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There’s never been a film like Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”

Last night I went to a late movie at Concord Mills, sat in a nearly empty theatre, and saw a movie that certainly has no equal in film.

Richard Linklater spent twelve years shooting “Boyhood.” Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, is seven years old in the first scene. He’s nineteen at the end. He also charts the childhood of his daughter, Lorelei Linklater, from a little girl to adulthood. The parents, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, also age — not quite as dramatically as their children, but well…the way adults age.

This happens in movies — with make-up. “Boyhood” is a great story about how human beings interact with their experiences and put themselves together. But there’s something about people aging in front of your eyes this way for real that tugs at your heart, no matter the story.

What an amazing risk, commitment, and accomplishment.

I think of children I’ve known at age 7, 12, 15, and 19. What if the child actor decides he wants to play soccer, have a girlfriend, or any number of things rather than continue making the movie he’s already spend years working on?

There’s something about that risk, the fragility of life (its essence, really), that’s simply there, in the background, throughout the film. Even its most mundane moments seem to offer a kind of heartbreaking emotion that’s unique — very hard for me to describe.

That’s not to say this is just a video of people aging. The story is episodic, like “Forrest Gump” or “Fiddler on the Roof” — and it works. It’s almost as if it invents a new genre.

It’s a brilliant, poignant unfolding. Adults say things and do things, sometimes big and life changing, sometimes small and insignificant. While the adults are oblivious, almost callous, to the impact, self-absorbed with their need to survive something or react to something, the children take all this in, give it meaning, and build their personalities, dreams, and ways of being around random events in time and space.

Life events (moving, marriage, divorce, the first day at a new school, a game of bowling) can shake your emotions pretty hard when held up to and seen through the innocence of a child.

In a sequence towards the end of the film, Ethan Hawke’s character, the father, offers advice to his broken-hearted son. He’s not doing a very good job of understanding what his son is dealing and he finally admits, in passing, that he basically doesn’t know how to live life himself and has been winging it the whole time. This is obvious to us, the audience, but news to his son — and seems to bring everything full circle. My, how we judge our parents, forgetting that they are/were just like us — taking what they know to be right and good and winging it.

And that’s life. We wing it all the time, while the people around us think we’ve got it figured out and every action is intentional.

“Boyhood” is a remarkable film.

boyhood

Remembering Maya Angelou — a teacher of life

angelouIn 1994, just before Christmas, I embarrassed myself, just a little, at Maya Angelou’s house.

She had made a great big, delicious lasagna for her students, and I served myself a large portion.

“That’s too much, Mr. Post,” she said. “You don’t need to eat that much.”

She was right. I put some back.

After all, I was almost twenty years older than the other students in the class. I had a slower metabolism, and a bigger waistline. And I do eat too much.

This was the final class of the semester and Dr. Angelou had invited us to her house for dinner and  an evening of reciting poetry.

I was a student in that class, and that’s a key distinction. Student.  I was not a fan, and she made sure of that.

She was a renaissance woman, an American superstar of performance, letters, education, transformation, and wisdom. I had her books. I was at Clinton’s Inauguration, with a real ticket, close enough, with binoculars, to see her stun the nation with her grace and artistry as she delivered her poem,  “On the Pulse of Morning.”

And, thanks to an invitation from Laura Godfrey, Robert Jones and I went to Wake Forest one summer afternoon in 1994 and saw her speak to a group of Japanese exchange students.

After her talk she signed autographs. I did not ask for the autograph. I asked her if I could be in her class in the fall semester.

She said yes, if I would be there as a student, not as a fan.

I agreed, and she held me to that agreement.

It was a weekly class, on Tuesdays at 3pm. Each week, we were assigned a book to read and a paper to write. I read each book during the week and then read it again on weekends. Dr. Angelou asked a lot of questions, and she did not wait for me to raise my hand. She called on me frequently. She made sure the older guy in the room was there as a student, not as a fan.

Until now, I’ve honored that special request of hers. Shortly after that class, Frank DeLoach suggested I write a column about the experience for The Salisbury Post. I declined.

I had to get special permission to leave West Rowan Middle School an hour early, one day a week, to go to this class. Dr. Danny Thomas, the Assistant Superintendent at that time, had to get it cleared by the school board. I was a technology facilitator in a middle school and this class had nothing to do with my field of work. In order to embark on this adventure, I signed an unusual agreement saying that if I did not spend the next five years in the school system I would reimburse the system a certain amount of money, according to a formula set forth in the agreement, for those fifteen missed hours.

I needed name tags, bad. The first day of class, she went around the room and played the name game. It only took one round for her. She knew all of our names immediately. Then it was our turn. Each of us had to go around the room and speak each other’s names. We did this for several weeks. There were forty students in the class. Being the victim I can imagine myself to be when left to my own devices, I thought this was a little harder for me and a bit unfair. I went to Wake Forest. It’s not that big of a school. Many of them already knew each other! Of course I didn’t say that. It would have carried no weight at all with Maya Angelou. She was tough as nails and had earned the right to be so — while at the same time she personified, and gave language to, a personal and global stand for compassion and forgiveness and respect.

In those fresh and heady days, after the exciting Clinton victory of ’92 and just prior to Gingrich’s snide take-back win in ’94, there was a lot of possibility aflutter. She had been a star at the inauguration.

She loved her fame, and the platform it made available to her — and she loved teaching.

She joked that Nelson Mandela, who had just been elected President of South Africa, had asked her out. She got a huge laugh from the class when she described herself reprimanding him for making a play for her, because he was “still married to Winnie.”

She missed one of our classes and brought in a substitute professor from a different university so she could go to Los Angeles and shoot a movie, How to Make an American Quilt.

“He’s shooting around me so I only miss one class,” she said.

One afternoon, a bee flew in the open window and Dr. Angelou flew out the classroom door, waiting until someone got the bee out. She was allergic.

Another day, the TV cameras and crew were there, and I got to see a glimpse of myself on a national news magazine type of show (can’t remember which one).

She often said that she loved teaching so much that if she had become a teacher before she had become a writer, she never would have become a writer.

She was in a state of loving awe for her son, and took time in every class to talk about him.

The course was “The Philosophy of Liberation.” We read and discussed To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, Federico García Lorca’s “The House of Bernardo Alba,” Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes, Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and a number of others I no longer remember.

That winter evening, after the salad and garlic bread and lasagna, shortly before Christmas break, with Wake Forest students feeling the weight of exams and me, the oddball teacher from Salisbury, hoping I would look good and remember the poem I had memorized, we all gathered in the living room of this wonderful, generous woman — an international celebrity. The chairs were set in rows, a close, cozy arrangement. One by one, each of us took our turn at the front of the room to recite our poem.

That was our final exam. Enjoy a meal at her house, memorize a poem of our choice, and give it to the class.

I memorized Shelly’s “Ozymandias,” a sonnet, fourteen lines in iambic pentameter. It was a challenge for me, but a safe choice, and fairly typical for the evening.

There was a young man in that class with a physical handicap that affected his voice and required him to read, in a labored fashion, one word at a time, with one eye barely an inch from the page, bearing down on it with a magnifying glass.

A moment I’ll never forget is when he came to the front of the room.

“What’s your poem?” she asked.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” he said.

“The whole thing?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. There was no hesitancy. No emotion. No confidence. Nothing.

I remember thinking, “Can he do that? Is he going to be all right?” I had suffered for a week learning fourteen lines. Prufrock is 131 meandering lines of various lengths that take all kinds of odd twists and turns.

He delivered it from the heart. He was Prufrock. It was one of the most authentic, moving, powerful experiences of my life.

Dr. Angelo had created the perfect space for that young man to transform who he was for all of us that night. He ambled to the front of the room as a kid with special needs. When he took his seat, a few minutes later, he was an engaging, magnetic, delightfully giving human being.

I’m so sorry to hear this loving, graceful, remarkable woman has passed away, and I regret that I never made an effort to contact her in any way since then. She said, and made sure we got, that we were not her students in that class only, but students of hers for life. And that’s true. With her legacy, we were, and are, students of hers for life. I cherish the memory of that class, am grateful for it, and, like millions of people around the world, am extraordinarily honored to have known her.

How to make a perfect batch of easily peeled hard boiled eggs

EggWe have chickens, and although they are nearing the end of their laying careers, we still get more eggs than Alicia and I can eat (In recent weeks I’ve been having smoothies instead of eggs for breakfast).

So we have an ample supply of eggs and today I embarked on boiling a dozen.

When hard boiling fresh eggs, the challenge comes in the peeling. Older, grocery store eggs peel easier. Fresh eggs sometimes have a firm grip on the shell, and, when peeling, much chipping and deformity can ensue.

I’ve found ways to mitigate this problem. One way is to use a certain pot. I don’t know why, but this one particular pot in our cabinet delivers eggs that are easier to peel. Another way is to take them fresh from the boiling water into a bowl of ice water, and then peeling. The temperature change seems to shock them out of their shell.

But it’s still a challenge and some eggs don’t retain their smoothness and are sometimes so pockmarked that they become a treat for the dog.

And now I’ve found the most perfect way ever! Here it is:

1. Put one dozen eggs in a pot. Fill with water. Ignite stovetop and adjust to its highest flame.
2. Get a phone call. While on the phone, move to my office (a separate entrance from the house).
3. Talk for awhile. Get off the phone. Take notes from the call. Send the caller an email.
4. Make another phone call.
5. Check email.
6. Go the bathroom. Because the iPad is upstairs, go up there to use the bathroom. Sit on the toilet and rewatch a few minutes of 30 Rock.
7. Go downstairs. Watch a few more minutes of 30 Rock.
8. Hear loud pop come from the kitchen and imagine that something must have fallen or the house is settling and continue to watch this hilarious episode of 30 Rock.
9. Hear another pop.
10. Continue watching 30 Rock.
11. Hear another loud pop.
12. Get my ass up and go in the kitchen to see what’s causing all these pops.
13. Notice the burner on the stove flaming away underneath a pot of dry eggs.
13. Remove the pot from the stove and fill with cold water.
14. Peel the eggs, cooked to perfection, with ease.

Voila!

Jenny Lee Wright’s one woman show — A Narcissistic Evening of neurotic behavior

Pleasantly surprised?

No, I was pleasantly AMAZED at Jenny Lee Wright’s one woman show — A Narcissistic Evening of neurotic behavior at Spoken Space Theatre tonight.

It was a FULL show — polished and well-prepared — and kept the house alive with loud, authentic laughter throughout.

This was a premier, and one night only.

Continue reading Jenny Lee Wright’s one woman show — A Narcissistic Evening of neurotic behavior

Love Poem, the short film, directed by Simon O’Keefe

I wrote Love Poem in the 90′s, when we were doing the 9×9@9 shows at Theatre Charlotte.

Since that time, it’s been produced several times in 10 minute play festivals. At one point, I thought I would shoot it. And I’ve had a number of requests from people in this country and others

Continue reading Love Poem, the short film, directed by Simon O’Keefe

thoughts about local political talk

Here are some thoughts I thought about the Rowan County, North Carolina, campaign for County Commission — a very interesting and frustrating topic.

This blog is great. It describes what happened: “What is the Fish House?”

These Facebook pages are also great: Fire Jim Sides and Craig Pierce and La Resistance.

I may be wrong (and

Continue reading thoughts about local political talk

Purple, directed by Michael Kamel

In October, Michael Kamel, a young filmmaker, asked if he could use the script of my short play, “Purple,” for a short film.

I said sure, go for it. Michael is a freshman at George Mason University.

I get a fair number of requests such as this. They ALL warm my heart — and

Continue reading Purple, directed by Michael Kamel

The Lego Movie

I missed a lot of good movies this year.

Last Saturday night, having had the opportunity to see a movie for the first time in a while, I scanned the web, looking for something good.

I wanted to see 12 Years a Slave – and I will see it – but I had spent a

Continue reading The Lego Movie

A letter to the editor, Steve Mensing

Dear Steve,

Thanks for the plug for our show, Laugh Tracks, at Spoken Space Theatre. FYI, it’s entirely inaccurate. The sketches we have planned are not the ones you list. I won’t be linking to it, but you know what you wrote (using the name Diane Goldstein).

While we do appreciate the publicity,

Continue reading A letter to the editor, Steve Mensing

Laugh Tracks — I’m really proud of this show (and having fun, too)

My latest venture — and some links that go with it.

In terms of theatre, this is not exactly ‘Streetcar Named Desire,’  – but it’s been a blast, a chance to really explore the creation of comedy, and see people develop.

Comedy group finds inspiration in Rowan life … and isn’t

Continue reading Laugh Tracks — I’m really proud of this show (and having fun, too)