Archive for November, 2009

Breathing Beckett

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Beckett for IGT Nov09This week in Brussels there’s a group of Samuel Beckett’s plays on, having been directed by my friend, Róisín Dore. Plays are ‘All that Fall’, ‘Breath’, ‘Play’ & ‘Catastrophe’. She asked me to contribute with her on “Breath”

For this very short play, I needed to seek out a baby crying and to record myself breathing. Very slowly in, then exhaling, very slowly. Meanwhile, on stage, in half-light, a static image of an artful mess. I love Beckett. I supplied three breathing samples and emailed them over to her, as well as baby cries. Róisín selected and mused. I then sound edited according to her direction. A few more emails & tightening. Lastly, she came over, sat next to me before my editing screen, and we honed.

Now it is onstage. The plays opened November 24, and I was there in the audience. The production and performances (and imagination and direction) were of an uncommonly high standard. I say uncommonly, because this is what is referred to as an Amateur Production. Expectations can often be middling for an satisfying aesthetic experience in such a setting, but in my long theater-going experience, there’s only good theater and bad theater. I have experienced amateur productions that rivaled professional productions. I have seen many disasters in both. This was moving, thoughtful, fun. After the lights came up, many in the audience began buzzing conversations in their seats, the most gratifying result a production could hope for. Engagement.

Happily, the run is sold out.

Róisín also acts, and here’s a monologue she performed for me, called Hold That Thought.

How to Write a Great Novel — a fast twitch answer to the question

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Recently I linked via Facebook an article on“How to Write a Great Novel”.

Then I had someone message me, “Sure seems a messy process! How do YOU do it?”

First of all, I never set out to write a Great Novel. That’s a value judgment for reviewers and readers. I set out to write about interesting people in interesting situations in my voice using my imagination.

I did the years–decades–of staring at the white sheet of paper, then the blank computer screen–and wondering how every writer I admired (and some I didn’t) wrote, and read endless interviews and features, the beginner’s drudgery of finding inspiration and hope in another’s work habits.

Finally the fully-loaded and tuned imagination finds the individual voice and such articles on other authors’ working methods become minor curiosities.

Practically, I don’t do research, unless it happens when walking around and I encounter something and make a literal or mental note of it. If I write something that requires looking up, then I dump it and imagine something else. In my work, imagination always wins over facts. Reality is a starting point, not the main point.

After all the thinking and noting is done, if the actual book takes more than three months to write or is over two hundred pages, it’s too long. I have fast twitch muscles. Also, if the work doesn’t flow and I have to gnaw at it too much, means the subject, the characters, the story, is not yet mine. I allow it incubate some more, or I just let it go. If it wants to come back later on down the line, I’ll be here. If I’m not, it’ll find someone more suitable.

To expand on this. I’ve always got several books going at once, so if one refuses to budge or is insistently unripe, I shift to another. Let my subconscious fiddle with the problem while I word-word elsewhere until it comes tapping me on the shoulder and I say, Ah yes. Welcome back.

I have no time for writers who say, Doing this writing stuff is so hard. Then go be a trash collector, a waiter, or a middle manager. Do something that you don’t find so hard.

An empty page is a playground where anything is possible.

I don’t work at writing. I have long defined work as doing something when you would rather be doing something else.

There seems to be a lot of academic, labor intensive types in this article. As though if it is not hard work, it doesn’t have much chance at being serious. Pain is not gain. It is pain.

I hope that answers the question. If it doesn’t, it’s all the answer I have at this moment. (Or it is as deep as I choose to dig into this particular subject.) I prefer to spend my time in wonder, not thinking process and chin-stroking “aren’t I interesting in how I do my writing”. That’s the least amazing part of the imagination.

Imagination full-loaded

Zombies say Buy It

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Just happened to meet some zombies lately, as one does. Seems they all read my book and had become fan zombies. They insisted I video them. They wanted to tell you, the mass reading public, that you need to buy this book. This has nothing to do with me. It’s a zombie thing, and as anyone who has ever dealt with them, you do what zombies tell you to do.

Otherwise they bite you, and you go weird, and your social life takes a dive. So there’s this video of zombies telling you what have to do, one after another. And if you don’t get blunt message by the end of this video, then you’ll never get it. Or you’re just a dork-zombie yourself.

And if you want to buy it — always be closing, thus spake David Mamet — just click over to Amazon, any Amazon (USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Japan…you listening to me in Japan?) type in my name or the name of this book…oh, “How to Find Yourself (or a reasonable facsimile)” and there it will be. Then Buy It.

Or go to Book Dispository (.com or do the above, & they send the book for free.

Now get your eyes & ears to the Zombies. It’s barely a minute long. Link: Zombies say Buy It

David Byrne does it for me

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I’m not going to get into the heavy habit of placing huge amounts of links for tons of other sites, whether writers, publishers, artists, whatnot. I’m big on the attention span drain that can occur online and off. Easy does it my modest motto in this. However. Once in a while, I want to mention something or someone that I always look forward to.

I subscribe to quite a number–some days way too many–blogs. Yet I’m always pleased to see entry from David Byrne. Him of Talking Heads fame, and many, many projects in many different areas since. His site layout and thoughts are clean, considered, enlightened and connected. And he doesn’t put out that many posts, so he is always welcome. He takes good (or fines & sources) photos and is very socially minded, about city layouts, environment and artistic matters, how much is interconnected. So….

…for those interested in visiting, click on the man’s face—


A song, the businessman, memory lapse, an actor with scruples

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Another week, another video.

In performing what is often called Promotion for this first book that my publishing company is launching, one would offer to the market a single video, maybe two. I, however, have more than just a couple of videos, mainly because I enjoy making them and have talented people willing and at hand.

Anyway, I have little interest in “offering to the market”. How about just entertaining some folks who like the kind of stuff I do.

The four bits in this video did not find their way into last week’s “Reader Testimonials” video (see my previous blog post) because they deserved more room, more breathing space, were slightly different in approach than the others (each unfolds over time) and hey they cut well together.

As always, hope you who read this enjoy this offering. Make a comment on the YouTube comments page, or this blog if you are so inclined. Mostly, if you like, that’s enough. If you want to pass along to others you know, happy days all around.

Next week, another vid. I think it’ll be one where they read out favorite bits from the book.
Book cover, partial

Here’s the link:

A song, the businessman, memory lapse, an actor with scruples

About my Reader Testimonial video for my “How To Find Yourself” Book

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Weird Muttering Motor Scooter guy gives book the thumbs up

Here’s the link to the video:

Recently I put out a “Teaser” video, as they say in the industry. That video was meant to tease you into wanting to see (or can’t-wait-to-see) this video. Now you how how great creative minds work in the promotional world.

Except I found when editing that there’s just way too much good material that didn’t fit. So this video is one in a line of more videos coming your way. All right, just call me a one big unending tease.

The idea is to have some fun doing this. Amuse viewers giving of their time & attention. And if someone somewhere down the road purchases my creative little nugget, so much the better.

For the time being, it’s just fun spreading the word.

The idea behind this video is: when some videos on book launches came my way online, I’d look (I fancied up this activity by calling it research). There’s lots of mostly earnest videos out there. Videos that work hard to brand and market and “share” in the name of selling. They made my eyes go ouch. I recall one, obviously held at some swank New York launch party, where people were herded into some corner of some bar with music and launch-party merriment going on off-screen. One after another extolled the virtues of some book about being the best thing on publishing “in years”. And “this book breaks down the barriers…” And, “a defining moment in–” — can’t write anymore of this. My keyboard gags.

Right then I said, I have to make me one of those testimonials video thingies. But turn it right on its head. As it deserves. And since my book is about a bunch of so-called made-up experts delivering their self-help wisdom and weird silliness, this Testimonial Video should do just that. (Italics & bold are my ideas of blog Hollywood lights flashing through the night sky.)

Then I asked 24 people to volunteer for this. 20 stood tall. Three others showed initial eagerness but died by the wayside. Another was in a distant country.

And it was because of this, the actors and friends giving so happily and fully to my ideas and what-the-fuck-try-this directions, that I decided to write & direct another play for March 2010.

Thanks for reading this, and hey, leave your damn messages right below here. This is a blog. Yell at me. I’ll yell back. (Or Add Comment at the YouTube link.)

Here (again) is the link…in case you’re too lazy to go back to the beginning of this blog. If you like it, there’s more videos to come. If you don’t like it, well, then I’ll cry myself to sleep. And wake refreshed.

Link to video

Oh–book’s cover, i.e. brand-market-share.

How to find yourself (or a reasonable facsimile) - cover

Story – A cat dies

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

In 2003, a cat I shared the house with died. I wrote a short piece about its last days. Later I turned it into a dramatic  monologue I directed for the theater. Here’s the words, & a link to the monologue.
This morning the cat, Tanit, twelve years of bad character and weird behavior, was found when Monique went to get the vacuum cleaner in the veranda and I heard her scream. Kitty was dead in the corner of the veranda, laying hidden between the stove and the wall, behind inert domestic equipment. She’d been dead a day or two, one side of her flat from lying in the same position. Eyes open, goop having leaked from them.
She had had a tumor diagnosed at the beginning of the summer. She limped and stumbled toward her death. Carefully moving in the garden from one stone slab to the next, sometimes listing sideways, her usually adroit paws colliding with one another, once ending up on her side in the corgette plants.
She would get up, knowing something was dreadfully wrong, and move on. She panted on, lying under the fir tree when it was too hot, going from one spot to another, usually avoiding the sun, whereas in days gone by she was always trying to follow the sun, gather its warmth, bathe in it.
The last Saturday of her life we had a ten people over for lunch in the garden, and she had joined us, being socialable, rubbing and even eating, with relish, some bits of beef I gave her. I could see her eating the dropped morsels with gusto, then, during a good gnaw the sixth piece, suddenly she froze, her eyes figuring, the pain there, a sudden loss of appetite, and she turned and walked into the neighbor’s bushes, and sat, then lay down in the shade, unmoving. During lunch, I had picked her up and laid her emaciated body across my two palms and showed her to everyone. She did not move; she had purred.
Now flies land on her corpse, and scamper toward her eyes, to suck on those unblinking orbs.
That was the original bit I wrote.  Five years later, I turned it into a monologue. If you watch the video of it I made here.
Close listening will reveal that some textual changes were made. Nearly always necessary for spoken text adapted from prose meant for reading. Much of it is the same, however, with only the names have been changed to protect…

Last year, on Obama’s election last year

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

When I still was in a writing workshop 12 months ago, each member had to write something brief on what happened to them during the last two weeks. This was read aloud at the beginning of every meeting. A year ago, mine was on the election of Obama. I post this here without further commentary.
I come at this literary exercise with many of my ironic teases and off-hand wisecracks trying to regain a foothold in my character. I need to find a joke. I need to find a shrug. I need to defend like hell this encroaching entity that’s been spinning and ricocheting around the globe, and in my heart, since November 4th, 2008.
I need to stop getting all teary-eyed about Barack Obama.
I need to let myself get all teary-eyed about Barack Obama.
I spent all day Wednesday after his election reviewing the reactions, and the speeches, and the commentary on this historic win, and found myself getting all teary, and it was good.
My problem with Obama has always been the same.
An irritating lift of hope emerging within.
I do not want to believe someone can change the world for the better. We only have people like Bush, and many others, who can change the world for the worse. That has come to be my main belief system where politics is concerned.
Politics is about belief then betrayal.
I spent election night in a hotel in downtown Brussels, near the European Commission. I shared celebrations with Belgians, British, Irish, Italians, French and others who were as enthusiastic and ebullient, if not more so, than the Americans there. Many of them were young. And full of hope. Then the next day the numerous heartfelt congratulations I received from European friends confirming what an international election this was, and that a lot of non-Americans were dancing in the street in their hearts.
So I let myself say, You did good, America. You did good, USofA.
So for that moment, American heads could be held a bit higher. That it was okay again to be an American.
So all my sophisticated defensives fight amongst themselves, calling for Realism, Skepticism, Level-Headedness…and then watching and listening to Obama’s acceptance speech, and finding tears sliding down my checks, and thinking, goddam, goddam, goddam, in spite of myself, in spite of everything I know and have experienced, goddam, I am full of hope.