31 January 2005

Headaches *and* insomnia

For some reason, I've been having a lot of headaches lately. I wake up with a headache about once a week or so.

I've had a few headache episodes over the last dozen years, where I would have an intense headache every day. They'd kick in around 9:00 and persist through anything I could think of to take for them. After about a month, they'd stop coming and would stay away for several years. These aren't those because they aren't every day and they're nearly so bad, but waking up headachy is annoying.

And over the years I've had random intermittent insomnia. I'll just wake up around 3:00 AM and be unable to get back to sleep for two or three hours. The new twist is that I now sometimes can't get to sleep to begin with. Last night I was bright and alert and chatty until around 2:00, which would have been fine if it hadn't been a school night.

So today I feel draggy and I have a headache. Whee.

Program typos I didn't make

I do the programs for most of the shows at the Stage and VLOC and I've had my fair share of typos. I ask people to proofread for me and, as far as I can tell, they read their own bios and then say the entire program is fine. Then, on opening night, they bring me the program and point out typos. This drives me nuts. I hate having typos in my programs. On the other hand, typos in other people's programs cheer me right up.

If you do enough programs, you can head a few typos off early. For instance, I get bios that say the actor recently performed in The Sea Gull or Sea Gull. Correct title? The Seagull. When Dave turned in his bio for "Art" he misspelled his own character's name, Marc, substituting a "k" for a "c". Easy to fix. Lots of folks puts a "the" or an "a" in titles that don't actually contain them, or leave them out of titles that do. According to French's Mr. Stoppard's play is correctly titled Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I get lots of variations on that one.

And if a bio is dictated over the phone, the typist may hear something something different from what the speaker said. For instance, the speaker said "Son and heir" and the typist types "sun and air" (Anyone besides Larry recognize where I got that example?). There's a name for this, which I'll look up when I get home.

So anyway, I'm sitting in Elden Street's theater last night, leafing through the program, randomly reading bios and I come across this: "Michael .... has been performing in this area for the past 14 years having appeared last at ESP as Yvonne in Art." Two typos for the price of one. The correct title for "Art" contains quote marks. Easy to miss. But the character's name is Yvan. Because he's, you know, a guy. So now I'm going to think of that show and think of tall and bearded Mike playing that role in drag. Perked up my whole evening.

What's your theater job?

Everyone has a theater job. All you have to do to figure out yours is to notice whose choices you second guess.

I redeliver a lot of the dialogue in my head - I'm an actor. (Duh.)

Directors reblock things.

Set designers move the walls and furniture around. Or eliminate most of it altogether.

Costumers redress everyone.

Etc, etc, etc.

I took young Samantha to see Cinderella at Elden Street's Theater for Young Audiences on Saturday morning. She spent the pre-show asking me what people were doing and why. How would the house be changed to a castle? And she critiqued the set changes. "Why are they taking so long?" "There are still chicken feathers on the floor." And the nano-second the last actor hit his mark she said "Lights - camera - action!" That's right, folks, Sam was calling cues. She's a stage manager.

I told her that we don't say "camera" in theater, but other than that, she's obviously ready to go. This is good news in Stacey's view because actors are usually unemployed but stage managers are much sought after and professional stage managers are decently paid.

She had a wonderful time at the show and collected autographs from the whole cast. ESP's next kids theater project is in April. I'm going to see if Miss Samantha Jane Stage Manager is available.

Oh, I can't... I have rehearsal

This works best if you read it in a sing-song-y voice:

I got cast in "Independence"! I got cast in "Independence"!

I am playing Kess, the oldest sister and a pedagogue. Our first rehearsal is tomorrow and the very spiffy David is our stage manager.

28 January 2005

Leta's Calendar Bingo

This past summer I was dividing my time between three projects: remounting the Stage's production of "Art" at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn, directing 21 Pairs of Sneakers for the Stage's One-Act Festival, and rehearsing The Vagina Monologues for a Stage fundraiser.

Eventually my schedule got so crowded that I could no longer use the little calendar I carry in my purse. So I made a two-page, two-column document that listed everything. In order to prioritize I color-coded stuff. When I was talking to David later that day I told him that my calendar was in five colors. "Oh," he said, "what color am I?" At which point we welcomed our sixth color.

I still keep pretty busy, so my informal rule is when someone asks if I'm free on such-and-such a day, if I am uncommited that day, it's theirs.

Now, let's all follow the logic and figure out why I am so overbooked...

The F Word and Me

Oh, Lord, set a watch before my lips...

I can go for years and years without using what I call "harsh language." Unfortunately, none of those years have been any time recently. And I'm finding that language inappropriate for the underage crowd seems to slip out before I can catch it. So I'm going to try to clean up a bit. I'm going to emulate some of the teachers I know who, while masters of invective, never use words that would bring the blush of shame to the check of modesty. Obviously, this change won't be immediate. I expect to go through many cycles of "Oh, f- darn" for a while. Optional words of dismay, regret, excitement, etc. may include:

Oh, dear
And of course: tons of bits. I can't give up tons of bits. When my college friend Mary was about 3, her father hammered his thumb. He was making all sorts of untranscibable noises until Mary, who was playing near by, suggested "ton of bits." "What?" "Tons of bits, Daddy. Mommy says it to the vacuum cleaner all the time." So tons of bits stays. If a 3-year-old can use it, so can I.

Other suggestions cheerfully accepted.

And because this is now running through all our heads:

Interjections (Well!) show excitement (Oh!) or emotion (Hey!).
They're generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or a by a comma when the feeling's not as strong.

So when you're happy (Hurray!) or sad (Aw!)
Or frightened (Eeek!) or mad (Rats!)
Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
An interjection starts a sentence right.


You're welcome.

27 January 2005

Another iTunes target

This song always seems to get my attention right near the very end. Probably because of the line about the telephone working both ways. People have said it to me, I've said it to people. And they will again. And I will again.

Looking at the lyrics, two things come to mind: how much I like the sounds of the words outside of their meaning and how much they remind me of my own (vastly inferior) poetry.

You and I Both - Jason Mraz

Was it you who spoke the words that things would happen but not to me
Oh things are gonna happen naturally
And taking your advice I'm looking on the bright side
And balancing the whole thing
But often times those words get tangled up in lines
And the bright lights turn to night
Until the dawn it brings
A little bird who'll sing about the magic that was you and me

Cause you and I both loved
What you and I spoke of
What you and I spoke of
Others only dream of the love that I love

See I'm all about them words
Over numbers, unencumbered numbered words
Hundreds of pages, pages, pages forwards
More words then I had ever heard and I feel so alive
Now you and I, you and I
Not so little you and I anymore
And with this silence brings a moral story
more importantly evolving is the glory of a boy

you and I both loved what you and I spoke of
and others just read of and if you could see now
well I'm already finally out of

and it's okay if you have go away
just remember the telephone works both ways
and if I never ever hear it ring
if nothing else I'll think the bells inside
have finally found you someone else and that's okay
cause I'll remember everything you sang

you and I both loved what you and I spoke of
and others just read of and if you could see now
well I'm already finally out of words.

© Jason Mraz :: All Rights Reserved
from www.JasonMraz.com

26 January 2005

Audition Prep

Here's how I prepare for a (non-singing) audition. I read the play. A lot. When I was prepping for auditions for The Pavilion, I said something to David that contained a quote he mostly recognized.

"How many times have you read that play?" he asked
"Once --" I said slowly
"Well, that's not too bad."
"---a week."

I had read the play often enough to be off book for certain bits of it. Audrey, the director, has what I like to call "Let's Admire My OCD" when it comes to auditions, which I greatly respect and appreciate. The better prepared a director is going in and the more prep she expects from her cast, the stronger the chance that very little of anyone's time will be wasted.

Audrey was especially smart as she included in her auditions a scene that appears to be just more pages, but is actually pretty pivotal. Nail that scene if you want to get cast. And in order to nail that scene, you have to know the play.

By the time a play is up, you know a character well enough to know what music they listen to on the car radio. You don't need that much for auditions, but you'd better know why they're in the car and where they're going.

I didn't get the role in The Pavilion because someone else was better than me. No amount of prep will change that. But when I loose a part to someone who was better, I can hold my head up. Loose the part becuase I didn't know what I was doing in there and I'll feel like an idiot.

Keeping in Contact

I have two answers for "What was - so far - the worst day of your life?"

Number one was Christmas Day 2003 when, after hearing the news from Audrey, David and I drove out to Mom's to tell her that Sara was dead. On the All Time List of Sucky Jobs, telling your Mother that your sister is dead ranks right up there at the top.

(As far as can be determined, Sara died from a reaction to some medication she had been prescribed. It's not uncommon for patients to have to try several different meds before the one is found that solves the problem the best with the fewest unfriendly side effects. At least two meds had given Sara seizures. She was also a pretty heavy smoker. Since she was 9 years old. She tried quitting once or twice but never made it stick. She told me once when she was in a quitting phase how interesting it was to run until your legs hurt instead of running until your lungs hurt.)

Horrible Day #2: Jenny (my then roommate) was out for the evening and her friend Katsi called. I said Jenny was out and Katsi asked me to a pass on a message - that she had seen an item in the paper that Tom (a college friend) was dead. She wasn't positive it was the same Tom, but the last name is pretty unusual and the town was right, so she thought Jenny ought to know. I agreed to tell her, hung up, and got to work. There was absolutely no way I was going to pass that news on without finding a way to verify it.

To make a long story short, I tracked down Tom's mother and called her. I said I was a friend (I'd met him once) and had heard something odd about Tom and was he okay? She said no, he had been killed in an accident the day before. The funeral was scheduled for the following day and she was going crazy because she didn't have any information on Tom's friends outside of first names. Could I help her? I gave her the names of the people I knew that Tom knew and said I'd call them. I spent the rest of the evening on the phone, making people unhappy. Before I went to bed, I left notes all over the house Jenny, asking her to wake me up when she got it in.

The only upside to that story is that if Katsi hadn't called me and I hadn't called everyone else, none of them would have known about the funeral in time to say good-bye to their friend. Or lend their support to his family and each other.

So I keep a copy of my Christmas card list in the same file with my will. If anything happens to me, people who are far away can be notified. And someone will post a comment here, I hope. I'm in good health and I look before I cross the street, so I expect to be around for quite a while, but fate is capricious.

I suggest y'all do something similar.

25 January 2005

Academy Award nominations

David and I see a fair number of movies. The announcement of the Academy Awards nominations was made this morning and for the first time that I can remember, I've seen most of the nominees. And David filled in most of the ones I missed.

We saw: The Aviator, Closer, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Incredibles, Ray, Sideways, Super Size Me.

He saw: Being Julia, Collateral, Hotel Rwanda, The Passion of the Christ, Maria Full of Grace.

I saw: Finding Neverland, Kinsey.

We missed (or skipped): House of Flying Daggers, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Million Dollar Baby, The Phantom of the Opera, Shark Tale, Shrek 2, Troy, Vera Drake (I still want to see it), A Very Long Engagement.

22 January 2005

Snow update & snow memory

Still no snow. The ground is bone dry. Good thing we've got the whole area in pretty much a lock down. The winter storm warning runs from 7:00 am today to 7:00 am tomorrow. DC has declared a snow emergency starting at 8:00 am.

Now they're calling for sleet and freezing rain. I hate those things.

Anyway, in 1996 (?) I was working for a different company in downtown Silver Spring. Our president, Dr. B, was out of the country - a native of Somalia, he took occasional trips back there - and Rick had been left in charge in his absence. (Dr. B's snow policy was simple: It snows, we come in. After being raised in Africa, he lived in Boston for 20 years, so snow was just part of American winter.) So we were under a winter storm warning with several inches expected. It was a Sunday afternoon and the snow was coming down pretty thick and fast. Rick called me at home to get my opinion because closing the office is a huuuuge overhead expense but keeping the office open creates a sort of pressure on people to come in. I'm one of those folks who likes long phone cords and I pace when I talk on the phone. So I was patrolling between the kitchen windows and the sliding glass door as we talked. We reviewed all the pros and cons and weren't really reaching a conclusion when I noticed something.

Then I said, "You know, Rick, there's a wrought iron chair in our backyard that I like to sit in when I study during nice weather." "Yeah?" he replied, puzzled by the non-sequitor but used to my anecdotal style of communication. "Well, that chair is gone now. It's completely covered in snow." "Okay, we're closed."

We got 24 inches of snow that day. Our office was closed on Monday. It was open on Tuesday.

It just started snowing here. Sure is pretty.

Excuse me, aren't you ----?

Lorraine: "Who does your hair, Maggie?
Maggie: "A little Frenchwoman named Maggie Culter comes in every morning."
Lorraine: "You know, your hair *could* be so nice. I've always wanted to get my hands on it."
Maggie: "And I've always wanted to get mine on yours, Lorraine."

I get my hair cut from time to time. About twice a year, actually, much to the eye-rolling and sarcastic comment of Stephen the genius who gets to do those semi-annual clippings. One of the things I love about Stephen is that he's a director and a hair and make-up designer for several community theaters in the area, so I just tell him what show I'm doing and he makes me look beautiful and appropriate. (He got nominated this year for a WATCH award for the hair design in "Ragtime" at Rockville Musical Theater. Huzzah!) Only once have I ever said "Oh, I'm not in anything right now, so let's just make me look good." When I was working with Sally on "The Hen Gets a Flag," I said that I wanted something light, something fun, something "Cherry Ames, Student Nurse," something Laura Petrie. Snip, snip, snip, et voila! I showed it to Sally, we screamed like teen-age girls that it was *perfect,* and it was.

My hair is pretty thick, thank goodness, and has a decent amount of body, thank goodness, because I am completely hair incompetent. I can brush it and use a curling iron without hurting myself or others. I can put it in a knot on the back of my head and use a pencil to secure it (I've stolen more pencils from work that way......). I can do this weird sort of French Braid thing. That's about it. ( Stephen told me that he told the front desk to leave extra time for my appointments because it takes so darn long to get my hair dry and because we need the time for gossip.) It's also a really nice color that my genes can still take the credit for - a dark chestnut brown with red highlights. The more time I spend in the sun in the summer (last summer, approximately 20 minutes), the more the red comes out. I have a few grey hairs - what Leslie calls "crones" - and every now and then I flirt with the idea of coloring it, but I'm also bone lazy and coloring means upkeep.

So Tuesday was the day. I told Stephen that I'm playing Maggie again (1939, secretary). I said I planned on having a side part and pulling it back and clipping it just behind my ears with the ends curving under to make what I call a "hair tunnel." He cut off about four inches and it's now above my shoulders for the first time since I was 10 and it looks **beautiful.** It has shine! It has bounce! I look five years younger and 10 pounds lighter. I feel like Mary Tyler Moore. David said that when I told the story about getting pulled over on the Toll Road and hyperventilating (how I adore having a new audience), I was a perfect Laura Petrie.

I look - pause for modesty's sake, oh the the hell with it - Fabulous. Thank you, Stephen!


I start this on January 14th and set it aside for a while. Nothing has changed, so I thought I'd finish and post it.

Which comedian said "Everyone says that cleanliness is next to godliness. Well, I checked. In my dictionary, cleanliness is next to cleaning and cleanser."? I don't remember, but I'm going through another of my semi-occasional spates of deep cleaning.

(In an interesting serendipity, Casey wrote a post about spring cleaning which I saw right after I decided to write this one. Pretty nifty.)

Anyway, I would like to believe that I am a tidy person, but as I look around me I realize that that ain't necessarily so. My desk at work is cluttered and my entire condo is cluttered. My car is tidy.

I figured out some time ago that the price of tidiness is eternal vigilance, so every Saturday or Sunday, I empty out the car of the books, magazines, scripts, steno pads, and pieces of paper that seem to follow me everywhere I go. Which means that when I offer someone a lift, I don't have to gather up an armload of junk and throw it into the backseat before they can get in, which makes me feel like a good person. I keep a basket on the floor behind the driver's seat and it contains things like Silver Spring Stage brochures and more scripts and more books. I drag that inside and empty it out, but it never stays empty and isn't supposed to.

Until recently I had been using the wire basket from a set Mom's wheels (sort of a walker with a seat and - duh - a wire basket because walker-using-folks need a way to carry stuff while they are being mobile), but Mom sold the wheels - an excellent idea, as she no longer uses it - and I couldn't in good conscience keep the basket. David gave me a nice wicker replacement which is very pretty, so I'm still basket-enabled, thank goodness.

But my desks - both home and work - are another story. My desk at work stays fairly under control, but every so often, I clean out a drawer or my inbox and then it looks much nicer. My inbox is a sort of suspended animation for pieces of paper. I have a pretty small desk and almost no surface area on which to work because I also have a big ol' monitor that takes up about 20% of the desk. Add the phone, the inbox, and the keyboard, and even a tiny amount of clutter renders my desk useless. So it ain't beautiful like Cathy's, but it is functional. I cleaned out a drawer day before yesterday and I keep opening it and admiring it's "Real Simple" understated beauty and calm. It's like a tiny zen garden in that drawer.

My desk at home is a total disaster. That's because it's in my study, which is also a total disaster. I used to believe that I am a potentially tidy person who is frustrated and irritated by clutter. I believed this when I had roommates with lots of clutter. It turns out that I am only frustrated and irritated by other people's clutter. I seem to have a pretty high tolerance for my own.

My goal over time is to fit into my own condo, so I usually spend an hour or so every Saturday morning listening to public radio and putting away/throwing away. On a good Saturday I can fill a trash bag. I started this process because every time I said to myself "Okay, I'm going in there and I'm going to make that room tidy and attractive!" I got through the door, looked around, threw up my hands in dispair, and abandoned any cleaning plans. It's just too overwhelming. I'm a packrat, like my mother before me. I have too much stuff. I'm a "just in case" saver and that habit has been rewarded more often than is good for me.

So Fly Lady like, I nibble away at the junk in the study. One day, if even for an hour, it wil be tidy and uncluttered and I shall love it. I'll also take a picture of it and maybe seal it in amber, because just as nature abhores a vacuum, my world seems to abhor an absence of clutter.

21 January 2005

I did a bad, bad thing

We had lots of treats at the office today. Lots. Jill made two kinds of cookies, Francois brought in a very, very rich cake for Robin's birthday, and we had two more cakes for Amy's baby shower. And I had some of everything. Small pieces of cake, yes, and the cookies were not too large, but I had a total of three pieces of cake. And two cookies - chocolate with peanut butter chip and oatmeal raisin. (Jill still rules! She is the Undisputed Queen of Baking. The Fabulous Baking Michael is the Undisputed King of Cookies. Life here is good.)

So 3 pieces of cake + 2 cookies will probably = 5 pounds of Leta. I'm suffering consumer's remorse in a big way. And all that sugar should keep me bouncing around almost all through Henry V. It'll probably bottom out somewhere in Act IV. Oh, boy.

Stupid weather

How beautifully blue the sky, the glass is rising very high, continue fine I hope it may, and yet it snowed but yesterday..... (W.S. Gilbert, more or less)

Let's start this by pointing out that the sun is shining. The sky is largly blue. But this is Maryland after all. Snow is predicted, so we need to start panicking now. My rehearsal for tomorrow has already been cancelled - no snow has fallen. At least two of the theaters I'd hoped to spend time in are located in schools and the folks who close schools are complete weather wienies. Now, admittedly, considering how poorly people around here drive, getting them off the road prophylactically is probably a good idea. And even I'm not particularly anxious to die for a community theater musical. But jeez!!

I want my rehearsals! I want my performances! Snow, snow, go away! Come again some other day!

Regression to the mean

Hanging with engineers is fun, but one cannot presume that it doesn't rub off. For instance, Carroll told me the following story:

Kenny, my 10-year-old son was talking to our dental hygienist who remarked that since both his parents had Ph.D's he would probably be pretty smart himself. Kenny replied that he probably would unless regression to the mean kicked in. He then had to explain what regression to the mean was.

I can't spell in English either

From an e-mail from David:

You have always pronounced S.J.K.T.S.B.'s name as kay-ah-low-ha, but the spelling you've given suggests kah-ah-low-ha.

So I checked with Stacey and she says:

In Hawaiian, the vowels are pronounced slightly different. 'E' is pronounced as 'ay' while the 'A' has a soft 'ah' sound. 'I' has the 'ee' sound, so Garrett is Alohilani [Ah low hee lah nee]. Samantha's name also has a glottal stop, just to be confusing. Her name is Ke'aloha or [Kay' Ah low ha].

Garrett is the adorable Samatha's charming and mischievious brother. She's Samantha Jane Ke'aloha and he's James Garrett Alohilani.

I know other Hawaiian words (spelling entirely my own). The first definition is the one supplied by Brett. The one in parens is one that pedants will insist on mentioning.

Lanai - Stacey's room. (screened porch)
Aloha - Hello, tourguide. ("Hello," "good-bye," and other meanings as needed)
Mahalo - trash. ("Thank you." But all the trash cans say "Mahalo" on them. So there.)

So -- mahaloa and aloha!!

Another opening, another show

I'm going to see Henry V tonight. Sadly, I have not memorized The Agincourt Carol, so I've limited my chances (but really only slightly) to look like a geeky idiot in front of strangers. Tomorrow I'm going to see Ruthless and on Sunday (GLW and the ice don't rise) I've got a reservation for Tea and Sympathy.

Remember I said that I see a lot of theater? I made a list recently of what I'd seen, putting together stuff from my calendar going back to about the middle of March. In a given year, there are 156 possible weekend nights and I spent at least 75 of them sitting in theaters. (This doesn't count the nights I spent performing in theaters either.) I see shows for all kinds of reasons - I like the script, I've never seen the show performed before, I'm adjudicating it for WATCH, just being social, or because a friend is in it or directed it or lit it or what-have-you.

I call going to a show because I know someone connected to it collecting a friend point. I have a huge (okay, imaginary) jar in my bedroom where I store all the friend points I've collected. It's really full. It's not a quid-pro-quo thing - there are many people I've seen in many shows who have never come to see something I've done.

Unfortunately, because our shows run concurrently, I'm going to miss seeing Maureen in A Comedy of Errors, which sucks because it's her Shakespeare debut. She opens on February 4th. Break a leg, Maureen!

I've lit a candle on my desk (I really have) to the weather gods asking for two things: Please, please let the theaters stay open this weekend so that I can actually get to Ruthless and Tea and Sympathy. And please let there be a good hard freeze in Lander, Wyoming. I need theater and Chad needs hockey.

20 January 2005

Hello, my baby! Hello, my darlin'!

I like nick-names. I've been called by several and I hand them out with great enthusiasm. Some of the names to which I have answered:

Peach. I was born in California and Mom put my playpen out in the sunshine and I got all golden and peachy colored. (Now, of course, decades later, I'm pale and pasty. Oh, well.) I have several books inscribed "To Peach, with love from _______". This nick-name lasted until someone pointed out to Mom that "Peaches" is a common stage name for strippers. Very long sigh.

Hee-top. When my sister, Sara, was learning to speak, she couldn't say Leta. (Nor can many other people. All together now: Lee-dah. Not Let-uh.) So she got as close as she could and my Dad was so charmed by her efforts that he called me Hee-top for the next couple of years. I actually liked Hee-top a lot (but only my Dad gets to call me that). I got off more easily than my nieces, Cheryl and Angela, who at 21 and 18 are still sometimes called Sherbul and An-juh-wuh because that's how Angela said it. Making fun of the way children talk is one of the perks of not being a child any more. "What's your name, little girl"? "An-juh-wuh." "Really? An-juh-wuh?" "No! An-juh-wuh!" Big laffs!

Leta-Bug. Everyone out there have a Mom? Then everyone out there had a silly nick-name. Mom also gave me stuff with Lady Bugs on it. Sara was "Sara-Bear." 'Nuff said.

Leisl of the Revolution. When I was in college I started doing Medieval re-enactment. (Yes! I am one of those geeky people who wandered around the University of Maryland dressed like an extra from The Lord of the Rings.) I have a picture of me in a Bog Dress. Maybe I'll post it. Anyway, after college, I drifted into Revolutionary War re-enactment. So, yes, there are also pictures of me in 18th Century dresses as well. (Actually, I'm kind of an 18th C ideal - pale skin, small waist, generous hips - I would have done very well on Are You Hot 1776. Renoir would have thought I was a total babe, too. But that's not the point.) Right. Okay. So my re-enactor pals, well, Brett mainly, one day started greeting me with "Ach! 'Tis Liesl! Jah, 'tis Liesl of der Revolution." How cool is that? Many re-enactors still call me Liesl. Some may actually believe it is my name.

Let's remember that it is Brett who started telling people that his niece's name is Samantha Jane Ka'aloha Treefrog Squirrelbutt. Two of those names are not actually on her birth certificate, but the adults she knows will call her by those names for the rest of our days.

And when Todd introduced his new girlfriend Kristin to Brett, he said, "This is Kristin, Brett." And Brett said "Kristin Brett. What in interesting name." I heard about it and introduced her to Mila. "This is Kristin Brett, Mila." Soon her name took up three typewritten lines. That was, like, 10 years ago. And we still call her KB instead of Kristin. Well, Todd calls her Kristin but he's her husband now, so he probably has to.

I generally call people "Sweetheart," and "Honey," and "Dear" so that I don't accidentally call them by the name of their, oh, I dunno, current boyfriend's ex-wife or something. Except at work, of course. Work people look at me funny when I call them "Sweetie."

I call David "David." (Or Sweetie. Or Honey. Or Darlin'.) I don't call him Dave, which is probably why he likes me so much. I also call him "Major Pedantic." He used to be "Captain Pedantic," but he got promoted when it was noticed that everyone in my "army" is a Captain. There's Captain Intensity and Captain Corrosive and a few others.

Lee. Steve called me Lee. So did his Dad. I like Steve and his Dad, so I like being call "Lee" by them.

And so on. I have other nick-names, but I'm not putting them here. I mean, come on, I released "Leta-Bug" to the entire internet, that's probably crazy enough.

19 January 2005

Singing the Snow Song

It's snowing, It's snowing, It's snowing, It's snowing!!!

We're supposed to get a couple of inches of the cold white stuff today. Yay!!! I love snow! Of course, there are some downsides to DC area snow:

1. No one can drive in it. Otherwise fine upstanding individuals completely lose their minds when it snows. Michael reporting actually witnessing the DC snow legend - someone shutting off their car while on the beltway, getting out, and walking away. No attempts to pull over and get off the road. Just walk away.

2. No one can drive in it. Our snow isn't the dry, powdery stuff you get at expensive ski resorts. Our snow is wet and slippery and basically just sleet dressed for a party.

3. No one can drive in it. Here's how to drive in snow. A. Treat the accelerator as though it were made from your grandmother's crystal. B. Treat the brake as though it didn't exist. C. Treat the steering wheel as though you have to pay in cash for every degree of turn. D. Treat all other vehicles as if they are being driven by dangerous maniacs. (Trust me, they are.) So just drive at a moderate speed, avoid braking, don't turn sharply, and avoid other cars. Inertia will get you where you're going. If you disregrard this advice, inertia will get you into nasty accidents.

4. The intensity of the snow is in proportion to the closeness of opening night for a show and directly related to how much losing a late rehearsal would hurt. David's show opens day after tomorrow. They acquired a new cast member a couple of days ago. I'm guessing Director Dave does not want to lose a rehearsal. My show opens in 9 days, but we're supposed to rehearse on the actual stage tonight, which is the size of a football field and we really want to get used to it. We don't want to lose that reheasal. Our theater is located in a school. Schools around here close if it looks like snow. If they close the school, we're locked out.

5. There are people who believe that shoveling is optional. It's not. And around here snow is followed by warmer days and colder nights, so snow leads to ice. I HATE ICE. The worst of all possible worlds (and Dr. Pangloss would agree with me on this) is snow + ice + snow, so that the hated ice is disguised by pretty snow.

But so what? It's snowing! It's snowing!

16 January 2005

It's not snowing

I have a little song I like to sing when it snows. The lyrics are pretty simple: "It's snowing, it's snowing, it's snowing, it's snowing" repeat as needed. The tune is equally uncomplicated.

But I can't sing it now. Because it stopped snowing. It did snow a little tiny bit about 9:00, just enough to get my hopes up. But then it stopped. It's not snowing. So no snow song.


Brett's in town! He's one of my favorite people and I get to hang out with him tomorrow night. He's the sarcstic and mocking friend against whom all my other sarcastic and mocking friends are judged. He introduced me to a lot of people who are some of the best people I know (like his wonderful sister, Stacey).

Brett and his lovely wife, Cate, and their adorable son Chahls (okay, it says Charles on his birth certificate) have been living in England for the past couple of years and I didn't manage to get over there to visit them once. So in order to see more of me (or for his job or something), they are moving to Memphis. I can drive to Memphis. And I've never been there. But I'm going.

I've known Brett ever since Freshman year of college. He would drive 50 miles through sleet to pick me up if my car broke down and then he'd make fun of me the whole way home. He's kind and generous and did I mention sarcastic? Let's not forget sarcastic. He makes fun of me and I giggle. Of course, he makes fun of everyone. Once someone told me very solemnly that Brett only makes fun of people he likes, so him making fun of you means that he likes you. I considered some of the things he'd said to people that very day and said that if making fun of people means he likes them, God help the people he loves. God does.

Brett's in town!

To dream the impossible dream.

Oh, pshaw. According to the dictionary - and David - this word is pronounced "shô." But according to me; many other women who read girl's lit, like "Little Women" and the Little House books as girls; and all the people I've infected with my choice, it's "puh-shah." Sally says that she said "p-shaw" until her mother corrected her. David told me that he believes that eventually I will pronounce it the way he and the dictionary do. So let's compare his potential eye rolling to my many years of habit -- does anyone really think I'm going to change the way I say it? How about a show of hands?

And David believes that I'm going to stop referring to Venn diagrams and start saying things like "a little exercise in set theory." Oh definitely. The only thing I remember from junior high school math is going to be jettisoned in favor of what is probably a more accurate but far less fun phrase like "a little exercise in set theory."

And now he's threatening to take away my computer privledges at his house. I'm living on the edge here, but my Devoted Readers deserve the truth.

Reporting from deep inside the brutal and repressive David regime.......

Limerent for John Linnell ... and so many others

I just heard a piece on The Next Big Thing (www.nextbigthing.org) on soon to be lost or forgotten words. It's a continuing series where Julie Subrin assigns a writer or artist three words that are in danger of leaving dictionaries though obsolescence. Most of the words just wash over me, although I enjoy hearing famous - or at least established - writers using these words in sentences. It's like an instant trip back to 7th grade, although the writers are able to avoid the popular 7th grade construction of "simple subject - simple verb - vocabulary word - simple direct object," for example, "Leta wrote an unequivocal sentence."

So today's words included "limerent" and it's a wonderful word. Limerence is the crush stage of a relationship. It's often sexual but basically marked by total infatuation. I feel that way all the time! I don't live a life of quiet desperation, I live one of chatty limerence. I've had crushes on friends, on cast mates, on co-workers..... (all names withheld because limerent doesn't mean insane). I've even been assigned a crush by, no surprise, an actor.

I've always been susceptible to crushes and I enjoy their short-term hors d'oeuvre-like nature. They are to real relationships as canapés are to entrées. I probably wouldn't want a steady diet of the person - toffee for breakfast, toffee for lunch, toffee for tea - and by the time the crush fades, I'm ready to let go, but it's fun while it lasts. Brings some zip to my day. And just as much fun, of course, is when someone has a crush on me. "Nothing is more attractive to a man," said the Baroness, "than a woman who is in love with him." Works for me.

John Linnell of They Might Be Giants used limerant (and the other two words) in a song that he sang on the air. He says we won't be hearing it in concert any time soon because it still needs some work (making "some work" sound like "complete overhaul"). If you go to the website, you can hear the piece and the song. Some aspect of the sound on my computer isn't functioning right now, so I can't transcribe the song - the goal after all, is to get the words back into use - but maybe I can do it later. Go ye and listen.

15 January 2005

Adventures in Theater Going - Past and Future

Okay, here's the story from the past:

I went to see -- (ha! Not Machinal! This is not the Machinal story!) (ahem) Hamlet several years ago. The company, Mobtown, was new, it was their first production, and it was very early in the run, so they'd had no time to create word of mouth. I can only hope that they got some as they went along because it was one of the best productions of Hamlet I've seen. Anyway, they were performing in a large, Gothic-y, decreptic, and deconsecrated church, so the acoustics were good and the setting was perfect. Something was rotten in Denmark, indeed.

Well, there were five of us in the audience - yes, five. One of my many theater rules is when the audience outnumbers the performers, you call it a win. And there a point in the show where I always get the giggles. I find Hamlet's comparison of his father and his uncle "See what a grace was seated on this brow ..... Here is your husband, like a mildew'd ear" to be completely hilarious. I get the giggles just thinking of it and I know when it's coming (Act III scene 4), so I tend to get a wee bit chuckly ahead of time. (I'm a wee bit chuckleheaded all the time.)

So there I was, trying not to get all giggly during this Masterpiece of the English Speaking Theater, when I was presented with the family Polonius. Old Man Polonius is about to fill his children full of good, dull, fatherly advice from which we could all benefit ("Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar," "Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice." I know I would benefit if I'd hewed more closely to said advice.) So Pops is droning away and the kids are nodding and smiling, leaving me free to notice that the director had cast two fair-skinned, red-haired people and the costumer had dressed them in lots of green and black. So instead of absorbing all the above wisdom, I just kept thinking "we'll return shortly to Hamlet, but first a few numbers from Riverdance!" at which point the giggles were not to be denied.

And I was, let's remember, 20 percent of the audience. And the acoustics were good. I could feel the actors losing focus as they wondered what the heck I found so funny. And I could see their corner-of-the-eyes darting glances in my direction. Which probably made me giggle more, I'm sorry to say.

So fast forward to this coming Friday: I'm going to see Henry V (Henry the Vee) and I have several pals in the cast. Unfortunately for them, Michael (my director) spent some time today working on breaking me of a habit he doesn't like by comparing it to "sighing during the St. Crispian's Day speech." Pause rehearsal for several long seconds while I fall about laughing and repeating "we few, we happy few, we -- sigh -- band of brothers." So now there is a non-zero possibility that I will get the giggles during one of the finest speeches Sheakespeare ever wrote. When my sweetie and the aforementioned pals will be on stage not far from me (ESP is a small house) and they will be armed with swords. And opening night nerves. And their director, who knows my giggle when he hears it, will probably be in the vicinity, armed with an occasionally caustic personality. So if I don't post for quit a long time, I'm probably recovering from being beaten by a lot of actors. Wish me luck.

12 January 2005

Thank you, Josh Tyrangiel

Guess I'm just filtering today.

Anyway, in a recent Time magazine article about Leonardo DiCaprio, Mr. Tyrangiel greatly improved my day with the following sentence:

Of course, no one sets out to make a pile of terrible movies - not even Ben Affleck.

I'm with Janet

The final paragraph in Michael Bérubé’s post yesterday says:

In the meantime, let me just add that the final fifteen minutes of Finding Neverland are maudlin beyond human endurance, except perhaps in the case of Janet, who would happily watch a two-hour documentary involving Johnny Depp eating oatmeal. See you next Tuesday with more capsule movie reviews!

It makes perfect sense to me. Of course, I'd probably be willing to pay near Broadway prices to watch John Cullum or Sam Waterston read from the phone book, so I may not be the best person to ask.

Not being as stupid as Ross, I've never laminated my list, which is good because it changes pretty often. Here's the list - as of today - of famous men I'd "break a date with David on our anniversary to have dinner with and David would just have to deal":

1. John Cullum. I know. He's 73 - older than my Dad. So what. Talk to him for a few minutes (I have!!!) and you'll understand.

2. John Cusack. Never fails to catch and hold my attention. Just a lovely actor and always interesting.

3. Johnny Depp. A man so beautiful that he must believe that women's jaws are hinged differently then men's because I don't believe he's ever seen a woman who mouth wasn't hanging slightly open.

4. Alan Rickman. If I have to explain this, you should probably talk to an endocrinologist. Rent Sense and Sensibility and Galaxy Quest.

5. Sam Waterston. There are more reasons to watch Law and Order than the police procedural stuff. Oh, how I'd love to be an extra and sit in the jury box and listen to Waterston orate.

Ask me tomorrow and you could see five different names.

08 January 2005

Why I don't drink much

"Hearts full of youth, hearts full of truth, six parts gin to one part vermouth." -- Tom Lehrer

I'm not much of a drinker for a bunch of reasons. My usual when going out with friends is to ask for a cup of coffee with a shot of brandy or a "scotch and soda, kinda light on the scotch." And, no, I never ask for the good stuff if they inquire about a brand. I ask for "something cheap that tastes good with a bunch of soda dumped in it." Because it's wrong to pollute good scotch with mixers. I nurse it and then I might have a second, but often my second drink is a cup of coffee. And, of course, the result of asking for a scotch and soda, kinda light on the scotch is that I end up with about 1:1 of scotch and water. (Scotch and water. That's so wrong.) My Mom taught me to mix drinks at about 3:1 where 3 equals mixer and 1 equals booze, by the way.

Anyway, last night David and I went out after seeing a play and I decided to have a scotch and failed to ask them to go light on the scotch. Well, there was actual soda instead of tap water in it (hurray!) so I probably downed it a little more quickly than usual. It was probably about a 4:1.

And then I ordered another. Why? I dunno. Just felt like it. About half way through that one, I cocked my head to the side in response to something David said, and I felt my face go numb and brains slide slightly to the left. David said "What?" and I said "Wheeeeew" with a nice rising then falling pitch. And just enough cresh/decresh for seasoning. "Am I driving us home?" he asked. "Oh, yeah" was the reply.

Now everyone knows the classic stages of drunkenness: happy, horny, depressed. But I seem to have taken a slight detour and found a new stage: tape recorder. David and I had earlier touched on him running lines with me when we got home. He figured that I was now in no state to do that. Ha! I was so! So I started running everybody's lines, picking random scenes. And, I regret to say, acting out some of the blocking in the parking lot. Not my blocking. Mary Ann's blocking. Well, only a little of that because David hustled me into the car at that point. (Thanks, Sweetie!)

A few more "Wheeews," some giggling, a demand for a bedtime story, a large glass of water, and couple of aspirin later, I was sound asleep. No hangover, thank goodness.

Our friends will put up with all kinds of reactions to booze and forgive us. Especially if it makes the kind of story they can embarrass us with later. But no one wants to see Leta's one-tipsy-woman production of The Man Who Came to Dinner. So maybe I'll just have coffee for a while. At least until the show closes.

05 January 2005

Keep those Christmas cards and letters coming

I am a total sucker for Christmas cards and holiday letters and all that nonsense. And because everyone I know is waaay too busy, I'm still getting them, even in January. In today's mail I got one of my annual favorites - Mary Ann and Jim's Christmas Letter.

Mary Ann and I met about five years ago doing a show and as it is easier to get on my Christmas list than off of it, she's been getting cards from me ever since. (Anyone wishing to be removed from my Christmas card list, please apply to the author for the simple, one sentence exit request. Oddly enough, it's not "please don't send me any more of these.") Anyway, I've been sending cards to Mary Ann, so I've been added to her family's holiday card and annual letter list. The annual letter is written by Jim, her husband, and it usually greatly amuses me. I've never actually met Jim, but I enjoy his writing style. This year he included the usual ration of family news and just for added fun, quite a few really lame jokes. Really lame. Like the kind of lame jokes that my Dad likes. (If there is enough of a clamour from the Dedicated Readership, some of Jim's Truly Lame Jokes will be posted.)

Mary Ann and I have the same last name, so when we do shows together, people ask if we are related, which I find very flattering. We usually just say yes, we're sisters, and let folks figure it out as we go along. But after reading the latest of Jim's holiday efforts, I think it's not that Mary Ann and I are related, it's that Dad and Jim are.

I also got a holiday letter from my wonderful friend Leslie. Leslie and her partner Naomi live in California, so I only see them every few years, which isn't nearly often enough. But their holiday letter includes pictures of their Catch-Your-Breath-Beautiful daughter, Kaili. Kai is about 4 now and althought they are not related at all - except that all their parents are loved by me - Kai startlingly resembles my friend Samantha, who is 7. I tell Leslie that pictures of Sam are great predictors for Kai. Kai looks more Asian than Sam, but not by much. They could be sisters and I hope they get to meet some day.

One of my co-workers hoping to snare this commie pinko liberal asked me if I send Christmas cards or holiday cards. And do I say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." I told him that I send Christmas cards to my friends who celebrate Christmas and holiday cards to my friends who celebrate other things. I say "Happy Holidays" to many folks and "Merry Christmas" to those folks, like my friend Russell, who hate hearing "Happy Holidays" and grouse about it. If the idea is to spread a little joy, why not give people the card/greeting they'll enjoy. My co-worker had to agree that that made sense. He was thwarted in his goal to prove that my fellow travelers and I had needlessly politicized the holidays, which only served to brighten my day.

The cards are still on the piano, the dining room table, and around the kitchen because I'm not ready to take them down yet - especially with new ones coming in. I send out about 85 cards each year (hello, my name is Leta and I am an idiot about mailing things.....) and I get about 30 or so, which, considering how many of my friends don't do holiday cards, is a pretty darn good ratio. I think I really do need to trim the list a bit, so maybe next year I'll only send 50. We'll see.

02 January 2005


You know how sometimes you'll quote something and all the people in the quote will be referred to as "some guy" or "the other guy"? Well, I've recently gotten names to fill in for a couple of those stories:

1. J.L. Austin & Sidney Morgenbesser. The New York Times Magazine ran a brief profile of Morgenbesser, a professor of philosophy at Columbia who passed away this year.

In the academic world, custom distates that you may be considered a legend if there is more than one well-known anecdote about you. Morgenbesser, with his Borscht Belt humor and preternaturally agile mind, was the subject of dozens. In the absence of a written record of his wisdom, this was how people related to him: by knowing the stories and wanting to know more. The most widely circulated tale - in many renditions it is even presented as a joke, not the true story that it is - was his encounter with the Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin. During a talk on the philosophy of language at Columbia in the 50's, Austin noted that while a double negative amounts to a positive, never does a double positive amount to a negative. From the audience, a familiar nasal voice muttered a dismissive, "Yeah, yeah."

2. Michael Replogle. The first WATCH awards ceremony I attended was in 2001. WATCH's system is to have winners and nominees from the previous year present the awards for the current year. Michael won for directing Richard III for The Arlington Players, which also won for best play. So he went up to present the best director or best play award (note: please insert here the usual disclaimer about how the nomination is what is important and the award recognizes excellence, not "bests." Okay, whatever, moving on.) and there was lots of applause. Being the smart ass that he is, Michael looked around the room, cocked his head slightly, and said "Yeah, yeah, yeah, applaud. I got one of these empty salt shakers last year and none of you bastards ever called me." David and I have been calling the WATCH award "that empty salt shaker" ever since and it's very gratifying to know whom I'm quoting.

Two notes: 1. I'm sure that I have horribly misquoted Michael, which is a pity. And, of course, it's a much better experience when you hear it from Michael directly. The next time he tells that story I'll pay more attention to the wording. 2. The WATCH award is a small-ish glass or lucite (I dont' know for sure, I've never won one. Hmphf.) statue shaped like the Washington monument, so comparing it to an empty salt shaker is pretty apt.

Nothing we pedants like better than correct attribution. "It's like eight hours at the sea side." (W.S. Gilbert!)