The Silence of Bees


Welcome to All You Seekers of the USA

Are you wondering what happened to America? The America we remember? Welcome to my Blog. Please feel free to respond. I yearn for responses and dialectic.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Do We Handle Loss?

It is tough for Americans to admit defeat. We are a society of believers in the dream of forever expanding... outward. We thrived for many years on growth, on more and more, bigger and better. And now we have moved into a constrained and restricted period and, frankly, that makes us angry. It makes us feel defeated. We are not a nation of folks who enjoy or even want to look within. Most likely we are fearful of what we will find there. It's not the unknown more readily conquered like the West or even the Middle East. A few years ago at the funeral dinner for my dad, soon after 9/11 and immediately after the invasion of Iraq, my brother, a regular working class guy who has busted his butt his entire life to take care of his family, said something that upset me at the time. He said (regarding the invasion of Iraq) that at least Bush "did" something. It was hard for me to take in. I had marched for weeks pre invasion against the "war" and here was my own flesh and blood condoning it. I felt separated from him and the rest of my family who never spoke up in dissent over what he was espousing. His second statement that we should just "blow them all off the face of the earth" I dismissed as hyperbole and silliness. But now I think, looking back, that his reaction was probably pretty significant and symbolic of the frustration many blue collars feel when confronted with "intellectuals" and left wing thinkers. They don't get "us" any more than we get "them". This has created a division in America that is a huge challenge. It is a tear in our fabric that needs to heal. Obama is trying and failing to heal it. After all he is a Democrat and an intellectual, subject to suspicion and a million projections on his very essence. And one wonders at times if he is not just another cog, nothing special, in the political wheel that drives America's policy. This split between the intellectual versus the regular guy is one reason why Coakley just lost in Massachusetts and why Kerry lost the Presidency a few years back as well. It is the college educated liberal versus the so called teabaggers. I don't know how to bridge that gap in our country any more than I know how to bridge the gap in my family. Having left Massachusetts and more significantly a working class life to embrace the artist's and the intellectual's way (I am after all a college teacher) has estranged me from my family in ways I can not fathom. It is the split between us and them. It is the division in America. And while America's slow demise, its collapse under its own weight, is maybe not such a terrible thing, I can understand why it feels that way to many. When you have been on top so long, it's a painful admission of defeat. It means you have to change. It's not easy having to change. I have trouble changing a small thing like washing dishes in the sink rather than the dishwasher. Would it really be possible for me to adapt to an entirely different way of life? After all, everything seemed to work so well for so long, it's only natural to wonder why everything has gone so wrong so quickly. Who do we blame? Well, the teabaggers blame the intellectuals and the intellectuals blame the teabaggers and we all blame "Washington". I suggest, however, that maybe things were only really okay in this country for a very short time, perhaps during WW2 when we had a clear and true threat and we could be heroes and fight for something no one could argue about: the human desire to be free. After all a nation built on the backs of slaves, how long can that nation exist without having to pay back what it took to get born? Now we are at payback time. Paying our debts, both psychically and monetarily, is the task we all now face for years of wealth and ease, for bigger and better. The expansion has ended and now we have to look elsewhere for growth, we have to look inward. That "eastern" concept feels a little alien to all of us. Even those who have been practicing yoga for a few years still stop at Starbuck's for their morning coffee, don't they? So what do we do now? Here's an idea. What about that place where we all reside, teabaggers, artists and intellectuals, Republicans and Democrats, that place of stillness we achieve now and then when the din of the forever babbling ceases and the world just is the way it is? In that here and now place, aren't we all really pretty much the same? Politics aside and in the hope that we can conquer a much more difficult inner terrain, maybe we need to BREATHE. That's it. Just breathe. Long, deep, clear and wonderful breaths. Maybe we all need to ride the wave of breathing. It's hard to be screaming at others if you are really breathing in the day. If you are really taking in the beauty that is life. Such a brief time we are here, spinning around in a larger and infinite universe. Maybe we just need to take care of one another, not in spite of but because of our differences. Now there's a thought.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Mornings

Don't you just love this time of year? The dreaded income tax. Five hundred slips (at least) to sort out. Every year I tell myself I will create a better system than tossing slips into a box and every year the same thing. Do you do that? If you have a better system, can you tell me what it is? I don't know. Maybe I just resent the hell out of having to pay the behemoth that is our federal government. I mean I wouldn't mind paying taxes if I could see the good that comes from the money they take. Perhaps I am too narrow in my vision. But my instinct tells me that there is mostly waste and bloat now. Hell I can see the waste in the community college district where I work. When I started there nearly 2 decades ago, much of the administrative work was done by the instructors. We divided the work up, got it done and we were not even paid extra to do it. But apparently that was not quite good enough because the management needed to "manage" us better. They needed in truth to get control over us. Can't have lowly teachers having that much power. Poor little naive children they are. I personally think they just needed to give their lives meaning because from what I could tell they were pretty superfluous to the day to day running of the college. So now 18 years later we have deans and senior deans and vice chancellors, the list is endless. And we have this gigantic budget to pay all these people who sit in their offices all day doing...doing what exactly? Well what we used to do for...nothing. And that is probably pretty much the case with the federal and state government as well. We are collapsing under the weight of our own bureaucracy. I want out. Do you too? I know a lot of people who want out. I don't need a big house but I can't sell it yet because well, I need a place to live still while I inch my way towards retirement or death, whichever comes first. Besides as we all know too well: this market sucks. So except for the really wealthy, we are basically all trapped in a life that has too much stuff and weight to it and not enough air and space. I want my life back. The one I had when I sat under a tree and wrote a story all day long and listened to the birds and watched the ants crawling around near my toes. I never knew what I had when my only ambition was to do nothing more than just be with the precious gift of time on my hands. Joni M. was so right. Don't it always seem to go.....well enough procrastination. Now back to the dreaded sorting of the slips like some ancient ritual that should end in a bonfire but instead will end with a check to my tax accountant. This really sucks, doesn't it?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lots to chat about

I have a lot to say but I don't want to get too heavy. Instead I would prefer to talk about my latest and best venture into acting. I started studying with Richard Seyd up here in the Bay area in the hope that when I move to the Los Angeles area, I will be able to continue with him. I spent a year at Strasberg Institute in Hollywood a few years back and while it was fun to be in such a multicultural and multinational group, I didn't really learn much. To make matters worse, it wasn't cheap. Seyd is British and I think that makes all the difference. He's not so much into the actor getting into the feelings of the character as much as he is attempting to get the actor into thinking about what the character is doing and saying. He likes his students to engage their minds. I think that is what is sorely missing in America. We are all about "feelings" and "going with our instincts" and not too much about thinking (for the most part) as if thinking were in opposition to those other things. Seyd claims and I tend to agree that understanding the character intellectually leads to clarity about feelings and a deeper and stronger connection to the character one is playing. I am currently working on a scene with my acting partner Mick, a drummer and teacher in the Bay area. He's a cool guy, a sweet guy but I keep wondering if he really understands this guy on a gut level, intellectually and emotionally. The scene is from Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, currently on Broadway with Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johanson. I am playing Eddie Carbone's (Mick's) wife, Beatrice or "B" as he calls her. The scene is when Beatrice first confronts Eddie albeit in a roundabout way about his feelings for his 18 year old niece Catherine. I'm having trouble with the scene because Mick does not appear to me as in any way aware of Bea's presence. I get the feeling I don't even have to be up on that stage. Mick would do just find without me or anyone else. And the trouble for me with acting has always been the same. What do I do when the chemistry is off or a fellow actor is so blocked from certain feelings that nothing I do will make any difference? Or in this case, when I just can not seem to impact him? My friend and director, Andrew T. told me to push the actor by knowing clearly what I want from him and doing my damned best to try to get it from him. Maybe. But then am I not "acting" when I should be listening and responding? I just don't know. It's a mystery unfolding.

What does this have to do with our currently dismal state of the Union?

I think sometimes when I watch Barack that he is "acting" presidential, balanced, intelligent but I wonder what Barack the human being really wants to say and do and I wonder if he will have the courage it will take to push back and push hard. To expose himself up there on the world stage. To cut to the chase and get the job done. And I wonder the same thing about me as well.

A work-in-progress. Let's not bring the curtain down too soon.

Where or where has the U S A gone?

We should all be wearing black clothes and arm bands. The USA is officially dead with that last Supreme Court ruling. What would Parker Lam, the iconoclastic writer and anti hero of The Silence of Bees have thought about the direction into fascism this country has just taken? He'd be livid with disgust. And I can not help but wonder what Richard Yates, the real writer that Parker was loosely based on, would have thought about corporate America taking over everything. Did you see Revolutionary Road last year with Kate Winslett and Leo DeCaprio? If not rent it and watch it. Better yet read the novel. Written decades ago it was visionary in its scope of what business and corporate America would do to our soul as both a nation and our individual souls as human we have to make this personal. We have to ask what the hell is this doing to us as a society and why have we allowed it to happen?

Let's start with the honey bees. Did you know they are disappearing? They are simply dying in the hive or fleeing from the hive. Do the bees know something we are just beginning to sense? The sad fact is that if the bees go, it's not long before we will too. Remember pollination? No bees, no life.

So why did we allow this to happen? Better yet what did we do to stop it from happening?

I got this in an email and it does say what we all now know (from John Nichols):

Tom Paine gave us the phrase "these are the times that try men's souls" to describe moments like this. With the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Citizens United v. FEC to strike down the barriers to corporate campaigning, we are being asked to give up what remains of our democracy and accept that the United States will now be an advertocracy --where our elections and our governing processes are fully defined by corporate spin and spending.

It's a nightmare scenario, truly a "try men's soul" moment. And in traveling the country in recent days, speaking at public events and doing dozens of broadcast interviews, I have heard the despair.
Is there any hope for democracy?

I don't have the answer to this obviously but I know there is a solution. I just don't know if "we the people" are willing and/or able to find the solution and then act upon it. Frankly it scares the crap out of me.

And I know that the disappearance of the bees is tied into the corporations somehow. Pesticides, pollutants...someone is profiting greatly from the business of death, aren't they?