Monday, September 14, 2009

STUDIO ONE: Not Just For The Cheese Plate.

An interesting and eye-opening thing happened to me last Friday night at the monthly Studio One poetry reading. And it's all because I stopped eating cheese. You see, I'm thirty-four now, and my metabolism can no longer handle eating just anything. So I thought I'd simply cut out a few foods, such as ultra-fattening "cheese" and try to shed a few pounds. What in the world, Jenny Drai, you might wonder, does cheese have to do with poetry? Well, gentle Reader (I would reply), it has everything to do with my first Friday routine. Get home from work. Light snack. Work out. Shower and change. Show up at Studio One with a few bucks in my pocket for the donations cup and nibble on the excellent smorgasbord of tasty snacks. But what about last Friday? I felt some trepidation. Would I be able to withstand those tempting morsels of milk, cultures, and rennet? The creamy brie? The smoky gouda? Sharp chedder? And that's not even mentioning the outstanding selection of whole-grain crackers. How would I cope? As stressed out as I usually am by Friday evening, I doubted my resolve. But I found sustenance through another medium: the poetry of Gillian Hamel and Truong Tran and the performance piece by Scott V.

At my job as the office assistant in a furniture store, I don't get to use my brain very much, and for some reason I find this exhausting. Because I have to work every weekend, I rarely show up at a poetry reading when I'm not feeling tired and cranky. Often, I don't even want to go. I'd much rather curl up in bed, covers over my head, and reread Harry Potter for the umpteenth time with the help of a flashlight. In fact, a half hour before the Studio One reading was sheduled to begin, I was in just such a position bemoaning my fate as a cog in the wheels of corporate America. But I went anyways, non-poet boyfriend in tow. We both had a great time, and I (the ultimate believer in the supremacy of the written text) learned something valuable about poetry's orality and the collective nature of event.

I came. I listened. I relaxed. That's how it happened. Never a good auditory learner, I nonethless caught beautiful snippets and sometimes even whole parcels of thought. "There should be space around her, breathing and collapsing," Gillian Hamel read as part of a set that combined the journey of a speaker full, at times, of particularity and preference ("I don't like anything that combines with 'post.' my greatest moments occur when I am wearing the exact right amount of layers, my hands are full, and I cannot hear anything else.") with the sometimes outrightly haunting, and/or what I would call questions or statements of boundary, and/or sheer and utter viscerality. Also, since this after all was a reading, I would add that she read well.

Whereas Gillian Hamel's poetry started off the event with a tonally serious exploration of the self in tandem to and in opposition to various degrees of daily violences, Scott V.'s faux sales presentation on his self-styled program to teach his audience the value of incorporating hiding into one's daily life (not to mention his hilarious slideshow on how to determine a good hiding spot) was a virtual laugh-fest. But that's not to say Scott V. didn't make a more serious point. How many of us, after all, hide in order to be found? Regardless, hide-and-seek is quite a lot of fun. Take it from one who knows. Since the presentation last Friday, my boyfriend and I have played the game at least twice. I, however, have an unfair advantage because Steven is 6'6" and just doesn't fit in the better spots like in the closet under the pile of dirty laundry. I mean, does he seriously think I won't see him lurking under the dining room table? At any rate, the presentation very much reminded me of a sales meeting I was forced to attend on my day off even though I am not in sales, except that this time I was happily engaged with the process instead of staring glassy-eyed in the general direction of whoever was currently trying to indoctrinate me with the value of a having a more *positive* attitude in order to SELL! SELL! SELL! even though (I repeat) it was supposed to be my day off and I am not even in sales. I just type up the invoices. With a smile on my face, even when it hurts. Thank you Scott V. for making the smile feel good.

It was during the Truong Tran reading that I really finally realized what was happening to me. As I slid in and out of his language (without eating any of that scintillattingly delicious cheese), as I laughed with the other members of the audience at something random or touching or comic, I experienced the comfort of the collective experience of shared vibe in shared setting. I have to say that I was really tired. I have to say I engage much easier (in the critical sense) with the written text. I have to say that last Friday night, at about two-thirds of the way through the reading, I stopped taking notes for my review and instead got wonderfully lost, and in doing so, suddenly found. In cadence with Truong Tran and the rest of the audience. Very far away from a long day or the promise of an even longer day tomorrow. Just there. Listening to shifting tones. The contemplation in the work. Wanting to read the work. Tugging the covers over my head and pulling out the flashlight. Pushing Harry Potter to one side. Or just extinguishing the flashlight and using a lamp and the full weight of the mind on some random week night. When the sky is black and the sleep is in front of you and what you need is at your fingertips and you can have it if you open the book, turning back the cover.

So it's not just about the cheese anymore. Or the crackers. Or have I mentioned the always tasty Orangina if you don't drink wine? Because it is tasty. Orangina is simply the best. And they have it at Studio One, where emerging poets converge with the time-tested and well-published, where poetry combines with film, music, and performance for a great time to be had by all, including this somewhat over-tired and worn-out blogger who is just writing her review now because she, ironically, had to work all week without a day off because lots of people like to celebrate Labor Day by shopping for recliners.

So that's that. Great poets and performances. So you should go next time. There's something for everyone. And now that I've forsworn cheese, there is more for you. Because I used to eat a lot of it. Thank you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

In Which I Anxiously Await The Release Of Outlander On May 19.

Note to self: this one probably isn't going to make it to the Criterion Collection, which might be a good thing, because I won't have to pay forty dollars for the pleasure of endlessly rewatching this Beowulf-themed Iron age/Space age science fiction/Viking saga. Instead, I'm sure, the movie will be so bad it's good, which would be a lot better than the last film I saw starring Jim Caviezel which was an anti-Semitic snuff film about someone named Jesus, a movie which was so gruesome in its scenes of spurting blood and rampant gore that at one point tears of ???????? came to my eyes just as I felt my senses were being completely violated for the thirty billionth time. Of course, there is also the possibility that Outlander will just be good, but I will have to wait until the nineteenth of May to find out, and besides, according to some unnamed persons who will continue to be granted their anonymity, or rather I should say according to my roommate Dana, I have "disappointing" taste in movies. See! I am such a bad person. I let people down. On that note, have I ever mentioned that I really like that movie Timeline, based on a Michael Crichton novel, about archaeologists who travel back in time to medieval France? Do you, you ask. In fact I do. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In Which I Renew My Committment To Having A Crush On Beowulf

Just an example of some of the Beowulf paraphernalia I have accumulated. Please notice that at least one of the paraphernalia is the book.

Lately I've been so busy. Working full time. Hanging out with friends. Writing two non-Beowulf themed novellas. Going jogging. In fact I've almost forgotten about how excited I am anticipating the May 2009 DVD release of Outlander, starring Jim "Jesus" Caviezel as some dude from outer space who lands in a Viking settlement and ends up fighting an epic monster (also from outer space, as to my understanding). According to Wikipedia, my main source of information these days, because this handy informational website is only one click of the mouse away and therefore does not involve me getting out of my super-comfy vintage office chair (in a lovely, nubby, burnt orange fabric, I might add), one of the characters names is Hrothgar, so you can probably see where I am going with this. I almost think it might be time for me to do a Beowulf tie-in of my own. After all, I have been making such a fuss about a poem in a dead language for so long, it only seems like the next logical step. Look, I can already say a few things in Anglo-Saxon. Like "se geong mon." Which means "the young man." Clearly I am on my way to something really big here.

In other news, I feel totally vindicated regarding my great fondness for the movie "Beowulf and Grendel," a movie inveterate blogger and poet Jack Morgan claimed was "bad." But my friend, the super-smart and very talented poet Trevor Calvert, (who has a book you should read called "Rarer and More Wonderful") on the other hand, thinks "Beowulf and Grendel" is a fantastic film, and I am pretty sure he is not merely being swayed by a good-looking actor in a long-haired wig. Really, if you ask me, the movie (which is admittedly pretty post-modern in its treatment of Grendel) is about what happens when you open a door by committing an immoral act and then don't get to decide what comes back over the threshold at you. And Grendel, who is wronged by Hrothgar, brings measureless violence back upon him. Sort of like Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." Janet Leigh doesn't just get it from Norman Bates. She embezzles the money from her boss and then she gets it from Norman Bates. In the shower. Thank you.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Now That I'm Not Blogging About My Cat, I FInd I Have Very Little To Say.

Not blogging about the cat. Nope. Not gonna do it.

Right now he is staring blankly into space, just one of the many tasks he has difficulty completing because of his crippling Attention Deficit Disorder.

Obviously, I am sick. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In Other News, Importand Staff Meeting Turns Out To Be Really Boring

1. In a thoroughly unexpected turn of events, a meticulously planned, long-anticipated staff meeting attended by this blogger for most of one recent day turned out to be less than uproariously entertaining. Normally, this blogger might use the next few lines to quickly sum up the all-important topics covered at the gripping all-day informational session, but she stopped paying attention after the first five minutes and started thinking instead about all the other things she'd rather be doing on what was supposed to be one of her precious days off. Like laying face down on the sofa. Like drinking diet Pepsi until she felt light-headed, which these days is about her only vice. This blogger did not, however, fail to notice the upbeat motivational sayings about the value of a positive *attitude* printed in the margins of the pamphlets passed out for all to read and continues to be really glad she's not in sales where it is required you believe in such things or you will not win friends and influence people into spending four thousand dollars on a new leather sofa and love seat for their living room and instead will just die in shame and penury and with the knowledge that you are ranked last for this month because you can't shake your *attitude* problem. Sheeeesh.

2. In other news, my friends are smarter than me. While I have been daydreaming about becoming a famous novelist, my friends Cameron Jackson and Jessica Cox have actually opened up an art gallery in the actual real world, a place I only occasionally visit, usually to eat or go to the bathroom. It is called the Alphonse Berber Gallery and it is located near Cal and you should go there, for Christ's sake. But don't take my word for it. Check out their website.
Also, although the gallery has got great art hanging on the walls, it is worth just checking it out to see the fantastic space, designed by architect Justin Botros. Someone named Jeremy Graves manages the gallery, but I have never met him although I am sure he is also much smarter than I am. Here's to you, Jeremy!

3. In even other news, my cat, Gerard Butler, is going away and will never be heard from again. My poor little cat, Stanley, can no longer bear the hefty weight of shouldering two identities and has asked to be relieved from public service. Also, I am sort of down on cats right now. They are bothersome with their constant meowing and always need their litter tended or else the whole house smells like a toilet. This is the real world that I live in. Thank you.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Not Ready For The Looooooove-Seat? Happily, I Present An Alternative.

Now that I work in a furniture store dedicated to insuring comfort to all its customers ("Comfort. It's what we do"), I have started to spend my down time at the store thinking of ways that I, a lowly administrative assistant, could come up with a brilliant new product and/or marketing strategy in order to strike it rich, thus ensuring a lifetime of a whole 'nother type of comfort for myself and my cat, Gerard Butler. I am talking about the comfort that is called 'being rich and not having to work as a lowly administrative assistant in a furniture store.' And now, thanks to key meditations on my currently stunted emotional status, I have come up with a new product. In the words of one of my favorite, if essentially long-winded, playwrights Pierre Marivaux (in 'The Triumph of Love'): "Would you have me lose my reason? Must I now give my life over to my feelings?" The answer is no, not yet. You can sit and think about your predicament for awhile on my new product, the Like Seat. Not as large as a sofa, but with just a little more room than a love seat, the like seat offers some much-needed breathing room for those of us with cold feet (me), or for those of us still trying to escape in our minds the fiery train wreck of our last relationship (me), or even just for those of us who just like being single because then you don't have to worry about what your apartment looks like every time your significant other comes over (me). (Preferably, the like seat would be at your non-romantic totally platonic buddy's house and he or she would never know that you don't change the totally platonic kitty litter quite just often enough. And also they would pay for it because you can't afford to purchase big-ticket upholstery items on your admin wages. Unless of course the furniture store you work for doesn't steal your idea outright and you (I) receive some sort of tangible financial remuneration in the form of a big fat check.) Aaaah. The likeseat. Isn't it time our romance-centric culture focused a little more on ideas involving friendship that incidentally might make me financially solvent? Please say yes. Then promptly fall in love with me. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Think I Am Fantastic

Just a sampling of the beautifully designed, pre-printed return address labels I recently received in the mail

And here I thought I no longer mattered to anyone but my tightly knit inner circle consisting almost entirely of my mother and my cat, Gerard Butler. But now I feel like the VIP I know I am somewhere deep inside thanks to the arrival by post of some tastefully designed return address labels with my name, 'Jennifer Drai,' printed across the surface in a bold, eye-catching font right next to various and sundry cute little icons like a glittery 'USA' sign or a huge calligraphy 'D.' Really, this personal touch says everything I need to know about the care and trouble taken by these anonymous persons sweating away in their graphic design workshop, somewhere on or near the North Pole presumably, to make sure I get the appropriate calligraphy letter next to my name, 'Jennifer Drai,' emblazoned across the shiny white surface of the labels in a beautifully designed (serif) font. Did I mention the jolly smiling snowman icon or the red-white-and-blue banner icon? Such cold weather centricism or unflailing commitment to 'patriotic' values could hardly prevent me from slathering the upper left hand corner of every single last one of my outgoing envelopes with these small, rectangular status symbols. Nothing says you have arrived on the scene like not having to scrawl out your return address in your painfully illegible handwriting every time you have to pay a bill or send a thank you card. Bring it on, little white dove bearing olive branch icon! I am going to use you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Exciting Day In The Life Of My Cat, Gerard Butler

My cat, Gerard Butler, recuperates after his stressful bathing experience

If you thought the Oscars last night were all about drama, you obviously did not see my cat, Gerard Butler's prima donna performance in the bathtub between the hours of 4 and 4:30, Pacific Standard Time. You are probably wondering why my cat, Gerard Butler, needed a bath in the first place since he is constantly licking his own body with his tongue, so I will tell you. My cat, Gerard Butler, has fleas. Seriously. He cannot be comfortable with his constant scratching, so you would think he would be grateful that I took the initiative and shelled out some cash for a bottle of flea shampoo. But he was not. His constant meows took on the tenor of guttural moans as I lathered up his flea-infested regions within the delightful confines of our bathroom. You would think I was trying to kill him when really I was just trying to save him. Not only that, but today I walked all the way from Walgreen's lugging a heavy container of expensive Tidy Cats kitty litter for his cat toilet instead of just buying a bag of Johnny Cat at the corner store. My cat, Gerard Butler, is spoiled. Several hours later, my elbows are still sore. Next thing I know, my cat, Gerard Butler, is going to be demanding Fancy Feast. If that day comes, it might be time for my cat, Gerard Butler, to go live with his father again.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Two Additional Non-Resolutions: The List Is Growing!

After careful thought, I have decided to contract to two additional non-resolutions for the coming new year. By continuing not to engage in these scurrilous (or in the case of non-resolution #2, just annoying) actions, I will help keep from making the world a worse place.

The non-resolutions as follows:

1. I will continue not to bathe in the blood of innocent virgins in an effort to turn back the clock and look younger by the minute. Especially now that Olay has that $30 regenerist face cream that beat the $700 jar of face cream in the taste test, there exists no cause for Elizabeth of Bathory style actions at this juncture.

2. I will continue not to buy any more cats and name them after celebrities, because one cat named after a celebrity is clearly enough. My cat, Gerard Butler, couldn't agree more with this non-resolution.