Confidential is an interesting word, a word with power and value, reflecting our understanding of what to keep to ourselves.Information not to be shared, thoughts not to be disclosed, secret…and yet something for one more person, a friend to a brother, a husband to a wife, until it, as they say… It appears that the seal of confidentiality is broken too easily by us common folk…unless of course there’s a lawyer present, formalizing it as a threat and terror. Confidentiality is a paper to sign. Talk and face the consequences.
My screenplay Sister Prometheus is a reworking of the Promethean myth, utilizing elements of the Oresteia. I realize that this is a dangerous and foolhardy pursuit, as any modern work is likely to pale in comparison with the work of Aeschylus, exemplified in the passage below, describing Iphigenia’s death at the hands of the priests of her father Agamemnon:
Rough hands tear at her girdle, cast/ Her saffron silks to earth. Her eyes/
Search for her slaughterers; and each/ Seeing her beauty, that surpassed/
A painter’s vision, yet denies/ The pity her dumb looks beseech/
Struggling for voice; for often in old days,/When brave men feasted in her father’s hall/
With simple skill and pious praise/Linked to the flutes pure tone/
Her virgin voice would melt the hearts of all/
Honoring the third libation near her father’s throne/
This sacrifice is said to have appeased the gods and given the Greeks fair winds to Troy and eventual triumph in their bloody quest for Helen. My Prometheus is female. Her name is Virginia Adamantine, and she’s furious with the Agamemnons of the world, ready to fight anyone in her way. And she’s a stripper. That’s the part I doubt Aeschylus would have appreciated.
I wrote a short story many years ago (1989) in Spain and called it Toro Muerte. Before coming to Spain, I saw it only as flamenco dancers, bullfights and Hemingway, drunk. The only flamenco dancers I saw were little girls in small towns, both eager to grow, the bullfights I couldn’t distinguish from the game shows, and Hemingway was nowhere to be found. “Are you a writer?” I stutter, never thinking the muse – braces, roses and tennis shoes – could come from such an innocent throng. Spring didn’t come this year; there wasn’t any room between the dry air and tired sun, no time for blossoms and birds, nothing outside the thoroughfare. Cars plunging horizon to horizon, rubber and olive branches left on the shoulder with the sod clumps and rusted bones, waste piled at grates. The gap widens. I don’t know how well the narrative holds – four little stories intertwining in Central Spain – but I remember the writing of it well, the heavy table, the bars on the window, the congestion in the winding street, watching a football match with my hosts at the pensione, not speaking a word of Spanish, walking late at night, the plaza full of vespas, and writing every day until it was done.
There is something remarkably terrifying about the ABC network reality TV show, The Bachelor. A man searches amongst 26 pre-selected women for the one who is on the show for the “right reasons” and wants to “take it to the next level”. Adding to the difficulty of this quest, all of the candidates proclaim their love for this man and their desire to be with him for the rest of their lives.The process itself is laborious, involving group dates, cocktail parties, hand-holding, heart-to-heart talks and awkward sequences of kissing. Although the show is predictably structured – with pathetic story arcs, villains and insidious repetition – there are some moments which amuse and surprise. Tierra LiCausi, the villain of this season, blurted out a ground-breaking deconstruction of the self near the end of last week’s show. In defending her position on how she might have been seen by others when she raised an eyebrow in an insulting manner, she explained: “Raised eyebrow? That’s my face! I can’t help that…I can’t control my eyebrow. I cannot control my eyebrow. I can’t control what’s on my face 24/7.” There was no sense of irony, no sarcasm in her position; this was in fact a bold statement attempting to establish a startling new possibility that the face is an independent entity. Dissatisfied with the simplistic notion of the duality of mind and body, Ms. LiCausi sought to shatter the self into billionths, every cell and corpuscle independent of each other, only of itself, self-governed, self-determined, rarely, if ever, attuned to the body and mind as part of a whole. Ms. LiCausi continued, “I know in my own skin that I am not rude…If I could walk around with a smile on 24/7, I would. But my face would get freaking tired.” In other words, it is a virtual impossibility for another to understand the consciousness of Ms. LiCausi, or as she refers to it, her “sparkle”. Other selves, or “sparkles”, can only assume and thus interpret; they are incapable of capturing the essence of another sparkle simply because of the face’s independent notion of self and potentially abrasive manner. Predictably, Ms. LiCausi’s revelations left the other faces and bodies on the show dumb-founded, including that of the Bachelor himself, who decided to reject Ms. LiCausi, eyebrow, face, sparkle and all.
Is thinking a specifically singular activity? Is existence utterly isolated? Is “to think and be” a thing to do alone? Is it at all possible that there be a “we” in this thinking, we as a collective of “I”s? Can we think of ourselves as a “we”, truly together, or do we just go along, watching the stupidity of each other and try to get away with what we can? Can we think – and be – together?
We certainly have a notion of a “we” in cities, laws, families and music. It is in the interplay between right and wrong, sense and chaos, lyrics and rhythm. Retribution Gospel Choir – on stage this week with Wilco’s Nels Cline at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory – offered a number of connecting moments, long and straining, the guitars back and forth, Alan Sparhawk singing: Nobody put up a fight. Everyone out on the ice. You and I don’t lie. It is moments like these that there seems to be some sense to “we”, the intertwining sounds, like we’re going somewhere, wonder and excitement at every turn. Ragnar Kjartansson’s work The Visitors – at Luhring Augustine until March – develops this feeling of joy and unity as well. The communication between musicians, each alone in his/her own space, joined only by headphones, the music, flowing through crescendos and silence, until coming together, exiting the house into the wide misty expanse of what might come next. Hope looms. The same cannot be said of Andy Kaufman.Kaufman’s work – celebrated this week at the Maccorone Gallery in Greenwich – centered on the characterization of idiosyncratic individuals who didn’t fit in with the everyone else. Wide-eyed, smiling, Kaufman looked back like he wanted to be understood, waffling between child-like wonder and childish behavior, pushing us to reject him, which we inevitably did. “You could never like me. I always knew that.” That’s how he wanted it; if you weren’t in on the gag, so what?
As much of a cornerstone as the “I” might be in the work of Kjartansson and Retribution Gospel Choir, there is the invitation, a query as to what might be thought of next – not just the those on view – but the “we” in all of us “I”s too.
I am in the midst of re-formatting my writing (novels and scripts) from my WordPerfect days (1989-1996).
Unfortunately, I did not properly convert the files from WordPerfect 4.2 to Microsoft Word, and so now I am faced with the ugly and painstaking task of changing the text line by line, character by character. I start with this:
Þ_@ÞÃ_*’ÃTRAVISƒà__àà__àRelax, relax. Stay
cool.Þ_@ÞÃ_*’ÃCORINNEƒà__àà__àCool? I’m the
fuckin’…coolest.Þ_@ÞÃ_*’ÃRAYMONDƒÃ_*_Ã(holding his bleeding
neck)ƒà__àà__àTravis…Þ_@ÞÃ_*’ÃTRAVISƒÃ_*_Ã(looking into the hotel
room)ƒà__àà__àMr. Quati? Mr. Quati! You all
right?Þ_@ÞÃ_*&ÃSAVANNAHƒÃ_*#Ã(from the room)ƒà__àà__àHe’s unconscious,
Travis.Þ_@ÞÃ_*’ÃTRAVISƒà__àà__àWhat the hell’s going on here!?
I get it back to this:
Relax, relax. Stay cool.
Cool? I’m the fuckin’…coolest.
(Holding his bleeding neck)
(Looking into the hotel room)
Mr. Quati? Mr. Quati! You all right?
(From the room)
He’s unconscious, Travis.
What the hell’s going on here!?
It’s effective practice because it forces me to pick through the text, as painful as that might be. I’m the fuckin’…coolest??(And that’s not even close to the worst of it.)
Excerpt from My Bad Side: Everything was brittle and cracking. I beat my arms across my body, kicking my legs to get warm, and then lay there, as cold as before, worse, breathing fog. I closed my eyes. It was the same, awful and cold.
I was cold and dark in my head. My cheeks hurt. My breath was stuck. My sleeping bag was twisted and stunk of industrial plastic. I couldn’t move my fingers. I felt for my
heart and couldn’t feel that and then it wasn’t right, half beating and then
too many in a row and then none at all.