Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blast from the past, part 2

Here's another post from the old MySpace blog. I wrote this one after returning to Seattle from New York in the fall of 2006:
So I saw the Pulitzer-winner [Doubt] at the Rep tonight, finally, after missing it on Broadway. Wow. Ran into an ex-Weeklyite (aren't they all, now?) who said this production's Sister Aloysius (the show's villain or heroine, depending on your point of view) was better than Broadway's. Broadway's was Eileen Atkins, but still, I kind of believe it, because this one ruled. Just when you wanted to close the book on her and hate her... you couldn't, because she did something funny and likable, so you were stuck kind of liking her again, despite yourself. The Stranger (consumed by the Segal resignation scandal!) said the production didn't make the priest's guilt uncertain enough, and I agree, but it was still a hell of a good show. It's nice to feel some sense of personal connection to the show; its message that doubt is a vital part of living but still hurts like hell seems very apt these days, as I begin to feel less resistance to ideas I might have laughed off years ago, or even one year ago.
As with music, some ideas get turned away when they come before their time. In college I took a road trip, fall of junior year, and my trip-mate played some Tom Waits. I didn't understand why anyone would want to listen to such a scratched-up old voice for even a minute. Then, later in the year, I asked for Waits' Mule Variations as a Christmas present, according to the principle that you ask for what you wouldn't buy yourself, because it's too "risky" to try something new on your own dime. Soon after, I was playing it in my room when my roommate came in and essentially said: Who would want to listen to a scratched-up old voice like that for even a minute? And you know what? I did.
You don't get it till you get it. And reading Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television is making me think I'm getting something I didn't get before. Then again, as Doubt also communicates, nothing is gained by dogmatism. So I'd better tread carefully and think through what's occurred to me (probably a better idea than jumping headfirst into a socialist guerrilla organization or whatever). Basically one big problem is how to sit someone down and tell him or her that your fears and uneasiness are irrational, you know they are, but you're uncertain of how to best fight that irrationality. Shanley's program notes for Doubt are exquisite -- I enjoyed them about as much as the play. Here's an excerpt:
It is Doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he's on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and inner core often seems at first like a mistake, like you've gone the wrong way and you're lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind. Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present.

Blast from the past

I recently unearthed a post from 2006, when I had a MySpace blog. A few years ago, I foolishly erased that blog when I deleted my MySpace account, so I was pleased to find this time-capsule slice of New York life:
What have I been doing?

Yesterday I revisited my Manhattan-shrink-in-a-highrise (yes, Virginia, New York IS just like a Woody Allen movie) for the second of three "consultation" sessions wherein she decides how to place me. I wish she could just place me with her, but I suspect I can't afford her -- she's a real, live psychiatrist -- and anyway, she's suggesting analysis, not meds. Apparently the mysterious power of the analysis couch isn't that it makes you more comfortable, and thus more likely to spill your long-hidden secrets -- instead, it simply keeps you from looking at your analyst, which apparently helps you Journey Within and pluck out the really juicy Freudian fuck-ups that led you to the sorry place you are today. So that's good to know. I'm learning so much here!

Post-shrink I had a nice big salad at a kosher pizzeria with my nearly-always-visiting friend Bob; then we went to some kind of university art space to look at a design exhibit. It was on the streamlining trend that began in the '30s and clearly consumed almost everything it touched (until you've seen a streamlined iron, you haven't really lived). I astutely observed that the teardrop shape that seemed to characterize a great many of the pieces in the exhibit is also the way airplane wings look from the side, when you do a cross-section diagram thingy.
Bob and I talked about the poignant nature of retro-futuristic design, which expressed such optimism about the 21st century but whose moment, aesthetically, sort of never arrived after all (hel-LO, Space Needle!). Although a remarkable number of streamlined items -- lounge chairs, room lamps, counter/bar islands in a kitchen -- actually continue to exist in contemporary homes. So maybe the moral of the story is that the idealism of the streamlining age, like all idealism, failed to make it to the present day unscathed, but that doesn't mean it didn't exert a profound effect on the design world.

Also last night I stood outside the famous Ziegfeld Theater in the cold and wet to harass people coming out of the world premiere of "United 93," the Paul Greengrass film that recreates, in real time, the doomed 9/11 flight that crashed in a PA field after its passengers staged a revolt against the hijackers. My first NY freelance piece, about whether New Yorkers are ready for the movie (which opens wide on Friday), required me to join the radio, TV, and press people in the gated-off media pit across the street from the theater, from which frazzled-looking moviegoers -- including quite a few family members of 9/11 victims -- emerged following the 7:30 p.m. screening. An AP guy who admitted he'd rather be at home in bed -- yeah, join the club, fella -- shouted at random emerging audience members: "What'd ya think of the movie?" I met a nice lady from BBC Radio who played me back a bit of her interview with Greengrass. I think when you're interviewing the director, your need to do man-on-the-street reporting is greatly reduced. (Accordingly, she left pretty soon after the theater exodus began.)
I'd never been in a media pit before, and lordy, is it like the ones you see in the movies. Inevitably some Armani-wearing dude is fame-hungry and steps right up into the hot glare of the TV lights (yes, the lights the TV people used actually emitted heat and glared -- this is not a figure of speech) and talks and talks and talks. There were three big talkers. While one held court, I stuck my recorder-holding hand through the cloud of correspondents and paparazzi and asked my key question ("Do you think New Yorkers are ready for this movie?"). All the other media people listened for the answer, too. It was weird and magical -- and slightly parasitic, but oh well. 'Tis the nature of the media beast, I guess. My story, all 600 words of it, runs this Friday in Downtown Express.