If my body's brain, (the instinct for more rest, the one that gets hungry but will only eat Whoppers, the Oscar I fight with on a daily basis) has taken over, it will snap up the alarm and reset it for another 45 minutes. Let's assume that it did that.

7:10am. I blink awake before the alarm goes off, drenched in relief that the dream I had was not real. There was no fight. There was no loss. There was no ignoring me at a party where everyone was dressed as a drawing of Philip K. Dick.

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10:39am. Wait. What just happened? Why does this keep happening? I am awake but some how Time escapes my grasp like one of those Water Weenies.

You know the ones I mean. The more you try to hold onto them, the bigger fool you look like.

The last few weeks have been this way especially. My Soul's brain (the one that makes up the dreams, the one that does the dishes, the Felix I fight with on a daily basis.) goes on some mammoth excursion, returning to discover that NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE.

I think I need to have a house meeting to discuss Time Management.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Sunday, April 19, 2009


Friday, April 17, 2009


This fall, my theater company will be producing a show based on the works of Edward Hopper (Most famous for Nighthawks, 1942). We put the idea on the back burner for a bit but have now reinstated our efforts.

Below is a piece I wrote in the initial spate of writing meetings, based on the painting Chair Car, 1965.


LOIS, Early 30’s
VERBENA, Early 30’s

(The common area of a passenger train, early afternoon. There are four people in the car: A Man sitting at the fore, looking out the opposite window from the chair in which he sits, a woman in a hat who cannot seem to take her eyes off the Man’s right ear, VERBENA, sitting further back still, and LOIS. LOIS is sitting with her back turned to the window, reading a dog-eared paperback book. At times the book itself appears to frustrate her. She huffs out one or two agitated sighs, closing the book and turning it over to look at the back cover. When she has finished eyeballing it with displeasure, she turns back to where she left off with a rough flip.

When she flips back she consistently returns to a page where the spine has cracked a bit from wear as if that page has been read over and over. It is not the page she’s reading and having to hit it every time she goes back to looking at the book, increases her agitation.

VERBENA is watching this. Her chair is turned halfway towards LOIS. She is trying, with little success, to observe LOIS with a covert nonchalance. LOIS is at first unaware of this, but during one of her scolding glances at the back of the book, she catches a glimpse of VERBENA turned almost directly her way. Their eyes meet for half a second and VERBENA swivels back around to face front. LOIS remains fixed on VERBENA for a beat, and then returns to her book.

VERBENA tries a few more times to look directly at LOIS and LOIS is ever more aware of VERBENA’s intrusion.

The sound of the train thumping and clacking over the tracks is heard throughout.

Finally, catching VERBENA in another stare, LOIS has had enough.)

Excuse me.

(VERBENA swerves back around forward in her chair.)

Excuse me…you there.

(A beat. VERBENA turns back to view LOIS at a turtle’s pace. LOIS waits.)


Uh-huh…Hello…can I help you with something?

I, uh…I don’t kno-

No, no, no…you’ve been turning your chair and looking over at me. I’ve seen it.

(A long beat. VERBENA just looks at LOIS.)

I’ve seen you doing it. You can’t pretend here, because I’ve seen you.

(VERBENA furrows her brow.)

You don’t have to be so upset.

I’m not upset.

You sound like you are.

I’m not.


I just want to know what’s going on here.


Then why are you looking at me?

(Pause. VERBENA mulls it over and then:)

I was looking at your book.

That’s it?

Yes…I was wondering what you were reading. I can’t help it. I’m always looking at what other people are reading, on the train, on the subway.

You could have just said that, without going through all the- (She makes a circling motion with her finger.) You can say “Excuse me, what are you reading?”

Excuse me, what are you reading?

Exactly, just like that.

VERBENA (Shy laugh)
No…I’m really asking.

(LOIS lets out a humorless snort.)


(LOIS closes the book and looks at its cover.)

“Pictures of the Gone World” by Lawrence Finger-letty.


Pretty depressing name, if you ask me.

How come?

Well, it just sounds so damn melancholy, doesn’t it? Poets these days have to make everything sound like it’s the end of the world.

You don’t go in for poetry too much.

Sure I do. I can’t get enough of the stuff.

(VERBENA is incredulous)

Really? You don’t seem-

I like it as much as the next gal, with a bunch of roses and a box of chocolates, but honestly…it’s when these fellas get all (makes a circling motion with her finger by her head) you know, it gets to be a bit much for me.

(A long beat. LOIS, assuming the conversation is at a comfortable parting lull, opens the book.)

It’s Ferlinghetti.

What’s that?

It’s Ferlinghetti. That’s how you say his last name.


You said “Finger-letty.”

No I didn’t.

I heard you.

I said “Finger-letty.”

Yes…and that’s not right.

LOIS (Shrugging)
Who cares?

(VERBENA is silent. LOIS tries to open the book again)

Where did you get it?

(LOIS is visibly annoyed)

Get what? This?

The book.

What difference does it make?

I just want to know where you got it.

Right and I want to know what difference it makes.

I know it’s strange…

You’re tellin’ me?

I used to have that book. Used to own it.


So, I just wanted to know where you got it.

(LOIS pulls the book towards her.)

This is my book.

I know.

It was a present to me.

Mine was too…a present.

But this one was a present to me…from a friend.


They must not know you very well.

What the hell kinda thing is that to say? And to a total stranger?

I didn’t mean to-

Oh yes, you did! (The Woman with the hat turns her head and looks at them. LOIS Sees this and evens her tone.) Yes, you did…what other possible reason could you have to say such a thing? You most assuredly did mean to-(Makes a circling motion with her finger, completing her thought.)

(There is a long silence as LOIS and VERBENA look at one another. LOIS slowly sits back in her seat and swivels it away from VERBENA.)

May I see it?


Why not?

You can’t be serious.

I only want to see something and then I’ll give it right back.


You have my word.

Of all the childish- (She swivels back around) Tell me what it is and I’ll look at it for you.

That’s not the same thing.

You’re right…it’s not.

Please…I just want to see-

See what?

That’s my business.

And this book is my business.

(Pause. VERBENA is growing more desperate.)

It looks like it was my book. It looks just like it.

Well, it’s not your book. It’s my book.

But it looks like-

There are about a thousand of these books around, how could you possibly, out of all the copies of this goddamn book there are in the world, think that this one is yours?

It’s got the same-

The same-

The same, I don’t know the same marks on it. It folds back the same way…and there (she points) I can see where I colored in the “O” in “gone” with a pen. I had it on my desk and I was just, you know, on the telephone and I colored it in. It was a stupid thing to do…I felt like I ruined it a little. I used to carry it around with me. Everywhere. It was a present from- (she stops short of saying his name) we were going to get married, he told me. Or run away, he said. He gave it to me and in the front he wrote- something silly, really. A sweet nothing. And afterwards, after he was gone…the book went missing. I probably left it somewhere, that’s what I thought. But it was a present…to me. And I just want to see if maybe…what he wrote….

(A beat. The train has slowed down and the conductor announces the stop that’s coming up)

This isn’t your book.

But…can I look?

This is mine. It was a gift to me.

I just want to see.

It’s mine.

Just for a second…

(The train has stopped. LOIS stands up.)

Please, before you go. Can I see?

(A long beat. The Man and the Woman in the train car get up and exit. LOIS stands for a beat. In one quick motion she whips the book to the front page and hold it up for VERBENA to see. VERBENA looks at it for a beat and takes in a sharp breath. Then, just as swiftly as she opened it, LOIS slams the book shut and stuffs it into her handbag. She marches out of the train, leaving VERBENA alone.)


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Double Plus Google

As you make your rounds, from this blog to that blog, you may have noticed a shift in the word verifications as you prepare to submit your commentary. Instead of Bungst (n. Anxiety produced over the consumption of wheat based foods.) you get Army. Rather than Prib (v. To tickle from behind so as to gain physical advantage.) you see Bread.

What's this? These words already exist.

Never fear. When these words arrive in your word verification, trust that the good folks at Google have altered their meanings to create full new words. Don't worry yourself over the learnings of yesterday. Open yourself to the revised language of the future!

Exit |ˈegzit; ˈeksit|
n. A thing previously unspecified by sex or nomenclature. Esp. of babies, once gender and/or name is determined.

Bright |brīt|
v. To attack with an innocuous object.
Angela looked like she was going to bright me over the head with that roll of paper towels!

Fired |fīrd|
v. Humiliated by a Shakespearean taunt or insult in public.
[Etymology - Possible combination of archaic Fie (an exclamation of outrage or disgust) and modern slang use of Burn (to trick or insult)]

prick |prik|
v. To eat with visible disdain.

murky |ˈmərkē|
adj. (Pejorative) Quirky or cute to the point of handicap.

crimp |krimp|
n. 1. A weeping wood sprite. 2. A man or woman so in love with a person or thing that they are unable to complete simple tasks like tying shoes or combing hair. 3. A bent whisk.

o•pen |ˈōpən|
v. To fall, by accident onto the most improbable sharp object in a vast expanse.
Can you believe it? On that whole tennis court, I fell on the the one unravelled paper clip right next to the net. I hope I don't have nerve damage in the soft of my arm.

soft |sôft|
n. The area just below the armpit on the upper arm.

Need a vocab lesson? Go Here or Here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


This morning I realized how short I am.

Not that I am lilliputian or anything. I am around 5' 5" or 5' 6" tall. That's not sooo short. There are those, male and female, who are shorter. (I feel I should mention that I have no height-ist attitudes. I have no NEED to tower over anyone, nor do I feel the urge to be cradled in the arms of a giant - unless it happens to be an actual mythic giant, in which case I'd be all over it.)

I just thought I was taller.

I've been walking around like I'm at least a good 5'7" or 5'8". The -j-j- in my mind is that tall. Statuesque. It's a strange day when one realizes one's actual stature.

I'm also startled to realize just how gargantuan other people are. When did you get so tall? How have I never noticed my upward glances at you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

You stand in the grey cold of the morning waiting for the bus, grousing over your forgotten umbrella. Three buses have passed you by (One was not in service, the second a training bus and the third a bus that went Express moments before hitting your stop.) Finally, on the horizon, the orange flicker of the route title catches your eye.

It ambles forward, finding its way to every emmer effing stop light along the quarter mile. But what's this? As the rectangular automobile approaches you, it speeds up. It's going to pass you.

Your face fills with blood. You know what's going on here. It's always you. IT'S ALWAYS YOU. The Chicago Transit Authority is out to get you. You've known it from the start.

The bus gains momentum, but the light at your corner shifts suddenly to yellow and then to red. There is a loud screech as the bus halts, and all standing passengers tumble to the floor inside. You hear their faint cries and "I am so sorrys".

You have to knock on the bus door for it to open. They flip outward and you step in leering at Mid-April Tuesday driving the bus.

He leers back.

You grip one of the rubber nooses meant for standing riders. The light turns to green.

On your ride to work, you hit every stop light into town. Mid-April Tuesday looks your each time... a slight smug curl on his lips.

Yeah. The CTA is out to get you. You knew it.

And yet I can't help but smile when I hear this:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pity is a Sign of Contempt

"The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall; but in charity there is no excess, neither can angel or man come in danger by it." - Francis Bacon
Really? Is that so? Huh.

Obviously, Bacon had no access to television shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

For those unfamiliar, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is ABC's Charity Porn which airs Sunday nights. Featuring the adrenalized Ty Pennington and his team of designers, the program chronicles their efforts to change the lives of destitute and deserving families across the country. This is how it works:

While tooling around the countryside in their souped up Ratt-Tour-bus-cum-RV, Ty and his team of designers and architects watch a submission video from a worthy family. Told in the heart-breaking detail that only a VHS camcorder can define, the family sends its pleas to the producers of ABC: Their home is in a shambles, with asbestos spewing from the vents, rusty nails cover every corner and swarms of bugs or raccoons creep in through holes in the roof. One or more family members is blind or deaf or riddled with disease or some combination of the three. Often the family is a contributing member of a community or a volunteer at a church or a temp- erm, well, church.

A series of quick cuts sends us back and forth between the family's plight and the emotional out pourings of Ty and his Friends. They Must help this family. They MUST. They NEED you, TY, you and your empty blue eyes. Without you, they will spiral further, deeper into destitution and despair.

The Extreme Makeover Bus arrives at the Family's doorstep and, after a whirlwind of insane slobbery screaming (after which the children most certainly barf like shaken puppies), ABC sends them away on a dream vacation so that the crew can demolish the house and build it anew, thereby leaving an even playing field from which the Family can discover a new era of prosperity.

We are then subjected to about 45 minutes of building and design. They incorporate elements that will enrich and enliven the family (In one episode, the designers create a room designed for a blind autistic child, filled with touchable shapes and soft flooring). The designers never really seem to DO anything except explain what's happening...or talk to someone who can. They wear work belts and hardhats made by Playskool and meander from room to room, getting in the way of every worker and Sears delivery guy. Ty and his designers talk directly to the camera, hiccuping with occasional tears over how grateful the family will be when they see their new home. Their hunger for thanks is intense.

The final day comes (this is the section of the program most scabbed over with commercials), and the family returns. A crowd has assembled outside, bearing signs and screaming like the Beatles are about to exit the plane. Ty is waiting for the vehicle carrying the family to drive up. When they exit the car, he descends upon them, drenching everyone in overweening enthusiasm.

He gets right up to the family, hugging the children, jumping up and down, whipping them into a froth. and then...

"MOVE THAT BUS!" The trailer drives away revealing a new, beautiful home. General Pandemonium. The Mother collapses in tears, and the Father - a beacon of quiet strength, until now - chokes on his own sobs. The children go apeshit.

Amid all the screaming, Mr. Ty bounces up and down shrieking at these poor people - "Isn't this what you wanted?!?! This will change your lives! Isn't it beautiful?!?!?

His yelps only cause the family more emotional turmoil as they exhaust all there reservoirs of gratitude. More tears, more thanking of God, more doubling over.

Ty shoves them to see the inside of the house. The crowd roars as they rush in and open the front door to a wonderland of high ceilings and stain resistant carpeting. With each room, Ty approaches the Mother or Son or Daughter or Father (usually whoever is blind) and says "We've installed robots in every room to tell you where you are and help you get audio books off the shelves, and tell you if something is poisonous, and tell you what clothes to wear, and help you into the bathtub, and wash your back and tell you that you are worthy of love. ISN'T THAT INCREDIBLE?" More agonized thanks.

There are quiet moments, too. When the Mother and Father see their bedroom for the first time. They sit and marvel over the King sized bed, and monitors in ever room of the house so they can keep track of their children. They embrace. Then Ty barges in - he tries to be quiet at first, and says "We know this is what you were hoping for...and now you have it." (His voice waivers as he struggles to contain an urge to yell like a cracked out cheerleader.)He waits for them to hug him. To cry. To tell him that he is the great healer. There is a quiet pause and Ty whoops "There's still MORE TO SEE!"

Finally, when the entire family unit is but a shadow of itself, exhausted, covered in dried tears and ready to collapse, Ty leads them into another room Lo! There is Stevie Wonder, or Dorothy Hamil or an animatronic Christopher Reeve - playing piano or waiting with a scholarship check.

Ty is about to totally fucking freak out.

The family is not frenzied enough! He screams at them, yanking more tears from their dehydrated bodies - "Look at what we've done for you! You will never know need again! YOU WILL BE TAKEN CARE OF NOW! YOU ARE THE PARAGONS OF THE NOBLE POOR! AND WE HAVE LIFTED YOU UP FROM THE DRECK OF YOUR LIVES, YOU PATHETIC WARTY RIFF RAFF! MAKE YOUR SLAVISH THANKS KNOWN TO US!"

There are exit interviews. The family is overcome. The designers weep to the camera about the good they've done, how they WERE a member of this family for one week. Ty sighs and tears up...he has saved yet another segment of the great unwashed.

Roll Credits.

This show is wearying. When will weeping, quivering, squawking gratitude be enough? When will Ty stop extracting thankful cries from these families? Never.

The awful nature of this kind of charity is that it forces the Recipients into a terrible performative servitude. IN order to pay for this kind of charity, they must cry, wail and wrench their bodies as if possessed with divine exultation. Can't there be a simple act of giving and receiving?

Nope. That don't sell Antibacterial Palmolive.

Charity is good. Giving a helping hand, supporting programs that give those in need immediate rescue, IN ADDITION to infrastructure to maintain themselves is necessary.

Dumping a bunch of strings-attached-lotto-style opulence on a family only manipulates the guiltiest part of our selves. And it certainly does the family no good when, six months later, they have to sell the house because the renovation shot the taxes out of their pay grade.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The First Dream

By Billy Collins, Two Time US Poet Laureate

The Wind is ghosting around the house tonight
and as I lean against the door of sleep
I begin to think about the first person to dream,
how quiet he must have seemed the next morning

as the others stood around the fire
draped in the skins of animals
talking to each other only in vowels,
for this was long before the invention of consonants.

He might have gone off by himself to sit
on a rock and look into the mist of a lake
as he tried to tell himself what had happened,
how he had gone somewhere without going,

how he had put his arms around the neck
of a beast that the others could touch
only after they had killed it with stones,
how he felt its breath on his bare neck.

Then again, the first dream could have come
to a woman, though she would behave,
I suppose, much the same way,
moving off by herself to be alone near water,

except that the curve of her young shoulders
and the tilt of her downcast head
would make her appear to be terribly alone,
and if you were there to notice this,

you might have gone down as the first person
to ever fall in love with the sadness of another.

(Thanks to my friend T. Flan for introducing me to his work. )

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. I am a window sitter on the bus. If there is an opportunity to sit by the window and gaze out over the landscape, I will take it. In recent weeks, the glory of the 145 Express Bus to Downtown has made itself known to me.

Years back, taking a drive into the Loop and down Michigan avenue was a treat, a side benefit to taking a cab or getting a ride from a friend. These days the cityscape whips by on a regular basis through the giant greenish windows of the bus. Chicago is a beautiful city.

2. The network I have amassed on Facebook (or "MyFace" as Pat and Erin call it) has ballooned up way past what I would consider a comfortable collection of friends - Over 400. I'm not dangling this number out there as a "Hey, aren't I totes popularis?" (As the kids most definitely do NOT say, having greater self respect than I), but more as a point of "whoa." Many of these people I barely know, and I'm not adverse to our cyber friendship contract. It doesn't hurt anything and I can withstand the 800 invites I get for upcoming shows as long as they can tolerate my show plugs in return.

Then, the other day, my friend count went down by one.

Weirder than the actual act of being unfriended, was my sensation of vague paranoia (accompanied by surprise that it hadn't happened before. I have some very religious and conservative high school acquaintances who must be nothing short of alarmed at some of my Facebook material.) . Who was it? I poked around the friend nest and couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.


Was it you?

3. From inside the bus downtown, I sometimes make accidental eye contact with those waiting for its arrival. I can see them clearly, they, scanning through the reflective glare outside, can see less.

Eye contact is still made, unknowing, unrealized. They respond in the same way one does when an unfamiliar gaze is met: the split second jolt and then the eyes dodge to the left or the right, occasionally returning for a nonchalant glimpse. Do they know what just happened? Peering at the glass, perhaps they can only see themselves or the reflection of the person behind them.

But I know our eyes met.

This must be what a ghost feels like.

4. Favorite word this week:

[pi-kyool-yer] Show IPA
1. strange; queer; odd: peculiar happenings.
2. uncommon; unusual: the peculiar hobby of stuffing and mounting bats.
3. distinctive in nature or character from others.
4. belonging characteristically (usually fol. by to): an expression peculiar to Canadians.
5. belonging exclusively to some person, group, or thing: the peculiar properties of a drug.
6. Astronomy. designating a star or galaxy with special properties that deviates from others of its spectral type or galaxy class.
7. a property or privilege belonging exclusively or characteristically to a person.
8. British. a particular parish or church that is exempted from the jurisdiction of the ordinary or bishop in whose diocese it lies and is governed by another.
9. peculiars. Also called arbitraries. British Printing. special characters not generally included in standard type fonts, as phonetic symbols, mathematical symbols, etc.

1400–50; late ME; < class="ital-inline">pecūliāris as one's own, equiv. to pecūli(um) property (deriv. of pecū flock, farm animals; akin to pecus cattle (see fee )) + -āris -ar 1

5. Least favorite word this week:


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Brain is Egg Smooth Today.

Not a wrinkle to spare. And bald, too.
I got dumbed in the night.
I'm lucky I got dressed. Or even knew what pants were. (Thank you guy at Walgreen's...and then Google.)

I've hired a typist named Kimberly to help me, since I forgot how to press the letters, or even what they mean. She seems nice enough, although I wonder if she's typing what I tell her to...I can't read either. I'll ask.

"Are you typing what I ask you to, Kimberly?"

She smiles and says, "Don't you worry."

"Type that so they know I asked." I tell her.

Kimberly looks at me and smiles.

I smile.

Kimberly smiles.

I smile.

Kimberly smiles.

Kimberly bursts into tears.

Unsure, I burst into tears.

I think I need to go home. I hope I remember my house number.

[Does anyone here know what's going on? She seems like an okay person and everything like that, but I'm worried that she won't be able to get home by herself. Is someone coming to pick her up? - Kimberly]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Last week, Joe G. over at Toxic Bag celebrated the birthday of the 7" Vinyl Record by announcing that his first 7" may have been story recordings featuring Super Heroes from the DC universe.


My pre-double digit years boasted a collection of Flintstones hi-jinx and (in what, I'm certain, will be a shocking turn for all readers) five or six horror/ghost stories that I'd freak my own 8-year-old self out to on a regular basis. (A couple of these were cut out of the backs of cereal boxes, and played with pennies on the corners to give the record the proper weight. The flimsy cardboard also added a scratching phantasmic sound, which in many ways, was more terrifying than the actual recording. Why don't they do that anymore? Records. On the back of cereal box. How much have we lost in our bounding for the future? More than we realize.)

The first single I ever purchased on my own, was in 1984. Automatic by the Pointer Sisters. I heard this on the radio (I owe a debt to Casey Kasem - I can still hear his introduction to this song in my head) my heart just stopped. The Future had arrived.

There was plenty of electronic music to go around in those days (as New Wave was covering up its greys, and Synthpop was trying to figure itself out). The Pointer Sisters weren't charting any new territory, but that wasn't their job. Their job was t stand on the shoulders of electronic music, futz with the vocal tone of the lead Sister and roll out a hit that made me my size fives want to get down.

I loved this song. I played it until the record was ruined. Such was the nature of my love.

I listen to it now and It's sort of the musical equivalent to the silver spray paint and cardboard Sci-Fi (or Syfy, just to piss off Mr. G.) sets of the 50's and 60's. Rudimentary, heartfelt, and beautiful in its way.

Just you try not to bob your head when you give it a listen.

Monday, April 6, 2009


habitual sleeplessness; inability to sleep.

insomniac |-ˌak| |1nˈsɑmniˈøk| noun & adjective

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Latin, from insomnis ‘sleepless,’ from in- (expressing negation) + somnus ‘sleep.’

Knowing this does not make sleep come any easier.
No Lunesta tonight.

Pro•cras•ti•nate |prəˈkrastəˌnāt; prō-|
verb [ intrans. ]
delay or postpone action; put off doing something : it won't be this price for long, so don't procrastinate.

Looking this up just made everything seem all the more pressing.

It's curious what one thinks to eat in the middle of the night, with few or no options in the fridge. One lingers, 42 degrees wafting at the forearm in front of the open door, considering terrible experiments with mayonnaise and curry powder.

The door is shut and disaster is averted...until five minutes later when the door opens again. Maybe ranch and curry powder?

There are repeated visits to the icebox, as if, in 12 minutes of darkness, food has emerged via abiogenesis. No, it hasn't. There is no magnificent treat waiting, hidden behind the left over (forgotten) mashed potatoes...the Scrabble tiles of the refrigerator are all vowels.

Brussels Sprouts can't hurt.

Eight of them roll around in a bowl with yellow squares of butter. Yes. This is just the thing at 2:15am.


Aye me. How unsatisfying.

And work still beckons. An encampment of Focus sends up flares across the lake, as I skitter across the ice. I look into the night sky and see the Big Dipper. I could never make it out before. Smiling, I point straight up.

"Hey! Look you guys, it's the Big Dipper!"

Robert Falcon Scott, who is no stranger to lost directions, shakes his head and sends up another red flare.

"Oh...right..." I scurry further across the lake as the churning waters of Being and Time threaten to crack the ice from beneath.

Robert Falcon Scott barks at me "No more of that, now. Stop it this instant!"


The ice collapses behind me as I make it to shore. Snow melts away and I'm back in my apartment. No Robert Falcon Scott. No Snow. No Being. No Time.

Just wide awake with work tugging at my polka dotted pajama pants.

(Never you mind counting the P's in that sentence. Get to work.)

Yes, get to work. Right after I eat some more vowels out of the fridge.

Friday, April 3, 2009


(Note: May not be work friendly...)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. (And only one)

I am currently coaching an improv duo. F. one half of the duo is working on his one comic strip a day for 365 days project. After our rehearsal, this was emailed to me:

Now, to be fair, I don't think anyone one would have been the wiser had I not, during the rehearsal, mentioned what a drab affair my grey socks were. At some point, I gazed down at them and felt self conscious over the appalling lack of glamour.

As much as I don't like wearing socks for the hell of it (around the house, etc.), I do find myself somewhat fixated on the striped variety. I purchase them whenever I can.

I also have an excessive amount of "Seasonal Socks" (or as I like to call them, "The Second Grade Teacher Socks"), all of them given to me as gifts. I am a frequent wearer of these socks. And rarely in the actual season they represent.

"His socks compelled one's attention, without losing one's respect."
-H.H. Munro

I don't think this is true of me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"An Involuntary Return to the Point of Departure...

is, without doubt, the most disturbing of all journeys." -Iain Sinclair

At first, Hannah thought maybe it was something she ate.

Opening the refrigerator door last night at around 9:00pm, she encountered two leftover deviled eggs and - not recalling the the fortnight that had passed since placing the deviled eggs on the chilled shelves - she devoured them.

This whole moment was all but forgotten. No immediate reaction had occurred, save the instant satisfaction of eating two "found" deviled eggs. (Deviled Eggs never made their way into Hannah's house, except by way of a holiday or special occasion. She certainly never made them herself, not trusting her own hand to create anything so delicious. Instead, she waited for parties and events, and then begged friends with better culinary instincts to bring their famous deviled eggs to whatever shindig she may be attending. Her enthusiasm was often rewarded and it was her name first called to claim the leftovers. Not only were the Deviled eggs a treat, but they came attached to the warm feelings of cultivated friendship.). Her body did not reject the food, so Hannah went to bed.

The following morning, Hannah awoke to a peculiar twinge in her insides. Not quite nausea, but an unease so general it was difficult to ascertain whether the sensation was physical or mental. She considered the culprit as the Deviled Eggs, but Since she was able to get out of bed, brush her teeth and dress herself with no less than the usual balance, Hannah reckoned that the source of her discomfort must have been the dreams from the previous night (during which her dog - shaved all over except one diamond shaped patch on his back - rejected Hannah for her third grade teacher. Hannah owned no such dog - and may have even said this to herself as "Gerund" trotted off towards Mrs. Caldwell. Still, the loss was intense.).

The day progressed and Hannah assimilated the unease into her routine, like an unconscious clenched fist, and by lunch time she barely noticed it at all.

At 12:04pm, it happened.

Hannah chanced to look up from her work to notice the time was four minutes past noon, and this brought her a tiny delight (The quick passage of time while doing menial mental labor is always a gift.), but even in that second, something was very wrong.

It began with a sagging, deep within, just below the diaphragm. There was a tumbling, a falling inside that spread all the way through her ribcage, up and down - over her back, thighs, shoulders, calves, arms, feet, hands, neck and finally, her head. Her face drooped.

Hannah's shoulders slumped, her neck was no longer able to carry the weight of her head (which was sizable in proportion to her smallish frame) and she wobbled for a second, the balance of her body deciding which way to go. That way was forward and her head crashed just on top of non-ergonomic keyboard attached to the computer. Her ears heard a few bits and pieces fall and tumble off the floor, rattled by her domino lunge onto the desk.

She was still. Was she dead? No. Her brain was still very much alive. From the other side of the cubicle she could still hear Marnie (a woman who wore purple all the time and who, Hannah suspected, made up her own name.) talking on her office phone in a sort of loud whisper.

Hannah grumbled that even with all that stirring, Marie exhibited no curiosity as to Hannah's well being. Or she would have grumbled it, had she any access to motion at the time.

Hannah's consciousness was growing dim. What was this? This absolute silence. It was stark, unliving. Even in the quietest of silences, one hears the rush of blood in the ears or a beating -

At that very instant, when her mind produced for her the thought, however fleeting, of the beating heart, her own cardio muscle lubbed and then dubbed with great labor, and a roar of blood swept through her ears.

And then it stopped.

Hannah, stewed in her own darkness and confusion, wondering for a split second and then returned to the thought of beating heart.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Stop.

Even as she forced her own heart to beat, her brain - at its full conscious function - began to feel fuzzy and weak. She wasn't breathing either and in that last second before the drownage her brain seized upon an image of the lungs expanding with air and then contracting. At that moment:

Gasp. Whoosh.

The heart had stopped again.

Heart beat.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Stop.

Lung Breathe.

Gasp. Whoosh.

Now she was getting somewhere. Hannah focused her brain on her lungs and her heart. Only concentrating on those two.

Heart beat, lung breathe, heart beat, lung breathe.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh.

The haze lifted from her brain (still concentrating on those two organs) and she concerned herself with other portions of her body. She could still feel, that was certain. The pain pulsing on her forehead from the blow on the keyboard confirmed it. It was queer the sections of her body, that continued to flop - most notably her scalp and her armpits.

Heart beat, lung breathe, heart beat, lung breathe.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh.

Hannah's mouth started to drool. Gross, she thought. Now I -

There was the sudden gruesome thought that, if she were drooling out of her mouth...then other areas might also sustain some leakage. She imagined her mouth closing, pursing shut.

Right as she thought it, it happened.

But then her heart stopped. Now she had to think it all together, in one fell swoop.

Heart beat, lung breathe, Mouth close, heart beat, lung breathe, mouth close.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut.

This was hard. Hannah remembered the other potential leaks and her brain tasked itself to squinch up every last area of her lower and midregions.

It worked.

But then her heart stopped again and her lungs contracted. Then her mouth gaped open. Hannah was so furious she couldn't even yelp about it. Trying again.

Heart beat, lung breathe, Mouth close, abdominal crunch, heart beat, lung breathe, mouth close, abdominal crunch.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp! Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp!

The added benefit of her abdominal crunch was that pulled her slightly erect and away from the desk, though her face was still meshed deeply to the keyboard. She wanted to sit up.

And with that, she did. It was an ugly, ungracful sit up - but any port in a storm, she thought.

No sooner had the flash image of rocky seas entered her mind than did, once again, everything stop.

What the-

She righted her brain towards her body:

Heart beat, lung breathe, Mouth close, abdominal crunch, heart beat, lung breathe, mouth close, abdominal crunch aaaand alllleeeeyyoooop!

Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp! Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp! Yup!

Hannah sat, tottering on her own useless musculature. Marnie was still tisking and tusking on the phone, with not a clue as to what as unfolding on the other side of the wall. Hannah's eyes were still closed, she imagined them open and , at the very least, staring forward. With the most concentration she could muster - she attempted to preempt any failures on the part of her other organs:

Heart beat, lung breathe, Mouth close, abdominal crunch, heart beat, lung breathe, mouth close, abdominal crunch, stayyyuuuup, eyelids open.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp! Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp! Yup! Tink.

The midday sun charging its way through the windows allowed Hannah to see a faint reflection in her sleeping computer screen. In addition to the tiny red squares across her now bruising forehead, Hannah's face had sagged and drooped.

Her stomache growled.

Oh, no. Since the deviled eggs the night before, Hannah had eaten not a thing. She contemplated her reflection and the amount of work it would take to get her to the break room and retrieve her can of Chunky soup.

Heart beat, lung breathe, Mouth close, abdominal crunch, heart beat, lung breathe, mouth close, abdominal crunch, stayyyuuuup, eyelids open.

Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp! Lub. Dub. Swish. Gasp. Whoosh. Shut. Shirp! Yup! Tink.

Marnie Popped her styled and sprayed head up over the cubicle.

To be continued...
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