Friday, 28 October 2011


“That is the compensation for being sixty, it is that you know everything. I know all human things.”
Fran Lebowitz made the above observation on Oct. 14 at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis after appearing on stage at precisely eight o’clock. The remark, even if saucy, was pleasant relative to most made throughout the public speaking engagement, during which Lebowitz articulated her thoughts on such topics as the American presidency and J.D. Salinger to an audience that was, perhaps, a little too eager. 
“I encourage average people to have an opinion,” Lebowitz remarked wily. “As long as they do not express it to me.”
Hollow laughter bellowed from an audience made of an array of people: the bespectacled, young thinkers, a man wearing an ill-fitting suit - Jews and Gentiles, women with crew cuts, the well-read; those who feel they identify with Lebowitz herself, even if merely because they are of the opinion that they are of an opinion - regardless of it’s worth to She who stands before them.
Both collections of Lebowitz’s essays convey her observation of the average: houseplants, discothèque etiquette, and those who wear garments adorned by words or pictures. She has written a children’s book and is currently celebrated for professional stagnancy - that is, the will to write nothing at all. The follow-up to Social Studies (1981) has been in - or, more accurately, out - of progression for more than 30 years. Said book, Exterior Signs of Wealth, was not a topic of discussion; Lebowitz herself acknowledged that her deadline regrettably passed some 27 years ago and alas, the book has become old news. She chose instead to discuss current affairs, mostly. The demise of Steve Jobs was one of them.     
“Geniuses do not have retail outlets,” she insisted, deeming Jobs a businessman while rejecting the notion of the inventor as one of remarkable thought.
A discursive speaker, she veered from Jobs, offering a topic that appeared to genuinely amuse her: the cuff links set upon her wrists. Her cheeky smile faded quicker than it appeared and she moved on, noting that she voted for Obama, tourists should be banned from New York City, and she does not believe in forgiveness. 
She poured water to fill one fourth of a glass and as she tilted her head to sip it, grey roots pronounced themselves as modest but present among her otherwise dark, thick hair. Her ring suggested a romantic affiliation of sorts - an interesting detail given that, throughout her career of forty some odd years, she has refused to speak of her sexual orientation and relationship status despite public interest.   
Having survived such events as the Cold War, New York City’s AIDS epidemic, and 9/11, she revealed a desire to be the nation’s memory; she has seen much and seldom forgets. As the event drew to a close, Lebowitz described a love of reading.
“I read everything. If there is print on page, I read it. This is why I leave the flyers downstairs when I get the mail; if they come up with me I stay home all day.”     
In a subsequent question and answer period with the audience, Lebowitz communicated that she did not understand, hear, or care to answer many curiosities; such was the case when a young woman asked her what revenge she was plotting, if any.

“You obviously do not know the definition of the word plot.”
A man in a jean jacket declared that he was going to speak out, despite not having been called upon. Lebowitz agreed to listen to the question and the man asked her to describe her mission statement.
“You are obviously under the impression that I work for you, which I do not,” Lebowitz asserted; her hurried, nasal tone descending to a growl. “I think I’ve had quite enough. Goodnight, everyone.”
She turned, her left leg weaker than her right under bootcut Levis, the arc of her neck exaggerated beneath a suit jacket off Savile Row: applause remained arrested by disbelief as Lebowitz staggered into a wing off stage left to meet, precisely, no one at all. 
Outside the auditorium, aforementioned eager people - myself included, even if reluctantly so - lined up to meet Lebowitz; she was signing books. It was strange, really, to see a shadow cast over her nose - small, broken hairs standing separate from the others on her head. I closed my eyes when I heared her voice so close; the same one had conveyed thoughts that provoked my own, and suddenly, I was afraid.
She was reluctant to shake my hand and she did not stand up after permitting me to be in a photograph with her. My face cannot smile if what I feel is not sincere so it twitched as it pleased, her frizzy hair beside my jawline, while a man I did not know took our picture. I knelt down, so as to be at level with her, and described a wish- an undefeated ambition- to move to New York City and see the world creatively, just as she did many years ago. Looking into eyes wise with age, I asked - hell, pleaded - for advice.
“So you want my advice, huh? Give me that book.”
She created a scrawl before using her index finger to slide my copy of The Fran Lebowitz Reader back across the table.
At 10:14 pm I felt happy to be alone in downtown Minneapolis. I sat on the edge of a plant pot made of stone, and under a streetlight, I opened the book.
For Kristy,
Buy a winning lottery ticket.
Your pal,
Fran Lebowitz
And there you have it: another battle won in what I still consider to be the beautiful mind of Frannie L.; genius, even if merely self-perceived, defeats average person. So maybe she does not know all human things, then; but by believing she did, as she did, the woman herself acquainted me with the New York state of mind. 

kill me.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


It has been a rather busy week although I must admit, I am very happy.
I love creating shows. I know, very random. But I love it so, so much. Right now, I am working on a play that I hope to have in the fringe next summer, and in my media production class we are working on talk shows and I have been chosen to direct the talk show for my group. I just absolutely love everything to do with both of these things that I am working on: creating and developing characters, writing dialogue, really thinking about how the story should unfold, mapping out scenes, I just love it all. I mostly love the challenge associated with coming up with storylines and events that are going to stay with the audience; that is, something that is going to provoke thought. This is the challenge I am facing right now with my potential fringe show but working through that has been rewarding and I am still in the beginning stages.
As an observer, I am beginning to appreciate, possibly more than ever, the way that a show can make you feel safe. I mean, right now I do not have a lot of time to watch television, and I often find myself feeling a little anxious about all the new things I am being faced with at school and at work and in my life but when I do get to sneak in half an hour here and there, the sense of escapism is profound, to say the least. It really has a way of taking me somewhere else and the great thing about that is that we, as readers and viewers and listeners, can choose where we want to go.
For example, last night I spent some quality time with the girls. Yes, I mean the golden girls. Sophia and Dorothy were playing cards and Blanche had to make a difficult decisions involving her sister who she has loathed for most of her life. Rose, for the first time since Charlie, her late husband, passed away, was 'with' a man and there I was, the fifth golden girl, eating cheesecake with all of them in the kitchen as these things happened. It is this that I want to be able to do for others; allow them to come into a world that, while perhaps not better or worse, is different from their own. As Fran herself says, a book should be a door, not a mirror. I think this absolutely applies to television, broadway, talk, you name it. It applies to show biz.

Speaking of FL, I will be in the same room as her tomorrow. I do not really know what more to say about that as it seems rather surreal and I almost feel afraid that my brain will not be able to absorb quickly and effectively enough to really appreciate her in all of her brilliance.
I guess I'll just keep it simple then;
au revoir winnipeg, bonsoir ma belle Fran.
Not too long now until the latter will read 'Manhattan.'

Friday, 7 October 2011


There is something very sincere about going to the movies by yourself.
I know that is a peculiar way to describe it, sincere, but the word surfaces when I think about it. I mean, the venture entails showing up, paying for a ticket, eating that old-fashioned, homemade popcorn (yes, they have it at Cinematheque) and maybe a snickers bar, too, choosing a seat, minding the previews, and, ultimately, observing- all alone.

I did it for the first time tonight, officially lost my alone-at-a-theatre virginity, and I do not believe I would have done it if I did not feel, in some way, committed to what I was about to see; I sincerely wanted to be there.

I treated myself to a double feature; Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us? as well as Blank City; both films were thought provoking in entirely different ways.

Queen of the Sun is a documentary film that expresses the routines, concerns, loves, and fears of beekeepers. It provides insight into what is being referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder; essentially, the disappearance of honeybees in America.

I really, really enjoyed watching this film because it conveyed information about everything from pollination to marriage flights and monoculture in a way that was accessible even to me; someone who is not familiar, in any sense of the word, with these concepts. It managed to do so in a manner that was factual, truthful, and rather beautiful. It was sweet to visit with Mother Nature, even if only from Winnipeg, for 83 minutes, on screen. Kind of like seeing an old friend in passing, I guess.

find Debbie Harry on my wall of dreams
Blank City is a documentary film about independent filmmaking in New York City throughout the seventies and early eighties. Such directors as Amos Poe, Beth B and Scott B, and Vivienne Dick were featured, alongside subjects like Debbie Harry and Lydia Lunch.

I feel indifferent towards the film, actually. 
I do not like the fact that many of the independent films discussed in Blank City seemingly lacked content of quality; I suppose this is rooted in my aspiration to become a playwright (or perhaps, more specifically, a genuinely great playwright). It appeared as though many of the films were made hastily and lacked true substance, yet were creative in their own right and some, profound even. 
Another segment of the film was dedicated exclusively to a discussion about shock value as many directors in that era were producing works that they hoped would yield a strong reaction on behalf of audience members. While I agree that shock value does have just that- value, I believe the ‘shock’ itself should be rooted in thought-provoking, relevant content rather than in something that lacks substance and is simply designed to make someone barf after observing it (as one audience member supposedly did after witnessing Black Box by the B’s). I will acknowledge, however, that there are many approaches to filmmaking and an equally diverse array of desired outcomes.
I will have to observe the films discussed in their entirety to form a full thought, though.

I did, on the other hand, enjoy witnessing, to the extent possible, New York City as it was in the seventies. It appeared, surprisingly, minimalistic and it occurred to me that New York as a tourist destination likely developed out of this as it was noted that, at that time, the city neared bankruptcy.  

Both of the films I observed required focus and thought and an open mind; conditions I feel may be more easily obtained when alone. The screenings are on at Cinematheque tomorrow and Sunday, as well as next Wednesday, October 12.

I’d say it’s about time you muster up your courage and ask yourself out on a date.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


On the evening of the Manitoba provincial election I found myself on Corydon Avenue, in the office of the Liberal party candidate for the Fort Rouge riding, Paul Hesse.

By the time I arrived, the results were unofficial, but official enough for Hesse’s brother, Andreas, to gather the eclectic array of individuals into the back room of the modest office space and begin what I will describe as a sincere, and very sad, speech. He had the kind of fat tears that hang around in your eyes, the ones that threaten to fall, even without a blink. After reminiscing about Paul as a child, and that he always knew that Paul was meant to be a “PAUL-itician,” Andreas expressed great disappointment over the fact that his brother did not get elected.

“I am really disappointed that he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to show on the level that he can how much he cares and how great he will be. So, yes, tonight is a disappointment. But I am very, very proud of my brother, and next time, this party will be PARTYING.”

 His statement was followed by applause on behalf of Paul himself, on behalf of Sheila and Jordan who volunteered, among many others, throughout the campaign, on behalf of Jim, Paul’s campaign manager, Charissa, his office manager, and on behalf of those who door-knocked, t-shirt designed, stayed up a little later, still stayed positive, and always stayed motivated.

After observing what I have come to define as a remarkable collective effort, I can’t stop questioning why anyone does it.

Politics, I mean.

It seems almost too good to be true that those who run simply have a vision for their constituency, city, province, country, whatever; that they care enough about those who surround them, strangers and family alike, to actually want to provide them with conditions that, in their mind, are a little bit closer to ideal.
Despite my speculation that alternate motives exist, I am going to believe, at least for now, that politicians run because they want what they perceive to be the best for themselves and for others.
What do you think? Why do politicians campaign, and why do they campaign so hard?

On a completely unrelated note, I found the following in my mailbox the other day...

Yes, yes it is; it is a ticket to see Fran Lebowitz in Minneapolis in a week and a half. The gap does not lie: next Friday night it's gonna be me and Frannie L.