Archive for Travel

Los Angeles: An Armchair Perspective, “3-Pointer Plus the Foul”…

Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2018 by gregnett
cozy-armchair

You see, it’s like this actually…

It’s fall in Los Angeles—and the days are warm and the nights are cold. (Sounds poetic.) I was a bit under the weather for the past few weeks and needed some time recuperate. So forgive my absence—if something like that concerns you. Continuing from my “armchair,” I’d like to share with you four more observations of Los Angeles.Enjoy!

Backwards Cap, No Mortgage

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‘Sup, bro?

There’s a saying down in Texas: “All hat, and no cattle.” At face value the saying could simply be read as one who dons a large cowboy hat—obviously—but possesses no livestock (re: cattle). It too is analogous with the Gen-Xer term poser: one who tries (way too) hard but still doesn’t “get it,” a person who brags endlessly about their doings and accomplishments but has in fact built their person on a mountain of lies to make themselves look better… I think you can see where I’m going with this. I affectionately apply the saying “Backwards cap, no mortgage” to my fellow Angelenos.

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Apartment “amenity” in LA…

Take away the sun, the view, the beach, the marijuana, the Benz, and the women—do that, and, well, you’ve left the contemporary Angeleno with holding nothing but a cup in his/her hand because no one here owns much of anything (re: property). Yes, there’s a spoiled, entitled, robber baron mercantile class living their best version of life here in La-La Land (and California at large) but for the other 85% they’re living in a de facto renter state. Even as far back as the seventies California has had problems with affordable housing. The rule book has been completely thrown out now though. Los Angeles, by way of Forbes magazine, has been listed as the worst American city for renters beating out San Francisco, New York and Miami. Since 2013, L.A. has been the most rent-burdened city in the country. Roughly 60% of Angelenos spend upwards of 40% of their income on rent. The ballpark for rent for a single-person unit averages $1,516 per month, while a family unit averages between $2,172 and $2,483 per month. And these are the rental prices for units that don’t come with refrigerators or stoves!

Jonestown Redux

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“We all agree… We all agree… We all agree…”

Here. Drink this. Taste good, doesn’t it? No? Don’t like it? Well, like, what’s your problem, bro?

If for nothing else, living in Los Angeles has taught me one thing: that it’s just best to agree with everyone, all the time, on every issue, regardless out outcome, or context, NO MATTER WHAT! If you are on the receiving end of this, you may be sitting there scratching your head like, WTF!

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Never take your eyes off your cocktail…

It’s been said that in New York people stab you in the front and in Los Angeles people stab you in the back… Well, you can imagine my shock and horror upon hearing this as someone who grew up in a flyover country (Louisiana). It made my drive west a wee bit stressful. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that there are no pulling of knives in Los Angeles; however, there is plenty nodding of heads. It’s like Jonestown all over again.

Now, I can’t speak about the so-called “pretentiousness,” or “phoniness,” or “fakeness” of Los Angeles; because, well, for one, I’m not sure that that’s a fair assessment of the city, and two, I’m not even sure that that exist. Nevertheless, I can speak about Angelenos need to agree—vehemently—with one another, because that’s actually palpable. It’s a borderline obsession even. Like any American city L.A. has its good and bad. So, no way am I suggesting to you that the city lacks any dissidents. You’re just hard-pressed to find them out gallivanting around.

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When you try to fit in…

I think this need to constantly be in agreement comes down to a few factors. One: people here are way too nice. It’s true; Angelenos, no matter how overworked, over-taxed, and over-burdened they are, they somehow manage to always turn on their smiles. And smiles are infectious, especially if the people smiling at you are easy on the eyes. Two: it’s biologically and socially (and possibly metaphysically) rewarding—in the sense that our perception of such an effort could be recognized by someone else, who, in kind, could improve one’s lot in life. Studies have shown that whenever there’s scarcity or limited resources people tend to show this type of behavior (group-think). And as I have mentioned above, with close to 40% of our income already being allotted for rent, going against the grain could potentially lead to homelessness or yourself as your only friend. It used to be that people would fight over crumbs; well, in L.A. people nod their heads for them. Lastly, it may be holistic. At the end of the day, Angelenos just want their apartments, their jobs, their “things,” their “person” to come together and form like Voltron—and for all of it to be the absolute best ever! Even though it may just be “okay.” Just remember to keep comments like that to yourself; and God help you should you say them out loud.

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You know, if my advice is worth anything…

 

Dirty Sole

As a wee lad I grew up in a poor black neighborhood. How poor was it? Well, in my neighborhood of yore people were so poor that if their kids didn’t have brand-new (“tennis”) shoes to wear to school they didn’t send them… What do brand-new shoes have to do with getting an education? The hell if I know; it never made much sense to me either.

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Custom-made for the streets of LA

Avoiding the socioeconomic reasoning of so terrible a logic, it did shape my outlook on footwear. And, man, people in Los Angeles—Millennials especially—love them some dirty sneaks. I kind of wish I could do a re-do on grade school for my childhood classmates. If only they had grown up in Los Angeles they’d probably be doing a lot better in life. (Maybe a few of them are.)

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Lookin’ goooood….

At first I used to think it was a Hipster thing, but they’ve moved on to wearing that really old style of Oxford which has now gone mainstream. And all the means is that the Hipsters have most likely moved on to another type of shoe. Trendsetters.

And let me be clear: I’m not talking about a little scuff marks here, a scratch there… It’s like a full-on competition to get the shoes as dirty as possible. I’ve even seen couples out-and-about with matching dirty sneakers. It’s fascinating. I’ve even drunk the Kool-Aid (heh heh) on this and have several pairs of dirty sneakers (Converse) in the closet.

Table for “1”?

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Just me tonight…

L.A.’s billed as a party town, but there’s a suburban and outdoorsy vibe to the place also. But for Yups, though, L.A. lacks a true happy hour scene due to the gridlocked nature of the roadways during evening rush hour. So when the dinner rush hits—usually right around 8PM—larger groups looking for a bite to eat get top priority. This town gives a big F.U. to the single diner.

And it’s always awkward walking into a restaurant alone. The host/hostess looks at you all weird and the first place she/he turns to when scanning the dining room to accommodate you is the bar. I kid you not. Every damn time! I’ve been here for eleven years and not once have I ever been offered a table when I walk enter a restaurant alone. What if I was a recovering alcoholic or didn’t drink alcohol at all? Then what?

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Kevin knows…

I’m sure this happens to single diners in every metropolitan American city, but Los Angeles really bungles this one bad. And if it’s not the host/hostess screwing you over, it’s the “server” (waiter) who’s pissed he/she has to wait on one person—because when you’re working for tips the more heads the better, amirite?

There’s have been times that I’ve gone out to eat and have asked for a table and I have been told that the open tables I see in front of me are reserved for large parties; some even sit open for another forty-five minutes while I sit at the bar checking the clock on my cell phone. I’m like, I could’ve eaten and have gone by the time those with reservations were set to arrive. And it’s always nope! You can’t sit there because if we don’t sit the maximum amount of people at the open tables we’re all gonna die…. Best bet hitting a restaurant in L.A. is to make an Open Table reservation online for three, then asked—demand!—to be seated and immediately order your meal. (Food menus are online now.) When the “server” finally realizes that you’re the only one sitting there and comes by to ask why, lie (sorry) and tell the “server” that you’re friends are stuck in traffic. Works every time.

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Oh, and another thing…

Well, I’ve gotta run! Be on the lookout for my next installment later this month. Happy Halloween!

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Los Angeles: An Armchair Perspective, The Sidewalks of Los Angeles…

Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2018 by gregnett
cozy-armchair

You see, it’s like this actually…

… are freakin’ disgusting! And I say this as a person who moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans where tourists treat the streets of the French Quarter like it’s their own personal waste receptacle, and the city itself determines the success of each Mardi Gras by the amount of trash picked up off the ground—literally weighing it by the kilo—by prison trustees on Ash Wednesday (the day after Fat Tuesday) morning. So, I know what it’s like to have to high-step over and zigzag through random objects left on the ground.

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Fresh squeezed!! My favorite!!

But I’ve never seen filth on the sidewalk to the level it is in Los Angeles—and an entire populous so laissez-faire about the aesthetics of the sidewalks they (we) traverse… And the condition of the sidewalks is just the tip of the iceberg to what’s going on in this here mega city! (More on this later in the series.) Los Angeles proper is the quintessential 21st century urban obstacle course bumf*ck bonanza.

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So smooth… NOT!

Honest to goodness, I can’t even tell you the last time I walked in a straight line down a city block… If it’s not people obstructing my way; then some random object (that has no business being there) is. You know, Angelenos love to bitch & moan about the need for more HOV lanes and less billboards on the freeways, but forget all that noise: what’s up with these goddamn sidewalks?

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Post-apocalyptic.

Some make the argument that this is what Big City Livin’ is all about—but have you seen the sidewalks of Taipei or the city-state of Singapore, or Geneva? (You can eat off the ground in any of those three cities. Whenever I drop food on the ground in L.A., I say a small prayer to myself and just kiss my food goodbye.) So, I have to strongly disagree with that sentiment/analysis. This comes down to a matter of personal responsibility and civic pride. I do my part by not throwing trash (or anything else for that matter) on the ground. As for my fellow Angelenos, well…

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Sad reality…

I mean, we all look down nowadays because of our cell phone addiction—so how could Angelenos not notice how filthy the majority of the sidewalks have become? At this point it’s negligible what we’ve allowed to happen to the second largest city in the United States. I feel like this city should be a showpiece… About that: I’m always within earshot of a conversation where I can’t help but overhear an Angeleno talking to their friends visiting them from out of town where they deploy “the excuse” on why the streets of L.A. look like shit. (Excuse my French.) It goes something like, “Things are getting a lot better—don’t mind the trash.” Or “It’s improving. You should’ve seen how this area used to look.” Or “This neighborhood doesn’t usually look like this, there must’ve been a festival yesterday or something.” Or failing those comments, they simply laugh it off… What does this kind of response say about the psyche of the people living here?

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Anybody need a new mattress and box spring set??

I was out over the weekend with an acquaintance of mine and I happened to chat up a group of four from Orlando who were in Los Angeles for the first time. Their travel agent got them a great deal at a downtown Los Angeles hotel, and they were shocked at how filthy the streets of L.A. were. One of the young women—paraphrasing here, but pretty close to her exact words—commented to me on the condition of L.A.’s sidewalks to this effect:

“At first we thought they were filming a movie, because there was just trash everywhere and random people walking around. But the more we walked around, the more we started to realize that every street was like this. I got scared and eventually we went back to our hotel and just swam in the pool for a while. We looked on the internet to find some spots that were safe because we didn’t feel like there were any near our hotel.”

What the young woman is referring to is L.A.’s infamous Skid Row and the surrounding downtown area currently under revitalization but is still being treated like a junk yard/outdoor homeless shelter.

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Sidewalks of LA…

Mind blown, yet?

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Darn outdoor patios…

Here’s what you’re guaranteed to encounter when walking the streets of Los Angeles: broken pavement, cigarette butts, soiled baby diapers, memory foam, cleaning products, various household appliances (especially bent ironing boards), street musicians, (illegal) street vendors, celebrity/superhero impersonators, construction equipment, old mattresses, furniture (sectional couches especially), used travel luggage, flight itineraries, porn magazines/flyers, business cards/flyers, loose strips of paper, empty plastic bottles (OMG!), outdated computer monitors, children’s toys, jumper cables, worn tires, old televisions and flat screens, discarded food containers (my favorite is the empty potato chip bag), used syringes, bloody tampons, loose coins, receipts, valet tickets, (gang) graffiti, aerosol cans, homeless encampments, stray animals, clipboard activists, Jehovah witnesses, protest mobs (there’s like one every weekend), parking meters, dog shit, human shit, pigeon shit, puddles of “liquid”, illegal immigrants, clapboards, outdoor patio/sidewalk seating areas, newspaper stands, mailboxes, dog bowls, trampled-on/half-eaten pieces of food, cardboard boxes, milk crates, soiled blankets/bed sheets, felled tree branches, random articles of clothing, baby strollers, mannequin heads, shopping carts, shards of glass, etc… Basically, the streets of Los Angeles have become a de facto landfill—if I haven’t driven that point home any further. Admittedly so, the sanitation department of Los Angeles is fighting a losing battle, one they’re none too concerned about because they’re all union! (And stressed the hell out.) Union meaning—we’ll get to it when we get to it, and better to let it pile up first so we don’t lose our job or government contract staying on top of this madness.

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When it rains, the sewer grates look like this…

Photos tell a much better story, so I’ll cut this blog post short and leave you with a few extras. And mind you, none of these were staged and all of them were taken at random while I was out running errands… As mentioned above, Angelenos have turned a blind eye to filth piling up on the sidewalks, or again they laugh it off and opt to deploy “the excuse” when cornered on this issue. But trust me: they’re fully aware of this issue.

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Watch your step—literally!

After being out here on the west coast for more than a decade, I’ve learned that most people find that the best solution to this problem is to just run away from it. So the more affluent Angelenos—and the ones willing to pay a premium on rent that is already exorbitant and unaffordable—have ran to the very outskirts of L.A. (Santa Monica, Orange County, San Gabriel Valley, South Bay to name a few areas) cramming themselves into every nook and cranny of the outlying region so as not to have to face this very issue while those unwilling to pay a king’s ransom for rent are left to zigzag their way through this filth. But even the perimeter of Los Angeles is now starting to succumb to the Filth Monster, and soon there won’t be anywhere else to run should you (we) want to continue to live in southern California. Me, I’m off the opinion that the sidewalk issue—along with others—will get worse before it gets better. So, if you still feel like L.A.’s the place for you: be on high-alert, do some extra squats at the gym, and be prepared to high-jump and side-step your every destination.

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Sofa-microwave-old T-shirt combo!

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Rando dog food!

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I’ve banged a knee on so many of these…

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An old desk… seriously??

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Like, you had to walk past a dumpster…

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Gross!

Til Next time….

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Oh, and another thing…

 

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Alcestis

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2017 by gregnett

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
Post Preliminary Confessions: Closing Thought

masks

Comedy. Drama.

Well, boys and girls and aliens—this is it! Anything else pertaining to this here monthly blog series (confessional) will next be seen in book (e-book) form most likely… Packing all that I’ve said into an e-book is an idea I’m still wavering on—but ultimately that was what this endeavor was about in the first place. Should I still go through with the e-book, it’ll be at a relatively low cost to you the consumer and loyal supporter of the wave I’m on. I’m hoping for my e-book to “hit the shelves” at or around the price of $1.99 USD. (Life for Big G began as a runaway. I’m not all too sure how Amazon determines the costs of e-books for those who choose to self-publish and then use the Amazon Marketplace to hawk their wares, but I’m hoping that I can sell my e-book at $1.99 USD even, for sentimental reasons. The very first purchase I made way back when—when I began life “on my own”—was a five-piece order of chicken nuggets at McDonald’s for one dollar and ninety-nine cents (plus tax; Fall of 1996, I’ll never forget!)… A very profound moment in my life; the kind of small purchase that paid big dividends—literally! Oh, and no need to show any concern about that whole situation; I’ve moved on from it, clearly. It’s just that for this next phase of my life, I’d like to have it begin with the same price point, only this time the other way around… Anybody out there got two dollars for ya boy?)

Sometime last November, I think, I had a sit-down with myself and wondered, why hadn’t I had anything published? I have at least twenty black & white composition notebooks and an old, beat-up Dell laptop worth of solid material—what gives? I’m talking poetry, free-form, essays, reviews, news articles, biographies, short stories, partially-completed and completed novels, epistles, screenplays (le sigh); plus, a bunch of other start-and-stop thoughts and ideas that if I didn’t have to work seventy damn hours a week, there’s no doubt in my mind I could finish writing them… All of it just sitting there, unreleased, doing absolutely squat. After about a day or two of thinking it over, I figured out what I could do with most of it. But all that thinking, unfortunately, led me right back down the same road I had reluctantly travelled many times before: I could query magazines and the like for my poetry and short stories—but they tend to favor college students and established authors, so nah! (New voices, my ass!); I could query film agencies and literary managers as well as submit my screenplays to screenwriting contests… Not so much nowadays. The soup du jour in Hollywood right about this time is everything Woman (I’m not venting; it is what it is) and, again, I know the pain and misery of this marketplace and how cruel it can be regardless of that bias reality (Don’t for one second buy into the so-called “Diversity Initiative” that’s been taking shape in the American film industry for the past few years. Personally, I still think that if you’re a white man pursuing screenwriting (filmmaking) in Hollywood you’ve got it made in the shade. [I’m not venting; it is what it is.] But all “diversity” really means is that a TV show’s writers’ room will hire—for one season more or less—a “woman of color” before me—a “man of color”—because with that one writing position filled in this fashion they’re able to check off two boxes as far as Quotas™: woman and “person of color.” [How I loathe this term “person of color.” We all have a color. And two, I loathe this process even more. I much rather know I got into the room on my own merit rather than a showrunner needing to have a *ahem* “person of color” placed in the seat so as not to get fined, or lynched, or become a trending topic on Twitter or whatever.] Again, I’m not complaining or mad about the process; I’m just telling you that that’s way the cookie actually crumbles.); or I could once again reach out to the New York Literati and let them know about of my novels—but that’s also a no-go because they too are all about Woman—and what’s even weirder is that book agents can be quite cranky in their rejection e-mails and letters; or perhaps I could just call a spade a spade and admit to myself that “I suck!” and be thankful that I do have some outlet for my creativity via my own blog (#TINWIPAWhoop! Whoop!) and I’ll just have to be content with the five or so views I get each blog post (I’m not calling anybody out or anything like that, but I do go over the numbers and am fully aware of how abysmal they are.); or I could publish my own stuff…

It’s not really a boon—although it could be!—and I’m already far behind those who’ve taken to this course of action (self-publishing; self- anything). However, it is disconcerting to say the least. My (slack) revolutionary spirit doesn’t like how easily one’s voice is suppressed or how if one chooses to hold an opinion opposite to that of a closed-off group (re: elitist; union) one is painted as a dissenter, or worse, their material “isn’t any good so you can’t be in our club” and they are quickly jettisoned to the outskirts of Society™. Indeed, these truly are some trying times in America—the world perhaps—for myself and others who are having to seek alternative routes to be heard, to add to Pop Culture, to contribute to the “conversation” happening in Society™. I mean, there is a sort of je ne sais quoi about being brought to the fore by the nation’s established institutions (Hollywood, Washington Post, The New Yorker, Julliard, The Whitney, etc.) but does one have to be born into high birth (re: a wealthy family and/or nepotism) or risk going 100K into the hole for a college diploma just to have access, to have a say? Is this the best possible vetting process we have available? How exactly does the “little guy/gal” truly have a real chance if he/she doesn’t get the scholarship/stipend/voucher?

All of this is weighty at the moment—now, presently the end of 2017; December, that is—but the seriousness of the matter was palpable last November… I easily could’ve just put whatever story I had in any of my composition notebooks or on my hard drive into e-book form and that would’ve been that… I might still possibly, but I wanted to get a better understanding of the e-publishing process, going through it with new material (most of it not my own) first, then on the next go-round with full-fledged confidence of the process—because it’s not just my voice I’m concerned about. I’d like to either help others go through the e-publishing process, or open up a small press of my own and find other voices. (Can you say First Amendment? Or, Big G can you spot talent?) So, I’d like to think of Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer as a “mixtape,” my very first mixtape at that! It’s free online for those who go to my blog, but for those who support the wave all I’m asking is $1.99 USD.

Admittedly so, I do have one novel and one screenplay I’ll most likely get behind next calendar year (2018). But as far as everything else I’ve written or plan to write, self-publishing will be the move, starting first with Confessions due in e-book form some time second quarter of 2018 and then later in the year a collection of poetry, free-form, and short stories which I’m really excited about. Again, this is all still pending… The e-book version of Confessions, if I do in fact self-publish it (Right now it’s 55-45, yes), will include all twelve stage play reviews first posted on my blog but with slight modifications due to me moving them from the blog and into e-book form and, of course, the necessary revisions due to misspellings and syntax and grammar. It will also feature original artwork (and cover design) from a close friend of mine whose art will work in tandem with what I’ve written. Also, the actual “confessions” part will be expounded on as all the ones (3) discussed so far have been preliminaries. I’m even going to include an additional stage play review that’ll be in the e-book version only. Sorry. I really do hate to pimp myself out like this but, hey, what can I say? I’m a capitalist through and through… And lastly, I will stitch together any loose threads and incoherent thoughts I otherwise forgot about due to my personal life getting in the way or my self-imposed deadline… Sounds good? Great! Let’s wrap things up like we’ve done so the eleven times prior, I now put away the merchandise and ask that you turn your attention to December’s stage play, Alcestis.

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The Death of Alcestis, Pierre Peyron [MotionAge Designs]

Title: Alcestis (438 BCE)
Playwright: Euripides
Time Period: Classical Greek Period
Plot: A retelling of the mythical story of Alcestis who forfeits her own life in place of her husband’s.
Dope Line(s):

[Line 142]

CHORUS
How could the same person be dead yet still
live?

[Line 355-363]

ADMETUS
Even in sleep it is sweet to see
those whom one loves for however long they can stay.
If I had the words and music of Orpheus
to enchant Persephone or her husband,
charming them with songs to take you out of Hades,
then down would I go, and neither Pluto’s dog
nor Charon, the dead man’s guide, leaning on his oar,
could stop me before I raised you back to the light.
But—that won’t work—so, wait for me until I die…

[Line 383]

ALCESTIS
I who die for you am all the underworld
demands.

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Sacrificial Altar

Here we are. Together again. One last time, possibly… Especially, if you skipped over the above portion and came straight to the actual review. No, nothing of too much importance that you need to backtrack to the beginning. The above can easily be summarized in a line or two down here later… However, last we spoke I mentioned to you that I’d be doing a side-by-side comparison/review and I immediately started in on The Cocktail Party which owes its skeletal structure at best to this month’s stage play, Alcestis by classical Greek playwright Euripides. My time with you is limited, but I implore you to read up on as much of Euripides as you can. We currently have eighteen of his plays—intact!—out of a possible ninety to draw inspiration from. For some, Euripides might be familiar to you through his more recognizable works: Medea, Electra, or The Trojan Women. Or even having received praise from the great bard himself, Shakespeare. (We’ve been over him!) A true genius in every sense of the word, Euripides along with Aeschylus and Sophocles (They always come in threes, don’t they?) pretty much laid down the foundation for how us writers should build our stories. Not bad a trio; Euripides especially.

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Zeus thunder god

Scholars feel that Euripides added new dimensions to the elements of comedy, and because of the realism, complexity and intrigue in his stories he may have possibly been a head of his time. He often scoffed at the fact the he was never able to consistently win at festival which bothered him well into his exile in Macedonia. (Google it!) Like most of today’s Hollywood blockbusters, Euripides had an over-reliance on the deus ex machina plot device when it came to resolving matters in his stories. But how can you throw rocks at the man who’s done so much for the mask of drama?

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Euripides

A bit of a social critic in his time, he used myths and real-life stories of his day to weave into his tragedies. This blend of fake and real extends well into today in how we search for subtext in our stories and nod to ourselves when we comprehend the fictional elements (lightness/darkness as metaphors). And I guess that’s what drew Eliot to this story, a somber retelling of the mythical story of Queen Alcestis who sacrifices her own life so that her husband King Admetus can live… The inevitability of the death, the duality of how we are in public versus private, and unrequited love all show up in small traces in Cocktail. And for the most part Eliot flips a lot of Alcestis and makes it his own. But the one element that stands out is the idea of “returning.” In both Alcestis and Cocktail Party two women are returned to men having been “dead” to them.

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Greek Grim Reaper (Thanatos)

A simple online search tells me that Alcestis is considered to be a satyr play, meaning that is a serious drama in both tone and theme, but is infused with bits of comedy. Okay, fair. But I have to be honest: the language, though good throughout most of it, never gave me the impression that there were parts to this play that were intended to be funny. So, it was a bit of a shock to me when I read this was so afterwards. If anything, there’s the slight possibility that one could be put off by this play, especially when you consider how King Admetus and Queen Alcestis came to be in their little predicament at the start of the play in the first place…

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Satyrs don’t discriminate!

Alcestis takes place over the course of a single day—oh, and how convenient this is!—in Pherai (Pherae), an ancient town in southeastern Thessaly (present day Velestíno, Greece) at the palace of Admetus. His palace is under the protection of the god Apollo for reasons I’ll try to make concise in just a moment. Let’s just say for now that Euripides probably didn’t intend to have his work survive this long, or maybe he expected us humans living here in the twenty-first century to know chapter and verse on all our Greek myths and poems and bothered not to get in depth with the details. (Also, I read a translation of Charles R. Beye’s interpretation of Euripides’ Greek which itself had been copied over again and again by others and Charles is merely doing the best he can to articulate in English what Euripides was intending to say about a myth—in Greek—for those watching the play (the BCE crowd) who were already in the know about the myth whereas I was clueless to all of the intricate details of the myth beforehand and am still fuzzy about them afterwards. Whew!) Anyhoo, in a rare break from classical Greek narrative structure, Apollo speaks the audience about why (Queen) Alcestis is near her death bed and delivers it so in a tidal wave of exposition.

apollo-lyre

Show time at the Apollo!

All right, here goes: Alcestis’ dad, King Pelias, in wanting to marry off his young daughter had an oddly specific and bizarre stipulation for potential suitors: harness a lion and a boar to a chariot. (Don’t ask!) Okay… So Admetus has the ultimate cheat code because his bestie is a god (Apollo) who goes on to help Admetus through this task and a series of other more oddly specific tasks leading up to and past the point of consummation/marriage with Admetus. (I have to quickly throw in that Alcestis is Admetus’ cousin—Ew!) So, Apollo continues to get Admetus out of jams as well as extend his life until the Moirai make a new contract that states that if Admetus wants to keep stretching out his time on earth he has to get someone to volunteer to die in his place. Fast forward through a bit of business with his human friends and his parents who all think it’s absurd to give up their lives for his—rightfully so. And it’s in the midnight hour that Alcestis, the supposed love of his life, comes through in the clutch and offers up her life for his. Boom! I’ve just given you the Cliff Notes version of what it took forever for Apollo to say, although his language was way better than mine.

Hercules_Wrestling_with_Death_for_the_Body_of_Alcestis,_by_Frederic_Lord_Leighton,_England,_c._1869-1871,_oil_on_canvas_-_Wadsworth_Atheneum_-_Hartford,_CT_-_DSC05068

Hercules Wrestling with Death for the Body of Alcestis by Frederic Lord Leighton

Yup, that’s the gist of it. The plot on this one is quite thin and doesn’t involve a whole lot. The stage play is basically a series of broken “interludes” in between the Chorus going in for an extended period of time, singing and soap-boxing as they do—until a supposedly happy ending. (We’ve discussed the Chorus before, haven’t we?) In one interlude we see Death (Thanatos); in another we watch as Alcestis says her goodbyes to her husband and children (only the son speaks; why is that?) before she croaks; in another a Slave fills Heracles (Hercules) in on all that has transpired earlier in the day at the palace; then in two separate interludes Admetus and Heracles talk it out like men!; and finally the climax: Alcestis and Admetus are reunited upon Heracles bringing Alcestis back from Hades. I usually make it a point to hide much of what happens in a play but there’s no point in doing so with Alcestis. The play was a breeze to read; it was maybe eleven hundred lines (1,163). And it packs a punch for how light it is! Eliot, I see what you did there… Make Heracles the Uninvited Guest, turn Admetus into Edward, and turn Alcestis into Lavinia, dope!

Greek-Chorus

Mask On, Mask Off

I would like to believe that this plays holds up in today’s world but I’m not so sure who out there would die so that their loved one might live—especially, if said loved one is purely looking to stave off his/her own death for superficial reasons. It’s possible maybe, but I’m so sure. So, no, this play doesn’t hold up… Now from the standpoint of how we act in public versus private, I believe Euripides may be on to something—because we all wear masks in public. But seeing as Eliot squeezed most of the juice out of this fruit, and the fact that there’s better material out there with the public/private theme, I don’t see the need to blow the dust off this one again unless you just wanna play dress up. However, I am glad that I’ve read Alcestis and look forward to reading all of the other Greek tragedies, or as many as I can get my hands one… In closing, this blog series has been quite an endeavor. It’s the most unorthodox thing I’ve done and totally at odds with how I write. Generating words each month for material I’m going in blind on is challenging; and to be honest: I don’t know I want to do this again. I usually have a certain through-line or theme I discuss with material I can sit with day in and day out and even if it took me a year to write, it all involved one piece. Yet and still , I challenged myself and I glad with the outcome. Like I said in the above, changes will have to be made if the plan is to put this blog series into book form. But that’s an issue I’ll face in 2018. Right now boys and girls and aliens, I have to figure out what my plans are for New Year’s Eve!

 

stage-chair

Thanks for coming!

Rating: 3/5

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #3: Conclusion | The Scarlet Princess of Edo

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Drama.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #3: Conclusion

Presently, I am still here in L—, and again, I am sitting at my desk (in my own place now!) in K— by mid-afternoon sunshine; and oftentimes when I am burdened by anxieties that demand all of my attention, I turn towards the nearest window and find some earthly matter to focus my attention on; and remembering that I am sitting alone in this new location, and Theatre that mistress to which my heart turned away from so many years ago, I think that, though blinded to what she actually does nowadays, and as scattered as my thoughts are of her as of late, the promptings of my heart may yet bleed one more drop of her positives. I say again to you, dear reader, as I look towards the window, sitting here relaxed and in a good and gracious nature; consider the following:

 (4) To keep with tradition. If we—us adults, that is—should stop going to the theater, then there’s a strong possibility our kids won’t go at all. It would be a sad, sad day in the world if I should have to look at the Stage from behind a rope at a museum and some elderly woman working part-time through her retirement is explaining to me and my kids that going to the theater is what people used to do for “live entertainment.”

And with that, these preliminary confessions are past; I ask that you turn your attention to October’s stage play, The Scarlet Princess of Edo.

 

RyoanJi-Kane

It tolls for me…

 

Title: Sakura Hime Azuma Bunshō [The Scarlet Princess of Edo] (1817)
Playwright: Tsuruya Namboku IV (also: Sakurada Jisuke II, and Tsuuchi Genshichi)
Time Period: Tokugawa (Edo) Period
Plot: During the Kamakura shogunate period of Japan, concern for rightful succession to Shogun arises when the Yoshida clan’s sacred scroll goes missing. Amidst the clan’s search for the scroll, their young princess’ transgressions are discovered and she is immediately banished from the royal palace and forced into a life of hardship.
Dope Line (s):

[Act 1]

GUNSUKE
A flowering cherry should not end in a pit. Think, my Lady, of the House of Yoshida.

[Act 2]

SAKURA
What happened afterward was that gradually; with each day and night that passed, there increasingly; welled within me tender and loving memories. How can I ever forget the spring of last year; the cold of February lingering in the air; when by my nighttime pillow, creeping stealthily; appeared a burglar’s dark form dimly before me; black hood covering his head, his face in darkness. Before I knew it, frightened, my trembling hand seized. . .

[Act 2]

SEIGEN        
In truth, the image of the moon shining pure and eternal over the boundless ocean of enlightenment is destroyed by wind-driven waves of the Five Corruptions and Six Desires. I am accused of wetting my sleeves with the dew of lust. Though unjustly charged, I do not think of myself now but only my temple’s welfare. Serve it well.

 

shamisen

Smooth, soft sounds from the shamisen

 

I have here in front of me nine pages of notes… cobbled together after reading a stage play that went well over the century mark (134 PAGES!). Also on these notes are the “loose strands” of a needlessly complicated story that when analyzed basically boils down to a bunch of old people getting bent out of shape that a young (sixteen-year-old) hussy porked a thug (lesser samurai); that an elderly priest can’t control his lust for a twelve-year-old boy; that that same priest dies, turns into a ghost and then proceeds to terrorize the hussy from beyond the grave; and a clan’s sacred scroll… The Scarlet Princess of Edo was supposed to be a “masterpiece.” Well, that’s what I was led to believe… And Scarlet Princess might just very well be—but not by my standards.

 

Buddhist_Incense_case

Smell the boredom…

 

It’s hard to convince others of your storytelling expertise especially when you’ve had nothing published/produced and then laid before the general public. I can talk here ad nauseam about forward momentum, plot (literary) devices, stock characters, characterization, proper exposition, taste/subtlety, story length (page count), etc. — but here I am without any sort of following or even a sparse Wikipedia page to show for myself—while Tsuruya Namboku IV has one.

 

Tsuruya Nanboku IV

Playwright, Tsuruya Namboku IV

 

Little is known about Namboku IV… But in looking up what little facts there are on him, I found out that his name was given to him after marrying Tsuruya Namboku III’s sister (Oyoshi). He didn’t garner success until almost was almost fifty years old (46) and is better known for his ghost stories, one in particular: Tōkaidō yotsuya kaidan (trans. Ghost Stories at Yotsuya). Namboku IV wrote with dark intent and is originator of the “raw” domestic play (kizewamono) about criminals and society’s outcasts—which is painfully apparent in Scarlet Princess. Two versions of this play survive to this day, one is seven acts and the other is nine—and I guess there’s no big secret about the one I read. Kabuki theatre has a particular setup: a prologue followed by five acts; but Namboku IV and his contemporaries played with this structure and added a ton of dance numbers and “posing.”

 

Buddhist_prayer_beads

Pray to Buddha

 

And there’s some fun to be had there if you were to see this play acted out… However, kabuki plays took place during the day, and Scarlet Princess is/was considered to be an “all-day” play. (I want so hard to work a pun in here but I won’t.) Scarlet depicts a Japan in which the sociopolitical order is crumbling, and you can really sense the overall material loss and decay as well as the spiritual disorder of things. Just about every character—and there are about sixty of them—drops the line, “Namu Amida Butsu” (trans. “to think of Buddha”) to keep things right above and below, so to speak.

 

A white chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum – symbol of loyalty and devoted love

 

The story, in the most concise way possible, intertwines the storylines of the three Yoshida clan’s royal siblings: Umewaka, mentioned in name only, but there’s strong emphasis that his death was of grave importance; Prince Matsuwaka, who does most of the fleeing and running around along with his disgraced father Shichiro in search of the Yoshida clan’s missing Miyakodori scroll; and Princess Sakura, the titular character, who—Spoiler Alert!—is re-gifted a scarlet kimono by the husband (Zangetsu) of her former head maid (Nagaura) after wandering around for quite some time (The story plays fast-and-loose with the time frame) in a tattered pink kimono. This same scarlet kimono is the kimono for which she has garnered the nickname the “Cherry Blossom Princess” from among the commoners.

 

cherry_blossoms

Wouldn’t be Japan without Cherry Blossoms

 

What makes the stage play so damn long are all of its subplots, the main one being about Reverend Seigen who begins the play via the prologue. He wants to jump off a cliff because has the hots for a twelve-year-old boy—and there’s no need for me to go in on how I feel about pedophilia… Anyhoo, he conveniently shows up SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER! to be the dude who’s supposed to marry Princess Sakura to some thuggish samurai(?) named Akugoro. (We know he’s bad because he’s wearing the black kimono.) Well, you guessed it, she’s ain’t a virgin no mo’, and there’s this missing scroll business; so now the Yoshida’s are on the scramble.

Other subplots involve people paid to either find someone, watch someone, dancing, and some weird ghost angle which was quite graphic—and they all just broke me mentally… I would’ve never guessed that there would be a story worse than In the Summer House but boy did I find it in this one.

 

black kimono

Beware the black kimono!

 

All of the men in this story are repulsive and gross. They just seem to get irate and vindictive because of what the women do. Everything borders on objectification and sexual assault, and left me feeling quite disturbed—especially now with what’s going on in Hollyweird.

 

Princess Sakura - Scarlet Princess

Drawing of “The Scarlet Princess”

 

This play doesn’t hold up by a long-shot… There’s not much here I can add to it, and sadly I have to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done before which is give a really really low grade to a stage play. It is what it is… Next month should be more of an upswing. I’ll be going back to the early 20th century in November. Happy Halloween boys and girls and aliens.

 

 

stage-chair

‘Til November…

 

Rating: 0.5/5

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #3: Continued | The Nether

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Drama.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #3: Continued…

As someone who came from a family of mostly low-income, blue-collar (and “no-collar”) workers, started out in Music (guitar and piano) in grade school, detoured into Art (cartooning) and organized Sports (Basketball, Football, Baseball, Volleyball, Soccer) with flights of fancy into Interior Design and Graphic Design during middle school and junior high, then back into Music (songwriting) after my short-lived attempt at going to college, and finally into Film (producer/writer-director; more so screenwriting) at the start of adulthood—not only did my “career” choices steadily creep away from what mommy dearest had envisioned for her baby boy, but I too was left with a bit of a moral dilemma: does my current (and now mainstay) passion—writing; whatever the medium—make any significant contribution to the world in this day and age, or any of my past “creative” endeavors I left behind? This quandary has been the pebble underneath my heel for quite some time, and as recently as this past fall when I made the decision to go forward with this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) confessional, combining bits of my life with unscientific observations of modern day society as a way to discuss the medium of Theatre (stage plays), I had to sit in deep thought for a half day or so and reflect on why was I even bothering to write any of this—anything at all—down in the first place… Cleansing my brain of all the toxic negativity American culture is currently steeped in as well as my own self-doubting and self-deprecating ways, I regained the confidence needed to see this endeavor to the end. I’m never one to re-invent the wheel, and I’m sure, dear reader, that you may have heard many of these reasons before, but here are a few reasons on why the Theatre should matter. To you, dear reader, I would like to point out a few of the positives:

(1) The Cost. Both tangible and intangible. First-world problems about sums it up—if I were looking for the proper expression. While over a $7-dollar slice of cherry pie at a “roadside” diner, I expressed one of my many observations (grievances) about contemporary life in good ol’ Oosa (U.S.A.) to a group of my closest of friends: which is that “diner prices”, “fast-casual prices”, and “restaurant prices” are all now within $4- to $5-dollars of one another; the idea of a “cheap meal” is a thing of the past. The mere fact of eating out is expensive, certainly a lot more than enjoying meals at home. I also find that the costs for Entertainment are just as relative… Music festival tickets, professional sports tickets, Vacations (air travel plus room & board), movie tickets, comedy shows, nightclub venues (definitely for men) are within $15- to $20-dollars of one another, more in fact for the popular draws (MSG shows, Lakers tickets, Coachella, Broadway musicals, Travel to a locale during a special event, say Mardi Gras) — so there’s definitely enough griping to go around when it comes to spending what’s in your wallet. Those of us here in the “First World” with mad time to fill should definitely reconsider our stance on not attending the Theatre. If anything, most playhouses are slashing ticket prices—or giving them away for free—just to get people’s asses in those tiny chairs. Do you think Coachella or the Staples Center where the L.A. Clippers and L.A. Lakers play would ever consider doing that? As far as the intangible: much of the other areas of Entertainment have been extremely corporatized which, in essence, is predicated on maximizing profits whereas the Theatre (sans Broadway; though the medium too would like a larger bottom line) — bad material and all — seems to be more about how we (Society) are driving the culture. And you can’t put a price on that!

(2) A great if not better option to go on a Date. An excellent venue for Social-gathering. Another man is less likely to test your manhood — meaning you won’t have to “defend her honor” — while one a date at a theater versus the food court at the mall or right outside the men’s bathroom at a sports arena. (What is it with American men wanting to get into fist-fights outside the one room in a public facility that’s there so humans can relieve themselves?) I’ve hit on this before but the air in the theater is quite pretentious and in that setting, it’s rare that tempers flare—just think of the cost incurred to get into the building. No one’s trying to get kicked out! Theater patrons go out of their way not to speak or make eye contact in general, so there’s never any worry about a scuffle happening. Hopefully, the date is to see a comedy (or a musical) which allows for lots of playful hitting, knee-grabbing, and eye contact which is crucial early on in any courtship. (You can thank me later.) As far as it being an excellent choice for social gatherings, well consider the alternative: digital screens. Earlier Millennials and prior generations know what I’m talking about; face-to-face interaction is something we still pine for. It’s my own personal theory for why so many of us feel so aimless walking around nowadays—that and the economy. Hell, if the date is going well you might be so inclined as to talk to the other couples seated around you—between acts or coming back from intermission, of course. Who knows, that same conversation could potentially lead to some networking. With the average age of the theater-goer currently sitting at 54, the Baby Boomer you’re trading barbs with just might put you in the run-in for his/her position when they retire or bring you aboard so as to groom you along seeing as one so cultured as you is at the theater on a Saturday night… Sure beats firing off résumés online, or figuring out if you possess any of the skills for the “jobs” listed on Craig’s List.

Well, dear reader, that will have to suffice for now. I would like to turn our attention to August’s stage play, The Nether.

virt_world2

They’re out there…

Title: The Nether (2013)
Playwright: Jennifer Haley
Time Period: Postmodernism (Transrealism)
Plot: A young detective investigates the inventor of an online virtual realm where morally questionable acts involving young children are being carried out behind the anonymity of “Shades” — human avatars that could potentially be real and what, if any, ethical ramifications this may have regarding the real world.
Dope Line(s):

[Scene 5]

MORRIS
It’s more than that, Mr. Doyle. It’s sound, smell, touch. The Hideaway is the most advanced realm there is when it comes to the art of sensation.

[Scene 13]

IRIS
People come to things on their own time. We offer a place where you may dismantle everything the world has told you about right and wrong and discover pure relationship.

[Scene14]

DOYLE
It draws people who are—broken—I know that, but—I don’t judge them—they are part of us, too—they are part of the world—God does not judge them—why should we?

virt_world1

Ones & Zeroes

The Eagle has landed! I’ve been back home for a little more than a month now and both my body and sleeping pattern have adjusted back to west coast time. It’s the bank account that’s jet-lagged. But no worries, the system wasn’t built for folks like moi to keep it all. So spend it all I shall, whenever it does touch my hands… For those of you who have been with me, you might get the sense that I’m in good spirits—well, I am! One needs to be whenever one is blind-sided by life, in many more ways than one as of late. (Some things are just too personal for me to say here.) So who cares if this month’s play trivializes pedophilia, or has no clue on how real criminal investigations are run, or is ignorant as to how mental illnesses work; in real life, I’m being cleaned out by my own government for a fraud I didn’t commit with the paperwork to prove it, and my country’s president(?) is instigating World War III, at home and abroad. To hell with morals, screw decency. Pour big globs of debauchery and bad behavior all over the mob; just see if we push back—we won’t! We’re plebs for a reason! I’m a hundred percent sure now there’ll be a purge soon.

The Nether received rave reviews—spoiler alert!: this gets only a “meh” from me. And it pains me so to say that because this playwright is my contemporary—or would be if I could ever get over the hump and make an impact on Pop Culture—and a fellow Angeleno by way of San Antonio, Texas. Troubled waters lie ahead… I know readership is low for this blog, but I also know that Millennials and Gen-Xers love to “Google” themselves (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) — so only time will tell how playwright Jennifer Haley will receive me… But for those #TINWIPA faithful—oh, how little of you there are—you know exactly where Big G (to those special two in Las Vegas, Cousin G) draws the line when it comes to taste and decency, so I must remain firm… I believe it was Roger Waters of Pink Floyd who said it best: “Leave them kids alone”. And with a few days (weeks?) left before the official start to the new school year here in the States, I wanted to see what the kids were doing. And by kids, I mean the playwrights currently making names for themselves in the Theatre world. Overall this series is geared towards old stage plays but I wanted to reserve at least one slot for a modern stage play, and The Nether has the proud honor of being on my inaugural list.

dollhouse2

Small on scale, big on dreams…

I couldn’t have been more than twenty-five or so pages in when I had to read the word “molestation” having had the notion be implied to me in a number of ways in earlier scenes… The majority of them featuring the play’s protagonist Detective Morris—a woman!—who works ‘em hard and fast; a sort of tough, no-nonsense and perhaps overworked public defender in an unknown city, world, and time. We are far out into the future and the Internet/internet we affectionately slave all of our time away on is now like those old Nokias of my high school days—gone! A major upgrade has been made to the web and it even has a new name, “Nether” — thus the riddle of the play’s title is solved. Yes, the world many of us fear where humans can no longer tell what is real and what is fake is alive and kickin’, and if weren’t for what this play was trying to peddle, I would have had no problem in finding this sort of world-building inventive. But, ideally, we get to see none of this brave new world only glimpses rather, because much of this play’s narrative involves overtly-dramatic interrogation scenes—the stockiest I’ve seen this side of a film festival circuit. (Interrogation scenes are common with new filmmakers looking to make their first short film. Just about any space can be turned into an interrogation room and then all you need is a few props and two committed actors to sell the drama.) And like so many before in this series, the story unfolds bit by bit, the heaviest of all the exposition being front-loaded so as to lace the back end with lots of navel-gazing and soap-boxing. However, Haley has decided to break her story line in two (which isn’t a bad idea in itself): one part is in the “present” featuring the interrogation room drama, the other in the “past” taking us inside the Nether—but still in rooms and the occasional foyer. And back and forth we go, watching as the two converge… And it’s the story that takes place in the Nether region (pun intended; forgive me) that makes me pause for concern.

jennhal1

Jennifer Haley

Side note: Early on in my mind before I keyed in on what type of story this was going to be, I envisioned this play as a feature film, a fast-paced thriller where we cut back and forth between the different interrogation scenes all of which would be even more intense and amplified, and the majority of the “action” would take place in the Nether, requiring Det. Morris to jump back and forth between the virtual world and the real world while in pursuit of the truth/bad guy. Either world, Det. Morris would be running down some corridor, or turning over her shoulder and seeing ones and zeroes in everything around her, and always having a feeling that the world—either one—is on the verge of collapsing in on itself as she races towards some stock, arbitrary countdown to save a little girl from a pedophile which she would do—heroically, of course. And, as always, just in the nick of time. But then, the little girl would be lost to the Nether world forever, perhaps never being real at all, which would add some emotional weight to the story because the audience would’ve grown attached to her by then. And as the little girl turns to pixels, she would give Det. Morris a code that would show her the location of the server or the bad guy—or both. Det. Morris then would haul ass there, talk it out with the bad guy for a bit, then waste him… Again, this was all in my mind, and I was only about thirty or so pages in—and even then, I was giving this play too much credit.

Instead, as written, much of the suspense is telegraphed in advance; so people like me are far out in front of where Haley is trying to go with her story. Now I’m a fan of disjointed timelines, but it really serves no purpose here other than to drag out the story. And when stories start to drag that’s when I start to ask questions, especially when they take place in the future and technology (as well as surveillance) should be better than what’s currently on the market. I start to ponder questions like: Why doesn’t law enforcement have its own team of white hats to aid Det. Morris in finding out who the inventor is and tracking down his location? Why can’t the government just shut down the Nether (internet) seeing as there are “kids” involved and platforms allowing pedophiles to congregate could potentially become a societal issue which in the world of this play it clearly is? Egypt’s government did it (in 2011) and the U.S. has the Patriot Act (which if the President wanted to he/she could technically shutdown the Net) so some future politician/bureaucrat must surely have access to the Nether (internet) kill switch, right? Does Det. Morris have a superior officer, and if she does, why isn’t she or he monitoring her behavior? For that matter, shouldn’t Det. Morris have a partner to at least try to ensure that she doesn’t cross the line, and if she does decide to, at least there’s someone present in her life with a firm moral compass for the case she’s been tasked with trying to solve to perhaps prevent her from doing so? Why does Doyle’s lawyer—if he even has one—allow his client to keep being brought back in for interrogation? Hell, why is Doyle’s lawyer not present, considering what’s at stake (pedophilia charges)? Did Doyle even contact his lawyer before deciding to speak to and cooperate with law enforcement? Nothing was in writing, so what if Det. Morris reneges on her side of the deal? … I can go on and on and on. (No wonder Americans have no idea about how the Law works. Just look at the material they have available to them.)

inter_room2

The room.

I guess one would find all of this cringe-worthy and unsettling (and possibly riveting) to see this acted out on stage: where and older man gets fresh with a little girl. Me, I would’ve walked out. Forgive me, I picked this at random from a best-of list and assumed it was going to be about dreams… Anyhoo, Det. Morris is knee-deep in a gentleman’s ass by the name of Doyle. He has been spending time in a realm known as “The Hideaway.” This realm exists in the Nether and was created by Papa, the kind of evil guy who believes he’s smarter than everyone in the room. She’s in his ass also, though spoiler: he goes by a different name, Sims. Both of these men suffer from mental illness but that never gets discussed nor does their sexuality really, considering it ranges from homosexuality to pedophilia. Papa (Sims) has created “shades”, avatars that allow users in the real world to be on his platform anonymously—and they nor he can be traced for some reason. The eerie thing is that some users take the form of little girls who then “play” in a little girl’s bedroom with another user who is usually an adult male or a male creature of some kind, and when the men have had enough “playing”, their next task is to bludgeon the girl (it’s always a girl, am I right?) to death with an ax. (Depraved, sadistic, nihilistic material; I can’t believe I read this.) There’s also a “crossing over” option available to users which means that they may possibly stay there in the Nether forever but it isn’t fully explained and dealing with all that was going on, I just had to let it go.

bloodyaxe1

Sadistic weapon of choice

Now I’ll say this much: Haley nails the sci-fi elements, though a lot what she offers up sinks under all of the navel-gazing from some her characters (Papa/Sims). One little girl, Iris, is Det. Morris’s way into finding out who the inventor is and the scenes involving Iris are some of the most inventive, and by inventive I mean disturbing… And that’s pretty much crux of this story: a man has created a “cyberplace” for other perverts and degenerates to get their rocks off online and he’s been brought in for questioning, and while in questioning he defends his right along with other pedophiles/pervs to be exactly who they are… Gross!

inter_room1

Talk!!!

I guess that’s the thing with modern stage plays. The ever present “shock value” that turns a lot of people away—myself included—from the Theatre. Someone is always vomiting on themselves or someone else, or getting completely naked (always a busty white woman) for no effin’ reason, or getting mutilated, or coming up with the most heinous act imaginable just to see if they can make an audience cringe then crafting a “story” around it afterwards, not even bothering to see if the “story” itself is concrete. Then me, poor me, I come along and ask a few questions, wondering why something is, and I’m told to “Relax… It’s just art, bro!” Okay…

There’s no sense in asking whether this play holds up or not; it was only written four years ago. Rightfully so, the play does deal with a relevant topic: online virtual portals where things like child pornography can potentially be traded and discussed. (Yikes! Yuck!) From the looks of it, this play has opened all sorts of doors for Haley, and I tip my hat to her: congrats! But having read The Nether, I’m left scarred so there’s no way in the world I can see what else she has going on… Well boy and girls and aliens, I see you next month with a classic work from one of the founding fathers of the LGBT theater movement.

 

 

stage-chair

‘Til September…

 

 

Rating: 2.5/5

I Bring You San Francisco: But Next Time I Might Trek To Oakland

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2017 by gregnett

Hello world!

I didn’t expect for this to be my first blog post of the new year—and because of that juicy little tidbit, I’m dropping this one in silence. They pretty much all are — without buzz — but this one is definitely going up without any promo.

My goal was to finish a stage play over the coming weekend and have that be my first blog post of 2017—and also work in the direction of where this blog is going. (I’ll still be “paying attention” but to a few mediums, or maybe just one, that may or may not be sliding into oblivion.) So, in a sense, this is a small “teaser” of what to look out for from moi.

It seems like all my best ideas come to me when I’m in the shower — I know, right! — and so I decided to run with this blog post instead. Last year I wanted to get in shape as well as clear my mind of a few things. I’d been runnin’-n-gunnin’ since I moved to Los Angeles now almost 10 years ago and hadn’t stopped to smell the roses. I came up for air momentarily back in 2010 but then I went right back “underground.” The fact that I’m back to posting “stuff” on FaceBook and Twitter (and here) shows that I’ve found my groove thang.

Well, I can now say that I’m 65 lbs. lighter and that I’ve also figured out how to handle my life sans movie career. (I came to L.A. off the heels of Hurricane Katrina but decided to stick around to make a go at becoming a filmmaker.) I’ll unspool that yarn later this summer on my 10-year anniversary date. But what I can say for now is: Don’t feel bad for me. They don’t call it The Boulevard of Broken Dreams for nothing…

Anyway, what I wanted to do this year was travel: dedicate this entire year to moving about the country. So far on deck I have Las Vegas (lived there for a year), back home (New Orleans) and, as of yesterday morning, New York City. In reach are Palm Springs, San Diego and Oakland—but I’m not sure about those yet.

Ideally, this would all be documented. I’d go into more detail but seeing as this is the first vomit—and very impromptu at that—I haven’t the the foggiest idea on how to approach this… There must be some new angle, I constantly tell myself… Oh, and as crazy as it may sound: I actually wanted to visit Los Angeles first.

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Edge of Clarion Alley – Early September, 2016

 

To be brutally honest: my time in L.A. hasn’t been the smoothest. The instability and the hoping & wanting and the yearning for “things to happen” kept me indoors and damn near destitute. I’ve lived here for so long yet I’ve never taken up the sights. Luckily, the universe was kind enough to bless me with a great opportunity at an even greater company — still in the entertainment biz, go figure — and I was so overcome with joy that I burned one of my first paychecks on a trip to San Francisco last Labor Day weekend to kick it with my “brother” for a few days.

 

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Fuzzy Interior Shot, Brass Tacks – Fillmore Neighborhood, I think??

 

Again, this is a test run—and I would’ve happily let this quick little escapade north fall into obscurity but why the hell not. I’ve been to San Francisco before (2006; 2009?) but now to leave you with some sort of observation about last year’s trip, and what’s to come:

Sorry, not sorry: San Francisco is white—and also Asian. But white people have a lion’s share of the action. I don’t say that to be divisive. I say that merely because that’s what I saw. And I’m not talking about shopping mall white. I mean, uncomfortably white. There are virtually no black and brown people walking around. I was in town for 4 days and I saw maybe 5 black people 3 Hispanic people (an affluent Hispanic couple with a small child) total. I even walked into a Soul Food restaurant only to see one other black person dining there (I have a photo of the meal on my Twitter).

 

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Interior of Clarion Alley, Early September 2016

 

Now you might say: Well, G. You were there in ‘06 and ‘09. Wasn’t it like that then? And so, what?

And to that I respond: I guess… It was 2006; I don’t remember any of it. Only that I played Texas Hold ‘em in a really dark bar in the Tenderloin… I don’t remember too much about ’09 either… I was there for an NFL game and those tend to draw a more diverse crowd. Plus, I was drunk and wasn’t all that concerned with my surroundings… And so, what nothing…

And the whole time I was walking around laughing to myself in between violent spats of hyperventilation, and I didn’t even have the heart to tell my “brother” (we grew up together, he’s white; long story) what’s making me so giddy and anxious. I was saying to myself as we walked around, “No wonder so many (white) Angelenos have mad love for this place. It’s nothing but them up here—and Asians.” Seriously, if you don’t like brown and black people don’t move to L.A. — I recommend you go with San Francisco instead.

This June will be my 10-year anniversary in Los Angeles and I don’t want to spoil what I plan to say then by saying it now, but spending Labor Day weekend in San Francisco renewed my love for Los Angeles times over. I’ll never talk shit about L.A. again—not like I ever did, but just in case.

Multiculturalism™, Diversity™, and Progress™ mean absolutely nothing to that part of the Bay Area. Think about it: in a city full of liberals how can the demographics be that racially lopsided? Rhetorical question, possibly; because I do know the answer—I’m just waffling at this point. Drawing things along racial lines is never my intention, no matter how much I veer off into that territory. So, to right the ship: I think San Francisco is a place people should visit. The city has great food, great view, and decent human beings—but as for me, I would never live there unless I was being paid royally by some tech company. That’s what it would have to take for me to ignore what’s going on there as far as the demographics go—and the cost of living.

Oh! Here’s something: the money rule still applies in San Francisco. Those who are making it are very hush-hush about how. Oh, and the entire city has agreed to spend as much time as humanly possible outside their homes—or it could’ve just been a holiday weekend. And the rent! The rent is sky-high though I do suspect that some—a generous some—are getting a spectacular deal on rent, but it’s hard to confirm. The few people I spoke to about rental prices were very vague—bordering on aloof—about how they came into such nice rental spaces. People will mention that their space is “rent controlled” but that’s about the extent of it.

 

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Notorious B.I.G. mural, Clarion Alley – Early September, 2016

 

I’m sure none of this is insightful… I’ve been up to San Francisco three times now and the city has yet to make an impression on me. I’m sure I’ll end up there again because of my “brother”—and be just as bored and panicky as I was the last time (2016).