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.

Monday, August 1, 2011

From The Witty Fool...

My friend, Jessie, a.k.a. The Witty Fool wrote something good today.

Check her blog out.

"...well, I just want to know… when will my opinion and hopes for this country matter? To you. Enough to say to the Republicans WHO WILL NEVER EVER VOTE FOR YOU that you aren’t going to compromise."

The Dog Days

We're definitely in the dog days, aren't we? Unreliable sources tell me we get that term from the star Sirius, but I'm going to rely on folklore and stand on my hillbilly principles and say it's so hot the dogs just lie around in the street.

That's what I feel like doing, but I've got a ten-page paper due and an oral report and this weekend I'm writing for the T Plays and all the while my back is acting up so much that my right leg is about to fall off, so I have to fight my natural inclinations to just lie down and take a nap.

And the world news doesn't make you want to kick up your heels either, does it? I must admit, I am despondent. I don't even fully understand the business of the debt ceiling, but I do understand the politics. The politicians in Washington on both sides of the aisle do not have the country in mind. It's all politics. It's all the 2012 elections. And it's all driven by fear (I won't get elected if I vote for what I truly believe is right) and ignorance and hate.

And for those who say I'm a liberal because I don't agree with your stupidity, that's on both sides of the aisle. For years now, I haven't been able to tell the difference between a Republican and a Democrat. The nation is run by the money-lenders and the lobbyists, and votes go to the highest bidder.

I think the country is going to hell in a hand basket so fast that the wicker is already starting to catch fire. It makes you wonder if you should really stick around for the end of the show, or head for the exits now so you don't get caught in the jam afterwards.

When I get like this I focus on the little things. I can't do anything about the big ones. Years ago, I remember riding my bike on a hot summer day much like today, and I rode past a little frog on the road. He didn't jump as I road by, and I circled around to see what was up. He was flagging on the hot road, and so I picked him up and put him in the water ditch by the side of the road. And I thought to myself, well, that isn't much, but at least I didn't hurt anyone today, and maybe one life is saved.

On days like today I make sure I write and get it all out. Clear my brain out. I work on a play, because that is one really big gift to be able to do that. To be given the talent and the chance to write something that may someday move someone. Writers and fishermen are the most optimistic people, I'd say.

I light incense for the Buddha.  For some reason this seems to do some good. When the Buddha is happy, it seems the world is, too.

I'm going to print some copies of my play today, and send them out. One to a theater in Portland, Maine, and the other to Yale University. I'm shooting high, but I think I'm that good. I have a play that I think is a killer. You just know when something is good. When something is so different it will cause people to sit up. I'm not being arrogant, but truthful, when I say I truly believe Highland Center, Indiana is one of those plays. I would love for it to hit the big time, and I would love for some small theater to produce it, because small theaters are so passionate about the things they do. They have to be, because some days passion is all they have.

I'm going to smile a lot today, and make an effort to really see the good in people. I believe it's there, despite what's going on in Washington and despite what some people are like in this country. No, I don't think it's just a difference of opinion. I think the way some people think--based on ignorance and prejudice, for starters--is hurtful. And sometimes this makes me wonder if this grand experiment called the United States hasn't failed. It doesn't seem that everyone should be given the right to vote. I know that sounds elitist, but it's true. Some people are mean and stupid and hateful, despite their so-called allegiance to Jesus. Narrow minds and shallow thinking is ruining this country.

That's about all I have for today. And if you see a frog in the road, stop and give it a boost.
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