Monday, June 4, 2007

ON THE BILL: Louis Smith performance will be part of his therapy

Fans and friends of Ann Arbor trumpeter and educator Louis Smith, who had a stroke a year and a half ago, will be delighted to know that his therapy at the University of Michigan Residential Aphasia Program has progressed to such an extent he will be able to perform at an event marking the 60th anniversary of the aphasia program Saturday at the Michigan Theater.

"This is part of his speech therapy,'' said Smith's wife, Lulu. "As music is on the right side and communication is on the left side of the brain, this is a way to get him to start to communicate and talk. Louis' left brain was affected by the stroke.''

The songs he will sing are "On the Sunny Side of the Street,'' "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing'' and "Georgia.'' "The remarkable thing is he can sing these words but not speak them,'' Lulu Smith added.


Anybody who’s had dealings with small children knows the importance of “the pitch” — the succinct, attractive, punchy, mentally digestible presentation of a new idea. Faced with a frowning toddler, you have about six seconds to make the sale, and it has to be as sweet and as tight as a radio jingle. You will be pitilessly scanned for irregular body language, unevenness of tone, and pupil dilation. The air is electric with feral mistrust. If you start sweating, if they smell your fear — it’s over. Such was the predicament of the 50 apprentice filmmakers gathered in the premiere episode of Steven Spielberg & Mark Burnett’s ON THE LOT (Fox, Tuesday at 9 pm), since their first challenge was to pitch a movie idea to the Hollywood triumvirate of Garry Marshall, Carrie Fisher, and Brett Ratner. The hopefuls were touchingly hopeless: they dried up into gaping silence, or ranted like prophets, in visionary isolation. Jeremy Corray, expounding upon a torture scene that formed the centerpiece of a film he planned to call Synergilistic, took off his belt and thrashed the floor. “Mickey Castellucci is a run-of-the-mill New York mobster,” began another contestant, more promisingly, “but for the last 10 years, he’s been informing for the FBI. One day he wakes up and he’s turned into a six-foot-two-inch 300-pound mouse.” Quality stuff so far, but here — eclipsed, perhaps, by the brilliance of his own conceit — the pitcher appeared to enter some sort of fugue state or light aphasia. Suddenly, no more words: some helpless movements of the hands, and a bit of rocking back and forth. The judges looked at one another. “Then . . . ?” prompted Garry Marshall, to no effect.

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Desire Love The Visible Reality The Poem

Desire as a creative force and love as a maintaining force . . . I enjoy conceptualizing things in such ways.

I hope this is helpful, or at least interesting. It will be in two parts. This is part one. Part two, if it ever actually happens, will be later. I, perhaps rashly, put in a course title for this coming fall, which is Poetry As Mystery, now I’m trying to work up how I will actually present such an unwieldy thing. I’m brainstorming.

I’m interested, currently, less in the compositional process from blank paper, than I am the compositional process of revision. That seems to me a profitable place to think about mystery. It’s obvious that there’s mystery to a blank piece of paper, but usually in the revision process we hear words like “clarity,” etc. “Clarity” is a great word, as it reveals “clarity of design,” but I think rather than that, “clarity” usually gets reduced to “Make it Clear” in the Lowest Common Denominator of public speech sort of way. “Make it Clear?” I look around me, and, though the images of the yard are “clear,” they are not in any way “clearly meaning” one thing, they simply are, and in their beingness, they contain large amounts of mystery. Mystery of human interaction, mystery of simply being there at all. So how does one keep oneself open to such mystery, without it being a trick or a who-done-it? Or, equally problematic, how to factor in the true difficulty of being without falling into aphasia? The two sides equally threaten, as one tries to negotiate, in some honest way, the mystery inherent in living.