Thursday, December 31, 2015

ho arrrrrh ho!

The polar express took me to the frozen north! They have no internet, so i couldn't alert you.
(translation - vacation laziness)
Q: What is the only activity that makes you feel like both santa and a pirate?
A: Going home for the holidays. You start with a satchel of presents, and end up with a bag of booty.
As an infant crammed her happy finger into my right nostril on the train ride home today, i realized that of the three major forms of cross-country public travel, train is the only one in which the "normal" rules of society are suspended, and people treat each other more like we're supposed to all the time. For only on a train, do tiny children run around and interact with any stranger they might wish. It doesn't happen on planes, because of paranoia and elitist pretension. It doesn't happen on busses, perhaps partly because bus trips are often shorter than train trips, but mostly because of one seemingly insignificant detail - trains are carpeted. Busses are not.
Whatever the reason, tiny children on train trips often are, for one brief moment in their lives, exempted from the fear of strangers we vomit into their sweet heads on every other day of their maimed, crippled lives.
A message of holiday cheer, you ask? I can actually do one better.
Any intelligent person would look at this world and conclude that humans are flawed, and that our time on this planet will very, very soon be done. It's all over but the fiddling, and the universe will soon be well rid of us.
That's a perfectly reasonable conclusion, and to hope otherwise is laughable, pie-in-the-sky naivete.
And yet...
I want to tell you a story.
During the trench fighting in World War I, the opposing sides could hear and speak to each other like no war before or since. These were professional killers, mind you. Well brainwashed into the zero-sum mentality that pervades humanity - kill or be killed. Most people have little or no awareness of how brainwashing is a natural part of becoming a regular member of society...but many have at least a glimmer of the fact that a profound and merciless process is required to turn the average many, moe, or mabel into a regimented murderer.
And yet...
Time and again, it turns out, in locations too numerous and far-flung to be statistical aberration, these systematically dehumanized humans with their fingers literally on the triggers, defied the rules of the game. They said NO to duty. They said NO to patriotism. They found ways to NOT kill or be killed. In their long standoffs, each side was required to shoot a certain amount of ordinance every day. So they eventually took to firing their loads like clockwork, never changing their aim or the time of day...until both sides knew, down to the second, exactly what was coming, and where.
And then, whenever some officer made an inspection, these soldiers would conjure up feats of death-defying bravery, perhaps zig-zagging across a field being shelled and coming out the other side unscathed. It is a certainty that many medals, and probably no small number of promotions, were awarded on both sides for nothing more than brazen wool-pullery.
Can you know that these things happened, and still abandon ALL hope for our species?
Neither can i.
merry maxmas,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Divided Labours"

(an evolutionary view of women at work)
-by kingsley browne
Know any unyielding feminists who insist that gender roles are social constructs, and won't brook any protest to the contrary? Perhaps you even ARE one such?
This is the book you need to give them...or this is the book we need to read.
Yes, i said "we". If i'm not a classic example of the aforementioned type, i'm close enough. I think militancy can be forgiven - the history of gender relations took a turn for the apocalyptic around 20,000 years ago, and any attempt to disavow or rationalize that is shameful. mr. browne explains, women be women and men be men. They have different biological personalities, and imposed workplace equality won't change that. The anthropological literature displays remarkable cross-cultural consistency in personality differences, and the burgeoning biological literature is finding no contradiction. In general, men are more competitive, driven by status and resources, and willing to take risks. Women are more nurturing, risk-averse, and less greedy and single-minded. Can it be any wonder that women's careers overwhelmingly tend to stall around middle management? Our entire commerce paradigm (indeed, our entire "success" paradigm) is based upon the male personality! Evolutionary theory traces these differences to asymmetrical parental investment - women carry the babies, then feed them. Males? Much less. Add to that the fact that male reproductive success has long been linked to status and resources. Hmm...with male personalities inherently more stressful, the lifespan gap may finally make sense too.
Does browne go too far? Oh yes, with phrases like "our patriarchal social structure - to the extent we have one" (italics mine). No, mr. kingsley, patriarchy is so deeply embedded that, in all our languages and institutions, the very notion of humanness is male. "Male" is default. Normative. Females? Systematically brutalized and dehumanized since the agricultural revolution (and the FANTASY ISLAND episode in which florence henderson turns down a high-powered job in order to be with her kids, is still abhorrent sexism of the worst kind). Browne also holds up the model of "natural" human behavior as that of a hunter/gatherer - but social hunting is a profoundly recent activity, in terms of the millions of years of human development. And he doesn't make the point (though perhaps he ought) that humanity's current barbarism is easily understood through the light of evolutionary theory - if you systematically remove women from the decision-making process for thousands of years, the result will be avaricious, unbalanced aggressiveness - in a word, brutality. Sound familiar? He does, however, agree that changes should be made to reduce economic disparity (and holds up Australia as a successful example). He also makes the curious (but suspect) observation that women actually have MORE socially-acceptable life choices - wealth and status-seeking being essentially the only path open to men (thankfully, growing numbers of stay-at-home dads are challenging this paradigm). Here again, he neglects the fact that every facet of our current social structure has been shaped by males - he seems to want us to accept our differences at face value, but i rather think that the true personality of our species will never be reclaimed until all our institutions reflect a merging of the female and male.
Browne also reminds us that you can't measure individuals by statistical generalities - there are plenty of aggressive women and non-competitive men walking around. He speculates about the reports that our military readiness has been in decline, and lays it at the feet of women's inclusion in all aspects of service. Speaking for myself, anything that diminishes our military capacity is okay by me.
DIVIDED LABOURS is part of a series called "Darwinism Today", each one readable in a single sitting, and designed to make advanced science accessible to all. Especially brilliant is "The Truth About Cinderella" by martin daly and margo wilson.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

masturbation montage 7

The women i dream of, when dreams are all there is...
What does not having sex for two years do to a person? My fantasies have been expanding to include women i don't even know...
And my impregnation fantasies show no sign of abating...

A vendor at a garage sale, from whom i bought a gloria steinem book and joe jackson cds. I'd never met her and was a little sleepyheaded, but the chatting we shared (initiated by her) was more than obligatory. Her daughter had just moved to NY, and i told her how i had lived there cheaply. The rest of the day, i kicked myself for not giving her my number. It wasn't a strong animal attraction on my part, but her energy was gentle and bright. That night, i fantasized about being her lover, and eventually meeting the daughter, who becomes smitten with me. One night, the lonely, antsy daughter can no longer stand hearing (through an adjoining wall) her mother and i making love. She knocks on our door, and slips into our bed. The three of us cuddle languorously, with my back to the mother, and the daughter's back to me. The mother's hand brings me to erection, then directs me toward her daughter. A grandchild is born...
The following day, i biked by her house. She wasn't home, but i left a note saying to call me if her daughter had any questions about her new home.
A clerk at my favorite health food store, we always talk. Thinking about the first time i felt her spirit actually open up, makes my heart feel funny. I feel a bit tongue-tied with her - i'm used to thinking of a clever or funny response to something she says, two minutes too late. I feel so profoundly capable of loving her the way she should be...a kind that virtually never happens in this lost, alienated, negotiated world. Making her spirit fly by offering her my entire being, even if that's not the best choice for my life (or if it caters to a self-destructive, monogamous paradigm in which she might be trapped). I dream of making her feel a purity of love that renders her incapable of hiding...of impregnating her, ten hours or ten years from now...
Living a non-materialistic life, choosing to have only what i need, makes me sad only infrequently. If i had unlimited money, i'd get several massages a week (at least). Not having had sex in over two years, i haven't really been touched since 2013. Mild backache is a constant companion. With my savings for my next move piling up, i have plenty of extra cash. Remembering fondly my investigative essays about the sex trade in NY, i've recently been thinking of returning to an asian massage parlor. One particular memory (and accompanying fantasy) spurs me on. I remember a massage i received in Yonkers. As the woman finished, she gently took my penis in her hand and asked whether i wanted more. I took her hand, and said "Only if you want me to be your boyfriend" (i normally don't use a word so stupid as "boyfriend", but english was her second language, so i tried to keep it simple). She said yes. I asked whether she wanted to come home with me. She nodded. Was she sincere? Of course not, screams any sensible are money to her. And yet it seemed that there was a sadness and hope in her eyes...
I let the moment slip away though, because...who can say? Suspicion? Fear? We're all so broken.
And now i dream of that moment being recreated, a thousand miles away...but this time, the masseuse comes home with me. Maybe she's a slave in the asian-american sex trade, and coming with me means she has to go into hiding, and live with me. I happily allow it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

gingerturd leftovers

As a writer keenly concerned with feminist issues, righting the wrongs of patriarchy is never far from my mind. When i take on a project like revising (or reimagining) classic fairy tales, the awareness of how steeped in chauvinism all our myths are, can be daunting. I don't want to overreach for the sake of polemics...sacrifice entertainment for the sake of enlightenment...but at what point should you just throw the baby out with the bathwater? Is it stupid to even try to improve inherently flawed product? Do you compromise too much by retaining the skeleton of the old structures, in the hopes reaching more people? It's a tricky line to walk.
What do you do with a canon of literature in which old or ugly women are virtually invisible, except when used to personify evil? How do you make women a vital force, without making them copies of brutal, amoral males? How do you turn a man's world into a human world, without coming off as a man-hater?
One method is gender-swapping - take some iconic or heroic character, and make him a her. I considered doing so with both "the gingerbread man" and "the man who laid the golden turd". Enough male protagonists! But...the rhyme scheme of the well-known "run run, as fast as you can" refrain just doesn't work with "gingerbread woman". Plus, the traditional ginger demise at the hands of a fox was easily translatable into a "foxy lady" - and would have felt forced the other way around. Still, did i pass up on a chance to make a strong point about how our society abandons single mothers? In "gingerbread woman", that would have been the straw that leads to her suicide. Would it have been more off-puttingly depressing for a gingerbread woman to kill herself?
Similarly, i considered "the woman who laid the golden turd"...but even though some of us may admire (or just envy) the male lead character i went with, there is an inescapably sleazy quality in the way he hoodwinks the town. It felt more appropriate to give that sleaze to a male. I originally made the metallurgist a male too, but realized that that might make the women seem like nothing more than a subservient harem to a male power structure. With a female metallurgist, i tried to imply that all these women might be quite content with their lives, and were nobody's slaves. In doing so, i chanced having a woman of authority too closely associated with male sleaze, but it seemed worth the risk.
I've come up against these choices in the past. On one occasion, it was such a close call that i wrote two versions - "goldilocks" and "goldilad". I thought goldilad was worth a try, because of all those female bonobos acting so sensibly sexy...and in any kind of traditional telling of goldilocks, the female lead (yay!) is rather passive and mealy (aww).
But "goldilad" didn't work quite as well as its big sister, right? Just not as entertaining.
Ah well. Such fine lines we satirists walk. Perhaps my best work in this field happens the further away i wander from the original tales' skeletons.
And i think the same fate would have befallen "the woman who laid the golden turd". Some male objectification would have been a lovely "shoe on the other foot" touch, but the overall picture would lack sharpness. Don't agree? Okay, you asked for it...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

naked nurse 12


Dear naked nurse,
The fist bump. Yay or nay?
-colorblind in Canarsie

Dear colorblind,
On the surface, it's easy to jump right in. An innovation from the black culture replacing a dusty white tradition? Sounds great! But if you're white and you try it, you perhaps can't escape the nagging feeling that someone's playing a joke on you? Black men are just waiting for you to make a fool of yourself? Then...a brother shares one with you, and everything feels okay. You're progressive! Inclusive (and patronizing)! Give yourself a pat (er, bump) on the back.
Settle down. Take a look at not just the bump, but what it's replacing - the handshake. Figure out the non-verbal shorthand (so to speak). A handshake is what's known as a mimic gesture - a copy of some larger behavior. In this case, the handshake is a mimic of a hug. Two people wrapping themselves around each other (or coming as close as they can, given social restraints). In this world of brother killing brother, color killing color, and everyone killing another, a mini-hug is a whole lot better than no hug at all. It's often the first step toward peace (uneasy or not).
What is a fist bump, body language-wise? As best i can figure, it's either a mimic of 70s cartoon superheroes the wonder twins (unlikely), or...antlered animals head-butting. You can dress it up with hipness and camaraderie, but that's the non-verbal core.
In a world in which civility is strained and universal siblinghood DOA, how can ANY version of a hug not be preferable?
Plus, have you noticed that you never notice women (of ANY color) fist-bumping? Good for you, feminine intuition. As for myself, i've always preferred the roman/Beastmaster forearm squeeze...but that's just me.
So if someone offers you a fist bump, try wrapping your fingers around that outstretched fist. And hug!

multiplicitous mergings,
the naked nurse

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Secrets of a Married Man"

-directed by william a. graham
For a slightly silly and potentially provocative evening with friends, you might not do better than this delightful television movie starring william shatner, michelle phillips, and cybill shepherd. The subject is adultery, and the treatment surprisingly even-handed (if there is any monogamous difference of opinion among your companions, the discussion may get heated). Shatner and phillips play a married couple whose sex life has been eradicated by stressful jobs, parenthood, and twelve years of monogamy. Poignancy abounds, as we see them fumblingly reach out to one another for that which once came easily. Determined to not stray emotionally, he begins patronizing prostitutes (it's okay, go ahead and get it out of your system - t.j. and the hookers!). After a series of one-night stands which are unfailingly frank about the risks and rewards of his behavior, he finds a woman (shepherd) to whom he returns again and again. He develops an emotional bond...but eventually finds his comfortable existence threatened by the realization that she is neither an art student nor "independent". Yet he still tries to help her, as his world closes in. You may cringe and cry as you see phillips react horribly and hurtfully to human nature. All of the possessiveness and jealousy which lie in the heart of our poisoned society, are personified in her. Not that he's a saint; were the shoe on the other foot, one cannot doubt that he would act just as hatefully. A fine turn is also offered by glynn turman (GREMLINS, A DIFFERENT WORLD) as a startlingly non-stereotypical pimp. All three leads are sympathetic, which is surprising, given the sexually repressive era. With "straying" being mostly as hot-button now as it was then, your laughter may be leavened by the occasional hiss from a closed-minded companion.
Laughter, you ask? What could possibly be funny about this film? Is it intentional humor? But it's shatner! I say that with nothing but respect and love, for there is indeed nothing shatnerian about his performance here - he is understatement personified. But if you have a certain bent of humor, there is just something giggle-friendly about shatner. The pitfalls of a "go for broke" personality being loved and known so well (this film falls just after STAR TREK III and smack dab in the middle of T.J. HOOKER). So even though he resembles a caricature of himself in no way, you just might not be able to resist the occasional howl or hoot as he steers his catwalk course. Phillips* and shepherd also rise to the occasion with deftness and aplomb. The ending doesn't disappoint, as moralizing is again avoided. Will our beleaguered couple survive or split? It could go either way. So if you want to cry for self-loathing twentieth century humanity, or just laugh and think a bit, this film too goes...either way.

* She also becomes the answer to a tantalizing trivia question - who is the only actor to ever be leading lady to both shatner and patrick stewart?

Sunday, September 20, 2015


-by kat chamberlain
(Disclosure: i once lived in the author's closet for nine months. Which means i was either a political refugee, or a sex slave. Either way, it's pretty unlikely i'm unbiased.)

Post-apocalyptic/utopian-dystopian/young adult romance sci fi. A mouthful, but sometimes labels are our friends. To which i'll add one more - wonderful. A book i'd be happy to put in the hands of any young adult...and one that will be enjoyed by the not-so-young as well. Set after a global cataclysm called "the clouding", an event left intentionally vague. Nuclear mushrooms? The incineration of our atmosphere by pollution? Whatever the cause, it's dimmed our sun's presence, and reduced humanity to a fraction of its former fulsomeness. The survivors have split into two groups - the caerus live in automated cities with artificial suns, believing that technology is our salvation, and the ping shun technology and agriculture, embracing non-violence and communal reliance (i'm not sure whether the author realizes how insightful her agricultural angle is, as scientific evidence points to the agricultural revolution as a far greater disaster for our species than the industrial revolution). Ping life is far from perfect - they seem to be at least as touch-deprived as our own culture, perhaps with a generous helping of our sexual repression as well. The artificially-created border between caerus and ping is so deceptive, deadly, and daunting, there's been no intermingling for many generations.
And then comes jili - a teenage ping foundling who has only one friend, the clan sage who adopted her. He falls into a coma, and she is suddenly told she must infiltrate the caerus, to bring back a gene they have developed, which is the only thing that can save old tan. He left jili a message telling her to not go...and if she does, to not come back (a warning which will be left for the sequel to resolve). But faced with his death, she agrees to this suicidal mission. One crash course in mental and physical violence later, she is off...and finds the caerus caught up in hidden revolts. Their society is the ultimate in orwellian inhumanity, a state based entirely on consumerism, in which every product (down to the carpets and silverware) is wired to relay every bit of information about each person's behavior and preferences to the government's computers. Non-sanctioned creativity or construction are not allowed. Jili falls in with a band of revolutionaries, and tries to help them while keeping her own mission a secret. Why is she, a callow, untrained teen, sent on a mission that had already killed highly-qualified agents? Because of her identity (which is kept secret from her) as a fusor, a genetic mutant with elements of both ping and caerus.
The book is fascinatingly infused with a swirl of asian and western influences. I also love how chamberlain skillfully and simmeringly shows latent sexual tension between a teenager and an adult, without a trace of self-consciousness or stigma. Is there anything i didn't love? The thoughtfulness of the first half somewhat disappears in a swirl of mindless action. The book also dips into the worst cliches of Hallmark romance, with phrases like "he/she was soooooo beautiful my capillaries hurt" (i paraphrase). There's also a fair amount of power idolatry in jili's romantic attractions, along with our obsession with physical beauty. Indeed, if i were one of the producers of the film adaptation, i would urge chamberlain to change one of her two suitors from heartbreakingly handsome to average, or even ugly.
But the point hidden within that point, is that i would love to see JILI brought to the silver screen. Its thoughtful, multi-cultural elements are something the world could well use.

(JILI is available on Amazon kindle)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

naked nurse 11


Dear naked nurse,
Thank you for your advice ( I've tried it a couple times, and one of them was probably the best sex i've ever had. All's the more shame that the relationship went boom (and not in the good way). We had so much in common! But self-destruction seems to be the romantic rule, not the exception. Am i just doomed to pick lovers who are wrong for me? Will one person always want more than the other?
-horny in Harrisburg

Dear horny,
By and large...yes. Sorry 'bout that. As long as our society bases romance on the fulfillment of selfish needs, the vast majority of entanglements will sooner or later go, as you say, boom.
But here's a little something that can help. And like the sexual advice i gave you, it's a bit counter-intuitive (in fact, it's almost the same advice, applied to the emotional realm).
Pick a lover whom you really like...but aren't consumed by. Someone you dig...but who has one or two obviously annoying or silly qualities. If we approached relationships thusly, it would be easier to find some measure of equanimity in this all-or-nothing world. We wouldn't get so bent out of shape when little things go wrong. When little imbalances arise. It would be easier to get through those imbalances, perhaps to a time when a different imbalance will run the other way. It would be easier to avoid falling into the trap of letting our lover become our entire world. If she or he has a taste you find tedious, or a hobby you find half-assed...great! It may keep you from "losing your head" in love - which feels great, of course, but in a dog-eat-dog world, isn't the most sensible roman(tac)tic.
salutary snoggings,
the naked nurse

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

naked nurse 10


Dear naked nurse,
What do you think about the argument that humans are inherently selfish (or "evil", as the taterheads say), based upon the behavior of babies?
-gnonplussed in Gnome

Dear gnonplussed,
Are human beings self-oriented by nature? It's hard to imagine that we're not. Yet we're also profoundly social, more so than much of the wild kingdom. Our personalities are determined by the culture in which we happen to be born. Daily social interaction defines humans, and without it an individual will gradually (or not so gradually) go insane.
The thing that sticks in my craw about the argument that babies are evidence of inherent human selfishness, is this - any observation you make of a human under eighteen months, is essentially observation of a fetus. Unlike other mammals (with the exception of kangaroos and a couple others) human newborns aren't fully "baked". Other mammal newborns are pretty much up and around right away, but not us. Evidence suggests that human gestation used to be closer to two and a half years...but our growing brains forced our mommies to push us out earlier and earlier.
So...are you really comfortable judging a species by the behavior of their fetuses?? Cultural anthropologists are amassing evidence that the natural human state is one of radical sharing. If you use "the terrible twos" as evidence that my counterpoint is self-defeating, i'll reply that by the time a child is two, they've already received HUGE amounts of socialization...and living in a greed/competition-based, fearful, violent, touch-deprived society, most of that socialization is (like our society itself, obviously) pretty dysfunctional. For that matter, are you sure the "terrible twos" aren't just a reaction to no longer being held almost constantly, by nearly every adult they meet? I'd get cranky too, if everyone i met hugged the hell out of me for two years, then one day just stopped.
perspicacious ponderings,
the naked nurse

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Friday, August 14, 2015

naked nurse 9


Dear naked nurse,
Whenever i get into a debate with someone about war, i usually reason them into a corner until...out comes the hitler card! What about hitler, they say! What about hitler??? Can you help a pacifist out?
-exasperated in Evanston

Dear exasperated,
The hitler card can be beaten.
The Holocaust was so awful? You bet. Yet there's no small amount of self-righteous tunnel vision in even allowing that capital H. Every day of our lives, some ethnic group somewhere has been culled by genocide's bloody scythe. But 6 MILLION, your friend says? They want a numbers game - fine (and this will be particularly pertinent if your debate partner is european-american, though other examples abound).
In 1492, there were over a hundred million natives in the "Americas".
Seen many lately?
The eradication of various cultures on this continent dwarfs any similar undertaking in human history. Genocide is just business as usual for the human race, and the nazis? Just U.S. wannabes with a blonde fetish. But more to the point, we didn't go to war with hitler because of genocide. We did so because we didn't cotton to the thought of a country the size of New Mexico conquering the world.
If your friend calls the american genocides ancient history, here are some others the U.S. has dabbled in lately - Bangladesh, Guatemala, Iraq, Rwanda...and those are just the biggies.
At this point, your friend may be chastened. But most non-pacifists are of the "never say die" persuasion (as long as someone else is doing the dying). They might finally have nothing to throw out but the "kill or be killed" dilemma. And there's an easy answer - you kill. But that's a dilemma so specious as to be worthless. In any non-military reality (with humble apologies to domestic abuse victims), the odds of being in a bona fide "kill or be killed" situation are statistically almost nil. Fight or die? Sure. Incapacitate or die? Yeah. Maim or die? It could happen. But don't give me "kill or die" - it's a child's argument. And more to the point, it's got nothing to do with war. War is impersonal. Tribal.
And hitler? He's in the house next door...or in your pants.
War is self-perpetuating.
Greed and exploitation will keep donning religion's cloak, and the killing will go on...
Until we decide to do the obvious.
Make everyone well-fed and well-sexed.
Well-fed, well-sexed folk don't hurt, steal, or kill.
I mean...why would they?

sublime slumbers,
the naked nurse

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Star Trek: Into Darkness"

-directed by j.j. abrams
How often is a filmmaker polite enough to provide the perfect metaphor for his work with a franchise, right in the title of a film?
At the risk of trashing the effect of a seamless one-sentence summation, i suppose STAR TREK: INTO THE CRAPPER would have been too on the nose?
Since i've already abanoned the brilliance of perfect brevity, i'll just add that this film is not STAR TREK. As in non-canonical, like its predecessor. Is the film horrible? Nope, just pathetic. You can call a hippo a primo ballerina, but the power of suggestion will never result in "Swan Lake".

Sunday, August 9, 2015

dear amanda 4 & 5

From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky,
The stuff of life to knit me
Blew hither; here am i.
Now - for a breath i tarry
Nor yet disperse apart -
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart.
Speak now, and i will answer;
How shall i help you, say;
Ere to the wind's twelve quarters
I take my endless way.

-a.e. houseman

Hello amanda,
I thought of you when i came across these words. Such poetry stunned me, to know that a long-dead writer could capture so perfectly that which i feel.
Oh the humiliation, said the would-be great writer and visionary!
So much we all take for granted...that we'll be a better person, or whatever, on some future day. But the future is a shadow without substance.
A million lives we never live, taking their possibility for granted, until suddenly we awaken to find possibility gone.
Fear has been such a companion for you. Fear of life, fear of yourself...
I'm going to say something which may feel big. It's not. NOT. At the end of this note, nothing essential will have changed. If you need me, my answer will be the same as it's always been.
But my ancient willingness to endure hardship for your sake, is a habit we never got around to balancing...and damage usually catches up to imbalance. This was just one of the things that was going to equalize between us when you ran away.
Did you know that i was traumatized by what happened? Clinically, i mean? I can see it in how i haven't been able to stop reliving it over and over. Perhaps not the events per se, but in imaginary conversations.
Classic post-traumatic behavior.
And please remember, part of this damage has nothing to do with YOU! When i arrived here, i had never been more wounded or emotionally open. Horrible timing.
So i want to do something now i perhaps should have done a year or two ago. I was holding onto the notion that if i allowed myself to be erased completely, the only winner would be your demons. I don't know whether there's anything to that...but another compelling argument says that our current "relationship" damages us both. In this limbo you've created, you've encouraged the idea that we might one day be friends again. But that expectation doesn't sound entirely healthy, as it pulls a part of you away from living in the moment. From manifesting EXACTLY who you are, right this second. Anything that makes us less centered, is one more spiritual obstacle.
This limbo also might make it easier for you to dwell in truth-avoidance, should anyone ask you what happened to me. As things stand, you might give some "ebb and flow" explanation, instead of taking responsibility for yourself. You don't have to use the word "erased"...but i'd be proud of you if you did.
I also thought it was important to let you do whatever you needed to do, as i believe so strongly in people making their own mistakes. In your case, i also thought it was vital to give you every opportunity to fix those mistakes.
Is this limbo healthy for you, in some way i don't understand? If so, tell me! I don't want to make the mistake of determining a course for us, without asking what you think.
On the other side, this limbo seems patently unhealthy for me. Maybe you thought that with enough time, my wounds would heal on their own, and you could have a blank slate when and if we re-engaged.
I don't think it works like that.
So my thought is, let's not limbo anymore. Let's cha-cha! I suspect the quickest course to healing for me would be if you showed up and tried to help me. But let's not kid ourselves - you're not ready for that. And for either of us to hope that you might one day be, is a cruelty we should try to spare ourselves. So let's stop pretending we have a relationship.
OMIGOSH. I went to bed at this point last night, and for the first time i can ever recall, i dreamt about eric and i being your co-husbands! You and he had two young children you were looking after when i arrived in FL, and eric didn't like me kissing him on the lips, even playfully. There was cake, too.
You do know that if we ever did become friends again, it could never be like before? Your old games, the hiding and couldn't be that person any more?
And please please please, understand that we can't have real communication in letters like this, so we ABSOLUTELY should not try. If you answer this note with anything more than monosyllables, you're disrespecting both of our humanities. Your last note, when you tried to explain your behavior, made me cry a bit. Not that your words were spiritually untrue...but such words can only prompt a million questions, and you control this situation by denying me any real chance to ask them. The enormous subtleties in unweaving what happened between us cannot be addressed in a letter.
Forgive the hypocrisy in my saying all a letter. But your aforementioned situational-control backs me into this corner.
As for your explanation, it was good mid-range spirituality. Some of the deeper stuff you're at least partly aware of (like what fears are at the core of your hiding). And i think your point about your behavior being impersonal is mostly true. It's the question of psychopathic behavior, as compared to sociopathic. The former dysfunction is intensely personal, the latter not personal at all. Which makes you a bit of a sociopath (And in case i need to say this, don't be put off by these words - what most people never understand, is that we're ALL psychopaths or sociopaths, in one degree or another. Some are more fucked up than others, but in the big picture, it's only about who's better at hiding it.).
So yes, your treatment of me was sociopathic...but probably not exclusively. I strongly suspect that there is a minor element of your lashing out at others (and yourself), which is VERY personal. Keep trying to figure it all out, but do not PUNISH yourself. In a fucked-up society, anti-social behavior is a form of sanity.
And to go deeper...
I just now realized that there was another reason for why i didn't react to your callousness, with confrontation. So often, when people make big, relationship-altering gestures, it's about vanity or pride. What these actions do is freeze a relationship at some horrible point. It's a form of punishing each other, so that the thing they always remember (about someone they once loved) is that frozen moment of pain.
I understand this all too well, as your actions unintentionally froze me at a point when i was treated horribly. By NOT reacting to your cruelty with some ultimatum, i subconsciously avoided "freezing" me forever in your mind as someone upset or disappointed.
Of course, maybe some part of you WANTED me to give you a "get your shit together" kick in the ass. As i've said, there is no graceful way to respond to dysfunction.
So why am i risking a "big" gesture by de-limboing us now? Because i need to heal - it's too hard, being this emotionally open while carrying around a bleeding wound.
But this is NOT a big gesture. I can't end something that doesn't exist - and if you need me, my response is just what it's always been.
Now scroll back up, and read that poem one more time. If a relationship must be frozen, how could it be done more gracefully than that?
And with the (non-empty) words "i love you".
-your wrob

February 2016
Dear amanda,
Do you remember when i knew how to make you smile? Would it be greedy of me to hope?
"Denseness" is the word you use to describe your inability to understand my confusion and hurt. Are you stupid? No. Do i have poor linguistic skills? No. So something is going on in your head to keep information from getting through. Perhaps this is the question we should be asking - is there something that keeps you from responding to, or even perceiving, human suffering? Is it across the board, or selective?
Are these the kind of questions you're asking yourself? Do you have someone in your life who can?
In trying to gracefully, gently pull myself away from you, there are about seven obstacles. When i first took on the sacred duty of being your friend, there were two rules that stood out. I never consciously put them into words, but if i had they would have been:
Do NOT take it personally.
DO NOT abandon her.
I'm trying to break one if not both of those commandments. I'm fighting eighteen years of muscle memory. So hard.
I won't try any more to explain the pain that's brought me to this point. I'll just say that receiving a note from you makes me sick for about three days. Intellectually, my love is as strong as ever. But physiologically, i now have a stunningly profound fear response to you. After sending you a note, it takes many days to not have my chest tighten any time i open my computer.
I can be your friend, or not be your friend. But i can't do both - there are too many other horrible things i'm fighting now, to deny my own humanity in dealing with you. Once i could do that with ease, but no more.
Could you fix all this relatively easily? Probably. If you were to try to save me, how far could you go in saving yourself? I get why i'm toxic - face me and you'll face yourself. Most people spend a lifetime avoiding that.
Aren't you impressed with how i resisted saying "amandments"? Wheeee.
(that was the one smile i was going for)
So please, if you can't respond to this in the real world, then just write one word so that i know you got the note. "Pancakes" or "sparkle-toes" perhaps. Or bushbaby. I like bushbaby.

P.S. She wrote bushbaby! Yay.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Bold, brilliant, inventive...these are just some of the words which do NOT describe this show. Hailed as william shatner's masterpiece (by people who obviously never saw INVASION IOWA), and based on his best-selling novels, the show makes the most of its small budget, creating a dystopic vision of 2045, a time when the cyberdrug tek ravages the land. They were shooting for TRON meets RUSH, but soft writing left them far short. One tunes in hoping for grit and edge, but the dynamic is closer to a standard 70s cop show...and this is in the freakin' 90s! As with much sci fi of the late 20th century, you're left wondering how the gap between these folk and the STAR TREK talent pool can be so glaring - shouldn't the second or third best actors/writers in the biz still be pretty amazing? TEKWAR follows the exploits of ex-cop and ex-addict jake cardigan (greg evigan - BJ AND THE BEAR, MY TWO DADS), released from cryofreeze prison and trying to rebuild his life. His wife and son have moved on, and he lands a security job working for crusading anti-tek mogul walter bascom (shatner). They take on tek lords and assorted baddies. Cardigan has the requisite roguish charm, but his faint boorishness and violent temper eventually wear thin. Evigan's mildly wooden shortcomings get harder and harder to ignore, too. Shatner's bascom? Surprisingly vanilla. Maybe he felt he was overdue for something understated, but with the show stuck in meh, you keep waiting for something to come alive...and given his track record, you hope and expect that it will be him. But no...for the middle shank of the run, he doesn't even log an appearance (elvis has left the building, indeed). The show starts as a buddy drama, with eugene clark (KNIGHT RIDER 2000, ROBOCOP: PRIME DIRECTIVES) as jake's steadfast partner, but a mid-season shakeup cruelly sends him to the rubbish tip. Natalie radford (SPENSER: THE JUDAS GOAT, SUPERSTAR), as bascom's top computer jock, survives the purge...but contributes no more talent or chemistry than those who don't. Maurice dean wint (HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, ROBOCOP: PRIME DIRECTIVES), is an underused bright spot as an unyielding android police lieutenant. Torri higginson (THE ENGLISH PATIENT, STARGATE: ATLANTIS) shines as jake's initial love interest, but her scientist character is abandoned by the writers long before they have the decency to officially purge her. She's replaced by maria del mar (ROBOCOP: PRIME DIRECTIVES, 24), as jake's new partner sam houston, who seamlessly mixes femininity and toughness. And perhaps the brightest light of all (depending on your pulchritudinous preferences) is sci fi uberbabe lexa doig (ANDROMEDA, STARGATE: SGI) as cowgirl, a fearless cyberpunk. Her costuming (or lack thereof) is a tad obvious - if you're going to play that card so blatantly, producers, you should just have the integrity to make her a full-time nudist. The breast example (best - i mean best!) is in "Cyberhunt", and a glance at how her costume evolved from first appearance to last is probably worth a chuckle. But after a quickly-discarded disaster of an accent, she plays her character with intelligence and skill, and has to be in the running for sexiest nerd ever. Does TEKWAR have any juicy TREK guest appearances? A lil' nimoy or nichelle, perhaps? Nay, though there's one nicole ("Chill Factor"), as in de boer, four years before her DS9 debut. Overall, do i recommend you watch any of this halting effort? Nah. That said...
One of the four telemovies that came to be known as as the first season, and memorable for no other reason than a ripping guest turn by michael york (LOGAN'S RUN, AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY), as the heir to the british throne. He schemes, fences, wears medieval armor...and raises the level of everything around him.
Lieutenant winger is attacked, and his cortical relay unit stolen. Without it, he'll die. The only episode that "humanizes" him, and shines a fine sci fi light on prejudice.
-Skin Deep
Jake's first love is murdered. Framed for the crime, he falls in with her security double, who has undergone both cosmetic surgery and memory implants to be a perfect match. They fall for each other, which sounds obvious...but this is the only episode to score as legitimate sci fi, that feels like nothing you've ever quite seen before. As if that isn't enough, the writing and chemistry are a notch above the show's norm.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

naked nurse 8


Dear naked nurse,
Tiger woods - scumbag who is reaping his karmic comeuppance on the course?
-disillusioned in Dekatur

Dear disillusioned,
Tiger is at worst a bit of an idiot, and at best a simple victim of humanity's sexual self-loathing. Perhaps a bit of a liar too, but there's no evidence of maliciousness (if lying were a crime, all of humanity would be incarcerated...and tiger might be one of the first parolees).
Besides, your karmic calculation doesn't hold water. Since his domestic brouhaha, he's returned to the golf course, where he reestablished himself (for a while) as the number one golfer in the world - a measure of success denied to, well, every other golfer in the world. If that's bad karma, i'll take two. But if you measure success by anything so myopic as winning or losing a child's game, you've demonstrated the depth of a puddle. To measure success by box score, bank ledger, ballot count, title, or trophy wife, is to out yourself as a spiritual child. Nay, infant.
Tiger had sex with lots of women? Anyone bothered by that is an envious puritan with all the scientific understanding of a stump. Humans, male and female alike, are designed to have multiple, concurrent partners. It's our normal, healthy state - that's not opinion, it's science. Anyone who walks away from the opportunity to live thusly, is in about seventeen kinds of denial.
The only way i can fault tiger is for getting married in the first place, especially if the ultra-private affair contained the words "forsaking all others". Then he's a fool who's more interested in appearance than integrity. Maybe he just wanted a "normal" family structure in which to raise children (as though the nuclear family is even a healthy child-rearing paradigm). But don't shed one tear for elin. She signed a prenuptial contract. If she truly believed in "true love" or the sanctity of marriage, she would have thrown that document back in his face.
perky putterings,
the naked nurse

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Monday, June 29, 2015

letters from lovejoy

(A poetry rub cafe on the planet Lovejoy, 2073. Amanda and wrob talk while receiving massages.)
WROB: I know, i know! Don't agonize, it was a million years ago.
AMANDA: (dialogue to be inserted)
WROB: Where is this coming from? Do you need penance, or absolution? If it's the latter, you know you've had that...always.
AMANDA: (dialogue to be inserted)
WROB: was dehumanizing. Have you ever had your humanity assaulted? Or negated? Well, of course, everyone has. But it was like this demon child was out there screaming "You're not a human being! You thought you were a human being, but you're NOT!! I rip the tongue out of your fucking head! You don't exist!!!" It was like you wanted me to do something stupid, so you could rationalize rejecting me. And when i didn't take the bait, you acted like a mudslinging politician and accused me of doing it anyway. It was a tough year. Eric erased me, shane did the same...which is the way everybody acted back in those days, so big deal. But it was such a mindfuck, because you kept dropping these horrible bombs. We'd meet accidentally for twenty-nine seconds, you would say something disconnected from reality...and even though i knew intellectually that you were making shit up because you felt you had to say something, there was a tiniest nugget of uncertainty over whether you might actually believe what you were saying. If that were so, then a simple, short talk at any point would have fixed everything. And maybe "fixing everything" meant you needing to end our friendship...which was fine, of course.
AMANDA: (dialogue to be inserted)
WROB: There's only one that sticks in my mind...when you told me you thought i'd had expectations. To spend fifteen years offering one message above all - "i have NO expectations". Everyone you'd ever known, every lover or friend or family member, had crapped their expectations onto you. But not me, i wasn't going to do that. Ever (except the ones you asked me to hold). I knew that if a hundred bloodhounds went back over every word i'd said, every deed i'd done, they would never find the tiniest whiff of expectation. So, yeah, boom - the most hurtful thing anyone had ever said to me. Ain't life funny.
AMANDA: (dialogue to be inserted)
WROB: Exactly. You were a surgeon. You were syd barrett. And you couldn't stand the thought that someone saw you. You needed that illusion of control you'd always so carefully maintained. But it's not like it was so bad that i lost perspective, or the ability to laugh. There were one or two hysterical moments. I laughed for an entire day once, when i listened to an alanis morrisette song and realized you had behaved exactly like the man she was trashing. I mean...that's funny.
AMANDA: (dialogue to be inserted)
WROB: No, dumbass, i don't remember the song.
AMANDA: (dialogue to be inserted)
WROB: I was always proud of my yearly ritual - once a year, on your birthday, i would climb in my biplane and skywrite over your house "IT'S NOT HOW WELL YOU LOVE OTHERS, BUT HOW WELL YOU LOVE YOURSELF".
AMANDA: You did no such fucking thing.
WROB: I didn't? Could've sworn i did...
AMANDA: You can't even remember when my birthday is, dipshit!
WROB: Not true. Starting the first year you ignored me on van's birthday, every year after, exactly nine months before your birthday, i fucked nine fertile women. Don quixote got nothin' on me...
AMANDA: You did that for me?
WROB: Damn straight.
THERAPIST: (to amanda) Would you like the happy ending?
WROB: Been wondering that since 1998...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

naked nurse 7


Dear naked nurse,
If i had a nickel for every time i scared a woman off by telling her i loved her the first time we had sex...i'd have some nickels! What's wrong with people?? Are we really that neurotic?
-lovelorn in little rock

Dear lovelorn,
If you're going to answer your own question, why am i even here?
Asking people to be relaxed and open and accepting (or giving or nurturing or agendaless) any time sex is involved, is like asking slugs to dance - even if they do their best, no one's likely to notice or care. But give us another century or two, and we'll get our caca conjoined.
Right now, there's just far too much at stake when sex is in play. Aside from money, nothing else defines our lives so thoroughly...and for most people, especially women, our sexual choices determine our financial well-being as well.
Nothing could be more natural than telling your lover you love them! It seems a no-brainer. But (again, especially for women), the sex game is all about long-term strategies, so a "premature i love you" throws us off. Ironically, it can sound...shallow. Insincere, instead of truthful and natural. Of course, part of the problem is hormones. Any time we're caught up in the swirls of falling in love, our brains are simply a perplexed passenger. Instead of sensibly kicking them to the curb and enjoying the ride, we try to CONTROL...ourselves, our partners, our precious self-images.
And to play devil's advocate for a moment, an "i love you" in the heat of hormonal passion, is arguably not as objectively truthful as it might feel. Is it truly the other person we love, or simply how we feel with them? To some extent, those realities overlap. Yet often as not, a brain awash in endorphins can wake up a year later and realize that their beloved annoys them no end. Never, ever, ever make life choices while in the first eighteen months of falling in love (of course, to the misery of all, this is precisely the time most of us DO make life choices).
Is there a more honest alternative to the "premature i love you"? How about "i love this". While that has the merit of likely being the most truthful option, it makes a far too shallow clang in our ears. Perhaps "i love us", then? It still has a high degree of honesty, while maintaining a semblance of healthy perspective.
I love us!
I promise, that's not just the hormones talking.
mirthful mountings,
the naked nurse

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

naked nurse 6


Dear naked nurse,
How do fat-bottomed girls feel about the song "Fat-Bottomed Girls"?
-wondering in Westphalia

Dear wondering,
What, you can't just let them make the rocking world go round, and leave it at that? Sigh. Okay, this is the closest i'll probably ever come to dissembling, but...there are probably as many different answers to that question as there are fat-bottomed girls (er, women). Now, you got a smart-ass follow-up about babies and back?
rumpalicious reveries,
the naked nurse

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

naked nurse 5


Dear naked nurse,
A friend and i are always arguing over who has the harder life. I'm married, and he's single. We need this issue resolved once and for all. Who has it worse???
-henpecked in hattiesburg
p.s. There's a $20 in it for you if you know which side your bread is buttered on.

Dear henpecked,
Fortunately, vegans are immune to butter. But there's a $20 in it for you, if you know on which side your modifier is dangled.
Sorry for being acerbic...but you've committed a classic bifurcation. One of you must be right? Piffle! Let's look at this objectively. Being single is a condition marked by loneliness and long stretches of sexlessness. The institution of marriage is fraught with frayed nerves, ever-diminishing testosterone, passion turned to apathy (or far worse)...and long stretches of sexlessness.
Which is worse, you ask? Really?
From what we know of your friend, he's not in that tiny minority of singles who have found some small measure of sanity (i.e. well-supported emotionally, with as much intimacy and sex as needed). And you're clearly not in the microscopic minority of married folk who are the better for it (i.e. haven't overdosed on each other, while maintaining a union that's jealousy-free).
Some people can dismiss the fact that over half of all marriages though all the remaining, "successful" marriages are some kind of romp in the daisies! But if half are outright failing, what percentage of the rest are barely making it?
Most intentionally single folk however, are only replacing marriage with serial monogamy (or "marriage-lite") - with the same pitfalls of possessiveness, and having one's life precariously defined by a single relationship.
Marriage only ever "worked" when it was based on double standards that favored the male, and socio-economic pressures that made it nigh-impossible for a woman to leave. Yet even then, it's a love-sucking house of lies and denial for the male too.
Until marriage fundamentally changes, it's a sucker's game.
Being single? A sucker's game too!
As things stand, is one reality even a little better than the other? Yes. But it's such a pathetic difference that it's not worth mentioning.
And i don't say that just because i don't want you to take your poor friend's money.
selfless snuggles,
the naked nurse

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Friday, May 15, 2015

"Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked"

(Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale)
-by catherine orenstein
A brilliant, wonderfully-written gem. Catherine studies the history of fairy tales in general (offering tidbits like how the moralizing brothers grimm lied about their work's authenticity), then focuses on red and granny and the wolf (and sometimes the huntsman). She deconstructs the moral underpinnings of the tale: its early sexual tones meant for an older audience, its transformation into a children's tale teaching girls the dangers of disobedience (and boys the allure of dominance), then finally multiple modern incarnations which have reclaimed the story's sexual roots in order to explore female empowerment, gender roles, and transvestism. Each chapter is led in by a different adaptation (anne sexton, tex avery, james thurber, angela carter...). The radical feminist backlash against all fairy tales is diffused (or de-fused), as catherine convincingly demonstrates that those protestations are only part of the picture, in that fairy tales are a fluid construct, ever-changing to reflect and anticipate changes in society. Peppered with delightful quotes, references, and photos, this book is an invigorating breath of literary air.

Monday, May 4, 2015

rutles & fatso

Neil Innes & Fatso
The Rutles
A bi-bomb of barry wom! With songwriter and frontperson neil innes out front (as good frontpersons should be) the canon of the irredeemable Rutles gets a double dose of clap-worthy concert release.
Although strictly speaking, the 2-disc FAREWELL POSTERITY TOUR is not Rutles proper. No, that doesn't mean there's no o'hara or mcquickly (though there isn't) means that while the smorgasbord is well-seasoned with Rutle spice, the main course is the solo offerings of innes. Cheeky Bonzo-style fare, mostly. Not as resonant as the Rutle bits, but charming, plus some Python pieces ("Bold Sir Robin", "Philosophers Song") swirled into the mix. Plus some fats domino, and george harrison's "Beware of Darkness". Fatso are the "original" Rutles, from Rutland Television days, pre-dating eric idle, ricky fataar, andy brown, or ollie halsall. Neil, billy bremner, brian hodgson, roger rettig, and john (barry) halsey are a tight, relaxed unit, obviously having a dandy ol' time (i can say it like that, because they do a country song). The liner notes have commentary by neil for each song (yay!), but are quite vague on where/when the tour/concert actually took place (awww). The photos imply that they played at Liverpool's Cavern Club. Neil tips his hat to the infantile nature of the litigious troubles that have run rampant in Rutland, as he's legally prohibited from claiming writing credit for the songs. But never mind all that, the album is thoroughly charming, including two Rutle tunes not found on...
LIVE & RAW, a more streamlined, 1-disc rutlefest! This one's even more vague on where/when the whole affair took place. The thirteen tracks charmingly cover both studio albums. Any particular fan might be miffed by the absence of a personal favorite (no "Major Happy", no "Ouch?" "Rendezvous"??), but it's a nicely-representative meshing of eras, that you perhaps thought you'd never hear. Neil and john's backing lineup (mickey simmonds, mark griffiths, and ken thornton) are firecracker-sharp. While the arrangements lack any especial inventiveness, the patter is precious, and there are some delightful touches, such as a semi-obscure hat-tip to Spinal Tap. What makes this disc an absolute must-have is track 14 - "Imitation Song", an original studio offering. It's brilliant in a way that only one or two other Rutle songs have achieved ("Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik" comes to mind...which should be covered acoustically by marilyn manson). The lyrics are more socially-biting than Rutle music (or neil's solo work, for that matter) generally is - leavened with just enough comedy to make them non-preachy, they're indelible for anyone who cares about such things. "Imitation Song" should be covered too, and not ironically - by eddie vedder ("Poppy-cockeyed world" is one of the funniest, most unforgettable lyrics ever penned - i upchuckled for days).
All in all, you'll listen and listen again and again.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

14 books aware

When i left the home of my youth, a single shelf for my books would have extended seventy feet. My busiest year was the age of fourteen, when i read some 115 books (not including my oft-ignored schoolwork). The author who turned me into a reader was edgar rice burroughs - at thirteen, my first burroughs made it imperative that i read everything he wrote. A handful of others (shaw, o'neill, chekov, stoppard, vonnegut, dawkins) have triggered the same consuming desire.
Here are the books i know, that every human ought read. The final version of this list will have more titles - a book on desensitization, one on the biology of humyn nature (which may take decades more research), one about touch (a primer for which is chapters 4-8 of morris' "Intimate Behavior"), something on mythology and archetypes, others on sociology/psychology, and one or two i can't even begin to imagine. These books may turn your perceptions inside out, and put you back on the path of humynity.
A brilliant book, and precisely what it claims to be. Gonick is a cartoonist with Harvard degrees who injects huge helpings of humor and science into his books (all of which should be required school reading). He self-deprecatingly declares that he's only trying to save the world. My kinda homo sapiens.
THE NAKED APE, by desmond morris
There are one or two outdated sections, but the single hardest thing for any person to do is to step outside oneself. No book ever achieved that so brilliantly, in terms of our entire species, as this.
SEX AT DAWN, by christopher ryan and cacilda jetha'
A deconstruction and negation of the competition-based narrative of human sexuality (women selling their sexual exclusivity to one male in exchange for resources and security, with men driven by the need to insure the paternity of their offspring). Replacing that is the mode that was likely humynity's state for at least 98% of our history, that of multiple partners and radical sharing in all elements of society. It corrects the one gaping flaw in the works of morris.
If you and a child about to be marooned on a desert isle could grab only two books, take this and "Sex at Dawn". No others pull the veil off humynity so concisely. This one tackles the past ten thousand years, and how our species has gone so incomprehensibly astray since the advent of agriculture. See, and also his follow-up, "Animal Oppression & Human Violence" (, which fleshes out his points in terms of the apocalyptic disaster that is corporate capitalism.
THE WATCHMAN'S RATTLE, by rebecca d. costa
An investigation into why every advanced society in recorded history has collapsed, and how we're on the same path. Costa shows the stages of collapse, and the five supermemes (ways of thinking or being) which are killing this world. She shows how, for the first time ever, humyns are capable of avoiding that fate. In general and specific ways, she shows how it will happen.
THE SECOND SEX, by simone de beauvoir
As lucretia mott said, "The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of woman, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source". Jean-paul and albert may have had richer imaginations, but neither wrote anything so towering.
The understanding of racism starts here.
The history of the world's preeminent military superpower, told not from the standpoint of rich white men, but that of wimyn/native indians/poor white men/blacks/chicanos. Zinn challenges you to wonder what might happen if the U.S.A. became the world's first humanitarian superpower.
JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, by daulton trumbo
Strictly an appeal to anti-war emotion, but few books may ever lacerate your spirit so unshakably.
This book makes me cry...that i didn't write it first.
THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN, by marilyn french
A deconstruction of how the establishment reacted to wimyn's liberation in the second half of the twentieth century. Less sweeping than simone, more precise.
EATING ANIMALS, by jonathan saffran foer
One of the more compelling arguments against eating other animals, written by a meat-eater facing parenthood. There's not much on health risks or historical perspective, but the cruelty that makes the Holocaust look like Club Med, plus the ecological apocalypse of factory farms, are well-covered.
Stunningly brilliant and nearly-suppressed.
A towering achievement, and possibly the most laterally exhaustingly-researched book i've ever read. Not just staggeringly important, but brilliantly written.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"The Watchman's Rattle"

(Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction)
-by rebecca d. costa
This clarion call from sociobiologist costa investigates why every advanced civilization in recorded history has collapsed, and discovers that whenever humans experience exponential growth, there comes a point called the cognitive threshold, when the complexity of problems becomes too great for our minds to handle. After that, the balance between knowledge and belief tips in favor of belief, and the end is near. By that metric, our tipping point has already passed. Am i happy she goes along with the assumptions underpinning the word "civilization"? No - the implication that ANY human society of the past twenty thousand years ought be called "civilized", is a thought that could stand greater scrutiny. But her point is that the mayans didn't get into humyn sacrifice until problems (in their case, water shortage) had grown beyond their ability to cope. How equipped are we to manage pandemic viruses, depleted resources, climate change, pollution, dying oceans, terrorism, or nuclear proliferation? But unlike the doomsayers, rebecca firmly believes that humans are, for the first time ever, knowledgeable enough to overcome our cognitive threshold.
And she tells us how we're going to do it.
She examines how evolution has left us trying to cope with 21st century problems, with a brain suited for the low-stress life of a pre-agricultural gatherer. Our brains are constructed to deal with problems of immediacy, not things a day or month (or generation) down the road.
So it turns out my procrastination proclivities are not, as it turns out, laziness. I knew it, i just knew it!
She outlines the stages of collapse: gridlock, the substitution of belief for fact, and the embrace of short-term mitigations over long-term solutions. She shows how the biggest obstacle facing humynity is our own attitudes. She discusses memes, ways of thinking or being, and how they can grow into supermemes (like the flat Earth, an eye for an eye, monogamy, or blondes have more fun), which can contaminate or suppress all other beliefs. Memes (like not swimming after you eat, which it turns out is fine) tap into our need for belief. Even if it's only believing that the door will open when you turn the handle, we need the comfort of belief to function. The greater the variety of memes, the more likely a culture will survive sudden or dramatic changes. Another meme? We only use 10% of our brains. Nonsense! Can we still enjoy the wonderful movie based on that lie, "Defending Your Life"? Of course.
Supermemes are culture-killers. The five supermemes pushing us toward extinction? Irrational opposition (the tendency to be AGAINST something rather than for), the personalization of blame (seeking scapegoats instead of addressing systemic causes), counterfeit correlation (complexity causing us to lower our standard of proof), silo thinking (compartmentalization which inhibits cooperation...think of the lack of communication between the CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security), and extreme economics (basing every decision on profit/loss projections).
Costa shows how the technology to fix our problems is already available. There are abundant solutions, like the "cool roof" strategy - if we paint every roof and road on the planet white, it would be the equivalent of taking eleven billion cars off the road for eleven years. The reflection/absorption ratio of the sun's rays would change immediately, resulting in global temperature reduction. You want more long-term? Fine. NASA has known for decades that the only sensible way to get solar energy is to put the collectors in space. The world's energy needs would be met, with plenty to spare. What's keeping us from doing it? Capitalism gridlock. Or you want global warming fixed? Science knows how previous ice ages were triggered - the introduction of huge amounts of volcanic sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. We could "shade the Earth" as little or much as we need. The price? $250 million the first year, $100 million each year after. That's "million", not billion. And water? Iconoclast inventor dean kamen has followed up the Segway with the Slingshot, a low-energy purifying system that could solve the world's water problems within two years. The challenge? Getting it into everyone's hands. The obstacle? Capitalism! Perhaps we should rethink capitalism's most basic tenets. No wait, it's already being done...see muhammed yunus' 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for showing that collateral-free loans to the poor are stunningly successful, as long as you make the loans to groups of 5-8, not individuals. It turns out that our culture of individualism flies in the face of humyn nature.
Costa excoriates the idiocy of the self-help era, which encourages everyone to think that our happiness is in our own hands. There are a million shows and books and gurus making fortunes off this idea, happily ignoring the truth...that current human misery is systemic. Black incarceration is a societal problem, not personal. Epidemic obesity is societal, not personal. Drug addiction is societal, not personal. A weak (but irresistible) example is oprah's weight. As a black womyn who created a billion dollar empire in a white man's world, is there anyone who thinks she lacks willpower? In addition, she has a full-time staff of chefs, trainers, nutritionists, and life coaches. She makes staying thin her very public personal agenda. Yet she keeps getting fat! If oprah can't do it, how can anyone?? The "personal empowerment" meme is also fool's gold in terms of global problems. For example, less than 3% of the garbage generated by America is municipal waste. Ergo, domestic recycling is nothing but a cosmetic gesture. I'll add my own example of our misguided obsession with personal accountability - the michael jackson song "Man in the Mirror". It's wonderful and many millions (including myself) have sung it in uncounted showers around the globe? Yet the message of the song is pure nonsense, in terms of effecting any real change in this world.
Costa tosses out salient examples of how extreme economics affects us on every level - for example, everyone knows what a prenuptial contract is...but what does it say about our priorities that there is no such thing as a precustody contract? And she may make you re-think the notion of the West having ANY association with fundamentalist nations - leaders like bush and blair and obama may invoke god, but the driving supermeme of the West is finance...and that's a pill which will never be swallowed by a fundamentalist state. But fundamentalist states, with their paltry variety of memes, are not built to survive.
Humyns are also genetically disposed to the notion of putting all our eggs into one ovary...but research shows that a barrage of concurrent solutions (many of which won't work) is the soundest way to address even civilization-imperiling complexity.
Is costa a brilliant writer? Well, no. She's competent, and peppers her prose with enough humynity and personal experience to instill belief (ha!) in her as a person. But her writing is only as interesting as her subject matter. In this case? Fascinating. The fact that she doesn't mention any possible solutions to global pollution is neither here nor there (well okay, it's undeniably both here and there).
She ends the book with an investigation of insight...the ability of the humyn brain to synthesize a solution (often counter-intuitive) that transcends our knowledge. Insight is a relatively new feature of our physiology, but if humanity is to avoid extinction, this is where the evolutionary path leads. Costa offers the newest research on brain fitness, which i'll encapsulate by saying that i intend to make quick travel over uneven, irregular ground a regular part of my life.
I've got a planet to save, after all.
And so does rebecca.
You too?

("The Watchman's Rattle" is now on this writer's list of thirteen books every human should read:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"If the World was You"

If the World was You
-by j.d. souther

As the songs on this album rolled past my ears for the first time, i felt a growing sense of disappointment. That impression was completely wrong, but back to that in a minute. Over the course of one day, i listened to a few tracks at a time. When i came to the last, the day was late and i was content to put off the final letdown until the morrow. I had recently heard j.d.'s ON THE BORDER anthology, and 2011's acoustic retrospective NATURAL HISTORY - these brilliant albums had primed me for a sweeping late-career artistic resurgence. J.d. had been a beloved figure on pop music's of the creators of the california country rock sound, a contributing writer for some of the Eagles best songs, the sublime "Her Town Too" duet with james taylor...but what little i'd heard of his solo career (or Souther/Hillman/Furay) had been underwhelming.
When i hit the play button the following day on that final track, "The Secret Handshake of Fate", i was pretty sure i'd pass the disc on to my brother without another listen.
A month later, i still can't stop playing that song...and indeed the entire album. I'm sure most of us can relate to music we don't much care for upon first listen, but grow to love - which is what happened with the other cuts. But the final track is so off-the-charts brilliant, it evokes a small handful of songs that make such an instant impression, you forever remember exactly where you were the first time you heard them. You're wide-eyed with the instant recognition of sublimest brilliance. Is it on the short list of my desert island songs? Assuredly. At thirteen minutes, the only way you'll ever hear it on the radio is when i get my own show. It contentedly meanders its jazzy way around and around, which is a fitting reflection of the lyrics - salient, slyly salacious, and offbeat observations of human foibles. So startlingly perfect it's almost hysterical. The trumpet work by rod mcgaha takes some getting used to, because he doesn't sound the way trumpets are "supposed" to sound. This is a conceit and pitfall of popular music - certain styles of playing become accepted and expected. Mcgaha sounds so rough it's almost amateurish...but you finally realize he's simply doing it his way instead of aping armstrong or botti.
The other musicians (jeff coffin, chris walters, dan immel, jim white) play like they were plucked out of a jazz club you wish were in your neighborhood. Maybe your own ear won't need repeated listenings to realize that the other songs are brilliant, too. J.d. has never before been recorded this simply and beautifully.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

nimsy whimsy

leonard nimoy
Once, a child grew up in the 70s. His introverted eyes looked around at this competitive, greedy, violent, racist, sexist society, and he knew it had nothing to do with him. He was accepting and secure though, so he never rebelled (at least not on the outside). The first time in his life he experienced a moment of pure identification was when he heard the song "Being Green". Until then, he'd been content knowing he was alone in the world.
The second time he felt that feeling of identification, was watching a television show called STAR TREK.
And a character named spock.
Not being inclined to idolatry, his recognition with this half-alien character didn't change him greatly. He didn't ape spock's expressions or neck-pinch strangers, he just smiled at the wonder of it all. As with spock, the people around him seemed overemotional and lacking in critical thought. One day, he noticed that he also had two different ears...the right one normally-rounded, and the left one uncurled at the top. Kind of pointed. He noticed that he never seemed to get hurt on his left side, as though it were stronger (a few years later, he laughed at the illogic in that observation - being right-handed, of course he would have more right side injuries). While he never imagined himself to be literally non-human (or half-vulcan), he smiled at the thought. Though he sported no spock haircut or perpetual vulcan salute, an observer could have seen signs of his affection. A poster of kirk and spock adorned his wall for a few years. He had a couple of the 8-inch action figures, plus a communicator, phaser, and tricorder assembled from a model kit. The show fed his sense of play, as surely as it fed the spirit of the pacifistic, agnostic, vegan, feminist, non-racist, non-materialist adult he was to become.
That grown-up child now offers his thanks to an actor he never met.
Your contributions to the STAR TREK universe, leonard, and to one character in particular, went far beyond what's generally offered up in your profession. Your input to vulcan lore, and struggles to defend spock's integrity, are at the heart of TREK mythology.
We live in a world where viewers develop intense feelings for television characters. It's partially a survival mechanism - in our culture of crippling alienation, TV "friends" give us a sense of comfort and acceptance that's impossible to duplicate in real life. Science has come to understand that subconsciously, our brains often don't know the difference between fantasy and reality. In that light, TV characters can be as "real" to us as any living person. Out of sad necessity, some take these relationships too far. TV characters never disappoint. They never betray. But it's illogical to stop trying to love, and be loved, by real people.
It's tempting. Perhaps even sensible...but illogical.
If my brain is studied post-mortem, scientists may learn that some of my closest friends were named hawkeye, seaborn, and spock. That's not a bad thing. At its best, TV can show humanity where we're going.
By that measure (and most others), STAR TREK was television's greatest show ever.
Thank you, leonard.
Eighty classic episodes. Twenty-two animated. One NEXT GEN. Six movies (of which he also directed two, including THE VOYAGE HOME, plus story credits for 4 and 6, and a one-film tenure as franchise executive producer). One TWILIGHT ZONE, three OUTER LIMITS, forty-nine MISSION: IMPOSSIBLEs, one-hundred forty-six IN SEARCH OFs..., INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, one COLUMBO, two T.J. HOOKERs, THREE MEN AND A BABY, THE PAGEMASTER, two SIMPSONS, one DUCKMAN, a BECKER, eleven FRINGEs, and the son of sarek swan song - one brilliant BIG BANG THEORY.
Director. Writer. Photographer.
Do we forgive his dalliances in the abrams re-boots? Of course. You were in your eighth decade, leonard - you can be forgiven for losing artistic focus, or even just grabbing a paycheck (we trust you spent it wisely). We accept your refusal to be a part of GENERATIONS, and we're ready to embrace the thought that that was the right choice for the franchise, and possibly the movie too (even if those weren't your primary motivations).
You lived long, leonard.
And we prospered.
-The Galileo Seven
-Amok Time
-Journey to Babel
-This Side of Paradise
-All Our Yesterdays
-the death scene from THE WRATH OF KHAN
-the sarek scene from THE VOYAGE HOME
-Unification TNG

harve bennett
In the 1982 TV movie A WOMAN CALLED GOLDA, ingrid bergman played her final role - and leonard played her husband. This biopic about israeli prime minister golda meir was produced by harve bennett. Later that year, he would produce STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, and take over as franchise executive producer. His seven-year tenure coincided with nimoy's most prolific contributions. After bob justman, harve is probably the most unappreciated contributor to STAR TREK's history. He was a producer/writer (THE MOD SQUAD, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, THE BIONIC WOMAN, TIME TRAX) who replaced roddenberry when the studio lost faith in gene after STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. Had KHAN not been big, the franchise might have folded. Aside from producing TREKs 2-5, he created the stories for 2, 4, and 5, and wrote both 3 and 4. To equate him with roddenberry is misleading, inasmuch as gene himself was never solely responsible for the show; from the beginning, TREK was a collective. Was bennett's take on the TREK vision flawed? Yes - he saw humanity's future as one where our nature remains constant, as opposed to the roddenberry vision wherein humanity has evolved. But harve was clearly the right person at the right time, and on TREK's Rushmore, is well-deserving of a spot alongside roddenberry, coon, justman, nimoy, meyer, berman, and frakes (shatner, stewart, and dorn, you're under consideration).

Saturday, March 7, 2015

good people leftovers

(a follow-up to

"Whispers" would be a more resonant title.
I'll avoid that, because i don't want to overendow negativity...or overestimate my esteem for this kind of piece. If public-speaking potential is the growing benchmark by which i measure my scribbles, this one's a detour to a dead end. Serious navel-gazing, rather unadorned by wit or frill.
But i can't leave this stone unturned, because the parent piece left a gaping question unanswered, and i made a vow to the universe that i would write nakedly about any facet of my existence. Not that i haven't turned this stone over already. I have:
If you find it within you to villainize me after reading that, i can promise you there are any number of people in your life whom you smilingly embrace, and whom have done infinitely "worse".
So this piece is perhaps then a meditation on how whispers can persist. I say perhaps because i'm going out on a limb, assuming the treatment i've received has anything to do with events that happened some fifteen years past. Perhaps margie's barely-concealed loathing had nothing (or little) to do with me. Crazier things have happened.
But how telling is it that i sent notes to four of my co-creators after the show closed, seeking some glimmer of compassion or understanding of what had happened...and got a response from only one? Considering how mindfucked i was when i wrote those four notes, they were stunningly classy and tactful. The only response came from the person i least expected to answer - margie. Addressing me with icy formality and employing the language one directs at a stalker, she instructed me to contact her no more.
No explanation.
I was tempted to contact a couple of the others once more, just to know whether their seeming coldness might be unintentional. I decided to let it be. It's not my nature to defend myself when attacked. People believe what they want, and it takes a special kind of idiot to fly in the face of that. One day i'll contact mike again, as my affection for him is considerable, and if anyone is going to be honest with me, it's he.
Plus, i was so damaged by what had happened, that to keep on engaging the situation was to play roulette with my life. I'd been savaged by the stress. Past experience tells me it will take months to recover. My stomach feels better, but it's still weak and hollow. Only now, two weeks on, is the burbling noise starting to fade. One night, my head began spinning in a way that felt like i'd fall if i tried to stand. It wasn't lightheadedness...more like what i imagine vertigo to be. If i wanted to live, i needed to put this behind me. A human body under stress literally shuts down...systemic paralysis leading to illness and worse. Watching jeff daniels get a bleeding ulcer on "The Newsroom", i knew that was where this road led, if i couldn't pull away.
Even now, i do myself some damage by writing this. Please believe that comes from devotion to you, and not a deathwish.
Yet too, suicidal thoughts have swirled in me these past weeks. I don't apologize for that, and expect few to understand fully how rational a response suicide is to this world. Fortunately (or not), my quixote complex and fear of death mean that you probably won't be rid of me so easily. But how unbearable to feel this way. Tried, convicted, and sentenced, without being allowed into the courtroom. Literally sickened. I don't know why i'd never considered hanging before, as a tidy and fairly foolproof method. That's the problem with suicide though - it's hard to be classy. After self-immolation, i suppose alcoholism and smoking are the only socially acceptable ways. If that's classy, i ain't got a classy bone in me. It's a shame Earth isn't flat. Walking off the edge might be the only way to go. Never to see this world again, and almost certainly to die...but with the romance of the unknown. Was the jumper despondent, or just the bravest fool in the world? Wheeeeeeeee...
But back to the whispers...had margie heard them? One can only imagine the form they might take, fifteen years removed, and filtered through the innumerable minds and mouths of the world that nurtured Salem and mccarthyism. If that's what happened, i don't judge her harshly. I want to have every faith in her good intent.
Nor have these whispers ever been brave enough to come to me openly. They've been so removed, that i've only been mostly sure they even exist at all. But they would explain a mystery or two...most notably why one of the most cherished actors in the most beloved theater company i once ran, one day disappeared from my life with a totality that smacks of shun. Wherever you are, derek, i love you.
Beyond whisper persistence though, this piece is also about my sensitivity to the energy around me. Steph never acted overtly cold to me during this play, it's only something i felt...and only in the context of unspoken mistrust did it make sense. I've long been hesitant to fully embrace this kind of "intuition", because we're talking about a world beyond the five senses, which even if it exists, most people couldn't even begin to access with any clarity, because we're all too damaged, our heads way too far up our asses.
But my final contact with any cast member made me wonder why i haven't chosen to let these instincts guide me completely. The actor who no longer seemed to find me charming the final week, had offered me much kindness prior to that. Not having a car, i'd been biking the 11.5 miles to and from rehearsal. Once the show opened, she offered me a lift partway. I offered to treat her to dinner after closing, and she happily accepted. We shared congenial conversations on our rides. She often drove me all the way home. The only imbalance was my sense that she was attracted, and my incomplete feeling of reciprocity. Then that final week, i felt something cold and hard in her. I know that's how things often go, when people realize (or suspect) that someone they fancy doesn't feel the same way. But this felt like more. This felt darker. Had she heard a whisper? I sent her a note after closing, and was surprised she didn't beg off our dinner date. My instability alarm blared. When we met a few days later, it took only thirty seconds for her to lay a sweeping, brutal condemnation on me. Simply because i employed the words "virgin" and "slut" (and showing no interest in my context), she slammed shut our initial line of conversation, and asked me to nevermore pretend i was a feminist. Ironically, she was snap-judging me because she thought i was guilty of snap-judging women. I reeled inside, like i'd been stomped in the stomach. I'm surprised i was able to not walk away, and amazed i was able to get down any food.
A well-intended but baseless brutalizing, from which my intuition ought have spared me?
And what does all this mean, in the larger context of my life? What does it say that three weeks of unrelenting stress was so debilitating? In a world of poverty, sexism, racism, and domestic abuse, my experience was closer to normal than not. Have i "resensitized" myself to the point that i can no longer function in regular society? Have i so successfully lowered my emotional walls, to better understand the natural human condition, that i can never build them up again?
I'm not sure. I'd like to hope that this chapter was exceptional. But do i even want to become better able to withstand such inhumanity again?
Who's your villain? What does it say about us that we feel comfortable villainizing anyone? I'll be your villain, if that's what you need. But i hope you'll be human enough to base it on something i say or do, and not...
I love you all.

(for the follow-up's follow-up, see

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

naked nurse 4


Dear naked nurse,
Why do we fall for people who are totally, totally, TOTALLY wrong for us? Why???
bothered in Buffalo

Dear bothered,
If you understood the first four words of your question, you wouldn't have bothered with the other ten. You're clinging to the notion that attraction is in some way cognitive. The brain is our biggest sexual organ? That sounds like the kind of trope spun by one who's never had a proper shag. Don't get me wrong - intellectual inclinations can enhance sexual interactions enormously. But they are neither a sufficient (nor even necessary) part of the process. I was once dewy-eyed and (endearingly, i hope) naive enough to think that it was impossible to have great sex in a one-night stand. Poppycock! Why do i pine for a decades-gone affair...with a born-again christian? Why did i once offer to impregnate a narrow-minded champion of monogamy and materialism? What, am i just stupid? Well no, not just. In the last case it had something to do with the fact that hugging her felt more mind-melting than any other hug i'd ever had. In the first case, she tasted better than anyone i've ever tasted. Sexual attraction is physiological, hormonal, and chemical. In humanity's current ignorance and self-loathing, our bodies are infinitely more aggrieved than uplifted by our brains. Impose your intellectual agenda on your reproductive system, at your peril. These bodies be far smarter than we - science is beginning (but only beginning) to catch up with what they understand...things like which potential mate would give us the healthiest offspring, and such. The more our bodies approve of a potential mate, the more feel-good feelings we feel. So LISTEN to those loins! I know it can be frustrating. What to do when a PETA-loving tree-hugger gives you the trembling thigh sweats? What to do when a Tea Party cutie puts you in a barry white moody? Sorry, you're on your own. But your body is infinitely brighter than thou (and bloody tired of your moronic meddling).
care-free conjugations,
the naked nurse

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Friday, February 27, 2015

"Good People"

-winter 2015
I'd been in Florida over a year, and was comfortably ensconced in my little beach home, happy to be a semi-hermit writer. I thought it might be nice to do a play - partly to invigorate my social life, and partly to make a lovely memory for my mom and aunt before i moved on. They had known me for most of my life as an actor...even though they occasionally appreciated my writing, i knew they'd love something more familiar (and less challenging). Given my emotional weariness, i wanted something fun...a great part in a comedy. A chance to be in gurney's "Sylvia" came my way, at the Pirate/Wood (now Strauss) Theater. How sweetly perfect it would be to act on that stage again. But the part was so-so, and Act II was weak. Then bill taylor at the Theatre Conspiracy asked me to audition for "Good People", by david lindsay-abaire. It was one of the few Lee County stages on which i'd never acted. I'd always liked bill socially, and admired the plays they did. This one was not light...a powerhouse that dealt with classism and racism. The director, mike breen, wanted me to be mikey dillon, a doctor who had escaped his impoverished South Boston roots. Thirty years later, he reunites with margie, a teenage love still living in Southie poverty, along with a mentally retarded adult daughter. I'd perhaps never read any play that so deftly showed how we hold on to our vain self-images, and need so much for the world to affirm who we think we are. Dr. mikey has a young, black wife. My being romantically connected to two characters meant a fair chance that offstage romance might arise (a non-artistic motivation, to be sure...but i'd had no romance in almost two years). Upon meeting the actress playing margie, i felt a rush of openness and confidence. And i felt an instant connection with the actress playing kate, the wife. But the heaviness of the play scared me...knowing how low my emotional walls were, it would be hard living such brutal emotions over and over. I asked mike how much faith he had in his second choice for the part. If he'd replied with affirmation, i'd have told him to give the part to that actor. But he didn't. I liked mike's energy, and embracing my belief that we're here to help others, i agreed to do it. I also knew that stephanie davis, the demi to my tom in "A Few Good Men", would be in the play, and that made it easier to say yes. I hadn't seen her in many years, and was delighted at the thought of becoming better friends. The actors were unpaid, and it felt right to officially call an end to the decade-plus period in which i'd acted only for money. Even though my reasons had been about respect rather than greed, my philosophies about materialism and sharing had since evolved to the point that my earlier vow seemed wrong-headed. The only time i had any financial grumble during the run was when a theater charging $25 a seat asked me to pay $16 for a haircut. Initially, i had some romantic fantasies about the actress playing kate, despite the fact that she was a christian fundamentalist (once backstage, i asked whether anyone had ever been mean to her - she replied "satan"). I wasn't deterred, and had she shown any personal interest in me, i'd have explored it. But she never opened up emotionally. I was worried that this would stunt our onstage potential, and it probably did...but ultimately she showed genuine talent, and we were comfortable onstage. I went out of my way to try to make her feel part of the group...knowing theater people, i knew that religiosity might cause division. Indeed, margie said she almost quit the show, upon learning of kate's fundamentalism. At first, rehearsals were lovely, thanks to mike's relaxed hand. And soon, my romantic fantasies transferred to margie. I loved the fact that i was attracted despite her being overweight - i grew enamored of every extra curve (perhaps the first time in my life i could absolutely say such a thing). And romance or no, i was encouraged by our artistic, platonic potential. Early on, she asked me to do an extra line rehearsal, and we spent more time just chatting than i'd expected. I was surprised and honored. But that was our high point, and would that i could have seen the coming darkness. I gave her encouragement and affirmation, and tried to lead the way by displaying emotional openness with both of them. I became aware in the last couple weeks before opening, however, that our communication lines were diminishing, not growing. I attributed it to the weight of the part she was playing...there were only a few minutes she wasn't onstage. But my growing unease burst into unhappy reality on opening weekend. Acting against the emotional wall she had around her, was awful. It wasn't just indifference - onstage and off, i could feel dark emotions directed at me. Was she one of those ultra-method actors who don't differentiate between actor and character? I didn't think so. The only person i'd told about my little crush was steph. Did it get back to margie, and trigger some loathing? The next few weeks were the most relentless, stressful misery i'd ever lived. It was torturous because of the schizophrenic quality - in three of our eighteen total scenes, she was open and supportive. In twelve, she was closed off. In the remaining three, her dislike of me felt palpable. Had i been a disappointment to her artistically? I'd given her cause to feel that way, perhaps. Most of the cast had adopted Southie accents, and in the last couple weeks of rehearsal i made a radical shift, switching from full accent to slight - i decided my character had spent his life trying cover up his past, and that the accent only really came out when he was drunk or upset (in other words, much of Act II). It was a subtle challenge, and i sucked for a while. And margie was relentless in pushing us to pick up lines...something i feel generally comfy with, as i've long told actors that lines usually begin before the other character stops talking, not after. But once during rehearsal, she yelled at me, and was right on that boundary between good-natured and disgusted. I felt that if kate or i waited one millisecond longer than margie liked, she was content to bulldoze past our lines (something she did during performances, too). Was i ever a little slow? Sure. But during one rehearsal, mike sided with me when i said i thought there should be a pause before one of my lines. It all added up to a non-supportive environment, in which actors don't feel safe and free to explore...and that was even before the negative personal energy. The words of andre previn resonated in me, to the effect of "great music can't be made by people who don't like each other". One night, my old college friend greg longenhagen came to rehearsal, as a dialect coach. I was delighted...yet somehow almost ashamed. The first non-paying gig i'd accepted in over a decade, and a college peer has to show up? To say nothing of my accent being a mess? I can laugh at my insecurity. We're all so out 999 demons of vanity, and that thousandth one will worm its way in. Eventually i felt okay with my work, but i knew that the poisoned environment meant our show would never achieve its potential. Looking back, it's easy to second-guess myself for not bringing my concerns to mike...i had too much faith in my ability to make things right. And he pretty much disappeared after opening. For a brief time, i thought her strange energy might have been because she was attracted to me (wishful...). By the time i knew it was darker than that, i felt that confronting her might only make things worse. So i sucked it up, and night after night did my best to convince the audience that nothing was wrong. Had there been an understudy, i would so gratefully have relinquished the part. As it was, by the third week the stress was destroying me...aches, insomnia, and worst of all the stomach sickness i had left New York to heal, was back with a vengeance. Had the show run four or five weeks, i genuinely believe i might have ended up in a hospital (i'm not given to hyperbole, i promise). I grasped for an explanation. Under such conditions, persecution and paranoia fuck with you. I thought of times when i'd opened myself to being misunderstood or vilified, and people i'd rubbed the wrong way...was some past demon haunting me? Had i been too frank with her, in speculating on the sexual history of our characters? The infrequent moments that she momentarily treated me like a human almost made things worse. The way she said goodbye on closing night (terse and from ten feet away), were the final spit of salt on the wound. Kate's goodbye was about the same, minus the though a rehearsal had ended, not a run. And what of the rest of the cast? Unprecedentedly, i shared no stage time with four of the seven. And very little rehearsal time. Was i even in a play with them? It was bizarre and disjointed. I didn't share my problems with steph, as i didn't want to risk spreading the negativity, and she seemed a bit cold to me. I shared a dressing room with the one actor in the cast who seemed close to margie. For a brief time, i thought he didn't like me either. Perhaps that was just paranoia, because during the run he was kind. He's the only person i partially opened up to, taking him aside to ask for advice. He replied with nothing concrete. I sent a note after the show asking whether he'd known more than he'd let on, but he didn't reply. A post-show note to steph explaining my low energy also went unanswered. I felt some affinity and closeness with the remaining cast member, but our energy was precarious, as i think she was attracted. I almost pursued it, but had a feeling she'd realize i wasn't her type, and indeed there was a shift in her energy the final week, when she seemed to no longer find me charming. Happily, there was one angel in the cast - our uncredited seventh actor, ken johnson, with whom i'd shared such wonderful memories in "Twain by the Tale" on Sanibel. He was the assistant stage manager, and offstage voice of the priest. I was floored when i discovered he was joining us, and more than a little relieved. When i say his presence saved my life, i hope i'm exaggerating. I also had a lovely connection with the stage manager angie. She was perhaps more patient with semi-idiotic actor questions than any SM i'd known. And the audience? So sweet...occasionally i could almost feel the joy of that connection. There was more laughter than we'd expected, and they got so agitated over the unresolved question of whether mikey was the father. Mom came three times. Even though the audience disappeared more quickly than with any theater i'd known, those who remained gave some humbling feedback. One said that my accent had been the most authentic. Another, who may have seen every show in the Conspiracy's 10-20 year history, said that we might have been the best show they'd ever done.

(for a follow-up, see