Archive for November, 2013

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 26, 2013
Who Can't Sympathize with Someone Who Slashes Their Wrists at the Office?

Who Can’t Sympathize with Someone Who Slashes Their Wrists at the Office?

“Not Waving but Drowning”

 

The full poem by Stevie Smith goes like this:

            Not Waving but Drowning

               Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

                                                   –  Stevie Smith

For my money, Stevie Smith lived the essential poet’s life: monotonous secretary’s days so compressing in their accumulation that she finally lost her employment of umpteen years from slashing her wrists while at at the office.  You don’t have to be a poet to sympathize!

Not dying, she continued on living with her aunt while scrabbling together a living out of writing book reviews and doing poetry readings.  You might wonder why artists choose this life?  It’s probably mostly because they live between their ears.  Like religious ascetics, worldly things haven’t as great of a grip on them.  And between the ears, “The desire for liberty is the most powerful force for creativity in an artist; that is why even in the most oppressive places some of the most beautiful and powerful art is made.”  (- Lindy Vopnfjord)

Smith reveled in the liberty of the mind more than most poets.  As the novelist/critic Martha Cooley notes, “Over the years, Smith got called everything from whimsical, quirky, childlike, and silly to mordantly sophisticated, stoic, brilliantly comic, and plain old depressed.”  Smith aptly represents this blend of modest successes with great failure which I’ve tried to describe in these previous essays on the strategies of losing:  “She tolerated rather than apologized for her own misreading, believing them usefully deviant; and she took great enjoyment in reading in a desultory manner, grazing without aim.”

But, of course, she was a fine poet.  Great poetry is made of those lines, such as the poet Robert Bly describes of Whitman’s, which can sustain great weight across the span of a sentence.    “Not waving but drowning” is a gold standard of poetic phrasing.  It has all the features: off-rhyme, metrical emphasis, and a meaning which ‘contains multitudes’.   You can’t crush it, and you can’t brush it away.

You couldn’t crush Stevie Smith, and we can’t brush her away.  Her failures are enduring.

Photo plucked from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 23, 2013
Looking at it from the Devil's, Devil's Advocate's Position

Looking at it from the Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate’s Position

The Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate

On Failure: the Final Installment

 

            Well, you can get tired of anything – especially writing and thinking about failure.  On the upside – or downside, depending upon your point of view – a person could go on investigating and writing about failure forever, and still not get anywhere… except for acquiring those deepest feelings of abandonment and self-disgust which mark a real gut feeling for the topic.              After all, we’re probably all hardwired to seek success.  Humans are a hierarchical animal.  As soon as we enter a room the question is “Who’s in Charge?”  Then we arrange ourselves in such a way as makes us most comfortable around power.  Some of us try to be in charge.  Some of us evade being in charge.  Some of us don’t want to have anything to do with the whole scenario.  But, for the most part, if you are going to socialize, then when people listen to you, their first priority in granting you their attention is whether or not you sound ‘in charge’ of whatever it is you are saying.    If you don’t, their attention drifts elsewhere.  This is probably why we all seek success – even if it is never to be granted us, and we know so.  We simply can’t stop.  It’s like wanting sex.

 

A little thinking about failure is a good thing, I’d say, because we fail much more often than we succeed.  Most people are a marbled confection of a few successes and many failures.  It’s rare we can be gifted in every way.  So understanding the strategies of the failure and utilizing them at times can be helpful.

The thing to remember though, I think, is that failure and success are really quite different animals.  And it’s a mistake to view one as somehow evolving into the other; that if you were to train your dachshund long enough, it would become a greyhound.  Don’t be a fool.  Recognize what you are.  And then move towards the light.  Even a paramecium understands this.  But humans, with their complex ways and books on social theory, often don’t think to do it.  Don’t get stuck.  “Show me the money!” Can be good advice.

 

These posts about the upside of failure have also been the Devil’s Advocate’s position.  Now, to bring it full circle, I’ll add the Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate position with this observation from a Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck  (who probably didn’t intend this in the way I have it spun):

“Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing.             They thought they were learning.”

–        Carol Dweck,  “Mindset: The Psychology of Success”

 

How many ‘smarter than anyone else’ failures do you know?  Quite a few, I’d reckon.  Don’t be a fool and think the same thing.  In this fast paced world, more often than not, winning is winning and losing is losing.  That’s it.  That’s all.  End of game.

Photo by Carl Nelson of Jeremy January of Theater Comique

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 15, 2013

Editor’s Note:  Another installment about Failure:

How Much Should a Citizen Be Paid for His/Her Work?

How Much Should a Citizen Be Paid for His/Her Work?

Failure, Slavery and the Minimum Wage

 

            According to Scott Sandage’s book, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, the great boom and bust cycles of America during the nineteenth century spawned the need for debt relief legislation.  For every business success to be had, many more failures were spawned.  If “the business of America is business,” as Calvin Coolidge would later say, then the debt-ridden failure was sidelined.  He had no future. 

            Various bankruptcy legislations were tried, and then discarded throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.  The widely held American ideal of a man being the maker of his destiny, reinforced the belief that the ‘truth lies in the man’, and that the roots of failure could be ascertained by a careful examination of the character of the man in question.  Debt relief flew directly in the face of this.  Debt relief would, it was felt by many, just nurture weakness and poor character in the American citizen.  On the other hand, a vast number of the bankrupts – though noting in retrospect many ways in which they might have acted more wisely – complained that the main reason they went bust was because they could not collect from others that which they were owed.  This all came to a head with the advent of the Civil War, when southerners stopped payments on obligations to northern businesses forcing a great number of northern businessmen into bankruptcy. 

            Along with the push for the abolition of slavery, came a parallel cry for bankruptcy legislation.  Their special interest group, The National Bankrupt Association, pushed for this legislation through their leading advocate in Congress, Thomas Jenckes.  Bankrupts complained that their “unpaid debts made them idle”, and “like true abolitionists , members of the association held that freedom was inalienable”.  The movement “seemed to understand that inalienable rights made sense only as a universal standard, not as a privilege of race”.  “To get back on one’s feet was to be emancipated.”  They argued that “When the Thirteenth Amendment brought legal freedom to the real slaves…  The government empowered itself to interfere with property, to redefine citizenship, and to protect individual rights – but not theirs.”  Their pronouncements were “a manifesto about the right to rise.”

            There were still difficulties to getting bankruptcy legislation passed however.  A key Congressman, Thaddeus Stevens clashed with Jenckes.   Stevens and his supporters could not “suffer rebel debtors to benefit from a bankruptcy bill” – which caused the Jenckes faction to complain that while Stephens was happy to free the slaves, he turned his back on the debt-slavery of his own constituents.   Finally, “on the last day of the Thirty-Ninth Congress, on a 2 March 1867, Congress approved both the Bankruptcy Act and the Reconstruction Act of 1867.”

 

            But the American ideal of “a right to rise” as an inalienable birthright continues to wage war with another American ideal of the right to property.   Currently, these questions complicate the current debate on the minimum wage laws.  Does a wage which is insufficient to live on amount to a defacto ‘slave wage’, which benefits the consumer, at the expense of the worker’s “right to rise”.   If “the business of America is business”, do insufficient wages keep capable citizens idle and ‘out of the game’?  Do insufficient wages constrict the citizens’ inalienable right to participate?  

            This is a discussion that continues, and probably will continue, for a long time.

Photo by Carl Nelson of a model

The Seattle Celebrity News!

November 12, 2013

Editor’s note:  Here are a couple follow-ups from things happening about town:

Wanda Moats as the DUCK, appeared here with Wendy Cohen as the CHICKEN in WARP Theater's production of Scot Bastian's play, "The Other Side"

Wanda Moats as the DUCK, appeared here with Wendy Cohen as the CHICKEN in WARP Theater’s production of Scot Bastian’s play, “The Other Side”

Our DUCK Goes On to Appearance at the ACT Theatre

Our DUCK, Wanda Moats, has picked herself up off of the roadbed and is appearing as  part of a reading in No Number Home at ACT this Saturday November 16 @ 7:30 pm, and an excerpt on Sunday @ 2:00 pm. Tickets are pay what you will. Love to have you all attend and see our own quacker in another incarnation.

Flame in the Mirror Excels!

Irish Father talks to Son in Flame in the Mirror

Irish Father talks to Son in Flame in the Mirror

Also, I don’t know which Muse our playwright/actor/voice master/ John Ruoff was listening to when he wrote, Flame in the Mirror, but it has broken all box office records for the Eclectic Theater during its run there after a great critical write-up in “Drama in the Hood”:http://www.dramainthehood.net/2013/10/flame-in-the-mirror/

John may have been listening to the right Muse this time.

John may have been listening to the right Muse this time.

Photos by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 11, 2013

Your Money is Watching

Your Credit Agency Has Its Eye on You

Your Credit Agency Has Its Eye on You

 

A Descendant of

“America’s First Motivational Poster”

 

            The first modern credit report was issued by “the first modern credit bureau, Lewis Tappan’s Mercantile Agency”, Scot Sandage  relates in his book, “Born Losers”.   These first modern credit reports were gleaned in the early nineteenth century from far flung sources throughout our burgeoning country.  They were evaluations of a man’s character, credentials and fiscal standing, and necessary in a country where business was conducted at great distances.  Tappan developed sources who could attest to the comings and goings and general fiscal health of far flung business associates.  The local Postal Official often supplemented his income by filing such (secret) reports on the citizens of his community.   These credit ledgers – as collected by Tappan –  were written in longhand and were condensed narratives and appraisals of a man’s life.  Currently, they often make compelling reading;  as piquant as short stories, or cautionary tales.

“Managing identity meant more than guarding one’s name as a priceless asset”, Sandage also reports.  “Benjamin Franklin supposedly drew that lesson in America’s first motivational poster, “The Art of Making Money Plenty” – the “art” consisting of a rebus (or picture puzzle) with maxims from Poor Richard’s Almanack.  An eyeball stood in for the middle vowel in “creditors”, a reminder that someone was always watching.  Dating from that, it became a popular Currier & Ives lithograph.  The eye of Providence had watched over America, atop the pyramid in the Great Seal that Franklin helped design.  “Making Money Plenty” substituted the eye of commerce;”

            …” besides the creator, “thy creditors” and competitors also observed and judged you.”

Photo from Google Images

Seattle Celebrity News!

November 3, 2013
Gong to the Theater can be a lot of fun, until tragedy strikes.

Gong to the Theater can be a lot of fun, until tragedy strikes.

Staged Parable Ends in Tragedy!

In a horrible turn of events, actress Wanda Moats, performing as the DUCK, in a opening night scene from  “The Winter Winds of WARP”, was run over and killed onstage only feet from the audience she was performing for this past Friday evening at the Seattle Center’s Center House TPS Theatre #4.  In retrospect, the DUCK’s concern was apparent several seconds before the final impact, as evidenced by the following photos.  But, the audience, caught spellbound, offered no assistance.

The Other Side50 The Other Side51web The Other Side52web The Other Side54web The Other Side55web The Other Side60web

The DUCK’s body was tossed a horrid distance by the impact, apparently hitting the back wall, and then rebounding to end up not a foot from where the accident occurred.  First responders reported her dying quacks, but efforts at resuscitation were futile.  A CHICKEN is currently wanted for questioning, as observers report the DUCK arguing with such a bird only moments before impact.  Fowl motives have not been eliminated.   A photo of the CHICKEN has been released, which the Seattle Celebrity News! has posted below.  The driver and/or occupants of the truck have as yet not come forward.

The DUCK was seen in a heated disagreement with this CHICKEN not moments before the accident.

The DUCK was seen in a heated disagreement with this CHICKEN not moments before the accident.

WARP representatives report that the show has not closed, but continues, feeling strongly that “the DUCK wouldn’t have wanted it this way – but we have a show to get on.”  The theater being no place for airy sentiment.

Festival goers report that “you can still see the duck splatter and blood on the back wall”.

CHICKEN of interest.

CHICKEN of interest.

Departed DUCK

Departed DUCK

Photos by Carl Nelson


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