Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Alice Anne

Today would have been my mom's 94th birthday. I always remember her on Christmas Eve with a candle.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

MBTA Red Line Moment

I can put up with just about anything on the T. For starters, the people who hang by the door when people are trying to get in or out, even when they are obviously in the way.

Or people who talk loudly on the phone incessantly, like the guy yesterday morning who turned his face into the door (yes, he was also hanging out in the doorway) and still managed to share his moronic business call with the entire car.

I've even learned to accept all the commuter with their backpacks, the young and old alike, who don't seem to get that that big honking backpack 1) takes up just as much vertical room as another person, and 2) whenever they make the slightest move the backpack swings proportionately more. Think pendulum.

Yes, I can even, God love them, accept the people who sneeze, cough, or whatever into their hands, then grab the overhead bar--with the hand they just expelled bodily fluid into.

The one thing I cannot tolerate, though--the one thing that's fingernails on a chalkboard to me--are the people with the headphones who have their music on so loud, you can still hear this tinny tune going on. It's like a listening to a dripping faucet. Which is exactly what I finally told the guy this morning on the Red Line who was standing next to me. He was wearing full-size headphones, no less, and you could still hear this tinky, tinky, tinky thing going on.

I tapped his bag. Hey man, can you turn your music down a bit. It's like listening to a leaky faucet.

He did, but he didn't seem too happy about it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Google Dynamic Views Suck. It's Back to Old Blogger.

Well, that was a nice experiment with Google's dynamic views for blogger, wasn't it?  I don't know how many of you got to see it in action because DV's don't work with third party analytics, so I had no idea who was checking out ABM. I know through Google Analytics there were lots of visitors, and because DVs were flashing pictures and links at you like Saturday night at the carnival, there were lots of page views, but I have no idea who you were. Or what you were looking for.

So it's back to the old look until Google gets off its high horse and realizes what people really want (or at least this peep) isn't necessary what Google wants for him.

I'm a sucker for technology. Give me a button to mash down on and I'm there. And I don't read the manual. I just dive in. And I liked the interface it gave to old Action Bob, nice and spiffy and all dynamic just like the name promised and it caused people to at least look at more content. But flash is no substitution for real content, for real information.

I'm loving social networking more and more, especially since now I see it in real action with #Occupy. About a year ago I was at a very high faluting party at BU and there was a Very Big Deal professor (tweeds, flannels, just the right length hair) there holding court for all his pretty little blonde grad students, and he was joking about technology and proud of the fact that he didn't know Twitter from his professorial ass. And this was about the time when China was shutting down the Internet and he asked me with a broad wink to his harem what was Twitter good for. I mentioned China and freedom, and that wasn't good enough for him. He fired off some dumb joke that was meant to dismiss me, but it only lowered my opinion of him to about what Obama's approval rating is today.

But you have to draw a line in the sand. I don't own a smart phone out of choice (well, I'm really broke too, so I can't afford the additional monthly payment) but I really don't want to be that connected. I still want to engage in the world, face to face, in real flesh and blood. And when I'm blogging, I want to know who I'm talking to, and what they're looking for.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Times They Are A Changing

I feel like I got shot out of a cannon when I finished grad school. Others who had gone through the program warned me about it. You're so steeped in your studies you don't realize how single-focused you are. At times, when Sue wanted me to think about something--anything, plans for the weekend, what to cook for dinner--my answer would be, let me just get through this...and this would be an assignment, finishing a scene, finishing the semester, something, anything that was so encompassing of my mind that I couldn't fit one more thing into my head without the feeling that it would explode.

And then, suddenly, you're back out in the world. And what a world it is. Occupy, and all the craziness and noise that it brings as people shout and argue their values when to me it seems so simple: Our society has been overtaken by corporate greed with a complicit government. Anything that falls from that is suspect, including your political bent (liberal or conservative), your religion, or your place in society. It's something I'm definitely excited about, but it also wears me out as people seem fixated on getting their point across. We know what the problem is. If you don't, you haven't been awake for the past four or five years.

There is an increasingly worse economy that has made it even harder for a fifty-something-year-old man to find a decent job, and by decent I mean one that not only pays enough so I can pay my bills and have a little extra, but also one that I find fulfilling.

There's a political world where the president who I had reluctantly put so much hope and faith in, has done nothing in the line of what he ran for, and he is now putting troops in Africa, even though we're fighting losing and expensive wars on two fronts.

But all this makes for things to be so exciting. My plays are getting good feedback. That's a start. That means so much to me. Those plays are the real me, so personal at their source and they harken back to me as a boy, and now it seems I'm pretty close to where I wanted to be "when I grew up."

My life is Sue grows everyday. I love her a little more each day and I don't know what I'd do without my best friend. We walk through this crazy world hand in hand and as long as I know she still loves me all is right with the world. There are a couple of lines in Highland Center, Indiana about this, where Hank says to Alice Anne, Are you scared? and she answers, Not if I'm with you. That exchange took place between me and the real Alice Anne when we were on a plane coming to Boston when she had two more months to live. See, it's all so personal, as the world should be, I think.

You can even see Action Bob has put on a new face. Google opened the door, I walked through, and though I'm not 100% happy with this new interface, I'm willing to give it a chance. What I don't like is Google forcing me to do things its way. This is just one more example of corporate greed, small yes, but enough is enough. Corporations and governments, I believe, should serve the people. Corporations (are you listening, Google?) should give their customers what the customer wants, not what the corporation wants them to want. The only company that got away with giving customers what they didn't ask for was Apple, and Steve Jobs is dead. Google is no Apple, not by a long shot. Don't give me that free-market line, either: If you don't like Blogger move. You can't. They got you locked in. The free-market, as you call it, is broken, just like our political system. And that's what the Occupiers are protesting about. If you don't get it, that's not my problem. Stay at home and watch your television. Someone will come along shortly and wipe the drool from your mouth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What it was like for me at today's Occupy Boston protest

I feel I should get this out to people who may be either wondering what is really going on with all the Occupy cities in the United States or rolling their eyes at me going, here he goes again. John just can't keep out of trouble and he's a little too old to be an idealistic hippie.



I don't want to get into why I went, starting with the notion that I truly believe our government is completely broken and dysfunctional. I don't believe our one person/one vote notion of freedom is worth a damn anymore, and I think that anyone who says, If you don't vote you can't complain is truly clueless as to what's going on. Anyone you vote for except maybe on the very local level couldn't care less about you. They're politicians, and all they want is the office. And when they get the office they go to work for the people with the most money. That's not me, that's large multinational corporations. And then they sell off the country to the highest bidder.

It doesn't matter that Occupy Boston or Wall Street or Los Angeles or wherever (did you know they're all over the country? So many people think it's just Wall Street. No, it something like fifty something major cities) are just gathering and protesting. You hear the MSM say they are directionless and wonder what they are they protesting about? That's not the point. That's just the MSM doing what it always does. Hey, Political Candidate, what is your agenda? And the PC gives them one, just so they can tick that off their list. It doesn't matter to the MSM that tomorrow that agenda will change depending on the locale of that day's stump speech, they have an agenda. And this is where the MSM is so clueless. First, the Occupiers don't need them. The MSM is missing the boat on this one the same way they missed the boat on the paradigm that's putting them out of business in the first place. All the news and information is flowing back and forth on the social network and the digital world. At first I couldn't find any info on what was going on. I mean, people were setting up tents in Dewey Square in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank, and I couldn't find anything on the Globe's or the Herald's sites? Of course not. They're run by corporations, and their parent corporations aren't going to want that reported on. So I went to Facebook and Twitter and there it all was. (Right now I'm following real-time Twiitter and Facebook feeds as the Boston Police are approaching the tent city. They do this under cover of night, and won't allow the press to watch. When did our country become like this?)


Which is why last week I stopped by the tent city and I was amazed. I wanted to see things for myself. There was all kinds of organization going on there, including a press tent filled with computers. I mean, these people know what they're doing. And here's the thing: the MSM is missing the whole story. The BIG STORY is that for the first time in forty years, people are finally taking to the streets again in the United States. And today, I saw regular middle-class people, because what has been decimated in this country by corporate greed but the middle class, and there it was in full force today. In Boston there were thousands.

I had heard about the march on Facebook. Sue and I actually packed a picnic lunch and headed for the Common where students were going to meet then march to Dewey Square. It was a beautiful day, though kind of hot. We walked around and things seemed a bit scraggly. We walked around some more, and noticed the crowd had grown. People were gathering. Sue and I parked ourselves in the shade and watched for awhile, then the marchers began marching. Should we join them? It seemed weird. We passed some police officers and I heard on say that it seemed the marchers were heading one way. The cops didn't know where the marchers were going. And that's when it hit me. You know the first time you vote you felt this power, this right. I am an American and I am voting. Today I thought, freedom of assembly. That's what I'm doing. I'm free to assemble and a whole crowd can assemble and they don't need a permit from the city, who came up with that rule? This was our freedom and our right at its most basic core.

We wound our way through the Common, past the State House, passed the Fox News offices (it didn't look as if anyone was at home) through Downtown Crossing to Dewey Square. I said to Sue that if and when it comes to the police against the demonstrators, the tiny streets in Downtown Crossing would be the perfect place for the police to trap them.

People seemed awe-struck as we marched by. A lot of support, though. A lot of thumbs up. We got to Dewey Square and Sue and I peeled off and used the capitalistic bathrooms in South Station, then went back outside. The marchers, now thousands since the marchers from the Commons joined the Occupiers at Dewey Square, continued on down Atlantic Ave. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn I was marching in a walk for hunger. The march just continued on. Back through Downtown Crossing and towards the North End. We didn't know where we were going or who was in charge. We just followed the crowd. We marched past Faneuil Hall toward the Garden. It was in the North End where things went ugly. Not real ugly, but not pretty.

I was marching along thinking this is so much like a pretty day in the city, but at some point it's going to end. The nice relationship between the protesters and the police will end. Because as some point the city, as it is doing at this very moment, will impose its will on the protesters. And the police will be ordered to step in. Or you can't just quietly occupy a green space forever and do nothing. Something has to change. Because values will clash, and when that happens, people become unruly.

Check this out. This is the sort of rhetoric that is out there. This is a profile about one of the protesters on Wall Street:

"The goal to people like Ketchup is very, very clear. It can be articulated in one word—REBELLION. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back."

 I can understand that. It's how I feel. The system is broken, and isn't working for me. And it won't anymore. The government is not concerned with me or my loved ones and I have to start taking matters in my own hands. What that means I don't necessarily know. I know getting out and marching made me feel like I was doing something. And we don't know where this is going to take us. I posted something a few days ago where Chris Hedges, who has seen plenty of revolutions, talked about what was going on in the United States. I was most intrigued by what he said about the protesters in Berlin. They thought in a year they might have people crossing between East and West Berlin, and then suddenly the Wall was down. Even the leaders of the protest movement didn't see it coming.



But it was at a bridge in the North End where the police stopped the march. Traffic stopped, and by traffic I mean tour buses and duck boats (oh no, not the duck boats!) Later I read that the police said the bridge wouldn't have held the collected weight of the protesters, but doesn't sound a bit odd to you? I mean, it wasn't a suspension bridge made of jungle vines. But a couple of paddy wagons pulled up, and a couple of locals got into it with a protester in full view of the police, and one of the protesters actually pointed it out to an officer who then had to respond, and the woman said her freedom of speech was being trampled on because she couldn't yell inflammatory inanities at the protesters.

We started talking to a man who I know wouldn't have wanted to be identified, and I'll respect that. He asked what we were protesting, and I asked him, You have to ask? Where have you been the past four or five years? He agreed he knew sort of what it was about, and said it was an anit-capitalistic protest. I told him that was part of it, but also a dysfunctional government that is up for sale to the highest bidder. We had a nice conversation. Later I thought to myself that I should have asked him a question. He admitted to a six-figure income, and I should have asked him how much money in actual dollars and cents did he lose when the stock market crashed. I'm sure it would have been a lot. On that day, Sue and I looked at each other and shrugged, saying if you don't have any money to lose what does it matter? But I'm sure this guy lost big. And there's the big question: You asked me what I'm doing in the street protesting, and I have to ask you, after that, why aren't you off the sidewalk and in the street too?


Monday, October 10, 2011

10.10.11 OccupyBoston Raw Video

Just trying to dump as much of the video and images I shot today. Beautiful day that started out peaceful, but you knew that was going to end. But it was a wonderful crowd, thousands out there finally feeling, I think like I was feeling, finally doing something. I'm sorry, the one person/one vote system is broken, and I didn't know what to do. You vote someone in who promises change, and they then just vote with whoever has the most money. Today I felt like I was really finally voicing my total dissatisfaction with our government, and I was doing it with thousands of great, intelligent people. When you talked to them, they weren't nutbags, they were intelligent concerned people who really cared about their fellow human beings and for society and their country.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Della Mae Threefer

Della Mae just posted three new videos on YouTube. Really nice ones, too, that really show off not just their talents as musicians but also a flavor of the energy you'll see when they're on stage.

We got turned on to them when Sue started taking fiddle lessons at Club Passim from two-time National Fiddle Champion Kimber Ludiker, Della Mae's fiddle player. The next step was easy: Grab some tickets to one of their concerts and you'll be hooked.

Anyway, give 'em a listen. Here are their three new videos.

Blessed Hands


Polk County


Jamie Dear


Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm Stoned Again

Two days ago I woke up and knew something wasn't right. The fact that it was 6:30 in the a.m. was part of it. I'm rarely awake at that hour. But the pain, discomfort, and general ill feeling was telling me something I was hoping I could head off with a glass of water laced with a bit of orange juice. Not a chance. When you've got kidney stones, you're a goner. Nothing, and I mean nothing, short of some serious intravenous pain killers that you can only get from serious medical professionals, can get you through what a minuscule crystal is about to put you through.

"Oooh, kidney stones. I've heard they're pretty painful." They're the one thing a man can throw at a woman if she starts going on about the pain of labor. Granted, the thing that comes out in one is nothing compared to the thing that comes out in the other, but pain for pain, women even back down from kidney stones. They're even more painful than the excruciating pain I had to bear last fall when I learned I had spinal stenosis. That's a condition caused by your spinal column being too small for your spinal chord. You know what that is, right? It's the entire bundle of nerves that run up and down your spine. Yeah, kidney stones hurt more than that. They hurt more than the symptoms I was exhibiting, numb and paralysis in my leg. Shooting pains up and down my leg, all the way to my ankle. A charlie horse that I called, the Mother of all Charlie Horses. Yeah, kidney stones hurt more than the Mother of all Charlie Horses.

In the ER, the drill is simple. I writhe in pain on a gurney while nurses take blood and my vitals. Then they hook you up to an IV to force fluids in you. You want to hose the mother out. In the meantime, I might be weeping like a Nancy or if I feel like it, vomiting. Real serious pain causes nausea, did you know that? Then the drugs come and you lie there experiencing the best dreams you've ever had in your life. Eventually they let you go with prescriptions for enough Oxy with a street value that could pay off my school loans. And now they also give you this other drug that helps you pee like a racehorse. Like I said, the idea is to hose the little bastard right out of you.

In the meantime, the stone is taking its sweet time negotiating your bladder and ureters, and your body, sensing this intruder, feels that a fever and general malaise is the best thing it can do under the circumstances.

So, you drink and drink and drink. You're supposed to drink up three quart of water a day. Night and day, you're in and out, in and out of the bathroom.  Let it be known that there reaches a point in taking in that much water that it turns from drinking to drowning. Eventually, you can't stand water because you're just forcing it in. Can you say bloated?

I get to the point where I'll drink anything except water. Water with OJ maybe. Today I drank pot after pot of herbal tea with honey, but that eventually starts to get to you, too. Oh, and with all this liquid intake, there's that drug working on you, so you're running to the bathroom every whipstitch.

I don't even want to go into what happens in the bathroom.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams VIDEO

Well, the video is pretty much a seven-minute long commercial to buy the CD, but it's not like it's Netflix trying to screw you. It's not a huge box set with "extras" that so many recording artists are putting out now, either, for a couple of hundred dollars, not understanding or caring that that amount of money for some music lovers now pays for the heat or for food on the table. It doesn't sell for a lot, and it's looks like it's a compilation of a bunch of old songs never recorded by Hank Williams by a bunch of really talented and passionate musicians. I just always grind my teeth, though, when I see the CEO or president of this or that company talking folksy. I don't understand why they just don't stay in their fancy offices and continue to just pull in their overpriced paychecks. Why do they have to get out and mingle with the rest of us? Now that is something Hank would say, so I think it's totally appropriate.


The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams EPK from Columbia Records on Vimeo.

Hey Netflix's Reed Hastings: Your Skin's Hanging Off Your Bones

Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, came out with this big mea culpa on Netflix's blog and in text messages for raising prices, apologizing for being the arrogant, greedy bastards they are (wow, 20-20 hindsight, huh, Reed?)

What an example of damage control, huh? Take a look.  

And if you believe that, as they say I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you. What you are looking at is the product of hours and hours of meetings and conference calls and emails and a helluva lot of money in costs--probably more money than many of us will make in ten years--to PR agencies and corporate communication professionals. The whole tone and premise is we want to show our human side, when all along we can see it Reed: You're skin's hanging off your bones. What you're seeing is an alien life form trying to act human.


Netflix is just one snake in a nest of snakes comprising the home entertainment business. We know the entertainment business is cutthroat, and these third-tier providers are the true bottom feeders. Netflix's business was taking in water everywhere. It wasn't just customers jumping ship. It's own "partners"--which is a business term akin to a Facebook "friend"--trying to take them for whatever they can. This business is just a passle of jackals.


"Two weeks ago, negotiations between Netflix and Starz, the premium pay-TV provider, broke down. Starz owns the Internet rights to titles from Sony and Disney, so it is an important source of films and TV shows for Netflix. But Starz is reportedly asking for a $300 million deal, or 10 times the $30 million agreement it penned in 2008 and Netflix doesn’t want to pay." Here's the source of that quote.

Netflix, partially through its own doing and partially because of the Darwinian law that rules the business, was the wounded antelope on the Serengeti, with the lions closing in. Netflix's last option was to actually try to appear human and appeal for mercy from people who don't have a clue about the true nature of the game.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Della Mae- Blessed Hands

To anyone who has a hard life. To anyone for whom life can be, at times, hard. For all of us who find joy and inspiration in music and what it can do for the soul. This is music based in what I feel is real life, filled with human interaction and love.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm Becoming a Huge Tom Russell Fan. What About You?

Been digging through YouTube for Tom Russell videos just to get stoked for his concert next Tuesday at Club Passim. And just about everything I click on I love. Great American stories. Not the crap the Tea Party/GOP is slathering on the public like lard on toast. These are real American stories, based in the Old West (stand up tall next to Sam Shepard.)

These are just a few of his songs I could listen to over and over. Real, impassioned stories.








Tuesday, September 13, 2011

East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam

Going to see Tom Russell at Club Passim next Tuesday, September 20. Maybe you should, too.

Here's East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam.

Tift Merritt--Stray Paper

And while I'm back on posting songs, here's one I stumbled on. Tift Merritt is someone who's on my short list to see. I missed her the one time I can remember her coming here to Boston--she played at the MFA, that's the Museum of Fine Arts and I can't imagine this act playing at that staid place. She probably played an acoustic set.

I know I learned about her a while back on one of those compilation CDs that music magazines are wont to put out, a good idea that I'm sure a lot of labels balk at. I mean, you can't just give it away for free, the greasy suits with the nice haircuts say.

You can see from this that this woman has some serious rock-country chops. And she's got an awesome band backing her up.

Enough. I'm just blathering. Just listen. And hang in there because there's a nice surprise at the end.

The Weight--Gillian Welch & Old Crow Medicine Show

Crap rattles around in my head. The Internet doesn't help. Actually, the Internet is an enabler. I can surf and follow my nose like an old bloodhound following a scent over the horizon into oblivion. From this tree to that rock over this stretch of sand and the next thing I know I'm around the bend and everyone is out of sight. Which is usually the way I like things.

I criticize my own daughter for posting songs on her blog simply because they resonate with her. You got to add your own voice, I tell her. Give it more value and pass it along, I say in words that make me wince now that I've realized they came out of my own mouth and now that I think about it. I've been guilty of doing that more than once in this space, and who cares? Music speaks for itself, doesn't it? Do I have to add words, words, words? More noise to the world when the music simply wants to be heard?

Anyway, as I was following my nose this morning, I found this and I would have loved to have been sitting in that audience just taking it all in.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Back to Square One with the Guitar

Graduate school was one of the most intense long-term experiences I've had in a while. Not that I don't get intense experiences almost on a daily basis. I mean, check out the economy. As I used to say when I started freelancing, homelessness and starvation are great motivators. There's nothing like the realization that I may still end up on a park bench in my old age, huddled under a raggedy-ass thin blanket in the snow. Seriously, I've thought of it. What do you do when the money runs out?

Look back on that first sentence and realize that what grad school was, was long-term. It was a non-stop shot out of a canon where you just kept flying through the air and you never thought you were going to land. I'm reading comments, primarily on Facebook, of people who have started the program at BPT and they are completely overwhelmed, exactly the way I was a year ago. I mean, when do I sleep? When do I see Sue? When do I do anything except study? Even, with all the studying and the completing responsibilities toward your stipend, when do I write? Well, it all came together, you slip into a mean routine and just ride it out.

Now, I'm trying to cobble a life. I'm looking for work, and I'll probably blog about that at some point when I get over the fact that I got hammered on an interview for a job that I thought I had, but didn't really want in the first place, but I had to go for something. I mean, I think I'm done with the corporate world and I certainly don't want to shill for an insurance company, which is what this interview was for. That seriously shows how desperate I am, that I said, Insurance?--no problemo. I'll just check my soul here at the door before I wipe my feet. I never did fit in that well to begin with, and now as I've gotten older and set in the writing world, I fit in even less. I think Sue said it best, It's almost like they can smell I'm an outsider. But the work scene is scary. I want to teach, and teaching jobs are scarce, just like any other job. But I'm...hopeful.

Tonight, though, I got back to music lessons, something I had to give up while in school and something I missed so much. And maybe I'll need the lessons some day in case I need to busk in Park Street. I did have a teacher who once said, in all sincerity, that all musicians should have the experience of playing out on the street or in subway stations. I guess there's a visceral grittiness that happens that leads to the blues. I don't know.

I did get rusty. I was really cruising along, learning and growing as a musician, but then I had to make some real choices and cut things out of my life and just dedicate all my talents and energy to playwriting. Sometimes I wouldn't touch a guitar for a week or two. Or I'd just pick it up and dust it, since that's all it was doing was collecting dust. Or I'd walk past it and run my fingers along the strings like you would a picket fence on the street. That's all changed, and tonight Joe, my old timey teacher, got me started back on square one. Start reading music. Start playing E, F, and G on the first string, and tap it out with my foot. Three notes. It's all back to square one stuff. I don't mind though. I'm back at it. And I want to get into songwriting seriously. I mean, what am I really supposed to do in Park Street?--cover old Lowell George songs? Still, I do love this one.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday reading...

There are a few things I'd like to get out of my system here, but a couple of things.

It's a beautiful Saturday and Sue and I are soon going to meet some wonderful friends for a trip to the ICA in Boston, so I don't want to spend my time blogging, for cripe's sake.

The other thing is, as much as I'm for openness and truthfulness, I've learned to censor myself a little bit. If you want to get a glimpse of what I'd really like to be talking about here--and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do it without shooting myself completely in the foot--check out my Twitter feed. Yeah, it's still Johnny vs. The Volcano a.k.a Corporate America. Why do I even keep trying?

But, in lieu of some hot gossip, check out johngreinerferris.com for some of the latest posts on theater and playwriting there.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kenny Fuentes Asked For This Recipe & It's Too Good To Keep A Secret

The last time I saw Kenny Fuentes, the artistic director at the Colab Theater, was last night at Krista D'Agostino's good-bye party and he was taking a poll asking if it's cheating on your spouse if you...well, let's just put aside what the circumstance Kenny was proposing.

Anyway, before that, we were talking about food. Good food. Because he and Bob Mussett, along with Krista, had cooked up a Chicken McNuggett casserole. I don't even want to tell you what these folks do with bacon.

But anyway, we got to talking about recipes and Sue said I had this kick-ass recipe for chicken that I cook at Christmastime. Kenny asked for it, saying he'd be too lazy too cook it but might find someone to do it for him.

I was thinking this recipe is too good to keep secret. So Kenny, here ya go. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy hanging out with you. And anyone else who wants to give it a go, try it out.

Now, as far as your question, Kenny--Don't both people have to be alive to do that??


Roasted Chicken with Holiday Stuffing
Recipe courtesy Martin Yan
Show: Cooking Live  Episode: Feast with Martin Yan
 Recipe Summary
Prep Time: 8 hours            Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Marinade:
2 tablespoons dark soy
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1(2 1/2) pound spring chicken

STUFFING:
1/4 cup dried chestnuts
3 dried black mushrooms
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 Chinese sausage (2 ounces each), diced
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup cooked glutinous rice(sweet rice)

Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Rub chicken inside and out with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Stuffing: Soak the dried chestnuts overnight in water. Place them in a pan with water and simmer, covered, until soft, about 30 minutes; drain. Discard the stems and thinly slice the mushroom caps. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add sausage; stir-fry until sausage is slightly crisp, 11/2 to 2 minutes. Add shallots, green onions, chestnuts, mushrooms and cilantro. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in oyster-flavored sauce, and sesame oil. Remove pan from heat and add rice; mix well. Let stuffing cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Just before roasting, place stuffing inside chicken; enclose with skewers. Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of thigh meat, without touching bone. Bake until thermometer registers 180 to 185 degrees, about 1 to 11/2 hours. During the last half of roasting time, baste chicken occasionally with pan juices.



Friday, September 2, 2011

Controversial Commercial In Australia On Fertility: What do you think?

Australian ad agency Rhodes Shapter Dale Rhodes has produced a commercial that will air on Australian television for a fertility clinic that shows a birth taking place.

I guess it's causing a stir there. Geez, for my money, I'd rather see semi-clever ads for beer like this one, wouldn't you?



Okay, if you ignore all the cliches, from fostering (hey get it, fostering!) a national stereotype, to  setting back male/female relationships about sixty years, it is kind of funny. Hey, it's beer, right? This is the reason, though, why I don't own a television set. If I was subjected to that commercial over and over and over again, along with the rest of the campaign, I'm sure I'd have this sense that my brain and intellect was under the influence of about a case of Fosters. Which I guess is what they want.

Anyway, here's the fertility ad. What do you think? I actually like it. It's pretty to watch, but the maybe five times I've watched it now has really made me hate that heavenly host music.








Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh Good Grief, Not Another Blog: Digital Presence Sure Is A Lot Of Work

I forgot where I saw it or what the number was, but the number of Web pages being generated daily, or by the second, is some astronomical Eisteinian figure. Not that that means anything, except companies like EMC or whoever the "leading worldwide provider of enterprise-wide storage devices" is nowadays are hopping up and down. Hoarders of the digital ones and zeros.

I had to make a new blog. It's over on my new Web site, which I also had to make. The site is my digital presence as a playwright, and everyone, I'm told, has to have one. So the little nerd in me found a cheap (Weebly--it's free!) development platform (only a nerd would use that term with a straight face) and in less than two days I had me a brand-spanking new Web site. Pretty darn proud of myself, yes I am. Who said all those years in high tech were wasted years? Just for some gravy I also threw together this little puppy. Aren't I a hot shit? Oh, when you check out the puppy, vote for me. I might get my card up in Times Square and wouldn't that be awesome for An Emerging Playwright?

But now I have the problem of having to keep two blogs going. It's like two stoves in the wintertime, they have to generate some heat or else the analytics will drop. That's right, I added my own analytics to the site, so I could track visitors. Plus I have to keep my site current with new content or else people will stop coming. Oh shoot, and I started another blog at BU for my creative writing class to post, so I'm going to have to watch that one, too. And let's not forget my Facebook page. I post a lot there, there, reposting and commenting.

All this digital presence stuff sure is lot of work. When am I going to have time to write plays?


Saturday, August 27, 2011

On The Eve of Destruction: Food, Liberty, and Civil Rights

Hurricane Irene is supposed to pay Boston a visit come tomorrow. It seems there's a lot of hullabaloo about destruction. News reports always add an adjective before the characteristics of the storm: Irene begins its "destructive run." It "lashed" the North Carolina coast. It "pounded" shorelines. The Boston Herald today said, "The storm stands to bring a treacherous trifecta of nature’s forces: punishing winds, torrential rains and pounding waves along the coast." Not to mention some really bad alliteration.

It's going to be a big blow, no doubt. There's always the danger of the wind blowing down trees onto cars and houses, and knocking down power lines that could leave us without electricity for days. That means food spoils--you can lose hundreds of dollars that way--and things like showers become luxuries for some if their heating system depends on an electrical water pump.

I didn't want to buy into the whole hurricane fever. I looked around the house and it seemed we had pretty much whatever we needed. Worse comes to worse we'll either fire up the grill or a camp stove and live on pasta until things settle down. Still, I felt the pull to head to Stop 'n Shop. I grabbed my two bags and walked there. I like to generally walk. It's a way I can think about all the characters I have milling around in my head--both fictional and real. And think how they intersect and I think of interesting and evil things to put them through, the fictional ones at least.

And walking is the only way to really learn a city or a neighborhood. When I travel I love to wander the neighborhoods. And doing it in your own can be so illuminating. The Chinese here in Wollaston are doing a great job settling in. Every other house has some sort of garden in the yard. They don't grow something as useless as grass. Instead they grown their melons and vegetables. Their yards and gardens are so efficient. They're a combination of the practical and the decorative. Little paths wind through the vegetables. I saw a pipe sticking through a fence to drain the garden onto the sidewalk. Bamboo and other exotic plants are there for decoration. I think I saw more than a couple of dahlias taller than me. I looked down one driveway and saw an old woman sitting in her garage with a full kitchen at work. The shipyard and the quarries are long gone from Quincy. I know from talking to a few townies that they long for those days. They're like characters in a Tennessee Williams' play, longing for the days of the Old South, when things were genteel and there were Gentleman Callers.

I was expecting pandemonium at Stop 'n Shop, but the only signs that there was trouble were no carts inside the store and one of the scanner stands was out of order. It was crowded, but people were polite. It didn't seem any different than what could be any other Saturday. But the lack of carts, the crowd, the technology breakdown, and the sale on so many of the perishables told me that cracks were showing in the system, but it was still holding up. The world we live in, the way we have it set up, is so fragile. Just our food supply is in jeopardy every day, influenced by the price of gas and natural disasters. We've been watching the price of food go up in the past year. Just the other day Sue called me from the store, astonished that a red onion costs two dollars. An onion! The price of a gallon of milk is about four dollars now. We usually go to BJs for milk, eggs, and orange juice now, though today I bit the bullet and bought a dozen small eggs and a half-gallon of milk. We used to squeeze our own orange juice until the price of even juice oranges made that prohibitive. Last night I read a tweet from a reporter in Libya who said they were boiling eggs in the water from a flower vase. Imagine things getting to that point around here. Oh, that would never happen in the United States, people say. But the cracks are showing there, too. Being an insomniac gives me the opportunity to have a lot of waking hours to read, and last night I came upon this story on Al Jazeera. It's an opinion piece entitled, New York Becomes the Occupied Territories, and the writer explains how the NYPD is now working with the CIA to infiltrate the Muslim community in New York. "Simply put, if the intelligence that the NYPD intelligence unit is gathering is not useful to the judicial process, then it's not police work, it's spying. If Americans think being spied on by their government isn't such a big deal, they can talk to the millions of Arabs who've rebelled in good measures because of decades of such practices, or the citizens of former Communist countries in Eastern Europe. All of these governments also justified spying with the need to "protect" the state and citizens from potentially dangerous people. But it always ends the same way."

Anyway, it looks like we're on the eve of destruction on a few fronts, doesn't it.




Thursday, August 25, 2011

Internet 2.0 Fortune Cookies: Knee-Deep in Social Networking

Two days ago I learned I passed my French exam which means I have completed all my coursework for an MFA in playwriting from Boston University. And, as my first act as a graduated playwright, yesterday I, as an artist of the 21st century, began work on a Web site to promote my plays. (Every playwright has one.) So yesterday I started it and today johngreinerferris.com went live. One thing you learn how to do in grad school is write and work fast and under pressure. And one thing you learn from working in the computer industry is how to intuitively use computer tools including development platforms that to someone else (read, non-nerdy types) resembles foreign language manuals on how to survive a nuclear meltdown.

Plus, I put together an About.Me page. Which is where I learned about Klout. Klout says that I am an Explorer, and that I actively engage in the social web, constantly trying out new ways to interact and network. You're exploring the ecosystem and making it work for you. Your level of activity and engagement shows that you "get it", we predict you'll be moving up.


Klout also says, You are influential to a tightly formed network that is growing larger.


And, You do not engage with very many influencers.


Also, You have the ability to generate actions and discussions.

And, You have a small but tightly formed network that is highly engaged.



Does all this sound like something you'd find in Internet 2.0 fortune cookie?

Well, Klout sure is making me feel like Mr. Cool Hipster. Mr. Nerdy Pants. Mr.--oh, to heck with it.

Yes, anyone who follows me on this blog knows I'm a nerd who is fascinated by all this social networking Internet 2.0 or whatever it is "influencers" are calling it now. But while the influencers are coming up with names for things, people like me want to use them to engage in some serious discussion.

I know Facebook and Twitter take some serious abuse (even by me sometimes; oh, they can take it) about how shallow things can get. That's not the fault of the technology. The fault lies with the people who don't know how to a) use the tools; or b) don't see the full potential of the tools. But there's no denying: Facebook and Twitter and blogs and Web sites can be the source of some serious dialogue. You just have to know the limits of the technology, and the limits are there and very real.

They will never, I repeat, never replace face-to-face human exchanges. Skype and all that are all very cool for adding dimension to human interaction, but there's nothing that will replace feeling a warm handshake. But for giving a theater on the other side of the country a good idea of who I am and what my work is all about, Weebly did the trick.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Mill 6 T Plays: Behind the Scenes Video


Barlow Adamson who, by the way, read brilliantly for the part of JP in the Boston Playwright Theater's Ground Floor New Plays Series reading of Highland Center, Indiana, put together this video about the process that goes behind making The T Plays. This is really it. For those of you who somehow have the notion that theater is all glamor and Hollywood, this might change your mind. Although you still don't get the sense of the butterflies the size of wombats in your stomach, the mind-numbing fatigue that you usually have to push through due to sleep deprivation, or the bad food that usually accompanies putting together a show.

Mill 6 Collaborative's The T Plays run for two more nights. I'm heading in this evening, meeting my daughter, Allison, at New York Pizza first (no one works at The Factory Theater without making a stop there; I forgot who said that) and then off to the show.

Break a leg Derek Fraser and Matt Chapuran. Here are those two talented actors, courtesy of Meg Taintor Photography, playing in Striking Out the Peanut Man, a play that takes place on the D line of the T.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Got Down with Howard Zinn Last Night

The movie was sitting in my in my instant queue on Netflix for I don't know how long. It was one that I've been meaning to watch for awhile, but never felt in the mood for. You really have to be in the mood for a documentary, you know. You have to have that intellectual, brainiac mode going on in your head. But life's got a way of working out, of things happening at the right time.

And last night was the right time for me to watch, Howard Zinn: You can't be neutral on a moving train.

A huge regret is that I never heard him speak, even though we lived in the same city. A huge disappointment is that I enrolled at Boston University, where he was a professor in history, a year after he died. There are so many amazing professors at BU, and while on the one hand I and my wallet are kind of glad I was able to get through my program in a year, it would have been so great to have spent time in the classroom with some of these great minds.

But I'm getting off point. Last night all that Tea Party/Christian Fundamentalist/Conservative Movement that is roiling the intelligent discourse in this country--dare I say the intellectual backlash caused by people who simply are ignorant--really hit me hard.  Last night it was personal. And last night I did exactly what I hate to do: I fired up Netflix looking for some mind-numbing film just so I could stare and let my mind idle. But you know what? I'm not like that. Every time I fall down, every time I feel life giving me a sucker punch, every time it looks like I'm out for the count, I'll still find a way to get back on track. Minds are not meant for idling. They are meant for peddle to the metal thinking. And Howard Zinn's life and values and intelligence was exactly what I needed and I think, frankly, is what this country continues to need. His values were steeped in traditional American values as I've understood them. That this country was founded on respecting individual rights. That the people, not the government or worse, Big Business, own and rule this country. That patriotism is not leveled at a government, but the country, and again, this country was founded on individual rights and not groups, and that includes the fanatical right who seems to think it espouses so much of traditional rights and values--all in the name of Jesus.

I would have loved, though, to sit with him and pepper him with questions about what continues to be happening in this country. The unbelievable hatred by people who profess to follow Jesus. The ignorance of people who clearly aren't capable of understanding complex issues, or even worse, people who don't have the capacity to simply admit they are in over their heads and then search out the answers.  And I suspect, in a classroom, he would have encouraged that discourse. I'm a Libra, and I play a really good devil's advocate and I would have cherished the time spent with him.




Saturday, August 13, 2011

Benchpressing Dialogue

Finally, last night and this morning I got back into the gym. Graduate school is not conducive of good health. You can't exercise, you eat shitty food all the time because shitty food is quick and cheap (grad school is all about being poor and having no time) and you spend an inordinate amount of time on the couch reading and writing and, if you're me, snacking on bowls of goldfish crackers. I've put on weight, have a spare tire, and my arms are scrawny-looking. Walking as much as I could on campus and taking the stairs wasn't going to stem the tide of old age and an inbalance of calorie intake and no calorie burn.

But it wasn't my body that also suffered from this lack of physical activity. My writing did, too.

I've always used physical activity as a way to purge my brain. Before I had to stop running, I would run for miles, usually at the end of the day, to mull over the day's events and just get all the nasties out of my system. All the real and perceived slights I felt were handed to me by life. All the great and little failures that were holding me back. I'd leave them out there on the road in my wake to die. I'd think and bathe my thoughts in endorphins and supercharge them to find paths to make them reality. Great dialogue--heightened dialogue--is written on adrenalin and endorphins. I rode a bike. Played basketball. Hiked. I still can't just sit still. If you read my blog yesterday, you can see that I have be doing things to let my brain do it's job.

And while I understand and believe that this body is just a temporal container for the real me, I know I do so much better mentally when I take care of this physical container. I can't create when I'm upset or in a bad emotional spot--I'm not one of those artists who has to suffer to create; it's the opposite for me. And, just like I can't explain what happens when I write, I can't explain what happens when I exercise. I do know today I was on a machine today, cranking tunes on my iPod, when suddenly a bit of dialogue came into my head that I've been struggling with for weeks now. And there it was. It just appeared.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Housework and Playwriting Work Together

Classes are over. Done. Terminee. Yesterday I dropped off a stack of books at the library that lined the floor of our office. These were books I lugged home from the Mugar Library for papers and my own personal interest. No more papers, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks. Thursday I take a French translation test, and if I pass that my graduate studies are done. It's hard to believe it will be over. I'm going to miss school. I've always loved school, even high school, which most people hated.

But today is a wonderful day. Turtles, a full-length play I started at BU, is up on the laptop, and I've been writing. Well, not writing. Writing is writing--actually typing or making marks on paper that are words. Don't ever confuse writing with the writing process. But everything I did today is definitely part of the writing process. What were those things? Today, they took the form of cooking a pot of spaghetti sauce, baking bread, making a big bowl of salad, doing the laundry, taking care of the plants on the deck, and an assorted other things. These are the things that get left behind when your brain is revving at 5,000 rpm in a literature class. But I've learned I need to "trick" my brain about writing. I can't just sit down and stare and say, okay, I'm going to write now, though sometimes I certainly do that and at times it does work, but I've learned it works only for so long. I have to let my creative part work alone, and at some point I know when it's time for that creative side and the practical side--the side that knows the touch system of typing--to get together and write.

And I like doing these things I've been doing today. I do. They feed the soul. I like being the "lady of the house"--a reference to Highland Center, Indiana in case you're a knee-jerk liberal and rile at anything remotely anti PC. I've always had a paternal side, and I like taking care of things and people. Left to my natural rhythm, this is the sort of things I would be doing in the morning--and blogging and reading the news and checking out all the social media sites and connecting to the world out there. And all the while my writing brain would be churning. Sometime around 3:00 I'll sit down and write. Actually write, make words and write dialogue and stage directions. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What is it about the number 11 and significant times in my life?

Today is August 11. It's the last day of class for me. Not just the last day of class for summer session, but the last day of class for me in grad school. More on that in another post, but what exactly is it with the number 11 in my life?

Numbers are weird, and I'm the first to say I have no idea how they work. I know they add up and all that, but I mean some people get them, what they do, how they interact with one another. I don't. To me, number, and their accompanying mathematics have always been hard to understand. I know I have synesthesia. When I see numbers (and the alphabet, for that matter) I see it in terms of light and dark, and on a kind of roller coaster. But that's as far as I have any real interaction with numbers.

But, check this out:

It was December 11, 2008 when I was laid off and whatever happened in my brain kicked me over to this path that I'm on now. I wasn't going to let an economic disaster stop me from living my life.

And, it was June 11, 2002 when I was laid off from this awful dead-end job by this absolute troll of a human being who I had to deal with for years and I decided to go in business for myself. I thought that day, you always wanted to run your own business, no better time than now. And I embarked on five fantastic years that really showed me what I was made of. I did some fantastic work, actually made a pretty good living on my own, and grew in so many ways.

Okay, one more. I was talking to my French tutor, and we were talking about politics and such and I mentioned the draft and he didn't know we used to have a draft in the United States, and I actually still have my draft card from the Vietnam era. Yep, the date on it is the 11th. But not just any 11th. September 11, 1973.

It's a weird number, right? At least in my life. It's like some sort of weird, numeric Tarot card that initially looks like it portends doom, but then there's always fortune behind it. So, I wonder what lies behind this 11?

The Badass Honey Badger

Facebook wouldn't allow me to post this on my wall today. Maybe it was because I wrote "badass" in the comment. Or I said, Honey Badger doesn't give a shit.

This video has been around before (it went viiiiraaalll!) , but it's what I'm feeling today. The economy. Politics. The world. God, the wooooooooorrrrrlllllddd. What is going on in the world? Are we all going to end up in some post-economic-apocalyptic mess populated by badass honey badgers? Or maybe we all should become like Honey Badger. Honey Badger just doesn't give a shit.


Monday, August 8, 2011

The Mill 6 T Plays: Like a Song Stuck in My Head

I can't seem to turn it off. It's like when a song gets stuck in your head. I get on the T and instead of just sitting back and enjoying the ride, I immediately look around and try to match people up with stories. Or try to figure things out. Like tonight, why the guy across from me with the religious medallions kept periodically sucking his teeth. Or what was up with the kid a few seats down from him, dressed in what I'm sure he thought was business attire--electric blue shirt too big for him and a tie the size of a lobster bib. Put them together and...

Wait. I don't have to do that anymore. As a matter of fact, that's not the way Striking Out the Peanut Man came about anyway, even though for a couple of weeks before I had to write a play for Mill 6's T Plays I would play that game on the T. For anyone who's going to it next year, in the end I didn't find that helpful. It was more helpful for me to know my actors and write for them, imagining them in the situation, than it was to imagine them as real people on the T. And now I know all that worrying was for nothing. It's like anything: You just have to trust your talent that it will come through.

I did a bit of rewriting, just tweaks to lines. Meg Taintor, the director, tonight said it wasn't working for her, and frankly, with Meg, she didn't have to make much of a case. It wasn't working for her, and that was enough for me, and we took them back out.

I'm not even sure when I'm going to see the show now. It opens Wednesday--really a preview, I think--and it's really all up to the actors and the tech people--all of those talented people. Break legs, everyone.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 3 of Mill 6's T Plays

More on Mill 6's The T Plays.

Yesterday was the killer for me. Friday night we all were matched up: playwrights, directors, actors, and oh yes, the T line we'd be dramatizing. Just to get everyone up to speed, Meg Taintor, the artistic director at Whistler in the Dark and who I'm finding out to be a very crazy, very dear, very wonderful human being is the director. The actors are Derek Fraser and Matt Chapuran, who I still haven't met but did see a video of him at work with ImprovBoston. Kind of like Wallace Shawn, wouldn't you say? Oh, and we're working the Green Line.

Friday night Meg, Derek, and I talked for awhile. I particularly was interested in the actors, and I kept asking Derek everything I could think of: What would be his plum role? Where was he born? Just listening to the cadence of his voice. One little gem I gleaned from him was he someday wants to play the part of Cliff in the The Woolgatherer. I kind of knew the play because a few years back I used a monologue from that play for a StageSource audition.

Anyway, Friday night I was a wreck. It seemed everyone at Doyle's knew each other, had worked together, was so accomplished, and man was I feeling the pressure.

As I said, yesterday was the killer. Get on the T, get some inspiration, find a story, and write it by 6:00. Here's how it played out. I got up and got caffeinated. Read the news. One thing that didn't necessarily stick but is important is that there is a Red Sox-Yankees series in Boston this weekend. It sounds crazy and it all happened so fast but the series of events went: D train, hey wait, there's a Fenway stop, empty train, why would two Red Sox fans be on an empty train going outbound during one of the biggest series of the season, oh wait, one of them got them kicked out of Fenway, one is like Cliff the other is like Wallace Shawn, turn around and write it.

That's really it.

I tried to make it easy on the actors (no three-page monologues), I tried to give Meg a lot of action to work with, and I tried to make it funny. In the end, writers write what they know and they write about that bone they like to pick. For me, comedy is a lot of cuss words. I think the words fuck, fucking, and Jesus fucking Christ, spoken just right by the right character can be so funny. And for me, comedy is based in class. Someone in the "lower class" poking fun at someone in the "upper class." (It's easy to think "upper class" on the D line what with all those Newton stops.)

And so, that's how Striking Out the Peanut Man was written.

Derek asked me last night how I was doing, and I replied, A lot better than I was doing twenty-four hours ago. Yeah, he said, you definitely had that deer caught in the headlights look about you. 

Last night all the teams sat together and read. I am so impressed by all the work that was presented. Today, we start the part that I love. Meg, Derek, and Matt will start rehearsing at noon. I'll swing by around 1:30. It's the collaboration. All the people working together to make something bigger than the whole.

That's where we stand today.

Oh, and you can learn more about this project and get tix here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mill 6 T Plays. Holy Crap! What Did I Get Myself Into?

I don't think there hasn't been a single theatrical endeavor I've been involved in that at some point I didn't ask myself, What the hell did I get myself into and how is all this going to work out? I've come to resign myself that that is one reason I love the theater so much. It is live. It is real. And there are no guarantees when the lights go down and the curtain goes up what the heck is going to happen.

So I agreed to write a ten-minute play for The Mill 6 Collaborative's T Plays. The assignment: Tomorrow ride one of the lines on Boston's subway system, then write a ten-minute play by 6:00 tomorrow evening that will be performed in front of a paying audience next week. This is a whole 'nother kind of weird. A whole 'nother kind of pressure than even the kind you get in grad school where you're given a week to write a ten-minute play about three characters standing on the edge of a cliff.

I mean, I was honored John O'Brien, Mill 6's artistic director asked me to do it. (I didn't even know he knew me.) And I love the T. Yes, yes I do. I live three minutes from the Red Line and its sound is part of my world (it rumbled past just now) and I think the $59 monthly pass is the best deal in Boston. I used to love to drive, but now the thought of dealing with the parking lot we call the Southeast Expressway or negotiating Boston's maze of streets clogged with tourists and their Freedom Trail maps leaves me with a sense of doom, like knowing you have to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon with that aunt of yours who smells like a laundry hamper. I love sitting on the T with a book, or just watching, as I did just the other day, keeping my eye on two junkies on the Red Line, a young man and woman, wondering about their lives, how pretty and sad they looked.

But to write a freakin' play, from scratch, in a day??  Holy Crap! What did I get myself into? Talk about the blank page staring back at you? Rick Park, who I've never met but whose name I know for all his involvement in Boston's theater world has blogged about his experience with the T Plays. (Holy shit, Rick Park?? I have to write a play that's going to be in a show with Rick Park? Doesn't he work with the Gold Dust Orphans? Isn't he a Very Funny Guy? Oh shit, is it too early to start drinking? Should I fake something?--a nosebleed? a rare illness? the birth of a child?) He wrote about his first experience writing for the T Plays and how nervous he was. Ok, that's good. Rick Park was nervous. Rick Park puts his pants on every morning the same way I do. (Wait, how do I really know how he puts on his pants? Does he even wear pants? Oh, I'm doomed.)

Tonight everyone--playwrights, directors, actors--will be meeting and John will match us all up. Tonight I'll meet the director and actors I'll be writing for. Deep breath.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Play's Not A Play Until It's On Stage

Who said that? Wasn't it Tennessee Williams? That a play's not a play until somebody puts it up onstage. So, really, playwrights are scriptwriters, right? We write scripts, the blueprints to a play. Still, there is that funny little business about being play-wrights, and not play-writers. So maybe, just like for a shipwright a ship isn't something useful  until it's launched (what's more useless than a ship on land?) in that sense we're forging plays, but they're useful until they're on stage.

But the question is, how to get it from being a script to a play? That's where I stand now in my career as a playwright. We--I--write these things not to keep in a drawer, but for people to hear and see them. I've said it once, and I'll say it again, despite so many writers being of the quiet, introspective type, there is a certain arrogance associated with the act of writing. You are saying, I have something to say, and you better darn well listen.

I am entering a stage where I'm sending my plays out to theaters. Not flooding the market, but picking and choosing theaters whose work I admire and where I'd like to see my work produced. Or where it seems like there would be a good match.  And sure, I'm sending scripts to theaters that are putting out the word that they are looking for full-length and one-act plays whose work I don't know, but maybe I should know. They're saying they're looking, so they must be, right?

Still, all I keep hearing is the old model is broken, the one where playwrights send scripts to a theater and then the theater puts on the play. I don't want to address that issue right now. That's a whole nuther kettle of fish.

Right now, playwrights still have to send out scripts to theaters where they aren't known, where they don't have any relationship yet. (I was reading about Paula Vogel's career last night, and she and Molly Smith at the Arena Stage have a relationship that dates back a long way.) You have to start somewhere, and yes, I still believe that despite the obstacles that producers and artistic directors are facing today, I can't help but think that when they sit down and open an envelope there is this hope against hope that This Will Be The One.

I was just faced with sending a script out to two Very Big Deal theaters, and the question I grappled with was, What else do I put in the box besides a script? Neither theater asked for anything except a script formatted a particular way. One said a short bio could be included, but it wasn't necessary. One theater I saw (not one of the two where I just sent scripts) said send them a script and anything else we can think of that might entice them to look at my work. I think back on all the job application letters I've written over the years, trying all sorts of ploys to break through the clutter--funny, serious, straight, clever, coy--and I'm not sure what worked on any given day. In the past, some, but not all, of the best jobs I had were ones from people I already knew, or through relationships I had from making appointment after appointment with different creative people throughout Boston. I think that holds true with getting plays produced, too. But as I said, not all the time. The Provincetown Theater produced one of my plays--produced it marvelously, I might add--and no one knew me there.

This time, I questioned whether I should include a bio, but in the end, I included a short, short letter with one sentence telling them I am currently a graduate student at Boston University, and thought to myself, in the end, it's the play that's going to have to stand on its own, so let's see if it's as good as I think it is. In lieu of the theater knowing me or my work, this is all I've got right now.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's My Credit Score?

This little image shows up on more than one occasion as I flit from here to yon on the Internet. I've never paid any real attention to it, just delete in the same way I wish I could delete flies that annoyng me. Or, I didn't pay much attention to it until today when it hit me with all the partisan bickering going on in Washington that I wonder if this shows up on some master computer at the Fed. But I do imagine my credit score, at least as it's tabulated by government-sanctioned loan sharks, probably isn't very good.

On the other hand, the way I tabulate it, I'm sitting pretty. Well, maybe not pretty, but not too shabby.

I live frugally. Mighty frugally. I do it out of necessity because I'm pretty broke for any number of reasons from being in grad school for the past year to being in my fifties and trying to get work in an economy and a society that values people half my age. And I live frugally by choice. I wouldn't have it any other way.  The typical American lifestyle gives me, as Mark Twain would have said, the fantods. (Yes, it's a word; look it up.)

The thought of a big house filled with all the latest stuff, from a wide screen TV to a bed the size of a aircraft carrier actually makes me feel nervous. I don't even own a TV. I don't want to own one. The programming, I believe, is mostly crap that just wastes my valuable time and attention. And it's expensive. I gave up my television years ago more out of a necessity to cut costs, and when I got rid of it I suddenly realized how much better I felt. I guess it's sort of like how some people feel when they cut out red meat or caffeine. 

I have a pretty basic phone, and I just recently had to replace my phone and opted not to get a smart phone for a couple of reasons, including the cost of the service, but also because I don't want to be that connected. Because I think the more connected we are, the less connected we actually are, if you understand my drift.

It came to my realization a few years back that what makes this life so expensive is the upkeep. Marketers figured out that the real money is in add-ons and service. Once you buy the phone or the TV they gotcha. You got to spend more and more to utilize what amounts to commodity items. I saw that in the computer industry. The initial cost of a enterprise computer system is one thing, but where people make their long-term money is in the service contracts and upgrades. On a smaller level, it's one thing to own an iPhone, but then you're dealing with that additional monthly payment just so you can look up a restaurant while you're walking around Boston.

When I drive, which isn't very often since the $59 a month T pass is the greatest deal in the world since I usually have taken $60 in rides by the middle of the month, I jump in my 1997 Ford pickup with 180K miles on it. It's rusting out and the springs and brakes are a little mushy, but if I'm careful I get to where I'm going.

What little debt I have is in my upcoming school loans. But I did get a scholarship to Boston University, and then a teaching fellowship that defrayed even more costs. I'm not sure I could have swung the cost without the scholarship. But I think me borrowing money to go to school is a good example of how you have to spend to get out of trouble. I think for the Republicans and the Tea Party to think otherwise shows how little they know.

Credit cards? Nope. I carry two out of necessity, but the American Express gets paid every month and I keep it for the points. The points are Sue's and my ticket out of here someday, on a plane going to the other side of the world. The other one I only use if someone doesn't take American Express. Otherwise, it's cash all the way for me. If I run out of cash, oh well, that's what's called a balanced budget.

I have to say I'd like to ask all the people who say they live within their means and expect the U.S. government to do likewise to open their books. I think a lot of people who say they live within their means actually don't. I'm not saying they're liars. That would be kind of harsh. I'm just saying it's human nature for people to see reality whatever way is best for their own interests. (Okay, true disclosure: I'm steeped in Tennessee Williams' work right now, and that's pretty much standard operating procedure for his characters.) I don't even think it's a crime to borrow money, just as long as you can pay it back, which is really what all this debt ceiling nonsense was about, wasn't it?

I've said it a few times here: I'm not holding out a lot of hope for this country. It seems to be run right now on one hand by a lot of mean-spirited ignorant people, and on the other by a bunch of spineless politicians feeding out of the hog-trough of the political lobbies.
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