All posts by drJ

A marriage quote

I’m sure that I wasn’t the first to say it, but seeing divorced couples fighting  particularly over children, years later, evoked this from me:  “Marriage is temporary, but divorce is forever.”

Of course I know that some divorced couples get remarried.  That just proves the point.  A marriage may cease to be but the relationship remains.   ‘course one could argue that all of this just proves marriage, happy or not, together or not,  is forever.

Coming soon:  an article on socialism and an article the importance of trajectory in the teaching and learning of art.

 

On playing the villain

About ten days have passed since I finished a run of acting the part of Henry Ford.   Playing Henry Ford is not like playing Mark Twain.  Samuel Clements, so far as his persona is concerned, was a wonderful man who sometimes said things that sounded crass, but weren’t, not really.  Ford, on the other hand (in this Mark St. Germain play, Camping with Henry and Tom), is a fundamentally base man.  He is very fucked up.  I’ve played unpleasant characters before.  Sometimes you feel like the people you act with take personally your role with them on the stage.  Sometimes you feel like you are the nasty son-of-a-bitch you’re portraying.

When I played a nasty union boss in a Clifford Odets play, my friend and director told me something that he’d learned from a director he respected: “An actor shows his character flaws not by what he reveals on stage, but by what he refuses to allow to show.”  I kept this in mind throughout doing Ford.  But as much as it’s “fun to play a villain, a real prick and an asshole, it’s no bullshit that you do get some contact of some very dark places of oneself.  As they say, it’s necessary to do that to get any reality to your character.  Even so…

I wonder if this is fundamental to any artistic process:  that both dark and light need to be explored.   I think so.  I think of a Beethoven symphony or Van Gogh’s Starry Night or James Joyce’s Ulysses or the poetic songs of Dylan and blues and jazz.  In theatre, except where there’s a terrible struggle going on inside the character, there’s often the dark and light are dichotomized into different characters.

The death of the word has been greatly exaggerated

There’s the wonderful quote by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) that rumors of his death were “exaggerations.”   I wonder if this is something that has happened to the power of the written word.  I wonder if we have come to accept the notion that life has been reduced to postings on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube or 10-second television sound bites to the degree that the written word in the form of essays and books is irrelevant, anachronistic, the domain only of the most academicians and other “intellectuals.”  Perhaps the death of the word has been exaggerated.

Perhaps the word is only badly injured, in intense need of rehabilitation, not altogether abandoned to the landfill of history.   Perhaps it will rise like Lazarus.  Because it is the word that makes us human.  And, as much as we may admire the great apes and the infinitesimal bacteria, as much as we are ashamed of what humans have done in the name of humanity, we should also be proud of what we are:  Thinking, choosing, curious beings.   Beings who can express complex and wonderful thoughts to each other.  Beings who can be moved by what we read, whose lives are affected by what we read.

There will always be diversions, ways for us not to think.  Who can blame us?   There are plenty of good reasons not to think, not to dig beneath the surface of the reality presented to us.

But there will always people who do think, who have not given up, who have not stopped trying to figure out how to make better sense out of this world.

I guess that’s why I write.  And why I read.

 

Adding some oddball stuff…

Seems time to add some new things:

I’ve decided to add a couple pieces of “writing” that differ from the rest of my blook in that they make no attempt whatsoever to unravel the mysteries and frustrations of the so-called “real” world.

First, “Imaginary-world Game Notes”: I’m a big fan of a kind of computer game that’s rarely played these days: Imaginary-world puzzle games. The starting point for all these games is Myst. Video games seem to be almost exclusively of the shoot-em-up and blow-em-up these days, not worlds one can wander through at one’s own pace, trying to solve a visual (and occasionally auditory) puzzle. When these games first came out, I’m sure lots of folks solved them as a sort of “community,” sharing what they found out. I’ve worked on them on my own, resorting to on-line hints only when desperate. Few people apparently play these games very much, though I think Myst was a decent “hit” on the iPhone a couple years back. That’s where I found it. I’ve looked for ways to play games like this on the Mac and found that Myst, Myst II (Riven), and Myst III (Exile) can be made to work relatively easily on a Mac. I also found a fascinating game called Alida.
These are games for a particular kind of person: one with a fair amount of time and not in any big hurry to “solve” something. They create visual worlds that I’ve found engaging. If you’re into this kind of game, you might find it interesting to follow my journey. The trick is to learn just enough to get oneself “unstuck” without learning so much that there’s nothing left to solve. I make no guarantees. One person’s hint is another’s spoiler.
If you like Myst, though, I strongly recommend these games. They provided my with hours of useless amusement.

And this venture into the world of the purely fantastical wouldn’t be complete without my adding a couple of my attempts at Sci-Fi stories. The sad part of writing Sci-Fi is that one quickly learns that there are a thousand-and-one stories that follow the exact same idea and do a better job of it. Oh, well, here are my attempts. Hopefully you may find them entertaining.

At the same time, I figured I might as well start blogging my own NYT (New York Times) Crossword experience. I’m well aware that Rex Parker pretty much has this market cornered, but I personally tire of the combination of his occasionally bragging about how good he is (He’ll throw in, just often enough to make sure you know, how it took him extra-long –  say, 5 whole minutes – to solve a puzzle most of us spend half a day on). Nor do I care much for his “critiques” of the puzzles. (Well, except when I found a puzzle particularly miserably hard and so did he!) But thought there might be some folks who’d like to hear some more or less random comments from a more down-to-earth solver like themselves. I’ll try to “cover” the Thursday through Saturday puzzles for a while and see what happens. This blog starts with this Saturday. Entries will generally be quick and dirty.

These categories, Sci-Fi, Imaginary-world Puzzle Game Notes, and NYT Xword notes make no pretense of being anything but what they are: diversions that amuse me.

Check out Flat St. Rising!

If you’re in southern Vermont, this coming Gallery Walk (first Friday each month) will feature a street fair we’re calling Flat St. Rising! to commemorate the one year anniversary since Tropical Storm Irene devastated our area. Samirah Evans will sing a song she wrote about her home town, New Orleans, and it’s recovery from Katrina with proceeds going to flood relief in Vermont. The group I’m in the Buzzards Brass Band will make our usual racket.

The purpose is to draw attention of youth to cool after-school stuff available to them. Like the one I’m involved with In-Sight Photography Project, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Brattleboro, the New England Youth Theatre, the Open Music Collective, and the Brattleboro Music Center, and many more.

This is the first time in my life I tried organizing something on this scale and hopefully I will have learned my lesson and not try it again, though there’s talk of making it an annual event. Sounds great! But next time I don’t have to coordinate it!

 

 

A thought on the value of the hint in learning

the hint is very underrated

 

Like a lot of people, I like to solve puzzles. I prefer word puzzles or highly visual puzzles like Myst and Alida. I like puzzles that allow you to set your own pace.  The best are puzzles that you love to solve, but also kinda sad to see that’s over, that you’re done.

 

But ya sometimes reach a point in a word or audiovisual puzzle where there is more frustration than it feels worth and where a small hint can let your mind go, while a large hint would utterly ruin the experience, take all the fun out of it.

 

Hints give us a way of learning the way forward.  They can tell us whether we’re on the right track or wandering aimlessly.

 

This a piece of what needs to happen in teaching.  It’s not a new idea, but it’s easily forgotten.  A early twentieth century Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, called it the fancy name  Zone of Proximal Development, but it was probably understood by good teachers when our forebears still walked on four legs:  A good teacher helps us learn the step today that tomorrow we will be able to do on our own.

 

What a simple idea.  But how easily it is forgotten.  We need hints to move forward.  We neither need to be clobbered over the head or nor to be given more than a reasonable amount of encouragement.  This is the constant challenge for the teacher: to find that point and to move it gently forward.

 

For more about the adult learning of creativity, check out this essay.

 

NORC?

I wonder if where I live in southern Vermont is a NORC (a naturally occurring retirement community).  If so, it ain’t a bad one.  It doesn’t have that feeling that you might as well not exist anymore, that what you try to do doesn’t really matter.  Nice place in the world, this is.  It has it’s own harshness, from flooding rivers to mean-spirited people, that’s for sure. but that also reminds you, like to bugs do, that you’re here on earth.  I guess it really isn’t a NORC, ’cause only a minority are actually retired.

I have been busy writing.  I’ve thought a lot about why it matters that people think about what socialism really means.  We — meaning people who knows that something’s very wrong in our world and that wealth and power have a hell of a lot to do with what’s wrong — we need to be able to conceive of an alternative to the way things are.  That will be coming here soon if you’re interested.

 

 

 

?:

Ran into a punctuation thing today stopped me in my tracks.  How do you say, well, something like this?:  Like this?

Or perhaps you should say it like this:  “A whale is a mammal not a fish”?

Or even “A whale is the greatest fish of all.”?

Which is the right way to do it:  To use a colon and a question mark together?

But I saw little point to pursue it.  But couldn’t rid myself of it.

So of course I asked the great god Google, oh, tell me please do, what is the right way to do it?

 

 

 

I always feel saddened when I see Dr. Seuss used, now that he’s gone.  What a wonderful mind!  NYT crossword had him today.  Nice.

I didn’t realize the title didn’t have the word “who” in it.

 

 

 

Added “Welcome to the Monolith!” & Really Horrible Bosses and another short item

This is a topic I’ve worked over several times in the past.  Most were long diatribes inspired by such notable miseries of being stuck in airport for hours on end because of inexplicable vagaries of flights and/or luggage, or spending 45 minutes trying (usually unsuccessfully) to resolve some customer service snafu.  I decided to drop my personal tales of woe since I’m sure everyone can provide their own.   Welcome to the Monolith!

And something I’ve been playing around with for a long time and thought it was time it saw the light of day.  My attempt at a typology of horrible bosses.

A little thought on struggling with our character flaws:  Imperfect, to say the least

 

Ain’t it the truth

“If you’re over 50 and you wake up in the morning with no aches or pains, that’s how you know your dead.” — Old joke

“If I woke up and didn’t have angst one morning, I wouldn’t recognize myself.” — I said that.

“You can be in my dream, if I can be in yours.” — a patient and shrink, both dreaming they’re the only person left alive after WW III, in Bob Dylan’s 115th dream.

Rutchik Rides Again

Thoughts, Wednesday night, May 16

[Note] This is the first time I’ve used the blog to post thoughts. An experiment.

We are at an odd point in history where knowledge from the past is actively being forgotten. I find this when I think of author’s I’ve read that many intelligent people have never heard of, but whose ideas are unique, not incorporated into our normal day-to-day thinking.

Erich Fromm for one. I asked college students to read his books but they couldn’t. They didn’t. It wasn’t like they read a little and couldn’t continue. They got nowhere at all.

Karl Marx is another. Seeing Jerry Levy do Marx in Soho I see that he is a man on a mission and that there is nothing like him in the world. Perhaps there is, but I truly can’t imagine that there could be yet another person walking the planet who so embodies Karl Marx. My closet of an office at Marlboro College was next to his and I always had to check myself before I called him “Karl,” when I said hello to him in the afternoon.

Last of a dying breed, we are, though I’m sure the next couple generations have just as much spunk in them. But they have a different flavor and something very different is going on. The Occupy concept is still very much alive even though it as a tactic, per se, seems to have been counteracted by greater force. Anything to do with correlations of forces is scary shit. But Arab Spring was both essentially Occupy taken a step further: to the point of inciting open fear in those who held power, fear strong enough to let loose of their power and run for the hills.

This has always been the power struggle in demonstrations: there may be a point where ordinary controls fail. But we know, or should know, our own limitations and we must know that there are those who would rather murder than give up power.

We have forgotten or are trying to forget the 1960’s. We do not want to conceive of a post-nuclear war world — something that felt close then, but remains just as close if not closer today. Who can blame us for this piece of repression? But there are other things we learned that we have forgotten. Like seeing “making it,” nearly however defined, as irrelevant. That’s just one thing. There a lot of things a lot of people figured out that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Does every generation think this? Does every generation have to figure it all out for themselves all over again? Apparently. As a kid, I used to sneer at geezers who thought they knew better than their young’uns. Guess the joke’s on me.

We’re a strange race, we homo sapiens.    We always think we know more than our ancestors.  Perhaps we do.  But we sure do leave a lot of good ideas along the wayside .