Ulysses

dwconroy2012:

Much improved and complete…

Originally posted on changetheworld(no really)2012:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174659

“Throbbing Python of Love” contains the funniest moment – the funniest two words – in the history of stand-up.  Referring to that magical moment of adolescent discovery, when a knock is suddenly heard on the bathroom door followed by a typically sterile-sounding, parental voice demanding, “What are you doing in there?!”

“GOING BLI-IIIIIIIIIINNNNNND!!!”

Zero shame – nor for that matter, shamelessness; just pure exultation and liberation bordering on religious jubilance!  I hit the floor in tears.

He famously coined the phrase,  “Because, there are nights when you’re not looking for ‘Miss Right’, but ‘Miss Right Now’.”  David Frost once interviewed him and at one point interjected having heard running eight miles is the equivalent to sex.  (It’s not, actually; maybe somehow in terms of endorphins but certainly not the fun part.)  “Running eight miles is the equivalent to sex?!”, he responded.  And then he immediately slouched back into his…

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Ulysses

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174659 “Throbbing Python of Love” contains the funniest moment – the funniest two words – in the history of stand-up.  Referring to that magical moment of adolescent discovery, when a knock is suddenly heard on the bathroom door followed by a typically sterile-sounding, parental voice demanding, “What are you doing in there?!” “GOING BLI-IIIIIIIIIINNNNNND!!!” Zero shame – nor for that matter, shamelessness; just pure exultation and liberation bordering on religious jubilance!  I hit the floor in tears. He famously coined the phrase,  “Because, there are nights when you’re not looking for ‘Miss Right’, but ‘Miss Right Now’.”  David Frost once interviewed him and at one point interjected having heard running eight miles is the equivalent to sex.  (It’s not, actually; maybe somehow in terms of endorphins but certainly not the fun part.)  “Running eight miles is the equivalent to sex?!”, he responded.  And then he immediately slouched back into his chair, feigning exasperation and puffing a cigarette, with the perfect topper: “It’s not the size of the shoe.” Childhood friends, older brothers, cousins, and I would often gather or privately listen to his albums, or watch his HBO specials, along with other greats like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, and Steve Martin.  I watched and listened before having even hitting puberty (mainly of course because of the taboo appeal of curse-words and talk about girls and sex).  And all of what didn’t fly over my head – including various references to current events or historical affairs – I would grow to value the expressed honesty of their perspectives, on top of it all being hilarious as hell. For millions of American and even world youths before and after me, these ‘stand-up philosophers’ would fondly be our first real, adult educators for the world.  (And what a diverse and extraordinary education they were!) And of all the actor/comedians who have had the most lasting impact – with the possible exception of brother Bill [Murray] – Robin was king. And forgone conclusion I knew it would be, from then on my early teens up until my early thirties I would love his work in film, particularly, “The World According to Garp”, “Moscow on the Hudson”, “Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Awakenings”, “Aladdin”, “Death to Smoochy”, “Man of the Year”.  Of course the two most significant – each, I have seen at least couple dozen times – would be the wonderfully colorful, creative, and original, “The Fisher King” (still among my all-time favorites; a beautiful performance from him, and Jeff Bridges’ best performance at the time) and of course the brave, powerful, and beloved film of my late-teens, “Dead Poets Society”[1].   I remember the late New York Times’ film critic, Vincent Canby, writing in his review of “Dead Poets” (which left me wondering if he had actually seen the film) that if you were unable to see one of his students “take [Mr. Keating’s] teachings to fatal lengths” then you would have had to have been raised on a space station.  I didn’t see Neil Perry’s suicide coming, just as virtually none of us saw Robin’s coming. It was only after the fact that a great many of us learned he had been seeking treatment for severe depression.  Given the subtle warning signs, huge volume of work – not to exclude many of his interviews which were like comedy routines – and how his material hardly reflected a preoccupation with death, I don’t think there was anybody who didn’t feel blindsided by the news. So along with herein wanting to pay tribute, the more I was able to trace back to those early years and read about him in more recent years, the more I have been able to fine-tune picking up the signs.  Yet moreover, concerning the big question his death has raised, being creative myself, I have never cared for the idea that one has to be ‘crazy’ – manic-depressive, on all sorts of experimental drugs, or even a social pariah – to create something powerful.  Thus, I wanted to share what I have uncovered for both creative and non-creative, young and older, folk, alike.   I was always aware he had a bit of a ‘Hamlet complex’.  I don’t know if such a term actually exists in psychology lore, but it is a bit of a cliché among male comedians to try and make light of an inability to identify with and please the father (or, ghost of the father).  After the actor/comedian Jonathan Winters had recently passed from natural causes, I caught Robin commenting on how he was the only comedian he had ever witnessed to make his father (a former auto executive) laugh.  No coincidence then how he would become a major influence on the son’s comedy. The following excerpt is from an article from a published interview he did with The Guardian, in 2010, then promoting his film, “World’s Greatest Dad”.  About halfway down, the paragraph begins with the interviewer writing, “My worry beforehand had been that Williams would be too wildly manic to make much sense.  When he appeared on the Jonathan Ross show earlier this summer, he’d been vintage Williams – hyperactive to the point of deranged, ricocheting between voices, riffing off his internal dialogues.  Off-camera, however, he is a different kettle of fish.  His bearing is intensely Zen and almost mournful, and when he’s not putting on voices he speaks in a low, tremulous delivering a funeral eulogy.  He seems gentle and kind – even tender – but the overwhelming impression is one of sadness.”  The next few paragraphs continue on this. For as long as art has existed the suggestion that being ‘crazy’ and a ‘creative genius’ has always been an instinctively easy and very romantic one to make.  Poets, writers, and musicians seem, to me, to be the most associated.  George Byron, Robert Lowell, Alfred Tennyson, Anne Sexton, and David Foster Wallace, as well as more well-known sufferers, like Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain, and Vincent Van Gogh, to name a just few, all suffered from a particularly debilitating form of depression called bipolar disorder – bipolar I, to be exact; as opposed to the less debilitating bipolar II.  Lowell described living with it as “a magical orange grove in a nightmare.” From the study, “Creative Mythconceptions: A Closer Look at the Evidence for the ‘Mad Genius’ Hypothesis”, by Judith Schlesinger, 2009.

“In his Creativity and Madness: New Findings and Old Stereotypes, [Albert] Rothenberg (1990) addresses what he calls the presumably objective work of [psychiatrist, Nancy] Andreasen and [psychologist, Kay Redfield] Jamison, noting the widespread inclination to soft-pedal its limitations: ‘the need to believe in a connection between creativity and madness appears to be so strong that affirmations are welcomed and treated rather uncritically’ (p. 150).”

“To date…the most basic assumption of this whole enterprise remains in the air: there is still no clear convincing, scientific proof that artists do, in fact, suffer more psychological problems than any other vocational group – and probably little chance of obtaining any.  So far, neither the National Institute of Mental Health nor the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association keep statistics on the rate of mental illness by occupation.  Meanwhile, the biased focus on those creatives with troubled lives will never confirm their unique vulnerability, even if their troubles had unimpeachable documentation.”

So, the rather disturbing fact of the matter is there is no proving nor disproving of a scientific link.  Nobody can tell for certain how much Robin Williams’ particularly severe disorder/extrovertedly compulsive desire to entertain played a hand in helping to make who he was, and how the scope of his brilliance was influenced as a result.  (The reported early stages of the neurodegenerative illness, Parkinson’s, accompanied by these two elements, to go with old age, I believe also played a significant part.) But all told, one certainly does not have to be to some extent clinically, mentally ill in order to create something powerful.  Nor would proper medication – should one be able to find it – hinder creative output. Generally speaking, surrounding yourself first and foremost with friends and a supportive community are the most important things that encourage and sustain growth.  A muse helps, and since the moment I learned I wanted to write I felt I just needed this as a sole foundation.  It took a long time and some excruciating not-knowing – some, personally speaking, being able to maintain that hurting my selflessly creative self would be the ultimate act of selfishness – to uncover this more base-foundation.  (I have always been able to in some way say to myself, ‘O, what an ass am I’, and work from there. :) )  Yet his influence will no doubt continue to inspire me to be a well-rounded, and grounded, creative individual [2].   He always seemed in every way in speed with the nineteen miles per second at which the Earth revolved on its axis.  His sharp, sometimes mesmerizing barrage of calculated wit and highly calibrated sense of irony were huge influences on me.  Classic Robin-isms, like, “Excuse me, Mr. President, in the dictionary under ‘irony’, it says ‘See irony’”, or “We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing near you,” were said out of love.  He was worldly and eccentric, embodying a child-like curiosity to always want to learn more.  He was extremely articulate apart from and even in between the extravaganza of cultural voices, musical instruments and sound-effects, and real-life impersonations.  He could dole out the obscurest of technical details in an improvised routine, and was able to seamlessly conduct this entire compendium at any given time (…I had to pause after the ‘invention of the bagpipe’, around the 6:40 mark).  He will forever remain untouchable in his ability to improvise.  I was/am especially amazed by his Shakespearean launches; one of which, in the middle of introducing Rita Rudner at Comic Relief V, which I cannot find on youtube but will try to do justice here:

“…And she just finished her first movie, which she co-stars with Kenneth Branagh – [dropping into exaggerated-dramatic British accent] Gadzukes!  Yes!  The woman is here, all the way from The Royal Shakespeare Company!  …‘I fear not, Fellatio!  This is I damndest cunningly withstane!  These queen sheets I shall not know thy thread, but yet touched the cock and called her throne!  Oh, saucy Worcester, wilt thou deny thy father’s brothers?!  Eldest son, Vollack, come to the moisture of all England’s fetted loins – in my loins!  Titus has no penis.’ – Act IV, scene ii.”)

His was just an incredibly theatrical comedian.  That was it for me.  And it was in considerable credit to having studied stage-acting at Julliard for three years.  (He only needed three years, before being recommended to leave by his professors because there was nothing more they could teach him.) He was not always ‘on’, in the general sense, but that was very rare.  And it was remarkable to me for as long and as often he would go on tangents how he would never lose confidence, never lose control of the context, and never allow himself to be overtaken by the slightest of self-indulgences. He had an enormous and fearless sensibility to either seriously or exuberantly point out our hypocrisies, and would just go until it was somehow indicated time to move on. Mel Brooks said it was never enough for him to just make people laugh but to leave them on the floor.  Robin was the same way.  He seemed to humbly hold his craft in esteem with other more prominently known, humane professions, such as in medical science, research, education, humanitarian aid, and so on.  At the heart of his brilliance, stemmed kindness rooted in human dignity. Fare-thee-well, dear, great King.   [1] From which, his character’s recitation of the excerpt from “Leaves of Grass” has now been immortalized in an i-pad commercial.  ‘Seize the day’, youth of the world, by burying half of it into an electronic device?  Hearing Walt Whitman promote Apple is like hearing Hart Crane do a voice-spot for Home Depot. [2] I do not own the dvd, don’t really need to, and don’t wish to currently pay $500 for a used copy on amazon, but the rest of the scene finishes with the headmaster’s polite reminder of two of the school’s four philosophical ‘pillars’: “‘Tradition’, John.  ‘Discipline’.  Prepare them for college and the rest will take care of itself.”

World Cat Day

macy_usa

Hi. Today is World Cat Day. Like many of you, I never even knew such a day existed!

I am told I live in a ‘country’ called the ‘U.S.’ (…See flag.) This makes me see how many of you can be fiercely territorial just like many of us! (After all, it’s my roommates’ turn to live in the closed room, nearby, due to my anxiety issues. It’s all a work-in-progress.)

Anyhoo, no one can say for sure, but a lot of us animals, like, already brought into this here world have compassionate and considerate, fellow caretakers. Others, unfortunately, do not. Some of us have compassionate societies – like in Switzerland, where not many cats occupy shelters and are able to live out their years should they never be adopted. While many other societies, like this one, are, themselves, still a work-in-progress.

So, I am asking that you all take the time to be better animals to us, each other, and most importantly, to yourselves. After all, even though I myself, here, can be quite articulate, you humans are supposed to be smarter than us.

Peace!

Daylight Robberies: Nights in the Not Much Longer Life of Working in a Restaurant (Part 1)

Overheard two servers while cleaning the other night share how much they had made over Mother’s Day – one of the busiest restaurant days of the year.  One made about $175 in tips, and the other, over $300.  Their whole conversation began, incidentally, with the latter’s surprised delight having made about $300 on this very non-descript, Wednesday night.

I later asked that server just much he happens to make over a typical week.  He replied about a thousand dollars.

I looked back at him…  And his stone-serious, eventual verbal reply indicated he was not joking.

Recognizing of course he is one of the good servers, I asked if this was typical among more average, full-timers (‘average’ presumed here as around what the aforementioned other here had taken home on Mother’s Day).  “O-ohhhh, no,” he confirmed, somewhat to my relief.  He added that a more average server probably brings in about $700/week.  …Ok, about three or four hundred dollars more than I expected.  And finally, over the restaurant’s busiest promotion which ran from mid-January to mid-April of this year, he said he made about $11,000.

Needless to say I found this news a touch depressing.  I have always been aware that, financially speaking, I am on the wrong side of the kitchen.  But up until now, I just wanted to share here for the sake of posterity that I never knew the numbers!  As I overheard some 19 year-old newbie say he made about $150 on a Saturday night, slightly more than what I would make over an eight-hour shift, as a cook, I could not help but feel a bit robbed!

I know there are ideas out there, like the back of the house being given a share of the wait-staff’s tips.  Not necessarily arguing for this here, but something like it would feel accommodating having to work in such a herd-‘em-in/herd-‘em-out, corporate-kitchen (a term I’ve always upheld as contradictory given the impersonalized nature of how they’re run, in stark contrast to one that is independently owned).

For instance, we have servers – plural, and oftentimes the same below-average ones, every week – who tend to forget to put a table’s order in.  The cooks are then asked to rush the table’s order through, on top of keeping all regular hell from breaking loose, so that the server and restaurant as a whole can save face (because having to explain to a table you forgot they exist would just be in every way bad).  I will never understand how a restaurant can be designed to be so busy that a server can forget to put a table’s order in.

I also can’t understand the chronic ignorance whenever a below-average server would re-enter the kitchen and yell – and keep yelling – in need of something random.  This only succeeds in slamming to a halt every cook’s train of thought in hopes one will respond.  We never respond.  The one designated cook to field such needs eventually responds, but there is something comical to how some servers insist on keep doing this, as if God would ever have the time to tend to such baffling ignorance.

A friend of mine once said that working in a restaurant is a lot like working in an e-r – except with absolutely nothing at stake.  Most of us take pride in our work, but as a matter of perspective, many jobs are simply not as vital or worthwhile as, say, restoring the peace in situations like in Ukraine or Syria, speaking up against the status-quo oligarchy, or anything of actual importance. 

And this lends to why I’m reluctant to readily jump from the back to the front of the house – at least in this establishment, and in this town: the sheer amount of ignorance one has to, well, ignore.  There are rampant examples of it, every night: racial ignorance, sexual ignorance, dietary ignorance, and maybe most profoundly social-economic ignorance.  All of these go ignored under the hyper-paced guise of profit.

‘TLDR’

My first ever blog-post – here on this site – was meant to serve in and of itself as a protest on the topic of money in politics.  I wanted to create a link for it and then email it to various campaign offices and publications, as well as of course share it on a few social network sites.

It was naïve, perhaps, in retrospect, hoping its impact would readily catch on – knowing next to nothing about blogging etiquette at the time, as well as having yet to establish any sort of…following (still not very comfortable with that word).

I know the piece seemed also, by popular blogging standards, long.  Whenever I choose to write about something big I believe the reader can instantly recognize it as such, and so the challenge then is to keep it interesting to the point where ‘length’ becomes perfectly imperceptible.

I put a lot of work into that piece, along with another on a left to center understanding of guns and gun-control in America.  And my fear still is that these, among others, will get crushed under the traffic of more frequent postings.  We are of course eons from the days of Dickens and Dostoevsky, where readers demanded big books because there were not many other sources of entertainment available.

So understanding that frequency is important, and wishing to maintain a generally high quality in what I choose to write about, I have come to the following compromise: I will split any a future, grand topic into a series of consecutive posts.

…See, I tend to learn the fundamental process to some (…ok, many) things, late in life.  One eventually abides by learning important fundamentals with having always excelled in understanding basic math.  …And, boy, I desperately need to be around a community of fellow artists/writers.

 

And just as a final side-note, no, thankfully no one has ever commented on anything I’ve written with this here title (which means, ‘Too Long, Didn’t Read’).  I don’t like using pop-culture acronyms, myself, and was not aware this one existed until the other night.  I take never receiving it as a compliment, for it would generate the reply, ‘Understandable, seeing how you could not have even written that out.’

Or, very simply: ‘FO’.

On dementia…

I absolutely love moments of sheer joy and adulation that only sport or music can seem to provide, like the way his appearance at the 2010 UNC alumni game was depicted in the following story: http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/10545949/precious-memories-dean-smith-story.  It’s goes to show how many a two people in a large crowd, totally opposite on other matters, can have a mutual and almost spiritual appreciation for something so basic.

For a person such as he, so widely revered as both humble and larger-than-life, this is not so much a story about his legacy but an effectively, beautifully written account on the sheer power of dementia.  He is still here, his heart and its memory is still here.  And so he should not be so dramatically perceived or acceptably referred to – understandable as it may be – by his entire ‘family’ in the past tense.

The heart may want to recede into a dark corner after reading this.  I feel what makes people instantly tense about the “cruelty” – an accurate term – of this disease is being invariably confronted with their own mortality.

And on the more personal note, reading this compels me to conjure up means to try to bond with my Mom, as she is roughly in the middle stages of dealing with this disease.  If/When the time comes that she does not recognize me, I will never allow myself to believe, without in any way stressing her, that she does not know me nor I her.

The Toothpick is Mightier Than the Sacrificed Lamb

Wow, this past Thursday, the Arizona state legislature passed a law which awaited the signature or veto of the governor on whether to permit businesses to refuse service to gays based on “religious principles”. The legislation was placed on the governor’s desk on Monday, upon which she had had until this Saturday to decide whether to sign or veto. Arizona’s U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, both urged the governor to veto. Apple began back-peddling on their plans to build a plant in the state. The Super Bowl was threatening to leave (just like they had gone ahead and done about fifteen years ago when the state did not want to recognize MLK Day; the state, then, reportedly lost hundreds of millions in revenue). The tide of protest grew and grew. But, thank goodness the governor did not for any reason wait until the weekend to decide to veto.

Since most politicians rather willfully shy from educating, before simply cutting to the heart of the tedious, Leviticus 18:22/Old Testament debate debunking the “religious principles” claim, given how cynically nutty this particular piece of legislation was, we ought to first air out a few civil liberties quandaries (when legislation like this will come up, again)…

For one, how would one know if a potential customer is gay?! How awkward would it be if a teenager, out with his parents, is refused service by an unwise proprietor despite not yet coming out? …I would love to stop at any a gas station in the state and reply, ‘Hey, biologists and anthropologists say that the vast majority of us heterosexuals are to some extent bisexual. This includes you, Dwight. Twenty-five on Pump 2.’

How perverse is it to leave it up to the law to decide what is ‘burdensome’ to the business person’s religious beliefs? Would gay residents of Arizona ultimately have to be registered to wear a yellow – or, pink – star, like the Jews in concentration camps, to be ensured potential discrimination from business? If a general physician became known for refusing gay patients, one could go in for a prostate exam and then share when it is over, “By the way, doc, I’m gay, and you just had your hand up my ass!”

Arizona is one of five states that allows its general public a no license or permit (or, “Unrestricted”) concealed/carry handgun policy, as well as upholding a Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine which extends coverage to any place in the state where a person has a right to be. So, if discriminated against (or, not), where deadly force is threatened (or, not), said person could shoot the discriminator and legally claim self-defense. It seems like interpreting public policy in Arizona is a bit like knowing how to play poker. …Poker and guns. Long live the wild west.

The argument from those who support this legislation is that businesses would simply, legally be protected to politely refuse transacting with presumed gays. It is perfectly astonishing, even more so now in the Information Age, how a conformed brainwashing can lend to an inability to see the discriminatory element (let alone, overlook the separation of church of state element, which separates us from the countries we choose to continue to coldly and hotly war against).

People might look at religious/social conservatives and say or think something to the effect of, ‘You can never change them.’ Wrong. Facts open people’s eyes. They do mine.

And as for the “religious principle”, it has been proven that children who have gay parents become acclimated to the normalcy of living among gays and gay couples, and, therefore, do not grow up discriminating against gays. Or, to put it as one sign at a not-too-long-ago same-sex rally, proudly, and rightly, so: “Jesus had two daddies!” I would see gay couples at the Catholic church I used to attend and feel a profound sense of relief.

Intellectually, as well as sociologically, just about everyone alive now in the U.S. has been acclimated to having come to reject as well as accept several passages/ideas written in the Bible. For one, one of the very ten commandments dictates Christians should not work on the day of the Sabbath. Multiply roughly 50 Sundays per year times the 26 years I have been legally working, and I and others ought to be worried about burning to a crisp in hell. We can safely agree there are actual, deeper and darker, hierarchal sins going amorally unfrisked and unacknowledged.

In a nutshell, refusing equal rights for gays just because it is written in the Bible – or otherwise referred to as ‘religious principles’ – is simply means to hide behind one’s homophobia.