Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Way of the Woodcutter

We spent a gorgeous afternoon with Nelson. Patti, Robert and I worked side by side and it felt great to be outside and working with wood under Nelson's gentle direction. Nelson is pretty deaf from working with a chain saw for 60 of his 86 years so my questions are loud. I recorded him by turning on my cell phone memo function and putting it in my pocket while we worked. The pics are all from my iPhone as well. Though I have been splitting wood for years this was my first time using a chain saw.

Nelson is 87 years old.

He is thoughtful and wicked funny.
Neslon said I would "starve" if I tried to earn a living cutting wood. He also said that he had "never burned oil" only wood.  He does not miss a trick and he loves to tease us.  He noticed that I was taking pictures - without actually looking up. He chided me to get the "beautiful side" of his handsome face. Later Nelson asked me when he sussed that I was up to more than just splitting and stacking wood, " Who is your media outlet? FOX or CNN?" We love getting to spend time with him. The little video below does not do him justice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Storytelling for Adults and Kids: Everybody Has A Story pt 2

Checked out my tape and here is what I captured with my video cam set up. I adjusted to catch Eric and the rest of the tape has my head cut off - I sure needed a camera person.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Everybody Has A Story: A Storytelling Concert by Norah Dooley

 Great fun at Cambridge Center concert where we Skyped in Eric Miller in Chennai, India. NATIONAL STORYTELLING NETWORK: CONNECT WITH INDIA on 11/20
from my friend Jeff Gere and the for sponsoring my performance
NSN Vision: Connecting people to and through storytelling

The Chennai Storytelling Association and the Mumbai Storytelling Association are wondering if there are adults and/or children in the USA who might like to videoconference with them in Chennai and Mumbai on Tellabration Day, November 20th -- just to tell and listen to folktales in English. It would be for 60-90 minutes, in the early part of the day on that Saturday (USA time)(Hawaii dunno). This 3-way videoconference will be facilitated by Reliance Communications, a huge Indian telecom company that has produced numerous Megaconferences. If interested, please contact: , Eric Miller, Director, World Storytelling Institute, Chennai, India.

The video conference worked but seemed as if every piece of my recording equipment failed due to low then, no battery power. So I clicked a few shots with my iPhone and I have a story from the audience too. Very fun! Thanks Eric Miller for the inspiration. More connections to come, I hope.

Everybody Has A Story: A Storytelling Concert by Norah Dooley by Michael Cicone

"Norah Dooley is an entrancing storyteller." - Scott Alarik, Boston Globe

Critically acclaimed author and storyteller Norah Dooley comes to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education on Saturday, November 20 at 10:30 am for an all-ages storytelling concert: Everybody Has A Story. "Norah is an inspiration," says CCAE's director of education, Michael Cicone, "and she has a wealth of stories to share - from traditional folk tales to the real-life experiences of her neighbors."
Dooley has performed all over New England, including the winter and spring Revels, Newport Folk Festival, Cambridge River Festival and Three Apples Storytelling Festival in Bedford. She is also the author of a series of beloved picture books about her former neighborhood in Cambridge, MA - Everybody Cooks Rice, Everybody Serves Soup, Everybody Brings Noodles, and Everybody Bakes Bread - which highlight the commonalities of human experience that bring all of us together.
"Norah reminds us that everyone has a compelling story to share with the world," says Cicone. "And Everybody Has A Story is a great event for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends to attend with the children in their lives. They will come away with lots of new things to talk about." Dooley is also a wonderful teacher - with a master's degree in education and a BFA in painting.

Eric Miller, PhD
Director, World Storytelling Institute (Chennai)
Assistant Professor of Story and Storytelling,
Image College of Animation, Arts, and Technology (Chennai)
"Methods and Options for Videoconferencing
in Relation to the Tamil Language in 2010,"
http://www.storytellingandvideoconfer... .
For .
"Spin Yarns, Interact with Locals, and Visit the Places of Your Fairytales,"
http://www.storytellingandvideoconfer... .

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The M&M Hotel - farewell to horror

Front entrance and waiting room where we spent hours
Looking for a story for the "horrified" story slam I bumped into an "old friend" and took some pics. Then I recorded my thoughts while sitting in our car, on an errand. In this short digital story, I have combined my thoughts and images with some images I found on line. They were amazing. These photos by Anna Shuelit were the exact mirror of images in my memory from my many visits to and from MMHC as a daughter and sister of mentally ill family from 1968 -- until 1990? Not sure.

The picture of our mother, sitting lost and alone, on our living room couch is seared in my mind.

Since I was not chosen as a contestant at the "horrified" slam,  I am posting my story, warts and all,  here. The Guess Who song "Undun"  in this soundtrack was popular during one of my mother's breakdowns and was kind of an anthem for us.

I was surprised to see this art installation and celebration of mmhc online. Check out the mmhc site and the project at:

The main entrance - all that was left on OCT 26, 2010
The Massachusetts Mental Health Center opened its doors on June 24, 1912. From its inception, the institution has been a partnership between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School. It is one of the oldest public teaching hospitals in the United States and has trained several generations of leaders in American psychiatry. Located three blocks from Harvard Medical School, it is both a state mental health facility and a center of academic psychiatry, combining public service with clinical- and research programs. MMHC serves an ethnically diverse catchment area of about 285,000 people in several Boston neighborhoods, with a mission to care for the seriously mentally ill regardless of their financial circumstances.

The center began as the Psychopathic Department of Boston State Hospital in 1912, under the direction of Dr. Elmer E. Southard. It separated from the hospital and was renamed the Boston Psychopathic Hospital (BPH) in 1920. It was initially created to provide for the reception, diagnosis, and disposition of acute psychiatric patients in Boston, usually admitting patients for short periods only. After diagnosis patients were transferred to state hospitals or discharged for outpatient care. As the institution developed a reputation for active teaching and research in psychiatry, cases from other state hospitals were transferred to it for observation or special treatment.

When a building is closed after nine decades of continuous use, its long history moves from a physical setting to an abstract place in our memory. In the course of closing the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, the people who worked and stayed in this building for years, whose lives were affected - often unconsciously - by its dimensions, directions, and traffic ways, are moved to a new environment."
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taylor Mali poem on conviction!

I am so often chided for speaking too strongly and I noticed this trend at the charter school I taught at.
Thanks, Taylor Mali. And I love the graphics too.

Ya know?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stationery, Not Stagnant ~ University Stationery

First Emerson assignment

Just had an amazing and typical experience at University Stationary with my heroes, Gail and Barry Seidman. They just helped us find and install a part for an Automatic Numbering Machine. We had looked on line for replacement pad and ink and we saved money and our sanity by checking in at University, before we ordered. The part was a 3/4″ X 1/8″ inch felt pad. Online it cost $7.95 plus shipping. At University, it cost $2.95. Barry helped me install it and Gail made a copy of the directions for my machine which I had long lost, from a newly boxed version of my gunked up model.

This is something that big box stores would like to emulate but cannot fully pull off. They will have many excellent employees, who give their heart and soul to their work but corporations are organized to value and reward profits. their corporate masters worship the “bottom line” and never care about the product/s the way people like Gail and Barry and their staff do. Small stores value their customers and often really love and always understand the needs of the people in the the field they service. I looked at Yelp for contact info on University and found this story. I smiled because I could so easily imagine the entire story unfolding….

” Before a lunchtime meeting, I realized that the zipper of my suit pants were mad at me and would only stay up for about 2 minutes before drooping inevitably down. I walked down the street hunched into my jacket trying to mentally engineer a solution until I bumped into University Stationery. I walked in and asked, really begged, for A safety pin – no not a box, but I will buy a box if I need to, all I need is one…
Surprisingly they didn’t sell safety pins or were out of them. As a very nice older lady rooted through her desk drawers for one, she told me the story of how one day a poor young man had walked into the store asking also for a safety pin, because he needed them to hold his pants up. She chuckled at this story, but in the midst of telling it, had miraculously dug out not one, but two safety pins (just in case). I thanked her profusely and triumphantly safety-pinned my pants together.”
Loving paper and pens as I do, it was pure fun to spend a few hours shooting stationary objects while listening to Gail talk about "life, the universe and everything". I spent a few hour on a Saturday AM with Gail talking about her work as I shot the way the stacks of merchandise created patterns and I am afraid I was thinking about "paintings" and not film. Considering my turgid filming and editing, Gail's lively personality has a lot of dead weight to carry in this project - but she is up to the task. Prepared as an assignment for Digital Media Production at Emerson College, OCTOBER 2010

Music: "Stand By Me" Ben E. King Playing for Change

Several years ago, a small group of filmmakers set out with a dream to make a documentary film about street musicians from around the world. That dream has grown not only into a reality, but into a global sensation called Playing For Change, and has touched the lives of millions of people.

While traveling to around the world to film and record these musicians, the crew became intimately involved with the music and people of each community they visited.

Many of these people lived very modestly in communities with limited resources; nevertheless, they were full of generosity, warmth, and above all they were connected to each other by a common thread: music.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

stories about being transported - JP slam huge success!

Stories about being transported - JP slam huge success! Here is the story I did not get to tell - that is not a complaint - we want more new people to tell.

My father was a lace curtain-Irish/American-Edwardian-self taught orphan who ran away to join the cavalry in 1921 - by lying about his age. He was just 17. He told me a story about my great great grandfather which helped me a lot.

I told this into my cell phone while running errands on SAT. Chopped it to under 6 minutes. So it is rough. Added the Pogues and images to taste.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An artists work is never done.

my new icon
Was thinking today about an old saw "A man may work from sun to sun but...a woman's work is never done. Or as put in one of the first written iterations of this bromide: "Some respite to husbands the weather doth send, but huswiues affaires haue never none ende."[1570 T. Tusser Husbandry (rev. ed.) 26]  My take - "Normal people may work from sun to sun but an artist's work is never done."  When you are a both a woman and an artist? Whooooeeeee. Multiply the fun. Then add in self-employed. Add to this a world financial situation that is - a major recession? a real depression? How about dire?  We have just begun a new phase of - nonprofit incorporation, investment of more $$$, reaching out, building programs, creating and  promoting story slams in more venues and always thinking ahead to more good things to do with story and storytelling. Sometimes working as a freelancer is frustrating other times heart breaking disappointing but never boring.  Challenging ? Always. Fun? Mostly. Deeply satisfying. Often. Just wish I had another pair of hands or a better I look to better brains for inspiration and  try to remember how lucky I am to have the way and means do creative work. The extra hands will come in the form of more comrades in la lotta, che continua. Leonardo da Vinci wrote:
Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else. All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions.Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.
More inspiration follows:
It all begins when the soul would have its way with you. -Emerson   Begin at the beginning... and go on till you come to the end: then stop. -Lewis Carroll You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star. - Friedrich Nietzsche ( wow - a very cheery thought from Mr. Grumpypants Nietzche!) The first beginnings of things cannot be distinguished by the eye. - Lucretius  Individuality of expression is the beginning and end of all art. - Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe The births of all things are weak and tender and therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings. - Michel E. Montaigne  "The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it. Art is the transforming experience." Joseph Campbell  Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.-  Berthold Brecht The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been concealed by the answers.- James Baldwin.  Ending with  dear Antoine de St. Exupery: "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral."  and  "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

And, one last thought as I try to justify all this rambling introspection on following - or attempting to follow DiVinci's sage advice.  I am trying to be more aware and always take notice of what I  see and feel. I try to reflect and  attempt make sense of this crazy world.  This is also the basis of good storytelling. And a richer life. So it's all good and fits my not too tightly wrapped,  generalist, multitasking rather "incomplete Mind", I was delighted to see this link posted by Guy Kawasaki on twitter  -

" Bigger brain for those who self-reflect [video]" Ha!  I wish. But here is the video so you can decide.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Millionaire Pt. 2: The written WWTBAM pre-audition prep

Meredith Vieria seems to genuinely enjoy her work
Below is some of what we had to fill out and bring with us. They knew our name, gender, age and address from the online form.  In the email, they called what we were doing an "audition" and that sounded very exciting. But the abc staff never saw my answers below because you have to make the first cut to actually have an "audition" where your picture taken and your application read. WWTBAM ( my lazy acronym - abc writes our their name) stuff is in blue...
    •    If you are selected from the Contestant Pool as a potential contestant, you must be available for a qualifying phone call. Please list the phone number(s) where you can be reached Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm Eastern Time.

 If contacted by
WWTBAM staff, all applicants must return phone calls Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm EST     ELIGIBILITY

    •   Are you or any member of your immediate family (spouse, mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother and their spouses) or anyone living in your household currently employed by:
etc. etc a longish list. And then the usual
Do you or any member of your immediate family or anyone living in your household know any persons who are or have ever been connected with the production, administration or judging of “WWTBAM”?  This last bit was no surprise: Contestants are solely responsible for all expenses incurred in connection with their appearance on the Syndicated Program with Meredith Vieira including, but not limited to, travel to New York City, hotel, meals and all other expenses.  The Program Sponsor will not reimburse any Contestant for such expenses.  Do you agree to be responsible for all costs incurred by you in connection with your appearance on the Syndicated Program? Y X     N ___

Then this next part was way more fun. But very hard to suss out just what angle of my life story would fit their needs or get me on their show. Luckily I did not have a lot of time to worry over it. The
WWTBAM asked this:

Married X Single __________ Attached _________ Kids? X 4 lovely daughters

BFA in Painting, Museum School/Tufts and MEd in Creative Arts in Learning/ Lesley University
Education (Name(s) of Colleges and Degrees)
Free lance storyteller, educator and children’s picture book writer. Co-director of a no budget, no-profit storytelling organization with big dreams of becoming a low budget, nonprofit

Please answer the following questions:
1. Quirks, rituals, superstitions…What makes you unique? I play really loud  music in my car -  hip hop, rap, blues, folk, opera and I sing and/or dance  while  I listen.  When a family member next uses the car and turns the ignition they get BLASTED with  sound. Then they blast me. Possibly the only fan of Charlie Parker, Nas, MIA, Olatunji, Wyclef Jean, Punjabi MC, Shakira, Ani DiFranco, Arlo Guthrie, the BSO and Puccini that I know.

2. How would winning $1 million change your life? 

Short answer ? If I actually won the full Million? Wow!  I’d pay off our kid's college loans and buy a big enough house for the whole extended family to live together. And then continue to do the work I love.  As one of  two self employed parents in a flat economy I would cease worrying about my art habit. I love the work I do but our health insurance payments just tripled and my income is very, how you say, ...artistic.  

3. What is one thing you do that makes people laugh? 

I do incredibly stupid things and then tell the story …or I live through incredibly difficult things and tell a story. My imitations and accents make people laugh – been described as Robin Williams with larger mammary glands.

4. If you could nominate yourself as best-_____ or “most likely to_____,” what would be your vote?
I am “most likely to be distracted by anything vaguely interesting about almost anything.” And I am the fastest  Wikipedia researcher in my  circle of friends. I hate to hear opinions quoted as “facts” . When our kids were little  we used to have an encyclopedia next to the dinner table room and I constantly went to it to check or prove a point –  and then get lost in some random stuff. Thank god for iPhones. Wait, you mean I have to leave mine home, huh? Yeah, I guess I knew that.

5. What do you do for fun?
I play the violin/fiddle. I love to sing but I suck at it. Sing in a gospel choir.  Ride my bike places in the city.

6. You’d never believe it but I once… 

Some people will NOT believe that I wanted to be a nun until I was 13 years old. My Auntie Vera used to say  " Don’t do that ! You’ll be on your knees praying and scrubbing all day! You should get married”.  But this was before the woman’s movement and since we are of Italian “distraction” I couldn’t really see the difference.  If I married 'a nice Italian boy' as she suggested,  I would be on my knees all day, praying and scrubbing. But, stuff happens.  Been married 29 years and have 4 children. No “habits” in my future except bad ones. People would pretty much believe anything about me but they are very surprised when they hear how morbidly shy I was until I was about 15 years old.

7. Why do you want to be on Millionaire?
Been watching the show while spending time with  my 92 year old mother -in-law and I have been inspired to try. If I won ?  I’d a buy a big enough house for our whole extended family to live together. Grandma and all.  Then we could all be together and I would still get to do the creative work I love without worrying about making money at it. Besides, all this random info in my head must have some use.  And,  I love a challenge.

8. How did you hear about the audition?
The announcement on the show sent me online.

With a shrug,  I printed my email, my audition form and remembered to remove my Leatherman and Allen wrench from my bag. Then I bought a MegaBus ticket on line.  NY, NY, here I come.

In part 3 - Read how Getting there really is more than half the fun...
New York City SerenadeNY, NY - what a town! Image by joiseyshowaa via Flickr

Here is an interesting article on the show and how the recession has changed the way people are playing. Actually WWTBAM has really changed the format of the game and  it will be played very differently this season, I think in response to this trend:
 The economy is having an effect everywhere - even on game shows. Indeed, the downturn is having an impact on how people are playing "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," said host Meredith Vieira.
"I've seen more contestants who are playing for things like a mortgage payment," Vieira told reporters last week, "or, you know, because they don't have a job right now, or their kid suddenly can't go to college."

The real big gamblers are not there as much.
"On the other hand, what you're getting will be stories about people [for whom] this means a lot," she said. "It's more than just a game, so - it's life-changing money, and I think that's exciting in and of itself."
Read more:

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    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Edited - My Brother's Keeper - for real

    (Sorry about this posting and reposting. Something about blogger autosave and my sloppiness combined to produce versions with lots left out or in weird order. But this is the version I intended to post. I hope. Please dump all others.) You may listen above at "Listen" page

    My big brother does not live nearby but he is in the same metropolitan area. Even so, not many people who know me now, have met Keith ( not his real name). The voices do not let him go out much. The voices, the evil wizards and the voodoo have been messing up his life for nearly 40 years. Just today, after banking, shopping and stopping in a Dunkin' for a celebratory coffee near his group home Keith said, " Let's make it quick. I am getting hit by voodoo pretty bad."

    I have never seen Keith's wizards but I have seen their work and I am a believer. When you have a brother who looks like Charles Manson on a bender, it is easy to believe in the power of his 'evil wizards'. You may know the wizards by a different name  -  Schizophrenia?  It is an awful disease. In the wake of its ongoing devastation, it has become harder and harder for me to see the human being in the shell that Keith inhabits with all those jokers.

    Do wizards like iced coffee? Keith ordered 4.
    Today was different.
    First of all, Keith was calling to say he didn't want help. That was flat out weird. He only calls when he wants help. But it was lucky because I was tired and not into being the good daughter who promised her dying mother she'd take care of her brother. Secondly, Keith needed a ride to the bank. Usually the staff takes everyone in a van, but they couldn't because of the holiday weekend and vacation schedules.  Keith had wanted me to come on Friday and now Saturday morning instead. He called to say he couldn't leave the house because the 'voodoo' wouldn't let him. I wanted to be far away by Saturday so I cajoled and reasoned. But Keith was adamant about the voodoo and I hung up thinking about all I could do with my morning instead of driving to Dedham and back. The phone rang just as I sat down to the computer. Keith had decided he could go out after all. He used to do all his banking at a branch downtown where every one knows him and I was dreading the 25+ mile round trip. But, Keith had worked out that the Shaw's, less than a mile from his house had a branch of his bank in it. And then, if I would wait, he could shop a bit, too. So I picked him up at about 10 AM.

    So much cheese, so little time.
    He had remembered that I missed the entrance last time we shopped and pointed it out to me. I would have driven by and missed it again. "Can you park a little closer to the store?" he said as we pulled into the lot.  "I feel a bit unsteady on my feet." I worry about all the meds they give him but, he was fine. He gets an SSI check and most people in his situation would have the group home be the 'rep payee'. But Keith and we, have been suspicious of the bureaucracy and traded convenience for autonomy and control. 'We 'are my my younger sister and I. We are Keith's  legal guardians.  Between the wizards,  the voodoo, the house rules, his treatment plan and the 12 medications he takes daily, there is damn little Keith controls, so we let him handle his money.

    Usually Keith smells bad. Today he didn't. That was different. Sometimes he is overcome by all the medications he takes and falls so deeply asleep that he pees himself.  On bad days the voodoo or wizards insist he take "dry showers" - an invention of Keith's, which allow him to be in compliance with his hygiene plan, keep the voices happy and not get wet.  I know, Mother Theresa wouldn't trash talk my brother this way but then, I am no saint. Nor am I shy, or easily embarrassed,  but I will admit that shopping with Keith is anxiety provoking. When we are out together, I am always afraid someone will be freaked out by his appearance and either ridicule him or, out of fear, be openly hostile and attack.

    Keith has a vocal tic which sounds like he is growling or revving an engine. Every 3 minutes or so,  he growls, then he shakes out his left arm and pulls his shoulder length hair from his face to back behind his ears. He has a very deep voice and lost all his teeth but rarely wears his dentures. Sometimes he talks back to the voices, and converses softly but audibly. Without his glasses he is legally blind but he doesn't wear them anymore. So he stares and blinks and then leans in to see. People are visibly shocked when they see him. Some people like to laugh about my brother's food habits. I grant you, one person with a cart full of 40 pounds of cheeses, 3 gallons of ice cream and 6 bags of Dorito's is curious. The thought of one person eating it all ? Astounding. But I am sure no one wants to have the hole inside their life* that Keith is trying to fill with all that junk. Or his chronic constipation. Perhaps some are a bit jealous because, even with his high calorie, heart stopping cholesterol laden diet, Keith is not overweight.

    But this is all old hat. What I wanted to tell you, is what I saw today....

    Keith was waiting in line to get a cashiers check to pay his rent when a woman in her early sixties rolled up and proceeded to steal the "who is the craziest person in this line " title right from under our noses. Even with his 6 foot tall frame, scary tics and full beard, this little lady with a small shopping cart and a huge voice was giving Keith a run for his $$$. She did not or could not modulate her voice. She was loud and whiny and getting very agitated about the wait. The line was long and not moving. She huffed and sighed. She stuck out her little hair covered chin and wagged it. She slapped at her cart with her bank book.  She complained that the line was too long! Why was the line so slow? She just needed her check cashed! Nobody cared! and she had medications to get!  She just needed her check cashed! And there was "A hurricane is coming! We gotta hurry."  She just needed her check cashed so she could shop and get home! Before the storm killed us all !

    People in line shifted uneasily. They all looked away; some in disgust, some were embarrassed for her, some in fear. But Keith turned to her and said, "Don't worry, the storm is going to miss us. It 's not supposed to be so bad."  This only ramped up her anxiety and she started in on me after I seconded Keith's report. Keith didn't notice her reaction. He had gone to ask a teller if he could sit down and wait.  I stepped out of the line, and the line of fire. Sheeesh, she was not letting up!

    I also needed a moment, because that kind gesture of Keith's, had made me tear up. Given all that he struggles with, he had heard her distress and reached out to help. All the normal people were taking cover yet, he responded.  It was such an "Adelaide" thing to do. Our mother, Adelaide taught us that everyone was, in fact, our brother. And we were all our brother's keepers.

    Today was different.

    Deep down, struggling with the wizards and the voodoo, the essential and genuine Keith is still here.

    Yo' bro' - it's nice to hear from you.

    * For Real by Bob Franke
    There's a hole in the middle of the prettiest life
    So the lawyers and the prophets say
    Not your father nor your mother
    Nor you lover's gonna ever make it go away
    And there's too much darkness in an endless night
    To be afraid of the way we feel
    Let's be kind to each other
    Not forever but for real

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    NY,NY: My Mission to be a Millionaire - the "movie"

    No time to write at the moment,  but I promise there is more to come...These images on the video are meant to be the visuals for an oral story on this. Gotta say I still HATE Mac's newest iMovie. It is sooooo bad. Okay, I was editing while very sleep deprived but still...iMovie 6 worked so well. And the new one just - does - not!  Some of the edits didn't take and the music ...sound was the easiest thing to work in iMovie and I still have not got a clue how to make refined sound edits work in iMovie.

    much better version...fixed some things and removed many others. Added in pics of return to Boston. All the streets were dead at 12:20AM - so like Beantown.

    Visting NYC: On a Mission

    Went to NYC yesterday and had a ridiculously good time on a fool's errand. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Me? Well, I wanted to see what getting on the show was like. And winning some serious cash would be very good. Been trying to get an audition for the show since I started watching with my 92 year old mo-in-law.  We are  pretty good at it. And have been goading each other at the end of each show.  "You  should be on this!" Sez I . " No, you should be on." Sez Edna. So I have been checking the website off an on for a year. But my timing was always off. Then I checked this Wednesday, saw they had audtions and I signed up.  And I got an email back in minutes! I had an "audition' yesterday for 5:45PM on the next day, Thursday. On Wednesday, I also learned that our ARRA sudsidy ended and now our COBRA payment was triple what it had been the month before. At a whopping $1736.66, our monthly health insurance premiums, not our total health care costs, just the premiums for family health insurance ( 4 souls) now exceed our monthly mortgage payment. And I am still, well...underemployed. Though I have rarely worked harder.

    And I love the work I am doing, but have very empty pockets due to all the out of pocket funding of massmouth. My unemployment benefits ended in MAY 2010. A 501c3 is on the way for our group - not a moment too soon.  Still, that designation is expensive and just allows us to raise funds. It  does not put funds in our pockets.

    So I took their immediate answer and the news about insurance as a "sign". I read and reread the email answer and confirmed my  "audition"/ cattle call in NYC for  Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and decided to video the adventure. Plotting and planning, I followed their directions.
    "Fill out these forms. Be here 15 minutes early. No sharp objects. No Bathrooms, plan accordingly."
    As with so many things in life, getting there was more than half of the fun.

    Next: A short video - almost done. Just a rough cut of the visuals to what will be a 20 minute "digital" story.
    MegaBus - that was one scary ride last night! the driver was a madman.

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    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    " Passing on your left." Don't hit the old lady on the bike.

    "Passing on your left." I say this all the time after ringing a very pleasant little bell. "Ding."  Sounds like a toy Green Line Trolley bell. People jump and others scowl and all I want to do is let them to know where I am. Which is too damn close without giving some warning.

    An Urban AdvenTours group makes its way into Kenmore Square. (Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe)
    I love to ride my bike to work. I have ridden the streets of Boston for nearly 40 years now. But my ride is feeling more and more dangerous. As a freelance performer in schools,  I travel all over Greater Boston and I am happiest when I can do that on a bike. I pass over the BU Bridge ( currently or should we admit that it is chronically?  under repair - but crossing  the BU Bridge on a bike is whole horror story unto itself ) through Central Square and onto Harvard Square or, Porter or Davis or  Union Square. Sometimes I ride all the way to Hyde Park South Boston, Winthrop, East Boston, Mattapan and Dorchester.These are all bumpy, pockmarked, truck filled, hazardous and typical Greater Boston bike rides. People in cars scream, flip me off and trucks and buses squeeze me out and over. Glass, gravel, sand and yawning potholes as wide as my tires are round, litter the road surface. Not pretty sometimes. Lots of hostility. I could also go on about the beauty, the glory of traveling this way, but that is a different story...

    This story is about the thing that scares me witless and nearly kills me daily - my fellow cyclists.

    A dozen times in a ride, cyclists on busy streets whizz pass me with no warning. They should signal. It should be a no brainer. No new equipment or batteries necessary. Maybe, it is a no brainer? As in brains not engaged? Except for a Prius, I usually know when a car is near.  I do not listen to head phones and ride. I never talk on my cell and ride. I am listening.  Despite my intense listening,  cyclists slide silently by me all the time, right and left, without so much as a "hey! " And then they zip in front of me and are gone. Fine. I know you need to pass me. I am an old lady and I do not speed along. And I typically have 30 – 40 pounds of equipment on board.

    I want to sit these cyclists down for a harangue - a little chat with 'moms', as it were...
    Race in Allston,MA 2008

    " Dude!" I want to say, because it is typically a gonads on the outside cyclist who rides so silent and so deeply unaware. " Check it out, bro'. The laws of physics always apply! 24/7.  Meaning, two objects cannot occupy the same place at the same time.  No matter how cool your single gear bike, nor how tight your spandex, nor how zippered and sleek your gear. Physics is fashion blind. Listen. We are sharing the same streets and conditions. We are rolling around on a method of non-polluting transport and therefore we are quiet. Very quiet. And we are surrounded by infernal combustion engines and they are noisy. Damn noisy. 
    These roads are unpredictably bad. If I swerve to the left to avoid a pot hole or some broken glass and you are behind me, zooming along at top passing speed, slithering up to pass without so much as a hiss- how am I to know you are in my space ? When it isn't stolen,  I use a left side view mirror. BUT,  I intentionally keep my eyes front looking for disaster. I will not hear you. I do not hear you. I will not see you. I cannot see you. And if I swerve to avoid something ahead and we tangle ? We'd both be in a world of pain. Both of us could never ride again."

    And bro' here's an achingly simple solution. When you are one to two bike lengths away,  say
    " Passing on your left."

    " Passing on your left." Or right.  Behind you! See? How hard was that? You will be every bit as banged up as I if we collide. A little common sense mixed with common courtesy is all it takes.  Let's do it. I have to get to work. You do too. I usually have 100s of kids waiting for me. Let's get there and not make our next ride a white bike, okay?"

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    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Emerson College - nearly 40 years ago...

    WERS is the best and oldest college radio station. I have been listening since I  first discovered the left end of the radio dial.
    39 years ago I was accepted to Emerson College as a freshman. I had already been accepted and registered at Boston University so I blew it off, albeit a bit wistfully. Back then BU was big, ugly, more expensive and just down the street from the family apartment in Brookline. Actually, BU is still big, ugly, more expensive and just down the street from our new family apartment in Brookline.

    WW II War veteran and anti-war activist
    Howard Zinn in front of BU's CLA circa 1970
    Back then, I did not have enough money to go to school and live in a dorm. I never dreamed of loans and it seemed the only option was a state school.  But I had dithered and delayed enough to miss the application deadline for UMass, Amherst.  I was dejected to be at home and the start of my academic career was less than brilliant. My mother also had a major psychotic break just as my first semester started. This complicated life as our father was the navigator on a supply ship in the North Sea. Since my mother had seasonal bipolar disorder we were, in a weird way, accustomed to the every other year, chaos and culminating  hospitalizations. But that is another story. I would have been miserable anyway.  At a university, my BU admission counselor had told me, you can avail yourself of so many interesting electives.  BU was plenty artsy.  I wanted to be a film maker and BU's SPC was considered by many the best film school, after NYU, on the east coast. A family friend, who worked in the film industry convinced me that I should not study film but some other, unrelated discipline because, said he,  " Anyone can learn the technical part, but you need to have ideas and something to say to make a good film."  Besides, I did not have a have a portfolio that would get me into any film or art school.  BU  seemed a good compromise - I could study liberal arts and take courses in film and visual art. They don't tell you how little one could do at BU as a College of Liberal Arts freshman. No transferring between schools at the university, no taking classes with Anne Sexton and other celeb teachers. What a crock! I thought. My friends at U Mass Amherst were taking classes with Chinua Achebe as freshmen while I sat in huge lecture classes with 600 other freshman, waiting until we were seniors to see if we might be one of the lucky 12 to study with whoever might be the visiting author. I was so alienated and lonely. Academically, I was a wreck.  A very poor math student, I was also dismayed to be a philosophy major where the study of philosophy was largely focused on John Silber's homeboy, Immanuel Kant and symbolic logic. Boring, irrelevant and impossible stuff -  not a course of study for me.

    When Silber tried to bring ROTC came back on campus during the second semester the students and faculty rose up in opposition. We felt the war was now at "home"  and we wanted to keep BU from any complicity with the military-industrial complex. We petitioned, we marched, we had teach-ins, we took over buildings and many students were arrested.  Once, at an early demo,  I was stranded behind a line of riot police and their dogs. There was no "riot". But there were a few hundred students rallying in front of the President's Office on Bay State Road. The order had been give to disperse and we often tested the strength of our "right to peaceful assembly"  and our convictions by  refusing to move.  I  looked to my left and realized that John Silber, was at my elbow. I still remember admiring the colors of his sienna, rust brown and maroon tweed jacket. Silber, then the new BU president didn't notice me. He had his attention on the approach of a TV news team.  Froth and spit flew from his lips as he directed their attention,  pointing out a young man who was being attacked by an off leash police dog.  "Look at him! Look at him!", said John Silber, gesturing emphatically with his good arm. " Why don't you film him? He is deliberately trying to incite a riot by teasing that dog". The terrified student was stumbling backwards, lifting  his arms upwards as the dog tried to bite him. The police had let the dogs off their leashes, put down their visors and were attacking hapless students with long brown batons.  Any normal person could read the fear in the student's face. Suddenly,  the lines of police and demonstrators surged, merged and separated  and I was on the right side of the police riot.  And running away. This picture of John Silber as a wild man and sociopath is still seared in my memory. Along with my shame at running away from the crack of the batons and the dogs, that memory has fueled my determination to fight John Silber's abusive, deranged authority with everything I had. But, worried about my mother's precarious mental state, I embraced the struggle with gusto and resolved not to get arrested because I might be needed at home. It was a pretty amazing conflict. I flunked quite a few of my courses but I got quite an education on justice, the legal system, and the nature of commitment to a struggle. I saw from front row court room seats that Lenny Bruce was right  “In the halls of justice, the only justice is in the halls”.  These experiences made me wrestle with some essential and, as yet, unanswered, questions

    What inspires people to fight against injustice, I wondered ? For us,  Howard Zinn's eloquent leadership was one reason. The recent murder of four students at an antiwar demonstration at Kent State still resonated. The escalation of a war that should have been ending?  Enlightened self interest is often posed as another impetus behind the anti -Vietnam war movement. Although, just like former veep Dick Cheney,  Dr. Evil clone, Karl Rove and former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, all the students had deferred draft status. What inspires movements for justice and peace and, more puzzling, what made people give up, when they hadn't won yet ?  Justice was not served and the Vietnam War  dragged on. Our student movement fizzled and ROTC came to campus even after a long student and faculty strike. Political action was my major course of study but my dedication to it meant summer school to make up for all the credits I lost marching up and down Comm Ave. That summer, my mother was well again and she noticed how miserable I was. She  helped me make a plan to work part-time and create a portfolio so I could apply to art schools. In the fall I was delighted to drop out of BU. I never looked back.
    Post demo, circa 1974,  the author holds a banner with some friends

    Emerson College did not even have a film major back when I applied and was put on the waiting list. When they accepted me in May of 1971, I was nonplussed - even though I knew that smaller classes and a real community would be ideal. I don't know if they even had dorms back then. No matter. Lots of water + 39 years under that bridge and I have just applied and paid for a CAGS in Digital Media Studies at Emerson.  Very excited about all the possibilities. Emerson, strikes me now, as it did back then, as a human sized institution with a human face and soul. I will soon see.
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    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Check out the credits of the new Will Ferrell Movie -

    'The Other Guys' is a parody of old-school buddy-cop movies like the 'Lethal Weapon' films, but director/co-writer Adam McKay wanted to give it a realistically grandiose and relevant villain, which is the reason he turned to Wall Street. "All those old movies had drug-smuggling story lines -- if you did that now, it would be quaint," McKay told Entertainment Weekly earlier this summer. "Who gives a s--- about guys selling drugs at this point? Crime has taken on massive proportions: destroying the Gulf of Mexico, stealing $80 billion. Stealing a billion dollars is nothing now -- that's almost adorable....."We knew the issues we wanted to talk about," Lebeda says. "We did a little bit of research. To get specific numbers, we hired a copywriter, Mark Tapio Kines. He found all the numbers through different online sources." The sources were official government documents, adds art director Grant Nellessen. "Sony had to vet everything to confirm we weren't making up facts," he says. "It wasn't just our opinion."
    As for the presentation of those dry numbers, Lebeda says, "We wanted to do it in as colorful, fun way as possible, with cool transitions in between." Which was tricky, says Nellessen, because "we had to hope the names [of all the people who worked on the movie] would fit in with all the animation we had put together."

    What he said...Kurt Vonnegut on Creative Writing 101

    Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve...Image via Wikipedia

    Kurt Vonnegut listed these 8 "rules" for what he calls
    Creative Writing 101 in his preface to Bagombo Snuff Box: *

    Kurt Vonnegut's words are in black.
    Commenting in red below, I am using Kurt Vonnegut 's light to see better into the process of  5 minute, personal storytelling

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

    American novelist, short story writer, and scr...Image via Wikipedia
    1. Amen, brother Kurt! Just because one can run one's mouth, does not mean one should. In a workshop, sure - meander, flounder, hem and haw. You follow in the footsteps of E.M Forster who said," How can I know what I think till I see what I say"? But in performance, think of your audience. You are there for them - not the other way around. So, what have you brought for their enjoyment and nourishment ?

    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

    2. But, you say, there are no heroes in my life story. Then the hero is you. Someone has to be like able. Tag, you are it. Unless you tell solely for masochists and misanthropes.

    3.Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

    3. This is something to look into as you explore in the deeps of memory and pick through the background of your story. What characters want can be made clear by the actions you include in your story.

    4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

    4.Sure - when you are really skilled at telling stories or forced by time constraints to use words with care, this is what you do.

    5. Start as close to the end as possible.

    5. This is great advice. Especially in the short form of story. The "set up" is a great place to cut and can always be shorter and distilled into a few choice sentences. Just because you lived through all the nonsense, doesn't mean we want to relive it with you. Start close to the end and see what you really need.

    What is your take on the last three of Kurt Vonnegut's 8 ? Leave a comment or email me with your thoughts?

    6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

    7.Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

    8.Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
      The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.

      * From the preface to Vonnegut’s short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box
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      Tuesday, August 10, 2010

      "Why are you telling us this old stuff?"

      Check out what Jeff Gere says at 21:00" He recounts in this interview what he said in answer to a high school student who asked, petulantly "Why are you telling us all this old stuff?" Jeff's answer? Is mine too, I say these ancient stories are blue prints for possble actions. Jeff Gere goes one further and says his story is a "life jacket" you do not need it now but when you do it will be there because this story has been around longer than all of us put together.

      Living Delicious with Jeff Gere, Master Story Teller from Helena Summer Medena on Vimeo

      Jeff Gere is my bro-man! And then I read his article on telling with music. Full article is here and excerpt is below...

      Duets: Tunes ‘n Tales

      by Jeff Gere 8/08
      Appears in ‘Storytelling Duets’ Book,  due in January 2010
      By Jonah & Harold Wright

      My name is Jeff Gere. I’m a storyteller in Hawaii who runs it’s biggest storytelling festival (Talk Story Festival) each fall. As Oahu’s Drama Specialist in the Parks Department, I talk to humans of every age and income all year long, usually alone. I look upon these as ‘warm ups’ for the REAL storytelling event: tandem telling with musicians. I've done LOTS of these in lots of configurations for lots of years. My master’s degree is in ‘Inter-Relating the Arts’, an inter-disciplinary performance and discussion curriculum exploring the languages and idioms of the various arts. HearSayThe Two Sisters (Wind ‘n Rain) (shadow puppets, music and telling.) I toured one summer with a symphonic quintet. I told Arabian Night tales for 18 months of Saturdays to sold-out shows in a swank Chinatown bar with a belly dancer and two musicians- THAT was fun!
      was a story/band trio, which morphed into a duet which built an evening show around the ballad,
      OK, but let’s talk about WHY I love telling with tunes.

      As a painting student at the University of California, Davis, I painted all night until, nodding into sleep, I’d suddenly jerk awake with a command ringing in my ear: ‘paint that out’. I’d rise, paint, sit and nod; Jerk and paint again. The mornings revealed paintings I had not intended to paint! Painting was my initial method of having a dialogue with the subconscious. In my storytelling, I seek this same authentic dialogue and resonance. Music can trigger that.

      OK, so that’s the WHY, but HOW do you do that?

      Let’s face it: It’s easy to recite your precious clever story patter while a musician plunks along behind. I’ve done it- nothing sensational emerges. Creative musicians get frustrated and quit. Little is risked, little gained. That’s no 'event', that’s not what grips me. Remember, I want the subconscious dialogue, want a revelation.

      What GRIPS, THRILLS, and MOTIVATES me in recording and performing with improvising musicians, my MAIN EVENT, is this: If I can split myself open, keeping one ear on the music while speaking, taking audio directions while leading, I myself get lead. Music helps me to let go, to step over the cliff, to dare to walk onto the water, to dwell in the creative moment of NOW. I stop knowing what will happen next.
      Huh? Say what?

      If talented, attentive, inventive, bold musician(s) are really INVITED to PARTICIPATE with me in the tell, I start to get distracted by the rhythm, the percussion, and the cadence of notes. Yes, I get deliciously confused within the story I know well, and it becomes new again, fresh as the first time I spoke it. Whole new things come up! The STORY begins speaking ME! REALLY! Speaking while listening to playing to your speaking... it is all happening so fast that I’m tellin’ by instinct! Spiritual (in essence), collaborative (surprising), fun (PLENTY!), infectious. You can FEEL the LIFE of such a tell with your EARS! You can hear it in the recordings, the audience can feel it in the room. The stories come ALIVE!

      What's your PROCESS in this equation?

      I tell by watching the story unfold in my mind. There’s no script, there’s just the movie in my mind’s eye. When one tells in this way, and we drop in the musical score, I can only talk it out as it unfolds. However, I’ve seen this ‘tune-telling’ work well with ‘reciters’ too, especially when the teller's cadence leaves spaces between sentence clusters (thoughts) for the musician to respond. I remind myself to use this technique because my tendency is to plunge forward and talk right on top of the music, in overlays, which is exciting but not always appropriate. It also means the musicians have to be more aggressive with me. Diversity and variety enrich artistic creations.

      Friday, August 6, 2010

      "But I am back again said Norah..."

      A coincidental meeting at a Somerville performance in May, my monkey curiosity and a desire to see some of the kids I had been teaching and had to leave so precipitously drew me to do a free gig for my old school yesterday.  Yep, I am that sentimental and I  love storytelling that much. Yesterday I was the guest speaker/teacher at a Theater and Literacy Class for middle school kids. The students had been writing memoirs all summer so we worked on telling personal stories.  The kids who remembered me gave me a big shout out and then all did a great job of mining their experience for details and finding words that made the moments of their experience come alive for the listeners. Very fun to work with them and great to catch up a bit with Branigan and meet her co-teacher, Laura.  We had just over an hour and in that short time, at the end of the workshop, 4 kids took the mic and told 1- 2 minute stories filled with detail. Wished I could have stayed to hear them all and do so more coaching. The students were really good about giving each other specific positive comments and listening to each other. My visit had a wistful feel, I am sure only for me, and I kept thinking of the last line in one of our family's fave read aloud books  Noisy Nora. "But I am back again said Nora, with a monumental crash!"