A geeky blog is born

I’ve started another blog called License of Ink. It’s about Shakespeare, writing, and other geeky things. If you like Yay! Pigeons you may want to check it out. If you like haiku, I also have a haiku blog called Haiku Plate Special. You can click on the links in the menu if you are interested in taking a look, or follow the links below. I’ll still be writing Yay! Pigeons, too. Cheers!

Links, should you desire them:
http://licenseofinkblog.wordpress.com/
http://haikuplatespecial.wordpress.com/

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We offer more than fashion tips

This weekend we’ll be having the big gay pride celebrations here in Seattle, and the Supreme Court has made them extra special. If you’ve been reading my blog you most likely know this, but for the record I’m out and proud as a dyke, a queer, and a lesbian. Today I’m going to share a few secrets of happiness with you from our community to yours (however you yourself identify). Like many of us, I’ve learned some of these the hard way.

  • Be who you are, no matter what. Others may not understand you, but you’re only going to be happy being you. Trying to fit into a model or a pattern set by someone else just makes you unhappy. I used to try to make myself girly because I felt it would get me more temp work (which I hated anyway) and because I believed what I had been told–that if I didn’t do this I was “letting myself go”. Because I only wear makeup for drag and don’t do the frilly stuff, I was told I needed to “fix myself up”. Hogwash! I am me being me. It’s really what I’m best at, and joy is the best cosmetic out there.
  • You are not the only one. These days there are more openly gay celebrities, so I think that fewer gay kids grow up thinking that they are the only gay person in the world. I am so grateful for this. No matter who you are, there are other people like you, and you will discover them. Just this evening at square dancing I had a lovely discussion with fellow dancers and found out they love to talk about Shakespeare as much as I do. Embrace your passions, and know that you can find your tribe.
  • Be proud of who you are. Most people do not realize how fabulous they are, and our complexities make us all the more beautiful. You may have walked a rough path to get to this moment in time and you may not yet have achieved even a fraction of what you plan to do. You may have even made mistakes or done something wrong. Odds are you’re doing your best. Hold your head up high and let people know who you are. If you’re not proud of yourself because you’re hurting yourself or others, know that you can change your direction at any time.
  • No matter what you do, some people are going to love you and some are going to hate you. This may sound pessimistic, but it actually gives you so much freedom. People are really random, and no matter what you do, no matter what rules you follow, some of them are just not going to like you. You may as well be yourself, and have people understand who you truly are. Odds are, they’ll be enchanted–if they’re not, you don’t need them in your life.

The older I get, the more I understand these things. This is my gift to you at Pride. Get out there and be you–the world is waiting.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
248. What can you do to be more fully you? Take a step in that direction, or even better, a giant leap.

So much more than rainbows

June is officially Gay Pride Month, and as we all wait to see what the Supreme Court will do on some very important decisions, I am contemplating next week’s Gay Pride Parade here in Seattle. Many people have asked why we’re so loud when we’re proud; why we have to march through the streets; why businesses around town have to sport rainbow flags to show we’re welcome to shop there. I’ll tell you. I’m a lesbian, so I have strong opinions on this issue.

We are waiting on the courts to decide on rights that everyone else already has. As I write this, many of my queer brothers and sisters can be fired because of who they are–legally. I have a close friend who was just fired for being gay. That’s illegal here in Seattle, but it still happens. GLBT people face harassment around the globe and across the United States. We’re assaulted; we’re discriminated against; we’re murdered. Yes, things have gotten better, but even the people who support us sometimes treat us like stereotypes instead of people.

I know people within the gay community who dislike the parade for this reason. They argue that the parade showcases the most flamboyant among us, those with the most alternative liftestyles. It’s true, those may be the people you notice. It’s also true that there are some of us who blend in more than others. Some assert that we’re just like heterosexuals except for the people we choose to love and have sex with. That’s not really true.

It’s true in a Shakespearean sense–if you cut us we bleed; if you tickle us we laugh. It’s not true in a cultural sense. We are a part of the larger culture, but we also have our own rich culture and tradition. Who we love and how we exist as a group shapes us as a people, and it is intrinsically linked to who we are. We are the accountants, the dog lovers, the librarians. We are the drag queens, the leather daddies, the dykes on bikes. We are so many things and the parades represent them all.

I’m in favor of the parades because they showcase our variety to the community at large. I’ve also experienced the healing power of the parade. Even in liberal places, hateful treatment comes when you least expect it. Many queer people do not have supportive families, and we form our own chosen families for this reason. We never know when we’re going to be treated differently or even harmed just because of who we are. I’ve marched down the streets of Seattle as part of the parade. It may seem silly, but it helps to hear that PFLAG loves me; to hear the cheers of the crowd as they support our display of pride. It makes me cry every damn time.

No doubt some are there to gawk. Many more are there to be supportive. I understand that some queer people are tired of the rainbow being plastered on everything. I understand that some companies are just pandering to our pocketbooks. I know that some people just like to come out and party. I understand all this, but I still think it’s important. We’re still fighting for our rights and acceptance, and every little bit of support and community is very helpful.

Our community is diverse and beautiful. I cannot speak for every part of it, nor even for every lesbian. We are individuals, but we are tied together by common threads. I’ll be attending the pride festivals once again this year, marching in the Dyke March, and waiting anxiously for the Supreme Court to rule on our right to marry. Happy Pride!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
247. Attend Pride festivities in your local area. If you are not part of the LGBTQI community, attend as an ally and learn about the rich variety of gay people out there beyond television stereotypes. For extra credit, go to Wikipedia and check out Stonewall to see why we started marching.

Your link, should you desire to follow it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

For the love of Bill

I’ve been indulging my Shakespeare obsession lately. There have been so many great opportunities to enjoy the bard and our upcoming outdoor theater festivals promise more fun to come. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing which will be out in theaters here on Friday.

Like any good relationship, my acquaintance with Shakespeare becomes more rewarding the more I get to know his work. I am sad that many people were scared off from this pleasure in school or because they are intimidated by the language. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite Shakespeare on film for your enjoyment.

If you want something with more modern language:

  • Scotland, PA (2001)Macbeth set in a fast food restaurant. “Out, out, damn spot” gets a whole new unforgettable meaning, and Christopher Walken is charmingly funny as Lieutenant McDuff. It’s also hard to resist the cheesy Bad Company soundtrack that goes with the 70s setting.
  • She’s the Man (2006) — When I think of Shakespeare, Amanda Bynes does not leap immediately to mind, but she was really fun in this modern adaptation of Twelfth Night. She masquerades as her brother to try out for the boy’s soccer team, gets a crush on her male roommate and all kinds of hilarity ensues based on the original play. I particularly enjoyed comedian David Cross as the overly supportive principal and love the homage to Malvolio. If you want a more traditional version of the play, try Sir Trevor Nunn’s 1996 version starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley. It’s delightful.

If you want the Shakespearean language:

  • Titus (1999) — Julie Taymor directed this engaging study of the beauty of violence, and be warned, it is violent. Anthony Hopkins is riveting in this innovative adaptation, and I was glad I saw it even though I may never see it again.
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993) — Sir Kenneth Branagh has done so much for the cause of Shakespeare. I often revisit this film and its setting in the Tuscan sun. The cast of notables is too numerous to mention. Michael Keaton’s humorous performance is particularly amazing, and Keanu Reeves has a small part which is the only blight on the film.

It’s hard to stop there, because so many other great films come to mind, but I don’t  want to add to the voices making Shakespeare overwhelming. If you’d like a recommendation on a particular play, ask me in the comments. So much is out there, and I have so much yet to see, so if you have a recommendation please share that, too. “The play’s the thing”!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
246. If you love Shakespeare, see a film you haven’t yet seen or a live performance. If you’ve been scared off, try one of the films above and give it another try. You may just see what all the fuss is about.

Your references, should you happen to be in Seattle:

Words, words, words

I grew up in New York State, although not New York City or Long Island. This is important to note, because like many of the people I grew up with, I am engaged in a great debate about boundaries. New York, like many states, has an area called “Upstate”, but even the people who live there cannot all agree on where that area starts. We all concede that Long Island and “the city” are not Upstate. Many city people think that Upstate is simply everywhere north of the city. Some even count it by subway stops.

Many of the people in Dutchess County, where I’m from, know that we’re not from Upstate either. I grew up in Wappingers Falls, one town south of the much-mocked Poughkeepsie. I grew up with New York City media, and although suburban, the culture of the area is not like the rural farming areas to the north of the county. The Metro North commuter railroad has a terminal in Poughkeepsie that takes you straight into Grand Central Station. Some New York City agencies, such as the Office for the Aging, agree—they extend the boundary up to Poughkeepsie. Some extend it even further north. There is no official consensus. This doesn’t really matter, but on the other hand it really does.

It matters because it’s an identity thing. People who are securely Upstate identify with their region, and people from the city are city people. The rest of us have an idea of who we are based partly on this nebulous geographical concept. In some ways this is absurd. On the other hand geography and culture do shape a person—I know I am a different person as a New Yorker than I would have been growing up as a Minnesotan. I’ve lived in both places—the distinctions are there. I also know that I am a distinctly different person because I have never identified with the label “Upstate”. I know who I am.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years, and though I still have a definite opinion—New Yorkers are very prone to definite opinions—I’ve also realized that in some ways it doesn’t matter. Words are just labels. This is important to know. People go around labeling people all the time, and we also label ourselves. There are some labels that are true to my identity—like writer, lesbian, and vegetarian—and many that aren’t. People who don’t understand me tend to assault me with inaccurate modifiers and faulty nouns. Sometimes I even do it myself, calling myself clumsy, or lazy, or other words that are untrue. When I am secure in my identity, the inept syllables fall into a pile at my feet, where they are easy to kick to the side. It’s so much easier.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
240. What labels do you identify with? Are there inaccurate modifiers and faulty nouns that others use to describe you? Do you describe yourself with falsehoods? Let them fall to your feet, and kick them aside.

Extra credit:
Does your state have different areas—like Upstate New York, Outstate Minnesota, or Greater Washington? Which one describes you?  If you’re really interested in the debate about Upstate New York, check out this cool Wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upstate_new_york

No pie for me, thanks

When you worship someone, you tend to talk about them often. Today I am back to gushing about William Shakespeare. I am enamored of his work, and the many permutations it can take now that the plays are wandering the world without his direct authorial input on production matters.

I saw another brilliant collaboration between Shakespeare and the modern mind this week. The play was Titus Andronicus—not the first work to jump to mind when the immortal bard gets mentioned. The film Titus (Julie Taymor, 1999) has probably altered the play’s previous lapse into relative obscurity.

I warn you ahead of time that the play and the film of it are more violent than Shakespeare’s other works. The play is far too violent, in fact, for my normal viewing tastes. I made an exception to see this film because it was Shakespeare, and I’m very glad that I did. Titus is an examination of different types of violence, attitudes towards violence, and the beauty that is sometimes found in destruction. It provided a lot to think about.

The director, Julie Taymor, put a somewhat surrealistic spin on the tale. She sets the play in an odd mixture of historical periods that somehow merge to form a timeless new reality. The music, cinematography, and art direction all contribute to make this film a breathtaking work of art.

The acting is also superior. There are well-known talents here, such as Anthony Hopkins, Alan Cumming, and Jessica Lange. They shine, but so do a host of other actors whom I did not immediately recognize. As a writer, I also admired the complexity of the villains in this piece. They do unspeakable things, but there is an inherent humanity in them that tugs at the heart. This play demonstrates how easy it would be for most ordinary people to fall into demonic behavior.

The lovely Shakespearean language is all there, too, but it doesn’t get in the way of things. The words are simple and direct, the meaning clear. Everyone involved in the film used all the tricks available—including some very modern music and movie conventions—to make this a stunning film. I highly recommend it.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

188. See two different productions of the same play by any playwright you enjoy. These can be on film or on stage, or a mixture of both. How did the work change?

I do wander everywhere

Lord, what fools these mortals be!  William Shakespeare said it, through the mouth of one of his beloved characters, Puck. It is a true statement. We become fools for love, and I am a fool in love with Shakespeare’s plays.

I saw another film adaptation last night, A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Michael Hoffman, 1999). Somehow I had never gotten around to seeing this version, and that has nothing to do with the play. I adore comedies.

This version of the classic is set in Victorian Italy just as bicycles were becoming fashionable. The scenery was breathtaking, the opera overwhelming. I don’t personally care for opera, so I wasn’t fond of that element of this movie, but others would probably enjoy it. The play was well-acted and I found it a treat, although I could have done very nicely without the gratuitous mud-wrestling. I think Shakespeare would have loved it.

The operatic interludes got me thinking. I delight in Shakespeare because his plays can be adapted to so many different settings and time periods. The interpretation of each actor adds layers to the parts. This is characteristic of theater in general, and it entrances me. A playwright becomes the first part of a collaborative dialogue that can continue for centuries, as it has for the performance of Shakespeare’s plays. I have been lucky to experience this from the writer’s point of view, and it’s been a magical experience.

I don’t primarily write theatrical works, but I’ve created several short plays and screenplays. One of these was made into a short film. Each time I’ve been involved in the process I’ve handed off my writing and ceded control to the people interpreting my work. Each time I’ve been amazed by how much they add to it. I feel that I understand at least one reason why so many people want to direct—they get a chance to help to create a masterpiece with Shakespeare, or Chekhov, or even with a contemporary writer.

Collaboration also introduces an element of experimentation into any creative process. When you work with someone else you are likely to find yourself exploring new directions you hadn’t considered before. Get ready to forge ahead—your masterpiece may await you.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

122. Do you have a creative assignment coming up? How might you collaborate to make your project even better?