All posts by drJ

sapiens emeritus?

I take a small dose of reality by reading the paper for a few minutes in the morning with my coffee and muffin.

Today’s news was the UN’s report on climate change.

Oh, and, if that weren’t enough there was the article on how the US thinks Russia may be attacking CIA agents and diplomats (there’s a difference?) in Havana, with illness somehow done via microwaves.

I definitely felt I’d overdosed on reality and I attempted, unsuccessfully,  to escape to a jigsaw puzzle.

Is our species hell-bent on its own destruction?

Who the hell left us humans in charge of the planet?

 

Turing Test

Turing Test

We are quick to apply the “Turing Test” from computer science — that something  could be created so brilliantly complex that, without a strand of DNA, it could pass for human. We  jump to the conclusion that it’s plausible to attribute conscious to electronic things with simulated skin— the sci-fi trope that such a thing could emulate sexuality, perhaps even the full range of human feelings.

Many find this a frightening prospect…which is why it works so well as a plot device.

But matter does not become conscious on account of its complexity. We don’t consider a cuckoo clock with intricate gears to be more conscious than a sundial. Moving from mechanical to electronic changes nothing. We don’t think our digital clock knows what time it is, even if the clock is infinitely more complicated than, say, a phone charger. No amount of complexity, no skill at mimicking make a conscious being.

A perfectly decent person who is an actor can convincingly play a vicious murderer.

This sci-fi trope can be unnerving because it seems there’s nothing that separates a being that exists and feels from one that only simulates experiencing. 

It’s perhaps another indicator of the fragility of our sense of our humanity that can feel so tenuous in this tremulous time.

Arts and the pandemic

In addition to all the terrible blow of the pandemic and its handling, the separation of artist from audience is a form of damage that the human spirit finds hard to bear. Yes, thankfully, new modes of artistic communication emerge.  But it is not a simple matter.

To put it a different and perhaps more scary way, the struggle of art to express itself and for us to express ourselves through art, to satisfy our own need to creatively communicate, is being suffocated not only by the pandemic, but by our culture giving up on itself.

Theater, music, dance, painting, sculpture, literature, poetry and every other human creative endeavor are there to challenge, to open the mind,  when it is so much easier to just not bother. Why open a book? Why act in or go to a play? Learn an instrument, join a band? So much easier to let one’s pod take over a la The Body Snatchers and let creative energies fade.

And to exist in more than the creator’s ego, there must be an audience, a community of those who appreciate what the creator strives to do.  

And here is the great struggle for us in the pandemic. Not just to exist but to do something that satisfies the soul. For most artists that means doing something that affects someone else, that moves the other, the unites people through the act of creation.

We let go of this too easily.  We take its loss too lightly.

Many, many artists, at the same time as fighting for their health and economic survival, suffering these days. Many find outlets, moments of expression and sharing. We must find more.

Bloomsday in Brattleboro, after the live-show

So now the show is done. Amazing to me that it was possible to do this. Actors + music + images all live on YouTube. So many friends saw it.

It’s using the level of technology that’s out there free at this moment, or nearly free. Not perfect technology and quite frustrating at times. Especially given that everyone’s coming into the Zoom from computers with varying levels of camera and sound quality and ease of use.

All in all, it’s extremely satisfying to have done it. Most of the “readers” did wonderfully well.  There were some very moving performances.

And now, what? Well Bloomsday next year, that’s for sure . And with luck we’ll be able to do it in the Hooker-Dunham with a live audience!

The tape of the show is on YouTube and will be on BCTV:  https://youtu.be/vXvnd4zkWOM

 

Bloomsday in Brattleboro is Going Live, Tuesday, June 16 @ 7PM

BLOOMSDAY 2020 is all set for Live-Streaming to YouTube!

In true James Joycean tradition, in  a struggle to contend with the new normal – or at least what’s normal as of this post, BLOOMSDAY in BRATTLEBORO happening this Tuesday, June 16, from 7 to 9 PM (the live-stream will start at 6:45 for the “audience” to get comfortable.  Snacks are advised.

The show is not intended for children, Young children will simply not understand it all, but it does contain sexual content.

It has been an amazing experience to put this together. 16 actors all zooming from all sizes and shapes of internet devices in from their homes, adding a little music and some images, and pumping it over to a Live-stream on YouTube has been a wild but exciting ride.

We’re only a few days away. Lots of people have signed up wanting to see it.

If your seeing this and are curious about the show, the Hooker-Dunham Theater’s website will have the latest information on accessing it. It’s entirely free.

So go to www.HookerDunham.org to get info or get to the link to the  Live-Stream!

 

 

 

 

An uneven evenness

The pandemic, as the word is meant to connote, affects everyone. It is universal, but is not even. It affects the poor, the imprisoned, the aged in nursing homes, pregnant women, and on and on, very different from those who are, relatively speaking, insulated: by class, by race, by where they are in the world at this moment.

Some things have happened for those fortunate enough not to be crushed by the disease or the fallout from it, that are actually new and worth thinking about.

Art in particular changes. The museums,  galleries and theaters of all sizes are closed in most of the world.  There is an evenness that I think nearly all artists feel: We need each other. Art is a relationship between creator and audience, despite the way artists may try to separate themselves from the their audience, thumb their noses, say “I don’t care what you think.”

Yet without the audience the artist creates in a vacuum and communicates to a vacuum.

So we find novel ways . Our need to communicate our creative spirit finds new routes of expression, new avenues to sharing.

 

 

Cult of Laughter

There was a group that used to get together just to laugh. One person started laughing and soon everyone did. What if we all laugh together at 5PM EVERY WEDNESDAY?

Maybe the contagion of laughter could break through our contagion of isolation and dread!

 

 

 

After the first shock…

After the first shock of what has already happened around the world and what is too soon going to happen nearer and nearer to ourselves and friends and family dear to us, there is the realization that this is going to be a long haul.

It quickly became a cliché the 9-11 “changed everything,” and indeed in was a truism that proved to be true and now no one can doubt that this pandemic changes everything.

As a person deeply involved in local theater – running the Hooker-Dunham and planning a big Bloomsday event scheduled for June 16  – I feel the rug pulled from under me.

I know how much worse it is for so many people, so it’s hard to let oneself feel the pain of one’s own  loss, but it is a loss all the same.

So while the losses are worse for some than others, for all of us, are deeply personal.  The sense of suspended animation,  of life-interrupted is with all of us now.

 

Accepting reality; Bloomsday must wait

Most who know me would say that I’ve never been one to accept reality.  The current reality is not really ignorable…and shouldn’t be ignored because of the degree personal careless becomes another person’s nightmare.  Taking social distancing seriously seems to me the least we should all do.

This is rough in many ways. particularly so far as running a theater is concerned. For my little theater – the Hooker-Dunham Theater and Gallery – the economic impact of having expenses that don’t change with no money comi; g in means it’s all loss (rather than  a break-even proposition it’s planned to be), but honestly this impact is the least of it and, compared to the economic pain so many are experiencing now, it’s nothing. I feel for the theaters for whom the damage is far, far greater.  Nearly all the area theaters are non-profits, but have staffs whose only income is their salary.

Getting one’s creative juices flowing by acting, directing, producing shows is something that keeps us all going. While people are coming up with creative on-line solutions, nothing quite makes up for the immediacy of an audience’s interaction with a performance and that just isn’t possible now. Even small rehearsals, just to use the time we now have on our hands, is not advisable as the community level of infection ramps up.

So far I have cancelled everything at the theater, even the two person rehearsals in preparation for my Bloomsday event (June 16). It’s increasingly looking like we will be struggling with this into the summer even in a best-case scenario. We will hold Bloomsday WHENEVER we are able to open again.  Then day of our opening will be our Bloomsday!

 

 

 

 

Oh my god

Is humanity’s existence, human civilization’s existence always precarious?

We – humans – have survived for quite a long time despite our remarkable ability to not learn from our own species’ experience. Or learn too late, which amounts to the same thing.

Now everything is upside down. All the plans and expectations are topsy-turvy.

I’ve always steered away from actually blogging — meaning blogging where I’m not editing before posting. But now, with the world in what is obviously only the beginning of a transformation on the order of science fiction, I might as well just put it out there.

I’ve heard friends who’ve started writing journals. Same thing really. We are all crying, we say, too ourselves, for  ourselves, and it is true.

The earth is shuddering.

We are all at the epicenter.

 

Bloomsday blog – Art in a time of crisis

The project has already afforded me and others and I am thankful for that regardless of what happens next in a reality that sounds more like science fiction than James Joyce’s wildest phantasmagoric moments.

We need as much art as we can absorb as the best known antidote to hard, cold reality.

So the project proceeds. If it isn’t advised to gather in theaters come June (What a thought!!!), we’ll perform in the street!  The word must go on!

 

 

Just coming back to blogging: Bloomsday in Brattleboro is coming

…I’d stopped for a long while, mostly because it seemed more seeds blown into the wind and for the less existential reason that I switched who was hosting my site. So this is the first post with the new host.

For the moment, I’ll call it my Bloomsday Blog, because I think my focus for a bit will be on putting on this “event” at the Hooker-Dunham Theater on June 16, 2020.  Bloomsday in Brattleboro.

For someone like me who likes to read Ulysses and gradually come to understand it, to visualize what Joyce is writing, to have the characters speak for themselves, is incredibly exciting. It brings a whole new dimension to the book.

So I put together a “script.” I say “put together,” not “wrote” because the words are nearly all those of James Joyce, not me.  I’ve chosen a few moments out of the thousands of moments in the book in the hope that they tell a story of Ulysses knowing that there are so many other stories that could be told and so many other ways to tell them.

But the event is first and foremost a celebration of the written word. Here, as elsewhere in the world where Bloomsday is celebrated, it is the spoken word we celebrate.

Ulysses was banned in the United States and England for being obscene or incomprehensible or both.  Distribution was prohibited and copies of the book were burned from its birth in 1922 until Justice Woolsey of the Southern District of New York, ruled its favor in 1933.

Getting a group of actors with strong voices to read a series of excerpts I’ve stitched together has been very exciting.  Ulysses is an amazing novel,  but also one that can be quite intimidating. I’m hoping our show will display enough of its essence that our audience will feel they spent their time well.

So we’re off and running. Tuesday, June 16, is coming up faster than we think here in the middle of Vermont winter.