more about the Workshop
October 25, 2010, 10:51 am
Filed under: American Dream | Tags: ,

Off to work at Baruch today continuing our residency for Lush Valley. Last week we tried out a fun exercise as we took turns interviewing one another from a set list of questions based on out 8 central tenets. These simple yet ambiguous questions cut to the core of what people think of when they imagine Freedom, express Hope, or consider Honor, etc. This was done with a simple camera setup in an isolated closet. We had a great time watching the live feed on projector. I am editing the footage to watch with the wonderful group of collaborators. I keep looking for the most basic, simplistic, unifying human experience that might illuminate the american dream. Right now I’ve landed on “threshold” – we’ll see where that leads.   – Tal


Three Quotes
October 9, 2010, 2:11 pm
Filed under: American Dream | Tags: ,

Antwerp 10/3: My friend Scott help up the Herald Tribune as I entered the hotel courtyard. In an article cleverly titled “On Wall St,. it’s the piñata that wears the blindfold” Anthony Scaramucci, author of Goodbye Gordon Gekko, is interviewed. “There are probably some bad people at Goldman but it would be very bad if the American government took out Goldman Sachs. Goldman is the American dream factory. They can move people from the lower middle class to the ultra rich in one generation.”

John Hockenberry of NPR’s The Takeaway says
“America’s middle class, though, has been threatened by its own success. The definition of the middle class is that people of generic roots like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Robert Johnson, and Sam Walton can become billionaires. But their success is not duplicatable in 2010.:

I’ve been reading Jonathan Lethem’s very amusing (and touching) Chronic City. in it his character Perkus Tooth riffs on Marlon Brando “…when he sent Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the Oscar in his place. I mean, it’s the most amazing conflation of the American Imaginary, just think about it! In one gesture Brando ties our rape of the Indians to this figure of our immigrant nightmare, this Sicilian peasant doing the American dream, capitalism I mean, more ruthlessly than the founding fathers could have ever dreaded. We’re as defenseless against what Don Corleone exposes, the murderous underside of Manifest Destiny, as the Indians were against smallpox blankets.”

An in case you ever wonder what the derivation of the phrase “when the chickens come home to roost” is look a bit past Malcolm X to Aesop’s fable of The Bee and Jupiter.

A rose by any other name
August 9, 2010, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Ambition, Images, Opportunity | Tags: , , ,

Nick Grillo, as a boy in Italy, dreamed of America and its opportunity, Southington, Connecticut. He saved enough money for boat passage to this country. Today, after 22 years, he is one of the world’s outstanding flori-culturists, developer of the famous “Thornless Rose,” an age-old dream of his craft.

One of 1600 rare color photos from the Great Depression were compiled by the Farm Services Administration from 1939 and 1944. Available here:

Lush Valley at NACL
August 4, 2010, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Events | Tags: ,

I’m long over-due to post about our wonderful retreat at North American Culture Laboratory (  It’s a wonderful place in Highland Lake, somewhere between Port Jervis and Liberty in Sullivan County.  Our lovely hosts Tannis Kowalchuk and Brad Krumholz have worked tirelessly for the past 10 or so years restoring an immense house and the church next door into the perfect workspace for people like us.  It’s really a testament to what the performance making community  can and should be.  Open, peaceful, provacative, evocative, focussed, dreamy, etc.  Morning swims in the lake across the road, amazing food made by wonderful people, leisure, reading, talking, interviewing, writing, playing – all of it – just wonderful.  10 of us were there together for varying lengths of time.

Highlights included a series of interviews we did with people waiting for the annual Port Jervis Firefighters Parade to go by. We asked them about what the American Dream meant to them; was it being fulfilled; was it realistic;  was it different for each generation, and so on.  Answers ran the gamut from great despair to determined hope.  This is one of the oldest Firefighter parades in the history of the USA and takes place in this town on the Delaware river where NY meets, NJ meets PA.  It’s a very economically depressed area.

Some thing I just found out:  Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Journalist, lived near Port Jervis in Cuddebackville early in his career, until he was fired from the local newspaper after physically assaulting a vending machine.  It’s relevant because “Fear and Loathing” was one of the many books being read as the actors developed stream-of-consciousness texts for the camera’s eye segments of Lush Valley.  Among the many things we talked about, when not staying up late drinking and playing poker, was the relationship of the “road” and the “grid” as icons of the American Dream.  Think Las Vegas – a grid carved out in desert valley at the end of the road.  A capitalistic mecca/mahagonny where all dreams seem possible and the boulevards are littered with a million broken ones.  I suspect that what’s left of his cannonball ashes are still settling to earth and that his spirit had joined us to give us a clue.  “Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men’s reality. Weird heroes and mould-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ”the rat race” is not yet final.”

Solitude of Self
July 28, 2010, 3:51 am
Filed under: Equality | Tags: ,

words from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self” (1984)

Words weighted and sized by occurrence in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s powerful “Solitude of Self” presented to Congress in support of a woman’s right to vote.  It took another 28 years before enough wise white men of this nation were ready to agree and make it law. See:

Equal Opportunity
July 28, 2010, 3:31 am
Filed under: Equality | Tags: ,

Came across this smart, interesting, touching story

It shows how much we can accomplish as a nation when we value the concept of Universal Access as we did with the Americans with Disabilities Act signed by the 1st George Bush. Universal access refers to the ability of all people to have equal opportunity and access to a service or product from which they can benefit, regardless of their social class, ethnicity, ancestry or physical abilities. It is a vision, and is some cases a legal term, that spans many fields, including education, disability, telecommunications, and healthcare. It is tied strongly to the concept of human rights.

The 14th Amendment says “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So here is my question.  Is it a privilege to live without threat of interrogation, without fear of intolerance, with the security of free expression.  Because I think those “privileges” are being abridged.  What about marrying who we want to?  What about the right to equal opportunity in education and healthcare?  It seems like the laws say we are not equal if we are being deprived of liberties and life because some states choose to apply different laws than others.  How does that make us equal under a constitution that applies to all of us.  I don’t get it.

Happiness Think Tank – Notes
May 9, 2010, 8:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

Is happiness influence by astrology , temperament?  Is it possible for all to be happy? (pt. 1)

It’s different than everyone deserves to be happy

But some people seem to choose to be unhappy so does that make them happy

When people are aligned with their temperament  they seem happy

I think in astrology it works that way

Some people need flexibility some need confinement

Trusting your idea of yourself

I’m flexible and very happy but others need structure to be happy

Self knowledge and trust in self knowledge seems important

I’m too old to worry about what my parents think.  I think it relates to contentment.

I went to a high powered school you had show you were professional and driven but as the years go by I don’t care how people judge me and I have become more relaxed and happier.

I have stereotypical ideas based on astrology.

I work with kids a lot and if they have ADD or dyslexia, you hope the teacher will recognize that but often they won’t because they have so many students and then there are these really unhappy kids  because they don’t fit in

Does fitting in matter – does everyone need to fit in?

Is my happiness my decision or is it affected by fate or outside forces like astrology what if I am born with bad sign alignment

It may be up to how people use that at as a filter how do they interpret those signs and use them.

Everyone experiences the same weather but they can feel very differently about based on their own choices.

In an imaginary world where people have all the tools to be happy would they be.

I think its up to people choices – my father in law who is in an unhappy marriage  bad job he hatred but made a choice to be stoic and live through adversity.  But his face will suddenly break into happiness because he discovers a cool gadget

There is a big industry promoting happiness, priests, rabbis, therapists etc.  I seems like there is a notion in our species that we can all be happy or at least should strive for it.

I think that some people just have a harder time it could be chemical they may not know what happiness is or can be o=r they don’t have certain kind off resources.

I think people get into patterns some people want to be right more, or be a victim than want to be happy.  Some people go through lots of adversity and then decide to be happy

Why is it in the declaration – to pursue happiness does that suggest we should all try to be happy.

I think the word can be commandeered by different groups.  The freedom to pursue happiness.  The capitalist can use that as a code word for making money and having success.  But the socialites my say its about the most happiness for the most people

It brings a level of hope because it means we have the right to choose what makes us happy

Happiness vs. property, having things

Happiness for me is about community and connections.

Does it matter that your community friends are happy for your happiness

It matters to me in terms of proximity and closeness.

I absorb people’s moods and it affects me.

I am a deflector of others moods.

So you need to learn who you are so that you have the tools how to be happy

I think you have to take happiness where you find it.  I chose to leave people who made me unhappy, family.  So I can have more control.

My mother seems unhappy because she likes to complain but actually she’s happy complaining – narrating her life.

Do you think some people are more equipped to be happy?

Yes chemistry, astrology.  Some signs are bold enough to break up a bad relationship or ask for the raise.  The first hurdle is being able to choose what makes you happy.  If you’re a thinking person yes.  For some people ignorance is bliss.

Do you thin k selfish people are happier.  Yes if they are less concerned with other peoples happiness. They may not compromise themselves so they are happier.  Or they have specific goals to pursue.

I think we have too much free time.  So we think too much about whether we can be happy.

When you camp and have no appliances but just simple choices it’s easier to be happy.

Discussion about TV.  Having it vs. not.

If you have too many choices – that can make you unhappy.  In school they said I could be anything I wanted and I resented that.  I wanted a direction.

Do you need unhappiness?