Friday, January 24, 2014


Michael Richards, the unforgettably funny character on Seinfeld is back to work again.

I missed him. I often watch the re-broadcasts of Seinfeld, and enjoy seeing episodes I've seen before. The shortcomings and quirks of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer are a fun to see again and again.  

Fifteen years after Seinfeld and seven years after his onstage meltdown, a racist tirade during a standup comedy appearance that made headlines, Kramer, (Michael Richards), is playing the sidekick (Frank Baxter) to an entertainer played by Kirstie Alley, in her new weekly series, "Kirstie."

Time Magazine's Belinda Luscombe, interviewing him asked, "On your new show, "Kirstie,"  you play the sidekick to an entertainer played by Kirstie Alley. How is that different from your role on Seinfeld?"

Michael explained, "'Kramer' didn't have a full-time job. So he was dangerous, because he was always making everything his job. 'Frank Baxter' has been driving Kirstie's character, 'Madison Banks,' for probably 20 years. He's based a bit on a person Kirstie knew, who was her driver and like a brother to her."

Luscombe asked if he preferred his new role, to what he played on Seinfeld.

Michael said, "I played Kramer like a dog: very devoted to Jerry. Frank's more of a rooster in a henhouse. He says, 'I'll take care of this,' and when he does, the situation blows up in his face. It's the old Laurel and Hardy 'Let me do it!'-- then Oliver [Hardy] ends up stepping on a board with a nail and you see him trip and fall down a flight of stairs."

(Oh boy, those skids, slips, falls, roll overs that Kramer -- fun to know that they were inspired by Oliver Hardy).

Luscombe: "So at 64, do you still feel the urge to do physical comedy?"

Michael: "That's my deal. I can't resist. If I have an opportunity to bang into a door, I'll do it."

She reminded him, "You haven't done much work since your outburst at a club in 2006. Are those two things connected?"

He said, "I wasn't getting much work before the incident, which was one of the reasons I was ding-donging around in those clubs late at night, unannounced -- coming in and working on material. I thought I would try to reinvent myself."

Luscombe asked a question that I would have asked: "Comedians have to be very loose and unguarded. Are you afraid of it happening again?"

He answered -- "What happened in the club? Oh, that'll never happen again. I know how to behave, to consciously behave. When something like that comes up, I don't let the heat of anger burn me up as it did. When you're under the helm of anger, watch out, 'cause it'll take you down. It's like being possessed by a demon."

"What were you angry at?"

"Oh, angry at the act, angry that it wasn't funny, angry that I was being interrupted, angry that I'm not as good as I would like to be. You know, I was frustrated that night, and so I turned on everybody."

Luscombe:  "When you later apologized, you said you were going to do some personal work. What did that involve?"

Michael: "I wanted to see more about the man I am, and that meant being apart again from show business. I took a deep look at this and thought, 'Yes, we all make mistakes, but let's go further and see more about me.' I moved away from Los Angeles. I took up photography, a lot of reading, a lot of writing. I traveled a bit. I got more in tune with my family. I began to take care of my mother, and still do, and that was helpful."

Luscombe: "Do you feel you've been forgiven?"

Michael: "I don't know. I know I've forgiven myself. That's where it really starts for me."

Luscombe: "What lured you back into TV? I'm assuming you still have crazy Seinfeld money."

(Fascinated by this interview, I kept finding myself asking the same questions that Luscombe was asking.)
Michael:  "Well, I'm an artist. You do it because you love to do it. It's what you are. It's the color of your fur. It's the same after all these years."

"You've said you wish you'd enjoyed yourself more when you were making Seinfeld. What did you mean?"

"I think that's one of the reasons I took on 'Kirstie,' because I wanted to do this more joyfully. When I was doing Seinfeld, I was very intense. Physical comedy takes more time to set up -- rehearsing how to come through the door, that slide I did. So I was always in development, and that made me feel like I wasn't able to sit back and enjoy the ride. So this time, I want to be more like a child out on the street just playing and having fun and not taking it all so seriously."

(Here's a video of Michael talking about all this with Jerry Seinfeld.

I am writing about  Michael Richards because I think he has a special something, as an actor that's rare -- more  than talent. When you see it, you find yourself going along with  everything the actor (or actress) does. You are in the scene, feeling with him, reacting with him. You, though you are the audience, don't translate what's happening into words or thought, or any kind of  wondering about what the actor is  doing. You are there. That's Michael's gift --  un-breaking presence -- utter thereness.

Here are 10 Kramer moments:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Kentridge, self portrait
Artist William Kentridge, the 58-year-old South African artist, educated me as he answered the first of Belinda Luscombe's  questions for Time Magazine.  

(Kentridge is very much in the art world news these days -- his "Refusal of Time" -- five video channels projected around a room, -- is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City until May, also at New York City's Marian Goodman Gallery; also at the San Francisco Museum of Art,  and at museums in  Kassel, Germany and Rome; his designs for Shostakovich’s opera, “Nose,” are at the Metropolitan Opera, and Kentridge's “Lulu,” is scheduled for the Met, Netherland Opera, and Canadian Opera Company.)

Luscombe said, "You've worked in opera, tapestry, sculpture, puppetry, animation, film and drawing. Is there a through line?"

He replied, "The heart of it is drawing, starting where you don't know quite what you're doing and discovering what the drawing will be, rather than knowing the script in advance and following it."  And he explained that his video piece, "Refusal of Time," was about "The pressure we have to try to escape our destiny, which is another way to think about time. And how to materialize time -- play music backward and forward, slow it down, run a camera backward, undoing all the things we wish we could."

Then, quoting something he wrote (he's also a published author), Kentridge said, "The job of the artist is to fight against entropy -- the tendency of everything to collapse. If you smash a vase and throw the pieces in the air, they won't re-land in the shape of the perfect vase. But the job of the artist is to smash the vase and then fashion something coherent out of those shards."

(Entropy hit me. As I attack a subject, I always go for just an small aspect of it that's different, that will surprise the reader.)

Kentridge went on to say that his parents were famous lawyers -- (his father represented Nelson Mandela,) The way his parents handled South Africa's huge limitations on Blacks -- the fact that police in Johannesburg were not the good guys -- that he and his family didn't live in the benevolent world of children's stories --  taught him as a boy to create his own world.

To me, everything Kentridge said during the interview with Luscombe, was precise, like something he thought about and expressed many times before.  When she asked about his cluttered desk in his studio, he said, "I don't like it cluttered -- in a sense the studio becomes like an expanded head, with different fragments of ideas moving across it as you lie awake at 4 a.m., and there are 50 different anxieties that your brain jumps between."  When Luscombe wondered about his 50 anxieties, he said,  "The crow of anxiety always finds some branch to land on."

Captured by his honest, poetic replies, I searched for his drawings and art works, wondering if they'd be realistic, detailed or abstracted,  or neat, or improvisational, messy?

These film clips (there are many; I picked three,) seem to be Kentridge doing just what he described -- playing with time in different ways.

This one seemed like fun at first, a joke, or a nightmare. It's a seven minute story, introduced by a chubby dancing figure; it becomes a progression of ancient people with tools they used every day -- they gradually turn into present day people in South Africa with their tools.


In the next film clip, Kentridge appears and addresses us. This happens in many of his other art pieces -- he becomes the documentarian and actor, demonstrating that his art is the "entropy, the gathering things together to make sense." He explains that his drawings are done with him looking at the subject through a stereoscope, drawing what he sees on paper in charcoal and pastel. (A stereoscope has separate viewers for each eye as it views a single scene, and creates a single, three-dimensional image.)

It's titled "RETURN"

In this next film, Kentridge's voice as well as his words, appear below each drawing, along with realistic sounds of chopping and kicking that communicate what Kentridge calls "an approprpiation of ordinary sounds that gives deeper meaning and feeling."

It's titled "PAIN & SYMPATHY"

Do I like Kentridge's art? 

Like?  Well, when I look down at my  street on a rainy night and see single people, couples, groups of people  hurrying by under umbrellas, closing and re-opening them, I wonder where they're going, who they are, and yes -- I experience with them what they are feeling.

What William Kentridge gives me is a feeling experience.

I realize that's what I do as a blogger-talk-writer -- I give facts, information, copies of pictures, and share with my narration, views of my real self, real life, my own experiences as a artist -- whatever might help connect you, the reader, with the subject.

So William Kentridge is sharing his vision of the world with us. What do you feel about him now that you've met him?

I like him, I'm glad I've gotten to know this artist.  I want to know more and more about him.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Randi Zuckerberg has published a book that advises us to publish more family pictures, and talk more about our private selves


Randi is Mark Zuckerberg's sister. In my mind, this guy is the "King" of Social Networking. There are other big name-innovators, but when you say social networking, billionaire Mark Z is number one.
In 'her book, "Dot Complicated, Untangling Our Wired Lives," Randi said:
    "Right now, there are two generations in the workforce who think in diametrically opposite ways about identity. Executives who came of age in the pre-smartphone era take it as a given that you should have a separate professional persona that reads like a profile in Forbes and doesn’t overlap with your personal life.
    "But my generation came of age in a world with social networks, and we know that we don’t have that luxury anymore.
    "We should embrace this new world. The answer isn’t fewer baby pictures; it’s more baby pictures. It’s not that I should post less; it’s that everyone else should post more. Let’s change what it means to be professional in the Internet age. The time when your personal identity was a secret to your colleagues is over and done. And that is a good thing."


Would I be reading about Randi' s ideas if she weren't Z's sister? (31-year-old Randi is 29-year-old Mark's older sister; his younger sisters are Donna and Anelle -- I searched everywhere -- can't find their specific ages.)

Randi Z's been building her professional identity for quite a few years, working with her brother, doing digital content stuff ( text, audio, video, graphics, animations on the Internet) for various prestigious clients, including The Clinton Global Initiative, Cirque du Soleil, the United Nations.

But when I checked out Randi's Facebook page -- hey, she doesn't reveal her married name, or her son's name. It took quite a while, in fact, for me to learn her husband is Brent Tworetzky. I couldn't' find out where he worked, but I found out that they have a home in Silicon Valley and a two-and-a-half- year-old son -- Asher.

So folks, what Randi is advising us to do -- share-share more personal info -- is not what Randi is doing for herself.

Anyhow, re sharing more about yourself -- most of what I see on Facebook is trivia -- pets, politics, movie-music-sports stars, marvelous photos of sunrises, sunsets and things like  waterfalls -- photos that get me wishing that I didn't live in the city. Mainly what I glimpse as I'm scrolling through news feed, gets me feeling yay, boo, wow, oh dear, or ho-hum.

I think Facebooking and tweeting are communication recreations, 21st Century ways to be busy using devices, tools, techniques that we spend time, energy, and money to acquire, and utilize skillfully. And being busy with those routines makes social networking mean more and feel more important than it is.

Confession:  I think social networking is a giant tower of Habel that keeps billions of us from feeling small and insignificant, even though that's what we are.

So would you buy her book?

Here is Randi chatting quite skillfully about her share-share ideas, though what she has to say doesn't really ring in one's mind.

UPDATE:  JUST HEARD THIS VIDEO WAS DEMOVERED... I am figuring it's Zuckerberg family power. Willy  was not overly flattering ......
Here's Willy Geist, co-anchor of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and The Today show, getting Randi Zuckerberg to say something that's very interesting about taking a day off or a weekend off even, from all our communication devices.

I take time off from social networking (which I dislike) whenever I can, but I like knowing more about Mark Zuckerberg's family. His stupendous success makes the Z name royalty -- there's Donna and Anelle, and who knows what Asher Zuckerberg Twortsky will be selling us in 20 years or so.