Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Well, today I spent most of the day editing with Tony. This is very enjoyable. I mean, I have to say I really, really love it. The film is coming together and even though there will be a few possibly jarring cuts from this to that – necessitated by my own flubbing a line, or a camera operator’s camera becoming momentarily out of focus (mostly my fault since I often jump up and move without notice) I think the film is going to be professional and representative and maybe, even possibly GOOD. I am relieved. I will be proud… I think. I mean, I still haven’t finished the editing and I still haven’t mixed the sound and music and there’s so far to go before it’s really what it needs to be. But I am optimistic. My jaw line may not be as sharp as it once was, but this film will be as sharp as – well as is possible under the circumstances, and that is good enough for me.

I don’t have much to say tonight except I wanted to respond to a post by a Mule Skinner on my blogspot. (I copy my blog onto the blogspot and the forum and I read every single response.) Anyway, Mule Skinner is not a fan of mine, and that is TOTALLY FINE. I am happy this person wrote. She/he or whoever wrote rather nastily. Later, another poster noted that this person did not really identify himself or herself and chastised them for it. Personally I think it’s good that someone can write to me without identifying themselves. That makes it more honest, I think. Anyway, I just wanted to respond. But first let me repost what Mule says and answer as I see fit.

Anyway, he mule skinner said...
I saw "God said Ha!" live, in Los Angeles, in 1996. In that, Julia makes several loving references to a nun for whom she reserves no small amount of admiration, and says lots of nasty things about Pope John Paul II as well as the Catholic Church._

My response: I do, in that monologue, make a few references to Sister Antonella, a nun who taught me at Mary Cliff High School and who taught English Literature. I liked her a lot and she became a sort of friend. I mention her in “Letting Go of God” as well. I don’t say a lot of nasty things about Pope John Paul II as I recall. I do say I didn’t like him and that when I bought his book I was embarrassed and felt I had to get a book to put on top of it and underneath it when I was buying it, as if it were pornography. I say (in that monologue) that I need to keep up on what the Pope is saying so I can refute him. My thoughts about this now are: who would have thought that John Paul II was going to be the liberal Pope compared with who followed him!!!?!!! Ha. That makes me laugh. Cardinal Ratzinger is SO much worse, in my opinion than John Paul II. I don’t remember saying lots of nasty things about the Catholic Church in that monologue. I have a lot more nasty things to say now. But I do remember telling the story of going to see “Nunsense” and being offended at how nuns were portrayed like cartoons in that show. And that this is not my experience of nuns. I don’t know, I think that’s defending Catholicism. But maybe for you, Mule, defending nuns does not equal defending Catholicism. In any case, it’s all moot because I have so many more beefs with the Catholic church now than I had then. Anyhoo – let’s read Mule’s post further:

Mule writes:

The essential problem with this schtick is the fact that God looms large in the life of every atheist. God means more to Julia than to the average believer, and is constantly on her mind._

My response:

Yes, this may be true. And that – as I believe another poster pointed out, is because I was hoodwinked for so many years. When you take on a worldview the way religion has you believe it, and then discard it, it’s hard NOT to have it dominate your thoughts for some time. And that is true for me. Also, even if this wasn’t the case, because our current President is so religious and so much has been legislated and done in the name of religion in the last six or seven years, it makes me livid as a citizen. I wouldn’t say that God looms large, but me seeing the negative effects of belief in God looms large for me. It’s impossible for it not to. On the other hand, I feel I am over God. If I weren’t doing this show and I weren’t living in a country where religion dominates and contributes to so much catastrophe and stupidity, I don’t think I would be thinking about God at all.

Mule writes:

_Another problem is the fact that it is just not funny. God Said Ha! wasn't funny. Pat wasn't funny. It was excrutiating.__

My response: Well, humor is definitely in the mind of the beholder. I don’t know how to respond to that except to say that enough people were laughing to keep the show open and ticket sales were steady enough that it encouraged me to keep doing it. On the other hand – it’s true, in a city as big as Los Angeles, if there were a monologue about cat mutilation, there might be enough people around who wanted to see that, and it may have a long run. So, a long run is probably not a good indicator of funny. In any case, I accept that you didn’t think my shows were funny. In the case of the Pat movie, you have a large group of people on your side. I thought Pat was funny, but the movie was a big bomb. So, touché.

Mule writes: All of the 'jokes' are crafted to appeal to a microscopic segment of America, that being the Hyperion Avenue, 90026, 90027 zip codes. And no one else. __

My response: Wow! Why didn’t I open my show in that zip code? I had no idea! I don’t even know those zip codes, but I feel should be advertising my film there.

Mule writes:

Without politicking this demographic, Julia would likely still be stealing money from the bar she was working at, rather than from network television.__Like "It's Pat!" this latest effort wil fall as flat as a tarantula on a baby's face.

My response: Well, I seriously doubt I would still be bartending like I was twenty five years ago, but… I don’t know. Wait, so what you are saying is that I have been politicking this demographic for success? Does that include SNL? What about the other TV work? Voice overs? If you are talking about a larger city indie-type demographic, I have earned diddly from that. Most of the money I’ve earned has come from much more mainstream endeavors that you, Mule, would probably approve of. And as far as stealing money from the bar goes, Mule is speaking of a story I told on This American Life where I talked about skimming money from the bar when I was 22 and 23. I regret doing that. It was completely wrong. I told the story because I was interested in how I, as a person who considered myself to be very upstanding and moral, could have let myself justify such behavior. It’s embarrassing and still embarrasses me. But that’s why I wanted to talk about it. Not only that, in that time of my life, the Catholic church played a small part in it. I do not blame my Catholicism for this behavior, I assure you. But I had a twisted view of what opportunity meant – as I discuss in more detail in the This American Life episode. So you could say that Catholicism, in a way, was a character in that story. This is a longer discussion, but I do not think I would still be skimming dollars off at a bar 25 years later. I really don’t.

And now for Mule’s analogy that my film’s reception will be like that of a tarantula falling flat on a baby’s face. Where did you get that? I have not heard this before. Did you make that up? It’s kind of good. Is my film the tarantula? Is the movie-consuming public the baby’s face? I don’t see that this means: bomb.

But aside from that. Yes, maybe this film will fall flat. I have no idea. I feel just so glad that it’s finally a film at all, after all this time. And now I can begin to stop performing it, because I am getting so tired.

And on that note, I retire for the night….

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I am immersed in editing my movie of “Letting Go of God.” I am working at home, with a guy named Tony, and we are spending many hours a day going through footage and assembling a rough cut of the film. And so, most of my thoughts have to do with this.

And frankly, this process is not all that interesting unless you are the person editing it. For me, it is very interesting because I feel like five years of work is finally assembling itself in an interesting way. And this is my very favorite part of the process. I like this part more than pre-production and much more than shooting. This is like you are a knitter and you finally have the yarn and the pattern and the knitting needles and now you are just joyfully knitting away.

Since I am the actress in the film, I don’t know what a lot of the footage looks like and I’m seeing it for the very first time. And there are, ahem… surprises.

For example, I have learned that at some point in the last four years I turned into my aunt Barbara. And I had absolutely no idea until I started editing my film.

Oh my god.

I am my aunt Barbara.

Fortunately I loved my aunt Barbara. She did die when she was 56, she pointedly drank herself to death, and that was very sad for all of us that were trying to stop her. And she did it in a very Leaving Las Vegas-y kind of way – canceling her health insurance, going to the store and buying a shopping cart full of booze, coming home and turning on the TV, and waiting. And soon it was all over.

So, okay, it didn’t end well for her. But aunt Barbara was just… great. She was funny and laughed a lot and she was smart and so caring about us kids.

I normally think I look more like my aunt Bonnie – who I think is very pretty and also, she is still very much in my life.

But no, I don’t look so much like aunt Bonnie. It’s aunt Barbara – I’m definitely aunt Barbara. And then there are all the Chicago aunts – aunt Barbara’s aunts. And all of them, their faces did this thing – when they hit their mid-to-late-forties, their faces did this thing – where they went from mostly oval to mostly square. All of them. How did I think I was going to escape this inevitability?

I guess if I was going to nail it down, I had this vague idea that I were going to age like Audrey Hepburn did. I think this must be related to the idea I had at age eleven that I would get older and look like Cher.

And then there’s my mouth. I don’t have my mother’s mouth. I have my mother’s mother’s mouth. My grandmother, Marie – it’s right there for me to remember and identify it. Every time I make an “r” sound – Grandma Ivers is living on.

You know, you don’t look at yourself all that much. I mean, unless you are a crazed narcissist who spends the day gazing into the mirror, you don’t really spend all that much time looking at yourself. A few minutes in the morning, a few more minutes mid-day maybe. You spend a lot more time looking at other people, especially those that you live with and those you hang out with. It struck me just recently and with some profundity that the average person doesn’t really know what they look like day in and day out like their loved ones do.

So here I am, spending some weeks in a dark room looking at a screen of MYSELF. Oh gawd. When I edited “God Said Ha!” which was at a post-production house and not at home (like you can do now with Final Studio 2 which seems to be working seamlessly,)I drove home every night for the first two weeks in tears. I remember it well, because the tears would start about a mile from where I was working, just as I turned onto the 101 Freeway and headed the next few miles home. I usually had recovered myself by the time I arrived to my house. You see, I liked the performance in “God Said Ha!” but I just hated the way I looked.

Now, when I see God Said Ha! (which I had to do as I prepared for this current shoot) I think I look fine – good even. Possibly great. I am WISTFUL over how I looked then. I guess some part of me knows that eventually I will feel that way about this movie too – but oh! People! Imagine if you had to spend hours at a time just looking at yourself! It’s a Zen exercise in self-acceptance. And also, sort of a nightmare. But I have to admit… interesting. Like I suddenly realize, “Oh, when I move my arm like this, it looks like that. And then I turn my head just this way, why it looks like that. And oh -- so this is what other people look at when they look at me, oh, oh, oh!” And then all the insecurity, resignation, rallying self esteem kicks in and finally I become just an object, a dissociated-from-me-object that is the focus of a film and I editing it together, stitch stitch, stitch.

My friend Kathy Griffin says you can get yourself stretched. Yes, on screen. The digital age – you know. Maybe I’ll try it. Just a wee little teensy 5% stretch. No, maybe 7.5%. I may look like a giraffe by the time I’m done.

The set for the film is filled with furniture from my living room and also books and objects from around my house. And I felt so… well – I’ll say it, at “home” on stage. But now that I look at it, it all looks so fussy. And old-ladyish. My shock at having become aunt Barbara is exacerbated by the fact that I inherited many of Aunt Barbara’s (and my Grandmother Henrietta’s) things and those are the very things are on the set. Like I have an old religious triptych of the Madonna and child that has been in our family for over 100 years, a large Mexican rosary that hung above my grandmother’s bed, a painting of a young woman in a bonnet that was in their living room. When I inherited those objects, I put them up and around my house in “honor” of my beloved, now dead relatives. What I thought was in respect of them, turned out to be something much darker. Because, you see, I DIDN’T REALIZE I WAS TURNING INTO THEM! Oh jeez.

It makes me want to sell my house and all my belongings and buy a very contemporary house that is stark and clean and… modern! And not at all like aunt Barbara.

Even though, I loved aunt Barbara. I just didn’t know, I just had no idea; I just am so astonished that I turned into her!



Which I suppose is my fate. And fortunately, and I’ll say it again, I loved aunt Barbara. Yes, it’s true; she was deeply depressed and lonely. (The comedy writer in me wants to write here: … and who isn’t? But the truth is, I am not depressed and I am not lonely. Even though I feel like I am much like my aunt Barbara in so many ways.)

Please don’t write to me: no! You look good. DO NOT. I know, I look all right. Really, I feel good. But let me ask you, how would you feel if you had to spend hours and hours and hours looking at yourself? It is… a rather deep moment of truth to experience, let me tell you.

All righty…

p.s. I loved all the comments on the last post. It’s nice to know that so many others jab at the radio station channel to turn off Bush the way I do. And I loved, LOVED, “Will someone please give Bush a blow job so we can impeach him?” bumper sticker. I would put that one on my car if I had it. Although I would have to come up with some explanation for Mulan. Hmmm… It means that Clinton got such a bad hair cut and blow dry that he was impeached? It means that…

Okay, the comedy writer in me has completely failed me in this moment.

Anyway, back to editing…

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You know, I can’t even hear him anymore. When President Bush is on TV, or on the radio, I almost always instinctively change the channel or the station. I can tolerate listening to Bush in post script – I mean, I can hear people making comments about his speeches or “quips” or whatever he does that constitutes talking. I can hold by breath and just barely take it when there is commentary about his speeches, but I can’t actually listen or watch them as they occur. I just hate him too much.

And it doesn’t feel like a cerebral, intellectual choice. It feels like it’s instinctive, and I am repulsed. Like he is not just a president who I really don’t like, but instead spoiled milk in my fridge, milk that I innocuously lift to my nose and then recoil from and nearly gag. I can’t help it. When I am in the car and his voice invades my otherwise thoughtful sanctuary, I watch my hand change the station even before I am aware that he is speaking! Yes. It’s that bad. It’s below the level of awareness, and I cannot control it and I don’t want to control it. Usually, if it’s an important speech, I will read it in the paper the next day. Then, I can digest it -- nearly. But I cannot hear his voice, I cannot watch his cocky arrogant teenagish demeanor, I cannot peer into his chicken eyes and I cannot stomach his permanent smirk. I hate how he rests his body weight on one foot and leans in with one shoulder, like the smart aleck in junior high (see how I’m making him less mature with each analogy?) and I hate his superior snicker. I hate him. It’s beyond anything rational, I just HATE HIM SO MUCH.

Unfortunately, yesterday, at the gym, I was on the stair master and Bush was in the middle of his latest speech (which I think was actually given the night before) and the spectacle of him was on both the TV channels right in front of me and I have no idea how to change them and other people were watching, so I really couldn’t. The sound was off, but you could read the text of his speech below him.

All I can say about this is, every time I write off this last eight years or bemoan how we have injured the world by electing this pig, or worry, worry, worry that we will never regain any sort of respect in the world, and every time I think of other president’s blunders and think how bad Bush is compared with even the worst other presidents we’ve had and then I just think I’ve settled that in my mind: Bush is the worst, he’s taken us closer to the brink, blah blah blah end-of-story: every time I’ve done this, when I am confronted with the man afresh – when I can’t avoid him – when he is there before me as I step up and on the stair master for example…I am again shocked and flabbergasted that the specter of him is so ghastly. So much worse than I had thought before; before when I thought he was the WORST POSSIBLE. How does he do that? It’s like he had broken some physical law or something.

And I have to admit, I have a hard time listening to the news about all the violence in Iraq. I can’t really do anything about it in the short term. It upsets me so deeply and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want to get jaded, or thick-skinned about it. I think doing that is somehow to lose my humanity, to lose my real compassion, it’s almost an insult to those who are dying. I am tired of having Mulan watch me well up in tears as we drive to gymnastics as I listen to another report about another death squad. Another group of bodies found in the morgue, of another bomb in a marketplace or another group of soldiers turned up burned beyond recognition.

I think, back when I believed in God, I thought that - my being upset about something meant something to the Universe. Like God was listening. It must have been some extension of being coached to pray about my troubles. This idea that collective anger or fear meant something, changed something somehow. But now I see little reason to get upset repeatedly about something that I can do nothing about.

I am doing probably the minimum that each person who is reading this blog might be doing too – I am contributing money to different candidates and to the Democrats, I am teaching my daughter, bit by bit, about how to be an informed citizen. I send in the occasional letter that someone sends me to then send to my representatives. And when I think of doing more, I think I am barely able to get the stuff done in my life that I have to get done right now! I know, I’m just a complainer. Oh! I hate that too! I’m just a complainer!

So in the meantime, I jerk my arm at the radio when Bush is speaking and recoil from my stair master as he blathers on and sometimes I have a news blackout just so I can drive around town without getting distressed. And now it’s been going on so long! It’s become a way of life. Mulan, for example, knows of no other President than this one. She does not know what it is like to be living in a country not at war.

And you can’t believe what it’s like (or maybe you can, maybe you are in the same boat) to be explaining how and why we are in this war to a seven year old. I’m watching Mulan become aware of the world while I explain to her what she just heard on the radio, or how we see people in military fatigues at the airport, or how – when we were at my brother’s house recently and his wife’s brother, who is a pilot, had recently returned from a tour in Iraq and why he and his wife were hoping so much that he didn’t have to go back. And it isn’t glamorous and it isn’t even manly or exciting, it’s just tragic, the whole damn thing. And I have to explain it again and again and it’s a tricky dance because I don’t want her to become cynical or resigned to government being so awful. But so far, that’s all she knows.

Ug. I don’t know, I just needed to rant about this this morning I suppose.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I am in a fog. That’s because, for the second time this year, I have given up coffee. I like really strong coffee. And I have been able to, pretty easily, give it up when I felt like it. My boyfriend says that he already knows what he’d have to do to give up coffee. He would have to have nothing he needed to accomplish for five days and he would have constant headaches. And he would have to be lying down for most of the day. But not me, I told him. I can do it relatively painlessly and when I want to.

But then this morning, two days in, I woke up in this fog. I am walking around like I’m in water, no - under water and the water is thicker than water. It’s a soup. I can’t think very quickly and I want to sleep every minute. I just took Mulan to her violin class and I actually did fall asleep while she was playing, and I woke up with a jerk as she and her teacher shouted “Hurray!” because she had completed some string of notes without a mistake. I had drool on my cheek.

Oh god, is it coffee that has prevented me from early old-agehood???

This is probably not exactly the best state-of-mind to be in to begin writing my blog again. But here I am.

Well, the show was filmed and now I am getting it ready to submit to film festivals. My dream would be to go with it to Telluride and to Toronto, but – at least as far as Telluride goes, it’s a long shot. But I am feeling optimistic, in general, about the play as a film. I am also in a huge state of relief. I have two more shows I’ve committed to, in Chicago, in June. But after that, I’m not sure if I want to keep performing the show. I mean, maybe I’ll miss it and want to do a show or two in the fall, but we will see.

In the meantime, I am organizing my house and recovering from everything. At this moment, Mulan is seated next to me and she is doing her two-digit-subtraction homework.

Today I walked over to Jill Sobule’s house (she lives only a few blocks away) with my dog Arden, and we talked about our show. Now that I have “Letting Go of God” shot, I will concentrate on our show, “The Jill & Julia Show.” We also hope to film our show, possibly as early as December. In any case, we were goofing around and we started to write a song for “Letting Go of God” the movie, and it was so much fun. I could maybe use this song for the final credits or something. Jill came up with a great tune for the chorus and then I’m sort of Rex Harrison-ing it by talking about the whole religion quest. It was funny. She recorded it and we’re going to work on it. It might turn into something.

Yesterday I spent a half an hour talking to Roseanne Barr on her radio show that is recorded out of Las Vegas. She is very much against religion, but calls herself “spiritual.” (I think I do too – I go back and forth on that one, whether I should be using that name or not.) Anyway, I like Roseanne. She did an early Pat sketch with me on Saturday Night Live, so I’ve known her for a while. I like it when she comes on Bill Maher. I like how much she doesn’t care what people think about what she thinks. She always makes me laugh when she is on that show. Anyway, she mentioned in the radio show that she had had a religious type of experience at a very young age and that this made her believe in a supernatural type of god type something. And of course I also had these types of experiences. She said she didn’t need to debate over proof of God or not because this experience made it real for her. Even though she is very down on any type of organized religion, as I said. Anyway, we only touched on this topic for a moment, but I did ask her if she were interested in whether she wanted to know more about the experience she had. And she said, “If you can’t trust your personal experience, what can you trust?” Which I took for, “No.”

And this got me thinking and chewing on this idea for the rest of the day. And that is, one of the biggest upsets on my particular journey, is that I learned not to trust everything I had experienced. I guess it boils down to that old adage, the one I have seen on a bumper sticker. And that is: Don’t believe everything you think.

It’s hard to get people to second-guess their experiences. Or to look at them critically. And when the result is something that has only been perceived as beneficial to them (like in this case, believing in God) then why do I even want to get them to second guess it?

Well of course, I do want them to. Because that leads to one of the most startling discoveries, that our experiences are so… biased! And so… unreliable! And morphing!

And it is hard to get your bearings about yourself and what you even think after you realize this. Or at least this was true for me.

I just read “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert. It’s funny and insightful and oh – all of you should read it right away! Actually it’s even better on audio. You can download it from audible.com or iTunes. He reads it himself. He deals a lot with this topic – not about religion, but how we sell ourselves to ourselves and how we construct narratives that make our experiences make sense – even when those narratives are probably wrong. The other book I’ve just finished is Carol Tavris’ “Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me.” Also, fantastic.

And then, I’ve seen a couple of movies that I have liked very much. “The Year of the Dog” and “Once.” Molly Shannon is fantastic in “The Year of the Dog.” I think she should get an Academy Award nomination for it. To me, it’s a movie about learning how to find your place in the world. Plus, it’s hysterical. And then, “Once” – an Irish film about two musicians, made me want to move to Dublin immediately. In fact, when the movie ended, I wanted to jump up and object to the screen – I had moved myself into that movie and it was unfair to just dump me out into my seat at the theater just like that. No, no, no. I wanted it to go on and on.

That’s all. I am really going to try to write much more often.