Archive for October, 2004

Not Wasting Time

Wednesday, October 13th, 2004

Seriously. I’m not wasting time writing this blog, I’m actually writing the blog to stop me from procrastinating.

The Gideon Three are writing a musical. More like building one, which is what you have to do with a musical, and that is playing to all of our strengths and, in a way, all of our weaknesses. It’s both hard and easy, and both at exactly the same time.

Mac was downsized from his job, which hasn’t left him with a *ton* of free time, but it makes it easy for him to come over to the house 2 or 3 days a week and work from 10:30 or 11 until dinner. We sit in adjoining rooms and hammer out different parts of the show and shame each other into actually working. It’s been much harder on him than on me because the three of us have said over and over that we are trying to parody a specific kind of musical, and Mac is really focused on getting the tone just right.

What occurred to me yesterday while we were working is that the tone has to be just right, but that it also has to be a Mac Rogers play. We need to have a character, or two, possibly, who live just outside the world we’ve created for the play, so that the audience understands that the whole thing is a joke. Let me see if I can re-create what happened yesterday.


Mac: GOD! I can’t fucking get started on this scene.

(one hour, fifteen minute pause)

Mac (storming into the office): Okay, what is visible from Liberty Island?

(One hour of google searching pause)

Mac: Do they have an anchor?

Sean: What, on the boat?

Mac: Yeah, do they have an anchor on the boat?

Sean: I don’t think so. I think they just tie the boat up.


During all of this, I’ve been writing music. I’ve employed both methods discussed here , along with a little bit of Scott Bullocks method of adding notes, so there is a fair amount of bibbling and scribbling while Mac writes in the other room. I don’t really know what he’s doing in there. But what we ended up with was the following gem from a longer scene. (Sachs, Swallows and Captain are all members of the coast guard that have just landed in New York.)


SACHS: Oh captain, let me give the order, oh please please please let me give the order just this one time?

CAPTAIN: Oh, very well, Seaman Sachs.


(The others move tentatively as if to obey.)

SWALLOWS (aside, to the captain): Where’s – we have an anchor?

CAPTAIN (completely straight): No.


(The parentheticals are mine…)

And that’s what the show needs. In the world of the play, these idiot coast guard members are running around wrecking shit right and left, so we need the captain to remind the audience that the writers are in on the joke. It’s a fine line.

So, I’m writing this blog because I just spent forty minutes trying to locate a file I wrote yesterday and played for Jordana last night and now has *vanished* from the computer. I’m writing a blog so I don’t go sit in another room and read a book or watch tv or repeatedly slam my hand in a car door.

Writing music is painfully time consuming, even if you have everything in your head and you’re just trying to fill in notes and make rhythms work. This particular piece of music came to me in a very stream of consciousness way, and I really don’t remember how it went. For years I’ve been dumping memorized stuff out of my head the second I didn’t need it any more, and now I did it for a piece that I actually need.

FUCK. It’s maddening. It was a bass line and a melody line and just an indication of a chord part.

You know what? I think I’m sorta remembering it now.


Excuse me.

A while

Tuesday, October 12th, 2004

I’ve written two blogs in the last week, neither of which were posted. And not for the reasons you might suspect. They were not posted because I found them either boring or offensive to me, the irony being that normally I’m either boring or offensive to other people and I don’t bother to edit myself then.

Post one: Long diatribe about dealing with political hostilities in America today, about how we have got to find a way to be loving and respectful. We’re basically in a civil war in the US, brother against brother stuff, and someone is going to be elected president in November and when that happens we have to find a way to deal with it. Ya-fucking-awn.

Post two: I drag myself over the coals for a missed opportunity from 1991 when I could have spent six months with a friend in Africa making a difference and instead I stayed here and learned how to tapdance. That friend died in 1993, and I didn’t speak to him for the almost two years after I turned down his offer. Boo-fucking-hoo. I’ll rake myself over the coals in the privacy of my own bedroom, thank you, you really don’t want to see it.

Here are some other things I can’t write about fully.

One: either you think our country has made several collosal mistakes over the last three years, or you think that to do anything other than what we’ve done would have been a collosal mistake. We have a war and a debt, we have a Supreme Court seat (or three) and we have redefined our civil liberties and the phrases “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forest”. If you’re undecided, then spend thirty seconds not being a jack-ass contrarian and make a decision, you douche.

Two: I’m not the perfect actor for every single show, I know that. But when you are producing theater at a certain level, it’s a pretty gutsy move not to cast me. In the world of non-professional theater, it’s hard to find a professional actor my age, with my abilities. I’m not saying you make a mistake when you don’t hire me, I’m saying you are being really brave in trying to make a play on this level without me.

Three: I really enjoy writing for the theater, I really enjoy producing for the theater, and I really enjoy acting in the theater. I also like being with my friends and golf. Almost everything else is a pain in the ass.

Four: Of my family, I’m all that’s left in New York. And that is sometimes lonely. I hate the phone, I really, really fucking hate, more than I can describe, hate the phone. I hate it when it rings, I hate calling people on it, I hate voice mail, I hate everything about it. It feels masturbatory and intrusive and indulgent and… and it’s just uncomfortable holding a goddam phone at my head so I can hear precious words from my sister or dad or friends in LA when I just fucking wish they would move the hell back to New York and I could make a meal and have a glass of mother fucking wine with them instead of listening to the bells and whistles and static and breaking up that happens at the other end.

And why the hell should I stop what I’m doing just to answer the phone? God. I miss everyone, all the time. Sitting at home working on music, I always wish my mom and Mac and Jordana were here. But the phone rings and for the first thirty seconds I’m just sitting there thinking, “this is *nothing* like having people here. This is… this is exactly like having the disembodied voice of someone I *wish* was here being piped through a tiny speaker that makes their voice sound like it’s coming from Marvin the Android (especially when it’s my mom and she’s depressed).” I always calm down and enjoy the conversation after about ten seconds, but I also feel like I’m blowing a bubble, like I have to keep exhaling to make this thing keep happening…

Okay, maybe that thing I can talk about a little.

The point is, right now I’m actually getting stuff done and the things I’m worried about are so much larger than I can express that I feel a bit of shame keeping a blog. Six thousand people are dying a week in the Sudan, and I wrote a blog about how it made me feel, then I punched myself in the nose and deleted it. I didn’t go to Africa when I could have, I’m not going now, I chose to be a fucking actor, so, really, any struggle (however small) is a struggle I have earned by self indulgence and apathy.

That being said, read up on Darfur. Google search “Sudan, Darfur, Chad”, except without the quotes, and read about what is going on. North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. are all “threats” to the US, but in Sudan, the Muslim government is killing black people because they are black, and two million more will die unless the world does something about it.

And I hate talking on the phone. That’s my opinion on the phone. I hate my cell phone.


Monday, October 4th, 2004

I’ve not really had grandparents for most of my life. I remember my Dad’s Dad dying when I was about five, and I was really upset about that. He was incredibly nice to me, for some reason, which is strange because he was an extremely cruel man according to legend. I didn’t know my Mom’s Dad or my Dad’s Mom. My Mom’s Mom, the one we called Grandma, was the only grandparent I knew.

(As an aside, I know people need nicknames for the different sets of grandparents, but *MAN* I’m glad we never had any of that “Nanaboo” or “Gobly-Wobly” kind of names for our grandparents. Whenever I heard that, it felt like that American Patrician habit of giving people the most insulting names. Multi-millionaire heirs would be named “Scootsey” or something, and it would freak me out, growing up. We just had “grandma” and a lot of dead people.)

So, now I have grandma, Jordana’s Paternal Grandmother, and Grandpa, Jordana’s Maternal Grandfather, if you can follow the math of that. They both deserve their own blogs, but I’m not doing that right now. I just want to tell a quick story.

Grandpa was a naval Lieutenant in WWII, and he went around the world twice. He wears his service in the same way he wears his Jewishness, as a constant source of his own amusement. Everything in his life is a joke. Not to say he’s a merry old soul. Hardly. He’s about as sardonic and ironic as you can imagine. He makes extensive jokes about his years spent as a young woman in the military, he’s not above a tragic over-reaching pun, and his whole life is spent waving off people who try to tell him nice things. Jordana will say, “I love you Grandpa,” and he’ll say, “What do you know? You’re just a kid…”

This is also a guy born of the depression, who has never rubbed two nickles together for fear that it might lower the value of either coin.

He’s 85 or so years old. I don’t know, maybe 80. And he is still living on his own, doing his own shit. But the important thing to know is that he could give a shit what you think, and everything to him is a joke.

So. He is going about his daily business, walking from one place to another to do his errands, and he realizes that the cup of coffee and bran muffin he had is starting to make him feel a little anxious. He realizes he probably should find a bathroom, so he does what any red-blooded American would do, he goes to McDonald’s.

He takes care of his business in the bathroom and realizes that there is no toilet paper, no paper towels, no kleenex, nothing. To hear him tell the story really makes the story, but he essentially sat there for a minute or two wondering what to do. Then he recalled his days in France and noticed the low-lying sink next to him. He did what any red-blooded American would do. He half sat in the sink and shot water up his backside until he felt pretty clean.

He turned the water off and noticed that not only is there no toilet paper, but, again, there is also no paper towels. Nothing. When pressed what he did, he said, “I dried off with four dollar bills.” but absolutely nobody believed that. He wouldn’t have dried off with four dimes, if it meant losing the forty cents. So he said “what do you think I did?” and Jordana’s mom said, “You used the hot air hand dryer?” and Grandpa’s eyes got really big, he pointed at Lorna and said, “Were you there? I don’t remember seeing you!”

Sorry. I had nothing to blog about today, and this story cracked me up.

Buddhism in Shakespeare

Friday, October 1st, 2004

I am auditioning for Measure for Measure by George W. Shakespeare tomorrow, and I find myself in an interesting exercise. You take a passage of lines in Shakespeare’s text, and you convert it to your own words. The idea is to a) figure out what the hell you’re talking about and b) to show that the bard never wasted a word. You will never be able to translate him and use less words, he was that economical.

One of the sides (parts of the script chosen by the casting directors to prepare for an audition) is a scene where the Duke is talking to a prisoner. The prisoner has just told the Duke that he is praying for clemency, and that all he has to live on is hope or death. The Duke tells him to choose death over hope.

Here’s the passage, with my translations


Be absolute for death; either death or life

Shall thereby be the sweeter.

(If you are probably going to be killed in the morning, it would be best to decide that death is what you want. If you manage to survive, awesome. If you get killed, then you’ll be getting what you want.)

Reason thus with life:

(Yeah, I know, you can’t really choose death. Okay, then think about life in the following way. Address the idea of “life” and say:)

If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing

That none but fools would keep:

(If life is taken from me, I’ve lost something that only fools would put too much stock in.)

a breath thou art,

Servile to all the skyey influences,

That dost this habitation, where thou keep’st,

Hourly afflict:

(Life is no more than the wind that comes out of you, and that weak-ass wind is affected by every single little disturbance in nature. Anything that happens from the farthest point in the sky to where you stand now can shift that breath off course, every single minute of every single day…)

merely, thou art death’s fool;

For him thou labour’st by thy flight to shun

And yet runn’st toward him still.

(“Life” is, by definition, just postponing the inevitable. You’re gonna die, death knows it. Every day that you delay death you are still spending one more day getting closer to it. In this way, choosing life is betraying the choice you will have to make one day anyway, you may as well choose it now.)

Thou art not noble;

For all the accommodations that thou bear’st

Are nursed by baseness.

(“Life” is actually just a collection of the lowest acts that we are capable of. All of the higher aspects to being a man are actually in defiance of the urges that life pushes us towards.)

Thou’rt by no means valiant;

For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork

Of a poor worm.

(There is no bravery in continuing to live, this tenuous ridiculous existence that pales in the face of lying in our eventual crypt. Being alive, acting in fear of death, is cowardly.)

Thy best of rest is sleep,

And that thou oft provokest; yet grossly fear’st

Thy death, which is no more.

(Your whole life, you’re tired. The act of living is exhausting and the only time you aren’t exhausted is when you sleep, something that you do all the time and wish you could do more of. Which is weird because death is no more than eternal peaceful rest, and you are terrified of that.)

Thou art not thyself;

For thou exist’st on many a thousand grains

That issue out of dust.

(There is no “life”, pre se. The thing that you think of as life is actually just a mass of synapses and atoms that you’ve collected and control for a few years before the inevitable destruction arives and you have to let all those particles go back to the cosmos.)

Happy thou art not;

For what thou hast not, still thou strivest to get,

And what thou hast, forget’st.

(There is no peace in existence. Every day is a struggle to deal with the shit you’ve already got and to try to get more shit. You don’t even know what all shit you already *have* and yet you think by going out and getting *more* shit, somehow that will make you happy. And it never does.)

Thou art not certain;

For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,

After the moon.

(Every single day, life seems to be something different. There is no consistency in existence, it changes and shifts and splinters the same way that the moon is always in a different aspect and a different place in the sky.)

If thou art rich, thou’rt poor;

For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,

Thou bear’s thy heavy riches but a journey,

And death unloads thee.

(You can’t take it with you where you’re going, and you are going there. It doesn’t matter how much wealth or stuff you amass, you’re gonna lose it once you get to where you’re going. Plus, the more stuff you think you have, the more relationships you have to manage, the more you share your life and others share their lives with you, the harder it is to make the journey.)

Friend hast thou none;

For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,

The mere effusion of thy proper loins,

Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,

For ending thee no sooner.

(Look, even if you think there is some kind of good in life because you share it with the people you love, I’ve got news for you. Even your frickin’ *kids* are gonna be old and miserable and die one day. If you leave your fortune and your stores of happiness to your friends, if you leave it to your offspring, there will be a day when they will be laid up with horrible pain and sores and they’re gonna moan and turn over and say, “Christ, I wish I was just fucking *dead*.”)

(There is an alternate view of these words which is “even your kids are hoping you’ll die soon” and that may be closer to the text, but I’m not playing it that way.)

Thou hast nor youth nor age,

But, as it were, an after-dinner’s sleep,

Dreaming on both;

(You can’t ascribe any happiness to being alive and young, or alive and old, because the fact is whichever one you are, you are always wishing you had the other in a half-alive daze.)

for all thy blessed youth

Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms

Of palsied eld;

(When you are a kid, you’re broke and you have to rely on the old people to provide for you, the whole time knowing that a) you’re gonna become old one day and b) when you get old it’s gonna suck.)

and when thou art old and rich,

Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,

To make thy riches pleasant.

(So now you’re old, you have the money and prestige and power you had to beg for when you were a kid, but now you’ve totally lost your sex drive, you don’t care about the people in your life, you have no energy or vitality and you look like shit, so what difference does it make that you have all this awesome stuff?)

What’s yet in this

That bears the name of life?

(Seriously, how does it make any sense to choose anything else? There’s nothing worth chosing in being alive.)

Yet in this life

Lie hid more thousand deaths: yet death we fear,

That makes these odds all even.

(And still, people don’t realize all the ways that I just described life as a thousand times worse than death. We walk around terrified of the one thing that can bring us any kind of peace and rest. It’s only in death that everything that is currently wrong with our lives can be made right.)


And when you do a Shakespeare play, or at least when I do, you translate every goddam line like that. It’s actually sometimes a good idea to do with any play. Subtext, y’know, it’s that chewy nougat center of the text.