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. Åssume 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.


This just in


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."


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.


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)


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....

29 November 2004

My blankie and me

Every year my company gives every employee a holiday present. This year's gift is a lovely, lush, thank-you-it's-just-what-I-wanted blanket from Lands' End. It's a spiffy blue and green plaid and has the company logo woven into it. I'm looking forward to taking it for a test rest. As Linus says "Ahhhhhh."

So far in the five years I've worked here I've collected: a golf umbrella, a sweatshirt, a windbreaker, a backpack, a mug, and a fleece throw. If pants and shoes weren't so specifically sized, I'd have company Dockers and Keds to wear, too.

25 November 2004

For the beauty of the earth

I've always felt that I am one of the luckiest people on this earth: I was born in America, in the 20th century, I am reasonably healthy, reasonably intelligent, and reasonably good looking. I'm not a member of any oppressed minority. I have more than my fair share of parents who love me and step-brothers and step-sisters whom I love and just think of as brothers and sisters. All of my grandparents lived at least until I was 18. My nieces are beautiful, intelligent, fun women. I have a good job that I like with co-workers who graciously deal with engineer jokes from the admin staff; a hobby that provides me with hours and hours pleasure in the company of like-minded folks; and lots of good friends who are better to me than I deserve. David is kind, generous, funny, and never boring. The only things I would change about my life involve the size of my nose, butt, and bank account.

And pretty much nothing in the above paragraph came about by any efforts on my part. I just sat there and had blessings rained down on me. I have much to be thankful for.

I'll have *three* Thanksgiving meals: David and I are joining Mom this morning at the retirement community where she lives, we're going to Ira's tonight (and Ira is a very, very good cook), and we're going to Martinsburg, West Virginia (about 80 miles from my place) tomorrow to celebrate with Dad and Audrey. Three lovely meals with good company and I'm not doing a darn thing to create them. Well, okay, I'll help clear the table.

Here's a wish for you and yours: Have a lovely Thanksgiving surrounded by your near and dear.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.
This, oh Lord, to Thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

24 November 2004

Old Susan

Thanks to David I have been reminded that Bartleby.com is a fine literature reference site and thanks to Bartleby, I have been reminded how much I like Walter de la Mare. Here's one of his that isn't The Listeners.

Walter De la Mare. 1873–1956

Old Susan

When Susan's work was done, she'd sit
With one fat guttering candle lit,
And window opened wide to win
The sweet night air to enter in;
There, with a thumb to keep her place
She'd read, with stern and wrinkled face.
Her mild eyes gliding very slow
Across the letters to and fro,
While wagged the guttering candle flame
In the wind that through the window came.
And sometimes in the silence she
Would mumble a sentence audibly,
Or shake her head as if to say,
'You silly souls, to act this way!'
And never a sound from night I'd hear,
Unless some far-off cock crowed clear;
Or her old shuffling thumb should turn
Another page; and rapt and stern,
Through her great glasses bent on me
She'd glance into reality;
And shake her round old silvery head,
With—'You!—I thought you was in bed!'—
Only to tilt her book again,
And rooted in Romance remain.

23 November 2004

Add to favorites? Part Deux!

Picking up where I left off ....

10. Mental Multivitamin. One of ones I found on someone else's blog roll. Do I remember which one? Nope. But these are books folks. If you think I'm kidding, check the entry for 21 November. http://mentalmultivitamin.blogspot.com/

11. Michael Bérubé. Just another commie pinko I find entertaining. I got him from Paul, a fruitful source of urls. Bérubé's blog is largely political and it seems - from the little reading of him that I have done - that conservative groups invite him to their functions (or he just climbs in the bathroom window) which makes for good reading. He just spent a few days hanging out with the Focus on the Family crowd. http://www.michaelberube.com/

12. My employer's intranet. Like I'm posting that url.

13. Nobody Knows Anything. In her own words: Fair. Balanced. Brilliant. And she has a daughter going through the same Pink and Purple Princess madness that my pal Samantha inhabits. And she's writing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) like Samantha's Mom, Stacey. http://www.nobody-knows-anything.com/

14. Opinions You Should Have. Even though I already have lots and lots of opinions, I'm enjoying Tom Burka's political humor and random musings. http://www.tomburka.com/

15. Pat Moran & Associates. Casting director. In case I ever need to break into television. http://www.patmoranandassociates.com/

16. Pedantic Nuthatch. David's blog. The one that described me as "an absolute darling." Unless he meant Leta Armstrong, the toddler in the Dooce blog.... No, he couldn't have. He meant me. An intelligent, insightful (note quote supra) mainly filter blog. And it even has film and theater reviews. And science news. http://mywebpages.comcast.net/nouveau/blog/

17. Rants from Cold Cold Canada. Paul knows Mary Ann. She knows Canada Dave. For all I know, Paul knows Canada Dave, too, but I found Canada Dave when following links from Paul to Mary Ann to etc. He lives in Canada. It's cold there a lot. He tells very funny stories about his mispent youth, my favorite of which is titled "Ding Dong" and can be found on November 9th. http://canadadave.blogspot.com/

18. Rulers of England. Because that sort of thing comes up all the time here at the radar engineering shop where I work. (Well, actually, it sort of does. I got quizzed on the wives of Henry VIII on, like, my third day here. I knew them all - and many cheerful facts about them - so I triumphed. Omniscience means having good reference materials and a good memory.) http://europeanhistory.about.com/library/readyref/blenglandrulers.htm

19. The Sun Keeps Rising. Easily the luckiest "next blog" click of my whole blogging experience. I found several fun blogs to read via Paul (note the number of times the name Paul has occurred in this list and you'll see what I mean) and I always enjoy reading his posts. I've been lots of places in my life, but I haven't been to Laramie, Wyoming yet. If I ever get the chance to go there, I'm looking Paul up and taking him (and M, his lady friend) out for coffee or a beer. (And, obviously, Paul, if you and M come East, stop in and visit and collect that beer.) http://www.thesunkeepsrising.blogspot.com/

20. Songs Index - Lunsford. A listing of 17th century (plus or minus) song lyrics. A page of the site devoted to Sir Thomas Lunsford's Regiment of Foote..."being a member of The King's Army -a part of The English Civil War Society." History is good! My source for the Agincourt Carol, it also has all the lyrics to "There was an old woman who lived under a hill" which are most decidedly not nursery rhyme lyrics. http://www.lunsfords.fsnet.co.uk/history/songs/

21. Tea for One. A diary blog I found via the Blogger dashboard. He's the author of Tea for One: Zen and the Art of Blogging (Cafe Press), which he thinks of as his greatest hits. http://www.nmarks520.blogspot.com/

22. turning your orbit around. David is a friend of Paul's (see comment about Paul, supra), who lives in Colorado, works as a librarian, and has an e.e. cummings approach to capitalization. He's much mored commited to being outdoors a lot than I am. He sings in a band, which may be fabulous or it may suck. Sometimes on the same night. He wrote a book review that the Colorado Association of Libraries is going to publish that in another moment of serendipity (David just read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) is about the removal of the Ute people by our fine, upstanding government during the American Expansion.

(Chad's blog is bookmarked at home.)

Well.... so there it is. Whew. Dialogue review for tonight's rehearsal again successfully avoided.

Add to favorites?

I spend a fair bit of time at four different computers: the one at home, the one on my desk at work, the one at Tanya's desk (I cover the front desk at 10:00, 12:00, 3:00, and 4:30), and the one at David's. And over time I've created favorites lists at each of those computers. Each one has some items the others don't and they all have some items in common. So here's what I've bookmarked on Tanya's computer, which is where I spend the most Google time:

1. The Agincourt Carole - "Henry V" writ small. With handy music. http://sniff.numachi.com/~rickheit/dtrad/pages/tiAGINCRT2;ttAGINCRT1.html

(At some point David will remind me how to turn words into hyperlinks for a more polished blogging experience. And I'll pay more attention this time. Really and truly.)

2. The beautiful grace of a mundane day - Shauna's world. http://writingmyheartout.blogspot.com/

3. The blogger dashboard! God forbid I think of something to blog and not be .0005 seconds from the dashboard. It's bookmarked on all four computers, I think.

4. Daily Epiphany - Bill Chance's Online Journal. http://www.dailyepiphany.net/current.html Until I started blogging I think I only read David's. Now I'm hooked on a bunch of them.

5. Dooce. Heather Armstrong had a baby about 18 months ago and named her Leta. How can I not read that one? Heather is the most profane, obscene, take-no-shit Mormon I've ever encountered, which only means that I have not met enough Mormons yet. http://www.dooce.com/

6. Fun with Pinto. Sadly, this one is about to go away. Alleah has made the shift from spunky, theater-and-music-loving teen to .... well... to angry whiner. Her prerogative, absolutely, just not something I'll be reading anymore. Pinto isn't fun anymore. http://pintoisfun.blogspot.com/

7. Google. My most favorite-est website ever. The entire multiverse at one url. http://www.google.com/

8. The Literature Network. It's searchable online literature. How cool is that? Sadly, I've never been able to make the "Sonnet a Day Newsletter" work for me and keep getting this sad, sad message: "Cannot connect to the database at the current time." One day. I know I could just read them myself (my second copy of the Big, Heavy Book of Shakespeare is here at the office, in case of a Shakespeare Emergency. But a Newsletter would be so much more fun. Feel free to send me to sonnets.) http://www.online-literature.com/

9. Machinal and the Snyder-Gray Trial. Thank you, Google! I found this while researching some of the references in The Man Who Came to Dinner and it's too interesting not to keep. And it has lots of cool info about Sophie Treadwell, who wrote Machinal. http://dizzy.library.arizona.edu/branches/spc/treadwell/Machinal.htm

Okay, Tanya's back from lunch and wants her desk back. The rest to follow.

19 November 2004

The Agincourt Carol

"Deo Gratias, Deo gratias Anglica
Redde pro Victoria!

Our King went forth to Normandy
With grace and might of chivalry
There God for him wrought marv'losly
Where for England may call and cry.

Deo Gratias, etc.

He set a siege, sooth for to say
To Harfleur town, with royal array
The town he won, and made a fray
That France shall rue until Doomsday.

Then Went our King, with all his host
Through France, spite all the French did boast
He spared neither least, nor most
'til he came to Agincourt Coast.

Then forsooth that comely Knight
In Agincourt field did manly fight
Through grace of God most mighty
He won both field and victory.

There dukes and earls, lord and baron
Were taken, slain, and that well soon
And some were led into London
With joy and mirth and great renown

Now gracious God he save our King
His people and all his good willing
Give him good live and good ending
That we with mirth may safely sing."

And for those of you who prefer to sing carols, rather than just read them: http://sniff.numachi.com/~rickheit/dtrad/pages/tiAGINCRT2;ttAGINCRT1.html

According to my sources (thank you, Jeff!), it can be found in the 1982 Episcopal hymnal, tune 449, "Deo Gratias." I'm not positive, but I believe that I have said 1982 hymnal at home, so I plan to learn the tune. That way, when I go to see Henry V, and I'm sitting in the house perusing my program, I can happily whistle or hum it to myself. Why? No reason, just for fun. I realize that doing this is akin to wearing Star Trek insignia, geek-wise, but I like it. The Agincourt Carol is kind of a Cliff's Notes version of HV (you know, the main idea, but with all the best parts given short shrift or skipped completely). Please feel free to learn it and sing along.

18 November 2004

Lessons learned in Connecticut

I don't have cable right now and this is not always a bad thing. Okay, Law & Order isn't on as often, but I get by. Largely, of course, by pretty much never being home, which means that it doesn't matter what I can't see on tv.

But when Ira and I were visiting Linda in Connecticut we had access to her cable and we found the best show on HBO: Pornucopia. We loved it. We even watched it a second time when we found it again the next night. The best part about Pornucopia is how very earnest AFI (Adult Film Industry, of course) people are when discussing their craft. And the earnestness combined with the giggling that punctuates their conversation is vastly amusing, especially when intercut with clips from their latest efforts.

Highlights from Pornucopia include:

* A director outlining a scene by telling his actors that they would start with some kissing, then there'd be some oral on Steve, and then ... uh.... "Then we'll do it," suggested the actress happily.

* A young lady explaining that she started doing porn for the money because she had a lot of legal bills because she got caught bringing 100 pounds of pot in from Mexico. But, she assured us, she learned the lesson: Don't break the law. Laws are not for breaking.

* Jenna Haze - see, now I know the names of AFI actors - telling us that she was warned not to get a boyfriend because it would hurt her career (cut to a recent example of her art) (cut to another AFI person confirming that it would defintely affect her money). But she's not in the industry forever, after all, so she got a boyfriend (a cameraman) and - because she's a moral person and thinks cheating is wrong - now she only does women. One time when her boyfriend was shooting a scene where she was doing a guy, she caught her boyfriend's eye and, well, it was just weird. So her new rule is: "Men are for relationships, women are for fucking."

And from the Porn Oscars (I forget who sponsors them, some magazine or newspaper or something), an actress receiving an award was very grateful for the recognition, saying "I never thought I'd get an award for fucking."

Never in my whole life have I heard the word "fuck" so used often when only used as a verb. It was never used as an adjective, an intensifier, an exclamation -- none of that. It got used every couple of minutes and only as a verb.

Broadcast tv now seems so -- so --, I don't know.

Hugh and I

Update on the Request-a-Thon:

We just heard a live version of Howie Day singing "Collide." In the live version Howie sings that "Hugh and I collide" leaving me to wonder if it's the same "Hugh" that Whitney Huston was so hung up on. ("And I-I-I-I-I will always love Hugh").

This morning we heard:

Hakuna Matata - The Lion King (requested by a whole bunch of 3rd graders who pooled their pocket change - pretty cool.)
In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker (which pretty much establishes that Joe Cocker is not an early morning treat. To properly appreciate the song stylin's of Mr. Cocker, one needs to have had a couple of belts. Oatmeal is no prep for hearing Joe.)
The Thanksgiving Song - Adam Sandler (not nearly as good as The Hanakah Song.)
Believe - Josh Grobin
The Boxer - Some Irish guy. I dunno. Accoustic. Jonathan Edwards-y. Fairport Convention-y.
Back in Black - AD/DC
I Cross My Heart - George Strait
Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler

And we recently got some kind of light rock, smooth pap thing that makes me think that we're just a few pledges away from "On the Wings of Love." I love that song. And I pretty much only hear it at the drug store on the muzak. I don't know why I love it, but I do. ("Yes, you belong to me, I'm your's exclusively, right now we live and breath - each - other -----") Yeah, it's not great music, but I'm waiting for it breathlessly. Don't fail me, Request-a-Thon!

The downside to no official playlist

They played Celine Dion again this morning. That dirge from Titanic.

And we don't need no playlists neither

A local radio station (z104) is dedicating today through Friday to raising money for the Ronald McDonald House. For a pledge of $30 or or more, they'll play any song you name, assuming they can find it. So today was easily the most fun I've had listening to the radio in a while. Yeah, some folks actually paid money to hear stuff from their regular playlist (why???), but here's a sample of what I heard today:

White Christmas - Bing Crosby
Sugar Magnolia - The Grateful Dead
The Rose - Bette Midler (one of the less horrible numbers from her recent catalogue)
Freshmen - The Verve Pipe
Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
American Soldier - Toby Keith (yeah, okay, I changed to another station during that one)
With or Without You - U2
Changes - David Bowie
The Life I Know - Collective Soul
What Might Have Been - Little Texas
Georgia - Ray Charles
(I can't remember the title) - Led Zepplin
Follow Your Bliss - B52s
(I forget which one) - Devo

Yeah, there was some useless crap - I'm sure I heard Celine Dion at one point, possibly singing with Andre Bocelli - but those are the breaks in a free society. There was music by local bands, music I'd never heard of, music I haven't heard in forever.... They jumped from era to era, from genre to genre. Such fun. A pretty devoted Clay Aiken fan paid $50 to hear one of his, figuring that even charity payola is worth it to get him some airplay. And she challenged his other fans to do the same. He should take her to dinner for that.

Luckily for me, "Livin' on a Prayer" came on while I was in the car, so naturally I rolled the window down, cranked the radio, and sang my heart out with Jon and the guys. I love that song.

And a day withouth Avril Lavigne is like a day with extra sunshine.

I suspect that there isn't a donation in the world large enough to get them to play The Partridge Family, so I won't even go there. They Might Be Giants, however, is worth a shot.

16 November 2004

Very long distance

Years ago, when I first moved in with Brett and Chort, I was given the usual run of house rules. After listening to Chort give me detailed instructions on how to handle any phone calls for him (this was actually pretty reasonable - he worked for the Post Office and they would track people down and drag them in to work on their days off), Brett chimed in with "and if either of our mothers calls collect - don't accept the charges." I knew that both of their mothers had passed away before either guy had turned 18, so I agreed that that would be "very long distance."

I was updating some numbers in my mobile phone today and, of course, Sara's number is still there. And an e-mail from Bruce Miller is still in my saved e-mails at work. (Bruce died unexpectedly about a year ago. I've gotten too many e-mails titled "Sad News" in the last year. And gotten too many of those phone calls as well.)

So I started to wonder -- what would happen if I called Sara? Or e-mailed Bruce? I know what would really happen - "that number's been disconnected," the e-mail would bounce; I'm not a total idiot. And it's not like Sara answered her cell messages with any consistancy anyway. But what would happen?

Someone set up a (IMO) creepy service where after a person dies, the service will send out "one last e-mail." Sort of a "PS, I love you" from the great beyond. Ick.

I haven't deleted Bruce's e-mail from the cache and I haven't deleted Sara's phone number from my mobile. Why? I'm a sentimental pack-rat mainly, like my mother. And let's not get too High Romance about it - I still have a couple of phone numbers in that phone for people with whom I'm no longer friends. I accept that the friendship has gone, but the phone number is data.

And, God knows, I don't want her to answer. "Maryland woman scared to death by call from beyond the grave......"

But what would happen?

15 November 2004

To Sara on her 39th birthday......

Today would have been my sister's birthday. She died last year on Christmas Day, apparently from a bad reaction to some medication.

We weren't close and hadn't been since she was 3 years old, when in a fit of pique over not being included in a party to which I was invited, she decided if I didn't want her, she didn't want me.

Dad told that story at her funeral, actually. It's one of those family stories that shows the good and not-so-good sides to a person at once. Basically, the birthday party to which I was invited was for 5-year-old kids, so Sara didn't make the cut. When Dad got home that evening, she was very upset about this and he told her that she couldn't depend on me to include her in everything I did and that she should make some friends of her own. By the time he got home the next evening, she had rounded up a gang of her own, which is pretty impressive for a pre-schooler. The down side, of course, was the "and the hell with you" that I got ever after. (I, of course, was a perfect big sister and never, ever gave her any cause not to adore me. Uh-huh. Yeah.) She took the same slash-and-burn approach to a lot of her life, usually to unfortunate ends.

We were sort of developing a relationship when she died. Not a hang-out-with-each-other-and-talk-about-the-good-times relationship (what good times?), but at least a glad-to-see-each-other-when-we-both-happen-to-be-at-Dad's, let's-catch-up-for-a-bit relationship. I figured that over time, eventually, I'd have a sister.

Her husband, my brother-in-law Bruce, whom I like a lot, and I both feel as though we had the future stolen from us. The two of them did the hard work - the last kid was headed off to college a couple of months ago (*and she was class President* - you go, Angela!), now it was gonna be Miller time. It makes me mad and sad when I think of what got taken away from us. And there's no one to blame, it's just fate.

11 November 2004

Hangin' with the First Lady

Back in the mists of time, somewhere between 1988 and 1992 my Mom and I went to Wolf Trap to attend the ballet. By chance, then-First Lady Barbara Bush was in attendance as well and while I like her every bit as much as I now like her son, I'm a good American and figuring that this was probably my only chance to get within 100 yards of a resident of the White House, I got as close as I could and gawked. Mrs. Bush, by the way, is taller than I expected. And Secret Service guys really do wear their sunglasses at night.

As it turns out, that was only the first in my "Gawk at the First Ladies!" collection. No, Mrs. Clinton didn't stop by to use the phone or anything like that. No, I got to gawk at the current Mrs. Bush who resides in the White House. I went to the Industrial Strength Theater to see the Elden Street Players production of "Thumbs," a fun little comedy-thriller by Rupert Holmes (who is still trying to work off having inflicted "The Pina Colada Song" - bleh - on an unsuspecting nation. But I digress.).

One of the female leads in "Thumbs" is being played by local community theater actress Margaret Bush, wife of Marvin and sister-in-law to you-know-who. (Ominous Scarpia-like chords.) So Mrs. Bush, the twins, and assorted family members and hangers on filled the first row at the theater tonight. Elden Street and the Secret Service worked together to create as little focus-pulling uproar as possible - a brief announcement was made from the stage before the performance, we all chuckled, we moved on. Laura Bush was seated one row ahead and about four seats to my right, so it was Gawking Made Easy. She's a good political wife and has learned to watch things with an appearance of interest regardless of her actual feelings, but she seemed to enjoy the play. As did the rest of us. A fun night at the theater, made more fun by Marty and Mary Ann, between whom I sat. (Mary Ann is in "Dinner" with me and I like her a lot. A chance to hang with Mary Ann is time well spent. Marty I met this evening and as he was the Set Designer and Master Carpenter, I got some nice insights into what went into the spiffy set.)

But - I realized on my way to my car - now I have a new thing to hope and pray for. Please, Lord, please don't make me gawk at Columba Bush in four years. Please. I'm begging you.

The Phone, the doorbell, and me

Okay, no shit, there we were..... (My dad says that all stories have one of three beginnings. The other two are "My best friend said - and he was there -" and "Once upon a time....."). Anyway, there we were at rehearsal, doing one of Jeff's and my scenes. Joan gave me the sound cue - ring - and I mentally jumped about half a page to the doorbell cue. Jeff has a line after the doorbell cue and when he didn't say anything I looked at Joan and asked "Was that the doorbell?" "No," she said, "that was the phone." (After which I have a line.) "The doorbell," she continued, "is a ding-dong." "Well," I had to admit, "so is your actress."

At least they're finding out early.

And if you ever wondered why I love David so much, check out his blog entry for this evening around 10:00. You just can't help loving a man this amusing. Or I can't anyway.

Off to bed.

10 November 2004

Badges?! We don't need no stinkin' badges!

Well, actually, we do. I work in a "secure facility" and we have enough staffers in this office now to exceed the governments "no badge required" limit.

So today - over the loud objections of Upper Management - we all got our pictures taken with a office digital camera (thank you, thank you, thank you, God, not a Polaroid) and we have been presented with nicely laminated badges with our names and the company logo and spiffy blue lanyards from which to hang them. I feel more secure already.

And since the company fell out of the practice of walking new folks around and introducing them, we can all become masters of the covert glance tummywards to determine the name of the person with whom we are riding the elevator, pouring coffee, clearing paper jams.

The idea, of course, was that in a Department of Motor Vehicles-type way, each staffer would sit in front of the camera, have a picture taken that is recognizably that person, receive the laminated badge, go back to our desks, and move on with life. You know, go away and get out of Ken and Sheila's hair! This plan didn't take into account the fact that Tanya and I would be among the teeming masses. By the time I arrived around 8:30, Tanya had already talked Ken and Sheila into taking four different pictures of her and was heading towards a fifth (picture, not "of Scotch").

I had my picture taken while Tanya critiqued hers and made PhotoShop suggestions about how to improve it. PhotoShop isn't an option here, so they redid hers. I accepted mine with a reasonable amount of grace, which means that I hated it, but it's just a badge, for pity's sake, not a movie poster that we're mounting on entire buildings in Times Square. And I looked better than Aileen Wuornos did in the only picture I've seen of her.

But then I noticed that other people's pictures (Tanya and I spent a fair bit of the morning peering over Sheila's shoulder and admiring or dissing pictures) didn't have quite the pasty dead look that mine did. So I campaigned for a re-take. Fortunately for me, Tanya had broken the Security staff's will already, so I only had to "pretty please" once. With Tanya present for a hair and make-up consult, we redid mine. And I like it better. It's nicer than my passport photo, not as good as my driver's license photo, and far, far better than most community theater lobby stills of me.

If you want to see what my badge photo looks like, come to Silver Spring and take me to lunch. Other than that, here's a link to one of the few pictures taken of me after age 5 that I like. Pity that Ken and Sheila wouldn't let me put it on my badge.


(No! I am not the guy with the beard! Scroll down for a while until you see my name. The other folks in the "gallery" are a bunch of my Gilbert & Sullivan buddies.)

09 November 2004

Blog Rolls

My blog roll is very short because, well, I'm too lazy and shif'less to add to it. But Paul recently added Michael Bérubé's link (http://www.michaelberube.com/) to his blog which I dutifully checked out. And I'll be going back there again and again. I tend to skim the political stuff - I'm way too burnt out after this last, horrible cycle - but I like way he writes and I was fascinated by the post on October 31st called "Sunday Morning." It's especially fascinating after seeing Craig Wright's Grace on Sunday afternoon. A character in Grace has decided to start a chain of gospel oriented hotels, saying at one point, "Where would Jesus stay"? (Well, not at Crossroads Inn, that's for sure, but that's not the point.)

Okay, more on this later because I have to sit on traffic on my way to rehearsal. But the synchronicity goes on.

Diving In

Michael - our director for Dinner - said at the auditions that we would be rehearsing 4 nights a week plus Saturdays. Now, obviously, in plays not all actors are called for all rehearsals. Usually. In small, ensemble shows like The Pavilion or Proof or "Art" (nope, not a typo, the quote marks are part of the title) if you are missing a cast member, you can pretty much write off the rehearsal. But in large cast shows, you can figure you won't be needed every night. Heck, Henry the Vee isn't in every scene in the play that bears his name.

But Dinner is one of those grand old Broadway confections with a large cast where each character pops in or out about every three minutes. So, french scene-wise, most of us will be at most rehearsals. Jeff and I have no nights off. We'll stand on stage and blather our way through the play, so the reward for us is obvious. But Mary Ann, Paul, Kevin (I know a Kevin again!), Beth, Ray, Angelena, Janet, Steve, Ed, and Paula will be right there with us. I am so glad that everyone seems like good folks because we'll be seeing a lot of each other. As well as Michael and Joan (our stage manager).

We'll rehearse from 7:30 - 10:30 on weeknights and from 10-4 on Saturdays. David's rehearsal schedule for Henry is Tuesdays - Thursdays plus Sundays. So I said good-bye to him the other morning and hope to see him again before February. Yeah, we're seeing a play on Thursday (wonder of wonders, neither of us has rehearsal), but other than that, there's not a lot of orange on my calendar. (My overbooked calendar has been color-coded for a while now.)

So I may not be posting much for a while because my life will consist of work and rehearsal. But I've got it easier than Mary Ann who for the next three months will be working, rehearsing Dinner, being a wife and mother, and producing Cinderella for Elden Street's "Theater for Young Audiences." So I may be crazy, but Mary Ann is barking mad.

07 November 2004

Scots lit as dialogue

From Lee Blessing's Independence. Kess, Jo, and Sherry are sisters.

Jo: "It fell about the Martinmas,
When nights are lang and mirk..."
Sherry: (yawning) Swing it, sister
Jo: Sherry.
Kess: Don't mind her. Keep going. You're good.
Jo: I am not.
Kess: Yes, you are.
Jo: What's "lang and mirk" mean? "When nights are lang and mirk."
Kess: Long and murky -- just like it sounds. Martinmas comes in the winter -- so naturally, long dark nights. Go on. Your accent's great.
Sherry: Yeah, great.
Jo: "The carline wife's three sons came hame..."
Sherry: Came hame?
Kess: Sherry. It means home. "Carline" means old, by the way.
Jo: Old? Carline means old?
Kess: Yup. It's there so we know she can't have any more children. See? Everything in a ballad has a purpose. That's why they're beautiful.
Sherry: "That's why they're beautiful." Same old Kess. (Sherry yawns)
Kess: Will you quit yawning?
Sherry: I didn't get much sleep last night. Besides, I always yawn on Saturdays.
Kess: Go on, Jo.
Jo: (Sings) "The Carline wife's three sons came hame
And their hats were o' the birk.
Sherry: What the hell does that mean?
Kess: It means they're dead.
Jo: What?
Kess: Her three sons are dead. They're wearing hats made of birch. "Birk" means birch.
Sherry: Oh, that explains it.
Kess: But there isn't any birch where she lives. And the next verse indicates that while it doesn't grow there, it does grow at the gates of heaven.
Jo: (Beginning to get it) So...
Kess: So they're wearing hats made in heaven. See? They're dead. They were lost in a shipwreck three verses ago. Remember?
Jo: How do you keep all this straight?
Sherry: She doesn't. She makes it up.
Kess: The point is, we're dealing with ghosts here. This poor old woman has three sons, and she sends them all out sailing -- major mistake -- and word comes back they've drowned. Well, she does't want to believe that...
Sherry: Why not?
Kess: So, some time later, they show up -- surprisingly -- and she's wild with joy. My sons are home! She doesn't notice the birch hats.
Sherry: I would notice the birch hats.
Kess: She doesn't. She loves them, and she can't bear to think they're dead. So she welcomes them, and then she sits and watches over them all night long. But just before dawn she falls asleep. And they wake up before she does, and they leave her forever.
Jo: that's awful. I mean it's pretty, but it's awful.
Kess: They can't help it. They have to get back to their graves.
Sherry: Think I'll have an omelet.
Jo: You always have an omelet.
Sherry: It's all I can cook.
Jo: Do you have any more songs?
Kess: Well, here's one about two crows eating a corpse...
Jo: Oh ... not yet. Let me work up to that.

So, Paul, what song was Jo singing? I recognized the Twa Corbies.......

04 November 2004

It's looks great, Hon, it really does

David has been cast in Henry V with ESP. He's playing somewhere between 4 and 32 characters, depending - as far as I can tell - on directorial whim, as there are still a few unassigned roles. (David may have acquired one through the sneaky tactic of being able to speak French at the read-through. Never underestimate quiet, geeky, pedantic guys.)

However, this casting has presented me with a challenge. David's director - also named David and hereinafter referred to "Director Dave"* - is, in David's words, "muttering about facial hair." The only picture I've seen of David that includes facial hair makes him look like a member of some lefty 60s SDS-type organization and while I've always admired their idealism, I've never been a big fan of their fashion sense.

But when I do a show the director is the only person I know with a vote about my hair. David doesn't get one, neither does my Mom. Directors are allowed to veto haircuts and at a director's request, I'll grow, cut, color, perm, or what-have-you my hair and I assume that the same goes for David. So if I am asked before Director Dave issues a hair edict, I'm voting no. If I'm asked after the issuance, I have no opinion, hence the challenge for a woman with many opinions. (Yes, I remember that David reads this, but he's free to ignore the entire issue.) Fearing the worst, I'm going to spend some time repeating the title of this post until it sounds sincere.

* Not to be confused with CanadaDave -- http://canadadave.blogspot.com/

01 November 2004

Geeky Me, Part II

After I gave Michael (my director) the 5-page print out of geeky facts about Dinner, he announceed to the cast that I was the dramaturg for the show. Other directors might have ruthlessly suppressed me, but Michael has decided to encourage my geekiness. He'll probably come to regret it. I have geekiness to spare. But if I get a program credit as dramaturg, I'll be dead chuffed. 'Strewth!

Anyway, it occurred to me that it is probably a very good thing that I didn't audition for Henry V because there is a limited number of "interesting facts" I can come up with about the show I'm in, but the chance to rant to a captive audience about French history .... Let's all just be grateful that they were spared that.

On the plus side, when I was considering auditioning and did what I regard as the least amount of reasonable prep, I got familiar with a reasonable chunk of French and English history, which reminded me of why I like studying history in the first place. And I really do like it. I love the jigsaw puzzle aspect of fitting together who knew whom, who fought whom and why, the whole deal. For instance, in reading Scots history (and it was never, ever a good time to forget who was standing behind you in that country - whew!), I can much more clearly see the see-saw that the English kings were on. If the Scots were left alone, it was because the French were too risky to ignore.

The problem with studying history in school is that it is so isolated. Countries all interconnect. Foreign policy - even if it's the foreign policy of stomping anyone who speaks a different language - always drove more decisions than we realize. Richard III didn't travel north and stomp on the Scots, nor did he travel east and stomp on the French, but he had an older brother who made enough enemies that he spent his time - his very brief time - mending fences and shoring up relationships.


I've created a "Who's Who" list for The Man Who Came to Dinner because the script is full of references that made sense to a 1930s audience but are lost to many folks today. I'd never done this for the show before, but it seemed like a good idea this time. It runs to five pages, but I learned something really interesting in compiling it.

As we all know, everything in the multiverse is connected somehow to everything else. (If you're not clear on this concept, watch the trailers for "I [Heart] Huckabees." Dustin Hoffman will explain it all for you.) Whiteside mentions a couple of famous murders, which I had assumed were made up by Kaufman and Hart, but I Googled them just in case and discovered that they are real. The first is "the Snyder-Gray case." Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray were tried in 1927 for the murder of Snyder’s husband. She was later sent to the electric chair and was the first woman executed in New York state in the 20th century. The story is the basis for the books and - later the movies - The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity (both by James M. Cain) as well as the play Machinal by Sophie Treadwell.

David is a fan of film noir, so we watched Double Indemnity a few months ago and I saw Machinal largely by chance when it was done locally and I struck up a conversation with one of the cast. (For the complete version of that story - which David has heard far, far too many times by now - use any of several secret key words to me. Like Ouisa's jukebox, I spit out anecdotes with very little encouragement.)

The Dinner script mentions Lana Turner briefly - she played Cora in Postman a few years after Dinner was written.

The other famous murder is "the Elwell murder." Joseph Elwell was famous for many things – for playing bridge and as a spy-master among others – but mainly for being the victim in an unsolved locked-room mystery. Alexander Woollcott (the inspiration for Whiteside) wrote about Elwell. And Philo Vance - who gets a passing reference in Dinner - investigates a version of the Elwell murder as his first case.

Fascinating. At least to me.

25 October 2004

Safe and sound returneth she

Maine is a very, very beautiful state. Especially when it's being visited by people I like to sing Gilbert & Sullivan with. Linda kicked some musical butt with her Katisha. I'm going back up to Connecticut (flying again!) in three weeks to see her do the role in a fully staged production and I'm looking forward to it.

And tonight is the callbacks for two shows for which I have high hopes. (Not for me, mind you, I've already been cast in The Arlington Players' The Man Who Came to Dinner. I'm reprising Maggie, my favorite role and my pal Jeff is playing Whiteside, so I'm dead chuffed.) No, the shows in question are Henry V and The Mikado. David has a call-back for Henry (although he wasn't told for which specific roles) along with several other good folks and Ali is casting Mikado. I'm focusing on sending good karma to all the folks I know who spent the evening sitting in audition rooms thinking "please pick me!" Sure, lives don't hang in the balance and yeah, it's just theater, but we all want what we want.

Julie is auditioning at callbacks for Mikado. She probably doesn't think so, but Julie is a brave and lovely person. Auditioning isn't easy, but she gets up there and does it and hopes for the best and takes the outcome (good or bad) with such grace. Put her in your cast and she'll do anything for you. I love having her in my casts. There's a non-solo singing role she's trying for in this show and I really hope she gets it. Fingers are crossed, as are toes.

The worst thing about auditions is how few actors (or singers) can get out of their heads the idea that they personally are being judged. They will say that they know that's not true, but they say it with the same lack of genuine belief with which I say that I believe that flying is a safe way to travel. Every actor should have to cast a show and every director should have to audition. It's the only way to understand the process.

I'd much rather have to audition (which I actually really enjoy, but I'm weird) than have to cast a show because when I audition I'm only responsible for me. With every casting choice you make, you get something and you give something up and you spend a fair amount of time wondering if you made the right choice. But directors are really and truly only interested in casting their best show, in filling the slots, solving the problems, balancing the equation.

I don't know about the Henry phone calls, but the Mikado ones will probably happen tomorrow morning and early afternoon. If you listen closely, you can hear the breath being held.

Break some legs, guys!

22 October 2004

The Auld Alliance

Another gem from Mackie's "A History of Scotland" (and largely for Paul's benefit):

"Scots literature was slow in beginning and followed much the tradition of Chaucer; but towards the end of the century, French influences revealed themselves markedly in the work of writers who made much use of French forms and French vocabulary, and whose 'approach' resembled that of Villon."


Between reading this history book and reading "Henry V," I've developed a strong need for a comparison table of long-dead Monarchs, so I've started one. So far I've got the rulers of England, Scotland, and France (the Irish will be added later). To keep it even slightly useful to me, I did it in Excel, making Column A years in 25-year intervals and Columns B through D the appropriate Alpha Individual. So now when I go to see "HV," I'll know that the "French King" in question is Charles VI, the Well-Beloved, who died around the same time as Chatty Hal. And exactly with whom the Scots were trying to negotiate at any given point. And it all interweaves because English Kings having French adventures were usually leaving the Scots to their own devices, much to the relief of said Scots. And, of course, there is a certain amount of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" in the Auld Alliance. I think either France or Scotland would have been happy to partner with anyone willing to be a thorn in the paw of the English lion.

I wouldn't call this chronology exactly a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, but 'twill serve.

Up, Up, and Away

I'm a nervous flier. And of all the understatements in my collection, it seems that "I'm a nervous flier" and "I don't like heights" are the two that come closest to actually leaving the area of truthfulness simply by being so far from accurately describing my feelings. Here are more accurate statements: I am a terrified flier and a complete ninny about heights.

I mention this because I'm getting on a plane today. I'm flying from Dulles to Bradley Airport in Hartford, Connecticut. My pal, Linda, will meet me in Hartford and then she, her pal, Julie, and I will drive tomorrow morning to Portland, Maine, where we will sing a lot of G&S with a larger bunch of our pals. So I'm looking forward to every moment of the weekend, except for the two hours I'll be spending in the air.

I can say with a certain amount of pride that although I am a nervous flier, if flying is how to get somewhere, I get on the plane. I've been to France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, England, California, and St. Louis in the past few years. I've flown with friends, I've flown alone. The flights to and from Australia and New Zealand, by the way, are 11 - 15 hours over open water, my least favorite.

So, in order to cope, I have a kind of routine for flying. Some people might compare all this to the first signs of OCD or maybe dementia, but it gets me through, so I do it.

1. I never wear meltable clothes on a plane or high heels. If I have to leave in a hurry, I want to able to wear my shoes and I don't want nasty, disfiguring burns to complicate the process.

2. I tell every member of the cabin staff that I encounter that I am a nervous flier. I sometimes ask for a drink of water just so I'll have something to do.

3. When I get to my seat, I count the rows to the exits, I read the entire safety card, even though I know it by heart, and I listen to the entire safety speech, even though I could recite it along with the staff. If Johnny Depp wanted my phone number, I'd shush him during the safety lecture.

4. If they are strangers, I tell my seatmates that I'm a nervous flier, so that if I grab their hands during the flight, they'll know why. (I have done this. Once I stop hyperventilating, I let go and apologize, but still....)

5. Just before and during take-off, I pray. Really and truly pray.

6. If we hit even the tiniest air pocket, I do two things - claw the upholstery of the seat in front of me in panic and then look around for a member of the cabin staff. A kindly stranger once pointed out that if we were in trouble, the cabin staff wouldn't be smiling and pouring hot coffee. Best advice I ever got. Makes much more sense than statistics to me. The cabin staff might smille through any disaster, but the coffee pouring would definitely stop. And they'd go strap themselves in. Cabin staff members leaning casually against galley walls and chatting are a very comforting sight to me. Not comforting enough, but I take what I can get.

People have suggested sleeping pills - I have real trouble sleeping on planes because going to sleep involves sitting quietly with my eyes closed, which only allows me to more accutely feel the plane jiggling - but I reject that idea because if there's a problem, I'd like to be able to get out on my own. Just hop up and leave. Not as likely if I've drugged myself into a stupor. Valium sounds like a better plan because it just takes the edge off, lowers things from terrified to afraid, but I have enough people in my family with addictive personalities that I'm not anxious to introduce anything habit forming into my life.

I bring a book and read, trying to block out any sensory input that indicates that I'm on a plane. I hum sometimes, just to make a little white noise.

When I talk about my fear of flying I lean on the more amusing aspects of how demented I get. Several folks have said they'd like to fly with me just to watch the process. And the friends who have flown with me - the ones who didn't get their arms clawed off - have funny stories to tell about me on planes. My mother and I were a source of great amusement to the cabin staff on the way to St. Louis. Mom hasn't flown for years and loves it so even though she is clear on how nervous I am - and even though the lady in the seat behind us was ***even more scared than me*** - Mom was happily yodeling things like "Here we go!!" and other comments focusing on stuff which that other lady and I were trying very hard not to think about. I think it was my through-gritted-teeth request that Mom "be joyful more quietly" that earned me the free Bloody Mary.

So wish me luck. And wave if you see an Independence Air flight go overhead. If I can pry my fingers loose from the armrests, I'll wave back.

14 October 2004

Hastings Day

Today, October 14th, is the 938th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. On October 13th everyone in England lived in an Anglo-Saxon country with random Norse problems. By the end of the following day they lived in a largely Anglo-Saxon country with Norman overlords. Pretty much every aspect of my life comes from that one day - the language I speak (and abuse so lovingly now and then), the social structure of the country (England) that so largely shaped the country in which I live (the US), and so forth and so forth.

Interestingly enough, William became "the Conquerer" because he believed that he had been left the crown of England as a bequest. He believed that it was his, so he came and took it. Roughly 450 years later, Henry V (Henry the Vee) returned the favor and marched into France and took it because he believed that it righfully belonged to him. William's heirs hung on to their father's conquest a bit better than Henry's did, though.

Hastings Day is also my mother's birthday. She has two connections with English history because she was born on Hastings Day and both 1066 and the year in which she was born - 1936 - were years with three English kings. Coincidence? I think not. Perhaps my mother is the rightful monarch, instead of Mrs. Mountbatten-Windsor. Something to think about.

(1066 = Edward the Confessor, Harold II, and William the Conquerer;
1936 = George V, Edward VIII, and George VI)