Saturday, April 30, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/29/11: Melanie Drops By, Frank Goat Talk, Ground Chuck and Spinach and Rice

1.  It's not often I have a conversation that includes discussion of poverty, parenting, writing, photography, meth, boxing, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, the Thrilla in Manilla, the Rumble in the Jungle, No Mas, Las Vegas, Reno, scholarships, financial aid, boxing promotion in Lane County, RVs, the Corvette Sting Ray, family, starting over, and a host of other things, but it happened today when Melanie dropped by my office to say hello.

2.  Sometimes I surprise myself when I'm so frank about things with JH, MM, and MB over coffee at the Wandering Goat.  I say things to them I wouldn't say anywhere else but at home.  Sometimes I startle myself that I say what I say.

3.  A pound of ground chuck.  A Texas sweet onion.  Diced celery. Brown rice from the other night.  Spinach.  Greek seasoning.  Lemon juice.  Fry up the onion and celery.  Same with the beef.  Warm up the rice and toss it in.  Great dinner.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/28/11: Other, Rest, Bridges

1.  I thought our discussion of the Other helped my World Literature students dig more deeply into what Kafka inquires into in his story "The Metamorphosis".  It was a very gratifying session.

2.  I felt more rested today than I have in about a month.  Yes, a mid-afternoon nap helped.  The exhaustion has been sweet, an inevitable result of performing "The Taming of the Shrew" fourteen times (three full dress rehearsals, one preview, and ten performances) between April 4th and 23rd.  The play kept me up way past my usual bedtime, was the reason I got far behind in my work as a teacher, and required the exertion of a lot of mental energy and concentration.  And, today, alas, I really started to feel rested.  I'm getting caught up.  My students seem happy.  It's been a full month.

3.  I hadn't been able to meet with friends at Billy Mac's for over a month because of the play and it was fun to be back with them all.  I especially enjoyed Jim and Molly Bridge, friends from church, coming in for dinner.   We go to different services so I don't see them very often at church and it was a pleasure to have some time to talk about stuff, get caught up, and enjoy each other for a little while.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/27/11: Haircut, Bye Sly, Steak and Chicken

1.  I totally shed my character today from "The Taming of the Shrew".  I went to Perfect Look and got my hair cut back to the shorter length I wear and got my beard shaved off. 

2.  In the car after the haircut, I sang (to the tune of "American Pie"), "Bye bye Mr. Christopher Sly".  He's really gone now.

3.  I found this packet of Thai seasoning I'd forgotten about and put it on the chicken before baking it and it was really good.  I also cooked the Deke and me each a London broil steak and the combination of steak and chicken was a tasty and rare indulgence.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/26/11: Work/Rest, Marital Privilege, Edinburgh Hamlet Project

1.  A day of work/rest.  I got way behind in my schoolwork and got really exhausted thanks to performing in "The Taming of the Shrew" and today I simultaneously rested by not leaving the house and worked by grading papers all day long.  I'm very nearly caught up and it's a weight off my mind.

2.  Confidential, frank conversation at home.  It wasn't "relationship" talk.  Not that kind of frank conversation.  It was about things happening in the world outside our home.  I cherish marital privilege when it comes to speaking my mind.  I cherish confidentiality.

3.  I contributed some money to this cause and consented to be interviewed as a donater.  I hope the Edinburgh Hamlet Project can raise the money they need to go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  

One Dominant Beautiful Thing 04/19-25/11: Giving and the Theater

1.  The past week was dominated by our last four performances of "The Taming of the Shrew".  Even on the days off from the theater, the fatigue, mostly emotional, but also sleep deprivation, has blanketed me.  It's sweet fatigue, the fatigue of giving, of exerting energy for the pleasure and enjoyment of others and for the sake of the other cast members.  It's what I love when I get to be in a play:  it's giving, giving, giving.  All of us involved in "The Taming of the Shrew" gave each other support; we gave each other focus, concentration, passion, and excellence; we also gave our audiences a thrilling two and half hours of spirited and colorful pleasure. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/18/11: Taxes, Refinance, Week of Food

1.  Taxes filed.  On time.  I don't remember the last time we filed on time. 

2.  Refinanced home loan closed.

3.  Meat items for the Deke's week of lunches:  cooked.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/11: Servers at Brails, Cookie, Praise Uplifts Me

1.  I love Sunday breakfast at Brails, sitting at the counter, watching the serving staff under Joy's vigilant eye.  It was great today.

2.  My preparation for today's matinee performance of The Taming of the Shrew was considerably sweetened by a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie purchased at the Sequential Biofuel Station market.

3.  My friends who attended today's show enjoyed it a lot, were beaming afterward, and told me they thought I did terrific work in the play.  I really appreciate being told that my work on stage is working.  I think I'm doing what I've been directed to do, but hearing my friends tell me they thought I was good is heartening, a real uplift -- especially because I get involved in these plays so rarely, I care so much about them when I do, and I want to do good work and help make the play really good.  And ours is that:  it's really good.

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/11: Rhythms, China House, Singing Shakespeare

1.  In the usual rhythm of my life, I am in bed by 9:30 or 10:00.  Rehearsing and performing a play takes me out of that usual rhythm and I'm up past midnight.  This morning I lounged. I rested.  I dealt with being tired after another late night and not sleeping in by assuming the prone position for the early part of the day and napping.

2.  It was too rainy to go out and take pictures today, a disappointment.  But, Russell and I met at Yi Shen and I had a tasty plate of ginger chicken.  A fun moment occurred when the woman who co-owns and operates Yi Shen overheard me talking with Russell about how much I used to enjoy their former restaurant on 29th and Willamette:  China House.  Tasty Thai is there now.  She enjoyed knowing that when I go to Tasty Thai, I always imagine myself still at China House.  I enjoy China House a lot.  I enjoy Yi Shen even more.

3.  Our already strong production of "The Taming of the Shrew" continues to get better.  Because I see the whole play, I can hear new vocal varieties, see physical moves sharpen, and know that our actors continue to tighten the show.  The best news:  no sense of complacency, no sense in the company that we've "arrived".  We never will "arrive".  The fun now is in making it all better and, I think, moving closer and closer to expressing, almost singing,  the music of Shakespeare's poetry and prose.  I'm hearing more and more "singing".   The "singing", to me, is the reward of running and performing this play so many times. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Being an Amateur Lengthens Life

It's odd.

I derive much of my pleasure and happiness in life from doing things I'm really not at all expert at, where my efforts fall far short of mastery.

I've been thinking about this a lot over the last two months since our cast's initial read through of The Taming of the Shrew.

I enjoy being in plays.  I love all that goes into bring a show into being, both the acting and all the glorious technical details, whether music, sound effects, lighting, properties or, as in our show, the making of a short film.

I don't consider myself an actor, though.  It's not something I work at regularly and, counting this play, I've only been five plays in my adult life.

I play small roles.  I have limited range, so I am mindful of working within my range.

And, still, somewhat foolishly, I play, I perform, and I put my limited abilities on stage. I expose my limited range to friends and strangers alike.  

Doing so energizes me, stretches me, opens up unexplored areas of my life:  it invigorates me.  During the last two months of rehearsals and performances, I've felt fulfilled, vigorous, happy, beyond what I normally feel.

And this uplift has almost nothing to do with whether I'm any good. 

It's the pleasure of taking part, of chipping in, of making a show work, of doing my part, of enjoying the work
of the others in this cast who really are actors, who do such beautiful work.

It's the pleasure of being an amateur.

I'm an amateur in so much that I do:  photography, cooking, writing, having a dog -- even listening to music.

Even listening to music.


In the car Thursday night, Julia was telling me and Dee about how her ex used to get her goat by telling her he liked Neil Diamond, knowing it would annoy her.

I said I liked Neil Diamond and wished I could see him in concert in Spokane where he's a performing idol.

Julia seemed taken aback and I said that maybe my love for Neil Diamond had to do with all the times back in high school that Tim O'Reilly and I listened to him while cruising the gut in Tim's Datsun after we got off work at the IGA.

Julia retorted, sharply:  "Well, there's a lot of music from the 80's that my friends and I listened to in the car driving around and it doesn't make it good music."

I thought to myself, "Yes it does."

I thought how that's exactly how I decide what's good.  Does it evoke memories?  Nostalgia?  Remind me of love, friends, good times, work I enjoyed, things I liked to do?

I rarely assess music musically.

It's why I sometimes tear up when Jigsaw's "You've Blown It All Sky High" comes on.  Or when I listen to Neil Diamond.  Or ABBA.  Or the Alan Parsons Project.

I'm not assessing the music. 

I'm being touched.

I'm an amateur.  I'm no expert.

My sensibilities are simple and so I love a lot of music. 

Somehow, my enjoyment of being an amateur parallels what Pirandello explores in Six Characters in Search of an Author.

In the play, the Father argues that characters in plays are more real than the people who are actors who play them.

I've been wondering how I might understand my character Christopher Sly as being more real than I am.

Then it came to me this way:  I can never fully be Christopher Sly.  He will always be more than I am.  He is a distillation, a nearly perfect form, an abstraction of drunkenness, good cheer, wonder, surliness, bravado, confusion, and any number of other characteristics.

He's a minor character, represents a small role, and yet his fullness is always out of my reach.  I can approximate some of who he is.  Some nights I do a better job with one or two of his aspects than with others.  It's never the same.  I'm always falling short.

It's the same with photography, giving sermons, giving a presentation at church, writing poetry, being a visiting writer at a writing retreat, singing, and on and on.

I'm an amateur.

I give it a shot. 

I have fun.

But I'm not an expert.

I'm not highly proficient.

I always fall short.

But being an amateur, to quote the messenger in The Taming of the Shrew:

....frame[s] [my] mind to mirth and merriment,
    Which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life. 


Three Beautiful Things 04/15/11: Work at Home, Beefy Breakfast, Electric "Shrew"

1.  I don't teach on Fridays, but it's a work day.  Today I wanted to work at home and rest.  I took a day of sick leave and rested and graded papers.  I'm grateful to be able to decide to do this every once in a while.

2.  My day was substantially nourished by my breakfast:  ground chuck, potatoes, and sweet onions fried together, a couple of eggs, and two pieces of buttered toast.  I don't often think of having ground beef for breakfast and when I do, it really hits the spot.

3.  From my perch, where Christopher Sly enjoys the whole play being performed for him, tonight's performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" was electric, and, in fact, I was happy with my contribution. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/11: Multiplicity, Ginger Search, Richard and Janet Loved "Shrew"

1.  It's fun for me, really a blast, to help my students enter into the multiple realities and multiple identities of characters in "Six Characters in Search of an Author".  I can see in my students' eyes that they are both stimulated and unsettled by the idea that we do not live in a single unified agreed upon reality and that that all of us are many persons in one, not unified beings.

2.  I'm on a casual search for the best dish of food in Eugene featuring ginger.  I ate a plate of Pad Ginger at Tasty Thai today and, while it was good, I was greedy for a stronger presence of ginger.

3.  Richard and Janet saw "The Taming of the Shrew" tonight and they were generous with their praise afterward.  They watched to play closely, entered into it fully, and loved all the very things about the show we hope audience will love:  its energy, clear articulation of language, physical beauty, great comic timing, terrific acting, and superb story telling.  Richard and Janet have been seeing plays for decades and to listen to their excitement was invigorating and deeply satisfying.

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/11: Meat, Pirandello, Shrew Review

1.  I hadn't been to Long's Meats for a long time and stopped in today to pick up some ground chuck and chicken thighs and enjoyed just staring at the nice cuts of pork and beef and other meats.

2.  I read "Six Characters in Search of an Author" again this afternoon in preparation for class tomorrow and once again enjoyed how edgy it feels, how unusual it is, and how brilliantly it brings questions of metaphysics and the imagination to life.

3.  The Register Guard published a favorable review of our production of "The Taming of the Shrew" today.   My contribution to the show's success was mentioned.  I've never had that happen before. If you'd like to read the review, go here.

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/11: Existential Fun, Killer Stew, Resting Up for Shakespeare

1.  Once a year I get to work with late nineteenth and twentieth century literature and explore existentialism.  Today we focused on the existential crises of Lola and of Ivan Illych.  How can such deep questions, sometimes bleak ones, be so fun?

2.  The beef stew I prepared last night and let sit over night?  Perfect.  The key ingredients?  Parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas.  Killer.

3.  I rested during the afternoon and went to bed early:  rehearsal tomorrow night and then four straight performances of "The Taming of the Shrew".  I can hardly wait.

Three Beautiful Things 04/11/11: Lola Papers, Drumsticks, Stew Prep

1.  I can tell, from their first short essay, that quite a few good thinkers and writers are enrolled in my ENG 109 course.  I read their short papers on Run Lola Run.  They understood the movie well.  It was fun to read their various responses.

2.  I enjoyed my first weekday evening at home in quite a while by, first, baking some drumsticks for me and the Deke.

3.  Secondly, I fixed beef stew.  We'll eat it tomorrow and on through the week.  I had fun taking pictures of the ingredients and kitchen tools.  You can see the pictures I posted here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beef Stew

I made beef stew tonight and took some pictures of the ingredients and kitchen tools.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/10/11: Restful Day, Flat Iron Steaks, Tiger Makes a Move

1.  I love rehearsing and performing "The Taming of the Shrew", but it was nice to have a day off and go to Brails for some breakfast after church and to get some grocery shopping done and run into Kate and have a nice conversation that veered toward praising two of my favorite women in the movies: Catherine Keener and Hope Davis. 

2.  I bought flat iron steaks and cooked them with a crispy exterior and a medium rare interior and the Deek and I could not believe our good fortune that we were actually eating such good food.

3.  Tiger Woods in contention in a major golf tournament excites me and I listened to the Masters on the car radio as I puttered from place to place and when he hit that second shot on the eighth hole to within about twelve feet of the pin and then made the putt, a surge of excitement I hadn't felt for a while coursed through my veins.  I realize he came up short;  I realize his Saturday score hurt him; I realize he missed opportunities to score even better today.  I don't care whether Tiger's "back".  I simply enjoyed the times he played riveting golf this weekend.  It's fun when he gets it going.  (The last golfer to get me excited like this was Lee Trevino. I really loved watching him play.  In fact, I enjoyed him a lot more than I enjoy Tiger Woods.)

Saturday Market Area Pictures

Russell and I went to Farmer's Market, Saturday Market, and to the drumming/vending activity at the Lane County Courthouse to take pictures on April 9th.  Here are some of my photographs:

Flowers for sale

A vendor's masks


Dancing to the pulse of the drummers

Enigmatic 2

Doll for sale

Photos from Thursday Night's "Taming of the Shrew" Performance, Part 2

Here are more of the photographs Russell Shitabata took at our Thursday night performance of "The Taming of the Shrew".  

Kate likes the cap and gown

Everyone loves Bianca

Gremio losing the battle for Bianca


Handsome cast

Hortensio surrenders

Hortensio in profile

Kate expounds;Sly sleeps

Kate the scold

Petruchio strikes fear

Petruchio the boss


Sly tickled

Last supper

The right Vincentio
Curtain call

Three Beautiful Things 04/09/11: Saturday at the Mart, Back to Yi-Shen, Beaming Actors

1.  Play rehearsals have interfered with Russell and me getting out to take pictures.  We got to go again today and visited Farmer's Market, Saturday Market, and the drumming at the plaza of the county courthouse.  It wasn't my best day of taking pictures, but I enjoyed the challenges I faced trying to take pictures of people.

2.  After too long of an absence, Russell and I had lunch at Yi-Shen and I loved my plate of lemongrass curry fried rice with bbq pork. 

3.  Our Saturday night performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" crackled with energy and delighted our audience.  It makes me really happy to see the beaming faces of all the actors after a great performance and tonight the beaming was bright.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Photos from Thursday Night's "Taming of the Shrew" Performance

Russell Shitabata attended our Thursday night show and took these photos of "The Taming of the Shrew".
Christopher Sly drunk, passed out.  The prone position might be what I do best when I act

Sly is overjoyed.  He's a lord, not a drunken sot

Kate injured

Kate stood up by Petruchio


Bianca being wooed

Kate and Bianca Scrap

It's a colorful show

Sly sees all -- the play is put on for him and he loves it

Sly sees more


Old and young suitors 

The food fairly flew

I say we'll have no sending to prison

Drunk again: the play ends where it started

Three Beautiful Things 04/04-04/08/11: Hard Work = Great Play, Routine, Oh! There's Also My Job

1.  Rehearsals and performances of "'The Taming of the Shrew" have dominated my life from Monday-Friday.  Our energetic, colorful, acrobatic, musical circus of a production all came together this week and the long hours of work have resulted in two live audiences, Thursday and Friday, loving the play, praising us lavishly, and coming out of the Blue Door with wide grins and animated conversations.  We're really doing it.  We are putting on a really good show.

2.  I've developed a routine to get ready to play and perform:  shower, Asian food at different restaurants, lots of water, and finding my own place to sit quietly, calm myself.  I appreciate how many of my fellow cast members fuel their performing energy with loud talking, rapid pacing, jokes, quoting movie lines, talking about super heroes, doing impersonations, and singing (everything from Journey/Asia/Toto to "Les Miserable"), but I have to quiet myself down because performing over activates my adrenaline.  Too much adrenaline can push me out of control, can narrow my vision of what's happening on stage, can work against my best efforts rather than support them. 

3.  Oh!  And then there's my job.  I've been remarkably energetic and alert for my 8 a.m. classes despite not getting home until 11:30 or so and needing about an hour to wind down before sleeping.  But, existentialism, inquiry into happiness, making fun of the technical details of presenting research (while also taking it seriously) has been fun and it was a good week in the classroom.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/03/11: Rev. Betsy Tesi, Taxes, Taxes Again

1.  I didn't hear Rev. Betsy Tesi when she gave her sermon when she visited St. Mary's as a candidate.  This morning she gave her first sermon as our Assistant Priest.  It was a superb sermon: learned, eloquent, personal, at times funny, provocative, and illuminating.  For me, it gave new life to John 9:1-41. 

2.  After three different efforts on three different days, today, April 3rd, 2011, I finished our taxes for 2009 a year late.  They are signed, sealed, and ready to be mailed.

3.  Not only that, I only have one more bit of information to enter into our 2010 tax forms and I'll be done with these taxes.  As soon as the person responsible gives me that information, I'll submit it all and for the first time in many, many years, we will have our taxes submitted before the deadline.  What a relief to have one set all done (a year late) and to be one bit of information shy of having the others finished.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 04/02/11: Mob at Appleby's, Gorgeous, Sweet Fatigue

1.  I like these pancake fundraisers at Appleby's.  In February, I went to one for the Springfield Lions and today I got to peer a wee bit into Deke's world:  her school held a pancake breakfast fundraiser.  I especially enjoyed the mob moment when a bunch of the Deke's students all insisted on a mob hug with her.  (I can't imagine such a moment with my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Clary, at the Sunnyside Elementary chili feed in 1963-64.)

2.  Lights!  Costumes!  Cue to cue tech rehearsal helped us all see what "The Taming of the Shrew" will look like under the lights with our costumes:  it's beautiful.

3.  At about seven o'clock, this long week of getting my classes started, getting enrollment figured out, rehearsing late into every evening, and getting home business matters figured out and nearly finished, came to an end and I crashed.  The fatigue was sweet and the rest refreshing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Three Beautiful Things x 3 03/30/11-04/01/11: UltraSound, Lola, Karma, Chins Up, Awake, Values, Crackle, Taxes, Baseball Names

1.  When I saw the nephrologist a couple of weeks ago, he was a bit shaken by the drop on my kidney function and wondered if something else, in addition to the chronic disease I carry, was going on.  He ordered an ultra sound and today I found out nothing more is going on:  no blockage, growths, shrinkage, etc.

2.  I love Franka Potente in "Run Lola Run".  For the 100th time (it seems) I showed "Run Lola Run" to my Surv. of World Literature class and just the sight of Franka Potente and knowing how fully she embodies the fierce devotion of Lola to her boyfriend Manni made me tear up as the movie began and I loved seeing the movie again. 

3.  One of my students pointed out that in "Run Lola Run" there's no such thing as karma that determines how the same story being re-enacted three times turns out.  Yes!  She is so right.  This movie is looking at other forces at work that determine our futures.

4.  The cast and production team of "The Taming of the Shrew" has faced a lot of adversity:  interfering work schedules and illness have been the two main culprits.  It's been hard to do all the work we've needed to do on particular nights.  I'm deeply impressed, though, by the positive attitude of the cast and production crew and of Sparky, our director.  I've been involved in plays where people weren't so positive:  they blamed others for things, pointed fingers, let their nerves get frayed. The director ragged on the cast.  I don't see that happening here:  actors are encouraging each other, keeping things positive, offering help to one another, smiling, joking, being playful, having some hugs, arms around shoulders --good stuff.  Sparky stays relaxed, encouraging.  The play is growing and this growth moves me. 

5.  Maybe, just maybe, I started to convince my WR 121 students that writing does not have to be onerous.  It's doesn't require abject suffering.  WR 121 is not boot camp.  We can have fun.  Buddha came into play in WR 121:  Be awake.  I'm trying to help my students de-mystify writing.  Be awake.  I can be of a lot of help, but we can't act like we're in a prison together in this course.  We've just got to get on with the business of learning how to read, think, be awake, and write.

6.  When, through an article by Steven Reiss, my WR 121 students start to let the idea that happiness might depend most fundamentally on knowing our own values and living in accordance with them, I can really see, through the looks on their faces, that this is an argument that helps them get Socratic inside:  they start to do some self-examination.

7.  We pushed through "Taming of the Shrew" from beginning to end.  In the past, I've found that when a cast and crew does this, it's the turning point.  It's rough, but we got to feel the whole play and we know now we can play the whole play.  It'll keep getting tighter, more fun.  Many parts of the play crackle right now.  My character sees the whole play and when that crackling happens, it's really fun.  Soon, the whole play will crackle.  I know it.

8.  I'm a year behind on my 2009 taxes for a variety of reasons, many I'm not proud of.  I think I have them done now.  That, my friends, is a beautiful thing!  I'll review them one more time, join with the Deke in signing them, write a check, and mail them off.  Sunday will be 2010 day.  No more of this year late stuff.  I gotta kick this late tax return habit -- I've had it for a long time!

9.  I've known Wucky for over fifty years.  We've both been following baseball all these years.  I can drop a Bert Campaneris allusion or he can drop a Cesar Tovar and I can joke about David Clyde or Atlee Hammaker and we each get the joke.  I can do the same with Rocket.  It's really fun.