Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happys Thanksgivings

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (And PS... do you have any idea how long it took for me to make this costume?)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Being There

Everything has a deep significance to me now - allegorical insight. Probably because I've been reading Being There, a short little novel by, uh, Jerzy Kosinski on which the film was based (pretty closely). I always liked the movie, at least as long as I've seen it. And the book makes me write in short, expressive sentences.

And, before you ask, no! "Chauncey Gardiner" is not a genius. He's not anything at all, except a blank piece of paper. I have had to constantly remind myself of that - it's very enticing - and I have the luxury of dramatic irony. Others, I suppose, have to be careful not to read too into it - the book, I mean. But the book itself, to me, is... well, it's not a blank piece of paper - I check and keep on checking, just to be sure - but it is also not some big monstrous allegory who only shows its tip above the waterline. It is a fun, quirky little story with just about as much depth and meaning as a blank piece of paper.

I mean, sure, it was written by somebody, and that somebody had some idea of how he wanted things to go, what he thought of the tale as a whole. And I suppose some "meaning" does peak through. For example, I have placed the name "Chauncey Gardiner" in quotation marks, because that's just what some people call him, not his real name. His real name, according to the narrator, is Chancy - because, the narrator says, his whole existence, even birth, was a matter of chance. But something strikes me as allegorical about the name - I mean, he was struck by a limousine a few minutes after leaving his garden for the first time. He was taken in by a wealthy couple and widely lauded, and had "every man's fantasy" thrown at him (not bad for a swollen calf).

Yeah, yeah... it's all blind chance, but something still scares me about him. He gardened and watched TV, and later tapped into that, the only experiences he had, to figure a place for himself in his world. When EE wants to get frisky he'd rather watch TV (therefore he is not human).

And the "Old Man"... the nearly anonymous wealthy gentleman who raised "Chancy" from an early age... I kinda hate him too. Why did he create this monster, this scarily innocent, entirely dependent creature and then release it onto the world? Why, if I didn't know better, I'd call the Old Man the modern Frankenstein, and "Chance" the Post-modern Prometheus.

The book is very similar to the movie, at least in content, but where I was inclined to laugh at the movie, at the characters' over valuing of "Chauncey's" simple phrases and the Forrest Gump-like "being there" coincidences, somehow for me the book is much more somber. Maybe it is for the simple reason of past acquaintance - I already know the setup and the punch line. Maybe it's literary pretensions, or its sparse writing - maybe it's all the essays I know exist about it. At any rate, people have found an awful lot to believe in here, apparently - even high-end scholars who say they know what they're talking about.

Well, now, I never went too far in my schooling, and so far, have resisted as best I could the temptation to look too deeply, into life and this book. We humans probe everything - many of us have a tendency to over think things. Take, for example, my dachshund Tobey - my family and I have invented an entire mythology around his past life, and his current trials in preschool. We all sometimes speak in his voice - high squeaky, maybe innocent voice - in which "he" cusses and swears and details his homosexual relations with our other dog, a chow chow named Sparky. He's the only of our pets with a real, set in stone personality and voice, and we all have strong attachment to him. He means so much to us, yet he is just a dog! He has never done any of those things.

I leave you now with a picture of Sarah, a woman who, like Chancy, was once seriously considered as a candidate for Vice President. In this painting she has a stack of pancakes on her head.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I return and tame the shrew

After nearly a month without a posting, I'm back with one new post and plenty of ideas...

I have been jolted from my word-sleep by a middle-of-the-road community college production of The Taming of the Shrew. I first read the play, by Mr. R. Shakespeare a couple of months ago, in September. Then, I didn't have none too high opinions of it all. It struck me as the same old Battle of the Sexes - *yawn* - only with a strong misogynistic twist, courtesy of the times or Shakespeare himself, or whatever. I only read it so I could have something to disagree with when a feminist came calling with her obviously correct ideas about the inherent sexism of the play. My figuring was: "She may be right, but I'll be damned if she ever knows."

It's the same kind of thinking, I think, that runs through Petruchio's mind every time he picks up Kate and hauls her off to his house. (The audition fliers of every production of Taming of the Shrew ought to always say "Petruchio: All candidates must be able to fireman's carry a 150 pound woman for at least 300 yards.") In our production it was the typical fiery and diminutive Kate vs the typically tall and timber Petruchio. In the "Battle of the Sexes" here Kate puts up one hell of a fight, but ends with her hands underneath her husband's boot - willingly! of all things...

Truth be told it was this awful breaking of Kate's spirit, implied so well by the title, that initially gave an unpleasant rumbling in my tummy. And the unpleasantness comes to a head right at the end, when Kate gives her infamous speech. For a long time, naturally, the speech was given in total honesty (by a man); then, somewhere along the line, someone decided to deliver it with a wink and a nod. "She's only joking, everyone," says the director -- and Mr. Shakespeare is far too dead to say otherwise. In our production, however, the vitriolic speech is merely glazed over and the whole darn controversy along with it.

This production had nothing of the political or contentious about it. It featured instead lots of pelvic thrusting and silly sound effects. There was this girl who spent most of her time at the back of the stage, behind a cart with a variety of noise-makers sitting on it. It was her job to hit a drum every time an actor pretended to strike another actor, to honk a horn every time an actor sensually squeezed at the air in front of him. The one set of lines she had she delivered in an unsurprising Frankenstein fashion.

The performance may have overused the sound effects, especially the comic horn. Even seemingly innocuous phrases are knocked down to the level of groundling humor by the likes of the comic horn. "The reward is in the doing." (honk honk) and "The Universe is very, very big." (honk honk). I am not, nor will I ever be, inherently against the naughty sound effect or pelvic thrusting. Even a professional performance of Othello I saw fairly recently made ample use of the latter. And it makes sense: many, these days are inclined to call every Shakespeare play a "mouldy tale" as Ben Jonson did to Pericles, and sound effects act as a cheap way of spicing up the moldier bits.

Really, how much chocolate can you eat before your teeth begin to rot? Still, our group was rolling, most of the time. It only makes sense: we are all long-time casual fans of Monty Python, our teeth are yellow and crooked, and we still thoroughly subscribe to the idea that anything said in a British accent is just that much funnier. I'm sure if the Globe was still around today we'd be packed into the ground floor, throwing wisecracks and vegetables at the stage. As it is, the seating arrangements were "anywhere but the front row," and as for the vegetables... my girlfriend snuck in some hummus from the charity refreshment table.

There the atmosphere was soft and humorous, a gentle no-excuses take on William Shakespeare, and a great way to spend $10 and an evening. And, although what we took in that evening was hardly William Shakespeare, setting aside for now discussion of the play itself, this performance has so impressed itself upon me that "Taming of the Shrew" now has a pretty gold star resting next to it in the dictionary of my mind...

Now here's to another long ride on the saddle -- or at least another month!