Friday, December 1, 2017

SHORT EXCERPT from Only Small Things Are Good," Micah Harris' great American novel, coming 1/20 from Pagescape Press



Excerpt from Only Small Things are Good

"The Unwritten Rules

A bolt lies loose in the oil under your government, and the reason it broke and fell down there instead of holding things together like it should have done, is because this bolt is a bolt, and bolts are dead. Governments should be run by the living.


My name is Joel Alden. I became what I am in a mechanic's shop where the wrench slips and you skin the knucles of God's hand that He gave you for the purpose of working. You curse not at all and the good people of the earth pay you a hard dollar for the trucks that were set right by your labor. I grew my handshake hard there, and my voice took such a tone that you cannot doubt but I have told you straight all that I have told..."


"...a novel that offers a lively portrait of the realistic and fantasy life of a Pentagon staff officer."--Madelyn R. Creedon, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense.

In Micah Harris’ new novel, Only Small Things Are Good (January 20, Pagescape Press), Joel Alden, a low-level employee at the Pentagon, unexpectedly finds himself at the nexus of power. Raised in a devout, rural Texas family, Joel grew up working on the farm and later as a mechanic in his dad's shop. His people gave him a sense of what is real and true. He was also raised with a mission to protect the weak. That mission and his faith sent him to Africa to alleviate suffering. He returned an agnostic.

In this novel, less about politics than the reality of how government works, Joel’s origin story is interwoven with that of the present day realist, who brings the craftsmanship of a mechanic to his job at the Pentagon. Yet, in the Pentagon, he spends frustrating days writing memos for actions and initiatives that may never happen. Then he reads a memo that grips him, about the repatriation of released detainees and religious “deradicalization” studies, required by their home countries and funded by the U.S.

Joel’s critique and proposal to improve this program, attract the attention of his President. He asks Joel to take some time to describe what makes us American and how we might repair this thing. Joel is overwhelmed. Can one person speak such a truth and set a wrong right?  Does he have anything meaningful to say?

Joel asks for the help of his perceptive ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend “Socrates.” But their abstract philosophical conversation pales against the good sense of Joel’s housemate, who has actually served in the military. Joel also pays a visit to his family and realizes the distance between his life, working in the Pentagon, and the lives of people who work hard in small towns. In the end,  can Joel's truth have meaning for a president isolated by layers of bureaucracy from his people?

A beauty of this novel is Harris' voice. With echos of John Steinbeck and David Foster Wallace, this novel is at once earnest and self-deprecating, sincerely seeking what's true with personal footnotes both funny and explanatory. The novel is a kind of universal wish fulfillment fantasy about having the chance to talk truth to power.  This thoughtful novel unifies divisions in a tale of America as it is and might be. .

About the Author

Micah Harris grew up on a West Texas ranch then moved to Washington, DC. Over the past 12 years he has worked in the Senate, the White House, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He holds an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John's College and works as a consultant for the Department of Defense. Only Small things Are Good is his first published novel.

Pagescape Press

Pagescape Press is a publishing cooperative. Originally founded as a virtual publishing house specializing in e-book editions, it now offers paperback versions of selected titles as well. It features works of literary merit, including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, in the arts, sciences, and humanities. A list of its titles can be found on its website at www.pagescapepress.com.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

“Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” presented Nov. by Regeneration Theatre-Reviewed

 “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”
Regeneration Theatre, November 2017



"I think the play is interesting and, in some ways, ahead of it’s time. It tries to cover a lot of issues; perhaps too many. But that is so brave for the late 1970s. Some of the attitudes seems dated, but overall the themes of acceptance, and forgiveness make me feel we should have hope. These women are in a very traditional and conservative environment, and if the most religious and bigoted among them can accept this great change in someone she knows, then anybody can. Or at least I would like to believe so. And that is the main reason I wanted to explore this piece in an age of gender fluidity, fighting against prejudice and traditionalism." 

--Barnaby Edwards (Producer)
I love that this theatre's focus is on re-examining shows that were influential and even controversial in their times. Looking at them through a 2017 lens reveals a different perspective.  I had seen Kennedy's Children Off Broadway, also directed by the excellent Erin Soler, and found the revival surprisingly more on target than the original. I never saw "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" on Broadway but vaguely remember the movie with Cher. I had mixed reactions to that film and this play.

Ed Gracyzk set "Jimmie Dean" in a West Texas town in the mid-1970s. It takes place in a dusty old five and dime store. The occasion is the 20-year reunion of the James Dean fan club, and the  local filming of Giant. Mona, who's spent her life in the store, brings everyone home, including an unexpected visitor. The store owner is strait-laced devout Juanita, who I believe is Mona's mother.  Monica Rey plays her with dead pan sincerity. There's also Sissy, Mona's best friend, who did the decorations. Sassy and "in your face," Sissy appears very opposite Mona's pretentious "airs" and nervous anxiety.  Sissy did the decorations that turned the store into a shrine for Mona's icon James Dean. She has a sense of humor about it unshared by Mona--entirely possessed by a religious fervor. Ariana Figueroa's Sissy makes the outrageous truthful. She becomes a kind of moral center for the play, pointing out what's real and not. 

When a yellow Porche comes to this particularly uninviting spot, it is a matter of passing speculation to Mona, though Sissy, Juanita and other celebrants don't miss the driver, a tall well turned out woman, who knows too much about them. I've read enough southern literature, Flannery O'Connor came to mind, to know the terrain. There's the fevered religiosity of southern women to romance, especially failed chances. Brittle Mona fairly echoes Tennessee Williams' Blanche, as she weaves the fable of her life, the college education she gave up to stay home, her transcendent moment being noticed to be an extra on Giant, and the glorious evening on earth, which had given her life meaning! Of course she's not a credible narrator. 

While Mona, a painfully earnest Nicole Greevy, tells Mona's story, her younger self, and those of , young Sissy and a gentle boy named Joe, tell the real story of what actually happened. It's a shocking story that somehow seems much less so in 2017. Time seems to have made this more familiar, and somehow a but lurid, like a TV drama. What had dramatic punch in the 70s, is not a surprise.

Joe and Sissy and Mona were friends, who dressed up and sang like a girl group. Mona and Joe were besties and Sissy had sex on the gravestones. Oh, and did I tell you there's a boy, Mona's son, called Jimmy Dean, after his dad, who she thinks is retarded?( Imagine he could never match up to his namesake so she invented this? Never explained) Amid the recall of fun times, the rituals of the fan club, we see the ghosts of the past play out the town's brutalization of Joe. With a status lower than the dogs, Joe has to leave the town, his friends, and most of all, Mona.  

2,000 saw The Laramie Project, a play about reactions to the murder of a Univ. of Wyoming gay student. Based on the true story, the play blasted open the vein of virulent homophobia in the West. "Come Back to the Five and Dime" exposes the context. The rigid class system based on family standing , while underneath fear driven racism and homophobia. The deluded pretense of class and virtue are Mona's display, in a time when refined people didn't openly acknowledge unacceptable truths. The play was in a way a death knell for repressed 1950s cultural mores and a herald for the new worlds of 1960s-70's' emotional openess and sexual experimentation.

In Jimmie Dean, Mona is hiding behind her pretense of a conventional life, while her ghost of a double enacts real passion for Joe. Her failure in life, pointed out by the stranger, is her failure to acknowledge real love.  Sissy looks for deeper meaning in the tawdry life she's accepted and then sees it.  Juanita even sees her retreat from truth about her husband. In the end, only Joe the outcast, is the master of his fate. As the old friends unite, they meet their pasts and reconcile--until the next reunion in 20 years. In the end, they celebrate not James Dean, the icon, but Mona's son, who's driven off in the yellow Porche to a new life. A perfect tribute. You get the boy will be his own person, no matter how others try to limit him.

The cast of this production were on target for the pathos and self-delusion, as each hears what really happened and must deal with it. Joe and the "Stranger," Joanne, were played by Elliot Frances Flynn and Chris Clark. Flynn's speechless vulnerability and Clark's dignified self-possession were very effective. Young Mona, Lynnsey Lewis, and young Sissy, Sonja Gabrielsen, were credible in difficult roles; not ghosts but people enclosed in some odd parallel world. Kristin Sgarro's Stella May and most of all, Rebecca Miller's Edna, livened the party with physical humor truly intrepid.

S.W.


Next from Regeneration is As Is, running Feb 1-11, 2018. at the Workshop - http://asis.bpt.me

William M Hoffman's 1985 play highlights the often forgotten heroes but essential people that are part of the American healthcare system and keep it going against unimaginable odds, the workers in the system, the families of the sick ans their friends. 

In an age where everything has become politicized at the expense of the sick and in need, this story of fear, rejection, and acceptance in the early stages of the AIDS crisis in New York City has resonance and messages for us today about the importance of recognizing that we are all human, with very human needs and deserve the dignity each of us hopes to receive.

--Barnaby Edwards,

Monday, November 13, 2017

THE WOMAN WHO SMASHED CODES, the unsung heroine of America's "secret war" who decrypted nazi spies



"[Elizebeth Friedman] was a tireless and talented code breaker who brought down gangsters and Nazi spies...a fascinating swath of American history that begins in Gilded Age Chicago and moves to the inner workings of our intelligence agencies at the close of WWII." 
Los Angeles Times

I am joining the praise for Jason Fagone's excellent nonfiction, THE WOMAN WHO SMASHED CODES: A True Story of Love, Spies and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies. Elizebeth Smith Friedman's story is as unlikely as real life and full of surprises--outlandish and entirely plausible. Her impressive achievements were of course co-opted by male authority. An old story, but among those men was J. Edgar Hoover, whose gumshoes could track gangsters though not the boats of rum runners.  He had no unit skilled at decrypting codes, though the coast guard did. Elizebeth's rare skills and the unit she trained, invisibly brought down the profiteers. Then her group's work escalated with WW2 and the stakes became more dire. 

Nazis spies and allied cryptologists, the Coast Guard on one side of the Atlantic, colleagues at Bletchley on the other, worked to win the "secret war." As South America came into play, a beachhead in the Americas for the Third Reich, Elizabeth decoded the networks and individuals involved, as well as the infernally complex Enigma machines.  She did not just crack an Engima machine's code, but even figured out the wiring of advanced machines she never saw. Her achievments in advance or simultaneous with Bletchley mattered little to her. Elizabeth shared information as it occurred. So it was immediately useful.

Her beginnings and that of the science of cryptology began on an eccentric tycoon's estate outside of Chicago. It was here that Elizebeth, a young Quaker schoolteacher, was hired to find secret messages thought to be embedded in Shaekspeare's plays. William Friedman, a Jewish biologist, tasked with raising new crops, fell in love with Elizebeth and gained a life long code- breaking partner. 

Theirs was a marriage of equals, though William was the celebrated "genius." The female half of the "Adam and Eve" of the National Security Agency, may have superceded him with her own innovations, but it mattered not to her.  Love and support were essentials for this marriage, rivalry wasn't part of their story. In one incident, where she attracted publicity, she learned being a press darling made her less effective in the world of secrecy.  

The history begins with  Elizebeth at 84, as she's interviewed by a young woman, a government employee recording her history--also that of the beginning of the NSA. Characteristically modest, Elizabeth was a bit flustered as to why she is of interest. William's writings were well known. In this fascinating history, Fagone shows the fantastic that was not known--including the workings of an original mind.

For Elizebeth doing the job well was the reward for solving puzzles with significant outcomes in the real world. her story joins that of Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, whose contributions, though hidden, affected history. Fagone also shows how her  lack of recognition--no titles, awards-- cost her later in life.  Being a loving caretaker and mother, a good neighbor were no less valuable to her than a WW2 career she kept secret. But barely surviving on reduced funds was a serious hardship.

When files of WW2 were finally declassified this story could be told. It's inspiring for girls who aspire to a technological career or bookish ones, who like young Elizebeth, was more interested in literature than science. The love story and the marriage of equals was very moving.  I found it amazing that William never forgot his success was shared and that he preferred working with his wife, over the mythology of solitary genius. Yet it's his name on their books. Jason Fagone's THE WOMAN WHO SMASHED CODES may be the only book about Elizebth Smith Friedman.

A note, they left their library to the Thurgood Marshall Library, where it could be read by the public.

S.W.  



  

Monday, October 30, 2017

FUTURE NOIR: The Making of: BLADE RUNNER Reveals Dystopian Visions, Inspired Personalities, Heroic Battles (Art vs. Commerce) behind the Influential Science Fiction Classic



FUTURE NOIR: The Making of Blade Runner (Dey Street Books, HarperCollins) by Paul M. Sammon has a headline that's not  hyperbole--The Fascinating Story Behind the Darkest, Most Influential Sci-fi Film Evermade. 

Though 594 pages, I found this book obsessively interesting, though I'm not a Blade Runner fanAn art history and fan book, this revised and updated version of FUTURE NOIR delivers new interviews of  Sean Young and Rutger Hauer, and the longest interview Harrison Ford ever did on Blade Runner. The original interview with Ridley Scott is pretty good. The book also delivers talk about Ford's inexplicable antipathy for Young, Daryl Hannah's uncanny insight into being a replicant, the backgrounds of every actor, as well as the contributions of set, prop, costume designers and mechanics. It also gives a intriguing peek into Blade Runner 2049.

The author, Paul Sammon, investigates the genesis of the film from Phil Dick's book and early scripts with tidbits of synchronicity, like securing the title Blade Runner from William Burroughs. It is a lot of fun to be on  Sammon's Blade Runner set, where visionary designers and builders, inspired by Ridley Scott's visions, make leaps of creative thought. Some crash and burn, others bring another twist to their futureworld of 2019.

Sammon  provides useful hindsight about Blade Runner's impact on moviemaking and  popular culture over the past twenty years.Writer, filmaker and Hollywood insider, Sammon has credits on iconic art film Blue Velvet and pop confection Conan the Barbarian. He's no stranger to the necessities of both art and commerce. With wry humor, he relates Ridley's excesses, sublime and absurd, and the vetoes of exiting producers. He narrates the seessaw of art vs. commerce with a knowing irony.

For me, the most interesting revelations were the actual drawings by Ridley Scott, which became the visually dense, detailled world of Blade Runner. Scott's approach, well illustrated in this book, answered my questions about both the wildly unfaithful translation of  Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep and why he came to welcome it.

From the dedication of FUTURE NOIR:

"When it comes to Hollywood I had an automatic flinch reaction."
--Philip K. Dick

"Sometimes the design is the statement."
--Ridley Scott

It was a surprise to me that Dick's worst nightmare was fulfilled (though I am unsure if he knew it).  A  major film of his book was being made by a director who never read it. Yet Sammon fairly relates the perspectives of both men. As an art school grad, who's worked as an illustrator, I understand Scott's training to think in images. But around 1981, the same year Scott began to shoot Blade Runner, I began work as a publicist for a science fiction press. A couple years before, I had begun my own dystopian novel,, Paradise Gardens.

The appearance of the world of my book is not far off from Scott's. In that politically conservative era, psychiatric hospitals were closed, tossing mentally ill people into the streets. New Wave bands, late 70s early 80s, investigated the forms and textures of sound, language, style. Post punk fashion, art and music, were about layering. Textures, colors, shapes, eras,were repurposed for ambiguous often apocalyptic content. Some of Bladerunner's look seemed derived to me from art culture, bands like Devo, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, Basquiat paintings, Madonna/Lauper's looks.

Scott was brilliantly improvising from his era to a futureworld, where dystopian cities were ultra cosmopolitan, densely packed with diverse peoples and artifacts. Extrapolating from what was actually happening culturally, he made his visionary futureworld as consistent and detailed as the real world.  Blade Runner seemed a layered psychic experiment, projecting Scott's art cultural present forward in time and place.

I read Phil Dick's "paranoid fiction" and believe Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep reflects the 60's, when humanism seemed under attack by corporations; the military industrial complex of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of King, Kennedys, the Nixon sell-outs (In 1961 his cronies in life  insurance were given management of our health care). In Dick's fiction, the "little guy" was trying to preserve his humanity. In Androids having a real animal, a sheep, was a status symbol, because with animals we human beings are part of a natural order. Androids Replicants) were cold souless corporate products,which can replace people and serve those in power.

In Ridley's late 70s early 80's aesthetics, the loss of human values in Blade Runner era was a foregone condition. He takes the mix-up of people and replicants, machines that are becoming more human than many people. They are a kind of receptacle for "humane awareness," and in his story this may be due to their ahort lives and hyper awareness of death. (Man is supposedly the only animal with awareness of his own death, considered a defining characteristic of the human condition). This idea in regard to the replicants is emotionally consistent with Ridley's world, but could be confusing for literal audiences.

When I saw this film, I was overwhelmed by the dark emotional affect, sadness, nostalgia for what mankind had lost. There was also fear it was inevitable that humans would not survive, except those with money to flee to other planets. 2017 doesn't yet resemble Scott's future world but we face very real existential challenges. Our environment is almost beyond recall. I am very curious how Blade Runner 2049 will deal with that or not.

In 2017, my novel Paradise Gardens, was published in an updated and illustrated new edition. While I am glad some people are reading it, I think Phil Dick's Time Out of Joint, may best fit our present. In this book, a man in two different eras, must discover where he actually exists. Another prescient book about identity on the internet is Vernor Vinge's True Names. Both were, I believe, late 50s early 60's novels with clarity that bears rereading.

Sammon's FUTURE NOIR reveals that when Phil Dick and Scott finally met, they liked each other. Scott even decided to show him the film and Dick became completely supportive, He said that Scott had somehow absorbed what he had been feeling and thinking in his futureworld. Of course both of them were probably preoccupied by the same dystopia. There had to have been a synchronicity (emotionlly and mentally). Meaning became Scott's vision of Dick's future world.

In the making of the film, everything took much longer than anyone expected. Accidents were constant, some happy, others disastrous. The reception of the film was initially negative, in inverse proportion to the cultural impact of the movie. Phil Dick, finally excited about the release of the movie, died just before the release. The experience of FUTURE NOIR captures the particular trajectory of Blade Runner, as a work of art.

I liked how this book shows how a commercial film can act as a collective crucible for creative thought. It also shows what happens when it runs amuck--at odds with the realities of time, budget, personalties and expectations.

S.W.

P.S. Saw the sequel 2049 this weekend. And it seems settling the "look" as a far more physically degraded futureworld (instead of a dystopian cultural wonderland) has freed the focus of the film.
Now it's all about the drama of the 2 Blade Runners. I liked that Harrison Ford's character is played as human, though it's still ambiguous. Ryan Gosling and Ford make this into a most satisfying buddy film. The two are terrific and the contrast of Replicant and human, clear in the beginning, almost reverses. The poignancy of Pygmalion becoming the creator is a familiar theme. I found it perversely  comforting in this dystopian setting. I could see another follow-up, a utopian tale of Replicant society, with idealized human values on an alternative earth.








Monday, September 18, 2017

Photo/review SHE- MOON rehearsal. Performed 9/24 @THE MUSE, burlesque, aerialists, performance celebration of woman as goddess,

(PHOTOS FROM REHEARSAL AT END OF POST)
Advance review
SHE-MOON
A Show About Butts
Artists in Residence at The Muse Brooklyn
September 24th 7:00pm

Many women struggle with being authentic. How they are perceived, defined and expected to act can conflict with their real desire and experience. She-Moon celebrates female essences-- what’s hidden, taboo, ecstatic and ridiculous. And what cannot be ignored, your butt. In Matthew Phillips’ gymnastic piece, which may be the evening’s most outrageous, it’s the focus that lets him soar lyrical and crash to Earth. In Victoria Myrthil’s Goddess of Light, it seems a fun rhythmic part of a celestial plan.
At the dress rehearsal I saw, all were extraordinary in ways you could not anticipate. The aerialists were fascinating. Torrie Rose (Moon) was impossibly fluid in lovely movements that seemed to follow her own inclination. Ariel Iasevoli was charismatic as The Dark Side of the Moon. She brought an intensity to her chain dance that both riveted attention and kept you at a distance.
Emma Miller’s Clown Goddess went for obvious and satirical pokes at how we look at butts and their plasticity on our bodies, not to mention the sounds they make. Then there’s Sara Minisquero’s Goddess of Self Love, who evokes a kind of everywoman’s reactions to both stuffing a butt too big in clothes and the reverse. She takes it all off, in a well fought liberation of her female form.

SHE-MOON owes a lot to the musicians. Carissa Matsushima, Music Director, MAUDE GUN – Molly Murphy, Jenni Messner, April Centrone and Andrew Lasky. There is also a passionate song by Maddy Campbell, director of SHE-MOON (Blood Moon Goddess), who brings this inspired performance together.
  
The National Theatre of MatMadia presents:
SHE MOON
a show about butts
Artists in Residence at The Muse Brooklyn
September 24th at 7pm
Tickets: $20 at door/$15 presale
The Muse Brooklyn, 350 Moffat Street, Brooklyn
The National Theatre of MatMadia is proud to present SHE MOON: A Show About Butts at The Muse Brooklyn. SHE MOON, an ensemble creation, is directed by Maddy Campbell.

SHE MOON offers all forward-thinkers to look behind – well- at the behind! This lively performance-art piece celebrates the Femme – and Feminine – Dariaire. If you are female or identify as(s) one.

SHE MOON incorporates aerial, dance, storytelling, music and magic, and rocks out with the punk band, MAUDE GUN with Carissa Matsushima. The cheeky ensemble company shares their parable and stories with the audience and to the Moon … because she always listens.
Doors open at 7:00 p.m. with a Moon Market and Goddess Party at the newly renovated Muse outdoor space. In the hour-long crack-of-time prior to the performance, aerialists entertain and free champagne flows. The Moon Market is full of artists and artisans including baked goods, spiritual services, tarot readings, art and much more. Moon Goddesses will be waiting to bless you with bubbly to the music by Carissa Matsushima. Discounts at the door for those dressed as Moon Goddesses. SheMoon supports local LGBTQ- and People-of-Color-owned businesses.
Bottomline: Using the parable of A Woman’s Ass, we will to celebrate women’s bodies through stories of oppression, repression, joy and sorrow.
MEET THE TEAM
MADDY CAMPBELL (Director, Butt Nymph, Goddess of The Blood Moon) is a classically trained, experimental actor, singer, playwright based in NYC. Recent credits includes starring in a show she wrote at The New York Fringe Festival, The Coward and The Induction of Lady M(Greenpoint Gallery)..
MATTHEW PHILLIPS (Butt Nymph, Butt Plug Goddess) is a director/ interdisciplinary performer based in Brooklyn. Recent credits include The Coward at Fringe NYC and Facets, an interactive Lecoq gallery show directed by Sophie Ameiva. His drag persona Laurel Fixation performs regularly at the House of Yes, Bizarre Bushwick, and the Brooklyn Muse.
SARA MINISQUERO (Butt Nymph, Goddess of Self Love)is a Burlesque Perfomerer known as Bona Sara. She is also an actress, stage manager, dramaturg and producer. Credits include Step 1 Theatre Project, Bizarre Bushwick (Stage Management), and White Rabbit Productions.
VICTORIA MYRTHIL (Butt Nymph, Goddess of Light)is a native Brooklyn artist. As an actor her talents vacillate between stage and screen working on various genres ranging from comedy to comedia and drama to experimental.  Victoria has toured internationally with Trey Anthony Studios in the stage production of Da’ Kink in My Hair and can be seen in various on screen projects.
EMMA MILLER (Butt Nymph, Goddess of Shit) is a New York based actor experienced in new and devised work. Recent credits include creator and clown in CT Feels Funny at Lady Fest at The Tank (2017), Violet Hunter in Red Monkey Theater Group's Sherlock Holmes: Adventure of the Copper Beeches at Lyndhurst Mansion, Vera Claythorne in And Then There Were None, and co-creator and actor in original sketch comedy show Singin’ and Talkin’ with Christopher Walken.
ARIEL IASEVOLI (The Dark Side of the Moon) is an aerialist, creative visionary, and movement specialist.  The native New Yorker has performed and practiced Pole since 2007.
TORRIE ROSE (The Moon) Is an aerialist and fire spinner. Torrie fuses technique with artistry to create a well rounded performance. Specializing in lyra, her flexibility and flow meld seamlessly. Based in New York, Torrie trains primarily at the Muse Brooklyn. Her performances range from cabaret style to nightlife events to burlesque. Torrie traveled with King Cole Circus during the summer of 2016 as an Aerial Showgirl. She excels at creature portrayal, fully embodying any character she is given.  In more traditional roles, Torrie demonstrates beautiful lines, as well as excellent flexibility and a captivating presence.   
CARISSA MATSUSHIMA (Music Director) is a multi- passionate performing artist who just released a single with her band Carissa & The Voodoo Lilies, available on Spotify, iTunes etc. When she's not performing with the band, she is a manager at Daya Yoga Studio, dances with Leah Moriarty in her company Beat Piece, and co-hosts a jam session called The Healing. Other NYC based companies she has worked with are David Gordon's Pick Up Company, Ni'Ja Whitson's The NWA Project, The Dance Cartel, Built4Collapse, and The Nettles. She has performed music at Rockwood Music Hall, Caffe Vivaldi, Maxwell's Tavern, Roulette, and The Way Station.
KATE SONELL (Developer, Assistant Director) is a queer NYC based theatre artist. Kate’s work ranges from ASM with PUFFS at New World Stages to Props Master at National Theatre of Matmadia’s The Coward: A Madcap Fairytale at the 2016 NYC  Fringe Festival to Developer and Performer in Free the Arts Festival, currently in it’s inaugural year.
MAUDE GUN (Band) two chicks in brooklyn who love ornate storytelling mash together acoustic folk and post-punk to bring you irreverent song-cycles like CLAUDIA, THE WORD. the harmonies are electrifying, the word-play is gratuitous; the characters are wry and the sound-paintings are effing mythical. the chicks, molly (aka DIESEL) and jenni (aka ANGELFACE), cut through some heavy Imposter Syndrome and Perfectionism by crafting detailed imagined worlds.  
THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF MATMADIA The National Theatre of MatMadia, co-founded by Maddy Campbell and Matt Phillips, is a collective of Brooklyn based artists focused on putting fun, absurd and monstrous ideas on stage. With a base in clowning and bouffan combined with classically trained actors, we delve head first into extreme physical acting, fire performance and drag. Our stories use 'the mystique' to explore themes about mental illness, ‘fucking with gender’ and the psychedelic. Known to ‘not pull any punches’ our work is violent, messy and monstrous.
Image by: Stevie Rayder
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Poster with Maude Gun.jpg









Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Alice Waters COMING TO MY SENSES: the making of a counter culture cook is a feast--politics, pleasures and food





 Around 1973 or 74, my boyfriend and I wandered into a funky restaurant in Berkeley. I remember a hand-lettered sign, Chez Panisse, and a casual open space with arty touches. It had one choice on the menu but it was French.  I don't remember what we ate, only that it was tasty. There was a woman, who asked us how we liked the food, who said it came from her garden. It was a wait for food but we came back for the freshness, the food and her attitude, as though it was all a lark.

Fast forward to 2017, where you have to look no further than Whole Foods to realize how Alice Waters changed the way we buy, cook and eat food. In her new autobiography, COMING TO MY SENSES: The Making of a Counterculture cook (Clarkson Potter/Penguin Random, Sept), Waters explains how her early life and the 1960s counterculture were essential ingredients to her evolution. At 27, Waters, a home cook without formal chef training, opened a restaurant based on a love of French cooking and an instinctual delight in nature, food and life.

How  Waters "came to her senses" is a bit ironic, since she says just following her senses led her to her life's path. Born in 1944, growing up in the 1950s in Chatham, New Jersey, she was an unlikely candidate for the counterculture.  Hers was a traditional family that was happy. Her mother worked in the home raising four daughters, while her father, an HR psychologist, worked for companies managing workers. Though money was always tight, Waters  recalls her mother's concern for health. They always had  gardens and meals were often planned around what they grew. Creativity was part of it. Once she won a contest with a bonnet her mother devised from vegetables. Waters also talks about peach ice cream  made from scratch and never frozen.

Following her senses in high school meant Waters puzzling out sexual attraction, drinking being wild but also, as was expected doing well enough to go to college. When her father took a job in Los Angeles her senior year, her focus changed. In a  more  academic school, she aspired to learn from smart people and become one. That desire led her seek out the company of interesting people and feed them, all her life. But in the 60's, when she eventually landed in U.C. Berkeley, she was shocked by the exciting and demanding intellectual environment.

The Free Speech Movement was one of a range of political groups that sprang up, spurred by the many young men, who did not want to be drafted to die in a war considered unjust. Disillusioned with the aims and profits of the "military industrial complex," students faced the lottery, where a low number meant certainty of being sent to Vietnam on graduation or before, if grades fell, or you could no longer afford to continue. The movements were fanned by the nightly sight of body bags piled up with no end in sight. American culture's verities no longer held.

In a U.S., where assassination had killed a President JFK, RFK, his attorney General, King, a major Civil Rights figure, and possession of political material meant jail, paranoia was rampant among young people. The counterculture developed as a response, seeking new values and groups, such as Vietnam Veterans Against the War, were part of a mass movement for workable change. African Americans fought for Civil Rights. Women sought equality in education and jobs. With the advent of the pill, they had the option  to pursue an independent life unlike their mother. Economic and personal autonomy for Waters meant she could follow her life, as she wanted. But first on the agenda for the counterculture was to end the war.

For Waters, who joined the Free Speech Movement with the support of her mainstream family, it also became about feeding people. She started cooking at home for  friends and soon for large groups. Alice Waters grew up on fresh food, as well as 50s standards and liked whatever tasted good., white bread, hot dogs, chile con carne. Life in Berkeley represented freedom from the conformity of growing up in the 1950s. In an era before "branding" she simply sought a better way to eat. What exactly did she bring to the table?

She answers this question in a serial fashion, over the years, finely attuned to her physical surroundings, people and and a sense of what was essential for pleasure and happiness for herself and those who joined her journey.  She traveled to Europe with friends and learned about life and cuisines. In France she saw ancient texts about the care and uses of plants and came to appreciate both the respect for nature and slow cooking.

As the counterculture waned for Waters and she couldn't afford to feed all that dropped by, she thought about opening a restaurant. She wrote a column about food and recipes for a paper and was celebrated in Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," which eventually became a reality. In COMING TO MY SENSES she describes her rite of passage at the 4 Seasons, where she and Prudhomme were selected as 2 of 4 young chefs being honored and how ill prepared she was for large commercial volume. And his act of friendship that saved the day. She talks of cooking for filmakers, musicians, writers, many famous, as part of her admiration for smart people with interesting ideas. In this book she shares a life of passions for friends, lovers, garlic, and beauty--wherever it happens. The world made it's pilgrimage to Chez Panisse. She speculates, why..

"A lot of why Chez Panisse succeeded as because it didn't feel like just another restaurant. We were a family--or at leas an eccentric tight-knit tribe. None of us had ever been trained as cooks or gone to cooking school. As James Beard said later, "It's like you're eating in somebody;s home." I wanted it to feel that way."

The aesthetics of food preparation, cooking and eating in our time is as much an aspiration as a lifestyle. When Michelle Obama gardened at the White House, as an example to school children of how to eat well, she reflected Alice's family gardes. This book is life as a feast--politics, pleasures, food-- and a woman who enjoyed it all

S.W.




Monday, September 11, 2017

Paradise Gardens at MLA 2018. and @DIXON PLACE Unimaginable Worlds! 10/5.

Four Pelekinesis titles will be on display in the Small Press Distribution booth at the 2018 Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention from January 4-7 in New York City. MLA is the single largest gathering of U.S. academics in literature and cultural studies.

Peter Cherches - “Autobiography Without Words”
Peter Wortsman - “Footprints in Wet Cement”
Susan I. Weinstein - “Paradise Gardens
Roberta Allen - “The Princess of Herself”

These titles are available for course-adoption to graduate or undergraduate literature classes via Small Press Distribution (SPD).

Peter Cherches has been called “one of the innovators of the short short story” by Publishers Weekly. Walking the thin line between memoir and fiction, “Autobiography Without Words” follows the main character, variously known as Pete, Mr. Cherches and Peter Cherches, through the big and small adventures of life.
Peter Wortsman has been dubbed “a 20th-century Brother Grimm” by Bloomsbury Review. Referring to “Footprints in Wet Cement,” distinguished literary scholar and critic Marjorie Perloff says, “In these delicious short (often very short) stories, Peter Wortsman crosses Kafkaesque absurdity with Chekhovian realism.”
Susan Weinstein is a writer, playwright, and painter. “Paradise Gardens - New Edition,” an Orwellian speculative fiction, was written in the 1980s. It was read in-progress, at the original Dixon Place and at Darinka, whose archive is now part of NYU’s Fales Library and Special Collections. Pelekinesis published the new definitive edition with expanded content in 2017.
Roberta Allen was on the faculty of The New School for many years and has also taught at Columbia University. Her conceptual art, exhibited internationally, is held in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The Princess of Herself” is a fierce and darkly humorous collection of stories.

More information at SPD: https://www.spdbooks.org/AdvancedSearch/DefaultWFilter.aspx?SearchTerm=pelekinesis

Pelekinesis: http://pelekinesis.com/catalog.html


THANKS to @DixonPlace lounge for hosting UNIMAGINABLE WORLDS last night! 10/5

60 minutes of pleasure and perhaps terror, as we encounter feasible lives you can't imagine. Excerpts from new editions published by Pelekinesis.

Love between NYC professionals on Unimaginable real estate (Paradise Gardens). A mermaid meets imitators in Coney Island (Tales from the Mer Family Onyx)






Unimaginable--Seas we know that are unimaginable.

A pier that seems familiar, we know this place, except it's Unimaginable.

(PARADISE GARDENS recommended by SPD (Small Press Distributors)
http://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781938349508/paradise-gardens.aspx?bCategory=1SP)
 http://dixonplace.org/performances/unimaginable-worlds/ Dixon Place presents:

What are you doing Thursday, October 5th? UNIMAGINABLE WORLDS is in Dixon Place Lounge, 7:30 to 8:30. Free admission.
Imagine the unimaginable. You are living in an authoritarian business paradise but don't know it. Or you know real life is nothing like what is presented to people. You are part of the resistance but need your cover. Yet you are in love. That is the situation between Janet McCarthy, claims adjustor at Rudimental Life Co,, and Michael Thorpe, proprietor of a Greenwich Village store specializing in ethnic artifacts. When is romance key to human survival?
For answers to this dilemma, in the tradition of Philip K. Dick's paranoid fiction come visit Paradise Gardens.
Ever wonder how our planet might fare if Gods rule? Neptune manages the weather, the seas, but his daughter dabbles in humans. For the lighter side of planetary turmoil, there's Tales of the Mer Family Onyx.
UNIMAGINABLE WORLDS--corporate business estates and mermaid seas--works by Susan I. Weinstein enacted in spoken words by author and performer Sara Minisquero with visuals and music by Diana Rivera

Dixon Place lounge
161 Chrystie St.
New York, NY 10002
7:30 to 8:30
Free admission

Here is a podcast interview on The Book Guys with Susan I. Weinstein about Paradise Gardens.
http://bookguys.pinecast.co/episode/c7ee063d-ff76-463e-af4d-4d102d939ceb


PARADISE GARDENS New Edition
Fiction Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review

Synopsis: Something that could easily have been ripped from today's newspaper headlines in this our second Golden Age of Robber Barron capitalism as evidence by President Donald Trump turning his administration over to corporate executives and millionaires, and appointing to be heads of various governmental agencies men and women hostile to them in line with Steve Bannon's aspiration to 'deconstruct' the government."Paradise Gardens" by Susan I. Weinstein is a truly Orwellian novel of speculative fiction that is set in an all too believable near future world, where the Federal government has dissolved amid ecological breakdown.

"Paradise Gardens" becomes the home of the United Business Estates (U.B.E). Capitalism has devolved into the corporate feudalism of the U.B.E., where employees are conceived as Superior or Average to fit the needs of business. It is a vision at once strange and familiar. The recognition it brings is a dark pleasure.

Critique: Part of the attraction of "Paradise Gardens" is that it is all too believable given the political climate today where corporate money clearly dominates all three branches of the federal government (even to the point of running well funded television commercials promoting the appointment of a member of the United States Supreme Court), and the top 1% of the population control 80% of the country's wealth. Deftly written, "Paradise Gardens" follows in literary tradition of dystopian novels and his very highly recommended for both community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Paradise Gardens" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.95).


TALES OF THE MER FAMILY ONYX
Whether male or female, virtuous or amoral, mythical Mer creatures often reflect humankind’s feelings about nature—familiar and alien. Tales of the Mer Family explores the worlds of Mer, through the magical household of Neptune and Glendora, stewards of the sea. Like L Frank Baum’s Oz Books and E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, this “family book” is for mixed age groups of children and adults. Among the Onyx clan are toddler Ruby, tween boy-girl-tweens, teen beauties and Pinky, a mini-mermaid. When Neptune challenges his children, they discover their limits in forbidden caves, worlds out of time, and at The Coney Island Mermaid Parade, where an Earth boy’s dream comes true.

New Editions By Susan I. Weinstein
.
These New Editions are not reprints. All these books have been rewritten with Prologues, Readers' Guides, Forewords. In addition, Paradise Gardens and Tales of the Mer family Onyx are illustrated. These definitive versions are the best I could make them. Why they have new ISBNS, so thanks for your interest.  

 https://www.prlog.org/12575872-pelekinesis-announces-new-editions-of-three-books-by-susan-weinstein.html