Archive for May, 2010

Day Memorial, Glorious and Laborious

May 31, 2010

I have always tended to confabulate Labor Day and Memorial Day.  For one thing, it just doesn’t make sense to me that something sad, like remembering the dead, should happen just as summer is starting to show up (even if today marks the third anniversary of Ellie’s death, and summer, my birthday in fact, marked the funeral of my childhood best friend); shouldn’t the end of school be when we celebrate all the “labor” we did as school kids and some school’s out completely feeling?

When you’re a kid, you generally don’t know too many fallen soldiers and “laborers” are also an abstract concept.  Nevertheless, as a kid it’s crystal clear that the beginning of summer is a good time and the end of summer is a bad time.  Therefore if you’re going to have a holiday about sad things, make it at a sad time—and besides, how does it help dead soldiers if we eat corn and watermelon?

I think that if I were the ghost of a dead soldier, and I happened across a typical American Memorial Day celebration, I might think they were all happy I was gone.  Not that I want a gloomy holiday, but why don’t we sit shiva and get deli if we’re honoring men and women who died so that we could remain free?

A further complication in my differentiating between Memorial and Labor Days was that, as a child, after my long internment at “camp” I was finally released at the end of summer.  I had counted the days, nearly drowned, watched my counselors learn their fates from the Viet Nam draft lottery, watched one dance with manic glee to the Doors’ “Light My Fire” when he learned he was somewhere around 265 out of 365 and unlikely to be called up to the war, and so I had just returned from a private hell of my own.

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Many Truths, One Consciousness

May 30, 2010

A recent Op-Ed piece by Tenzin Gyasto (the Dalai Lama), “Many Faiths, One Truth,” is well worth living (it’s also worth reading, but it’s in the living, together, of what he says that we find freedom and true well-being).

My one and only TV Show that I directed was called “Tales From The Dark Side,” and it was built upon a joke hinging on the Dalai Lama (ultimately all jokes are on us, however).  The episode was titled “Seymourlama” and was about a ridiculously spoiled child in suburban New Jersey being inadvertently selected as the next Dalai Lama.  It was profane, I suppose, and so I cast Divine as a Tibetan holy man.  (for more on that see Divine Tears)

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Fractured Fairy Tale

May 29, 2010

Once upon a time there was a grandiose troublemaker named Miller.  He lived in the land of kings, but after he pimped his daughter out by saying she could spin straw into gold, his own name was mud and he got way out of Dodge.  Dodging his family and his old life, he got on a boat, thinking he might make himself into a king in a new land.

Eventually he arrived at a magical island between two rivers where a people lived without time and without gold.  Miller told them tall tales about treasure and kings and he tricked them into trading their island for a necklace of beads that he enchanted them into believing was gold of great worth.  His ability to spin things in this way made him a bit of a Rumpelstiltskin in his own right.

Now it was his island.  Now, as far as he was concerned,  it was Miller Time, but Miller had not brought with him a wife.  In truth, no woman in the land of kings would have him, but he enchanted the chief of the bead-buyers to also give him his beautiful daughter who was soul incarnate, but Miller never bothered to learn her name.  Instead he named her, Romanee Conti, (after a fine wine for which those in the land of kings overpaid and then drank), as even Miller’s pale former kings lionized the conquerors who had once tricked and enchanted these now-gouty folks away from living without time and without gold.

Romanee Conti lay with Miller once, but she found him so repulsive that she had a wall built between them.  It was no longer Miller Time, and Miller could think of nothing but getting another chance to be with Romanee Conti.  He sent many messages to her, asking for her fair hand in earnest.  She saw him as practically a stalker and kept him at bay through telling him that if he could learn her true name she would accept him once more into her bed.

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Honoring Ellie

May 28, 2010

Last year I wrote about Ellie on the anniversary of her death, but this year I choose to write about her on the anniversary of her birth, in 1926.  Parents can be difficult, but watching Andy lose both her parents has been a profound experience—one that in some way or other everyone can relate to, or will face in some variation eventually.

Ellie’s first husband was a cowboy and movie stuntman (the father of my brother and sister-in-law).  Her own dad, an army officer, died when she was only four.  Andy’s dad was an urbane New Yorker who came out to LA with Danny Kaye’s radio show.  When they met, Ellie was working at a tony telephone answering service from which she had many a colorful story about potty-mouthed celebrities and how she, always a feisty sort, set more than one or two of them straight.

More often than not, parents are a mixed bag, but when a “good mother” comes along you grab on.  Mother-in-laws are the oldest joke in the joke book, yet my mother-in-law was fantastic to me.  From the first night I met her, she and Arthur telling old Hollywood stories in a booth at Musso & Franks, Andy and I still shaking the dust of our cross-country road-trip off ourselves, she was unexpected, unconventional and a unique character.  I never called her “mom,” that word just never had the best ring to me, so I went with “Ellie,” a really pretty name for a truly beautiful woman.  When I was a kid my dad had said something to the effect of if you wanted to know what a woman was going to look like when she was older, look at her mom.  Ellie made me think of those words and conclude:  no worries in that department.

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Middle School Masochism

May 27, 2010

A recent New York Times article, “Teenage Insults, Scrawled on Web, Not on Walls,” by Tamar Lewin looked at a burgeoning internet trend wherein subscribers to sites such as Formspring can get anonymous (i.e. uncensored and brutally honest… or perhaps cruelly dishonest) feedback from others, which they can then elect to delete from their private in-box or post to a public profile on themselves.  Interestingly, albeit depressingly for parents, many kids seemed all too willing to post mean things about themselves, leaving parents in dread about comments so horrible that they would get deleted, but not before leaving deep scars.

Of course middle school kids were then free to post all sorts of mean comments, everything from snarky comments about your leggings to withering critiques of breasts and teeth.

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Mind of the Colony

May 26, 2010

As parents and bloggers, we often run short on time, and so I doubt you will have opportunity to curl up with a copy of Ant Encounters:  Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior, by Deborah M. Gordon any time soon.  She is a researcher at Stanford who has spent a lot of time watching ants.

She has learned that colonies change over time; they mature and develop.  Gordon also works with the Santa Fe Institute where various branches of the sciences are collaborating in a search for human application—in the direction of us humans getting along better and evolving.

Ants are interesting to me, and one of my earliest memories is of being absolutely covered by them when digging in the dirt.  I am two years old, we have just moved to a house and I am happy and unbothered by the ants, in fact I feel serene and connected with them as we dig and hang out together at the base of a tree.  My mom then sees the state that I am in and is horrified, brushing away the ants and then carrying me to the bathtub where all these kind and lovely ants are washed away in a flood of water and mom’s disgust.

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Sardonic Kiss

May 25, 2010

I have always carried the sense that the world is a mystical place in which strange visions, dreams and coincidences carry meanings that interweave us all together at levels beyond our conscious understanding.  As it happens, I’ve recently become blogging buddies with Terry Castle… and only when I noticed her career interest in producing horror films, combined with the venerable Castle name, did I realize that her very father directed one of my favorite films of all time:  Mr. Sardonicus.

As readers of this blog know, I’m a great fan of cinema.  My first career, blocked and battered as it might have been, all grew from that magical transporting that can happen in a darkened theater, be it a play or a film, or even in the space between our screens and ourselves.  Only in films did I see anything that resembled the world that I lived in, the one where insects were communing with you from the trees and the spirit of Native Americans were as “real” as the milkman and the mad men in suits driving to offices.

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Dr. Livingston in my living room, I presume

May 24, 2010

An article in Sunday’s New York Times, “Families’ Every Fuss Archived and Analyzed,” looked at comprehensive research being done on middle class American (Angeleno, to be precise) families.  After hours of tape (in the school of the 1970’s PBS documentary on the Loud family more than the lurid sensationalism of “reality” TV) where families were meticulously filmed and documented for a solid week, researchers are now sharing some initial observations and drawing some preliminary conclusions.

Although I find nobility, sincerity and great humanity in this research and this article, as parents I can hardly imagine anything striking any other parent as “news.”  The study was all about dual earner families with children, and, surprise, moms do more of the domestic work.  Still, dads spend significant time with children, but spouses are together and awake less than ten percent of the time.  Moms experience stress levels drop if their partners take an interest in their day.  Dads decompress more slowly.

The big takeaway:  Overall—parenting is quite stressful.  Stop the presses!

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Between Pruf and a hard rock

May 23, 2010

Let us blog now you and I

With new world words set out against virtual sky

Like a still-corded baby upon a belly;

Let us surf through certain half-deserted tweets,

The stuttering retweets

Of restless nights in one-post cheap no-tells

And no-comment days and reader swells;

Posts that meander like a convoluted love quarrel

Of theatrical intent

That leads us to an overwhelming question…

Oh do not ask, “What the fuck?”

Let us go and try our luck.

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They say it’s your birthday

May 22, 2010

We all love our kids and I am no exception.  While I can hardly believe that my son, Nate, turns sixteen today, I struggle about just the right sort of blog post to honor this event.

I’m quite sure that Nate would not much care for a public trip down memory lane.  I can hardly count the number of times this year when we’ve been having some sort of dust-up over video games, or sibling conflict and he’s angrily said, “You’re not going to write about this in your blog are you?”

My own mom called to wish Nate a happy birthday yesterday, but he was still hurt over some highly impaired grand-parenting behavior during their last trip out.  He wasn’t the nicest to her and she knew he was still angry, but then Andy, Nate and I talked it over and he decided to call back and have a real conversation with his Buby.  I felt so proud that he could express his hurt, stick to his guns, clear things up and then honestly tell her that he does not carry any more resentment now and really loves her.  And he’s sixteen.

During that conversation I overheard him say to his somewhat difficult Buby, explaining his side of things, “I’m sixteen now.  I know a little bit about what goes on in the world.”  He also said in defense of something she was asserting, “I talk to my dad about stuff and he talks to me.”  Even if Nate and I skirmish now and then, it moved me to hear him valuing and defending our relationship.  To sit beside my son as the sun set on his fifteenth year and overhear half a conversation in which we worked stuff out with my mother was one of those small things that looms fantastical all the same.

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