F is for Fickle

 

F is for Fickle, capital “F”.

Fickle is a good word. I would call most things fickle.

  • love
  • attention
  • concentration
  • resolve
  • relationships
  • work

Fickle means changeable, marked by sudden or unexpected changes in the nature or quality of a thing. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

The challenges that I set for myself this month:

  1. Camp Nanowrimo (write 50,000 words in 1 month)
  2. NaPoWriMo (write a poem every day this month)
  3. Blogging A to Z challenge (blog according to the alphabet every day)
  4. 21 day challenge (retrain your brain through meditation/exercise/gratitude)

My attention is fickle, my resolve is fickle. People have called me fickle, but I don’t know that that is a bad thing. A synonym for fickle is mercurial. We tend to dislike Mercury, the god of change, of speed and all the rest. But, why is that?

Mercury was based on Hermes, a beloved character in Greco-Roman myth. He was one of the few beings in existence that could outsmart Apollo. He was the fastest among the gods. He acted as a messenger. He was the comic relief.

In the modern pantheon Flash is Mercury. He is quick, smart, loveable, & affable. And dare I say fickle?

So fickle doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we treat it like it is. Why is that? I think because we prefer the idea of stability. People who are consistent in their reactions are people we can trust. Yes? Well, yes and no.

We like people being consistent because that makes them predictable and to a certain extent that is healthy. Right? I mean it is outlined in basic psychology:

Secure attachments vs. avoidant/ambivalent attachment. Secure attachments are developed when people are consistent with how they show love to their children. Ambivalent attachments are developed when parents are inconsistent. If you are greeted with either love or hate when you show love, you aren’t going to show that love very often are you? So inconsistency can be really unhealthy.

However, in this time of political polarization, we are approaching a society of tribes. People are choosing movements over ideas. With a remarkable certainty if you know someone’s stance on one thing, you will know their stance on a number of other things. Case in point, here are some hotly contested topics in politics:

  1. gun control
  2. birth control
  3. immigration
  4. health care
  5. education

Now, none of these are interconnected. You can safely reason that guns have very little to do with babies. You can have completely divorced reasoning about both. Yet, with almost absolute certainty (some studies have shown) if you know someone’s stance on one of these topics, then you know their stance on all of them.

Without knowing anything else about me, if I say:

I support the constitution with regards to the second amendment.

What can you glean from that? What does that tell you about me? Everything you need to know? I hope not.

Because I do support the original framing of the second amendment, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Emphasis on the “well regulated.” Surprise! I support gun control as outlined in our constitution. You can be a supporter of the constitution and believe that some people deserve to have their guns taken away. Who knew? I knew.

Because I’m fickle. Because I’ve supported both sides over the years and I have finally settled on this idea that I don’t need to belong to a tribe or a group. I can make up my own damn mind all of the time.

E is for Everything

E is for everything. Capital Eeeeeeee!

That was a scream by the way. A scream of terror. I don’t know if you know this about me, but this time of year is hard for me. I don’t know if I knew this about me. My life long partner wasn’t. So it goes. I’ve been pretty skittish around relationships ever since.

Turns out I’m polyamorous. People don’t like that in a straight guy. Who knew? I never saw a problem with loving more people. The people I fell in love with did. So it goes.

My company just hit a rarefied wall of “Fuck You”. They said it nicer than that, but they still said “Fuck You”. So that has to be thrown in a dustbin. So it goes.

Taxes are due so I write checks that cut like knives. So it goes.

I started two new jobs in the time since and haven’t cashed a single check because I’m afraid to look at those balances. My heart rate picks up and everything gets tunnel visioned.

The people I am closest to seem to be vanishing down rabbit holes. I can’t tell the difference between static, radio silence, and ignoring me so I just assume most of my relationships are fled. So it goes.

I pick myself back up only to be pinned to a wall by friends, family, and myself screaming at me why I haven’t done the right thing. How could I let this happen? Morale falling apart, arguing over forks, trying to keep everything clean for one more day before everybody starts packing only to discover the bags are already packed. So it goes.

D is for Detroit

D is for Detroit. Duh.

Detroit is Detroit. There really aren’t other ways to describe it. Ask anybody outside the city an you get things like: it seems to be coming back OR it’s not as bad as it was. Ask anybody inside the city and the fandom is rampant. Ask anybody who has lived here for any length of time and you get a different story:

Detroit never went anywhere.

That’s the thing I take most away from this city. If you think Detroit is going through a renaissance, you don’t know this city. If you think Detroit is bouncing back, you don’t know it.

Maybe it depends on your point of view:

Now’s the time to visit Detroit, finally on the verge of a real renaissance

For sale: The $100 house

About That Detroit Renaissance

Depending on who you ask:
Detroit is going through a “revitalization” where buildings are bought up, renovated, and made habitable again for new tenants.
OR
Detroit is the city where the black community won the race riots. Detroit is the city where it has continually been punished for winning those riots.
They can both be true, in fact, I think they probably are, but Detroit is a city where the official statistics state it is 88% black population. Can you understand why a city that literally tore itself apart might be upset at a process some call gentrification, which is also a nice way of saying pushing out the current population.
The way it was put to me at a meeting of people of color I was fortunate to be a part of:
There aren’t white saviors for Detroit. There is an invasion happening. Recolonization of Detroit is happening.

C is for Hipsters

This one is a bit silly.

So I heard a rumor back when I moved to Detroit.

Detroit is the birth of hipster. 

Basically that everyone was too poor to purchase CD’s when they came out so they bought records. Everyone was too poor to buy designer clothes so they bought off brand and thrift stores. 

Now, I am not an expert. I have no idea if it’s true, but it was a fun bit of trivia living and working in Detroit. 

That is the extent of my hipster history knowledge. But, there is something more. ..nobody positively identifies as a hipster. It is definitely a counter culture movement that nobody seems to want to be. People never self identify as a hipster and I wondered why that was. 

I mean, think about it. 

A hipster is

  • Thrifty
  • Environmentally conscious
  • Aware of musical trends 
  • Well educated

A hipster also tends to be

  • A douche 

Which again is weird, but that feeling doesn’t go away depending on who you ask. A hipster is vegan or fruitotarian or only hand makes their clothes. They tend to be white, work as baristas, have rich parents, have liberal arts degrees, also dreads. 

Like none of this should be a bad thing. Yet over and over the counter culture movement of the millennial generation is viewed as negative by both older and present generations. Why? 

It got so bad that articles were written claiming counter culture was dead. Mass consumerism had consumed the counter culture. Found a way to box it and supply it to the masses. 

Full disclosure, I have been called a hipster. When asked why people sort of gesture at me. I think they mean my graphic t-shirts and large board game collection, how I use the word socialism and anarchism appropriately and not communism, my glasses and the fact I’m an artist. I make all my own food, am vegetarian, and am looking into how to garden. I identify as Buddhist, recognizing the beauty of the philosophy while also appreciating the Buddha intended it to be a living doctrine and so explore what it means for me. Also atheist.  None of this am I ashamed of. 

And yet when people call me a hipster, I feel as though I should be. It’s really ridiculous. Why are we so compelled? Is there a reason to despise? To not identify as a hipster? Is there anything wrong with living off the grid, trying to be sustainable? Abstaining from having children? Or is it more a matter of privilege and people having the resources already to do it? 

I don’t have any of these answers. I’m trying not to block myself into categories so much anymore. I feel really strongly in this case because hipster does not define all of my weird, though people try. 

Oh, also the title:

Hipsters are too cool for their own letter “h” so they wound up here. Also I thought it was really funny. 

Sue me. 

B is for Bullshit

B is for Bullshit. Capital Buh-

I wrote a not so good stream of consciousness post not very long ago about this very issue when it comes to the theatre and, in particular, reviews:

Critical Response (Why Everyone Hates Reviews…Fuck ’em)

I thought I said everything in that blog post. But, it just keeps coming up. So let me address something that has been on my mind for a while now: Bullshit.

Bullshit:

usually vulgar

  1. :nonsense; especially:  foolish insolent talk

I’m tired of bullshit in the theatre. Endstop.

What do I mean by bullshit? Let’s do a run down of some of the theatre reviews. Let’s do Detroit (c. 2017)

Detroit:

  1. Slipstream brings zany French farce to Detroit-centric ‘Nain Rouge’
  2. MOT’s ‘Girl of the Golden West’ is gold indeed
  3. Purple Rose tackles marital truths in ‘Vino Veritas’
  4. ‘1984’ feels very 2017 at The Williamston Theatre
  5. Outvisible shines with Mamet’s ‘Oleanna’
  6. World Premiere: ‘Clutter’ at Theatre Nova exposes the pain of no do-overs in marriage
  7. ‘Disgraced’ at The Jet is rough, real and revelatory
  8. UDM’s ‘Avenue Q’ a sharp-edged hoot at The Boll Theatre
  9. Premiere: ‘Capital’ good time at Detroit Rep
  10. Riverbank’s ‘Shrek’ a fairy good time

These are the top 10 newest reviews for Encore Michigan, the region’s only review website.

Full disclosure, I know a lot of these people. I even like a lot of these people, but if the last 10 shows were all unequivocal successes, I’ll eat my shoe.

Nain:

For optimum enjoyment of Nain Rouge, it may be best to surrender one’s sense of disbelief and any strict reliance on plotlines. Farces are meant to be enjoyed, not understood.

Golden West: “gold indeed” it’s in the title, mate.

Vino:

Unfortunately, the staging of this significant reveal feels clunky. Lauren re-enters but stops short, as if to eavesdrop, despite being in Ridley’s and Claire’s line of vision. In this way, logistic questions – like, if the wine makes you tell the truth, wouldn’t Lauren’s presence not affect Phil’s words? – threatened to distract attention from one of the play’s defining moments.

Would you look at that! I’m just about ready to eat my shoes.

But the play sticks the landing, with as satisfying an ending as you could hope for.

…Never mind

1984:

Director Tony Caselli deserves credit for these key shifts in his actors that give this production an intensity and intelligent interpretation. He paints a chilling picture from the very beginning and uses the staging and pacing to communicate the fear that is ever-present in this world. He knows when to build things up to a point of suspense and when to provide the audience with some relief, though don’t expect many laughs during this presentation.

Mamet:

The play flies by in one act at just over an hour. Get to the theatre a few minutes early and you can hit the Dairy Queen just the other side of the parking lot.

Clutter:

The writing here is razor sharp and the acting is more than up to doing it justice.

Disgraced:

The script and this production are is brilliant, taut and razor sharp. The 90 minutes flies by.

Avenue Q:

The cast is truly strong across the board, there is no weak link in either acting or singing.

Good Time:

The Rep’s compact stage doesn’t lend itself to run-around comedy but the cast manages pretty well and some moments are especially choice:

Shrek: Come on! This is Shrek!

There were a few musical moments when the mic balance was not ideal, and there were a couple scene changes that could have been a bit smoother, but that is not what audiences will remember. They may not even leave the theatre raving about the music, which felt incidental to the story in many places. They will, however, be talking about how thoroughly funny this show was, how many times they laughed aloud, how the little details brought the characters to life. There is no better way than humor to teach a wise lesson: don’t ever judge a person on outward appearance.

Fucking SHREK?! Really??

What about New York?

New York:

Aladdin

If a genie had sprung from my teakettle last week and offered to grant me three wishes, I might impulsively have asked to be spared any more children’s musicals. Since a certain blockbuster feline arrived well over a decade ago, Broadway has been lapped by wave after wave of big, often gloppy songfests adapted from animated movies, mostly from the mother ship, Disney.

So the prospect of “Aladdin,” promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney’s popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations.

The Broadway version of “Aladdin” sticks to the movie’s formula, but also infuses the conventions of the genre with a breezy insouciance that scrubs away some of the material’s bland gloss.

We can’t even speak ill of the Disney babies?!

Amelie

This mild-mannered musical adaptation of the famously divisive 2001 French film is unlikely to inspire similarly passionate responses.

I was like! Yes! Finally! Some serious critical reviews here.

Instead I get:

it is pleasant to look at, easy to listen to and oddly recessive. It neither offends nor enthralls.

WHAT IS THAT?

Now, this is not a call to “bash”. I don’t want people to be torn apart in reviews, far from it. But, vigorous, spirited conversation is what I hope the people want to read and what we want to engage in. If I read “pleasant to look at, easy to listen, and oddly recessive,” I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Let me recommend the reviews for Clutter, Vino, and 1984 in particular. They are quite good reviews. And, to be honest, the New York Times does do good reviews, they can afford to go into much more detail and I know much less about the theatre scene in their area than I do in mine.

Let me recommend Nain Rouge @ Slipstream, Oleanna @ Outvisible, 1984 @ Williamston, & Clutter, oh and Good Times. Those are strong companies with solid work.

My point is this: not everyone is going to produce gold every time. Not if what they are aiming at is art. If we can’t speak truthfully about a theatrical event without letting bullshit get in the way.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Shrek really was a great musical as it is billed to be and as the reviewer seems to think. Who knows? But, if in the damn review it says: 

They may not even leave the theatre raving about the music, which felt incidental to the story in many places.

Then, it wasn’t a very good musical was it?!

Simply say that! I enjoyed it, it was fun because it was funny, not a good musical. Here are some specifics.

People’s trust in main stream media, news sources, and enthusiast press are steadily declining. I don’t think that journalism is any worse than it was. However, I do feel like we dance around the issues at hand when it comes to our enthusiast press simply because we are afraid of something.

Normally I’ve got hope for the end of my blog posts, but today I’m just tuckered. So I’ll leave you with this:

Let’s do better.

 

A is for Acting

Acting. Capital A.

So, I am an actor, I would know.

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I have been doing this for a while. And there is something that I really hate that also starts with an “A”. Academia. OR more specifically actor training in the U.S.

So, to give some history I have been an actor for well over ten years now. Much of that time has been spent in schools. Now, I was very fortunate to work in schools that made sure that I performed and got better at my craft.

boucher-miles

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

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Still nope, although Annie is pretty.

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Perfect. So I have done a lot in my life as an artist. One of the biggest things is get my terminal degree: an M.F.A. And what I learned from getting my M.F.A. is that an M.F.A. is almost never worth it.

The reasons why are the subject of this post.

the reasons

  1. Art is practice
  2. Art is worth paying for
  3. Art is weird

With me so far? It’s okay if you’re not we’ll break them down.

Art is Practice

Acting is not learned from sitting in classrooms. It is learned from working, from practicing in front of a live audience.

The idea of academia is that of master and apprentice, like you can work in front of your peers “safely” and that will teach you the craft.

Well, I worked in another artisan craft: baking.

Professionally. For a time.

My “training” was waking up before 3am to get to work to make the “easy” breakfast items before a crowd of people.

There was no safety net. There was no barrier between me and my customer. The only thing was sometimes my boss or mentor would say,

“don’t worry, I’ll go and explain that we have no_____ today” EXCEPT HE NEVER DID THAT!

You know why? Because we had to make it work. We found ways to make it work.

That is the truth about a master-apprentice program. You are literally working your asses off in order to provide a service because if you don’t, you don’t eat that week. And boy did he let me know it.

But, I was grateful through all of the headaches and all of the times where he flipped out on me.

You wanna know why?

Art is worth paying for

I got paid.

It was as simple as all that. The man paid me. I was a baker’s assistant and working my way up. That was the best thing in the world.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to call yourself an actor when all of your training is done at school? when you are paying your teachers for the privilege of what you are being taught?

It is an inversion of the system. The master pays you for your sub-standard work and because you are indebted to him, you work insanely hard to get better faster. In school, I paid my teachers for their work and I soaked it up at my own pace. Because there was no judge and jury. Because I couldn’t be held responsible.

Some actor training you never see an audience. Why is that? I knew kids who graduated with the same degree as me who were never, not once, cast in a show. They never saw an audience and proceeded out into the wild. Sometimes to teach. Shivers.

Art is weird

 

Art is weird.

It just is man. People use it as a catch all and I hate that, but to deny that at its heart art is about the mystery of the universe would be a foolish blunder.

Art is meant to be about the inexpressible: synthesizing an intangible experience into a tangible one. Allowing space for the audience to transform that experience into emotion, into memory is what artists do.

We create opportunities for emotional synthesis. No wonder we are worth paying, even though nobody wants to.

Bearing that in mind: every single artist training program (that I am aware of) has a set curriculum with natural progression.

This is the worst training for an artist.

Why? Because it does not prepare you for the realities of art. The most powerful and interesting experiences that I had as an artist always always always came from my own natural curiosity. The only lessons about the art came from me seeking out knowledge for myself. That is what professional artistry looks like:

I wonder if I can make food float.

I wonder what it would be like to do a minstrel show, today.

I wonder what this would look like–how that would work–where we could…

Those are interesting questions, worth exploring. Teachers setting down stuff arbitrarily are good exercises. What they found when they did the research was that artists did some of their best work in art school. Why? Because they were given arbitrary rules that invoked creativity in some way.

I acknowledge the truth of that, but think it only strengthens my position: artists learn from other artists by being set difficult tasks where neither know the solution.

So what does that do? It takes the best part of the master-apprentice relationship and puts it into the art school. Great. Then what? Then, nothing. The student never learns to do that for themselves. They almost always learn that that sort of assignment will come from outside of themselves.

I have met artists, consistently I might add, in almost every profession who say:

It took me __ number of years to get over my training.

That horrifies me, but is absolutely true. SO what can we do about it?

Work professionally.

Students: Always accept money for your work. If you have the choice to do something for school or professionally, always work for the money. It teaches students that they are worth it, that their art is worth paying for and it bolsters the program.

Teachers: Continue to work professionally. You should be the contact and the bridge for students to enter the professional world. If you are so far removed from the business of acting that you cannot communicate anything about it to students, then what are you for?

Programs: Don’t box in students by saying they cannot audition for professional work. Pick smaller shows or smaller seasons. The kids are already paying tuition. DO NOT put them in indentured servitude too. That is bullshit.

Create.

Students: Find your own projects. Bring them to your teachers and ask if there is any way that you can do them.

Teachers: Encourage your students to create original or unique works. If they like writing, encourage them to write a show for themselves or their classmates. Do that production as a class project. If they are interested in the classics, encourage them to do something with that, but to also challenge their bias.

Programs: Encourage students to choose the pace of their curriculum. A self-study program is probably the most valuable and the most interesting when it comes to artistry that I have ever encountered. The reason being is that that means that those kids have to actively create their own program and that is the most artistic thing I could think of for school.