Archive for March, 2014

Jesus

March 14, 2014

This is not a course on nor discussion of theology, but merely a reaction to another senseless murder in the U S of A. You can head over to Huffington Post to read what they’ve got on the situation so far, but the gist of it is that teenagers were being teenagers and a young man is now dead.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I was 15, 16, 17….um….keep going….my mind was preoccupied with sex, music, books, sex, money, sex, music, sex music, and sex, which means that this 17-year old kid did what nearly any other 17-year old would have done when invited over by a 16 year-old girl. Follow the trouser snake. Go. Hunt. Play. Frolic. We might be emotional infants during those lustful years but our bodies are about as ripe as they will ever be and primed for their purpose. This is normal shit. A kid being clandestinely invited into a girl’s bedroom is pretty much as stock-standard as it gets. It’s what being young is all about.

I have neither the time nor the patience (nor the verbiage), to get into the topic of guns and their sick stranglehold on America, but what has left me more emotionally unsettled than any other aspect of this entire bloody situation is her act of denial.  Of course I’m offended by the general sense of betrayal, even though there is a small part of me that can understand that, to a 16-year old girl in Texas, it makes more sense to lie to one’s own father (who happens to be holding a gun), rather than admit to having sex (or even being interested in sexual contact) with this young man who just happens to be standing in her bedroom.

[I gotta be honest though, if you have a 16-year old daughter and find a young man in her bedroom, is it really that far from your mind that she’s probably getting it on.  Oh, right….he’s an intruder. That makes much more sense.]

I’m no biblical scholar, but even I have picked Ye Olde Gideon’s Bible from time to time, and made my way through enough of it to recall:

-Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly-

The act of betrayal is a brutal, bitter thing to behold, and while most of our transgressions pass without consequence (except our late night drinking remorse and other acts of haphazardry), it is betrayal nonetheless.  Perhaps what is most egregious is the face-to-face, do-or-die nature of the confrontation.  Most of the time we are allowed to skulk away in silence. Sometimes, not so much. In this latest situation, there are only losers, and that is a sad, sad thing.

Jesus, help me find my proper place…

Three for me

March 4, 2014

Lately I find myself applauding and searching for competence. What sounds like resignation and a lowering of standards is in fact the exact opposite–I am in awe of someone who is getting it right without any fuss, every time, without fail, because it is so bloody rare. This might seem like an ode to journeymen the world over (and maybe it is that as well), but the older I get the more often I declare “Talent ain’t worth shit”.  The world is flooded with talented people (I find it hard to not put the word in quotation marks) , but it is work that makes the artist.  I might concede that one carries the germ of artistry during the long years of artisan apprenticeship [aka: getting the shit knocked out of you and growing a thick skin], but behind the awe & beauty of a masterpiece lies years and years of work, thought, revision, deliberation, and conscious effort to achieve or approach an artistic ideal.

I didn’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman, but his death affected me about as much as an artist can, which is to say it was a mild shock to the system but a damn sight more frustrating than that.  “Sad”, “Untimely”, “Tragic”–that goes without saying, as vapid as those words can seem at times, but now that a bit of the shock has settled and the initial outpouring of grief has passed I wanted to make my own small sad circle of flowers and remember him for the craftsman and artist he was.  The world lost a great actor, and I don’t use either term lightly.  I don’t know shit about acting, but I think I know enough to realize that he was an actor whom his peers thought highly of.  That means something in my book. I don’t go to the doctor and tell him what I think, and I don’t think art in any form should be exempt from the same standards. Know your instrument, know your craft, work harder, fail better, do it again.

With that in mind I wanted to share three of his performances that remain my favourites and are the images I will most likely see whenever someone mentions his name.

This one always hits me hard. Like, personally hard. I won’t tell you which character I relate to most in that sad relationship, but damn if my heart don’t break when Scotty collapses in the car and beats himself up.  Unrequited love is brutal.

I’ve been shocked that in all of the press surrounding his death I’ve yet to see a single mention of Love Liza, which is even more surprising given the circumstances of his death. The movie is one long awkward unraveling in suburbia, filled with the banal minutiae of human existence that continue even as the world collapses around you. Tragedy strikes, but the phone bill is still due.

The last is not a clip, but a personal anecdote, which I will try and keep as brief as possible.  In my former life [read: before I arrived in Australia], I always seemed to be surrounded by people involved with film & theatre. When Hoffman and John C. Reilly performed Sam Shepard’s True West in 2000, they alternated roles every night, resulting in a long run of sold-out shows along with both critical & popular acclaim. The awe and respect amongst the theatre world was unlike anything that I had ever heard before or since, and as I sat and listened to their excited chatter (saying nothing except to ask a question, coz what the #$@! do I now about acting?) it made me glad to know that even though I couldn’t truly appreciate the breadth & depth of their achievement they were at least being recognized by those that could.

That’s what I’ll remember, and what inspires me in my own endeavors as I play supporting roles on the big stages and my leading roles on the fringe. Thank you, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  For everything.