Happy Days

There are a few clips I return to in times of darkness or just when things are a little unknown. This is one of them. I love Judy Garland, always fighting- never the tallest or the coolest girl in the class. I think its something to do with the way she was so open about her vulnerabilities - you could hear it in her voice. She manages to break your heart and bring you utter joy in just a few notes. As for Babs, this is a new love affair for me- I'm still in that fresh dizzy part where everything is new. When I first saw this clip I was annoyed because I thought she was overshadowing Judy, but the more I watch it the more I enjoy the fidelity in this duet. 

This song is one I like to send my girlfriends to say "I am here". We are in this together. 

From The Judy Garland Show, taped October 4, 1963 and aired October 6, 1963. A young Barbra Streisand is paired with Judy Garland for this amazing duet. One for the ages. The "mash up" of the two songs was Judy's idea. It came to her while listening to Barbra's recording of "Happy Days Are Here Again."

If you were ever so inclined, I recommend My Judy Garland Life By Susie Boyt. Hands down the best book I have ever read about Judy. This is because Boyt is an unapologetic super-fan and has no problem being open about her total unmitigated LOVE for Judy. I have always been interested in what it means to be a fan. I even made a show about Kate Bush fans which led me to be know as the Crazy Kate Bush Girl for a while. But whats wrong with that? I would rather be remembered for loving something than being a cynic or a pedant. If you click on the pic it takes you to a review. 

Sort of update thing?

This is the most recent photo of me, I took it yesterday at Grammar School Records in Rye. I seem to be going through a bit of a black and white phase on instagram, it isn't an art thing, its a covering up spots and redness thing. Anyway, I have never been a regular blogger, partly because I have never found a platform I enjoyed using enough (thats a thought developers, a platform for sharing content where the PROCESS part is just as much fun/beautiful as the PRODUCT/content at the end?) and partly because I have the attention span of a g/nat. The only habits I have seemed to easily maintain are consuming metric fucktonnes of fags, coffee and sugar. 

I made a quick visit to tumblr today (tumblr only happens when I am supposed to be lesson planning) and thought it would be really awesome if I could find a way to integrate my tumblr blog and my website. I see stuff on the web all the time and would love to find a way of sharing it that does not involve facebook, I fucking hate facebook. I haven't worked out how to do that yet but I figured in the meantime I would actually put something on my website's blog because the last post was December 2015. So below are the key updates on what has been happening:

  1. The Daddy Blues got it's second round of funding from the Arts Council. I finished making the show with Daisy, worked with a whole bunch of people on developing its tech and the video and marketing it. We took it to a few venues in Kent and then Brighton Fringe. All of this (alongside teaching) took up the first half of the year. It was pretty manic and then after fringe the crazy just stopped. Was it successful? Urgh, in so many ways YES YES YES, but there was some stuff I would have done differently. I am still processing the successes and failures of the project and there are some bits which are kind of tough. Things around working with other people and what do you do when you think they let you down? I am a big believer in taking personal responsibility at. all. times. So maybe more on this, maybe not, dunno.
  2. Teaching university students took up much of the first half of the year. And marking. ALL OF THE MARKING IN THE WORLD. I really love teaching and I had some flipping wonderful students. Tomorrow I start teaching on a new module where I get to do practical teaching in a studio alongside the theory stuff- can't wait.
  3. DEAD GRANDPARENT which fucking sucks. I am in my twenties, this is when your grandparents die. My grandmother (the last of the set) died in August and it was horrible. DEMENTIA is the most vile, cruel disease and honestly a big part of me is glad its over. I have also now firsthand experienced how death can turn families crazy. There are homophobic, petty, evangelicals in my family and they used my grandmothers death as an excuse to be deeply cruel, all with the excuse that they 'prayed on it' and so thats alright then. I know wonderful kind, chill, generous and funny christians and I know atheists who are total muppets. So this isn't a all-christians- are-dickheads thing its a I-am-really-sad-at-my-own-families-capacity-for-cruelty thing. Anyway one positive to come out of the situation was at the pub after the funeral (we weren't welcome at the wake) my brother taught me a magic trick and I have been using it CONSTANTLY. Little things.
  4. MENTAL, MENTAL HEALTH. I have been trying really hard to be open about my mental health and talk about it honestly. This is tough because people often think you are lazy or attention seeking, you just feel sorry for yourself and that it is your fault because of crappy lifestyle choices and you are just not working hard enough. This is also a subject that requires a lot of patience from friends/family/colleagues - not everyone can do it. So recently when people have been asking me about my summer I have been telling them that I have been sick which is why I haven't done anything or why they haven't seen me at work. Its easier for people to hear and get their head around - there is no shame in being physically ill. I honestly feel a lot of shame around having a level of depression and anxiety that has stopped me working this summer and stopped me from interacting with people and living a decent quality of life. Which sucks because depression and anxiety are hard enough on their own without piling on a bunch of shame. One day you will be absolutely fine and you will be so proud of yourself for three positive social interactions, a healthy meal and 10 thousand steps. The next day you can't leave your bed and everything is terrifying and you don't understand why this is happening because you are the same girl who has gone travelling on her own and knows how to make a crowd of people laugh with one line.  I share a lot of articles about depression on social media. Its easier than saying "Guys i'm really struggling right now" or trying to explain in your own words why you just missed work again and again and again and oh wait I'm fine today and no, can't come in today. I can't pay my rent this month because I don't get sick pay. I am not looking for sympathy and I do not want you to think I am weak because honestly, I don't think I am weak. It takes 10 times more energy to do the most basic, simple things. So I still have a whole bunch of strength in me, its just right now it is really hard to find. The purpose of this whole blog today was basically a life update. Its on my website where potential funders/employers/colleagues/strangers could see this and make a whole bunch of judgments about my capacity to work and be professional and get shit done. Maybe it isn't such a good idea posting this. But maybe it won't make a difference, or it could even help. People with depression and anxiety are not defective, they just have to work a bit harder. I have been finding the stuff coming from The Blurt Foundation really really helpful and I really recommend you check it out if you are struggling to work out how to interact with someone who has anxiety and depression or if you have the sads yourself.

Essentially I am sick of lying to people and saying I am fine, that I know what I am doing and where I am going. 

Here is my favourite meme of the day to cheer us all up!

What next? Well I'm teaching A LOT this term- this takes up much time. What else? The Daddy Blues needs its evaluation doing and I need to decide whether to tour it, or put it to bed. I am toying with doing a PhD, I have a couple of offers from last year, now I have to decide whether I actually go down that route next year. I also have an idea for a new show. I think its really awesome, I just don't know whether to pursue it! The older I get I swear the LESS I HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER! I am going to stop here, I know the spelling and grammar on this is all over the place- soz.

Pulled it off!

It was a while ago now- the work in progress showings were in July and then I ran away to Vancouver for some training and then I started teaching at the uni and the next thing I know is its December 23rd. 

 Me saying something really meaningful.

Me saying something really meaningful.

Observation. I did two shows in quick succession, the first was packed and the energy was electric- every joke landed and then some- honestly it felt like stand up. But the down-beat stuff didn't quite punch people in the feels as I would have hoped. The second crowd was much smaller, weirdly spread out, sedate and included my dad. Which was TOUGH, it felt, well the only way to put it is raw. Jokes didn't make people BARK and I have never felt so vulnerable or exposed in my life. I really can't explain how odd it was because there was a kindness in the room, people wanted me to do well, and most (!) enjoyed it..... but yeah, this taught me a lot very quickly about how a crowd can totally dictate a performance, not just it's energy but even what stuff MEANS- an aside joke to one lot might translate to something dark or cutting to another.... BLIMEY. 

But I pulled it off, and in a humble-brag sort of way I'm pretty proud of myself. A long time ago I got a piece of audience feedback that I wasn't supposed to see:

"I just felt really embarrassed for her."

But this time the audience response was overwhelmingly positive and what was even better was the GOLD people put in their feedback forms all of which will go towards the second phase where I re-write and finish the thing. Fingers crossed it gets funded! I'm going to leave the audience feedback below for posterity- I think it's kinda interesting! 

The only other thing that needs to be said is that the Gulbenkian staff were so lovely and supportive I can't imagine a better venue to start this journey with. And then there is Daisy Orton and Faith Austin who are FUCKING SUPERSTARS- I'm a rubbish solo artist because I can't do things on my own (don't even-let's just not go there) and these two were there helping me make it, deliver it, cheering me on, feeding me caffeine and hugs and making the whole thing possible. I love these beautiful women and as long as they are not working with me, you should be working with them. 

Anyway- here for posterity is all the gold-dust:

Collated Audience feedback from work in progress showings of The Daddy Blues at The Gulbenkian Theatre

 

What did you find interesting about the show?

● The premise of inventing a new dad.

● Clearly a deeply personal issue that's taken a lot of courage to write about

● Addresses the issues of life in a fun, informative way.

● I found it original and interesting as I’ve never watched or heard anything like it.

● Moving, honest, very brave.

● Use of the equipment­ it was almost like another actor

● Really enjoyed the use of media and loved the music.

● Audience interaction­ fast pace

● Loved the ‘code’­ needed more introduction perhaps?

● Really well developed use of technology­ works well in conjunction with performance

● Not seeing the FF adds to the dark, self deprecating comedy and was a good decision

● I liked the story and how it connected with Phoebe’s real life

● I liked the way the AV stuff mixes with the rest of the story

● I like the anti climax

● I loved the surrealer segments­ lipsync and coding

What deserved further attention?

● The technology was a bit self­conscious­ either use less or have someone do the tech

● Yentl lipsync was too long. I hoped the eulogy would have revealed more about the dad and taken us from humour to thoughtfulness­ That feels like that still could be the perfect mechanism to take us from knowing laughter to nervous giggles to actual emotional response­ anger? sorrow? through to some sort of resolution.

● Showbiz dad references worked well but only because I recognised them­ will all of your audience members?

● Loved the montage effect of multiple ideas and actually think it would be a shame to smooth this over.

● The miming was slightly out of sync but still entertaining and hilarious.

● Hated Yentl (and i’m a member of the Barbra Streisand PenPal Association­no really) ­ too long.

● Ending ­ a bit abrupt­ more lead in.

● Definitely relatable ­ I have a bad dad ­ maybe ask for others experiences? Although this does run the risk of abuse stories

● Room for heignteing of jokes

● Heightened lip­sync ­ props? dance?

● Use windows XP error noise?

Does it raise any questions for you?

● Yes: re personal vs fictitious material­ maybe in the interests of drama, the stakes might be higher­ we didn’t know why the real dad was ‘bad’ Was he that bad?

● It’s a powerful metaphor, and being a member of the Bad Dads Club has made me consider my relationship with my dad.............The prospect of putting all your hopes and designs on a perfect dad into something that is inevitably doomed as frankenfather namesake creation is quite tragic.

● I think it does raise lots of questions and is very interesting

● I haven’t made up my mind on whether it should end as it did. It is succinct and left me empty­ which may have been the point.

● Made me think about my own father N.B lots of people said this

● Most of the questions I have relate to things I wonder about with my own family, and I appreciate theatre which makes me think!

● Definitely got me thinking about what i'd like my dad to be

Do you want to hear more or less of Phoebe’s personal story?

● Less­ the personal story is the starting point for creating theatre­ the material doesn’t have to be factually true. But more story please.

● Wanted MUCH more of Phoebe’s personal story­ why was she looking for a better dad, what made her dad ‘bad’?

Short glimpse we got via the audience ­ read scene didn’t sound too bad to me.

● Love to hear more of her story.

● Personal story was really important

● More of Phoebe’s story, the coat anecdote was very telling.

● Exploring the tastes, sights and sounds of your past more might be a good road to go down, like with creating a body (going through all the body parts one by one)

● More of Phoebe’s personal story­ enjoyed the script reading and sharing of his voice­ a sense of him giving permission. This took the heaviness out of it (along with the use of humour)

● A bit more of the personal story would have enhance it further.

● I wanted to hear more of Phoebe’s personal story­ little more info on the bad dad

● Would be fantastic to hear more of Phoebe’s personal story

● More personal story­ it gives a deeped interest in the story told and adds a real sense of feeling and truthfulness to the performance

● I like the amount of your story we heard ­ little flickers of hurt and damage done without it becoming uncomfortable/indulgent/therapy

Do you want to see the Frankenfather?

● Don’t want to see FF, better in my imagination

● I didnt want to see the Frankenfather

● No­ I liked him being hidden. On idea with a voice­ clever idea of voice and character. Whether naturalistc or not add clearer idea of D speaking and why.

● I don’t think its necassary to see the Frankenfather

● Didn’t want to see the Frankenfather it was obvious from the start that he wouldn’t actually be revealed, but that was fine.

● No! I didn’t want it to be a moment of comedy

● I want to see the frankenfather­ unconditional love

● Definitly want to see the FF but maybe that means you shouldn’t show it. Everyone wants to see it but hiding it makes more interesting questions for an audience.

● I don’t want to see the FF

● Yes I want to see the FF, the ideal physical representation would be very interesting to see

What do you think the next, more developed incarnation of the show might look like?

● Frankenfather to wake up and ‘I love you’ then ‘error’

● Potentially more audience interaction

● I would really like to see a full length choreographed dance number

● Would be fantastic to see the ideas behind what makes a bad dad evolve

● I really loved the Frankenstein framing of the piece and I think this could be taken further. It would be interesting to see how your relationship to the subject matter could change when you become a ‘father’ yourself.

● A more developed show would have more humour, a chorus line of of dancers in sequined leotards and feather headdresses as backing for the Bette Midler lip­syncing section.

● Perhaps elements of Phoebe’s personal father experience could be integrated into the building of Frankenfather

● More questions ‘suggested’ to the audience could provide a basis for personal reflection and allow them to draw more from the experience

● More of a reaction (or some sort of epiphany) may create a more rounded ending?

Anything else?

● Lots of potential.

● I found you just jumped from one thing to another without answering all my questions.

● I was confused whether it was a play in which you were asking rhetorical questions or whether it was more of a conversation play­ Although I’m 13 so it may make more sense to adults.

● Like the Yentl mime

● Excellent tribute speech

● The error ending worked well.

● Liked techno mix and as more rehearsed, I think that will work really well.

● Personal delivery style was great.

● Brave and Bold

● Hard to watch as a parent, would be interesting to know if parents react differently to those with children, possible

younger people?

● Keep going, I think there's an exciting performance on the horizon

● Loved the lipsync

● I wonder how you really feel about your father (and if we knew how this would help?

● Great comedy­ clever and personal

● Dramatic pauses added suspense and allowed elements of personal reflection

● More academically presented, this could make for an excellent Ted Talk

● The show was captivating with the mix of humour, visuals and the tug of the heartstrings.

● How has having a ‘bad dad’ informed your character/person? Do you think that you are the person you are because you had to deal with a difficult parent as a child? Isn’t this important too? How do your siblings feel?

Modern Dads and Why I'm a Rubbish Feminist

So I have been spending a lot of time on the web there are lots of pictures and videos of what the internet is calling 'modern fatherhood' or the 'modern dad'. A lot of it is inherently positive and I think it’s ace; stay at home dads, men taking an active role in the parenting of their children, this is obviously a good thing. And of course we have to bare in mind that I am not a parent (though I really look forward to my own Von Trap Family Singers, we’ll storm Carnegie Hall) and so everything that is coming out of my neurotic caffeine addled brain is just thoughts and ideas, nothing I would want to sew into a tea towel or tattoo on my thigh… but this is what I’m thinking about right now so I will continue and then cast it out into the internet.

They show hunky young men with babies in those baby holder things that look like shawls, or men in uniform having tea with their little girls dressed like princesses, or having their nails painted, or with their sons, playing boisterously, sat on small tricycles or covered in heaps of children in the park. These men are pictured doing things that traditionally a mother might do, or simply just doing feminine activities, like, to be a modern dad means actively questioning traditional ideas around masculinity. Alongside this is the idea of them being not only present but actively engaged, playing with the child, being silly and literally getting down on their level.

There are three things here it seems that makes up a celebrated, viral modern dad.

1. They are there. They are applauded for being in the child's life, coming home after work, playing with the child, or even just making the decision to parent the child in the first place.

My initial reaction was: “I think that is fucking ridiculous.” As in, surely it should be a given, it really bugged me. But perhaps I’m being unfair, perhaps because there are so many examples of single mothers, people being raised without present fathers, men conceiving children and legging it. It happens. Women do this too, don’t bother with the flames. But anyway, I’m having a really tough time with this one, there is also something niggling about how a father fundamentally cannot be everything, teach a child everything, be friend, counsellor, disciplinarian, ski instructor and sous chef. This guy probably has some other stuff going on in his life too, can he dedicate his everything, his all to raising his kid?

2. They play. They aren't sat in the corner with the paper and a pipe or watching TV. They are spending their spare time playing with their kids. Lego, sports, video games, dress up, vlogging.

I'm ok with that…. but there is something I want to address later on when I have finished writing up my notes with someone I met the other day who had a few good points on this, something about kidulthood, something about extended adolescence…

3. They reject traditional ideas around masculinity, embracing feminine activities, which could mean tea parties and nail painting, or it could mean, and this is confusing, being openly and publicly loving to or about their child e.g "dads aren't afraid to say 'I love you'". They boast about their kids, share the things they do with them on social media and generally make a fuss about being a dad.

One thing on this. These subversive behaviours and activities (the tea parties and nail painting) often tend to be restricted to fathers and daughters. There isn't so much of this behaviour with the boys, the boys get the rough and tumble playing. But their fathers seem to have more of a focus on being a strong male role model, and a fairly traditional one at that? There is a difference between male/female and masculine/feminine AND, this is probs pretty key here; children often tend to lead play (another thought from my new friend I will blog about next). So, perhaps if you asked these dads in tiaras if they would be up for a Frozen marathon with their sons they would be all for it, but maybe on the whole it just isn’t called for? I don’t know, I think the web can be massively reductive; there are good guys, bad guys and weird guys and not much scope for grey areas in your typical buzzfeed article. So perhaps my surfing only gets me so far. I know that I pull an idea out of the ether, put it to a real life person and 9 times out of 10 they are able to rationally challenge it. Which can only be a good thing.

 I totally nicked this image from  this  website.

I totally nicked this image from this website.

Obviously this is just off the back of what I have found on the web. But here is another thought which I am chewing on. I found myself mocking these modern fathers. I think challenging gender stereotypes is a good thing, but why was my initial reaction that of perplexed amusement?

I realised that my own ideal dad, is actually, it turns out, something out of the 1950's. He is a bird-watching beard-touting reliable old sod who is staunchly proud and protective of his little girl. He is the father my own mother had, demanding chaperones for town bops and chasing the kids round the house with a belt. I am fully embracing an ideal where I am essentially the property of this man until it is time to be given away to another but not before a father daughter dance. And I mean WTF!? I am a proud feminist so why am I attracted to such an arcane trope? The best I can offer is that we tend to want what we didn’t have. I am comfortable in my feminism and have courage enough to admit that is flawed my by own context and I clearly have some shit to work on. I know that I don’t have the kind of father that my mother had and in this show I am going to try and make a new one. I think part of the fun of it is playing with these archetypes; picking and choosing from all these traits whacking them in a blender and seeing what comes out.

In the meantime the interviews are coming to an end, but I have more time scheduled with my own father, some studio time and I have a guitar. I have this idea which involves a guitar and I think I have bitten off more than I can chew.

 

Rites of Passage

OK, so it's about a week on and things are going well. It's mostly been admin; getting dates in the diary, planning things etc. These dates are for exciting things like interviews and workshops. So watch this space. Alongside this I am writing, what is odd for me is that everything I'm writing at the moment is really. serious. Which is not like me. I fall back on humour for absolutely everything, yet with this, it's just not happening. The show I am currently writing is not one I would necessarily want to go to, which is kind of awkward because I have to be there. I'm sure it will work itself out. Anyway I wanted to share something I wrote the other day about rites of passage, i've been thinking about it a lot; mainly within the context of young men but I naturally come back to myself. I don't know if this will make the final thing. But here it is.

There comes a certain point in your life as a young woman when the men who knew you growing up decide you are officially old enough to flirt with.

If god has any mercy he will wait till you are in your mid twenties where you can recognise and handle this kind of attention.

Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Your mother will look on sympathetically, she will view the proceedings in full understanding of what is taking place. The glance, the wink, the lean in. The musk of red wine and fruit cake with delicate undertones of communion wafer.
She will see the terrified grin frozen on your face, unable to smile politely and unwilling to frown because he is a kindly old gentlemen whose labrador you were so fond of growing up. Your mother will not say a word, because this is the rite of passage of all young women. She undeniably empathises, in fact she is probably being transported herself to an office somewhere without air conditioning, a desk, papers…

As her mother went before her it is our lot, he’s harmless, just having a little joke and look! He’s treating you like an adult. How you have grown.

The problem is, aside from the obvious. Is it’s not like someone swaps the massive sign around your neck that says CHILD to YOUNG WOMAN or FINE BIT OF FILLY therefore informing absolutely everyone at the same time of your change in status. If this were the case you could get all the lurid jokes and winks done in one fell swoop, invite every adult man who ever knew you to a party where you stand on a table and let them all ceremoniously circle wank around you. Mazletov! as your tearful parents shower you in tampons and copies of Cosmo.

No, unfortunately this awakening will take place as an individual event for each of these uncles, pastors, teachers, employers and friends of parents. This is a practical constraint purely to the fact that my family doesn’t send out christmas emails, you know the kind americans do where people brag to distant cousins about how happy, successful and thin their children are. It would have been so simple “In other news our oldest Phoebe has sprouted in her nether regions and now owns her first mascara." It’s open season now chaps, let’s all welcome her into the real world with a smack on the arse and the promise of a boozy, lingering kiss this christmas.

 

Here we go...

So I’ve been given some funding to make a show, and I thought it might be good to talk about it a little. I will try and keep updating this blog, but if not I will probably be chatting about it on Twitter.

Arts Council England are kindly supporting the research and development of a project I am currently calling:

Papa Can You Hear Me?

Apparently this reminds people of Madonna, which I’m down with. It’s actually a reference to the song Barbara Streisand sings in Yentl.

I have to be honest when I say I wouldn’t mind finding a new name, but right now I can’t think of anything better. Answers on a postcard.

Anyway, this R&D is a period of research, interviews, consultation and writing for a touring bit of theatre about one woman’s attempt to build herself a brand new dad using digital technologies, pop culture and the web.

 Image developed by Pheebs & RWig

Image developed by Pheebs & RWig

I am the one woman.

So I am going to interview stakeholders (dads, teachers, charity workers, magistrates, children etc.) workshop the shows themes with young people (we are going to make monsters) and write the thing. I will also spend some time in a studio putting it on its feet, all of this activity will culminate with a work in progress showing. The idea then is to apply again to ACE to give the show a team of creatives, an accompanying website where audiences can create their own father online and of course tour the fuck out of it.

Who is involved?

 

Well ACE obviously, I am chuffed about that. The Gulbenkian theatre in Canterbury, they are the partner venue on the project, it’ll be their youth theatre I work with and they will host the work in progress. Daisy Orton is my horse whisperer. Officially director/dramaturg she is working with me to turn the thing into a proper show, she is really good at what she does and you should work with her too. Surface Impression will make the website and do general digital consultation, they are proper fancy and working with them also means I get a few day trips to Brighton. Right now that’s about it.

A bit of context.

 

I live on the web. It is my oracle of first resort and I am not alone. It teaches me how to make paneer and contour off 3 pounds. It gets me to the large London theatre I pretended to have been to plenty of times. It sends me kawaii-post-it-notes and you-ok-babes. It cheers me up and it gets me off. I keep friendships there and if I go looking I will always find someone to tell me I am special and loved. So why not use it to make a male-role-model? A Brand New Dad or as I’m calling him right now, my Franken-Father. Because this thing is currently a bit of an ode to Frankenstein. More on that later.

Try as I might I have to concede that this show is indeed inspired by my own experience. But if it’s any consolation this could easily be yours instead of mine, because we have a lot in common, you and I. If there is anything my research is telling me, it’s that questionable fathering is universal, it spans class, race, gender etc. And everyone has an opinion. I am not seeking to answer any of the massive complex questions around this topic, I’m just exploring a little, nudging a bit, and in my own way carrying out an experiment where if it were possible to build my own franken-father from scratch- what would he be like? Look like? Sound like? I could talk in more depth about this, but honestly, I want to hold some stuff back for future blogs.

Yes my dad knows about this, we talk most weeks and we are talking about this. Again, more on this later.

 

Do you want to keep reading? Or come to the show? Or even be involved? I’m not a very good solo artist, I need constant interaction with people and the odd pat on the head. But if you have a question or thought or opinion I really want to hear from you. So tweet or email.

And if you want updates here is a mailing list, I hate them myself so I am going to try and include unrelated fun things in any emails in order to placate the guilt of my shameless marketing activities.  

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