Sunday, November 12, 2017

I Dunno

I am reading Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich, and my heart keeps clenching and cracking open. I am reading a large print edition, as that's all the library had, and it's a good read. I await my new trifocals from the eye doctor. Sigh....

Meanwhile, good poetry news: Poetry East took 4 poems for the spring, and Red Bird Chapbooks accepted Spiritual Midwifery, a book of poems somehow about the birth of humans and the birth of the spirit, several in response to religious paintings. I'm very pleased because Red Bird published an earlier chapbook of mine, ABCs of Women's Work, and this press is so impressive and easy to work with. I admire the work of the editors and the work of their poets!

Plus. I feel deeply calm (despite the crud going on in our country). Perhaps it is because I resumed A.M. Yoga by Rodney Yee, at any time of day I'm free. Perhaps it is because there is early morning light again for a while, anyway, even as we approach the dark of winter.... I dunno.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy, Happy Valley

I'm glad I read Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance, a bestselling memoir I borrowed this summer and finally read this fall, in order to return it, reducing my stack of borrowed books. It helped me understand "hillbilly" thinking, and I wouldn't use that term except that Vance does, boldly, to identify the culture he grew up in. In fact, the way Vance talks about financial decisions in his community of origin ties right in with the behavioral economics I have been learning about, summarized here, in the press release related to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, awarded to Richard H. Thaler of the University of Chicago. We don't always do what's best for us in the bigger picture, or what's rational, and Thaler has helped economists see and accept that psychology plays a big part in financial decisions, which affects the larger economy in often unpredictable ways...

Right now I am reading Paterno, by Joe Posnanski, about Joe Paterno, beloved and hated longtime football coach at Penn State in State College, PA, known as "Happy Valley" until that nickname didn't seem to describe a community wracked and ruined by the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, which caused the ouster, too, of Coach Paterno. I started toward the end of the book, to gain insight on that aspect of Paterno's career, and now I have started over at the beginning, interested in learning more about him and about football and coaching styles. This is all part of my research for directing For the Loyal this winter, a play Lee Blessing wrote in response to the Sandusky situation at Penn State. In a way, the play is indeed "for the loyal," so they can consider how their loyalty affects everyone else; it is also for everyone else, so we can ask ourselves, "What should be done? What should we do? What can be done? What is the right thing to do?" Looking back, Paterno wished he had done more. Paterno presents us with the dilemma, as did the press at the time, of legal responsibility versus moral responsibility. What should we do?!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rabbit, Rabbit

Whew! I was ready for a change, and it has come as a new month. I did not really know of the tradition of saying "Rabbit, rabbit" on the first of the month, except from friends, but I probably did read of it in a Trixie Belden book, The Mystery of the Emeralds, when I was a kid. See quotation in Wikipedia article for "Rabbit rabbit rabbit." Anyhoo, I'm a little behind in everything, dealing with some family matters in October, so I will fill you in on some Escape Into Life stuff.

It was CatOber as usual, celebrated by a poetry feature in which cats made studied or random appearances! And poet Virginia Bell told us about cat-fishing and her interesting father in an excerpt from her memoir. And you can travel down the River Styx with poet Susanna Lang in her new book of poems, reviewed by me here. Other posts gave us gorgeous art, lovely music, and "angel moments." Poetry resumed with Michael Meyerhofer's weird and wonderful work, coupled with eerie, funny black and white art by Alfred Gescheidt. And finally, on actual Halloween, as terror struck in Manhattan again, EIL featured some Scary Poems, one, by Lana Hechtman Ayers, about her dead brother, a "hero of New York City," who helped with 9/11 rescue efforts as a volunteer EMT. Oh, the world!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

You, Too

Maybe you, too, have been sexually harassed, abused, insulted, or assaulted. It's going on all the time, everywhere. It makes me so sad. One of the latest stories is in The New Yorker, by Ronan Farrow, about Annabella Sciorra and Daryl Hannah, Rosie Perez and more, actors I admire for their talent, work, and bravery. Maybe you, too, have chosen to speak out or to remain silent. Maybe you, too, have sought solace and advice from friends who could or couldn't give it. Imagine the horror and stress of the incidents themselves, and the ongoing stress of whether to speak out or not. Imagine all the factors and circumstances.

I am home today, doing such imagining and empathizing. I am not doing some other things because this, for the time being, takes precedence. Honoring these women by taking the time to think about them, by paying attention to what they are saying. Since I have worked as an actor, I know how hard that is, acting--the work itself, the artistic endeavor--and how hard getting the next job can be. Think what they were up against at all times as they proceeded in big time careers with all the forces and powers and even well-meaning people pressing them not to speak or ignoring them when they did. (My own acting career was "small time" but even I ran into shocking crap, and still do.) (And the literary world is not spared this crap, either.) Thank you Annabella, for Jungle Fever, and everything else! Thank you, Daryl Hannah, for Blade Runner, and everything else!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Me, Too

Yesterday I asked my husband if he was aware of the huge “Me, too” phenomenon on Facebook. He wasn’t (and he is on Facebook). “4.7 million people,” I told him, “reported that they had been sexually harassed, assaulted, or abused, and the real count is probably twice that.” Or three times. The “official” count is probably even bigger now. I told him briefly why I didn’t want to post a “Me, too” status on Facebook—I hated watching all the fights that ensued in people’s comments, I hated watching people climb up on all the podiums and bandwagons; I hated seeing people I like and admire say stupid things (even though I have said stupid things and step up on podiums and bandwagons, too)—but how I did share a short video my niece had shared, showing Tarana Burke, who started the “Me Too” movement ten years ago…and how sad and moving and inspiring that was. Burke spoke with her daughter, who can, alas, say, “Me, too.”*

(And because I am not on Twitter, I knew about Tarana Burke as founder of the movement before I knew that Alyssa Milano had encouraged a “me too” reply to a tweet and a follow-up Twitter boycott, etc., all laid out here in a New York Times article. I am glad that Burke and Milano are now friendly collaborators in raising awareness.

*I learned in the article that Burke started the movement in part because she “couldn’t even say ‘me too’” to a very young victim of sexual abuse. Burke’s movement is all about empathy, specifically “empowerment through empathy,” and she wanted to put people who had suffered together with others who could say, “Me, too.”** Burke has also started a not-for-profit organization called Just Be Inc focused on wellness and wholeness.)

**I am the one adding the annoying comma, though.

Today I saw the piece by Jenny Listman in Medium, about the time Elie Wiesel “grabbed [her] ass”—more sad news, beautifully written, making the issues (and the ironies) very, very clear. I’m waiting for what Bitter Gertrude might say. I will keep reading what these women have to say, and I hope you will, too.

Here's another woman to read, Sarah Polley, who shifted from acting to directing and moved from being objectified to being respected.