Saturday, February 18, 2006

My Personal Ode to Pomegranates.

This is my breakfast. It is my favorite food at the moment. Okay, it doesn't look so good in that picture. But do not be deceived by my breakfast's meager looks. It is AWESOME.

Sometimes I think I have a love affair with a certain kind of food – for a while it was Snappy Tom – that spicy tomato juice. I had to have it every day, every single day. I thought about my Snappy Tom when I wasn’t home and I looked forward to that rush of spice and tomato hitting my tongue. Then I began to have Snappy Tom several times during the day and the spices were so intense I began to be unable to taste any other food. Everything began to taste like Snappy Tom. You couldn’t have a glass of Snappy Tom and then have a bowl of cereal, for example. Your whole mouth was all Snappy Tom. Eventually I longed for other tastes, and so inevitably, one day, I broke up with Snappy Tom.

And I didn’t partake in him for months.

And then, slowly, he made his way back into my life. And we developed a more casual, realistic relationship – a Snappy Tom every once in a while when I was in the mood. It was never like it was at the beginning between Tom and me, but still – we found a way to be together in a more sustainable way. And it was like Snappy Tom and I would remember the old days, the days when I was obsessed with Snappy Tom. Sometimes I found myself chuckling as I poured a glass, thinking: “Remember when I was in a panic if I was out of Snappy Tom? Oh Tom, that was just nuts!” Or now, I order Snappy Tom on the plane and I shake my head – oh…Tom. Tom!

There were others, naturally. Fresh nine grain bread, bagel bread with blue cheese and tomatoes. And then, just…tomatoes. My neighbor grows tomatoes and when they are ripe I have a tomato sandwich every single day. I look forward to it – lunch today – dinner the next, and some days I have it for lunch and dinner! The tomato and fresh mayonnaise and fresh bread, a dash of salt and if I’m in the mood, pepper, and oh! During the rest of the year, I avoid tomatoes. None of them are as good as fresh – you can’t go back! You look at these stale, pale red, globs and think: they are selling these as -- tomatoes? There is no comparison with a fresh tomato just picked!

So, this winter, I have become obsessed with Pomegranates. My dear friend Julia, who is not me, but another person, who lives a couple of blocks away, came over one day with a grocery bag. Inside was low fat cottage cheese, a papaya, some pecans, some toasted sliced almonds, and…a pomegranate. She looked me deeply in the eyes and said in hushed tones, “Prepare yourself. Get ready to ROCK YOUR WORLD.” And then she handed me the brown paper bag. It was like she was handing me contraband: heroin, hullucinogenic mushrooms, pornography. "It just came to me, this recipe," she said. I love that. How it "came to her", the recipe sought her out, somehow. It's like when the Irish say, "The thirst, it came upon me!"

So, this is the basic recipe: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, a quarter of a ripe papaya, two tablespoons of toasted sliced almonds, and a tablespoon of chopped pecans. Then, about a half of a fresh pomegranate. It takes a while, the pomegranate takes twenty minutes to cut up and get the seeds out. But I listen to the news on the radio and sip my coffee.

While I pick apart the pomegranate, I think about all things pomegranate. I think about being in Greece in my travels after college and seeing the locals – I think this was when I was on the Island of Santorini, and they would eat the pomegranate like it was an apple, well, they would break it open, so that part wasn’t like an apple, But they would just eat into it, even the white film around the vesicles of seeds and the juice would run down their faces and they looked like they were bleeding to death, but they were smiling ear to ear. I wasn’t so into pomegranates then. I was worried I would get red pomegranate juice all down my shirt and I didn’t want to have to wash it and plus, the people looked positively mad while they ate them. Oh, how little I understood pomegranates then…

Now, twenty or so years later, I can’t stop thinking about pomegranates. I live in fear that the season is almost over. For a week or so, you couldn’t find any pomegranates at my local grocery and I was in despair. I have this breakfast every single day! And it’s not the same AT ALL without the pomegranates. The pomegranates are the essential ingredient to this recipe. Seriously, I go to bed at night thinking about the morning when I get to have my pomegranate breakfast again! This morning I listened to classical music and spent a half an hour picking apart two whole pomegranates and putting their seeds, one by one, in a Tupperware container. This will get me through until I leave for Monterey on Tuesday. My pomegranate fix is fixed.

And there’s so much to think about while I pick apart the pomegranate. I think I’m Persephone, who Hades convinced to eat the food of the Underworld (the pomegranate, of course) and once she ate those seeds she could never fully leave the Underworld – that’s how strong the pomegranate’s hold was on her. Every year Persephone had to spend three months in Hades, where I imagine her eating this very breakfast that I’m making. During those three months, nothing would grow on earth and it was winter.

And then there are all those medieval pictures of the Virgin Mary with a pomegranate in her hand, a symbol of her hold over the life and death of her son (which was copied from the pictures of Athena who also held a pomegranate in her hand).

Even the Buddhists have pomegranates in their mythology – I saw pictures in Tibet of the goddess Hariti who was a child eater, but the Buddha cured her of her child-eating by substituting a pomegranate for a child, and Hariti was satisfied with the bloody, crunchy pulp – which I guess was SO like eating children. Anyway, Hariti reformed and afterwards became a protectress of little children. In Japan she is called Kishimojin, and she’s called upon by infertile women to help get them pregnant. She is shown nursing and infant, which is held in one hand and in her other hand she is holding...a pomegranate, of course.

But my favorite pomegranate legend is a Jewish one. The Talmud has a story where the wife of a Rabbi disguises herself as a forbidden beautiful maiden to test her husband’s fidelity. When the Rabbi sees her he is overwhelmed with passion. The disguised maiden tells him, "If you bring me a pomegranate you may ravish me to your heart's desire." So, he climbs to the top of this tree and gets a pomegranate. When he arrives back to where the maiden was, he is shocked to see his wife standing there. Ooooops. "Hi honey, do you care for a pomegranate?" Eeeek. The wife doesn’t seem to be too mad, she sort of laughs and says, “Hey it was only me all along, darling!” But the Rabbi is so devastated by his behavior that he says, “Nevertheless, I would have done evil.” And then he fasts himself to DEATH. Oh dear. Oh dear. That is really feeling bad.

So, I am reading this wonderful book by this wonderful author, "Deconstructing Jesus" by Robert Price. I met Robert Price once and I believe he's coming back to town to give at talk at CFI West in a few weeks. I will definitely be there. He is so insightful and he is so damn smart! I feel close to him because we have the same view of religion, reverent towards the power of religion and the necessity of community and all that, but harsh on the myths that religion is based on. I have only read about forty or so pages -- and it's a Prometheus book so that means the layout sucks and the type is too small, but it's really fascinating reading. I'm learning more about all the different Christian sects that were all over the place in the first two centuries of the common era, the very beginings of Christianity. (This is also tackled in "God Against The Gods" to a certain extent) If you know this stuff, the New Testament makes so much more sense! St. Paul's epistles suddenly read like a polemic against all the other Christian sects: Marconionism, Ebionism, Gnosticism. It's so sobering (and ultimately disturbing) to realize that the more freethinking sects, the ones that encouraged the most individual spiritual exploration (like the Gnostics) were not the ones that were so good at institution building - naturally. And they died out. I feel like that's our Democratic party today.

It's pouring rain here and Mulan has a stomach ache. It's going to be an inside kind of day, I think.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! I, myself, had a delightful day. I performed last night at the M Bar and I got to see many old friends and had a good time revealing myself on stage. Beth Lapides and Greg Miller, who produce the Uncab, were so much fun to catch up with. Taylor Negron was hilarious and I’m still laughing over his set, today.

So, I am working feverishly on my small projects. So, since I don’t really have time to compose a post, I thought, in the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day, to quote here in my blog one of my favorite passages of anything, ever, anywhere. Maybe everyone who might stop in here at my blog already has read it, but for me, Valentine’s Day is a nice day to reread it.

It’s from the prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography.

What I Have Lived For.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, have I achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes and cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by their oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and therefore I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) won the Nobel prize for literature for his History of Western Philosophy and was the co-author of Principia Mathematica.

Monday, February 13, 2006

This is a very quick post, as I'm running to the theater momentarily. But I want to thank everyone who has posted - I wish I could stop and respond to every entry.

I had a great weekend, just great. I got to read the last ten pages of Origin Of Species for Darwin's Birthday celebration at CFI West and I am so honored that I got to do that. I got to meet all sorts of old friends and new friends. I finally talked to Brian Flemming who did the documentary "The God Who Wasn't There." I watched his DVD this morning and it was sooo good, it really fired me up to work! Wow, what an excellent documentary. Everyone should see this.

Anyway, I had a fun show Sunday and I hope I have another fun show tonight. I worked on my Letting Go Of God? script all day. Yeah, you saw that right -- the question mark. I think maybe I'll just add the question mark.

I went to a dinner for this writer, John Hodgman, who has a new book out. I got to see a lot of dear old friends I haven't seen in a long time. And I got to meet Matt Groening, who is going to be at TED next week too. That rocks! I am beat and my eyes are glazing over from looking at a computer screen all day. I will blog more tomorrow. This blog thing rocks.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More images from TAM4. This is me, Hal Bidlack, and his son Chris. I think Hal gave the best, most moving speech of the conference. I hear that James Randi is doing better and I am glad about that.

I saw “Good Night and Good Luck” last night. I think it should win best picture at the Academy Awards. I don’t know if it is the best picture of the year, I think my personal favorite is “Munich,” but I think there’s too much controversy about “Munich” for it to win. Probably just being nominated is as winny as “Munich” is going to get. “Crash” absolutely cannot win or I’m not going to watch the Academy Awards ever again. That movie SUCKS. As my friend Jim Emerson said, the person who wrote it lived in the hills. Meaning that it’s a Hollywood Hills person looking down on Los Angeles imagining what he thinks life is really like out there on the streets. I was openly laughing at Crash with derision by the time it was half way through.

I did not do well on my personal writing yesterday. I kept going on the internet to look up places in Ireland. I am going to this International Atheist Convention in Iceland at the end of June. Richard Dawkins is going to be there, Margaret Downey, and I’m not sure who else, but I am so psyched to see Iceland. I think we will stay about a week there.

So, then, I figured, that if I’m in Iceland I would take Mulan to Ireland. There was a period of five years before I adopted Mulan when I went to Ireland every single year. I have friends in Clifden, in Connemara, on the West Coast. I actually have about sixty or so cousins in and around Dublin, but I don’t really know them. My great grandfather was a taster at the Jameson Whiskey factory just outside Dublin. Honestly that is a job and my great grandfather had it. In any case, if I could swing it, which I’m not sure I can, I would take Mulan to Ireland and she could take horseback riding lessons in Connemara – at this little stable where I took some rides from several years ago. Then maybe we could head over to Inishbofin, this lovely little island off the coast of West Ireland for a little while. Oh what am I thinking? I would have to get so much done in order to do this! I would have to have the book done, the screenplay done, and the TV pilot sold to someone. But all these fantasies kept me from writing most of the day. Even though, completion of the writing is what would allow me to fulfill these fantasies.

Turns out it’s not so easy to go from Iceland to Ireland. You’d think they’d have three flights a day from Reykjavik to Shannon or Dublin. But NO. You have to fly to London, and if we go to London, then we should probably see London and that adds a few days, a few very, very expensive days. And if we go to London, should we then, not fly in and out of London? And I could use my miles for the flights? But then it means back tracking three hours to Iceland. And now you see how a whole day gets lost in the planning and fantasy.

Even though “Good Night, and Good Luck” could have easily sent me spiraling downwards, like after I saw “Why We Fight” did, it didn’t. As my mother would say, I felt “uplifted.” It’s so hopeful, that film. It’s so filled with camaraderie and fighting the good fight and basically winning. I hope it gets best picture, I really do. Ohmygod, George Clooney is a genius. What a filmmaker! I remember when I was in the hospital over ten years ago now -- after my surgery -- when I had cancer -- and Quentin had George Clooney call me at the hospital and say, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” This, of course, was when he was on ER. Then he told me that I’d get better, etc. So, y’know, I feel I am a close personal friend of George Clooney because of this conversation.

All right, back to the grindstone.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Here’s a picture of Daniel Dennet and James Randi, two white-bearded fellows that line up just right one over the other. I took this at TAM4. Oh, how I love that image. James Randi underwent by-pass surgery this week and I am thinking about him a lot and I am worried about him. What a wonderful conference that was. I am still basking in that weekend.

I am pretty pooped, so I probably shouldn't be writing. This could be meandering, but here goes:

Okay. The CD is underway. There is a conceivable possibility that it will, indeed, be available on Feb. 22nd. I spent most of the day getting the information ready for the layout. It will be a 2 CD set with a book that will have the text of the show. The book will be about fifty pages long, a real honest-to-goodness transcript of the whole show. This is not to be confused with “My Beautiful Loss-Of-Faith Story” which is separate and will be much, much longer – an actual book - and include this loss-of-faith journey in depth. I spoke with the people and it even looks like I may have it up on audible by the 22nd of Feb. as well. And if it’s on audible to download, it will also be on ITunes. All this work really makes me want someone else to be in charge of making the movie. It’s so much work! And I am already thinking of what I want to write next. But it is interesting how this whole cd machinery works. I didn’t know anything about this, of course, when I made my God Said Ha! CD for Warner Bros.

I saw “Why We Fight” tonight. It’s a documentary about our Military Industrial Complex. I was feeling a little sad on the way to the movies. I was thinking how precarious our lives are – how we could all just go at any moment. I have spent much of today thinking about my friend Kent who just passed away from colon cancer.

I am seriously fearful of the future. I keep thinking, I hope we can be lucky enough to hold it together as a civilization for just another 100 years. That gets me through my life and Mulan’s life. I know that is just nuts to think that way. I mean there will always be people who someone cares deeply about. Mulan will have her own people she will care about deeply, just as deeply as I care about her. But maybe I’m just selfish. I am not as worried about those people who I don’t know – this abstract group of people -- as I am worried about getting to live out my life in peace and happiness. I hope this doesn't appear as if I'm saying I don't care about people in the future. Or that I'm behaving deliberately selfishly or that I'm trying to make life harder for people in the future. I hope very much that I am not. I even hope I am doing things that make people in the future have a chance at a fuller life in my own little ways.

But I guess what I’m saying is: I’m not optimistic about the future in general.

And I am not normally so pessimistic about the future of mankind, or even of the future of our country. But we are in such a precarious place. Just being a part of nature makes us so deeply vulnerable, in ways that I never fully could see before when I thought God was up there pulling the strings. But even if you take away all the fragility that we impose on ourselves unnecessarily, we still are vulnerable as a piece of nature in a bigger natural setting -- a bigger natural setting that doesn’t care a wit about us in particular.

Sometimes I play down the fear of death as a negative by-product of my lack of belief. But the truth is, especially now that it’s been several years and I can look back on it a little more objectively, the fear of death – or rather, sadness about death – is a much bigger problem in my life. It is truly a trade off. I think you can see much more clearly when you give up all that gobbledygook of religion. But the stark reality of how fleeting life is – oh! See! There’s no way to write about this without resorting to clich├ęs!!! But the reality of how fragile life is – every person, every relationship, how flimsy the fabric of civilization itself is – it’s much clearer. And starker. And depressing. Even while it gives life so much more meaning.

And this causes me additional stress, that’s all I’m saying. Comfort or meaning? Hmmm…

I mean, it’s probably – arguably – a trade off in the long view. Because there are some aspects to my non-belief that have alleviated fear and stress. But sadness and fear about death – it’s increased.

My worries have changed markedly. I used to worry about things and I think I secretly (even secretly from my conscious mind) felt would have an effect. I really thought that my worry had some effect on events! Like my worry was an extension of prayer or something. When you grow up constantly pleading with the universe to allow this or that to happen or not happen – it’s easy to make worry the same as prayer. Worry that so-and-so gets home on time, etc. Now I worry about that much less. I know that my personal concern over events outside my control is not going to affect the outcome.

But now I worry about completely different things. I acknowledge it -- it's things I ALSO have no control over, but they are just...I dunno...bigger things. I worry that there will be some enormous explosion caused by – well, by a bomb or an asteroid or a volcano and I will die and not know if Mulan is safe. Or I will not know what happened. Just that in itself is so upsetting! I think of all those people in the Twin Towers on 9/11 – they didn’t know if it was just their city or building that was hit or if the whole earth had exploded. I hate that idea – the not knowing what will happen after I die. That’s so fucking sad!!!!! I worry that I will suffer and that time will slow down – my mind will do it’s thing in a crisis and slow everything down for me to be aware of every millisecond – and in those milliseconds I will be in excruciating pain or emotional turmoil and then it will just be all over.

And I acknowledge that I have led an embarrassingly privileged life. I have never experienced war first hand. I have never gone hungry. I lived in a stable home town in a close knit community. The best universities were open to me; all I had to do was show I could get into one of them and figure out how to earn the money to pay for it. And I did! I got to spend my twenties pursuing a career in the arts and I live in a country where I have the freedom to speak my mind (so far at least.) I have been able to travel and I was not burdened by having to become a mother against my will. I didn't live in a culture that considered it freakish for a woman to have some control over her life and ambition for herself. I am stupifyingly lucky. I just happened to be born at the right moment in the right place. If I were killed tomorrow I would still be in the category of: luckiest of the lucky. I got 46 fantastic years! Still, I am worried. I covet a future where I will be able to continue to live in such privilege. Where my daughter will live with such joys. I wish more and more of the world got to live like me. But I have to say, the future is NOT bright. It looks dim to me. I feel we are all careening towards disaster. Maybe not in my life time but relatively soon. And it fills me with dread. It’s hard to combat. It’s really, really hard to be “zen” about it. It takes constant attention and diligence not to spiral downwards.

As I drove into the parking lot of the theater complex I went to tonight, I was thinking how, us humans, are all just dancing precariously at the end of a diving board – a high dive – over a big deep empty concrete pool. And we are just chatting with our friends and backing up and backing up and who knows if our shoes are half way off the edge? Who knows if all of humanity’s shoes are halfway off the edge?

All right, now comes the funny part. This was my state of mind BEFORE I decided to see, “Why We Fight.” Yeah. I was near tears as I walked in the theater. And then I saw one of the most disturbing documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s all about the Military Industrial Complex and….well, I was a mess afterwards. I was really missing my dad, too. I remember, just before he died, he was telling me how he had never seen our country so in the clutches of big business, so clever in it’s deep hold on the American people because of it's ability to manipulate the news, and a media so cowed by this oligarchy that it couldn’t force some measure of transparency. And even though things have gotten even worse since he died two years ago, I was wishing he was around to talk to about this documentary.

I have two things to say about Why We Fight and then I’m headed to bed. One is that Hal Bidlack must go find the woman in the documentary that was in the military and left after twenty years, disgusted at what our country has done in Iraq and how the war was handled. Oh, here: her name is Karen Kwiatkowski. Where ever she is, Hal, you must find her and marry her. Also, I think I have to marry the Charles Lewis from the Center From Public Integrity, who is also in the film and he is AMAZING. Julia Lewis. I think it sounds good.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Past and Future

This is what I’m trying to do. I’m trying really, really hard to be in the moment. It’s almost impossible. It’s like our brains aren’t designed for it. Hey, maybe that’s even true. Maybe there’s some evolutionary advantage to us for our brain’s to be constantly planning or remembering.

Maybe it’s because the present minute is too intense. Being in the moment is so real, so overpowering in its mundane authenticity. Maybe that’s why people feel the most “alive” when some raging emotion makes them stop and slow down time. The ecstasy of infatuation, the adrenaline rush of danger, these are feelings that make people feel very in the moment. But what I want to be is present for all the moments: when it isn’t life or death, or I’m not feeling the rush of competition or I’m not intoxicated with the hormones of romantic love. It’s very hard to not spend all my time thinking either about the future or reliving the past. Just being here now – it never gets easier!

Maybe that’s why I like acting on stage. You simply cannot be anywhere but right there. It’s really pleasurable at the moment to be performing my show once or twice a week. The perfect amount. I don’t know my show well enough to allow for shopping lists to be created in my mind while I’m on stage. So there I am, right there, remembering it all, saying it all. It’s great. I love it.

This week’s New Scientist has an article about how our brains process time. I guess we have some sort of ticker in our brain that creates a perception of time. We can control it, we can slow down our brains and teach our monkey minds to take in more. The way to do this is nothing new: meditation, t’ai chi, practicing focus & concentration, etc. What is interesting is that there are parts of our brain that scientists are now just beginning to identify that keeps an internal check on time. It’s called the pacemaker-accumulator or something. Also, it turns out that dopamine controls how our brains keep track of our subjective internal clock. Schizophrenics feel the world is just “crazy” and “accelerating beyond their control” and if the dopamine is regulated or brought down they see the world more accurately. Okay, maybe less accurately, but more conducive to civilization! Caffeine affects our dopamine levels, so does Valium.

We are watching the Super Bowl right now as I type. Mulan, at six years old, is actually into football. Frances, our babysitter, has gotten Mulan hooked. It’s hilarious to me because I could care less. I would never watch this game if it were just me at home, alone. I used to watch games with my dad because he loved sports. He’d even been a sportscaster before he was a lawyer. I grew up with some kind of game on the television, usually on the little black & white we used to have in the kitchen. My dad would have dishrag in his hand, in the middle of washing the dishes, and he’d be bent over the counter concentrating on the television screen and he’d yell, “Oh” “God!” like he’d been stabbed or something. I always thought watching him watch football was much more interesting than simply watching football.

And now I’ve got Mulan begging me to watch the game with her. She’s sitting at her little kids table, which is set up in the living room, and she’s totally engrossed. Of course we’re rooting for Seattle. She just yelled, “Touchdown!” See – now I have someone new to watch, watching football. We called up to my brother Jim and he’s having a Superbowl party in Seattle. How I wish I were there. I like being around people watching a game. I could read, do the dishes, be with my own thoughts and have people nearby engrossed in some activity. That’s heaven. Maybe someday. See – now I’m in the future and the past again! Damnit!

We spent the whole weekend cooking, pretty much. We made vegetable soup last night. It took us both about three hours to do the whole thing, and we soaked the beans overnight (garbanzo, white & kidney) and added them to the soup this morning. Then today we made a chocolate cake – a traditional old-fashioned chocolate layer cake. In a minute we are going to have a bowl of soup and split a piece of cake.

Robert came over this morning and we listened to the final, final, final cut of the “Letting Go Of God” for the cd. It’s really pretty good. I am proud of it and I’m never proud of anything. He did an amazing job. You can’t hear any background music in it. This was my big stumbling block, getting the rights to music. But you can’t hear any of it. Tomorrow we meet with the company that’s going to press the cds and design the artwork. I have all the elements together, finally!! The photo, the credits, the transcript, etc. I had a moment today when it occurred to me that it was all truly going to happen – I was going to get this CD out! Jeez. It’s taken way, way too long. I’m so embarrassed it’s taken so long. On the getting things done front, I finished a version of the “Letting Go Of God” screenplay this week. So it was a very, very productive week. This week I begin assembling the book. One step in front of the next. That’s my mantra for the week. Also, it’s a helpful mantra for the treadmill, I find. And one I’m more likely to follow.

I had a day this week where I considered changing the title of my show (AGAIN!) to “Are You There God? It’s Me, Julia.” My friend Julia J. had suggested it and it really makes me laugh. But I can’t change it to that. It feels like I’m stealing someone’s title. But I do wish I had a title that didn’t keep people away. Maybe I’ll think of something this week. I explained this whole dilemma to my friend Brannon this week and he suggested I call my show “God’s Vagina.” Which made both of us laugh for a long time. It would be funny to you too if you knew how we were talking about “The Vagina Monologues” beforehand. Ooops, I guess you need that set up before it’s funny. See Julia Sweeney in God's Vagina.

What about “Me & God: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” Huh? Huh? I have two more days to decide. Damn, I wish I could just think of something better than “Letting Go Of God.”

On a sad note: Kent Hirohama, who I worked with at the Groundlings, died yesterday of colon cancer. I’m very sad about it. He did the lighting and sound for me on “In The Family Way” when I did a run at the Groundlings, two years ago now.

At the time, I was having friends come and open for me before I started my show. One week, I didn’t have anyone. And I convinced Kent to play drums. He was part of a Japanese style drumming group – Taiko drumming I think it’s called. Anyway, one week he came and set up his drums and did a demonstration – a performance before my show. It was mesmerizing. His body flew across the stage in these precise movements. It was unexpected, somehow, this military precision coming from Kent. But then it all made sense too – this determined quiet soul who didn’t do anything carelessly. The audience thundered with applause. We had many nights together before the show hanging out backstage. I was so sad when he was diagnosed with cancer. I spoke to him only a couple months ago. I am just really, really sad about his death. He was such a sweet, dear, loving, observant, funny, sly person. Even when I heard his kidneys had failed, a week or so ago, I refused to let myself think that death was inevitable. God, life is so fucking short. I can’t get over it. Suddenly all those moments I spent with him are golden and then, fleeting from my mind even as I try to re-grasp them with deeper detail. Life is going too fast. I can’t process everything, everyone, or even every idea. I feel that moments, people, situations are ripped away and even when I try to be present and conscious my memory starts doing it’s dirty, prejudiced work – mixing in this and that.

I’m going to take a picture of this cake before we cut into it. Mulan just ran in and said, “The other team won! We lost.” Only the way she said it was not upset, more like she’s happy for the other team. See, it’s all a win for her. Just, maybe…not technically.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

This is me and Murray Gell-Mann at TAM4. Clearly I am now just bragging and flaunting who I got to hang with over the weekend. But I cannot help it! Also, it's true.

Update on the cd of "Letting Go Of God." Many people are writing to me because I announced on my website that the cd would be done by now. Well, it looks like my cd will be available on Feb. 22 or maybe even before Feb.22. This is when I head up to the TED conference and I already promised I would bring the cd with me. I am meeting with the designers this Monday to go over everything. It will also be available on to download. I will make an announcement to anyone who has written to me about it. The delay is partly due to my own chronic indecisiveness with regards to a few things like which performance to use, which music we were going to use, etc. It's also due to juggling too many projects at once. So, if you are interested in the cd, I apologize. But it's coming! It is, it is.
Oh, the James Frey Fracas Continues…

It has been a supreme act of self-discipline on my part not to spend much of my working day reading about James Frey. I hate that guy so much. And he is such an addict! He still doesn’t appear to really, truly understand how his distortions of the truth were unethical. His answers still attempt to save some face, to make other’s recollections possibly incorrect as well, to salvage some of his reputation. It reads false, STILL. I don’t believe this has chastened him or made him change his behavior. My instinct is that he is predominantly thinking: shit! I wish they’d never have found out. I got screwed!

I think people who adhere to truth, no matter how painful, boring, or un-beneficial to themselves, are those people that I admire the most. And in some ways I’m so GLAD all this happened because this is what my book is all about. Finding a method for exacting truth or as close as possible to what we can agree truth is, and then going with it. This is basically the opposite of what I was taught by my family and by the church. What I was taught was: look, it makes you feel better to believe such and such, so just go ahead!

Oprah did a good thing to have the show denouncing him, but she did this only when she basically had no other choice. Her knee jerk reaction was not only to defend him (which really means she’s defending her very public support of him) but also, to call in to Larry King about it – to come to Frey’s defense. Only when it all spun out of her control did she jump on the bandwagon condemning his assertions.

But still, even though there was still self-interest on Oprah’s part for admonishing him to his face with all those reporters, etc. I am glad she did this. It made me like her even more. And I really hope this experience ends up meaning something to her. About how important truth is, in general. Not just at how meticulously researched memoirs are for accuracy.

I didn’t even speak to my mother about this until today. Of course she defends Frey. She says he only lied a couple of times and she feels bad for him. OF COURSE. Because truth is not a value for her. Now, that sounds awful, but I think she would agree with me. She often says: if it makes me feel better, I’ll believe it. And I will offer my usual disclaimer here: I love my mother deeply and we get along well in spite of this difference between us. But it is a fact that truth was constantly suppressed in our home in favor of what might be more appealing or less inflammatory or convenient or comforting. And I think it’s had detrimental effects.

Of course this is exactly what the Catholic Church taught me too. Look the other way, don’t look too closely: see how comforted people are by this lie we tell them. And then people train themselves to devalue truth. They say truth is relative and that what people believe is true, IS true. It lulls people into this P.C. slackness that means they don’t offend anyone and that reality is just in the mind of the beholder. ARGH. The worst sin of all is that the Church lies about death and life. It encourages people to do things for a later reward that they full well know isn’t coming to them.

The thing I am grappling with is that I think my mother may actually be happier than I am. And I’m pretty happy – don’t get me wrong. But this policy of believing what is convenient or comforting seems to work from a happiness quotient. That’s what KILLS ME. But I have traded that comfort for authenticity. And when I am deeply happy, I feel I am happy for reasons that are as close to truth as I can decipher. And those moments of deep happiness are worth seeing all the horror of reality or feeling very depressed, often, about what’s happening in our world or even in my own life. Plus, what is more important to me, even more than happiness, is purposefulness and meaning.

The Catholic Church in Spokane, the Spokane Diocese, is flooded with lawsuits right now about priests abusing young children. The diocese may even go bankrupt over it. I mean, I have my own problems with this happening – because I know memory is so unreliable and it’s hard -- it’s a difficult problem of our penal system – when there are no witnesses besides the people involved. But still, my mother’s comment about it all was: What I have to say to those people who are suing the priests is this: get over it. Lots of bad things happen to kids. They get over it.

That’s what my mother wishes she could say to those people.

And believe me, I have a lot of “just get over it” inside me. Twenty years ago or so I was kidnapped for several hours and beaten up and – well anyway, I went to a Victim’s Group Therapy for women afterwards for people who had been abducted. And that’s what I thought too: get over it. These people were redefining themselves because of this one unfortunate crime. So, in that sense, I understand where my mother is coming from.

On the other hand, it’s another example of a knee jerk reaction to side with authority and suppress the truth. And that’s just what Bush is doing, that’s just what the Catholic Church is doing, that’s just the same mindset that allows Frey to write what he feels like writing without a flinch – with no deep wrestling inside him over what is true and what isn’t.

It really gets me riled up.