Monday, December 31, 2007

A matter of perspective

One of the very few perks of working where I do is that I have a pass that lets me and a guest into just about any museum in New York City for free. I took advantage of it yesterday and went to the Planetarium, formally known as the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. Big mouthful. To me, it's simply the Planetarium and always will be. Some years ago it got a humongous do-over and I'm ashamed to say that yesterday was the first time that I visited the new space. Well, better late than never. of the permanent installations is this immense...I don't know what to call it...exhibit, I guess called (I think) Cosmic Scales, or something like that. What's so cool about it is that it provides visual references for the size of things relative to other things in the universe. I starts with the universe as a whole entity and moves in powers of 10 down to a proton. It keeps using the same massive sphere you see in front of you at the exhibit (which is actually the outside of a small amphitheater) as the reference point. In other words: "if the universe is as big as this sphere, then the Virgo supercluster is as big as (the small half-meter sized football of a model in front of you). And so on, down to a proton. The last step is, "if a hydrogen atom is as big as the sphere, then a proton is as big as (a dot do tiny you can barely see it)."

It's a spectacular exhibit. Seriously, if you wantor need a reality check, this is the place to come. It's a wonderful antidote both to hubris and also to despair. It tells you in as gentle as way as possible, don't go thinking that you're all that special, or that your woes are all-consuming. Take a look at where you stand in the cosmic scheme of things. It's okay. Don't freak out, don't fret, don't beat yourself up. And conversely, don't go thinking you're all that and a bag of chips. There's more than you can imagine that goes on in dimensions greater and smaller than you. You've got your part to play, but it's only a part.

For me, it was a serendipitous visit. It put me in exactly the right frame of mind to greet the new year. Yes, it's all out there, waiting. Yes, it's an opportunity to jettison all the old crap and embark on something new. But it's important to be mindful that the universe does not live or die by our choices. If I screw up again (as I'm sure I will from time to time), it really is of no lasting consequence. And if I achieve great things, well, they're only great because I say they are. Out in the Virgo supercluster, nobody is paying any attention. And that's as it should be.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The most bestest holiday in forever

Well, I'm about as happy as I could be right now. I got the biggest, most wonderful holiday surprise on Friday. My son Peter, who lives in China, showed up unannounced. His brother was in on the surprise but nobody else knew. I was speechless. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have him around, even if it's only for a week.

I hope everyone has as good a holiday as I am having.

Monday, December 17, 2007

An injection of holiday spirit, more or less

You might think I'm referring to the bottle of pinot grigio that I enjoyed yesterday while the sleet pattered against my windows and I was inside being toasty warm and baking ginger cookies. Well, yes, maybe I am. It was a very nice wine. But I mean just in general. I enhanced my festive state further by putting up some holiday decorations. I managed to snurch a couple of twiggy arrangements from work that had been done by the guy who does the flower arrangements for the lobby and so forth. It's a couple of bundles of white branches tied up with silver ribbons and decorated with little silver balls. While I'm not usually in favor of the all-white look, they were free and the little shiny silver bits brightened them up. I also took the box of leftover little shiny silver bits and stuck them around here and there. I also scattered my little nutcrackers around.
The best part was I figured out that I could put my little lights out along my balcony railing and plug them in inside. Closing the door on them doesn't do any damage.

So I was feeling pretty darn festive yesterday. Then I remembered that nobody comes to my house for Christmas and nobody is giving me any presents, except my son Brian who's buying me a new teakettle. Okay, to be fair, I am going to someone else's house for Christmas dinner and then on Boxing Day I'm going to some friends' house down at the shore (yes, it's New Jersey where they have shore, NOT beach). None of that should matter because I'm not Christian anyway and in fact I don't even believe in god. But it does matter a little when there's the whole enforced festivity thing going on. But considering how broke I am, I guess it's a good thing I don't have anyone except Brian to buy a gift for. And he's 20 and not very demanding.

It's just that, with all the hype and mandatory jollity, no matter what you come up with, it's usually going to be a letdown on some level. So I'm wondering, how many other people feel that their holidays somehow don't measure up to expectations.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Moment Of Truth, Part Deux

Tomorrow evening is the reading of the second draft of my play. It's taken me a year and a half to do the rewrite after the first reading. This is largely due to the inconvenient fact that I have to work for a living and that my job (which I started at exactly the time I had the first reading) has very nearly sucked my soul out of me, not to mention several gallons of brain juice. But I'm not going to complain and carry on. Heaven knows I've done enough of that over the last year. No, I'm just going to try and keep the forward momentum going on this nutty little project of mine.

So...overall I am quite satisfied with the progress I made since the first draft. I think it is in much better shape. I took the actors' comments and suggestions and my own notes and made lots of improvements. I pared away a lot of the blah blah blah. So many words that didn't need to be there! They just get in the way and slow the story down.

One trap I think a lot of writers fall into is they fall in love with the sound of their own words. Guess what, it's not about the words. Well yes of course it's about the words but only insofar as they serve the story. Words are only part of the way that a play tells the story. And what the characters don't say is often more important than what they do say.

So tomorrow night I get to hear how many more words need to be ruthlessly obliterated. Of course there will be a third draft, and probably a fourth. But my feeling is that from now on, it will be more tweaking than major overhauling. But I'll know more in 24 hours.