Thursday, October 31, 2013

Adventures in Comedy

Okay. I get it. You guys aren't too comfortable with the idea of acid trip blogs. Or maybe it's the life lessons. What do you guys have against life lessons? Too many? How about this:

Last night I dreamed that I did stand up. I was totally in control of the stage but not in control of the audience, which is, I guess, the real point of doing stand-up: getting everyone on the same page as you and taking them along on your wild ride of hilariousness. Yep. that's what it's all about...I imagine.

At one point in the dream, I jumped off stage and went around to different audience members and did that "angry me" thing that I do when I get really intense about something and make weird eye contact with people. No one laughed, but I kept trying it out on different people.

Richard Pryor was there.

I avoided him after my show. I didn't want his notes.

And then Phylicia Rashad was there. And it was, like, a gospel meeting, and I think I was both trapped under the floor and in the audience.

If anyone has any ideas about what the hell this means, I would be happy to hear it.

Also, I have developed an unhealthy addiction to this:


I need all 20 of you to go to every grocery store you can, and destroy every jar you see. Otherwise, I will eat ALL OF THEM. WITH A SPOON. I have never felt like something had this kind of power over me...until now. 

Finally, here are a few of the "normal" characters I have developed in class at Second City, as I should be keeping track of them:

1. "Do I look like I'm in my thirties" girl

video


2. "If I can't fit into this dress, I'll lose this job at Disney" girl

video


3. "I don't talk too much" girl (this one is actually really fun)

video



4. "Heavily medicated" girl

video




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Acid-ity

There comes a time in every child's life that she must experience the world through her own eyes rather than the eyes of those that came before.

No. I'm not talking about history, or adulthood, or just the broader sense of life experience. I'm talking about something much more/less significant. I'm talking about psychedelic drugs, more specifically, ACID.

It might help if you read this post whilst listening to this song:


I am listening to it while I write this post. 

Let me preface this (in the middle) by saying that I do not advocate the irresponsible use of drugs. I don't. Drugs are a HUGE responsibility. NEVER take drugs for shits and giggles. NEVER. 

I decided I wanted to try Acid after seeing a fantastic episode of Mad Men wherein Roger Sterling (my FAVORITE character) takes Acid with his soon to be estranged young wife along with a bunch of other wealthy adults during a time when the medical industry was testing the effects of LSD. I'd been toying with the idea for a while, and I was living close to some similarly toying friends that I considered and still consider to be my intellectual equals. We MADE PLANS that required us to wait a good few months before actually taking the drug. We talked to professional drug takers (or whatever you want to call them) who gave us excellent advice on how to spend the day without crashing into a pile of misery at the end of it (because that's what happens when you take drugs....you feel fantastic and then you crash into a pile of painful misery). 

If the music has ended, you can always restart it. ;)

The day we had planned was upon us. It was in June in Atlanta, and the weather forecasters were calling for an incredibly hot day, over 100 in the shade. Everyone was advised to stay inside. But we didn't want to. We went to a park on a creek, brought water, juice, fruit and trail mix, and spread out. 

From the time one "drops" acid, it takes about an hour or so to feel any of the effects. We were coming out of a hike through the dense woods when I started to "come up" as they say. I found a rock in the shade where I could soak my feet in the water of the creek and allowed the waves of my gradual loss of control to crash over me. 

It mostly just felt like my breathing had slowed down along with my mind. I remember looking up and seeing my friend Matt, who had mentioned putting on some sunblock before anything happened, standing in the creek up to his knees, and confusedly rubbing thick, cakey circles of old sunblock around in his chest hair. 

"There's something wrong with this lotion."

I just laughed. 

I won't go into all the details. I will say that I found myself at one point, sitting on a rock in the middle of the creek, the current rushing over my shoulders as I tossed my head back and laughed at the sky. I laughed and laughed until I wept, and then I wept until I laughed again. I was experiencing the stereotypical Acid trip. I also spent a long time with one of these guys:


thinking, "this guy totally gets it." What? Oh, you know, the basic stuff: Life is fleeting. We're all plummeting towards death, and the more we fear it, the faster it comes. Thus, there's no good place for fear in our lives. There's a place for careful consideration, but life altering fear, NO. 

The truth is, I didn't need to take acid to figure that out. I knew it. What's the one reason you aren't doing exactly what you want to do RIGHT NOW? And you can't say "money," because you know how to make money. The answer is fear. You might be afraid that you won't succeed, afraid that you will succeed, afraid you'll be alone forever, afraid you'll end up on the streets, crazy and homeless (that's not how you become homeless. look at homeless people. most of them need a good doctor and some kind of medication for mental disorders OR help with addiction [BE CAREFUL WITH DRUGS]). 

Every reason that you might be able to give for not living the life you always imagined you could live can be traced back to FEAR. 

I was a trusting kid. My parent's didn't have to scare me into submission too often (I don't think). When a lot of my friends were sneaking out because their parents were strict, I was hanging out at home with my parents watching Star Trek TNG or listening to music and writing in my angst-y teen journal. My parents weren't strict. I got to go out when I made plans, and I didn't go out when I didn't. I trusted their authority and guidance, some might say innocently, because they didn't try to scare me into obeying them. I didn't try to rush into adulthood. I let it come upon me organically. So, for that, I think they knocked it out of the park, even if they don't agree with me. I mean...I am writing a blog about dropping acid. 

So do this: return to freaking innocence. Just laugh if you want. Cry if you want. And don't care what other people say. You're the only one that knows EXACTLY what you need. And if you aren't sure...FIGURE IT OUT, and then give it to yourself. 

The only difference between figuring that out with or without acid is the pure moods style music in your head...and the visuals. CRAZY VISUALS. 

OH. AND THIS:


Saturday, October 26, 2013

I Fought the Law and the.......Please Don't Tow My Car

Look. I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I don't want you to think I'm some tough macho gal that goes running in the direction of her fears like a damn Matador. I'm pretty terrified of a lot of possible scenarios.

Let's take getting caught in a park with Linus off his leash, for instance. I don't know why this terrifies me, but it does. It didn't always terrify me. When I lived in Georgia, Linus and I were a stone's throw from a ton of great outdoor activities. We went up to the Appalachian trail almost weekly, and I'd keep him on his leash until we'd get a little ways in, and then I'd let him loose. Why? Because I'm reckless? No. Because I trained him, and he stays with me. I know the damn dog. So when I let him run around me at a trail head once, without his leash, and a (fat) park ranger drove up and got out of his truck to sidle up to me and announce, "you gotta have your dog on a leash," I pretty much had it coming.

However, this guy had a north Georgia accent, and he said it like I was some kind of idiot that didn't know what I was doing (sometimes I'm irrationally angry at people when I think they think I'm dumb. I just don't like condescension. It's upsetting). So I responded, not by saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I didn't realize," because who cares what this guy actually thought of me. Oh no. I said, "Oh really? It doesn't say it anywhere on this information board. How am I supposed to know that?"

SO, he pointed at a line on the list of "hikers guidelines" that read, "keep your dog restrained at all times," and he said, "Right there. It says you gotta have your dog on a leash."

"No. It says, 'keep  your dog restrained.'"

"Well, yeah. That means on a leash."

"My dog is trained. He's under my control, and is, therefore, restrained. He will never go too far away from me, and he always comes when I call him."

"But the woods are different," (like I'd never been in the woods before. GAH), "he could look up 'n see a squerrl' n' the next thang yew know he's off into the woods, n' you're callin' me on the phone cryin' 'bout how you can't find yer dog cuz he done run off into the woods."

It's a good thing I'm not violent...


Usually.


I took a breath, a beat, a pause, and finally bent down to put the leash on Linus and said, "I understand. Just...the wording is not as direct as it could be. I can easily argue with the wording."

I took the leash off about five minutes from the trail head. Never lost him.

Today, on the other hand, I drove Linus north of the city to find the Des Plaines River Trail. Funny thing, Google Maps. Whenever I use it to find driving directions to a trail, it just takes me to a random spot close to the trail and says, "you have arrived."



I love that: "You have arrived." Who doesn't dream of hearing that every day of her life? When Google Maps tells me, it usually just means that I'm on a two lane road in the middle of nowhere and there is PROBABLY a trail...into the woods...close by.

Well, I was right next to the trail, but I had no idea where to put my car so that I could get out to walk on the trail. I drove up and down the road avoiding "no parking" areas, the lawns of homeowners, and anything that looked like it was there to keep up the charade of picturesque country living. I literally got stressed about this. About PARKING. I kept thinking, "I can't park in front of this person's house because it will upset them," as if upsetting a midwesterner is the worst thing one can do.

I mean, it kind of is. They're so damn agreeable.

I pulled my car around behind a house that was falling apart, but still on sale, and I left a note. I sat in my car worrying about the realtor possibly showing the house, coming to the back, seeing my car, and flying into a rage of cop calling/fine charging. I WORRIED about this. So I wrote a note that simply asked of anyone that might discover the car, "please don't tow my car. I'm new to the area, and I just want to hike on the trail. I am so sorry. I will be back before sunset."

I don't know where it comes from. Maybe staying in Georgia, as much as I loved, dearly, my friends, was inching me towards the edge. I was like that kid that grows up in a small town, who never fits in, and just wants to leave it all to become a dancer. Because nobody in this one Starbucks town understands that I have DREAMS. So I bucked the law. When the law said, "please restrain your dog," I responded with, "You restrain YOUR dog. Cuz I'ma....kick your....mom. You! Bah! Yeah!" And then I cut all my hair off and joined the circus.

And since then, I've found that circus life is something I want to maintain...so I don't want to upset anyone....or, I would prefer to upset as few people as possible. I plan on sticking around for a minute. Please don't tow my car.

P.S. I let Linus run off-leash on the trail. It was pretty freaking cold and, therefore, pretty empty.
P.P.S. I didn't actually cut all my hair off.


Monday, October 21, 2013

The Hair is There for a Reason

You may not believe this, but I was kind of a late bloomer when it comes to "doing girl things." Try as she might, my mother could not spend enough money on makeup to make me actually wear it. I remember going to multiple "makeovers" at the Clinique counter and having ladies wearing grease-paint masks say to me, "oh yeah, I know exactly what you're saying," when I begged them to make me look "natural."

The truth is, I begged my mother to let me wear makeup, until she actually said yes. It wasn't until I started wearing makeup that I noticed how much time I spent putting it on in the morning and how haggard it made me look by the end of the day, when I was flirting with the boys outside the band hall. It was a waste of my time.

But this blog isn't about makeup. You read the title. Oh no. It's about EYEBROWS.

I recently saw a brilliant commercial for Rice-Crispies, one of the only cereal splurges I was allowed as a child (ONLY CHEERIOS), that made me want to eat all the Rice-Crispies:


I realize I just advertised for Rice-Crispies, and they aren't giving me a dime, but it's almost Christmas, and you guys are going to buy it by the boat-load anyway. So shut up.

This was how I felt about people that plucked their eyebrows. Why? WHY?????? Why spend time every day making yourself miserable when there aren't even enough hours in the day to do the actual things that you WANT to do?

I actually prided myself in my motto: If it grows there, it's supposed to be there!

I can't say why I changed my mind and started plucking, but I did. Maybe it had something to do with the pictures I was churning out:

Like this one from Junior High

Or this one from High School at the Dallas Zoo with my friends from Choir:


Or this one FROM MY SENIOR PROM:


Guys. I didn't even pluck my eyebrows for my own prom. 

And you know what: I had fun, AND I turned out okay. How? 

First, I started caring A LOT about what people thought of me. Then, I hated myself. After that, I thought I looked like a boy, and I TRIED to pluck my eyebrows, but it hurt and I hated it. Then, I asked my mom to wax them for me, and she got scared when it was time to pull the wax off, and kept grabbing at it all scared like and sucking in air through her teeth like she could feel my pain. I have never asked her to do it since. Then, I got them waxed at a salon for $5. Then, I started to have fun with makeup...don't know how that happened either...maybe it's when I started wanting boys to like me. I still thought I was ugly, though. BOO HOO. 

Now, I pluck when I need to, even though I know that no one REALLY notices, except for those girls that are self-conscious enough to find pleasure in pointing out what they don't like about other people. And for you ladies that feel you need to do that, I say, go for it. Use me. I don't care. Because, actually, I don't. I pluck my eyebrows for myself. I wear makeup for myself (and because there are no rules in makeup...but that is another blog that I PROMISE I will write). I don't think I'm ugly any more. I kind of think I'm smokin' hot. I could be wrong. It's okay. 

Do what you want, kiddos. It's your face. And don't let Hamlet tell you you're crazy for wearing makeup or plucking your eyebrows. That guy was CRAY, and everyone died at the end of that play. If you don't want to pluck, just say what I say, "the hair is there for a reason," and if someone argues with you, buy them a drink, give them a high five, and let it be. 




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Some Thoughts on Bewbs

I recently tried to find "breasts humor" on Pinterest, and they told me, "We couldn't find any results for [that], but you might try Holidays, Corgis, Sneakers, or Pasta," (emphasis theirs).

My whim whams have grown from a size Brad Pitt to a size Danny DeVito since my freshman year in college, and I haven't gained A LOT of weight elsewhere.

When I wear something that I consider to be a bit revealing (keeping in mind that I'm kind of a prude), I will talk incessantly about how crazy big Burt and Ernie must look/worry about whether or not everyone thinks I'm a slut.

I've had improv coaches tell me to steer away from mentioning Fred and Ethel during a scene because it makes everyone in the audience look at 'em...because no one noticed until I said something...

I probably have a hunch back from trying to hide my jugs during church, and church school.

I enjoy my mammaries. At least when it's just me and them. And lavender bubble bath.

Once a young lesbian told me that she was sorry, but she just felt dirty looking at me in a low cut dress. I offered to wear a Burka around her. She didn't get the irony.


um.....are you even listening?


Guys will often inform me that my headlights are rather bright, and I'll kinda shake my head, shrug my shoulders and say, "yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaah. I know. It's okay."

I get my melons from my grandmother on my dad's side. Aging gracefully for her included eventually being able to tuck her ta-ta's into her pants.

Every guy I've dated in the past has been a self-proclaimed "ass-man."

I displayed my wahwahs once during a sketch show I did to promote funny women. I was playing Hilary Clinton debating Sarah Palin on the sexualization of women. In the end, the only thing we could agree on was the fact that boobs are, in fact, AWESOME. We both took our tops off to reveal red and blue pasties. My tit-tays are so big, the ratio of pasty to boob was roughly 1: 90.

I have bras that I can successfully wear as hats.

I don't want anyone to think I'm complaining. I know it's hard to have bee stings as well. For those with the lil 'uns, the cup must sometimes seem half empty. If we could walk a mile in each other's bra, you might take mine off as soon as you get the chance, just so you can have an excuse not to go out, and I'd probably take yours off equally as fast just to experience the freedom of being small enough to go bra-less. Let's not argue. We're all different, and it's those differences (in neener sizes) that make us who we are.

Thanks for listening.


And be good to your











Monday, October 14, 2013

Tick Tock, It's My Biological Clock


I was riding on the top level of a double decker bus in London when I first heard any mention of my "time running out." I was twenty-eight, living in London with my boyfriend, with no idea what I REALLY wanted for my future. I turned to the girl who said to me, "Ahftuh you tuhn thuty five, your eggs staht to go bad," and asked, "where'd ya hear that?" 

"From my proffessahs at college."

"Were they old white dudes?"

"Yes..."

"Then, it's invalid."

I learned two years later, living in a small town in Georgia with my NEW boyfriend, and visiting the fancy popular gynecologist in town (who was against birth control because it was "un natural hormones," against anti-depressants because they were working too hard to make me happy, and happily shacked up with a cop with whom she shared a gorgeous incredible country home on the Ettowah river...with a jacuzzi) when I learned that I didn't need to be in any kind of hurry, "just don't get to 39 without knowing for sure that you want kids. It gets harder after forty." 

So I thought, SURE. Why not. I've got time. 

I then proceeded to break up with my boyfriend, adopt a puppy, and rent a cute house in the middle of the square of a town with perhaps 2 eligible single men. What's a few more years of singledom (That's a word...right)? 

It wasn't long after that, that I began to feel it. 

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. 

A friend had a baby, and would sit in the room with her and watch while she rocked her little one to sleep and just...I would just mouth breathe. 

I'd be lounging in the park every now and then and see this:


And just float off into dream land where I wore excessively low cut white dresses and packed elaborate picnic baskets with organic and gluten free food, and drank wine and ate strawberries while my beautiful daughter(?) did a million cute things that made me swoon, and I never got drunk on the wine, or got any of it on my white dress, and my boobs didn't almost fall out of the dress even once. And there was mist, and sparkles, and narwals, and Enya was playing in the background some song about the poetry of motherhood...in the desert or something. 

And then, snap, it would go away and I'd be back in my body, not too concerned with my impending menopause, and kinda terrified at the thought of actually having a baby.

But that was it. That was the extent to which my clock was ticking...until now. 


This time, it's different. I'm not swooning too much at seeing a mother and child together. No, this time it's carnal. Every boy is good and beautiful. Every boy that I see...of course, until I talk to them. I don't know if it's Chicago, or what, but I am out of my mind boy crazy and simultaneously out of my mind terrified of any sort of romantic encounter/endeavor. Everywhere I go, they walk past me with their beards, and their chest hair poking out of their collars, and I just want to grab em, and kiss em, and scream: 

WE WOULD MAKE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BABY DON'T YOU THINK?!?!

And it's more often now. Like...multiple times in a week...sometimes more than once a day. I mean, I always go back to being terrified at the thought of having kids. Don't worry. It's just that it never happened that often with the mommy baby wonderland world. 

Of course, it is now that my nature as a human being is becoming more and more apparent. It is now that I see just how much of an animal, at my roots, I am, which also accounts for the fact that I have never found a friend as good as my dog. I think.

My body wants to procreate. Despite my liberal political leanings and overpopulation mumbo jumbo nonsense, my body wants to continue the species. 

IT WANTS TO MULTIPLY. UGH. 

What happened to Ms. Independent? She got the mad baby fever and ran, foaming at the mouth, from her shell of independence, tearing at her clothes like one of those zombies that runs instead of limps towards you, except she's reaching for your OTHER brain. 

That said, if you're a dude, let me know if you'd like my number. I'm avaaaaaaaaaiiiiiilaaaaaable. 




Thursday, October 10, 2013

Song of Jeff Goldblum

I celebrate Jeff Goldblum, and sing Jeff Goldblum,
And what Jeff Goldblum assumes, I shall assume,
For every atom belonging to Jeff Goldblum as good belongs to me.

I loafe and invite Jeff Goldblum,
I lean and loafe at my ease, observing the effects of chaos on a dinosaur theme park.



Jeff's tongue, every atom of his blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
Born in Pittsburg of parents born from parents the same, and their parents
the same,
He, now sixty something, is still perfect
And I hope he ceases not until death

A child said what is Jeff Goldblum? fetching a framed portrait with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I cannot define a force any more than
he.
I guess it must be found in classics such as The Fly, or in the background in Annie Hall.
He was a friend in Nine Months, and a lover in Earth Girls Are Easy.
The dark and dreamy scientist in Jurassic Park, and a fearless hero in Independence Day. 




I saw him once, from afar, in the light of the follow-spot.
Slender and dark. Tall and Handsome.
Speaking the words of Mamet, on a stage in London, England.
And to that I hold. My moment with Jeff Goldblum.
Jeff Goldblum, and I.

And since, I have seen him,
In Portland
Father in The League
The One with the Mugging
Investigating Criminal Intent
Alongside Tim and Eric, great job.

I sing a song of Jeff Goldblum, and my voice is never tired,
and the sun is never brighter.

He will hardly know who I am or what I mean
But I shall be good health to him nevertheless.

Failing to fetch him at first keep encouraged,
Missing him one place, I search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for Jeff Goldblum.






*I am hoping "the Poet" will allow my artistic license in celebration of such a man. Either way, special thanks to Walt Whitman for singing of himself.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

To the Root of the Tragedy part II (AKA SPOILERS)

On Wednesday of last week, I brought you along on my happy little tirade, if you will, over the classical definition of a tragedy according to Aristotle. Let's review that before I move forward into the world of Breaking Bad (because I PROMISED).

1. The Greeks invented what we now know as Theatre. INVENTED IT.
2. Aristotle wrote a book about the rules: The Poetics (this also applies to literature, and since the Greeks basically invented classic literature as well, one can assume The Poetics is basically the Bible of literary art).
3. The Greek Tragedy is comprised of specific aspects or tropes: A protagonist of high standing (doesn't have to be nobility, but someone respected), with a tragic flaw (within his character), who fights the gods (or something like fate), and loses, as he is expected to lose.

Every time the world of art has undergone a "renaissance," the Greeks have been re-explored, re-explained, and re--------animated.

Then we talked about Arthur Miller, who wrote about the romanticized American Dream (Death of a Salesman). It was a romanticized dream, and still is. Miller's tale, in a way, takes the romance out of it by pouring it all on this one guy, who is going crazy, and who eventually kills himself. And we call it the great American tragedy. But it isn't really...it's tragic, but not tragedy in the sense that Aristotle describes.

Enter Vince Gilligan (and Spoilers).

Breaking Bad, according to its creator (Vince Gilligan), is a story of what makes a man bad. He wanted to show the transition of a character from protagonist to antagonist (these terms are also Poetics terms). The protagonist is our hero, and he drives the story forward; while the antagonist is our villain (to simplify it), and he works against the protagonist. Our hero in Breaking Bad, Walter White, is both, by design, but I believe he is still our hero.

I admit, halfway through the series, I began to think that Jessie was our protagonist. As irritating as his character was, he was the only consistently moral character in the entire show. Moral? He was just a junkie. God bless artists like Gilligan, and actors like Aaron Paul, who work together to show that no man or woman is just one thing or the other. Jessie is our Everyman (that's another old theatre reference). We connect to him and his response to what is happening around him. It makes sense to us. But, Walter, both pro and antagonist, is our tragic hero.

White is a teacher. The very term can be seen as a tragedy in American society (guh. I hate it when people say "in American society") (so. much). Teachers are simultaneously celebrated and spat upon. Teachers are glorified and underestimated. There's a whole 'nother blog in there about the injustices in the American education system. Gilligan focuses on a tiny one (that's hyperbole, in case you didn't know): pay. White has cancer, and his meager teacher salary/health care plan, won't pay for ANY OF THE TREATMENT.

He could have been more; he could have been a bajillionaire like his friends at Gray Matter, but he sold his share of the company. Here's where we see the first inkling of his tragic flaw. It was the research he did at Gray Matter that gave him the lung cancer, and it is his old friends, the beneficiaries of the success of Gray Matter that offer to pay for his treatments. How appropriate. BUT, Walt won't have it. He refuses it, primarily, I THINK, because of Pride.

His Pride in his work rears its head throughout the story. Here's one example: His son sets up a website to help raise money for the treatment, and Walt uses this to launder some of his "cooking" money. Sounds like a great thing, except Walt Jr (oh, Flynn) gets the credit, and this is inFURIATing to Walt.

So there's the tragic flaw. But, what are these GODS he's fighting? It's not like he's fighting fate. Perhaps one could say he is pitted against man's very nature and tendency towards greed (the vicious circle of money hoarding that causes health insurance companies to destroy the concept of "free market" when it comes to health care...which is the reason Walt "thinks" he has to do what he is doing...I could go on and on it's the circle of freaking life). I posit that he is pitted against the gods of our time. The men and women who think themselves gods. Walt stands before each of them, and defeats them. Gus Fring, a truly terrifying villain, who is perceived as untouchable and unbeatable by the audience (at least I felt that way), protected by the most stalwart of guardians (Mike), and who has been quietly building his empire over the years. He made himself into a god, and Walter takes him down.

Then there are the Neo-Nazis. They exist for no other reason than to exert power over others. What greater power is there, than to be able to hold someone's life in your hands? They do not hold the same respect for art, music, or food, like the sophisticated Fring, but they are master's at what they do: killing. It is a fitting skill for a group that exemplifies hatred. Hate. Darkness. Death. These aspects of the human experience were once embodied by ancient gods. Look it up!

And then there is Walter White. The ultimate villain in this story. I imagine we all signed on thinking it would be fun to observe the silly antics that ensue when a goofy high school chemistry teacher gets mixed up with the drug lords of the west. But Walter White was too proud, and, as all great literature attests: pride always goes before a fall.

In the end, the only villain White has to face is himself, and in the end he does so as the hero he once was. Knowing that it will be end of him, he walks into the lions den of what HE CREATED, and he destroys it all.

Some may have wanted Jessie to kill Walter. I know I did, but when Walter sees what he has done to this kid who was "just a junkie," and gives him the gift of the opportunity to take him down, Jessie does exactly what any of us would have done. First, he says he won't do it unless its actually what Walter wants him to do. Then, when he sees that Walt is already dying, he drops the gun, and he runs. And it's beautiful.

Why were  most of us satisfied with the ending of Breaking Bad? Because we travelled down the darkest path a man can take WITH Walter, and we knew, just as he knew, that the only way out was through the finality of death. Instead of hiding away in the woods, and letting the final throws of cancer take him in his sleep, he went back to do what he could to honor those who died on his watch. Each character in the story has a flaw, and each character suffers or dies for his or her flaw. To appease the gods, Walter offers up himself and the empire that he built through his multitude of sins.

Greed begets more greed. Hatred begets more hatred. Only love drives any of these things away. When did it happen for Walter? When did the light of love begin to chisel away at his carefully constructed villainy? I believe it happened when he saw his brother-in-law die at the hands of the Neo-Nazis. Hank looked death in the face and was not afraid. He did not beg for his life. He did not back away from his beliefs. He saw a gun pointed at his head and no way out, and he resigned himself to his fate. Walter has to watch this, and everyone else watching (the guys outside the television set. you guys. me.) felt the subtle shift.

Breaking Bad was and is, truly, a great American tragedy. It takes a man who values his family over his fate, who allows pride to change his course, who tumbles into oblivion as he battles gods that are bigger and more frightening with every turn, and through the reminder of what it means to love...to truly love...goodness and light, he picks himself up, and he tears down his kingdom of pride, burying himself in the rubble.

In the end, there are no more lies. He can admit to his wife that he loved what he did. That it made him feel alive. And he can absolve his anger towards Jessie (whom he truly loved) when he sees his suffering, and grant him the freedom that he could never win for himself. He was the hero and the villain of his own story, just as we all are. And when we see that he can do it...that he can stand up in the face of certain death....we know we can too. And we feel better (that's catharsis).

So call it what you will, and take from it what you want. This is the not the end of Breaking Bad, and it is not the end of the reinvention of the dramatic arts. The themes of fear, fate, pride, courage, love, and light will live forever, even if none of us live long enough to ride in a flying car.

And, honestly...I thought we'd have flying cars by now. What gives?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

To the Root of the Tragedy Part I

I have taught six sections of Theatre Appreciation in my lifetime, and for each of the sections, I required students to read what some consider to be the great American tragedy, Death of a Salesman. Then, I asked them if they thought that it was true. Is Death of a Salesman the great American tragedy?

You probably know the story. Homeboy Willy Loman is living the dream, or trying to. A traveling salesman, he's worked his whole life to see his family shine in the light of the American Dream. However you define that, I'll go out on a limb and say that we can all agree that it has something to do with rising to the top, being able to have whatever we need without having to worry about anything...and it may also include without being limited to...at least fifteen minutes of fame.

When Willy doesn't reach great heights in his heyday, he looks to his son, Biff. Surely Biff will carry on the "family name" through success. He was successful in high school; thus, there is no reason he should not be successful beyond.

There is an ongoing literary dispute over the contention that this play is truly a tragedy. Yes, it is tragic, but a tragic life or tragic ending and a tragedy are two different things.

In Aristotle's Poetics, he describes tragedy as being, "an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament...in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis [sic] of such emotions..."

Confused? Well, first of all, just so you know, "[sic]" in the middle of a quote means that I know that the previous word is misspelled (or grammatically incorrect), but I gotta be true to the guy that wrote it. Secondly, what?

In theatre, as in most forms of literature, we cling desperately to the past. In the case of the dramatics, we hold to the Greeks because they were the first dudes to start writing stuff down about theatre. Also, they wrote plays...and a guy named Thespis one day was all, "I sound better than all these people in this [Greek] chorus, so I'm going to step out in front and start talking alone." Thus, self-centered, and mostly ignorant to the true art of the form actors were born. GUH. (I'm kiddin, y'all. I'm an actor)

The tradition of the Greek Tragedy was to have a tragic hero, described by Aristotle as "a man who is neither a paragon of virtue and justice nor undergoes the change to misfortune through any real badness or wickedness but because of some mistake."Aristotle actually defines the man as a great man, a man who is regarded as a good man from a good family. Mistake is also defined as a "tragic flaw." Every tragic hero has a flaw that makes him predisposed to tragedy. It's not that our hero trips accidentally. There is an error in his character.

And we, the audience, watch him fight a great enemy (through actions and events, rather than a narrative), knowing that he will fail because of his tragic flaw. The enemies he goes up against are not "bad guys," or "villains," but rather representations of truly unbeatable odds. In most Greek tragedies, heroes fight the gods or even worse, they fight the inevitability of fate. Who here has read Oedipus the King?

So, with that in mind, is the American Dream a god? Is it fate? Or is it an idea? Is Willy Loman a true hero? Does he die victoriously standing tall in the face of his fate? When you finish reading or watching Arthur Miller's famous play, do you feel the purging of all of your fears?

Did I mention that part? Aristotle's "Katharsis" is possibly the most important part of the tragedy. If we know our hero is going to fight that which cannot be defeated, and we know he is going to suffer and probably die, why on EARTH do we waste our time watching tragedies? Because we do. We love watching a derailed train charge to its destruction. What happens to us in the end?

Catharsis. The internet defines it as "the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions." We applaud the man or woman who is brave enough, despite his or her inevitable fall, to stand up to fate, and to stand proud. Because we all die. And we all fear death. We are all going to die, and we are all terrified of that finality of life. The end of everything we know or can define. We fear it so much that we rarely even speak of it. But the tragedians are not afraid to bring it center stage, to make us see it face to face, and through their fearlessness in the art, we are given relief from our greatest fear...if only for a moment.

Therefore, before you read the NEXT blog that I write, I want you to ask yourself: Do you feel relief when Loman decides to kill himself? Do you feel that Willy is a tragic Hero? Are you satisfied with the ending of Death of a Salesman? Or do you feel more hopeless than ever about the fate of the American pitted against the demands of the Dream?

And finally, did you watch Breaking Bad?