26 December 2004

Final treats update

"It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane." Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693

In five days we begin the Time of Privation. It used to be that in Europe Lent was a time of sacrifice, a time of eating little and of penance, a time of forswearing treats and indulgence, and repenting the indulging of the recent past. Well, we're rationalist people these days and while some of us still have Lent give-ups (I usually do), we don't do the full on (reverb on) Time of Privation -tion - tion (reverb off).

Nope, 'cause we have January for that now. We have the "Yes, I can step on the scale, but I'm not woman enough to look down and see the number." We have New Year's Resolutions to lose weight and save money. (Ha and - again - ha.) We have the horrible knowledge that although it is cold and dark now, spring will come again, followed inevitably by summer. Yep. Sumer is icumen in. So on the day after my birthday, we have no more treats! None! Drink champagne, eat canapes, flirt like crazy, count backwards, and get it out of your system because as soon as you wake up and swallow a couple of aspirin, the diet begins. Sigh.

But until that happens, we've got 120 hours of treat-eatin' goodness to explore. On our last work day of 2004 (December 23), we had the last of the fudge Jill made, a box of Poppycock, yummy peanuts, and more cookies. (Poppycock is like Crackerjacks with a different name.)

And today David and I were at my Dad's. Audrey made Yorkshire pudding and mincemeat pie. Normally, I can take or leave mincemeat, but she picked this up in (the mincemeat, not the whole pie) Pennsylvania and it was very, very good. And I love Yorkshire pudding, which isn't pudding in the sense we Americans usually use. Yorkshire pudding is (more or less), popover batter cooked in a hot oven with roast drippings. Make the popover batter and before you put it into the muffin tins (or square brownie pan), spoon in a bit of the hot grease. The batter poofs way up and the result is a slightly greasy, but truly marvelous, light, airy bread. Both Audrey and Mom make it, although not very often, and I love it.

I probably won't post again until the Time of Privation, so Happy New Year to one and all. I hope the holiday treats you right. ├ůssume that if I were to see you at midnight, I'd give you a kiss for the New Year - and I'll see you on the other side.


PS - Happy Hogmanay to Derrick and Paul, strange and dark-haired men......

22 December 2004

Treats Update II

Jill brought in homemade fudge and homemade oatmeal caramel treats. Jill rules.

I'm hoping to start a campaign for a bake-off between Jill and Debbie (Bronson's wife). After all, everyone wins as the competition gets hotter and hotter.

And Bob, our CEO, received a tower of boxes of treats and the cookies came to the front desk.

Deck the halls and shoot out the speakers

Hearing Christmas music at the malls - sometimes before Halloween - brings out the Grinch in me. I love the holiday but I hate the pressure to buy, buy, buy. Of course, like everyone, there are some holiday songs I like more and some I detest more. Here's a short list, in no particular order:

I like and will turn way up and sing with loudly:

Carol of the Bells. The real one. For SATB choir or just bells. I learned it in high school and rarely get to hear it, so I never get tired of it.

Do They Know It's Christmas. The real share-with-the-less-fortunate spirit of Christmas (even if it's being preached at me by wealthy rock stars). Linus would approve and so do I.

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.

Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful. There's a descant. I'm a soprano.

All I Want for Christmas is You. As I said, the only Mariah Carey song I like.

Let It Snow. Which, due to the weather patterns in the DC area should really be a Valentine's Day song. We have a brown Christmas year after year.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays. Or any holiday song sung by Karen Carpenter. A warm, sweet, lovely voice and her interpretations always put the song first.

The Little Drummer Boy. But only the Bing Crosy/David Bowie version. I hate all the rest, which are twee and horrible (as is the song). But Bing and Bowie have this beautiful blend to their voices, so it sounds lovely, and after all these years of hearing it, I'm can still amuse myself by considering the meeting where some very, very drunk record exec suggested teaming Mr. Republican Golfer and Ziggy Stardust.

Jazz editions of carols by great singers like Diana Krall, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.


I don't like and will change the station if it I hear:

The Little Drummer Boy. Unless it's done by Bing and Bowie.

Oh, Holy Night. Oh, wretched excuse for sopranos to overemote. But to be fair, any singer can make Oh, Holy Night into an awful experience. And most do. Fall on your knees and cover your ears.

Any holiday song sung by Celine Dion or Barbra Streisand. "It's not about the holiday! It's about me!" I find that people are generally either Karen Carpenter fans or Celine/Barbra fans. I'm completely in the Karen camp.

Pops stars ruining otherwise nice music. Carols whined by Avril Levigne and her ilk. Be joyous, be thoughtful, be silly, but dammit, don't be sullen. I recently heard Stevie Nicks do bad things to Silent Night. Why, oh why, is this country debating a ban on gay marriage when humanity would be so much better served by passing laws that prevent this kind of horror?

But let's keep things in perspective. On December 26th, they disappear without a trace. Until next year.




21 December 2004

What goes up

I mentioned that our engineers take engineer jokes with pretty good grace. Well, today Don found himself stuck in the elevator. After 40 minutes or so, one of the Security Guards suggested that Don make sure that the inner doors were completely closed. When Amy (an engineer) heard this, she mentioned that she didn't realize that elevators had inner doors and why would they? So I explained that if they didn't, once the elevator left the 8th floor, there'd be a big, gaping hole in the wall and every day we'd loose several engineers down the elevator shaft.

No howls of protest. No suggestions that I'd been unfair to the engineering staff. Nope. She just nodded and agreed. We have a pretty cool engineering staff.

(We also have a decent supply of stories about Don from his Westinghouse days. He is a great example of the absent-minded engineer and everyone who knows him from the old days insists that the story about Don dumping his coffee down his shift front when someone asked him the time is completely true.)


Treats update

No, no, not like in the last post. Office Holiday Treats.

Ann is a member of our senior engineering staff. Every year she bakes homemade cookies for the support staff. So, even though I haven't directly supported her for a couple of years now (I'm on a different floor), I got a pretty gift bag with lovely, crispy, homebaked gingerbread men and with Hershey's kisses.

And yesterday Bronson came in with the sticky and spiffy and colorful Rice Krispies Treats his wife makes. We're all big fans of Bronson's wife's cooking around here.

Yummmmmm.

This just in

EEEEEEEE-yuck!

As Janeane Garofalo says in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, "We can love our pets, we just can't LOVE our pets."

I wish this was a joke story - and I'm sure it'll show up on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me - but enough actual news outlets covered it that I'm afraid it may be true. Never saw such unanimity on a piece of news in all my life (to paraphrase).

You know, I've been to New Zealand - twice - and never saw anything like this. On the plus side, I think Ms. Tumanako has really raised the bar in terms of discomfiting people by breastfeeding. I can't even think of this story without crossing my arms in front of my chest and going "eeeeeewwwwww."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200411/s1246004.htm

Ick, ick, ick.

20 December 2004

And ... uhmmm....

Just to clarify, by the way, that in Jim's and my disagreement there is always the possibility that he is completely right and that I am completely wrong. (Probably both us were a bit of both, but that's not the point.) Really and truly the only thing on my mind was "how pathetic is it of me to get - and stay - that cranked about an issue which at the end of the day won't cost us in blood or treasure?"

I just need to lighten up a little.

(PS - Thank you, Casey!! Two of my parents are Librans. I am a Capricorn.)

Letting go

I wish that I could say that I am one of those people who put things behind them the minute they are over. Arguments, insults, praise, etc. My Dad is. But I'm not. I dwell in the past and I have some trouble letting go of things that bug me. Like the children Fran Leibowitz knows, I can go one and on about something long after your interest has waned.

As an example: I had a disagreement on Saturday with a fellow cast member. A bunch of us were at lunch and Jim brought up his belief that the peer review for community theater program in which I am very active is rigged. He believes - and states strongly - that when the votes are tallied, any show which isn't chosen by the powers that be won't win. Unfortunately for Jim (and for - sigh - everyone else at lunch) I hear over and over variations on that argument from folks who didn't win a particular award. Jim was the first to suggest intentional fraud rather than simple bias, but it's still a touchy subject with me, which he doesn't know me well enough to know.

(For the record, my company, Silver Spring Stage has, in the four years in which it has participated in WATCH, recieved 10 nominations and no awards. If anyone should be allowed to claim bias, it's me. And I don't.)

I won't go into the whole thing, but it's enough to say that a can of worms was opened. His arguments got more stident and my tone got frostier (and, most likely, more strident, too. I can do strident.) until we were the only ones talking and the others looked as though they wished they were somewhere else. So we agreed to disagree and let it go. We even did the "no hard feelings" hug/kiss.

But.

Sunday morning when I woke up, I was still marshalling arguments. In other words, even with no Jim present, I was still carrying on the discussion. I literally woke up framing rebuttals. And kept doing it randomly during the day. I think I'm done now. I'm pretty sure I am. But I wish I could be the sort of person who lets go right away instead of keeping my basket so full.

Baby, it's cold outside

And inside, too.

My condo is on the ground floor, on the cement slab foundation and when the temperature drops, it drops like brick in my place. Cold radiates up from the "cheapest we could find in bulk" padding and carpets (one day I will replace them. I will replace them with padding so thick that people will believe that I have 5-foot ceilings. Maybe 4-foot.) and whistles in and rattles past (literally) the "I don't have to live there, so I don't care" windows. David, God bless him, gave me a little black space heater that a. works and b. is quiet. I think I love it more than many members of my family. It's set in the hall and it points into my bedroom, thus warming the hallway, the bedroom, and (kind of) the bathrooms by several degrees.

On the other hand, I hate the heat pump. Not mine specifically, just heat pumps in general. The idea behind a heat pump is that there is always some warmth to be found in the air, so the heat pump finds that warmth and pumps it into the house. Yes. There is some warmth to be found. But it's to be found in, like, parts per billion, which is not enough to keep my fingers and feet from stiffening up. Anywhere north of South Carolina, heat pumps blow cold air. And if you want to live a. in Maryland and b. in a home that doesn't feel like a meat locker, you can opt for whatever they call it: accessory heat or additional heat. I call it "Oh, I didn't need groceries this month" heat. And it doesn't feel warm anyway!! The wretched heat pump makes me feel like a minor character from a Dickens novel.

So I got up this morning and it's about 8 degrees outside. 8! And that's in Fahrenheit! (Do I want to know the temperature in Celsius? No! Any temperature with a minus sign in front of it feels even colder.) The condo is reasonably temperate (thank you again, David!), but I was dreading going outside. Especially (and this is my own fault, I agree) as I don't normally wear my coat to and from the car. I hate driving while feel like I wearing a straight jacket, so I just throw the coat into the back seat and sprint from house to car and from car to destination. And if I put the coat on when I got to the car I would be even colder because the coat had all night in the unheated car to really chill. So I knew I'd be sprinting to the car, jumping in, and driving the first several blocks while using the sleeves of my sweater as pseudo driving gloves.

Hey! Guess whose car locks were frozen this morning! It had warmed up to 9 or 10 degrees (it's now 20 according to weather.com) by the time I left for work and I was able to convince the door to open within only 2 or 3 minutes, but they were a long 2 or 3 minutes and I was sort of regreting my outerwear policy.

Enough stuff had a delayed opening today that I was able to get to work in 25 minutes - not quite enough time, as it turned out, for the windows to unfreeze. I nearly had to get out of the car to put the garage card into the card reader. But I managed to get the window down (and back up, thank goodness) and got into the garage.

So naturally the timer on the furnace at our building wasn't set to come on until 6:00, so at 8:25 it was 60 degrees in here. Yes, technically, that is a temperature at which humans can function, but it's cold. Tanya hasn't taken her coat off yet and coffee/hot chocolate consumption is at a record level. Laura, my boss, gave me a lovely pair of slipper socks for Christmas - and with excellent timing she had brought our gifts into give us today - and I'm considering wearing mine instead of my shoes. It's warmed up to 64, so I'm still thinking of reasons to go hang out near the copier, which is warm. Later today we may organize a bon fire of all the paper here. After they're gone, we're emptying out and burning the contents of the safes.

17 December 2004

Dude. Update.

So I sent Trevor an e-mail with the title of this post as the subject line and I said:

"Real men, men strong in their libertarian republican views, update their blogs more than once every quarter."

And young Trevor replied:

"Okay, okay. Look, I have a final to study for, I've had visits from John, the company Saturnalia last weekend, etcetera. I'm trying to find the time. Really.

Any more griping from you and my next post will be a self-portrait photo spread - the Trevor Winter Swimsuit Spectacular. And you know I own a digital camera."

He cracks me up.

I am getting sleepy ..... very sleepy.....

Today was the in-house office holiday party with honey baked hams and glazed turkey breasts and yummy side dishes that folks brought in. I'm very, very full. It's like Thanksgiving afternoon around here, except that after Thanksgiving dinner we sprawl around and watch tv and hang out, we don't pretend to work. Or in my case, as the Annual Report is in the offing, actually work. I'll file a full report on that later.

But in the mean time I'm fighting the deadly combination of a food-induced coma and the results of getting to bed too late for the last several weeks running. Here's a precis of my schedule for the past several weeks:

Monday. Get up all lark-like at 7:30 and head out to work. Work 8:30 - 5:00 with a cheery disposition and a reasonable amount of focus. Head off to rehearsal. Rehearse 7:30 - 10 or 10:30. Home by 11:30. Pet cat, open mail, futz around, check e-mail and blogs, read in bed for a bit. Fall asleep by 1:00 or so.

Tuesday - Thursday. Lather - rinse - repeat. Only a lot less lark-like.

Friday. Do something with David. Tonight we're seeing Closer.

Saturday. Rehearsal from 10-4. Sit in a theater in the evening. Tomorrow I'm seeing A Christmas Carol with Gaye.

Sunday. Collapse. Cram one week of household chores into one afternoon. Get a decent night's sleep.

My office in Silver Spring is 24 miles from the rehearsal hall in Shirlington, but I use the beltway to get there. Lately it has been so thoughly backed up that - and I am not making this up - I can put the car in neutral and coast from Old Georgetown Road to the George Washington Parkway. It takes 90 minues to go those 24 miles and 30 of those minutes are the 2.5 miles from the 270 spur to the Parkway. Why, yes, that does mean that my overall average speed is 16 mph. Imagine my joy.

Fortunately, I am a very non-agressive driver who is willing to let others in and can happily listen to NPR or music and remain mostly calm. Especially now that I've burned the most recent mix CD and I can playtest it. So no road rage in my car. But considering how underslept I am, road napping is becoming frighteningly possible. It's not an issue on the way home because I'm all jazzed from rehearsal and I can zip along at 65 (or 70, yeah, sometimes) instead of 8 mph.

And of course, the real problem is that I'm jazzed enough by the time I get home that I can't just fall into bed at 11:28 and nod off. Hence the puttering activities described above. But I'm starting to notice the toll this is taking on me. I'm not moody and short-tempered, but I'm losing focus and getting forgetful. I need a good night's sleep. Actually I need several in a row.

Our office is closed from Christmas Eve to January 3 and we're rehearsal-free, so I may spend large chunks of that time unconscious.

I'm only saying this once. Or twice. Three at the most.

My friends - those loyal, kind, good-hearted, wonderful people by whom I am so put upon!!! - tease me about repeating my stories a lot. They are delusional, of course. Why would I tell people an anecdote they'd already heard? Don't be silly.

Well, I feel totally vindicated. Because recently I've done shows with not one but two people who have told me several stories multiple times in a very short period of time. Michael told me several stories - and in the same order even - this past Saturday and again last night. Ted's repetitions aren't so close together but over time he gets more of them in.

So don't be telling me I repeat myself. Hmphf.

14 December 2004

Never miss the office Holiday Party

Not the one at the office, the one during the day, which is the office Holiday Lunch. Of course, it's always fun to have potluck lunch with co-workers (at least if you are as blessed with pleasant and rather geeky co-workers as well as funny and very cool co-workers as I am.) No, I mean the Office Holiday Party at a Hotel And We Dress Up and Look Fabulous and There's an Open Bar and Door Prizes. That party.

Last year we were at McCormick and Schmick, which has very good food, but we'd outgrown them and it's less fun if you are calculating how much oxygen is left in the room per person. So this year we went to the Bethesda Hyatt which had food that wasn't quite as stellar but much more elbow room and a dance floor.

I also don't dance much because the sight of me dancing can scar innocent bystanders. As it turns out, David rather likes to dance, so we danced a slow dance and a dancy-dance, which is about two more than I usually dance. And I enjoyed it.

My first year working for the company I danced with Dan. He's one of our engineers and a nice guy, but more engineery than most. He also likes to dance. He's pretty decent at it and is always looking for partners, so I noticed the dance floor with some trepidation. Fortunately, he found others to dance with, so no problem.

And I danced a slow dance with Trevor because, dammit, Trevor needs to do this sort of thing. It's good for him. He reluctantly agreed to slow dance with me and then lit several candles to the "No-more-slow-dance gods," but I got around that by going up to the DJ and requesting a slow dance. Trevor looked both startled and appalled the whole way through, but he lived through it. And he's a better person for it.

I don't drink much at these affairs because, all reports to the contrary, I'm not a total idiot. Which means that I can believe the evidence of my own two eyes and I can remember what happened.

So I had wandered away from the dance floor because I thought I'd lost my keys and was going to check under my seat at the table when I heard someone say "John and Joe are dancing together!" Quick like a bunny - even in my Bob Mackie heels - I got myself back to the dance floor viewing area because John and Joe are both pretty reserved, fairly conservative individuals. In fact, Joe is part of a very small office Bible study group. So I knew I didn't want to miss this.

They were actually pretty darn good. The did a Lindy Hop or Jitterbug or something similar. Something with some swing. Not as flashy as the Lindy Hops I saw in New Zealand, but well worth watching on its own merits. There was a little competition over which of them was going to lead, of course, but even so......Oh, for a video camera.

David was impressed with the diversity of our company until he learned that John and Joe are actually brothers and that they learned to dance at an all boys Catholic school. None the less, the next time I spend more than two seconds with either one of them, I'm going to remember the Holiday Party and be very, very glad I went. In years to come, those who were not there will rue the day. We band of brothers, indeed.

Dining on the Company Dime

Yesterday's meeting got carried over to today, so more pickles and olives for me! With a roast beef and pastrami sammich, naturally. And our office supply guy dropped off two tins of homemade M&M and chocolate chip cookies (Really homemade. By his wife homemade. With ingredients.). And there was leftover yoghurt from yesterday's meeting for breakfast. Not to mention the Nantucket Nectars cranberry juice. I love it here. And no wonder I don't wear a size small.

And as luck would have it, our good looking and very nice UPS guy stopped into today. He'd noticed the absence of Christmas cookies the last time he brought us large, heavy packages and well, we want to get our packages. And he really is nice. So he got some cookies and we can rejoice in the knowledge that we will continue to receive our Amazon.com and QVC boxes. (I am amazed at how many of the staff here are QVC shoppers. We get a box from them, I'd say, 3 days out of 5.)

Too bad the meeting is over - no late afternoon cookie tray. Oh well.

13 December 2004

A critic takes a meeting

Andrew is one of the folks I know through Savoynet, the Gilbert and Sullivan e-mail discussion list. He forwarded an article to the list from Sunday's Observer where he got to fight the good fight for G&S. In Andrew's own words:

Precis: this is Anthony Holden's review of the new ENO Pirates --which he saw in my company. This came about as a result of his last G&S review, which was--like all his G&S reviews--especially vitriolic against our heroes. He got a good deal of adverse reaction, from his friends and also from me; so he decided to invite me down to London and try and convince him of the error of his ways. I don't think I succeeded, but he was good company and I think the present review is a) pretty fair-minded to G&S, and b) very flattering to me!

Good on ya, Andrew!

Why I read theater reviews

Sometimes the theater reviews are the best reading of my day. This review of A Christmas Carol is from the Gainesville Times, written by Valerie Walker and posted by Jay to a local theater list.

Three times during his Marley appearance, [Jay] screams like a banshee, throwing back his head and raising his arms. It is the kind of specter that is unavoidably haunting but, at the same time, oddly humorous. Here is a formidable-sized man wearing chains and a blond wig (meant to look like a dead man's hair), shrieking. There's something a little Metallica about the moment.


Olives - and Pickles!!

I didn't used to like olives. No big deal, just didn't like them. Not on pizza, not in salads, nor drinks. I had a "no olives, no thank you" policy. But times change and tastes change. What changed my taste for olives was a production of Blithe Spirit I did. In the first scene, the Bradmans have been invited to dinner at the Condomines' house and we're sitting there swilling Martinis and making small talk. (I was playing Violet Bradman.) Our Martinis were Martini glasses filled with water with an olive dropped in (of course, because very, very few theater companies are silly enough to let actors drink real booze on stage).

Anyway, I figured that Violet was the sort of woman who would stick her fingers in her drink, pull out the olive, eat it, and then lick her fingers, and so For the Sake of My Art, I did. And by the time the show opened, not only could I nibble at that olive without making a face, I actually grew to really like them. And just like watching Ghostbusters makes me crave Twinkies (ick), doing Blithe Spirit made crave a real Martini. You know, Gin and Vermouth rather than tepid water with a hint of olive juice. Anyway, David and I went out to dinner with friends not long after BS closed, I ordered a Martini, and the rest is history. I'm not much of a drinker, but I do enjoy a well-made Martini, preferably with two or three olives.

Which brings us to the present. When meetings are held at my office we usually order a deli tray from Sniders Market. Their deli trays include really good kosher dill slices and both black olives and large green olives stuffed with pimento. (No Martinis, of course, it is the office.) Once the meeting people have gone back into the conference room, the leftovers are open to the staff, so without having to sit through the meeting, I got to cruise the olives and pickles. Yeah, I made a sammich, too, but my real goal was those little green beauties. So I just had eight of 'em. Life is good.

And speaking of the leftovers, whoever is sitting at the front desk when they become public property sends out an e-mail saying so. Our engineers are well paid, but they still respond to free food announcements like college freshmen. I counted once after I hit the send button and it was only fifteen seconds before someone got to the leftovers. Someone who doesn't even work on the same floor I do. (Name withheld to protect me from the sort of retribution that engineers dream up.)

09 December 2004

Drama in Real Life

From the December 6, 2004 issue of Time, in an article called "The Orange Revolution" by Paul Quinn-Judge & Yuri Zarakhovich:
It was both a symbol and a symptom of the revolution that rippled across Ukraine last week. On Thursday, as the presenter of state-controlled UT-1's main morning news program was updating viewers on the Central Electoral Commission's decision to declare Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner of the country's Nov. 21 presendential vote, Natalya Dmitruk, the woman who translates broadcasts into sign language, decided to send a very different message. "When the presenter started to read the news," Dmitruk tells Time, "I said, 'I address all deaf viewers. Yushchenko is our President. Do not believe the Electoral Commission. They are lying.' " In a week filled with remarkable acts of political protest, Dmitruk's silent rebellion was one of the most defiant.

Pretty damned amazing. My first thought was that someone ought to turn that into a play. My second was that I wish that I knew sign so that I could figure out when I'm being lied to. I need a Natalya Dmitruk.

I really do wish that I knew sign. I can finger spell very, very slowly and like all incompetents, I can finger spell better than I can comprehend the finger spelling of others. I know a few signs, a very few. (I can ask for a cup of tea in many languages.) One day I'll learn sign. I'll probably never aquire the guts that Natalya Dmitruk has.

Well, hi y'all

Our company acquired a littler company in Alabama recently and every now and then I end up on the phone with someone with an accent that matches my grandmother's. Actors have a bad habit (or a good one?) of listening to accents, sometimes to the exclusion of listening to what is actually being said, and then picking them up. It would take me several days in England to start sounding like the BBC, but it takes me approximately 3 minutes on the phone to sound like Alabama. My Dad left the South when he was 18 and has only traces of The Accent. For example, I say "gree-cee" and he says "gree-zee," would even sounds greacier. Eww.

I have a "moved around a lot until I was six and then settled in a multicultural area" accent, so The Land of My Fathers only appears in my speech in the word that follows three. I'm sure you say "for." I say "fo-wer." I have no idea why. My sister, Sara, had an urban Maryland accent (known around here as the PG County accent), so she said stuff like "dag" and "warsh." And I can't even make fun of her for saying "dag" because I - completely without forethought - recently said "yoikes." Out loud. "Jeepers" probably isn't out of the question either.

08 December 2004

An American in .... Disguise

CNN reports on the T-shirtKing.com "Go Canada" package which contains enough Canada-related stuff to allow Americans abroad to pose as Maple Leafers and avoid discussions of our current problematic foreign policy.

Such questions are the reason for the package's quick reference guide, which offers tips in case an American in disguise gets quizzed on Canada.

When it comes to sports, the guide suggests: "This is easy to remember. There is only one real sport in Canada and it is called hockey. Regardless of any trivia question, the answer is 'Wayne Gretzky."'



Thanks to CanadaDave.


06 December 2004

I've forgotten how to read!

My Dad taught me how to read before I started kindergarden and I've been a huge reader ever since. When asked what I like to read the answer is usually "anything I can get my hands on," which is largely but not completely true. I don't read crappy romance novels (Georgette Heyer doesn't write crappy romance novels. She writes sharp, funny, comedies-of-manners disguised as romance novels.), true crime books with lots of icky pictures, bad genre mysteries, Nora Roberts (even though she went to my high school, her books are so bad on so many levels), most of the books sold at the grocery store, Dean Koontz, What's-his-name Paterson, the Left Behind books.....

Anyway, the ever-shrinking list of what I do read aside, in the last several years I have been so busy that a lot of my reading for pleasure occurs while I'm waiting for something else: in line at the grocery store, at red lights, in elevators, during the second/third/fourth run of scenes I'm not in, while my dinner partner is in the bathroom, or during commercials while I watch tv. But those are generally small chunks of time, a minute or so. And when I'm at home, I find so many little chores I need to do that I spend my small amounts of time at home doing laundry, throwing things out, cleaning the kitchen, re-organizing stuff, bemoaning how I don't yet completely fit into my condo, cooking, doing cat maintenance, playing Freecell, surfing the net, etc, that I don't sit down and just read when I'm there. It takes me days and days to finish a 200-page book.

So now I find that when I pick something up determined to just read, I can't. My focus seems to be limited to the length of the average article in "Time" magazine. (Remember that bit in The Big Chill? Michael says that the editorial policy at "People" magazine is that no article should be no longer than the average crap. And Harold points out that you can read Dostoyevsky in the can. "Yes," says Michael, "but you can't finish it."

04 December 2004

I want a Mar Bar!!

I just love James McLure's "Lone Star" and here's an excerpt to show why:

Roy: ...And when you're too stupid to get into the army, you're too dumb to breathe. Now that's what I call dumb.
Ray: Not so dumb I didn't go to Nam and get myself shot.
Roy: What did you just call it?
Ray: Nam. That's what you call it.
Roy: Don't try to be cool. You can't say Nam. You weren't there. It's Vit Nam to you.
Ray: Vit Nam then. I didn't get my ass shot off in Vit Nam. That's for damn sure.
Roy: All I know is: I served *my* time.
Ray: You been out to the house lately?
Roy: What for? Mom's gone senile and the old man's a damn fool anyway.
Ray: Why you say our father's a fool?
Roy: Named us Roy and Ray didn't he. (Ray begins to rummage in the paper sacks.) What are you lookin' for?
Ray: They Mars Bar.
Roy: When are you gonna learn to talk?
Ray: I talk fine.
Roy: You talk for shit. It ain't "they Mars Bar." It's "this Mars Bar" or "that Mars Bar" or "His Mars Bars" or "her Mars Bars."
Ray: What if she only has one.
Roy: Then it's Mar Bar. She has one Mar Bar. He has one Mar Bar. They have one Mar Bar.
Ray: You got a Baby Ruth?

Plays and more plays

As I like to mention, I see a lot of theater. The other day, for fun, I listed all the shows I've seen since about April and it's a reasonably hefty list. I also read plays. I love to read actor's copies of plays because the notes we make during rehearsals are (to me) very illuminating into the actor's own process. Reading copies of scripts after I've seen the show done allows me to enjoy the best dialogue again but also shows me which things I liked came from the author, which came from the director, and which came from the actor. If the director and the actor are really in synch the last two won't be so obvious, but some authors really load up on the stage directions and some give you almost none.

The script for "Dinner" is overlarded with stage direction because the published script came from the stage manager's script of the original run, so it has every stinking bit of business that those dead people did: "What time did you say" (eases right) "they'll be here?" That sort of thing. The fun part of Kaufman scripts for me are the descriptions of the characters: "He looks like every caricature ever drawn of him. "

Neil Simon tells you nothing. You get dialogue. He dictates line readings only if it isn't apparent from the dialogue, so his stuff isn't laced with "warily" or "sarcastically." Which means either he trusts actors and directors to figure it out or he knows he'll be there for rehearsals for the first run and can dictate from the seat next to the director. I like to read author's descriptions of characters just because it gives me an idea where (s)he's going. I also like to look at the front of the book and see who was in the original cast. If I remember correctly, I've been cast in roles that Christine Baranski played on Broadway, even though I don't think I'm much like her. (Wouldn't mind being like her, mind you.)

So I'm adding to my stack of plays to read. Michael suggested I read "'night, Mother." And I have David's "A View From the Bridge." And a bunch of Frayn. I like Frayn and Ayckbourn because they like to set puzzles for themselves and then solve them. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. I've seen one Pinter and I'd like to see more. I've seen one Neil LaBute and would be interested in seeing more. And .... I'm going to see "Fit to be Tied" on Friday in hopes of improving my opinion of Nicky Silver. (Wish me luck on that one. It'll be an uphill trip.)

Ahhhhhh, plays and more plays.

03 December 2004

Casey continues to rock

In other news, following my fine example Casey has started a blog. And he says nice things about me in it! (swelled head) There are thousands and thousands of blogs out there that never mention me at all (Fools! Fools and blind!), but Casey devotes an entire post to how nifty I am. (/swelled head)

Ahem.

If it weren't so late and I weren't so tired, I do that spiffy roll-over hyperlink, but I think I'll just paste the link here and go to bed. http://tuxxer.blogspot.com. Drop in for a whirldwind tour of the Casey Experience.

And PS - Nick (Tea for One) is right about Technorati. What a spiffy service.

Hello, "Hello"

So I've finally acquired Picasa and Hello and like most techno-shy people I was driven to it by the pressing need to share pictures. (I understand that porn drives a lot of technology gains, but I'll bet Mommy blogging and that sort of thing is at least a secondary or tertiary driver.) Anyway....

At the cost of only a couple of hours of my time, I am now able to document the history of David's Henry V beard. Unfortunately for him, this is not the most flattering picture ever taken of David, but it beats the heck out of the one I caption "Stoner David." So let's all just be grateful for small mercies.

When he sent me this picture Dad also sent some other pictures from Thanksgiving (Thanks, Dad!!), but they won't post. I just get a grey block. Fortunately, I date the technically enabled, so perhaps David can help me post the pictures of Dad &Audrey, Bruce (my brother-in-law), and my simply gorgeous nieces and nephew. (No, really. Objectively, they are gorgeous.)

The beard - as you can all now see - is coming in nicely and we are edging out of what I call the Simpson's beard phase: Itchy and Scratchy.
David's beard a couple of weeks in.  Posted by Hello

02 December 2004

Totally blocked

Not a post about constipation, I swear. "Blocked" in this case means the show I'm working on. All the actors - all the actors we have seen at any rate - know where they should stand, sit, turn cartwheels, waltz, what have you. Directors always say that they can't do anything until the books are gone (until we have learned all our dialogue and look at other actors rather than down at our scripts all the time), but I think Michael really meant it.

By the way, it is also said that directors direct because it allows them to play all of the parts and that seems to be true of Michael as well. If we don't see Mrs. Dexter soon, we'll have our director on stage with us in a floral print dress and his finest Eleanor Roosevelt impression. Joan, our stage manager, swears that we have a Mrs. Dexter, but I'm beginning to think of her the way children think of the Easter Bunny: believed to exist, but never actually seen. (Mrs. Dexter, of course. Joan exists and has been seen by all of the faithful. I bring her chocolate. She deserves it.)

Anyway, with Mary Ann off-book as Mrs. Stanley and with our Mrs. McCutcheon in the room, Michael tweaked the opening scene. We ran it three times last night and it got better every time. Michael told me at the auditions that he was going to make Mrs. Stanley into a fun part and damned if he didn't. Of course, he's lucky that Mary Ann is playing the role - she's such fun to watch.

I remember seeing her in True West a few years ago. The mother is a tiny part - she comes on at the very end and expresses dismay at the havoc her sons have wreaked in her home. Any woman over 45 can play it. Not many can play it well. Mary Ann made her entrance, looked around at her trashed house and dead plants, and gaped like a fish. The audience had been on the brothers' journey and the destruction had been ongoing. (I wish I could describe it, but that would give away too much to folks who've not seen the play. Go see it.) Mary Ann's reaction was so perfect that we suddenly switched perspectives - we saw the room through her eyes not the brothers'. I completely understood why Shepherd wrote that role.

So tonight we're running Act I, scene i and with luck we can play with it, too. I'm having a great time.

A poem for December

In a drear-nighted December - John Keats


In a drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them,
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In a drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ’t were so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writhed not at passed joy?
To know the change and feel it,
When there is none to heal it,
Nor numbed sense to steal it,
Was never said in rhyme.

01 December 2004

'Tis the Season

David sent me The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. And not a moment too soon, either, as I just heard a radio promo for Nick and Jessica's Holiday Horror Show.

My holiday favorites:

"Do They Know It's Christmas" - the extended mix with the spoken greetings makes me cry. Former roommate Jenny thinks this is because I find the idea of all those rock stars locked up together for 24 hours to be the real spirit of Christmas. She could be right.

"Carol of the Bells" - a fabulous piece of Ukranian music that I learned in high school and rarely get to hear. Turning it into a Transiberian machine gun symphony doesn't count. Ech.

Tom Lehrer's Christmas song - it starts running through my head on Thanksgiving Day and stays put until New Year's Day. I sing it quietly to myself while I sullenly march through stores.

Adam Sandler's "Hanukah Song" - "some people think Ebeneezer Scrooge is. Well he isn't, but guess who is: all three stooges!"

"All I Want for Christmas is You" - the only Mariah Carey song I've ever liked.

"Oh Come, All Ye Faithful" - has a fabulous descant which I adore singing.

"White Christmas" - my favorite movie to wrap gifts by. Danny Kaye! Bing Crosby! Mary Wickes! Rosemary Clooney!

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" - I still have a chrush on Linus and I always will. He's the first pedant I ever adored.

"A Christmas Story" - Fra-jee-lee. It must be Italian. Sort of says it all. I love that movie.

Fair winds and following seas, Ken Jennings

That - minus the Ken Jennings part - is what we say around my office when someone leaves. It's what comes of having so many ex-Navy types hanging around the coffee mess.

I've been following Ken's Jeopardy streak as I could, so of his 74 appearances, I think I saw about 12. I'm sorry that I missed last night's because I bet the look on Alex Trebek's face was pretty memorable. And it was fun watching Ken and Alex increasingly struggle for more and ever more fun facts about Ken for the "tell us a little something about yourself" bit. Even my supply of anecdotes would run a bit dry if I had to come up with 74 in a row. And as the contestants marched out, I would think how tough it must be to get that far - actually being on Jeopardy - only to find out that you were going to be mowed down by the Jennings combine. Battling for second, indeed.

Anyway, here's a nice article from The Long Beach Press-Telegram

Ah, Ken, we hardly knew ye....