Long-Form Essays

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’ta left you…

“On my way. Wearing white linen. Bringing a clafoutis.”
Marissa Skudlarek, on the way to Megan Cohen‘s Memorial Day Garden Party (Mon. – 28 May)

Will Return clock-sign

I once began writing a story about this time-travelling bickering couple (don’t ask). They were, to my shame, the ultimate clichéd sitcom couple of the nagging wife and her emasculated husband who won’t ask for directions – I’m 99% sure that I came up with this idea from watching Everybody Loves Raymond. Anyway, the story proper was to begin with a young man whose destiny it was to either change or save the world and our time-travelling Kramdens were meant to be a pair of Jiminy Crickets helping him along the way – I’m guessing The Fairly Oddparents was also a subconscious influence on me. I’ve long since lost the notes and can’t recall many details about the story, but what stands out in this recollection was one particular scene focusing on the couple: the wife is once again nagging the husband about jobs he’s never finished. He challenges her to name one. “Just one?” she sarcastically replies. And with a snap of her fingers, our hero and his two supernatural guides are instantly transported to the location of their never-completed dream house, seen here:

"It would've had bay windows, central heating, and a nice little courtyard for human sacrifices on the weekends."

“It would’ve had bay windows, central heating, and a nice little courtyard for human sacrifices on the weekends.”

I never finished that story. Reading over the description I’ve just given you, that was clearly for the best. That doesn’t change the fact that it, like all incomplete projects, it will occasionally rear its ugly head from the back of my subconscious and ask me why I haven’t completed it yet. This is a feeling all too familiar to people in the arts: ideas pop up in the imagination all the time, nearly all of them seeming to be the greatest thing since mile-high blueberry pancakes doused in fresh, warm maple syrup. Some of them – hell, a considerable number – make it to the stage of becoming more than vaporware, with a precious few becoming a reality.

But for everyone that made it to the finish line, there are countless more that almost became something before being abandoned like Hansel and Gretel in the woods. When I look over the notes I’ve scribbled down, I don’t see a mishmash of words waiting to be made coherent so much as I see what-I-imagine-to-be the blood-soaked, appendage-laden workspace of Dr. Frankenstein.

“I haven’t seen it. I mean, I’ve seen all the clips and everything and I just think ‘this will never compare to Pride and Succubus ’.”
Christina Lloyd-Casey, on why she won’t watch Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (Sat. – 23 June)

Yes, I tend to beat myself up about unfinished work. Not so much because I think it could have been something great, but because I don’t like what it says about me to have something unfinished. My father – who, as I’ve mentioned before, isn’t exactly the most encouraging person – has often accused me of leaving things half-done: I don’t have a driver’s licence, I didn’t finish college, I didn’t stick with this or that job, I’m not married yet, etc. From where he sits, my inability to finish the most trivial of tasks with lightning-fast proficiency – from watering the lawn to not getting married – means that I have failed at life as a whole.

“I gave away my intellectual integrity when I got my PhD, and I gave away my emotional integrity when I started a theatre company and had kids. I no longer belong to myself.”
Melissa Hillman, putting her life into perspective to which we can all relate (Sun. – 10 June)

Now, every time he tells me this, it’s on the tip of my tongue to yell at the top of my lungs all of the reasons I never finished the things about which he nitpicks: living in the Bay Area my whole life has made reliant – complacent? – about public transportation, plus I love walking everywhere, which keeps me in shape; I didn’t finish college because I was discouraged from pursuing my passion and therefore lost all motivation in my studies (by the by, one of the coolest people I know didn’t go to college, but is doing damn well for herself); I can only do a menial, soul-killing job for so long before I start to hate myself; same with relationships.

But that doesn’t change the nagging feeling that there may be true word or two in his bitching. If I can’t finish one thing, I think, then what does that say about my ability to finish anything? I don’t like the idea of leaving something undone because I worry that it will somehow trigger a domino effect that will reverberate throughout every aspect of my life. I didn’t finish a meal, so I won’t finish working out, so I won’t finish cleaning the house, so I won’t finish writing, so I won’t finish rehearsing, so I won’t finish the play, so I won’t find a job, so I’ll just wind up some loser in his 50s with nothing to show for his and looking back over where he should have gone left instead of right. Extreme, I know, but this is the sort of thing that creeps into my mind when I talk to my father (which is why I try to do it less and less).

I’m sure that at one time I must have thought of this blog as the easiest thing in the world. I mean, c’mon: all I gotta do type in what I think about the world – how hard could that be? It’s just like my journal, except people out in the world will actually see it. Well, considering there are entries in my regular journal where the dates are separated by weeks (if not months), I was foolish to think an unprofessional writer like myself (which is to say, I don’t get paid for it) could so easily drop a Pulitzer-worthy commentary piece on a regular basis. In the time between my posting about Calypso and the entry you’re reading right now, I found myself occupied with a number of other outside factors that made this blog fall by the wayside. The longer away from it I was, the more I began to look over would-be entries and wonder “What does my opinion on this particular subject contribute? What do I have to say that hasn’t already been said? And why would people ever listen to me?”

“Spreadsheets are the #1 killer of spontaneous inspiration.”
Amy Clare Tasker on plotting out a script

Even the few updates I did post were often belated reviews of films and plays done long after they’d left the public consciousness (which is why you’ll find a few reviews – particularly those of films released late last year and early this year – with apologetic disclaimers). And I was determined not to have any half-assed entries posted for the sake of a deadline.

But, for the record, a number of important things have happened in my life since writing the Calypso entry:

  • After writing and directing scripts since highschool and college, I finally had my first one performed professionally (that is to say, non-academically and open to the paying public) with my one-act play, Do a Good Turn Daily. It didn’t win, but was well-received by the audience in attendance.
  • I continued to write and submit plays. One short, Boulder, was produced by Wily West Productions as part of their Showdown competition. The play, which I wrote very quickly, was about a couple whose relationship is on the rocks (literally). I wasn’t entirely aware that I’d written them gender-neutral, but I gave the company carte blanche in casting. As such, it turns out that wrote my first play about Gay marriage. And divorce.
  • My quest to seek gainful employment continued. I’ve begun submitting for more and more writing jobs and have gotten interviews based on entries from this very blog.

“There are so many puppies on Russian Hill that I want to kidnap.”
A girl I know named Zoe, making sure all the evidence points back to her (Sun. – 10 June)

  • A lot of my intelligent/creative/talented/spirited friends started getting engaged. A few of them have actually been getting married! Whether it be the lovely dénouement of a long engagement or the result of a whirlwind courtship, it makes me happy to know so many people who are as loving as they are creative.
  • My grandmother moved in with us. As one would expect, this has turned our house upside-down, but in ways we (pleasantly) didn’t expect.
  • I worked twice as a supernumerary with the SF Opera. They liked me so much that they asked me to come back.

“What do you get when you cross a Gay man with a Jew? A hit Broadway musical.”
One of my fellow supernumeraries (most of whom were Gay) in the make-up room of the SF Opera during Tosca (Nov. 2012)

  • I’ve actually been given offers to write for three other blogs. (I declined because I wanted to get this one back on a regular tick, but it was damn nice to be offered.)
  • I’ve continued to act, write, and direct. Usually when someone compliments my work, they’re the friend of a friend in the Bay Area theatre community. Recently, however, random people have been recognising me on the street. I can’t imagine why?

SF GIANTS – Affeldt the Antelope from This Actor’s Channel on Vimeo.

And those are just the things I can recall off-hand. You know what I notice about all the events I’ve listed above? They’re all blog-worthy! I don’t know what I possibly thought the “theme” of my blog was supposed to be, but I now can’t think of a single reason why I didn’t consider most (if not all) of the events above to be worthy of writing about. I regarded these life events (and many more that I didn’t even mention) as distractions from whatever it was I planned to write about. Oh sure, these things might not have the immediate, far-reaching importance of the social uprisings in Brazil and Egypt, the recent strides and setbacks of American civil liberties, or even the pondering of where one fits in The Great Scheme of Things (all of which are subjects about which I have strong feeling, believe you me). But not everything I write on here has of such importance. I said in my very first entry: I made no promises that this little corner of the interwebs would be anything Earth-shattering, just that it would be one guy making use of his corner as he saw fit.

“[Author EL] James writes like a Bronte devoid of talent…”
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in her review of Fifty Shades of Grey (31 March)

Perhaps I did at one point plan for the blog to be something more, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I’ve spent the months since my Calypso entry putting a lot of things in their proper order of priority. My life has taken on some additions and other things have been dropped like dead weight; the important part has been figuring out which is a necessity. Being surrounded by intelligent creative people who have struggled with similar concerns has been a great help. Whether my life has taken a turn for the better or the worse, I need to remember to 1.) put everything in a proper perspective (is it really as bad as I’m making it out to be? Should I even complain, given what’s going on in the world?) and 2) – this is most important – decide what to do from this point.

And I will make it a point to collect my thoughts, assemble them coherently, and – if I deem it necessary – share them with the few members of the blog-reading public that even know I exist. It helps that I have quite a few things coming that could make for good material:

  • My “Of Olympic Proportions” column will return, as this year I’m not only writing one entry, but will be directing several of them as well.
  • As my job hunt continues, so too will my column “Osmosis”. Given that so many of my friends have both lost and gained jobs recently, it will be interesting to see how well I do by incorporating some of their strategies and pieces of advice.
  • I was going to say that I planned to start a new column dedicated to comedy, but the truth is I plan to start a regular column about dating in San Francisco. Wait, what’s the difference?
  • In addition to all the other things I’m writing for this and that, I’ve also decided to adapt a well-known novel. This project has been in the making for a while now, but when two of my writer friends began adapting existing projects earlier this year (one a memoir, the other a French silent film serial), I decided that now was the time to start getting serious about my adaptation.
  • There’s also a project that was planned as an adaption between me and another writer. I don’t know if we’ll still collaborate – I’d never imagine moving forward without his being comfortable with it – but I’ve got the urge to write it and hope to do so soon.
  • Pretty soon, possibly within the week, I’ll be posting about artistic criticism within a marinalised group. I hope for it to be the start of a regular column.

“Don’t tell me ‘this show can’t be sexist because the showrunner is a woman’! Women write sexist shit all the time, too, and thousands of women never recognise it as such!”
– JesuOtaku, reviewing the Witchblade anime (20 March)

  • The “Scandalize My Name” post below may or may not be part of the above criticism column, but it will definitely be part of an ongoing look at theatre.

“Indy theater gets made despite the fact that there is plenty of other theater around. Community theater gets made BECAUSE there is no other theater around.”
Shay Casey, making sense of it all (Th. – 28 June)

  • And, ofcourse, there will be reviews. Films, books, plays, tv shows, whatever. Look below for my thoughts on Man of Steel, World War Z, The Bling Ring (best film of the year so far), and more.

Again, that’s just what I can remember off-hand. As usual, I encourage feedback. In fact, it’s the one thing for which I hope more than anything else. As much as I joke about the low readership of my blog, I’m aware that these entries don’t exist in a vacuum. Nor am I keeping them to myself out of some ridiculous fear of how they will be perceived. Quite the contrary, I want to know exactly how they’re perceived. I put out my opinion for the very purpose of hearing yours. I already know what my opinion is.

“Those Pitchfork people are very much about social codes, very much about whether or not you’re wearing the right t-shirt. That orthodoxy is no different than the rigidity of the football team at school. You can’t break the social order if you’re preaching to the choir. And the choir already all has cool haircuts!”
Billy Corgan on critics of modern rock (17 July)

It seems only fitting that I post this in the middle of July, smack-dab in the middle of the month that’s smack-dab in the middle of the year. This is where I am now. I’ve put it into perspective. I can’t wait to see where I go from here.

Oh, yeah – you’re probably wondering why I have more quotes than usual. Well, back when I had regular blogs on Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster (yes, Millenials, I’m one of those “over 30” people you’ve heard spoken of in whispers), I would end every year with a collection of my favourite quotes of the ending year. They’d mostly be from friends, but I’d also incorporate some from celebrities. Since I didn’t do it at the end of 2012, I figured now was as good a time as any – again, smack-dab in the middle of the following year – to put them up.

Plus my friend Marissa wanted to know why I didn’t tell the world that her quote was one of the best I’d heard. I put it at the top of this entry, Marissa. It’s the first thing all the world will see when they click on this blog.

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