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Apr 25

Sick and Tired and Over-Worked

Frank MoraesHave you missed me? I’m sick and tired and over-worked. Really. I have some awful kind of flu. I’m not sleeping well. And I have various obligations that are making attention to this blog very difficult. But I thought I could spend a few minutes ranting to you about stuff that’s on my mind. But note that throughout this week, I will post what I can, I’m just not sure what I’ll be able to post. (Maybe stuff like this.)

Politics

I know most of the regulars around here come for the politics. To be honest, I don’t know why. None of you seem to agree with me. And more and more I’m seeing myself as an old fashioned socialist. You know: like George Bernard Shaw. But you know, without the brilliance. Anyway, I wanted to say something about politics — keep you all interested.

I hear that our man from whine country, Josh Barro, thinks that the Republicans won’t agree on cutting taxes. You know: because a lot of Republicans want tax reform and Trump simply wants to cut taxes. It always amazes me that a man with all Barro’s advantages can be so amazingly ignorant. Who thinks the Republicans aren’t going to come together to cut the taxes of the rich? That’s their raison d’etre. Give me a break!

Spider Baby

I might be doing great when you read this. Or terrible. But I’ll be busy. I hope by this weekend, I’ll be back writing the kind of considered nonfiction that you’ve come to expect of me.

In 1967, Jack Hill made a horror-comedy called Spider Baby. I’ve been obsessing about it. I can’t believe that I had never seen the film until about a week ago. It stars Lon Chaney as a very caring and sympathetic chauffeur and caretaker of three children who are, well, insane — if that’s the right word. It is laugh-out-loud funny and hide-your-eyes scary.

Not that I expect any of you to care. Oh, a few you will, I suppose. In fact, I can even imagine someone commenting that it’s their favorite film. Of course, no one commented on the quote I posted about Jill Banner, so maybe not. My taste in film has change, and as with most things in my life, it’s just pushed we further into isolation. But if you get a chance to see the film, give a view for me.

The Plays

You know, I’ve written a couple dozen plays, but none of them are “feature” length: one and a half to two hours. And so I’ve been working really hard to turn a 45 minute play into a full length one. And after much painful work, I’ve decided to screw it. I probably mentioned that I was working on a play where the cast and crew (the same thing in my plays) divide into two factions and go to war with each other.

I haven’t been able to make it work. But I know that I can — I just have to spend the time on it. But it occurred to me the other day that it made no sense to do that in that play. And that got me thinking that it’s madness to try to make any of my plays this long. They aren’t truly plays but theatrical essays. I get over a half an hour on a very wacky comedy about MP3 compression. That in itself is a herculean accomplishment.

Turn the Water Off

The whole thing reminded me that one of my favorite plays when I was a kid (and now too) is Robert Anderson’s 1967 smash Broadway play You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running. And what is that? It’s just 4 short plays put together. Now I’m no Anderson. But it did occur to me that I could make a play where the first act is two 30 minute plays and the second act is a 45 minute play.

And then I can take the play around to theater people and show it them. That will provide the high point of my life were the head of some theater company says, “Haven’t you ever seen a play?!” That would be delicious!

Because that’s all I’ve got: I’m weird. Yes, I’ve seen many plays. And I’ve read hundreds. And the things that I’ve taken from them are different than what most people have taken from then. I really do know what I’m doing. But I’m not Shaw. I’m not Anderson. That’s probably why Psychotronic Review is so important to me. You might hate my play “MP3” (I’m not that fond of it myself, although it has 10 minutes that are magic). But it would be different from what you expect. And you wouldn’t know how it was going to end.

(Am I alone in this? Does it bother any of you that you know how almost every play and film is going to end? There’s a reason for that: the play wouldn’t work otherwise. At least it wouldn’t in a traditional story. But good God: have we learned nothing since Homer?!)

So the idea of knowledgeable people hating my work is wonderful. I’ve always felt much better as an outsider. It’s easier to be hated than loved. (There is, of course, the small chance that there is an audience for my work — but that’s a chance I’m willing to take.)

That’s All Folks

I don’t know how much I’ll be able to write this week. But I’m not going anywhere. In fact, as I sit here, drinking my Theraflu, I’ve gotten kind of excited. I might be doing great when you read this. Or terrible. But I’ll be busy. I hope by this weekend, I’ll be back writing the kind of considered nonfiction that you’ve come to expect of me. (Note: “considered” was added to that sentence as a joke.) Although I really have about 3,000 pent up words on Spider Baby, and you know I’m not going to be publishing it here.

10 comments

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  1. RJ

    Give yourself some credit, Frank. There are a very limited number of sites where I can have a discussion with people who basically agree with me, but disagree on specific points. Regardless of political leaning, the vast majority of sites rarely are able to feature discussion of this sort. Package-dealism for left and right both.

    There are very few sites in which people can fiercely champion a more leftist polity without the bizarre and delusional cheerleading for leftists, labour leaders, and dubious intellectuals of the past. I read C. Robin on occasion and while there is much of value in his blog, boy is high (i.e. stoned) on intellectualism.

    You discuss ideas and policies with which you disagree, through criticism and not vituperation. There are a very limited number of Internet writers I’ve seen do this. You appear to value rational argumentation, not just when it is convenient but consistently and habitually. I like that very much.

  2. Dave L

    I’m glad we don’t agree 100% on everything. If I only read people who agree w/ me 100%, then I will never learn anything, never grow, never have to think about anything new. A definite danger in the Internet age. Even if I think you’re wrong, if your argument is cogent and well-founded (and yours are) then I have to examine and study my own opinions to marshal my counter-arguments, even if I don’t post them. Never a bad thing.

    One of my favorite topics of yours is grammar. Right now, I’m trying to write a story, and the best form I can find for the very first sentence contains a split infinitive.

    I personally like plays and movies that are anthologies , like Creepshow, Trilogy of Terror, and Tales That Witness Madness, though I know most people don’t.

    I frequently enjoy your posts, even if I don’t comment. I don’t like to comment just to say “I agree” or good post” or “you suck” or “FIRST!!!” I want my comments to add something substantive to the conversation, maybe spark continuing comments.

    Sorry that you’re ill. Hope you feel better.

  3. James Fillmore

    Most political writers are sharing their positions. You share the process you’re going through as your thinking evolves. It’s more interesting than being told what we should think. But I can easily see how the prospect of writing about politics under Trump sounds discouraging. Didn’t we just go through this with Bush for eight years? It’s like living next to a cobra farm and writing articles about why finding cobras in your basement sucks. It gets old.

  4. paintedjaguar

    Sleep really is the best medicine for most of what ails us. Sounds as if you might be like me, often too restless to get enough of it without some enforcement Even just lying in bed reading isn’t restorative – deep and extended sleep is what’s needed.

    You might want to find some drug that will produce this for you without counterproductive side effects. Responses to drugs vary from person to person of course. Melatonin is something I’ve found helpful and innocuous, but the effects are relatively mild. The best sleep aid I’ve run across personally is a prescription antihistamine called hydroxyzine pamoate (Vistaril).

    A 25mg dose of this stuff will put me out like a light within 30 minutes and keep me there for nearly 24 hours. Although I may wake up several times, and can stay awake if I need to, the tendency is to keep drowsing back off until it’s out of my system. At the end of this I just feel physically rested, without the headache, nausea, or drained feeling I may get from other drugs or from simple oversleep.

    Hydroxyzine pamoate has both antihistamine and some antiemetic effects and is a skeletal muscle relaxant..It is commonly prescribed for anxiety or insomnia at doses of 50mg to 100mg. The most common reported effect of overdose is hypersedation. As I said, 25mg or even less is plenty for me. I’ve never taken it for more than a single day. Your mileage may vary.

  5. Elizabeth

    I talk to you on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes Skype and you vacation with me.

    Mainly because someone in your life needs to push you to not work so much. To enjoy just being even if I can’t do that.

    So while I like this blog, I can and do bug the crap out of you elsewhere.

  6. Claire Broadley

    Surely I’m not alone in wanting to hear the skit about MP3 compression?
    Take it easy today! Rest is the best medicine!

    1. Frank Moraes

      Much of the play’s 10 minutes of magic is based on the cartoons I watched as a kid — specifically Tennessee Tuxedo and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Although the overall theme is a conversation between and angry dog and his owner, because MP3 compression takes out stuff that humans can’t hear, but dogs can. Unfortunately, I took two characters from a screenplay I wrote over 20 years ago, and I don’t think they work. (I have a solution, I just have to get it down on paper.) But yes: I know there are freaks about who will get the kind of stuff I’m doing, even when they don’t get all the allusions. Somewhere I wrote something like, “I write plays for 5-year-olds who have PhDs in Classics.” That’s an exaggerated statement, but I certainly think that most people would simply find my work baffling. But I am going to try to be strong and start shopping some of my work around. However, I am in an awkward place where my plays are about half experimental and half children’s show or circus. I don’t think I’ve ever written a play without at least one puppet in it. Some have many.

      1. James Fillmore

        The American Shakespeare Center is having an open contest for new plays based on Shakespeare’s characters, plots, real life, etc. Winners get their play produced and prize money. You should check it out; aside from not using any fancy new technology, the guidelines are really open. Sounds like a “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern” set in modern times would be perfectly acceptable.

  7. Lawrence

    “although it has 10 minutes that are magic”
    I enjoy writing, or, rather I used to. And this was my problem. My fiction had some really (I thought) great bits, wonderful visions, encased in a rather bland, or worse, story. It’s probably something I could fix with a few writers’ workshops. But I never bothered. Or perhaps I’m just not that creative. I threw out one thing I had put a good deal of writing into when I read through it and realized how derivative it was of other things I had read. That and I realized, to my horror, it was turning into a steampunk story. “Zeppelins, blimps… why did I put so many blimps in it? Begone!”

    1. Frank Moraes

      I recommend against workshops. With my work, the key is structure given that they aren’t traditional narratives. If you want a kind of idea of what I write, watch F for Fake. So I just have write and write and write to find the structure. I normally know all the bits I want going into a project. But you face two issues when you’re in the situation you’re talking about. You either work it to death. I wrote a feature length screenplay with another writer, and she finally ran away after I had pushed us to over 70 drafts. But you have to know when something is never going to work. That’s the hardest thing. I’ve taken mediocre stuff and worked on it a lot only to make it much worse. I think what keeps me going is that I find myself incredibly amusing. Sad, but true.

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