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Berkeley Energy Commission

Multitasking

Venn DiagramEven my lovely and powerful computer is getting fed up with all the multitasking. When I ask it to let me use Firefox, it rope-a-dopes me — asking, in effect, “Do you really need to use Firefox?  Wouldn’t you be just as happy sticking with your email application?”  I need to click on the little Firefox icon a few more times before the machine grudgingly brings up the browser.

I feel my laptop’s pain (something I’m sure we’ve all experienced, though possibly not on our wedding night): There are so many things I’m trying to do right now that I feel myself approaching a sort of fugue state.

On one of my “tabs” on Firefox is an uploading video that my brother Jake and I made yesterday, alerting our supporters at IndieGoGo.com that we plan to shoot the next installment of our new film, Love & Taxes, next weekend — and gently asking for even more donations.

On another tab is the enewsletter-generating program I use: I plan to send out an eblast to my peeps today about a couple of improvs I’ll be doing (towards an expanded version of my monologue Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?) in San Francisco over the next two weeks.  (The improvs — each open to a maximum of 15 audience members, so that few will be able to speak of the chaos and disaster — will be on Dec. 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. at The Jewish Theatre San Francsico; call 415.292.1233 to reserve a spot.)

Another tab holds yesterday’s article from the San Francisco Chronicle detailing brother Jake’s ongoing collaboration with Robert Reich on terrific little videos that give simple explanations of complicated policy issues.  At the same time, I keep checking my email for updates regarding an event that Jake and I are trying to put together: me interviewing Reich on stage at the Berkeley Rep in January, and filming it for use as a pilot for our new interview show, Josh Kornbluth Talks to Strangers.

There are also:

  • Word documents with in-progress contracts, a proposed budget for a possible concert film of my show The Mathematics of Change, my running diary of research and thoughts toward the Warhol piece, thoughts toward a future monologue about playing the oboe and spirituality (working title: Practice), notes from my fellow members of the Berkeley Energy Commission toward a report we’re preparing on local control of our energy production (so we can more aggressively fight global warming), and the text of President Obama’s very interesting Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
  • My RSS reader, which offers continually updating summaries of all the items on all the blogs I like to follow — DANGER! WILL SUCK UP ALL ATTENTION IF ALLOWED TO!
  • PDF documents with scenes, notes, and schedules for the Love & Taxes shoot.
  • JPEGs of possible locations for the L&T shoot.
  • A complete script, in “Final Draft” software, of L&T.
  • An audiobook, in iTunes, containing an unabridged recording of a complete history of the Jews (I just started it, but I suspect there may be some suffering).
  • A printer utility warning that I am about to run out of cyan-colored ink — which is actually okay, since (a) I will soon vaporize and thus won’t need to print anything and (b) I have no real idea what color “cyan” is, and suspect that few if any of my documents will need to be tinted cyan.

Which is just for starters, and does not take into account the books by and about Kafka, Brandeis, and other “Warhol Jews” that are staring accusingly at me from the bookcase, asking why I have not finished them yet; nor the pile of unsorted papers I brought back from my recent trips to India and Portland (guess which place was drizzlier); nor the fact that my new booking agent has been waiting a week for me to send him the technical requirements for my “smaller” shows (i.e., the cheaper ones); nor many other things that are now rolling around vaguely but impatiently in my head and working their way down to my esophagus, from whence they will eventually try to reflux their way back out into the world …

But really, the idea is to just start with something, right?  Baby steps.  Okay.  Right.

I’ll pee.  Yes, that is what I’ll do first.  I will pee.  Peeing is good.  It also involves stepping away from the computer, which will be a relief for my laptop and myself.  We both need some space.  Too much multitasking.  Too many tasks to be multi-ed.  Go back to a simpler time, when people left their front doors unlocked and movies cost under $10 and one person doing one task on one computer was the subject of worldwide awe and admiration.  That is what I will do.  And it will be nice.

Malvina Reynolds at the Rotary Club

The International Upper Middle Class Shall Be the Human Race?

The International Upper Middle Class Shall Be the Human Race?

Just had one of the strangest experiences of my life: hearing the Rotary Club of Portland sing “Little Boxes.”  As a red diaper baby from New York, now calling Berkeley my home, I was expecting at least a soupçon of disorientation at my first-ever Rotary Club meeting — but it never would have occurred to me that the proceedings would kick off with a lusty rendition of Malvina Reynolds‘s famous song lampooning comfortable bourgeois culture.

Adding to the weirdness, I was dressed as Ben Franklin.  This was the idea of the fantastically named Devereaux Dion, the club’s current president.  He and his wife had attended an early performance in my current (and very fun) run of Ben Franklin: Unplugged at Portland Center Stage.  I remember spotting them from the stage: a handsome, middle-aged couple sitting in the front row.  I had snuck covert glances in their direction, to see if they were enjoying the show; at some point in the first act I finally saw Dev smile, and relaxed a bit.  Afterwards, Dev came up and introduced himself to me — following up with an email asking whether I might be interested in attending an upcoming Rotary Club meeting as “Ben.”

I should have warned him that I’m actually not a very good Franklin impersonator — in a way, Unplugged is about how I learned to love Ben without being able to embody him — but I was too delighted by his invitation to bring that up.  So today at noon (sharp — these Rotarians are nothing if not punctual) I found myself in a fancy ballroom in downtown Portland, in full Franklin regalia, preparing to recite a short excerpt from my show.  That’s when Dev brought this guy up to the lectern — apparently they start each of their meetings with a sing-along — who led the assembled Rotarians in an enthusiastic version of “Little Boxes” (they had the lyrics up on a screen).  The irony was not lost on anyone — in fact, it was celebrated: the fellow leading the recital introduced the song as being a parody of the kinds of folks who were in that very room.

I was stunned — a countercultural anthem was being, as it were, co-opted by “The Man.”  Turning to Trisha Mead, PCS’s delightful P.R. and publications manager (who had, thankfully, accompanied me to this gig), I said something about this moment being confirmation that not only had “my” people lost, but the winners were now actually able to gloat and joke about it!  She replied, with an understanding smile, that she could certainly imagine I’d be feeling a bit of cognitive dissonance.

But here’s the thing: these Rotarians were winning me over.  As I understand it (dimly, to be sure), the Rotary Club is about business leaders “doing well by doing good,” as Franklin liked to put it.  (Or maybe it was “doing good by doing well.”  Oh, well.  That’s why I don’t have an almanac.)  They contribute to many worthy causes — including, I’m pretty sure, the kinds of theaters I perform in.  They educate themselves on important causes of the day: the fascinating main presentation of this luncheon was by two creators of a potential totally “green” high rise in Portland.  (One of the presenters commented drily that not all architects design “boxes.”)  And, yes, they help one another in their business endeavors.  Soon after arriving in Philadelphia, Franklin launched a club, called the “Junto,” for doing these very things.  So these people are living the lives that Ben advocated for a self-fulfilled America.

And who am I — the Paine in the ass who smiles smugly while observing these high-toned ceremonies?  Well, not exactly: I’m a businessman myself now — my company, Quixotic Projects, owns my intellectual property (insert your joke here) and occupies a great deal of my time, energy, and hopes.  I could learn a lot from these businesspeople.  Plus, I’m a member of the Berkeley Energy Commission — and this green-building presentation was of tremendous interest to me in that regard.  So you could say that I’m a potential Rotarian myself.

And yet, and yet … I’m also still … me.  My aesthetics and politics — derived from the Old Left of New York, honed in the ’80s punk scene of Boston, and buffed to a Free Speech gleam in my beloved Bay Area — would probably tend to diverge a great deal from many (though perhaps not all) of those in that ballroom.  Of that I have little doubt.

After the Rotary luncheon, we walked back to the theater in a thoughtful silence.  Eventually, I said to Trisha, “Well, it looks like the Revolution is definitely over.”

Her eyes twinkled.  “I wouldn’t be so sure,” she said.

Maybe she’s right — and perhaps, when the time comes, Rotarians and red diaper babies will march shoulder-to-shoulder into a democratic, sustainable future that would make Malvina smile.