Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fairy tale.

My film prof made me a VHS copy of Jacques Demy's DONKEY SKIN from his laserdisc, and he sent it to me in the mail.

My mom was helping me go through my VHS collection once and saw the tape label.

"DONKEY SKIN? What the hell kind of porno is this?" she said. "I know you're into guys, but FARM ANIMALS???"

"No, it's an art movie," I told her.

"Uh-huh," she said. "Whatever."

Dollar daze.

This day shall forever be known as "The Day I Reluctantly Asked My Boss To Borrow A Dollar (At the Recommendation of a Co-Worker) and Had Him Not Make Eye Contact with Me, Scowl at Me and Complain About Something that Wasn't My Job."

My boss later marked this day by eating a Chick-Fil-A lunch with some other employees he considers favorites.

For the record, he did give me the dollar. I walked out with it, then turned around, put it on his desk and told him that I'd get one elsewhere. I think he said "Whatever" or "Suit yourself." He never really looked at me.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Adventures in subtlety.

Yesterday, after the puppet show, Brad and I were sitting at Larry's condo alone and having coffee.

RM: Hey, take off your shirt.
BF: No.
RM: Please take off your shirt.
BF: No, I'm celibate. You know that.
RM: Yeah, and I can help with that. And I didn't say we'd do anything. Just take off your shirt.
BF: No.

Fifteen minutes later.

RM: Hey, take off your shirt.
BF: No. What are you, Larry Flynt?
RM: If I were Larry Flynt, I wouldn't want you to take your shirt off.
BF: Well then, what are you, Chi Chi LaRue?
RM: No. And, if I were Chi Chi LaRue, I don't think I'd want you to take off your shirt either. You're 35.

Five minutes later.

RM: Brad, that puppet show taught me something. I have an existential hole in my being that I need to fill. Can you help me?
BF: No.

Twenty minutes later.

RM: I'm sorry about the flirting.
BF: You're good at flirting. You always manage to throw an insult in there in the middle of all the compliments.
RM: When did I insult you? I didn't insult you.
BF: Never mind.

"Moi will not cover her face!"

Inspired by yesterday's Sept. 11 puppet show, Lupo and I discussed possible casting for THE MUPPETS TAKE AFGHANISTAN, which will also use puppets to tackle prescient issues.

Lupo: Miss Piggy should play Jessica Lynch.
RM: I think having Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem portray the Taliban would be a stroke of genius, and we should have Sam the Eagle play George W. Bush.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

No strings attached.

So my friend Brad and I just got back from this show at the Center for Puppetry Arts called "The Anatomy of Melancholy," based rather loosely upon the 1621 anthology by Robert Burton investigating the phenomenon of depression.

We are now sitting before my blog to discuss the highlights of the show.

RM: Brad, what did you think of the puppet-only recreation of the World Trade Center attacks, featuring a model plane and papier-mache fire?
BF: It really brought me back to that day. Especially the big close up of Brit Hume's distorted face on the screen. I wish the plane had flown into Brit Hume's face, instead of that tower set.
RM: And the sound effects?
BF: What about them? What did I think of them?
RM: The rewind sound, when the Sept. 11 plane went backward ... causing it to crash over and over. Right before they showed that puppet who looked like Dilbert jump out of the building.
BF: Oh, I guess the rewind sound was effective. I got the impression that they wanted to 'rewind' the event. Did Judi Dench do the rewind voice, or was that some other effect? 'Cause they had that Judi Dench lady narrate everything else. Did you notice her mike kept cutting out?
RM: She didn't need the mike. The cape she was wearing was loud enough.
BF: And the room wasn't very big. Do you think if Pearl Bailey narrated instead, they would've miked her?
RM: I don't think Pearl Bailey would've done that production. It wasn't quite THE FOX AND THE HOUND.
BF: She could've sang the blues. Wait, I think Carol Channing should've done the narration. She could've really brought life to the oversized poster-board scissor scene.
RM: How did the puppet (pictured above) make you feel?
BF: Angry. I had no sympathy for that puppet whatsoever. Did you? I didn't care if he hated life so much. Da-a-amn. Stay in bed and hit your pillow. I just knew, at some point, they were going to have a Sisyphus scene in there. Like, from the moment it started, I knew that puppet was going to push a rock up a hill.
RM: I didn't like the happy ending, where the puppet finds its missing piece in that Chinese puppeteer woman's pocket. Was she supposed to represent God, or could they just not come up with a better ending?
BF: I couldn't follow it after the puppet surfed on that giant Prozac pill past the giant bottle of booze and giant posterboard joint.
RM: What do you think the message of the play was?
BF: I think that the message it conveyed was to escape depression, you just have to let the butterfly out of your personal SECRETS box. I also learned that, when you're alone at a party, you shouldn't just stand in a corner and wave at everyone. You should introduce yourself. And, if your mother sounds like a chicken, you shouldn't get into an argument with her ... because she will win, and you will still be sad. And if a Chinese woman tries to put something in your belly, let her. You will be glad. Also, if your neighbor gets a purse like yours, don't cause too much of a commotion. No matter how many people try to photograph her, pretend like you don't care, or you will be overcome with sadness.
RM: What did you think of the title cards separating the scenes?
BF: I thought they were really pretty. I enjoyed the font.
RM: So, to sum up ...
BF: Among the causes of melancholy presented in the play, I would like to add one. Melancholy. Cause: Puppet show.
RM: Just because we got free tickets, why did we have to sit in the back?
BF: Yeah, that made me feel melancholy.
RM: If anyone from Puppetry Arts reads this, they'll hate me.
BF: Well, they need to know that show did not work.
RM: Do you think SNOW WHITE will be better?
BF: So long as they don't focus on a dwarf named Sadness.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Stepping away from your art.

When I was an art critic, I used to ask painters or sculptors the same set of questions, including things like:

"Why did you use this type of material?"
"Does the title of the piece have any significance?"
"When you were painting it, what did it mean to you?"
"What do you hope the audience will get out of it?"
"Are they supposed to enjoy it, or how do you want them to receive it?"

In my art classes, they used to tell us that any impression a viewer took from a piece or formed about a piece was probably not what the artist intended, but the viewer's impression of the piece was still valid because, like it or not, a piece immediately could lose any intended relevance at the moment someone new looks at it.

The artist's pet project, once it's presented to anyone, then belongs to "everyone," and the artist loses his say over what the piece "is." Thus, your extremely personal, brilliant painting exploring the darkness that exists within all of mankind becomes "random scribbling that could be done by a kid in grade school" to Average Joe Smith, and people might find his opinion just as true as yours. That's why I always asked both questions in an interview with an artist, "What did you mean?" and "How will they take it?" The answers can be vastly different.

When asked for what makes art "good," I used to tell people that, to me, art was passion practically (or tangibly) applied. And, from that, "good art" was not something that was pretty, but it was something that best communicated its intended message or gathered more meaning the more it was displayed. Art's quality is subjective and debatable, and, to me, it's always been fun to hear two incredibly smart people come at the same piece with vastly different opinions about it. Both of their opinions carry weight and should.

I can't explain, for instance, why the Rothko works at the Tate Modern made me cry. Rothko himself might've just been doing paintings of rectangles just to be pretentious or to do something funny. What you take away from art, in the end, is all that matters.

Last night, at my first writing class of the new session, I didn't anticipate all the new students who would be there, and I didn't bring enough copies of "Circle" to distribute. So that I wouldn't have to wait a week, I offered to read it aloud at the end of class, and Sarah, the professor, told me that would be fine. But then, in talking to me, she realized that I'd read the extremely personal, harrowing piece before to audiences. Sarah thought that it would come off as a "performance," that we would lose the ability to judge the piece on its own merit if I read it, so she did something else with "Circle," which is my baby.

She had someone else in the class read it aloud.

Actually, well, Sarah said that I had a tendency to "perform," which is true, so my friend Lynda (who'd read it before) came and ripped the manuscript out of my hand AND started to read the first sentence to the class.

I was not prepared.

"No ...," I protested aloud, interrupting Lynda. "Don't."

This belongs to me, I thought. This is my childhood. This is my monologue. Someone reading it won't know how to deal with the twist it takes.

"Is this too much?" Sarah asked me, offering for Lynda to stop.

"Not. This. Piece," I said at first.

But, I reasoned, I was already going to hand it out to everyone, and they were going to read it. And it's on the blog for the world to read, already. If "Circle" is going to work at all or if any of my writings are going to work at all, they're going to have to stand on their own, without me there to sell them.

So, in the next moment, I said, "Have Wade read it."

My friend Wade, aside from being a man (which is sorta necessary for "Circle," I thought), also used to be an actor. If I couldn't read it myself, maybe he would know how to sell the piece.

Wade started to read my essay on my place of solace from childhood sexual abuse to this group of my strangers and acquaintances in front of me, and I sat with another copy, trying to hide my face, doing my best to read along while reminding myself that I was going to have them read it anyway.

At first, oh God, oh God, it was horrible for me. This was going to alienate my new class before they even get to know me (though, of course, I didn't have a problem with that - and it was going to happen anyway when they did read it). So, a couple seconds into it, though, I just decided to let it happen because art, if it's good, can't just belong to the artist alone.

If "Circle" worked without me reading it, then it would really work.

I read along, hearing Wade trip over my brief, choppy sentences and hearing him repeat some of my mundane phrases over and over. He did his best over my quoted, ironic words. I cringed when he hit the "plot twist" involving the sexual abuse I ran from as a kid, how I'd stand in that circle in my hometown and scream. I heard him read the whole piece, and I kept thinking, "It's not working. It's not working."

Then, it was over. And Sarah called it brilliant, saying I had a unique style. She told other writers not to be intimidated by me, for my voice was unique.

She then chuckled, saying that she found it hard to believe that the only reason it was read was because I didn't bring enough copies.

And, then, I nervously said, "Oh well, as he read it, some of the modifiers were hard for him to follow, and the flow doesn't work as well as it could. And there are parts in it that really don't work. The piece could be much better."

Someone told me that hearing Wade speak of my disability as his own was jarring to hear, so I might want to excise that, lest it trip up readers not familiar with me.

Wade then stood up, handed me the copy of my essay, put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, "Damn, you've got balls, bringing that and having me read it."

I told him that it helped me to hear him read it, for it helped me find out the piece was flawed, something I never would've known if I'd read it myself.

Other people I knew came up and told me that "Circle" was good. And, of course, some strangers looked at me like I was insane and made a beat for the door.

But this one new student - a former English teacher - approached me and said something really touching.

"For me, it was an oak tree in my parents' backyard - not a circle - but it was where I went," she said. Then she hugged me.

I offered her one of the copies of "Circle" I had. Then, other people came up and got a copy from me. I hope some people mark it up, for I want it to be really, really good.

Last night was an extremely difficult experience, and I became a better writer because of it.

I remembered that art is effective if its meaning holds; art is effective if its meaning grows.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Like I shop from the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

My aunt, seeing me with my grandfather's hat on, decided to snap this photo after the rehearsal dinner.

My friends have all e-mailed me comments upon seeing it, including, "You look like Mickey Rooney from LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY."

Black told me that I look like an old, drunken reporter, I'm guessing, because my nose is all red.

I was hoping, when it was taken, that this photo would be all cool. Instead, um, I'm not sure what to think of it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Tryin' to do right by you all night, Annette.

I can't write a damn thing these days. I sit down at my laptop, and nothing happens. Nothing at all. Blank page. When I try, I end up looking through the 2 million songs I've loaded on RealPlayer instead, and my attempt at writing instead becomes this game of finding the best background music for a round of arcade pinball.

I suck. I've been moping for weeks, reading short stories, studying other authors' writing styles and dealing with this stupid-ass breakup anxiety (though it's not like the relationship was that long, honestly). I thought I could maybe come up with a good story. But nothing's happened. I'm keeping my apartment tidy, and I'm trying to keep my finances in line.

Still, when I want to write, all I get is a blank page and frustration. I'm here at a friend's house now, and we're looking over my "portfolio" of essays - and I can't find any shit that I think would be worth a damn. No essays are here that work out of context.

When I was in my damn relationship, I didn't write. I thought it was because I was so occupied and *in love* that it was excusable, that writing would happen when it was supposed to.

Now I'm out of my relationship, and I've got loads of time. I'm still not writing.

I've had experiences I could draw from. My brother's Catholic wedding, held on the day the Pope died, was filled with tiny, ironic situations - like my mother and stepmother working together to get dressed or me catching the bridal garter.

With the breakup, you'd think I could write a nice murder story, something ridiculously angry and violent. (After reading Roald Dahl, I tried to visualize for a story what it would be like to beat my stepfather's head in with a hammer and leave him in the basement crawlspace at my mom's house. But there was no plot there, just anger.)

I was hoping for a nice, dark piece - something frustrated and sexual and angry.

The second wave of my writing class begins tomorrow, and I have nothing to show from this interim of weeks. I have nothing to bring to class tomorrow, and I really wanted to be able to show them something impressive.

Instead, this class might turn out like the last class, where I mostly showed them old essays and didn't produce anything new.

I'm writing this to change that. I'm writing this to write something.

The only damn thing I'm good at is talking about myself.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I want to lock it all up in my pocket. It's my bar of chocolate.

No matter how much I thought I might be disappointed by two films coming out soon, the humor and look of the ads for both "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" have me really, really eager to see them.

"Charlie," in particular, looks like wicked fun.

I loved those Roald Dahl books when I was a kid, and I've been reading some of his short stories lately. I love how violent and dark he wasn't afraid to get. I mean, most of the kids in "Charlie" ended up either horribly deformed or dangerously close to death by the end of that book, and the original movie didn't disappoint in leaving them that way. It looks like the second one will certainly follow suit.

Looking through some images of the movie, I saw that they've reinstated the squirrel nut-sorting room, which is where Veruca gets hers in the book. It gives me hope for the movie.

I wonder if Tim Burton's going to let us see Mike Teevee after he's been subjected to Wonka's taffy pull. The other movie avoided that, for it sounded gruesome. I hope they do it. I hope they do it.

(The ads for "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" look great, too, but I've seen too many of those great-looking ads turn into disappointing films to hold out much hope for George Lucas. I'm keeping my expectations low, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised when I see it ... at midnight on opening night.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My mom in the sky with diamonds.

My mom told me that our family friend had managed to get a good picture of me dancing with my mother at the reception. She said she would e-mail it to me, and I thought, "Hey cool, I can put a photo of me and my mom on the blog!"

So she sent me this e-mail with, like, 50 photos in it, and I went through all of them looking for a photo of the two of us.

Eventually, I realized that she's talking about this one.

So I called her up and said, "Um, we're in the background of the shot on the right-hand side, and all you can see is the back of my head."

"What do you mean?" she asked me, incredulously. "You can see a whole side of your face."

"It's my ear," I said.

"I'm sorry you don't like the photo," she said. "I thought it was nice."

"I thought it was going to be a photo of us," I said. "It's a photo of two other people, and we're in the background. You made it sound like it was a photo of us."

Her voice shifted into a serious tone.

"I didn't even notice the other people in the photo," she said. "I only saw us."

When she said that, I remembered how my mother can sometimes be. She was always able to look right at something and see only what she wanted to.

I remember once we were discussing what her favorite music was when she was a kid.

"I liked the Beatles," she said.

"What about the Rolling Stones?" I asked her.

"Oh, they were nothing but a bunch of drug addicts," she said.

"Um, so were the Beatles," I said.

"They WERE NOT," she said angrily, as though I'd just spit upon Jesus.

"Um, lots of their songs were about drugs, Mom."

"Name one," she said.


"That's not about drugs," she said.

"Yes it is," I argued.

"No, it's NOT."

"Look at the lyrics," I told her. "'Picture yourself on a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies,' Even the title spells out LSD. Mom, what did you THINK it was about?"

"I just thought it was a nonsense song," she said innocently.

And she was serious. When she found out from me that the Beatles had used drugs, it was as though I'd destroyed her entire childhood.

Denial is, in some ways, her guiding force.

She was shocked - SHOCKED! - over finding out I was gay while I was in college, even though she purchased me She-Ra dolls when I was a child, sang along as I memorized the songs of "West Side Story" in middle school ... and heard me gush over the two-disc set of "Barbra: The Concert" when I was in high school.

At one point, she actually swore our family wasn't the least bit dysfunctional, even though she was there while my stepfather called me names, while I went into therapy, while my brother Dan stopped speaking to any of us for years and while we all grew to despise one another.

Because of her denial and in spite of it, I love my mom. She's sweet.

How telling is it that, in her eyes, the above photo is a picture of us?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Elsewhere on Earth ...

Reports from Lupo and Miss Gibson suggest that their meeting at the Tate Modern in London went exceedingly well. Lupo apparently presented Miss Gibson with some Butterfinger bars from "me" to give her some of her favorite American treats, which she cannot find in London.

Shortly after arriving at my office today, I got this e-mail from her:

loved the butterfingers - you're very sweet to remember. as for Lupo -
well he's just fab, isn't he?? what a sweetie

The weather was dreary, but Lupo says he still got to look out over St. Paul's Cathedral.

Lupo wrote in an e-mail:

Glad the wedding went well...I'll have emo at my wedding, so we can dance then.

Carrie is so lovely & smart -- thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon. Someday we'll
all hang out together, which will no doubt be a fantastic time. I'm looking
forward to it.

At the conference, a guy who wrote a paper on Stifler quoted me in his
presentation. It's very strange to hear your name like that (and he said
Jonathan, which made it even more odd).

I'm going to see 'The Mousetrap' tonight and then heading home tomorrow am.

It's funny how, before today, they only knew each other through my blog.

The three of us need to hang out sometime, whenever we can tie together our individual ends of the earth.

Wedding bell blues.

* I was in the park with Solenn yesterday. Solenn and I
walked around for about four hours, then lay on a grassy hill and
watched people. Then we had margaritas at Zocalo. Really good day.

* When you wake up at 1 p.m. the day after your brother's wedding
reception to find that you ACTUALLY slept until 2 p.m. the day after
your brother's wedding, you get really, really pissed over Daylight
Saving Time.

* It's fun to watch people scramble to change the wording of certain
blessings when the Pope dies on the day of your brother's Catholic
wedding. "No, you can't say 'To our Holy Father on Earth ...' like you
did at the rehearsal. There won't be a new Pope for a couple weeks."

* My overwhelmingly Republican aunt asked when she was going to meet
my boyfriend Ash, then referred to herself as a modern woman with an
open mind. It was sweet, except that I had to tell her (and all my
cousins) that we'd broken up. I hope that's not the only time they'll
be open to meeting my hypothetical boyfriends, for I eventually should
introduce one of them. My aunt got the photo of Ash from my mom, and
she sent it to her daughters.

* My grandpa and his wife, on the other hand, called my father
"Benjie," even though my dad's 30 years older than me and bald. They
told me it was because Dad was wearing glasses, and they thought I
did, too.

* Conversation between me and Grandpa at the rehearsal dinner, wherein
he manages to ask me a dreaded question AND pick on my stepfather
(whom Grandpa despises) while sitting next to him:
GRANDPA: "So when are you going to get serious about someone?"
ME: "Um, never."
GRANDPA (eyeing my stepdad): "But Jerry will build you a house when
you get married. He does it for everyone."
ME: "Um, I don't want to live around here."

* I sorta caught the garter at the wedding reception. But there was a
scam involved in getting it to me. Samantha, my brother Dan's wife,
went to UGA - same as me. My brother went to Georgia Tech. So, during
her wedding, Samantha wore two garters: one for UGA, the other for
Georgia Tech. So, when Dan removed the garter, Samantha said it would
determine where their kids went to college. There were five total
single men at the wedding, and four of them (including the hot,
straight one with the fauxhawk) went to Tech. So the UGA garter went
to me once selected, for I was the only single Bulldog. All the Tech
guys walked away from it.

* I hope no one ever finds out that, after my sixth glass of white
wine, I idiotically asked the mother of the bride about their
estranged son. Her reply was, "Weddings like this bring people
together." And I said, "It's all right. There are people here that I'm
not speaking to ... Wait, I'm bringing the wrong vibe into this." No
one seemed bothered, but, honestly, WHAT IN THE HELL WAS I
THINKING???? (Yeah, I got so stupid I dialed Ash up a couple times
this weekend. It was like the "drunk dialing" scene in SIDEWAYS. Dumb,
dumb, dumb. He never answered his phone nor returned my calls. Smart

* My conservative Republican aunt and uncle laughed out loud when I
said my cool aunt's huge, throwback hairdo made her "look like an
astronaut's wife." I fear I'm betraying the cool people with my big

* I wanted to slow dance with my stepmother, who looked phenomenal,
but they never stopped playing hip-hop, the "Cha Cha" slide and Jimmy
Buffett. I was in an emo mood, so I sat in a chair the last half of
the evening and sulked.

* One of the bridesmaids, I think, believes I hit on her when I walked
up to her on the dancefloor and said there should be more
representatives of "Y chromosome" dancing. Frankly, I just wanted to
find another gay man in the room. There must've been one ...

* The daughter of one of my father's friends came to the wedding with
her parents. At the start of the reception, she wanted to talk to me
about fiction writing, so I asked her to dance because no one was
dancing. She gave me her e-mail address. I think she has some sort of
crush on me now.

* My brother hugged me four times. His new wife bemoaned the fact that
we didn't talk at the reception when I said goodbye to her. She looked
completely amazing, of course. (I hope she never finds out what I
asked her mother about. Never, ever. Hopefully, her mother was having
cocktails and forgot all about the stupid thing I asked her. God, what
was I thinking?)

* I'm in wedding photos. I was invited to take part in the ceremony at
the last minute. They asked me to seat my mother and stepgrandmother,
which I happily did. Everyone said I looked great.