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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