Wednesday, 28 March 2007

The Guardian Today

Check it out, I especially like the quote about playwrighting being an indulgent upper middle class career hobby. Zing.,,2043664,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=41

On first looking into Martin's "The Jerk"

"His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred."

-Ernest Hemingway on F Scott Fitzgerald. A Moveable Feast.

The middle aged malaise. How competely terrifying. If only I were far enough up in my own career to worry about The Fall. At the moment I'm still fixated on The Climb. The Fall would be welcome. A regular Fall in the park.

But today, of course, "The Jerk" still in my laptop's DVD player, I am particularly interested in The Fall. Or Steve Martin's Fall, to be precise. Seeing how well 1979 treated his grey hair and sweet smile, it seems such a shame that his last written offering was "Shop Girl." Utterly mediocre by all counts. Perhaps some artists really do have a best before date on their packaging.

A couple of friends have intimated to me that the only reason to make any kind of art is because you can't help it. You should be a writer if it's the only thing you can do. Is it possible that Steve Martin is now writing forthe wrong reaons- Is he writing because it is what's expected of him? Or is he indeed helplessly tied to a typewriter, spewing out mediocrity and receiving calls every three months from movie producers who think this next project just might be "the one."? According to celebrity photographer Rankin, once you believe your own hype you risk becoming a twat. Steve Martin is all hype and no substance these days. It can't be that we're actually tired of his substance. The Jerk and I never met until today, and I'd certainly invite him round to dinner. So what gives? Where did all his good work go?

Much have I heard of Steve Martin of old
And eighties goodly films and stand-up seen;
Father to our Bride has he been
A candle to Spencer Tracy and less cold.
Oft of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels had I been told
That grey-haired Martin ruled as his demesne.
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard "The Jerk" speak out loud and bold:
Then I felt like some watcher of the skies
When Groucho Marx first twitched a moustache at his ken;
Or like Diane Keaton when with eagle eyes--
She stared at Woody Allen pick up his pen
She looked at him with a wild surmise
As I do now, to know what Martin lost since then.

Sorry to be so hard on you Steve, but I need someone to look up to. And if you keep Falling the only place to aim will be down. So stop being a twat and get back to being a jerk. Because we miss you. We really do.

Monday, 26 March 2007

What's in a Name- Part Deux

Corresponding exactly to a friend's claim that I neglect my blog until a day I have too much time on my hands and then post prolifically: Here is my second post of the day. Though the first was an email written by someone else, so I do feel that this blog is owed some of my own effort, rather than simply my copy/paste abilities.

So the career question is ever looming. As I sneak this blog entry into my ninth hour of a shift at the video store "Today is Boring" I can't help but think how this whole thing would be different if I'd chosen to call it "Confessions of a Video Store Clerk." In fact, considering that this is the seventh year and fifth video store, I am definitely as qualified as anyone to write or title such a blog. Just as Michael Stacey pointed out about my name, both Debbie and Deborah are principally about promise- in fact, most of these entries have been about the future. Who I am and what I aspire to be. So the "young playwright" title refers not so much to what I am, as to what I hope I am, or what I hope to be. And the internet is certainly the ideal place to decide who you are based on what you hope to be.

But it's a funny thing- this video store identity. I sometimes wonder, since seeing MacIvor's "Here Lies Henry" what kinds of surreal things could be in store for us when we die. One thing I picture is a list of all of the positive and negative things that have ever been said about you. You would have to read through it at length to understand how you affected other people's lives. Or imagine having to watch films of the part you played in other people's dreams and nightmares. But mostly, I think that there will be a list of "fun facts." Unexpected gobbets about yourself. On my list, I may just be reminded that I've handled more DVDs then 90% of the human population, and that to most people I have met in my life, I will forever be "That girl at the video shop."

I think about this quite a lot. An old video store co-worker friend of mine moved to LA last year to work as an assistant at a screenwriting agency. He sent me a pilot he was working on about video store clerks. In the script, one clerk comments that she is actually a musician, the owner is actually a writer, and the other worker is actually an artist. She says, "Everyone here is actually something else." And here I am, Actually a Playwright. According to my Blog.
The same is never said of bankers, or consultants, or lawyers, who may very well write, play music or make art on the side. It's one of the few pros of working for minimum wage in an artsy and therefore acceptable customer service role. You get to actually be whatever you want to be. Perhaps I could offer to do a friend's taxes once a week and claim that I'm actually an accountant. But probably not. This is not an insult to the many artists working as something else, it's merely a curiosity. One of my closest friends is actually a video store clerk. And arguably the best video store clerk I've ever met. I suppose it all comes down to whether you are doing what's in your gut. And whether you're doing it well.

I suppose that's why I will never call myself a video store clerk. I may always be a video store clerk. And perhaps that's also why I fear well paying jobs in consultancy or banking. One of the nicest things about being in your twenties is that you are always actually somewhere else. There is something so beautiful about a promise- even when its reality pays 5.50 an hour.

Email from Michael Stacey: What's in a Name?

Mike Stacey sent me this rather brilliant email musing all about my name. I am publishing it here. I can't take credit for writing it. Mr. Stacey did all the blogging work on this one.

Subject Line: Too Mature?

I am on the fence about the full-name. Is it really mature? Wouldn't it be more mature to just grow up as Debbie and have no one question the fact that your name ends in a cutesy "ee" sound as you steadily climb the ranks of professional success? Or maybe, despite your best efforts, people really would get a bad first impression upon reading the name "Debbie." connotations of seventies soft-core pornography and sugary snack cakes would pop into their heads and they would wonder: "why on earth didn't she just switch to Deborah at some appropriate point?"

To that question I have no answer. But I don't think it's a big deal. I like names that end with 'ee' sounds. I think it is cutesy and good, and maybe treating everyone like they were a little bit younger might train us to take a more indulgent attitude towards other people. One of the big problems with a particular vision of adulthood that we seem to have is the idea that 'dults are finished products. The nicknames and "ee" endings of one's childhood and adolescence seem to carry a feeling of inchoate potentiality to them. A shifting liquid malleability---that "ee" could sneak its way through the tightest of keyholes, could escape from the most well built boxes. On the other hand, one's full name has such a feeling of ossification to it: Deborah can be stretched no further than it already goes. Sure that "ah" sound at the end leads one straight into the adult world of art, philosophy and politics---serious places where one is interested in things like the opera, cinema or the noumena, but the "ee" allowed access to things like candy, moveees, and maybe liberty!

wee, twee, glee, pee!

cholera, asthma, stigmata!

The "ah" words all have really old hebrew or greek or arabic roots and as such we've given them important places in the diagnosis of diseases and the more classically inclined corners of theory departments....but the "ee"'s are all happy bastardizations! They've been deliberately cutsee'd up so that someone can have a little bit of fun while they're speaking. Kept out of the academy, the hospital and the courts; they rule the roost in indie-rock band names, potato chip brands and children's books!

Not that I want to influence your decision too much...and I can always try and bring the old names back. But once it's out there that Deborah is a tough, trisyllabic name. Deborah--the Bee! A fastidious worker---the technical prowess of the engineer! An adversary to be feared--no accident that Mohammed Ali claimed he could sting like one---and what's more---backed by the authority of the Bible! One should also note that for the Greeks, the bee was associated with prophecy---the delphic oracle was sometimes called "the delphic Bee." Doesn't seem like little Debbie would be much likely to make an appearance in such company...but perhaps we count Debbie out too soon.

A wikipedia search for Debbie brings up Debbie Harry, a couple of Athletes, a U.S. Legislator and the following sentence: " However, it is often perceived negatively and associated with cheerleaders because of the famous pornographic movie Debbie Does Dallas."

Apparently the film focuses upon a group of friends who are trying to raise money in order that the titular "Debbie" might audition for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. I think perhaps in this brief synopsis we see a clue as to how to link this names in a non-dichotomous way, so as to make this chasm somewhat more cross-able...or the split between one's childhood and adult self less painful. The Debbie of the aforementioned porno has a dream to cheerlead professionally, a projection of her present self into the future. In her own way she attempts to transcend her Debbie-ness to arrive, at some futural, matured self---perhaps one who goes by Deborah. Dreaming and hoping of the future is always an attempt at bridging the unbridgeable---the distance from a evanescent now to an uncertain future. For the same reason that the Delphic oracle must speak in riddled form, Debbie can only project into a foggily grasped "sometime later". The chasm between now and the future--one's childhood self and one's adult self--is an unbridgeable one---and yet Debbies and Deborahs seem to be essentially drawn to the building of such bridges.

Perhaps the change in name is not such a great issue after all. Debbie/Deborah--one name, split-in-two, but again linked by the connotations of projection and prophecy. Debbie the promiscuous cheerleader is already Deborah...and Deborah--the bee-builder or the Oracle is always some future Deborah. Even "little Debbie," of the snack cake fame, is also a seer and oracle of sorts---for what is a sugary cake if not the promise of goodtimes and sweetness for many a future moment?

sent and received today, March 25th, 2007.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Eternal Sunshine And the Spotty Mind

To those of you interested in the Monologue I did for Golden Hour at the Forest in Edinburgh on February 21st, here it is... A work in progress, as always, and most likely two monologues in one, but of course any comments or criticism would be welcome.

Eternal Sunshine and the Spotty Mind

Streets of London. People in suits. My big floppy hat, my ambitions, my dreams, making their way through a lot of money and a lot of work. At times like this I think of myself as a kitten, waiting for life’s slaughter. An odd duck in a pond full of busy, mean-spirited, Dolce and Gabbana wearing swans. Man, being unemployed in London sucks.

Getting paid for doing what you love is a tough business. There are plenty of ways to get paid for doing things you don’t love. You can get paid for doing things you quite like, Or don’t mind, Or even hate. But Love is about the elusive “yes definitely.” It’s the risky business of listening to that niggling voice that lives just under your stomach and whispers grand plans into your appendix every once in a while.

The bossy voice, the picky voice, the small voice. The voice that owns its very own pair of stomping clogs, slips them on, one by one, and does the fox trot on your stomach lining when it doesn’t agree . Some people call it an instinct, some call it their gut, and some simply say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

The little voice is risky because it is usually wrong. It is highly superficial. A beautiful person may walk into a room and the voice will tell your appendix this person is your soulmate. You should not necessarily listen. This person may actually be very boring, and even if this person is not very boring they may be dating someone else. And even if this person is not boring, and aren’t dating someone else, they may not be interested in you. None of these facts will deter the little voice. The little voice likes a challenge. It hires out your ears as MI 5, gets very Columbo on every casual interaction you have, carefully searching for clues in a dossier filled with uninteresting chat. It establishes a forcible dictatorship, so that even Brain Incorporated, who thought the whole "love" thing was a waste of time from the beginning, is imprisoned in the waiting room. Like so many dictators, the little voice is a bit of a masochist. It’s into pain in a big way.

After the great Emotional explosion, when, in the rubble, Brain Incorporated is brought back in and reinstated, and the little voice is sent back to your stomach, where it belongs, your body will heave a sigh of relief, but may not listen to the eccentric genius in the basement for quite some time. And Strangely enough, in spite of living in the same body, and being constantly effected by each other, your brain and your little voice have never met. They don’t even know what the other looks like. Oh, they both have their assumptions about the other: The little voice in your stomach assumes that your brain has good ideas, but is too uppity. Your brain assumes that your little voice is creative, but also vain and lazy. (As with all assumptions, they are both partially correct. ) This lack of trust and communication between Brain Incorporated and the Little Voice is responsible for all the people out there doing jobs that they quite like, or don’t mind, or even hate. Which in most cases goes on for years.

When like all good rulers, like Nike when they ask Banksi how to get back in touch with youth, when all the big spending and conservative decisions in the world seem to fail, the corporations, the brains of the operation, will always come crawling back to the little creative guy in the basement. Who by now has been so shut off from the rest of the world, or in this case body, that he’s even more eccentric than before.

When this happens to the little voice people usually call it a mid-life crisis. And typically, since nobody has listened to or asked the little voice for advice in decades, its ideas are thirty years out of date. Explaining all those ridiculous sports cars driving around- the sixteen year old fantasies of 46 year old men.

Fortunately or unfortunately, my own little voice is a bit of a loud mouth. When the thirtieth memo reached the head honcho at my Brain Incorporated- the secretary said, “I’m sorry Ma’am, I know you haven’t wanted to look at them, but the little voice has been sending one a week for about seven years now. I just thought, you know, it being our birthday and all, that maybe you ought to read it.” And party hat on, stiff cup of coffee in hand, the head honcho said, “What the hell” and tore open the envelope, only to read one stupid sentence. “Deborah Pearson wants to be a playwright.” The Head Honcho crumpled up the page and swore loudly. She looked over at the waste paper basket, and slowly, terrified, tore open all of those other dusty unopened envelopes, which, as the brain secretary so rightly pointed out, were filled with the same sentence over and over again. Exhausted, she sighed and tore her “Plans to go into Broadcasting or anything else that pays decently well” plan right off the bulletin board, then said, “Well, I suppose it’s about time to listen to the memos.” The brain secretary nodded, and quietly excused herself, feeling the same sense of dread, that Deborah Pearson incorporated’s stock was just about to plummet.

Except for one unlikely tip…

The little voice in the gut has a sister, another little voice who lives right above the head, and unlike the gut little voice, does not own any clogs, is feather light, only works a few times a year under the very best conditions, and wears designer hats. The Greeks called her a muse, we call her inspiration, and when she does say something, you better frickin’ listen, because she’s a bit of a princess and she refuses to repeat herself.

When I was twenty years old, around the same time that the other, hard working, every day, gut dwelling voice was hand typing its twenty seventh notice to Head Honcho about my ill chosen career ambitions, she flew down from her invisible silver and ice thrown that floats right above my head, and while I was working at a bookshop in Paris, she was so pleased with the croissants and the company that this angelic voice decided to speak to me. She whispered in my ear the plot line for a film I should write. And added that it was not only the most original she would ever come up with, but the only possible Oscar contender.

Head honcho received a message about the idea, and liked it, but was too busy graphing out a budget for the four months I’d been back packing to really bother with anything so ethereal as a screenplay. She passed the idea on to the secretary, who thought better of Head Honcho’s instruction to file it away in future plans, and, reading it herself was so amused and impressed by the idea that she filed it under “topics of conversation to impress men with” then took her tenth espresso break that day.

So it’s no wonder, with the little nugget of inspiration misfiled, that I spoke about it quite freely and loudly, in Paris and Nice, and on trains and buses all over France, to every boy I could find in the summer of 2002.

The story goes like this: I had seen my first boyfriend for the first time in a year. I was so convinced that we still got on, and so frustrated by other failed attempts at romance, that I wished we could have our memories erased and meet all over again. I wondered about a society where you could have your memory of a relationship erased, and I thought about a movie about a couple who would independently erase their memories of each other, then meet again and fall in love all over again, because the initial attraction was still there. I told one boy about it very loudly on a beach in Nice, and, at Shakespeare and Company, I spoke about it at the tea party, where artists meet to exchange ideas. It definitely succeeded in fulfilling the secretary’s ridiculous ambition for it- it impressed boys France over. But also ensured that I would never have the chance to make my movie.

I’ll start with an apology- I have been blaming Charlie Kauffman for stealing “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” from me for two years now. I was convinced that he must have been hiding somewhere on that beach in Nice the day I narrated the plot line of my award winning movie for all to hear. And I was half joking, thinking it was unlikely, but not entirely impossible. But since French director Michel Gondry’s interview two weeks ago, I owe mr Kauffman an apology.

Should I be claiming such a lofty idea was my own? Let me say this, I have a witness. That same boy from the beach and I saw each other last year, and he said he was so convinced that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had been my idea, that when the movie came out in 2004 he imdb’d me to see if I’d worked on it as a script editor. But no, no, no, it was supposedly plucked from somewhere in the air…

Here’s Gondry’s side of the story:

This idea came from my friend Pierre Bismuth, who is a contemporary artist - he's at the Lisson Gallery here. One of his best friends, a girl, was always complaining about her boyfriend, and he was tired of her whining about it, so one day, he asked her: "Listen, if you had the opportunity to erase him from your memory, would you do it?" And she said: "Yes." And he probably said: "Thank God, because I won't have to hear this story any more." So we talked about this idea where people would get cards that informed them that they had been erased from such-and-such's memory and we started working on the storyline. Then I met Charlie and I gave him a combination of the storyline and the concept, and he wrote the script. So I was involved in the creative process right from the beginning. The screenplay he wrote on his own, but I wanted to make sure that this movie talked about issues that I experienced and could grasp, and that I could feel as my movie.

His movie, Excusez Moi, monsieur Gondry, what about my movie, the movie that I would never get to make? Was this Pierre Bismuth character on that beach in Nice? Was he at one of the tea parties in Paris I went to with artists and friends, or listening in to a conversation I had on a French train? Did something I say prompt him to ask this complaining girl about erasing her memory? Or was it a friend of a friend of a friend? Or was it inspiration, Muse, whatever you call her, that spoiled little bitch right above my head on her silver throne, who saw a few flashy music videos, and got bored one day and decided to fly off and tell some other guy with a lot more money and a lot more connections, in the very same French city, the very same idea that she’d told me? The Greeks always claimed the Muses were cheating whores. Either way, my million dollar idea went to someone who actually had millions, and I am left with the story of how I thought of that movie first.

Big frickin’ deal.

I bet some guy in a cave in Siberia thought of the internet first. What good did that do anybody?

But I feel for that guy in Siberia, I feel for him even now, as freezing, clutching his home hunted wooly bear slippers, he hates the word google, and grimaces at the philanthropy of Bill Gates. Because you know who that Siberian guy is? He’s the little voice right down there in the belly of the world. And it takes some head honcho in an office somewhere to listen real hard, barely make out his whimpering cries, send out a memo to the world and take all the credit.

By the by, Morgan McBride gave me the idea for this performance. I’m telling you all that now, because that’s just what kind of a gal I am.

So to unrecognized little voices everywhere, I salute you. It’s a tough business getting paid for doing what you love. It’s an even tougher business not getting paid, or even recognized for it. I bet some of you have little voices inside of you asking you to be brain surgeons, or lawyers, or engineers, thank goodness for that. But to the rest of you, those of you who like me, have one of those little voices that will not let you get away from fencing or candlestick making or art or theatre, a skill that society has left behind, well, I apologize. We live in a world with a lot of stories out there to tell and not that many people privileged enough to tell them. And we live in a world with a lot of people telling stories, but not that many people willing to turn on their appendixes and-

Shhh… quiet. It’s telling me to keep going. It’s telling me to let go. It’s telling me to hope you’re listening. It’s telling me to speak until things make sense.

It’s telling me it doesn’t know. And it’s telling me it knows. It’s hard to tell where it is, is that it, is that it, is that it?

It’s not telling me anything at all.

(Quiet.) It’s telling me that one day your soulmate actually does walk in the room, and the little voice sees them, and recognizes them, and dances so hard it’s like the polka was just invented, but the rest of you is so scared, that your eyes say, “no no no, we’ve been through this before” and averting the person’s glance, go on strike. And your actual voice says, “Yeah, right, like I’m ever trying this again” and it refuses to think of a thing to say. And even your feet get an itch and walk you away, until, at a safe distance, you know that your body has betrayed you. Unless just this one time, in a very measured way, you listen.

Forest Cafe, February 21st, 2007. Performed at Golden Hour

Paul Celan: His Reply to a Questionnaire from the Flinker Bookstore, Paris, 1958

The questionnaire asked philosophers and writers about their work in progress

You have been kind enough to ask about my present work and projects. But your question comes to an author whose publications to date are three books of poems. It is only as a poet that I can try to answer and keep within your framework.

German poetry is going in a very different direction from French poetry. No matter how alive its traditions, with most sinister events in its memory, most questionable developments around it, it can no longer speak the language which many willing ears seem to expect. Its language has become more sober, more factual. It distrusts ‘beauty.’ It tries to be truthful. If I may search for a visual analogy while keeping in mind the polychrome of apparent actuality: it is a ‘greyer’ language, a language which wants to locate even its ‘musicality’ in such a way that it has nothing in common with the ‘euphony’ which more or less blithely continued to sound alongside the greatest horrors.

This language, notwithstanding its inalienable complexity of expression, is concerned with precision. It does not transfigure or render ‘poetical’; it names, it posits, it tries to measure the area of the given and the possible. True, this is never the working of language itself, language as such, but always of an ‘I’ who speaks from the particular angle of reflection which is his existence and who is concerned with outlines and orientation. Reality is not simply there, it must be searched and won.

But am I still anywhere near your question? Those poets! One ends up wishing that, some day, they might manage to get a solid novel on to paper.