Monday, December 31, 2012

Tandava's Guide to the Zone--2012-13 Version--Part II: Midnight Through 7pm

Continuing the list from yesterday's entry, below is a complete list of Twilight Zone episodes to be aired on SyFy from midnight New Year's Day through 7pm.

Sadly it is looking like this is a rehash of last year's marathon, with no new episodes, and quite a few turkeys. This segment of time has none of the Time Top 10, but there are still several gems.

A third entry will follow covering 7pm through 5:00am Wednesday morning.

Normally, I'd show the Time Top 10 in red, but since there are none here, I will just list my personal favorites, and other noteworthy episodes.

So, the categories are:

(1)  My Personal Favorite Episodes – These are underrated gems with strong scripts and beautiful performances – in green.

(2) Episodes Worth Watching – These have flawed scripts or execution, but often have strong performances and/or ideas – in blue.

My Favorites  Short List
(Click the time to jump to the episode description.)

12:00 AM  The Midnight Sun
1:00 AM  Long Distance Call
2:00 AM  The After Hours
3:30 AM   The Grave
4:00 AM  Night Call
4:30 AM  Judgment Night
6:00 AM  The Silence
7:00 AM  In Praise Of Pip
8:30 AM  A World Of His Own
9:30 AM  A Thing About Machines
12:30PM  And When The Sky Was Opened
1:30 PM  People Are Alike All Over
2:30 PM – The Odyssey Of Flight 33
3:00 PM  A Penny For Your Thoughts
4:30 PM  Nick Of Time
5:00 PM  Number Twelve Looks Just Like You
5:30 PM  A Hundred Yards Over The Rim
6:30 PM  Five Characters In Search Of An Exit

Full List  With Descriptions

12:00 AM – The Midnight Sun – Earth has been knocked off its orbit and is gradually approaching the sun. Thermometers pop, a painting melts off its canvas (this is actually a painted wax tablet on a hot plate!), but this apocalyptic tale is most interesting for its relationships – an excellent script, beautifully acted. Note: They played this one at NYE midnight last year too... coincidence? Um... no.

12:30 AM  Stopover In A Quiet Town – At least it was quiet until this nattering couple woke up in a strange house with no memory of how they got there, and no one to ask where they are, or why the grass is made of papier-mâché. And if they'd shut up for two seconds, we just might care....

1:00 AM  Long Distance Call – Creepy dead grandma wants her favorite grandson to be with her forever, and conveys her wishes via a toy phone. (Now if only Billy Mumy –  TZ's favorite child actor – could wish her into the cornfield!) Nice performance by Philip Abbott as the kid's dad.

1:30 AM – The Old Man In The Cave – Confused story set in a post-apocalyptic future of 1974 (!!!). Town listens to the “old man” until soldiers tell them not to be superstitious – and it doesn’t work out well for anyone. What’s the message? Don’t trust your own perceptions? Ugh. Only worth watching for a young James Coburn.

2:00 AM  The After Hours – Stunning Anne Francis finds herself wandering the non-existent floors of a creepy department store. (Wait... is that mannequin watching me??)

2:30 AM – Mr. Bevis – Loser gets all he desires (money, nice apartment), only to learn he can’t be his true whackadoo self and keep up appearances. Moral: Enjoy who you are.

3:00 AM – Twenty-Two –  Recovering dancer is troubled by prescient dreams. "Room for one more, honey!" Shrill performances, flat writing. Mediocre tale best suited to Internet urban myth.

3:30 AM  The Grave – Spooky old west tale of a dare gone bad, featuring James Best, Lee Van Cleef and Lee Marvin. Also recycled on the internet.

4:00 AM  Night Call – Originally called "Sorry Right Number," this careful-what-you- wish-for tale features calls from beyond and a beautiful performance by Gladys Cooper. It has also been recycled as internet glurge.

4:30 AM  Judgment Night – Nehemiah Persoff just knows a nearby U-boat will blast his passenger steamer. But no one one board will believe him! (And exactly how does he know anyway...?) Excellent performances, great ending and a sweet cameo by The Avengers' Patrick MacNee

5:00 AM – Nightmare As A Child – Freaky, annoying brat spooks schoolteacher. Or does the marm have more to fear? Find out, if you can stay awake through this snoozer. Features TZ's favorite female child actress Suzanne Cupito (aka Dallas' Morgan Brittany); also featured in "Caesar and Me" 2:00 PM 1/1).

5:30 AM – The Four Of Us Are Dying – Guy who can change his face learns he can’t change his scumbag nature.

6:00 AM  The Silence – Tense, beautifully acted study in interpersonal dynamics and irony. Based loosely on Chekhov's The Bet, there is no supernatural hocus-pocus in this one. And there is no need for any.

6:30 AM  I Shot An Arrow Into The Air – Three astronauts survive a crash on an asteroid (where the atmosphere and gravity are the same as on Earth, but no one notices this). Limited provisions stir bloodthirsty behavior. Yes, Rod, people in crisis are just no darned good.

7:00 AM  In Praise Of Pip – I LOVE this episode. I REALLY love this episode (and did I mention I love this episode?). Jack Klugman (RIP to a beloved actor) delivers a top-notch, tragic performance as a dying no-good trying to do right by his serviceman son, Pip (a much less fearsome Billy Mumy). Sweet, sad magical ending.

7:30 AM – Uncle Simon –  Two despicable people in a screeching, unredeemable story. Sadistic eponymous Uncle berates greedy, gold-digging niece caretaker into an "accidental" (and fatal) lapse in care. Twist ending? Yeah, but who cares. By the time it's over you'll want to twist off your head. Geeks may get a kick out of the brief cameo of Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot; the ambulatory prop also appears on "The Brain Center at Whipple's" (3:30 AM 1/2) and in miniature in "One for the Angels" (9:00 AM 12/31).

8:00 AM – Queen Of The Nile – Dopey episode about life-sucking millennia-old Egyptian queen. Blah blah blah. Skip it. "Long Live Walter Jameson" (12:00 pM 12/31) handles the material much more skillfully.

8:30 AM  A World Of His Own – Sweet story about the reality of reality features the only time Serling interacts with his characters.

9:00 AM – Mr. Garrity And The Graves – A more humorous take on the “value of mortality” theme explored in "Long Live Walter Jameson," " Escape Clause," and others; add to this "be careful what you wish for” of "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain," "A Nice Place to Visit," etc.

9:30 AM  A Thing About Machines – One of my all-time faves about a guy who beats up on his machines – which, in 1960, included his typewriter, electric razor, TV and car –  and they gang up to have their revenge. The dawn of Skynet... ("Now, why don’t you get out of here, Finchley!!")

10:00 AM – The Last Rights Of Jeff Myrtlebank – Small-town good ol' boy James Best wakes up at his own funeral, and seems much improved by the experience! Cute, folksy tale.

10:30 AM – Hocus-Pocus and Frisby – A braggart gas station attendant's tales of prowess are believed by some seriously gullible aliens who want to take him home as a specimen of Earth's finest.

11:00 AM – A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain – Here we go again with the be-careful-what-you-wish-for theme. Rich geezer wants to keep up with his greedy vain young wife; comeuppance awaits them both.

11:30 AM – The Arrival –  Mystery plane lands itself at airport. Could it all just be an illusion? Ummm... maybe...

12:00 PM  Escape Clause – I only like this one because I like David Wayne, but it’s not a great episode, just a grim morality play about the value of mortality. *Yawn!*

12:30 PM  And When The Sky Was Opened – Well played, creepy episode about astronauts returning to earth… or did they? Or were they ever here? Or were you?? TZ makes us question our grasp of reality.

1:00 PM – The Hunt – This mediocre folksy tale by The Waltons creator Earl Hamner Jr. has been recycled as interne t glurge. Guy and dog have died and are walking along the road to heaven. Guy at pearly gate says, “No dogs allowed.” Guy says, “I ain’t going nowhere without my hound…” Sheesh. (This one has also been recycled as Internet glurge.

1:30 PM –  People Are Alike All Over – Astronaut Roddy McDowall crashes on populous Mars, and consoles his fears with the thought that Martians (who include the radiant Susan Oliver)  and humans must be "alike" ...

2:00 PM – Caesar and Me – Satan-spawn dummy drives hapless ventriloquist Jackie Cooper to a life of crime – matched in evilness only by tormenting then-child actress Morgan Brittany (later of Dallas fame). The same material is handled much better in "The Dummy" (10:30 PM 1/1).

2:30 PM – The Odyssey Of Flight 33 – A 707 picks up a freak tail wind and travels back in time. Run-of-the-mill by modern sci-fi standards, but notable for its apparently realistic cockpit dialogue created by Serling's aviation writer brother, Robert Serling.

3:00 PM  A Penny For Your Thoughts – Not a classic, but one of my favorites, featuring a young Dick York (the first Darren from Bewitched.)

3:30 PM – Third From The Sun – Trigger-happy world leaders have their finger on the button! Doomsday is near! Time for a select few to secretly gather their families to escape to a nearby planet. Hm... now what planet would that be..?

4:00 PM – The Little People – Ego and physical relativity clash in this memorable (though mediocre) episode, which has been lampooned  in The Simpsons, South Park, and Futurama. Good performance by Claude Akins.

4:30 PM  Nick Of Time – A charming script and low-key performance by pre-Kirk William Shatner (yes, I used "low-key" and "Shatner" in the same sentence) grace this cautionary tale about superstition and self-determination.

05:00 PM  Number Twelve Looks Just Like You – Dystopic utopia where everyone is beautifully identical and lifts their pretty mugs with a glass of Instant Smile. (Perhaps an inspiration for Scott Westerfeld's excellent Uglies series -- where a "beautiful world" has a particularly nasty underpinning?) Mediocre script saved by Collin Wilcox's terrific performance.

5:30 PM  A Hundred Yards Over The Rim – Underrated episode featuring a very young Cliff Robertson as a pioneer dad who will go yards, miles and years to heal his ailing son.

6:00 PM – A Most Unusual Camera – Lame-assed episode about three greedy morons undone by a magic camera. Hokey, ridiculous, predictable ending. Skip it.

06:30 PM  Five Characters In Search Of An Exit – A soldier, a clown, a tramp, a bagpiper and a ballerina wake to find themselves in a doorless empty room. Well-played and engaging.

Tandava's Guide to the Zone--2012-13 Version--Part I: New Year's Eve

It's that Zone time of year!!

Time to top off this mindbendingly insane year with a few hours in The Zone (though an awful lot of 2012 felt pretty Zonish to me...)

To start 2013 off right, SyFy will air 90 episodes for its New Year's Twilight Zone marathon (up from 81 last year), starting 8:00 AM on 12/31 and ending at 5:00 AM on 1/2. And, once again, I offer my solid-Serling suggestions on how to tell quality from the clunkers.

Sadly, once again, SyFy is again not airing any of the Season 4 hour-long episodes, which is unfortunate given that Jack Klugman (RIP) gives an excellent performance in Death Ship, but it seems those episodes are shelved for good. It is doubly sad, though, that SyFy is not airing his A Passage for Trumpet. We will, however, get to see two of his excellent episodes:  "In Praise of Pip" (7:00 AM 1/1) and "A Game of Pool" (11:30 PM 1/1).

As every year, all ten of Time Magazine's Top Twilight Zone Episodes will be featured; they are in red (a surprising number of which are on New Year's Eve itself since they are usually saved for New Year's Day), along with some lesser known beauties like Ida Lupino's "The Masks" (11:00 PM 12/31) and "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" (11:30 AM 12/31) in green, and finally a few that are not perfect, but have notable performances in blue.

So what follows here is a short list of my favorite episodes which will be aired on Monday, December 31st, linked to a full list of all episodes, with brief descriptions and hopefully not too many spoilers. Celebrity names and other items of interest are bolded and linked.

Happy Zoning!

My Favorites  Short List
(Click the time to jump to the episode description.)

9:00 AM  One For The Angels
10:00 AM  Death's-Head Revisited
11:30 AM  The Sixteen-millimeter Shrine
12:00 PM – Long Live Walter Jameson
3:00 PM  King Nine Will Not Return
3:30 PM – Mr. Denton On Doomsday
4:30 PM  Night Of The Meek
5:00 PM  It's A Good Life
7:30 PM – Eye Of The Beholder
8:00 PM  The Invaders
8:30 PM  Where Is Everybody?
9:00 PM  The Hitch-hiker
9:30 PM – To Serve Man
10:00 PM – Nightmare At 20,000 Feet
10:30 PM – Living Doll
11:00 PM  The Masks

Full List  With Descriptions

8:00 AM – The Fever – Well-acted but ultimately hokey morality play about gambling addiction.

8:30 AM – Perchance To Dream – Neat psychodrama with some freaky felinesque dream sequences. Not bad; not great.

9:00 AM –  One For The Angels – One of TZ's more successful dark comedies features Ed Wynn as a fast-talking salesman who must use his skills to save a child's life. Features the third of three cameos of Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot (miniature, in this case) in the TZ; others include "Unc le Simon" (2:30 AM 1/1) and "The Brain Center at Whipple's" (6:30 AM 1/1).

9:30 AM – The Prime Mover – Compulsive gambler cajoles his telekinetically-enabled pal (an enjoyable Buddy Ebsen) into to helping him cheat Vegas. Doesn't work out too well, but could be worse. Moral: Be happy with what you have; know when to quit.

10:00 AM  Death's-Head Revisited – Former Nazi captain's trot down memory lane via Dachau brings him to some unexpected denizens. Top-notch performances by Joseph Schildkraut and Oscar Beregi Jr.

10:30 AM – What You Need – Magical peddler who can give people exactly "what they need" moments before they need it is menaced by a small- time thug. Comeuppance awaits the thug, and the peddler reveals a refreshing hint of cold- bloodedness, uncharacteristic of the Zone. Mixed feelings about this one mostly due to the script's weak dialogue. Based on a superior short story by Lewis Padgett.

11:00 AM – The Jeopardy Room – Defecting ex-KGB Martin Landau has three hours to find the bomb in his hotel room planted by his former Commissar, sniper-rifle-wielding John van Dreelen: If he tries to leave, he gets shot; if he doesn't find the bomb, it goes off (or is he supposed to get shot then, too?). Poor writing, overwrought direction and too many plot holes make this episode unsalvageable even by Landau's typically fine acting.

11:30 AM  The Sixteen-millimeter Shrine – Luminous Ida Lupino as a reclusive aging movie star, immersed in the films of her youth. Sunset Boulevard, served up Zone-style with a bittersweet dose of wish- fulfillment. Score is by Sunset Boulevard's composer/conductor Franz Waxman. Catch Lupino's deft direction in "The Masks" at 11:00 PM.

12:00 PM – Long Live Walter Jameson – TZ's most successful working of the "morality of mortality" theme features fine performances, a strong script and a touch of righteous revenge.

12:30 PM – A Piano In The House – Enchanted ivories reveal uncomfortable secrets; akin to "What's in the Box" (up next) and "A Most Unusual Camera" (6:00 PM 1/1), and slightly better than either.

1:00 PM – What's In The Box – Lame and ridiculous episode about a couple’s bickering leading to accidental murder and capital punishment. Freaky TV predicts it all. There, now you don’t have to watch it and aren’t you glad?

1:30 PM  Black Leather Jackets – Evil leather-clad alien (dressed this way to "blend") falls for local Earth girl in this poor man's Avatar.

2:00 PM – A Nice Place To Visit – Another be-careful-what-you-wish-for morality tale about the true nature of Heaven and Hell. In 1960 it might not have been painfully predictable...

02:30 PM  The 7th Is Made Up Of Phantoms – Spooked National Guard tank crew gets drafted into Custer's 7th Cavalry. Big whoop.

3:00 PM  King Nine Will Not Return – WWII B-25 Captain Robert Cummings finds himself stranded in the desert with only the carcass of his King Nine, lost 17 years before. Is it a hallucination? Time travel? Both? The de rigueur twist ending is now a TZ cliché, but still worth watching for a strong script and Cummings' excellent performance.

3:30 PM – Mr. Denton On Doomsday – Touching old west tale about top-gunslinger-turned-town-drunk finding redemption. Fine performances by Dan Duryea, Martin Landau and Doug McClure.

4:00 PM – The Shelter – "Maple Street" meets the lazy grasshopper. The industrious ant of this tale has built a bomb shelter for his (and ONLY his) family, and his neighbors scoff – until there is an emergency... Bloated prose and one-dimensional characters make this a must-miss.

4:30 PM  Night Of The Meek – Down-and-out department store Santa, Art Carney, loses his job but finds a bag of gifts and plays Santa one last time for the neighborhood kiddies. But is it just an act? Beautiful, touching episode.

5:00 PM  It's A Good Life – One of the most famous episodes (#3 on the Time list) featuring little Billy Mumy as a terrifying child who can create and destroy at will. The brilliant Cloris Leachman is his petrified mother. ("That’s a good thing you did… A real good thing… Now please wish it into the cornfield!").

5:30 PM – Probe 7 Over and Out – Stranded astronaut Richard Basehart, meets hostile alien female on deserted planet. She hurls rocks at him. Or maybe it's just foreplay. Now, what shall we call this place...? (Appropriately rhymes with "dearth.") The same story is better told in "Two" (3:30 AM 1/2).

6:00 PM – A Kind Of Stopwatch – Blabbering bore gets comeuppance via magical timepiece. Even The&nbs p;Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything was better than this turkey.

6:30 PM – Little Girl Lost –  Little girl has slipped into another dimension. Can her parents and their conveniently present physicist pal rescue her before the portal closes forever? Decent script but bland acting. Tune in for the final 10 minutes for all you need to know.

7:00 PM – Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up – This was voted 8.5 on the IMDB, but I think it’s dopey and ridiculous. Bus passengers are stranded at a diner – but there is one too many. Oh, and rumor has it that a spacecraft crashed nearby. Give me a break.

7:30 PM – Eye Of The Beholder – A classic (#9 on the Time list) about the relativity of beauty, the lengths we will go to be beautiful – or to at least conform – and the dangers of conformity. Note: the girl at the end (Donna Douglas, of Beverly Hillbillies) is a different actress than the one under the bandages ( Maxine Stuart), but she speaks in her own voice – doing a very good impression of Stuart!

8:00 PM  The Invaders –  Agnes Moorehead's virtuoso 25-minute wordless monologue; riveting with a slick twist at the end. #7 on the Time list.

8:30 PM  Where Is Everybody?  – Guy finds himself alone in an empty town, with hints of residents recently present (lit cigarette in ashtray, etc.). Eerie and amusing, most worth watching because this is the pilot that sold the series to CBS.

9:00 PM  The Hitch-hiker – A driver keeps seeing the same hitch-hiker thumbing a ride as she heads west…. A deliciously Hitchcockian morality/mortality play about fear and acceptance of the inevitable. #5 on the Time list.

9:30 PM – To Serve Man – Aliens come to earth offering solutions to all the world's woes; their trouble-entendre mission: "To serve man." An undisputed classic, #8 on the Time list.

10:00 PM – Nightmare At 20,000 Feet – "There's a man out on the wing!!" Shatner at his whiteknuckle best. #6 on the Time list.

10:30 PM – Living Doll – "My name is Talky Tina – and you'd better be nice to me!" Telly Savalas takes on June Foray's creepy voiced doll. This one gave me nightmares. #1 on the Time list.

11:00 PM  The Masks – One of the GREAT underrated episodes, and the only TZ episode to be directed by a woman, Ida Lupino (she also stars in “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” 10:30 AM 12/31 ... hope you caught it! ). A crusty millionaire geezer tells his greedy family he will die before Mardi Gras is over – but they must wear freaky custom masks through the evening if they want to claim their inheritance. Gives the term "know thyself" new meaning....

11:30 PM – I Sing The Body Electric – Sweet story about a robot nanny lovingly bonding with tots.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mixed Tapes

"When you get home, Carol, listen to the tape."

I am in my early 20s crying my face off in acting class. For the past few months I have been working on a monologue, struggling with it ... a deeply emotional piece, raw dialogue that is so foreign to me, my mouth contorts to form the sounds.

In this class, we "work" every other week: The class is divided in half. Each session, half the class presents a monologue as though it were for an audition, with no feedback from the teacher or class aside from possible applause. The students in the other half of the class present their monologues, and then get a half-hour to explore it textually, emotionally, applying various techniques from the teacher's eclectic background.

We all bring cassette tapes to record our work.

This is my "audition" week. No feedback.

The week before I had worked into tears (and this was the kind of class where, if you didn't cry, it wasn't "good work"), but it still felt wrong. I could not find the character, the voice. It was strangled and dead. The tears were more for myself, my inadequacy, rather than borne of the character.

Over subsequent days, I said the lines again and again, embedding the language in my tongue, just reciting them blandly. Then I did emotional work, finding a parallel situation, bringing myself through a meditation to reach directly into the memory. Gave me nightmares.

When it came time to present the monologue in class, I was sick and shaking. I don't even remember starting. I barely remember a word coming out of my mouth, but I remember feeling OK. I remember feeling ... something. And I remember ... when I stopped....

There was silence.

No one clapped or even smiled, just nothing. I was devastated.

I went back to my chair, still shaking and holding back tears. I kept them back for two hours, until class ended, and as the others gathered their things, I collapsed in a puddle.

"What on earth is the matter?" the teacher asked, putting an arm around me. I squirmed away. "Nothing. It's nothing." I cried harder.

"Now I will not let you leave until you tell me," the teacher demanded.

"It's just... it's just," I gurgled, "I worked so f*cking hard on that monologue... you have no idea."

"I know!" she beamed, "It was wonderful!"

"What?" I blurted, "Well you're the only one that thinks so!"

"What do you  mean?"

"Well, when I was done -- the class, they just ... they just sat there! And don't give me some crap about 'stunned silence' -- if you like something, you clap, right?"

"Um... Carol ... You need to listen to the tape. That's all I'm going to say." She handed me the cassette with one last pat on the shoulder and walked off.

For three days I could barely look at the tape, much less listen to it.

But finally I shoved it in my boombox and gritted my teeth.

The voice was mine, but different. The character sounded .... real. I knew the words by heart and had listened to all the tapes from the other times I'd worked on it. But this time, it was almost like I'd never heard it before. Very strange.

And at the end. There was silence. For about 5 seconds you could hear a pin drop.

And then ... there it was.


Lots of it. For maybe a minute. A few little cheers too.  And I had heard none of it.

Stanislavsky says that when an actor delivers a good performance s/he usually won't remember much in detail, only a general feeling of "rightness." I had heard actors say that very emotional roles can create an "out of body" experience -- an altered consciousness akin to being on drugs -- but this took the cake!

And it frightened me a little.

I was glad that I did good work, that I had finally brought the piece to where it needed to go. But how was this possible? How did I space out on a full minute of applause?

The strong emotion of the piece probably had a lot to do with it, as well as my anxiety over having worked on it fruitlessly for so long. But lurking underneath all that were, I realized, very deep, rancid feelings of unworthiness: I did not deserve applause, appreciation, kindness, warmth, and so I could not receive it; I could not even perceive it.

In the New Age world, much is made of the "Law of Attraction": that you get what you focus on. But even if you don't believe New Age hocus-pocus about mystically attracting to ourselves whatever is in our minds (I sort of do, by the way, but that is for another essay), here was proof positive that at the very least our thoughts can effectively filter our realities to be what we expect them to be.

It is daunting and humbling to think that our perceptions are so fragile, but they are -- and if you show me someone who thinks they aren't, I will show you someone who is in powerful denial.

In Signs of Intelligent Life, Lily Tomlin says, "Reality is nothing but a collective hunch."

And I like that definition, because it allows each of us to have our own realities (which, in my case, was one where I was unappreciated), but also begs us to open our reality, be flexible to the perceptions of others.

Now, in this case, I had a tape recording, which offered pretty irrefutable proof that my perceptions were off. Stuff on video or in writing is equally valuable for this, but even in those cases, there can be differences in perception -- or in the meaning of what is perceived, since two people might agree on the facts of an event but assign completely different meanings and motives. And the assignment of meaning and motive will generally come from our underlying belief system, whether we are aware of it or not.

So awareness is key.

In this particular case, I did not realize how strong my feelings of unworthiness were. But by learning irrefutably how they had affected my perception, I began look for when and how they were coming into play, to constantly question whether or not my perceptions were valid.

Now, this can leave one feeling out-to-sea -- because even a disheartening view of one's self and the world is "safer" than an uncertain one (which is probably why we are often unwilling to challenge our belief systems). But in the end, it has served me well.

I've come to look more squarely and honestly at what really happened in experiences that seemed to support my negative feelings. And I have been very lucky to find friends who have helped me in this, who will tell me their perceptions honestly regardless of what they think I want to hear.

And while, often enough, I will perceive rejection or lack of appreciation when it isn't there, other times it will be there (heck, even paranoids have enemies!), but my friends help me put that in perspective too. And I do my best to return the favor to them.

Most important, though, is to retain a measure of self-doubt, and pepper it with optimism; try to focus on those encounters and experiences that are more encouraging, give less weight to the other stuff (but be careful not to ignore it altogether).

And always, always be open and flexible to new versions of reality. It is not the easiest or "safest" way to live, but it can prove the most rewarding.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Response to Kaeshi & Brad—Part XI: Final Thoughts (or If Lenny Bruce Had a Blog)

Dear Readers:

Please let me offer my deep thanks to the many, many people who have followed me through this arduous process. Thank you for hearing my point of view, and for offering your own thoughts honestly, regardless of whether they agreed with mine. 

This final entry will be the longest, and in it I reveal the process leading up to my decision to undertake this strange project in the first place. I had considered breaking this entry into more user-friendly parts, but I do not want to take up any more space in my blog or my brain with this torturous affair which has gnawed at me for a year.

And although I will continue to explore the many themes it has raised—of the importance of justice,  compassion, integrity, accountability, finding one's voice, standing up and speaking truth no matter the consequence, and examining demonization as a vehicle to justify abuse—in this blog and my other creative work, this is the last time I intend to address the matter directly here or in any social media.

For prior entries, please see:
My Q&A About Why the Critique was Necessary
Part I: Introduction to the Defensive Screed
Part II: Perspectives on the Underdog
Part III: Anger Management
Part IV: Sabotage
Part V: Kaeshi's "Red Zone"
Part VI: Violent Communications
Part VII: The Gangrened and Diseased Limb
Part VIII: Transgressions
Part IX: The Inner-Warrior
Part X: Brad's "Delusional, Revisionist History"
Part XI: Final Thoughts (or If Lenny Bruce Had a Blog)
Thank you again for your kind attention. 

Carol Tandava

I have been thinking about Lenny Bruce.

Although he is all but forgotten today Lenny Bruce is a great legend of comedy who pioneered the freestyle, personal, dangerous, socially critical comedy for which George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K and many others are known. Before Bruce, comedy was Catskill-style schtick, shallow one-liners with rimshots.

Bruce changed all that.

He challenged stereotypes, sexism, racism, and the casual injustices that can come about when the uptight, overpowerful, and easily offended hear words that hit home—he joked "that the sexual context of come is so common that it bears no weight, and that if someone hearing it becomes upset, he 'probably can't come'..."—and was arrested for obscenity.

He was acquitted, but the Man had his name... and his life became hell. He was persecuted, arrested multiple times, blacklisted by cowardly nightclubs, and finally convicted on trumped up charges.

The injustice consumed him.

What little stage time he could scrounge was devoted to "rants about his court battles over obscenity charges, tirades against fascism and complaints that he was being denied his right to freedom of speech."

He died of a drug overdose in 1966 at age 40.

Life is unfair.

Coming from a man who was shot in the head, those words should be well heeded.

And yet justice is essential. It preserves social order, for humans and animals, provides the fabric for trust and communication and connection ... and when justice is violated, it eats away at society and the soul.

This is especially true when, as in Bruce's case, there is no recourse, no rational mind to hear both sides and judge fairly. When what is precious to you is taken, and you are silenced ... it is suffocating.

That is how I have felt all year.

PURE Reflections was my dearest project. That show contains so much of my life, my personal processing, the culmination of two decades of dance, theater, comedyJungian studies. Through it, I brought every skill that is valuable to me to the most beautiful fruition as an actor, dancer, improviser, director, writer, teacher, facilitator, organizer, producer.

And through it many, many lives were touched deeply.

Kaeshi knew this, and she knew that to take this project from me would hurt me more than any other thing she could do.

And so she just had to do it.

Because she was hurting. And when Kaeshi is hurting, she must make sure that others hurt more.

Now... the reason why she was hurting so much that she felt the need to rip my soul out through my chest is still unclear to me.

Perhaps she was upset about Bellyqueen's poorly-received tour; perhaps she was uncomfortable in the smaller PURE Reflections role; or perhaps she felt guilty for choosing to visit theme parks with her mother rather than focus wholly on the show; or perhaps she couldn't bear that the Florida dancers showed love for me as much as they did her and could not gracefully share their affection.

But whatever the reason, she was hurting; and she "healed" her pain by hurting me as much as she could .... more than anyone in my life has ever hurt me.

So... what does one do in this situation?

Imagine: You move in with a person and help them refurnish their house. Then one day you come home and the locks are changed. You are told you are "unstable" and sent away while your former housemate keeps your belongings. Months later, she seeks you out with a cheery, "Hello!" and when you get upset with her for having mistreated you, she says, "You see how angry/crazy/unstable you are?!? This is why I had to throw you out!!"

Gaslighting at its worst.

But even then, I held my tongue. At least publicly.

In mid-February, six weeks after ousting me with insults, lies, and abuse, she wrote asking to meet with me—as though she had done nothing wrong—only now with a mediator of her choosing. I refused ... and I must say this is the one action that I have second-guessed in reviewing the situation, especially in light of this final email from her in that thread:
Please know that I only wish the best for you. I'm sorry if my actions hurt you. I just needed some time out to regroup and recenter. I know that you are a good person and that you only wanted the best for me too. 
One more thing... "if" the Reflections show is remounted again, I'll make sure that you are credited. Thank you for your contribution. I am grateful.

I was almost—almost—moved to respond. It seemed sincere... the apology I had craved so desperately. But something didn't feel right.

I sent the letter to a friend who is good at unpacking confusing and misleading statements; his glib but instructive response was:
1) Point out that "remounted again" is redundant.
2) Point out that putting quotes around "if" is *not* the way to emphasize the word.
3) Ask why she attempted to emphasize the conditionality of the remounting.
4) Tell her that you, too, would give credit where credit is due. Who would even consider the alternative?
5) Suggest that saying that one is grateful is not a substitute for actually being grateful.
6) Do not reply. No reply is necessary. 
I lean towards #6. She can sure pack a sh!tload of stink into a mere eight sentences.
I looked more closely at the sentences. My friend was right: they were not the apology they seemed.

First, she said she "[wished] the best for [me]." But not one thing she had done had been "the best" for me—or even kind, courteous, respectful, or professional.

Then she apologizes for her "actions'" hurting me, as though her actions were completely reasonable and justified, or worse as though her actions were somehow separate from her altogether.

Then she tells me I am a "good person"—suddenly I am no longer the "unstable" and "constantly fighting" person she had earlier portrayed me to be. And then I realized:  One only says "I know you are a good person" to a person who has done something bad. But I had done nothing wrong. So even in her "compliment" she was condemning me with a falsehood.

And then she says that I "only wanted the best for [her] too." Now, it is true that I do generally want the best for others, but my version of what was best for both of us was to meet back in December with a mediator. But she didn't care what I wanted or what I thought or who I really was.

She created imaginary versions of me to suit her whims, straw figures to bat around, to push away then pull forward at her whim.

In December, she conjured me to be a raging madwoman (when she wanted to push me away). In February—when she needed me because plans were solidifying to produce PURE Reflections at a high school—I became the embodiment of compassion and understanding who had absolutely no problem at all with her having treated me like dirt ... because it was "the best" for her.

And no one else matters but her.

This pattern of creating an image of another to justify one's actions is central to conflict, and a theme which I will explore more fully in later work as it has affected me throughout my life.

It is, in a nutshell, this:

If someone has something or is in the way of something you want, or if there is something in yourself or your behavior you don't want to acknowledge or take responsibility for—but you can point to even a hint of it in another—then demonize and dehumanize that person or people. It will make you feel better immediately.

You may start with "harmless" teasing, shunning, or bullying. And if the target of bullying kills him/herself, well they should have been stronger; their weakness it isn't your fault after all. What is most important is that you can walk away from others' pain guilt-free and hang onto your good feelings about yourself.

But in the same way that all politics is local, all justice is personal. If we can sit back and watch the abuse of another, cluck our tongues and say, "Well, I don't need to know the full story, he/she probably deserved it..." then how far down that slippery slope are greater injustices?

How often have people been exploited secretly over a period of time, and when they finally react in anger, their reaction is portrayed as coming from left field? They are deemed "unstable," "angry," not "able to have a normal conversation," dehumanized and made unrelatable.

Because any portrayal of another as "crazy" can easily be used to excuse the most savage injustices: They "started" the fight, they can't be reasoned with, so it is OK to annihilate them. We had no choice, after all. And it was best for everyone—or rather, everyone whom we still consider human.

Interesting that Kaeshi wanted War & Peace to explore the source of conflict; and while the work itself did not, here in the pages of my blog, she got her wish.

Anyway. Back to February.

I decided my friend was right; and I realized that, as much as I deeply cared about the show, it was best for my own sanity to let it go, consoling myself with the knowledge that at least I would be appropriately credited.

But I wasn't.

I got half story credit (Kaeshi claimed the other half), but was not credited for my original direction, my writing of the program, or anything else.

And not only did Pacita claim all of my directing credit, which consists not merely of staging, blocking, thematic emphasis, and storytelling, but the method by which the theatrical content is brought to the dancers, which includes many workshops and exercises in emotional expression, as well as object work and partnering skills learned from my mime and stage combat studies, respectively.

And on top of it, Pacita had the insuperable gall to text me in a panic the night before the first rehearsal and ask me for my notes, stating: "This is me, Pacita, asking for a favor. Not Kaeshi." Really??? Imagine: Your "friend" steals your car, then calls you up asking for the manual.

I was furious.

But even then, I held my tongue.

In late May, I determined that a resolution was necessary; I had to clarify my view of what had happened, as well as articulate the degree of work I had given in co-creating (not "contributing" to) the show. So I sent Kaeshi a long email covering much of what is in these blog entries, as well as opening the door to communication and, hopefully, healing and peace between us.

She responded that she could "tell at a glance" that I was "depressed, bitter and angry ...[and] dripping with vehemence and hate toward [her]."

And even then, I held my tongue.

When I learned about the War & Peace project, I thought that maybe—just maybe—she was trying to understand the nature of conflict, which requires acknowledging the projection of negative parts of ourselves onto others. I wrote a letter to her and the group encouraging the development of this awareness.

Kaeshi responded positively to this, which was encouraging. But I was still quite upset by her treatment of me; and if we were to have a connection she had to at least acknowledge my true position and feelings about this. She'd acted as though her behavior had been OK, as though I should accept that it was OK.

It was not OK.

And so in July, I wrote yet another letter acknowledging that her February email was "an attempt at a sincere apology ...although it didn't seem so at the time." I continued:
But I don't think you understand exactly what it was in your actions that hurt me. It was not that you needed separation or time, or even that you basically threw me out of PURE and the Bellyqueen school, which had been my home in dance for nearly a decade. 
It was that you blamed me -- for everything ... 
If you truly wish to offer an apology, it must be for having betrayed my confidence, as well as for the repeated disrespect you have shown me. It must be for your not taking responsibility for your actions or emotions, for blaming, scapegoating and slandering me. ... 
If you are able to offer a sincere apology for these actions -- not "[my] perception" of these actions, but your actions themselves -- then the next time you see me, I would welcome such an apology -- and perhaps we might start anew at that time.
She didn't answer. And the next few times I saw her, she ignored me.

Yet even then, I held my tongue.

I still kept hope in the War & Peace performance that, even if she couldn't bring herself to reconcile with me directly, she might be at least on the road to developing the emotional and psychological maturity necessary to produce PURE Reflections.

Friends in PURE assured me that the process was going well. They had workshops on conflict and resolution, and even though Kaeshi's travel schedule kept her from attending quite a few of these, there was still a chance she could absorb their message.

But she didn't.

Against the protests of dancers who did realize that "you can't just be friends when everyone is lying around dead," she insisted on imposing her "vision"—a battle choreography ending in a massacre and a bizarre resurrection—a message wholly against PURE's mission. (Remember again, PURE solicits volunteers and tax-deductible donations on the promise of creating peaceful works, so there is a fraud issue here, too.)

After thought and deliberation, I and others who were unhappy with the War & Peace project and saw it as a harbinger of worse to come, decided that, since Kaeshi had failed to listen to private admonitions, it was time to go public. And since I was no longer in PURE, yet had a vested connection to it through PURE Reflections, I was in the best position to do this.

So I wrote the critique.

And even then, while I went into some detail about her behavior to support my contention that she had "not honored the tenets of PURE," I revealed only those aspects that affected her professional work.

So in that regard, I held my tongue there as well.

My hope in writing that critique would be that she might finally see what she had done, that it might spark a hint of realization in her that she had not behaved in accordance with the ideals of healing and peace that she so highly espouses.

At the end of my critique, I asked for a conversation with her. And I was naïve enough to believe that that might happen. But no such luck.

Her response was not to me, but to an unknown number of recipients in the PURE community and beyond. And it did not address even a single point I had made regarding her work; rather it was a wholesale assassination of my character that was riddled with lies and abuses.

And I do not tolerate lies—about me or anybody else.

You can say what you like about me, as long as it's true. As always I prefer tact, but even failing that, I will respect truth; so if you fault me and support it, I will take your words to heart, and even appreciate them because I can be as blind to my failings as anyone else.

But if you lie? Then it is ON.

Kaeshi's letter had been responded to (with full text) and forwarded, for all I knew, well beyond bellydance circles. And the responses showed their absolute acceptance of her version of events and her demonizing characterization of me. There is no way to trace how far these words had gone, how much had been believed; no way to assess the amount of damage to me.

Even when I showed the letter to less discerning friends, they were inclined to believe her. More discerning minds pointed out her contradictions right away, but even when it is clear that something is rotten in Denmark, the truth still remains to be told.

So after many weeks of consideration, I resolved that I could best clear my name by telling the whole story in as wide-reaching a forum as was at my disposal: this blog.

True, there were many reasons not to do this:  Kaeshi is very popular in the bellydance community and has a devoted following; speaking out publicly to reveal her bad behavior could reflect as badly on me as on her (if not more so, as whistleblowers invariably get flack at first) and that I would likely be accused of "airing dirty laundry" or "attention seeking"; further speaking negatively about anyone or anything is extremely taboo in the bellydance community.

(To my surprise, incidentally, most people have responded positively and cited similar abusive situations where they did not speak out but wish they had. And while there were a few accusations of how "friendships break up and sometimes things are not fair," and how "it is so distasteful to air dirty laundry" —by people who seem to proudly proclaim not to know anything about the situation—many have simply been confused by the situation, framing it in whatever way helps them keep Kaeshi in a good light. One even wrote of "miscommunication" and "misunderstanding" saying, "I am really sorry to hear that you and Kaeshi are going through this," as though this situation were caused by some accident of fate—and not her abusive, irrational, and defamatory behavior towards me.)

But as weeks went by, and I mulled the decision over, I realized there were three very good reasons:

(1) For Others:  Two years before, I had been warned that Kaeshi had "issues." I was dimly aware of this, but in denial. And the person who warned me did not go into detail. If that person had, I might have protected myself better. But maybe not...

Even as late as this time last year I would not have believed Kaeshi was capable of the destructiveness she has proven. Because I, like many, also have known her to have a good heart. But it's the less visible not-so-good stuff that eventually blindsided me.

So my writing is a warning and a lesson to others: Protect yourself and your work. Get things in writing. Be direct and ask the difficult questions sooner rather than later.

It is also a lesson in defusing the gaslighter, a person who—intentionally or not—fashions a version of reality to justify/excuse/whitewash their bad behavior. For those of us who avoid conflict—and many in the dance community are this way—we will easily capitulate our own perceptions to accommodate others.

And sometimes this is appropriate, but often it is not. And when we are hurt, when others fashion a version of us to fit their twisted reality, we must stand up and ferret out the truth with whatever power of discernment and dissection we have (and sometimes we may learn the other is right about us ... but we must also have the strength and courage to face this).

For much of my life, I have been an easy target for bullying and gaslighting. I will go into detail about this another time, but I intentionally blunted my sword...perhaps because I thought that capitulating would make people like me more.

But it made me hate myself.

So this is what I would hope for readers who are prey to gaslighters:  That they look at the way I dissected what Kaeshi and Brad wrote and learn that skill for themselves.

Granted, it's not a skill you should use excessively (indeed a friend recently chided that I was "capable of and seem far more interested in a significantly greater volume of communication and dissection than [others]" ... and this is true; part of learning this skill is learning when not to use it... and I am still working on that...). But when your heart, soul, integrity, honor, sanity, etc. are thrown on the line, it is a skill that can save you.

(2) For Kaeshi:  Although her world seems bullet-proof and hermetically sealed, where those in her "circle" give her the unqualified positive reflection she craves, part of me still believes she wants to wake up.

PURE Reflections is about healing through the awareness and integration of one's "shadow/demon" aspects, so I can't help but think this is all a very bizarre case of Life Imitating Art.

When we were in Taiwan, I realized how to solve a problem the show had had since its inception:  We needed to integrate the "Demon" aspect, but in the past this was achieved by having the Self (the main character) and her Reflection (true self) wrestle the Demon to the floor. Once humbled, the Demon is integrated.

But this felt wrong. It ended up a scuffle which was not in line with the message of the show, plus physical fighting was the Demon's bailiwick, so how could the Self and Reflection overpower it that way?

In Taiwan, I realized that the Demon has two essential aspects:  (1) it THINKS it is doing good, even as it drives us to the most self-destructive behavior; and (2) it can't see itself ... it has no idea of the harm it is doing, but once brought to this awareness, it falls to the floor in shame. So I solved the problem by having the Reflection turn the Demon to face the Mirror. Indeed, if there were more time in the music, I would have had the Demon struggle away from the Mirror but be forced to see (think of Alex in A Clockwork Orange), to drive the point home.

So:  Kaeshi's resistance to seeing herself "warts and all" is mammoth. It is, I think, a central problem for her.

When we were in Florida, her behavior towards me was horrific. Instead of helping to create a unified front of leadership for PURE (which, incidentally, she criticizes Rita, the PURE Orlando chapter leader, for betraying; more on that below), she undermined my co-leadership in every way she could, from rolling her eyes when I spoke to berating me in front of others.

This is not the person she wants to be: jealous, bitter, angry, vain. I believe she truly wants to be the kind of person who can gracefully give others their due credit, to step aside and let others lead, let them be the focus, and she makes efforts to act in this way—she even insisted on putting my name above hers in the Florida program, against my own protests, since she was the Artistic Director.

Indeed, she can even be seen smiling with authentic warmth in the photo of my final bow. So yes, I really do believe she wants to be the person she portrays. But she simply isn't; not yet, anyway. And she will never grow to be this person while she is denying, and rallying friends to help her deny, the complex and contradictory person she really is.

So, since she couldn't contain this contradiction and resolve it, she had to find a reason to justify her behavior that was outside herself:  me.

And it became my fault that she'd acted as she did. In her mind, I was "stepping on [her] toes" and "not being deferential enough" (yes, really).

Now, even though she and I had agreed that I would take main leadership because of her choice to visit theme parks, she found herself unhappy with this decision. If she could have said to herself, "I thought I would be OK with Carol in charge, but I'm really upset by it," and realized that she had put herself in a position that made her feel upset, then all of this could have been averted.

Her emotional reality, I believe, was that she felt usurped and marginalized. And those are completely valid feelings. But the larger reality was that I was not doing this to her; I was putting a show together, behaving normally and professionally. But she could not tell the difference between her emotional reality and the larger reality. (i.e. Just because one FEELS attacked, doesn't mean one actually IS attacked; and if we can't tell the difference, we may end up attacking "in response" to an attack that never happened. And then we are in conflict.)

So she could not see her own hand in creating her distress, and went to insane lengths to deflect any such responsibility.

This is hugely evident in her conversation with Robert, the husband of the former PURE Orlando chapter leader, Rita.

Rita had also been vocal in her reservations about the War & Peace performance, and Kaeshi lambasted her with texts the following day, questioning where her "alliances lie." The texts flew in so furiously that Robert took Rita's phone away, asking Kaeshi speak to him instead.

Robert, a Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran with experience in the mental health field, is skilled in dealing with gaslighting. An effective technique is to keep bringing the gaslighter back to some central claim that you know is false, and keep track of what is actually said because a gaslighter has a fertile imagination.

Here is his account of that conversation, which he posted to the PURE Orlando Facebook group, and which I publish here by his request:
Hello, all. I'm going to start off here by apologizing. I'm sorry. Why? Because Kaeshi Chai has seen fit to disband PURE Orlando, and it's all my fault. Allow me to explain.
Last night, my wife (Rita) posted a critique of the performance for the PURE's 9th Annual Guerilla Street Performance. Rita was honest in her appraisal of the performance and asked questions concerning the theme(s) involved. Her critique wasn't exactly positive, and her comments have since been deleted. Apparently, Kaeshi interpreted the critique as an attack upon herself, personally. Kaeshi and Rita began trading text messages today regarding the situation. Now, be aware that Rita has been sick for the past week, and can barely talk. 
The texts started to go downhill, and I finally got pissed off, myself, when Kaeshi texted "If you are going to publicly denounce me as the leader of PURE, I am questioning where your alliances lie. Perhaps it's time that PURE Orlando take a hiatus". At NO time did Rita denounce Kaeshi. Rita simply critiqued the PURE performance, and asked why some things were done the way they were. Again, Kaeshi took this as a personal attack. Kaeshi kept firing off text after text to Rita, basically reducing Rita to tears. I took Rita's phone, texted Kaeshi back that Rita was sick and that I had put her to bed and taken her phone away so she could get some rest. I then texted Kaeshi to call me personally on my cell phone. I got a response that she was now in a Bellyqueen meeting. 
Several hours later, I finally get the call from Kaeshi. Things started out smoothly enough, but quickly deteriorated. I asked her why she thought Rita's critique of the performance was actually an attack upon her. Kaeshi sidestepped the question. She began talking about all manner of things except answering my question. It was about the point when she stated, "I am PURE" and "I am the leader of PURE", that I started getting angry again. So, I corrected her. I told her that she wasn't PURE, that it was the dancers and various Chapters that were PURE, not a single member. That didn't go over well. I then told her that she had evaded my original question: why she thought Rita's critique was a personal attack?
Kaeshi started spinning a tale of how Rita was in collusion with Carol (Henning). For those that don't the story there, it's a bit of a long story and I won't go into it here. Suffice to say that Carol isn't in PURE any more. Kaeshi talked about [how] she was being blamed for Rita being on medication for several months about a year ago. So, I then informed her that I used to work in the Mental Health field, and asked why she was being so defensive, bringing up things that happened approximately a year ago, why she didn't deal with those issues at that time, and why she still hadn't answered my original question. I then got a lecture about me accusing her of being "mentally ill". I told her that I never stated that, and not to twist my words around. I then asked her why she still hadn't answered my question, why she had evaded the question three times. She started talking about Carol again. She stated that Rita should have called her or sent her an email before publicly posting a negative critique. Then I lost my temper. Those who know me, know that I very, very rarely lose my temper. Bad things happen when I do. 
I questioned (again) why she thought an honest critique was a personal attack upon her. I questioned why she thought Rita should have contacted her in any way other than she had numerous times before. I questioned her defensiveness. I questioned why she thought she was so high and mighty, that she thought that "I am PURE". I questioned why she was so insecure that she had to say over and over again, "I am the leader of PURE", like a mantra. I questioned why she was bringing Carol into the middle of this, when Rita literally critiqued and posted her comments about the PURE performance before she spoke to anyone else. I questioned why she couldn't answer a simple frikkin' question. She obviously didn't like being on taken to task, and immediately asked to speak to Rita. I reminded her that Rita was sick, and could barely talk. 
I continued my questions, never getting an adequate response. I asked her what PURE's mission statement is. She told me. I asked her if there were room for betterment in PURE. She said there always was. I informed her that, that is where honest critiques come in. That PURE couldn't get better if honest critiques weren't done. I told her she needed to step down and get off her high horse. I told her that a leader leads by example, and that the example she was setting was pathetic. She then told me that, based on our phone conversation, that PURE Orlando was hereby disbanded. I asked her, "because YOU are PURE, right?", and she said yes. Somewhere in the middle of me telling her that she needed to grow up, that her maturity factor sucked, and that she needed to step up and be a real leader, she hung up on me.   
So, there it is, in all it's gory detail. To the members of PURE Orlando, I truly and sincerely apologize. To the friends of PURE Orlando, I also truly and sincerely apologize. The only thing that I'm apologizing for here, is that I pushed Kaeshi into disbanding PURE Orlando. However, I won't apologize for standing up to someone who attacked and tried to bully my wife. Kaeshi picked this fight. I merely finished it.
While I have my own an analysis of this interaction, I would like to present Robert's instead, as another method of parsing out and exposing gaslighting behavior. In particular, he addresses this sentence: "If you are going to publicly denounce me as the leader of PURE, I am questioning where your alliances lie. Perhaps it's time that PURE Orlando take a hiatus".
She accuses Rita of publicly denouncing her. Never happened, but I digress... Kaeshi takes the critique as a personal attack and believes Rita is denouncing her. So we have a case of defensiveness and insecurity here, and Kaeshi immediately tries to establish dominance by referring to herself as the leader of PURE [she had done this in her texts and on the phone with Robert], and tries to browbeat Rita into submission. Then, Kaeshi questions where Rita's alliances lie. Again, defensive and insecure, and a touch of fear to boot. I mean, good golly... She accuses Rita of calling her out and denouncing her, and suggests Rita wouldn't do that if someone (or several others) didn't have her back. Who else has Rita been allying with? Paranoid much, Kaeshi? So, here we have Kaeshi angry, confused, defensive, insecure, fearful and paranoid (all within the space of 2 sentences which took all of 5 seconds to text and send), so she lashes out and tries to blackmail Rita by threatening PURE Orlando with a hiatus? None of whom had anything to do whatsoever with the critique Rita did? Kaeshi had absolutely no problem with threatening to punish innocent people, whose sole offense was being part of PURE Orlando, in order to make Rita bow to her desires. That is truly and utterly despicable. It is ruthless, callous, spiteful, tyrannical, and petty beyond all reasonable measure. There is absolutely no valid excuse for that kind of behavior. Two little sentences, and so much revealed about Kaeshi...

(3) For Myself:  As mentioned above, this situation has plagued me for a year, during which time I vacillated between holding on and letting go, pulling away and being pulled back.

I thought of the many, many times in my life where I had been bullied and abused, and that the form this abuse often took was in negative characterizations followed by claims of support (I once had a boyfriend who liked to tell me I was "not fit to live", and then go on about how much he loved me). I thought about the many conversations I had had with Kaeshi in which she told me all the things that were wrong with me and all the ways I needed to change—never once admitting to any flaw in herself.

And I thought of how poor a grasp I had of who I truly was, and found myself agreeing—much like South Park's Butters—to whatever I was accused of because these accusations invariably rested in "he said/she said" stuff, and because I tend towards self-doubt I would always let the other person's version of reality trump mine (particularly when the other person has no capacity for self-doubt whatsoever).

But here, I had the emails.

I had absolute, incontrovertible proof that my recollection was accurate.

And then I had her email to PURE.

It was so clear, so irrefutable, that for all the reasons mentioned above and for the sake of my own integrity, the act of going through each line—dissecting it, and comparing it to what had actually happened—gave me the relief I sought.

Now, I had considered doing this privately, or sharing with just a few, but again for the reasons above it had to be public. And for myself, the knowledge of a public audience held me to a very high standard: I could not allow myself any false conclusions, no sloppy or lazy thinking; every observation and argument had to be air-tight. And it has been.

And I've learned a lot about myself in the process. I've learned I can really, really write, that I do not scrimp on detail and am rigorous in my attention to fact and logic (i.e. that each conclusion can reasonably be drawn from the prior). And I learned that even in the most ugly, arduous task, I will find moments of levity (though I kind of knew this already... :-> ).

Another friend chided me about having written "ten walls of text" and that this might prove Kaeshi's charge of "instability." And I think even just a few months ago a claim like that would have eaten away at me ... but it hasn't.

Because when I look at my own copious words, I see reasoning that makes sense. And many others have too.

And now that I have this "dissecting" ability honed and at the ready to a degree I never have before, I can say to such a person: "OK, if you believe this makes me look unstable, can you tell me how you draw that conclusion? I am responding to her very long letter which contained many lies. One may need 500 words to refute a five-word lie, because you must not only refute the lie with evidence, you have to say the truth and support that as well."

And so the charge is deflated.

And even if the other still chooses to believe this, I know it is not true, because my reasoning has satisfied itself. And in cases where my reasoning is not solid, and I can't see it, I have friends who will point that out too—because that sword works both ways...which may explain why so many are loath to use it. It takes some strength to wield that sword, and to handle the consequences of doing so.

Hopefully I will not need to undertake a project like this anytime in the future since, at the very least, I may have culled enough wisdom to not place myself in such a situation again. But one never knows what the future will bring, I can only hope that I will face it boldly and handle it in the way that is true to me.

The End.

P.S. Lenny Bruce was pardoned posthumously in 2003 by Governor Pataki.