Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

26 April 2012

What I'm Reading Right Now

I am reading Agamben's Remnants of Auschwitz. (Don't ask me why I read things like this as quote light reading unquote that is supposed to be a break from my dissertation.) Agamben is talking about memory and testimony and shame and the "self". It's really interesting stuff, although I don't quite understand all of it (which is fine). But here's something cool from the middle of the book:

Binswanger [with his concepts of "life-function" and "life-history"] indicates an aporia so radical that the very possibility of identifying a unitary terrain of consciousness is called into question.

Consider, on one hand, the continuous flow of [the body's] vital functions: respiration, circulation, digestion, homeothermy (but also sensation, muscular movement, irritation, etc.) and, on the other hand, the flow of language and of the conscious "I," in which lived experiences are organized into an individual history. Is there a point in which these two flows are unified, in which the "dreaming" of the vital functions is joined to the "waking" of personal consciousness? Where, and how, can a subject be introduced into the biological flow?

"I" signifies precisely the irreducible disjunction between vital functions and inner history, between the living being's becoming a speaking being and the speaking being's sensation of itself as living.

It is certainly true that the two series flow alongside one another in what one could call absolute intimacy.

But is
intimacy not precisely the name that we give to a proximity that also remains distant, to a promiscuity that never becomes identity?

21 April 2012

Out of Context

In my Sexuality & Representation class I find myself saying all sorts of things. I am never offensive in class, of course, but taken out of context, my students think I say a lot of very funny things.

And two of them kept a list for the semester. (Thanks, ladies.)

Now, this is basically just my students playing a long-running that's what he said joke on me. But I think it's actually pretty funny. When they handed it to me at the end of the class, I told them I would definitely post it on here.

Honestly I don't remember saying half of this stuff...
  • People who liked to be choked. Where’s my parade, right?
  • I'm fine with Vegans. People going around: I'm a Vegan. Fuck off. Just don't do it in public. Why do they have to put it in my face?
  • It's not about who I am, it's what I want and how I move.
  • I don’t want people to see my penis all the time—Well, my penis is fine, just not my balls.
  • There is an evil coming to get us in the body of a small girl. For me, I know it’s a lesbian.
  • [on Boys in the Band] I’m never going to be able to keep these people straight. 
  • You don’t come out to the clerk at the grocery store.
  • Where is the lesbian? Making soup and dressing poorly.
  • Like a free radical! Finally, they can be paired up.
  • We’re all gonna talk about how awful she is, and then stare at her tits. She’s cheesecake.
  • There’s a plague, and it's coming to get us… End of Scene.
  • I have secret gay behind my pancreas and it helps me dress windows.
  • Two young boys masturbating in the vineyard, fantasizing about becoming a pastor… that’s totes normal.
  • Rape is NOT a transhistorical concept.
  • He was a kid. And he was mad at his dad. Dad, leave me alone, I’m trying to have sex with an old man!
  • One could still have some sodomy on the side. 500 days of Sodom. ... That’s a lot of sodomy.
  • You can’t just say, Well, I got images of semen everywhere. Well, good for you.
  • Freud can constantly be like, That’s what she said!
  • Vaginas are just coming to eat your head.
  • The penis is not all powerful… in this text.
  • It’s fat, but it's wonderful.
  • Masturbation brings you to another level than, like, knitting.
  • A lesbian Chinese woman will be President of the United States—That’s ridiculous, that will never happen.
  • It’s pretty explicit. It’s kind of delightful.
  • When the historian said may, he was making shit up.
  • There’s plenty of prostitution happening at the theatre.
  • Can we please return to sodomy?
  • A sodomite is a bogeyman off in the woods. Like a werewolf. Or a Jew.
  • If you’re not chaste, you wanna have sex with everyone. A whore is a whore is a whore.
  • Makes me wanna punch somebody. Makes me wanna punch my father.
  • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
  • I like when she pees—it’s fun. I like pee in plays. Don’t shit. But pee is fun.
  • We’re gonna be skepz.
  • I fought with a sword, you fool!
  • I liked the fact that Reagan came up. I miss him sometimes.
  • Hermstory. I’m obsessed with that.
  • Let’s just let herm be hermself.
  • I love your lesbian spirit. It smells like teen spirit.
  • It’s lesbian mom week!
  • I’m not saying they’re not lesbians, I’m just saying lesbians are figured as gay men.
  • I love a gay Nazi.
  • It still ends with a bunch of dead fags.
  • Emptiness needs to be filled. By a penis obviously, because it’s Freud.
  • Killing your dad is like this fantastic Freudian dream.
  • I wish little bullied gay kids could kill their dads. That’d be kind of awesome.
  • They weren’t scouring the countryside for faggots.
  • The gay was released.
  • I don't have to take mental pictures for my spank bank.
  • I'm terrified of being gay too!
  • Let's talk about pirate sex really quickly.
  • She can't decide to be a Ford Focus today... and why would she want to??
  • This bitch went into Hell!
All of these are out of context, and I am deliberately leaving them out of context because in context they're not actually funny. I'm just gonna leave it at that. It might be funny to try to imagine what in the hell I was talking about at any of these moments...

17 April 2012

Saludos Amigos

If you look at the tagline above, you will see that this film boasts, not only that it features Joe Carioca, "the Brazilian Jitterbird," but also that – and I quote – "Walt Disney goes South American in his gayest musical technicolor feature"

I cannot say that this film quite delivered on its promises of gayness (gaiety?), but Saludos Amigos was a cute little South-American tourism film, its animation is beautiful, and I was also stunned to note that not only were almost all the Spanish words pronounced correctly, but the narrator referred to the Andes as "the tallest mountains in America". Such a construction would be unthinkable in 2012, since for so many USAmericans these days, the word America has come to mean only the United States. I found the whole thing rather pleasant, and confess myself slightly disappointed when it was over after a running time of only forty-two minutes.

Big River: the Adventures of the Thane of Cawdor

Two of the shows in Endstation's Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival merged in a weird way for me this week.

I am re-reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in preparation for our production of Roger Miller's musical Big Riverit is extraordinarily good fun, in case you had forgotten – and what do I come across but a passage where the duke teaches the king "Hamlet's soliloquy". This is what he teaches him:

To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin.
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane,
But that the fear of something after death
Murders the innocent sleep,
Great nature's second course,
And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune
Than fly to others we know not of.
There's the respect must give us pause.
Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time;
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The law's delay, and the quietus which his pangs might take,
In the dead waste and middle of the night, when church-yards yawn
In customary suits of solemn black,
But that the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns
Breathes forth contagion on the world,
And thus the native hue of resolution, like the poor cat i'the adage,
Is sicklied o'er with care,
And all the clouds that lowered o'er our housetops,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia:
Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws,
But get thee to a nunnery – go!

There is a little Richard III in there. Most of it is, of course, from Hamlet, although not all of it is from the scene the duke says it is, but the stuff in bold is from Macbeth, which is one of the other shows I'm working on this season. Very cool.

11 April 2012

Interview #2: Gregory Sherl

In my second interview I speak to poet Gregory Sherl. Greg's latest book is the video-game themed The Oregon Trail Is the Oregon Trail, which just keeps selling out on Amazon, as well as the collections Heavy Petting, and I Have Touched You, which doesn't get enough press these days. I ask Greg about real-life poetics, popularity, and getting off.

ACT: Can we start away from poetry? I know that when you started writing you weren't writing poetry as such (although I thought of it as poetic, whatever that means). How do you decide what you are writing looks like?

GS: I hope we can always start away from poetry. Fuck poetry. What is poetry? I don't write poetry – I write essays, diary entries, false starts that run long enough to false start more than once. I write fucking in the middle, beginning, and end. I write iced coffee with line breaks.

I haven't had the opportunity to do many interviews, but it always bums me out that no interviewer starts the interview with, like, Do you wear socks with your Converse slip-ons? The answer is no, but the shoes get washed often. Or: How does hand sanitizer affect your writing? If I don't have any hand sanitizer and worry my pen is dirty or maybe my hands are dirty and I don't want to touch my keyboard, I just won't write. That's really fucking frustrating. I probably didn't write about three books because of that. Or: How do you take the heart out of germs? I don't know, but please let me know when you find out.

But to actually answer your question: These days it has become easier to define what I'm writing because I've finally gotten to a place where I (for the most part, but I say this all very loosely) know what I am specifically trying to write when I sit down to write. Before, I was just trying to write. Now I'm trying to write with a purpose. Everything is bigger. Everything feels necessary or I'm not going to bother.

You've known me for a long time (since what, 2007, when we eye fucked at The Coffee Pub?) and when I first started showing you my work, it wasn't poetry – it was short fiction – or some form of it (obviously shoddy, most obviously shitty). You are right though, the lines were poetic, though I didn't know it at the time. Thinking about it now, each subsequent short story I showed you embraced brevity more and more. I started turning pages of scenes into half-page vignettes. Then it became a natural transition to fitting an entire lifetime on one page, maybe two, with, you know, some line breaks or something.

What does it mean to you to call something poetic, as I just did with your early work?

I think something poetic is anything pretty enough to look at or read more than once. A woman's wrist can be poetic. A patient singing in my psychiatrist's waiting room is always poetic. Trying to breathe underwater, somewhat poetic until you die. Never burning below the waist: brilliantly poetic. The way I look just out of a shower: My God. There aren't enough pages.

Sometimes I forget how much talking to you involves being teased. There is something about reading your work – and indeed your answers to these questions – that involves anticipation or maybe an active delaying of gratification (I suppose teasing is the simplest way to put it). I imagine this is element of your writing is conscious on your part, but what do you see as the relationship between this anticipation/desire/teasing and your work?

I would like to say that this teasing, as you call it, is a conscious effort in my writing (and hell, normal life, or hell, my entire life), but it's not. I like it though, this idea you've created, a mythical representation way more romantic about my writing than what my writing probably is.

I can tell you I like to sext my way in and out of a poem.

Maybe I am all constant flirts and we are, in fact, foreplaying right now. Can you guess what I'm wearing?

How about now?

Hint: It is less than it was ten seconds ago.

Fact: I am always less than I was ten seconds ago.

Anticipation keeps the reader going, right? Well, maybe that's not true. Good writing keeps the reader going. I hope that's true. Or it should be, anyway. I think. What do I know? I sleep on an air mattress in my childhood bedroom. I am not even that good at drinking beer. I miss cigarettes, so I take Valium and pretend.

Where were we going with this?

Anticipation. Those moments before the orgasm -- the curling of the toes, the embarrassing facial contortions we pretend don't happen but of course do – these are the best moments of any fuck, regardless of how good or bad said fuck is. (Hopefully good – I hope everyone is having really amazing sex right now.)

Getting off is the letdown. Getting to the getting off is what makes getting off worthwhile.

A lot of people who interview you ask you about your interests in so-called popular culture. I am a) no longer sure what the phrase popular culture means and b) not interested in re-treading material you've already covered. But I am interested in popularity, so: How interested are you in your own popularity?

I won't lie and pretend to be above anything, or that my "art" should be misunderstood and not appreciated: I want to be popular as fuck. I want to be read and know that I'm read. I want enough money for healthcare and never have to make my own coffee. I would like something more than frozen burritos. I love getting emails, FB messages, tweets about how someone is loving what I write (I always find this frantically confusing), but I sure as fuck appreciate it. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's a great feeling.

I want to afford to sleep on something that isn't an air mattress. I want to sell out, surely I do, though I don't really know what that means anymore. I'm ready to move on from poetry. I want a display at Barnes and Noble. I want Borders to re-open just to sell my book. I want to write a screenplay for Zac Efron. I want to be able to afford to pay someone to wash my hair in one of those giant sinks daily.

Knowing that you are gaining a larger readership has surely changed the way you approach your work, no?

We won't talk about your love for Hoagland (because you are aware of my lack of love for Hoagland), but Hoagland and let's say Mary Oliver & let's say Billy Collins & let's say Shakespeare's ghost & let's say parts of God can probably make a living based off their poetry sales and reading fees. The idea of a "larger readership" when referring to poetry is an amusing thought. It's sad that it's impossible to survive off words. It's sad that teaching at a college as an adjunct doesn't include healthcare. Look at me getting political as fuck as I write a monthly check I can't really afford.

But let's pretend that I'm gaining a larger readership (I'm not going to believe you because I'm an insecure mess). This might make sense in my new approach of writing. My new poems are weird, almost alienating to the old "Greg Sherl Poem." It's like I'm fighting what I know would work. I don't want to rest, I hope I can be in a constant state of evolution. A lot of my newer poems are getting rejected by journals my older poems would have normally been accepted at. I am going to consider this a good thing. Or maybe the poems just suck.

I don't use the word thigh nearly as much, so maybe that means something.

Since you're feeling political, what other effects has labor had on your work? 

Anything that involves me being away from my computer or a pen and paper absolutely takes away from my writing time. Even fucking takes away from my writing time. Watching The Heat play takes away from my writing time, but goddamn that LeBron James and his disappearing hairline.

Here's the thing though – my longer work days haven't actually affected my creative output. In retrospect, being busier might have actually have a beneficial impact on my work. The less time I have to write means the more intense the writing time I do have becomes. My work benefits from the angst I feel from having to grade instead of writing another poem about octopuses or fucking or octopus fucking. These days my writing comes out in a blizzard, and I don't know where half of it came from or where half of it will end up going. I find that exciting.

Everything seems to be changing.

I am interested in octopuses.

I was interested in the Bible until I rewrote it and made it better (still waiting for someone to query about that collection).

On the other hand, I am also trying to simply stay awake (earlier tonight I fell asleep at the kitchen table, sitting up, which seriously hinders my poetic output).

What I really want to be is a kept man.

What I really want is to sleep past noon, to know Netflix in an intimate way a couple hours a day.

I want to always sleep naked.

I want to live life like it's a hobby I kind of just picked up.

What activity do you wish you did more than you do now?

Fucking. I wish I fucked more. I wish I fucked like a sinking canoe. Or maybe I wish I fucked myself out of a sinking canoe. After, I wish I was held like a life raft.

You're a teacher, now, as well. How teachable is poetry? How teachable is art in general?

There is nothing special about poetry. As poets, we sometimes like to pretend we're doing something otherworldly – something we were destined for. I was born to write this book that 300 people might read, goddammit! I think that's a silly thought. We teach people how to do brain surgery. We can make prosthetic limbs and maybe we went to the moon.

Why the fuck couldn't we teach poetry?

I think the concept of teaching art because it was given to us by some higher god is completely ridiculous. Make someone excited to do something. Make them believe in themselves. Tell them, That right there, art. Make them want to create. It might not be the best art, but it's art. Who am I, or who are you or who is anyone to say what is or isn't art?

I have been taught a lot of things. I have been taught how to create, yes. I think so. I have been taught how to create better, for sure. I have been inspired. I am here talking to you because of past creative-writing professors.

I always tell my students that I don't want the theatre to teach me anything. I feel as though many poets (maybe the ones Garrison Keillor reads every day) want to teach me things when they write, but I don't feel as though you are preoccupied with this. Do you have anything to say about teaching your readers with your artistic production?

I want someone to put down something I wrote and feel better than they did before they picked it up. That's it.

It's so weird for you to say that you want a reader to feel "better" after reading something you've written. Better seems like such an odd word. Can you be more specific? Or maybe I should just shut up...

Never shut up, Aaron. You are a mouth I wish I had known better (& I meant that in the dirtiest way possible).

But seriously, yes, better. Better. It seems that the older I've gotten (saying that sounds ridiculous because I'm turning twenty-seven like tomorrow or today or maybe yesterday, depending on when this interview runs), the more I've been feeling. As in the world gets smaller. As in the world is all connected to one nerve ending, and that nerve ending is connected to my neck or maybe wrists. But then, maybe the age comment isn't necessarily true because I've always been of the feeling (considering I was so overwhelmed at twenty that I took enough pills to go to sleep forever). Maybe the older I get, the more I realize how ridiculous it is to keep feeding myself pain through art when there's so much in the air I'm already forced to breathe.

So, yes, better.

For more info on Gregory, you can read his sporadically updated blog here, or send away for one of his books, or you can google his name and read some of the poetry that he has published in at least two-dozen online journals. For example, this. And this. And definitely this.

10 April 2012

A Little David Mamet for a Tuesday

Anna. And now you return, with news. You return, not unlike Prometheus. Who brought fire to the gods.
Claire. The classical construction, of course, had him steal fire from the gods.
Anna. He stole fire from the gods?
Claire. Yes.
Anna. And this is generally known.
Claire. It is proverbial.
Anna. I speak under correction.


Anna. "That must be as it will be."
Claire. Do you not find such a disposition trivial?
Anna. It is, as I understand the term, Philosophy. (Pause) How can philosophy be trivial? When have you known me to be trivial?
Claire. You once referred to the Crimean War as "just one of those Things."
Anna. I did?
Claire. Yes.
Anna. When did I do that?
Claire. During a discussion of Geopolitics.
Anna. What is or are Geopolitics?
Claire. Oh, you remember...
Anna. I do not.
Claire. They are, as the term might suggest, the politics of the world.
Anna. And why were we discussing them?
Claire. To pass the time. To pass the time, you vacant cow. That is what people do.


I find this play delightfully funny. It's probably intended to be fairly misogynist, but it makes me laugh nonetheless.

08 April 2012

Some Dada Fragments, as Usual

For your enjoyment, I thought I'd share some delightful excerpts from the recent, near-perfect book (if you can call it that) about Dada and its legacy by Andrei Codrescu entitled The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess.

Codrescu lays out his book like a kind of glossary or series of definitions, none of which leads to anything definitive and most of which lead off into another definition somewhere else in the book. This is, of course, part of the fun of reading it, and Codrescu's misdirections and total absurdities are both pleasurable and intentionally Dada in spirit (i.e. irrepressibly silly).

Further, the book is filled with references from popular culture that follow Dada; he links Dada always with what it spawned and where it is situated in history. These connections or resonances always tell us more about Dada, and struck me as consistently insightful and wise (as wise as Dada can be). Take for example:

The stem cell of Dada ("the virgin microbe") contains every possibility of revolt, destruction, and self-destruction; it is by definition anti: antiauthoritarian, anti-institutional, and anti-art, antianything, like Marlon Brando's answer "Whaddya got?" to the question "What are you rebelling against?" in the movie The Wild One. Dada has causes, all of them, and is against them all, including itself.

Negativity, of course, is the hallmark of Dada, perhaps even its essence, and tracing that essence through those who have historically adopted negativity as a stock-in-trade like Brando/Johnny Strabler begins the project of actually articulating Dada's considerable legacy. A few more musings/fragments on pseudonyms and pen-names:

Today, the "world" is a pseudonym that stands, maybe, for the world. "Reality" is doubtlessly a pseudonym for reality. All words are in fact pseudonyms of themselves, and if they are sufficiently pseudonymous, they become symbols. The internet is almost entirely pseudonymous or anonymous.

It is easy to understand why the Jewish [Samuel] Rosenstock changed his name to Tzara: in a country of anti-semites, the best cover is a non-Jewish name. But it goes deeper: Tzara also means "land," which is the one thing Jews couldn't have. They were hired to manage the estates of the boyars but they could not own land. (This might seem remote, but as close as the 1970s in a country as distant as the United States, Jews couldn't own oil leases; they could sell pipe to the big WASP boys, but until Jimmy Carter's U.S. Trade Representative Strauss told the Texas boys to change the rules, they drew the line at owning oil-land.)

In 1915, he became Tzara, meaning land, country, the thing that nationalists and traditionalists held most dear. This is what soldiers died for: their tzara. The defiant poet didn't stop there: he changed his first name, too, to that of the archetypal lover of Europe's most cherished saga, though it is possible that he named himself after Tristan Corbière.

If at the beginning of the 20th century, a pseudonym was de rigeur for an artist, Tzara took it a step further by changing countries as well, becoming an exile, like the revolutionaries hunted by the police. In abandoning name and country, Tzara could answer like Odysseus – "I Am No One" – when the Cyclops asked, but the Cyclops kept asking, a harsh interrogation that took a long time, long enough for No One to find enough other No Ones to deliver a resounding NO strong enough to fight nazis, Europe's chief and upcoming fixed identity freaks.

See what I mean about misdirection actually managing to get us somewhere??
I find it exhilarating.

06 April 2012

Interview #1: Joshua Mikel

For my first interview, I talk to playwright/designer/fine artist/filmmaker/musician/actor Joshua Mikel. I ask Josh about collaboration, labor, and being a genius. Enjoy!

ACT: You work across media, including writing and performing and fine arts. Do you consider yourself a particular kind of artist primarily or do you have some other way of thinking about what you do? How would you characterize yourself?

JM: Say, if someone asks me what I do at a bar, I say, well, I do graphic design (because that tends to get me into the least awkward conversation) and if I'm with a friend they might fill in the blanks for me while I pretend to be modest. I think most artists have a hard time classifying themselves. I know I have a hard time with it. I think folks tend to use the term artist pretty liberally. I don't think just practicing in the arts necessarily makes you an artist. Not to talk anyone down or what have you, but I rarely think of myself as an artist. It's more of a title you earn. Something you're awarded at the end of your career when you look back on your life and see how you changed the game... so to speak.

So an artist is something someone can be only in retrospect?

Photograph by Robert Bryce Milburn
No, I don't think it's a title meant for just retrospect, but I do think a key part of earning the title has to do with a number of factors that only come with real maturation of craft. It has to do with influence, with innovation, with audience, with impact, maybe a dash of luck, and of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with money. I've been thinking a lot about it lately – for instance, I came across a video of a kid playing drums to some real complicated songs. The ability was impressive in any light, but I think it's important to note that there's a world's difference between the ability to play the part, and the ability to write the part. If you put that kid in the room the day the song was written with the other band members, would he have filled out the rhythm section like the band's actual drummer did? Maybe so. Probably not. Another example I've always loved is with the band The Velvet Underground and their first album The Velvet Underground & Nico which peaked at at #171 on the Billboard charts (granted it saw complications with its release – thanks, wikipedia), but despite its puny commercial success, the story goes that nearly everyone that bought the album was so influenced that they went and started a band of their own. I mean, that's powerful shit. That's artistry.

In many of the situations in which you work, you are working in collaboration with other artists or, well, just folks. What do you think of collaborative work? How do you approach it? Are there specific things you look for in a collaborator?

I'm absolutely turned on by other artists. Believe it or not, I lack a lot of self motivation, and I find that collaborations help me bring a lot more to the table. It's having someone in my corner, and someone holding me accountable at the same time. I also have learned recently that my best collaborations happen when I collaborate with folks who are performing their duty in the collaboration where either a) I consider them an expert in their craft and trust them wholeheartedly or b) it's something I have no clue about or don't care to have a clue about. My best collaborations (for instance when I work with Geoffrey Kershner, whom I would consider a master director, and Krista Franco, whom I would consider a master scenic designer) luckily fall into both of those categories.

I recently introduced you to a mutual friend of ours and I used the word genius. By that I meant that I think you see the world in a way that I cannot really conceive. How do you think about how you think about the world? In other words, do you think that your perspective on the world is unique in any way (I obviously do) and if so, how is it unique and where do you think this particular perspective might have originated?

First off, I've never been paid a bigger compliment. I've never considered myself a hugely intelligent person, so I love this definition of genius. I guess it's only recently that I've recognized that I might see the world a bit differently than other folks. I feel like a lot of that has to do with understanding people. Something we (hopefully) learn as theatre artists is empathy. I think empathy goes huge ways in terms of understanding the world around you, and anyone who has traveled (and eventually advocates traveling to other folks) develops a greater sense of empathy. Thankfully, I've done my fair share of traveling. Genius makes me a bit uncomfortable, but I would say I have an acute sense of empathy which lends itself to my art. It has to do with the compassion I saw in my parents and grandparents growing up, leaving my home town for college away from home and then traveling the States multiple times with the band – everyone I met along the way – I think it all gave me an invaluable perspective.

Because you are a working artist – that is, an artist supporting himself only through his own artistic output – I am curious about how you think that different way of functioning in relation to art has affected your output. Many artists I know supplement their artistic work with other work that pays them a steady salary. How do you see your different status in relation to capital as affecting your work?

I think a lot of my friends will resent this statement, but perhaps the worst thing an aspiring artist can do is anything else that keeps him or her from aspiring to be an artist. It's a lot easier said than done, but maybe I've just been stubborn enough not to allow myself the comfort of a job that pays the bills. It's done wonders for my work. I have a huge sense of Catholic guilt brought on by the scam I've pulled to get my parents to pay for my tuition – that also has done wonders for my work. I'm worried that once I pay off my college loans and maybe set my parents up in a nice pad, I'll become an apathetic loaf of a man.

Your plays are often very funny, but I find that your graphic art can be quite funny, as well. What is the place of humor in your work? How do you see it standing with or against the darker themes in your work?

A mentor once told me that I try to make a joke of everything. It was meant as a critique, but I'm sad (er, happy?) to say I don't think I ever grew out of it. The world, for better or worse, is a very funny place and it absolutely scares the shit out of me. I'm not the first person to say it, nor will I be the last, but you just have to have a sense of humor about it all, or you're going to get swallowed up. As far as writing goes, I think my more macabre work is a reflection of how scared shitless I am of death, or just daily life, coupled with not taking anything seriously.

For more information on Joshua, you can read his bio at Playscripts, Inc., check out some of his film-work at IMDb or Vimeo, and his designs via the facebook.

05 April 2012

The Interview Format

I am going to start a new series in this space.

I am spending so much time writing my dissertation (and – at the moment – other things, but that's another story) that I am sort of feeling as though I don't have much to blog about. So I conceived of an idea for having conversations that is not really about me telling you my opinions about things. I am going to begin a series of interviews.

The other thing is that this year has been incredibly productive for me as a thinker. I've had a friend in town who has been pushing me (without even trying, really) to think in new ways about things. In other words, I have been having a lot of dialogues. It has been really good for me. And one of the topics to which I keep returning is the question of art.

What is art? (I sort of don't believe there is such a thing.) Why do we need it? (I sort of think we need it even though I don't believe in it.) How do we make it? How can it be judged? Why do we like what we like?

And so I thought I would ask some artists! I know quite a few in my life, and I know many who I consider to be excellent, incredibly talented artists. And I thought: What if we begin to have some dialogues about what we think art is.

I did an interview a couple years ago with my friend the playwright Jon Fraser, that was published in ATHEnews, and we had such a good time with it, that I thought it might be nice to try the format again. One never knows what one can learn if one simply listens.

So: I don't know how often these will be, I am not sure how many I will do, and I am not sure what I will be inspired to ask people, but I think this should be fun for me! And I hope it is fun for you.

02 April 2012


More than once while watching Tarsem Singh's new movie Mirror Mirror I thought to myself: That white girl certainly looks suspicious in that hoodie.

I also wondered, more than once, why I was actually sitting in the theatre. (The movie is bad, but not detestable.)

The correct answer is, of course, that Eiko Ishioka designed the costumes (this is her last film: she died earlier this year).

And if you haven't heard about the outrage that is going on in Florida right now, where our children literally are not safe on the streets, please read this at the New York Times.