Saturday, February 26, 2011

dear johnny depp

[draft of a letter to johnny depp]

dear johnny depp,
given what follows, i feel it is almost unnecessary to say, but i will nonetheless begin this letter with my supreme respect for your talent as an actor and your choices in roles and projects throughout your career. i have seen many, (but not all) of your films and have been more than a little impressed with your performance in every one, whether or not i ultimately like the film as a whole. to me, your choice of roles and projects shows a personal courage in your art that i very much appreciate in a hollywood actor (few of them have it, and those that do tend to have come from either theatrical or non-american backgrounds).
enough with the preamble. i've read in interviews that you have contemplated acting on the stage, and in that musing, the title Hamlet has come up. i'm writing to ask you to give it a try, now, and in the way i propose. i have a concept for a production of hamlet that i think would greatly benefit from your portrayal of the title character. i want to lay the concept our for you and illustrate why i believe you could do my hamlet justice. if my interpretation of the character doesn't sound intriguing to you, of feels outside of your comfort zone or interest, i totally understand. but please take my offering you the role as a compliment to your skill and your acting choices to date, nothing more or less. here is the main gist of my request:
i want you to play a queer hamlet. and i want you to play him with all the depth and sincerity and honesty with which you play everything else. this is not a camp version, this is a queer reading of a character with great emotional depth. i use the word 'queer' deliberately, and not in the old sense of the word, but in the more recent adoption of it by the younger generation of lgbtq's--in the sense of being broader than strictly gay or lesbian or bi, of encompassing the possibility of alternate gender identity as well as sexuality. (or at least seeing both of these as on a spectrum.) to my knowledge you have never played an overtly gay character, though i've read of you joking that all of your characters are secretly gay. i appreciate that thought because i feel it hits on something very important in your acting, namely, that you queer all of your characters (in using 'queer' as a verb here i imply not purely dealing with sexuality, but more as a way of fucking with dichotomies and dominant thought around a specific idea, in this case, manhood or masculinity). i feel as though your portrayals of male characters in many of your movies are somewhat subversive to the dominant society's idea of a man, and certainly of a hollywood-star/leading-man. this feels so important for so many reasons, most notably for folks of the younger generation (well, all generations, really) to see examples of men who, not only do they not fall into the intensely masculine/macho part of the spectrum (ie, brad pitt in fight club), but are also able to integrate aspects of the feminine into them as well (ie, you as e. scissorhands, i. crane, w. wonka, and cap'n j. sparrow).
i want my hamlet to play with both sexuality and gender throughout the play, to flirt with men and women alike, to have sexual (or at least romantic) history with both ophelia and horatio, to be dealing with how to emulate the role models of his father and his mother, to perform multiple genders (even dressing in drag at one point). i feel you would be incredibly good at the chameleon nature of this request. i also feel that the central problem for hamlet in the production i propose is one that you often deal with in your projects (particularly with tim burton). i think hamlet's journey is one of discovering how to grow up. i think there is a definite tendency early in the play for him to treat everything as a game, as not quite real, or more precisely, not quite serious enough to rise to the challenge--to mature enough to truly deal with. he is good at trying on mourning, trying on madness, making as if to revenge his father, performing the role of prince, of lover, of friend, of son. but it takes for the stakes to continually get higher and higher, for others to take him more seriously than he takes himself, for people to start dying around him or trying to kill him, for him to take real action by making sure as to his heart's choice (horatio) to speak plainly to his betrayers (r&g) to let his mother in on his plans, to frankly apologize to his rival (laertes) and to finally follow through with his rashly made promise to his dead father's ghost. throughout the play i see a struggle for hamlet between his ability to maintain control of every conversation he engages in (which he can do with ease and a surplus of double entendre which keeps everyone he speaks with wrongfooted) and having no control of his life (his location, his direction, his domain, his family, his company, his ability to carry out his plans, anything). he is lost in his homeland, he is a cynical innocent, he is the prince cum court jester, tilting at conversational (and soliloqual) windmills of his own contriving because any more realistic target is to much for him to handle. slowly he learns how to come into himself, to acknowledge and communicate his desires, to hold himself and others responsible. this process could very easily entail a coming out of sorts within it, or it could not. i propose an overt portrayal of hamlet's and horatio's attraction and relationship and also hints of attraction in multiple other relationships (r&g, laertes, a sailor, etc) but i don't want his love affair with ophelia to be undermined in its sincerity and weight by his attraction to men. there is a true and complex romance/attraction goin on there, but hamlet is too immature to sufficiently deal (in a non-performative way) with it even at her grave. she is not the first, nor is the the only casualty of his folly (i would like the possibility of he and laertes having a history to be real) but her death i believe is a major catalyst for his finally taking things seriously and rising to the challenges laid in front of him. hers is the death of innocence, and it ramifications shake him to his core.
enough of my analysis for now, please let me know if the idea of this project excites you in any way. i would be happy to hear your suggestions of other actors with whom you would like to work (helena bonham carter is more than welcome to take on ophelia once again, if she is interested. i think she might like my take on her character as well...)
i eagerly await your reply.

my most sincere regards,
ray van fox (x)

[you may well laugh at the pretension of my letter, i do myself, but i say to you that there is no other actor working in hollywood right now that i would trust with this character like i would mr. j. depp. (not that i was looking for a hollywood actor for this project but i read an interview where he mentioned wanting to do a stage production of hamlet before he gets too old, so you know, my mind went there...) i have however spoken before about his genderqueerness (see johnny depp's eyeliner) and i think he's the one that could pull this off with flying colors. i'll take suggestions of anyone better, but i don't believe they exist.]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

solar flares = worse than mercury retrograde

also, new orleans = technological dead zone.

so first, there was no way to get online at the guest house we stayed at the first couple days, then the coffee shop across that street had a sign that said "our internet is being a jerk today, and we are trying to fix it, getting the new modem up and running by tomorrow." but i still went there cuz the guys were really nice, one of which was really cute (i started calling him my boyfriend for the rest of our stay). then there were were no coffee shops to speak of in the french quarter, and the place we stayed for the rest of the weekend wasn't connected either.

but the real kicker was that the the solar flares caused my phone to go haywire for the two to three days after the 17th. and i mean like totally freaked the eff out. as in, it couldn't stop acting like all its buttons were being pushed at all times. it would scroll thru menus and try to make odd functions happen, it would continue doing this while i was trying to make it stop or trying to do something else and it kept trying to do weird shit to my contacts. it ended up deleting all my texts in the inbox, sent and draft folders (hopefully it didn't randomly call or delete anyone) it would continually type *741W over and over, even when i was trying to call or text someone. it seriously made no sense. i watched it scroll thru my contacts list almost 3 times really rapidly before i could get it to stop. it would run down my battery in a few hours but would still go crazy no matter how many times i turned it off and on again. it was driving me crazy. watching a phone go insane is really distracting and kinda stressful. i would try to make it stop freaking out to save the battery, given that my friends and i kept splitting up and wanting to get back together. super super annoying. and then i woke up on sunday morning and it had stopped. just like that. (and the weirdness of that also drove me a little crazy)
oh, and also, there was this period of time on saturday night during the parade (the very first parade of the mardi gras season, the most raunchy one of the lot--krewe de vieux) when no one in the french quarter could get their phones to work. i heard even the atms were not functioning correctly. now, presumably this was because there were so many people in the area that the cell towers just couldn't handle that much stress on the system. but that seems a little far fetched to me, i mean, it was only the beginning of mardi gras, there were so many less people there than there will be later this month. i think the much more plausible reason is that the solar flares were totally just messing with everyone's phones for fun. i mean, that's gotta be the answer, right?
cuz it wasn't just phones. janet bought a new memory card for her camera, and it kept creating errors in all the pictures she was trying to take all weekend. (until sunday morning, might i add) it really just said there were card reading errors and that the files were corrupted. made no freaking sense, just would mess up randomly. and not immediately after taking the picture, but later, after you had turned off the camera and turned it on again. then they were totally screwed up and you couldn't see them anymore. and it didn't have anything to do with the formatting of the card cuz kenny even tried that. i think he even tried taking out the batteries and putting them back in. it was just ridiculous.
my only explanation for why every bit of internet and phone and electronic mayhem occurred was because the sun had decided to belch magnetic/ionized/highly energetic particles at our magnetosphere. (see wikipedia article) this is the real truth. or at least its my truth.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

two ways to break a coconut

so i've escaped winter by driving 12 hours south from chicago with my friend janet and her friend kenny, and we have arrived at the house of my friends, brad and kathleen, who are living in star, mississippi where he is the pastor of a methodist church and she is a personal trainer at a gym, thinking about grad school. they moved here 8 months ago from the bay area and the lack of culture and progressive peers and queer community is kinda getting them down. so it's an instant party when we show up this evening. the liquor cabinet gets raided and we all are having great and amusing conversation, playing with the dog and passing a bowl, working on the puzzle that is their amusement on other nights.
so, late in the evening, brad picks up a coconut from the fruit bowl on the table and decides its time to crack it open. he takes out a butcher's knife and kathleen gets really stern and says, 'brad, stop! there is no way i will allow you to try to chop a coconut in half with a butcher's knife.' he looks at her and says, 'honey, i'm not stupid,' and explains that, with the back edge of the knife, not the blade, he will whack the center line of the coconut all the way around and then hit it right on that line and it will fall in two. he swears this is how you do it. we all look a bit skeptical, but he is adamant that he knows this is the best way to crack open a coconut. so we watch and comment, and after he has whacked around the whole circumference, he gets a plate to put the coconut on and makes to hit it right in the middle. janet says, 'you are going to break the plate.' brad looks at her and says with conviction, 'no, im going to crack the coconut.' kenny is quietly mumbling skeptical noises until brad looks him in the eye and says with supreme confidence, 'i can do this.' kathleen is still not happy about it, but brad is on a roll now. before we even know whats happening, he has set the coconut on the plate and hammered down on it with the back of the butcher's knife. the instant of contact is unanticipated, abrupt, loud and beautiful and of course, leaves the coconut intact and breaks the plate into about 8 pieces. the instant directly after is completely silent with the comprehension of what happened, brad's utterly shocked face falling in failure and guilt, the rest of us hanging in anticipation of the aftermath. the very next instant, kathleen starts us all laughing uproariously. somehow she gasps out that it was her grandmother's china and then laughs even harder. we look at her and she says, 'its not the good china, don't worry,' and we all just fall over laughing. brad says, 'i was so sure it was gonna work' and janet says, 'i know, but i don't know why.' we can't breathe for almost 10 minutes and our stomach muscles are aching by the time we stop. kenny says, 'brad, i knew it wasn't going to work, but you somehow had me convinced that you could do it.' we all just shake our heads. kathleen is probably the most amused of everybody. im sure she thinks it was worth one of those plates for the perfect hilarity of that moment.

i believe the reason this situation was so funny was that there were two instants of comedy held together by a moment of anticipation. brad was so effing convinced that it was going to work, and his astonishment when he didn't succeed was the stuff slapstick comedy is made of. that would have been funny no matter what, but there was a one-two punch here. it wasn't just the funny situation, it was also the amusement at the funny situation. because they were both present, because kathleen found the whole thing so funny, especially when it was the family china that was sacrificed, this moment had me holding my stomach and wheezing like i haven't done in years.
i mean, she could have been stern with him after the fact, she could have shook her head at him, she could have said, 'i told you so.' and that still would have been funny in some ways. maybe not in the moment, or maybe just after the fact. but she didn't. however, we all knew that possibility was there, so that moment of anticipation between brad's failure and kathleen's reaction, heightened the potential humor to a fevered pitch. when she laughed the explosion was a letting off of steam built up from the absurdity of brad's belief, the extravagance of his failure and the near miss of confrontation from his wife. and the part about it being her grandma's china was just the extra punch in the gut.
(and not to add comic insult to comic injury, (or to try to get one more punch in there) but the coconut, when we finally broke it on the concrete floor of the garage, was rotten.)