Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Blog

What to say?

January 29th, 2017

What is there to say about the past eight days that hasn’t already been said elsewhere and better? Nothing, except to say that I’m honestly terrified — by what has already happened to my country, and what the immediate future undoubtedly holds.

Every day I’ve been taking some sort of action in opposition. I marched in the women’s march (and, yes, there were 750,000 of us crammed into downtown Los Angeles in a remarkably friendly, peaceful, thoughtful, considerate protest). I’ve been doing emails and phone calls (and we’ll see if they have any impact). I agreed to help out with the endorsement meeting for Congressman Xavier Becerra’s replacement next Sunday. (Becerra is our new state attorney general, so there’s an opening.) I signed up to help swing a district near me from red to blue.

And, importantly, every day I’m looking for some comfort that, maybe, the reign of terror won’t be permanent. Here are some that I’ve found:

  • On Thursday, I went to a local Democratic club meeting. Normally, it’s hard to get eight people out for this thing. Thirty-eight people showed up — the vast majority of them new to political engagement, and eager to take on Trump.
  • I have many Republican friends — conservative, patriotic, Republican friends who consider Trump a radical and not a conservative, and also a traitor. Some of my well-connected Republican friends have reassured me that we haven’t lost the Republic (yet?) and that we’ll bounce back from this. This piece in The Atlantic, from an actual conservative Republican, supports this line of thought.
  • The ACLU won some victories against the immigration ban.
  • Three million people showed up to march against Trump last Saturday. That’s a lot of people. Assuming that we have elections in two years, that could make quite a difference.
  • Finally, even Dick Cheney says Trump’s immigration ban is un-American: “Well, I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in. I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from.”

I have no idea what’s going to happen with all this, and neither does anyone else. Except I’m sure it’s going to get worse. In the meantime, we need to do our best to enjoy the day, be grateful for what we’ve got, and fight for what we believe in.

Focusing on the positive

January 20th, 2017
  • It rained again in Los Angeles, and we need the rain. And when the clouds parted around 3 o’clock, the sky was beautiful and clean and the air was fresh and crisp.
  • I had a pretty good lunch at Pickup Stix, a fresh Asian place, and a nice time with my friend and business partner during it.
  • A kind lady came to my office and gave me an EKG (I’m buying more life insurance) and I aced that yet again.
  • I had an extremely enjoyable discussion about values with good people in Pasadena.
  • Someone who works for me unexpectedly thanked us for how he’s been able to learn and grow under our mentorship over the past three years, and then he left early to go buy a new car. That really felt good.
  • And shortly I’m going home to enjoy my wife and family and play a game or watch a movie and have a little wine and maybe read a comic book or two.

Some of us are going to need this sort of positive reinforcement for a while.

Advice for today and every day

January 20th, 2017

FondFarewell

Don’t hope for the best.

Work for the best.

Where Obama is going in retirement

January 19th, 2017

It’s not where you think.

A friend in need

January 15th, 2017

Need some writing or video production? I have an extremely talented friend who needs more work. He’s one of the best writers I know — for corporate and for creative — and has decades of experience producing corporate video. Now that he’s in his late 50’s, it looks like he has aged out of the hiring pool. (!!!) He’s been job-hunting for two years now with absolutely no luck, and his unemployment ran out a long time ago. If you need a reliable, talented, professional writer or video producer — either to hire or to contract, to work part-time, or full-time, or even on individual projects of any size — please email me and I’ll put you in touch. I completely endorse the work of this friend of mine (I have hired him many times), and I’d really like to help him out. You will be glad you hired him.

Party politics

January 14th, 2017

I went to a party tonight co-hosted by an actress friend who I’ve been doing theatre with for almost 15 years now. She’s been in a few of my plays, we actually acted in a play together (yes, I’ve acted in two plays in the past 30 years), she’s done readings from my workshop and the private dramaturgy I do sometimes, and she’s my friend. (None of that is in order of importance. I think I’d put “friend” first.) Incredibly, over that 15 years she’s somehow gotten more youthful and even more beautiful. How that’s possible I don’t know, but she should bottle it and sell it.

She makes her living in acting-related work:  production work and video and so forth.

Her boyfriend — a great guy who is an audiophile — is a partner in a start-up company that offers test prepping.

I also saw a friend who is a voiceover actress who I’m not sure I ever actually met before — neither of us was sure — but we know each other through Facebook.

I saw the husband and wife who run a long-running (20 years!) improv troupe.

And my adored good friend who is a nurse. And her new husband who is a teacher.

And others.

And I went there not — not — wanting to discuss politics or the horror that faces us starting next Friday — but it was there instantly. I was the second guest to arrive, and immediately the discussion veered onto Trump. Donald J. Trump. Soon to be President Donald J. Trump.

This is a low moment for America. Or perhaps the nadir. And maybe the sunset, or the total eclipse.

The discussion went on for hours, and no matter where someone tried to steer it — it came back to Trump. Which I know would just make him more gleeful. He loves being discussed, and part of him even loves being attacked. To quote Oscar Wilde, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Trump personifies this ideal. The majority of we who voted aren’t upset because we “lost” an election; we’re upset because a knave and a scoundrel, a person who personifies the lowest of the low, a person completely devoid of integrity or character, is now going to be occupying our highest office and representing us to the nation and the world.

Let me point out that while everyone admitted and agreed that we couldn’t personally relate to the economic plight of unemployed or underemployed people in Ohio, or Minnesota, or Pennsylvania — we’re all nevertheless middle class. No one at the party was in the 1%, or the 1/10 of 1% — nobody, in other words, would have been eligible for service in the Trump cabinet — but we were appalled, outraged, saddened by the idea that this mendacious sociopath is going to become the president of the United States next Friday.

In the face of this, there was really nothing else to talk about. The reality of it was like the dead body in the room. In the Ionesco play “Amédée, or How to Get Rid of It,” a married couple  try to ignore  a continually growing corpse in the other room. Finally, as it sprouts mushrooms and begins to exhaust their living space (Act Two begins with just two giant legs thrust onstage, the corpse having grown to Brobdignagian size), they resolve to deal with it. This giant dead body, like the presence of death, has taken over their lives — much like the looming threat of Trump is occupying all the space around us.

Much as I didn’t want to address politics — much, in fact, as I hadn’t wanted to address it this same morning in my playwriting workshop — it’s everywhere. It’s unavoidable. It keeps coming up because it’s always there. Somehow we’ve awoken in the banana republic predicted by Wallace Shawn in “The Dedicated Mourner” — a scenario I’d previously rejected as too outlandish, but which now seems all too possible. (One hallmark of banana republics:  the installation of near relatives in senior positions — as we’re seeing with Trump’s two sons, his daughter, and his son-in-law.) I find myself wondering if I’m witnessing the death of America.

Faced with the nightmare of an incalculably ill-suited president elected partly through the ministrations of a foreign government, I’ve done a little something every day to register my opposition and arm my fellows. After a two-decade lapse, I’ve rejoined the ACLU. At least, my thinking goes, maybe they can tie some of this up in court. I’ve participated in very local elections that resulted in whole skeins of activist youth joining the state Democratic Party. On Thursday, I’ll be participating with my theatre company Moving Arts in The Ghostlight Poject, a national event where theatre artists publicly commit themselves to what most of us would recognize as the ideals of the nation. And given that I’ve spent the last 12 years volunteering, serving as a delegate, knocking on doors, raising money, making calls, and canvassing in-state and out-of state, I’m sure I’ll be doing even more with my anger and my upset. Because I’ll have to, or I’ll feel complicit by default.

But what felt best tonight, and this morning, was being surrounded with people who share in my alarm, and just getting to vent my very real fears and voice my desperate uncertainty about how we’ve lost our nation, and so suddenly, and how we might be able to get it back.

The new line of succession

January 12th, 2017

lineofsuccession

 

I would have voted for Dr. Doom. As one wag noted, he’s the only political leader here who is legitimately concerned with the well-being of his country.

Exit, stage-left

January 11th, 2017

One benefit of safe, secure service in academia is that it removes you from any accountability, while enabling you to pursue your career in the game of entertainment outrage. Hence Cornel West (and Newt Gingrich) and hence West’s latest ludicrous tissue of fabrication, which you can find here. What we have here is, once again, West’s litany of unhappiness with Obama, newly stapled onto the baseless accusation that Obama’s faults led to Trump’s election. To many of us, this would more properly serve as a reminder of Hillary Clinton’s faults, but that wouldn’t serve West’s prevailing need to debase and deny Obama, as he has done for nine years now.

Now that Obama has said farewell, I wonder what new target West will find to stay in the news. It can’t be Trump — that’s too obvious, given that everybody else in West’s camp is already aiming there.

Trump joke of the day

January 11th, 2017

This latest revelation lends new meaning to the term “news leak.”

Sunday

January 8th, 2017

Applying John Scalzi’s 10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump, I turned off all the daily digital upsets this afternoon to sit out back in my newly radiant back yard, freshly bedazzled by heavy rainfall that filled the coffer of our local aquifer and washed away all the gloom of the past two weeks, and work on my new play.

The story goes that Arthur Conan Doyle could write anywhere, under any circumstances. His children said that while the family was waiting for trains, he’d sit on their luggage on the platform, journal in hand, scribbling away. Sometimes, I can be like that. Today was like that. The neighbor kids, aged 7, 5, and 3, came over and romped around the back yard with my teenage daughter and our smooth-hair Fox Terrier while I sat in the near corner enjoying my scotch and an Arturo Fuente and wrote about two brutally unhappy people arguing over meaning, relationships, and the monetary value of a painting neither one likes. The gulf between what I was writing and what I was living couldn’t have been greater.

I’ve got almost 80 pages on this play, and it feels like it should be between 90 and 100. I’ve got all the scenes at least sketched out, hopping about in writing them, spending more time where it feels more right, at the moment, to work. I know I’m missing lines connecting various pieces. Most of the writers I know work the same way.

Meanwhile, my son is in the back corner of the lot trimming down some of the hundreds of pounds of branches we cut from our overwhelming front-yard tipu tree last Sunday. I took lots of photos of that adventure last Sunday, and maybe I’ll be posting them. I think when this 14-year-old goes off to college I’ll either outsource the tree-trimming or sell the house.

Now I’m off to our local Big 5 sporting goods store. I need new workout clothes — my current ensemble being completely worked out — and he needs running shoes. Maybe later tonight I’ll return to the play. I’d like to get a full finished draft by the end of this month.