Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
This morning I discovered an example of a human being's close relationship to primates, to our need for a primal release of our emotions.
I overslept today and, in a rush to make it to work on time, I was following a blue Jaguar a little too closely. I often forget that - though this is common practice in Los Angeles - people in Orange County see this as some sort of threat. So when the car suddenly stopped, I wondered if there was going to be a problem. When the guy got out of his car, I knew there was going to be a problem. When I saw that he was wearing a namebadge from the same company I work for, I knew there was going to be a big problem.
I rolled down the window and the following ensues:
HE (shouting): Why don't you get off my fucking ass--
ME: I'm sorry.
HE: ...and back the fuck up?
ME: I'm sorry.
HE: Do you work for *COMPANY NAME*, because if you do...Where do you work?
ME: I'm sorry.
HE: Where do you work?
ME (holding my hands up as if he's pointing a gun at me): I'm really sorry.
HE: Where do you work?
ME: I'm really...I don't work for *COMPANY NAME*.
HE: Okay, good. (Muttering as he goes back to his car)
ME: I'm really sorry, sir.
Obviously, pulling up next to him in the parking lot is the worst of ideas. So I took a leisurely drive around the company building as I waited for him to park and go inside. I tried to see where he parked, making sure to avoid that area. As I took a drive around the building, I noticed a pair of headlights behind me. The kind that belong to a Jaguar. Sure enough, Screaming Primate Man was following me. Whether he was really following me, or he was just finding a parking spot, I don't know. But I suddenly thought about those dreams I have every so often, where someone is chasing me around my old house in Idaho, and I'm trying to figure out which area I should run to in an attempt to outsmart him.
Now, I'm looking around me every time I get up to go to the bathroom and constantly checking my car to make sure nothing has been done to it. I realize that this is foolish, and that he has probably forgotten about me already, but I proudly live a lifestyle that reduces the number of people that yell in my face. On those occasions that it happens, it is not that easy to simply recover from.
On one hand, the guy was insanely belligerent. Yes, I was riding on his ass, and yes, I shouldn't have, but yelling in the face of some twentysomething driving a Toyota Echo and dressed in a wrinkled shirt, tuxedo pants and white socks (when I oversleep, it shows) is not the answer. It is the ultimate image of evolution. A man wearing a nice suit getting out of his Jaguar so that he can scream on the side of a road in a business area.
On the other hand, I feel I should applaud him. So often people go through life keeping the things that bother them locked up. Especially in the business world, there is this inclination to put a smile behind your anger. So if this guy had a serious problem with me, why shouldn't he call me on it and show me that he will not put up with that type of behavior? After all, it worked. I gave him room (so much so that I was going 20 mph in a 35 mph zone).
As I made it to my desk, slightly shaking, I heard about how hundreds of people were killed in a human stampede in Baghdad. I have to take a second to register the words: "HUMAN stampede". And I realized that, in both ways small and large, the relationship between man and animal, one of the greatest questions we have concerning nature, is a lot closer than we may care to recognize.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Last night, Brey and I sat in a dark room, populated by no more than ten people, and we all watched a young man walk around in a stupor for two hours before killing himself. All in all, a good time was had.
We went to see the movie "Last Days", the latest film from Gus Van Sant, whose career has been an interesting journey. After making his name on smaller films like "Drugstore Cowboy" and "My Own Private Idaho", he slid into mainstream directing with "Good Will Hunting", "To Die For", "Finding Forrester" and the unfortunate remake of "Psycho". Then, it seems like the 21st century came, and he decided to make the most anti-Hollywood American movies on the market.
His films have retreated to remote locations around California and the Northwest. They are populated by characters who speak in slurred tones and plod around their surroundings without drive or ambition. They literally wait for death to arrive.
"Last Days" is in many ways like Van Sant's last film "Elephant" in that it closely resembles an important topic of our generation (the suicide of Kurt Cobain and Columbine, respectively) without being a direct reflection of the event.
Within fifteen minutes of the start of the film, we see blonde-haired Blake, played by Michael Pitt, roaming around his large Seattle house, wearing a slip and holding a rifle. We know exactly how this movie is going to end. But like "Elephant" and "Gerry" (Van Sant's little-seen film where Matt Damon and Casey Affleck wander Death Valley looking for their car), it is not the destination that is important, but the journey to get there.
Over the course of the film, Blake retreats to the woods, locks himself in his greenhouse, composes a song or two, makes cereal, throws up, goes swimming, pretends to listen to friends, attends a concert, kills himself and puts an ad in the yellow pages (not in that order). Meanwhile, Mormons stop by and discuss their practices, a private investigator shows up, the phone keeps ringing and all sorts of sexual activity is taking place. However, Blake is disconnected from everything going on around him, almost as if he is already a ghost, floating above all that he sees.
The camera, meanwhile, follows his subject with the same distance. He is often seen in profile or from a distance, hiding behind his hair. Occasionally the shot lingers too long on a bush or a Boyz II Men music video. Even during a great monologue skillfully delivered by the awesome Ricky Jay, the shot is more focused on the reflections of trees on the car's windshield than it is on Jay himself. Up until the crucial close-up at the end of the film, it seems as if the camera doesn't really know Blake's there.
Van Sant, whose movies used to have sharp plotting and focus, now has become a director of moments. He is no longer concerned with the "why" behind his subjects. He now focuses on the "who" and "what". I imagine him spending studio meetings staring at a spider, speculating on its journey.
"Last Days" is very slow-paced, but most importantly, it is never boring. It is a fascinating look at a man who was so far removed from what his life used to be that his final moments were not a loud scream of despair (as is usually portrayed in rock biographies), but a lonely drift into nothingness.
However, it does beg the question: Is Van Sant working himself into a formula? He, along with cinematographer Harris Savides, have created three films in the last three years that feel the same and share similar themes. Having been familiar with these techniques since seeing "Gerry" its opening weekend in L.A., I was able to quickly assess the meandering tone of "Last Days" as "more of the same". But what about someone unfamiliar with the new Van Sant? How did they feel about the snail's pace? And now that Van Sant has shown that he can make this kind of movie several times over, when is going to go through yet another change? Or will he?
Perhaps this is the final chapter in a trilogy of films, all using the same techniques to explore different sides of loneliness. Seeing as his next project is an adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife", that's a very real possibility.
Speaking of premature death in storytellers (wow, I was really reaching on that transition), I want to give notice to someone who is unknown by most, but whose work has been loved worldwide. His name was Joe Ranft, and he was the head of the story department at Pixar Studios. He died in a car accident last Tuesday.
From "Toy Story" on, he helped shape the movies that changed the face of animation. His work on the stories were a crucial element to Pixar's success. The typical American family would not have given a shit about computer animation if they had not felt such a connection to its spokesmen, Buzz Lightyear and Woody. He supervised the story development of both "Toy Story" films, "A Bug's Life", "Monsters, Inc.", "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles" (he also provided the voices of Heimlich the Caterpillar in "A Bug's Life" and Wheezy the Penguin in "Toy Story 2").
The stories in these films proved to everyone (including partners/rivals Disney) what a family story could and should truly be. Pixar's films had an equal amount of juvenile jokes, witty one-liners, inside references to other films and by the end, a really poignant message that was always skillfully unearthed as the plot progressed.
Each Pixar screenplay is a masterwork, something to be studied by future writers. I was a big admirer, and I'm sure he will be missed.
R.I.P. Joe Ranft 1960 - 2005
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Superstition is one of the most mind-boggling things to me. In a society that has become so desensitized to the unknowable, we still live in fear of superstitions.
Checking my MySpace page, I find an insane number of bulletins every single day that promise me that if I pass the bulletin on I shall have good luck for x number of days, whereas if I dare break the chain, then bad luck/misfortune/death shall surely come my way (hey hey, hey hey hey).
Perhaps because I like to tempt fate, or perhaps because I don't even like to believe that fate operates through the World Wide Web, or perhaps because I don't even believe in fate at all, I break every single chain. Because I know the truth.
It baffles me what people are willing to believe. No, Bill Gates will not give you five dollars for every person you send an e-mail to, because there's no way for him to monitor that.
No, the "doctor" will not give ten cents to that little girl who is dying of "a disease known as CANCER" (I swear to god, that's word for word. As if there's someone out there who has never heard of this crazy new cancer that's sweeping the nation) every time you forward his message, because again, there's no way for him to figure that out.
The answer to that riddle will not magically appear on your screen when you close the message, no matter how curious you are and how many times you try it.
No, the seven-year-old ghost child with bad spelling and lack of shift key knowledge (it's hard to type when you're dead, apparently) is not going to kill you in the middle of the night with a knife, because the idea that a ghost is going to go on a mass killing spree by hacking into someone's computer is just...do I really need to use the list of adjectives that are coming to mind?
And it's not just Internet superstitions. Rabbits feet do jack shit (I'll even say jack rabbit shit). No one tells me "Break a leg" before a show. In fact, several co-workers say "Good luck," and I thank them kindly for it. My mother's back is perfectly fine despite my many years of crack-stepping (which sounds like a high-energy country-western dance).
We no longer live in the days where driving through dark, wooded areas in horse-drawn buggies and seeing wall shadows from the flickers of candlelight are everyday practices. And we have plenty of other real things to be scared of. So you know what I say? Embrace your fear! Break the chain! Break it right off! Believe me, when you break your first chain and your life continues at its normal, boring pace, it's a real feeling of liberation. You're free from being so gullible, so fearful of the unknowable mechanics of the Internet! Give it a try sometime.
FORWARD THISS TO AT LEEST FIVE PEEPLE ON THE NEXX TEN MINUTS AND YOU WIL BE SUPPER DOOPER RICH!!! IF YOU DO NOTT, THAN A GHOSTY CHILD WIL STEEL YUR MONEY, AND THAN KILL YOU, AND THAN YOU'L HAVE BAD LUKK!!!
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Why does everyone get to go to Europe? Every time I talk to a friend of mine, they are traveling to Europe or China or New York or someplace equally spectacular. Where do these people, all of whom are around my age, get the money to go on these trips?
I'm going to Washington D.C. in September for a protest march. I'll only be spending three days there. I was very thrifty when it came to the airline and the hotel. And yet doing so made me go broke, to the point where I overcharged my account by roughtly seventy dollars last week.
What's the difference between me and these vacationing friends of mine? How do I differ with them? What things do I have to pay for that they don't?
I am at an age where I should be joining those of my generation in their quests. I should be carrying a backpack of essentials while walking around the streets of Ireland alone. And yet, the closest I've come to that was a train trip to San Diego to see "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: The Musical".
This is yet another way in which I feel disconnected from the rest of my generation. While I was moving to California and trying to earn a decent wage, they were going to college and vacationing in foreign countries (even when my senior class went to Mexico for a class trip, I spent that time in Chicago visiting a friend). I felt like I had skipped a part of my adolescence. And then before I knew it, they were all out of college and earning decent wages.
But then something strange happened. They all started getting married. In less than a year, they met, matched and surpassed me. Now I suddenly feel younger and less mature than my generational counterparts.
Of course, Brey assures me that I'm not them, and shouldn't aspire to be them, and of course, she's right. But I still find it odd that most of the women in our class now have different last names, their old ones simply a sign of their former lives (Holland, Adams, Fowler, all just a memory).
It's not so much that I desire to have their lives. I'm the happiest I've ever been, and with my new fantasy of moving to Stratford-Upon-Avon before 2010, the idea of travel is not out of my reach. I just wonder why other people my age don't seem to have my life.
In other news (and staying on the idea of England), I had one of those experiences that reminded me why I spend so much time pursuing my love of theatre. I was directing a reading of a truly fantastic play (that for some reason I don't want to give away the name of here), in hopes that I can direct an eventual production of it. For the reading, it was just me on stage reading stage directions, and next to me, Jessica Beane carrying the weight of the complex, highly emotional work on her strong shoulders.
For one hour, she took the journey that I put her through with an unbelievable amount of fearlessness. Going off of only one rehearsal, she was raw, unpolished and completely captivating, much like the script itself. It was nothing short of amazing, and when the artistic director said, "We have to do this show," I had her to thank.
In further news, I am currently not rehearsing anything or performing in anything. I have my many writing projects (which I always have) and the reading series. And that's it for at least a week (auditions for "Madame Guignol" are coming up and rehearsals for "Dead Letter Office" are on the horizon, I'm sure). I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my time (other than play Q*Bert. When and why did video games stop being so imaginative?).
And finally, I apologize for going so long since writing an entry (though I'm becoming more desensitized to it, I still shudder at the word "blog"). It's been a little while since I had both the time and energy to actually think.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
So, Ellen DeGeneres is visiting my work today. She is about 100 yards from me right now. I can hear her voice as she talks to the woman that I have lunch with everyday. A camera crew and an incredible amount of star-struck employees are following them around right now. Why? Beats me.
It's weird how surreal my life is at points. I show up at work, annoyed that I left my cell phone at home, really wanting sleep, feeling the tuna melt digesting in my stomach, and then suddenly one of America's most famous television personalities (not to mention the finest fish voice-over artist of all time. That's right, I'm making that bold statement) has invaded our office.
The funny thing about this (besides her witty one-liners) is that the entire floor (and yes, I mean the ENTIRE floor) has stopped to watch this. If a random person showed up, demanded that the entire office stand up and stretch and started writing on our bulletin board, they would be thrown out of the office with lightning speed. But since the random person has her own show, and the writing reads "Watch Ellen Everyday at 4 P.M.", then it's perfectly okay. That's the power of celebrity.
I realized that I really don't want to be really famous (this is where you go, "Oh, don't worry about THAT!" while rolling your eyes). I, of course, would like to be a known actor, but no higher than the level of a John C. Reilly or a David Cross. That guy that you've seen in that one thing. Important enough to get a second or third look, but not important enough to be approached. As Ellen walked through our building, people were asking for autographs, taking pictures of her and holding up "Finding Nemo" signs (where did they get those so fast?). She sounded very good-natured, but that has got to be an annoyance on both your hand and your psyche after a while.
While I was writing that last paragraph, Ms. DeGeneres started walking this way. I adopted the stance of the one person around who didn't care that a celebrity was in the building (of course I care, who wouldn't care, I just wanted it to SEEM like I didn't care). As she got closer, I had the usual swarm of thoughts that comes over me when I see television or movie cameras heading my way: "What if she stops to talk to me? What if I'm interviewed? What if I'm super funny and entertaining and get discovered and become the greatest star the world has ever known? Or what if I come across really idiotic and become the biggest novelty act since William Hung? I'll be ruined! Do I want to be on TV or don't I? DO I OR DON'T I???"
Then about ten feet from me she turned to her crew and said "Is that it?" She then signed a couple more autographs, took a picture with one employee's baby (where did she get THAT so fast?) and went back the way she came.
So now I get to stamp another entry in my list of Celebrities I've Randomly Seen (a list that includes such notables as John Travolta, Topher Grace, James Cameron and Tiffani Amber-Thiessen). People at the office asked why I didn't approach her, talk to her, be my usual actor-y self. But how could I? An actor trying to get on camera would probably be the last thing she would want.
America's favorite lesbian has now disappeared and the floor is quiet and productive again. And now whenever I look to the left while sitting at my desk, I'll have the subliminal urge to Watch Ellen Everyday at 4 P.M.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Last Saturday was "24 Hour Theater" at Hunger Artists, an exercise in theatrical spontaneity that is as immediate as scripted theater can get.
Late Friday night, five writers entered the theater, in their individuality looking like contestants on a reality show. We randomly drew five audience-submitted elements (the setting of Hogwarts, a copy of "The Recycler", the opening chords of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long", a character named Pastor Ed and the line "It's got to special"), and then set to work, staying up all night to write one-act plays that incorporated all of these elements.
In those four or five hours, tears were shed, cigarettes were smoked, Corona's were downed, and at the end of it all, we looked at our finished scripts. We had castrations, gay kissing, severed hands, gunshots, hemorrhoids, soap opera actresses, and at the center of it all, a monobrowed, sailor-mouthed invention named Helene (played in a star-making turn by Sammi Smith).
While not nearly on the level of Christopher Spencer (whose play, "Tampon", was the highlight), here is my piece "Weapons of Ass Destruction" (I had made a promise to a friend of mine that I would give my piece that name, whatever it was about). Enjoy! Or not. I won't be mad, I promise.:
WEAPONS OF ASS DESTRUCTION
(Lights up on a desk. PASTOR ED, a woman, sits behind the desk, writing something in a notebook. She glances up, notices the audience, pauses for only a second, then returns to writing the notebook)
PASTOR ED: Hi. I'm, uh...just a second.
(A few seconds of silence as she finishes what she's writing)
(She shuts the notebook)
So. As I was going to say, I'm Pastor Ed Menosky. I know. It's short for Vanessa. Don't ask how.
(She starts organizing things on the desk)
My father started calling me "Ed" in junior high, and the name somehow stuck. For some reason, people like giving girls guys names, like Jules and Sam. Like how inanimate objects get girls names, but animate and male.
In any case, welcome. This is the Heart Of Gold Women Artist Reform and Treatment Society.
(She holds up a sign that reads "H.O.G.W.A.R.T.S.")
Yes. I know. We sued. We lost.
In any case, this is where the magic happens, as they always say on that show. This is my office, my playpen, my space of stress and solace. I'd like to thank you all for coming. I'd like to say that we don't get any of your type around here, but unfortunately, we can't seem to get a break when it comes to you people.
(She picks up a piece of paper, reads it contents, considers what it says. As she reads:)
However, there is always hope. That's probably the only thing about our constantly churning society. The more problems arise in the world, the more solutions people like us are able to create.
(She decides the paper is secondary, puts it down and turns her attention back to the audience)
But of course, you're not here to be reformed. Of course not. You're here for a tour. Our lovely facility, which has not been open to the public since its inception over three years ago. When I took over as Head Pastor last April, we felt that we could really use an old heave ho in our public relations. Some C.P.R. to the P.R., if you will.
We've, of course, had a lot of...rumors, I guess you'd say. Unsubstantiated, completely unsubstantiated stories about our practices, our, well they called them "rituals", but that sounds very witch-y, doesn't it? Very sorority. It's funny how people see Point A and Point K, but since they can't see Points B through J, they make them up. It makes you realize just how necessary the numbers in a Connect-The-Dots picture is.
In any case, our Society's doctrine teaches us many valuable little tidbits, and one of these morsels is, and I quote, "She who says..."
(She pauses, thinks, picks up another piece of paper)
Yeah, okay, "She that does not admit any wrongdoings, she has done the most wrong." Admittance is the key step in reform. And so, to, I guess, dispel all of the slander that our Society has endured, we decided to put out advertisements...
(She holds up a copy of "The Recycler")
...and open our doors and let those with ill words experience the good work that my ladies are doing here.
I feel a little like Willy Wonka. Opening up the factory doors, letting all the naughty children see my wares.
In any case, here at...
(Emphasis on "warts")
She countersued. We settled.
Here at HogWARTS, we believe in the importance of the arts as a wonderful way of not only entertaining society, but keeping them informed on current events and issues. This cannot be emphasized enough. We heart art. Those who will tell you otherwise wag their tongues like a peeing puppy with its tail.
However, we also recognize the world of arts and entertainment as a balls-and-penis club, if you will. This is not me spouting feminist agenda, this is not me trying to play violins for the female gender. This is me stating simple, cold fact.
Look at a list of those who have won Pulitzers, Academy Awards, Tonys (I'm talking writing, directing, technical prizes here). Look at the current season on Broadway, or the movies playing in your thin-walled cineplexes. It's a world of washboard abs, bare calves, tragic beauties, Sylvia's and Heather's with just enough conflict and quirk to need to be molded by charismatic, just-this-side-of-attractive men. Entertainment has never been so disappointing, not even in the days when priests charged people to look at stained glass projections on walls.
Even in Christianity, the ultimate in fictional entertainment (and this coming from the pastor), we have the father, son and holy ghost. Eve hurting Adam. Delilah hurting Samson. And the two most significant figures in the New Testament are a virgin and a whore. The only restraint on the part of the writer was not making them goddamn lesbians!
By the way, off the record, I do not like being called a Pastor. This isn't a religion, this isn't a cult, and Pastor's very religion-y and cult-esque. Our first Head Pastor, Pastor Natalia Schmidt, decided it was a denomination that was would show authority without allowing tyranny. Regardless, I don't break tradition.
So for the first time since the beginnings of language, the world of art is now less advanced the politics or business. Name me a woman playwright that is not a writer of plays for women. Name me a Grammy award-winning songstress with pore-clogged skin, crossed eyes or childhood scars. Name me a female novelist whose covers aren't splashed with martini glasses, Prada shoes and Eiffel Towers.
Female artists are just that. Female Artists. They write for women about women. There is no advancement, no progress, no step forward. Five years ago, our former Head Pastor, Pastor Natalia Schmidt, stepping out of a rather disappointing art gallery showing (she used to say, "Give me one good reason why a vagina on canvas means more than one in real life."), stepping out of that, she heard a popular song playing, muffled through the closed windows and screaming vocals, but still audible.
(She pulls out a CD player, and presses "Play". The opening chords of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" plays. She shuts it off after the first five seconds or so)
Snippets of lyrics popped out at her. "She was a fast machine." "Those American thighs." "She told me to come but I was already there." "The walls were shaking, the earth was quaking."
It was in the one instant, the simultaneous jab of what the image of the female truly meant to both genders, the her twinkle of an idea eventually coagulated into the Heart Of Gold Women Artist Reform and Treatment Society.
Those women who have been scorned by art, the not-pretty actresses, the poets who let their self-importance propel them to give their shows the most ludicrous of names like "Womyn With A Y" or "Weapons of Ass Destruction", the writers who - despite their late night skepticism and arguments with themselves - can't seem to keep their stories out of the European borders, they are all welcomed here.
By convincing them that what they are doing is like a bacteria infesting another equal bacteria - by telling them that to have your art accepted in a world of cigars and beards, it can't just be good, it's got to be special - we are helping out both the women (who by this time in their lives are in a matter of mental and economic crisis) and the world of art itself.
Now, make sure to pay attention because this is where attention must be paid. We do not...DO NOT...oppress what they have to say. At all. We never said they could not act, write, draw, sing, slam. We simply told them that no one would listen. Unless! Yes, there's an unless, no one on the outside likes to talk about the unless. Unless they gave the world a reason to listen. A reach-out-and-swing-you-by-the-balls reason.
After all, what good is an idea, a word, any sort of utterance, if the purpose it serves is so narrow in its scope and exectuion that it easily slips not only through the keyholes of America but the ear lobes of our youth? Do you think that a couple of failed romances, a bad childhood memory and a dozen encounters with creepy strangers are really going to give you a voice that anyone can care about?
Then again, a process filled with such classic hits like seclusion, deprecation, starvation and good old-fashioned abuse is often the jump start to a new career.
Ah, now is when the crowd starts squirming. There's a word you people use for this. Unethical. That's the only adjective you can conjure up, isn't it? What about helpful? What about profitable? That's what we hear. And after all, we listen because no one else does.
Which brings you to why you're here. You answered the ad. You took this here tour. And you were guaranteed, at the end of said tour, a spot in the first of what will undoubtedly be many wonderful, informative television commercials. And so you shall.
It's understandable, your desire to be on television. Every little girl dreams of being a famous actress. At least the ones who play by the rules of stereotyping.
So what brought your dream to such a dire situation that you're taking paying tours just to get in a commercial?
Problems with agents? Auditions? Never felt you were pretty, talented, easy enough?
What if I were to tell you that our former Head Pastor, Pastor Natalia Schmidt, is now acting in a popular soap opera that many of you have probably seen? You see, she's not only the Head Pastor, she's also a member.
I think you'll find that you have more in common with us than you may have thought.
(She holds up a thrice-folded piece of paper)
Would you like to see a brochure?