Good News From Taipei and Vilnius

I’m feeling a bit schizophrenic switching back and forth between trying to build a career both as a performer and as a producer in Asia.  I am really enjoying learning about the direction and production side of things, but I can never remove that performer’s hat completely, it seems…  crazy.

Taipei

So good news!  Things seem to be really coming together in Taiwan and The Rocker is making sure that I’ll be a part of all of it.  The National Theatre is interested in a three-month development period which I guess covers rehearsals and production.  If it covers preproduction as well it might be a great way to teach a physical acting workshop to work with local artists on techniques of what they see as “Canadian-style” physical acting and movement without the stress of having a final product right away.  It would put us all on the same page when we start rehearsals.

It’s still not clear if I’ll be performing or assisting The Rocker as a director or choreographer or what… to be honest, I would be most excited about doing both, but I should wait until I see what he has in mind.

These projects have me really excited to go out to Taiwan again.  I just finished a huge book talking about the political history of Taiwan over the last millennium!  Had my head spinning.  It’s a complicated history that made me question the very notion of nationhood.

Excited as I am about Taiwan, I don’t think I want to live there right now.  Anyways, it’s cheap and fast to fly there from Tokyo, so if the visa situation is resolved I could work between the two countries for the next year or so, I think.

Europe

In another part of the world, the former Director of the Lithuanian Pavilion just wrote me to tell me that she has been talking about me to a lot of Lithuanian contacts in theater.  Would be very interested in meeting with them, or even just getting in contact with them over email.  To really move forward, though, I hope to go to Lithuania soon, maybe even just after New Year’s.

She even suggested the possibility of discussing possibilities with Lithuanian TV producers which is an interesting idea that I had not really considered but I don’t think that my Lithuanian is anywhere near good enough for that right now.

Combining it all together…

I’m wondering if there’s a way to build on the Taiwan project by proposing a tour of the show in Tokyo?  My producer friends have been asking me what I think about the feasibility of producing a circus show in Tokyo with foreign artists… might be worth bringing up.

Almost trembling with excitement!  Or maybe just another one of these damn earthquakes..

Triple Strawberrysweetshit to Numb the Pain

They have this great thing here in Tokyo: at a restaurant that is inexplicably named ‘BLDY’ (bloody? baldy? bliady (a lithuanian/russian swear word)?, there is an all-you can drink fruity cocktail bar for about $4.50.  Though I did not imbibe excessively, it was the site of my public breakdown over the recent drug overdose and death of a good friend from MIT, and The Political Scientist was kind enough to pour me a triple strawberrysweetshit and soda to numb the pain.  His loss is a real shock.  It is strange, he was far from someone that i thought of on a daily basis, but to think that he was out there somewhere doing the sorts of things that he did was a source of stability…  grounding in a way.  He was the kind of guy I was proud to tell stories about… one of the mad geniuses of my MIT past that I would dredge up every once and a while to dazzle the so non-technical artist types around me.

He was a brilliant man, and on top of that, the only other person I know who went from science and engineering wholeheartedly into the arts.  The things he made, you could hardly believe them when you saw them. His medium was light and technology, and his was the realm of bright and moving and huge and sublime…and it’s all gone now, he has been put into the ground, and for some reason, I have not been able to write for myself since hearing the news; haven’t written a word for the sake of writing since hearing about his death.  I have, however, started regularly emailing old friends and my family to get back in touch with them all.

Trying to get back to the writing is still a priority for me – I’m trying to continue exploring a method that uses stream-of-consciousness flow from one word to another to build forward momentum.

This is basically an application of a movement theater and choreography techniques to writing, that and the concepts of full stops, extension, and so forth.  I’m realizing that writing and theater and dance and acrobatics is all part of the same thing; different vantage points to look at the same infinite obsidian column extending up out of the salt flats of Utah.  Let’s say.

It’s like a magnificent hip hop/spoken word piece that I just listened to by none other than Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab.  The piece was called ‘Release,’ which starts out talking about being positive or some bullshit like that, but about halfway through it turns into this haunting and impeccably written object poem about life in a most balanced and subtle tone.  Brilliant.

It makes me think of parkour, which the French also call yamakasi (from the Congolese Lingala words ya makasi, or “strong in one’s person”).  All the videos I have seen (given, about two years ago) showed an art in the process of maturing.  I respect this idea of moving through space with a rhythm and a flow and an open mind – a free-form physical jazz reverberating in ‘found’ urban landscapes, but for me personally, I find that the actual technique needs development.

Jazz dance and ballet and even classical martial arts could bring so much to breakdance and parkour.  While the latter two are all about unlimited free expression, and their hardest-core proponents seem to see such suggestions as attempts to curb that freedom.  But there is a liberty in pushing yourself to master technique; as long as your goal is to transcend it.  In writing, acrobatics, dance, and love – life? Bloody, baldy, bliady?

Technique gives us the opportunity to convey a freely-conceived message that much more clearly, that much louder, to bounce off the uneven concrete walls in a flanging reverb of our own artistic impulses.

Clarity.

For me, anyways

 

Interview at Global Live Entertainment

I interviewed with a friend yesterday to work for Global Live Entertainment as their representative in Japan.  The two of us would share responsibilities to maintain flexibility to work on our other projects, for example, I could leave for Taiwan for a month to work with The Rocker.  The contract would be for at least for a year, but could become permanent.

One project they are thinking about is starting up a small chapiteau circus without animals to tour in Asia, and we might be able to support them in that; finding acts, bookings, publicity, etc.

The job basically entails working between Global Live Entertainment and the Japanese stakeholders who I guess have not been pushing things very hard (according to GLE) and our job is to find out why and fix it.

GLE thinks that we need to get them thinking in new ways and possibly to engage in a little more market research.

So from my point of view, they need people who can operate smoothly in Japanese and Western business environments and who can manage and delegate authority well.  Between me and my friend I think we can do it.

The interview went well the VP of GLE seemed pretty interested in my background and wanted to know all about why I was “smart enough to go to MIT, but not smart enough to stay away from circus.”  I mentioned that I still want to perform, but that to do things in Asia the way I want to, I need to be able to produce and direct as well, and thus, I’m staying in Asia to try and carve out a niche market.

He was interested in that, and we talked for an hour or so, and I reiterated that two people working as a Japanese-American team is the best way to do the job because one person wouldn’t be able to really have the mind of the West and the mind of the Japanese in the same head.

At the end, he told me that even if this job doesn’t work out he has a proposition for me in Singapore where a friend wants to make a circus show but doesn’t know how.  It would tour the world for a year or so, and he wanted to know if I would be willing to take part in that at the level of performing, directing, or production, and of course, I said ‘yes,’ but that this current position is my first goal.

I’d stay in Japan, get a house, visa, per diem (maybe), and paid flights to North America… for a year.  During that time I hope to work also in Taiwan with The Rocker and on my own, and maybe after a year in Japan I will be able to find a way to perform in Japan as well, but it is so hard, an uphill battle all the way.

Of course, all that is the best-case scenario even if I just get a visa and money, I will be happy.  I am so stressed because I have three weeks to figure out a way to stay in Japan from January; I need to get a visa and all that, so that’s another reason the contract with Global Live Entertainment would be great.

After the meeting, my friend took me out to lunch and talked about many other people he could introduce me to who might be willing to hire me in Japan in live show production.

So there you go, just by being true to my desires and needs, I hopefully presented myself well.  It was a great lesson for me; not to be afraid or to try to find the right answer.  I said right up that I was still interested in my own projects even though it might have hurt my chances of getting the job, but I do not want to be a producer for another company 365 days out of the year.  I need to have the freedom to go where the arts take me.

We will see what happens with it.

If this position with Global Live Entertainment does not work out I am worried about how little time remains for me before I have to leave Japan on December 20th.

That leaves me two and a half weeks to find a Plan B which may not be enough time to find a job working in entertainment.  Maybe I should reach out to start meeting with people now, ‘just in case.’ At this point, any position that will provide sufficient income and a visa to stay in Japan would be great.

I would hate to have to leave Japan because I didn’t start job searching soon enough!

 

Auto Accident

Did I ever tell you about the time last year that I totaled my rental car on a deep-winter run between Boston and Montreal?  it was an all-night drive through a snowstorm after a one-day recording session with my former bandmate. I was in a hurry because I was driving to pick up The Contortionist, my brand-new girlfriend, from a party for an early morning tryst.  Black ice and poor visibility compounded by a few inches of drifting snow (the coarse kind; the stinging icy kind that hisses when it hits your windshield) led to a dead spin at about 60 mph.

I remember trying to right the vehicle as best as I could; turning into the skid and all that, before throwing my hands up in surrender; there was nothing I could do to avoid the inevitable that night.

I was on a bridge, which was cause for some alarm, and I was slowly drifting towards the railing.  Luckily for me, I went over the edge just at the end of the bridge, falling just a foot or two landing in a small tree at an angle of about 45 degrees to the ground.

The car was fucked up, and just trying to open the car door at that angle was a mind-altering experience.  After a tow truck and ambulance came (no injuries, but no longer tired) I was able to make it back to Montreal at a max speed of about 35 mph.  it really did look like I was driving a corpse of a car; all beat up and humming in a hiccupy way with a jerky sort of handling that pulled me so far to the right such that I had to constantly steer a hard left.  it felt like I was driving in circles, but I made it to Montreal at about 8 in the morning, three hours later than planned.

I was sure that there were to be repercussions of some sort when I returned the car, but they just asked me to fill in damaged areas with a ball point pen on a little pictogram of a car (“est-ce-que vous avez un felt-tip marker?” I asked before blacking out the entire car), and that was it.  The damage waiver of 20$ Canadian covered the whole thing.  There was no record of it at all.

The next time I rented from Hertz, they made no mention of it, I had no increase in insurance premiums… fuck!

The great thing was, it happened at a shitty time in my life; my teacher of three years had been deported, my new little circus company was falling apart before we had even managed to secure a big premiere, I was on academic suspension from my school, the plunging US dollar was causing me to lose about 100 dollars a week, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to graduate on time.

But shit, spinning around on a winter’s night on a suspension bridge put shit in perspective, and the satisfying crunch of landing in a tree and smashing the fuck out of a luxury automobile was a great purge of negativity.

And it only cost me 15 bucks US.

The United Colors of Fauxmogeneity

In the academic climate of MIT everything was outcome based, and no one really looked at who was having difficulty and why – you were admitted because you were supposed to be smart, so prove it – deliver, deliver, deliver!

Well, we’re not smart.  No one is.  We’re all stupid from birth, and absorb a filtered mix of what is presented to us and what we choose to  absorb.

These days, I am amazed on a day-to-day basis at how stupid some of my long-held beliefs are, how little I actually know about things that I thought I knew, for example:

  • Soviet culture during the Cold War
  • Meso-American and South American history
  • the best way to cook a turkey

Social learning and academic learning are two completely different things, and too often people think that school should be the main source of both.

Classrooms are much better organized to focus on academic learning, but social learning takes place everywhere in a school: in hallways, during after-school activities, and in the classrooms themselves.

So will boys and girls will learn more efficiently in same-sex classrooms?

Well, if the focus within the classroom is on academics then the social learning argument falls away – some people (like me five years ago) who claim that same-sex classrooms don’t prepare students for the real world, but now I see that the classroom itself is not necessarily designed to prepare students for the real world.

The real world is meant to prepare students for the real world, but if the classroom can be more efficient than the real world at making our students more interested, educated, and comfortable in their gender roles, the real world will be that much richer for it.

In “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” Jared Diamond talks about how people learned in tribal societies and how tribal societies evolve as the population grows.

It seems possible that small societies with clearly defined gender roles might leave the men to educate the boys, and the women to educate the girls.  Outside of that informal educational structure, young men and young women randomly bump into each other in the social thermodynamics of human interaction.

Of course, the way that our Western society has developed, the idea that men are better suited to teach boys and that women are better suited to teach girls seems a bit archaic (although I may change my mind in five yers, who know), but that is because knowledge base is much less linked to gender role than it might be in the hypothetical hunter-gatherer society above.

However, I don’t think that it changes the fact that boys might be better classmates for other boys and that girls might be better classmates than other girls, primarily because I believe that we still do have biologically (and sure, maybe culturally) determined gender roles that cannot be left at the door of any classroom.

But this is fine!

  • Women and men are different.
  • Christians and Muslims are different.
  • Japanese and French are different.

Blindly believing that people the world over are fundamentally the same may feel right to people who aren’t at the interface of these differences, but in fact it actually interferes with international communication and policy setting from the UN right down to the US to its school system.

We are all different, and we need to affirm and own our differences before we can learn to accept them and love them in each other.

Never in my time in school, not in elementary, not in middle school, not in high school, not in college, not in art school, not in Japan, not in America, not in Canada, did we ever discuss in a classroom setting what it means to be White or Black or Latino or Asian; how these groups are perceived by the others, how various factions withing a given group interact, etc, etc, etc.

Sure, we saw it all ‘in theory;’ we learned abstractly about hate crimes through ‘Roots,’ and the Holocaust, and through after-school style educational videos.

But we never had the opportunity to say ‘All right, all cards on the table, this is what I think about Black people, Asian people, White people, and this is what I think they feel about me.’

But I do remember that there was a clear image in the minds of everyone – silent, but deafening in its pervasiveness and implicit acceptance, of how Black students were supposed to act, how the punks were supposed to act, how the Asian honors students were supposed to act…

I wonder if there would have been more openness to discuss this issue and to examine it carefully were I in a classroom full of other half-Japanese.

Where did these images come from?  Media, friends, history, parents?  How can we really sort the whole issue out without communicating in a raw way, and without getting emotional about the whole thing?  Without feeling threatened.

We are far from being able to divide everyone into classrooms with their clones; we do not have the racial and cultural homogeneity of tribal societies; so how far can we subdivide our educational experiences?

I feel like I can really argue it from both sides, so it is hard for me to find out what I actually believe.

Kamakura Money Laundering

Just got back from Kamakura.  There is an island there that is ruined in the typical Japanese way – the whole thing is paved with steps and handrails everywhere and there is a cave that it is filled with lights and at the end is a big electric dragon statue that roars when you come near it.  But hiking there was fun anyways, and after a while even the terrible things were funny.

But then we went to the Kamakura daibutsu which is really small, maybe 10 meters, but it was made in the 13th century out of bronze, so for the time, it is hard to imagine the engineering that went into such a project.

Then we hiked to a hidden little shrine in the woods that looked about 400 years old, which, I guess it was, as are many others, but most don’t look like it.  This one was decaying and falling all over, and it was great to see that.  It looked very organic and was built on a really steep mountainside, too, so it was fun to climb around it.

And finally was a shrine where you go to wash your money to bring financial luck to your life.  I washed 5000 yen (didn’t want to be greedy washing a 10,000 yen) and then washed a 10 yen to give back to the shrine as a thank you.

Hope it pays off because starting Monday I’ll interview for a job at a major entertainment company that I’ll call “Global Live Entertainment” which will actually be very good for me if I can get it.