Archive for March, 2016

I Always Miss the Good Stuff!

March 31, 2016

So while I was away last week skiing in Austria, I missed this amazing wildlife drawing class where participants sketched BUNNIES!

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Wild Life Drawing is a drawing class with a difference. Instead of life models, the subjects are real animals. The aim of the drawing classes is to inspire a sense of appreciation and understanding for animals and their conservation through creativity. On Good Friday – 25 March – Wild Life Drawing are hosting a special Easter drawing event for families at Somerset House, where you’ll get the chance to meet and draw different species of bunny rabbits, including Lion Head rabbits, a Plush Lop-Eared and a Rex rabbit. There will also be some guinea pigs coming along for good measure!

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This might be the most first world-y first world problem of all time.

 

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Knew Her When

March 30, 2016

Back in 2007, a friend of mine dragged me to see a play at a converted school half a block away from my East Village apartment.  The play was called Matt & Ben, and was about Damon and Affleck dealing with the aftermath of a script (Good Will Hunting) falling from the sky and into their laps.  It was hilarious, which isn’t terribly surprising, because it was co-written by Mindy Kaling, who also played Ben (I think.  I don’t really remember which one she was.)  She was a fairly recent Dartmouth grad at the time, and not at all famous.  This, I suppose, is the one time in my life I caught someone before they made it big.

Or perhaps the first time of two.  Recently, I attended the Goldsmith University Writing Program’s graduation reading, and heard a young writer named EJ Harris read from her short story entitled “Bitch Blood.”  It was just perfect: polished, anxiety-provoking (in a good way), eerie, plausible,  yet exciting.  Below, an excerpt; you can read the whole thing here.

Now I am anticipating the day in which Harris reads to large crowds at Daunt Books and I awkwardly shuffle up after the event and say, “Hey, remember me?  I’m that American friend of LH’s who was at the Goldsmith’s thing and I drunkenly told you your story was, like, uh-may-zing.”  And she’ll smile and nod and pretend to remember, but won’t.

(Side note: my friend LH organized the event and read there, but because I know her already and have always been sure she’s going to get famous, I didn’t put her on my list of revelations.)

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You’re not supposed to swerve a car to avoid small animals in the road. Swerving, Emily’s driving instructor had told her, is very dangerous, and can cause accidents.

“If you can, slow to a stop,” he said.

“And if you can’t?” Emily asked.

“Well, then you just have to hit it.”

“Right.”

“If you kill a small animal it’s, you know, sad.”

“But if you kill a small human it’s, you know, illegal?”

“Exactly.”

Her driving instructor used to lean across to the steering wheel and correct her positioning on the road without ever touching her. They shared a similar sense of humour, and Emily had looked forward to the hour they spent together each week. When she passed her test, Emily had texted to thank him, and had been unable to think of any feasible reason to stay in touch.

When Emily hit the dog, then, she told herself that she had done nothing wrong, that she should not feel guilty. She was wearing sensible footwear, and she had not been drinking. She just didn’t see the dog until it was too late. It was dark, and the animal came out of nowhere.

After the bump, Emily pulled the car over and sat heavily for a moment. The dark huddle of the dog on the road multiplied in her mirrors. It is true that she considered restarting the car and driving away; that the street was residential and anonymity impossible featured high on the list of reasons she did not.

In moments, two shadowy figures raced through the darkness towards her. She opened the door, shaking, and heard a man’s voice swear loudly.

“I’m so sorry,” said Emily, hurrying over.

“Fuck,” said the man, crouched over the dog which, Emily realised with horror, was alive, and whimpering pathetically.

Bad Choices

March 29, 2016

Do you ever see a person reading a copy of A Million Little Pieces and think, “Hm, were the pickings real slim at your local Barnes & Noble, or did you just miss that whole Oprah shaming thing?”

Think Piece Anxiety?

March 24, 2016

Are you wondering whether you should write a think-piece?  I’ve made a helpful flow chart to help you decide!

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Perhaps Unfair, and Almost Definitely Not Politically Correct, But…

March 23, 2016

Remember when I was talking about Sybil?  Of course you do––it was just a few posts back.  Anyway, over this past weekend, sick in bed and literally voice-less, I decided to re-read the Debbie Nathan book––for research, and also because salacious psych exposes are my kryptonite.  That’s beside the point.  Anyway, in the book, Nathan mentions that during the MPD craze of the eighties and nineties, someone started a newsletter for multiple personality sufferers called Many Voices.  And lo and behold, the entire archives are online.  It’s equal parts legitimately sad and disturbing and, shall we say, meta-sad and disturbing, knowing now how many of these people were likely to have been manipulated in therapy.  My favorite part of the newsletters––again, I know this isn’t technically funny, but… ––is the optimistic/humorous (opti-humorous?) koans offered by various contributors.  Below, a selection:

“If we’re multiples, they’re monotones.”
“If someone says, ‘That doesn’t sound like you,’ it probably wasn’t.”
“Caution!  Subject to rapid personality changes.”
“I found myself!  And another, and another, and another… ”
“Maximum occupancy: 200 people bodies.”
“I had just learned that I am a multiple, and was feeling stunned and angry about it.  ‘Forget this,’ I said, ‘I’m not playing host to all these people.  Everybody OUT.  Immediately.'”
“I’m a community.  Who are you?”
“We’re not all multiples.”
“What is a multiple’s favorite fruit?  Bananas––they come in bunches.”
“TV Guide: MPD––your alternative to MTV.  We dance to the beat of a different drummer.  Featuring The Dissociations, a hot new group from the Ego States.  Like Madonna, they constantly reinvent themselves.”
“No longer alone.  Supported by others, who have others!”
“How does a person diagnosed with MPD know they are completely fused?  When they hear the word multiple and think VITAMINS!”

 

 

Awkward Avatars

March 11, 2016

Is it just me or is it weird that the psychologist who conceived of the Stanford Prison Experiment has this as a Gmail picture?

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Calling All Jewish Jewelry Designers

March 9, 2016

I’ve long been enamored of this story of Hasidic rabbi from Poland:

It was said of Reb Simcha Bunem that he carried two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one he wrote: Bishvili nivra ha-olam—“for my sake the world was created.” On the other he wrote: V’anokhi afar v’efer”—“I am but dust and ashes.” He would take out each slip of paper as necessary, as a reminder to himself.

So enamored, in fact, that I’ve always hoped some spiritual jewelry designer would read my mind and make a necklace homage to this saying.  Ideally, the necklace would be a simple gold, circle pendant, each side engraved with one of the sayings.

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And yes, I do realize I can probably just have one made, and maybe I’ll do that, but I just thought I’d give some young upstart the chance to roll with a pretty great idea.  #mitzvah!

 

 

Another Game

March 8, 2016

Spotting pre-fame celebrities as extras.  Here’s Viggo Mortensen as an Amish guy in Witness.

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Not Kidding, Or: Sybil! The Musical

March 6, 2016

Very frequently I say deadly serious things that people assume are jokes.  Like, “Hey, save me some of that Percocet you’ll be prescribed post-back surgery!”  Or, “I actually believe that photographs steal a bit of the subject’s soul.”  Or, “Remember when I exhibited at Art Basel in Miami?”  People laugh and say, “ID, you’re so funny,” and I’m left scratching my head, wondering how I could communicate to others better when I really mean something and when I’m just joshing around.  Case in point: when I beseech people to find me a musical theater composer to help me write the libretto for a project I’m working on called Sybil! The Musical, and they laugh and then never find me any damn composer.

For those of you not into psych misery lit, Sybil is a classic––nay, THE classic––of the genre.  Written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, with the help (or perhaps collusion) of psychiatrist Cornelia Wilber, Sybil tells the story of Shirley Mason––not named in the book––a young woman inhabited by sixteen distinct personalities.  Her condition––Multiple Personality Disorder––was, the good doctor discovered, the result of unbelievable childhood trauma.  When it was published in the 1970s, the public went wild for the story, and for the diagnosis (prior to Sybil, fewer than two hundred cases had been documented; after its release, individual clinicians claimed to be seeing thousands of cases a year.)  There was a TV movie starring Sally Field, multiple appearances on talk shows for Schreiber and Wilbur, and talks of board games, dolls, and t-shirts.

One small glitch, though: Sybil wasn’t true.  There was a woman named Shirley Mason, and she did enter therapy, but as Debbie Nathan tells it in Sybil Exposed, her fascinating 2011 expose of the whole clusterfuck, Shirley was heavily influenced by her therapist––and the drugs Wilbur frequently administered to her hapless patient––to basically behave like someone with MPD.  And then doctor hooked up with writer and figured they could all get rich off the very salacious story of sex abuse, inner children, and ultimately, redemption.

One of the offshoots of Sybil they considered was a musical.  Here’s Nathan:

“By 1986 [Flora Rheta Schreiber] realized that The Shoemaker [the book she wrote after Sybil] had put her $100,000 in debt.  Sybil had sold millions of copies in America by then and been published in nineteen foreign editions, yet Flora was utterly broke.  Desperate to make money, she tried to sell The Shoemaker to Hollywood or television.  There were no takers.  She pitched spinoffs of the TV version of Sybil: a soap opera; a Broadway musical she proposed should be choreographed by Twyla Tharp, with songs including ‘The Peggy Part of Me,’ ‘Nobody Likes Girls,’ and ‘I Want to Be the Man I Marry.’  These efforts also bombed.”

When I first read about the musical, I thought it was the funniest fucking thing I had ever heard.  Obviously I’m not talking about Shirley Mason’s predicament, or the wave of irresponsible psychiatry her ersatz biography spawned, but just the concept of the musical.  I have––no exaggeration–-thought about Sybil! The Musical every day for the last two years.  And finally, I’ve decided to make a go of it.  But I have no idea how to write a musical.  For a short while in 2014, I worked for a very famous actor (his NDA spidey sense is probably kicking in right now) who was writing a musical, but I actually think I was better prepared to work within this genre before I had that experience.  All I know is that I’ve decided on a meta-plot––the play will be about a troupe of actors working to put on a production of Sybil, in other words––and that the grand finale will be a modern dance-esque sequence in which all Sybil’s personalities merge together, culminating in a spirited version of “One” from A Chorus Line (provided I can secure the rights.)

So!  Now that you know I am NOT KIDDING, will you help me find my composer?  I think this will take Edinburgh Fringe by storm.