Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

As I sit alone with these words, I think about how brave he was in so many ways, and how brave he was to go into that studio every day with his demons and his angels, and labor to put them on canvas. Nulla dia sine linea, No day without a line, is the motto at the Art Students League, from Pliny the Elder, derived from the Greek painter Apelles. The devotions.

— Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.


Elizabeth Alexander was married to Ficre Ghebreyesus from 1997 until he died unexpectedly in 2012 days after his 50th birthday. Her memoir, “The Light of the World” is a story of her loss and her love.  The painting above was Ficre Ghebreyesus’ Middle Passage Figures with Solitary Boats (c. 2002–2007) (detail). Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 30 inches; 26.5 x 32.5 x 2 inches.

Oh, I get it.

A superb painter let me take a brush to a canvas that she said she was abandoning. I tried to continue a simple black stroke that she had started. The contrast between the controlled pressure of her touch and my flaccid smear shocked me, physically. It was like shaking hands with a small person who flips you across a room.

~ Peter Schjeldahl, The Art of Dying (The New Yorker, December 16, 2019)


Notes:

Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway.

Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway. Then, after nine years, failing at it and giving it up in disgust and moving to Englewood, N.J., and selling aluminum siding. And then, years later, trying the thing again, though it wrecks your marriage, and failing again. And eventually making a meticulous study of the thing and figuring out that, by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that. And then, after becoming better at it than anyone who had ever done it, realizing that maybe you didn’t need the talent. That maybe its absence was a gift.

These were the stations on the via dolorosa of Jacob Cohen, a.k.a. Rodney Dangerfield, whose comedy I hold above all others’. At his peak — look on YouTube for any set he did between 1976 and 1990 — he was the funniest entertainer ever. That peak was long in coming; by the time he perfected his act, he was nearly 60. But everything about Dangerfield was weird. While other comedians of that era made their names in television and film, Dangerfield made his with stand-up. It was a stand-up as dated as he was: He stood on stage stock-still in a rumpled black suit and shiny red tie and told a succession of diamond-hard one-liners.

The one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance. If there’s art about life and art about art, Dangerfield’s comedy was the latter — he was the supreme formalist. Lacking inborn ability, he studied the moving parts of a joke with an engineer’s rigor. And so Dangerfield, who told audiences that as a child he was so ugly that his mother fed him with a slingshot, became the leading semiotician of postwar American comedy. How someone can watch him with anything short of wonder is beyond me.

~ Alex Halberstadt, from “Letter of Recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield” (The New York Times, January 26 2018)

Lower your standards. Now!

Carl Richards, from Free Yourself of Your Harshest Critic, and Plow Ahead:

You’re fired. No, seriously. Pack up your stuff, and get out. But let me be clear: The job you’re fired from is one you never should have had in the first place — being a critic of your own work. Done, finished, not your job anymore. When you finish creating something and you start to wonder if it’s any good … nope! Don’t try to answer. You no longer get to decide. If you need me to fire you, awesome, consider it done. But in fact, what would be even better is if you fire yourself. Let me tell you why.

Five or six years ago, when I first started writing the weekly Sketch Guy column, I would have pieces I was certain would go viral. I said to myself, “I nailed it, everyone’s going to love it, a million people are going to share it!” And then, I would hear nothing. For some reason, it just didn’t get the play — no comments, no feedback, nothing. Then there were times when I was completely surprised in the opposite way…I had this experience enough times to realize that I was simply terrible at judging whether my work was good or not. And guess what? So are you. You’re just too close to it.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to matter, as your job now officially has nothing to do with deciding if the work is good. Your job is to do the work, put it out there and let the world decide.  Now, I know that sounds scary. But let’s be dead clear about something: You’re not John Steinbeck (and neither was he, at the start). You have to get there first. And the only way to do that is through practice and criticism. But the only way to get practice and criticism is to make and share your work. This isn’t just about writing. It’s about anything meaningful you do. Singing, painting, entrepreneurship, giving financial advice, museum curating, boat building, skiing, whatever. Whatever it is, your job is to do the work, to become the best you can be. [Read more…]

It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing.

You’ve been doing stand-up since the late ‘80s. Do you remember your worst night?

Oh, there are so many of them. In the beginning, there are endless amounts of worst nights. But there was one, after “Everybody Loves Raymond” had been on for a year, out at the University of Florida’s Gator Growl. It’s in the stadium, like, 30,000 people, Dave Chappelle, Larry the Cable Guy and me. Five minutes in, I heard a woman yell out, “You better start getting funny.”

Anything you miss about those early days?

There was something gratifying about going up onstage in front of a room full of total strangers. They’ve never seen you in their life, and they’re kind of like, who is this guy? And then you win that crowd over. That will never happen again, only because somebody in the audience has seen me. Seinfeld said, they give you the first 10 minutes if you’re well known. But you still gotta be funny.

When you first started taking on dramatic roles, what was your biggest worry?

You wonder, are you any good? It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing. The desire is there. But then I also want to be a pro golfer, and that’s never gonna happen.

You still have worries like that?

Oh yeah. No matter how successful you are. I hear that from other comedians all the time. You’re just waiting for the funny police to come and arrest you as an impostor.

~ Robert Ito, excerpts from his interview with Ray Romano in “Ray Romano Still Fears the ‘Funny Police’” (NY Times, June 30, 2017)


Photo of Ray Romano: Aces Comedy

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Why not just retire?

“Reinhold doesn’t really relax,” Hansjörg said.

“Do you know this saying he has on his website? ‘I am what I do.’ But I think he may also believe the opposite: ‘If I cease to do, I will not be.’

~ Caroline Alexander, on Reinhold Messner, “Murdering the Impossible. Superhumanly determined.” (National Geographic Magazine, November, 2006)


Reinhold Messner, 72is an Italian mountaineer, adventurer, explorer, and author. He made the first ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and was the first climber to ascend all fourteen peaks over 8,000 metres (26,000 ft) above sea level. He was also the first person to cross Antarctica and Greenland with neither snowmobiles nor dog sleds. He crossed the Gobi Desert alone.


Photo: gripped.com

Costanza: “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

jerry-seinfeld

 

Q: You and Larry David wrote Seinfeld together, without a traditional writers’ room, and burnout was one reason you stopped. Was there a more sustainable way to do it? Could McKinsey or someone have helped you find a better model?

JS: Who’s McKinsey?

Q: It’s a consulting firm.

JS: Are they funny?

Q: No.

JS: Then I don’t need them. If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way. The show was successful because I micromanaged it—every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting. That’s my way of life.

~ Daniel McGinn, Life’s Work: An Interview with Jerry Seinfeld (HBR, Jan-Feb 2017)


Blog Post Title Credit: The Independent – Seinfeld at 25: The Show’s Best Quotes

Bonus Quote: Jerry Seinfeld: “You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You’re telling the world, ‘I give up. I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.’

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

hair-back-black-and-white

The invented person, borrowed from the real—abstracted, isolated—is the person we finally know, or feel we know.  I make myself up from everything I am, or could be.

For many years I was more desire than fact.

When I stop becoming, that’s when I worry.”

Stephen Dunn, from “Notes” in Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs

 


Notes: Photo – Eric Rose Photography. Quote: – W.W. Norton

Oh, of course we are.

above-average


Source: The New York Times Magazine

Satisfaction: You take it on the road for 50 years and get the hang of it (50 sec)

Q:   This never gets old to you?

Keith Richards: No. No. It gets more interesting actually. The weird thing is that every time I play “Satisfaction”, I’m finding new ways, just a little lick here and a little lick there, and I wish we would have put that on the record, but the fact is that the way things go, you wrote songs and five days later you’ve recorded it. You barely know the thing. And then you take it on the road for 50 years and I’m starting to get the hang of it now.


Need a fix, find The Rolling Stones music video here:  “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

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