Thursday, October 30, 2008

WC: Delusion vs Inspiration

I'm reading Steve Martin's fascinating book, Born Standing Up, and I am once again struck by the fact that hard work can trump talent and skill--and can even lead to talent and skill. At one point Martin says something along the lines of, "Since I had no talent, it was lucky that I was obsessive."

Later in the book, reflecting on a youthful announcement that his act was going "to go avant-garde," he says:

I'm not sure what I meant, but I wanted to use the lingo, and it was seductive to make these pronouncements. Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.

Personally, I didn't understand the importance of hard work until I was well into my 30s, and even now I battle with resistance and sloth. And I play mind games with myself. For example, I'll tell myself, "It's okay that I didn't work on my screenplay since I've been so busy with my freelance project." Well, that's probably physically, emotionally, and morally true, but it doesn't get the screenplay written!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WC: Invasion of the Economy Snatchers?

As always, I passed by the New York Stock Exchange today on my way to work. I didn't see the usual military men with their machine guns--perhaps since the stock market lost a third of its value, the Homeland Security people aren't bothering to guard it any more. On this overcast day, there were few tourists, although a very thin, straight, white woman in a trench coat was taking a picture of a very thin, straight, white man in a trench coat. Up on the steps of the Federal Bldg, just to the right of the statue of George Washington being sworn in as president, a reporter, camera man, boom operator, and one or two other people prepared to record a news report. The coat-less reporter flapped his arms and danced around a bit to keep warm. And streams of people flew down Wall Street to get to work.

In the midst of this, four people stood still. They were in a straight line, facing in the same direction as the people passing by, three in a row, then about 15 feet, and then the fourth. They had all stopped as though frozen in mid-step. And they stood still. And stood still. And stood still.

Meanwhile, dozens and dozens of people dashed by, paying them no more attention than they would a fire hydrant or any other inanimate object in their paths. I too was going pretty fast, and I only registered them out of the corner of my eye, almost as a blur.

And had the distinct feeling that they were pod people.

It only lasted a second. It became immediately clear that they were, what?, performance artists? People kidding around?

But for that second, I was waiting for Nicole Kidman/Donald Sutherland/Kevin McCarthy (pick one) to come darting past me, running for her/his life.

It was a cool second.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

AV; HOPE!!! HOPE!!! Give them Hope.

An excerpt from a speech by Harvey Milk, San Francisco County Supervisor who was assassinated in the 1970s.

Harvey got it.

So should you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Guest Blogger: Krystal C'Costa

I have a cane. It's on loan from my friend, Wendy, and I'm using it to help me get around (which is what canes are for, I suppose) while I recover from a sprained ankle. I hopefully won't need it much longer, but as means of preserving what remains of my self respect (the story behind my fall is a bit silly and a result of me being somewhat clueless), I turned my cane into a social experiment.

NYC subway commuters are known for being cranky--particularly in the morning. We're all sleepy and there is nothing more prized than a morning rush hour seat on the subway, where you can close your eyes for a few minutes and dream of coffee and bagels from the "man in the can" in front of your building. For a healthy person, if you get a seat it's gold, and if you don't, well you stand there kind of grouchily and try your hardest to make people move around you but its not the end of the world. When you're injured though and need assistance to move around, every step requires immense amounts of energy from you. It's exhausting. So getting a seat is the anthropological equivalent of uncovering Lucy.

So here is what I found:
Boarding the train:
On the LIRR, people were more willing to let me board first; they even cleared a little path for me.
On the subway, no one appeared to see me. They averted their eyes and flowed past me in an effort to get the elusive seats.

Adult males were more likely than adult females to offer me a seat if none were available.
Teen males were more lilkely than teen females to offer me a seat if none were available.
Overall, teens were more likely than adults to offer me a seat if none were available.

Exiting the train:
Males were overall more likely to allow me to exit before them.
Males were also more likely to allow me to exit the train before attempting to board the train themselves.

What does this mean? It raised a few questions for me:
(1) Is a there sense of humanity that we lose as we get older? The teens seemed to have more human sense than adults. In addition, I noticed that they were more likely than adults to offer seats to struggling moms. Or is that as adults, we become so self absorbed that we fail to see the needs of others? Now it is reasonable to say that adults are more likely than teens to be tired or suffering from an illness or ailment that is not visible. And if that's the case, and then they are quite fortunate! And by no means should they then be forced to stand unnecessarily. But if its more the case that adults have a sense of "Hard luck" towards the person in need, and intentionally ignore the situation, then at what point does this transition occur? Are we impressing upon our children the need to be kind to other human beings, and then forgetting that message along the way.

(2) Is there a sense that women are exempt from so-called "chivalrous" acts? Finding that men were more willing to give me their seats was also interesting. Is this a holdover from the largely bygone era (now often interpreted as misogynistic) of holding doors open? As women, do we expect that it is the men who will have to act in social situations? I recognize that the male/female distinction I am making may draw criticism, but this is merely an observation and not a declaration on the law of the land. To be clear, I am wondering about the percentage of women I observed who kept their eyes resolutely on their book or newspaper while I swayed a bit precariously before them

I guess the bottom line is what does it take to acknowledge another human being in need? Is it a purely individual feature? Something wired into us that has become dulled through time? Where does simple human compassion come from?

Should we blame technology? Numerous studies have reported a decline in social skills with the growth of social media--to be fair, there is a growing body of research that focused on the emergence of new kinds of social skills needed to navigate online worlds like Second Life. Are we so immersed in the digital that we have forgotten how to interact with one another? Between iPods, portable video players, video games, phones that do everything from letting us check email to updating Facebook statuses, have we lost the ability to recognize reality (until the subway announcer says your stop is coming up)?

I'm not on a mission here at all. I'm lucky that I'm still able to stand so getting a seat isn't a top priority for me, but I've seen very pregnant women ignored and bumped and jostled until someone looked up from his iPod and decided to give up his seat. I've seen men who take up three seats because they can't sit with their legs closed. Wendy suggested that in these situations, you can and should ask (politely) for him to shift. "It takes a village." But I've also seen a man call a woman a "fat***" because she asked him to shift over--and this woman looked beat. She was wearing one of those nursing uniforms that home health aides wear, and she just looked tired. He said, "Your fat*** won't fit." She never sat down.

What is the cause for this seeming social deficit?

Friday, October 17, 2008

DW: Zelda and an Epihany

So Darryl and I were having dinner tonight and we started talking about Scott Fitzgerald, and how he had
read the biography "Zelda" while we were in Prague a few years ago. I read "Zelda" in 1970 when I was very impressionable and became rather obsessed with her story.

We were talking about all of this and then we got to the part where Zelda dies in a fire in Asheville in an institution. I just started crying and I really couldn't speak about it anymore. It didn't occur to me until tonight why I was so identified with their story, and most of all, Scottie. My mother was effectively removed from life when I was 11, after suffering a stroke after brain surgery for Parkinson's Disease. Like Scottie, I had a sick mother, and a father who inherited the parenting of an 11 year-old child who got her period on Christmas Eve. I'm sort of stunned as I write this, and am a bit amazed that I just didn't off myself given the circumstances.

It's amazing how some things stay with us. I am really blown away by the visceral response I had to this conversation. It was like opening up a dark closet, that had another dark closet embedded within it, and then another one, and another one, and another one.

I'm very grateful that I'm not sitting in my room re-reading Zelda and overly identifying with her demise. What continues to amaze me is how as a young person I was attracted to biographies of people who shared many of the same family issues that I did. WIthout knowing it then--they all had narcissistic, seductive fathers and mothers who struggled, but were unable to maintain healthy boundaries.

It's nice we can have "ah ha" moments and not be utterly vanquished by them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

AV: No and Yes

Hey, send this to your contacts! Esp if they're in CA.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

AV: OMG! You're Such A Good Debater!

you can see it here online.
(and you can click the image below for the larger can't-find-my-glasses version...)

(and yes, it's a bit gratuitous, but really ... you betcha!)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

WC: What I Hope Biden Says Tonight

"Governor, I serve with Hillary Clinton: I know Hillary Clinton; Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton."