They Keep Pulling Me Back In

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Ok, so maybe Academia isn’t quite like La Cosa Nostra, and maybe I’m not quite like Al Pacino as he exclaims “Every time I try to get out, they keep pulling me back in”—in large part because I kinda volunteered for this—but despite the whole leaving academia behind trip that I’m on, I just received confirmation that I am returning to NYC in early November to present a paper at the American Theatre Conference at St. Francis College.

The paper is on the Living Theatre and the narrative that has been created about the IRS seizure of their theatre, the subsequent closing of The Brig and how the Living Theatre was able to use those events—or at least the stories about those events—as a kind of symbolic capital that helped sustain the organization throughout the years. Based on archival research, this is a paper that actually uncovers evidence and facts that have fallen out of the “official” biography of the Living Theatre and constitutes my most original and important work as a researcher and academic. I’m hoping to use the conference as a way to help me refine my ideas and to develop a longer paper for publication.

In fact, a larger number of the books that I’m bringing with me to New Mexico are books that I cite in this paper and that I will be using for the expansion. I’m really proud of the work I’ve done on this and am glad I get to share it with others at the conference and hopefully will get it published next year.

Unfortunately, I mis-remembered the dates of the conference and my beautiful plan of coming back to the East Coast for the conference and having that merge into Thanksgiving weekend up in Maine with my Grandparents and that weekend culminating with my 20 year high school reunion. I so did not just type “20 year high school reunion” did I? I did. Frak me!

Point being, the conference is November 7 – 9 and Thanksgiving/Reunion is November 27 – 29. Now, maybe, just maybe I’ll have banked enough money by then to just take nearly a month and hang out on the East Coast writing and visiting friends and family . . . but somehow I kinda doubt it. So that means flying out twice in a space of twenty days. Missing either event is not an option. Hopefully gas prices will have come down a bit by then and flying will be cheaper, but LtL would certainly not refuse an offer of airline points to help offset the airline costs, as it will be used in the spirit of disseminating knowledge (the conference) or . . . or . . . heck, I have no idea what the reunion will offer. I guess the chance to reconnect with old friends. Unfortunately, the term “old” will be more literal than I might like.

Justice Scalia as Mouthpiece for GOP

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(Flying the true colors of his flag: partisanship and lies)

Important information the next time someone tries to argue against Habeas Corpus and actual Justice in relation to Guantanamo Bay:

A new report from the Seton Hall University School of Law explodes the myth that some 30 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay prison have “returned to the battlefield” against American forces.

[From Think Progress » Report: Scalia’s Claim That Released Gitmo Prisoners Have Killed Americans Is An ‘Urban Legend’ ]

In fact, despite the fact that this myth is being repeated over and over again (because that’s how the truth gets made, don’t ya know: when 2 lies love each other very much, they . . .):

According to the Department of Defense’s published and unpublished data and reports, not a single released Guantánamo detainee has ever attacked any Americans.

So Justice Scalia may want to think about presenting the facts in his next opinion instead of parroting some unsubstantiated urban legend lie that he was fed by GOP Senators in their continued (and largely unchecked) pursuit of fascist power.

(via Pandagon)

With Democrats Like These Who Needs Republicans

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(Jellyfish: Exactly the same amount of vertebrae as the Democratic Party)

I can’t really write about the FISA events of the day without getting in a rage, but if you don’t know what happened today, if you don’t know that the 4th Amendment has been gutted and that the Congress has just sent a message to the Executive branch that operating above the law is just peachy-keen with them, then you need to read Glenn Greenwald’s coverage:

UPDATE III: This article from Dow Jones, celebrating that the telecom industry is completely off the hook as a result of this bill, has the full quote from Sen. Bond, which is even better (h/t C_O):
“I’m not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I’m sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do,” Bond said.

Even when the Government is wrong, even when it orders you to do something illegal, your role is not to question but to obey. That’s what he is saying explicitly.
When Democrats took over the Congress, they issued a document vowing to “end the ‘dead of night’ special interest provisions that turn bills into special-interest giveaways” and proclaimed: “Lawmakers must have the opportunity to read every bill before they vote on it. It’s common sense.”

Today, the House leadership has set aside a grand total of one hour to debate the FISA/amnesty bill, and gave its members less than 24 hours from the time it was released yesterday until they have to vote on it today. That’s the same bill which the NYT this morning calls “the most significant revision of surveillance law in 30 years.” They’re going to enact massive changes to our spying laws without having the slightest idea what they’re voting on. All they know is that the President demanded this, and that’s enough, because — as Kit Bond says — “when the government tells you to do something, I’m sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do.” In this formulation, “the government” means “The President.”

[From Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com]

I know I shouldn’t be nearly as stunned as I am, that the Democrats are spineless saps that talk a good game and never seem to live up to their own rhetoric and ideals, or that those in power are inherently interested in covering their own asses and accumulating more and more power . . .

But I am. Stunned, angry, sad, and disgusted.

Attention Must be Paid

The other day I read a piece by Laura Flanders in which she wondered, in the wake of Tim Russert’s death, what would happen if journalists demonstrated the same level of emotions and pain toward other deaths, asking:

I know it’s possibly a subversive thought for all those deluded believers of objectivity in journalism — and heaven forbid we challenge convention — but what if — what if — in journalism, mourning, not to mention expressing feelings, wasn’t saved up just for journalists? What then, do you think? (Link)

However, there is a deeper problem than journalistic displays of emotion and mourning relegated to the loss of journalists when it comes to questioning how the American people deal with the repercussions of war.

The deeper problem is that we, as a culture and as a nation simply don’t deal with the repercussions of this war in any real way.

Take a look at what CBS New Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan has to say:

Tonight, I watched the News Hour on PBS and at saw the faces of 16 young American men who have recently died in Iraq and wondered about the fact that this “liberal” (which of course means “un-patriotic” to loud-mouthed Faux News and far Right talk radio hosts) institution, the Public Broadcasting Service, is one of the only mainstream news and media outlets bothering to honor the American men and women dying in this war.

I want to be clear, I believe that everyone killed and wounded in this war ought to be recognized and honored, not only the American soldiers but the Iraqi soldiers and civilians as well. However, it is particularly hypocritical of those wrap themselves in the flag and who have championed this war to turn a blind eye to the one cost of this war that you would expect a patriot to exam: those men and women who have died in service to their country.

If you go to the Faux News site, and search either “iraq casualty list” or “operation iraqi freedom,” you will find a list of the “Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom” . . . that has not been updated since September 3, 2007. If you go to the Department of Defense site, and search “iraq casualty list” you will find this pdf: Picture 1.png

And yes, you will find the various press releases that identifies US military casualties as they are confirmed, but there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive list or page that honors the men and women who have laid down their lives in this conflict. To find a list of those names, or to put faces to those names, you have to go to sites like Zeitlangers, Iraq War Heroes, the San Francisco Chronicle, or the Washington Post. The Washington Post site is particularly powerful because it has the pictures of the 4100+ soldiers who have been killed.

I am not a very pro-military type of person and I’ll be honest, I don’t know very many people who have served. I disagree with the policies that led up to the war in Iraq and am absolutely disgusted by an administration that seems to have no real plan for peace and who has used 9/11 as an excuse to destroy a great many honorable aspects of this country. That said, attention must be paid.

Attention must be paid.

In a mediascape agog with news about the iPhone 3G, titillated by Ashlee Simpson’s Jaime Lynn Spears pregnancy, rabid for manufactured “news” that is little more than rumor, gossip and innuendo; in a culture that plays at patriotism through fancy tv graphics and flag pins, all the while busily burying its head in partisanship and sniping and name-calling, it is even more important that we find ways to pay attention to the real news, the real sacrifices, the real costs of war.

So I have decided to read aloud and record all of the names of those who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as in Operation Enduring Freedom. A rough estimate puts the time it would take to read all the names at six hours. I’m not 100% positive of how that reading and recording will occur, but I’m leaning toward trying to find a theatre space and inviting a number of people to help read the list with me. If you have other ideas or suggestions or would like to be involved, or have an “in” with a theatre space in the NYC area, please get in touch with me. I am thinking about performing the reading on July 4th or July 8th. As this project develops, I will post here with further details.

[Update: It looks like July 5th may be a better date.]

Self Sabotage

The original idea for my oncoming adventure was to move to Truth or Consequences, try to find work at the Spaceport in order to be part of building something that I find terribly exciting, blog, podcast or otherwise document the building of the Spaceport and create a life that let me focus, as much as possible on my creative work (especially my writing).

But lately, I’ve been hedging my bets, telling people that T or C might be too small and I might end up in Las Cruces because it’s bigger and will be easier to find work and is more practical for me to consider as an alternative to T or C. But I don’t want to live in a city, even a small one, right now. Sure, after 8 million people, 100,000 is not much more than a town. Yes, my reasoning may also be sound and I may indeed end up in Las Cruces for a variety of reasons. However, I find myself leaning toward Las Cruces because it’s a choice that seems safer, that provides more of a known quantity than T or C—I’m not sure I know how to live in a town of only 9000 or so people and what would I do without a university nearby and theatres and . . . and . . .

Well, that’s kinda the point isn’t it? To live in a place where I can focus on writing. Not only practicing the craft but on developing a stronger habit of writing. I mean, part of this whole journey a search for the physical, mental and emotional spaces that will enable me to find myself, to find my core strength as writer. The more distractions offered by my surroundings (especially during the beginning stages of this journey) the greater the odds of me, magpie-like, getting distracted by shiny objects (directing theatre, taking undergraduate classes in philosophy or economics or computer science, starting theatre companies, etc.).

Are there reasons I might end up in Las Cruces? Sure there are, but mentally I’ve been giving up T or C before I even get out there and check out the situation. A lack of trust in my own resourcefulness and abilities perhaps?

McCain Watch – Straight Talk Express, The Musical!

Yeah – McCain used the word “trollop.” The gall of him.

Oh yeah, and that other word . . .

So I loved the musical theatre bit and wanted to come up with a song list for the rest of the musical:

  • I’m Old, but Dagnabit I’m Young Enough for You
  • Women, Git Yerself Educated
  • War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero
  • Lobbyist Love
  • The Right to Choose . . . ME!
  • Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran
  • Telecoms Fly Free
  • The Free Market Suite:
    • I’ll Protect the Strong
    • Taxes for You, Tax Holes for Me
    • She’s a Sexy No-bid Contract and I Think She Likes Me
    • The Profit Anthem
  • I’ll Straight Talk You Right ‘Round the Bend
  • Trollops & Cunts!!
  • If By Experience (You Mean Old, I’m Your Man)
  • God So Made the World/Darwin is a Dunce
  • When the Truth is a Lie is the Truth is a Lie is the Truth
  • I Won’t Die
  • You Can’t Go Wrong (With the Religious Right)
  • Bush League Player
  • A Womb Under My View
  • Diplomacy Shmiplomacy
  • War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero War Hero Reprise
  • 100 Years Ain’t Nuthin’ to Me

(Video via Pandagon)

Letters to Lost Friends Update

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There’s a new episode of my podcast posted. I’m up to episode 6 of Letters to Lost Friends. If you haven’t listened to any of the shows, please do! If you have, thanks!

And I do need submissions for both the “letters to lost friends” and the “friend of the day” segments, so if you’ve been mulling over whether to send something, mull no more! Send them to submit (at) letterstolostfriends (dot) com. You’ll feel all special and tingly inside when you do.

Change


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We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations. – Anais Nin

Some of you may already know that I’m preparing for a pretty major life change in the coming weeks. Namely, leaving New York City and moving to the Las Cruces/Truth or Consequences area of New Mexico.

Alone.

And no, I don’t know anyone out there. This is going to be a free-fall time, a solo adventure with a few specific personal development goals. But let me back up a moment and begin, as they say, at the beginning (which, of course, is never really the beginning, just a middle you happen to call a beginning because that’s the scene you come in on):

As I mentioned previously, I have been longing to get out of cities for a while now and at this point in my life. Living in NYC has only exacerbated that feeling. The concrete and steel and the screams of the bus-brakes and the subways, the smells of the garbage and the press of people the constant press of people have only further instilled a desire to find a place, a quiet place, a place where I can relax my defenses and have space to breath and sit still and listen to silence and tune in to the rhythms of nature. To find my center, to breathe clean air, to open myself up to my surroundings with a sense of peace and safety and joy.

At the same time that this desire has been growing, I made a huge decision a couple of years ago when I left CUNY’s The Graduate Center, forgoing the academic and career path I had set myself on in 2001 when I began my Masters degree at the University of Maryland. Namely, becoming a full-time, tenured college professor. The ramifications of the decision are still being felt, the meanings still being teased out by my mind as I grapple with the awareness that I have chosen to leave behind (for the foreseeable future) a life that holds a tremendous amount of appeal and a career that I’m very good at doing. For years, even when I was mentally (and sometimes vocally) railing against graduate school and feeling ill at ease with the whole notion of academia, I was being told, on a near daily basis, that I was very good at thinking, at research, at writing and at teaching. That approbation felt damn good, regardless of what I was feeling about the system. I was also surrounded by friends and colleagues who were damned smart and curious and excited by ideas and theories and theatre and thinking. Actually, I think I miss that community more than anything else that I experienced as a grad student. In many ways, those colleagues provided more of an impetus for me to think harder than many of my professors and I adore thinking and trying to wrap my brain around concepts that are hard and not necessarily intuitive.

(Well, I do when I am grappling with notions, ideas, and subjects that come naturally to me. Subjects like critical theory, dramaturgy, directing, even teaching others. If I’m honest there are all sorts of things that are hard for me that I avoid – like math and foreign languages. And actually, that’s one of the things I’d like to change about myself.)

What do I really want to be when I grow up? I am tempted to say the same thing that I said when I was seven: “a writer,” but that’s not completely true. What I most want to be is a storyteller. One who can work in various mediums to affect peoples minds, heard and souls. I want to make other people feel what Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, Joanna Russ, John Crowley, Samuel Delany, Sherri S. Tepper, Stephen Moffat, and Ron Moore have made me feel. I love directing theatre, and plan on continue to tell stories through that specific art, but directing is easy for me (the challenges of each moment may be difficult, but the process is one that feel entirely comfortable and confident in). Making music is something that I want to become better at, both as a composer and as a songwriter and I will be making a more concerted effort in that arena. I also plan on furthering my experiments in sound design as an expressive and storytelling art

But the most challenging medium for me is writing. And, if I’m honest with myself, writing is also what I most want to leave behind as my legacy. Through plays, short stories, novels, comics and screenplays, I want to tell stories that will astonish and delight, that will make people think and cry and see themselves and see something so alien as to see the world anew. I want to invent worlds where other people want to come and live. I want to create realities that have never been seen and re-write those that have become so trite as to be invisible. I have never stopped writing completely, and have almost always carried a story or two in my head that needs telling, but because writing is hard, it’s very very easy for me to find ways to not do it. School provided me with a convenient excuse because I was writing, just not stories (to be honest though, I do see my academic work as stories, just in a very different sense of the word – but that’s another discussion for another time), and I was expected to focus all my energies on my studies.

Now I no longer have that excuse. Neither will I have a myriad of other excuses for not writing . . . actually, to be more specific, I will not have any excuse not to make writing the primary focus of my life. It won’t be the only thing in my life with any meaning, but the other parts of my life need to be arranged in support of my life as a storyteller and as a writer. Trust me, I know that simply moving yourself from one place to another does not ensure personal change and a sudden ability for self-discipline. So I do not see this move as a solution, or as the answer to my struggles to become the writer I want to become, the writer I’ve always envisioned myself but never actually made happen. However, I do believe that for me to get my shit together as an artist, I need to find an environment that can allow me to feel more open to the world, less defensive, less cut-off from my own needs and desires; a place of silence and stillness that will allow the stories (and myself) a freedom of being that I just don’t seem to find in an urban setting, or, to be completely honest, while living–and by living I mean “significant other” kind of living–with someone.

Scared? Hell yeah. I will have no obligation to anyone but myself and I’ve not been terribly good on that front as it is far easier for me to get work accomplished when it is for someone else. That situation could be directing, where if I don’t come through I let down my cast and crew, or it could be school, where teachers demanded both content and excellence to be delivered to them on deadline. The last time I was not in school, the last time I went west, I fucked around and did very little of worth because I was lazy and undisciplined and unfocused. Graduate school has definitely given me some good habits and abilities that I didn’t have back then, but the fact is I don’t know if I can do this. I have spent a great deal of my life doing things that I know I can do, often times with great success. So, do I have the life skills, the self-discipline, the fortitude, the courage, the skills, or the focus to be who I want to become?

I don’t know.

But I guess I will find out. One way or another.

Forget Biofuels – It’s Air All the Way, Baby!

Check it:

What’s sad is that, but for human greed and short-sightedness, this could have been the path for the automotive industry beginning over a century ago.

Oh, but you can’t make nearly the money on compressed air as you can on selling fuel, be it gasoline or biofuels or hydrogen. So yeah, all those corporations and selfish assholes who happen to control the means of production are going to sabotage these technologies, or poison our perceptions so that, in the end, money continues to line the pockets of the already obscenely rich.

Cynical? Who me?

Nahhh.