Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time for a Movie List

The Shakespeare debate diversion didn't go that well. I expected to be flooded with readers wanting to discuss my opinion on the question, and all I've gotten so far is a promise from my friend Howard Kissel to pick up the topic again on his blog (see comment on my previous post for link to his side of the discussion). In the meantime he seems to be occupied with his real life of concerts, operas, and intellectual Manhattan soirees.

So let us move on to mundane matters: Let's talk about movies I like. I now subscribe to an online movie service--I guess that's what you call it--which keeps me supplied with DVD's almost daily. I'm well into my wish list of movies now, and expect to receive Milk in the mail today. That sounds like a pun, but it isn't. It's a movie I missed on the big screen.

I recommended Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day to a friend, and he and his wife liked it so much I made up a little list of some of my all time favorites for them and shall share it with you now. As to Miss Pettigrew, I unabashedly enjoyed the little whimsical romance and recommend it wholeheartedly as escapist fare. Following are some more from my list.

Romances you’ll probably enjoy:

Dan in Real Time (Steve Corell as a lovelorn bachelor who has fallen in love with his brother’s fiance; all works out after many laughs)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (One of those new ones where a kinda jerk can’t get over his girlfriend until he runs into her at a beach resort w her new boyfriend who is an English rockstar asshole)

Two you’ve probably seen, but sheer delight:

Something’s Got To Give (this is the one with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, elegant NY and Hampton settings; he’s an old rouĂ© dating her daughter, finally they get together and come apart again, Edith Piaf songs in the background, etc. Don’t miss it if you haven’t seen it for some reason.)
Little Miss Sunshine (in which an endearingly goofy family takes off for Las Vegas to put their homely little girl in a child beauty contest. Many laughs on the trip and at the contest too.)

A very odd old one:
Little Voice (Michael Caine won an supporting actor nomination in this one of the late 90’s about a con man whose girlfriend’s sister can sing in the voice of Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and others. The actress playing the role actually did her own singing.)

An interesting take on losing your memories:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jim Carrey wants to forget everything because of a love affair gone wrong. Very powerful, with a sensitive performance by our usually-nutty Jim Carrey)

Here’s one I thought was about me 15 years ago:
Passion Fish (A soap opera actress goes home to the bayou country after having an accident rendering her crippled. Very beautiful, touching, and it introduced me to the wonderful David Strathairn).

A tough one from last year that should have done better at the box office:
In Bruges (about English criminals, serious but with a few laughs. Beautifully photographed, unusual locale (“fuckin Bruges!”)

A beauty for Tommy Lee Jones fans, of which I am one:
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (A journey of despair and hope for a couple of hapless Texans. This one will take you way outside yourself and deposit you somewhere in the wilds of Mexico, far from the swine flu.) See it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shakespeare, The Supreme Court, and Me

For years the United States Supreme court has dealt with the works of Shakespeare as a sideline, sometimes debating in mock court the many trials in his plays and even sometimes debating whether or not he actually wrote the plays. Last weekend Justice John Paul Stevens raised some hackles by announcing that he had decided that the canon thought to be written by the otherwise nondescript sometime actor and theatre manager from Stratford had actually been written by someone else.

Twenty years ago I didn’t pay much attention to the controversy surrounding the authorship of the plays attributed to a certain William Shakespeare of England in the 16th century. I knew there had been plenty of people who believed the plays could not have been written by the humble glover’s son, but, like everybody else I knew, I accepted the romantic story of the country boy who went to London and gave the world the greatest dramatic literature it had ever known.

Then I saw the PBS Frontline special presenting the argument that the plays may have been written by a nobleman of whom I had never heard, the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. It made me think twice about my assumption, and I read all I could find about de Vere and the many experts who believed him to be the uncredited author who used Shakespeare as a nom de plume. Further study of de Vere provided me with the following information about this contender for the title of the greatest dramatist the world has ever produced.

Edward de Vere lived a life worth reading about. An aristocrat in Elizabethan England, he was a child prodigy, a poet courtier, an adventurer, and an all-around son of a bitch who made a ton of mistakes in his life. He was profligate with money, a great drinker and storyteller, a juror in such trials as that of Mary Queen of Scots; Robert Devereaux, the earl of Essex; and Philip Howard, who was found guilty of treason in plotting the victory of the Spanish Armada against England in 1589.

As a child, de Vere was the ward of William Cecil, principal advisor to Queen Elizabeth. He was tutored by the best educators in England of the day, having the following curriculum:

7-7:30 Dancing
7:30-8 Breakfast
8-9:00 French
9-10 Latin
10-10:30 Writing and Drawing
1-2:00 Cosmography
2-3:00 Latin
3-4:00 French
4-4:30 Exercises with his Pen

A rather impressive course of study for a boy, isn’t it? What is “cosmography,” you might well ask. As a matter of fact it was geography, history, physical science, astronomy, sociology, English, comparative literature, linguistics, and more. Basically it was everything known in the Elizabethan world. And de Vere had the finest teachers in England as his private tutors. On holy days (holidays) he was expected to “read before dinner the Epistle and Gospel in his own tongue and the other tongue [Greek] after dinner. All the rest of the day to be spent in riding, shooting, dancing, walking, and other commendable exercises, saving the time for prayer."

His intense education included the reading of Beowulf and Ovid’s Metamorphoses and detailed study of the Bible, as noted. That he was surrounded by the greatest personal libraries in England was a boon to him all his life, as he was a voracious reader and could write beautiful prose and poetry. He studied the law and received a Master of Arts degree from St. John’s College at Cambridge.

De Vere grew up from a prodigy to be a brilliant if contentious and conflicted man. He was expert at squandering the funds and lands he’d inherited, and he was never entirely comfortable with William Cecil, his guardian. Cecil was an eminent Elizabethan favored as a trusted advisor to the Queen herself.

In one of the few missteps of his life, William Cecil arranged a marriage between his daughter Anne and de Vere in 1571. In 1575, de Vere took off for Italy for a year, claiming that his marriage had never been consummated. He spent some time in Venice, Florence, Sienna. On his journey he traveled to Greece, Croatia – then known as Illyria – and back to England to meet his first daughter and reconcile with his wife. Although he accepted the marriage he never really participated in it. He was rumored to have had an affair with Queen Elizabeth, and he fathered a child by his mistress Anne Vavasour. He got into many a scrap, including political ones. He was known as a poet and writer, a dandy, a great drinker and storyteller and a tempestuous poet possessed of a tormented soul.

There are many instances in life of Edward de Vere which could well have inspired great theatre. He was a swordsman, leader of a group which almost might be called a “gang”—men who clashed in the streets of London with Thomas Knyvet’s men, members of a rival political faction. De Vere received a serious wound in one of these battles—among many brushes with death in his reckless youth. His passionate nature and affairs of the heart would have well equipped him to dramatize a story of unfulfilled young love, the obvious example being Romeo and Juliet. Maybe he did, maybe someone else did, but it would seem he could have.

He had a younger sister who may have been cut of the same cloth, disposition-wise. When she set out to marry she would have none of the suitors William Cecil had chosen for her, preferring the hothead Peregrine Bertie. De Vere despised Peregrine Bertie and did what he could to block the marriage, but after it happened he accepted the couple and even became a good friend to his volatile brother in law. Mary de Vere Bertie and her mate provided a monumental display of temperament and the constant drama of power struggles as they settled into married life, which one might see as a possible model for The Taming of the Shrew. Everyone might not see it, but one might.

This is only a fraction of the story, but even in this brief, partial re-telling, one can see not only the makings of an extraordinary life in one of the most compelling times and places in the history of the world but also quite possibly the seeds of some of the greatest theatrical writing ever to have been produced. Where many have doubted the possibility that the isolated actor-turned-merchant of remote Stratford could have had the education and the grace to have written the towering works of Shakespeare, no one has come up with a better candidate for the real author than Edward de Vere.

Whether or not you think it is possible that the man whose name was always signed Shakspere (who is not known to have been educated in the classics, since there are no records from the school in Stratford) actually didn't write the plays, it is interesting to study the biography of the aristocrat whose life is related in Mark Anderson's book "Shakespeare" by Another Name. This tome reveals in a compelling way a great deal about the historical period, explaining that, for one thing, unlike today, playwrights weren't celebrities–their names were unknown to the public--and the theatre itself was as much a platform for veiled political statements about intrigues at court as it was a source of a night's diversion.

I can't say that I know for certain that de Vere was da Bard, as the question is put in today’s parlance, particularly in Hoboken and environs. Whether or not you buy the premise, I suggest you read da book. I also learned a great deal from the little book Shakespeare: Who Was He? By Richard F. Whalen, and from articles in the April 1999 issue of Harper’s, by Tom Bethell, Daniel Wright and Joseph Sobran.

I wish Frontline would run an update including information about De Vere’s heavily annotated copy of the St. James Bible, with his markings of passages which seem to coincide neatly with the biblical allusions in Shakespeare's works. It will be nice if this controversy is settled before I die, and the more we hear of it, the more chance there is of that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comic Potential in Hoboken

Going to amateur theatre in Hoboken is pretty much like going to professional theatre somewhere else. The level of performance and technical proficiency is outstanding. To find out if I'm right about this, check out the Hudson Theatre Ensemble's production of Comic Potential by Alan Ayckbourn which will play next weekend.

Needless to say, as an Ayckbourn offering, it's a funny script, but in lesser hands it might have been difficult if not tiresome. Fortunately, Hoboken has the Hudson Theatre Ensemble which provides more than enough talent to make this production sparkle.

We are close enough to New York to have a number of professional-level actors with credentials in off-Broadway and film work, and locals who just love the theatre and attend and participate whenever they have a spare moment. This pays off for Hoboken theatregoers who may want to go to a play even closer to home--say, the corner of Sixth Street and Park. In Comic Potential they'll get a play that will make them laugh out loud more than once.

The play takes place at some indeterminate time in the future, which looks suspiciously like the present but has a few noticeable differences. We're in a television studio where a daytime soap opera is in the process of being taped. The production is decidedly wooden and contrived, even for the genre, and soon we learn it is because the performers are not human beings but robots known as actoids. They have been programmed to speak the lines and walk the walk of characters in soap operas, and when they are done with their work they are tucked away in a warehouse out of sight, to be reprogrammed as needed.

But not this time. One of the actoids has a fault--she laughs out of place. The production staff is to try to correct this technical glitch, but when they break for lunch, a visitor to the set, the nephew of the all-powerful station owner, finds himself chatting with the pretty actoid and the hilarious plot is set in action.

Comic Potential is billed as a "seriously funny comedy," but it is much more than that. It combines satire, farce, love story, and instruction of the worst-case-scenario of the future of television. The plot twists, sight gags, and tender moments require superb timing and the firm hand of a director who knows what she's doing. In Kelley Reeves, as the versatile actoid, the company has an actress who can convey the comedy and semi-pathos of the role with exquisite timing and charm. She can shift gears from a human moment to a recitation of whole chunks of dialogue from a melodramatic situation of her soap opera past. John Heath carries off the role of the smitten innocent most winningly. And the stage is filled with character actors, some, like Brian Hopson, filling multiple roles and stealing scenes with all of them. Frank Magnasco and Gregory Nye, familiar to Hoboken audiences, appear here to great advantage, and there are walk-ons and double-cast actors who have us totally fooled as to their identity (as does Courtney Kochuba).

There is a wealth of talent on the stage, and I feel a little at a loss to pick favorites. No doubt you will have your own. Comic Potential is beautifully directed, and the community owes a debt of gratitude to Diana London and Florence Pape, who keep the ensemble functioning year after year.

If you never thought about going to a play in Hoboken before, this is the time to do it. The show will go on again on Friday April 24 and Saturday April 25 at 8 P.M. at the Hudson School Performance Space. Call (201) 377-7014 for reservations.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The White Trees of Hoboken

It's that time of year. Search engines are finding my blog with the words "white trees Hoboken" and I suppose they find the post I put up about a year ago with some of the flowering trees.

I've been seeing them for a couple of weeks now, and seeing the little spiders coming here to look at my pictures, or read what I know about them. The fact is, I know nothing about them except that they were there last year--trees spectacularly in full white flower, some type of cherry, I suppose--no doubt a local expert will set me straight soon with a comment that everybody should know an apple tree from a Japanese cherry or a blossoming acacia or whatever the trees are. I'm sure there's even a wonderful story about the year they were planted. All I know is that they tell us all that spring is coming, before the other trees leaf out, just as the tulips and hyacinth and pansies burst forth on the medians.

Who knew spring in Hoboken would be a cause for celebration? Who knew they could write a song about it, "Hoboken on My Mind," or "April in Hoboken"?

But the temperature is going up to 70 today, and by Sunday you may want to grab brunch at a place with a white tree nearby. The old 14th Street hangout known as Frankie and Johnny's, now renamed after its current owners Dino & Harry, stands proudly announcing brunch and a blooming white tree stops you in your jogging tracks as you contemplate the neighborhood and make plans for the weekend.

As for me, I'm going to take in the Sunday matinee of the Hudson Theatre Ensemble's production of Comic Potential by Alan Ayckbourne and maybe get a light repast with friends afterwards.

It's days like this that make us appreciate winter because it helps us to enjoy spring.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle, British Phenom

It started as a trickle. A friend emailed me the video, I watched it and was touched by the lady's talent and the element of surprise--the plain Scottish woman, game and cheeky, with the nerve to demonstate her singing ability before harsh, professional judges--and then the amazing result. I emailed the link to a few friends I knew would enjoy it. I got one of those "friends" emails from an acquaintance, and sent her a copy too. Then I began getting responses.

They weren't just, "Thanks for sending this" kind of responses. People from everywhere--Alabama, Switzerland, Delaware, Florida--all my contacts were writing back about having goosebumps and tears in their eyes. I then began sending it all over, always getting the same sort of comments. I may have sent it to you already, but I felt it was time to post it to the blog. It deserves a second look.

We all know I can upload videos to this blog; I've done it before. But this time I keep hitting a snag, so I'm going to have to trust you to do it manually. Click on this link and you'll see what I mean!

This Susan Boyle is on her way to world fame. If she never sings another note, she has changed us all for a moment. Watch her and let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Loesser Is More

Until a couple of weeks ago, I took the great American songwriter Frank Loesser for granted. I knew the name, and if I pressed my own brain might have remembered that he wrote the words and music to Guys and Dolls and How To Success in Business Without Really Trying, but would not have known that he was the author of "Slow Boat To China" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside." I would not have known that he was responsible for the 1940's novelty hit "Murder, He Says," which I have on my iPod in the Gene Krupa-Anita O'Day version, and play occasionally for a smile and trip down to bobby-soxer memory lane. (No, I wasn't a bobby-soxer; I was a little kid who thought bobby-soxers were fascinating in a hilarious way.)

Clever lyrics and a seamless way of integrating song with the action of a story were hallmarks of Loesser's genius. If you don't think "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is witty, listen to it once more. If you miss the significance of a song like "I Believe in You," listen to the cast album (or rent the movie--this one does capture the show). It's sung by the young hustler (Robert Morse played the role to perfection), as he looks at his own image in the corporate men's room mirror--surrounded by his competition, all taking an extra shave with their kazoo electric razors as they chant in desperate counterpoint, "Gotta stop that man, cold, or he'll stop me...")

Last week was a banner one for Frank Loesser and me. To begin with, the excellent production of Guys and Dolls at Hoboken High, just around the corner from my apartment, transported me to that odd corner of Damon Runyon's New York through the music and words of Loesser at his best. The production offered a fresh approach to the show, too long occupied in memory by the lackluster film dragged down by a lost-looking Marlon Brando. An unquestionably great actor, Brando showed no connection with music or with the milieu of Times Square crapshooters. At Hoboken High, the students worked their tails off dancing and singing, and approached their characters innocently with both the great courage and gusto of teenagers. I was brought back to the original intent of the material and the clever juxtaposition of romance with gritty street-smarts. Who but Frank Loesser could have captured the color of Runyan's Broadway? Who else could have written, "Da Biltmore garage wants a grand/But we ain't got a grand on hand/And dey now got a lock on the da door/Of da gym at P.S. 84"? And conclude with the delicious syntax of "If we only had a lousy little grand we could be a millionaire!" to say nothing of the beautiful love songs and hilarious novelty numbers I described in the review you'll find if you scroll down to the post before last.

I was lucky enough also to attend a Loesser evening at the New-York Historical Society Museum a week ago, moderated by journalist Pete Hamill, who was clearly relishing every song, particularly those from Guys and Dolls. There were interpolations of "Adelaide, Adelaide, Ever-Lovin' Adelaide," and "A Woman in Love," both of which were in the lamentable film but not in the stage play.

Loesser's widow, the extraordinary Jo Sullivan, who played the original Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella, graced the evening with her favorite of his songs, "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year," which, as she noted, was introduced by Deanna Durbin in the 1944 movie Christmas Holiday. Sullivan still sings like an angel; she also performed a duet with her beautiful daughter Emily Loesser which was wonderful to hear.

The benefit gala was staged as a fund-raiser for the Museum's American Musicals Project, which uses the study of American musicals to provide a context for teaching social studies to New York City schools, and a worthy project it is. The gala itself introduced us to excerpts from some of Loesser's letters to friends including Bob Fosse. It left me wanting to know more about Frank Loesser. If you want to do the same, there is a wonderful website that will get you started.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Curious in Jersey City

I received an intriguing invitation to an art exhibition entitled "Poison" to be held in a little gallery called Curious Matter in Jersey City. I say intriguing because the flyer described the theme of the exhibit thusly:

Poison has captured the imagination for millennia. It appears in folk tales, fairy tales, opera and murder mysteries. Poisoning has been the clean, classic way evil characters subdue and eliminate a rival without the use of brute force. But poison is not just a substance used to remove inconvenient competition. It is more than our romantic notion of hemlock and horror, and the artists of Curious Matter's POISON exhibition have sensitively distilled the tincture to its purest forms.

Well put, don't you think? I was reminded of the drugged possets in Macbeth, and the apple in Snow White. I knew nothing of the gallery Curious Matter, and less of the neighborhood, but with directions, I found my way to the vernissage on Sunday afternoon. (I'm allowed to call it that because of my six years in Geneva, where an art opening is known as a vernissage.)

Curious Matter is on the parlor floor of a brownstone on Fifth Street. It is a tiny space, made smaller by the crowd, but very pleasant, and its curators, also artists, are eager to make new guests feel at home. I had a nice chat with Raymond E. Mingst, gallery owner and artist, and I enjoyed the artworks on display. It is not a dark and poisonous show, but rather an inspiration based on the many ways we deal with the poisons that surround us. Andrew Graham's bold oil paintings of toxic maxims from a local church caught my eye. Roaming around the room I was drawn to the tiny goose-stepping geese on Kara Smith's Green As Goslings, little ones whose minds were clearly being poisoned by their adult leaders. Whimsy came forth in Mingst's own You're Not Out of the Woods Yet, Dearie, a clear resin sculpture of a hand the size of a teaspoon sticking out of the wall, offering the possibility of any number of possible life-threatening substances.

The show is small, but full of food for thought. It will run until May 17 on Sundays from noon to 3 P.M. or by appointment.

I found the visit so pleasant I became curious myself about living in Jersey City. Not that my bags are packed, but with the better weather, I'm going to explore.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Guys and Dolls, Hoboken Style

I was as excited as if I were going to a Broadway show last night when I walked two blocks to Hoboken High School to take in opening night of their excellent drama department's production of Guys and Dolls. I've seen one show there and knew to expect a lot of talent and enthusiasm on the stage and a noisy, excited audience.

I wasn't disappointed for a minute. Behind me in line were kids talking about "Big Jule," the big, tough Chicago gangster character in the show, and I could tell we were all anticipating a great evening. As I got to my seat and saw in the program that the one bit of truly non-traditional casting was that Big Jule was to be played by a girl, I worried for my friends who might not be prepared for such a choice.

The program notes made my heart sing. Director Jared Ramos wrote, "It was 13 years ago when, as a junior in high school, I received my first lead role in a musical, that of Nathan Detroit in a production of G & D staged at A.J. Demarest High School." He wisely cast the up-and-coming star Saquan Williams in the role, who, also a high school junior, is apparently serious about a career in the theatre and obviously has a shot at the big time.

I had not quite realized that, familiar as I am with Guys and Dolls, I had never seen the show on stage before. My parents, on a trip to New York in the 1950's, saw it on Broadway, and we owned a 33-RPM recording of the cast album. I knew all the songs by heart, and as the production went forward, I found myself mouthing the words of every ballad and comic number. I enjoyed the life the young actors put into their roles--it was as if they were creating the characters, not basing them on stereotypes or previous performances.

Don't forget, I grew up in Alabama, where the denizens of Runyonland were as exotic as martians. To these kids, the accents were natural and the situations were fresh and fun. Nobody had to listen to a cast album--or God forbid, watch the movie version--to grasp the scene. What emerged was a full-blown, innocent version of an American classic, in the hands of a very competent and engaging cast. Many of the boys had no stage experience, but they were cool and coordinated and had no trouble with the dance or with playing their roles.

Miss Adelaide (Kristin Santiago) had me totally convinced of her upper-respiratory problems, and in her duet with Nathan, her line "I could honestly die," she held that last note every time, bringing a poignancy to the song that Vivian Blaine completely missed. The Hot Box Girls, her back-up chorus line, were beautiful and delicious, almost overshadowing their star in their sheer joy of being where they were. They were convincing as 1950's chorus girls, dancing and singing and looking for their big break, and they were cute as kittens all the while.

Sky Masterson, as played by the smooth athlete Joshua Delgado, was sincere and cocky at the same time, and handled the love songs (and kisses) with the kind of poise rare in a 17-year-old, making us root for him from the first line of "I'll Know."

I loved Bianca Jade Alvarez as Sarah Brown, especially in "If I Were a Bell," although on opening night the song was marred by a microphone malfunction. Ricardo Cruz was a very sympathetic Arvide, delicately handling one of the prettiest songs in the show, "More I Cannot Wish You." Daniel Velez was a fine Benny Southstreet, leading a thrilling "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat"--a song I had never appreciated before. And Shannon Jones did the role of Big Jule proud, remaking it into her own.

The orchestra was full of verve and added excitement to every minute. The dance numbers created perfect stage pictures reflecting a frenetic Times-Square energy. My dark snapshot doesn't do the show justice. In addition to the professional-level choreography, the inventive sets and all the backstage functions were executed smoothly and all together contributed to a wonderful night in the theatre.

There will be matinee performances today and tomorrow at 2 and one more evening performance at 8 tonight. If you're anywhere near Hoboken, you'd be crazy to miss it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Intravenous Movies

When she was a young teenager my daughter did a drawing she called "Intravenous TV" which was a figure of a man lying on his back with a television set on the wall. He was covered with wires and tubes connecting him to the set, just passively receiving by the hour. It was a stunning picture. I still have it, tried to upload it to the blog, but it didn't come clear. So I'll have to use this little cartoon which doesn't quite say the same thing, but goes to the point of all humanity, young and old alike, glued to the tv, drinking in the messages, whether we like it or not.

I'm something of a television addict myself, but more than tv I like movies on tv; movies without commercial interruption. For years I would browse the local DVD rental stores and come home with a few I wanted to try. Friends urged me to order them online, and finally about two months ago I followed up on one of those ads for Netflix offering one month free service.

It didn't take any time for me to get hooked. I browsed their selection and rated the ones I'd seen, and began ordering. Once I got the hang of the handy little packages (I know, I know, they're easy, but I had to figure out how to dismantle them without destroying the return envelope) and got used to the website recommending the same movies time and again (Why do I seem like a The Treasure of Sierra Madre type? As a matter of fact, I am, and it's been on my to-see list forever, but I'm waiting until I'm in the mood. For 30 years I haven't been in the mood.)

I think my queue is eclectic. It contains not only There Will Be Blood but also Enchanted and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I just viewed Lars and the Real Girl (excellent little dark sweet film), and Babel is on my coffee table waiting to be unloaded tonight. Next to come will be Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. I've seen the first season of Arrested Development (hilarious!) and Mad Men, both of which I'd only heard about.

The options are staggering. I can watch every movie ever made, some I've never heard of. It's like having them in my veins.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello Hunger

I wasn't going to tell you this, but this is the month I'm gonna reinvent myself.

I got the idea, I guess, from my blog friend Steve, who started reinventing himself a month ago. He had been writing a spiritual blog for some time, sharing his readings and ruminating on the thoughts of great minds. There was always a slightly depressive tone in Steve's blog, a feeling that he wasn't quite up to the tasks of life, but a unquenchable thirst for truth and a yearning to understand the reasons he was put on this earth. He represented the very spirit of human nature to me, striving to do the right thing and always questioning himself and his own ability to grasp the meaning of things.

Then one day he announced he was going to reinvent himself. He had lost his job, which he never much liked anyway, and he wasn't going to let it get him down. He was going to give himself the job of becoming a more balanced, upbeat person. He was going to pursue his interests in a positive way. Steve is nothing if not a brave soul. Making this announcement, abandoning his old blog and starting a new one for the purpose of reinventing himself seemed admirable and even doable. I commended him for doing this.

Then I watched Dr. Oz on Oprah talking about the people who go on the Calorie Restricted Optimum Nutrition Diet, a diet based on very low calorie, nutritious food. People on this diet expect to lower their risk of many diseases and extend their life span. I had heard of this process before, and it always sounded a bit crackpot to me, but the way it was explained made sense: with the body in survival mode it doesn't make excess fat or excess anything, and every bit of food is utilized to the max. The antibodies and stem cells go to work; the body tends to heal itself.

I thought I should recommend this to Steve for part of his reinvention. I thought if I were reinventing, I'd certainly consider starting there. Come to think of it, the closest I've ever come to reinventing myself was to go on a diet.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided it was time for me to go on a real diet anyway. You've seen the videos--I could stand to lose a little weight. If I really could stick with this one, I'd lose more than a little.

I emailed Steve, and told him I was thinking about the CRON diet, and suggested maybe that could be a part of his reinvention plan. He looked it up, pronounced it interesting and wished me well, but seemed a little dubious about the efficacy of including this in his own makeover. He suggested that if I were to go through with my own reinvention I should share it on the blog as a way to solidify my commitment and benefit from the support of readers. I said something like, "Oh, no, I'm not ready to do that. I'll just casually go on a diet as of April 1 and see how it goes. I'm not ready to share it with the world, in case I don't go through with it. I'll conscientiously stick to the low calorie thing for a month, and then if I feel like it on April 30, I'll just stay on this 'diet' for the rest of my life and consider myself pretty much secretly reinvented."

But I couldn't not tell you. I woke up this morning slightly hungry, and with the refrigerator stocked with high quality, high nutrition foods. Breakfast will be a soft-boiled egg, a kiwi fruit and two slices of Kavli crackers. It felt good to be a little hungry. I said to myself, "Get used to it."