Monday, August 3, 2009

Okay Sappyfest...

I owe you an apology. Not that I didn't already give you several simultaneously with the irrational slagging, but I must say, you surprised me in some pretty pleasant ways in the handful of hours I managed to grab hold of.

Started with a contemporary dance show at the Old Sackville Music Hall.

Insufficient blogger apology time: I keep going to things at said space and going, "Dang, I didn't bring my camera. I will not be able to share the glory in a visual way with the pudding on my blog."

But the fact is that not bringing a camera is, I'm fairly certain, at least partially intentional on some level. See, the Music Hall is a majestic place. I'm a person who gets thrilled pretty easy sometimes; it's possible to say I'm thrillable to a fault. Like, the sketchy stall doors in the Ladies' Room at George's Roadhouse? Oddly exciting to me. Can't quite explain it, I just Adore Things to an Uncommon and therefore Somewhat Conspicuous extent. The Music Hall is one of the few places where I can count on always seeing others as bowled over as I am my the majesty of what they behold. That's precious.

I do not often take precious photographs. I never take majestic photographs. I don't know how to fit enough of the feeling of being in a place as wonderful as the Music Hall inside that puny viewfinder, and I'm always so disappointed by the results whenever I attempt to capture such a spot. If I come across suitable capturings by more talented hunters than myself, I'll let you know, but for the meantime, all I can say is you have to go there for yourself.

Anyhow. The contemporary dance show was quite splendid. I was tickled by how much of the dancing was done without any musical accompaniment at all. Not long after, on the street, I made friends with a recent graduate of kindergarten who asked me to dance with her to nothing in between songs.

Ah yes. The street. This is where I was really won over. For a while after I came out of the dance show, I hit another wave of discontentment, and floundered there for a while, sulking on the curb of the closed-off Bridge Street taking far too much notice of the differences between it (and its people) and the grassy farmland where so many of my long time friends were hippy-stomping their little hearts out this weekend.

At last, I happened to notice a poem somebody had written in chalk on the street. I liked it, and thought this was a trend of decoration I would very much like to participate in, if given the opportunity. So I looked about for a stray piece of chalk. I didn't find one, but I recalled that I had a whole barely-touched bucket of the stuff languishing on my bedroom floor in anticipation of just such an occasion, so I scurried home to fetch it. When I returned, I was pleased to find that placing such a bucket in the middle of the most chalkable part of the street served as an invitation to play for all the best kinds of people. I quickly made the acquaintance of two teenagers from the local area, an assortment of wee ones (and, to a lesser extent, their parents), and a dashing young maze-making fellow named Robin from Toronto who, as I gradually assessed is way too awesome.

As he was eager to experience maximum quantities of Sackville-style joy before trekking back to the city, I offered, in the lull between bands, to be his escort to another of Sackville's most objectively majestic sites: The Bridge That Isn't There.

The Bridge That Isn't There actually has a lot in common with the Music Hall, as it's a relic of the town's history, a moment that's been left suspended for the time being, something we can see and touch and imagine about, but not quite use in the usual sense. These are places that wake us up while reminding us of dreams that slipped through the cracks between the subconscious and the semi-conscious state with which we usually approach our more mundane surroundings. Standing in places like these, our dreams begin to bob up towards the surface, and our arms grow longer to snatch them up leaving us odd and grateful and confused that we have been going about without these right where we can see them all the time.

Back to the street, to behold the wondrous additions that had been made to the chalky spectacle in our absence. More people of varying heights, ambitions, and beardedness to frolic and converse with. I got sucked repeatedly into a game of tag -- which is an accomplishment that the children of Bridge Street are to be equally commended and admonished for. (Have I talked about how irrationally traumatised I was by simple childhood games? I really, really sucked at being a kid. I like to pretend it had something to do with being mildly physically disabled for a while, but honestly, I was just an awful, miserable child who did not deserve to live.) Strangely, I rather enjoyed it. Even the tag part.

There were moments I did not so much enjoy, like when a guy I didn't know at all spat at me in a very condescending fashion that I "should not take drugs," causing me to a) give him the finger, and b) spend another handful of moments sulking on the curb about the miseries of being joyful in a society which doesn't believe you can consciously engage with joy without altering your consciousness.

After a while talking to one of my new teenage friends about it, it occurred to me that it probably made more sense in this context to interpret the instance not so much as "societal" as, "one asshole."

Of course, there is a troubling societal context that precipitates such one-asshole situations, and I do think it's important to face that head on and throttle the pseudolife out of it whenever possible, but when the question of the moment is whether to dance or sulk for the rest of the evening, the one-asshole approach seems to more often lead to giving the right answer.

Sappyfest, you are not Blue Skies, but that doesn't mean I can't like you too. Thanks for those hours. They were much appreciated.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dear strangers who look like absent friends: you're probably nice, but go away.

So I'm supposed to be at Sappyfest this weekend.

I'm supposed to be writing blog entries with lots of shiny pictures of how great this thing is that happens here and saying that at home we have a great big beautiful music festival this weekend too, so it's great to be able to participate in something like this even when I'm far away from where I'm from.

So I'm sorry that I'm not doing that.

And I don't really have a good excuse, or any kind of basis, but I'm kind of just feeling like "fuck Sappyfest"...

Which is not a nice thing to say, and no doubt entirely undeserved.

Let's say I'm homesick.

Let's say I'm tired of people acting cool about the things they love.

Let's say I'm not jealous of them for being able to do that any more.

Let's say I still feel bad for being the giddiest fangirl most times I go to things.

Let's say if I was where I usually am this particular weekend in August, that wouldn't be true.

Let's say I just called my Mom to ask for an eggplant recipe and ended up in tears by the time I hung up.

Let's say Sackville is a lover I've been out of love with for a while.

Let's say I feel awful about this whole entry, but I'm still going to post it.

Let's say I still find this place so beautiful, charming, witty, and enigmatic -- but let's say I just can't be bothered to crack that enigma any more.

Let's say these things happen.

Let's say I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry.

Let's say this'll be pretty awkward, continuing to live together now that I've let this out, and why couldn't I wait until I was just about to leave.

Let's say this has no bearing on anybody but me.

Let's say I don't know where I'm going from here, and maybe that's why I'm getting so difficult about this right now.

Let's say it can be difficult to discern what awful thoughts should be lied about and which should be shared.

Let. Us. Say.

That I am very often afraid, although I think fear is a major problem inflicted on us from disingenuous sources.

Let us say that I have been too hesitant.

Say I shouldn't be here now.

Say I hope you are enjoying the lovely weather and music we are having this weekend.

I'm not so much, but that really has nothing to do with you.

Viva le fest de Sappy.

Just. You know. Without me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

We never could agree about the practical definition of "ages."

Goddamnit Pudding,

I was just about halfway through making a mixtape for me mam when the cassette recorder just started GOBBLING UP the tape at an alarming rate. I tried to salvage it, but alas, it was hopeless, and tore, and I may have wept slightly.

I know, you had nothing to do with it.

I know, it doesn't explain where the heck I've been all this time.

But a girl's gotta begin somewhere.

So yes. I've acquired a turntable. Actually, it's a marvelous multimedia device which has the capacity to play records, cassettes, radio programs, and 8-tracks(!!), much to my delight (although the cassette deck is currently on my shitlist for obvious reasons detailed above).

One thing I like about music is it puts me in a listing mood. With digital music, or even CDs, the lists tend to be playlists: songs divorced from ther albumhood, chatting away to each other as songs, free and whimsical -- certainly derived from some larger body of work and vaguely aware of it, but not too insistent on the importance of their roots.

I make playlists with records, compiling -- or at least trying to compile -- collections of songs onto cassettes, but it's different. Records (and cassettes, for that matter) have a physicality to them that has kind of dripped out of music with more recent mediums.

I'm sorry, I have to stop. Rewind. Choose a different track. I don't want to sound like that. There are a lot of things would rather not be, or even be perceived as. Somewhere on that list (I'm not saying where, 'cause the ranking shifts hourly anyhow): nostalgiasnob.

I'm not denying that I'm nostalgic. It's actually sort of a longstanding problem of mine. Which is kind of my point. I don't want to sound like I think I'm better than you are because lately most of my music spins around and around under a needle. I'm grateful to have brought that type of soundmachine back into my life because it soothes my nostalgic soul, and for the most part I think my current level of fascination with the spinning sounds is a relatively harmless manifestation of my nostalgic tendencies.

What this is primarily about is my itch to list, and what it's secondarily about is my itch to be a nostalgic just indulge me in both at once for a second and then I'll throw in something you're more likely to care about?


Dory Previn - In Concert April 18, 1973 8 PM Carnegie Hall
I'm not even clear on how this ended up in the collection of records I borrowed from my parents and brought East. I certainly don't remember listening to this or any other Dory Previn album during any high school vinyl jag...but I can't get enough of her these days. Like, literally, there aren't enough waking hours for me to have this album in mind. Last night I dreamed I was at an improbably vast family reunion with a lot of fat people I didn't recognise, and at some point it seemed likely that somebody was going to murder somebody else if I didn't act fast, and my dream-version of fast action was to locate a turntable and put this record on. Then an Uncle (who in the dream was played by a very unfat professor who is definitely not related to me, but who I happen to know does have a mighty nice record collection his own self) got very excited and exclaimed "Dory Previn! Omigosh! She was in Abacus!" and all the people who were about to kill each other stopped being about to kill each other and got really excited about Dory Previn and her dream-fictional band called Abacus, which they somehow produced albums out of cupboards to prove the existence of. Then I walked down a hallway and ended up at the top of the hill at my favourite music festival, and accidentally kidnapped a set of 3-year-old Laotian twins, who turned into heavy textbooks in my arms as I very bluntly explained my complete lack of accountability and documentation to the people at the first-aid-tent-turned-adoption-agency, who were trying dangerously hard to be on my side (which I certainly was not). Um. That last part didn't really have any relation to Dory Previn, it was just weird, but what I'm trying to say is, SHE HAS MOVED INTO MY BRAIN AND I LIKE IT. I do not even know why. But, um, check it out:

(You know, in that inferior, digital, divorced-from-its-glorious-context way I snubbed my nose at earlier. Mm-mm, contradictalicious.)

Arlo Guthrie - Washington County
I've probably gushed about Arlo plenty enough for the entire lifespan of this blog as far as the pudding is concerned, but gosh. I really love him, you know? This album in particular makes me swoon every time. It's some serious lie-on-the-floor-and-wallow-in-your-hippychild-crushiness shit. <3 (Somebody respectable recently attempted to make me feel embarrassed about my devotion to this particular dude, so I can report with a reasonable degree of honesty that it ain't gonna happen, but I won't fault you for trying, if that's your thing.)

Holly Near - You can know all I am (A collection of short plays)
The subtitle of this album appeals to me for pretty obvious reasons, and the best thing about it is that it's not just a cute gimmick pointing towards disappointment. These are songs with strong characters, subtly-crafted exposition, lots of suspended questions for added wonder, and the most essential promise of theatre: the possibility of transformation. I remember playing this album over and over again when I was in the process of coming out for the first time in high school (I went to three high schools, so I got to repeat the cycle in triplicate with varying levels of comfort, anxiety, and boredom from within and without). It's interesting, 'cause the album itself has this very one-foot-out-of-the-closet feeling about it, as a complete entity. Lots of pronounless declarations of infatuation and subtle nods that more peripheral characters in the scenes are bonking same-sex-style, as if to test the waters. Obviously, it's a little different listening to this album as a me who thinks nothing of wearing a sweater that broadcasts my QUEER status right above the part where it broadcasts that I am a gal who likes her garments with spacious pockets in front...but it's not entirely unrelated. I think my recent fondness for this album has a lot to do with a particular sort of disbelief that's been hitting me from a couple different angles lately. The general theme is: Holy Shit I Used To Do That And Now I Do This And What The Fuck Happened In Between There?! Like, at some point I did some really hard work to become a different person than I used to be because it wasn't working, and boy am I glad, but I really can't think of anything that sounds more unlike me...again: the promise of transformation. This album reminds me that said miracle is at work in my own life, be it because or in spite of me.

Okay. Three Albums. That's it. I could gush for ages about everything, because that's what I do, but I won't, because that's not what you came here for, I realise.

Ostensibly, you want to know about my summer experiences in Sackville.

Well, the summer got off to a strong start: my first few weeks in service of PARC encompassed the preparation and execution of the annual Playwrights Colony. As one might suppose, I was pretty giddy a lot of the time, rubbing elbows with all those folks who do their own awesome variations on what I want to do when I grow up. Although the main purpose of the Colony is to create a work-inducing retreat for the playwrights, another great perk of bringing such a fantastic group of artists into the same town for two weeks was the opportunity for a couple of really fabulous dinner parties. Nobody tells stories like people who have decided to devote their lives to divining the elusive secrets of storytelling. And nothing talks with its hands more than a kitchen full of thespians with stories up their sleeves that they've been dying to shake out. Glorious; just fucking glorious times, my friends.

Celebrations aside, I had a lot of different kinds of tasks to do over the course of the two weeks, but the most clearly defined sessions of "work" were when I was reading stage directions during script workshops.

If there's one passion of mine that gets more quizzical looks upon declaration than Arlo Guthrie, it's stage directions. I got to read some smashing ones over the course of the colony, including the unspoken adventures of Prince Edward and Madame Julie, buggery among both historical figures from the Renaissance* and contemporary suburbanites, and the antics of a trucker, a stripper, and a June-Carter-lip-synching drag queen pig named Humpy**.

Stage directions are one of those things I feel all adolescently misunderstood on behalf of. I have engaged in ridiculous feuds with classmates and lost my head in solitude over Arthur Miller's verbose parentheticals, among others. So okay. List time again. (I'm sorry. It's summer. I disappear for weeks on end and then I show up stinking of cheap liquor and old books and demanding to be indulged every which way. That's just what life with me is going to be like.)


(Exit, pursued by a bear) -- The Winter's Tale, by William Shakespeare.
It is important to begin with obvious things. If you don't, somebody gets shrill and complains that you are snubbing them. I'm not! My mind takes 100% of the delight it is expected to take in the pursuit by bear sequence. Please do not doubt this. It is true!

(Possibly lying) -- Elizabeth Rex, by Timothy Findley.
I don't want to spoil anything if you don't know this play. But since it's vaguely on topic (assuming I have a topic, which is clearly false), I will say that the context involves buggery. Renaissance buggery, at that. And there's a bear somewhere in the periphery, too. I just love how this direction cuts into this scene that is doing the most presumptuous, and most done thing -- imagining what the heck Shakespeare was really like -- and it's like this little wink, like Findley's saying, "I know, I know, I can't really do this. But you know, lots of things are lies. Like, all the time. Like this, right here. Unless..."

([BIFF] has succeeded less, and his dreams are stronger and less acceptable than HAPPY's. HAPPY is tall, powerfully male. Sexuality is like a visible colour on him, or a scent that many women have discovered.) -- Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller.
Miller just kills me. In this way where I'm like, "Oh my god, I do not understand you at all, but I can tell I'm going to spend large chunks of the rest of my life making failtastic attempts to do so, and these will make me simultaneously the smartest and happiest and the dumbest and most miserable person I know." Yeah. That's what it's like. You should try it some time. You know, with the informed consent that it will ruin your mind as you know it and give to you a new mind full of mouseholes and mother-of-pearl that you will spend the rest of your life trying to learn how to form any sort of coherent thoughts with. But you know. In a good way. If you care for that sort of thing. And you will. Eventually. Once you realise that you have no choice.

(Not a come-on, necessarily; he doesn't want to be alone) -- Angels In America: Millennium Approaches, by Tony Kushner.
It's bits like this, played well***, that make the relationship between these two cheating assholes kind of heartbreakingly sweet. It's a really desperate, pathetic thing, but at the same time, it's also just an expression of that fundamental human desire to look into other people's eyes and ask, "Are you like me? Can we make this work? Can you show me what I'm missing?" Again. Friggin' kills me. In a gentler way than Miller, but no less mindblowing.

Okay. I'll stop again.

So, like I said, the Colony was great -- very busy, all about meeting new people and buzzing around campus and town to do their, bz, bz. The job now is essentially the polar opposite of that: I work alone in a basement doing menial tasks three days a week. Which has its own charms. I sample many unlikely types of tea and listen to a lot of This American Life podcasts while I merge and mitose piles and piles of files that nobody's had much time to pay much mind to during PARC's decade-and-a-half of glorious subterranean existence. (Note: the organisation hasn't always been literally run out of a basement -- and significant chunks of it still aren't -- but the whole concept is kinda about tending to the below-the-surface aspects of Atlantic Canadian theatre.)

Oy. I'm sleepy, and I got work in the morning. Like some kind of damn grown up.

Goodnight, pudding.

More Life,

*If you're in the area, I strongly recommend seeing Nomentacke at the NotaBle Acts festival later this month. Not just for the buggery (there's really not all that much of it, anyhow); mostly for the brilliance.

**These last three characters are from, funnily enough, a one-woman show entitled The Adventures of Donna Earla Glick, which once again, for those who are or will be in the area, is going up at Live Bait (Sackville's own darlin' little professional theatre) in late October-early November.

Can you guess where the direction I quoted comes in?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Good timing.

Hey pudding,

For the first time since my first entry in this blog, I'm blogging from somewhere other than Sackville! It's an occasion. Somebody should probably be making a cake of some kind. If that's not a reasonable expectation, I could also accept several broken triscuits hastily iced with store-bought artificial vanilla frosting. Or something. Sprinkles would be a nice touch.

So yes. Blogging from the home town. Which in my case is not so much a town as it is a big, awkward house my parents built in a gravel pit in the woods of eastern Ontario. Nonetheless, it's good to be back, if only for a few weeks. Come a little nearer to the end of May I'll be making my way back to Sackville to take up my position as intern at the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre. You can 'spect to hear from me about that and whatever else is going on with me in the shire once every fortnight over the summer. Cue the looks of suspended excitement?

Okay. So. Okay. I'm here in Ontario. Which is good for many reasons, not the least of which being that entirely without prior knowledge and/or careful planning, I seem to have timed my return to coincide beautifully with the tail end of Arlo Guthrie's current tour. So last night, accompanied by my brother and my darlin' friend Benjamin, I got to see this long-time hero of mine perform at the Grand Theatre in Kingston.

Funny thing about seeing Arlo Guthrie in Kingston: I spent one semester of my high school career in a program called Theatre Complete; it was in Kingston, and I'm pretty sure Arlo Guthrie was most of what got me into it. I performed the second half of Alice's Restaurant (you know, the whole draft-dodging section) as my entrance monologue. I prepared that monologue for ages in advance of my audition date. I practiced it in my bedroom, in the shower, while walking between classes, and while rowing around Patterson Lake with my aforementioned darlin' friend Benjamin one sunny summer's day. I was basically just so excited to have an excuse to openly obsess about that particular obsession of mine that I more-or-less forgot to be nervous...for the audition portion, that is. Following the audition, there was an interview, which it's safe to say I bombed entirely. I was convinced I had no chance at getting into the program after that, but lo and behold, I guess I wasn't the only Arlo fan in the room during that audition. The big ol' hippy who ran the program decided to give me a chance, and if I had to pick one semester of schooling that had the most concentrated, positive effect on my development into some kind of decent human being (still working on that, by the by), it would be that one. Not only did I come into a number of cheesily life-changing understandings about how theatre works and why I love it so freakin' much, but I also learned a whole heck of a lot about education, activism, and building communities where these three things can mingle freely and make cute, smart, awesome little activismeducationtheatre babies.

Anyhow. Back to last night: it was magical and stuff. He played his old songs; he played his new songs; he played new versions of his old songs; he played his dad's songs; he played his friends' songs; he played old songs somebody must have been responsible for at some point, but which are at this point kind of anybody's songs if they happen to want 'em. As anybody who's ever seen Arlo Guthrie play live knows, he's not the guy you go to see if you just want to hear the music without a lot of extraneous commentary. Heck, some of his best known songs are 99% extraneous commentary. I happen to be a pretty big fan of this kind of rambling, conversational showmanship, which is one of the reasons I was looking forward to seeing Arlo in concert at last. Sure enough, he spent plenty of his stage-time pontificating on various historical, autobiographical, and fictitious points, including a hilarious spinning of what little he remembers from playing at Woodstock when he was nineteen years old, and a prolonged pause right in the middle of This Land Is Your Land to explain how the whole Bible happened, and how it almost didn't...but I think maybe the moment of patter that stood out for me the most was what he tells people who ask him about songwriting, which went something like this:

(In case it is of importance to your mind, this is the song to which that patter segues.)

Funnily enough, what he said echoed something I had heard from a completely different source just a few days earlier. For one reason or another (I think the original search had something to do with Neil Gaiman), I had stumbled upon this video and kind of loved it:

I know nineteen minutes is kind of a steep time-price to pay for a video these days, but in my estimation, this one's worth it if you're any kind of creative person, or aspire to be so. Also, the rest of this post probably won't make a whole lot of sense without your being familiar with the above.

There are a lot of people out there saying this same thing one way or another. Another something I recommend along these lines is Tony Kushner's essay With A Little Help From My Friends (published in this book, and also as an afterword in some editions of Angels In America), in which he takes a big ol' sledgehammer to what he sees as the capitalistic American fetish for the image of the artist as an individual who does something all by coself because co is the brilliant one. I first read this when I was seventeen, and it's kind of still in the process of blowing my mind. Admittedly, I'm still mighty susceptible to the notion that I do the stuff I do, me me me me me myself. But I don't. If I'm being good, I "show up for my part of the job," like Ms. Gilbert says. That's all I can do. Record and refine. That's what I control. Any brilliance I get to partake of will come from without -- not just from these mystical creatures Gilbert suggests we might try believing in as an experiment in staying sane, but from intimates, acquaintances, every teacher from kindergarten to university, artists and writers and performers who've had a knack for tugging and squishing my internal organs around in helpful-if-sometimes-painful ways, strangers overheard on buses and in restaurants and on the radio, et cetera et cetera et cetera. A few months ago, sputtering in rewrites of a particular script, some inexplicably sane part of me (again, probably more of an external force) grabbed a pen and started writing down the various contributions people other than myself had made -- knowingly or otherwise -- to the play thus far. By the time I'd filled two pages with clear influences I could think of off the top of my head I was feeling a lot less sputtery -- because the task wasn't so monumental and lonely as all that. That was just something I told myself for the sake of feeling important (which is something I like to do sometimes, although I can't really explain why). Really, I had two pages of collaborators who, whether they knew it or not (some of them were strangers and some of them were dead), had contributed in their own little and big ways, and my job, although not little, was far from undoable. My only job was to write things down. Recording and refining. Doing my duty.

That script was the last thing I finished. It was a couple of months ago, and as I believed I've mentioned here since, that's abitfuckingterrifying. I'm not Elizabeth Gilbert with her freakish successofabook; the play hasn't even done the bare minimum of what a play is supposed to do yet -- but nonetheless, I have gotten this story down, more-or-less as I'd like to see it, and what if it was my last one? I've kind of been muttering that to myself in all those muttery moments one has in a day, pretty much every day since I released it into the wild (by which I mean, you know, Toronto). And that's stupid. Because of course I don't have any more stories in me. I'm not supposed to. That's not where stories come from. Who the hell do I think I am, anyhow?

More Life,

P.S. - It's me-asking-you-a-question time, remember?

P.P.S. - (That wasn't the question. The question is coming.)

P.P.P.S. - What dead stranger has exerted the greatest influence on you?

Sunday, April 19, 2009


A truly epic thing has occurred!

I got a comment on my last blog post.

Actually, I got two. But one of them was from my dad. But one of them wasn't! At least, it probably wasn't. It was anonymous, and the sneaky thing about anonymity is that it could secretly be your dad, but the other sneaky thing about anonymity is that it has limits, as one tends to give things away, even in a brief message. For example, from the following two sentences...

Actually, Salad Days kind of sucked. It's a travesty that it got production of the year at the Ascars. is possible to deduce that their author is almost certainly in some way affiliated with Mount Allison University, or they most likely wouldn't have opinions about Salad Days (unless they meant the other Salad Days), or the results of the Ascars.

Now, as excited as I was about this bit of audience participation, the thing about other people participating is that it carries with it the risk that this blog will become about something other than me. To prevent this from happening, I speedily composed a response of considerably more than two sentences, just so this saucy anonymous commenter wouldn't forget who's running the show here:

Salad Days certainly wouldn't have been my pick for production of the year, but I do respect how much work went into it. Mainly, I think it's a little peculiar that something that wasn't a full production received "production of the year"...fortunately I don't care enough about the Ascars to go calling it a "travesty".

I haven't talked about some of the really amazing shows I have seen at Mt.A., mainly because I tend to shy away from the whole concept of reviewing things as a general policy. My opinions about things are rarely if ever important enough to hurt anybody's feelings over. So when I do write about theatre in this blog, I focus on why a given show made me happy, and I tend to downplay or just not mention at all the things that kinda irked me. Put like that, I feel a little more like a Windsor Theatre propagandist than I'm really comfortable with...which I suppose brings us back to why I often don't mention the shows I go to see here at all. But then I'm not accurately reflecting a significant and much-loved aspect of my Mt.A. experience, so I basically suck at my job from every possible angle.

Obviously, there's more than a comment's worth of neurosis here, so I'm thinking I should go into more detail with it some time when I've slept more, have fewer papers due in 5.5 hours, and have time to compose an actual blog entry.

Heeeeeeey look, that is what I am doing right now!

So. Here's the thing. I sort of have a problem with the whole practice of reviewing things. There are notable exceptions, but generally speaking, reviews tend to make me feel irrationally depressed.

And, okay, cue the eyerolls. "Of course she despises criticism," you say; "she's a wannabe artist, ain't she?"

Well. Okay. Sure. I've been involved in shows that got not-so-great reviews, and that wasn't exactly pleasant, but honestly, it's not those situations that depress me. If I believe there's value in what I'm working on, it's not all that difficult to accept that not everybody is going to agree with me on that point. If I'm not so crazy about the show myself, by the time it gets reviewed, I'll be free from it soon anyhow, so who cares?

This isn't really about hurt feelings.

And if it was: I've been more upset by obsequiously positive comments on my work (especially my writing) than by harsh judgements of it. I really don't despise criticism. Nor do I despise people hanging out and voicing their opinions.

One of the annoying facts all of my friends have had to roll their eyes and accept about me is that I will manage to turn almost every conversation over to Angels In America at some point. Have I done that here yet? If not, brace yourselves. It is about to begin.

There's this scene where two lovers named Louis and Prior are in their bed talking about Justice (because it's easier than Sickness or Love).

LOUIS: ...for us [Jews] it's not the verdict that counts, it's the act of judgement. That's why I could never be a lawyer. In court all that matters is the verdict.
PRIOR: You could never be a lawyer because you are oversexed. You're to distracted.
LOUIS: Not distracted; abstracted. I'm trying to make a point:
PRIOR: Namely:
LOUIS: It's the judge in his or her chambers, weighing, books open, pondering the evidence, ranging freely over categories: good, evil, innocent, guilty; the judge in the chamber of circumspection, not the judge on the bench with the gavel. The shaping of the law, not its execution.
PRIOR: The point, dear, the point.
LOUIS: That it should be the questions and shape of a life, its total complexity gathered, arranged and considered, which matters in the end, not some stamp of salvation or damnation which disperses all complexity in some unsatisfying little decision -- the balancing of the scales...

This scene has been coming up in my mind a lot lately, mainly in regard to my persistent troubles with the whole practice of shaping an essay so it is truthful and not completely fragmented and insane and just generally a lot like something a person who is both crazy and stupid would write. But it works for my feelings about the principle of reviewing things, too.

There is the odd exception (like the review of Joey Comeau's Overqualified linked above, which pretty much made me pee my pants with happiness and anticipation of bookgreatness), but for the most part, reviews give you the judge on the bench.

I mean, let's stop and think about this for a moment. The principle behind the entire practice of reviewing things is to tell somebody who hasn't seen/read/heard/experienced something yet What It Is Like. Spoilers aside (I am somewhat anti-spoiler, but it's a minor qualm), I find that principle somewhat problematic. I think reviews can actually damage one's perspective going into a work of art (or a cheesy movie), because not only do you have somebody else's notions about it in mind, but in a lot of cases, you have some kind of feeling about the reviewer. So you go out with some kind of predisposition to agree or disagree with somebody else's feelings about it. I think it removes you to a certain extent from actually experiencing the friggin' thing for yourself, and that's just obnoxious.

Have I mentioned I also have iffy feelings about standing ovations? I give them sometimes, either because of peer pressure, because I'm related to somebody on stage, or (more rarely) because my enthusiasm in the moment of the play's completion is (at least almost) entirely unmixed. If the play's worth thinking about, my feelings certainly had mixed moments at other times during the show, and will be mixed up later when I do more thinking. That's what I'm saying: the Standing O doesn't mean that much, and neither does anything I might present about what other people do, especially if I'm writing with the explicit intent of selling or deterring folks from the doings of others. Often, when I recommend a movie, book, play, whatever to a friend or family member, it's not because I think it's 5 stars or transcendently fabulous or anything. More likely, it's because i want to talk about it, which is a want that can lead to some high quality discourse and spiffy realizations, often regardless of the actual objective brilliance of whateveritwas.

I guess if you wanna get really hippy-dippy flakester about it, my constant angsty struggle with the scales makes perfect cosmological sense: I'm a Libra to the core, baby. (Except that, as a Libra, my feelings about the veracity or bullshitness of the entire practice of astrology are, of course, perpetually suspended in mid-judgement.)

The point, dear, the point?

Conversations FTW. Especially with tea, or in the laundry room, or in the morning in the car, or in the dark with enough pillows. Or...I don't know. Favourite conversation zones? I'd love to hear about 'em.

More Life,

P.S.- This isn't a secret, but it likes to pretend. Summersackvillian fans of wonder, prepare to make it happen. I love you.

P.P.S.- Earlier comments about fear of audience participation were thoroughly fasticious. Audience (or reader) participation is my favourite thing, next to rhubarb pudding. [In addition to offering any responses you may have to the above inquiry about preferred conversational situations,] let's start a new thing where I ask you a question in a post-script at the end of every blog entry and you tell me the answer (or a more beautiful lie) in comments, shall we?

P.P.P.S.- What's the most wondrous true thing you can think of right now?

P.P.P.P.S.- Lemon has a tendency to bring out the pinkness in things, if things are tea.

P.P.P.P.P.S.- This makes me want somebody to do a 1.25 minute parody of the JasonLandon Salad Days:

It too could be so charmingly appalling. Like that time they closed the sketch show at Windsor Theatre by mimicking the end of Marion Bridge, and making the nun fall off of the bridge. That was glorious. I liked that.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S.- Actually, as of the time I am posting this, there are 5 comments on the most recent entry, and only one of them is my dad and only one of them is me and only one of them is a friend identified by name, which leaves a staggering TWO anonymous participants. Awesome. Let's do better, shall we?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What are you rushin' towards? I can't keep up with you no more.

Oh my pudding,

I know, I stay away too long. I don't consider your needs. If we were married, this would be grounds for divorce. But this is the internet. We're all children of the new morning, selfish and greedy and loveless and blind.

I'm joking, of course. I love you dearly, pudding. Of course I do. You know what else I love?

Food shaped like letters of the alphabet.


Also, when Matthew gets carried away spiffing up the chalk board during a Catalyst meeting.

It starts innocently enough with a flowering vagina plant...
A few phallic mushrooms, for equal representation...
But then somewhere along the line, somebody gets into the ENCHANTMENT...
M. TotallySinisterLookingRabbit makes an appearance...
Accompanied, as always, by the Caribou of Questionable Motives...and...well...I don't think I can show you what happens next. It's TOO SILLY.

Contrary to what my blog may sometimes lead you to believe, Catalyst does actually get some pretty serious work done around here from time to time. For example, we recently held a forum to discuss religious perspectives on queer sexuality. And just this Monday, we showed a film called Boy I Am, about FTM transgender issues.

Hey look, you can watch the trailer. It was a really well-made film, I thought. Definitely recommended viewing, if you ever get the opportunity.

We're also nearing completion on our fabulous ZINE PROJECT, which is probably the endeavour that I've put the most work into as Activism Chair this year. I'm really hoping that this can become an annual Catalyst undertaking, so I've suggested that we elect somebody to the position of Zine Editor next year, mitosing it off from the Activism Chair position so that whoever is working on the zine next year doesn't end up having their zine work detract from other good activisty Catalyst things they are responsible for, or vice versa. This position will be open to frosh, so if you're interested in queer stuff and cutting and pasting, it could very well be you! (If you don't know what a zine is, or you just want to see lots of them all in one place, I recommend taking a gander at the Queer Zine Archive Project, which is just sexy beyond compare. Hopefully before too long, we'll have Catalyst content archived there!)

By the way, if you ever have any questions about Catalyst or queer life in Sackville, you're more than welcome to get in contact with The Current President (currently Katie "Gaypants" Saulnier) at catalyst(at)mta(dot)ca, or you can always just get in touch with me at elcameron(at)mta(dot)ca. Neither of us promises to know all the answers, but we are pretty hooked into the folks and the haps in the area, so the least we can do is direct your question to somebody who is more qualified to answer it than we are.


Actually, it's kind of an old subject, by which I mean I'd like to go back to something mentioned in my last entry.

Not 24 hours after I posted that entry, I got a very lovingly pissed off email from a friend who was involved in the workshop reading of my play. She said a lot of outrageously sweet things, but the general gist of it was, "don't belittle what you've done just because it wasn't the same thing that Jason and Landon did, bitch." Which upon re-reading my entry really does sound like something the girl who wrote it needed to hear, but here's the thing:

It's all a lie.

Well. Not quite all of it. I really did think Salad Days was a pretty remarkable achievement, and I really do think I need to be a touch more courageous about exposing my work if I'm really serious about this playwriting thing.

But...well. Okay. I'm going to quote from Sheila Callaghan's blog (pretending for a moment that it's not entirely ridiculous to compare my experience as an undergrad scribbler of as-yet-unstaged carnival adventures to the experience of a playwright who's cartoon likeness has appeared in the New Yorker):

"I don't want to get all braggy on the blog...but I FEEL braggy. Like, very. WILDLY. Which is why I am keeping my mouth shut."

Only, of course, I'm not keeping my mouth shut so much as I'm excitedly burbling that I HAVE DONE A THING every chance I get, and then hurriedly covering it up with self-deprecation, lest anybody think I'm actually, you know, pleased with myself.

But okay. Here's the big news: I wrote a play. Which is not a first for me, but I do have a pleasant tingly feeling that it is a best-so-far for me, and that's nice. And I invited a bunch of friends to my apartment and we ate muffins and drank wine and they told me what the play sounded like to them, and I made notes, and then I...made it better. Which is a really comforting thing to find you're still capable of doing, after spending two years with a series of words, and having reached the point where you're not quite satisfied with 'em, but don't quite know what's causing the dissatisfaction, either. It's nice to know, after spending all that time alone scribbling and tapping away at this thing, that what I've created does, at least in places, make sense to people who aren't me, and that there's hope for the parts that don't make sense too -- that people don't mind talking about them with me if I ask nicely, and that I'm not utterly incapable of seeing my work from the outside. (Although it's difficult, and never something i can really get a solid grasp on...but that's okay. It's like oobleck. And I like oobleck.)

Anyhow. A month or so later, you find you've sold your soul to the university store in exchange for photocopying and coil-binding services, and you're holding something like this...
...and trying to sort out how something this fat...
Photobucket going to fit into this envelope...
...which of course, it simply is not.

But it's all right. All you need to do is perform a little reverse-gastric-bypass-surgery with packing tape and donor tissue from another specimen.
Ta da!
It's mailing time.

Which is to say that with any luck, these fine people have by this time received my freakshowishly fat envelope, and will soon be making professional judgements on the quality of its contents.

It's not that I'm not ready to let go of the project (for the time being), or that I don't know what to do with myself now that it's gone, but...well. It is a little strange. All these other writing projects that were on the back burner while I focused on finishing that particular script are now vying for primacy, and I'm like, "Woah, dudes, hold on, I have a huge friggin' pile of unwritten papers to take care of before I even start to think about you." And, as is the way with me and research, the process of writing papers leads to the conception of further ideas to shove aside at least until the end of the school term. (I think I need mind-condoms. For safe, clean, chemical information-sex. Messy, but not dirty.)

Speaking of playwriting and things I'm going to do with myself, though, I have Really Exciting News! A while back I applied for an internship with the Playwright's Atlantic Resource Centre, and just recently I was offered the job. This means I'll be hanging out in the shire for the summer. Should be good times, not only because this is a job I am looking forward to learning from, but because my flat-mate and several of my particular friends have also decided to do the summer-in-Sackville thing. I predict fantastic adventures. Picnics, perhaps? IT IS A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, when what I really need to be doing is avoiding falling behind. Time to return to my stack of books, pudding. I'm very excited about Shakespearean triangles right now.

More Life,

P.S. - Yesterday I voted emphatically in favour of continued funding for 7 Mondays, Mt.A.'s fab little student poetry-shortfiction-photography journal, which I continue to be infatuated with, even if it doesn't love me back. As part of the Save 7 Mondays movement, the current editorial board has been keeping up this neat little blog, which aside from spreading the word about how 7 Mondays may be saved, is also being used to display examples of why it should be saved, i.e.: particularly juicy bits from volumes past. I recommend checking it out.

P.P.S. - Um. In case you prefer it when you know why things are called what they're called, you might like this entry better after viewing this:

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Friggin' Time Machine, Ladies + Gentlemen.

You know what, pudding? I should probably never tell people what I plan on doing when I get home if it's something I actually need to do. Here's how that works out:

PEOPLE: We are going to do something fun and perhaps boozy! Come with?
ME: No! I must write an essay/do my dishes/assassinate somebody who is doing bad things/save a whale!
PEOPLE: Laaaaaaaame. JK, je t'adore; have fun with that! Kisses, 'bye!

[ME goes home and does something that is obviously not whatever she just told PEOPLE she was going to do.]

So yeah.... I may have said I was going home to write a proposal for a future essay about the inside of Willy Loman's skullmachine in Death of a Salesman, but actually I'm writing to you guys. Whatever. It's been too long. I have no regrets. (I may feel differently about that when it's Monday morning and I'm scrambling to remember what a semi-colon is for at the tail end of an all-nighter, but whatever. I live for the present.)

So, long time no blog, eh?

There are a couple things I'd like to tell you about. I'll work backwards. Then you can feel like I have given you a ride in a time machine.

The event I declined the invitation to go out to the bar after tonight was a staged reading of Salad Days, a musical co-written by Jason and Landon, two ambitious young gentlemen of my acquaintance.

This was the second time in my Mount Allison career that I have gone to Windsor Theatre to see work by students performed in a not-yet-cooked state. The first time was near the end of last semester, when Jenny Munday's playwriting class read excerpts from each other's work. Over the past year-and-a-bit I've become increasingly interested in the things that happen to a script between the first time the writer sort of feels like it's kind of finished in a (completely false but still important to the process) sense and the time it gets a full production in front of people who aren't necessarily related to, sleeping with, or even particular friends of somebody on or backstage. I've always had this kind of paralyzing terror about the prospect of people actually saying things that I wrote out loud. Bad quirk for a playwright, obviously, which is why I've been trying to drop that terror, or at least ignore it enough to, you know, do what I want to do. Earlier this semester I even took (what felt to me like) the giant leap of inviting a bunch of friends over and drinking just enough wine to prevent me from wanting to curl up and die while they read my script out loud. (Not curling up and dying was important, so I could scribble furiously in the margins about how much shit I was going to cut the fuck out.)

After seeing what Jason and Landon and twelve awesome singing/acting friends pulled off tonight in front of a nearly full house of giant leap is beginning to look more like a teeny tiny eeny weeny little baby step. Forget the ballsiness of letting an audience in on an unfinished piece of work (although that is certainly a level of ballsiness I admire); let's just stop and appreciate the basic ballsiness of setting out on a collaborative project like this in the first place. That is ballsiness I aspire to, my friends. But I think I'll have to get over my need to self-medicate when hearing my words spoken before I'm ready to, you know, get somebody else intimately involved in making those words exist in the first place. Still: a girl can dream, and I do. Jason and Landon, you are an inspiration. (And by that, I of course mean that you make me feel totally pathetic, and now my choices are either to wither and become compost, or desperately attempt to display comparable ballsiness in the not-too-distant future.)

Not to mention it's nice to learn/be reminded that certain people around here can friggin' sing their faces off when given the opportunity. Very nice indeed.

Earlier this week I woke up to a 1998 flashback. That's an exaggeration, obviously, but there was an ice storm, and it had knocked the power out at some point during the night. Although power had returned by the time I woke up, my alarm clock didn't know what time it was. Fortunately the outage had effected most if not all of Sackville, so I wasn't the only one stumbling sheepishly into first-period classes fifteen minutes after they began -- or simply not making it to them at all.

By a strange coincidence, the year of the aforementioned ice storm of my youth was also a year in which there were multiple Friday-the-13ths in succession, as there are this year. Spooooooky.

But like I said -- it's not really comparable to '98, aside from the fact that the trees are really beautifully glass-looking in a sad we-are-oppressed-and-it-is-breaking-us-apart kinda way, and the stairs leading up to my apartment are almost certainly going to result in death or serious injury to somebody some time soon.

Speaking of Friday the 13th, Alistair friggin' MacLeod just so happened to be speaking at the Owens gallery on campus that day. Definitely not unlucky. Even if you've never read anything by him, if you get the opportunity to hear this man speak, DO IT. What happens is, he talks and you laugh and you laugh and you laugh, and then he starts reading his work and you cry and you cry and you cry. I think I've inherited my father's penchant for people whose stage patter style is incongruous with the tone of their artistic work. What I just said about Alistair MacLeod was pretty much a direct thievery of what my dad is always saying he loves so much about Lynn Miles, with the appropriate verb subbed in. But now I've credited him, so he can't sue me. Right? Anyhow. Go read some Alistair MacLeod, pudding. It'll be good for you. And it'll hurt. But in a good way. I promise.

I know I said I was going to do this whole post backwards like a time machine, but what kind of time machine only goes one direction? I'm now going to take you one day forward from the last jump, to February 14th.

February 14th means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Heck, it's meant a lot of different things to me over the years, and I'm just one person. It's meant a day to roll one's eyes at straight couples humping in the hallways who one will later freak out by coming out to. It's meant cuddle puddling with hippy friends and hippy guitars and vast quantities of hippy chocolate on the floor of one's friend's place in Ottawa, and later going out for a midnight skate on the deserted canal while singing showtunes. It's meant wishing one was around to see what pretty cards were being made for "Validation Day" at the commune one visted the previous fall. It's meant hanging out in the Kingston public library with one's new girlfriend reading random bits of poetry about buses full of fat black gospel singers while waiting for the rabbi to show up for the story circle. It's meant reluctantly agreeing to go on an obvious date with a boy because if there's any day one is supposed to at least act like one wants to be going on dates, one supposes that February 14th is probably it. It's meant hiding crazy collagey valentines with kazoos hidden inside all over campus as a means of expressing one's love for those fine folks who listen to one's campus-community radio show.

One thing that anyone who knows what's doing at Mt.A. knows, though, is this: February 14th means Sweetest Little Thing.

Consequently, I would like to share with you some of my favourite cakes that were prepared for this year's cake walk:

Armadillo cake!

Leaning tower of cake! (The good people of Cuthbertson house ended up with this impressive piece of edible entropic architecture...which they had a mighty fun time trying to figure out how to transport back to said house, let me tell you.)

Wedding cake!

Nude marzipan lady cake!

Voodoo cake!

Imitation cake wreck cake!

Just to give you an idea of how many cakes I didn't end up including in this post:
Many of them were also totally gorgeous. Apologies if I didn't photograph your cake. It was probably just because there were too many people standing around it talking about how friggin' darling it was and I couldn't get a camera in edgewise.

Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the gallery they were fresh out of cake walk tickets, so no cake for me, but I did aquire some mighty fine mollusks. (In fact, they have been mating in my living room for almost a month solid now. That, my friends, is stamina.)

Also, it's cute when little kids dance with balloons.

Also, this ring game was cute.
(It doesn't seem to have been captured in the picture, but this was much like other ring games, except that the "rings" were made of wire bent in the shape of rickety hearts. The arrow goes through the heart and you win, get it? Cute!)

Awright puddin', that's enough outta me.

I love you.

More Life,

P.S. - I know, I know, I just took you to the past and dumped you there. Build your own friggin' time machine if you want to get back, I guess? Or you could be patient, relax, and let the current take you back to the present. Not my problem kid; I got proposals to write and squid-things to admire and samosas to hopefully get up early enough to consume.