Friday, 27 July 2007

One Man. One Tee Shirt. One more reason to Love.

I stumbled upon him while Google Imaging "Take Flight" for the musical I reviewed last year, and felt the need to show it off. He's so earnest. The picture on his tee shirt is either Ghandi or George W Bush. Either way this man is Amazing.

Musicals and Drinking are the Same

Last night was really one of those moments that separates the close from the far - the friends from the acquaintances - the caring from the ambivalent.

I've got an extra ticket to a musical I'm reviewing and my plus one bails on me. The show starts in an hour and a half. What am I going to do?

My brain starts racing through people who:

a) like theatre

b) usually accept my invitations to do random things


c) either live close by to me, or live close by to Southwark, where the show will be.

Number by number I search through my phone, at each turn picturing my evening anew. "Okay, if I see it with her we can focus on the irony." Too bad, she'll be at an art opening. "Well he's a musician, so maybe he'll like the score." Nope, he can't get home in time. "Well this guy writes scripts and is usually up for doing anything that's free!" He's far out of the city, having promised his uncle to walk his dog. (seriously!)

Until it becomes apparent that I am going to see this musical.... Alone.

Don't get me wrong - I see theatre alone. The Pain and the Itch alone at the Royal Court was a solo and wonderful mission.

But a musical - I remember the first bad movie I went to see alone was How Stella Got her Groove Back. (I treated my seventeen year old self.) And the film made me cry six times. Whoopi has cancer? That's tragic. Look at how he's holding her? I think there's something in my eye. Other cinema goers may have stared, but I knew that Stella truly had gotten her groove back.

Anyway, as far as Musicals and bad movies are concerned, if you really have to do it alone, you're better off in the comfort of your own home with a bad cold.

(Into the Woods on video? Sondheim is better than Sudafed.)

Out of the house and in good health however, this is a communal activity. Best enjoyed in moderation and with someone you trust to walk you home. Otherwise you'll start singing a terrible song in your head about how funny London is when nobody can come to the theatre.

(The Reprise goes: "London - there's something funny about London. London!" And sounds vaguely like "Loathing, Unadulterated Loathing" from Wicked. In fact... it sounds excactly like "Loathing." Fiddlesticks... Another hit bites the dust.)

Friday, 13 July 2007

Melanie, tout court

I guess I’m tired, she says. I guess I’m tired of the way that every time I think I’m onto something, you know, like really, really onto something, he’ll just come in and ruin it.

Who will come in and ruin it? I ask.

Sneaky Martin. she says. My nemesis, she says.

I was especially impressed by his description- anyone who carries a description around with them, like a note in their pants pocket, is obviously a person of value. I thought up possible descriptions for myself. Lazy Melanie, Unmotivated Melanie, Angry Melanie, Tired Melanie.

Who’s Sneaky Martin? I asked.

He used to be just plain Martin. She replied. That was before,

Before what?

Before he became a jerk.

I paused. I looked down at the dress I was supposed to be pricing. It had billowing sleeves- a nice pattern, but was slightly too old fashioned. There was a bit of the wench about it.

How much do you think for this? I asked.

Cut off the sleeves and you could maybe charge 30.

I looked at it again. Cut off the sleeves? That would be like straightening its teeth.

Do you think I have to cut the sleeves off?

Puffed sleeves? I wouldn’t pay anything more than 15 for puffed sleeves. You’d look like a walking anachronism.

I looked at the dress again- A is for Anachronistic- folded it up and put it in my bag. Sneaky Martin. Previously just-plain-old-Martin.

Did he ruin that window display, I asked.

Which one?

The one out front. There used to be birds in the window and now it’s gnomes.

No, I changed that all on my own.

Oh, right.

You think I ruined it?

No, sorry. I don’t know why I said that. Just being controversial, I guess.

Don’t try too hard. You and sneaky Martin. You two would be two peas in a pod.

I smile. Sneaky Martin. Lazy Melanie.

But when I actually met him, he wore an unexpected hat.

There he is- she said.


Over there- ordering a drink.

We were at Maude’s, the local haunt round the corner.

That one, with the glasses?

No, she said. Idiot. The one with the wicker hat. That’s sneaky Martin all right.

Sneaky Martin laughed at something the waitress said. He was uncomfortably handsome.

Do you still want to meet him?


God, you’re slow. My nemesis- brainiac. Sneaky Martin.

I took a sip of my drink. Swallowed. Felt nervous. I guess, I said.

Hey Martin! She called. He started to come over. Now whatever you do, she said, don’t call him Sneaky Martin to his face. He won’t like it.

Fine. I said.

Ladies! He said.

Hello. She said.

Hello, I said.

And who’s this? He said.

It’s Melanie. She said.

Lazy Melanie- Frightened Melanie, Terrified Melanie, Happy Melanie.

Well Hello! He smiled. My name is Martin. Handsome Martin. Devastating Martin. Gorgeous Martin. Scary Martin.

Hello Sneaky Martin! Her angry look came almost immediately.

Sneaky? What?

No, I just meant.

She didn’t mean anything.

I like that, though. I like that a lot.

I blushed.

It sounds good, doesn’t it? Has a certain ring to it?

Yeah, yeah, like an email address- I laughed.

She sulked.

Sneaky Martin- that’s cool. I think I’ll have that embroidered on my jacket.

I think you should. I said.

She continued sulking until he put his hand on her knee.

Disappointed Melanie. Tired Melanie. Lonely Melanie. Stupid Melanie.

The thing about a Nemesis, she was saying, is that if you have one you have to be very sure that they are your equal in every way.

Right. I say.

They can’t just be anyone. Like someone you don’t like. Then they’re just a jerk. And a jerk is very different from a nemesis.

Got you.

But a Nemesis- a Nemesis is the way that you would be if all of your skills- all of your abilities- I mean everything great that makes you up, were just reversed and suddenly became evil.

Mm hm.

And then- only then- can you really call someone your nemesis.


What did you do with that dress, anyway?

I bought it.

You bought it?


Can I see you wear it?

I put it on.

It looks stupid.

I know.


I know.

You should cut the sleeves.

I know.

Do you want me to do it now?

No. No thank you.

Are you actually going to wear that?



To meet my nemesis.

God you’re weird sometimes.

You look lovely he says. Thankyou I say. I wish I could take you for dinners like these every day he says. I know I say. Isn’t it too bad, how we have to sneak around, I say. She’s so awful, he says. I can’t believe she’s your boss. I know, I say. You’re so much better than her, he says. I know, I say. You should be the boss, he says. I know, I say. If you were the boss you’d be my nemesis, he says. I’d be everything you are but different, he says. Every last bit of you, like cut out shapes of a different colour, he says. And it would look just right in the right light, he says, and if you looked at us very carefully, we’d look the same, he’d say. Because colour doesn’t matter much, doesn’t matter much at all he says. I know, I say. You’re so right, I say. We’re so similar I say. And he leans forward and whispers- Sneaky Melanie, Dreaming Melanie, Plotting Melanie, Anachronistic Melanie. I know you and I love you, he says. I’ll buy a wicker hat, I say. I’ll drink a gin and tonic, he says. And then he puts his hand on his knee and I know this is right, he says. I know this is righter, I say. And our puffy sleeves touch.

It was a few weeks later when I finally asked. She was sorting ribbons in the back.

What do you think of this one? She said.

It looks okay, I said.

Would you wear it in your hair, she said?

No, probably not. I say.

Then it probably won’t sell. She says. You’ll wear anything.

How about sneaky Martin? I say.

What? She says.

You know, sneaky sneaky-

Yeah, I heard you, she says. Why’d you ask that just now, she says?

Because- I don’t know why?

Why were you thinking of him? She says. What reminded you, she says.

Ribbons, I guess. I say.

You’re so weird. She says.

So what about Sneaky Martin? I say.

He’s gone. She says.

Gone? I say.

Yeah, done. She says. He moved back to America, she says.

He was American? I say.

Of course, she says. From New York, she says. Idiot, she says.

Where in New York? I say-

God, I don’t know. Brooklyn, maybe. Or park slope. Somewhere like that.

He’s lucky, I say.

Rent’s very high there.

That’s not what I mean. I say.

Is he still your nemesis? I say.

He left. She says.

So he can’t be your nemesis if he leaves? I say.

No. She says. Definitely not, she says.

Did you love him? I say.

He was sneaky. She says.

Will you miss him? I say.

I guess. She says.

I’m sorry? I say.

Stop you’re worrying. She says. Finish the ribbons. She says.

These ones? I say.

Yeah. She says.

And then can we go for a drink? I say.

Sure, why not. She says.

And then can we change the window display? I say.

Probably not. She says.

And then can we?

Stop being lazy. She says.

And I think, Lazy Melanie, Tired Melanie, Reaching Melanie, The Nemesis Melanie.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Ryan Van Winkle Chronicles

This is Ryan Van Winkle.

One dark and stormy night, Ryan Van Winkle said he would never read my blog.



And so I threatened to write an entire blog entry all about him.

The whole



To see if his vanity could possibly keep him away from Googling it just to see-

to see-

If I'd dared go through with it.

Which I am. Right now.

Ryan says some pretty funny things. In fact, on the right day with Ryan, you could close your eyes and pretend you were actually having a conversation with Dimitri Martin. His homespun wisdom makes a kind of eternal sense. To the comment
"I don't really like New York."

Ryan replies: I have never had a blowjob in New York.

Which is a valid point. Especially as Ryan is from Connecticut.

Later, while discussing an artist's squat he and some friends had to live in for a few months he said,

"Those were some of the greatest months of my life...." and triumphantly raising his fist he says, "There Were Blowjobs!"

I'm making Ryan sound all wrong here. Or possibly all right. Well not alright, but correct is what I meant to say.

I mean, most of all, Ryan is a good poet, an interesting person, and if he's reading this now, vain enough that he just lost the bet.

I hope you run into him one of these days. He'll rub you the wrong way at first- a sandpaper coat with a cotton lining.

A coat that I hear is really into blowjobs. Fair enough.

No One Belongs Here More Than Me

It must have been about two months ago. One of the four friends who read this thing (hello!) and I found ourselves in a heated debate about Little Miss Sunshine and Miranda July.

Him: That whole, look at me, I'm Miranda July, I'm so quirky- at least Little Miss Sunshine was humorous-

Her: Little Miss Sunshine was a typically written three act structure that pretended to be indie because it had the right soundtrack and caricatures of characters

(His eyes roll. Did she really just say "three act structure?")

Him: I'm not saying it's a movie that's going to change your life- I'm saying it's a fun movie. It wasn't great, but it was certainly okay.

Her: It was dreadful! It was totally pretentious!

Him: Oh and Me and her and everyone who sucks was so much better? Miranda July is all about the LA superficially whimsical image-

Her: At least her movie was different- and the perfect example, the two children-

Him: Yeah, so?

Her: I think the best way to judge a director is on how well the children are acting.

Him: The little girl in Little Miss Sunshine gave a very realistic performance, I thought.

Her: She was over acting up a storm! She was incredibly obnoxious! Whereas the boy in Me You and Everyone We Know-

Him: Was totally unrealistic. The girl in Little Miss Sunshine was over acting because children over act. She was obnoxious because children are obnoxious. So often what adults think is a good child performance, like that Buddha child in July's movie, is only a child acting the way we wish children were. But they're not- they're attention seeking, irritating, flawed human beings.

And suddenly my blood boiled. Because he'd made a very good point. Dang. But as far as the rest of the argument went, I still felt right. And suddenly I even felt personally defensive for Miranda July.

Her: Look, just because you don't like LA doesn't mean that you have to hate a good artist who comes from a bad place. Wes Anderson lives in LA as well.

Him: You know I'm right- why don't you just stop arguing? You know I'm right.

Her: You're not right, you're just not listening.

Him: (smiles, satisfied.)

But of course, I am presenting my side of the argument alone. But it left this inkling in me- was Miranda July no more than a wolf in Sheep's clothing? An insubstantial LA caricature?

No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of short stories just recently added to my and my partner's bookshelf. On the front cover is a woman, face down on a pillow, her hair in a perfect middle part down the back. A friend who's opinion is usually quite respectable was so passionately opposed to her, that I had started to question whether I should own this book to read it- or simply to make him angry when he came over and saw it on my bookshelf. But after my partner read a few stories, he said it was right up my alley.

I've had this inkling about July for a while- not that I loved Me You and Everyone We Know. I certainly thought it was enjoyable, and a very promising start for her career, and even pretty good, but it didn't blow me out of the water. (I suppose much the same way that my nemesis/friend felt about Little Miss Sunshine) but her stories seem to say what the film couldn't possibly. Miranda July is a rising star- yes- but most importantly she may be one of the first famous female misfits in a while.

Okay, Misfit, Odd Duck, you've heard me use all of these addages before- referring to John Guare specifically, who is less well known and therefore a cooler person to point out to my blog readers. And there are other famous misfits- Woody Allen and Wes Anderson for example- A famous misfit is more than just strange- they are so completely themselves that they'll never get away from it, no matter what and who they write or how hard they try. There is as much Miranda July in an old woman who is in love with Prince William as there is Woody Allen in a doctor who is in love with a sheep. It's as though art were a glass of water, and these artists add a few drops of themselves to anything they write- it spreads out in the glass, faintly colouring the liquid- just ever so slightly there.

Right- well I'm a bit obsessed with people like these. They are often/always my favourite writers and film makers (F Scott, Murakami and Salinger no doubt apply) because when I watch their films, or read their novels, I feel as though they have completely and totally accepted who they are - and they can't get away from it. More than accepted who they are, they can't escape who they are- I once wrote about Steve Martin on this blog- I said I'd missed his wicked ways from his youth- and worse, I feel now as though Martin has become some strange approximation, imitation of himself in later years. You see, I'll be bold here, and say that I think that this "accepting who you are" thing- no doubt tied in with a writer's voice- is psychological as well as artistic. ? I wonder if it's the path to success- not trying to be someone else. As Daniel MacIvor once said to me in an interview, "You don't have to be everything to be enough."

There's a lot of truth in what she does- I don't know, maybe it's not all great, but it's all her. And it's nice to read someone just being themselves. Writing starts with the writer, after all.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

I like mixed cds.

When I was younger I went through a terrible phase of regifiting mixed tapes on birthdays and calling them "mystery tapes." I seem to remember this was mostly because I was amused by the idea of a mystery anything- be it tape or otherwise, but oh, that joke was surely not funny enough to be bought at the price of ever lasting nostalgia. Some of those mixed tapes would be dated now- to be sure- I doubt I'd be as impressed by a Greenday song or Bob Marley's redemption song now as I was then- but I do miss the year that I gave Tim Butters "spaced out" for Christmas (featuring the vocal wanderings of one Mr. William Shatner and Mr. Leonard Nimoy long before that sort of thing was the university craze) and nearly every second song on a mix he gave me was sung by one of the intergalactic rock stars.

(Someone just returned High Fidelity at the video store where I sneakily type this rumination- that must be the Gods blessing the celebration of Mixed Cds.)

But to bring it all back home- away from high school nostalgia, and into the present, where a mixed tape is only ever made by those so hip they own reel to reels (nothing wrong with that mind you, but it is a bit of a production- if someone goes to all of the trouble of making you a tape- finding a tape- sitting with a tape- they want you think they are really cool. And they probably also want to date you.) Although so many a hardcore tape follower will complain about the accessibility, the convenience of a mixed cd- it is that very accessibility and convenience that make them very acceptable as commodities to be exchanged between friends, without any suspicious subtext. And heck, I still listen to them from start to finish. Only once have I skipped a song- when embarassingly All Saints came on in the video store (sorry Andy, I couldn't take that trip down memory lane with you- the rest of the cd was excellent, however). Other than that, I appreciate transitions, I know that they are far easier to create if you've got itunes- and even if there aren't the same amount of blood sweat and tears as in a tape- there is some thought- and it's the thought that counts.

So while I listen to a country version of some mainstream pop song that I can't remember the name of, and look forward to the next few tracks of goodness- I just want to thank technology for making an easy way for us to share music, and to somehow feel responsible for great songs simply because we thought to put them on a cd. It's nice when thoughtful can be different from romantic. Though if my lovely mcbride is reading this- I wouldn't refuse a colourfully patterned mixed cd. As long as it came with a kiss.

*I had a fever and was supposed to be working at the video store while I wrote this. Being sick at work is kind of fun- it's like living out the dream of being drunk at work, worry free.