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Dec 19

Eat Your Heart Out

Having clowns as friends is a very lucky and special thing. They are always funny and wearing great clothes. They love props as much as I do. And sometimes they write cookbooks.

Morro and Jasp just wrote a cookbook. They had a fancy book launch at The Drake Hotel, where the who’s-who of Toronto (clowns and movie stars and clown-movie stars) hang out in fedoras and ascots and Italian leather shoes. There were bands and readings too.
I got to tell a story about an incident I had with food…and -unfortunately- fire..

This is the story as I told it on Tuesday night:

There are two things you need to know about this story.
It’s 100% true and it’s 100% tragic.

Many moons ago I was having dinner at my friend Robin’s house. It was the end of the summer and I was about to start grade nine at a new school. Socially awkward with braces and a lumpy ponytail through middle school, this was a new school and fresh start— a chance to awaken the cool teenager I knew must be lying dormant within me.

Here’s where the food part comes in:

After dinner we got to roast marshmallows.
We’re hanging out, watching them turn golden brown and melty— I like to burn mine on purpose because I’m a bit of a rebel and also very impatient when it comes to eating sugar.
Robin is one of those people who methodically turns the marshmallow watching it grow gold and then regards it like an Olympic medal she’s won.
But tonight she’s distracted and it catches the flame while she’s in the middle of telling me a very dramatic story about Blossom hats.
As she waves her arms to show me the size of the brim, the hot, sparking marshmallow on the end of her stick, hits me in the nose. And there’s a sssssss sound. Like meat hitting a grill.

And we laugh because it’s funny, right? Her marshmallow is on my nose. But as I giggle, I am crying inside. I know this is bad.

So after I wash it off and my nose hurts and is a bit red…but the next day it’s really red and burned. It is not subtle. I look like Rudolph, if Rudolph’s nose was blistery and flaking.
And then I start grade nine at a new school where I know no one and I have a huge red nose.
And I get my student card photo taken…with a huge red nose.
And everyone I meet stares at my nose. When someone is either tactless or courageous enough to ask me about it, all I can say is, “I got hit with a flaming marshmallow.”

Turns out that is not a cool thing to say. The general public- particularly those in high school- tend to find it weird..?`

And this story has no happy ending, other than that my nose did heal, but long after first impressions had been made. Consider a it a tale of caution and of utter woe.

However, I can honestly say that as a result I too know what it’s like to have a red nose…and it is not easy.
But it is a bit funny.
-

And that’s all.
If you want to buy Morro and Jasp’s cookbook you can order it here or here on Amazon or find it in many a bookstore.
You should get it. Yes YOU. Get one for your Mom too.

Oct 08

I read an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert from The Believer. I’ve actually never read any of Gilbert’s work. One day I’ll read Eat Pray Love, probably (I just finished Harry Potter, I’m behind the rest of the world and don’t mind living in my own time, a little in the past of pop culture or literature culture or whatever culture).
Right now I’m not that interested in her follow up, Commited, but she does have a newer novel out and some older short stories I am going to give a go sometime soon. Having never read her work, I have greatly enjoyed all instances I’ve encountered of Gilbert talking about writing and her work. She is a passionate, articulate, and good humoured speaker with a sense of imagination. She is empowering and exciting to listen to. She is smart and diligent.
I’ve watched her TED Talk, heard her on CBC’s Q, and happily came accross this more recent interview.

I am often pulled in two directions when it comes to solitude and not. I day dream about dissapearing and then am sad when I feel forgotten or left out. I want to be alone and then I’m lonely. I think about silence and quiet a lot, and whether the desire for it is out of fear or actual want. Because I do like people, a lot and a lot of the time. But I often wish for one of those black hole portals in the ground to drop into, without any pressure (which comes more from within than anywhere else) to do or be like anything.
It’s a back and forth, a close-line balancing act that changes depending on the wind. Like most things, I guess. Wanting to be alone sometimes but not actually wanting to be alone alone. It’s like being alone and being with the people I love, a part of something, are simultaneously the most wonderful and important things. How to settle that.

Anyway, I loved a particular part of the interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (the whole thing is here) and thought I’d post it.
Speaking of her writing process, she says:

"When I am deep in silent writing, I am the least full of shit that I can possibly be. I just feel purely like myself, and it’s such a relief from all the hats and masks I wear in normal life, around so many different people…So sometimes there is an urge just to slip away forever into that solitary space. (A very famous and gracious female novelist..:"Do we write so that we can be left alone? Do we write because it’s the only excuse anyone will accept for our need to be alone?"). Most definitely, it is drenchingly wonderful, for me at least, to spend that much time so alone. But I don’t know if a person can really live that way all the time, so distant from the world forever. On the one hand, it would make you a pure artist, but on the other hand, what on earth would you make art about? What would you know about anything, about anyone, about life, about shame, about dissapointment and family and absurdity and loyalty? To know all those vital human things, you have to live out in the world."

Sep 27

quote The problem of identity has always interested me. Who in fact are we? Nobody will say we don’t know who we are, because that seems like an adolescent question— we’ve passed beyond existentialism, let’s talk about really important things, like the fucking budget! Give me a break! There are things at stake here— things of the soul and of the heart— and we talk about the budget!

— Playwright Sam Shepard in American Theatre Magazine, September 1996.
Sep 01

I have been catching up on Enlightened, helmed by the thoughtfully brilliant Mike White. I was intrigued initially by the premise of the show, and it took me a while to get completely into it— I have a short attention span at times— but it is some of the most beautiful and honest writing I have ever seen. I have learned so much from it.

Mike White isn’t afraid to talk about human weaknesses, on a large corporate scale, or to write, more suprisingly, of the most minute, specific, and personal vulnerabilities.
An example is the feeling of loneliness. Or, the way we survive, relate to people, and are affected by them, whether or not they know it. The way technology connects us, and how we chose not to see the many ways we have allowed it to make us completely disconnected drones, under security blankets of light cast from rectangular, glowing screens. But that’s only a small part of it.

White doesn’t say these things directly, he doesn’t criticize; he depicts. He shows us our flaws without placing blame or saying we are wrong. He is just making us aware.
By “us” I mean an audience, but I guess really I can only speak for me. I relate so much to the show. Particularly to the character Mike White plays. I just watched the fifth episode of the second, and final, season, called “The Ghost is Seen”. In the opening monologue and final voice over, White was able to articulate feelings- and a tension within the state of being- I have tried to explain in my plays, in my journals, in my life over and over. The tension between existing and not, not in terms of life and death, but in terms of presence and a sort of quiet shadow with regards to trust and engagement and fear and investment in others, in ourselves; our wants and needs, hopes.

White’s character talks about living as a “ghost” as not being tied down, as being free.
Conversely, he has no real connection to anyone, nowhere to make use of this freedom.

When no one is expecting you, there are no expectations. This is part of being alone.

I am so caught between those two sides, so confounded and fascinated and wound up in them. I think it’s the basis, in some way, for every play I write. Not belonging, not letting yourself belong because then you have something to lose, somewhere to be, some way to mess it up.
Mistaking elusively for power. Confusing not needing for strength and independence.
This is a reoccurring theme.

But you can’t be invisible and work in the arts, I don’t think. You can’t be a “ghost”. Because what’s the point of creating or doing something that doesn’t make a mark, that has no opinion or need for existence, on any scale? This is my greatest anxiety within the profession I have chosen. It is why I don’t like the parties and feel displaced at the openings- where the point is, somewhat, to be seen, which are superfluous to the work, anyhow. But in showing my work and wanting it to be seen, and actually being seen through that— this is both the most horrendous and the most thrilling.
It is the most crucial roller coaster I am driven to ride, though often tempted to duck out of the line and behind a big tree.
Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge and thank Mr. White for his work. For being able to say something so beautifully and completely, without a lot of words.
Watching his show, I am learning what I want to able to accomplish as a writer, actor, creator. I want to find the courage to speak the simplest and most resounding truths in the most beautiful, affective ways.

Here is the opening and closing of the episode I just watched. I feel silly, writing like this to no one, for myself on the internet, but I’ve always felt like art is so hard to make that when you see something you like you should let the artist/actor/writer/director/etc know if ever given the opportunity. I apply this rule mainly to people I see in Toronto theatre, but why not apply it further? Why not use technology, slightly aimlessly albeit, to try and connect? To say thanks.

The whole episode is wonderful. Molly Shannon is so great in it too.
The series is so good.

Mar 18

UPSTAGED

There are a lot of funny things that happen when doing a play.
Particularly when you’re working outside a professional theatre, and need to make your own rules— everything is dependent on the passion and dedication of those involved.
When I finished university and was starting to build a career in theatre (which I am continually working on building) I did some community theatre around Toronto to get onstage and keep acting. The shows I did introduced me to groups of people I had never encountered— adults with completely separate lives and jobs who were doing plays purely because they loved to.
To me, this is a wonderful thing that ought to be celebrated.

I also love how ridiculous theatre can be— so many individuals with passions raging over musical numbers and choreography— (for example, my favourite film, Waiting for Guffman, or the television series Slings and Arrows).

Take a look at this trailer for a series very much in this spirit, called UPSTAGED. Jacquie Pepall (Great Lake Films) and I developed this show together. We have had a lot of fun and had wonderful people contribute, and would very much like to shoot it as a web series. To make this happen we need a lot of people to watch the trailer above. Give it a play and please pass it on.

Help us make funny television.
Thanks.

Feb 13

Just wondering this

Please consider the following as you go about your day:
If we were cursed to live out the rest of our lives as ice sculptures what pose would you take? Right before you were hit with the wizard’s freeze ray? As you saw it’s piercing glow come at you, what stance would you throw your limbs out to form?

Would it be serious?
I’d like to think mine would be mighty.
But unique.
Not solemn.
Not tree pose or downward dog, that’s not me.
I would be tempted to make it into a joke, to do something silly and immature— not really low brow or sexual, that’s not my thing— but just childish. I would undermine the seriousness of the freeze ray— refuse to accept my fate was earned— by making some silly gesture. Turning my body into a funny animal, a twisted clown. Imitate the wizard himself.
But then as I stood there melting, I’d worry that people walking by thought I was serious. I’d long to tell them, “I’m just kidding…” through frozen lips.
This happens to me in real life too. It would be the one familiar feeling I’d carry from human to ice sculpture. I might hold it dear.

Or maybe I wouldn’t make it into a joke at all.
Maybe I would just stand completely straight and still.
And when I melted it would be almost rectangular. I could be any body. I could be a short building or a tall box.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say here. I’m not trying to be deep.
I’m just wondering what you’d do. How you would pose? Tiny and mouse-like? Like the hunchback of Notre Dame? Who would you want your friends and family to come see? To stick post-it notes with messages of love on your melting form?
Who would you want to be as you slowly dripped? And faded.
And dried up. I guess it doesn’t matter, when you get to that point.

image

[From “A Hotel and Art Gallery Built Entirely Of Snow and Ice” by Danny Olda ]

Feb 09

If you’ve ever listened to Terry Gross on NPR (and if you haven’t, check it out) this short with Terry and Mike Birbiglia will crack you up.
Or maybe I’m writing “you” but I should be writing “me”.
Because it cracked me up. And it was neat to see the woman behind the voice too.
I liked Birbiglia’s film adaptation of his one man show Sleepwalk With Me a lot as well. It’s on Netflix in the US right now.

Feb 04
beingblog:

theantidote:

Sonja Vordermaier; installation, Street Lamp Forest. Courtesy of Five Branch Tree
(via crashinglybeautiful:)

Gorgeous.


This is so neat. It’s like full circle— make nature out of what is man made. Or something deep and beautiful like that.

beingblog:

theantidote:

Sonja Vordermaier; installation, Street Lamp Forest. Courtesy of Five Branch Tree

(via crashinglybeautiful:)

Gorgeous.

This is so neat. It’s like full circle— make nature out of what is man made. Or something deep and beautiful like that.
Feb 04

Our book club was so hardcore. It was off the hook. It was worth the wait…and the book.
I was hung over the next day and felt proud of that. We did Bukowski proud.

We may have talked more about the Babysitter’s Club books than our book club book, but I had no problem with that. It was all tangentially related.

There are so many articles and blogs about all that is wrong with Toronto theatre. And there are lots of things wrong. But what is right about it? What can we grow out of that?
Because it’s pretty vital to me to figure that out, on a personal I-need-to-do-this level and also in order to make a career in the arts. Part of me is already tired, but most of me a raring to go.
But what can we do will all our words?

Jan 20
I’m reading this book, Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski for the first book club meeting of my first ever book club. It is my goal to finish one book for one book club and attend one meeting. I want to know what this whole reading in clubs thing is all about. Maybe it’s amazing.

I’ve got about fifty pages to go. The meeting is tomorrow night, so I think I am doing an awesome job. Like, this is happening. I tried being in a book club once before but realised a week before the meeting, when I was on page 30 of the 624 page The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that I was doomed and bowed out. 

This is my first time reading Bukowski’s work. Ham on Rye is supposed to be largely biographical. It’s a lot of kids getting hit by their parents and bloody noses and discovering beer and women and fighting and jerking off. There is one quote though… 
Henry, to protagonist, discovers the library. Bukowski writes,

“Words weren’t dull, words were things that could make your mind hum. If you read them and let yourself feel the magic, you could live without pain, with hope, no matter what happened to you.”

This one thought glowed on the page for me, like a solo working Christmas light hidden on a string of burnt out bulbs. It’s kind of lovely and hopeful. And a little bit true. 

I hope there’s more of that in the last 50 pages. Doubting it.
I wonder if, inspired by the novel, anyone will come to blows at book club tomorrow night?

I’m reading this book, Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski for the first book club meeting of my first ever book club. It is my goal to finish one book for one book club and attend one meeting. I want to know what this whole reading in clubs thing is all about. Maybe it’s amazing.

I’ve got about fifty pages to go. The meeting is tomorrow night, so I think I am doing an awesome job. Like, this is happening. I tried being in a book club once before but realised a week before the meeting, when I was on page 30 of the 624 page The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that I was doomed and bowed out.

This is my first time reading Bukowski’s work. Ham on Rye is supposed to be largely biographical. It’s a lot of kids getting hit by their parents and bloody noses and discovering beer and women and fighting and jerking off. There is one quote though…
Henry, to protagonist, discovers the library. Bukowski writes,

“Words weren’t dull, words were things that could make your mind hum. If you read them and let yourself feel the magic, you could live without pain, with hope, no matter what happened to you.”

This one thought glowed on the page for me, like a solo working Christmas light hidden on a string of burnt out bulbs. It’s kind of lovely and hopeful. And a little bit true.

I hope there’s more of that in the last 50 pages. Doubting it.
I wonder if, inspired by the novel, anyone will come to blows at book club tomorrow night?

Jan 14

Freezer-Burned Heart

I found your heart in the freezer, sitting on top of the frozen peas.
As if it could be used as an ice pack if you stubbed your toe and were out of ice. I didn’t think I would ever use your heart to ice a bruise.

But I did. In a moment of desperation, a week later, when I was out of ice cubes and eaten all the peas, and had a run in with a metal post while walking and texting, I used your heart to ice my head. So now it has both harmed and healed me. Except my forehead is still black and blue and sometimes my dreams feature Ryan Gosling now instead of you. I like his arms.

Won’t you come get your heart? It taunts me every time I head for the Hagen Daaz. Its beating rings in my ears at night. It is louder than any keg party or dog barking at the moon.

It’s been there so long it is getting freezer burn. There is nothing sadder than a freezer-burned heart.
My best friend said I should compost it. I could never do that.

Maybe you meant it as a gift. A bizarre undying token of your affections that died. But it’s of no use without you. It’s not an art piece I can display. I could never bring myself to take it to a taxidermist to stuff and mount. It is not s conquest, it is a regret. Or not a regret. It’s just…your heart. It gurgles your name and glints the colour of your eyes when in the right light.

Do you want to come over for a bowl of Lucky Charms? We can read haikus to each other in foreign accents while tying strings around your fingers so you don’t forget. To take it home.
And keep it for a while, at least.

Jan 14

quote

You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers.

F. Scott Fitzgerald on the Secret to Great Writing (via theatlantic)

This applies to storytelling too!

(via moth-stories)
Jan 06

Clean up your organ.

You have to be careful.
Where you put your heart.

Don’t wave it like a flag.
Hold it close. Snuggle it at night.
Keep it in a trophy case. Unharmed and full beside the trophy you won for debating and below the one you got for being a “good sport” in soccer. You are a really good sport. Lock the case with a padlock, sure to rust, heavy and thick.

Dress your heart up for Halloween, as a piece of modern art or a baked potato. Keep it hidden in the shadows, locked away, in disguise. Send it on vacation somewhere very safe.

From people who let harsh words fly as casually as mosquitoes and spit.
Who don’t understand you but claim that they do. Because somebody has to understand everything, and guess what, they are the one.

Who will suck your imagination out of you as quickly as a hungry vampire will drain you of blood.

But you are a surprise vampire slayer, an astrophysicist of creativity, someone who speaks in different tones than ones that are mono and expected and dull. Someone who isn’t going to sucked up into a vacuum bag of obvious answers and dust balls.

But watch your heart. Don’t leave it unattended for a second.
Like you did here:

This was a bad idea. Not a good habit to get into.
I have hidden it in your left slipper and slipped that under your bed.
It’s waiting there now.
Enjoy.

www.questionmarkexclamation.com

Dec 30

Someone has been leaving their heart around the house.

I asked my roommate and she said, “Oh, Greg left that here last night. It was just getting too heavy for him to cart around everywhere, you know? Don’t worry- it’s basically dried out so it won’t leak onto anything.”

Greg came back for his heart the next day. His step was lighter and more deliberate at the same time. His arms were bent into robotic “L”s. He slapped me on the back when he left. Greg has always been a hugger. Too much of a hugger.

Haven’t seen him since. Except on Facebook. And he keeps tweeting Dale Carnegie quotes. I don’t know if he’s being ironic or vintage-hipster or sincere.
And now hearts keep popping up. Like they’re just too much to carry with our smartphones and tablets and kindles and laptops— hearts are now the external hard drive of organs. They are landlines that you pick up for old times sake when you get home, to feel a bit more confortable.

I am waiting for the release of the iHeart. I am both concerned and intrigued.

(if this strikes your fancy you should also see… www.questionmarkexclamation.com )

Oct 20
This looks so amazing. As if Paris needed another cool thing. Oh la la! Manifique.

papermag:

This is so cool: architecture firm AZC has plans to make a massive trampoline bridge in Paris!

This should be every bridge.