17 February 2006


Are you there?
I call you forth, darkness!
Come forward!
I call upon you, light!
Come forward.
I challenge the earth, the sea, and the sky!
Come forward all, and heed my words.
I shall endure your hardships, and emerge the stronger,
Or die in the attempt.
You, darkness, my fear of the unknown.
The fear I kept out with morals and ideals.
But as I live, these shields rust through,
And their splendour grows dull.
The boundaries between us melt, and I look into you.
I see there echoes of myself, and I understand;
I understand the unknown, because it is I.
I am the frailty of humankind, the failings of it.
The dark forgotten corners that few admit they have.
We all share them, and we are all human.
Light. My fear made visible.
My knowledge given form.
You are the future I see heading towards me at the speed of life.
The apprehension I have of things I know will happen.
I cannot escape you, but I dread facing you;
But all in all, I have faced you time and again.
I have passed through your fires unscathed.
I shall pass again, and live to tell the tale,
For you are that trial that shall purify my soul with insight.
Sea; huge and difficult to touch and hold.
Ever elusive.
I plunge into your depths, you surround me, yet you are not.
I cannot clutch you, you are incorporal, unreal.
Water is a promise, cool, refreshing,
A lie, salty, cloying.
Earth; betrayer! What bonds did we forge?
I have stood with you throughout my life,
Yet you are an aberration.
What trials we have shared,
What words have gone between us!
I have bled for you, yet now I am fogotten.
The wide desert swallow you!
I shall not wait. Though I want to forgive,
I know not how I shall forget.
And you, sky, vast and beyond my reach!
So far away, unattainable.
Yet I do not wish to attain you.
Tempest. Wind. Lightning.
I do not wish your acquaintance at all.
Stay far away from me, as we were never meant to be joined.
Remain you, and I shall remain me,
and in the difference we shall prosper.
Your wrath is great, but so is mine;
You may think you own this world I inhabit,
But you do not.
We share it, all, and you merely look down on us,
Disapproving, angry.
Your cries of anger are the rantings of a small, spoilt child.
Though you think you are mighty, you are insignificant.
Personify yourself, then, you vast emptiness,
And dash your brains out on the earth's rocks,
Or drown in despair seeking in the sea.
I care not.
For I shall best you all and emerge the stronger.
So hear my challenge; the gauntlet is thrown.
"I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul"
Defiant, I stand, before you all.
Lay on, foes, single or several, and cursed be he who first cries
"Hold! Enough!"

14 February 2006

"Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised. "

Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, IV, 20

I love that quote. But not as much as I love praise. I'll be honest. Few things in life give me as much satisfaction as being praised. And therein lies the problem: I think I may also be some sort of praise-junkie....what psychologists might call a codependant personality. What makes matters worse, is the fact that I'm an actor, of all things. Now, I don't think of myself as an artiste, but I certainly believe that what I do requires more than just training.

The problem, I believe, is that the praise has become such an integral part of my experience as an actor, that it has ceased to be a motivating force, and become something I view as my right. Which is not only wrong, but problematic on several levels.

For one, I've become really terse about taking direction, especially because I think most of the people who give me such direction have no bloody idea what they're on about. I hate it when another "actor", who merely started acting because he had a good speaking voice, starts directing me in the middle of a session (which I guess is fair enough, because it's none of his fucking business to direct me. That's what the director is there for). Still, there's a massive arrogance within me because I get that agitated about it. Where do I get off having the stones to decide what people should and shouldn't direct me? So what if I've trained as a professional actor at one of the best drama schools in the world? Does that training make me a better actor than another person? Does the fact that I have vocal technique on my side mean anything? Why am I being such a snob?

On the other hand, I think that the level of "drama" in Jordan is beyond piss poor. And thankfully, a lot of people agree with me about that, namely, the new breed of what i like to call the "Jordanian Acting Renaissance" (ok, it's not original, but it gets the message across); they agree that acting is horrible, as is direction, production, writing, etc. Ever seen a Jordanian soap/drama? I rest my case.

But there's a glimmer of hope: My kids' shows are often interesting, because the kids love them, and even though none of their teachers even look me in the eye when I'm done (usually), the sight of a hundred kids lining up to shake my hand at the end when I'm drenched in sweat is a victory like no other... it even alleviates the pain of my own co-workers not giving me as much as a tap on my shoulder for a job well done.
My drama school handbook actually has a note about how an actor should always respect his or her audience. "Your audience does not need you, but you need your audience. Do not be rude to them. There is no such thing as a difficult audience. If they are not receptive, that means you have to work harder."

In part, I totally agree with that statement, yet I also disagree with it totally. I have been taught that the performing place is sacrosanct. The audience should at least respect the actors while they are performing, and not smoke, eat, drink, chat to each other, or talk on the phone while a play is in progress....that's just common decency...basic manners. But some members of my audience have done that. And I wish I could say it was just the kids: Sometimes, it's their teachers who do all this while a play is in progress. Teachers for crying out loud! Those who should be setting a positive example!

Anyway, rant aside, I think that apart from being rude, this is perhaps due to the fact that they just don't know how to behave in a theatre. Still, it's pretty disconcerting when you're trying your best to concentrate on a hundred different things onstage and having two teachers in the third row gaily chatting away about god knows what. How can you work harder when that happens? How can you maintain character?

So, for those of you who've got completely lost, the whole idea is to juxtapose Marcus Aurelius's quote (which is really about subjectivity in judging things) with both my experiences in theatre, and my opinions of acting in Jordan. Feedback welcome. Oh, and before you call me an arrogant bastard, be aware that I totally agree with that statement.

Thus endeth another rant.

11 February 2006

What's your type?

I got into a somewhat odd conversation with a friend of mine the other week, regarding a certain lady I was interested in. The conversation went a bit weird when my friend commented that:"She's not your type. AT ALL."

Now, that brought up an interesting question: What, exactly, is my type? The myriad women I've been interested in throughout my life are diverse to say the least; For one, they've all been women. That's one unifying factor. But I don't know where else to go....independant thinkers? Not all of them. Most of them, I guess. Free spirits? Again, many of them. So what remains?Intelligence? Well, I guess, but that varies.

So what remains? Some were younger, most were older (with margins varying from a few months to over a decade). Some had long hair, some had short hair; curly, straight, blonde, brown, black, red, tanned, pale, thin, muscular, full-figured...the list of differences is massive....as it would be for most people, I guess.

And that led me to think (a rare occurance, I know): What is the type of person people go for, and how is that different from the sort of person you end up with/wanting to be with?

Does the "type" you usually go for have any bearing on the sort of person you end up falling for? is there really such a thing as a "type"? If the "type" really does exist, what influences it? is it some sort of psychology? A reverse psychology? Do we go for potential mates/partners who follow the Freudian model (yes, I know he was a crackhead), or does this have no bearing whatsoever? And if not, then how do we choose? What are the subconscious elements that affect these choices? Are they choices in the first place, or do we have no control over them?

What makes a person fall in love with one person, then hate someone else who is nearly the same? interesting when you come to think about it. Well, that's been on my mind for a while now, hope you can come up with some answers, dear reader. Till next time!

09 February 2006

Hamlet: Why Shakespeare rocks!

Well, continuing the theme of most wondersful Shakesperean masterpieces (which as far ad I'm aware of, only three people read), I will now be approaching the next cool Hamlet speech:

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
For Hecuba! What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I, A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? who does me this? Ha!
'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!

Hamlet Act II, scene 2

So, in case you're wondering, Hamlet's just met the Player King (bigshot actor), who's just delievered a very moving speech about Queen Hecuba and her feelings of loss following the murder of her Husband Priam. And this is what starts Hamlet off: How could an actor cry such tears, look so sad over people that mean nothing to him? What would they be like if they had Hamlet's motives for vengeance? That's when Hamlet does what he does best and goes psychoanalytical: "So why am I angry?"

He starts looking inwardly. "Who calls me coward?" After a few musings, he comes to the conclusion that he is a coward. Otherwise, he would have taken action long before and done terrible things to Claudius's corpse. Cheerful fellow. And then he goes ballistic again. The last nine lines are all about raw anger against Claudius, and helplessness. He vents, does a tantrum, and then examines himself critically. "I'm all talk." He says...in much better words than that.

Why do I love this speech so much?

From one angle, it's a great exploration of self-consciousness. Actors, in a play, talking about actors and plays. There's a very....I don't know what to call it....metaexistential quality to it. Im not sure that's even a real word, but it sounds impressive,at least.

The other bit is that this is the first real idea we get about what Hamlet is like: A reluctant hero. He doesn't want to do anything rash. He's determined to be sure of Claudius's treachery before he acts against him.

But why?

Well, I think it's because he's real. A truly real, natural, three-dimensional character. There's so much complexity in him, you can believe that he's an actual person. The conflict, the uncertainty, the frailty, the disbelief...Hamlet as a person is perhaps the most natural figment of anyone's imagination I've ever been exposed to.

In this character, Shakespeare takes internal conflict to a new level, without overdoing it, just. Personally, I think he could have done with a bit more pushing, but then again, that may not have worked and I trust that a writer of his calibre knew what he was doing.

The final lines of the speech, although not really dramatic, are included in the end. What he decides there is to entrap Caludius through a re-enactment of his father's murder, hoping to make him confess, or at least indicate that he did murder the old king.

Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain!
I have heard That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

Thus endeht Part II. Stay tuned for Part III, which features the most famous line in theatre history: To be or not to be.

07 February 2006

Racism in Arab culture.

Yes. It exists. And it SUCKS.

What disturbs me the most, is how most people hardly even realise how overtly racist they are!

Ok, perhaps this only applies to the caste-ridden middle and upper classes, but by Jupiter, it's rife there! How so? Well, it's a two-fold problem, as I see it. First off, we have the general racist tendencies that nobody seems to notice. For example, I was appalled by a "comedy" series on MBC called "Tash Ma Tash". One of the trailers for the series involved two blacked up actors (made up to look black) speaking gibberish and pretending to be Africans, behaving stupidly in a lame effort to illicit laughs from the audience. Now, not only was that in bad taste, it was also offensive.

The second aspect is much more insidious: it's a racism few people are even aware of. I don't know how true this is in other Arab countries, but in Jordan, it's an epidemic (or should that be endemic?). It's caste-based racism that dehumanizes foreign labourers. How so? Well, just listen to how people in Jordan refer to Egyptians and Asians from Sri Lanka, India, the Phillipines, etc. These countries are famous for one thing in Jordan: They provide a steady stream of poor people willing to do the menial jobs that most natives of this country find shameful/"low".

Just walk into 99% of upper-class houses. Go to a restaurant. Chances are, the person doing the serving will be a Sri Lankan maid or an Egyptian waiter. And these people are often treated like garbage by patrons and employers alike. Just listen to the terminology people use in conversation: Sri Lankan (or Sirlankiyyeh) is synonymous with a maid...no, servant girl is a more accurate term. Egyptian (Masri) is a term used for a low-income labourer who does menial tasks like gardening, washing cars, serving coffee, etc etc.

These individuals (whom I shall intentionally refer to as people simply because they are rarely treated as such) are mistreated by everyone. The police, their employers, the people they serve. They have few rights, and everyone likes to lord it over them. And why? They aren't exactly slaves, but they are pretty damn close to being that. And why is that? Why does society hold them in such low regard? When will this end? Do we not realise how wrong this is?

06 February 2006

Hamlet: Why Shakespeare rocks! Part 1

It wasn't until relatively recently (November 2004 to be precise) that I had the pleasure of sitting through a mostly-intact version of Shakespeare's Hamlet for the first time. Oh, and the second as well. In one week. That's right: I had to sit through two four hour plus performances of the play by two different directors in the space of four days. It was hell.

As far as plays go, I definitely believe that Shakespeare (or any other playwright for that matter) should not be read silently, but aloud. Not Read aloud, but acted on stage.

HOWEVER, since Hamlet is perhaps the most famous play ever written and definitely the most (mis) quoted (ok, perhaps Romeo and Juliet gets that honour, but only just), there's a certain feeling of terror that grips most actors wanting to tackle the roles therein. In short, the lines can almost never live up to expectation, because it's hard to do something new with them, or fulfill people's expectations.

But all that aside, Hamlet is a masterpiece. Forget existentialism, the Oedipal complex, and all that modern crap that people try to tack on to the play; Shakespeare never read Freud, nor was he awre of the works of Sartre. If he was aware of such things, it was not as philosophies. What the play does, is address human frailty, and it does it in ways that no other work I've read does. In essence, I think this comes out best in three of the speeches. ahem ahem:

O, that this too too sulleid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month
-- Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

So, your dad just died two months ago, and your mother has married his brother. Now if anything, that's enough to screw with your head. Freud aside, these are words of anger, denial, disbelief, and conflict. In other words, GOOD DRAMA.

But is it realistic? Well, considering that none of us are Danish Princes who have recently been put into this situation, or are likely to be any time soon, then no. the setting isn't. But let's not forget that this was written to appeal to your everyday average londoner nearly half a millenium ago. Escapism is the order of the day; people didn't want stories about peasants and back-alley salesmen, they wanted tales of royalty and high adventure.

So peel all the royalty away, and think of it as a normal person might. I don't know what you'll find, but personally, I believe there's a great deal of humanity in the words. Now try reading them out loud. And again. I know they don't make much sense, but how do they feel? Read the monosyllabic words slower than the polysyllabic ones. Feel the vowels and the consonants. Feel the rhythm of the speech. Now imagine you've just lost YOUR father, and your mother has just remarried your uncle. There you go!

Thus endeth part 1. Stay tuned for two more installments featuring To be, or not to be.

03 February 2006

Another poem with a dark theme:

I am the freeman, and my sins are legion
But the sins of the past are nothing compared to those of the future.
The precipice is ever near, and I walk the line,
Greed blinds me, and I want ever more.
I am chaos, I am confusion,
And full of scorpions is my mind.
yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil, for what is evil?
It is but the dark side of my mind.
It is the indifference of the just.
It is the overwhelming love of self that I exhibit.
Altruism, that was once my strength,
Fades into the shades of memory, forgotten.
I once looked into the eyes of my Future,
and it blinked at me in fear.
Now that future mocks me,
It fears me not.
My destiny is mine to control, yet how can I have freedom,
when it is not my mind that can decide?
"Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears" has faded,
I am loathe to face what is and what shall be,
For the present itself has become abhorrent to me.
My hope is not forlorn, it merely looks elsewhere.
Where that elsewhere is, I do not know.
Promises broken, lies told, dreams taken away.
I stand on the edge of change,
wondering where I am heading
And where I have been.
Fortune does not favour the bold,
Despite what they say.
There is neither rhyme nor reason to the way things are;
There is no justice in all we hope for;
It is in matters of greatest consequance that Fate betrays us.
I am lost to the sands of time,
And I pity my once great self.
All my dreams but one are nearly achieved,
yet it is that one last dream,
that vision I had never expected,
that puzzles my mind.

01 February 2006

Guilty no matter what.

Well, it's the evening of wednesday, and I can now update my blog. First off, I'd like to thank everyone for their support; it was really amazing how many people stepped forward and offered their to help me. You guys rock!

Anyway, in case you're wondering, I'm still alive, and more importantly, free as a bird. The charges were dropped, and I was let go, which I had hoped would be the case since I hadn't done anything to begin with.

Still, it was interesting how the guy who nabbed me in the first place was still trying to scare the bejesus out of me even though he was letting me go. Apparently, this charge carries a 6 month- 3 year jail term, and then he dropped the whammy that they were letting me go.

So, I was set free, but the guy still doesn't believe I'm innocent. I have a sinking feeling someone either really did say the things he heard, or someone who has it in for me lied and reported me to the police on some trumped up charge. Either way, I have nothing to hide because I've done nothing wrong. Now all that remains is getting familiar with the Jordanian penal code and issues of due process....don't want to get this crap again.