30 January 2010

my theater

Benedum Center, Pittsburgh

As I sit in one of the many empty seats in the theater where I usher I hear a mans voice jovially boom over all the stage hands walkie-talkie's -- "Hey, we're going to be in Cincinnati next Sunday. Anyone want to play whirlyball?"

I smile and lounge back further into the plush maroon chair, placing my black slipper shoes on the top of the chair in front of me. Yes, I am happy, I am in my theater watching the stage hands set the stage for the production of CATS that will be playing in a little over an hour, and I am happy.

This is my theater, where I have been ushering for six years. There is no greater peace in my life than when I am in my theater. There is no greater production for me than the one that plays before a show begins. The stage hands joking with one another onstage as they set the props and check and re-check the mechanical devices while the sound techs blast pop songs over the speakers. Sometimes people dressed all in black rush up and down the aisles to converse directly to the sound techs, usually about some problem that leave both people with furrowed brows.

I sometimes wonder if life can get any better than this, sitting in my theatre seat, watching all this transpire. But then the audience come in and my languid voyeuristic attitude changes to one of engaged activity. I love rushing up and down the aisles as I seat people. This is perhaps the only customer service job where it is as fun for the person doing as for the people who are being served because the latter are all so happy. They know they are about to be entertained. Sometimes we have regulars, usually people past the age of naivety who consequently no longer get much enjoyment from going to the theater. Also, they are often rich, another impediment to experiencing joy. And they ignore you when you ask if they need assistance or say brusquely, "No, I know where I am going." But that is really the worst I have to contend with and that, I know from my past experience in customer service, is hardly something to worry over.

During intermission today an older gentlemen of about 70 in a mechanical wheelchair was coming toward the door to enter into the theater with two open-drinks in his hands. Drinks are not allowed in the theater, so I had to reluctantly tell him that he could not come in until he finished the drinks, but one of them was for his wife, a woman also nearing -- if I may be so blunt -- death's door, and who I knew was mostly deaf and almost completely blind and whose cane did little to help her walk. I told the man I would get her so they could consume their drinks in the lobby. I felt bad that I could not let him go to his seat, as I knew his wife had trouble walking and that, frankly, it would be a bit of a hassle for me to worry about getting these two in before the show started again momentarily. But I went to the lady's seat and moved in very close to her and told her, in a raised voice, that her husband had a drink for her and that she would have to drink it in the lobby as no drinks were allowed inside the theater. She said, "Oh, dear, I told him not to get me anything," and I smiled and helped her get up. I offered to help her walk up the aisle, which at this moment was quite a hazard area with people walking down it to return to their seats. She took my arm and I walked slowly with her up the walk-way, trying to help her avert people, as she had just told me that she couldn't see the people in front of her very well. Eventually we made it and her husband gave her the drink. I continued a watch out for other people whose hands may be full of those dangerous liquids known as coke, diet coke, and sprite. Just before the curtain was to rise again (proverbially, as in this case there was no curtain, the stage being kept visible while a man dressed in a large fur outfit was, during the whole of the intermission, perched on the stage to amuse the audience), the lady had finished her drink and automatically took my arm for me to lead her down the aisle. I asked her if she was enjoying the show and she very jovially said that she was. She had never seen CATS before. I marveled over this, that at her age she had never seen it, and almost said to her -- "Well, it is certainly something to see before you die." Luckily today I was less featherbrained that I normally am and had the foresight to keep this thought to myself. Her husband soon followed on his electric scooter of sorts which he was able to park next to her in the chair-less space -- another task I am privy to before a show begins is the unscrewing of bolts to take away seats for wheel-chairs.

My third favourite part of the day is the applause which comes at the end of a show as the actors take their bows. Never fails to produce a feeling of euphoria in me. The theater is a place where people who don't know one another come together for a few hours to enjoy a communal experience. Although this sounds pedantic, I think it is true of theater: in a world that is full of so much that is fearful and soul-crushing, the theater is one place where one can go to escape "real life" for the (usually) more happy and fulfilling existence of a fictional world.

25 January 2010

I believe

I believe in some blending of hope and sunshine sweetening the worst lots. I believe that this life is not all; neither the beginning nor the end. I believe while I tremble; I trust while I weep.
~ Villette (ch. XXXI) by Charlotte Brontë

24 January 2010


I was thinking: there is not one person in my life that is happy most of the time. I am literally surrounded by people whose life makes them miserable. I do not think it is their fault that they are unhappy – most people have bad situations that are difficult to get out of. [like me]. But it has to be said that sometimes people make their life so by cherishing a negative outlook on life.

Conan O'brien in his goodbye speech on his late night show on Friday said that young people should not be cynical, that is will never lead you anywhere pleasant.

“I hate cynicism. It’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

I think I have forgotten how to be happy and, more so, how not to be cynical. I thank him for saying that because it reminded me that I used to not be as cynical as I’ve become.

So many people in my life make me sad because they are. Truth be told. It is hard to stay positive when there are others who, by example or even word, are telling you that it is fruitless to do so. I really wish I were being overly dramatic. After listening to Conan’s speech I tried to think of one person in my life who is happy, genuinely happy with their career, family, themselves, and could not think of one. Is this reality? Not being happy. Or is it just the reality I happen to be stuck in?

Yesterday I was dreading working on my resume. I have had people prodding me to send out resumes and became very agitated and upset at them and, more so, myself for procrastinating, for fearing to do anything, to even think about this horrible situation I am in: jobless for almost a year, having no clue what “I want to do with the rest of my life.” But after a good 12 hour sleep, I sat down at my computer and decided it was going to have to happen, but instead roamed about the Internet for a while, until I came across an interview David Tennant was giving on Scottish radio and listening to him and his always fun, simple positive attitude I began working on my resume and sending it out without really realizing what I was doing.

I do simply adore DT. Those unfortunates who read my blog know this. Hopefully less so for any psychological problem – although I’m sure it is connected somehow. Seriously, I just like him because he is (or, rather, I should write, seems to be) a genuinely happy bloke. He is the biggest star in Britain at the moment (although hardly known in the States – which may change if he gets the NBC show he shot a pilot for) so I’ve seen a lot of interviews and behind the scenes material with him. There was one article I ran across about him titled something like, “Is there anything wrong with David Tennant?” He’s known to be a very professional actor. Everyone loves him; it is very odd how well he is loved. He can be serious, he can be funny, he can make a complete fool out of himself (check out videos of him dressed up in drag for a comedy sketch show; the Brits love them some drag), and he works both low and high art (Doctor Who and Hamlet, for instance), something for which British actors are not known for. In Britain, you have stage actors, and you have comic actors, and never the twain shall meet.

Anyway, the point is, that he has the sort of joie de vivre that I aspire toward, and when things are difficult for me, I think of what he has accomplished and all with a nice attitude and a smile. Then life suddenly doesn’t seem so difficult. I would very much like a real live person in my life of his ilk.

(For the record, I am sure DT’s not perfect, and probably sustains a cocaine habit that allows him to be so happy, as well as I’m sure he is not happy all the time. Have I covered my bases?)

20 January 2010

perfections of Jane Austen

"Sense and Sensibility" 2008 (BBC)

There are those that argue that literature exceeds reality, making real life something that it is not, usually something nicer than it really is. Eva Brann argues that Jane Austen is able to transcend this issue. In her novels she is able to present real life in a fictional landscape:

In the Republic, Socrates speaks of "a certain ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry," in which philosophy can be said to charge fiction makers with a double crime: first the shameless fabrication of images which insidiously obstruct the search for being, and then the reckless vivification of these shades by means of a lurid singularity -- so that the more brilliant the fiction, the greater the blame. Jane Austen sidesteps the first charge by being so candidly imitative and yet so careful to refrain from touching the last things as to offer not the least impediment to philosophy, while she meets the second by conforming all her fictions to a serenely normal pattern - she never even invents an authoress. The wonder is that figures so carefully middling in stature are nonetheless so absorbing: Sir Walter Scott caught the essence of her excellence when he observed that she "renders ordinary, commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment."

But if Jane Austen's prosaic poetry is neither false nor egregious and her six novels give delight and hurt not, then that "ancient quarrel" is here for once composed, and these fictions, at least, can be loved rationally.

Brann, Eva. "The Perfections of Jane Austen." 1979


I'm pretty upset with my career counselor. She hasn't gotten in touch with me and her secretary called saying that she has been busy. So here I am, with an unfinished resume, and no prospects of a job, the one that we were looking at for which she was going to supposedly call someone to find out about has probably been filled. I was actually interested in that one too.

I don't understand how people we are suppose to be able to depend on are actually the ones who are the least dependable.

18 January 2010

a modern heroine, Austen's Emma

While twelve readings of Pride and Prejudice give you twelve periods of pleasure repeated, as many readings of Emma give you that pleasure, not repeated only, but square and square again with each perusal, till at every fresh reading you feel anew that you never understood anything like the widening sum of its delights.
Reginald Farrer

A BBC production of EMMA starts next week, on Sunday, on PBS, at 9:00. EMMA is considered Jane Austen's greatest novel, for its complexity of character and plot. Emma is in every sense an anti-heroine heroine, the first of her kind, a character who the reader at first finds difficult to love, and may never do, even once she repents of her "sins" toward the end of the novel.

She is given over to what Lionel Trilling considers "self-love". A narcissistic quality that is at once detestable and necessary. Emma depends on it more for self-preservation than a need to over-reach her boundaries. Although, as Trilling points out, self-love is a quality that allows Emma to become an almost revolutionary female character in 19th century literature:

We understand self-love to be part of the moral life of all men; in men of genius we expect it to appear in unusual intensity and we take it to be an essential element of their power. The extraordinary thing about Emma is that she has a moral life as a man has a moral life...And perhaps that is what Jane Austen meant when she said that no one would like her heroine -- and what Newman meant when he said that he felt kind to Emma whenever he thought of her. She needs kindness if she is to be accepted in all her exceptional actuality...It is the presumption of our society that women's moral life is not as men's. No change in the modern theory of the sexes, no advance in status that women have made, has yet contradicted this. The self-love that we do countenance in women is of a limited and passive kind, and we are troubled if it is as assertive as the self-love of men is permitted, and expected, to be. Not men alone, but women as well, insist on this limitation, imposing the requirement the more effectually because they are not conscious of it.

But there is Emma, given over to self-love, wholly aware of it and quite cherishing it. Mr. Knightley rebukes her for heedless conduct and says, "I leave you to your own reflections." And Emma wonderfully replies: "Can you trust me with such flatterers? Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?" She is "Emma, never loth to be first," loving preeminence and praise, loving power and frank to say so.

Inevitably we are drawn to Emma. But inevitably we hold her to be deeply at fault. Her self-love leads her to be a self-deceiver. She can be unkind. She is a dreadful snob.


When we have said that her fault is hubris or self-love, we must make an immediate modification, for her self-love, though it involves her in self-deception, does not lead her to the ultimate self-deception -- she believes she is clever, she insists she is right, but she never says she is good. A consciousness is always at work in her, a sense of what she ought to be and do. It is not an infallible sense, anything but that, yet she does not need us, or the author, or Mr. Knightley, to tell her, for example, that she is jealous of Jane Fairfax and acts badly to her; indeed, "she never saw [Jane Fairfax] without feeling that she had injured her." She is never offended -- she never takes the high self-defensive line -- when once her bad conduct is made apparent to her...There is, then, sufficient reason to be kind to Emma, and perhaps for nothing so much as the hope she expresses when she begins to understand her mistakes, that she will become "more acquainted with herself." And, indeed, all through the novel she has sought better acquaintance with herself, not wisely, not adequately, but assiduously. How modern a quest it is, and how thoroughly it confirms Dr. Leavis's judgment that Jane Austen is the first truly modern novelist of England...There is no reality about which the modern person is more uncertain and more anxious than the reality of himself.

Trilling, Lionel. "Emma and the Legend of Jane Austen", 1957

16 January 2010

"Hypocrisy", again

True humility, a virtue so unfashionable nowadays that we scarcely believe it exists and use it as a synonym for "hypocrisy".

other posts on hypocrisy:

Hypocrisy is good, m'kay
Well, sometimes hypocrisy is not good

quote: 33 Great Writers On Why We Read Jane Austen, Edited by Susannah Carson, quote by Susanna Clarke

15 January 2010

"a wounded heart"

I found a wounded heart, &, as that heart cast itself upon me, it was my ambition to heal it. -- William Godwin about Mary Wollstonecraft

14 January 2010

a need for dramatic love stories (on EastEnders and Austen)

Is it sad that I get upset when the BBC takes down the episodes of EASTENDERS (the famous British soap opera) from Youtube that people illegally upload? Yeah, it probably is. But I really like that show. Got hooked on it when I lived in London, and it is so much better than American soaps, mostly because it deals with real people and real situations, although of course rather heightened as is the need for soap operas. But it makes me happy to watch the thirty minute episodes that air Mon, Tuesday, Thurs, and Friday. I don't have much to look forward to right now. I like knowing that I will have a cup of tea and my soap opera to watch. I think even if I had "a life" -- that is a job, even a boyfriend -- I would still very much desire this. Maybe not as much as I do now, as I wake from another day without a job, what money I do have quickly dwindling away, and worry about my ever-sickening parents on my mind. On the show a character the same age as me named Stacey Branning indirectly encouraged me to seek help about my anxiety and depression. Her story line was one of abuse and eventual downward spiral to anxiety and depression and she was as reluctant to seek pills to help her as I have been. But on the show she did and seeing how she dealt with her situation inclined me to do the same. I don't know why I should rely on fictional characters more than I do real people who have gone through these situations. I suppose because real people usually feel the need to tell you what is best, rather than discreetly showing you through support.

But I meant to post this. A short excerpt from Harold Bloom's forward in the book A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers On Why We Read Jane Austen. (It is rather annoying how EVERY book about Jane Austen has to start with A truth universally acknowledged... the famous opening line from Austen's most famous, although perhaps not best written, book Pride and Prejudice. [Emma is considered by many to be her greatest].)

There is a tendency to over evaluate novels in academic circles and I think out of any writer it is a misfortune to do this to Austen. Bloom brilliantly elaborates:

Austen has no more a political or social agenda than she has a religious one. To read the heroines' stories well, you need to acquire a touch of Austen's own wisdom, because she was a wise as Dr. Samuel Johnson. Like Johnson, though far more implicitly, Austen urges us to clear our mind of "cant." "Cant," in the Johnsonian sense, means platitudes, pious expressions, groupthink. Austen has no use for it, and neither should we. Those who now read Austen "politically" are not reading her at all...We read Austen because she seems to know us better than we know ourselves, and she seems to know us so intimately for the simple reason that she helped determine who we are both as readers and as human beings.

09 January 2010

Megan Fox

"I'm really insecure about everything. I see what I look like, but there are things that I like and things that I dislike. My hair is good. The color of my eyes is good, obviously. I'm too short. But overall, I'm not super excited about the whole thing. I never think I'm worthy of anything...I have a sick feeling of being mocked all the time. I have a lot of self-loathing. Self-loathing doesn't keep me from being happy. But that doesn't mean I don't struggle. I am very vulnerable."

a 'justifiable' war

William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecrafts husband, on the French Revolution, as written by Lyndall Gordon:

"War was justifiable only to repel invasion, not to prevent it, and he believed there would be less talk about a 'justifiable' cause for war if we trained our imaginations to call up the unfeeling carnage which 'justifiable' intended. It's a fallacy, he warned, that our war may be ended by making it more and more terrible: 'a most mistaken way of teaching men to feel that they are brothers by imbuing their minds with perpetual hatred.'"

This written in the late 1700's. You would think by the 21st century we would have changed our feelings at least slightly about war given the results of such wars as the French Revolution and those that followed.

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft 2005, page 298.

07 January 2010

British Fascism

Well, I am not alone. A few weeks after I wrote about the potential harmful effects the fascist political group the BNP may wreak in Britain, an anonymous writer in the leading British political magazine THE SPECTATOR concurs:

"Islamofascism and immigration have combined to make a perfect campaign issue for the BNP — and they are being handed this territory on a plate by political parties who only intend to speak to swing voters. As a result, we have — appallingly — entered a golden era for British fascism. The BNP now has more supporters than Mosley’s Blackshirts could ever have dreamed of. And the more Westminster ignores the problem, the stronger the BNP will become."

Full article -- "A Golden Age for Fascism"

06 January 2010

the female narrative

from Vindication A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft Lyndall Gordon

Misogynist Writers

A telling exchange between Dr. Johnson and Boswell in 1779

Johnson: 'A husband's infidelity is nothing.' [A couple is connected by children and fortune.] 'Wise married women don't trouble themselves about infidelity.'

Boswell: 'To be sure there is a great difference between the offence of infidelity in a man and that of his wife.'

Johnson: 'The difference is boundless. The man imposes no bastards upon his wife.'


"sex-starved dupe"

[my words] One need only understand Wollstonecraft's voyage up to this point by pointing out the three stages through which most women travel:

"First scene: ambitious female shows true colours as sex-starved dupe. Second scene: fallen woman gives birth. Third scene: abandoned mother becomes clinging bore, to be shaken off with repeated excuses."

05 January 2010

well, sometimes hypocrisy is not good...

I am at Starbucks, drinking tea, reading, when two middle-aged men greet one another and immediately begin talking about the hit SCI-FI show LOST. They spend forty-five minutes talking in-depth about the twists and turns of the plot, character analysis, and predicting how the show will end. The one is evidently more intelligent about the show than the other as he spends his time gesticulating wildly and providing evidence for his theories about clues the writers have written into the show to explain whatever is happening (I've never watched LOST) while the other barely says more than "aha" and "oh yeah." Nevertheless, they are so much into their conversation that during this time they are standing and have not yet ordered beverages. I am astonished, and think about how stupid the one man is for being so excited about a fantasy T.V. show. Just as I think this I look down and finish the sentence from the magazine I am reading, only to a second later sigh loudly and make a nasty expression on my face as it dons on me the hypocrisy of what I just thought. I was reading DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE.

04 January 2010

a publication, of sorts

A good friend of mine posted one of my blog postings on his award winning online literary/visual arts magazine. It was something I wrote here that he particularly enjoyed. That's pretty cool. And he even provided a link for my blog, which now makes me think that I have to post more than snippets of other people's words. (But, really, their words are so much better than mine). Check out my post "I wish my life were a jane austen novel, but I live in a Dickens world" here, and please check out the rest of his very interesting and unique magazine.


02 January 2010

The Volunteer

pub I frequented in London, on Baker Street