Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A LITTLE (BIG) WHITE LIE


[ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES TODAY. NEW ONE TOMORROW]

I was watching a ‘news’ show the other night and the whole show was about the big lies that some people tell, not the small ones like, ‘I’m really 38 again. Really I am.’ In this case the lies ran the gamut from people impersonating people, lying about one’s age (the man in question went back to high school to relive his glory as a basketball player) and the doozy of all doozies, a woman lied to her boyfriend, her family and the community at large about her health. We’ll get to that one in a minute.

The overwhelming trend of the entire program – aside from the fact that all these individuals had a serious lying problem – was the sheer desperation from which these people operated their lives. Each clearly had a hole the size of the Grand Canyon where the scruples and soul were supposed to be and yet, the crazy part was, each assumed that their intention for the lie was coming from the right place. I suppose that is what everyone thinks when they spin a big fat white one (aside from serial killers and murderers; something tells me the don’t give a sh*t about intention). It never continues to amaze me how one can, over time, believe their own lies.

So the less offensive of the offenders (and I say this lightly as…well, it’s shades of grey when it comes to this lot) was a guy who lied about his age and returned to high school so he could relive his golden moments as an athlete – guess his path as a professional athlete was limited. Harmless enough – outside of being totally sad, as whom the hell wants to relive high school. Okay fine, I’m sure a lot of us would like to return to a simpler time when all we had to worry about was exams and how much beer to drink at the weekends; but on paper, it is kind of scary someone took that much time to fabricate an entire identity so that they could return to the hallowed halls of False Security High. He was of course eventually spotted out with his ‘high school’ buddies by his adulthood buddies – or at least people that knew him under a different name, and the gig, as they say, was up.

The other offender was definitely more unbelievable and well, downright criminal. He was an middle aged man that was dressing as an old woman and then going into banks to…well, I fell asleep during the good bit, but when I woke up he was dressed in old lady drag taking his mug shot, so I assumed he had committed a felony and was going to psych ward in a New York Minute.

But the lie that absolutely floored me as well as the reporter on the show (I love a reporter’s face when they’re interviewing someone who they think is certifiable) was about a woman and what she would do to keep her man. Sheila – let’s call her that cause I have limited memory at this point – was having problems with her boyfriend. They had had two children, but he wouldn’t commit, and they broke up numerous times and previous to the big fat doozy of a lie, he was ignoring her and being a pretty crap baby daddy. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, Sheila decided that she would pretend that she was dying of cancer so that baby daddy would put a ring on it. Apparently this method worked and to her shock, worked so well that he moved her in to his house within days and the within weeks the entire community had rallied around her and started donating towards their wedding, honeymoon and her final days on this planet. Even the newspapers got involved writing touching tributes about this blushing bride with only a few months to live.

The only snag of course was that Sheila was in perfect health and had no idea how to stop the freight train of a lie that was HURTLING down the track towards a very large brick wall called CONSEQUENCE. And of course, instead of stopping the lie before the money started pouring in, the free honeymoon, the dress, make-up and all the rest of it was showered upon her, she decided to shave her head, pretend she had chemo and dive straight into the deep end of the liar’s abyss. Unreal, right? The best part, when she was telling this whole story to the reporter, she was trying to justify it all by telling the audience how torn up she was by the lie that she wanted to kill herself. So torn up and suicidal that she has a two hour video of her at her wedding doing an in depth dirty dancing number with her husband where she is partying like it’s 1999…or like she has cancer.

Needless to say, she finally got found out, was utterly ostracized by everyone, lambasted in the press, became a national news story, but get this…her husband took her back and said, ‘I tried to hate her, but love is love.’ As you can see, he’s a pretty generous, forgiving man – or a total gullible moron, I’m not sure which. Humans never cease to amaze (mortify) me. 



Thursday, 14 August 2014

EVERYTHING IS PERFECT


I hate the word ‘perfect.’ In fact, I not only hate it, I think it wreaks havoc on many levels and that disturbs me. I know, I’m feeling extreme today so let’s blame my cold medicine. A celebrity spoke out recently saying that in hindsight, her quest for perfection throughout her life has turned out to not only be detrimental to her psyche, but was a total waste of time (I’m paraphrasing, as she’s much more obnoxiously eloquent). In short, she realized there was no such thing and is happy to put an end to the exhausting quest for the pot of perfect. (I wonder how much that cost in therapy)

Here is the thing, aside from snowflakes, raindrops, a child’s laugh, and the occasional espresso done right after a sleepless night, there is nothing on this planet that is actually perfect. It’s a hyperbolic, idealistic, inflated pipedream of a word that we throw around to set ourselves up for failure. He was the perfect guy (haaaaa), we had the perfect date, she has the perfect body, they had the perfect life. It’s a word thrown around in a wink-wink fashion that for most is an attempt at the ultimate compliment (unless its dripping with sarcasm of course). Which don’t get me wrong, telling your husband you had the most perfect weekend is certainly a sweet thing to do, but from a linguistic/semantic point of view - which you know us bloggers, we love to hang our hats on semantics - it’s not entirely accurate.

In truth, the use of the word perfect is pure exaggeration; a hope, a wish, a descriptive pinnacle to shut out all the naysayers and doubters in the world. 'Everything is perfect damn it, what do you say to that?'  Let’s take the unrelenting quest of the beauty industry to make us drones think we have to be ‘perfect.’ Every ad on television is telling us how we can have the perfect life. Be it the right car, the right hair products, the right make-up, the right holiday. Whatever they’re selling the message is clear, it will help you on your way to looking (let’s keep in mind, it’s not about feeling; they could give a toss how we feel) like the picture perfect person in the advertisement. This is where, from my standpoint, things can get dangerous. Some little fourteen-year-old girl on the quest for the ‘perfect’ body is measuring herself up to some unrealistic, unattainable benchmark, when in truth, her perfection is staring right back at her in the bedroom mirror. People kill themselves to achieve something and wonder why the journey is so damn painful and the destination is NEVER reached - ahem, cause it doesn't exist.

Hence, from where I stand, the word perfect should always be followed by a caveat (I’m going to write Webster’s Dictionary about this). He’s the perfect guy, for you (for me, we'd be divorced in 10 minutes). She has the perfect legs to a guy who likes long legs (thankfully my husband likes us diminutive types); their marriage is perfect…on Facebook (many are guilty of this one). Her children are perfect…aside from that little petty theft blemish on their record. You get the idea.

None of us are perfect. The human condition is inherently not perfect. The idea of perfect is something we hang on the wall to look at and strive for in some mythological way. Come on, Humans! Keep waking up in the morning and striving for perfect, it means you’re not dead yet!

In simple terms, perfect is an illusion unless defined by oneself; so let’s own this one, shall we. So yes, I’m perfect. I’m perfectly flawed and perfectly short and perfectly vivacious (after my morning coffee) and perfectly aware that I’m far from perfect. And you know what, I’m perfectly fine with that.



Tuesday, 12 August 2014

MY CAPTAIN OH CAPTAIN


There has been a discussion of late over mental illness in our country (some might call it a discussion, I'm not that optimistic) due to the - nonsensical and tragic - gun violence that continues to plague our country, and in my opinion, it is a dialogue that has been a long time coming. Unfortunately, as all things in society, the dialogue stops short of addressing all sides of the issue, in that mental illness comes in all forms, the overt and the very silent and insidious. With the all too recent and tragic passing of Robin Williams, I’m hoping that the illness of depression finally gets it fair due (I hate when tragic things have to happen to shed light on things, but hence, it’s sadly the way of the world).

Over the years, I have known many people who have suffered from depression (lifelong and bouts of it), myself included and it is one of those things that until you experience it, you truly have no idea of the blanket over your life it can cast. There is no instant happy pill (although many drug companies will argue with me on this fact) and it crosses all economic and social lines. Depression doesn’t care how much money you have or how fortunate your life is, if you’re prone to depression, no money in the world is going to alleviate the chemical stain it can leave upon your psyche. And there is truly nothing worse than people ready to judge and throw out the tactless comment of ‘What do you have to be so depressed about? You have everything.’ If only it were that simple.

In the case of Robin Williams, I’m sure many around the world are simultaneously mourning his passing whilst scratching their heads. Why oh why would a man with so much in his life, kill himself? The answer is simple: depression can simply be too overwhelming for some to handle. Now before you come down upon me waving your emphatic arguments to the contrary (which I welcome of course), I’m not saying that depression can’t be treated, or alleviated, or even that one cannot grow out of phases of depression, as depression can often be linked to hormonal and chemical imbalances (exacerbated by lifestyle of course). But for some, like any addiction, the pull of it is simply is too great and there is a broad spectrum of sufferers and with a varying degree of how deep their affliction reaches. For some, this abyss is simply too deep. This is tantamount for people to understand. Depression, like any illness is not a one size fits all disease. 

What I hope and pray from tragedies such as this is that it gets us talking, really talking, and moreover it gets those under the vice of illnesses such as this to reach out and ask for help. Mental illness should not be a taboo; It should not be run from or feared. It should be discussed and explored and treated like anything else. It's that simple (or should be).

So in honor of Robin, 'my captain, oh captain,' I hope more people step forward and put a voice to depression. It’s long overdue.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

PRESS ONE FOR A HUMAN


[SORRY I've been gone for so long. Off enjoying summer! Here is one from the archives. New blog tomorrow!]

I have serious ire for automated systems. Needless to say, I am disturbed as I’m sure many of you are when they call up somewhere to talk to a human being and are met by a pseudo human being that prompts you to go from one place in the cyber phone abyss (or hell as I call it) to another, until you’re trapped in some endless maze that costs you ten pounds (dollars) a minute and gets you absolutely nowhere.

This happened to me the other day when I was trying to call my credit card company (bank, mileage plus program, school, doctor, store…ETC) to answer a simple question about my account. Ah yes, the automated systems make nothing simple; in fact, they are designed to drive you freaking bonkers. It’s hard to determine what part of this whole experience drives me the most nuts? The antiseptic, saccharine moronic woman’s voice that tries to soothe me through the process (why is it always a woman? must be a trust/nurturing thing. 'Yeah, let's pick a woman, the callers will think it's their mother')…or the fifty years you spend on the phone trying to get to the right department before being disconnected? Or the kicker, the phone bill at the end of the month that makes your eyeballs bulge because you forgot it was not a 1-800 number (as I’m calling international half the time, 800 numbers are lost on me).

Moreover, the woman on the phone always seems to want to funnel you to a website or a delightfully informative series of prompts that are designed to anticipate your questions (but never seem to have the answer to the question I want to know), and most importantly, never seem to give me the prompt that says, press four if you are enraged and want to speak to a human being – that is not in a call center in India - that can actually answer your question for you. I’m one of those people that just keeps pushing the number zero until either someone comes on the line or the phone blows up. I of course simultaneously curse out the robot that is telling me how to reach the right department but never seems to take me there.

Needless to say, by the end of the phone call, I’m irritated, foul mouthed, and still not able to answer the question I had in the first place – which I’ve often forgot about, as the phone call takes so darn long. Of course, the whole design of these systems is to save the company money, which makes me even more annoyed, as the person paying for the lengthy phone call is the consumer. You see how many different ways we get screwed?

The other day I actually got put through to a person in under five seconds. I was so shocked I became a stuttering mess and couldn’t actually articulate what I needed. It was somewhat embarrassing, and yet, by the end of the phone call I practically invited the woman to tea because she was so darn sunny and helpful.

You see, we the public has simple needs and desires. Just talk to us in a non-robotic voice, and next thing you know, we’ll sign up for another year, take out another credit card or triple our cable package. I’m telling you, we’re suckers like that.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

THE WRITER'S ROOM




I was asked to participate in a writer's roundtable and nominate three writers that I know and respect. Below are my answers. 

1. What am I working on? 
I’m juggling with several things as usual. I’m still dancing between the film world, blogging and magazine work; so at the moment, things are never dull. I’m co-writing a small independent thriller script with a friend of mine in England that is hopefully going into production in September. I’m also trying to raise money for another script of mine that we’re desperate to get to the screen in Los Angeles. On the magazine front, I’m working on a few articles for an IPC publication here in the UK, as well as do my best to keep up on my blog.

2. Why do I write what I do?
When it comes to film, I have primarily written comedies and dramedies steeped in family life. The relationships between people (esp. family members) have always held a great allure for me, perhaps because I am from a very big family full of big personalities. The thin line between love, conflict, humour and pain intrigues me to no end. I’m also an absolute lover of comedy in any fashion. I love to laugh and hence, find myself always drawn to quirky, unique characters that find themselves in amusing life situations. On the magazine front, the articles are more driven by what is going on topically at the moment, or in my life as a woman, parent etc. The same goes for what I choose to blog about. It’s my mirror into the world I suppose. How I see things, what rankles me that day, or of course, what amuses me and compels me to share. Like any writer, I want what I write to resonate with people in a poignant and humourous way. I figure, life can throw some pretty tragic things our way, and as best as we can, we need to find the humour in life and reasons to smile as much as we can.

3. How does my work differ to others of its genre?    
Well, to be frank, I think it all comes down to one’s voice. With scripts, I certainly don’t reinvent the wheel all the time, but I’d like to think I have a unique voice that with the proper execution comes through and hits people in a certain way. I think that’s the most important thing for a writer to do, is to truly find one’s voice, one’s perspective, and not be afraid to hold onto that. I find humour in a lot of things, perhaps more than most. I am also a big believer in the subtleties of language and the relationships between people and how that translates into film. In the realm of blogging, for me, it’s often steeped in humour and my take on the world.

4. How does my writing process work? 
I am definitely a morning writer. I like to get a workout in first and a cup of coffee of course, as I find that those two in combination fires up the brain a bit. Then I hunker down at home and get to it. I am not a big believer in writer’s block. For me, as long as the outline is sound and fully realized, once I start a script I can then jump in and out of scenes as they strike me. If I don’t feel a certain scene is working, I can jump to another one as the entire story is laid out. If it’s a magazine piece, it’s a bit of the same, I start writing, allow myself a lot time (and room) for pacing and doing other things during the writing process. I am a big believer in letting things breathe. If something isn’t quite right yet, I go do something else, take a walk, clean, make a meal, whatever and the idea or solution usually always washes up on shore.

I'll add the links for those I've nominated to participate as they come in. 

Simon Uttley:

 http://siuttley.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/writers-tour/

Bel Jacobs:

Bel Jacobs was style editor for Metro newspaper for 15 years but before that, she was editor - simultaneously - of the Daily Mail problem page and of a directory of green businesses. It was an odd juxtaposition but it made sense at the time! Today, she continues her interest in fashion with her own blog which attempts to cover fashion in a way that celebrates the industry for its creativity, imagination and occasional insanity instead of its commercial potential. 

www.beljacobs.com

Cricket Leigh:

1. What am I working on? 
I'm working on a book entitled "Raising Mom: Moving home at 40 and parenting your parent". It's based on my real life experiences facing ghosts of the past, familial issues, drama galore, and how to parent-rear instead of child-rear. I hope it will be a balance of humor and education for others who find themselves in this position.

2. Why do I write what I do?
Well this book is a first for me. I am a Playwright and Monologist, so I write to then PERFORM it live. I do that because I like to write for underdogs, to give them a voice. Then getting to play them onstage is icing on that cake. It fulfills something in me that wants to bridge the gaps in society. The book is new terrain. I suppose I want to give people hope in a seemingly insane and hopeless situation.


3. How does my work differ to others of its genre?    
Well most people who write plays write multi-character arc, the voices of many. As an Actress, I only wrote for myself. Then I wrote a 2-person play, which explored two voices. However, I've never wanted to write for more than that. I don't want to write a play with 14 characters in it, it's not my strength. Although, life is long and I may do it at some point. My work also has a strong social issue content to it. I don't just write a character because she'd be "fun to play". I write her core, what she needs from the world, why she's not getting it, then I know it will be fun to play. So, most writers aren't performers also which gives me a leg up into connecting to them as I write.

4. How does my writing process work? 

It's a bit random, but when I'm inspired, I make time every day for it. If I skip 4 days, I don't feel badly about it, I go with it. However, If I'm producing said play and have a deadline, then you can bet I'll be up writing at all hours. I love deadlines, they make the work flow for me. I also NEVER edit while writing. I let everything come out, bad punctuation and all, until the ideas and framework is there. Then I go back & edit.

Cricket is a playwright and monologist from Chicago, currently living in Kalamazoo, MI as she begins her Masters in Social Work program this fall. She has written numerous plays, two of which were produced several times in Los Angeles and New York. She was The Manhattan Monologue Slam Champion in 2010. As an Actress, she's performed at The Goodman Theatre, The Chicago Lyric Opera, The Sundance Theatre Lab and many more. She studied at The Groundlings in Los Angeles, where she began writing characters for her first one-woman show "Constantly Distracted".  Her last play is a 2-person show called "Confetti Bayou: The Last Interview with Janis Joplin. She is a graduate of The Tisch School of The Arts at NYU.

www.cricketleigh.com