Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why I Will Vote For Forrest Hill

With Green candidates running for several statewide offices in California and the United States Senate, the most meaningful Green vote might be for the office of Secretary of State. This is the Chief Elections Officer, responsible for elections, corporate chartering, the Political Reform Division, the International Business Relations program, and the State Archives, among other duties.

This would be an excellent seat for a well-qualified Green who could use the opportunity to promote reforms such as instant runoff voting and proportional representation, just for starters. Faith in our democratic process is shockingly low, and power over federal and local governments is in a strangehold by, for, and of two dominant political parties who select candidates to please their major financial donors. This is a huge, obvious, screaming problem: money controls the selection of candidates, and the monopoly is further preserved by a winner-take-all electoral process.

It may be Halloween today, but the real dress-up day will be Election Day when some of us – sadly, very few of us – will go the polls in the guise of Citizens Of A Democracy, pretending to cast a meaningful vote.

Or we can cast a meaningful vote for a good, qualified, sober guy with good ideas for reform and a willingness to present them to voters, as if we were halfway intelligent adults with an educable interest in our government.

Enter Forrest Hill. His campaign website is here and here is his bio. Here is a short article he wrote about media spending.

Hill also understands the critical connection between electoral reform and our environmental survival. With our elections dominated by corporate interests, our progress toward building a sustainable society (not to mention a fair society) is delayed or blocked altogether. The scientific news about our ecosystem is not great for human beings – the consequences of our economic arrangements are going to become clear in my lifetime. I can truly say that if I have children, I do not know what they will inherit. This is a sobering predicament, and neither Democrats nor Republicans are talking about it. That's crazy.

This is why I am registered Green despite some of the party's antics, and this is why I am voting for Forrest Hill as Secretary of State. If Hill got so much as 10% of the vote, it would bring more attention to these issues.

Please read a little bit about them. Think about giving Hill your vote. Whatever you choose, please think on these things.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Jeff Is A Great American and So Is Dave

"Thank you, Mr. President. On Thursday of this week, you were speaking at a campaign event on behalf of Iowa's Republican candidate for Congress, Jeff Lamberti."

"That's right."

"You took the stage and said Mr. Lamberti would win the election, and that you and he share similar values regarding family and taxes, and marriage, and so on. The problem was, as was reported in numerous press stories, you repeatedly referred to Jeff Lamberti as 'Dave.' Would your endorsement have been more effective if you knew his name?"

"Well, to be fair, I did refer to him correctly as 'Jeff' 11 times in my comments. People say I'm inflexible, but look at that – you see, my tactics are always changing. Job of the President is a tough job."

"Were you confused about Lamberti's name?"

"No! And what you've got to understand is that the President acts on the best intelligence he can get! I was correct, based on my understanding that his name was Dave."

"Then why did you call him Jeff at other times?"

"Look, no one could have foreseen that this man would actually be named Jeff. We have a tough job up here."

"Do you think it's a metaphor for criticisms of your administration?"

"This Administration is always responding to new information and changes in our intelligence. You have to adapt quickly if you're going to change. And our message in this election is, 'It's a good time for change.'"

"Is that really your message?"

"Absolutely. Of course. Always has been, even before this election. Our Administration is changing its story all the time – you know, changing tactics, and the story follows the tactics. That's how you win. And we're going to win. And you don't win by sticking to your old story. So we adapt. This is the party that truly upholds change and so I say, if you want change, stick with the Republican party."

"Does Jeff share that point of view?"

"Absolutely. You bet. Dave is behind us all the way. We need more people like Dave as we confront evil."

"Jeff, sir."

"Yes, and Jeff, too."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Come Again?

The following Letter To The Moon appeared on The Blue Doodle on October 7.
------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Moon,

Here we go again. We must part company once more, as I leave you to confront a cruel emperor.

I address you because to you, everything is a cycle. But who is there to call it a 'cycle?' Aristotle watched you turn around and around, and he made up the idea of time. Plato, on the other hand, watched you turn around and around – and saw that the motion IS time.

So there is a cycle, and there is not.

It is time for me to leave you for a while, to be reborn on the earth as a mortal. As happened before, a cruel emporer is pulling the entire world into suffering, and nothing can be done because no one down there knows how to talk to Compassion.

Compassion and me, we have a relationship. We talk. She has helped me with cruel emporers before. He wanted eternal life, that old Caesar, and he tore up half the planet trying to find it. So Compassion gave me an elixir to take to him. Caesar did not trust me, and made me taste it first to see if it was poison. I drank, and smiled. He drank. We both died. I don't know where he went, but I floated back up to join you: the moon, my home.

To where does Caesar return? I do not know that, but we see he is back again. We confront one another, kill one another, and after flying home we return to do it again.

I ask you moon, because you know cycles: if there was no cruel emperor, would there be any need for me?

Is this what time is?

No time for your reply, dear moon; it is time to go.

-Chang'e

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Theatre Dojo Begins

After lots of talk, the project is getting off the ground at last. I hope.

The idea began probably while I was still at Trinity Rep, having come through the Conservatory while living at Providence Zen Center. A training environment for actors in which their training included a disciplined approach incorporating zazen and intensive physical practice. To put it simply, I came to see acting as a martial art, and thought it should be taught that way.

Frankly, I would benefit from such a place myself; yet it doesn't exist. So, absurdly, I must build it and invite my betters to help me.

...and so two wonderful friends appeared: Chris Nelson, a writer and director who also teaches martial arts; and Jennifer Swain, an actor and director who is a yoga teacher as well (and is already teaching workshops for actors around Los Angeles).

Does anyone want to buy our peanuts? We'll see. We are introducing our approach in a 2-day introductory workshop November 18-19, for three hours each day. We have a studio at The Complex in Hollywood.

The idea is to invite a room full of good people more or less at cost, work together for the two days, and get lots of feedback about what is useful and true about the work.

We three are scared shitless, and also very excited.

Some Comments On Bob Casey's NPR Interview This Morning

As long as my party is going to be shut out of the debates and effectively barred from the United States Congress, I am forced to look to the Democrats for a sensible opposition to the Orcs who currently occupy two out of three branches and for a hope of sensible government should the Dems seize power. I keep feeling let down.

This morning, it was a Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey. Casey, running for the Senate against incumbent Senator Rick Santorum, was interviewed on NPR this morning on just one topic: Iraq. To my ear, Casey played right into one of the GOP's talking points. That talking point goes something like this: "Democrats are great at criticizing our policy, but they have no plan of their own."

Sure enough Casey redirected every single question to the Bush Administration's failures (we know, we know, we get it) without advancing or even hinting at a better plan. So Steve Innskeep kept asking this candidate for the United States Senate: what next? How do we get Iraq into a condition where it would be morally acceptable to get out? What leverage do we use to assist or goad the Iraqis into taking over their own security? Casey did suggest a few desirable benchmarks while resisting a calendar deadline; when asked, dates aside, what we do if benchmarks are not met, Casey reverted to historical criticism of Bush's policy. Innskeep tried again. And he tried a third time. Same non-answer every time.

The only suggestion Casey threw out there was: make the Saudis pressure the Sunnis. Innskeep didn't bother asking how we might execute that idea.

At every opportunity he had to suggest a different way forward - even in broad, theoretical terms; or to describe a direction and say frankly, "I don't know how we get there yet, but I know this is the way and I know we can get there" - Casey turned back to kicking Bush.

A little better than Rahm Emanuel, I'll admit. But that is faint praise.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Writin' Til My Fingers Bleed

If it seems like I have less active on these blogs - both my own, and in the comments on yours - you are right. Things have been busy.

Yesterday, I invited a dozen people over to a friend's apartment in Hollywood for a sit-down reading of a radio play I have been working on for a while, entitled Do You Hear What I Hear?, and have nearly finished. I wanted to invite many more people, but there just wasn't enough space.

I made one horrible mistake that bears repeating: I relied on Evite to get the word around, and one individual whom I really wanted to be there (having written the character with her voice in my head) somehow didn't get the lowdown. It really would have paid for me to follow up with direct email, or some other means to make sure she got the word. It really is my fault. I blew it.

It is both very stressful and immensely pleasurable to sit back and let actors read your play. It is also enormously useful to get their feedback, and also hear from people who did not read, but sat and listened to the whole thing. My friend Deb, I noticed, didn't even look at the actors reading. She sat back and shut her eyes or looked at the floor, knowing it would be a radio play.
The play will be submitted to an annual competition for radio plays next month.

If you ask about this bandaid on my finger, I am tempted to say I was hacking away at my play until my finger bled, but it would not be the truth. In fact, while taking a break from writing this weekend, I was chopping veggies for a soup that cannot be beat, and was chopping with a little extra brio. Ka-bam, I chopped right into my left index finger.

This little piggy bled for an hour.

I'm getting the hang of tying with nine fingers, but playing the ukulele is impossible. Damn it.

The first Theatre Dojo event will take place the weekend of November 18. We are going to present a one-time workshop and invite everyone we know to come, for a tiny pittance, to try out our class and give us feedback. The idea is to devise a system for training actors that incorporates sitting meditation, yogic practice for tuning the body, and a hidden form of Tai Chi that is interactive. This approach allows an exploration of several principles important for stage actors, that are often neglected in conventional American approaches. We want to present some of this to actors and hear what they think they could use from it.

More details coming soon. Would you like to come and play with us for three hours in Hollywood? I hope so.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Jousting In The Presidential Mosh Pit

Friends, I am up late. Spent hours stuck in traffic Friday and on such days I am soon done for: my mind can't resist projecting the traffic jam into a metaphor for my life and at the end of the week I am sufficiently tired that I sometimes believe the rubbish that goes through my head. End result: Friday nights tend to be sleepless.

So I am up late and what have I found in my midnight rambles but video archives on the British Prime Minister's website of his weekly sessions with parliament.

In this parliamentary tradition, the PM visits the House of Commons for a half-hour session of questions and answers. This used to be 15 minutes, but Tony Blair combined two 15-minute sessions into one half hour. During this session, any MP can ask the leader of the government a question on any topic. Watching the video is exciting. Something here is very much missing in my own politics: a sense that the leader of the government is completely accountable, and is expected to answer direct questions - competently - about his or her policies even in the face of catcalls and heckles.
If Tony Snow tried to give the kinds of answers he favors in front of the House of Commons, the lowliest backbencher would howl with laughter and drive Snow from the room. And well it would be.

Such a program could be the most nutritive and sweet-tasting British import since, well, tea.

Imagine a forum in which George W. Putsch might be asked a direct question by, perhaps, Barney Frank; or Barbara Lee; or Ron Paul; or Henry Hyde; in which the Current Occupant was obliged to respond. If we had such a program, it would be a sight more difficult for a worm like this to ascend to the office in the first place.

C-Span's ratings would skyrocket. It would be the highlight of my week.

I read a cool article about this very idea in the Washington Post, and the subject of the article made a good observation. Our President has the untouchability of royalty combined with the role of government head. Not so in the UK: while the Queen is off-limits in a public forum, the PM is up for grabs. Presidential appearances before the Congress are these staid, scripted shows at which no one would dare heckle. It would be seen as unseemly.

Yet, to me, it is unseemly not to. Especially in these times.

At least Blair is forced to defend his decision about Iraq before intelligent, skeptical legislators on a consistent basis; and is forced to pay a political price for that decision.

Click those links and check out some of the video footage. If American politics had more of this, well, sports-like excitement (in addition to intelligent debate), maybe voter apathy would be less of a problem.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This 2-Headed Beast Is Walking Into Walls

...or, "Some Thoughts on Rahm Emanuel's Appearance on NPR Yesterday."

I listened to Rahm Emanuel's interview on NPR yesterday and if anyone were to ask me...

...he pauses, and nobody asks him, so he pretends it was a rhetorical question and proceeds anyway...

I don't think he represented the Democrats well at all. Indeed, in his interview with Steve Innskeep yesterday morning he adopted the infuriating tactics of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and George W. Bush: attacking questions rather than answering them, even attempting to shout down the reporter, and dismissing relevant historical questions as second-guessing (so as not to acknowledge missteps or, you know, lessons that may have been learned).

Nothing in this interview inspired me with any more confidence that the Democrats are prepared to lead with honesty and accountability.

The Democrats are hoping that we voters are sufficiently unhappy with the Republican majority that we turn to them looking for a new direction. I still do not believe the Democrats are truly offering anything new. Truth is, the Democratic and Republican parties have JOINTLY led us to where we are, as they have jointly held all of the federal power. This bicameral beast is not adequate to the tasks our republic must face. There must be a sharing of power, at least another presence at the table with a meaningful role to play in legislation and budgeting.

Left to itself, this 2-headed creature will not respond effectively to our energy needs, the condition of our ecosystem, our national security, nor the principles of liberty and justice that have been subjugated to the interests of power and wealth.

I grew up believing in a United States that exists only on paper, and that piece of paper is torn.

How Does The Moon Become Small?

This Letter To The Moon appeared on The Blue Doodle on September 30:

-------------------------------

God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times--the days and the years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth." And it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, to dominate the day and night, and to separate the light from darkness. And God saw that this was good.
­-- Genesis 1:14-18


Dear Moon,

You see, I thought you were jealous.

When you cried, "How can two kings wear the same crown?" I told you to make yourself the smaller of the two lights. Sensing your distress, I told you Israel would set its calendar by you. I tried to lighten your mood when I said that, in your honor, righteous people would be called "the small." You did not find that funny.

"Of what use is a lamp in broad daylight?" you asked. Alongside the sun, what would be your job? You were seeking clarity. You wanted purpose. It was I who pitted you against the Sun.
We fathers do the best we can, even when we don't see clearly. This is why I sought atonement.

Still, it was not I who made you small. Who made you small when you asked, "How can we be equal?" Then I said what I said: "Go make yourself smaller." I should have simply told you to put it down. Sun beams, flowers grow; moon shines, oceans move.

You have that choice yet. Put it all down, and forgive. Then your full size is completely restored.

I love you.

-Pop

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hands On The Wheel But The Roof Is Open

My car has a black eye. A sexy scar, a little bit of body damage.

Do other cars find that attractive? Do they find it erotic or intimidating? Perhaps the other cars in the parking lot or on that tony street in Beverly Hills are impressed by my car’s battle wounds and think he’s the shit.

Except for that one little Italian model that says, “He ain’t got nothin’.”

* * *

Last weekend, a prankster painted my license plate.

This special someone used a brush and some kind of primer to white out my registration number. It came off with a paint scraper, taking just a few minutes out of my Sunday. Not much of a practical joke.

As I was working on it, a neighbor walked by and said, “Hey, while you’re at it, you should get a razor blade and cut an ‘x’ into your registration sticker.”

Have a nice day.

* * *

I spend two to three hours a day in the car, stopping and rolling. I do not live in El Monte or in the Valley, either. No, I am right here in town, just a few miles away from where I work. On the freeways, you sit. They fill up before the sun rises, and the jams begin by the time the sky is lit. City streets can sometimes get you there more quickly, but they are also riskier.

When it gets really bad and I am feeling upset about the traffic, I will sometimes take a time-out. I pull off the road, find a café, and chill out.

On the wall at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I notice a sculpture hanging next to me. It is made of license plates. It gives me a weird, macabre sort of feeling.

* * *

One Thanksgiving, I drove from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay for dinner. In the middle of the desert, all northbound traffic on the freeway was shut down for a while because of a car accident. They had to land a helicopter on the road to evacuate a crash victim. This took an hour and a half. People got out of their cars, walked around, mingling. A football was tossed back and forth, someone played a guitar.
Eventually, the all-clear traveled like a southward breeze, and we all turned the engines on and resumed our journeys.

As after the Christmas Truce of 1914, the combatants completed the spontaneous cease-fire and, once in their cars, immediately resumed hostilities.

* * *

The car’s fuel gauge is a little funny. After half a tank, the needle drops to empty, and then it bounces and drops again when it is out of gas. Like a lot of people, the car has a little trouble knowing what it wants and clearly communicating its needs.

I have learned that the fuel gauge is an instrument the fails frequently across all makes and models, and is frequently left unrepaired.

As with people.

* * *

Mr. Nelson left today for several days of driving. He landed a job driving to Iowa, then to Seattle, and then to Montana. He invited me to join him knowing I probably could not go.

Despite my feelings about city traffic, I envy Chris his road trip. My five cross-country drives were all experiences I remember fondly. On a road trip, the entire country feels like it is mine to explore and appreciate. I am on the ground, yet I stand on nobody’s map but my own.

Strange how driving can confer such a feeling of freedom, and also a feeling of being utterly confined, as when I sit listening to financial news on NPR watching the lights and waiting for the cars ahead of me to move forward.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Red Nose Manifesto

My uncle once showed me a baseball cap he had bought somewhere. On the brim of the cap was a bull's ass, and the bull had made its deposit on the very tip of the cap.

Donning such a hat is very funny and on target, but it exposes you too much. There is something much more effective, by way of subversion, in donning a clown nose and simply proceeding with what everybody else is doing.

Feeling disaffected? Act out a little. Get yourself a clown nose. Choose one with care. Or don't.

In Brazil, voters protested corruption and general assininity by going to the polls on October 1 with clown noses on. True. Read an account of it, with the government's reaction, here. There were other hijinks that election day as well. The movement that distributed clown noses aimed at a silent protest leveling humor at the absurdity of being required by law to vote in a system saturated with corruption and hypocrisy.

Voting with the nose on is one thing. Wearing it while you run for mayor is another.

And it is still another, again, for a sitting mayor to employ humor in transforming society. Here we are reminded of the work of Antanus Mockus of Bogota, Columbia. Among his initiatives was sending out hundreds of clowns into the streets to mock people who ignored the traffic laws.

Mockus said, ""The distribution of knowledge is the key contemporary task..Knowledge empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change."

You can even take your clown nose to do bodhisattva work all around the globe. For example, consider Clowns Without Borders or The Order of Disorder. It is not an easy path.

You do not have to be a drone and you do not have to be an outlaw. That's limiting in its own way.

In the world but not of it, you can participate in the assininity of the world without buying it. You won't be here for a long time anyway.

If these sentiments speak to you at all, you are already an eccentric. It is time, like my friend Cat Zen Space says, to come out of that closet.

It's not just you. It really doesn’t make sense.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Trouble In Pyongyang

Korean
test 'went wrong,' U.S. official says

The U.S. believes North Korea tried
to detonate a nuclear device and "something went wrong," a government official
told CNN Tuesday.



What is the matter, Dr. Kim?

The bomb will not go off!

Did you check the wiring?

Yes!

Is the ignition unit on?

Yes!

Is the loud honking machine calibrated with the shrill bleating machine?

Yes, of course I checked that!

Hmmm.

Hmmm.

Oooh! Aha! I know! I know something you can try!

What is it, Dr. Lee?

Give it a – oh, what do you call it – give it a, what was that called – oh yes! Give it a zetz!

What is a zetz?

That's what the Israeli scientists call it. Give it a kick.

A kick?

Yes! Kick it! Kick it!

Okay, I will kick it...

There Ain't No River Either

No blogging for a few days. A little bit busy and a little bit uninspired. Rapid-fire headaches and sulky tempers. In Zen practice, one tries to become whatever barrier he encounters; so I became sulking. It worked so well I fell between the floorboards and had to climb out. Just as I climbed out, a cat sniffed me and inadvertently sucked me into her nose. She then sneezed and I hit the ground very hard. When I woke up, an ant was getting ready to carry me off and I had to run. This set the tone for the whole weekend.

* * *

My acting teachers from the Conservatory tell me that I would be officiating at their wedding ceremony if that civil right were available to them. For them, I would perform the ceremony with no hesitation. They have been practicing marriage for nearly three decades and together they have built a home that nourishes friendship, wisdom, and love in their community. Their relationship is exemplary. There is no defensible argument against calling their bond a marriage, celebrating it by that name, and letting it be recognized by the state.

At a wedding reception, I watched these two men dancing together. The D.J. announced that we were now going to "see who has been married the longest." He had all the couples on the dance floor, and announced he would pare the couples based on the length of their marriages: 1 year or more, 5 years or more, 10 years or more, and so on. The last couple standing would be the longest-married.

Right away, B. and S. started to leave the dance floor, presumably because this was for married couples. My heart dropped at this sight, for reasons described above. Then I saw them change their minds. They turned back and danced together among the other married couples, staying on that dance floor up to the 30-year mark. It was a small Boston Tea Party and it gladdened my heart.

* * *

Ikkyu observed that when you are not going anywhere, any road is the right one.
People in Rhode Island say, "Come home." People in Los Angeles say, "Stay here."

To all I say, "What shall we do?"

* * *

Mistakes teach. Disappointment teaches. Fear is teaching. I must need a lot of help. Keep on hitting my head against this wall I can't remember building.
* * *

From my journal:

The meaning of discipline changes? The meaning of discipline does not change. The active meaning is always following.

To follow objects is to be ruled by desire.

In the early stage of a discipline we follow technique. Here, desire is used to fuel or inspire our discipline. Thus, a mythical notion of a path leading to some good end. A useful dream.

Later, discipline only follows situation. The mind cannot be placed anywhere because it flows like water.

Kill the actor and the river runs free.

* * *

Is there no cider in Los Angeles?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Lonely Flares

This Letter To The Moon appeared on The Blue Doodle on September 19.
----------------------------------------

Dear Moon,

There is nowhere else for me to turn. Laughing at myself, I resort to this desperate measure.

From your vantage point, can you see my old friend, Eric? Is he well? Is he happy? Is he roasting himself in the sun? Are his eyes tracing the shape of the Santa Monica mountains? Is he still going home to that apartment in Echo Park that smells like the neighbors' bong water? Or did he buy that house?

Does his chest rise and fall with ease? Does he sleep next to somebody short who fits snugly in the crook of his arm? Is he alone? Did he go back to smoking? Say, how are his hands? He chews his fingers when he's under stress.

Are you able to see and report anything? Anything at all.

He was my best friend and wants nothing from me anymore. Nor I from him, truly. I have moved on. I harbor no feelings of attachment. I am simply curious. One doesn't stop wondering about someone they have truly cared about.

Or do they?

Thanks for your help.

..'Chelle.

* * *

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your letter to the Moon.

The Moon receives much more mail than it could possibly answer, so please pardon this form reply.

While the letters include questions and prayers and tributes (which are greatly appreciated), most of them feature requests to surveil and/or report on specific persons all over the world: old friends, biological parents, spouses, soldiers abroad, previous lovers, and so on. ..n Please understand that it is impossible for the Moon to fulfill such requests. Although the Moon must leave you with your question, please know, dear human, that you have a lot of company.

We hope this eases your loneliness at least a little. Of course, we wish you a beautiful evening, tonight and every night to come.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

An Account Of My Murder

you live in Los Angeles
and you are going to Reseda;
we are all in some way or another going to Reseda someday
to die…
-M. Doughty, with Soul Coughing



It seems like such a nice house, much like its neighbors on Amigo Avenue in Reseda. It has been painted more recently than many of them. The only sign of any unusual activity is a brown dumpster in front of the house.

Let yourself into the backyard by way of a wooden gate, and you stumble across morbid mementos. A wall panel covered with photographs of women, with their features defaced. A broken shopping cart. Various sharp implements. A sinister-looking cage just the right size to hold a human being captive.

There is also blood. Lots of it. Gallons of it, in fact. It is stored in bottles: ketchup bottles, water bottles, and bladders with dropper-like attachments.

There are also cables running every which way, sound and camera equipment, costumes hanging up in a covered staging area, and a table where food is served for more than a dozen people.

Yes indeed, this pleasant household has been converted for a time into a movie set, and it is here that an independent horror flick entitled The Cellar Door is being filmed on the fly and for a song.

Inside the house, all of the floors have been covered with paper. Fake walls have been installed. Windows have covered and sealed. The main bedroom has been converted into a makeup facility, with a bedspread of latex flesh wounds, as if a demon-being could wrap itself up in a quilt of lethal injuries. These are the prosthetics that are painstakingly glued to actors' bodies and painted to simulate horrific and gory mayhem.

I am introduced to James Dumont, the actor playing our serial killer. He sits in a specially designated cheap plastic chair. He must sit exclusively in this chair because he is covered in fake blood and we cannot get blood on any of the real furniture. He sits there, drenched in blood, with a remarkably nauseating wound oozing on his forehead, chatting on a cell phone with his children. "Hi sweetheart!"

This will be my largest role on film to date: a door-to-door Christian missionary who knocks on the serial killer's door, and as a result - well - he goes home to Jesus sooner than he intended. By way of a knife in the gut.

I am stabbed many times with a retractable knife. That's right, the plastic kind that you can buy right now at the convenience store in the Halloween section. The retractable is not retracting very well, and every time DuMont stabs me the blade snaps off. I feel like Superman.

Instead of laughing triumphantly like a superhero, I sell it: grab my gut and go "aaaauuugghh! eaaaaaauuggghhh!! bweeeooooaaaaahhh!!!" and crumple to the floor trying not to smash my head into the filmmakers' equipment. The lighting guy actually requests that I try not to damage his lighting stand with my head. I agree to this.

The film is being shot on high-definition video, which means I can't use the cliche about getting the scene "in the can." There is no can. It's a hard drive. What am I supposed to say? "We got it in the hard drive?" "It's ready for upload?" Anyway, we got the scene done fairly quickly and it was time for me to sit in the makeup chair.

Time seems to disappear when you have two women hovering about you gluing things to your face and calling you "honey," but I think an hour passed. They worked quickly, gluing some pretty disgusting wounds to my face and matching them to my skin. The adhesive smells strongly of alcohol and other mysterious ingredients. They also a kind of cream that is reportedly very difficult to get off the skin. For one deep wound near my jawbone, one of the artists actually simulated a bit of cartilage – a detail that will surely be lost when they pour blood all over me. Once I look sufficiently disgusting they send me on my way.

Since I know I will be sitting around for a while, I get out the ukulele and practice. They feed us lunch. I practice "Michelle," the Beatles tune, for hours and listen to the mayhem going on within the house. For one shot, a woman runs through the house shrieking at the top of her voice for take after take. There is a sort of reverse Doppler effect to this:

......eeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaAAAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

as I quietly play the opening of "Michelle."

* * *

Hours and hours pass. Thank God the makeup doesn't itch.

* * *

It is time to shoot the scene where my body is discovered. Very carefully, I am placed in a bathtub, and another actor (also playing dead) is placed on top of me. The makeup team cuts up our costumes with scissors to simulate additional stab wounds. Then the little bladders with dropper-like attachments come out, and the two of us are drenched in sticky-soapy crimson goo. When the bladders run low on blood, they fart and the blood comes out full of bubbles. Ppppfffffttttttt.

We settle in, wet and sticky, doing our open-eyed death stare. We are there for at least an hour. The scene is being filmed in an actual bathroom, and there is barely space for the photographer and her camera. At one point, she actually stands on the toilet on her tippy-toes, leaning out so far I expect her to fall into the tub with me.

Suddenly, it's a wrap. One by one, the bloody people are helped out of their shoes and given a chance to shower. Since this was the only bathroom on premises, a great many people are queued up with their legs crossed.

We actors have to sit in the makeup chair for a while as a smelly anti-adhesive is applied to our faces and the prosthetics are removed bit by bit. I am warned that this stuff will burn, but it doesn't. In fact, everything comes off very quickly and I emerge from my shower in time to get a piece of pizza and a cold beer.

No dead person ever enjoyed a beer so much.