Wednesday, October 31, 2007

That's My Monkey

Happy Halloween!

As you know, we tend to get pretty excited about Halloween 'round these parts.

Julian and Fred's costumes took some work. Thankfully, my mom attacked the project of turning our real life monkey into a specific and famous monkey with zeal. She also did a really great job making a yellow hat. Yay Mom!

My costume, on the other hand, was totally thrown together at the last minute.

What I never expected was how instantaneously attached Julian would be to this stuffed Blue dog which I grabbed at the thrift store Saturday morning. The cutest thing was on Sunday morning when Blue's Clues came on, Julian explained to Blue, the stuffed toy, that she was on television. I didn't even realize he liked Blue's Clues all that much, but nothing could contain his excitement at the prospect of watching Blue's Clues with Blue. I guess it is the toddler equivalent of meeting a celebrity.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Universe In My Backyard

At her father's funeral, my friend, Aushra, spoke of their shared love of science fiction and how her father never lost his sense of wonder. In particular, she mentioned how they had an agreement that if the aliens ever happened to land in the backyard or the TARDIS should materialize in the kitchen, get on that ship and go see the universe. Don't wait to ask permission or say goodbye. All would be understood.

When I was younger, the Chicago Tribune Magazine had this section where they published a profile of an actor/musician/writer/politician who had been given the same set of questions to answer. The questions tended to be information based (date of birth, place of birth, what they are working on now, what is in their refrigerator, etc.) However, there was one which stood out for me. It was: "If I couldn't be an actor/musician/writer/politician I would be blank." It probably goes without saying that I expected I would one day be asked to fill one of these profiles out and, just as I had already practiced my speech which began with the words "I would like to thank the Academy...", I had most of my answers planned. Obviously it was impossible to know exactly what I would be "working on now" when the time came, or, for that matter, what would be in my refrigerator. However, I had decided that in my profile would say "If I couldn't be an actor, I would be a: Time Lord."

I would be embarrassed to admit that except, well, it pretty much tells you everything you need to know about what I was like at fifteen. Ambitious and incredibly geeky. I truly believed this was an extremely clever answer. I can only hope that, in the parallel universe(s) where I did become a supremely successful actress (oh, they exist don't you tell me they don't) I either wised up or one of my many handlers stopped me from supplying this answer. (Of course, I think the Tribune Magazine stopped running those profiles when I was in college so, quantum physics aside, this is probably a moot point.)

Also, in all honesty, I never actually wanted to be the Time Lord who owned the TARDIS, I wanted to be a companion. A companion like Romana who looked like Lynda Carter and was a Time Lord in her own right, but a companion nevertheless.

In retrospect, that is far more embarrassing than the Time Lord answer because, as an adult, I have always prided myself on not being the companion to greatness, but on striving to be greatness itself. I wrote a whole play (which languishes in the second draft state in which I left it six years ago) about how completely unfulfilling it must be to be "just the girlfriend." So what possible appeal did being the companion to The Doctor have for me then (and, for that matter, now?)

Well, the obvious answer is that I am not from a planet of time travelers, I am a human being from planet Earth. Regardless of what science may achieve in my lifetime, it is technically impossible for me to ever be a Time Lord. Not to mention that Doctor Who is fiction. So, really, when I say that I wanted to be a companion, it is a little like saying I wanted to be a Bond Girl; I am saying that I wanted to be cast as a companion to The Doctor on the television show. And, not unlike James Bond, The Doctor was by definition male, which meant the role available for me was that of companion. (For the sake of clarity, those of you who are unfamiliar with Doctor Who should probably just imagine he is a time traveling James Bond. What they both have in common: British, saving the world from imminent destruction, cute girls. Except, as far as we know, James Bond has a lot more sex, but then, he isn't 900 years old. Yet.) Since the companions changed, I could fantasize about the character I would play. Of course, I would be beautiful, but that wouldn't be my character's central feature. I would be strong and smart, able to rescue myself if necessary. (Before you ask, yes, as a matter of fact, I wanted to be a Bond Girl, too, and yes, that is pretty much the way I described my Bond Girl character as well, but that is a whole 'nother essay.) Also, because The Doctor was played by different actors over the course of a quarter century, I could imagine a different sort of Doctor for my character. My Doctor would be younger and sensitive, like Peter Davison, but also irreverent and goofy, like Tom Baker, and brilliant, like, um, all of them.

How I would manage to do a British television series while I was making all my Academy Award winning films, I'm not sure. I guess I just assumed I would be able to do everything I wanted to do in life all at once.

But then the BBC went and cancelled Doctor Who in 1989. Yeah, they attempted to bring in back with a hideous TV movie in 1996, but, for all practical purposes, my plans of companion-hood were dead.

I grew up, went to college, graduated, and then I started my acting career in Chicago. It is my hometown and, at the time, everyone was going on about the "great Chicago Theatre scene", how actors in LA were forging Chicago theatre credits on their resumes so that they would appear to be "serious actors" and garner respect, how it was the place for a young actor to get started. So I began auditioning and working, fully intending to move to New York or Los Angeles after a few years. That was the plan at any rate. However, I fell in love with Fred and relocating to another city, a city where I had no support system, a city to which Fred was not entirely willing to follow me, lost its appeal. I didn't give up on the dream of a mantle full of Oscars, I just figured I could somehow beat the odds and have that while being based out of Chicago. I know how totally ridiculous that sounds, now, but when I was twenty-five, everything seemed possible. Or maybe I was just better at fooling myself back then.

No matter because, as the years went by and the number of theatrical disappointments dwarfed the number of triumphs, I began to take stock of all those hopes and dreams. I wasn't sure if I wanted to make the artistic compromises that an actor, by definition, was required to make. I mean, it didn't matter how good or bad I was, I was dependent upon my cast members, my director, the playwright, the producing theatre company all not sucking and, let's face it, that oftentimes is asking too much. Was it worth all the long hours and no pay if it meant I would be too embarrassed by the final product to ask my loved ones to come see me? Sure, I was doing it all so I could have that big break which would get me noticed by casting directors and agents alike, but what then? Did I really want to be filming in Prague and Toronto all the time when, realistically, we wouldn't be in a financial position for Fred to quit his job to be with me? Was that really the life I wanted? I said I wanted to be an actor, but did I even like acting? When I sat down and looked back at the work I had done of which I was most proud, I realized that every single one fell into the category of something I had either written or choreographed as well as performed. When I thought about what I wanted to achieve in the next decade, having a child, writing a novel and performing my own work for small groups of people outranked becoming an internationally recognized film star.

So I entered a state of semi-retirement as far as acting was concerned. I began writing every day and amassed a huge collection of poems, songs, unfinished short stories (not to mention the aforementioned play). I started this blog. I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo which I haven't even looked at since December 1, 2006. Most importantly, in November of 2004, I had Julian, a boy who amazes, astounds, and exhausts me every single minute of every single day. There were some long, dark, cold nights early on when I spent the time I nursed Julian thinking about my failure to progress as an actor, concluding that for all my talk of disappointment and lack of opportunities, perhaps the truth was that I simply had no talented (in truth, I still have those moments). However, I also came to realize that regardless of my talent or lack thereof, I had no interest in giving every night and weekend to a show unless I knew it would be good and, in theatre as in life, there are no guarantees. I thought I was if not content, at least accepting of where things stood with my life and my artistic aspirations. Because I reached this place as a result of choices I made and who knows where I would be if I had made different ones. Besides, I can always write while Julian naps (at least, that is the theory).

I heard rumors that the BBC was making Doctor Who again, but I didn't really pay attention. I was too busy with the intricacies of being a new parent to watch anything beyond whatever happened to be on TV when I wanted to watch (which, inevitably, meant Law and Order reruns.) Then, last fall, I stumbled upon the new Doctor Who and became hooked. Not only was it a Doctor Who informed by The X Files, it was a Doctor Who which seemed to conform precisely to my teenage imaginings of what the Doctor and his companion would be. Except, of course, Billie Piper, and not me, was playing the spunky, self-sufficient companion.

I'll admit, those long dormant fantasies about becoming a companion were shaken from their slumber. I suddenly started thinking how I could still be a companion, that I would redefine what it means to be a companion. I would have to because I am too old to be a companion in the traditional mold. Because The Doctor is That Guy, you know the one, the one who gets older while he girls with whom he surrounds himself remain the same age. And, in his case at least, it makes sense because it wouldn't make sense if someone with a lot of responsibilities were travelling through time and space, constantly risking their life for the sake of adventure (and, at times, in order to save the world). That whole late-teens/early-twenties period is a time for both self-discovery and life experience. We look at a twenty year old with no job or plans, backpacking through Europe as a normal and healthy individual, whereas we would look at a thirty-five year old in the same circumstances as a person who was developmentally stunted in some way. So, of course, if a thirty-five year old (even a really young looking, super cute thirty-five year old) were to be cast as a companion for more than one episode, there would need to be some explanation for why she was abandoning her responsibilities and hitching a ride on the TARDIS (like, say, her fiance was eaten by gigantic spiders and her place of employment, which only existed to aid the aforementioned spiders, was destroyed).

Which brings me back to what Aushra said at her father's funeral. I think Aushra's father meant it when he said that if Aushra ever had the opportunity to travel through space and time, she should take it. Despite this agreement, however, when Aushra chose to attend a graduate school in another city, her parents were quite unhappy at the idea of their only daughter leaving and expressed their wish that she choose a school in the area. This probably has something to do with possibilities and opportunities, for while it would be an impossible opportunity to join the aliens on their voyage of discovery, it is a comparatively mundane and everyday occurrence to go to graduate school. But regardless of what he meant with regards to Aushra traveling time and space, I don't for a second believe that Aushra's father would have left his wife and child if the space ship had landed before him, impossible opportunity or not. That isn't what a parent does. You don't leave your child behind and you don't take unnecessary risks. That's what it means to be a parent, that's what it means to be a grown up.

So here I am and I realize that the likelihood of me, a stay-at-home mom who is lucky to be sent on a commercial audition every couple of months, actually being cast as a companion is probably the same, if not less than, the likelihood of a real life Time Lord materializing in my kitchen. And if the latter happened, I might be tempted, but I know that I couldn't leave Fred and Julian behind. But what about the former? What if the impossible happened, like say, someone at the BBC read this blog post and decided I was just what they were looking for in a new companion or, equally unlikely, they decided to do a search of all unknown actors in Chicago because they heard about the kick-ass theatre community and I was the lucky person cast? Julian and Fred would of course stay here because, well, this is home. Britain is not New York, I couldn't expect to travel back on the weekends. So, what would I do?

The truth is, I have no idea. As much as I want to say that, of course, I would jump at the opportunity and figure out a way to make it work, I can't just say that. The idea of being separated from the two great loves of my life is too painful for me too contemplate.

While I still may dream of visiting the stars, the truth is that in becoming a parent, one's child becomes the center of one's universe and, suddenly, the stars in the sky lose a bit of their twinkle, become a bit less fascinating, as you realize that there is so much to explore right here on Earth.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Daemon

Now that we are getting closer to the release date of the movie, I figured I should post this. I know, I am totally buying into marketing, but you have to admit, this is really cool marketing. Because I think it is impossible to read the His Dark Materials trilogy and not wonder what your own Daemon would be, if you were to live in Lyra's world. And, I am really pleased because I did this a few months ago and then forgot about it, so I had to redo the test, and my Daemon was the same. Which means it must be true.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Time Takes Its Toll

About a week ago, I mentioned I received a MySpace message from a mysterious stranger who seemed to know me. I replied and I received the following message back.
Subject Line: Ah, same old...

Alison. It's nice to be able to count on some things in life...
Now, my first response when I read this was "oh, it is on!" and I began to compose a detailed diatribe railing against losers who contact people with whom they went to high school but can't be bothered to actually man up and identify themselves beyond a name and a childhood photo. I mean, if one wants to be seen as anything more than a cyberstalker, they have to make the profile public when contacting people. And what the hell is wrong with someone who chooses to look someone up from high school for the sole purpose of insulting them anyway?

But then I got bored with that idea. I mean, I can sit here and type all of the above for you, my beloved readers, but the prospect of saying all of that to this guy struck me as a waste of time. So I replied:
People don't change.
Which in the context of this exchange, is true. For this individual, I guess, I am the same as I was two decades ago.

In reality, however, my response was a total lie. We all change. With every passing second, we mutate into something else. Perhaps something better than we previously were, perhaps something worse, perhaps both at once. While I have expressed a fear of change in the past, I would be foolish to pretend that it doesn't exist. And to suggest that I am the same as I was twenty years ago would mean I would have to ignore everything that has happened to me in the past two decades. It would mean that I have been untouched by the people I have met over the years, those whom I loved who did not love me back and those whom I have loved who did. It would mean I was left unmarked by the child who grew inside my body, the child I bore and nursed, and who now grows taller with each passing day before me. It would mean that I have remained unaffected by experience. It would mean I have not grown.

Which I guess is what bothered me so much about this message exchange. This person was writing to someone who doesn't exist anymore, some girl named Alison who is still fifteen, and he didn't even attempt to engage the woman she grew up to be.

Postscript: As I was writing this, Tom asked to be my friend via MySpace and I saw his profile and, yes, we did go to high school together. So all is figured out, though all is not well. He sent me a message saying he couldn't believe I was the age I am and that I was old. Clearly, we are off to a very bad start with regards to this whole renewing old friendships thing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Addicted To Words

Play this game and feed hungry people.

For each word you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations to help end world hunger.

This is addictive. But it is addictive for a good cause and you actually learn something as you play.

Thanks to Kim for sending me this link.

Vote Obama

Democracy For America is conducting a pulse poll asking who you would vote for if the election were held today. Please go vote for Barack Obama. Polls close at midnight November 5, 2007.

Monday, October 22, 2007

These Games That You Play Are All In Your Head

Another video to get you in the spirit of things. This is an early Tim Burton short.

I find it fascinating, not merely because it is Tim Burton and spooky (two things I like a lot both separately and together), but also because it is a pretty accurate depiction of how it is easy to give in to the thoughts in your head and how those thoughts may not be an accurate reflection of one's reality. Or rather, how one's internal, subjective reality may differ dramatically from the objective world shared with others. Also, it is fun to listen to Vincent Price's voice for five minutes.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just In Time For Halloween

Mary Poppins, like you've never seen her before.

Obviously Julie Andrews did not ever have a remotely evil expression at any point during the film (because this would be even scarier if she had), but they do a good job of playing up her supernatural abilities and really, when it comes to supernatural abilities, the line between good and evil is pretty thin.

Thanks to Laddie for sending me this link.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I don't know what pisses me off more, the fact that they used Hello Kitty's image for a weapon of death (when we all know that Hello Kitty is all about the love--check out her bio on the Sanrio website. Her hobbies include "traveling, music, reading, eating yummy cookies her sister Mimmy bakes, and making new friends.") or that they expect people to pony up a grand for what I am telling myself is a very elaborate joke.

In a Perfect World We'd All Sing In Tune

"But you can fight for democracy at home and not in some foreign land." Billy Bragg

Twenty years on and Help Save The Youth of America and It Says Here feel like they could have been written yesterday.

I wanted to write a long post discussing how I have been listening to Billy Bragg a lot lately and ponder why music protesting Margaret Thatcher's policies should be striking a chord with me today. The similarities are striking--a war on terrorism, dismantling of decades old social policies, infringing upon the civil liberties of citizens, and a growing gap between the rich and the poor to name a few. But, unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more depressed I become and I just want to go back to bed. People have accused the American public of being apathetic, but I think our real problem is that we we are paralyzed by the knowledge that we are powerless, that nothing we do will make most of our political leaders listen to us, that most of them are just interested in getting our money and votes but they plan to represent whatever lobbyists or PACs have given them the most money (which, fyi, is one of the reasons I support Barack Obama--he isn't accepting money from Lobbyists or PACs, unlike Hilary Clinton). So we just focus on our own lives.

However, as much as I want to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and believe that everything will work itself out, I am really worried about the future. As much as I don't want to hurt the feelings of loved ones who I know have very different political views, I can't not voice my opinions. While it may not make a difference in the outcome, I can't just sit here and do nothing. And I don't know what I can do to change things, but I'm sure I'll think of something. To quote Billy Bragg, "If no one seems to understand start your own revolution and cut out the middleman."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pattern Meme

Your Brain's Pattern

Your brain is always looking for the connections in life.
You always amaze your friends by figuring out things first.
You're also good at connecting people - and often play match maker.
You see the world in fluid, flexible terms. Nothing is black or white.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Candy Candy Candy

I am so glad to see I am not the only person who suspects Bob is getting some action when he isn't building (or maybe even when he is).

Check out more Pez fabulousness here.

Oddly Specific Anonymous Email

I don't usually log into MySpace because, well, my social anxiety disorder has now extended to the internet as well. Oh, and beyond looking for music, I can't see the point of spending lots of time there (yes, I know, I was obsessed with Friendster years ago, but I am over that now, especially since I have found it impossible to make new friends on the internet due to the aforementioned social anxiety). However, a friend of mine from college (though our tours of duty never officially overlapped, we knew the same people) sent me an email apologizing for sending me "tittie video spam" via MySpace, claiming she was blinded by the large breasts. I understand being blinded by large breasts and find this to be the most honest explanation for sending spam to people, so really, there is no need for apologies. However, this reminded me that MySpace exists and I logged on to see what was going on.

Roddy Frame is doing some shows in London. Of course he is. Would it kill him to get on a plane and do some shows in the U.S.?

Then I check my inbox. Spam. A message from MySpace Tom. A message from another guy named Tom which has the subject line "I Have To Admit..."

Intriguing. I open the message:
you were dead on about Haircut One Hundred! Fantastic band! Although Robyn Hitchcock, come on...
How very strange. Tom obviously knows me, but who can he be? I was good friends with a guy named Tommy in college (he is an anthropologist and lives in San Francisco), but we are friends on Friendster and none of his pictures look like this one. So I click on the sender and see that Tom is 36 years old and lives in Chicago. So definitely not Tommy. This guy's profile is set to private, so I can't really tell you anything more about him. I suspect (given his age and his location) that we went to high school together. Or I have a stalker. Or both.

But let's just address this little message, shall we?

Tom is partially correct. Haircut One Hundred was fantastic.

It is another band Fred and I have in common. Pelican West is a great record. Unfortunately, I can't find my copy (I still seem to have copies of Nick Heyward's solo records, which is pretty embarrassing.)

However, Mystery Man Tom is completely wrong in his suggestion that Robyn Hitchcock is anything less than a musical genius and a very clever wordsmith. When listening to the lyrics of his songs, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed with the realization that this is a man who loves the English Language for all its complexity and silliness. I'll bet he could kick my ass at Scrabble.

P.S. If you ever have a chance, see Robyn Hitchcock perform. I first saw him perform in April, 1988 (just days after the performance below was filmed).

Also, it goes without saying that if you ever have a chance to see Roddy Frame perform, you should totally grab that bull by the horns. It is totally worth flying 6,000 miles and jet lag.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Aztec Camera-Knife, Live From Glasgow

I have probably said everything I am about to say before. This post may well seem like deja vu. Forgive me if it is all too familiar.

If the internet and YouTube did not exist, I would have to use my shaky memory to remember the eighties as opposed to this, which is more like a time machine grabbing hold of me and depositing me back in my bedroom of 22 years ago, listening to this song on the radio and feeling like it was a lifeline, as if someone finally captured my adolescent angst. Years ago, a friend of mine (another Roddy Frame fan) and I were comparing notes and realized we both gravitated to this song at thirteen, and we both holed up in our bedrooms writing poetry, wishing we could articulate ourselves as well as the only slightly older than us Roddy Frame.

The other day, Fred and I agreed that our mutual love for Aztec Camera was one of the things which brought us together--I went so far as to say that if we both didn't love Aztec Camera so much, we may have never stayed together, but that is a bit of a stretch. Who is to say what common denominators are necessary for a couple to make a life together?

Time passes and we all got older. The eighties are a distant memory. But I am still listening to most of the artists I listened to back then. The new stuff I like references the old stuff I liked. My tastes were set at an early age.

I look at this footage and I am not remotely surprised I ended up marrying Fred.

Speaking of Stephen Colbert...

The Colbert Nation website is an amazing trove of oddness.

A Pocket President

I recently read in a magazine a brief quote from Dennis Kucinich's wife, Elizabeth, saying that she firmly believed her husband would become president. Now while I am sure many people suspect that she must be delusional (has she seen his polling numbers?), after watching Dennis Kucinich on the Colbert Report, I can absolutely see why she feels this way. Clearly the man has powers beyond our comprehension.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Little Drummer Boy

He even wrecks his instruments when he is finished performing.

Luckily, he hasn't seen a real drum kit yet (or he has seen them, but he doesn't yet believe they are superior to the empty cookie tins he has). Oh, and we have a garage for when he eventually does (which is not to suggest that he can't make a lot of noise with the equipment he is currently using).