The Farnsworth Dictation

the farnsworth invention coverBeen too long, dear worst-reader. When was the last time I read a play? Back in the day, I used to read plays as fast as I could afford to get my hands on them. I love(d) reading plays. In fact, I preferred reading them to putting all that effort into watching them. But watch them I did as well. Yeah. Back in the day. Now that life has taken that turn (where so many lives are taken) and self-medicating and avoidance is a substitute for reading, it was gonna take a bit more than curiosity to get me back in the saddle. Which brings me to a different form of self-medication. Btw. Self medication is more than the use of caffeine, alcohol, recreational narcotics, sex as sport. Yeah. Self medication is also anything and everything that takes the mind away, where avoidance (of everything) is the norm. You can see it everyday. The automatons walking the sidewalks with their heads bent over and their eyes glued to those mini touch screens.  Or the compulsive behaviourists, aka careerists and corporatists, who spend their bored lives binge watching Mad Men, Sopranos, House of Cards (US), etc. And we see it in the rest of society that hasn’t made it, the Have-nots, who don’t know any better than to compete with the Haves so that they too can enter the realm of glorious avoidance and self medication. Yes. It would take more than just hearing about a new play and saying: yeah, maybe I’ll get to that one when I wake up (someday). Enter Podcasting.

Worst-writer prefers beer and podcasting when it comes to avoidance and self-medication. I prefer north German Pilsner to any other sort of beer. Goodness knows I hate all this “micro-brewed” krapp that’s popping up everywhere. The bitter and pure the beer the better. In summer, I like beer cold. In winter, I like my beer cool at best and sometimes will drink it at room temperature. And that’s all fine and good. Which brings me to another form of avoidance that has nothing to do with chemicals and misbegotten biology. Podcasting. I listen to at least one if not two podcasts everyday. Seriously. And I’m not even ashamed to admit it. In fact, I’m proud of it. Proud because I haven’t watched so-called “TV” in about five years. I know what you’re say dear worst-reader. You’re saying, “Well, Tommi, you asshole, you got off the norm only to replace it with the same difference.” And that may be true. Still. The point isn’t so much about competing–as a Have-not with the Haves–but instead being able to say I’m not a fucking lemming or an automaton and my life is bad-ass digitised to the hilt. Yeah, baby!

So I’m listening to a tech news podcast the other day before the daily beer drinking alarm goes off and the subject of who invented the television comes up. The moderator was shocked to hear that his audience didn’t know who invented the TV. At that moment I figured that the moderator was gonna proudly teach his audience something by saying the name Philo Farnsworth. But he didn’t say it. Instead he told his audience to go see a play called The Farnsworth Invention. And that’s when bells & whistles went off in my head. Talk about motivation. I had no idear that someone had written a play about Philo Farnsworth. What an interesting story that would make, I thought. In fact, I thought once or thrice about writing a play about something similar. Of course I never got around to it (because avoidance and self-medicating took over). But that’s all neither here nor there.

The Farnsworth Invention, a play by Aaron Sorkin, is a great read. And before I continue: WARNING! Spoiler alert.

I finished it the other night and although my usual think-about-it period after reading produces some interesting thoughts–in order to blog about it–not this time. Since I’m well aware of the drama of who invented television–as I’ve put some effort (even while self-medicated) into knowing #americant dysfunctional history–especially the parts of our blossoming as an industrial power–it would take a bit more than a dictation of events on a subject to make it worth my while. There really isn’t a lot to ponder about this piece of dramatic literature, except for the moments where Sorkin takes the author’s liberty. For example. Although it’s quite witty and I’m sure it will give rise to a few giggles in the audience, I really don’t see the necessity of having Philo mistake Douglas Fairbanks for Charlie Chaplin during a situation that never actually occurred–even though its occurrence is implied in this reenactment. Also. Sorkin basically leaves the door open in his story about who snitched on Philo to David Sarnoff so that RCA could utilise it’s legal rights because of an invalid patent. It’s just not necessary to throw in sex-crazed secretaries has potential snitches. The problem is, Sorkin chose a story that is basically a narration by one of the characters who, conveniently, breaks the fourth wall. I suppose it would work if the rest of the story didn’t fail at dramatising something that was ultimately evil–which is ultimately nothing more than yet another example of the true nature of the American Way: greed, coercion, manipulation, authoritarianism, predatory capitalism, etc. Still. The story, as Sorkin has framed it, works well. It’ll entertain a few (an audience). An artist can ask for nothing more. That said. This play, as much as I like it (because I must), just didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know and on top of that it basically does nothing more than avoids reality. With that in mind. The play kinda reminds me of something Eugene O’Neill might write if he were on ecstasy or meth or both. But then again O’Neill didn’t have the writing staff Sorkin has. Ok. Maybe the drug reference and O’Neill is a stretch. But I’m gonna stick with it only because I could have written Philo’s story better. That’s right. My story would be better because I would get much deeper into the American Way of things–as opposed to buttering it all up. Still. This play is a great read. I liked it. It’s sufficient. Well done Mr. Sorkin. And thank you–and all those like you–for allowing us Have-nots to live in your world.

Rant on.

-Tommi

Roller Rink of Mind

Heavens GateBack in the day, dear worst-reader. Back in the day. I’m referring mostly to the 80s and 90s when I still had it in me. In fact it was so in-me that I couldn’t get the idears out of me. It was truly all I could do at the time for I knew that the end was near. The career end, that is. Yes, indeed, it ended with the millennium. Yeah, like you, I was working for the man thinking I had a career but reality dictated that it was all just another hire and fire job. Even though these “jobs” had served me well, unlike you, I wouldn’t give up on that other thing in the front (as opposed to the back) of my head, that thing that lead me down every road born of imagination and lingering of a thick pudding-like ether of dreams. And. The only way to express it ALL was through something written, usually dialogue. And so. Sit down, Tommi, worst-write another play. Which I did. But I never did it enough. Because there are those plays that I didn’t right. Oddly, some of them are still with me. Of course, as we all know, being a failed playwright has it’s advantages. But I won’t get into that here. For what I want to get into has to do with a movie that I recently (re)saw but for the life of me can’t remember when I first saw it. Or can I? Certainly I did see it. I know I did. More than twenty-five years ago I saw this movie. Even though it was very controversial–because of its costs and criticism. Is Heaven’s Gate in hind-sight a film before its time? Or. Is this (worst-post) an example of losing one’s mind, as is the case when getting old? Nomatter.

The movie I recently (re)saw is called Heaven’s Gate. This movie is embedded in my mind’s eye because it contained something that I new was a seed. The seed, aka an idear for a play, was supposed to be about Feuds. Feuds in my beloved #americant. I wanted to write something about Hatfield and McCoy, Earp and Clanton, and the grand fight between Mr. Rich and Mr. Poor, etc. For moi, there was always something singular about these feuds, something that bound them all together. Right or wrong. Left and right. Conservative, Liberal. And, yes, Poor and Rich. The film Heaven’s Gate is about all those things, especially the last one. And I know I saw it at a screening at State University of So-n-so sometime between 1984-88. The for-profit-state-institution had a huge auditorium that served, depending on requirements, as a lecture hall, theatre or cinema and it was a grand convenience. One of the things I often attended there were lectures given by the prominent. Various elites would appear at this place. I saw actors (Richard Dryfuss, Graham Chapman, etc.), TV personalities (numerous famous journalist who need not be named) and sometimes politicians (Jessie Jackson, Michael Dukakis, etc.) But one time there was supposed to be a prominent personality there but he didn’t show. It was either Kris Kristofferson or Jeff Bridges. (I think it was Bridges that we were supposed to see because he was less of a star.) The prominent was supposed to give a short speech about… Gee, I don’t know. Being #americant or something like that and then his/her movie would be shown. Well, like I said. The prominent one didn’t show. But the movie did. And I remember it because it was like four or five hours long. I remember enjoying the movie but also taking a lot of breaks. I remember standing in the isle-ways of the seats in order to rest my butt from sitting for so long. And I remember half the audience leaving the hall to never return. And then I remember the seed. The seed this movie planted in my head. This seed would be planted from other films, as well. I’m referring to Dances With Wolves, Dr. Strangelove, etc. These were films that questioned the #americant ideal. The ideal of greed, authority, subjugation, etc. Oh yeah! It was a great movie.

Now, so many years later, while reading a über-winded tech-book on #americant business and technology, the film Heaven’s Gate was mentioned because of the triviality of having brought down a Hollywood studio, United Artists. This in turn distracted my reading and I immediately took advantage of modernity and streamed the film via iTunes. Supposedly this is a new release of the film, hence it was only just over three hours. But enjoy it I did. In fact, it reminded me of a seed that still remains–perhaps waiting for its code to click-on so the germination process that has been so dormant in worst-writer’s mind can give it a go once again. Or maybe not. Nomatter. The thing I wish to worst-convey today is nothing more than elation regarding a wonderful film. A film that depicts the true heart and spirit of #americant–as negative and positive as that heart and spirit can be. And after seeing it again and realising what has become of my home, the place that raised me, I laugh. Indeed. #americant is in ruin because of empire, war-mongering, greed-society and our inability to transcend feud(alism). Heaven’s Gate is a movie that depicts #americant at the turn of the century. Or should I say that Michael Cimino depicts it all? In a way, during that turn of the century, a seed was also planted. A seed that would lead to the #americant century–the 20th century. Heaven’s Gate is a film that every #americant should see and then be required to write a short essay on and turn that essay into shit-for-brains teacher at bat-out-of-hell school for the mind-blind. Perhaps then, after all the worst-writing, enough Volk will realise the ills of our ways. Or maybe they’ll just see the beauty of something that has been misunderstood for so long.

Rant on.

-Tommi

Boy Girl Named

20140503-132631.jpg
Watched August: Osage County the other night. So. Get prepared, dear worst-reader. This is gonna be a tumbler. Well. Maybe not.

Follow-up to this post here.

First. Julia Roberts can’t say the word fuck. She just can’t. I swear, in this film she tries, she really tries. But every time those innocent broad lips open up all one can see, because astonishment clouds sound, is her promoting that well-branded laugh that somehow spews effortlessly through a mouth that seems to have no end to its width and a limitless shine to those teeth. This woman, like the burden of the smile of a Dolphin, will forever be associated with the burden of one thing and one thing only. That laugh she barks in her bourgeoisie portrayal of how much fun it is to be a whore… Well. Nuff said.

Oh yeah, the smile. Roberts goes for cursing all the same but this time instead of taking the sure way she just spews the word fuck–through the same mouth so many people adore. And when she calls her dying mother–with nothing less than that same mouth: “you fucking bitch”, I couldn’t help but imagine a beautiful little girl finishing kindergarten and given an opportunity to speak at her graduation where she says the same thing to her lost and lonely teacher. You fucking bitch. Indeed, dear worst-reader. There’s seriously something wrong with that picture and with Julie Roberts struggling to say the word fuck. But more. There’s something wrong with the lack of astonishment from the Julia Roberts adoring world. Because. Hey. She’s Julia Roberts.

Second. The best thing about this movie is Juliett Lewis’ portrayal of a husband hunting bimbo. She really nailed it and I never thought she could do that again because she already did it so well in the movie Kalifornia across from Brad Pitt. Hats off to her!

And as far as… what’s her name goes… what’s her name? Oh yeah, Meryl Streep. As far as Streep goes, I saw cracks in her sunglasses and I think, if I were to re-rent this film on iTunes, I might be able to even prove exactly where those cracks are–because if you look closely when she fakes her smoking, the smoke comes through the cracks of her glasses. Seriously. Oh wait. iTunes doesn’t allow you to do anything with rented movies except watch them within 24hrs of starting them… Wait. Does Meryl Streep know this?

But enough about worst-writer’s attempt at criticizing a film. That sort of thing is better left to others more privileged. Still. I can’t wait to download the play and give it a read. Tracy Letts has obviously nailed it with his play. Transferring it to film went pretty well, too. Since the movie starts with Sam Shepard, a writer I (used to) read religiously–especially his plays–I couldn’t help but compare this play-to-film transfer to Shepard’s own Fool For Love, which was transferred way back in 1985. Short pause…

Warning: slight spoiler alert.

Of course the moment in Osage County when my thoughts of Shepard were sealed was when I realized that there was an incestuous affair about to be revealed. The same thing, of course, is in Shepard’s play Fool For Love. So. Tracy Letts was influenced by Shepard. Or? Goodness. I hope so.

Either way this was a beautiful film that I thoroughly enjoyed watching from start to end. Brilliant writing, acting and cinematography. I also thought it was a bit strange to categorize this film as a comedy. Seriously. A comedy? There are a few funny moments, especially the brawl between Streep and Roberts, where, after the film, I got to thinking that it wasn’t funny at all. If I could question Letts about his play it would be why he chose to put obvious male mind-set characters into female bodies. But that doesn’t really matter. He’s got a female name and so does his dead dramatic patriarch. All hands clap for men named Beverly.

Rant on.

Tommi

What I Wish I Were

Endspiel by Samuel Beckett

A very silly title to a very silly post. To maintain some clarification, I do not wish I were Beckett. I only admire him for being an example that not everything the same can also be good. I do not believe Beckett to be the intellectual and/or difficult writer that so many claim of him – or that so many academics have given him. I think he’s a great example of purity and simpleness and how the two make for beautiful art… Or something like that. But before I continue with Beckett…

I still do not claim to believe in ”writer’s block”. But this morning, while working on a story, I realized that I had reached a dead end. I started writing it about two weeks ago and have since had two misleading breaks that have caused great pain in maintaining the focus, the concentration, the gist of the story. After the second break – this past weekend – I found that I had simply lost touch with what was streaming out of me only a few days prior. It’s sad, really, especially when one looks at such an unsuccessful (worts)writer as myself. Oh. The thousands of words I have obviously wasted. So much potential gone astray, one could say. Others would say: ”fuck it”, just get on with it all the same. Yet, how does a ”writer” explain to those who don’t write what it means to lose the connection, the trust, the fluidity of thecreative process? If only I had the courage to end it all – this writing madness. But I won’t give up. Especially when I think of all the grasshoppers for whom I’m providing such an example – you know, of how not to write. This grand trip we are taking together dear worst-reader, the places we are seeing, e.g. the corners of our rooms with too many cobwebs or the cracks in the tiles of our terraces, these places where our eyes gather and see what needs to be seen – the emptiness, the nothingness – is what keeps us going. Is it not?

Solace.

Or knowing that we will at least dream of trying to achieve what the greats have done before us. I speak, no less, of he who haunts me (us?): Sam Beckett. The genius and purity, simpleness, precision of pen. I’m only barely worthy to read and own a few of his books or to have had the privilege of seeing some of his theater on varying stages.

(Image of book.)

I know. Though shallt not want. And at this point it doesn’t really matter. I only own a few books. Most of my books are just plain old paperbacks bought used – because I hate hardcover books and paperbacks were (at the time) easier to travel with. I also own a few – I guess you could call them – collector edition books. One of my favorite books is a special printed edition of Endgame from the September 26, 1967, Berlin premier that was directed by Sam Beckett himself. The publisher of the book is Suhrkamp. The cast of the play is as follows:

  • Nell (left can): Gudrun Genest
  • Nagg (right can): Werner Stock
  • Hamm (dude with glasses): Ernst Schröder
  • Clov (dude kinda bent over): Horst Bollmann

 

The thing that’s cool about this book is that when you unfold it you get the feeling your in the audience. It’s printed in hard cover A4 landscape. The cover has a pic of Sam Beckett directing, see above. The title is:

Samuel Beckett inszeniert das ”Endspiel”

The inner cover has a few pics of the actors from the inszenierung and when you open it completely the whole book resembles a fold-out, maybe pop-up theater stage. When all the folds/covers are opened the left and right folds have pictures of curtains on them. The inside of the main cover has pictures of a ceiling with strobe lights. As you flip through the pages the text of the play is printed on the top page and a picture of the corresponding scene is printed on the next page below in black &white. At the end of the play there is a rehearsal journal, or diary, that contains the daily happenings, including what Mr. Beckett was doing, where he sat in rehearsals, what he drank, etc. The journal begins on Friday, August 18, 1967, with: ”Im Hof des Schiller-Theaters…”

Yes. What a lovely book to own.

Links:

 

Rant and dream on.

-tgs-

It Didn't Bloom Until Tomorrow

The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail – A Play

Waldo: Henry! Henry! What are you doing in jail?

Henry: Waldo! What are you doing out of jail?

Re-read “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” last night. First read was in 2004… I think. It is a two-act play that pretty-much summarises Henry David Thoreau’s life. Not only that. It’s also a literary window into what potentially could be the answer to what’s possibly ailing life/America today–maybe. That is. The answer we’re all searching for, including those not searching, could be in not so much the play but the summary of Thoreau. But then again. Assuming that there is  an “answer” might be a bit much. Still. While trying to understand what motivates some people to act the way they act it’s sometimes best to seek out their opposite. Does that mean we need to seek out the people that don’t act the way some/other people act? Hence. I was initially motivated by thoughts of Walden. Even with a very limited knowledge of his work, the mirror of Thoreau’s anti-social nature is an answer to the disease that is convention. I mean. One can only imagine what people at the time thought of Henry David Thoreau. Also. Did rumours abound of what this man was actually doing the whole time in a shack near a lake? Or. Since life today is all about compromise and appeasement isn’t it only natural that so many of us never miss a lunch and look exactly that way? Nomatter. Thoreau definitely spent a night in jail and the reason for that is enough to provide some insight into what is still so terribly wrong with America today. Great play about a dollar tax left unpaid. But I reckon a great play just ain’t enough for the voters of anti-greatness as they all continue to pay more than just their tax.

Rant on.

Tommi

PS

Cypripedium, aka “Showy Lady Slipper” that Thoreau tried to show his students when he should have been teaching them math or history or civics. The authors of “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail”, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, put this beautiful flower in their text and added “Last year it didn’t bloom until tomorrow!” at just the right moment.

Krapp vs Krapp

Eleuthéria by Samuel Beckett

All-time favourite word? “Krapp”. worstwriterdotcom is, fittingly, full of the word ‘krapp’. Oh, how I wish I could get credit for coining such a word. But all for naught. So much for worst-writer’s attempt at replacing the word absurd with it. I mean, what sounds better, dear worst-reader, “everything is absurd” or “everything is krapp”? Nomatter. If I could coin such a worst-word then the worst-world-over could forward me a nickel every time it’s used. And then maybe, just maybe, I would earn as much as Samuel Beckett earned from the receipts of his plays. But such is the absurd… I mean krapp. Which brings me to other earnings.

Curse the day I read Godot the first time. Although I’ve almost forgotten that special day, Godot hangs on to me like the stickiness of severed flesh where parts of my arm or leg dangle in a wind coming off the north sea coast, embellished and enriched with salty air and the million year murkiness of a future ready for more petroleum, less reading, absurdity status quo and sharks that bite but also forget. And all the above makes the (almost) forgotten day grand, to say the least. How counter intelligent, eh? For I realised at that moment after reading Godot that Theatre Of The Absurd ain’t such a damning thing and I need not lay waste to such days. What a great way to figure out the humdrum of this or that life, eh? Or to see through the valance covering the life of others. In this particular case, or valance, one can see through Samuel Beckett’s life–at least in part his literary life. I like to think of Eleutheria as Beckett’s first and last play. That is, he wrote it before he wrote Godot but Eleutheria was rejected for Godot and hence theatre has never been the same. When the play was finally published Beckett was no more. So who do we thank for this and what should have been published sooner? Again. Nomatter. Since publishers seem to be the ones that caused this to take so long (after Beckett’s death) then all that’s left is all the absurd… Krapp. Wait. Or do we thank death, the only real thing left?

M. Krap: One moment. Finding it therefore impossible to live and recoiling from the great cure, through a sense of decency, or through cowardce, or because of the very fact that he is not living, what can man do to avoid the oh so very discreet and unobtrusive insanity he has been taught to dread? He can pretend to be living and that others live. -Samuel Beckett “Eleutheria”

As is the case with all things of absurd  yet valuable, leave it up to publishers to have a shit-fit about who-when-where would publish this piece of literary history. Thank Godot it made it, thank Godot for human mortality, and thank him again for Beckett’s last breath. Indeed, a valued piece of literary history. Ad absurdum. Can be had by all.

What this play is about is irrelevant. Yet its content should, somehow, be known. So. It’s about the Krap family. They are a bourgeois family and after the death of the father the son must cope. Cope with what? Well, this is a Beckett play and it either holds the seeds to what will come or it is the blossom of what has been. But even that doesn’t matter. And unlike Godot, Eleutheria doesn’t contemplate death but maybe it should. For in Godot the main character never appears but in Eleutheria the main character is everybody–even an “audience member” that, without trickery or other forms of drama-magic, appears in the play. This play is extremely complicated and for the most part in-cohesive. But if you concentrate on the words, the mis-en-scene, nothingelsematters. Yet while trying to find  a way through it I eventually realised that the family name Krap was used again by Beckett in his infamous play Krapp’s Last Tape. Ah, maybe there is trickery going on here. This play is indeed connected to much of Beckett’s work, probably more his prose than his dialogue. But I will not go down that analytical path–as I don’t think Beckett did either. Instead I will stick with the unknown and the in-cohesive and Godot and dangling limbs and north sea sharks with small Germanic spicy teeth and überpowerful jaw. And the fact that a poet of this magnitude could use the same name twice? Yes, it’s hard to let go–this wondrous absurdity. Or is Beckett actually writing the absurdity twice but hidden under a different valance? Ah. The genius nobel laureates, dear worst-reader, they all deserve their titles and their earnings for coming up with tricks and dicks. For you see, Beckett added a ‘p’ to the infamous name and thereby also adding a bit more absurdity he created Krapp. If only another ‘p’ could be added to absurd. Nomatter. Eleutheria means liberty in greek but this play frees no one except maybe a whacked-out doctor that preaches to those who cannot face the absurdity of life and judging it so. Here, ironically, a “doctor” explains life and what should be done about it.

Dr. Piouk: Here it is. I would prohibit reproduction. I would perfect the condom and other appliances and generalise their use. I would create state-run corps of abortionists. I would impose the death sentence on every woman guilty of having given birth. I would drawn the newborn. I would campaign in the favour of homosexuality and myself set the example. And to get things going, I would encourage by every means the recourse to euthanasia, without, however, making it an obligation. Here you have the broad outlines. -Samuel Beckett “Eleutheria”

Rant on.

Tommi