Tuesday, December 24, 2013

MAS!

This year's holiday T-shirt
On the front:
MAS!!!
On the back:
(keeping the mas in christmas)

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Fire with Fire"

(The New Female Power, and how it will change the 21st Century)
-by Naomi Wolf
1993
One of the most essential books on feminism - ever. Breathing the rarefied air of THE SECOND SEX, THE MISMEASURE OF WOMAN, and THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN, Wolf's second book has been dismissed and overlooked, especially in comparison with her classic THE BEAUTY MYTH. Which is a crying shame, as she deftly avoids the overearnest flaws of her debut bestseller.
Like a roller coaster, FIRE WITH FIRE starts out slow and steady. One even begins to worry that the ride might be gradually burying itself in the dirt. But like THE WIZARD OF OZ bursting into color, about a third of the way through Wolf tosses aside the academic/polemic veil, and the book begins to vibrate with self-revelation and clear thinking. The very best books engage us in such a way as to feel like a conversation with the author, a trick Wolf pulls off with unerring grace. She heralds the arrival of global female power during the "genderquake" of 1992 (which had the Thomas/Hill hearings as its epicenter). Tellingly, i used to forget that Thomas' career actually survived those hearings - but my mental lapse mirrored the larger historical shift, as women were ever after empowered with the knowledge that their truth-telling could remove misbehaving males from their power base. That the pendulum was swinging in a new direction cannot be denied. That it swung too far is also hard to deny (i myself got caught in that once, when i got fired for telling a co-worker i liked her smile). In addition, '92 brought elections in which women's voices (now a majority of the electorate) shifted national politics like never before, as Clinton's female-rich administration came to power. It was also presumably the last time that female U.S. senators would more than double their ranks within one year.
Yet just as these changes were taking place, feminism itself had become an unpopular word among both men and women. Going beyond the male power structure's backlash, Wolf explains how this change was due also to dissensions among women. Feminism had come to be perceived as man-hating, dykey, or middle-class and white. In addition, a new distinction was being born - "victim feminism" as compared to "power feminism". Victim feminism points toward inherent gender differences, and how women need to be "rescued". Power feminism places women's salvation in their own hands. Victim feminism places the most victimized woman as the highest moral authority. Power feminism asks us to judge the message, not the messenger. Wolf argues that victim feminism is anti-humanist. Her most clarifying example is the 1992 Berkeley incident wherein female students forced the administration to clothe a male student who went naked on campus, as a pro-freedom, pro-nature statement.
There have been one or two instances when my own writing has been accused of victim feministry, and i almost took it to heart. But like the big sister i never had, Wolf points out that ALL feminism is sourced from the awareness that women have been history's victims, and shedding light on that is vital.
Yet another light went off as i realized that on more than one occasion, i've been chastised for claiming to be more feminist than most women, and admonished that such an observation is insulting. I generally bit my tongue, but Wolf has empowered me to nevermore back down when someone suggests i don't have the right to compare my feminist credentials to anyone's, and chide those who fall short, regardless of gender.
She illuminates the psychological aspect of women that resists power, which is "male" (and therefore carries all the moral baseness inherent thereto). Add to that a resistance to giving up the "moral lightness of being infantilized, the simplicity of having limited choices, the sense of specialness that comes from being treated as a frail exotic". She deconstructs the ways "man as enemy" is self-defeating. She reclaims heterosexual healing, and argues that the roles of pursuer or pursued, possessor or possessed, can be healthy expressions of sexuality - for anyone. She challenges the assumption that men are visual/promiscuous while women are emotional/monogamous, by talking about her college days. She and her female peers made a sport of sex. They greedily related tales of performance and physical endowment, and were often less than faithful. Like men, they had to learn to see the person beneath the sex object. In Hollywood, it's now common for famous actresses to take up with younger (and unfailingly non-ugly) men. Her comments shade toward monogamy being desirable, which runs counter to what science now knows, but that's this book's only real flaw, and you have to have hawk eyes to even notice it.
Wolf talks about her struggles and discomfort with money and fame, and how this touches upon female power illiteracy. I realized how much my own relationship with money parallels the traditional female attitude - just this month, i made a flyer advertising my services that contained the words "pay what you can afford". While my relationship with capitalism has a larger humanist context, the example reminds me of the first time someone told me i had a lot of feminine energy - it's clear she wasn't just blowing smoke up my ass to get me in bed (although some college women do that, apparently). Wolf correctly contends that women need to become comfortable with power if they're to make the complete leap forward which is within our grasp. She argues that powerlust is not alien to women, by examining the behavior of females under the age of five. She calls the "sisterhood" model of feminism insufficient, as women are too diverse and numerous to be united under the umbrella of intimate connection. She outlines ways for women to achieve, hold, and expand their influence in a world of money, votes, and public perception. And the main thrust of this amazing book is that the power is already in women's hands - the only thing that can hold back the dream of equality at this point, is women themselves.
How deeply did this book move me? I'll now forever dream of feeding Naomi.
To understand that one, you'll have to read the book.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

tyr, teal'c, and worf 2

(Tyr, teal'c, worf, and ronon at a bar. Tyr and worf are passed out.)
TEAL'C:  Your hair is most intriguing, Ronon Dex.
RONON:  Back atcha, baldy.
TEAL'C:  You are not black, Ronon Dex.
RONON:  Screw that, it's a gig...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

tyr, teal'c, and worf

(tyr, worf, and teal'c sit at a bar)
TYR:  Yes.
WORF:  Yes.
TEAL'C:  Indeed...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Boston Legal"

2004*-2008
I'd avoided this one as i understandably avoid most cop, doctor, and lawyer shows. Moreover, i'd seen some of producer david kelley's work (L.A. LAW, ALLY MCBEAL), and hadn't been particularly moved.
Surprise, surprise.
This spinoff of THE PRACTICE, from which james spader, william shatner, rhona mitra, and lake bell land in the Boston firm of Crane, Poole, and Schmidt, finds kelley tweaking the format, injecting loosey goosey silliness while keeping the serious side, and upping the ante by putting issues of profoundest social import on trial. Progressive values come shining through, mostly through the mouthpiece of spader's alan shore. The show crackles with sharp writing and quirky performances. It's also unique in this reviewer's experience, in that a four-star rating system is insufficient. The installation of a fifth star located between "good" and
"great" is essential for this show, which was only unqualifiedly great once, but hit the ground running and never looked back. Not once in five seasons did it descend to bad or even okay (a distinction i'm hard-pressed to make for any other show), and hardly EVER was it only merely "good". The core cast of spader, shatner, and candice bergen (but mostly spader and shatner) carry the doings delightfully. The theme song is perky and poppy, with a surprise jolt of funk. The producers seemed a bit blase with the revolving dressing room doors that gave us the rest of the cast...perhaps a gamble that worked, but one can't help wonder how a little more devotion might have played out, both in giving them more to do and retaining their services (they had nineteen cast regulars come and go-go-go, which has to be some sort of instability record). They also tinkered with having the actors break the fourth wall occasionally, which never quite popped. But i quibble. The show is a delight, from start to finish and everything in between.
*I ought mention that it should be considered as running six seasons, not five, as the final season of THE PRACTICE is season 1 of BOSTON LEGAL, in all but name. Although the writing isn't quite as sharp, that final season is an indispensable, delightful appetizer, giving depth and resonance to shore's relationships with tara, sally, and denny. It's all good, but absolutely indispensable are "Concealing Evidence" (which gives both the A and B plots to a courtroom-hopping shore at his shady best), and "The Firm" (a veritable lost treasure of the Sierra Madre for shore/crane lovers).
FIVE-STAR EPISODES [season]
-Head Cases [1]
A pilot episode that bursts with brilliance, as one of the name partners shows up at work without pants, and an old friend hires the legendary denny crane to find out who is sleeping with his wife...only to discover it's the legend himself.
PERFORMERS (# of episodes)
JAMES SPADER - alan shore (101)
Spader (SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE, STARGATE) walks the line between idealist and hedonistic nihilist beautifully. There could have, should have been more of a resolve to his emotional intimacy issues.
SUMPTUOUS SHORE SUMMATIONS [season]
-Angel of Death [3]
Alan defends a doctor who mercy-killed terminal patients stranded after Hurricane Katrina.
-The Chicken and the Leg [4]
Alan sues an abstinence-only school district on behalf of a teen who had unprotected sex and contracted HIV.
-The Court Supreme [4]
Alan takes a capital punishment case before the Supreme Court, and gives them a verbal spanking for their constitutional and moral failings during the bush years. Ah, if only. The writing is a shade less than tight, but shore is at his iconoclastic best.
WILLIAM SHATNER - denny crane (101)
Crane is a conservative, gun-totin', lecherous, senile blowhard. Shatner (STAR TREK, INVASION IOWA!) is shatner...and that's a beautiful thing.
CANDICE BERGEN - shirley schmidt (91)
Candice (CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, MURPHY BROWN) is a steadying presence...who never gets the storylines she deserves.
RENE AUBERJONOIS - paul lewiston (71)
The brilliant rene (M*A*S*H, STAR TREK: DS9) almost never gets the chance to shine.
MARK VALLEY - brad chase (70)
Mark (HUMAN TARGET) is a perfect ken-doll foil for alan. His late-season absence was felt.
JULIE BOWEN - denise bauer (52)
Julie (HAPPY GILMORE, MODERN FAMILY) went from being a post-potter disappointment to someone you hoped they'd give more. Her character arc never quite recovered from the abandoned romance with justin mentell, though.
CHRISTIAN CLEMENSON - jerry espenson (50)
Christian (BAD INFLUENCE, THE FISHER KING) plays jerry's asberger quirks beautifully, no mean feat. They should have gone deeper into his character's obstacles, to make his failings more human and his happy ending with katy more earned.
JOHN LARROQUETTE - carl sack (33)
It's easy to imagine that john (STRIPES, STAR TREK III) had a "non-steamrolled by shatnerspader" clause in his signing contract. And they actually honored that clause a bit...
TARA SUMMERS - katy lloyd (33)
Tara (FACTORY GIRL, HITCHCOCK) is thoroughly charming...all's the more shame they didn't go more than puddle deep with her character.
HENRY GIBSON - Judge brown (24)
Henry (THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, LAUGH-IN) is part 1 of the three-headed judge that comprised the third-most effective character of the show.
MONICA POTTER - lori colson (21)
Why??? Why did she leave??? Monica (PATCH ADAMS, PARENTHOOD) created a character every bit as resonant as the Big Two, centered and capable of grounding the wackiness around her. Then, after one season...gone.
RHONA MITRA - tara wilson (20)
Sigh. The disappearance of rhona (HOLLOW MAN, THE NUMBER 23) after season 1 left another hole they never quite filled. As smart as she was sexy.
SAFFRON BURROWS - lorraine weller (20)
Just when we were becoming fascinated by the possibilities saffron (DEEP BLUE SEA, FRIDA) tapped into with alan...poof. Gone.
MEREDITH EATON - bethany horowitz (18)
Shatner and a dwarf? Yes, please.
BETTY WHITE - catherine piper (16)
What crime did she commit now? Fool-proof casting. She debuted (and shone) in THE PRACTICE.
LAKE BELL - sally heep (14)
After a scintillating debut in THE PRACTICE, did she receive love from the producers during her one aborted season? She...did not. Shame.
CRAIG BIERKO - jeffrey coho (14)
A wonderful performance of an ill-conceived character, a brad/alan hybrid.
MARISA COUGHLAN - melissa hughes (12)
Another character bursting with potential who disappears...into witness protection, perhaps? Is there anyone who thinks a deeper relationship with alan couldn't have been fascinating, enriching, and surprising? Kerry washington, jeri ryan, and nia long also fell into this crack.
SHELLEY BERMAN - Judge sanders (11)
Wait...shelley berman? Not THAT shelley berman, of course. Well, actually...yes. That very one. I don't know how many episodes it took for me to realize that this hysterically addled judge (#2 of 3) is the very same standup icon from the 60s. Or was it the 50s? Amazing. Wonderful.
GAIL O'GRADY - Judge weldon (7)
Tantalizing. Gail (NYPD BLUE, DEUCE BIGALOW) epitomizes the line this show walked, in trying to have depth while not straying too far from comedy. Her relationship with alan sizzled with possibilities for emotional growth and self-realization. As often happened, the producers leave you wishing they'd plumbed deeper, but...tantalizing.
LARRY MILLER - edwin poole (4)
The scrumptiously skewed miller (BEST IN SHOW), and pantless named partner poole, could have been so much more. A size regular? Sure.
HOWARD HESSEMAN - Judge thompson (3)
Offbeat judge #3 of 3, WKRP's booger-spouter is bravura.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Antagony

THEATER 74
-summer 2005
My first year in New York, i spent more time writing than acting, which was kind of cool. But my old buddy Chris Capp came calling, wanting to stage an original play he’d written. It was fascinating, a semi-autobiographical one-man show about a homeless heroin junkie who speaks directly to the audience. The junkie, Mac, relates tales of his life, from Vietnam to Wall Street to the street. He talks of his wife and kids, whom he hasn’t seen in years. He talks of his dead dog Blackie, his only friend. Extremely edgy, it begins and ends with a shooting; heroin at the start, and shot dead by an audience member at the end. He yells and cries at them, berating and abusing. It was indistinct in terms of dramatic structure, but that appealed to me. Very much like Chris himself, you either loved it or hated it. He had been such a supporter of my work at the Orpheus and Red Curtain, the only community member who had ever spontaneously slid money into my hand. I had rented an apartment in the house he shared with his mother Irene, and the low rate they charged allowed me to more easily continue creating. Chris had been the publisher of Fort Myers Beach’s only independent newspaper. He lived a life calculated to shock and provoke, but beneath the contentiousness was deep caring. His mother was just as wonderful in a more reserved and classy way, and the year i spent with them was beautiful. I had reservations about the piece, though. It would be tough, in terms of vocal control. And as a play, i wasn’t sure whether it were more striking than brilliant. And with Mac being 55, i wasn’t convinced i was old enough. I’d always felt that Chris himself was the perfect choice, but he maintained that he was no actor. I knew it would absorb a big chunk of my life, time that might be spent pursuing more personal projects. But i knew it would also be very rewarding, and in world where mediocrity is often venerated, it was a piece that needed doing. So i said yes. It ran about an hour, with two short intermissions. Chris handled the producing – it was nice to just act and direct. He did a lovely job, as we prepared for an open-ended run at the LBI Beach Haven fire hall. I arrived a few days before we opened. Chris ran lights and sound, and we called on our old Red Curtain buddy Paul to help too. It was a sweet reunion. For the audience plant who speaks a few lines as i badger and insult him, then shoots me, i enlisted my brother John, whom i was living with in Jersey City. It would be the first time we’d shared a stage since M.P.C.Y.C.’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR a decade or so before. We used a starter pistol for the shooting, and Johnny was all too happy to murder me. He took great delight in developing a Jersey goombah character, too. The script was tough to memorize, because it was non-sequential (indeed, during the second performance i was ALL over the place…a tight-rope act that few actors ever experience). I used my writing skills to hone the piece, even adding a few ideas and lines. Opening night was…well, amazing. We had a wonderful house of 100 or so. Despite technical glitches, the energy was crackling and the audience was with me from start to finish. Many of my family were there (the LBI location was nice, as that was where John’s grandmother lived). Chris had asked about him giving a pre-show speech. I thought not, especially not some B.S. about my dedication as an artist. I felt that drawing attention to the fact that i was an ACTOR would only make my job (making the audience feel off-balance) harder. He agreed, then went ahead and did it anyway. I couldn’t be too mad, as his gratitude was so sincere. At the end, the plan had been for me to not move from my death position, leaving the audience unsure as they leave the building. But Chris was so happy that he jumped up and asked me to take a bow. After a few moments, i complied. After months of preparation, the come-down was so peaceful and beautiful. The next day, my throat was raw, so when Chris came to me with reservations about a lack of reservations, i was content to postpone that night’s show. We were both wiped out. That day we relaxed on the beach, which i hadn’t had time for in the days leading up to the show. Several reviews came out, one of which was very, very gratifying. We had one more performance a few weeks later. Chris found a louder gun which i thought was maybe too much, but he and Johnny really wanted it. With only twenty-five audience members, the energy got sucked into some hole from which i couldn’t pull it out. It was perhaps the most “high school”-ish feeling acting i’d done since, well, maybe ever. On the plus side, the earlier technical glitches went BEAUTIFULLY (in the opening night "penis rap", the accompanying music was so soft that i’d lost the beat…but that and the synching of the heroin injection music was just perfect the second night). And the show did end with a bang, as the extra-loud shot tore through the hall. This time, i stayed down. It felt nice lying there. Despite the off night, i wasn’t too unhappy. A bad night in the theater still feels better than most other good nights. And sometimes there’s a certain beauty in a crappy show, if your humor is perverse enough. Mine is. The fire hall was next to a police station, and all along John had been worried about the shots attracting the wrong attention from the boys in blue, as he shoots me, then runs out and around the building. Sure enough, as he tore around the building that night, an officer came investigating. John had the gun re-holstered, and kept his hands well visible. We talked of doing the show again, perhaps on a college tour or in Florida. While not giving a definite no, i told Chris that i hadn’t been able to gain total control vocally, so it might be time for someone else to take over. An amazing piece.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Animal Rights, Human Rights"

(Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation)
-by David Nibert
2002
Do you know what it feels like to hold the most important book you've ever read?
I've now known that feeling. Twice.
This book joins "Sex at Dawn", by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, on a very short list - the only absolutely essential books for anyone wishing to understand humanity.
Stylistically, the two are quite different. Ryan and Jetha's work is as entertaining as it is informative, while Nibert tends toward scholarly dispatch. But before you're even done with Chapter 1, you'll understand the import of what you're reading. More concisely than anything i know, these books pull the veil off humanity, pre- and post- agricultural revolution.
There is also one striking similarity - misleading titles. Expectations of a study of animals (or sex) are quickly superseded. "Sex at Dawn" (http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2012/02/sex-at-dawn.html) is about human nature, and "Animal Rights, Human Rights" is about how far we've strayed in the past ten to twenty millenia.
Nibert studies exploitation, on a towering scale. He postulates that the oppression of other animals and humans has had far more than a parallel development - that these two realities feed off and reinforce one another. He diverges from many other animal rights advocates by averring that oppression is NOT about individual attitudes. It's institutionalized, embedded in the most basic structures of our society, and has given rise to every major social ill (sexism, racism, classism, speciesism...). To move beyond this barbarism, a reformer's attitude cannot be enough. Revolution is required.
Cruelty and abuse don't come naturally. For the vast majority of our species' history, we lived in harmony with ourselves and others. Thus, the rationalization required to make oppression feel right requires strong socialization. You can see the foundations as early as Socrates, who argued that "...it is undeniably true that [nature] has made all animals for the sake of man", and Plato, who created a hierarchy in which humans were either "gold", "silver", or "iron". Our language is constructed to make exploitation feel natural - why do we call someone a "meat-eater" rather than a "corpse-eater"? Our most basic laws and religious texts would have you believe that humans aren't even animals (or that, not long ago, women and non-whites weren't even human). Nibert replaces "animals" with "other animals", a distinction others have also made (What, you thought the "other animals" section of this website was because i'm needlessly verbose?). He takes a sociological walk through time since the development of hunting, to show how we came to be this way. In the era of corporate capitalism, our old way of thinking has led to incomprehensible suffering, wholesale extinction of uncountable life forms, and unraveling ecological disaster for any creature fond of moderate temperatures and oxygen. He points the way out - starting with getting all advocates for life on the same page, and creating more democracies of proportionate representation.
He also points to a blindness in my own worldview. In my rush to condemn the genocide of native americans, i've always put them on a pedestal, in no small part for their relatively egalitarian and non-oppressive ways. Yet their attitude toward the animals they slaughtered (filled with ritual and spirituality and reverence) is a classic example of how humans legitimize activities they're not entirely comfortable with.
How can i communicate my urgent esteem for this book? In the days since reading it, an image has popped into my mind - my own corpse, post-suicide, following the example of tibetan monks. Cradled in my right and left hand are two books.
I'm a writer. In this epoch of glorified ego, it's a pretty strong testament that neither of those books were written by me.
Sadly, we also live in the ultimate culture of celebrity. My own demise would lack the resonance of, say, a potentate or pop star. So if you know any such, particularly if they've got that lookin'-for-a-very-high-bridge look in their eyes...
Get 'em these two books. Posthaste.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"I've Seen All Good People"

The most mind-bogglingly ambiguous lyric in rock history.
Nothing else comes close.
We're not talking indecipherable or obscure, a la "sitting on a cornflake" or "nobody heard, not even the chair". We're talking multi-layered ambiguity in a coherent, grammatically-proper lyric that means something very specific. Or something else, perhaps. Or something else altogether? Or this other thing, maybe. Or...
Recorded by Yes for 1971's THE YES ALBUM, the song is a two-part composition. It starts with "Your Move", by Jon Anderson, which was released as a single. The version played on the radio however, almost invariably includes the second part, "I've Seen All Good People", by Chris Squire. All of Chris' lyrics are included in Anderson's section...and indeed, part of what makes this all so tantalizing is that the entire lyric of "I've Seen All Good People" is one single line. There are no surrounding words to give any kind of context, any kind of hint, as to what the hell it's supposed to mean. Nor does scrutiny of "Your Move" provide any seeming answers - the only thing one finds there are chess and Lennon allusions, in the general context of "might isn't necessarily right (or wise)". Once the "All Good People" lyrics take over, all we get is the following line, repeated over and over and over, in a descending spiral:
I've seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I'm on my way
With perhaps intentional perversity, the album provides no punctuation to narrow the possible interpretations.
Is the message one of resignation? Did the singer expect people to turn their heads, and wasn't disappointed? He may have hoped for some other outcome, but that didn't happen, so he's accepting the inevitable apathy of "good people", which is perhaps a euphemism for the establishment?
Is the message one of disgust? Is it the people, not the singer, who are satisfied? Does the singer see self-satisfaction in the faces of all those who turn their heads, and so embraces misanthropy?
Or does it mean that all good people are satisfied the singer is on HIS way?
If so, does that satisfaction arise from knowing the singer is leaving? Or is it from knowing that he's "on his way" to the top?
None of these interpretations are a stretch. Can there be any doubt that this almost diabolical wordplay was Squire's intention? If one were inclined to stretch for more interpretations, how many more might we find? How many more have YOU found, driving alone in your car on a dark and late night, the radio your only friend?
Don't surround yourself with yourself...

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Last Words"

-by George Carlin
(with Tony Hendra)
2009
You know those disclaimers reviewers write when they have some personal connection to their subject matter? I feel i ought write one. But my connection is simply the overwhelming sense of identification that i (and many millions more) have felt with George's material. Whatever nerve he touched, whatever vein he sourced, he's the only comedian who ever made me feel like i was listening to some funnier version of my own thoughts.
His career was towering, enduring, and unprecedented. His 60s work was impersonal and apolitical (even though he knew and adored Lenny Bruce, it took a long time for him to evolve in a similar direction). In the 70s, he realized he could be funnier if he mined the experiences of his own life, but it wasn't until the following decade that he let rip his more naked self. It was at this point that he leapt past the boundaries of stand-up to join a rarefied pantheon, along with Paine, Twain, Thoreau, King, and Mr. Bruce.
The book was culled from decades worth of association with Hendra (THIS IS SPINAL TAP), collecting material for what would be the crowning of George's career, a one-person (sorry, George) Broadway show about his life. He died a year or two shy of realizing that dream, but all the material is here. In that respect, it's much more personal than anything else he's written.
Reading the book, i'm struck with how alike George and i were, at the end. We took different paths to get here - he had a rougher youth, with larceny, military courts-martial, and decades of drug abuse. But at the end, when he sums up his understandings of life, it's an almost eerie mirror for me. He even invokes an alternate version of himself who is almost entirely me - the loner who works in anonymity, running around on no one's hamster wheel, writing his thoughts on his own time and sending them in accordingly.
Another difference between us is that he spent almost all his adult life married...which may be the reason why monogamy is the one glaring social ill he never railed against, even though he may have very much wanted to. Very few of us don't have to kiss somebody's ass, if only to keep domestic peace. If i presume too much, George, it's not without cause.
About drugs however, if i may make an observation hopefully worthy of him, we all use drugs in one form or another, and many of the distinctions between them are so much bullshit. At the most basic level, drugs alter our mind and take us out of our reality. In those terms, comedy is a much more literal drug than you've probably ever considered. In that respect, George Carlin was one of the greatest drugs that several generations of humanity ever ingested.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Andromeda"

ANDROMEDA
2000-2005
"I SURVIVED ANDROMEDA".
Gotta be T-shirts out there somewhere.
Yes, campers, i watched it all. 110 episodes. Five seasons. More than classic TREK and classic GALACTICA - combined. Millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars, swirling down a commode set on permanent flush. This article ends with a marathon, but do NOT take that as a recommendation to watch it. This show had everything you could want. Everything, that is, except...
Writers?
Yeah, that would have been a good idea. Hire some writers. Theirs was an unremitting failure on both levels...the story supervisor was the ultimate absentee landlord, and the script writers cranked out turd after turd after turd. I gutted out the whole series because of dedication to the genre, plus the first two seasons' tease of faltering promise, but mostly because of the Roddenberry connection. Gene's name was in the title (though his contribution was only a few scribbles decades before), and Majel Barrett (every TREK incarnation ever) executive produced...so the possibility of TREK actor drop-ins coudn't be ignored. Alas, Majel either didn't recruit them, or they had the good sense to go spelunking that week. The only ones to appear are John de Lancie (a fine job in a couple flaccid outings) and Tony Todd.
ANDROMEDA is the queen of unresolved threads. Again and again, they toss out characters and story arcs that peter away into nothingness, very often illogically. Sometime in the third season, it all settles into unwatchable dreck, as the only idea the writing staff has after the banishment of story developer Robert Hewitt Wolfe (STAR TREK: DS9) is "Let's have Dylan get his Kirk on!" The ultimate failure of the show was in never making us care about the characters. They never showed us why these people became dedicated to one another. None of the friendships resonate, and too many motivations ring false.
The directors descended to the level of the writing. Again and again, the blocking reveals the hand of someone who has no understanding of how people actually behave in tense moments.
The show always starts with a new quote...which often disappears before you have time to actually read it! What, are they afraid we'll see through the so-so writing? The title credits finally settle for good in season 3 with a voiceover that begs to be mocked with a Crocodile Hunter "danger, danger, danger". The end-credits music is so grating you'll rush for the pre-emptive stop button every time. The blasters make a noise every time you activate them, which is perhaps the most unrealistic prop choice in the history of sci fi. And the performers?
KEVIN SORBO
-Dylan Hunt (110 episodes)
Executive producer Sorbo has the requisite presence for a series lead. It's a shame they couldn't find one for him. His costuming choice after the first few episodes feels a little "casual Friday". It's not as bad as the "Members Only" season of BUCK ROGERS, but it does make you go there. And is it possible i know more about Kevin's taste in women than i should? CASTING NOTICE: seeking females - tall, statuesque, caucasian, and ever-so-faintly horsey.
LISA RYDER
-Beka Valentine (109 episodes)
Passable.
LAURA BERTRAM
-Trance Gemini (109 episodes)
A delightful presence, almost masochistically defaced. Her original look, all blue with a fun tail, turned into a visual downer that mirrors her character's decline. Her final look reminds one of a second-rate Data from FIRST CONTACT.
GORDON MICHAEL WOOLVETT
-Seamus Harper (109 episodes)
Disastrous. Inconceivably, he usurps Michael Shanks (STARGATE: SG1) as the worst sci fi actor of all time. Imagine Neelix in the hands of a hack. Horribly overacted, yet somehow the writers kept thinking he was essential. You'll just want to walk through the screen, boot the director back to community theater, and tell Gordon, "Let's do another take, but this time give me less." Then you'll give the same direction for another take. And another. Sometime tomorrow, you'll have a usable performance. How much of the blame should be laid at his feet, is a good question. Certainly the writers thought they had him nailed, but they painfully didn't - nor were they able to produce lines that made us believe he's as intelligent as advertised. It takes 109 episodes to finally produce one scene that doesn't make you cringe.
LEXA DOIG
-Rommie (109 episodes)
Tantalizing. So much potential. The one character you almost really care about. You want her android story arc to be fascinating, but like everything else, it peters off into tortured limbo. The romance you keep waiting for between her and Dylan never happens. It should have been one of the key threads of the show. Part of this is understandable, as it takes about four final season episodes to realize that she's only being shot from the head up because...she's pregnant! Apparently, sabatoging his own series wasn't enough for father Shanks. By the time she fully returns, there's too little time to salvage anything. They scoot her off in the final scene, to leave Dylan alone on the bridge. You'll silently scream "WRONG, WRONG, WRONG".
KEITH HAMILTON COBB
-Tyr Anasazi (68 episodes)
Fine potential dribbled away. They had a chance to give us an insight into a different way of thinking, with this nietschean species. A race for whom self-interest is everything (overtly, not covertly like us). But instead of fleshing out that alternate paradigm, committing to it and making it consistent, perhaps imbuing Tyr with character growth...it all just piddles away.
STEVE BACIC
-Rhade (45 episodes)
A fine performance doomed by desultory writing.
BRENT STAIT
-Rev Bem (36 episodes)
A sweet performance of a well-conceived character. Allergies to the makeup ended his tenure early, but in the big picture, maybe his allergies were wiser than he.
BRANDY LEDFORD
-Doyle (20 episodes)
A last-season android fill-in who's not as awful as you fear.
NOT-WRETCHED-A-THON (season)
-The Sum of Its Parts (1)
Treading on well-trod ground, a pleasant enough meditation on matters of genuine science fiction - the crew receive an invitation from a supposedly-mythical collective of machines who live in the empty space between star systems. Their emissary assembles into sentience, and gets to know the crew. The collective's intentions are less munificent than advertised, however. The emissary circumvents its command to disassemble, and helps the crew escape. Guest star Matt Smith offers a lovely performance.
-Its Hour Come 'Round at Last (1)
This season 1 finale ups the ante, and the octane. Harper finds a lost file in the ship's A.I., which re-boots and perceives the new crew as intruders, while resuming an ancient mission into the heart of magog territory. The ship is boarded and the action is scorching, mostly because it imperils the cushiest conceit of all sci fi serials - the foreknowledge that no cast regular will die. But character after character gets creamed. On ANDROMEDA, this conceit is combined with the notion that a ship with a nominal crew of four thousand could be successfully run by six. Even though that first conceit will never feel more contrived than in the season 2 resumption, you may have to pick your jaw up after this one.
-Lava and Rockets (2)
The series' greatest burst of romantic/sexual chemistry, in an episode that features the three most resonant characters. Dylan is pursued by bounty hunters in an "appropriated" tourist barge with an outraged novice pilot (Kristin Lehman - JUDGING AMY). Under fire, the two of them come to appreciate each other. Tyr and Rommie search for them in the Maru. A little sexy, a little human, a little loosey goosey...
-The Lone and Level Sands (3)
Tight, compelling, and (most importantly) a sci fi serial idea that feels like something you've never seen...and you can't imagine why someone didn't think of it before. The Maru flees from pirates into deep space. They're rescued by a ship that Earth sent out centuries earlier, the Bellerophon. Equipped with the most powerful engine ever, of pre-slipstream design...meaning the faster-than-light travel comes with time distortion - to the crew, a journey of centuries has been measurable in years. The Maru unable to get home, they get caught up in a mutiny triggered by the knowledge that Earth is now a slave world. Rommie has a tantalizing romance with the ship's captain (TREK luminary Tony Todd - CANDYMAN, BEASTMASTER: THE EYE OF BRAXUS). A well-written story elevated by Todd's performance.
-The Unconquerable Man (3)
A passable little alternate reality exploration, as the original events of the story reverse, with Dylan dying and Rhade trying to resurrect the Commonwealth 300 years later.
-Day of Judgement, Day of Wrath (3)
An offering given the juice of sentimentality, in a marriage of STARGATE and ANDROMEDA (a second-rate series plus one that's sliding into third). Guest stars Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge play A.I. avatars in a death struggle. Not awful at all.
-The Heart of the Journey, part 1 (5)
Okay, actually kinda wretched. But it's worthwhile for feminist afficionados, as it's perhaps the only time in sci fi history that female regulars outnumber males on a starship crew. The writers play this up with an estrogen-enhanced slow-mo. There's also a blatant tribute to STAR WARS that would be sad if this series had worked, but in the context of a five-year failure, is kinda nice.

Monday, September 30, 2013

taryn, anari, angela

WOMEN 81-83
Taryn
We met through an apartment search. I had put an ad onto Craigslist, describing the kind of home i was looking for. I think she was the only person who responded. She was quite taken with the way i described myself...when we talked on the phone, she admitted she didn't really have a place for me, but wanted to meet anyway. So we did. She lived near Columbus Circle, in a somewhat fancy doorman building. We walked and talked for hours. She was funny, smart, progressive, and open. She'd been a dancer for much of her life, and was now a personal trainer. When it came time to say goodbye, it was obvious that our hearts weren't in it, so we went to her place. A few hours later, she invited me to spend the night, non-sexually (this was dandy with me, as i didn't rush into sexual relationships). Not only didn't she have a guest room, she didn't even have a proper bed, so we shared her pull-out couch. I asked whether she'd mind if i slept naked. She said no. As soon as i disrobed and laid down, she said all her resolve had just disappeared, and could we make love? I don't think i'd ever been with a woman who was so suddenly overtaken by her own carnal desires in such an objectively accepting way (she was even laughing at herself). It was adorable and made me want to care for her. So we made love. It was quite beautiful. We didn't share penetration, because she'd told me she had HPV (but hadn't had symptoms in a long time).
She had a glam side i didn't relate to...despite her body health awareness, she wouldn't give up high heels. And when she got made up to go out, she really threw herself into it. But too, she loved relaxing at home with me, with not a speck of makeup. So beautiful. She'd been a Rockette for a number of years, and i told her she had the kind of physique eighteen year-old girls wished they had. It was the stuff of my dreams too.
We settled into a fun relationship, getting together two or three times a week, often getting takeout and watching Bill Maher, or some such. We sought out vegan yummies. She respected how i lived with one foot off the grid. I learned that her biggest demon was abandonment issues stemming from her childhood and father. These issues had exploded any significant romance she'd ever had. I knew that might be a minefield no wisdom of mine could spare us from, but i didn't try to "fix" her, i just focused on learning and sharing. Her progressive side had one blind spot, in the form of a cinderella complex (surprise surprise). Though i knew it meant avoiding an issue that might easily end our time together, i was happy to offer her monogamy for the present.
Our sexuality was wonderful, even though a part of my brain had trouble wrapping around the HPV thing. I knew she could pass it on even when she was asymptomatic. For a month or so, we resisted any penetration. It was during this time that we shared one of the most beautiful sexual memories of my life. She lived on the third floor, and had huge windows running all along one of the walls. She didn't mind leaving the curtains open, which gave a show to anyone higher up in the building across the street. I didn't mind either...i'd always dreamed of loving a woman so uninhibited. One afternoon, with those curtains open, she lay on her stomach while i made love from behind...not penetrating, but sliding our tumescent, well-moistened genitals together, moving between her lips for time without end. So amazing.
Finally, i acquiesced to those loathsome things, condoms. She said she wanted to get tested to find out whether the virus were inactive. If so, she excitedly wanted to share condomless penetration. As much as i wanted that too, my understanding of HPV told me there was still a possibility of passing on the virus.
It was at this stage of our togetherness, that the explosion occurred. She was telling me about some of the horrible things she'd lived through, and that part of it had involved drug use. I told her i wasn't surprised...that her face had the suggestion of an alcoholic in it (my housemate had thought the same thing). The size of the button my comment touched in her was probably beyond words. She had lived most of her life in a world where looks were everything. I tried, over the next few weeks, to tell her how innocent my comment had been. But nothing i said was able to bridge the chasm that had formed. She thought i was horrible and insensitive. She resisted seeing me, and finally told me to go away.
In the aftermath, i wondered whether a part of her reaction didn't go back to her abandonment issues...that the closer we got, the more afraid she was of losing me. Perhaps she subconsciously needed to burn us, so that i would never have the chance to leave her.
I felt the sadness of losing her, for years to come. For more on taryn, see http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2010/05/karyn.html
Anari - see http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/11/njeri.html
Angela - see http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2012/05/janie.html

Free Radical

STAGE/SCREEN 73
-fall 2004
A short film whose audition notice advertised it as a mockumentary a la Christopher Guest, about a college “radical” with grand delusions. The Guest allusion made it irresistible, and it was only when i was in callbacks that i realized it was non-paying (i don’t know how i could have missed that in the audition notice). They wanted to cast me as the hippie third grade teacher of the radical, and since it only involved one afternoon of shooting, i said yes. It was a fun little shoot. I got on well with the actor playing the radical’s dad, and with the two child actors. We shot my scene in an elementary school, and i gave it a basic hippie-dreamy quality. Director Andrew McKinnon was very cool, but never sent me the copy of the film i’d been promised.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

nocturnal emission

I had a wet dream last night, for the first time in years. Maybe a decade, maybe more.
In the dream, i'm walking along a city street. There's a bit of a run-down, post-apocalyptic vibe (but that's just how a city can feel sometimes). I'm walking under scaffolding near the intersection of several small streets, almost alley-like. I stop at a vendor at a news stand. He's watching a baseball game on television. Not far off, another vendor is watching another game. I suddenly realize that in another reality, i'm a major league pitcher currently pitching, and going into the ninth with a no-hitter. I say to the vendor, "But i don't want that, i don't much care for spectator sports anymore." The vendor says that if i do it, there will be three TVs playing different games at that intersection, something that's never happened before. He seems excited, so i play along. Standing on the mound, i get ready to throw. I realize i'm holding a glass jar. Two of my fingers are inside the jar, so i know i have a good grip for an effective pitch. The jar is also a ball, so the batter will be fine (and perhaps get a hit). The next thing i know, i'm in an apartment above the street. I'm with a white married couple. The wife has decided to take me as a second husband, because one man isn't for a woman, sexually. I agree to do this even though the commitment might take years, because i'm proud of her for asserting herself (i know he's not comfortable with the idea). I'm not in love with her spiritually or hormonally though, and he's a bit of a corporate jarhead. The two of them finish making love...or rather, he finishes. She calls me to her, as he backs off unhappily. It feels strange, but she's also very attractive physically. Both of them are well-muscled, almost body-builder types. She hasn't moved from her position when he came, with her knees at her shoulders. I bring our naked bodies together. Her hair is lightened by dye, in a wavy perm. She also wears makeup...but i'm attracted nonetheless. Part of that is just pride in her for asserting herself. I penetrate her. It feels wonderful, so much so that i want to cum quickly. I try to resist, because the reason i'm here is to be long-lasting for her...but she tolerates my cumming, and it feels wonderful.
As i start to ejaculate, i wake up and realize what is happening. In such moments, it's sometimes possible to stop oneself, but i decide not to, as this hasn't happened in so very long. Even in the taoist years when i wasn't ejaculating, i would still have regular retrograde ejaculations.
It's strange that this would happen today, as i ejaculated just two or three days ago. It usually takes a week or two of no sexual release, to bring on a nocturnal emission.
This is also all very strange, because last night i had surgery on my penis.
Self-surgery of course, said the uninsured american (if you'll pardon the redundancy). But strictly outpatient stuff. I had a pinhead growth of extra skin on the lower shaft, and a blocked sebaceous gland near the head. The pinhead is new, the gland decades old. I used a sterilized nail clipper. Neither bled. The pinhead was tiny, the blocked gland a little bigger, so i just took off the top. It had maybe gotten a little bigger than it used to be (which was so small that no woman had ever noticed).
The gland, that is, not the penis.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Failed States"

-by Noam Chomsky
2006
Chomsky's works centers on one of the great ironies of this land of the free and home of the brave. One of the metrics we employ in global relations is the term "failed state". The definition is complicated and imprecise, but can be said to describe any country that ignores both the dictates of the international community and a majority of its own population. By this metric, the U.S. deals with "rogue" nations, through sanctions and worse. The irony? By that definition, America is arguably the most failed nation in the world. Our history of ignoring the mandates of the UN and world courts is apalling. By a large majority, americans reject the notion of preemptive war, want reduced military spending and increased social services (in particular, the kind of health care that virtually every other industrialized nation enjoys), and strongly dislike policies that prolong our dependence on fossil fuels. In these and other ways, our government is more estranged from the will of the people than at any time in our history. Chomsky offers seven actions that will go a long way toward restoring us as a beacon of democracy and equality. They are worth repeating in their entirety. 1) Accept the jurisdiction of the World Court and International Criminal Court. 2) Ratify the Kyoto Protocol. 3) Let the UN take the lead in international crises. 4) Fight terrorism with economic and diplomatic measures, not machines of death. 5) Return to a traditional interpretation of the UN charter. 6) Give up our much-abused Security Council veto. 7) Cut back on military spending, and use that money for life-building purposes. Chomsky's work is well-researched (almost painstakingly so). "Failed States" is the product of an eminently keen mind, and profound patriot.

Friday, September 6, 2013

this week

THIS WEEK i got my first white hair, received a sexual come-on from a sixteen year-old, and found out i have an incurable STD.
Okay, not necessarily (that last one, i mean).
And none of those things are connected (in case you're wondering).
And i'm no believer in anything so self-important as karmic balance, but those first two things together? Fun!
UPON discovering my white hair (a cute lil' feller in my red beard), i immediately scheduled a party. I had to do this myself, as i don't have a group of cool friends to do such things for me. Ready to confound and contradict the dysfunctional dictates of this ageist society, i invited all to come celebrate my ascension to wise community elder. I'll have to hope that the evolutionary basis of white/grey hair (a sexual signal that alerts potential mates to desirable "long life" genes) will kick in subconsciously in females around me...as the conscious reaction our society instills in us is generally more akin to wailing and sackcloth. My party invitation was essentially a silly gesture to promote thinking and talk among people too far away to actually show up, but i thought it was important. So next time you know someone who's discovered their first grey, throw them a blow-out celebration! Sincere, not mockery. Generations from now, our descendants will honor us with statues, for making old age venerable again.
AND...if ever an agnostic who doesn't drink might be tempted to say "god bless alcohol", it's when a drunk female comes on to you. I was on the beach doing yoga calisthenics, when a rainstorm left me the only person in sight. Undeterred, i continued. A group of four female teenagers soon came along. Their ebullience left little doubt that they'd been at some watering hole (and were well-watered). When they caught sight of me alone on a rainy beach doing a dhanurasana, they expressed mystification. When i told them what i was doing, one of them became fascinated, and got down on her stomach to mimic me. I went into a headstand, as two of them walked on. The other two came closer, and the bold one asked me to support her in a headstand. I told her to wait one minute. Her friend pressured her to go - i got the sense that they were on vacation with parents, and were overdue. When i arighted myself, she asked me to give her a session the following morning (after asking about my marital/girlfriend status). I didn't ask how such things were relevant to yoga, but told her when i'd be on the beach again. She ran off.
I was both touched and saddened. Touched, for libidinous reasons. Saddened, because i thought of all the truth that alcohol releases...truths that are crying to be let out. Foremost, the fact that we live in a repressed society, walking around in a constant haze of subconscious (or not so sub) misery over all the SEX WE'RE NOT HAVING. If this isn't the outright, inhibition-lowering, number one reason bars exist, it's at worst tied for first place with the general need to simply escape reality. This poor young creature has a howling sex drive that our society provides no outlet for, that isn't furtive at best. I was also sad because, even in her blurred state, and though she was obviously in no position to be in any kind of monogamous relationship with me, she still framed her come-on in the context of sexual possessiveness. All my hopes for how much more spiritually evolved the younger generation is, suddenly flew away.
I was also saddened, because i had a sudden insight into all the intimacy i've missed in my life, by avoiding the bar scene. Before this young woman knew anything about me she couldn't have learned from a photograph, she was all over me. I'm not saying i ever could have made a career out of hooking up with drunk chicks, but...just the chance to be around people who are perpetually lowering their inhibitions is, well, an intoxicating thought. And then there's me, soberly dedicated to never taking advantage of any woman in any way, spending a life far more alone than not.
Lonely ponderings in a broken world.
AND...i have HPV.
Or not.
You'd think the most prevalent social disease anywhere might come with some sort of test whereby we might KNOW whether we have it, but...no. Not if you're a man, anyway. Unless you, a male, has some sort of visible symptom that can be biopsied, you're out of luck. So why do i think i might have it? Because i had a wartlike blemish on my abdomen. I acid-dissolved it before realizing it was the only way i could have been tested. Why might it have been an HPV flat wart? Because two years ago i had an affair with an HPV-positive woman. She was asymptomatic and we used condoms...but HPV doesn't necessarily care about that. Do you know how many people reading this will get one of the hundreds of HPV strains out there? Four out of five. I spoke to at least six clinics in search of something called an HPV rectal swab test, even visiting one who told me they could do it (but were wrong). Although it presumably exists somewhere, it's so unreliable that it does NOT exist here. In my search, i had given up hope that i (an american without medical insurance - surprise!) would be able to get this test at a walk-in, sliding-scale clinic. So the test would cost $200. This means i was prepared to take it in the ass, both literally and metaphorically.
I did get a nice free gonorrhea/syphilis test out of all this, plus the knowledge that many health care workers are genuine, caring people who hate this capitalistic system almost as much as do the patients who can't afford to go to them.
So now i have to hope(?) i get another blemish. Could it have been any one of a number of other things, including a regular wart? Absolutely. The body creates all sorts of unscheduled growths - i have one friend who had brain and tooth tissue removed from a place where brains and teeth most decidedly do NOT grow (unless we're speaking metaphorically again).
And that was my week.
I love you all.

P.S. For a most curious follow-up, see: http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2014/03/this-week-1-addendum.html

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Self-Made Man"

(One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again)
-by Norah Vincent
2006
Through makeup, wardrobe, exercise, and diction, writer Norah Vincent turns herself into Ned Vincent - a woman assuming the identity of a man (outwardly...and ultimately inwardly), to better understand the male reality. Reading this book caused such a wave of catharsis in me, i occasionally clapped and shouted. Her commitment is gobsmacking. She invested a year and a half of her life, devoting as many as five months to each separate exploration. She explores dating and strip clubs, joins a bowling league, works for a male-dominated company, lives at a monastery, and attends male empowerment seminars. I occasionally teetered on the edge of disbelief, waiting for the book to be revealed as a work of secret fiction (like the narrative inserts in "A Princess Bride"), because at times it's too perfect. The characters she interacts with often fall into improbably spot-on archetypes, and many of the resolutions and "reveals" feel too smooth. There are also times when her audacity strains credibility, most notably when she goes on a backwoods retreat in the company of men who have homicidal rage issues with women! But if "Self-Made Man" is even a tiny bit fiction, it is no less powerful and insightful. It will make you face the extent to which gender role identities shape everyone's behavior. Even those who have long been attuned to such things, may find an unexpected bat flying out of their cupboard. Vincent expected to feel fully empowered for the first time in her life - and was shocked to realize the extent to which she didn't. She concludes that our current social structure is at least as damaging to men as it is to women. In a postfeminist world, she contends that the demographic "white male" has lost most of its power and privilege, but none of its dehumanizing stress. The extent to which one agrees with that may vary - i myself have spent my life painfully aware that "white male" still defines our society's norm, and anyone who falls outside that is reminded of their "other" status every day (i even cringe at using "him" or "her" instead of some hypothetical gender-neutral pronoun, and believe that differences between men and women are more artificial than Norah contends). And ultimately, is the "truth" of her observations so subjective that a similar book by a different female writer might have radically different conclusions? Perhaps. Yet don't be surprised to find yourself validating every observation she makes. Her journey finally drove her to a nervous breakdown, no longer able to reconcile her dual identities. Once she recovered, she knew that she never wanted to leave the advantages of female life again. An amazing conclusion. An amazing book.

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Backlash"

(The Undeclared War Against American Women)
-by Susan Faludi
1991
A book about the anti-feminist backlash of the 1980s...but also larger in scope, as it places that backlash in the context of the historical struggle for female freedom. Faludi demonstrates that the march toward equality never runs in a straight line, and for each era of great strides (the mid-nineteenth century, the early 1900s, the 40s, or the 70s), there follows a darkly anti-feminist period. She shows how a backlash can infiltrate society, from media to government to medicine to commerce, in ways that seem coordinated, but aren't - more often than not, the people who serve a backlash's ends aren't even aware of their role. But those ends are always the same, to push women back into "accepted" roles. The stock 80s backlash chain of causation? Feminism leads to professionalism leads to neurosis and psychosis - that women who try to "have it all" end up in manless, childless despair (clinicians of the late 19th century similarly linked feminism to neurasthenia and hysteria). To serve a backlash's ends, actual statistics are either manipulated or (more often) ignored. Most fascinating is how issues that have no obvious connection to feminism, are often about little else. Abortion, for instance. The pro-life/pro-choice conflagration that arose in the 80s was about much more than the sentient status of a fetus. Just as with birth control, it went to the heart of any woman's independence - her sexual self-determination. Despite all the brouhaha, Roe v. Wade didn't change national abortion statistics, it just made the reality safer and easier (that is, until the torching or bombing of seventy-seven clinics between 1977 and 1989). Yet despite all the posturing and terrorism, in 2013 supporters of Roe v. Wade outnumber opponents by two to one - just as always. Still not convinced that moral "outrages" which feel so personal, are the result of society telling us what to think? In the historical context, Roe v. Wade wasn't revolutionary, it was just a return to status quo. Abortions have been practiced in one form or another since colonial times, and that right was never questioned until the end of the 19th century. It had always been legal in every state, and public opinion on it largely neutral. It wasn't until the women's rights movement that it acquired any kind of moral taint. This is just one fascinating example of how a backlash permeates a society - but Faludi ends the book by pointing out that women's power is already in their hands, as evidenced by the plurality of women in our population, and the fact that women exercise their right to vote more often than men. As soon as this power is embraced, women can put their issues at the core of any election, and not lose a single one (which is part of why backlashes occur - those in power often realize the possible ramifications of empowered women long before the women themselves). BACKLASH is an amazing book, overflowing with research and statistics. A must-read for any thinker.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

dollie

WOMEN 80
I met Dollie on a moving job. She had just graduated from a southern college with a degree in dramaturgy, and was moving into a family-owned, rent-free apartment in the big city. Various family members helped with the move, too. She was outgoing, funny, and biddable. On a welcome-wagon impulse, i gave her my card. In retrospect, how might my life have been different had i given it to her sister-in-law instead? I had the opportunity. The family was jewish and close-knit, and some were disenchanted with this asian woman their son had married. And indeed, she may have been a bit supercilious…but i was attracted to her, as she seemed to be to me (something that would have gone over like a lead balloon with Dollie…and presumably, her brother). Dollie called that week, and we got together. In retrospect, i was interested in friendship more than romance, but she assumed the latter from the get-go. We spent a few evenings together, sharing our lives and finding some nice commonalities. I was attracted to her in an offhand way, and when she told me she’d never had sex that hadn’t hurt, i thought that my minimally-thrusting, taoist lovemaking might be just what she needed. She thought so too. The night before she left for a month-long vacation in Israel, she stayed at my place. We became sexual. I took it slow, giving her a nice digital orgasm. The day she returned, i was probably her first call. She wanted to see me immediately, having lived a celibate existence abroad. I convinced her that, given her jet lag, we should wait. Ever since, that’s the moment i wish i could have again, to go to her and give her the happiness she was asking for…slow, gentle penetration that would probably put her to sleep after an hour or less. But i was afraid of an imbalance in how much we were attracted to each other. We began spending more time together, and she said all the right things – like that it didn’t matter how long our affair lasted (she was a curious mix of conventional and free-spirited). Once or twice she really threw herself at me, and i held her off. If we did become any kind of couple, i could see a point of conflict that would arise - i favored spontaneity, but she liked to know exactly when we were going to spend time together. She had two reallllly close female friends. When i met one of them and was very attracted, i realized i needed to go away…despite Dollie’s free-spirited side, i knew she wouldn’t like the full truth of my libido. I tried to stay in touch as a friend after some months had passed. A part of me wanted to go back, and be exactly what she’d wanted. That was partly simple sexual loneliness, and partly the spiritual bonobo in me that told me to give anyone whatever comfort or caring they might want or need. But my conciliatory words were clumsy, and she stayed away.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sabbathtage

THEATER 72
-spring 2004
New York! I was loving the city, somewhat to my surprise. My debut as a New York actor came through a Craigslist casting call. A recent NY Film Academy grad, Brian Havelka, was making a short film spoof of the Mel Gibson movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. People had been up in arms, calling the film anti-semitic. This seemed like people taking themselves too seriously, so Brian’s concept was of Jesus (me) being chased around the streets of New York by three hasidic jews. His image borrowed directly from the Beastie Boys video “Sabotage” – choppy and overblown. He set the film to that actual song, thus continuing my affiliation with guerrilla theater. The co-producer was Mahsa, another NYFA student, who was unflaggingly supportive and sweet and delightful. It was to be a two-day shoot. I already had the long hair, and i’d quickly have a passable goatee. I was also in the grip of the most virulent flu i’d ever known, one that kept me down for a month. The fever had broken, but i was weak. We filmed in digital, in late March, and it was still cold, particularly the first day (between shots, i closed my eyes in the back seat of one of the cars). A few days before, they told me i’d be double-cast as one of the three jews. I was a little thrown, but game. Much of the shooting was in Brooklyn. The first day, my character was Abraham, the “brains” of the three (although in the finished product, another character was referred to as “The Chief”). None of our dialogue would be heard, so we were free to ad-lib. The other two actors (our “muscle”) were fantastic. The first, Joe, brought all the authenticity of the most clichéd italian goon, but when you added the curls and hat, it was just so funny. The other was Theo, who was wide of girth and more pensive. We were collectively quite Keystone-copish. I was given a beard and big black wig under a hat. I played it wide-eyed and frenetic. We spent much of the day in our hasidmobile, doing search-and-chase scenes. Joe drove (like a proper maniac). We gave Theo nicknames after he fell asleep in the back once or twice (Joe picked Schnorrer, i liked Narcilepstein). There was a bit of friction between them; Theo felt Joe was a scene-stealer. He asked me to back him up on that, which i couldn’t quite do. It was minor though, and so many hilarious shots were collected. Brian treated us to chinese back at his place - for a low-budget affair, they did all the little things right. I was glad i didn’t have to be both characters that day, it made conserving energy easier. As it turned out, i never had to change characters the second day either. One of the funniest Jesus shots was Joe chasing me down a five-floor fire escape. We did some hysterical subway shots, with me diving into a car just as the doors close (with all the straphangers watching in unsimulated confusion). All this necessitated the film crew going one stop away, waiting for a train coming back to my station, then having the camera roll as they rolled in. As i waited alone at my station for half an hour dressed as the messiah, i realized the importance of not screwing up the first (and hopefully only) take. This was all illegal - since 9/11, filming wasn’t allowed on subways. We were eventually chased away, but got what we needed. We did a street scene of Jesus playing craps with some authentic old crapshooters. They were such fun. Brian wanted to me be argumentative, then jubilant about winning, which seemed out of character. I made my point, then gave him what he wanted. Our creative team wasn’t always on the same page - i thought what we were doing was respectful of both christians and jews, but others thought we were doing blatant mockery. We never had a chance to discuss all that together, though. There were other workers and friends (usually three or four) on set, and they were great. The overall energy was a delight, and i had just enough strength to have a ball. The last shot was at the Academy, a re-creation of the Last Supper, with Theo and Joe playing Apostles. It culminated with me flipping the table. For my first endeavor as a NY actor, i was paid $100 – Brian and i may have parted on a strained note, as he accidentally paid me twice, but i didn’t correct him. He figured it out himself, before i left. I wasn’t being sneaky…i thought maybe he’d gone under budget and wanted to give us something extra. I was barely thinking at all, i was so tired. Brian’s finished product was thoroughly hysterical. If i hadn’t known better, i wouldn’t have thought both characters on the screen were me. Wonderful.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

do your orals!

(a follow-up to http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2008/05/bad-breath.html)

You've got bad breath.
Maybe a week ago your mouth mists evoked fragrant frangipani...or maybe you've had it for years.
Maybe you eat more garlic than you used to, because garlic breath is preferable to ass breath.
Maybe you once spent months filling the pockets of predatory corporate America by purchasing something called "breath pills".
Maybe you haven't left the house since 2002 without this thought gnawing away in some corner of your brain - do i have breath like that mangy, frightening, two-weeks-from-death dog i met when i was five?
As though it's not hard enough to find love in this uncaring world. Now you've gotta deal with this.
I've been there.
So have plumbers, presidents, and porn stars.
So have maharajahs, minions, and midwives.
So has the most attractive woman i've ever kissed.
Why do we suffer this pointless indignity?? How can evolution give us opposable thumbs and excessively-fatty mammary glands, but render us such a halitosis hash elsewhere? I won't state the more obvious reasons, all you smokers and analingists...but here's what i've learned (and what the Mayo Clinic tells us).
FOOD
Bad breath bacteria are caused by the breakdown of all those particles that chewing leaves in our traps and yaps. Plus broken-down food in the bloodstream - even at that stage, apparently it don't smell so good. What can you do? Try mouthwash after every meal (salt water will do).
DRY MOUTH
Saliva is a natural rinse for all those food particles, but we don't self-rinse much during sleep. Hence, morning breath (a condition exacerbated by sleeping with mouth open). Alcohol-based mouthwash may also contribute to dry mouth, ironically. Alcohol also contributes to occasionally sleeping with one's mouth open, i hear...
TONSIL STONES
No, not the tribute band. Did you ever snort a certain way, and feel a calcium-like nugget emerge from somewhere in your noggin passages? They're loaded with bacteria, and the unknown presence of one of these can be "game over" for your love life. You can keep your tonsils clean with cotton swabs or bobby-pins (no, really...do an internet search). Or an electric mouth irrigator. Or both. In case sticking a bobby-pin into your internal cavities (or any cavity, really) seems questionable, yes, the how-to guide mentions bleeding numerous times. So let's be careful out (er, in) there.
MEDICATIONS
Some contribute to dry mouth. Others just release chemical funk into your innards. Chemical Funk, on tour with the Tonsil Stones!
OTHER
Postnasal drip, stomach acid reflux, and disease. Many of us really are just dying from the inside out...
But take heart, and learn what it took me years of trial and error to discover...
WROB'S ORAL REGIMEN
1 - Brush your teeth. Then your gums. Then the insides of your cheeks. Obvious? Yes. So why didn't YOU think of it?
2 - Floss. Don't forget to go behind your back molars. Why did no dentist ever suggest this to me?
3 - Gargle and tongue-scrape. Go back to front with the hard side, the front to back with the bristles. You can find scrapers in any pharmacy. They suggest getting a new one every couple months, but the first one i bought has lasted years (some call that "ewwww", i call it valewwww). For mouthwash, try hydrogen peroxide, mixed with water. It doesn't give you dry mouth, and the price helps you "stick it to the man" (as retribution for all those #@*&ing breath pills). If your gag reflex makes it hard to scrape the back of your tongue, try taking a mouthful of water when you get to the back on your bristle run, then continuing.
All done?
Good. Now come over here and pucker.

Monday, July 29, 2013

shay, margie, annie, chrissy

WOMEN 76-79
SHAY
We met through a personal ad. She was a settled New Yorker, and native of South Africa. She worked as a freelance seamstress, and had some very nice hippie qualities - global awareness and global tastes in fashion and music, travels to Burning Man, that sort of thing. She attracted me, but not in a consuming way. Some brief sexual exploration brought us to a place where we decided we’d be better as non-sexual friends – which we remained for years to come. Sometimes i regretted that path, as the healthiness inherent in the idea of “friends who fuck as needed” was growing in me.
MARGIE
One of the first romantic moments in my life when i tried to really rise above the stunted shallowness and negotiated romance of this society…to live by the thought that we can and should be able to love anyone. Margie and i lived a mile or so apart in Astoria. I can’t remember how we met, but we became nice friends. Hanging out, talking, indulging our shared passion for Muppets (we made a project of trying to see every single Muppet film, which she ended up having less stomach for than i…of course, i was dedicated to the project as a writer, wanting to understand why the franchise had been mostly unable to survive Jim’s death). I never had any zowie feeling for her, but when she broached romance, i wanted to give it a try. I knew that desire always fades anyway, so why not? I liked her. But the one night we spent together just didn’t have any magic. I felt off-balance and unsure. So much so that we never tried again. We kept the friendship going for a good while, but eventually faded away. Even though we never talked about it, the fact that our romantic moment hadn’t worked, was probably a factor.
ANNIE
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2009/08/blog-post.html
CHRISSY
We met online in the “platonic only” section. A hippiesque free-spirit, she was in a long-term, same-sex romance that was beginning to break up. She had never been with a man, and we wrote long letters talking about her past. She’d been raped by a step-father as a young teen, then later molested by another male relative. Over the course of our writing, we became convinced that i was to be her first male lover. She was so smart, loving, and literate. Finally, after half a year or so, we met. We talked in a coffee shop for over an hour. It was very sweet…but i think we both realized something was missing. We hugged and went our separate ways. A year or so later, she appeared in my inbox again. I visited her in Connecticut. She’d had at least a couple male lovers in the interim, which had been pretty positive experiences. At that time, i was seeing someone to whom i’d promised monogamy, so we just held each other nakedly for a few nights, gently caressing and kissing a bit. The physical attraction wasn’t overwhelming, so on one level i was actually glad for my possessive lover at home (she, however, was anything but glad when i returned and told her about my trip). The visit was a beautiful experience in every way…made all the more special by knowing how important i’d been in helping her move past the demons of her youth. I cried for the human race, that my lover wasn’t even the tiniest bit sympathetic to Chrissy. I visited her again some months later, when i was no longer in a relationship. We shared spirits, music, and walks. Although it felt very comfortable, it still wasn’t the consuming attraction i’d been hoping for. We became sexual again, and she wanted to use a condom. Knowing how much i loathed them, i was content to tell her that we didn’t need to consummate in that way (which also seemed sensible, given my ambivalence). She was disappointed. One of the funnier moments of my life occurred while giving her cunnilingus. My behind was raised up, and i suddenly felt the sensation of a tongue in my crack. It was her dog, eagerly gettin’ in there, as they say (the kind of humorous injection that most sexual encounters are in dire need of). We drifted apart, which i didn’t want. I’m sure the break in contact came from her. I didn’t expect someone as spiritually advanced to walk away from a caring friendship for sexual reasons, but that’s okay. Perhaps she’ll need me again some day.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Letters from the Earth


THEATER 71
-fall 2003
Working on Mark Twain's LETTERS for the monologue show, i realized i wanted to do an entire one-man show of it someday. I figured it would be in some more metropolitan locale, as i wanted to do it with full nudity. But i knew i’d be on the beach a few months longer anyway, saving money for NY, so when Mark asked whether i’d be interested in doing a solo LETTERS at the Holmes House, i said yes. I prepared it pretty much alone (indeed, Donna and Lucy were the only Players to even see the full show). Chris had left town, but John offered to do tech. He was great company. The one or two nights he couldn’t make it, Donna stepped in - she was there for each performance. I adapted a fuller treatment of Letters 2 and 3, did Letter 8 as i’d already worked it, and added Letters 10 and 11. Our set was candlelit, with red gel effects and a fog machine. I got fancier devil horns, and added a choir robe, plus the Caiaphas robe from JCS. I toyed with doing different accents for each letter, but ultimately kept the southern one throughout. Carrie made beautiful show posters (no charge this time), and i added one final encore performance at the Orpheus itself, which was very special and brought great delight to Tony. Happily, Amanda caught the second half of that one too. Our run had small but appreciative crowds. Letter 8 (the sex one) was still the biggest crowd-pleaser, but my new favorite was 11, which details the scope of man’s brutality to man, highlighted by a tale of the Minnesota massacre of 1862, in which the natives raped and crucified a family, then got really nasty. Very powerful. We got a nice photo in the News Press, and a nice article by Ron Heffner at the Beach Observer.

Friday, July 26, 2013

South Family Simpheads

I've had a strange relationship with animated comedy shows in my life thus far...strange, in that it's largely been a non-relationship. That's strange, because i've always had an elevated ear for comedy, particularly the subversive kind. And my adulthood could fairly be called the golden age of subversive animated comedy, because of the big four - BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD, THE SIMPSONS, SOUTH PARK, and FAMILY GUY. Given my age and personality, i should have been well-primed to devour most of these, if not all. But no. This despite friends who have tried to convert me to one or more of the faiths. I've often said that the truest measure of intelligence is a person's capacity for, and appreciation of, humor. So let's see if we can figure out why the golden age has been passing me by.
THE SIMPSONS
1989-?
I've found the two handfuls or so of episodes i've seen to be enjoyable, and can understand why this show has filled a need for many. But as a youth, my benchmark for great comedy was the Marx Brothers and Monty Python. In that light, SIMPSONS has never seemed anything more than "good". Good is fine, even admirable, but it's clearly not great. That said, the Halloween "The Raven" episode ranks as one of the 100 best episodes in the history of television.
BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD
1993-1997, 2011-2012
I think i was simply way too earnest at the point in my young adulthood when B & B arrived. I was becoming a "serious" actor, gorging myself on Shaw, Stoppard, and O'Neill. I wasn't much of a TV watcher, and certainly not for the most overtly infantile of the big four. Plus, did one of them wear a marijuana shirt once, or did i only imagine it? I was too serious for that, too. I haven't seen any of the new episodes, but occasional glimpses of the classic have made me think it might be the most consistently funny of the four. I saw a small chunk of DO AMERICA, and was much more entertained than i expected.
SOUTH PARK
1997-?
I've seen occasional brilliance in the nibbles i've had. Their treatment of scientology? Brilliant. The CHEF AID album? Brilliant. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's other projects, particularly TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE? Beyond brilliant. The BIGGER, LONGER, AND UNCUT movie has been on my to-see list for years (and i only just now got the penis reference). The most nihilistic and scatalogical of the big four, and that can't be bad...but it's also far and away the most violent. When i watched a best-of dvd, i found that i simply can't take regular doses, because of the violence.
FAMILY GUY
1999-?
As i first saw scattered bits and pieces, i began to think that this was what SIMPSONS had wanted to be when it grew up. The most hysterically funny isolated moments of any of the big four...you can't go wrong watching clips. Stewie? Brilliant. Elderly pedophile neighbor? Freakin' brilliant. And their spoof of STAR WARS is probably the most brilliant thing any of the big four have done. In regular doses, the show does get just the tiniest bit boring, though.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

masturbation montage 4

The women i dream of, when dreams are all there is...
Continuing to be in touch with the sexual repression, denial, and damage in this society (and my own in particular), there has lately been a higher-than-normal percentage of unobtainable women in my fantasies...women currently out of reach, or past lovers that almost or never were...
ALMOONA
A woman i left behind in NY (but we still maintain occasional written contact), with whom the act of hugging triggered a rush of endorphins, dopamine, and other such feel-good brain chemicals, like nothing i'd ever known. Old-fashioned and fundamentalist, you'd be hard-pressed to find a woman less compatible...though apart from core values, we get along delightfully. If she told me that god had created us for each other, i'm  pretty sure i'd be anything she asked. Which is pretty crazy. But how do you turn away from possibly the greatest physical relationship of your life (and for me that definition includes the spiritual), without shredding your own spirit into pieces? THIS is the kind of choice our society offers? Ignorant savages, are we. Knowing the level of attraction we shared means we'd have profoundly healthy babies, i dream of beautiful impregnations. Is it possible my obsession is partly fueled by a failed friendship with a desirable woman who is perhaps the greatest personality match i know? Oh yes.
LAKOTA
A profoundly poetic spirit i once spent months getting to know as a pen pal. The night we met, we had a deliriously beautiful sexual experience, but i backed away from consummation...then the next day, she turned away when i suggested we go slower (i may have even said "start over"). Would i have held back if she hadn't been a single mother? Even though it's possible i made the right choice (in terms of the no-win choices this society provides), i dream of being in our most intense carnal moment, and holding nothing back.
SAVANNAH
A woman almost-but-not-quite impossibly young, who works at my favorite local restaurant. We see each other there once a week, and considering the social restrictions placed on conversation under such circumstances, we've gotten to know each other well. She's buddhist, and homeless after a rift with her fundamentalist christian mother. If she needed a place to live, or wanted me as a platonic friend, i'd be delighted...but she also fills my carnal fantasies, mostly because she's the only one among my three most likely potential lovers, for whom i feel intellectual and physical desire equally.
PERIPHERA
#1 - Rosario, a friend in Argentina with whom i once shared an apartment. There was never anything sexual between us, until we started writing this past year and became spirit lovers. She wants to live in the U.S. again, and i've told her my happy little home is waiting for her...complete with a wedding to allow her to stay as long as she likes. But the immigration restrictions are daunting - i would have to demonstrate sizable financial assets, something i've spent my life avoiding. She's fallen from the center of my fantasies, because she's avoided the question of whether she saw me as more of a brother, way back when.
#2 - A mother and adolescent daughter i once lived with. I had sex with neither of them, but the mother asked me to have a child with her, and the daughter was immensely attracted to me. My current fantasy? I refer you to "Lolita"...and i don't mean sort of, in an ineffectual suburban white boy way. I've fantasized marrying and murdering the mother, to be with the daughter.
#3 - Angela, who is pondering a 1200-mile booty call from NY. We had a mostly dysfunctional affair (but fine potential friendship).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

laura

WOMEN 75
I came across a personal ad from someone “looking for a pirate”. Having swashed a few buckles (or is it buckled a few swashes?) in TREASURE ISLAND, i responded. She turned out to be cool and quirky, into fairies and sci fi and renaissance fairs and online video games, with an offbeat sense of humor and fashion (the few aspects of Weird Al’s “White N’ Nerdy” that i didn’t embody, she covered). She’d been in the city for a couple years, and worked as a vet tech in an animal research lab. We started dating almost immediately, and were together for a couple months. She had fun friends, and lived in Queens. We took things slow physically, as she had some intimacy issues, having been molested by a father and then a brother. She'd also had some destructive, dysfunctional grownup romances. I didn’t worry about that (though in the end i got a bit steamrolled). When we finally had vaginal intercourse, there was blood on my penis afterward, which she said was the result of an abortion that had gone wrong. She said it wasn’t anything to worry about, and didn’t want to talk about it. But i wasn’t going to continue having intercourse with her if it made her bleed, and also not until she was ready to talk about things more openly. She had a bisexual side she’d never explored, which i found perfectly cool. She asked whether i’d be willing to have a threesome with another girl, and i said yes, with the right person. Sadly, the relationship soured before we explored that. I liked her a whole lot, and didn’t care about minor differences and incompatibilities…i was open to growing with her as far as we could. But in the end, i was too open and too loving. One night, i told her i loved her (love, not “in love”), and she didn’t handle it well. Another night, i innocently told her that i’d found one of her best friends attractive. It’s understandable that she didn’t handle that well, but i was just trying to be wide open…and i also had her threesome desire in the back of my mind. The relationship destructed soon after. At one point, she called and asked me to give her number to my brother John, as she wanted to fuck him. I did so, but gave Johnny ample warning about her questionable motives. I tried to stay patient and loving as she blew us up. Early on, a silly moment of pirating on the subway, making “arrrrhs” which led to “Ohhhs” and “Uuuuus”, led me to write a play about a silly sea where pirate bands have different “letters” they say in conversation. I was finally able to read it with her months later, and was so happy we were able to share that, as she enjoyed it very much...which avoided having our last memory be about hurtfulness.
Postscript: this is the first time that posting these memoirs triggered contact from a lost friend...Laura just wrote to me about a couple more of her darknesses i'd forgotten (a then-recent sexual assault) or never knew (anti-depressant O.D.s). She was touchingly loving in her tone with me.

monologues & improv

FRIDAY NIGHT MONOLOGUES/SATURDAY NIGHT IMPROV
THEATER 70
-summer 2003
It had been two years since i’d turned directorship of the Orpheus Players over to Donna McDonald. I’d stayed in touch, had seen most of their plays, and even written a newspaper review of one. They continued to do good, often powerful, material. Their leadership tripod consisted of Donna, Amanda, and Mark List. In the months following the Red Curtain demise, Donna approached me regularly to come home. I demurred, feeling it would be a step backward. They’d moved to The Holmes House, a restaurant further down the beach, which had a separate performing space. Finally, Donna offered a project that caught my attention. She wanted to have a troupe do weekly comedy improv. I was beginning to make plans to move to New York - my brother John lived in Jersey City, and had invited me to stay. WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? was one of my favorite shows ever though, and i had never really tested my improv chops. It seemed a minimal investment for hopefully a lot of fun and growth, so i joined, and also contributed to an evening of monologues. The troupe consisted of Donna, Mark, Amanda, Carrie Hill from BURIED CHILD, her husband Brad, and myself. Brad was great, we got along real well. He’d never done any acting, but after some initial stiffness, he blossomed. There were also occasional players, among them Tammy, Alexis, Robin, John, and Lucy Harris. Lucy was double-takingly good, and a delight to be around. Only eighteen, she already had much experience, including several of her own shows produced. The evening of monologues had Donna doing “Angry Vagina” from THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, and the Wendy piece from GOD’S SPIES. Amanda did a Kevin Smith abortion piece, and one about learning to love her vagina (through the attentions of afficionado Bob). Mark did a SEINFELD compilation about dating, and a piece about a man who’d been an angry protestor until he’d been committed and electro-shocked. Sheryl Ruppert did pieces from CHICAGO and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. I was worried about chemistry with her, for she was bitterly angry with me after i’d turned down a role in a production of EXTREMITIES, because i didn’t agree with the casting. We talked, and began the healing process. Our final monologuist was Carrie, who played a very funny would-be socialite, and an out-of-work geisha coming to America to be an exotic dancer. For my pieces, i chose LETTERS FROM THE EARTH, by Mark Twain. I played Satan, writing home to the other archangels. I wanted to do the character as Twain wrote it – thoroughly erudite, and naked. Nudity, however, would have to wait until New York, and i bowed to the wishes of my troupe-mates with a more stereotypical Satan, with southern accent and the horns-and-tail bit. I adapted it myself, doing a compilation of the first three letters, and Letter 8 for my second piece. In full red/black face makeup, i got a lot of very nice feedback. The improv nights, which ran for a couple of months, were generally a hoot. We incorporated audience participation, and did games like “Party Quirks”, “Driving in a Car”, “Human Clay”, and “Group Therapy”. I was happy with my work, and surprised at how well the troupe did. Chris and John, professional stagehands, did our lights and sound, and they were great company. I was concerned with pre-show drinking among a few actors, but there was never any full-on train wreck. I was the only one to never miss a performance. We had fantastic audiences, and the show was rousingly received.