Sunday, February 25, 2007

Voire dire

Quote of the Day (well, really, Quote of the Day Yesterday):

Stacy — who is a lawyer, and has been taking a writing class to engage her deeply creative side because being a lawyer doesn't exactly do that for her — said this while talking about why she has temporarily set aside a story she started working on ... about a lawyer:

"I need to be in the head of someone who's tortured on a completely different level."

Amen to that. If I sat down this afternoon and wrote a story about a copy editor at an entertainment magazine, it would probably be insane, maybe something like this:

A question mark. The editor had added a question mark to the headline. It had been "Britney: Better Bald" and now it was "Britney: Better Bald?" What were they trying to say? Were they afraid of such a definitive statement, that recognizing that a woman who was very obviously suffering a nervous breakdown might have inadvertently shown the world how strong her features really are? Were the editors afraid of condoning the launch of a new fad, Rehab Chic? Is the question mark a safe haven from the all-knowing eyes of the fact-checkers?

She read the next sentence: "It's a different kind of RAZR! Two-year-long wait lists reflect the high demand for the new pink Norelco Britney shaver." RAZR. All caps. She pushed her keyboard away and glanced at her
Chicago Manual of Style. How hard is it, she thought, for people to follow the rules of upper and lower case letters? Their products will sell even without the SCREAMING CAPS! She sighed, went back to the document, replaced a hyphen with an en-dash, and sent it off. The offending question mark was in someone else's hands now. Whatever would become of it, she did not know. Just as nobody knew what would become of Britney.

It's gripping, isn't it?

In any case, it's always hardest to write about the one thing in which you are completely entrenched. Not that I'm entrenched in Britney. You know, never mind. You know what I mean.

Stacy and I talked about jury duty, which I had last week. My favorite part of jury duty was when the guy at the front of the assembly room went through the general questions that serve to weed out the larger pool: Who doesn't speak English, who doesn't live in Brooklyn, who has a medical condition, etc. When he asked who had been convicted of a felony, these two enormous men sitting right next to me stood and exited through the Special Door. I decided that their crimes were ones of fashion. Seriously, you can't be that big and that menacing and wear matching patchwork parkas.

I managed to get out of serving. The night before I had to go through voire dire, Josh and I were running through all possible scenarios to be found in civil court cases and how I could finagle my way out of them: will disputes, fender benders, landlord-tenant issues. Josh reminded me of the time he tried to take his landlord to housing court because there was a ginormous, gaping hole in the ceiling of his shower that his landlord refused to fix. I got to court the next day, and lo and behold, my case concerned a woman with a ginormous, gaping hole in her bathroom ceiling. Excused.

Oh, Oscars tonight! Holy night of observance! Don't call me until it's over!

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Friday, February 23, 2007

On my way to Hell. Anyone have a handbasket?

Yesterday, Jennifer and I were talking about our physical urges. No, not like that, dirty birdies. It went like this:

Me: I get huge urges to swim, especially in the winter.
Jen: Really? Swim?
Me: Yes. For years. Ever since I was a kid.
Jen: I never knew that about you.
Me: Yeah, I love to swim.
Jen: I get urges to ice skate. [pause] God, I don't think I've ever told anybody that before.
Me: You do? I do too!

Jennifer's visions of ice skating run more along the competitive track: Wide-open rink, wind in her face, and I got the impression that a sparkly Vera Wang skating dress and shower of dethorned roses were involved. My own skating fantasies aren't solitary ones — I'm never the only one on the ice, though there are never more than 10 people skating around me. (Read into all of this what you will.) I'm usually wearing a sweater or a coat, and definitely a scarf and gloves. And I am always jumping. I've mulled over this scenario so many times that there have been moments when I actually have to stop and think if I really know how to jump, because I'm convinced I can. I can actually feel my body propelling itself off the ground.

Toe pick.

"Can you just picture it?" Jen said. "Can you picture me in the Olympics?"

I laughed.

"Now every time you think of skating, you're going to picture me in the Olympics," she said.

"And what a startling visual it is," I said.

We stopped and laughed for a second.

"I'm always skinny, too," she said.

"You know," I said, "I can see you maybe in the Special Olympics."

We laughed again, and then I thought about it for a minute and said, "Except that those kids in the Special Olympics could kick my ass. They're way more athletic than I am."

"And they're always happy," Jen said. "I'm never that happy when I'm doing anything physical."

"We're going to Hell," I said.

"Hey, I didn't mean it as an insult to them," Jen said. "It's an insult to me. I can't do any of that."

We laughed again, this time uncomfortably.

"Don't they all get medals?" Jen asked. "Doesn't everyone in the Special Olympics get a medal?"

"I don't know."

"I'd be the only person in the Special Olympics to not get a medal."

"Oy, I'm so proud. That's how I'll introduce you in the future. 'This is my sister Jen, the only person to never medal at the Special Olympics.' "

See, here's the thing: I do not come from a family of athletes. Our idea of physical activity was to ride our bikes one time around the block before we were allowed to have dinner.

My first memories of physical activity date back to roughly age 3, when I took a ballet/jazz/"modern dance" hybrid class at The Borgo Sisters. My teacher's name was Virginia, and I'd giggle every time someone said it because it sounded like "vagina." Even when I was 3, I was 12. I learned how to cartwheel, and that was pretty much all I could do physically until I was 13. My father always said I was going to cartwheel down the aisle at my wedding, but I don't think he foresaw the variety of supportive garments strapped to my person under my dress. I could barely breathe at my wedding, much less flip myself upside-down. I did, however, master the art of the one-handed cartwheel, which could have easily been done in the strapless dress if you took away the scaffolding underneath it. Either way, not a pretty sight at all.

After Borgo sisters, I took tap. (Yes, I was one of those.) During dress rehearsal for one of my first tap recitals, my costume — a toy soldier ensemble — started falling apart and I had to dance 90 percent of the routine with this silver belt dangling behind me. I took tap for 13 years, and I don't recall ever being put in the front line for the recital performance, even though I was always short. (By the way, I can still do the first 45 seconds of my dance to "Little Shop of Horrors." Awwwww yeaaaaaah, I am awesome. Shoo-bop.)

Around age 8 or so, I took soccer at the Southfield Civic Center. Leslie Finsilver's dad was our coach, and I always felt like I was the only one who didn't know what she was doing. During one practice, Mr. Finsilver called us into a group, and I completely zoned out on the calling-play-by-play-let's-do-something-new plan. All of a sudden, all of the girls ran to the middle of the field and started kicking the crap out of the ball, all at once. I had just been playing goal and had no idea what they were doing, so I went back to the net and waited for someone to kick the ball loose and try to score on me. (Dirty!) Mr. Finsilver looked over at me like the fish that I was and told me to go over and play with the other girls. I truly had no idea that the kicking cluster of girls was an actual plan, and I didn't see how it could be fun as there was no possible way a ball could go anywhere if 10 girls were kicking it ferociously from all sides. I don't remember anything else from soccer.

In high school, I had to run the mile-and-a-half twice because I didn't do it in the regulated time the first try. The second time, the gym teacher told me I'd made it, but I'm still convinced that I only completed five laps instead of six and either he spaced out or he took pity on me, because I walked about 75 percent of it. I don't know if I should actually put this online because I have an unreasonable fear that Mr. Stratton will read it and order me to come back to Michigan and do the whole damn thing over again. I have a treadmill in my apartment for the express purpose of preparing for such an event.

I was one of those kids who was scarred by gym class, which means, by the power of the transitive property and the rules of law, I was AMAZING at dodgeball. Nobody could beat me. I was the last one standing, always. But I sucked at tennis, I was a pathetic runner, the only goal I ever scored in floor hockey was against my sister of all people, I can't throw, I can't hit a ball, Chris Dudley would have a 100% free-throw percentage if I were his only opponent, I always thought I was a decent swimmer until I got to high school and the gym teacher told me my form was all wrong and stuck me in the beginner's group, and even today I believe that I am not in possession of endorphins and am in virtual hell every time I work out, which I try to do semi-regularly. So when I said that the kids in the Special Olympics could kick my ass, I meant every word of it. Because those kids are natually great athletes, with or without their disabilities. But it took me roughly 8 to 10 seconds to run the 50-yard dash when Doug Miller could do it in, like, 4. Doug Miller was the fastest runner ever.

Here is another example:

When I worked at an ad agency in Detroit after graduating college, my very persuasive and delusional friends convinced me to join their intermural softball team. Not surprisingly, I did not excel, but it was fun because I accepted that I sucked. During one game, however, I managed to hit the ball and make it to first base. I felt unstoppable. The guy batting after me walloped the thing and I eventually crossed home plate. It was divine. I scored a point! I was 23 years old and I scored a point! Yay! My friend Joska hugged me and said, "Do that again! If you can do that again every time, it's perfect!"

"Do what again?" I asked.

"Bunt," he said, matter-of-factly, puzzled that I didn't know what he meant.

"I didn't bunt."

Apparently, I was so thrilled that I made contact with the ball that I just dropped the bat and ran, neglecting any follow-through. The ball dropped with a thud directly in front of home plate.

I do love to swim. I don't mind treadmilling. I love to ice skate. I do have rhythm. But I don't imagine I'll be winning any medals and I'll always have to run the mile twice. That's fine. I'll wipe the floor with all of you in dodgeball.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Maybe it would have been different if it were Danny Glover.

You remember Crispin Glover, right? He of George McFly fame? (Or, as Stephanie’s brain donor college roommate called him, McVeigh.) Crispin’s résumé is a diverse mishmash of commercial successes and avant-garde indies. Yesterday, Josh got tickets for us to see Crispin’s directorial debut, What Is It?, at the IFC theater, where, after the film, Crispin himself would be appearing for a Q&A. I thought, Great! Cool! Sounds like a quality way to kick off a very stressful week of jury duty and taxes! At least I’ll have an engaging experience with art and unconventional thought! And he’s funny! Groovy!

Oh, MAN.

Here’s the thing: Josh and I love Crispin Glover. He’s bizarre in a really intriguing way. He sued Steven Spielberg and won. His mannerisms, his quirks, his delivery are all, to me, just enjoyable to watch, though I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t think like he does — he doesn't think like how anybody does — but I appreciate what he puts out there. I figured whatever we saw wouldn’t make sense, and that was fine. I figured it would be waaaaay offbeat, weird, probably funny in its own way, funky and thought-provoking. I was certain that whatever I’d see, I wouldn’t get. Maybe it would make me uncomfortable. That was all fine. I don’t think you have to relate to art to enjoy it, and I don’t think art has to make you feel at ease. I'm willing to be provoked as long as I get something out of it.

Really, though, it just sucked.

The first part was a sort of slideshow that Crispin narrated onstage. He writes these quasi-illustrated books and he read “excerpts” from eight of them. This segment was a bit too long but it was an odd treat just to watch him move and “pose” it out. All he had to do was lean over and point to, say, a sketch of a rat (he has a thing for rats), and it said something. It didn’t make sense, but for me, it was about the performance and not the words. It was during the slideshow that I decided that Crispin's reality is what everybody else dreams, but his dreams are our reality. Like, he wakes up and is all, "I had the craziest dream last night! I brushed my teeth! And I went to the grocery store! There was milk there!" And then he rolls out of his seaweed bed onto a snake which carries him to a halogen horse corral with rainbows in socket wrenches.

The film that followed was the biggest piece of celluloid-based putrescence I’ve ever seen.

The first shot of the film is this beautiful, ethereal close-up, head-on shot of a snail coming out of its shell. It was lovely, how the soft light reflected off the snail’s iridescent skin. Within minutes, a character in the movie picked it up and smashed it to pieces against a terrarium. I told Josh that this was a metaphor for my hopes for the evening.

The rest of the film consisted of, but was not limited to, the following:

* The actors — who, except for Crispin Glover himself, all had Down’s Syndrome, cystic fibrosis or severe mental retardation — throwing rocks at each other, killing snails and killing each other by beating each other over the heads with mallets
* Masked wood nymphs prancing around a bog naked for the enjoyment of Crispin, who was sitting on a throne and wearing a fur coat
* Images of Shirley Temple wearing Nazi garb
* Arguments about which character was actually Michael Jackson
* A character in blackface injecting what was supposed to be snail goo into his face so he could morph into an invertebrate
* Footage of a snail getting beheaded and a praying mantis getting eaten by ants

At first, I leaned over to Josh and said, “It isn’t me, right? This is really bad?” He looked too stricken to answer me. We were both certain that we wanted to stay for the Q&A, so we just sat back and stared at the screen.

About a half-hour later, it occurred to me that I would never get these 72 minutes of my life back.

About 10 minutes after that, I wondered if the whole event was actually a grand piece of performance art, an exercise in testing Flock Mentality: If the artist is present, would the audience think it too rude to walk out of a really bad movie? And if someone did, would that one act of rebellion serve as permission for the rest of the audience to follow suit if desired? Would everyone just get up and go, attempting to get their lives back? The fact that the film seemed to never end made me think that Crispin Glover had intentionally made the worst movie in history and then invited us to watch it while he stood behind the scenes, waiting to see how long it took before any of us left.

When it finally ended and the Q&A began, Josh and I sat through two direct questions and two incoherent answers before, upon hearing, “Now I’m going to show you the trailers for my next three films,” collecting our stuff and leaving.

“He made me hate him,” I said.
“I thought it would be funny-weird crazy, but it was wanna-make-me-puke crazy,” Josh said.

While it was loosely explained what all the seemingly random imagery and action stood for, it didn’t make a difference to me. I don’t care what it stood for; it was a bad movie. Which was a shame, because the idea of a film cast with disabled actors when the roles don’t necessarily require disabled actors is really refreshing. The fact that they were beating the crap out of each other and fellating each other and insulting each other did raise a question for me: If an actor doesn’t feel exploited, is the film exploitative? Frankly, if the same movie were cast with actors who weren't disabled, I’d still think it’s crap, so I suppose it's a form of equal opportunity.

One thing I did do this weekend that wasn’t crap was go through my receipts and what-not to get ready for preparing my taxes. This resulted in the complete overhaul of my dresser, which had been covered in piles of ancient papers and jewelry and knickknacks. I found $6.49 in change, which I’ve been spending liberally, despite feeling guilty for handing people 18 pennies at a time.

Josh told me a story about how he bought a New York Times at a newsstand by the library and how he paid with change. The vendor held it out and said, “What the hell is this?” Josh said, “That’s my money for the newspaper.” And the guy kicked him out. He’s never gone back. Change is the benchwarmer of the money family, a case proven just this morning by the fact that three vending machines rejected my dimes and nickels when I tried to buy a bottle of water, but two people with dollar bills had no problem.

Another thing I did this weekend was upload a few more CDs to my iPod. Say what you want about my taste in music, but the last eight songs on my Songs I Love playlist are a guaranteed formula for happiness (notice they’re still alphabetical; I haven’t mixed them up yet):

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” The Smiths
“Six Months in a Leaky Boat,” Split Enz
“Message to My Girl,” Split Enz
“Cool for Cats,” Squeeze
“Black Coffee in Bed,” Squeeze
“Fortress Around Your Heart,” Sting
“Plush,” Stone Temple Pilots (Shut up. You know it’s a great song.)
“Babe,” Styx

Just try to get “Babe” out of your head. Just try to think of the chorus without actually singing it at the top of your lungs. I bet you a million bazillion katrillion dollars you can’t do it.

See? “Because it’s you, babe / whenever I get weary and I’ve had enough / feel like giving up / You know it’s you, babe / giving me the courage and the strength I need / please believe that it’s true / Babe, I love you”

Couldn’t do it, could you?

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Mmm, cookies ...

So I've had to enable comment moderation on my blog until I get this whole spam thing straightened out. If you read the comments, you'll notice there's been a delightful surge in sexy teens, diabetics and self-promoters posting on this site. I've deleted most of them, but I'm screening posts as much as I can and am contacting Blogger to figure this shizz out. Hopefully once it's sorted, I'll be able to disable the moderation thingy to eliminate annoyance for you. And for me. Cuz this really sucks.

If any of you are technosavvy, please share any tips, chips, chains, whips. (Name the movie for five points!) Because I really have no idea what I'm doing. Post-it Notes I understand. HTML and cookies? Not so much.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Go see this play now

Calling all tri-staters!

My friend Scott Katzman Who I Love has written, produced and is starring in a wonderful, touching, hilarious, heartbreaking and brilliant play called "Act Naturally." He's spent many years perfecting it, testing it out, casting it with talented actors who believe in it, and pouring his heart into it. And YOU get to see it! Go here to get tickets — it's running from February 8 to the 24th — and maybe I'll see you there.

Even if I didn't know Scott and even if I didn't know what a labor of love this has been for him, I would wholeheartedly recommend this play to anyone. I saw it in an earlier incarnation, and I was deeply moved by it. To see a character put so much of himself on display in an unnatural circumstance ... it's hard to write and act "brave" without coming off as pretentious, desperate or bombastic, and Scott has accomplished that beautifully. In fact, I'm going to throw in some buzzwords here for general Googling purposes so as many people land on this post as possible:

New York theater
must-see play
phenomenal theater-going experience
four stars!
best actor nomination

More details, and a "Grease" shout-out, from Scott himself:

Hello Fans and Friends and Odds and Ends (name the movie for 5 points) …

Well, after three and a half years of blood, sweat and tears — and a lot of other stuff — finally, FINALLY, I am able to tell you that my play is being produced.

All of the relevant information is below and available at the play’s website: If you live in the New York area, please consider coming. We have a publicist working diligently to attract theatre companies and producers to potentially remount the show in a more long-term situation and we need loving and enthusiastic audiences to encourage said theatre companies and producers to do so. If you don’t live in the New York area, but know anyone who knows anyone who does, please pass the information on and encourage them to come. The play is really funny and touching, and the cast is amazing. It is a guaranteed good time will be had by all. For only eighteen bucks.

Tickets are available at or 212-868-4444.

Thanks now and always for your support. See you at the theatre!


Act Naturally
a new play by Scott Katzman
directed by Christopher Maring

with… Audrey Amey and Darron Cardosa* and Tracee Chimo*and Scott Katzman and Skid Maher and Marlene O’Haire* and Gwenyth Reitz*

February 8-24, 2007
Monday, Wednesday thru Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 3pm

WorkShop Theater Company
312 West 36th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
4th Floor
New York City

Set Design: David Behringer
Lighting Design: Melanie Smock
Costume Design: Paulette Keck
General Press Representative: Susan L. Schulman
Production Stage Manager: Janice Dekoff
Production Manager: Molly Marinik

Tickets:, 212-868-4444
Visit us at

*appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

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