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.