Maya Angelou: A Remembrance

Maya AngelouRemembering Maya Angelou is the topic for my latest post on the Clyde Fitch Report.  It feels like I haven't written celebrity obituary in quite a long time. It was a challenge to write a summary of her life, considering the wide scope of her experiences and influence. I did the best I could.

"The writer communicated with humility and passion. She emphasized commonality rather than differences."

Read the rest here

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What Makes a Good High School Theater Teacher?

Drama-High-Book-Sokolove-199x300My latest post for The Clyde Fitch Report is about Michael Sokolove's "Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town and the Magic of Theater." The book, about Lou Volpe's drama program, is fascinating. My post concentrates on what makes a successful high school drama teacher. It is less a book review and more of a listicle about the steps he took to make Harry S. Truman High School's theater department a nationally recognized and well-respected.

Some people have said that they couldn't figure it from the book. In my eyes, it was as plain as day. Go read it.

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Adam Hague’s Inspirational Photos

For the past few days now, I've been hanging out with Adam Hague's work on Flickr. He's the guy who was in an abusive job situation. He started working with photographs to express his anger, sadness and demoralization.  

As he says: "Finally in 2007, I started taking photographs to find a way to express myself and escape the constant negative pressure at my job. I was frequently threatened with being let go. This was when I realized no amount of money is ever worth such treatment.” 

I love this idea. He found a way out of his ugly situation through art and creativity. If you look at the pictures, you can see how each one reflects an essential emotion. Sometimes words just aren't adequate. It's what I've been struggling with regarding my own creative block. Shining a light directly on the situation can shift it.

I'm not going to steal photos. Go take a look at his work for yourself. 

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A Side Effect of Sexism

Laura Axelrod and PhilI’ve been grappling with a writer’s block for months. The block comes at a time when I’ve experienced some amazing successes. Since January:

  • I wrote and directed my first film, a seven-month project. We are now entering it into film festivals.
  • I finished a massive freelance writing project. It was a long endeavor but well worth the money.
  • I also took two acting classes in Atlanta, which was an extremely long commute from northern Alabama.

I’m still doing the work, plotting along and pretending there are no problems. But it is getting harder and harder to write.

A third of my problem is due to physical and emotion exhaustion. Another third is because I peeled off my skin to write this essay. These symptoms will go away with sleep, meditation and watching vintage TV.

The other third of my block is far more problematic. I’m convinced I will not be heard, that my best work is not good enough. Oh sure, people will pat me on the head and tell me I’m a good writer. But what does that mean?

Tracing it back a little more, the problem is I’m acutely aware of sexism. Whenever I go on Twitter, my feed is filled with news about inequality, and how women are getting the shaft. Sometimes I see good news, but then there’s usually a kicker about how we have a long way to go.

 I don’t feel empowered reading this stuff.

I see how white guys (liberal and conservative) tend to support white guys who are exactly like them. Or I see white guys (liberal and conservative) who lecture and define reality for women. It’s not up to a liberal white guy to inform me about the level of prejudice I or other women experience every day. And it’s not up a liberal white guy to tell me how to be a feminist.

Does it sound like I’m picking on liberal white guys? I am. Particularly because I’m not a conservative and some of these guys claim to be allies. In my experience, they can be just as destructive as right-wingers.

I’m demoralized, and I sense there are women out there who feel the same way. Many times I can sense it when I speak to a female playwright. Some mask it in bravado; others handle it by disappearing completely from the scene.  If you treat someone like she is invisible, she will soon believe it herself. And then she will behave that way. To fight against it requires an enormous amount of strength – power that she could be using to write her next great play or book or blog post.

I can physically feel words inside me and I’ve been quiet for far too long. 

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GM Chevy Cobalt owner turns car into a painted protest

DeathTrapArtCar Chevy CobaltKevin Six, a playwright/actor who also happens to be the unfortunate owner of a General Motors Chevy Cobalt is turning his car into an art project. The vehicle is the subject of the failed ignition switch recall, but he thinks the problem is much more severe. My latest post at The Clyde Fitch Report provides all the details.

Six is inviting San Diego area artists to collaborate and paint a protest on his Chevy Cobalt. “This is a warning to people driving alongside this car. To shame General Motors into doing something about this car. And really, to draw attention to the matter.”

Read more about it. 

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Restarting My Blog

It is hard to believe this site is over ten years old. It has seen me through cross-country moves, health issues, career changes, marriage and culture shock. I've quit and let this site go dormant, though I could never really kill it off completely. Which is strange considering I pay a monthly fee for this site. Even had the height of my budget mania, I could never let it go.

I've been debating whether or not to restart Gasp!  I finally decided to take the plunge. No one keeps a blog anymore – do they? Well, I am. Blogging is so old it is practically new again.

While this blog has stood still, I've written in numerous other places. And I still do. Gasp! won't take the place of them. But there are plenty of topics I would like to explore that probably are not appropriate for those places. Plus, there's nothing like the pressure of a readership to keep you writing.

I hope you will join me.

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Vintage PSA Video: (Time for Timer!) Hanker for a Hunk of Cheese

I have a few days off, courtesy of the Korean holiday, Chuseok. So to kick off my mini-vacation, I cranked this vintage PSA from the 1970s. Anyone remember Time for Timer? 


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Vintage Ad: Winston 1970s

Winston There's a lot to like about this vintage Winston ad. Let's start with her awesome hair. Focus in on the hoop earrings. Then drag your eyes down to her denim shirt, tied at the waist. We can't see the entire length of the pants, but I'm willing to bet they are bell bottoms.

So where did they go wrong? 

1.) You thought duck face originated with #selfies on Instagram. You are wrong.

2.) They used to call it a playful pout, which was never meant to be attempted by people at home.

3.) Once amateurs get a hold of something, they ruin it. Always. Yes, this includes facial expressions.

4.) Wake me when denim shirts are back in style. I recently tried to find one in retail stores. Like everything else, I will have to search for it on the Internet.

5.) Shoes are probably the only fashion item you can purchase safely on the Internet. It's hard to screw up shoes.

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Vintage Ad: Lemon Menthol Cigarettes 1974

Lemon MentholAs someone who used to smoke menthols a long time ago, I can't imagine the taste of a lemon menthol cigarette. So I planned on snarking about this ad. Then I realized I recently drank Lemon Metromint water, and liked it. So I can't be a hypocrite about it.

I have only seen this advertised once in my stack of vintage magazines, so I don't think the product took off. 

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Vintage Ads: Glad Rags 1976

Glad Rags 1976I doubt Mary Tyler Moore wore Glad Rags on her show in 1976, but I see this pants style on her show all the time. It's too high-waisted for my tastes. My natural inclination is to wear a bulky sweater to cover my body. Although I love vintage clothing, I will never covet or own these pants.

1.) The shirt is cool, and I think I have something like it in my closet. 

2.) Remember to always smile with your mouth open. Apparently, it will make you seem more photogenic.

3.) I had this hairstyle back in the day, although I was only six. We used to call it "The Toni Tennille." Remember "Love Will Keep Us Together"?  No? How about "Muskrat Love"? The Captain and Tennille were awesome back in the day. And her hairstyle endures. To copy it, just curl the ends under. I guess the modern version is to leave the ends straight down, which gives it a severe look.


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