Jefe's House

Strange But True: I am now a certified open water scuba diver

by on Aug.25, 2016, under On the Road

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My first dive: coral reef about 10 meters down. Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, La Altagracia province, Dominican Republic, where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Photo via Claudia at Visual Reef.

My second dive, the final training dive after the written PADI international certification courses and two sessions of pool training offered by the Scuba Quatic watersports shop, occurred 12 meters down and was near the wreck of the Astron but it was just the trainer and myself with no photographer (sadly no pix). I am now continuing to dive with PADI-certified groups in the States. I’m not gonna lie to you, I am psyched to have discovered this exciting new hobby.

 

 

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More “Wine From These Grapes”

by on Aug.10, 2016, under The Truth Is In Here

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Wine From These Grapes

by on Aug.08, 2016, under The Truth Is In Here

 

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Prepare to be Judged, Judges

by on Jul.16, 2016, under Film/TV, On the Road, Politics, The Press, Theatre

A fair question and an honest article and my honest, if not entirely fair, response…

dailydot

Why are 22 of the 24 new Amtrak writing residents white?

This year, a majority of those selected members are white, and many creatives aren’t happy about it.

Amtrak writes that “the residents offer a diverse representation of the writing community and hail from across the country.” There certainly is some representation of different backgrounds—lots of women, some LGBT writers, and some disabled writers, too. However, 22 of the 24 selected are white, and there is not a single black writer…

Residency judge Jeffrey Stanley provided the Daily Dot with a little more insight into the process.  CONT’D at Daily Dot>>

PS – Here’s the full text of my response:

Hi Jaya, I can only speak for myself as an individual judge. Indeed when I saw the photos of the winners yesterday for the first time when they were announced my heart sank. As you’ve said it’s diverse in so many other ways but there are no black faces. Obviously this wasn’t done intentionally. As a judge I had no clue of an applicant’s ethnicity, appearance, or with which affinity group they identify, unless they state it in their bio, artistic statement, or any autobiographical pieces they may have included with their writing samples. Judges aren’t given specific guidelines. Speaking for myself, I was looking first and foremost at the artistic merit of the sample, then their publication history that might qualify them as a professional writer pursing a writing career in earnest and not just as a hobby, and their statement on why this residency would be beneficial to them.  Should the application be modified for future applicants and judges instructed more specifically to weigh race in the application process?  Maybe so. These are issues faced by every theatre organization with which I’ve been involved as a board member, every screenwriting contest I’ve ever judged, any college admission portfolio I’ve been asked to evaluate.  I can’t speak for Amtrak but I would suspect they’d be wide open to suggestions for best practices for how to improve the diversity of the judges as well as the applicant pool.  Feel free to shoot me any followups. Happy to talk more.

Jeff

 

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Train Roll On

by on Jul.15, 2016, under Film/TV, On the Road, Theatre

 

Photo via Yahoo! News. The Empire Builder travels daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, and takes customers on an exciting adventure through majestic wilderness, following the footsteps of early pioneers.

Now it can be told. This year I served as an Amtrak Writers Residency judge after being a recipient of a residency the previous year. The winners have just been announced. Last year I believe I was the only one of 24 writers who self-identified as a playwright or screenwriter. You’ll notice that this year there are several in the mix, not that I was the sole impetus for this but I was in there swinging. Some are recognizable heavy hitters and some are early career. Overall a good mix I think. If you’re a writer and haven’t entered this thing yet–why? I urge you to do so next year. It is unique and worthy and I’d love to see it continue to grow in scope and acceptance as an incubator for new work in all media.

 

Amtrak Residency Program Selects Writers

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — During the next year, selected members of the literary community will travel on Amtrak routes that crisscross the country and spend the time working on their writing projects, providing a unique journey and workspace as part of the #AmtrakResidency program.

This is the second group of writers selected for the program, which offers a travel experience with amazing scenery, an environment that fosters engaging connections, and the ability to explore and be inspired by the diversity of landscapes America has to offer.

“We are excited to build on the success of the residency program and offer a second group of writers a creative environment to focus on the work of their choice,” said Julia Quinn, Amtrak director of public relations. “Whether traveling for business or pleasure, passenger rail helps travelers avoid the frustrations and hurdles associated with other modes of transportation – continuously making Amtrak the smarter way to travel, which we are confident the writers will find inspiring.”

A diverse group of writers were selected for the residency program. About two writers per month will travel round trip on pre-selected (based on availability) trains, and cover all 15 of Amtrak’s long-distance routes.  A complete list of selected residents and bios can be found on the Amtrak blog.

Applications were reviewed by a panel representing the literary community including published writers and former Amtrak Residents Lindsay Moran and Jeffrey Stanley, Amtrak Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & Corporate Communications Joe McHugh and writer and teacher Jessica Gross.

Gross, a Manhattan-based writer, traveled on the Lake Shore Limited as a trial run of the residency program and her support spurred the launch of the formal program in March 2014. Her piece, “Writing The Lake Shore Limited” was published by the Paris Review.

“My 2014 Amtrak residency from New York to Chicago and back was peaceful, contemplative, and so fruitful for my writing,” Gross said. “I’m delighted to have played a part in sending a new crop of writers on the rails this year.”

For more information on Amtrak and the Amtrak Writer’s Residency experience, visit blog.amtrak.com or follow #AmtrakResidency.

 

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Congratulations, Sarita!

by on Apr.23, 2016, under Film/TV, NYC

saritahanksHappy for Sarita, she deserves it all. Forever grateful that she starred in my short “Lady in a Box” a decade ago, produced by Matt Myers and Tai Burkholder and co-starring Luke Rosen, John Lordan, et al.

 

More at http://www.brain-on-fire.com/lady.

 

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Telegraph Test #1

by on Apr.09, 2016, under Pophood

Success. In-home telegraph, phase 1, complete. It’s a project with my 5-year-old son. He explains.

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Bidisha Dasgupta in Philly

by on Mar.03, 2016, under The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Thrilled that Bidisha Dasgupta will be performing newly choreographed Indian Classical Dance (bharatanatyam) pieces in the Dance Diversity Tour on Saturday, April 16th in Philly. Two shows. Tix are $10 until April 2nd and $15 afterwards. You haven’t bought yours yet?

phillydanceshowcase

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A Hindu-Appalachian Christmas in the City of Brotherly Love

by on Dec.23, 2015, under Pophood, Shaheb Cafe, The Sixth Boro

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A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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How a simple father-son craft project became a global, epic diorama

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Five years ago this month my wife Bidisha and I got married a full Hindu wedding in India. Four years ago our son was born.

This past Thanksgiving while carving the turkey at our Philadelphia home I got to the bone that my granny from rural southwestern Virginia used to save and make into a turkey bone Santa sled decoration at Christmastime every so often. It’s a morbid Appalachian thing, you wouldn’t understand. In a fit of nostalgia I decided I’d give it a whirl and introduce my young son to a part of his cultural history.

To make sure I was really remembering correctly I Googled “turkey bone sled” and one of the first things that came up was someone’s Pinterest page about turkey bone sleds with the header, “My granny made these.” Yep, I was on the right track.

The schematic.

The schematic.

My son and I often do multi-stage, multi-day art projects so I told him we were going to embark on this “small” project. I’m thinking the whole thing will be five or six inches long with a couple of ceremonial reindeer pulling it but he insists that it be the full 9 reindeer, and that there be a full moon, and a Pleiades star cluster (the Seven Sisters), Aldebaran (the brightest star in the constellation Taurus and one of the bull’s eyes), a small pine tree like the one we have in a planter outside our house, and our street sign, and snow on the ground, and hovering in the sky above Santa there should be Kartik. Without missing a beat I told him fine but that he’d need to design it on paper first so we’d know exactly what we were making and not leave anything out.

Kartik? That would be the Hindu god Kartik, less famous brother of Ganesh. Kartik is the Pete Best of major goddess Durga’s children. I later learned it’s impossible to find an altar figurine of just Kartik alone, so I convinced him instead to  CONT’D at medium.com>>

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Distress Signals

by on Nov.16, 2015, under Film/TV, NYC, Theatre

My Posthumous Friendship With a Civil Rights Hero

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Back to School

I met Lawrence Gibson at a turning point in my life. After landing my first literary agent and riding the high of a hit play I had abandoned a relationship and a lucrative day job to devote myself full-time to being a starving playwright. I crashed temporarily on the couch of my generous Uncle Joey and, despite an MFA, sought out only part-time office jobs. I soon found myself with a receptionist gig at one of New York City’s many prominent private schools.

At first the administers was baffled by my application; surely, they thought, I was using the job opening as an entrée into teaching there, but I assured them I had no interest. I just wanted to leave at noon every day. They gave me the job on a trial basis. On my third day I met someone who seemed all but invisible to me, and who would, due to my own self-absorption, stop seeming that way to me only after he died. Then his spirit reached across from the netherworld, grabbed my collar and shook me into noticing him. He also enlisted my help. CONT’D AT MEDIUM.COM>>

UPDATE:

Hi Valerie,

Well, you aren’t mentioned in the book but I knew from the New York Times obit that he had a sibling named Valerie. Nice to meet you. I’m surprised not to have heard from you sooner as this isn’t the first time I’ve talked openly of my hope to adapt Get Off My Ship. Please see my previous blog posts athttp://brain-on-fire.com/jefeblog/tag/copy-berg (sadly I never got to talk about it on Coast to Coast AM as I had hoped to do). I trust we’re on the same team in wanting Gibson and Berg’s Navy story told, remembered, and restored to its rightful place in history. I consider them civil rights heroes.

I recently also received an email from someone at the Brooklyn Historical Society asking if I knew Copy’s exact address on Dean Street. They really just wanted to know if he lived on the Brooklyn Heights section of Dean for an upcoming exhibit about gay rights activists in Brooklyn Heights. I’ve told them that as far as I know he lived a few blocks away from Lawrence in Boerum Hill, not the Heights. Steve is also looking through Lawrence’s stacks and stacks and stacks of papers to see if he can find anything but so far has had no luck on a specific Dean Street address for Copy. Is this something you might know? If so I’m happy to put you in touch with them.

As for your posting and your three terse emails via my personal blog, I’ll work my way through them in the order received… CONT’D AT MEDIUM.COM>>

 

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