Redheaded Ramblings: Sheila A-stray  

"This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am." -- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man



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IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY

In the middle of my busy day, I read a beautiful essay in the magazine American Scholar (a magazine, I might add, who is holding one of my essays hostage and has been doing so for months! Keeping fingers crossed...) But anyway, in the last issue, David Michaelis wrote an essay in their "Re-reading" section (a great section where writers write essays about rediscovering works which they had read long ago) about the lyrics to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He describes what it was like for him when he first heard it, in the summer of 1967, and then he goes back to look at the lyrics again. It is a great piece.

He writes (and this captures the sensation perfectly, not just with The Beatles, of course, but with any song that touches us, excites us):

The lyrics are in my memory anyway. I didn't need to see them in print because they alighted automatically, almost too quickly, on my inner ear. It was as if I had written them myself, and therefore could no longer lay claim to what happens only once during the initial excitement of creation: an awakening to life itself. Coming from within, predigested and reconstituted, instead of fresh and new from without, the words had calcified.

Also: and the following passage is the sort of writing that makes American Scholar so special:

After my father left my mother, she always awoke at five in the morning and lay in bed, thinking that he would come to his senses, walk out on the woman for whom he had walked out on her, and return home, to his side of the bed, where he belonged. So far as I know, my father had no intention of ditching my stepmother or her children, with whom he had formed a second family; and when it turned out that my mother wasn't going to choose a permanent replacement for Dad's side of the bed, I began to spend as much time as I could away from my own bed too. I used to daydream myself into other families, and some of them actually took me in and let me live, without pauses, in the kind of extended living and eating plan that the early 1970s seemed to specialize in.

If the melody of "She's Leaving Home" now sounds melodramatic almost to the point of parody, I can still read in the words the strangely disembodied feeling my 9 year old self tried on when I first encountered the song: Was this how it felt to have no home? To abandon and be abandoned? The story of my house and the household in the song did not match, but since my mother's days always began at five o'clock, the hour of the day's start in the song, and the hour before which I took some of my own exits from Eden, the lament of the refrained farewell -- bye bye -- still squeezes my heart.


  contact Sheila Link: 3/15/2003 01:59:00 PM


Saturday, March 15, 2003  

 
TODAY IN HISTORY

Of course:

44BC - The ancient Roman calendar called the 15th day of every month the Ide or Ides of the month. We only remember March as the month that has Ides because it was on that day Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated.

From Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:

Act II, scene i

Lucius: The taper burneth in your closet, sir.
Searching the window for a flint, I found
This paper, thus seal'd up,and I am sure
It did not lie there when I went to bed. Gives him the letter
Brutus: Get you to bed again, it is not day.
Is not tomorrow, boy, the ides of March?
Lucius: I know not, sir.
Brutus: Look in the calendar, and bring me word.
Lucius: I will, sir. Exit
Brutus: The exhalations whizzing in the air
Give so much light that I may read by them. Opens the letter and reads
"Brutus, thou sleep'st; awake, and see thyself!
Shall Rome, etc. Speak, strike, redress!"
"Brutus, thou sleep'st; awake!"
Such instigations have been often dropp'd
Where I have took them up.
"Shall Rome, etc." Thus must I piece it out:
Shall Rome stand under one man's awe? What,
Rome?
My ancestors did from the streets of Rome
The Tarquin drive when he was call'd a king.
"Speak, strike, redress!" Am I entreated
To speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise,
If the redress will follow, thou receivest
Thy full petition at the hand of Brutus!
Enter Lucius
Lucius: Sir, March is wasted fifteen days.
Knock within
Brutus: 'Tis good. Go to the gate, somebody knocks.
Exit Lucius
Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar,
I have not slept.
Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma or a hideous dream.
The Genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of a man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

-- Caesar, against the advice of all the people around him, heads to the Capitol on March 15. Rumors have been circulating that people are conspiring against him. That today will be the day. Caesar heads out anyway. He says:
"Caesar shall forth; the things that threaten'd me
Ne'er look'd but on my back; when they shall see
The face of Caesar, they are vanished."

He also says:
"What can be avoided
Whose end is purpos'd by the mighty gods?
Yet Caesar shall go forth …
Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."

Act III, scene i So Caesar goes forth to the Senate building. On the steps of the Capitol, he encounters a soothsayer. The act begins with this chilling exchange:

Caesar: The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar, but not gone.

AND ONWARDS, WITH TODAY IN HISTORY:

1697 - Indians captured Hannah Duston and her child, among others, in an attack on Haverhill Massachusetts; Duston escaped March 30 after killing 10 Indians with a tomahawk and was given to first-ever public award to a woman in America for her efforts.

Woah! Never heard that story before, somehow! Incredible! Here are the facts of the case.

1990 - Mikhail Gorbachev was elected the first executive president of the Soviet Union.

1951 - The Persian parliament voted unanimously to nationalize the oil industry.

And the response of the rest of the world was: "Oh, no you don't!" 2 years later, 1953, Persian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq (the guy who began the whole nationalist movement in Persia) was forced to resign. 1953 is a year which lives in infamy for the people of Iran ... A terrible blow. Mossadeq was on their side, was their champion, and he was chased out of office. Here's a short passage about what this very important incident (with global implications ... since it played a huge role in the Islamic Revolution over 20 years later). It is from Robin Wright's book The Last Great Revolution:

...The quest for empowerment in Iran did not simply explode unpredictably in 1979. The trend of the entire century ... centered on ending dynastic rule.

In 1953, the last Pahlavi shah, also weak and also heavily influenced by foreign powers, faced a ... challenge from the National Front. The front, led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, was a four-party coalition that advocated constitutional democoracy and limited powers for the monarchy. But the shah's attempt to have Mossadeq dismssed backfired, forcing the monarch to flee to Rome. The last dynasty looked as if it had fizzled -- until the CIA and British intelligence orchestrated riots that forced Mossadeq to resign and allowed the young king to return to the Peacock Throne for another quarter century.



  contact Sheila Link: 3/15/2003 07:55:00 AM



 
MARCH 20...

is opening night of my play. It appears to be coming together, but then again: I have absolutely no objectivity. We all are working our asses off. But ready or not: we will be opening on March 20!

Any downtime I have right now feels to me what heroin must feel like to a junkie. I revel in it, I sink into it, I EAT IT UP. I don't have rehearsal today untl 4 pm, which makes me want to cry with joy. A whole free day! Almost!

  contact Sheila Link: 3/15/2003 07:37:00 AM



 
WOAH

First Lott, now Moran.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/14/2003 04:56:00 PM


Friday, March 14, 2003  

 
JUST SOMETHING I NOTICED

I work for a website. We are busy now creating new message boards, and trying to pick out which ads will go on which boards.

An enormous discussion ensued about making sure that the ads were not placed anywhere where ANYBODY might be offended. Now listen, people, we are not talking about ads that say "Go, Saddam!" or "REPUBLICANS SUCK." We are talking about ads for Huggies. Okay? But anyway, we don't want the Huggies ads to show up on the "Miscarriage" boards or the "Infertility" boards. We don't want the "New diet plan" ads to show up on the "Hi, I'm a raging anorexic" message board. Common sense, right? Certain ads have slipped through in the past, and members wrote to us, blowing a gasket all over the place.

But this got me thinking.

First of all:

Well, there is no first of all. It is a good thing, generally, to make sure we don't put an ad for Pampers on the message board for "I just lost a baby". We give a crap about those people. That would be like pouring salt into somebody's wound.

But let me say this: Let me scream from the hilltop as a 35 year old single woman who has never been married (and who also is tough as nails, by the way, and who would never write to a website complaining about their damn ads): I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH AN ALMOST HYPNOTIC LEVEL OF ADVERTISEMENTS SHOWING COUPLES, LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE, PARENTING, KIDS, COUPLING UP, BUYING A HOUSE, BEING PREGNANT ... I mean, come ON. The list is endless. None of that stuff relates to my life, and it hasn't for a long time. If I'm tough enough to figure out that I shouldn't take ADVERTISEMENTS personally, that ADVERTISEMENTS are not designed to say, "Sheila: you do not measure up. Your life is weird" then why can't other people?

Every single day I am bombarded with images of happy couples. Married couples. Wedding ring commercials. Embracing couples. The ads to every magazine I subscribe to are filled with advertisements aimed towards people who either are married or who have a significant other. It is literally a relentless bombardment. RELENTLESS. I barely notice it anymore. There are moments when I take it personally. Like: Jesus CHRIST, I am a citizen of this damn country, too, even though I don't have any "children". (I have to put "children" in scare quotes, because every single politician and lobbyist talks about his concern for the "children", and it's all very vague and metaphorical ... and it's all about the "children", the "children", the "children". It pisses me off.) I do not have children. I do not vote because of my "children". I am an adult and I am part of this damn country, and I do not have kids, and my issues are just as important. I am not in a holding pattern, I am not waiting to get married, I am not in a state of arrested development. I am a grown woman and I am single.

It is difficult to describe how omnipresent the idea is that marriage is where we all are (or should be) headed. But trust me. It is.

But I wonder if there are editorial meetings, where MY delicate sensibilities are discussed. "Oh, you know what? We may not want to put up lovey-dovey ads on this page, because the single people out there might get offended or sensitive."

Let me just say: I am pretending to be more outraged than I am to make a point. I would never write to Vanity Fair and say, "Hey, please tone it down with all the ads featuring COUPLES. It breaks my heart. It is so insensitive." Never. I would never do that.

But part of it is because: us single people have to fend for ourselves. We are on the fringe. It is expected that we will grin and bear it. It is also expected that we all are looking forward to the day when we can join the universe shown in the advertisements.

Again: I'm not as bitter as this post sounds. I have nothing against married people and I actually would like to be married eventually. But until then: I am not going to sit around thinking that real life is happening over THERE, and that everything is about waiting until that glorious day.

This rant was sparked by a random editorial meeting we just had where I blurted out, "God, we are talking about this in so much depth but I myself am somehow able to see a commercial for an engagement diamond without having a complete nervous breakdown so what is the matter with everybody else?"

HUGE bursts of laughter. From married and single women alike.

Just something I noticed.



  contact Sheila Link: 3/14/2003 04:21:00 PM



 
MOTHERHOOD, JEAN KERR-STYLE

Jean Kerr, author of the classic Please Don't Eat the Daisies, (I loved that book when I was a teenager!!) died in January.

Here is a tribute to her. I didn't realize that I felt exactly the same way about Jean Kerr's work until I read this article! I haven't thought about Kerr's writing in years. God bless Jean Kerr, and all that she gave us, her contributions to the literature of motherhood. In particular, the literature of how to balance motherhood and work. And she was way ahead of her time, writing about these issues in the 50s. This article made me miss Jean Kerr's voice ... forgotten now in the "Oh my God, how am I going to balance it all and be the perfect everything?" tone which has hijacked the genre. Jean Kerr, an enormously successful playwright and essayist, who had 6 children, never believed she could do it all. And never ever thought that she was perfect. Which is why her books are so damn FUNNY.

I highly recommend Jean Kerr's work to all of the mothers that I know. Here is an example of her tone. This excerpt is taken from the book Please Don't Eat the Daisies, her memoir, written in the 1950s, about what it was like to be a writer (extremely successful, remember ... we are not talking about trying to get poems into teeny literary journals ... we are talking about the author of some of the biggest Broadway hits of the day) and the mother of 6 children. Please Don't Eat the Daisies was made into a cheese-ball Doris Day movie, which I saw, but if you've seen it, and thought it was a big load of CRAP, then just go out and read the book. Do yourself a favor. It will make you laugh.

The following quote is Kerr describing how the book got its name:

My real problem with children is that I haven't any imagination. I'm always warning them against the common-place defections while they are planning the bizarre and unusual. Christopher gets up ahead of the rest of us on Sunday mornings and he has long since been given a list of clear directives: 'Don't wake the baby,' 'Don't go outside in your pajamas,' 'Don't eat cookies before breakfast.' But I never told him, 'Don't make flour paste and glue together all the pages of the magazine section of the Sunday Times.' Now I tell him, of course.

And then last week I had a dinner party and told the twins and Christopher not to go in the living room, not to use the guest towels in the bathroom, and not to leave the bicycles on the front step. However, I neglected to tell them not to eat the daisies on the dining-room table. This was a serious omission, as I discovered when I came upon my centerpiece--a charming three-point arrangement of green stems.


A couple of years ago, I found a beat-up old copy of Please Don't Eat the Daisies at the Strand and pounced on it like a starving woman. Kerr is a bit of a treasure. She really is.

Elizabeth Austin, author of this tribute, articulates exactly her appeal. Which, perhaps, is a bit sugar-coated. Or not even sugar-coated ... just not the whole truth. As in: Jean Kerr left out the more unpleasant and worrisome aspects of being a mother and a working woman. But Austin says:

Once I'd gobbled my way through Kerr's slim oeuvre, I went looking eagerly for another writer just as good. Decades later, I'm still looking. No one since has managed to write about the domestic scene with Mrs. Kerr's pitch-perfect balance of wit, warmth, and intelligence. Instead, the mother/writers of the half-century have focused on the anxieties and stresses of parenting. Personally, I don't need anybody to tell me how hard it is to bring up a child; trust me, I already know.

Austin compares Jean Kerr, a writer from the 1950s, with Erma Bombeck, a writer who tackles the same issues, only in the 1970s. Erma Bombeck is, of course, hysterical ... but it's a question of attitude, the attitude one takes towards the chaos of family life. And about yourself, trying to juggle all of these different roles.

Read:

Although Erma Bombeck was just five years younger than Kerr, her career peaked in the '70s with such dismally titled bestsellers as The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank; If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?; I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression. Her wisecracking, oy-vey approach to life guaranteed her a huge audience, although it didn't do much for the psyche of the American mother. It's downright dispiriting to read much Bombeck. Her world is one of unappreciated, unfulfilled wives and mothers drudging away year after year, hoping to receive that one glimmer of recognition that will make it all worthwhile ...

Kerr never lets us that far inside. She writes mirthfully about raising a bumper crop of children spaced erratically over a couple of decades; there's never the tiniest hint that a 40-ish woman who has spent half a lifetime in the maternal trenches might entertain some mixed feelings about starting over with an infant. When she writes about her lastborn baby daughter, all we hear is bemused delight: "She smiled the kind of smile that would give you hope in February. Then she held up her arms and said, very distinctly, 'Hi, little fella.'" We'll never know whether Kerr was guilty of a little retrospective sugar-coating. But I do know which book I'd recommend to an overwhelmed friend facing an unexpected pregnancy post-40.


I loved the following section of the tribute to Kerr: Austin takes on Salon's series of essays called "Mothers who Think" (a title which always bothered me for some reason ... and now I know why.) Here is what she says:

I sometime wonder what Kerr would have made of Salon's long-running feature, "Mothers Who Think." Did that title refer only to the authors? Or was it a device allowing homebound, cranky readers to feel intellectually superior to those morons on the kindergarten fun fair committee? Sure, MWT offered a good number of interesting and well-written pieces. But the title--like many of the essays in the series--had a chip on its shoulder, as illustrated by the flap copy of the collected MWT essays, which calls them a "testament to the notion that motherhood gives women more to think about, not less." Of course it does; you just have less time to write it all down.

Jean Kerr completely lacks the sense of self-important grievance which so dominates the dialogue about balancing motherhood and work these days. She acknowledges the problems, yes. But she treats the entire topic with humor. And WIT. A fresh breeze of wit. Jesus, I don't have kids yet, but all of the books out there seem designed to scare me, warn me off, tell me how BAD it is, how HARD it is, how IMPOSSIBLE it is to have it all. But Kerr does not go that route. She takes a bemused attitude to the entire thing. It is not the end of the world that your children ate the daisies, it doesn't mean you have failed as a mother and a homemaker, it doesn't mean you are not living up to all of the expectations you heaped on your head ... It means that now you have to remind yourself to say to your kids, "Please don't eat the daisies."

Perhaps it is an over-simplification of all the stresses women face. I am sure it is. But I believe we can make things worse by over-thinking things, over-worrying things, and completely taking on the idea that society expects you to be perfect. If somebody expects you to be perfect, then that is THEIR problem, not yours. This is an idea I have struggled with my entire life. There have been years in my life when my struggle to be perfect, to live up to the imagined expectations of others, has completely RUN my entire existence. It is a terrible thing. I still do not have a handle on it. I am still a Nervous Nellie. If I "fail", I still am apt to take it on in some sort of global way. ie: I burnt the toast = I am a terrible person, and barely a woman at all. I am not fit for relationships and no man will ever love me. I will not be able to raise children effectively, I will ruin their lives.

STUPID, but very human. Everybody has this to some degree.

Jean Kerr, as well. But she laughs it off.

Here's what Austin has to say about that:

The thing I most love about Kerr, and the generation of women who were her most loyal readers, is that they seemed to be taking motherhood on a pass-fail basis. They weren't competing desperately for straight A's on the homefront--nor were they "surrendered" wives and mothers, submerging their identities into the giant gaping maw of family life. They were active and energetic but never "busier-than-thou," and they seemed to be having more fun than any grown-up woman I see around me today--myself included.

It reminds me of some of my earliest memories of childhood.

Early memories come through the senses. We add meaning to them later.

So for me: here is what comes up from those long-ago days:

Bright sunshine. Hot flagstones. Fisher Price people all set up. Hilarious fun being had with siblings and cousins. (This is a memory from our summers at Lake Sunapee.) Sun on the birch trees. Blue lake through the trees. Cap'n Crunch cereal. The world of childhood. Fun, fun, fun.

But on the outskirts of all of this, were my aunts and uncles (many of them younger than I am now), and my parents. This is the early 70s. So I remember my mom's fabulous white pants ... her Dr. Scholls shoes (we called them "clackers") ... the sound of adult voices and laughter on the edge of our childhood world. We were separate. Adults over there, children over here. We did not need to be occupied, or have activities planned for us. The grownups did not bend over backwards to entertain us, to keep us happy.

They stood over on the side, smoking cigarettes, wearing bikinis, drinking gin and tonics, talking, laughing, and, I am sure, having a blast on an adult level.

Then something would happen in the child-world which would demand notice from the adults. A fight breaking out. A child skinning his knee. Tears of pain. And the mothers, gin and tonics in hand, would click-clack over to us, and soothe the wounds, kiss it better, make us make up, etc.

I remember one moment vividly from these Sunapee summers, I must have been ... 4? I was in the water, beside the dock, flopping around on a piece of styrofoam. I had no life-preserver on. I don't think I could swim. But all the adults were right there, up on the dock, sitting in deck chairs ... again, with little cups in hand, the clinking of ice. Summer vacation. And I fell off the piece of styrofoam and began to sink. I remember all of the bubbles. The light coming through the bubbles. Sinking down. (Remember, the water was only 3 feet deep or something like that.) And suddenly, there was a crash from above ... a mighty roar of blinding white ... a tsunami of water, and within a moment, I was up on the dock, heaving for breath. Heart pounding. My mother, dressed in the white bell bottom-y pants (which she probably made), and her clackers, turned, saw me sinking, and leapt into the lake, fully clothed, to save me.

I have tears in my eyes. Mothers!! This all came about through a teary-eyed email exchange I had with my friend Jayne this morning, about the fierceness of mothers.

What does all this have to do with Please Don't Eat the Daisies? I'm not sure.

But I do know I grew up with a mother who had that Jean Kerr thing going on. It was not easy for her, I am sure. There were four of us. My mother is an incredible woman, with a lot of gifts, a lot to contribute to the world. Her only accomplishment is not her children. She has a lot going on. But she never seemed to get caught up in the stressed-out perfectionist brand of mothering. She was much more matter-of-fact. At least in my memory. She cared about the RIGHT things, and let all the other stuff go. She, to quote somebody else, did not "sweat the small stuff". I also got the sense that my parents were friends ... their only bond was not US. They talked to each other about grown-up stuff, and we had to fend for ourselves. WHICH IS NOT A BAD THING. I loved knowing my parents had a relationship ... where they talked to each other. I didn't know it was rare and weird until I encountered other families. My mom did not sigh like a martyr, or huff and puff, fuming in silence about things. I don't think my mother has an "Oh, poor me" bone in her body. She may have had her darker moments, when she was by herself, but I did not pick up on that sort of anxiety and anger from her as a child, and for that I am very grateful.

My memory of my mother from those early early years is of a benevolent freckled watching woman on the sidelines, talking with her friends, or her sisters, wearing clackers, looking fabulous, enjoying her life for the most part. And also completely ready to throw herself into the lake at a moment's notice to save my drowning ass!

Beautiful, huh??

  contact Sheila Link: 3/14/2003 12:54:00 PM



 
1939-1940

Rachel Lucas, in her inimitable way, lists the day-to-day events from 1939 to 1940. None of this information is news to any of us, but to see it listed out in index-style is extremely effective. Terrifying.



  contact Sheila Link: 3/14/2003 11:12:00 AM



 
IS THIS FOR REAL

I HOPE he did not do this. If he did: a pox on him. A pox on both his houses.

A flight attendant has been charged with spiking an infant's juice with Xanax, to shut her up, because she was fussing during a flight.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/14/2003 10:23:00 AM



 
ANGER, FEAR, HUMOR

Last night, someone said to me something about Bill O'Reilly, in a tone of confusion: "He seems so angry." My reply was, (in a baffled tone I might add...confused why she was confused at Bill O'Reilly's anger): "Well, there's a lot to be angry about right now!" No matter what the hell side you are on! Noam Chomsky is angry, Bill O'Reilly s angry. People passionately believe in the righteousness of their opinions, and the stakes are very very high. Bill O'Reilly doesn't corner the market in anger. The world is shrieking out of control right now, and if you are not angry or frightened, then - I am confused. I am confused by you.

There's a lot to be frightened of as well.

There's a new movie coming out called "The Core", and it seems like ... a project which is completely out of touch with the mood of the time. (However, I live in New York City, where the attacks occurred ... and we are all a bit more jumpy here ... we take it all seriously). Anyway: "The Core", starring Allan Eckhart and Hillary Swank, seems to have something to do with the core of the earth slowing down ... and we need to jumpstart the core of the earth or the end of humanity is imminent .... In the meantime, the core's slowdown has caused a ton of problems, one of which is massive earthquakes which start to wipe out entire sections of the globe. On the preview, I got to see the lovely lovely sight of San Francisco, all of San Francisco, sinking catastrophically out of sight. I also got to see the Coliseum shiver a moment, with the tremor, and then shatter into a million pieces, as freaked-out crowds ran away as fast as they could.

Lovely. Thanks so much for those images. Thanks so much.

ARE YOU PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR MINDS????

The cultural disconnect between Hollywood and New York City continues to widen. It began for me on September 12, when Warner Brothers, despite the fact that lower Manhattan was still in flames, with people covered in ashes wandering the streets, and all of downtown below 14th street unable to get back to their apartments, and empty triage centers lining the West Side Highway ... and the HORROR of that day, the horror that we LIVED ... Warner Brothers decided to release the Michael Douglas film "Don't Say a Word" on September 12, anyway. Of course I didn't see it at the time. IT WAS SEPTEMBER 12, 2001. Didn't those IDIOTS have any idea of what was going on, what this REALLY meant???

I have since seen it on cable, and my shock grows. It is a movie filled with jumps, false scares, buildings blowing up, car bombs, trauma, man's inhumanity to man ... it also takes place in New York City with a couple of long loving shots of the World Trade Center.

These people who let this movie be released have to be complete lunatics. Arnold Schwarzenagger pulled the plug on "Collateral Damage", set to be released soon after September 11 ... and of course eventually it did make it to the theatres, but ... he was prepared to let it never be released. He probably had some disappointment ... there is so much hard work that goes into films ... but pulling the plug on it was the right thing to do. A classy thing to do.

I saw a "hip" "cool" V-J on VH1 or whatever, talking about "The Core" last night ... (she probably has 10 words in her whole vocabulary). She weighed a whopping 12 pounds, she had on a hip little outfit, long dark hair ... and not one damn brain cell worth counting. She said, "Oooh, can't wait to see this movie! I love those end-of-the-world type movies."

I admit that I screamed at the television. "WELL, GET READY, BITCH! YOU READY TO SEE IT HAPPEN FOR REAL???" (I'm Archie Bunker. Not all the time. But in that moment, I was.)

I am a misanthrope. With a deep deep deep streak of love for humanity.

I just cannot abide stupid shallow people. And ... I don't know ... am I paranoid? Am I the one who is out of it? Or too sensitive? Or too obsessive about September 11? Why did the shots of the end of the world, and entire chunks of America falling into the sea, send cold waves of horror over me? Am I alone in this? Am I the one who needs to chill out?

I am sorry, but I don't think so.

But ... it drove home to me the fact that people do not literally take the threat of weapons of mass destruction seroiusly.

This goes back to the Lee Harris piece I linked to a couple of days ago. The place we are in right now is entirely without precedent but people keep waiting for things to go back to normal. They will not. THIS is what is normal now. We are in a new world now. Pandora is out of the box. We really must begin to adjust to this new playing field because, as of now, we are not picking up on the clues, the messages -- the reality of the situation. We are behaving as though the rules of engagement are the same as on September 10, 2001. We keep expecting that our enemy will behave like a rational enemy, someone we can recognize. He will not. Let's start being more flexible, more imaginative. We now MUST be able to imagine worst-case scenarios, because then we will be able to prepare for the worst. I don't see this as paranoid, I see this as realistic.

The rule of "survival of the fittest" has to do, primarily, with adaptability. Those species who can adapt to altered circumstances will survive.

Michael, a friend of mine, here in town from LA, was completely struck by how different everything feels here. He arrived during the "orange terror alert" week, with everybody rushing out to buy duct tape, and creating escape plans out of the city. His one comment said it all: "Everybody else in the country kind of laughs at Bush and the stupid color-coded terror alerts ... but here: everybody takes it seriously! I felt it the second I got off the plane at Laguardia and saw troops of National Guardsmen. I was like: Holy sh**!" I snapped at him: "You can understand, can't you, why we take it seriously?" He said, "Of course! Of course! But in LA, the whole thing is seen as kind of a joke."

I hate Los Angeles.

I completely live with the fear that some Muslim wacko could walk into the middle of Times Square (a block away from where I work), and set off a dirty bomb, a weapon of mass destruction. I would be obliterated in a second's time -- no time to do anything, go anywhere, make any calls. This is a very real fear. I do not think I am making this fear up, or pumping it up, or becoming too paranoid. I took the frigging lessons of September 11 and this is the conclusion I came to.

The people who hate us are insane, crazy, fanatical, they have nothing to lose, they will do anything to hurt us, they will die, life matters nothing at all to them, they have nothing to live for, they do not care about the safety of the planet, they would be "happy" if the West was wiped off the map. They are brainwashed maniacs who will stop at nothing.

If that is not the lesson I was supposed to learn from September 11, then what exactly IS the lesson? That Islam is a religion of peace? Gimme a friggin' break.

Okay, so I have covered two of the emotions in my post-title: Anger and Fear.

Now for the humor. Thank God for humor.

Came across this on Andrew Sullivan's site, and it made me LAUGH. What to do in an emergency.


  contact Sheila Link: 3/14/2003 08:11:00 AM



 
TODAY IN HISTORY

1991 - The "Birmingham Six," six Irishmen wrongly accused of the 1974 bombing of pubs in Birmingham, England, were freed after 16 years in jail.

1743 - The City of Boston held the first town meeting in Faneuil Hall, a custom that quickly caught on throughout New England.

1938 - Nikolai Bukharin, a leading Bolshevik, was executed after being found guilty of counter-revolutionary activities of espionage in one of the most famous show trials of the 1930s.

Sheila's note: The words "show trial" send a shiver up my spine. Bukharin was a big-wig Bolshevik. The Russian revolution ate their young.



  contact Sheila Link: 3/14/2003 07:43:00 AM



 
TEARS OF JOY

"A lesson in never, ever giving up."

  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 05:36:00 PM


Thursday, March 13, 2003  

 

WHAT'S THE DIF?



Isn't a Pundit is working on an essay at the moment, not yet launched, which I am looking forward to. In the meantime, while he works on it, he has a question: What is the exact difference between communism and fascism?

He says:

Now here's my difficulty: everything I've said about fascism so far applies equally to communism. In communism you see the exact same bundling of everything into the dominion of the state, the same agressive tendencies, the same brutal repression and dictatorial control. It's not enough to say that fascists prefer red-and-black or earth tones whereas communists tend to dress in grey or olive drab. What's the difference in principle?

The only difference I can think of is the stated goal. The fascist marches for the greater glory and power of the leader, or the nation; his goal is material and clearly stated. The communist cares nothing for nations; he marches on behalf of some lofty ideal, to spread the revolution. That's a slim difference indeed, especially when you consider that the communist leader may be a cynic who doesn't even subscribe to the lofty ideal, but only uses it as a smokescreen for his own will to power. Communism may be nothing but fascism in a cheap mask.


Anyone have anything to contribute?

According to Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: com·mu·nism
Function: noun
Etymology: French communisme, from commun common
Date: 1840
1
a : a theory advocating elimination of private property
b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
2 capitalized
a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the U.S.S.R.
b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production
c : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably
d : communist systems collectively

Main Entry: fas·cism
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian fascismo, from fascio bundle, fasces, group, from Latin fascis bundle & fasces fasces
Date: 1921
1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

Hmmm. The definition for "fascism" throws in the "exalts nation and race", which doesn't seem to be part of the Communist ideology. Although ... in Communism's final form, it kind of does, actually.

An interesting discussion should ensue. Anyone having anything to add, please let me know. I'd like to hear it.


  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 05:05:00 PM



 
I AM A DEMOCRAT

At least according to this quiz: What political stereotype are you? Here's what popped out for me after I took the quiz:

Democrat - You believe that there should be a free market which is reigned in by a modest state beaurocracy. You think that capitalism has some good things, but that those it helps should be obliged to help out their fellow man a little. Your historical role model is Franklin Delano Rosevelt.


Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 04:51:00 PM



 
BASKING IN THE GLOW

Michael Gilio, one of the ex-flames I keep referring to in this blog (sorry, guys! Don't mean to kiss and tell), wrote and directed a film last year, which has launched his career in a rather big way. Roger Ebert chose it for his very prestigious "overlooked film festival", and from there on out, Gilio has been traveling all over the country (and also to Buenos Aires) with his movie. The Czech Republic (randomly) wants to distribute his movie as well, so Gilio may be heading to Prague. Michael was a 20 year old boy when I dated him, but he was ambitious and smart, knew exactly what he wanted to do, and so far ... he has done it. It's very exciting. So proud of him!!

We had coffee the other day ... it was our first time seeing each other in years. He is here in Manhattan, working on a film as a writer.

Gilio is still trying to get distribution for his own film (amazing: that even an endorsement from Roger Ebert will not do the trick), but if and when he does, keep your eye open for Kwik Stop.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 04:20:00 PM



 
UNBELIEVABLE

It is just unbelievable. No words to describe it.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 03:51:00 PM



 
UHM ...

Ouch.

And ... I got a problem with the kid cutting himself with a sword as his mom smiles proudly upon him. I really do. Call me judgmental, insensitive, whatever. Call me nuts but I just don't like to see little kids with blood running down their faces. Under the beaming grin of Mom.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 03:23:00 PM



 
THANKS, DR. FRANK!

People have linked to me before, but this is the first time I have actually been excerpted. It is a great honor ... especially because it is Dr. Frank doing the excerpting! I read "Blogs of War" every day.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 02:53:00 PM



 
LILEKS

Lileks is tired of Bush's "dance marathon" with the UN Security Council and so am I. I do derive a grim pleasure, however, from the fact that the longer Bush dithers around, kow-towing to the UN, the more the protesters shrieks of "rush to war" are completely irrelevant.

Here's a brilliant paragraph:

In fact I can pinpoint the exact moment when I realized I no longer cared: the Syrian ambassador was introduced, and the Security Council chairman made the obligatory introductions. Kind, measured, collegial. Diplomatic, you might say. It was like listening to the gallery give a golf-clap for Hermann Goering, teeing off on Hole 13. The Syrian mouthpiece returned the favor by complimenting the SC chairman for some useless appointment - Interim Crozier of the Plenipotentiary Committee for Soy, maybe. Everyone having been sufficiently fellated, he got down to the business of blocking another resolution - drowning the baby in the ba'ath water, if you will.


  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 12:16:00 PM



 

TODAY IN HISTORY



1930 - The discovery of the planet Pluto was announced. The planet Pluto takes 248 years to orbit the sun.

1990 - The Soviet parliament voted to end the political monopoly of the Communist Party after 72 years.

1791 - Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man was published in London.

2 facts on Thomas Paine:
#1: John Adams said that Thomas Paine "has a better hand at pulling down than building."
#2: The Rights of Man: A pamphlet written in response to Edmund Burke's book Reflections on the Revolution in France. Paine attacked Burke's view of the French Revolution, and wrote a passionate defense of human rights and liberty. Thomas Jefferson loved Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine quotes:

"Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

"These are the times that try men's souls."

"That government is best which governs least."

"Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property... Horrid mischief would ensue were [the law-abiding] deprived of the use of them."

"But such is the irresistable nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing."

"A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice." (quote from The Rights of Man)

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself." (I love that one.)

"If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately."

"The Vatican is a dagger in the heart of Italy."

"To say that any people are not fit for freedom, is to make poverty their choice, and to say they had rather be loaded with taxes than not."

"It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe."

"It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same."

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value."

"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."

  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 10:34:00 AM



 
CLINTON VS. BUSH

Andrew Sullivan has a good piece in last Sunday's Times, talking about the differences between Bush's and Clinton's policies towards Iraq. (They are not so different as you would think.) Sullivan makes some very interesting points:

-- The political amnesia of so many in Europe with regard to the Iraq crisis is one of the most striking aspects of the whole current trans-Atlantic divide. To read the papers, to watch the "anti-war" protestors, to listen to the BBC, you'd easily imagine that out of the blue a belligerent and brand new American administration had just torn up the old rule book and started a new foreign policy utterly unconnected to the old one.

The truth, however, is that the current Bush policy toward Iraq is indistinguishable from Bill Clinton's. After the U.N. inspectors found that they could no longer do their job effectively in 1998, the U.S. shifted its policy in Iraq toward regime change in Baghdad - exactly the policy now being pursued. The difference between Bush and Clinton, of course, lies in the sense of urgency and importance applied to the same policy.


But here is the crux of the matter:

-- Clinton was a master of the European dialogue. He meant very few things he said but he said them very well. He was a great schmoozer. When he compared the Serbian genocide to the Jewish Holocaust, it sounded earnest but no-one, least of all the massacred Bosnians, actually believed he meant it. And he didn't. If he had meant it, he wouldn't have allowed a quarter of a million to be murdered in Europe, while he delegated American foreign policy to the morally feckless and militarily useless European Union. Ditto with Iraq and al Qaeda. A few missiles here and there; some sanctions that starved millions of Iraqis but kept Saddam in power; and a big rhetorical game kept the pretense of seriousness up. But there was no actual attempt to match words with actions. In this, the French were completely - preternaturally - comfortable. No wonder Clinton was popular.

Bush's style couldn't be more different. He's blunt, straightforward, folksy, direct. Although his formal speeches have been as eloquent as any president's in modern times, his informal discourse is of the kind to make a European wince. And his early distancing from many of Clinton's policies, his assertion of American sovereignty in critical matters, undoubtedly ruffled some Euro-lapels. In retrospect, he could have been more politic.


The obsession with getting UN support (and the criticism of Bush's "rush to war") conveniently forgets/blocks out/refuses to acknowledge the following facts:

-- Did Clinton go through the United Nations to justify his eventual NATO bombardment of Serbia? No he didn't. He didn't go through the U.N. because the Russians pledged to veto such a military engagement. So where were the peace protestors back then? In terms of international law, those American bombs in Belgrade - even hitting the Chinese embassy - were far less defensible than any that will rain down on Baghdad. Serbia had never attacked the U.S. No U.N. mandate provided cover. But Clinton ordered bombing anyway. And the same people who now viciously attack Bush as the president of a rogue state - Susan Sontag anyone? - actually cheered Clinton on.


  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 10:28:00 AM



 
WELCOME HOME, ELIZABETH

I can hardly believe the good news. Good news?? UnbeLIEVable news! That Elizabeth Smart is alive?? The female security guard where I work said to me, with this look on her face which brought tears to my eyes, "Oh, thank you, LORD. I have been praying for that little girl all this time!" It reminds me of the story of the 9 saved miners: how life-affirming and BEAUTIFUL it is to occasionally have good news ... to watch the news, and cry tears of joy. How often does THAT happen?

  contact Sheila Link: 3/13/2003 10:16:00 AM



 
RAGE

This photo, taken by Mona Reeder of the Dallas Morning News, won second place in the POYi (Pictures of the Year International). There is something just frigging awful about it. I think, for me, the worst part, is the smirking man over to the right looking on. It's a photo of an Afghan woman, in a burqa, being beaten on the street with a riding crop.

Feminists around the world had been screaming about the plight of the Afghan women under the Taliban for years. I had been one of those people. And now that the Afghan women are liberated, and the Taliban gone ... where are the feminists? They're taking their clothes off and spelling out "No to War", or holding up signs saying "Masturbate for Peace" at anti-war rallies. How do these women sleep at night, how do they reconcile this? Can they not at least acknowledge the success? Would they be jumping up and down with joy if a Democratic President had been in charge of making the Taliban disappear? If that is true, then again I ask: how do they sleep at night?

Just look at the SMIRK on that guy's face. Smiling at the woman getting beaten. It makes me want to wring his neck. Wipe that smile off his face for good.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/12/2003 03:46:00 PM


Wednesday, March 12, 2003  

 
I will put my hair up in a "freedom" twist...I will eat Freedom toast for breakfast...I will Freedom-kiss my boyfriends

Lame. This is so lame. That's all I have to say.

Stupid. Embarrassing. Childish.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/12/2003 03:26:00 PM



 
MCCAIN SPEAKS

I'm sure you've all read this, but just in case: read John McCain's op-ed today in the New York Times.

Thanks, David, for the heads up... It definitely is an exciting, empowering, and somber piece.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/12/2003 03:16:00 PM



 
FROZEN GREAT LAKES

A breathtaking satellite photo of the frozen-over Great Lakes.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/12/2003 03:00:00 PM



 
FICTION

I love this piece, about great fiction. Sarah Waters focuses on Great Expectations. What a BOOK!

Waters says:

But it's one of the defining qualities of great fiction, I think, that its motifs become part of the fabric of one's imaginative life in this way; and it's a feature of the charged experience of reading that those motifs can change their resonance and meaning for us over time.

Waters is right on... I love this passage:

Only the novels of Dickens, perhaps, continue to overawe me with their originality and linguistic verve just as they did 20 years ago: Great Expectations , in particular, impresses me more deeply with every read, and there are moments in it of which I never grow tired ...

A ... short, passage I have read so often, I now know it by heart. It comes at the end of Pip's description of his first visit to Satis House: the start of what will prove to be his long and tortured relationship with Miss Havisham and Estella. "That was a memorable day to me," he tells us, "for it made great changes in me." He goes on:

"But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day."

I like this passage for many reasons. It is, for one thing, a thoroughly Victorian moment - for a considerable driving force behind much Victorian fiction was the attempt to make sense of modern life precisely by tracing through it chains of causality and connection; and Dickens in particular was supremely good at excavating the submerged and sometimes fatal intimacies between people of different classes and clans. But there is also something here, I think, about the nature of fiction - for what is fiction but the following of imaginary lives along lines of possibility and hazard? - and, more importantly, a sort of enactment of the romance of storytelling itself.

With his direct appeal to the reader, Dickens bursts through the textual membrane of his novel and, paradoxically, draws us closer to the heart of Pip's imaginary emotional life. One hundred and forty years after it was first written, the passage is startling, and fantastically persuasive: I can never read it without doing just as Dickens instructs - nor can I help thinking of the many, many readers who, in the past century and a half, must have lifted their heads from the page before them to brood for a moment, as I do, on the chance encounters, the lost opportunities, the wise or unwise decisions, that have shaped and coloured their lives.


I am very moved by that. Yes. Yes. I know just what she means.



  contact Sheila Link: 3/12/2003 01:05:00 PM



 
TODAY IN HISTORY

1930 - In India, Mahatma Gandhi began a 300-mile protest journey to defy a British law establishing a monopoly in producing salt.

1933 - Eight days after he was inaugurated, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his first presidential address to the nation for the first of one of his famous "Fireside Chats". The name was coined by newsman, Robert Trout, who thought the President sounded as if he was sitting in living rooms all over the nation, next to a roaring fire.

1966 - The Indonesian Congress stripped Dr. Sukarno of all powers including the title of president. Gen. Suharto became acting president until general elections in 1968.

1979 - In Grenada, Prime Minister Sir Erik Gairy and his government were overthrown and replaced by Maurice Bishop of the New Jewel Movement.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/12/2003 12:09:00 PM



 
Archive trouble again. Dammit.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 05:18:00 PM


Tuesday, March 11, 2003  

 
TERRIFYING SCENARIO

What happens if we leave Saddam in power ...

A possible nightmare. Don't read it if you want to get any sleep tonight.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 05:12:00 PM



 
MORAN IS A MORON

Trent Lott is ridden out of town on a rail for his racist comments and ignorance ... so what's going to happen to Rep. James P. Moran, who just said:

"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should."

Jewish groups are up in arms ... of course. I find Moran's comment disgusting and anti-Semitic. Reminiscent of Charles Lindbergh's speeches prior to our involvement in WWII, blaming the Jews for their own misfortunes in Germany, and blaming the Jews for the war-fever taking over the United States.

Where's the outrage?

Once again, the Jews are on their own. I find the whole thing disgusting and enraging.

So much for my media-blackout.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 05:05:00 PM



 
LEE HARRIS STRIKES AGAIN

I first became aware of Lee Harris, like most everybody else, with his piece "Fantasy Ideology". Every person on the blogosphere read it ... It has become a piece I go to time and time again, trying to make sense of the madness we are all facing. His vision of things is ... so singular. He sees things that others do not. "Fantasy Ideology" is rather long, but believe me: you will not be sorry you read it. I don't even want to excerpt from it. Just read it.

Anyway, he has a new piece out: Our World-Historical Gamble . I find him so refreshing.

TOM DUNPHY: since my email to you does not work, then I highly recommend you read this....I would send it to you, if my email worked!! It is right up your alley.

This man "gets" it. He gets things on a level which I had never perceived before ... until I read his stuff.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 04:53:00 PM



 
DAUGHTER OF THE DESERT

Last night was the reading of "The Gertrude Bell Project", at GAle GAtes et al: an INCREDIBLE performance space in Dumbo. I am green with envy. Michael Counts is the founder of GAle GAtes. If you click on this link, you will see a moving image, entitled "The World", with little objects surrounding the letters. That is the name of the performance series my piece was a part of. Michael Counts is the maestro of the piece, the overseer. He has invited 8 playwrights and a bunch of composers, and dance groups, etc., to create works inspired by these teeny models he made, models which sit, bathed in perfect little James-Cagney pools of light in the massive echoey "lobby" at GAle GAtes. The "models" are ... dreamscapes ... grass, stretches of sand, little itsy-bitsy animals flocking together ... soldiers in uniform marching (almost microscopically small) ... on a high grassy precipice sits a pristine teeny white church, bathed in light ... on a long stretch of green grass, 5 miniscule giraffes are grazing ... ladies in hoop skirts, smaller than my knuckle, stroll about ... The models are very bizarre.

"The World" is a long series of evenings (last night was the 4th night in the series) where playwrights, actors, dance groups, composers, present their "interpretations" of these models. It's kind of fascinating, and kind of pretentious. Very post-modern. We're talking about archetypes here, symbolism, abstractions. Last night were 4 readings ... each about 40 minutes long ... done in GAle GAtes' massive abandoned warehouse studio ... with rows of battered red velvet chairs, and enormous rooms filled with random piled-up dusty props: gold-painted chairs with red cushions, a massive red apple larger than my desk, shrieking gargoyles all lying in a pile, and then ... taking up an entire corner, was an enormous object, which I thought was a cannon. A long metal tube, massive, wide, lying on its side, rising up into the air on a diagonal. I asked what it was and was told that it is the center of a carousel. So it's THAT kind of space.

Also, if you click on "Current", you will see that last week they had an evening of Persian poetry and song, performed by Iraj Anvar, who is the actor playing King Faisal in the Gertrude Bell piece. He is so powerful onstage, and so wonderful, that in my scenes with him, I don't have to do anything but listen. If I just listen, I find that he has done all my work for me.

Mana Mirjany, the other actress in the piece, also performed on the night of Persian poetry. She is also a belly dancer and getting her PhD in neuroscience.

I am in love with all of these people.

GAle GAtes:
The space is in Dumbo, Brooklyn ... an industrial area right down on the East River, filled with massive warehouses and cobblestone streets. It is "between the bridges": between the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridges form massive almost prehistoric-looking structures, soaring above Dumbo ... stunning. It takes my breath away. Big big grey stone walls hold up the bridges, massive stone-faces ... like a castle in Macbeth. I stroll through the urbanscape to get to rehearsal, or the performance last night, and feel like I am finally living my dream of New York. Everyone has a dream of New York. A sweet dream. But the reality of New York is so harsh, so unlike the dream, that it is hard to believe that the dream ever existed. Dumbo is like that dream. My heels clip-clopping on the cobblestones, puddles reflecting the sunset in between the cobblestones, the sky getting darker but the East River ... a block away, gleams silver ... still picking up the light ... industrial warehouses all around, parking lots surrounded by barbed wire, random people jogging. Cozy neighborhood bars, tucked in between these massive empty buildings.

It is a neighborhood that reminds me that I am an artist, that reminds me why I am in New York ... and it is also a neighborhood that makes me feel creative.

Perhaps I should move to Dumbo. It had a tremendously cool vibe.

And Manhattan looks so close from down there ... the East River looks like just a strip of water, narrow enough to step over ... one small leap, and you would be strolling about in the Financial District right across the way in no time.

The surroundings are bleak, industrial, and urban. Edward Hopper. Poetic. You feel that anything is possible ... it is not gentrified yet ... it is not quite civilized yet. Massive big brick buildings, covered in grafitti, empty ... lining the blocks. It's very quiet.

But Dumbo is rising. In 5 years, the first Starbucks will open up in Dumbo, and it'll all be downhill from there.

Right now, though, it has become one of my new favorite places in the boroughs. I mean, if you're gonna go urban, you might as well go all the way! Give up on grass altogether!!

The "Daughter of the Desert" project has only been going on for a couple of weeks, which I find hard to believe. I have already downloaded a ton of information into my brain about Ms. Bell ... I have worked very hard to make it all real for myself ... I care very much about what I am doing. The special-ness of the project was apparent to me immediately. Everyone was passionate, serious about what they were doing, and a lot of fun. I feel so grateful to have been a part of it.

The reading went well last night. It was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING. My walk from the subway to the space was a shivering nightmare. I felt completely safe, yet Dumbo, at times, looks like bombed-out Beirut. Strange.

People were gathering, an audience, other participants ... milling about in the gallery of the studio, drinking wine. I met a couple of people I already knew ... playwrights and actresses from other parts of my life ...Mana and I were glued to the hip. It was fun. We were giddy, and nervous, and kept each other company. Iraj arrived 5 minutes before the performance. Cool as a cuke, in his grey suit.

Mana's friend murmured to us, "The King always arrives last."

Some of the pieces presented were better than others ... of course ... Ours was the only one which took a wide-lens look at the models. The other playwrights went for much more realistic kitchen-sink stuff. But Michael Counts is looking to create an epic ... and ours was definitely epic. Camels galloping across the Arabian desert, for God's sake! Nobody knows who Gertrude Bell is, of course ... but the first moment when Iraj said the word "Iraq", I could literally FEEL the audience, collectively, lean in. The piece got important. I sensed the antennae all turning in, honing in, listening very closely. Interesting.

I wish I could have SEEN it. Because we had these phenomenal projections on the screen up above our head ... hard to describe, but ... powerful. Abstract images ... chosen to complement the scenes ... underscore our words ... bring out the subtext of things ... It would have been nice to see. And then during my interminable monologue about the desert, and how much I love the desert, "Lawrence of Arabia" was projected, in slow-motion, on the screen behind me. They chose scenes of camels racing across the sands, a sheikh falling and rolling down down down a dune ... and when all of that was slowed down, you really can feel the epic proportions of what was going on at the time. Even more so.

People loved what we did.

Iraj, as Faisal, sang a song in Persian. He had never gone all out in our rehearsals, to save his voice, so I finally got to hear him sing. Oh. My. God. It reminded me of when I hear real Irish singers, Irish singers who sing in Gaelic ... and there is something ancient in the sound, something beyond the pale. The songs full of history, pathos, pride ... the language itself is a potent weapon. And Iraj ... singing in his ancient tongue ... with the strange dips and loops of Persian music ... his voice swooping up ... and then coming back down ... I got goosebumps. Tears in my eyes. I literally felt blessed by God to have been there.

It was that special.

Afterwards, a large group of us, happy, (I think everyone had the sense that this was a very special project) wandered through the freezing dark streets looking for food. We finally came upon Grimaldi's, a lucky choice. (Grimaldi's is regularly on the "Top 10 Pizzas in America" list). It just opened up a restaurant in Dumbo and so there we all were, on the freezing night, sitting around the tables with red and white checkered tablecloths, drinking wine, laughing, talking like fiends ...

I have made a bunch of new friends with this piece. And I feel very lucky.

There were people at the table from Iran, Spain, Japan, Nigeria, and America. Everybody talking, clinking glasses, laughing, talking about the shows, what they liked, what they didn't like ... Everybody looked beautiful. Everybody WAS beautiful.

I have tears in my eyes.

This project, even though it has completely thrown my schedule out of whack, has been a god-send. I cannot express how happy I was to be a part of it. Every moment was like ... candy. Or poetry.

From the wet cobblestones in Dumbo, to the red velvet chairs, to Mana's huge laugh, to Kit's hard hard work, to Iraj's humor and gifts ... to what I have learned about Iran ... which has been thrilling for me.

It all has been magic. Somehow.

I am not questioning it, or trying to figure out why. I just know that it is the case. I have been overwhelmed by emotion.

I would emerge from the York Street subway stop, on my way to rehearsal, and walk down towards the gleaming East River, my bag so damn heavy because I have to carry my entire life in it these days ... and there were moments when I wanted to start crying. Happy tears.

Grimaldi's turned out the lights on us (literally ... ) and then we all, as one, headed to the subway. I spoke with Omud, from Nigeria ... who had also lived in England for a long time. He told me my English accent made him homesick. A lovely man.

Mana, Daniela, Iraj, Kit and I have a date for later this month ... we want to get together, have kebabs, and watch the Lawrence of Arabia DVD. And I also am going to go see Iraj perform at the Bowery Poetry Club, on their nights of Persian poetry. They have them once a month.


  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 03:31:00 PM



 
AFGHANISTAN IS NOW ONLINE...

It happened yesterday. They launched their country code (.af), and now have joined the information highway.

Quotes:
-- All nongovernmental use of e-mail services and Web sites was punishable by death during the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban.

-- "For Afghanistan, this is like reclaiming part of our sovereignty," the UNDP quoted Communications Minister Mohammad Masoom Stanakzai as saying.




  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 02:48:00 PM



 
MALAISE

This post, written by Michele over at A Small Victory, describes exactly the feeling I have had over the past couple of weeks. I'm tired. I am tired of talking about war, of fighting about the invasion, of listening to others fight about war ... I am tired of giving a crap about what Harold Pinter and Susan Sarandon think of America. I have had it. With everybody. For months now I have maintained a high level of involvement: reading every op-ed column in the NY Times, WSJ, Washington Post, LA Times, The Guardian, blah blah blah ... on a daily basis. Reading Drudge every day. Reading The Daily Dish every day. Sifting through information, forming opinions, doing research ... getting PISSED. It takes a lot of energy to keep up with what is going on in the world, but that was my commitment. And slowly, over the past couple of weeks, my motor started winding down. It began when I imposed a "media-blackout" on myself a while back ... just for a weekend, which is so unlike me, but I just could not take the debate anymore. It was exhausting me, draining me, I was losing hope, losing heart.

Michele: I will visit your blog whether or not you rant about the war. I'm tired, too!

  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 12:05:00 PM



 
TODAY IN HISTORY

1926 - Irish statesman Eamon de Valera resigned as head of Sinn Fein; he later formed the Fianna Fail party.

1930 - Babe Ruth signed a two-year, $80,000 contract with the New York Yankees.

1981 - Chilean President Augusto Pinochet was sworn in for an eight-year term as president.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/11/2003 11:36:00 AM



 
OFF TO IRAQ...

Off to do my reading right now ... the project about Gertrude Bell, the woman who "birthed" Iraq. I am Gertrude. She was a redhead as well. Very exciting!!

And afterwards, I am meeting up with one of the numerous ex-flames who have suddenly descended upon Manhattan for various reasons and who want to get together with me for a drink. I can't keep up with all of them. But it's a good thing. Life is good. NUTS, but good.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 04:49:00 PM


Monday, March 10, 2003  

 
GO, SALETAN!

Great piece in Slate by Will Saletan ... so good that I want to Xerox it and pass it out on the streets of Berkeley. No, just kidding. I value my life too much!! It's a piece of clear-headed writing, no crap thinking, no smoke and mirrors ... Increasingly, I see the world as existing primarily in the grey area ... Simplistic thinkers (the "yes, but what about----" crowd) ... think things can only be one thing at a time. They think that only one thing can happen at a time. They are barely able to comprehend what is happening because they are too busy sniffing out hypocrisies.

I know people like that, on a personal level; people who, in conversation, are always trying to trip me up, or catch me in a contradiction, or whatever. Those people are big ol' bores. In order to connect with people, you have to LISTEN. And you have to recognize that ... well, it's really quite simple. It is definitely possible for something to be more than one thing at any given moment. You know the saying "blessing and a curse"??? Well, that's what I'm talking about. There is no contradiction.

Years ago, a man I was crazy about, I was madly in love with this guy, out of my mind, ended up not choosing me, and going out with someone else who he is now married to. This was a devastating blow for me at the time. It took me years to recover. But what happened because of that experience? I ended up taking a long hard look at my life, and my choices, decided to make some changes, applied to grad school, got in, moved to New York City (that all happened within the space of 3 months ... a whirlwind), and met all of these people who I am still friends with today, people I still work with today. I wouldn't trade it for the world. But it all came about, initially, because I got my heart broken and I was at my wits end. "Him" choosing another path, another girl, was definitely a blessing and a curse for me.

I can laugh while I'm at a funeral, I can cry in the middle of a group of happy friends. I see no contradiction.

There is nothing more boring and more annoying than someone who is on the prowl for hypocrisy, and who cannot LISTEN.

Anyway, read Saletan's piece. It's awesome.


  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 04:23:00 PM



 
SO ... SHEIKH ... KNOCK KNOCK..

Two nights ago, I was at rehearsal for the Gertrude Bell project. And the playwright gave me a direction which I have never before, in my long life as an actress, received ... and which I assume I will never ever receive again. It was one of those moments in theatre when your consciousness shoots up out of the moment, and you realize how hilarious and how beautiful everything is. If you're in the theatre you will know what I'm talking about.

Mana, the other actress, plays one of the sheikhs who, during the creation of Iraq, comes to Gertrude and interrogates her about what the plans are, and lets her know, in no uncertain terms, what he will or will not put up with. Gertrude has to defend herself, and the British Government. The sheikh asks Gertrude, as a way of testing her sincerity, "So, what do you think of our Arabia?"

And I have a long monologue, cataloguing the contradictions and the beauty of the place. "It's this ... but it's also this ... it's this, but it's also this ... it has this, this, and this ... and then it also has this..."

The playwright suggested to me, "You're answering the sheikh's question in riddle format ... so do it like a riddle."

So I, the ever-obedient and ever-flexible actress, launched into the monologue ... and did it like a riddle. Like: try to guess what I'm describing, sheikh!!

I finished and the playwright said, "Remember that you're talking to a sheikh. You just did it like you were at a party." (I hate it when directions get that micro-controlled. It only serves to make the actor subconscious ...) Also: he just told me to "do it like a riddle". So I did it like a riddle. You gotta be specific, and make sure that your direction is something that an actor can actually DO.

I said, "You just told me to do it like a riddle. So that's what I did."

He said, "Yes, but do it like ---" and he paused.

I filled it in. "Like I'm telling a riddle to a tribal sheikh."

"Exactly."

Then there was a long pause, where the humor of the conversation suddenly started occurring to me ... I said, "Oh, that's no problem. I find myself in that situation on a daily basis. I'm always telling riddles to tribal sheikhs."

Huge laughter, and then the playwright said, "Yeah ... do it like you're telling a riddle to the UN Security Council."

I am still laughing about this today! I can guarantee that in plays in the future no other director will say to me, "Do it like you're telling a riddle to the UN Security Council".

When rehearsal ended, we all were still laughing about it.

"So ... Sheikh Abdul, knock knock--"
"So, Sheikh Mohammed, a Jew and an Arab walk into a bar..."


  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 03:56:00 PM



 
LILEKS

Scroll down through Lileks' "bleat" today, and get to his mini-review of Mel Gibson's "We Were Soldiers". It is interesting on many levels. He talks about how, in our mass-communications post-modern society, truth becomes cliche almost instantly. People treat heart-felt sentiment as though it must be ironic. And so moments which are more raw, and open, strike us as false. Fascinating.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 01:20:00 PM



 
DISGUSTING

This is disgusting.

Societies sometimes, as a whole, lose their minds and fall off the deep end. It has happened before, and it will continue to happen, as long as people hold onto grievances, and as long as human nature continues to be what it is. The society of radical Islam has lost its collective sanity. It's completely disgusting to me. I don't care about the "root cause". Or maybe I did before, but after September 11, all compassion for the poor little Islamic people dried up.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 01:05:00 PM



 
REDHEADED RECOMMENDATION

I cannot recommend the TNT movie "Door to Door" highly enough. Written by William Macy, starring William Macy (an absolute treasure of an actor) ... it is fantastic. He is fantastic. Just marvelous. A fascinating character, an incredible story. Complex, moving, with wonderful acting. It is completely convincing that William Macy's character has cerebral palsy. It is so frigging REAL. Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren (who is a personal fave), and William Macy ... Beautiful. Check your local TV listings and see when it might be on next. You won't regret it!



  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 12:41:00 PM



 
ONE OTHER THING ABOUT THE SAG AWARDS

I absolutely love how they give awards for "best ensemble". In movies, television ... what a wonderful idea. If a movie is fantastic, how can you pull just one person out to acknowledge, when the entire group contributed to the success of the film? I love it. As an actress, I think that THAT award would be the best one you could get. To be part of an ensemble. That is what theatre is all about!

I wish the Oscars would add that to their list of awards. It's a beautiful thing.

  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 09:21:00 AM



 
IT'S AN OUTRAGE

Renee Zellweger ... best actress? WHAT? While up against Salma Hayek, Julianne Moore, and Diane Lane (who, in my opinion, gave one of the most courageous performances I have ever seen in "Unfaithful")...I disliked Renee's performance in "Chicago". I thought all around that she was a big ol' drip in that movie. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah are entirely another story ... they were great. Richard Gere was basically getting a paycheck, doing that charming-dog thing he can do in his sleep.

There is an enormous difference between the industry congratulating ITSELF on "making a star" (which is the feeling I get around the Renee brou-haha ... I also got that vibe during the mania surrounding Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love) and the PUBLIC saying: "Her....We like HER...We want to see more of HER."

Hollywood tries to fool us into thinking so-and-so is the "next Julia Roberts", the "next Michelle Pfeiffer" or whatever. And the public is smarter than Hollywood thinks.

I remember when "Speed" came out, and suddenly Sandra Bullock was getting all of this crazy press. She was on the cover of Vanity Fair. She was compared to Julia Roberts (which is ... SO incorrect). Sandra Bullock, to my mind, is a very talented character actress. She is definitely not a movie star who is going to ignite the entire world in love and adoration, like Julia Roberts did. Sandra Bullock seems lost in those big big Hollywood productions, but then seems extremely at home, where she can shine, in smaller films ... like 28 Days, or Murder by Numbers.

What happened with Julia Roberts' career was, pretty much, a spontaneous combustion. The PUBLIC decided that she needed to be a star. Not Harvey Weinstein. The public FREAKED OUT when they saw Pretty Woman, all hell broke loose, and Roberts suddenly, out of nowhere, unprepared, became the biggest female star in the world. She was not "groomed" for this ... as Gwyneth was. Gwyneth's career was carefully planned and construcuted by Harvey Weinstein so that she could rise up the illustrious staircase, and everything would go according to plan. Not that Gwyneth isn't talented. I am not saying that, I think she is. But the public, the movie-going public, did not lose their frigging minds when they saw Shakespeare in Love ... It was a hit movie, yes. But if you remember what the hell happened with the release of "pretty Woman", then you will see that there is a very large difference.

Harvey Weinstein, when he won all those awards for Shakespeare in Love, went up there and raved about Gwyneth ... talking about her as though she were the next Vanessa Redgrave. And ... I just felt the whole thing was hyperbolic. And ... self-congratulatory. Like: I created Gwyneth ... I was RIGHT. It was surreal.

Sometimes Hollywood is in touch with the pulse of the public, other times it is not. Or: it has its OWN pulse, the public be damned.

Marilyn Monroe was seen by the Hollywood upper echelons as just another starlet. Nobody "got her". Nobody saw how FUNNY she was. But she knew ... she knew ...that she could do something big. She slept with high-up studio execs, who protected her ... who were her friends until the end. Men with vision ... men who saw what she could do, and went to bat for her. Now, we may judge her behavior ... or, let's say, some people judge behavior like that. And there is a sadness in it all. However: these men never betrayed her. They fought for her, they tried to get her parts where she could step out of the chorus, they knew they could she could be a big star. But there was this perception of her as a dumb blonde ... the studio heads didn't see that it was an act. That she could do "the dumb blonde" as a comedic routine, in a way the world had never seen. And her career chugged along, she was put into movies that humiliated her, that objectfied her ... but I watch those movies in awe. Because she rises above the terrible-ness of the material ... she dodges being humiliated. She will not be shamed, for being a sexy woman. For having a body like that. And, man, they tried. They tried to shame her. See "7 Year Itch" and you'll get what I'm saying. It's a nasty lecherous movie. But somehow, somehow, she escapes ... you are so completely on her side. You fall in love with her.

The studio heads were unprepared for the outpouring of public feeling towards her. She was not being groomed to be a star, far from it. People in charge actually thought she was a stupid slut, but the public knew a funny and bright woman when they saw one. The fan-mail departments of the studios were bombarded with letters about her. And so, despite their resentment towards her, their contempt of her, they kept putting her in films ... because she could make them money.

Then came the nude-calendar debacle. The studios went into damage control. They started to spin it, to lie, to say "no, that's not her ... the photos were rigged ..." They were embarrassed by her. But Marilyn, without their permission, made a statement saying, "Yes. That was me. I did do that. I couldn't pay rent that month ... so I posed nude." This was seen as a disaster by the studio ... "Just keep your mouth shut, you stupid bitch..." And letters poured in from all over the world, saying, "We love her! We support her!"

Again: the studios were unprepared. They were out of step with the public. Who all along thought that Marilyn Monroe was a lovely and sweet actress, who captured their hearts. A rare rare thing. Not to mention the fact that the camera loves Marilyn Monroe's face in a way that is almost never seen. It's magic. That's all there is to it.

Finally, the studios just had to surrender. And let this woman be a star.

And who has the last laugh now??

Julia Roberts was basically an unknown actress ... she got involved in "Pretty Woman", a project that nobody else wanted to do, the studio had to BEG Richard Gere to come onboard ... and then the shoot ended, and Julia flew off the North Carolina, to start shooting "Sleeping with the Enemy". She was not being groomed for mega-stardom. In the way Gwyneth was. She just finished one job, and moved on to the next. There was no preparation. Even her managers and her agent were shocked. "Pretty Woman" opened. Julia was on location, far from LA or NYC, and so had no idea what was going on. Her agent, after a couple of days, called her and said, "Have you been reading the papers?" Julia said "No ... what's going on?" Her agent said, "'Pretty Woman' has grossed 80 trillion dollars." (I don't know the number, but it was a massive amount of money ... and nobody was prepared for it. It was not being pushed to be a massive hit ... so the movie theatres were unprepared, the studios were unprepared) Julia Roberts couldn't even comprehend what had happened ... that she had become a huge star overnight. That every single person who saw that movie fell totally in love with her, in a way that cannot be planned or engineered. It was spontaneous.

That is so rare. It almost never happens.

But it's beautiful. And you can't dispute it. I have friends (mostly actor friends) who cannot STAND Julia Roberts. Fine. That's fine. But you cannot dispute the fact that the PEOPLE chose her to be the biggest star of her generation, not a studio head. She has tremendous popular appeal.

So anyway. Renee Zellweger is TEPID in comparison. She's been okay in some movies, but I actually thought her performance in "Chicago" was quite quite bad.

So there's a lot of self-congratulatoin and lying to themselves going on in the Screen Actors Guild. I can't understand it. Did they all see the same Zellweger performance that I did? Am I so out of touch??

But on the flipside: William H. Macy won ... so all is right with the world!

  contact Sheila Link: 3/10/2003 08:35:00 AM


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