Monday, February 21, 2011

Tragedy and Comedy

"Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete and possesses magnitude; ...performed by actors, not through narration; effecting through pity and fear the purification of such emotions."

"Comedy is an imitation of inferior people - not, however, with respect to every kind of defect: the laughable is a species of what is disgraceful. The laughable is an error or disgrace that does not involve pain or destruction; for example, a comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not involve pain."

- Aristotle, Poetics

Monday, February 14, 2011

Send in the Clowns

My friends Nathan and Michelle got me a present for my birthday, and I took a photo of it to give you a clear idea of the humor of the gift.

And yes. It is a one-handed wind-up clown in a box that plays an eerie rendition of 'Send in the Clowns'. First of all, I want to say, if you are deathly afraid of clowns, and have just suffered a heart attack, I am most dreadfully sorry. And yes. This is by far the creepiest birthday present I have ever received. But on the other hand, there's something rather nostalgic about the way this doll is crafted, a harkening back to a time gone by.

And then the unthinkable happened: The song got stuck in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I looked it up, and found that it is actually an extremely sad song.

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

The song was written by Stephen Sondheim, for a musical called 'A Little Night Music'. It was adapted from an Ingmar Bergman film called 'Smiles of a Summer Night'. The song is about a woman, Desirée, who reflects on the ironies and disappointments in her life, primarily with regard to a man she had an affair with, which subsequently ruined his life. The woman he is with now is not good for him, yet he nobly presses on.

"The Clowns" are of course not actually referring to circus clowns. It is a reference to a practice in theater, where if things weren't going well, they would send in the 'clowns', or fools, to tell jokes and salvage the play. But there's a second meaning, in which Desirée knows that she's been foolish and is sorry for what she's done.

Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.

Sometimes we look back and see things that could have been better, had we only had the wisdom to do it the right way the first time. "Fools rush in" as they say. I think that's why our culture is enamored with the science fiction concept of time travel. We regret things in our past, and we wish we could change them. We're flawed, that's part of our human nature. We screw things up. That's what we do.

Send in the clowns.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Advice to Writers: Finding Your Voice

"You ask how a writer finds their voice. Now that's a question! Everyone has a voice, in life and in print, but finding it in print takes time. There's no technique to finding it... Yes, imitate like hell. Everyone does. Gaining a voice, whatever that is, comes with experience and practice - and the writing, again, is indivisible from the person. I never - never - just sit here, thinking, what's my voice? You might as well ponder, who am I? It is, in fact, the very same thing. You can wonder your whole life and never get an answer to that.

"So the voice exists simply because you exist. You find your voice by writing. By experience. It doesn't matter what exactly you're writing, just that you are writing. Then one day someone will say, 'You've really found your voice with that piece', and you'll think, eh? Really?

"Everyone should find their own way to write. You must. Thing is, copying isn't just copying, it's selecting. It's not just a dumb process. You can be aware of the fact, yes, but what you're not so consciously aware of is the stuff that you're choosing not to use. If you happen to like my one-line-pause technique, you'll know you lifted it off me. At the same time, you'll have discarded techniques from my scripts that you don't like. That's not merely copying, but selecting, editing, and adapting. It's a good, intelligent process of choosing, not imitating. So grab it all. From anyone. Read scripts, lots of them.

"If you're thinking of writing your first script, well I know what it's like. It's so easy to put off. Maybe you just don't write until you're ready, but I worry that's too easy an excuse, because then you could spend your whole life being not-quite-ready. You've got to start. The kids writing Skins are in their teens and early twenties! There's no time to waste! The whole world is full of unwritten scripts. Don't be stifled or strangled."

- Russell T. Davies

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Things and Neo-Newness

What? Is this a new blog design? What for? What is that about? Why now? Who are you? Who am I? What is existence? One of these questions will be answered by the end of this blog post. Maybe.

So what's with 'Rocket Ship Blues'? Well, mostly, I just like the way the words work together. First of all...

I like rockets. Specifically, the rockets of classic science fiction. When elegance or imagination overruled functionality or realism. Or like Jules Verne, when they didn't fully understand the concept of outer space.

Then: the blues. Perhaps the musical style to best sum up the human condition. I mean, let's face it. Life is full of suffering and sadness. But it's also filled with energy and beauty. And the blues knows that like no other. The words are melancholy, sometimes angry but the music is melodic and upbeat. It's not just about being emo. It's about expressing yourself with style. As the old adage goes, you can't SING the blues, you gotta HAVE the blues.

You stick those words together, and I dunno. I kinda like the result.

Why the change? I opened my internets this morning and my website told me I could. Does this mean I'll be returning to the art of blogging and posting regularly? Am I finally going to crawl out of my safe place of silence and spill my heart to the world? I make no promises. But I feel that writing is about sharing. People sharing thoughts and ideas with each other, and learning and discovering together, as we travel our weary road called life. It's good to write. And my mother always taught me to share.

Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now
- Bob Dylan