Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


#12 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

When I think cutting edge educational toys, I think Henry Fonda!

It's a toy so boring even Peter Brady and Jodie Foster can't give it oomph. Ok, I get the joke - kids think it's educational; grown-ups think it's fun! Damn, that's .............yawn.

How brown were the 70s? Seriously.

You know you loved your Viewmaster; don't act all hipper-than-thou. My fave Viewmaster reels. I really would watch them over and over.

Barbie goes to the beach - I can not explain why Barbie does not qualify as a creepy puppet. Possibly because she is so FABULOUS. And I am a big old queen.

The White House - Greatest of All Sisters and I had a joke commentary for this reel. It involved Nixon stumbling into rooms and lighting fireplaces. [ a tooth-sucking sound works well here to fill the beat. ] We thought we were hilarious.

South Viet Nam - Sometime later we will discuss how Viet Nam used to be 2 words. This reel should be in my mother's attic somewhere, possibly distintegrated. Like its namesake.

Oh, to get my hands on the little propoganda book that came with it.
Slide # 15 is "Green Beret medic treats boy at Tra Bong Village." I promise you I am not making that up.

Please also enjoy "Traditional Funeral procession" and "The 17th Parallel Bridge."

Twenty-one stereo pictures! Perhaps now you can understand a generation that went mad for Pong.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Helping Lola Pack

The greatest obligation a man has to his buddies is helping a guy move. The female equivalent of that is the Bridal Shower. Moving, we don't mind at all. Packing... we love.

Or maybe I shouldn't speak for everyone. I can't say I help someone pack & move every month, but if you throw in cleaning out closets, setting up the baby's room, and giving a place Curb Appeal, it's a fair average.
Your Gal Sunday, as it were.

Lola the Mill Girl has made quite good, and she is going to establish a little boutique by the sea, specializing in children's wear (wink-wink).

Early in my assignment down-the-Mill, when my workgroup was being paid not to grow the sorghum (a misplaced metaphor, but one Billy Scott and I were very fond of), Lola was one of few interested in using our services. And she was a bright young hotshot I wanted to impress so I had turned it on hard. Over these 4 years we have become friends, and have learned to pass the mentor hat back and forth to each other whenever one of us needs the other to be wearing it.

Lola had a great idea for enticing her girls over to pack. Price of admission, 1 box. You pack it. In exchange, shop from the wine collection she didn't want to risk moving. I scored one better, by virtue of being a suit size Lola no longer is, and sharing a taste in clothes that comfortably meets in the middle of the >cough< years between us.

Good thing I brought 2 boxes.

Today's conversation topic was generosity - how to give it, and more importantly, how to receive it. We fell all over each other with the thanks yous, and the how nice, and the really it's just too much. And it made it easy to both give and receive, and not get too wistful about yet another of the inner circle being pulled to California.

Today, in a flurry of plates and newsprint we tried to express all the appreciation we've had (and hope to maintain) in what has been (and continues to be) a confusing workplace. I packed her plates; she fed me dinner. I advised on the fragility of stacked glassware; she gave me a fall wardrobe (and at last a spring coat). We talked about the slipping away of those who keep me from slipping away.

She said, "It's just so nice of you to give this time."
I said, "Time is what I have to give."

It is a small time we have with each other -- 4 years here, 2 years there, even the 15 and 20 years are just fractions of the whole picture -- and there is so much to do. It is hard enough to do it, harder still to ask for the help, shouldn't we just agree when it is asked? Put in your day's work, enjoy a good meal, and strengthen the bonds of your friendship. (The Bridal Shower is not included in this theology).

The Shakers said, "Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow." In your relationships, too, spend time as if today will never end and as if it is the last time you will see each other. Or... "Army children learn to say good-bye to their friends."
Give a friend some of your precious time this week, just for something they need done.
Get your Shaker Quote of the Week here. Now go live your ministry.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Seal the Envelope

"Seal the envelope" is the phrase I like to use around the office when making grand predictions. Also "You heard it here," and "Mark my words." I am not very original in this regard.

I want to predict to you that a play currently titled Broke-ology will become terribly important over the next 5 years, to where you will hear about it everywhere, even if your circles do not intersect with the theatre world, and especially if they do.

This past weekend, I attended the world premiere of
Broke-ology at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the stock you are thinking of when you say "summer stock." On the campus of Williams College --reason enough for driving all the way to New York, then taking one step back into Massachusetts -- throughout the summer, you can see 7 plays, 2 per weekend, professionally produced and satisfyingly performed, for much less than you will pay in any big city, and in the case of Broke-ology, long before there are no more tickets available.

Nathan Louis Jackson's play was not on the original Williamstown schedule (I am sorry to tell you that the abbreviation is WTF) and the Julliard student had not even been considering such a booking, but he knew a good opportunity when he heard one.

Variety's review is here -- there are a few spoilers, but not many, and it is an even review.

Part of its power for me was its theme of decisions and regrets, which we have been discussing in this space. As a bonus, next to She Loves Me (another bit of brilliant theatre in a completely different vein, which also played last weekend) it was a perfect companion for discussing the nature of loneliness, companionship, desire, ambition, and all the other high notes of the human condition. (this clip is not from the Huntington or WTF. because that would be illegal)

My predictions are these:

1) Nicholas Martin, Artistic Director of BU's Huntington Theatre, who is also serving as WTF's Artistic Director, also knows a good thing when he sees it, and will immediately secure Broke-ology for the 2008-09 season. The Huntington may be too big for this production, but there is room for the set and the blocking to grow. At the Nikos Stage, it was just a single room in a black-box theatre. Such a detailed genuine set dressing you haven't seen since the Castorini house in Moonstruck. I thought I'd seen the limit when there was actually a light in the refrigerator, until both the faucet and the stove in the kitchen set worked.

2) Broke-ology will generate all kinds of buzz during its Boston run. People will compare Nathan Jackson to August Wilson, which is not entirely fair -- they will mostly do so because they are both Black. And it is a flattering comparison --Wilson was a brilliant playwright whose plays screamed Message! from behind their period-dressed characters. We should wish to be compared to August Wilson.

Broke-ology is more Eugene O'Neill. A little Tennessee Williams without the hysteria. I think it will get refined during its Boston run -- some of the obvious dialogue weeded out, some of the claustrophobia lightened up. After all, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof takes place in one miserable bedroom, but you hardly notice when it's blocked well.

3) Boston being one of the stops one the way to the Big Show, the play will next move off-Broadway, but not far off, because by now it is too big to go back in the Box and the lighting design will need more space. Next stop Broadway, and... if the conditions are right, this play could win the Tony.

I don't think it will win The Pulitzer, only because it is not very daring. It is just a story about you and your family, and every family you know, and the rotten corners we get painted into. And in that way, this is nothing new. It is a prodigal son/King Lear story, and they don't get much older than that. Or more true.

4) Film version

So seal this in an envelope. By 2013, you'll be cheering for Forrest Whitaker as "Pops" William King on Oscar night.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Living a lie

Imagine discovering that one of the aspects central
to your definition of Self was revealed to be untrue.

Discovering your ancestors were not Irish (but god forgive us English), or your parents were never married. Imagine learning you were not adopted.

It has been brought to me that I have what might be called...
Unneccessary Citizenship.

And like the kid on the playground who faces there is no Santa, I was brought this package of information in a bar on a hot summer's night. Some of you were there.

To refresh yourself on some of my immigrant's rants, visit here and here.

The topic turned to my naturalized status, and this Revelator-friend says, in the way you say "there are not alligators living in the New York sewer system," "they didn't have to do that." (or words to that effect). They: my parents, the Germans, the US-by-God Government.

I began my usual explanation of yes-why-they-did, and she keeps saying flatly, "That's not true."
That's not true.

I said, "I am telling you that I have citizenship papers." And she says, "I'm saying that wasn't necessary."
Me: "Dean Rusk signed them himself."
She: "You didn't need them."

I am reminded of Karen's college essay on her ancestoral origins when her parents were unable to come up with their ethnic background. "I think we were Portuguese," says her mother.
"Oh yeh," says Karen, "The Perrys were Portuguese."

I had thought at the time, well, it was probably Perez, or something else changed Ellis-style, but I didn't say this out loud. Who am I to question? Apparently that would hjave been perfectly FINE.

But back to the topic at hand:
Let's go to the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, shall we? Oh let's.

8 USC Sec. 1401 - Title 8 being your definitions of Aliens and Nationality.
The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:

(c) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;

Now I know requirements. And I met those.
This is the same requirement John McCain meets. Schwarznegger does not.

Whether McCain is "native born" may also be settled, if a ruling from 1790 is enough to convince you:

“the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.”

Full disclosure: this act also defines "any white person" as eligible for citizenship, so...

How about this:

(h) a person born before noon (Eastern Standard Time) May 24, 1934, outside the limits and jurisdiction of the United States of an alien father and a mother who is a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, had resided in the United States.

that is a very specific law. Who in the heck was that passed for?

Write me in in November.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Blog Betrayal

"If you cariacture your friends in your [blog], they will be upset, but if you don't, they will feel betrayed." ~~ Mordecai Richler (paraphrased)

This topic was born when one of the Featured Players in my life didn't like the blogname I had made up for her. I'm not very good at it, to be honest, and for expediency's sake, I tend to choose the first thing that comes to mind get through the rest of the sentence.
It is ideal when the characters come with their own names, as S@L does, or Diesel. Jay keeps it simple by using his own name, but of course I have the best name for him and his spouse, The Tarleton Twins. They are also The Boys, not to be confused with The Fellas, because one must keep their couples straight.

"Dr. A" and "Dr. M" were Victorian constructions that came easily. I suppose I could have been more creative about that, but I think if you try too hard it shows. If they knew each other, I would call them Harriet and Janie and make you go look that up. You should do some work here, after all. This exercise takes effort.
Neither of them would be flattered by this drawing, but I think neither of them would get a Harriett the Spy reference, so I will let each think Janie is the other. That's also part of the game.

Sometimes I change names post-to-post, not to make it look as if I have more friends, but to keep it interesting for both of us, and occasionally to disguise who I am talking about even from them.

And is that wise? Does the Readership scour this page looking for evidence of themselves -- some kind of validation that our daily show is being watched and actually reviewed? And, like the friends in Richler's quotation, are they pleased to find themselves there, or betrayed?

Don't you hate those kind of blogs that ask a lot of questions and don't answer them? Didn't they frown on this in composition class? Isn't it 6:30 in the morning and don't I do more thinking by 8am than you'll do all day?
As it is, I wait for Rona Jaffe to ask for royalties for stealing Caroline's name. To appease her, I will leave you with this. Now get to work. Miss Farrell is waiting. I think we have all worked for her.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

This week on Wife Swap

Sharon Osborne and Cherie Blair.

Outcome: Ozzie doesn't notice; Tony won't swap back.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Leaps of faith

Jay recently made an important decision.

We talked about it yesterday on the drive home from Rockport.

He asked his husband and me, "What's the best decision you've ever made in your life?"

I have always dwelt more on the decisions I've regretted than the ones I didn't. By the time I was 25, I had 5 manuscripts -- every one of them about regret. The last of these centers around the idea that each of us harbors a Basic Regret . Every decision we make afterward is an attempt to justify -- if not actually redeem -- that one. It never works, of course.

I consider the college years that inspired that story the single greatest experience of my life. It is what -- to borrow a phrase from Annie Dillard -- made a woman out of a girl. But it was a passive sort of decision, if you can call it a decision at all. I didn't even choose the school -- my guidance counselor did. I followed the instructions on the form.

Moving to Boston is easily the most important decision I made. Everything that I am today, all that I have achieved and experienced, came from that decision. I can't imagine who or what I would have been if I had returned to Virginia. I believe if I had stayed in Texas I would have made a life there, simply by following the path laid out for me, and I may have achieved many of the same things (in a different flavor) but I don't know that I would have been particularly happy about it.

I might consider that move to Texas my Basic Regret, except I know the reasons I did it were to justify other regrettable decisions; and that thread gets tangled when I try to follow it.

I thought we should define our terms. It is so Hollins seminar of me. What do we mean by "best" ? What do we mean by "made"?

In my INTJ mind, to make a decision is an investment of the most intellectually active kind. One reaches the decision the same way one proves an academic argument: by forming a hypothesis and proving it through research and supportive reasoning. (I realize not everyone does this. I use "one" here to avoid talking about myself so directly. That's the "I." I don't know what they do do, and don't care to discuss it. That's the "TJ.") So when I think of the category of decisions, they are those events; but few of them are milestones and none of them seem interesting enough to rank as Good-Better-Best.

The life-changing events like college and Texas, like entering student affairs and leaving it, did not get that kind of scrutiny. The 1996 sabbatical was a good decision. Maybe that was my best decision.

"And even then," I said to the Boys, "It wasn't the kind of decision you say, 'that was a good decision' about. It was just sort of a blind faith decision."

"I think that's what I mean," said Jay.

He's no INTJ, as you can see. That's why he's so good for me.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Netflix Retracts!

We Are Keeping Netflix Profiles

Dear [Angry Account Holder],

You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.

We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.

-Your friends at Netflix
Really. It was nothing. A couple of meetings, some calls, a horse head and they saw things my way.