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.

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.

 

What is necessary for writing? p.II

The Middle Bit

Okay, for a little bit more…

Q: What is necessary for writing?

A: This much…

-me 2016

So what is absolutely necessary for writing? For art?

For me and my artistry it lies in the middle bit. The beginning and the ending are the hard parts. That is what separates the good from the bad from the ugly. Middles are, relatively speaking easy.

They are not easy. 

But, relatively? Compared to beginnings and endings, middles are easier. All you have to do is right two words: “This much…”

Or maybe less? Maybe all that is necessary is one word: “This…”

Maybe less? A letter? “T…”

Less? “…”

The point is…all you need to write is just to write. That is the secret of the Middle Bit. Writing anything, and let me say this ANYTHING means you are that much closer to a finished product. Think about that.

My saving grace has been and always will be Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo

1

For those who do not know: Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month. It is a celebration of the novel inside each of us.

The goal or how to “win” Nanowrimo is by writing a novel in a month. They break it down:

  • 1 month
  • 30 days
  • 50,000 word goal
  • At least 1,666.6 (repeating) words per day

That is a lot of content for those who do not know. But, it is about 2-5 pages depending on spacing and font. Anyone can write two to five pages a day! But, the truth is so much more simple than that.

The truth is the time limit does not really matter. The novel already exists inside of the writer.

50,000 words and the novel is outside of you. Sure, it might be a crummy novel, but that is what editors are for!

So if, after the first day you hit word count: 48,334 words to go.

After five days and you hit word count every day: 40,000 words to go.

After fifteen days: 25,000 words to go.

By the end of the month you have a novel(ette): 50,000 words.

But, even if you are the worst person at Nanowrimo, even if you are just a writer on weekends and you only write two words a day: “This much…” you are still chipping away at that block: 49,998…96…94…92…90…

Don’t believe me? Try it. Write “This much…” right now. Write it in whatever medium feels good: Word, Google Machine, Paper, Stone, Ageless Monolith from the Time Before…whatever blows your skirt up.

Write it out and see if you don’t feel better. If you do, then great, let it lie and call it a good day. You don’t? What would you prefer to write? Did you remember that scene that you have been putting off writing for a script, for a book, for a poem? You want to write it don’t you? You’re itching to write it…I may have to go away for a second…

Okay, I’m back!

The point: Middles beget Middles.

You do not need to get too far into your work to realize where you would rather be and what you would rather be doing. Listen to those voices. Listen to those impulses.

Ideas stack and take up space. By writing them out you get space enough for new ideas. Otherwise they will just keep itching. Write the blog post, sketch the sit-com, write a podcast, & WRITE A NOVEL.

No “or’s”, just writing. Middle bit after middle bit until the work is done. Until you hit your 500/1,600/5,000/10,000 word count. You build and you grow as an artist. Don’t tackle more than you are ready to take on in a single night. Don’t tell yourself you are going to bang out a novel in a weekend. That is probably artistic suicide (unless that sounds really cool to you in which case, why are you listening to some guy on the internet?…go…Go…WRITE THE DAMN THING).

The point is, start small. Start tangible and start with just two words:

“This much…”