Saturday, November 22, 2008

All Work And No Play Makes Hannah a Confidence Ponderer. or: Why A Theater Major is at most only 70% BS.

As some of you may know, it is T minus seven days before I hand in my first draft of of my first book.
Now I know first drafts don't have to be perfect, but that doesn't change the fact that the only reason I'm talking to you right now at all is that I am procrastinating having to continue squeezing a baby out of my brain. Get out the bone saws. This one's a struggler.

I hope that you will forgive me for my absence, and take heart in knowing that while I deprived you of any posts more substantial than me mugging with a monkey, (desperate times...) I was depriving myself of sunlight, regular human interaction, and even the most basic human hygiene. I know, I know, I'm quite a catch. Inside my love den strewn with post-its, crusty thai takeout, monkey poop, and glitter nailpolish, things have never looked brighter. This is probably due to the fact that because I have been left to my own devices, (but having absolutely no connection to the recent Twilight epidemic,) I have essentially become a pajama-wearing, chocoholic, nocturnal hermit whose only source of light is florescent.

Not that I would mind some kind of connection to the recent Twilight epidemic. If being mormon and writing about vampire foreplay is the recipe for 25 million books sold and 30 million opening day, then break out the magic golden plates and virgin blood, cuz I'm moving to Utah.

Here's what I think makes vampires so sexy: They can't die, they don't take shit, and for some reason even though they never have occupations, they are always immaculately appointed and live in giant mansions. This all adds up to one thing: CONFIDENCE. I have been thinking about confidence a lot lately. (If you're not up for a neurotic psychoanalytical Magic Shoolbus-esque journey to the center of the mind of a person who's been spending six hours a day reliving all of their most awkward and formative memories in agonizing detail, bail now. I don't blame you- it's a fucking circus in there. Get out while you can.)

For the rest of you- the biggest challenge of writing for me, hands down, is just believing in the idea that I'm actually going to finish something. Starting out with a blank page has got to be one of the most awful experiences in my life- i imagine hell will be and endless repetition of blaring alarm clocks, blank first pages, and the leaky brown water at the bottom of garbage cans. At least in school I could go on an all night bender and churn out something loaded up with enough metaphors and "paradoxes" to confuse my TA into thinking that it deserves an A because as far as literary theory goes, there's a pretty fine line between pretentious genius and pretentious tripe.

I'm trying hard to make sure this book (which is 30 times longer than any mfing paper) isn't pretentious anything, because for all their giggling and gossip, teenage girls are actually ninja masters at social radar. They can detect bullshit and insincerity a mile off. I should know, I was one.

And a confused one at that. I didn't have a dashing vampire lover, or an alternate life as a pop-star, or the body of Lindsay Lohan, so according to popular opinion I was pretty much as important as every other angsty teenage girl with hair line acne, which was not very important at all. I wasn't very confident. I should have been.

Here's what I think about Sarah Palin- 5% fashion, 5% "aw, shucks," 110% confidence. I know, I know Mathy Mcgee, that adds up to more than a hundred. That's how important I think the confidence was- it pushed her over the edge, it made the things that came out of her mouth, no matter how raucously imbecilic, sound totally legitimate, because she committed.

They talk a lot in the theater about commitment. "Commit to your role," "commit to the scene." But what does that really mean? I had an excellent acting teacher last year who, in a refreshing departure from high fallutin theater theory, emphasized the importance of just being real, right now, here in your body. She advised asking yourself the questions that will yield specifics about your character's situation which you can use find intersections into your own experience, getting prepared, and then chilling the fuck out. Don't show how upset you are about having to shoot your mentally retarded lady/mouse-murdering farm buddy. Just exist up there on the stage, and trust yourself. If you believe it, we'll believe it.

Palin certainly had down the "trusting yourself" part even if the preparation wasn't all there, which just goes to show the power of confident improvisation. And politicians have good reason to be confident. They're controlling the lives of thousands, sometimes even billions of people. Nothing'll put a spring in your step quite like the knowledge that with a flip of your little finger, you could make Russia extinct.

Confidence can make dumb people alluring, and turn untalented people into celebrities. I don't think I need to name names..
And you know what? Good for them. Even better for those people who were talented to begin with and then just ran with it. Props to Bowie for prancing around dressed like a time traveling transvestite and not only getting away with it, but marrying a god damn super model. Props to OJ Simpson forgetting off the hook and then having the balls to write a book called "If I Did It." Well probably not so much props as gasps of audacity, but you get the picture...

This is what I've been learning:

1.) A key to writing, and probably a lot of other things, is having confidence. The confidence to face the blank page and get through three more pages of shit believing that maybe on page 4 something worthwhile will come out. And a lot of the time it feels like you're lying to yourself, because you're the one making all the shit, and you're getting that distinct gassy feeling like there's a lot more to come.

2.) The key to having confidence is lying to yourself. Hold on there, don't get your britches in a twist. This isn't Enron or OJ lying, I'm talkin' about some good old fashioned blind faith. Because nobody is born with a 300 page book in their hands, and how are you ever going to get away with becoming a Vice Presidential, glam-rock murderer if you don't have a little faith in a seemingly distant dream?

3. Having confidence and committing can create reality. There were many days when I was sure I wouldn't be able to finish this project the way I wanted to. I wasn't a professional writer who worked 8 hours a day and met deadlines and did outlines. It's true. I wasn't. So I lied to myself a little bit every day, and pretended I was that person. After a while I stopped checking the clock and facebook every 20 minutes, and after 6 months of being confident in a little positive lying, I think I actually became half-competent.

A paper cape and a crown can turn a fine actor into a king. He commits. He doesn't criticize himself, worry about preparation for the next scene, or keep one eye the reviewer in the front row, because he's just in the moment. He's confident.

And the bard wasn't dumb. Life really is a stage. No one is born ready to do what they want to do, and lots of clumsy footwork always precedes the grand tango of every great goal. The only way to be the person who runs 2 miles a day or reads two books a week or turns into Paris Hilton is one audacious cha-cha at a time. Pretend. Do your prep-work, don't freak out about the nay-sayers, stay in the moment a little every day until you've done enough prep to become. Have faith in the progress of a continual process. It's a bitch for web-savvy kids like us to wrap our heads around, but unfortunately, Life Itself is not googleable. So lie yourself into having the confidence to believe that with some well-intentioned patience in pretending, you can get your shit done. And if that sounds a little Dr. Phil for you then surprise because you've unintentionally stumbled upon the long awaited (by nobody but me,) third installment of Hannah's Guide To Eternal Happiness

Anyways, this would all be well and good if I were not, as I mentioned before, totally talking out of my ass right now in a cowardly retreat from the vile whiff of blank-white-book-page. You guys are the best. Thanks for all of your encouragement. I know you wouldn't want to be aiding or abetting my continued procrastination, because if I don't finish this book I can't move out of my parent's house and will probably start traveling around the country in a pink minivan full of cats showing up at your house to crash on your couches and eat your frozen dinners. (I know where you live.)

Please keep me posted on your goings on, I'd love to hear updates on life, work, politics, etc , and if you have something interesting to share feel free to shoot me an email at because in light of my deadline I've been considering the community-fostering, diversity-generating, (ie lazy,) idea of having guest contributors on the blog. No but seriously, I want your probative ponderings like a fat kid wants cake.

Wish me luck people. Back to the trenches.

Much Love,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Amelia pics

Draft due in 23 days and it's slow going... just received a few of the possible shots for the jacket-cover though. We did a bunch of shots and then decided to try some with Amelia. She was cooperative for the most part but not exactly an angel...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Stool Hits the Fan

A couple of things I've been thinking about:

Firstly, hooray for Obama. I really never intended for this blog to have political content when it first began, what with my entire political adult consciousness being dominated by 8 years of a man whom I could outcount and outspell by the time I was a third trimester fetus. In those eight years we've become embroiled in a mismanaged,  neverending war, and we've gone from having a surplus to basically becoming a subsidiary of China. Forgive me for preferring to do the crossword than trying to puzzle out what new, horrifically cavalier, authoritarian atrocity the front page might have in store.

Secondly, let's take a look at that word 'cavalier...' Bear with me for a sec. Now that we're on the other side of election night, I can begin to reflect on the message of the Obama campaign without having to overload my brain with images of singing puppies pooping rainbows in order to counteract the bleak scenario that a woman who doesn't know that Africa is a continent might end up in the most influential position in the world. Fhew. Onto cavalier. 

It originated as  the Latin caballarius (horseman,) and was later adopted as a negative title for royalists during the Engish Civil War. The royal in question is Charles I, who decided that despite economic turmoil, his real focus should be cutting off the ears of people who spoke out against required attendance policies for his super awesome High Anglican church. The protestants weren't pleased. Parliament wasn't pleased. The Scots were especially displeased. Apparently King Charles never saw Braveheart, because otherwise he might have kept his nose out of the badass, kilt-wearing, mofo north.

The Scottish rebellion  set the stage for the English Civil War, which paved the way for a constitutional  monarchy, whose parliament did not include representation for a handfull of pissed-off passionate patriots, and now a few centuries later here we stand in the USA instead of "West Britain" with absolutely no monarchy and a pretty nifty constitution. And I tell you this for two reasons. Firstly, legend has it that the first riot began in St Giles Cathedral when a minster who was reading from Charles's fancy new required-prayer-book for the first time was lobbed in the head by a stool. This stool was thrown by a merchant woman named Jenny Henry.  She is reported to have thrown it while shouting "Deil colic the wame o’ ye, fause thief" which, for those of us who don't speak angry Scot, means "Devil cause you severe pain and flatulent distention of your abdomen, false thief..." Severe pain and flatulent distention? Geesh...see? I knew you you shouldn't mess with the Scottish.

This brings me to an interesting comment my good friend Michael made recently about a nasty case of gout. This gout incapacitated British parliamentarian William Pitt so much he was not able to protest the fateful Stamp Act which helped catalyze the Revolutionary War.

Now, of course we can trace back from all world-changing events to a million other small catalysts which each played integral roles because everything is connected. And you can't choose to get  assassinated by the Black Hand or to get gout. But you can choose to throw a stool at someone cavalierly trying to take away your rights. Which is to say...

"Yes we can" is an exciting message of hope after what feels like endless unchecked tyranny. But when you think about it, the only reason this country exists in the first place is that "yes, we did." We did in 1775 and we've been doing ever since: emancipation proclamation, suffrage, civil rights... a whole bunch of Americans doing a whole bunch of good. And I don't point this out to diminish Obama's win, but rather to point out that despite the fact my generation has not lived through a major ideological revolution, despite the completely jaded cynicism adopted by many woebegone anti-Bushies, revolution is in our blood, and although we can't control a lot about the universe, we always have the power of taking a stand. (Or throwing a stool.)

Or, for that matter, performing a devastatingly satirical blow to a political candidate on national television. My father posits that comedienne extraordinaire Tina Fey played a key yet under-acknowledged role in bringing down Palin, and I think he's probably right. Just goes to show how far a little free speech can go.

For me, after experiencing many  "holy, really?"  moments over the past two days, all of these ideas have helped to make the whole Obama thing seem less surreal, to put it into context, to restore some of my theoretical confidence in the idea of freedom, freedom to write and believe and to make a difference, all without getting your ear cut off.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh Obama

Am exhausted. Am exhilarated. Am still curiously very nervous, like maybe this is all a dream and soon a hurricane of pregnant chads will come plummeting out of the sky. So here is my letter to our new President Elect:

Dear Obama,

For all the jaded cynicism our generation is famous for, I don't think any one of us can deny the amazing leaps in equality that that 106 year old woman has seen over her lifetime. And perhaps for the first time in my adult life I see the opportunity to make sure the next century brings even more hope and prosperity. I don't care if it's dumb to be optimistic. Obama isn't a singular savior and of course he's going to need help, but I think we need to start believing that together we can move towards positive, lasting change. If we have even a lingering shred of reverence for the ideals of real democracy, of the American dream, then I don't think we have any other choice. 

Oh god I can't believe it's 5 am. Guess this isn't a dream after all. 


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Captain Fantastic

Just to get your minds briefly off of electionly nerves, take comfort in knowing that other people around the world aren't letting the prospect of prez Palin ruin their day or corrupt their inner child. Take this kid for example, who has just legally changed his name to "Captain Fantastic Faster than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine The Hulk and the Flash Combined."


Well done, my friend. Way to buck the unimaginative title shackles enforced by The Man. Though god help you if you ever need to go to the DMV, because you're not going to be faster than any superheroes letalone the 95 year old no-legged man behind you when it turns out your name is too long to put on a form. Step to the back of the line. Meet me at window number 6. Sir, are you a terrorist? 

Also, I hope this kid makes an awful lot of money in the next few years because otherwise it's going to be hard to convince anyone to become Mrs. Faster than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine The Hulk and the Flash Combined.

But truly, brava for bravery and creativity. Weird little wonders make the world go 'round.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Pondering The Dark Side

On this the eve of the election, I'd like to capture my thoughts before America either elects a president who its first 26 presidents could have legally owned, or brazenly subverts the very ideals it was founded upon by manipulating numbers in a final embarrassingly overt goosestep towards corporate totalitarianism.

I am nervous. And not night-before-the-swim-test nervous or even night-you-lose-your-virginity nervous, it's a low rumbling primal panic which I can only liken to Star Wars panic. Disney panic. The edge-of-your-seat-terror that makes you  wonder if Skywalker's doomed after he refuses to join Darth Vader and drops down into the abyss, if the wicked octopus or grand vizier or steroid-pumping-village-misogynist is going to wed/kill/skin the dashing prince and then evil people in dark funny costumes are going to take over the world... if it wasn't a movie of course.

And tonight it's not. It's not a movie and yet I feel like Obama might as well be wearing an American flag cape while a decaying McCain, in a high-tech robotic spider wheelchair wearing an eyepatch and stroking an evil cat, gives orders to a sexy scheming Palin who marches back and forth through their sub-terranian campaign lair in four inch thigh-highs and full-body black leather catsuit bossing around the evangelical ants with a loooooong  whip... umm... is this just me? 

Anyway, the point is that things feel weird folks. I have friends who have peed in waterbottles to keep from interrupting a Halo-playing marathon who got off their asses/couches to volunteer for the Obama campaign not once, but many times. Friends so cheap their body content is at least 1/3 Ramen Noodle who donated a good deal of their hard-earned cash to the campaign. People have registered to vote in record numbers, and yet, something just doesn't feel right. I think we should stop congratulating ourselves for just voting. To vote is a privilege which people have died for, and I think there's a whole lot more to be done for the country than to simply help win an election every 4 years.

Hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of man-hours spent on both sides by good-intentioned people who want to make a difference in an historic election, so many resources and voices and energies devoted to a single day. After tomorrow, half of that is going to have been a waste. And I can't help but wonder what could have happened if all that muscle had been put towards something else, and what will happen to its momentum after the election has come and gone. Shouldn't we be donating our money to good causes whenever we can? Helping people who don't have? Dedicating some of our time to  contribute to making the country which provides for us a better place? Of course a power shift is a hugely significant step on the path to great reform, but worrying about this election has been a wakeup call for me:

Even if Obama wins, we have not "won." This isn't a movie and we can't toss every greedy lobbyist oil fatcat bigot down a reactor shaft. I think if we dedicate ourselves to the ongoing welfare of the country as much as we have to the outcome of this election, we'll have a much better shot at coming closer to the overwhelming good the liberals hope Obama will usher in, but which no mere mortal could fully realize alone. 

Which brings me to the other side. I've heard a lot of people claim that if McCain wins, they're leaving. I heard the same thing about Bush's reelection, and his unelection before that, and nobody seems to be leaving. And that's fine. Because as much as I complain about certain political happenings, atrocities, etc., I really do like it here and I suspect most other people do too. We have New York and Hollywood, purple mountain's majesty and sea to shining sea, we created jazz and country music and baseball and cars and lightbulbs and computers and that movie with hundreds of animated singing Chihuahuas! I mean who among the shivering Plymouth pilgrims ever imagined ordering hundreds of animated singing chihuahuas onto a magical box from an invisible information superweb?

The point being, if things don't turn out the way I want tomorrow, I feel compelled, as a college-graduated adultish-type-person, to take a stand. And if I'm going to leave I'm going to leave. But if I'm going to stay I'm not going to sit around whining like I have for the past 8 years. It's like when I don't clean my room because it's dirty and then I blame the dirt. So in my very indecisive way, before you and your screen, I'm declaring my intention to make some kind of stand in the event of -(Ican'tevensayit)-, and encouraging you to consider making one too...

Jump the ship or grab a bucket? 
Wasn't everything so much easier back when the worst possible affront to your values was a PB&J sandwich cut diagonally with crust?

Anyways, I guess what I'm saying is that if we're going to stay on board, we should probably be generous with our time and resources when times are tough even more than when the hero saves the day. Because what if he doesn't? And what if he can't?

Hope all is well out there. Everything in NY is going swimmingly, leaves changing, Sam is much better, book is coming along... now if only we could wrangle Ohio everything might just fall right into place.

Yours Nervously,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Whimsical Bigotry Halloween Factory

Sooo... right in time for the day after Halloween comes a very strange musical braindripping which is way too bizarre for me to even recall how it came into being, letalone how I convinced my very talented brother to stoop to playing a tiny piano in trackpants and his bar mitzvah jacket. I do know it coincided with my desire to learn how to experiment cramming as many videofilters as possible into one Final Cut project... or perhaps it was just the moon.