Monday, August 28, 2006

long time no blog

Summer session skidded to a close. My summer cold turned into full-on bronchitis (including 102 degree fever, chills, and the usual ick). And still, I managed to get out of town on.......


Not my usual activity. I headed off to Hawaii. Maui, mostly. And I start teaching the fall semester classes tomorrow, at 8 am.

I guess a full-on description will have to wait. Let's just say that I have never been so relaxed in all my life. And I'm still pretty much there.


Do you feel the thick, hot, moist breeze? Do you feel the salt of the warm ocean crusting on your legs? Can you taste the drinks with the little umbrellas?

Friday, August 04, 2006

end of "semester" crunch

My miraculous, creative, wonderful students.
Cranking out work round the clock.
Showing up with ingenious final projects, PLUS yummy final party snacks.

The most miraculous thing of all:
The good humor, camaraderie, and sharing among them, especially the night before, 'round midnight (I kid you not). The yahoogroup posts!

I guess our summer school class is more of a digital art boot camp, with fourteen weeks' worth of instruction crammed into six. Naturally everyone gets a bit punchy near the end.

And what were they sharing with each other?
Tips on masking in Corel Painter?
Tips on making patterns in Adobe Illustrator?

YouTube videos of Japanese pranks. Outrageous potty-humor. Pee-in-your-pants hilarious.

with thanks to Laura Ewing
outhouse pranks

with thanks to Edward Wu
sauna pranks

There is much more to say about my students' work and our final conversation. But right now I am sniffling with a summer cold, trying to lie down for yet another nap. And I am still filled with joy at all of yesterday. And I mean ALL of yesterday, beginning with the stream of yahoogroup email posts at 12:41 a.m.). If you know anybody who needs a good laugh, send 'em over. [To the link, NOT necessarily to Japan, since they might end up on the receiving end........]

Saturday, July 29, 2006

jolly old Titus Andronicus

I just saw a Shakespearian gore-fest, performed as ALMOST A COMEDY! ---a black one, with a cruel end. But if you know anything about Titus Andronicus, you probably know that it is not usually performed with happy music, laughs and slapstick.

Well, check out the production at the Old Globe in San Diego's Balboa Park. In the outdoor theater [which SORT OF tries to replicate the Elizabethan Old Globe], young buck maverick Yugoslavian director Darko Tresnjak recasts the Roman brothers competing for the throne as contemporary politicians, served by cell-phoning assistants, note-taking apparatchiks, and dark-suited, dark-shaded CIA-ish operatives. Titus Andronicus, a general returning from decades at war, is "elected (Emperor!) and declines to serve," leading to an escalating series of tragedies that sink Titus into madness, revenge, slaughter and death.


Broadway and popular songs are interspersed (She Had it Coming from Chicago and I Wanna Hold Your Hand, yes, that hand), simultaneously lightening and darkening the piece. In fact, the first thing we see is police tape, but the first thing we HEAR is the opening number from A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum.

When you go, say "hi" to my buddy Leonard Kelly-Young, who plays the tired General, with a descent into madness that singes (no, Titus doesn't "sing"), and a turn as a celebrity chef that cooks (yes, Leonard is a great cook, although I wouldn't have wanted to attend THAT meal).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Sensuous Margaret Cho

If you haven't heard of Margaret Cho, you are in for a shock AND a treat. If you have and you don't like her, you may wish to stop reading. If you are under the age of consent, go away now and look her up in a couple of years.

If you are my mom, hang onto your hat, keep reading, and don't worry too much.

Brilliant and "out there" as an actress, comedienne, political activist and writer, Margaret Cho is, among other things, pro-gay [she laughingly has called herself a "fag hag" for years], pro-free-expression, pro-sensuality, pro-sex, pro-body, pro-acceptance, pro-diversity, pro-self love AND pro-laughing at oneself. Fierce, edgy, hilarious, transgressive, sweet, smart, proud, mouthy, and ultimately transformative. FIERCE. Did I say "fierce?" And last Wednesday she ended a new variety show, The Sensuous Woman, with a powerful dance (NOT comedy).

Artists, liberals, pierced and tattooed hipsters, the gay/ lesbian/ transgender community, and people who create and follow extreme culture (and I'm leaving people out, sorry) adore Margaret. I adore Margaret. She rocks. She writes.

Anyway, Margaret (and a few others?) have spearheaded a series of performances at El Cid, an aging Flamenco restaurant/theater/bar in Silverlake. The series, The Sensuous Woman, features performers of burlesque (did you know there is a full-on burlesque revival going on?), bellydance, comedy, etc. I believe it is the third Wednesday of every month. Margaret emcees, supports the sketch comedy of others, and inserts some comedy bits, and this time did one final, amazing DANCE. The Sensuous Woman has traveled and will travel (to NYC too, soon). Go see it. DON'T bring the little ones.

Several Highlights:
Lisp and Havana (gay and lesbian rappers, incredibly funny, check out the MP3 Sexual Homo and crank it!)
The Wet Spots (transgressive elegant night club singer/songwriter duo: the tasteful Do you Take it in the Ass? is OHMYGOD funny)
Princess Farhana (bellydancer and elegant burlesque artist)
Kelly (alter ego of Liam Sullivan whose performance of songs shoes and txt msg brkup were outrageous)

Biggest Highlight:
Margaret Cho's final, phenomenal dance. Not one to do the expected, Margaret pulled much together, and pulled much off. And yes, here is my take on it.

First, context: Let's not forget that a bunch of the performances were by bump-and-grind pierced and tattooed elegant and naughty hipster burlesque goddesses. AND, I happen to know Margaret not just as a writer and comedienne, but also as a gifted and gorgeous BELLYDANCER. (Another blog, another day.)

It started with sound. The crowd swayed to percussive, invasive, angry and LOUD rap (Eminem's "Lose Yourself"). We knew what was coming and we screamed as Margaret was announced. When Cho stomped in, dressed as a (convincingly male) samurai, the crowd at first laughed and whistled at the sight (and at the contrast with the music). We quieted when our samurai turned to face us, mournful, despairing, holding back tears. (Cho is also a gifted actress, of course.) We watched him. Moving in stylistized squats with the grinding thumping rap, the samurai slowly raised a curved sheath above his head in front of the confused, cheering crowd.

Then he slid out the sword.

I know very little about of hara kiri (ritualized suicide), so I can't comment on the historical accuracy of what followed, but I gasped as our sad samurai acted out a swift self-disembowelment, first thrusting the sword into his belly, and then hurling himself onto the sword, ramming his guts onto it over and over. The movement was male, sexual, violent, and although covered with layers of clothes, a reference to both ritual suicide and sex, even rape. NO there was no blood. The act was all in movement, visual reference, and music.

Thrust after thrust. Then the shocking, shuddering pause.

Then, new movement. The crumpled, eviscerated pile began to undulate. Another Margaret awakened, disheveled, rapturous, body coursing like a bellydancer. She rose, stripping off the kimono to reveal herself, a woman, a goddess. The dragon tattoos on her belly writhed with her as she danced and expanded, triumphant. It is as if our new dancer consisted of serpents that crawled from the massacred bowels of the violent masculine. Unleashed. Free.

Strip tease.
Performance art.
Sacred ritual.

I can't stop thinking about it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Big Brother Birthday

Bill, my big brother, turned 50. At a small, intimate, family "chocolate party" his wife Bridget got our niece up on a donkey and a horsie, we looked at old family photos, we ate way too much chocolate (including dipping thingies into hot molten chocolate), and I sang.


Yes, and it had been a very long time. In another life I probably was a lyricist for Broadway musicals.

For decades I have written parody lyrics to various tunes for various occasions. And this occasion was no different. After all, how often does an annoying, amazing, weird and wonderful man whom you have known since birth have a momentous 50th birthday (or, as Bill would call it, "natal anniversary")?

Anyway, here, for the world to see, are the lyrics I wrote for Brother Bill, lovingly typed up on her own blog by my sister-in-law, Bridget (thanks, Bridget!):

Oh Billy Boy
sung to the tune of Oh Danny Boy

Oh Billy Boy, the sun, the sun is burning
The beagles dig, the chocolate flows and flows
You chose to leave your homeland of Encino (Chicago?)
Although we all have known a dungeon is your home.

You were the first one born to Al & Sheila
And you were destined for UCLA
You were distinguished in the halls of academe
For driving football helmets and things I can't say

Oh Billy Boy, you always made the women cry
Your wife, your girlfriends, mother and your sis
Your complication goes back to your youngest self
Back to Wisconsin, or Chicago, or your Bris.

Now Doctor Bill, the decades have been good to you
Your patients need you , and your friends are true
Your Bonnie Bridget fills your home with love and joy
And cats and dogs and horses, and a donkey too.

My Big Brother
sung to the tune of My Sharona

Billy was the first of us - the first of us
He came before Andi and I - big brother
Billy used to beat on me - make fun of me
When he was a very small fry - big brother

Bill was very smart - very bright
And he loved to have a lot of verbal fun- loved to pun
And annoy with his mi -i - i - i- ind! Why!?
m - m - m - my big brother

Bill has a creative side - a quirky side
Hard to find another such guy - big brother
William loves his history - his fantasy
And he loves to read his Sci Fi - big brother

William is a doc - not a Spock
Unless he is at a conference dressing up
Writing down - on his blog - his whole li - i - i - i - ife
m - m - m - my big brother

William played with Abe and Steve, Abe and Steve
When he was a regular guy - big brother
Then he went to CCO - to CCO
That is where his passion struck wide - big brother

William is my bro - watched me grow
He insults me and makes
Sure that I'm OK
What's to say
I love Bill till I die -ie - ie - ie - ie
m - m - m - my big brother

kitty garage sale

One night some weeks ago, a dear friend found a little black kitten that had been mauled by a coyote. She brought it inside so that it at least could die in peace. But the kitten lived through night. My friend then decided to do whatever she could to give this little fighter its best chance to survive.

Vet visits ensued. Bills. And alas, despite veterinary science, prayer, and credit cards, the little black kitten, after trying so hard to live, expired.

Leaving my friend with a $350-odd bill.

Several of us offered to kick in a few bucks. And then my girlfriend mentioned that she would maybe have a garage sale to make up the difference.

As it happens, I was getting rid of some nice stuff. So I started a pile.
Another friend was moving. So I picked up a heap.
Another friend was emptying closets and cabinets. Five bags.
Another happened to have a sack of CDs and books.
And so on.

My filthy Subaru became a conveyance for kitty garage sale stuff. People all over heard the story and went through their stuff. I made several trips to my girlfriend's garage. And then, when one of my students (an accomplished potter with an MFA) gave me a box of her own, beautiful handmade ceramics (PLUS a green chair and five boxes of glass dishes), I nearly lost it.

I love this friend. I love all my friends. And right now, I love the generosity of people. And I love how willing people are to share.

As it happens, last Saturday, the hottest day of the year, was the day of the first kitty garage sale. People dribbled in slowly. But, hearing the story, people tended gave my buddy more than she asked for when they bought. At the end of the day she had made $200. Plus she still has a lot of good stuff for a second sale day, when maybe it isn't so excruciatingly hot.

Got stuff?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

a farewell to Evidence

Does it seem like a lot of my posts are melancholic farewells to arts organizations? Unreal. Don't get me started on how Los Angeles, the State of California, and the alleged Richest Country in the World (you know, the good old USA?) don't support the arts. Criminal negligence.

Anyway, another one bites the dust. The Evidence Room is soon to be no longer, more or less due to an internal dispute, but the phenomenally talented uberDirector Bart DeLorenzo is producing his last piece at their wonderful Beverly-near-Alvarado hub. Last night I saw the third-to-the-final night of the Evidence Room's swan song, Chekov's The Cherry Orchard, which Chekov wrote while he was dying, young and worldly-old at age 44.

All about endings. All tragi-comedy, comic tragedy, manic humor veering off into bleak despair and back again.

Who knew that Chekov could sound so much like California, with real estate developers, handsome sexual predators, oversexed underlings, and looking good? Who knew that Chekov could look so much like the United States, bloated and unaware that our butts are being kicked? Who knew that Chekov could hit so close to MY bone, about wasted money and wasted time?

And of course, who knew that Chekov could sound so much like a theater director's accounting for moving on?

Bart and Chekov. What a team. It is ALL it all in there, VERY physical comedy, loveable complex buffoons, tragedy, and leaving the wreckage of one's past. This is not the heavy, lugubrious Chekov we expect. Nor is it "Chekov Lite." This is Chekov presented to us, BY us, FOR us, slamming us with both spectacle and pain.

I wrote about another piece that the Evidence Room had done, on a previous blog:

Now I realize it wasn't just the amazing piece of writing. It is the living bodies of committed actors, the extraordinary text, AND the penetrating vision of a director that come together to cause it all. A fragile, nebulous web. A community willing to submit itself to the text AND to the direction.

The Evidence Room location will remain a theater. It is a wonderful space for that. AND Bart DeLorenzo will direct again [taking the name "Evidence Room" with him]. How could he not? But the Evidence Room as we know it has only two more performances left, tonight's and tomorrow night's.


too much time on their hands

Science in the public interest......
With thanks to that great discoverer David Letterman for making it very virally famous.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

new students, new jokes

When I have my students join a yahoogroup, I ask each of them to send a favorite joke to the yahoogroup. Then, of course, it gets broadcast to all the group members. This summer session group has submitted some fantastic jokes. BOY this is a live bunch. Here are only a few of them:

from Eddie:
A teacher asks her class, ''If there are 5 birds sitting on a fence and you shoot one of them, how many will be left?'' She calls on Johnny. ''None, they all fly away with the first gunshot.''

The teacher replies, ''The correct answer is 4, but I like your thinking.''

Then Johnny says, ''I have a question for YOU. There are three women sitting on a bench having ice cream. One is delicately licking the sides of the triple scoop of ice cream. The second is gobbling down the top and sucking the cone. The third is biting off the top of the ice cream. Which one is married?'' The teacher, blushing a great deal, replies, ''Well I suppose the one that's gobbled down the top and sucked the cone.''

''The correct answer is the one with the wedding ring on...but I like your thinking."

Susan Hsieh:
There was a vampire who got stabbed in the heart and died. He went to heaven and waited in line to reincarnate. When it was his turn, God asked him, "What do you want to reincarnate as?" The vampire replied, "Something blood-sucking". So the vampire was reincarnated into a blood-sucking bat.

But one day the bat was captured and eaten by an eagle. So the vampire died and went to heaven and waited in the reincarnation line again. When it was his turn at the front, God asked, "What do you want to reincarnate as?" The vampire replied, "something blood-sucking." A little annoyed, God turned the vampire into a mosquito.

Later one day (sound effect of a hand slapping on the wrist- PAT!) the mosquito was smooshed by a large hand it was trying to suck the blood out of. The vampire died again and went to heaven. He got in line as before and when it was his turn at the front, God was quite annoyed. God asked him, "what do you want to be this time?" Vampire answered as usual, "something blood-sucking."

God smiled and turned him into a tampon.

Lauren Ewing:
A man who owned a hand-operated rotisserie was barbecuing a chicken in his front yard when a hippie strolled by. The hippie stood and watched for a couple of minutes and then said slowly, "Uh...I don't want to bug you man, but your music stopped, and your monkey's on fire.

Relieving Stress in Class
1. Leave permanent markers by the dry-erase board.

2. Ask whether the first chapter will be on the test. If the professor says no, rip the pages out of your textbook.

3. Hold up a piece of paper that says in large letters "CHECK YOUR FLY". (At Least for the Male profs.)

4. Address the professor as "your excellency".

5. When the professor turns on his laser pointer, scream "AAAGH! MY EYES!"

6. Relive your Junior High days by leaving chalk stuffed in the chalkboard erasers.

7. Sit in the front, sniff suspiciously, and ask the professor if he's been drinking.

8. Correct the professor at least ten times on the pronunciation of your name, even it's Smith. Claim that the i is silent.

9. Sit in the front row reading the professor's graduate thesis and snickering.

10. Feign an unintelligible accent and repeatedly ask, "Vet ozzle haffen dee henvay?" Become agitated when the professor can't understand you.

11. Wink at the professor every few minutes. (Hey you might even get a date if he/she is cute.)

12. Every few minutes, take a sheet of notebook paper, write "Signup Sheet #5" at the top, and start passing it around the room.

13. Start a "wave" in a large lecture hall.

Larry Martinez
There once was pirate captain who, whenever it looked like a battle would be imminent would change into a red shirt. After observing this behavior for a few months, one of the crew members asked him what it meant.

"It's in case I get shot. I don't want you crew members to see blood and freak out."

"That's very sensible, sir." At that moment, the crew member spotted eight hostile ships on the horizon. The captain all of a sudden looked very concerned.

"Get my brown pants."

Frederick Cheng
Computer Diagnosis
One day Bill complained to his friend that his elbow really hurt. His friend suggested that he go to a computer at the drug store that can diagnose anything quicker and cheaper than a doctor.

''Simply put in a sample of your urine and the computer will diagnose your problem and tell you what you can do about it. It only costs $10." Bill figured he had nothing to lose, so he filled a jar with a urine sample and went to the drug store. Finding the computer, he poured in the sample and deposited the $10. The computer started making some noise and various lights started flashing. After a brief pause out popped a small slip of paper on which was printed: "You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water. Avoid heavy lifting. It will be better in two weeks."

Later that evening while thinking how amazing this new technology was and how it would change medical science forever, he began to wonder if this machine could be fooled. He mixed together some tap water, a stool sample from his dog and urine samples from his wife and daughter. To top it off, he masturbated into the concoction. He went back to the drug store, located the machine, poured in the sample and deposited the $10. The computer again made the usual noise and printed out the following message:

"Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. Your dog has worms. Get him vitamins. Your daughter is using cocaine. Put her in a rehabilitation clinic. Your wife is pregnant with twin girls. They aren't yours. Get a lawyer. And if you don't stop jerking off, your tennis elbow will never get better."

Laura Grello
A boss wondered why one of his most valued employees had not phoned in sick one day. Having an urgent problem with one of the main computers, He dialed the employee's home phone number and was greeted with a child's whisper.

"Is your daddy home?" he asked.
"Yes," whispered the small voice.
"May I talk with him?""
The child whispered, "No."

Surprised and wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, "Is your Mommy there?"
"May I talk with her?"
Again the small voice whispered, No."

Hoping there was somebody with whom he could leave a message, the boss asked, "Is anybody else there?"
"Yes," whispered the child, "a policeman"
Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee's home, the boss asked, "May I speak with the policeman?"
"No, he's busy", whispered the child.
"Busy doing what?"
"Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman," came the whispered answer.

Growing more worried as he heard what sounded like a helicopter through the earpiece on the phone, the boss asked, "What is that noise?"
"A helicopter" answered the whispering voice.
"What is going on there?" demanded the boss, now truly apprehensive.
Again, whispering, the child answered, "The search team just landed the helicopter."

Alarmed, concerned and a little frustrated the boss asked, "What are they searching for?"
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle: "ME."