Monday, January 21, 2013

"so long as we seize it together"

It has been increasingly difficult to maintain this blog over the last year.  For the first eight months of 2012, I was overwhelmingly busy with my theater life.  Other than the summer event of the siding, there was little of note to report on the house.  It’s easy to understand how blogging would fall Life's in priorities. But more than anything, I think it may have been the bizarre course of the presidential election that took its toll on my will to write.  The lunacy of that misbegotten group of candidates, the seemingly unending series of freak shows called ‘debates’ - drained my will to believe there was anything to write about.  The ugliness, the name-calling, the bigotry and the sheer idiocy from a “party” that is not an actual Party at all left me wondering who we are and by extension who I am and so made me wonder did I want to be who we are and do I want to be who I am. 

I have lately come to realize that it has become more and more difficult for me to know what is going on in the world – more difficult to discern fact from fiction or real news from propaganda.  One glance over to that party that is not an actual Party tells me I am not alone in this.  We may all be suffering the consequences of a failure of real information in The Information Age.  It is all too exhausting.  The cynicism and duplicity of the GW Bush administration made it easy to doubt our future and to lose hope in what we all thought we stood for.  We could be forgiven for believing in the hope and change promised in the election of 2008.  But the ignorance and lies and misinformation/disinformation coming from the Right for the past two years have nearly drained me of my ability to articulate my thoughts and impressions of the world we live in. Indeed, it’s all pretty much drained me of my will to care about the world; drained me of my interest to know about the world; nearly drained me of my will to be in the world.  And then there was Newtown.  And then the spectacular displays of idiocy that followed.  

Aforementioned idiocy in only one of its many forms

Save us. 

And today the President said it out loud: "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate." 

and "... preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action." 

Thank you.  

While we are still in the first month of the New Year, let me embrace a fresh start.  Let the President’s speech today do its job.  Let me be affected by it.  Of course the speech was supremely tailored rhetorically but nevertheless, it asked us all to aspire to what I hope we would all aspire to – compassion, shared responsibility, equality for ALL.  Let me take on my own responsibility then in this - I will hit the snooze button on my cynicism and disinterest in all things outside myself.  I will try to again enter the world and engage.

I know I cannot save the world.  Maybe it is enough to let the world save me. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

So . . . What Have We Been Up To?

I completely forgot where I left off.  I've been wanting to blog.  Thought about blogging. Felt too overwhelmed to start up again.  Too much to cover.  Not enough time.  Barely any energy.  Kind of the story of my life, really.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to keep up with Red Hill – for better or for worse. 

When we left off in my last post, we had stripped the old aluminum siding off our poor old 1909 Craftsman.  We ended up deciding on the James Hardie siding.  We just knew we didn't want to face regular painting.  And who knows what horrors future homeowners might visit on a 1909 house with the original wood siding.  Stucco?  Seriously, I would want to wish seriously bad karma upon anyone who might put stucco on our house.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that fiber-cement siding was not a mortal sin.   

After the old siding came down, the house got wrapped -

Just as a special treat for the neighbors, a porta-potty.  Nothing says "Welcome to the Neighborhood" like a porta-potty.  

And the Kitten gives the laundry duct work a good review.  

This part won't get new siding. Apparently it would be too complicated.  This will only get a paint job.  Once it's done, we can barely tell the difference.  

Then the painting starts -

Actually, before the painting started, we had to choose the paint colors.  The siding itself came in a limited number of pre-painted colors.  The trick was to choose the trim color that would go with the green siding that we'd selected and also with the red framing of the windows.  See that yellow?  How indubitably yellow it is?  I thougt it was supposed to be something called Honeydew, not outright "yellow."  I'm not a big fan of yellow.  How I ended up selecting "yellow" as one of the colors for my house is a mystery that will always haunt me.  The greatest mystery might be how I have had ten years now to select house colors and then waited until the last minute to make a decision - under quite a lot of pressure.  Men with paint brushes were ready to paint.  My big, bad show was just about to close but it wasn't closed yet so I didn't have time to run around collecting paint chips and researching historic Craftsman colors (though Zeus only knows that I've been saving magazine articles about exterior Craftsman colors for years.)  

Anyway, K gathered up some paint chips; we lined them up in yard in sunlight and we made our choice - Honeydew.  Then, once the yellow was applied to the trim we were "Whoa!  That's not what we thought we were getting."  It was so sunnySunny is definitely not something that I want to say about myself.  Sunny is not who I am.  Sunny is not who we are.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that once the the second color went on, the sunny quality of the yellow would be softened.  

Or, at worst, we could just wait out the paint until the trim needed painting again.    

Even the contractor later expressed his doubts about the yellowness of the yellow. 

Then the new siding went up.  I don't remember the name of the green - maybe it was Mountain Sage from James Hardie? 

And as we hoped, it all came together - 

and the yellow seemed to work - or so I, perhaps delusionally, believe.  

There was still a lot to do before the porta-potty would leave.

Next up - horrible, dangerous, not-to-code steps leading up to the porch. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stripping it Down Continues

Throughout the past week, the stripping off of the aluminum siding continued,

I hope that ugly railing on the steps will be the next to go.

The debris continued to pile up.  The yard is also littered big paint flakes. Yuk!

Good thing we're not in Beverly Hills.  They wouldn't like this look so much. 

K and I both agree that even like this, the house already looks better.

This looks like a sad little mouth on the porch.

Not only am I looking forward to seeing the house in its new makeover, I'm looking forward to the new landscaping.  As you see from the above pic, we've put little effort into the plantings immediately in front of the house, knowing it would all be trashed in the current stripdown.

K took all the aluminum to the recyclers today.  It was over 1,000 lbs.  Wow!  It paid for a good chunk of the cost of the workers who pulled it off the house.  I wish there were some way I could know in the future if I were drinking from a Pepsi can that once hung on my house.  That would be something.

In the meantime, my big, bad theater project is well on its way.  I wonder how many other people are driving around LA, memorizing lines with an open script in the passenger seat.

We have every reason to be happy.  Hmmm.

Monday, May 28, 2012

And now . . . the Exterior

It's been quite a while since I've posted much house-related blogging material.  It appears we're back in the thick of it.  K's job will give him some free time this summer so now, the moment we've long been waiting for . . . drum roll . . . the aluminum siding comes off the house . . . 

 Boo, bad siding!  Boo!  You're ugly!  Now go away!

Unfortunately, I'd lost track of my camera when this process first started so I only have pics to show you from mid-demolition.  I don't remember what the area around the door looked like before but here's the real 1909 wood that was underneath.

The lower part of the porch enclosure is gone.

Above the porch, shingles are revealed. We'll likely keep the shingles uncovered and just paint them.

This is the side of the house, half aluminum, half wood. You can see clearly how the proportions of the aluminum siding are out of kilter with the original planks.

These windows were windows in the 2nd kitchen, from when the house was a duplex.  As we barely use the first kitchen, a 2nd kitchen seemed excessive so we turned it into a master bedroom.  But we didn't need these two mismatched windows over the bed so we covered them up with drywall on the inside and now the windows stare blindly into space, a bit of architectural weirdness.  Soon, they'll be forgotten.

Perhaps you should avert your eyes at this point.  This is the other side of the house.  The small window on the left is in the guest bath (the Victorian bath) but that part was added onto the house at some point in time - but not by us.  That area was once a porch.  The window on the right is in the kitchen. It's a different size than the original, therefore all the plywood patching.

More of this eyesore. Like my 'hood's not ghetto enough.

Pile of aluminum.  Don't cut yourself. 
It's not yet certain what will replace the old siding.  We could keep the original but there's a heck of a lot of patching to be done to make it all nice.  We're considering James Hardie fiber cement siding.  It would be great to keep the house as original as possible, but considering that there is so little "original" left, this may be our best option.  And we won't have to worry about painting as often.  Scraping paint off the wood siding to re-paint sounds like a pain in the neck.  Not that I'll be doing it but I know that because it is such a pain, the project seems a lot easier to postpone and neglect.  And it's pricey to keep painting all the time.

The other thing that K mentioned is that if we do go with the siding, it will provide two more layers of insulation than we would have if we stayed with the original wood.  There would be the siding itself, plus the plywood that the siding will attach to.  That means the house will stay that much cooler and since we chose not to install air conditioning, that should count for something. 

A while back, I wrote a post about the CoolWall product.  I got a lot of comments asking if we went with that.  I don't think we're going that way.  I'm not sure why.  It seems like we'll have the same challenge to re-paint every few years. 

All weekend I've been obsessing about colors.  We're poring over the James Hardie design tool -

and driving around various neighborhoods looking for Craftsmen in like color combinations.  We'll probably go with green and something.  It's the "something" that's got us stumped. 

During the time my still camera was missing, I shot this video with my laptop.  It's like a little tour of debris and disaster.  Make of it what you will.  In the meantime, I'll keep you updated on the progress.

And for a bit of beauty to offset the ugly, this year's blooming of the agapanthus. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Weill Night in the Madhouse

With faith and nerve and a lot of resolve, we're moving forward with our big, bad play.  This Thursday, on May 17th, we'll be presenting an evening of the music of Kurt Weill to benefit our upcoming production of Bertolt Brecht's A Man's a Man. If you're in LA, please come out and support The Madhouse. I'd love to see you there.
A Weill Night in the Madhouse

Please join us on Thursday May 17, 2012 at M Bar on Vine, 1253 Vine Street, Los Angeles, CA 90038.
A Weill Night in the Madhouse will be an evening of song and madness as friends and inmates of the theater cabal, Uranium Madhouse, regale you with the music of Kurt Weill to benefit the upcoming Uranium Madhouse production, an original translation of Bertolt Brecht’s A Man’s a Man.

With appearances by:
Dylan Jones * Terence Leclere * Matthew McCray * Andrew Perez  * Yolanda Seabourne  * Tamara Silvera * Brenda Varda  * Ben Miller  * JB Waterman and others!

Kurt Weill composed music for several of Brecht’s plays, including “The Threepenny Opera” from which we have “Mack the Knife,” one of the best-loved jazz tunes of all time.

Weill’s songs evocatively mix the seaminess of modern urban life with unexpected bursts of lyrical romance - - the original urban hipster avant la lettre.

Doors open at 7:00. Please call 323 856 0036 to make a reservation.

$20 cover + $10 minimum for food. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Moving Heaven and Earth to Make Art Happen

It's 5:47 am.  At 1:30 am, I had just finished some blog surfing while K napped in his recliner.  He awoke; put on his jacket and asked if I was ready to see The Rock. 

Actually, I was ready to go to sleep.  I had forgotten about The Rock.

No, not that Rock, silly. 

This rock, the future element of the piece of art that will be known as Levitating Mass.

                                                                                                               Thanks for the pic, LA Times.

If you don't yet know, it's a big rock, actually a 340 ton chunk of granite and it's being moved from its once comfortable home in Riverside to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where it will be installed onto a 456 foot long slot.   Apparently, the public will be able to walk under the rock and "experience the illusion that it is floating above them."  Thus the title, Levitating Mass.

We hatched the plan this evening while I was on my way home from work.  I was stopped at a light when I saw that the traffic light on Wilshire Blvd. was being dismantled.  Of course, I knew it was to make room for the passage of the Rock.  I called K because I thought  this tiny detail might interest him.  That's when he said he had been thinking we might go to see the Rock on the last leg of its journey.  So near us, why not?

At about 8:30, it seemed like a good plan.  Five hours and a martini later, mmm, maybe not so much.  But K was determined and out the door we went.

It was fun - a bit of a carnival atmosphere.  People were happy and in a good mood.  Everybody was taking pictures.  People brought their dogs.  And you know, it was all about a big rock. 

I don't yet know how I'll react to the experience of walking under the rock when the installation is completed.  I actually know very little about the project other than the journey of this rock has been in the news all week.  But this is what I'm taking away from the experience tonight: I feel inspired.  

The artist, Michael Heizer has wanted to do this project for 40 years.  First he had to find the right rock.  And then he just had to come up with the 10 million dollars to do it.  And someone  had to plan a route for a giant piece of granite that would be transported on a truck the width of 3 lanes.  And then the city (of LOS ANGELES! no less) had to dismantle all the traffic lights along its path for over 100 miles and it had to be driven at about 2 - 5 miles an hour for 9 days. 

Most people, if they ever got such idea into their heads, would quickly come to their senses and say, "Naw, that's never gonna happen."  But, I just saw it happen.  I saw people cheering at seeing it happen.

Michael Heizer is an impressive artist.  He has a reputation.  He has a lot of support.  But, his pieces are all about big stuff - big, giant stuff - big, giant Nazca Lines kind of stuff. It's the kind of stuff that any reasonable person would say just can't be done. 

So . . . what project do you have in your life that you say you really want to get done but you haven't done it yet because you have this excuse or that excuse?  Maybe it's too expensive.  Maybe you don't have time.  Maybe it's just not practical.  But, your project, your dream, is it as impractical as dragging a 340-ton rock for over a 100 miles at the cost of over 10 million dollars?  And do you have to take down miles' worth of traffic lights in the most car-centric city in the country?  And then, do you plan to devise the mechanics to float that 340-ton rock over the public?  Probably not.

I have a theater company.  It's just starting out and right now there are only two of us doing pretty much all the producing work.  Last year we produced our first show, 2 very small plays with 4 actors total, one of the actors being me.  It was a modest endeavor but a good way to get our feet wet in the world of producing theater in Los Angeles.  This year, we have a bigger project.  Much bigger.  It's a full-length play in a new translation and a cast of over a dozen.  The budget will likely be twice that of the first production.  Sometimes, I think we've lost our minds, the director and I.  I wonder how we're going to pull it off.  I get a little discouraged at times.  The last show was so much work.  I was exhausted day after day after day.  There was never enough time and never enough sleep.  I got discouraged then, too.  I cried at rehearsals.  I cried in my car.  I wondered if we'd lost our minds thinking we could pull off this creation all on our own (and act in it too - all while building a house of cards). 

And this year, bigger play, bigger budget.  Surely, we've lost our minds again.  Or soon will. 

But, that's not the kind of thinking that makes big stuff happen.  That doesn't get art made.  That doesn't get a giant rock carried a 100 miles.  That doesn't get the city to remove miles and miles of traffic signals.  That doesn't get the crowd cheering.

So, maybe we have lost our minds. And maybe Michael Heizer lost his mind a long time ago.  But right now, he's got a big rock sitting on the grounds at LACMA.  And soon, we'll have another play to be proud of.  Better to lose our minds than our nerve.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saw this. Had to post. 'Cause it's true.

Make it big if you have to.

Keep at it.  Fight your way through.  

I gave up on a lot of stuff.  The only thing I regret is the stuff I gave up on.  Not the things I did.  Not the things I said.  Just the stuff I gave up on.  Fight your way through.

Thanks, Ira.  Thanks, AU.