I attended Friday (March 11) night’s performance of The King and I at Flintridge Preparatory School. I knew I’d be taking the bus (the school is on the other end of town from where I live), so I headed out the door a little after 6:30 to catch the bus in time for the curtain at 7:30. I got to the bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. And finally called the number on the bus stop sign to check for the bus schedule, which said that the last bus of the evening came around 6:30. Since I’d left the house at around that time, I knew I’d already missed the last bus and, if I really wanted to see this show, was going to have to walk the rest of the way. Since one of my (now former) coworkers was in the show, I knew I wasn’t going to miss it if I could help it, so I started walking.
I got more than halfway from the bus stop to the school when… wouldn’t you know it? A godsdamned bus passed me. Damn, I was so angry, then. But I knew that I really had missed the last bus by that time (even though I’d just seen it fly by /anger & frustration), so I resolved to be angry (if I still felt like it) after I arrived at the school’s auditorium. When I finally made it to the auditorium foyer, I stood in line for my will call tickets (“Just one?” the guy behind the table asked. “Yes,” I said, and he handed it to me in a white envelope.) and as the guy handed them to me, the foyer lights began to dim and come back to full strength intermittently, which means that the audience should take their seats, if they haven’t already, because the show is about to begin.
Tuptim, played by I. Weiss (a senior), and Lun Tha, played by Z. Myers (a junior)
I found my seat, about midway back from the stage on the far house right. (Unfortunately, this meant that I was unable to see the map of Siam, England and the world during the scene wherein Anna is teaching her students that Siam isn’t as big geographically as they think it is.) In any case, I settled in and tried to ignore the screaming high school fangirls who seemed to be completely surrounding me. (Ugh.) I told myself over and over that I could put up with it because, after all, it was a high school play, and I would put up with it for the sake of my friend in the production. (He played Lun Tha, Tuptim’s forbidden lover from Burma, on two of the four performance nights. See photo above.)
One thing I found interesting was the director’s note in the production’s program, in which he says, in part, “I told the cast on the very first day that we must cling to very important foundation points: tell the story as honest[ly] as we can and be as truthful and celebratory of the Siamese/Thai culture as possible.” My friend told me about this aspect of the musical in his excitement while the cast was still rehearsing, and it was that—aside from my willingness to support a friend in the arts—that made me want to see Flintridge Prep’s version of the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. The opening prayer and all the non-English dialogue was in either Pali or Thai, not just Asian-sounding gibberish, which—I admit—I was expecting from a high school production. I am, needless to say, glad that the director and cast rose above that.
The opening prayer, which “celebrates the respect and pursuits of a learned mind”
according to the production’s program
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I is, of course, a grand and beautiful display of 1950s racism and sexism based on a film from the 1940s, which—in turn—was based on a book, Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon (which is itself fictional and based on the original Anna‘s admittedly already racist/sexist memoirs, The English Governess at the Siamese Court  and Romance of the Harem ). Talk about a game of Telephone! There is little doubt in my mind that any of the cast, or the director himself for that matter, ever read any of the source material to see for themselves how bad it actually is. (And it is bad.) The irony of having a mostly white American cast wasn’t lost on me; though now that I think about it, I’m not sure people of Siamese/Thai descent would actually want to be a part of something that degrades them so obviously.
Putting aside the content of the musical (over which, I understand, the director had no control, except that he chose it in the first place), the production itself was actually pleasantly surprising in terms of acting, costuming, and direction. My friend who played Lun Tha was especially surprising for me because I didn’t know before seeing the musical that he could sing at all. (In fact, I had playfully called him Justin Bieber, something to which he took offense, and something I now officially retract. He’s much better than said popstar.) I also thought it was a neat idea to have the principal roles split between two actors each so as to spread the love, so to speak, and take some pressure off of said principals to perform perfectly four nights in a row. Except for the King, who was played by the same actor in every show, the primary roles were split between actors who performed either Thursday and Saturday or Friday and Sunday. (I don’t know why the King’s role was reserved for just one actor, though I admit he was pretty good.)
The entire cast of Flintridge Prep’s The King and I
As I had never been to Flintridge Prep before, I was also surprised by the free refreshments during the intermission. I partook of two chocolate chip cookies and a cup of Zen green tea. I also bought a lavender rose for my friend (“Proceeds go to the theatre department”), complete with a tag with space for a note, just in case I didn’t see him after the play was over.
I think, if I wanted to, I could really delve deeply into the racism and sexism that’s built into the musical and think about why Flintridge Prep decided to stage its production here and now, but this review is already long enough so I’ll save my theories for another post when I have more time. (More time? What’s that?)
This. Wherein an abortion provider (an actual, real-life one!) answers the questions:
What’s it like?
What about the patients? Like, who are they? and
What’s the craziest thing you’ve encountered?
I speak of my abortion as a positive experience… to save a seat for the possibility that this doesn’t have to be the worst thing that ever happened to you in your whole life… If you think that’s a bullshit line… think of why you’re a person who doesn’t want someone to do the best that they can under the circumstances they’re in.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
(Photo: KLD and VED at Descanso Gardens on 26 February 2011. Photo credit: CBD.)
NOTE: I am reviewing Penny Arcade: The Serieswithout having watched the bonus episode, the deleted scenes sample, or the second season. That is, this review is about season 1, episodes 1-27 only.
I finished watching the first season of Penny Arcade: The Series in late August last year and am just now getting around to reviewing it because I want to watch the second season. But I can’t watch the second season without having written about the first because if I do write about the first season after having already started the second, the review will be influenced by the latter. So I’m writing about it now, damnit!
I don’t actually read the comic very often, except as it pertains to the behind-the-scenes series (as in the case of “The Fourth Panel”), and when someone else I know who reads the comic tells me to read a certain strip because it reminded them of me, or whatever. Anyway, the first season of Penny Arcade: The Series (PA:TS from now, on) was good. Each episode is a five- or six-minute segment “catalogu[ing] the victories and secret shames of the .jpeg business”, a cross between “day in the life at the office” and interviews of the Penny Arcade creators and staff. If you read Penny Arcade, you’ll recognize the names Gabe and Tycho, among others. PA:TS is a behind-the-scenes look at the webcomic’s creators, the people with whom they work, their families, and other things they do in relation to Penny Arcade, including Child’s Play and PAX (East). As was mentioned in one of the later episodes (maybe the finale), each part of the first season focused on an event—rather than day-to-day operations—highlighting, for example: Child’s Play Charity, company ping pong, or hiring a new employee.
Now sitting here in late February, a few things stand out to me. “The Fourth Panel” episodes are always a neat look into what it takes to create a comic strip from two people who do it for a living every day of their lives. (Don’t get me wrong, though, and don’t get them wrong: they love doing it. And they purposefully try not to think about their success too much in case they jinx it or something.) Mike and Jerry, the creators, are truly human; they love their wives, each other, and their kids, but they also have no qualms about cursing on camera or having tattoos. It’s refreshing that their success hasn’t gone to their heads as I suspect my (hypothetical) success would (should I ever garner any to speak of). Seriously, every episode is really worth watching: they’re short and sweet and get the point across nicely.
I think my favorite episode, though, is the one about drugs. In it, Mike and Jerry talk positively about their taking prescription drugs for depression and anxiety—something I can relate to—and Mike mentions his brother’s (illegal) drug use, overdose, and subsequent death which, he says, “really fucked me up.” While Jerry is very open and liberal about his past recreational drug use, Mike has never done any illegal drugs and is very against it. In speaking about his brother’s progression from addiction to death, he says about himself:
Mike: I saw what it [drugs] did to him [Mike’s brother]… y’know I saw where he started, and I saw where he ended up and, uh, saw what it did to my parents and then, y’know, what it eventually did to all of us… and, you know, I know that it’s completely ridiculous to think that if I smoke a joint that I will then overdose on some drug and die, but… um— Jerry: I think you’re allowed that. Mike: Yeah, I mean, there’s things that happen in your brain that—like connections that get made that you just don’t have any control over… Jerry: There may not be a pill for that.
(Emphasis mine.) And it—honest to god—made me cry, and it made me cry watching it again just now, because he just basically explained my relationship to alcohol. I know that it’s completely ridiculous to think that if someone around me takes one drink that that person will then become a monster and hurt me, but I think I’m allowed that, too, because it’s already happened. Sometimes, I hate that I’m so much against something that seems to bring other people good feelings and happy times, but for me, I just see what happened to me in the past. I think there was a connection made in my brain that I just don’t have any control over, and Jerry’s right: there may not be a pill for that.
I really liked that episode because I saw two successful people talk about the differences between prescription and illegal drugs and the affects of each on their lives. I watched them talk about their histories (and they looked uncomfortable for a while—who wouldn’t be with such personal feelings involved?) and was like, “Yes! This!” It made me feel like it’s okay for me not to like alcohol; I’m allowed to dislike hate it because I know the horror it’s capable of wreaking on people’s lives. I had similar reactions to other episodes when the two creators (and staff) really put their thoughts and feelings on the line because it showed me complexity; I don’t dislike like the comic, but PA:TS is pure gold.
In any case, I highly recommend Penny Arcade: The Series (season 1), and I am going to happily watch the second season now. Huzzah!
If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.
We can start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library, where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books; you’re not supposed to talk much anyway so it’s safe there.
There is also the gym, if you’re shy, you can hang out with yourself and mirrors, you can put headphones in.
Then there’s public transportation, because we all gotta go places.
And there’s prayer and mediation, no one will think less if your hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.
Start simple. Things you may have previously avoided based on your avoid-being-alone principles.
The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by “chow downers”, employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town, and so they, like you, will be alone.
Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.
When you are comfortable with “eat lunch and run”, take yourself out for dinner; a restaurant with linen and silverware. You’re no less an intriguing a person when you are eating solo dessert and cleaning the whip cream from the dish with your finger. In fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.
Go to the movies. Where it’s dark and soothing, alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.
And then take yourself out dancing, to a club where no one knows you, stand on the outside of the floor until the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one’s watching because they’re probably not. And if they are, assume it is with best human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats, is after-all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you’re sweating. And beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things, down your back like a book of blessings.
Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you. Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, they are always statues to talk to, and benches made for sitting gives strangers a shared existence if only for a minute, and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversations you get in by sitting alone on benches, might of never happened had you not been there by yourself.
Society is afraid of alone, though. Like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements. Like people must have problems if after awhile nobody is dating them.
But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it.
You can stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner, look both further and farther in the endless quest for company.
But no one’s in your head. And by the time you translate your thoughts an essence of them maybe lost or perhaps it is just kept. Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those “sappy slogans” from pre-school over to high schools groaning, we’re tokens for holding the lonely at bay.
Cause if you’re happy in your head, then solitude is blessed, and alone is okay.
It’s okay if no one believes like you, all experiences unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you, for this be relived, keeps things interesting, life’s magic things in reach, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t connected, and the community is not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it.
Take silence and respect it.
If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it, if your family doesn’t get you or a religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it.
You could be in an instant surrounded if you need it.
In light of everything that’s been going on my life recently, I’ve been thinking long an hard about what I believe. I know many things I don’t believe in, but up to this point those things have been amorphous blobs on the horizon in my brain; I disagreed with something someone else said, but I never really thought about why in a way I could articulate to someone who disagreed with me. Most of my arguments with boyfriends, etc., in high school and college were primarily rhetorical and/or I just became “too emotional” to properly put into words what I was trying to say.
Now, this is something I can agree with, and it gives me hope for my (admittedly dim) outlook on the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The vlogger, melodramatization, (re)posted this short video (only two minutes, ten seconds) on St. Valentine’s Day this year (transcript below). In the section underneath, she wrote:
(A white woman with brown hair in her thirties* wearing beige clothing sits in a beige sofa chair in front of a white bookcase filled with books. She speaks directly to the camera:)
*Not sure of her age; “in her thirties” is really just a guess
My son, Wally, came home from nursery this Sunday with this picture. (She holds up a picture of four children inside a heart with a child’s scribbles on top.) Underneath the scribbles, you can see four children of different ethnicities holding hands in a heart, and at the top it says, “I will love others.” Wally learned an important lesson; he learned the second great commandment given to us by our Savior: to love others as we love ourselves.
Pictures like these are the reason that I go to church, the reason we wake up early on Sunday morning, and drag our children, and fight them through meetings. I want us to learn that we love others; not just those who don’t look like us, but those who don’t believe like us, either. Wouldn’t it be cool if in that picture there was a woman in a burqa, a Catholic priest, or even a man with a cigarette? “I will love others.”
So why is this church, who’s taught me so much about my Savior, asking its members for their time and their money and their votes [to] deny other people marriage? And why should I not follow them? This question has caused me a lot of time—a lot of reflection, and I had to figure out who I really am.
I’m Melanie Selco; I’m a wife; I’m a mom of five; I’m a loyal member of this church. But, I’m also a member of the community at large, and most importantly, I’m a disciple of Christ. And that last characteristic is what makes me obligated to follow my own conscience on this matter.
I still believe in these pictures that Wally drew, and in the primary lessons we teach in the simplest form. I know my church as good intentions in this legal debate; I know they’re trying to protect marriage. But I think my marriage can only be protected as much as the marriage that is least respected in our society right now, and that would be a gay marriage.
My church tells me there’s a slippery slope for allowing gay marriage rights, but they don’t talk about the slippery slope of not allowing it. What happens if we give our government the power to decide who can be married based on morality? Who’s to say they won’t come around in ten or twenty years and say that my marriage is immoral, that they don’t like the church that I belong to, or that they think I’ve over-populated the world, or whatever their reason?
I want to decide what a moral family looks like for me and try and live up to that. And I think that loving others is allowing them to do the same.
As if that wasn’t enough by itself to make me believe again that people are good, she later responded to a comment on her blog entry about it. The comment was: